Operation Chocolate Ganache! Macaron Piping Fun at Le Dolci Studio, Part II

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The frosting and piping adventures at Le Dolci continue on!  After successfully piping frosting on a set of mini vanilla cupcakes, it was time for a little decadent chocolate fun: piping chocolate ganache onto macarons!  You read right.  Luscious, luxurious, airy, crispy, melt-in-your-mouth macarons.  Even though Le Dolci’s studio specialty and hallmark is – and always be – cupcakes, we do lots of different sweets and the studio hosts plenty of different themed classes: cookie decorating, truffle making, fun with fondant, cake pops, and macarons, among others! 

Just recently on September 30th, the studio hosted a marvelous macaron class led by the equally marvelous Mardi of Eat.Live.Travel.Write.  Le Dolci secured a cozy spot on Toronto’s macaron map and macarons were daintily placed on ours.  Even though I couldn’t attend the wonderful class that took place that evening (a night class + living in the suburbs don’t mix, unfortunately.  Sigh.), all was not lost.  We had some already-made macarons that needed to be filled, so we put the yummy vanilla buttercream frosting away (only for a little while) and took on Operation Chocolate Ganache for an afternoon of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry macaron piping and filling.

Even though I’ve made several posts about macarons on the blog already (Old Firehall Confectionery on Main Street Unionville, Daniel & Daniel in Cabbagetown, and La Bamboche on Avenue Rd. and also by Yonge & Eglinton, just to name a few), I’ll go through the nuts and bolts of what macarons are comprised of.  In a nutshell, macarons are sweet and delicate Parisian confections made primarily from egg whites, icing sugar, and almond flour, with the variables being the food colourings and flavourings used for the meringue cookie shells.  Then comes the filling which can take the form of a ganache, frosting, jam, or any number of other fillings you wish to sandwich between the macaron shells.  Operation Macaron at Le Dolci called for chocolate ganache, so chocolate ganache it was.

Ganache is a smooth, rich, velvety mixture of cream and chocolate.  Dark chocolate, semisweet, and bittersweet chocolate are the most common types of chocolate used for making ganache and the way to make it is to heat the cream until it just reaches its boiling point, and then pouring the cream over chocolate squares or chopped chocolate.  Using a whisk, you then combine the chocolate and cream until the chocolate becomes nice and syrupy.  The desired consistency will depend on what you’re using the ganache for, so if you’re using the ganache as a filling (for either truffles or macarons, for instance), you’ll want it nice and thick to the point where it does drip off the whisk anymore.  This requires chilling, which you can easily do in the refrigerator.

Lisa heated up the cream and poured it over the chocolate, while I whisked the chocolate and cream together afterward.  I chilled and whisked it until it was thick enough to be piped and Miya helped me pour the ganache into a piping bag.  With the macaron shells sitting daintily on the wire rack workspace, I was ready to give those shells some delightful chocolate ganache kisses!  It was sucking down saliva as I was doing it.  I mean, seriously, unless you’re allergic to chocolate (the way my best friend is), I don’t know a darn person on this planet who wouldn’t salivate at the sight of thick, rich poofs of chocolate. 

They looked like tiny puddles of chocolate goodness and it was such a satifying feeling sandwiching the macaron shells together.  I had to be careful not to pipe too much (which would cause the chocolate ganache to squish out) or too little (you want the ganache to reach the edges because otherwise the macarons look like there’s nothing in them) and I also had to be careful how I sandwiched the shells.  I wanted the top shell to “sit” on the filling, so I had to apply enough pressure to make sure the top shell “stuck” but not so much pressure that it would make the filling ooze out.  The ganache gets goopy if you make try to fix a mistake of sandwiching them crooked, so I had to center them and press down on them just right.  After reading about the mixing and baking process and piping them, macarons are quite the science!  But a very delicious one.  YUM.

I made one or two not-so-perfect ones (a little too much in one and not enough in the other), but other than that, I was so giddy with what I had done!  We made a few extras and packaged them up in a little cellophane baggy and they were good to go.  I ate my macaron mistakes.  Oh shucks, what a terrible thing to have to do, right? 😉

*****

Le Dolci is a private studio located at 75 Portland St., just east of Bathurst near King St. West.  The studio hosts cupcake decorating classes and handles catering for both corporate and personal events.  For more information on classes, schedules, rates, and more, visit their official website here and their Facebook page here.

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Not Just a Pipe Dream – Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Ganache Piping Fun at Le Dolci! Part I

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The Fall Harvest series is far from over, but after a full solid week of apple muffin recipes, fall farmers’ markets, and yummy fall sweets and breakfast comfort foods, I’m ready to take a small break before diving straight back in.  It’s time to get some frosting and cupcake fun back in the mix, Le Dolci style!  I’m so happy you were all so supportive and excited about my internship here at the studio when I posted about my first day and since then, I’ve been bouncing off the walls and soaking up every minute of it. 

I’ve learned so much and I’m really lucky I have Lisa and Miya to help guide me along.  It feels awesome knowing I’m helping Lisa and her business and being given all sorts of responsibilities and things to do.  Every time there’s something different, whether it’s mixing and baking a gazillion batches of vanilla cupcakes (minis and regulars) for orders, making fondant decorations, baking cake for cake pops, writing blog posts for the website, doing some photographh for the website and soon-to-be online store, and frosting and piping the afternoon away!

The fun and creativity that goes on during Le Dolci classes!

When I said I was learning a lot, I wasn’t kidding.  Let it be known that not only were my fondant olives my first foray into the sugary, squishy world of fondant, but that piping frosting was also completely unchartered territory.  But, wait, I bake cookies and cupcakes of my own!  How can I not have piped frosting before??  My family (or rather, my parents) don’t prefer frosting.  I know.  If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought I was adopted.  I lick frosting off the spoon.  THE FROSTING IS THE BEST PART.  And yet, all this time, I’ve been denied when it comes to my own homemade cupcakes.  Do I have fancy piping nozzles and tips?  Yup.  Have I used them?  Nope.  Those babies are being saved for when I eventually move out and won’t have to see my parents wrinkle their nose at the sight of icing sugar and butter.  I’m being dramatic – it really isn’t that bad!  You can understand why piping frosting would provoke such jubiliance on my part then, when for others it’s just part of the every day grind.

My first frosting piping project at Le Dolci was for a set of minis!  Cute little vanilla cupcake minis with pink vanilla buttercream frosting in the shaped of frosting “flowers”.  I’ll be honest, my first piping job was awkward.  As I was doing it, I was confused as to why it didn’t feel natural.  I know, it was my first time, so of course it wasn’t going to look perfect.  But this awkwardness was more than just my perfectionist personality screaming for mercy; this just felt…somewhat wrong.  

It wasn’t until I was on the streetcar after I left that I finally figured out what was wrong: I had used the wrong hand to pipe!  I’m right-handed and for whatever reason, I had started piping with my left!  I don’t know about you guys, but I do not have two fully-functioning hands.  I mean, my left hand isn’t impaired (I’m typing, aren’t I?), but aside from holding things, lifting it up to wave hello, and lifting things, my left hand is, well, kind of useless.  Hence why the first piping gig was less than stellar.

Enter frosting fun day #2.  After realizing my mistake, I was raring to go and this time, the results were MUCH better 😀  I piped bright, gorgeous yellow vanilla frosting “flowers” onto mini cupcakes again and dusted them with some edible sparkly glitter.  OOOO, FAIRY DUST!!  I had the mini cupcakes out on a cooling rack, I flipped the piping bag inside out to attach the tip and kept the top of the bag flipped down to fill the bag with frosting using a spatula.  Flipping the top of the piping bag back up, I twisted it tight, kept it taut with my left hand, and gently applied pressure with my right hand to pipe.  After frosting the minis, I dipped a paintbrush into the sparkly glitter and, doing what Lisa showed me, tapped the handle of the brush to gently glitter and dust the cupcakes.  Operation frosting was a success!

Did I help myself to one?  Pft, do cows go moo?  Of course I did!  Only I didn’t bother piping the frosting.  I just grabbed a mini and slapped some creamy frosting on it with a knife.  With cupcakes, there’s never any regrets or inhibitions 😉

*****

Le Dolci is a private studio located at 75 Portland St., just east of Bathurst near King St. West.  The studio hosts cupcake decorating classes and handles catering for both corporate and personal events.  For more information on classes, schedules, rates, and more, visit their official website here and their Facebook page here.

Martini, Anyone? Chocolate Cupcakes and Fondant Fun at Le Dolci Cupcakes & Cakes Design Studio, Day 2!

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I’m so glad you all liked the photos and post of my first day at Le Dolci’s Cupcakes & Cakes design studio the other day!  The support and excitement means a lot to me and it makes me really happy knowing you guys want to know and see more of what I do when I’m here.  I can say with absolute conviction that I have the baking itch more than ever now.  I know there are times when we all feel like our passion for certain things starts to wane and we start doubting if we actually love what we believe we love.  But I’ve been doing scrapbooking since the age of 13 and have only wanted more for myself over time and I have a gut feeling this passion for baking is only going to be fuelled more and more in the best way possible.

On the agenda for Day 2 at Le Dolci: chocolate cupcakes and fondant fun!  You’d think after baking cupcakes at home and baking vanilla cupcakes at the studio I’d be set with the chocolates ones.  Not exactly.  You can bake a million times and still not get it right sometimes.  The chocolate batter looked, smelled, and tasted awesome (oh please, like you don’t stick your finger in the mixing bowl to have a taste, right?), but I eyeballed the amount of batter in some of the baking cups wrong and ended up putting a little much batter in some of them with resulted in some chocolate cupcakes that were a little uneven and too big and puffy.  Whoops.  Sigh.  No matter, live and learn, right?  I’m showing the ice cream scoop who’s boss next time and you can bet my next batch is going to be freakin’ perfect.  One very important thing to learn and always keep in mind: if at first you don’t succeed, kick the problem in the ass and do better next time 😀  Regardless, it was mouthwatering seeing the cooling racks with rows and rows full of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.

Next up, fun with fondant!  This was my very first time playing around with fondant and I felt so giddy as I started rolling, squishing, and moulding balls of it in my hands.  I thought to myself, “hmm, I kind of feel like Duff from Ace of Cakes.  That, and a pizza maker”.  You should have seen me go.  I was smacking it down, stretching it out, kneading it, twisting it, poking it with toothpicks to add colour to it, and because I’m silly, sniffing it.  Mmm, sugary.  Anyway, the fondant fun called for 18 olives with little pimentos in the centers for a corporate cupcake order, so there I was with a dish of different food colourings, a container of toothpicks, and some white fondant to start things off. 

Being at Le Dolci is like being in art class and oh how I’ve missed art class.  The last time I was in an art class was in 10th grade and sadly, for reasons I’d rather not hash out right now, life went in a different direction and my art classes stopped after that.  But art class was the best.  You came in every day with your trusty art kit for a solid hour and and a half to work on whatever project you were working on at the time whether it was moulding clay, watercolour, printmaking, or drawing and the best atmosphere was the best.  You sat on your art stool with your classmates and friends with the radio on in the background and the time just flew by.  And that’s exactly how I felt as I sat in the studio squishing and stretching sweet fondant, and sticking toothpicks into containers of food colouring, quietly trying to achieve the desired olive colour of the company’s olive logo.

And as luck would have it, it took me only one attempt to get the right colour for the first olive!  SWEET.  A dab of leaf green and two dabs of brown did the trick for the first test olive, so all I needed to do was duplicate the colour for a larger ball of fondant big enough to make 18 olives.  I think they turned out okay!  They’re not perfect, but I’d say it’s decent for my first time working with fondant.  I thought it’d be cute to stick a few toothpicks in them for the photos to make them look like martini olives, hee.  With or without – invisible – drinks, every day is a cupcake party at Le Dolci and I can’t wait to keep doing more things with the frosting making, cupcake baking, and fondant squishing 😀

*****

Le Dolci is a private studio located at 75 Portland St., just east of Bathurst near King St. West.  The studio hosts cupcake decorating classes and handles catering for both corporate and personal events.  For more information on classes, schedules, rates, and more, visit their official website here and their Facebook page here.