Recipes

Thoughts: Shitty Cookies

 

Did I really have to come all the way to France to perfect my macarons? Well yea, kinda. Am I gonna post the perfect recipe for a perfect macaron…. no (or else I would have to kill you). This is more about a lesson in failure.

Sometimes you get an idea or a desire to create something. Myself, I always get a lot of idea, and I have that perfectionist syndrome that I will do it and do it and continue doing it until either A) I love it or B) I hate it.

Back in my LA kitchen, I got the desire to make macarons. (Of course I could have picked maybe pancakes out of a box… or perhaps some pillsbury biscuits, but noooo, I wanted to drive myself crazy – I like to exercise my crazy). So it was me against the macaron.

I’m a nerd by heart, so I read and studied every blog, every recipe, every book… I even bought my first kitchen scale to scale my ingredients. I prepared and really, really though… “It can’t be that hard”.  But just like college where you study so many things and learn about so many subjects, and spend 4-5 years of your life in an institution “studying”…  just to find out that you don’t really know crap about life, I failed. I didn’t fail once, I failed twice, four times, six time… I failed so much that I hated macarons. I hated their basic look, I hated meringue, their name even annoyed me…

What I didn’t realize is that each time I made them, I began to focus on less important things. The problems kept getting smaller. The first time I made them, I maaay have filled the room with smoke. The second time, the shells cracked, but no smoke in the house. The third time, they got small feet, but no cracks and no smoke. Yes, I kept encountering a new problem, but I kept overcoming more significant problems. It was like living the 10,000 hour theory from the book The Outliers. I realized that you have to make a lot of shitty things before you make great things. But shitty things aren’t shitty, they’re pieces to the puzzle.

So now that I had made so many shitty cookies, I had so much knowledge that it allowed me to share and ask a lot of questions when I arrived to France. And of course now I can make them with my eyes closed (jk, don’t try that at home). And now I really appreciate their beauty, elegance and uniqueness even more.

So don’t be let down when you make shitty things. Making shitty things is better than making nothing at all. If someone asks you, “Have you ever baked a cake?” and you say “No”….Zzzzzzzzzz booorinngggg. But if you say “Yes, one time I made this shitty ass cake….” Nooooow I’m intrigued : )

 

 

What I Made This Week: Saint Honore

 

Another French classic.

Choux pastries filled with delicious pastry cream topped with a crunchy caramel, a surprise in the center and finished with chantilly cream.

People are continuously trying to reinvent the shape of this classic, but the components always remain the same.

 

 

What I Made This Week: Mille Feuille

 

 

Ohhhhh how I love Mille Feuille! It translates to a million layers, which is exactly what it is. I never quite understood the craft in this pastry until I made it myself. Layers of crunchy puff pastry and creamy pastry cream make for a simple, yet very refined treat.

Traditionally, when you think of puff pastry, you think of light, fluffy sheets filled with something delicious. In this case, the puff pastry is cooked whole on a baking sheet. After it’s allowed to puff up, it’s then weighed down by placing a few baking sheets on top and cooked flat. You finish them off by caramelizing them with sugar. And I could just eat them like crackers…

If you wanna go a little Lindsay Lohan on it, you might add nuts or perhaps a strawberry coulis in the middle.

One of my French favorites!

 

 

 

*Photo: Allison

 

 

 

 

 

The Kitchen

Most of my fondest memories in life revolve around food. Oddly, I grew up in a Hispanic household where the action in the kitchen was nonexistent. When I think Hispanic, I think of an abundance of food around the table at all times: tacos, tamales, pollo, arroz y frijoles. But with a single mom working two jobs, the closest thing we had to home cooked meals were picked up at the nearest drive-through.

As the oldest daughter, I often played the mom role. Whether or not my mom had time to cook for us, I was in charge of finding a way to feed my younger sister when she did that annoying hunger yell. Well, I quickly discovered that you only need a few ingredients to make a successful meal.

Every day after school, I always provided two options on the menu: quesadillas or Cup’O Noodle soup. I still remember the crunchy flour tortillas oozing with cheddar and jack cheese, ready in less than five minutes. And on the days when I felt lazy, Cup’O Noodles it was. Whoooo, those were the days!

That experience was my first introduction to the kitchen. Those moments with my sister also helped me realize how important the kitchen is, especially to Hispanic culture. When aunts came to visit or when I went to a friend’s house, the kitchen was the main attraction. This is where we cooked, but more importantly, where we laughed, shared gossip, reminisced on childhood memories and connected as a family.

As I grew up, I became envious of people who could just whip a couple of things together and create an amazing dish. They made it seem so easy. And when I would ask questions, the responses always started the same way: “a little bit of this, a pinch of that, a hand full of this.” Huh? What the hell is a splash, a handful and a pinch?

So I turned to other resources: TV and books. I soon realized that if I could read and follow directions, one day I would REALLY be able to cook. I mean I did go to college.

Fast-forward past a couple of bad dishes and the time I set my mom’s oven on fire on Mother’s day, and now I’ve become the acclaimed cook in my household.

 

 

*Photo: Allison

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