Double whammy

Still trying to perfect my techniques, I whipped up a fairly labor-intensive dinner last night of homemade pasta AND more macarons. Glutton for punishment? Nah. I’m feeling more and more comfortable with both endeavors and won’t rest until I’ve nailed them.

First up, more macarons. Chocolate, to be exact. A pretty easy adaptation; you merely add a little cocoa powder to the powdered sugar and almonds. Trying to streamline, I decided to experiment by cutting a few corners to see if they’d make a difference. First of all, I decided not to sweat the sifting. I just stirred the almonds, powdered sugar and cocoa together as thoroughly as I could and hoped for the best. Next, I used a Baggie for my piping as opposed to my pastry bag (which is a bitch to clean after use). When I was done, I just popped the Baggie in the trash can and that was that. Two big time-savers right off the bat!

Recipes I’ve consulted offer varying opinions about how long to bake macarons and at what temperature. My last lemon batch was tasty, but almost a little too chewy, so I left my chocolate macarons in the oven a little longer than I have my prior two attempts. Around 16-17 minutes instead of the usual 12-13. In the meantime, I simply melted chocolate chips with Half and Half in the microwave and stirred in a tiny bit of butter to make a quick ganache filling.

Final results? The cookies looked great. They smelled great. They tasted great, EXCEPT, they were overbaked. Way too crunchy without a hint of their trademark chewiness. Hmph. Apparently 16-17 minutes is too long – live and learn. If it wasn’t for that minor flaw, this might have been my best batch yet! The other shortcuts I took didn’t seem to affect the outcome at all. Good to know. One more time, and I think I’ll have it sorted.

overbaked chocolate macarons

For our entree, I pulled out the new pasta machine again and rolled out a couple mounds of dough. It still boggles my mind that all you have to do is knead a few eggs into some flour and bam – noodles. I rolled through the dough into long, fragile sheets and laid them out to dry while hubby helped me concoct a quick bolognese sauce with Italian sausage (the Marsh butcher counter is the best place in town for bulk Italian sausage, IMHO). I’m more a sweet sausage fan, but hubby likes it spicy, so we blended a pound of each. The results – delicious, with a nice but not overpowering kick of heat.

We boiled the pasta briefly to soften. In retrospect, it might have been smart to cut the pasta to size before boiling it – the pasta expanded as it cooked, and we had a hell of time trying to fish the sheets out of the scalding water without ripping them and/or hard-boiling our fingers in the process.

Finally, I got the lasagna assembled and threw it in the oven for about 30 minutes. Our lovely neighbors agreed to join us as taste testers. At long last, the oven buzzer rang and I delivered the steaming dish of bubbly cheesy goodness to the table, along with a bowl of quick-boiled green beans and slices of the French bread our neighbors had contributed.

homemade lasagna with fresh noodles

The lasagna was, well, it was fantastic. The fresh noodles are labor intensive to create, but they make such a HUGE difference – the texture was light and simply melted in my mouth, not a trace of the chewiness that I hate. And the sauce was awesome. I have to admit, hubby made a great call with adding in a bit of the hot sausage for punch. It was excellent. (AND he washed the entire mountain of dishes my efforts produced. Bless him. He’s a keeper.) Even the toddler scarfed down some of the leftover noodle “rags” with a little bit of sauce and some cheese on top.

All in all, a great meal shared with great friends. What more could a person want?

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