Nothing to Wear

Nothing to Wear | Sophster-Toaster

More than ever before, I feel like I have nothing to wear. Maybe it’s the season and the not-cold-anymore-but-not-warm-yet weather. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been spending all my fun money on an exciting new hobby and don’t have any new clothes for this in-between season. Or maybe it’s that big, and much needed, wardrobe edit I did over the winter.

I think I’ve always had trouble dressing for this time of year but didn’t really notice until I bought a house where I control the heat like a stingy miser and have to keep in mind every morning that I will need to walk the dog at some point. I can’t pull the spring clothes out early and fake it through March anymore. Even dressing for St. Patrick’s Day can be a challenge when it seems like all of my green clothes are for warmer weather but I’m getting sick of layering! Maybe warm legs and cool arms will do if I stick close to the kitchen and that bubbling pot of vegetarian Irish Stew.

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Dress ModCloth
Socks Roots
Glasses Warby Parker
Earrings old

All photos by me.

The Last Week of Winter

The Last Week of Winter | Sophster-Toaster

I’m having such a hard time dressing for the winter-spring transition this year. After a cold and stormy winter, I’m so bored with pants and long sleeves but it’s still too cool for most of the things I really want to wear.

I’m even at a loss as to which colour to wear most days. All of my warm winter clothes are either dark or bright but these longer, soft sunshine filled days have me wanting to reach for pastels every morning. At least this week is easy, the last week of winter is for St. Patrick’s Day green!

The Last Week of Winter | Sophster-Toaster The Last Week of Winter | Sophster-Toaster The Last Week of Winter | Sophster-Toaster The Last Week of Winter | Sophster-Toaster The Last Week of Winter | Sophster-Toaster The Last Week of Winter | Sophster-Toaster The Last Week of Winter | Sophster-Toaster

T-shirt ModCloth
Jumper Mod Dolly
Tights Target
Beret Larmoni
Glasses Warby Parker
Shoes ModCloth

The Last Week of Winter | Sophster-Toaster

All photos by me.

St. Patrick’s Day Green

St. Patrick's Day Green | Sophster-Toaster Blog

My family came to Canada from Ireland in 1846, so we always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day when I was growing up. Now that I live away from them, I like to celebrate and share my culture with my friends. This year they’re all coming over for beer, good Irish whiskey, music, games, storytelling and some traditional, homemade Irish and Irish-American food. My husband has been brining a brisket all week to make corned beef (we’re going to try marinating some tempeh in a similar brine for me) and I’m making a springtime colcannon and fresh soda bread!

St. Patrick's Day Green | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I’ve never made my own soda bread before, so I had to learn and experiment with a few different recipes this past week. I think the recipe I’m trying today, from Baking for Friends, is a real winner! I can’t wait to share it with the people I love tomorrow.

St. Patrick's Day Green | Sophster-Toaster Blog St. Patrick's Day Green | Sophster-Toaster Blog St. Patrick's Day Green | Sophster-Toaster Blog St. Patrick's Day Green | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Dress Larmoni
Cardigan ModCloth
Knit Tights ModCloth
House Shoes Amazon
Hair Combs Amazon

St. Patrick's Day Green | Sophster-Toaster Blog St. Patrick's Day Green | Sophster-Toaster Blog St. Patrick's Day Green | Sophster-Toaster Blog

All photos by me.

Whiskey Cream Macarons

Whiskey Cream Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I think I’ve finally cracked the code on these tricky little cookies. These Kelly green macarons with Irish whiskey buttercream filling are some of the best I’ve ever made. Here’s the recipe I’ve developed that seems to work best for the type of ground almonds and eggs available near me, the humidity of where I live, and my conventional gas oven.

Whiskey Cream Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Ingredients

for the macarons

  • 1 cup ground almonds (as finely ground as you can find)
  • 1½ cups icing sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp high quality vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Kelly green gel food colouring

for the buttercream

  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp good Irish whiskey (The buttercream won’t taste like whiskey, but rather like the tasting notes of the whiskey, so a better whiskey will produce a better, richer, more interesting flavour in the buttercream.)

Whiskey Cream Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Method

for the macarons

  1. Prepare your parchment sheets by drawing 1″ circles, ½” apart across the entire sheet (or using silicon baking mats with the circles already printed on them) and placing them on a large flat surface suitable for drying your batter, like a dining table. You will need 2-3 half sheet pan size pieces.
  2. Sift ground almonds and icing sugar, together, twice. Set aside.
  3. In a large stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until you have a foam with no liquid remaining.
  4. Slowly add the sugar while continuing to beat the egg whites. Beat on high speed until the egg whites reach stiff peaks. You’ve made meringue!
  5. Add vanilla and gel colouring and beat in until colour is fully incorporated.
  6. Fold your almond and icing sugar mixture into the meringue in two parts.
  7. Here’s the part that takes practice: it’s time for the macaronnage. With a spatula, spread the batter, with some force, against the side of the bowl. Then scoop it up by running the spatula along the side of the bowl again and try to flip it all over and sort-of lightly smack it back into the bottom of the bowl. Gather the batter up again and repeat 15-20 times. It takes some time to figure out the best way to do this, don’t be afraid to play around with it. When doing the macaronnage correctly, repeating more than 20 times can result in oily, blotchy macarons, but I’ve found that doing it incorrectly doesn’t count towards this limit. If you are doing it right, the batter will take on a noticeable and somewhat sudden change in consistency, this means you are about half-way to that limit. When finished, the batter should be thickened and drip slowly from the spatula. You will have to pipe it onto your baking sheets/mats and it won’t work if the batter is too runny. This is the technique that defines macarons, this is what makes mastery of them impressive.
  8. For perfectly round macarons, use a large, 0.4″ plain tip with a pastry bag, or do it the lazy way and cut a corner off a zip top bag for mostly round macarons. Twist (or don’t yet cut) the bag at the tip and place it, tip side down, in a tall glass. Fill with your batter and twist, close or clip the other end to help keep the messy batter moving in the right direction. Pipe the batter into the centre of the circles on your sheets/mats and stop before reaching the edges as the batter will spread out a bit.
  9. Once finished piping, carefully pick the sheets/mats up and drop them back on to the table from a high of a couple of inches. The theory is that this helps the cookies keep their round shape and form the little bubbles (the pied) when you put them in the oven.
  10. Leave the cookies on the table, uncovered, for 15-30 minutes to dry. This is a good time to preheat your oven to 350°F. You will know the macarons are dry when they look smooth and are no longer sticky to the touch.
  11. Place an oven rack in the centre of your oven. Place a sheet of macarons on two doubled up sheet pans (this will stop the bottoms from getting too hot, resulting in cracked macarons) and bake for about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan half way through baking. It can be hard to tell when the macaron are done. I pull them out when the kitchen smells sweet and the cookies look crisp and have just started to brown ever-so-slightly.
  12. As soon as the parchment sheet/baking mat is cool enough to handle, take it out of the pan with all the cookies on top and place it on a cooling rack. The macarons will be too sticky to remove from the sheet/mat now; once cooled, they should peel off easily. I usually wait a few minutes for the pans to cool a bit and for the oven to come back to a steady temperature before moving the next sheet to the pans and baking the next round.

for the buttercream

  1. Make sure the butter is soft enough for you to press your finger into. On a cold, winter day, this may mean cutting it into pieces and warming it up slightly in the microwave or oven – still warm from your macarons. Cream the butter in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  2. Break the egg into a large heat-resistant mixing bowl and beat lightly with a hand mixer. Set aside.
  3. Add water and sugar to a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until thick and syrupy, about 7 minutes. You’ve made simple syrup!
  4. Slowly pour your simple syrup into the beaten egg while beating with a hand mixer on as high a speed as you can without flinging syrup everywhere, remember it is hot and sticky. Once all the syrup is in, beat the mixture on high speed, slowly reducing speed until it is white, thick, and the bowl is no longer hot.
  5. Add the butter to this mixture in two or three parts and beat on medium speed until fully incorporated and creamy. If you are like me, the buttercream will split now. If continuing to beat doesn’t bring it back together, it has likely become too cold. Pop it in the warm oven for 30 seconds and try beating it again. Continue doing this until it comes together.
  6. Add the whiskey and beat until mixed in.
  7. Now pipe the buttercream between two cookies and enjoy your hard work!

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All photos by me.