Who isn’t a fan of classic French Macarons? Those bite sized little bits of almond flour and meringue sandwiched around a flavorful jam (or chocolate…or anything else, the possibilities are endless) are always a hit. They look beautiful, taste great and are almost never homemade. Since these things are so delicate – they melt in your mouth – I just figured that if I tried to make them I’d end up crushing the cookies and making an utter mess.
I was gifted a macaron baking set for Christmas a couple years ago. This included a recipe guide, a silicon sheet with small circles imprinted so you could properly place the batter and a whoopee cushion style device to squirt the batter into place (in lieu of using a pastry bag). The day after I opened this present in 2014, I made macarons. I diligently followed the recipe, which was originally in French, translated to English. The recipe called for you to make your own almond flour, which I did…it was awful. It wasn’t fine enough and it was just extra work that wasn’t needed.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2017. I decided to try my hand at macarons again, this time using store bought almond flour, pulled out the seldom used KitchenAid Stand Mixer and found a recipe written by a native English speaker.
I decided to substitute more confectioners’ sugar in lieu of superfine sugar only because I failed to read the recipe fully and I didn’t realize I needed two different types of sugar.
This recipe was simple and turned out really well. I do need to work on my piping skills. As I squirted the batter out, I made it too thick, so when I put the sandwiches together they were very tall. A very big mouthful macaron, not a delicate pastry. I also used a few drops of yellow food coloring to give the cookies a deeper yellow color. I filled the macarons with either store bought lemon curd or a homemade spicy passion fruit jam. These fillings were amazing additions – the spicy passion fruit filled cookies were my favorite. The sweet and spicy jam was a unique twist on the traditional French treat – it turned it into a French Polynesian treat.
Do you have a favorite macaron recipe or shop? What is your favorite flavor? Who wants to try one of my spicy passion fruit macaron?
Last night we closed out 2016 and as is a tradition for me, I like to provide a Travel Year In Review. I’m not sure if you’ve all noticed this yourself, but the disparity between paying for a coach seat and paying for a business or first class seat (at least domestically) has shrunk pretty dramatically. I found myself actually purchasing domestic first outright a couple times – often the difference between a coach seat and United’s domestic first has been just $100-$150 round trip (and that’s between ORD and LAX/PDX/SFO). You get double the Premier Qualifying Miles and a bit more on the your Premier Qualifying Dollars too. Thanks to these pricing changes, I was able to cross a new threshold with United this year – I’m now Premier Platinum (more on that to come). Here’s how my year ended up – with the previous 3 years included as a comparison.
By the Numbers: (2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013)
Total Miles Flown: 68,278 | 72,293 | 53,322 | 73,825
Total Segments Flown: 45 | 41 | 37 | 44
Cabin Segment Breakdown (F/B/C): 8/5/32 | 2/5/34 | 0/5/32 | 7/4/33
Total Airlines Flown (new airlines bolded): 5 (United, LATAM, Avianca, Air France, Air Canada) | 5 | 4 | 7
Total Hotel Nights: 69 | 67 | 56 | 71
Total Hotel Stays: 35 | 47 | 32 | 31
Total Airlines Miles Redeemed: 0 | 155,000 | 37,500 | 105,000
Total Hotel Points Redeemed: 106,000 | 283,500 | 134,000 | 13,400
Countries Visited (new Countries bolded): 2+2 (Peru, Bolivia, Canada, France) 3+2 | 6+1 | 8+1
Longest Single Segment: ORD-CDG @ 4,153 | ORD-HKG @ 7,787 | MUC-ORD @ 4,535 | ORD-PVG @ 7,056
Shortest Single Segment: CUZ-AQP @ 195 | CVG-ORD @ 264| YUL-YQB @ 145
Northernmost Airport: CDG (Paris) | LHR (Heathrow) | ARN (Stockholm) | LHR (Heathrow)
Southernmost Airport: LPB (La Paz) | HKG (Hong Kong) | MCO (Orlando) | SGN (Ho Chi Minh City)
The most frequent non-home airport: Tie between EWR & LAX (Newark and Los Angeles) | BNA (Nashville) | YYZ (Toronto) | BNA (Nashville)
I flew enough miles to:
Circumnavigate the world: 2.3 times | 2.9 times | 2.0 times
Make it a quarter | a third | a fifth of the way to the moon
How did your 2016 Year in Travel turn out? Did you keep your status – upgrade your status? Were you able to check off one – or more – of your travel bucket list items this year? What is in store for 2017? Do you plan on taking that one big trip you’ve been talking about, or are going to take many smaller trips to visit friends and family? If you want my advice, it doesn’t matter where you go, just go. Enjoy the journey. Experience the destination. Share a drink, a meal and a laugh.