Patricia's Sweet Sixteen

 A colleague of mine has a daughter who is turning sixteen. She has spent a long time contemplating the perfect day -- car service from New Jersey to Manhattan, a lovely afternoon at Madame Tussauds, followed by lunch at Carmine's, a fantastic Italian favorite. Now when it came to her invitations and favors, I had some ideas of my own.

First, of all, Patricia's favorite color is red. She is a modest girl-- not a big fan of flashy, glittery, pink things, unlike myself. So I came up with an idea of combining her love of the color red and the theme of Madame Tussauds, the wax museum featuring celebrities and stars.

 For the invitations, I chose a simple layout with little glittery stars and white ribbon, and backed them with red cardstock. I included a "Parental Information" card, since the girls would be traveling to NYC without their parents. I made sure to include information about where the girls would be at all times, noting that they would be encouraged to call throughout the day.

Macarons and Cupcakes - The Perfect Pair

Last week, I had the opportunity to make macarons for my husband's office and cupcakes for my office. Although the confections weren't served together, I realized that together, they make a picture perfect pair.

The macarons are scented with raspberry tea and filled with a sweet yet tart strawberry buttercream and the cupcakes are a simple vanilla cupcake with cream cheese frosting topped with a gum paste hydrangea petal.

Making French Macarons

Making French macarons is a labor intensive process. Every miniscule thing has to fall into place for the little cookies to bake off without a hitch -- when I take those perfect shiny tops and ruffled little feet out of the oven, there is a sigh of relief unparalleled by the most stressful of situations. Are the egg whites aged? Is there any traces of oil or yolk in the egg whites or stainless bowl? Is the boiled sugar at the right temperature? Did I overbeat or underbeat my meringue? Did I pipe perfectly round circles? Are they all the same size? Did the batter have enough time to rest? Did they rest too long? Wait, is it raining outside?

With all of these variables, any mishap can ruin trays of perfectly piped macarons. Almond flour isn't cheap, and rewashing all the equipment is a long process considering the lack of a dishwasher in my NYC apartment. So yes, I am extremely relieved when things turn out as planned :)

So you may ask, with the reputation of being the cookie that turns pastry chefs hair gray, why did I, a non-professional attempt to make French macarons? And why do I continue to do it over and over again, no matter how stressful each experience?

Because to me, there is nothing like joy I experience when I successfully make a batch of delightfully beautiful macarons.