Friday, December 27, 2013

Holiday Baking

One of my biggest issues—at least that I tell myself—that I have with keeping up with my blog is that I can’t take good pictures at nighttime.  So if I make something during the week I have to do it after work when it’s already dark.  And then obviously when I go to take pictures of my end product it’s still dark and I miss all of that great daylight that bleeds into my apartment.  I don’t know…  Maybe I’m making a bigger deal out of it than it is but I find it to be an irritating dilemma because I do bake a lot during the week and I want to share those things on my blog.  But because of the not being able to take decent pictures in my apartment with my little ole iPhone at night I usually omit those projects.  Thus, I limit my blog posts to things I make on the weekend which is ok.  I guess. Sort of ok.  Actually, no it’s not.  It’s not ok at all.  I’m still annoyed thinking about all of the things that I’ve excluded just because I can’t take pictures of them in the daylight.

So I’m just going to have to use fancy photo editing effects and stuff.  Until I get better at editing and taking pictures I’m going to muscle through this dilemma.  Yes, I will post more—I will be like a night blogger or something like that.  It will be my “thing”—the niche of my food blog—crappy night time photos!  Well, not crappy but developing and optimistic and photos that endeavor to be daylight photos. 

Anyway, the reason I got to thinking about this (again) is because I baked and confected a lot during this recent holiday season.  I made fudge—which I did blog about—and a cake, chocolates, toffee (twice), cookies, two apple pies, doughnuts and a whole Christmas eve dinner for my parents.  That’s a lot of stuff right?  Too much to just dismiss and pretend like it never happened.  I mean, I was one busy baker.  Well luckily I took some pictures—reluctantly—thinking I might be able to post them and mention them. 

So that’s what this post is—a small amalgam of things I baked over the past couple of weeks. 

Let’s talk about his bundt cake first.  It’s a gingerbread bundt cake that I grabbed from Sprinkle Bakes’ blog with one slight adaptation.   I iced it with a quick chocolate glaze instead of the coffee one cited in the recipe.  Aside from that I followed the recipe to the letter.  It’s turned out great, was very tasty and I didn’t have a complaint about it.  

Now let’s move on to these cookies.  My goal of these cookies was to replicate the Italian bakery style turtle cookies that I fell in love with over the past year.  This is a sugar/butter cookie with caramel, fudge and usually topped with pecans.  I’ve found three bakeries that sell this style cookie and I can’t get enough of them.  So I used an easy spritz cookie recipe from one of my cookbooks, a fudge frosting recipe from a different cookbook of mine and then I kinda made up the caramel concoction myself.  I omitted the pecans that tend to make up a turtle (I think..) but only because I didn’t have any and personally the fudge and caramel are the best parts.  As a whole it was a good cookie but the spritz base wasn’t exactly the right one that I get from a bakery so I’m gonna have to work on that.  I think I’ve found some more authentic recipes so I will definitely come back to this.  The fudge was on target and the caramel was close but I may have to continue to sample some of the real things to prefect it…

From The Art of the Cookie by Shelly Kaldunski:  The spritz cookie

360g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
185g plus 2 tbsp of butter at room temp.
125g confectioners sugar
1 large egg at room temp.
1 tsp of vanilla extract

In one bowl whisk the flour and salt together.  Set aside
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and light (2-3 minutes)
Add the egg and the vanilla to the sugar-butter mixture and mix until fully incorporated
Slowly add the flour mixture mixing just until the flour is fully incorporated
Drop or pipe the cookie dough onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Here, I made about 1 inch diameter round balls of dough and then flattened them out with the tines of a fork (like when making peanut butter cookies).
Place the cookies in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 325
Once the oven is preheated bake the cookies for 15-17 minutes
Remove and let cool.

I made the fudge using the chocolate fudge recipe from my previous post.  The only difference was that at the end I added 1 tbsp of half and half to get the right consistency so I could pipe it onto the cookies.

For the caramel, I made a simple caramel base using this recipe.  Then I just added some powdered sugar until I got the right consistency--not an exact science I know but I need to work on that...

Once I had everything made, I piped on a big dollop of the caramel onto the cookie and on top of that the fudge-- fancy style course.

Lastly were the donuts.  I just used some of the leftover brioche dough that I made weeks ago and froze because the recipe made so much.  The recipe came from Hummingbird High and this time I used the honey glaze that she cites in her post.  The dough froze great and the donuts tasted amazing—especially coming straight out of the fryer.  I think this is a fantastic donut recipe.  Try it.  

Those are my mom's santa salt and pepper shakers--they made for some good props!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

(Happy Holiday's) Fudge

It's been almost a month since my last post.  Not because I didn't want to post.  No no--that was certainly not the case.  The reason I haven't posted is because I was in Italy!!  Yes, for two weeks my partner, his parents and myself were trekking around the Italian peninsula--from Milan to Sicily--eating and drinking and sightseeing and eating and drinking and eating.  I really enjoyed the eating part.  The patisserie's are basically on every corner so I was in heaven.  It was mega fun but I'm happy to be back mostly because I missed baking.  Maybe that's weird but whatever.

Anyway, you might think my first post back would be some sort of Italian baked good or pastry but I didn't really want to do any of that now.  What I wanted to do was make fudge.  And not just one type of fudge but three types.  I never make fudge but I love it.  This past Memorial Day weekend we went up to Mackinaw Island and bought like a giant box of several types of fudge.  We said we would cut a small piece of each type for ourselves and then give the rest to our co-workers but that never happened.   Those small pieces for ourselves turned out to be the entire brick.  I mean....I really like fudge.  You know?  So that happened.

But this time I couldn't keep all of the fudge for myself.  I promised my sisters that I would send them some so I divided it up evenly and shipped it off.  Of course I sampled it.  I'm not dumb.

The three types I made were peanut butter, salted caramel and chocolate.  The chocolate fudge was a traditional recipe that I took from one of my cookbooks and it was perfect.

It tasted classic--just like the stuff we got in Mackinaw.  The other two types were more of a quick type of fudge that I grabbed from another great blog that looked and sounded beautiful.  They are less intensive and use condensed milk as a base.

So this method of making fudge is amazing and easy and the end product tastes sweet, creamy and bad-ass.  But.  But, I think that I prefer the more classic fudge.  It has the melt-in-your-mouth texture which the other recipes didn't necessarily have.  I think it's also a bit smoother and although it's more of an intensive method to make it's worth the effort.  That said, I would certainly make the other types again and I encourage all to try them.


For the Peanut butter fudge I used this

For the Salted caramel fudge I used this

For the Chocolate fudge I used this recipe from the Joy of the Cooking:

2c sugar
1/8tsp salt
1/2c half-and-half
1/2c heavy cream
1/4c light corn syrup
6oz bittersweet chocolate
2tbsp unsalted butter
1tsp vanilla

Line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper
Combine the sugar, salt, half-and-half, heavy cream and corn syrup in a large heavy bottom saucepan.
Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved which can take up to five minutes
After the sugar has dissolved, crank up the heat and bring it to a boil or one full minute
Reduce the heat after the minute to low, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush and add the chocolate
Stir the chocolate until is completely melted
Once the chocolate is melted, heat the mixture until a candy thermometer registers 234 degrees F.
After the temperature has reached 234, remove it from the heat and place the saucepan in cold water.
Just float on top the butter and the vanilla.  Don't stir it in or apparently you risk making the texture of fudge be grainy.
Let the fudge cool down to 110
Once it has cooled to 110, place the mixture in a bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low until the fudge has lost its sheen which took me about 10 minutes.
Lastly, pour the fudge in the 8x8 square pan and let it set for a few hours
Cut into and enjoy

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Donut Mania!

The thing about donuts is that they are only really good right out of the frying pan--any time after that they are just ok--not bad--but just not as good.  I mean, a few hours and maybe beyond they are still good but day old donuts don't have the pizazz that fresh ones embody.  I've learned that the hard way because...well...I went a little donut crazy this past weekend.  I made something like 30+ donuts of three different ilks (fyi--I'm not illustrating my pretension by using that word.  I do a lot of crosswords (NYT Monday ones only--I can't get very far on any other days...) and that word has been popping up a lot lately so when I was writing that sentence it came very naturally.  I swear!).

Anyway,  back to the donuts.  I think that donuts are some of the coolest things to make.  Also, I had this grand idea of making three different donut recipes and then bringing them into work on Monday and being lauded for my mad baking skills. And when I made each of the donuts and iced them and tested (gorged) them I was like--oh yeah, oh wow now that's a beautiful thing.  I felt like master of the donut universe!  But the next day I went back to test one more and I was like....WHAT. THE. FRACK.  I mean--like I mentioned before--they are ok the next day but the shock and awe from the previously tested (scarfed) ones was all but a dream and a memory.  It was sad.

Even sadder because I had to bring them into work and I felt that at that point they were stale.  Alas, I brought them in and luckily people did eat them.  All of them.  So I guess they liked them enough--although I do have images of them bringing a donut back to their desks, biting into one and tossing it into the trash because there faces were overcome with distaste for the dry bricks I just served them.  But that probably didn't happen.  I'm sure it didn't.  No way.  Uh uh.  Oh well.  I just wish they could have experienced my donuts fresh out of the frying oil.  Nevertheless, now I know.  And next time they will.  I mean everyone should get a chance to experience those because fresh donuts are tantalizing and can melt in your mouth and stuff.


How I went about it:

Chocolate Brioche Donuts: 

I used this recipe from Hummingbird High (Seeing these is actually what spawned my donut making idea for this past weekend--that and I had a lot of leftover apple cider and pumpkin puree) 

For the chocolate icing I used this recipe.  It's really really good...

Apple Cider Donuts:

I used Smitten Kitchen's apple cider donuts recipe.

And for the salted caramel icing I used this.  I realize that there is also an apple cider donut recipe on this food blog as well which I used once before and they tasted good but I wanted to try using Smitten Kitchen's this time.  One note about making cake donuts:  use a lot of flour and make sure your donuts are thoroughly chilled before handling them or else it's gonna get real messy...and sticky.

Pumpkin Baked Cake Donuts:

I used King Aurthur Flour's recipe.

....And finally for the brown butter icing I went to Joy the Baker's recipe.  Splendid.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Savory Breakfast Bread Pudding

So yes.  This isn't a baked sweet.  But it is baked.  And it does have some sweet elements to it.  But yes--it is technically a savory dish.

I'm trying a new filter on my photos.  How does this one look?

Contrary to basically every single one of my posts I do more often than not cook/bake things that are savory because if I ate the kind of things I've posted about every day I'd probably weigh a thousand pounds and already need dentures at my ripe young age.

What about this one?
At the same time I felt like taking a quick break from the baked goods and post about something else.  It also gave me another chance to make something completely up with my farmers market booty.  By the way, the farmers market is starting to depress me a tad.  

And this one?

The outdoor market has moved indoors (due to the blustery winter to come), the amount of vendors is starting to dissipate and although there is still a bit of a stockpile of greens around I can already see the root vegetables becoming more and more prevalent--and eventually that is all there will be for months on end...  I like root vegetables but like the winter weather, they wear on me.  Blah.  


I get the winter blues a lot and technically it's still fall.  But we had an early start of winter here with a blast of arctic air swooshing through that caused me to break out my winter coat that makes me look like I'm wearing a potato sack.  Whatever.  I'll get through it.  Maybe I'll move to Hawaii.  That sounds like a sweet plan.  

And this one too?

Nevertheless!  On to brighter topics like savory bread pudding!  Like I mentioned, I made this recipe up all by myself.  It wasn't that hard since I knew that me and my partner were the only ones going to be eating (testing) it and I feel like cooking some savory items can be more forgiving than baked goods (cue the salt...)

What about this one?

I decided on a breakfast item because that day I could make it when the light was best in my apartment so I could get some good pictures.  Also, I really like savory bread puddings because like a quiche or a frittata you can put just about anything you want in them.  So, I gathered up some carrots, sweet potatoes, leeks and ground italian sausage at the farmers market for it.  


I think it turned out pretty well.  The only issue I would re-examine is the way I integrated the carrots.  I decided to peel ribbons (as you can see via the pics) and just set them atop and bake it.  It tasted fine but they looked weird when they came out of the oven.  Some may think it looked cool because they all wilted and looked like spider webs or something but I wasn't too keen on the appearance.  So I'd either shred or chop them up next time OR bake the bread pudding without them and once it's done strew the carrot ribbons over it after it comes out of the oven so it looks more like it did below (before I baked it because I think it looked prettier).  But again, it's a nit picky thing and it didn't affect the taste of anything so who cares?

Yes? No?

What I did:

3 medium leeks sliced 1/4" thick (1 heaping cup or 135g)
1 heaping cup of chopped sweet potatoes (240g)
1 heaping cup of carrot ribbons (115g)
1-2 tbsp butter
6 large eggs
1lb ground Italian sausage
2c milk (I used skim)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
10 twists of a pepper grinder (maybe 1/4 tsp?)
8c of whole wheat bread chopped into 1" cubes

1.)  Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat
2.)  Add the leeks and sweet potatoes and cook until softened (maybe 15 minutes)
3.)  Add the ground sausage.  Break it up with a spatula/wooden spoon and cook just until it isn't pink anymore
4.)  Remove from heat and set aside
5.)  Whisk the eggs, milk, salt, cinnamon and pepper in a big bowl
6.)  Butter a 9x16 casserole dish and then spread the bread cubes evenly over the bottom of it
7.)  Spread the leek, sweet potato and sausage mixture over the top of the bread
8.)  Pour the milk egg mixture over that evenly and let is soak in for at least 15 minutes (Like most savory bread puddings you could probably make this the night before and just keep it refrigerated)
9.)  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375
10.)  Spread the carrot ribbons atop and bake for 45-50 minutes
11.)  Remove from heat and serve 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Farewell Pumpkin Cake

God.  I love cake.  It's the best.

At work my project manager quit so we threw her a going away soiree.  Her signature color is orange so everything was orange and since I volunteered to make the cake...clearly I had the color palette already decided for me.

I went all out for this one--well at least I went as far as my cake decorating skills allowed.  I did the petal ombre technique I learned here.  And then I made some white modeling chocolate that I dyed orange (of course) and created the strip that straddles the cake.  I also used it to make the rose which I learned how to do via this superb tutorial.  

It was a fun cake to make.  And it was delightful to eat.

Here's a quick breakdown for you:

Cake flavor - pumpkin (adapted the recipe from here)
Filling - salted caramel apple butter swiss meringue buttercream w/diced apples
Frosting - brown butter swiss meringue buttercream (brown butter is an intoxicating flavor...)
Rose and orange strip - white modeling chocolate

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Totem Pole Cake and More!

This is a special Halloween blog post!  A very good friend of mine who happens to be an extremely talented writer has teamed up with me to put an eerie voice to the equally spooky cake I've conjured into existence...


by Adam McOmber

It gets dark early these days.  The sky turns the color of a bruise and, soon enough, the whole world fades to black.  We know we should get inside where it’s safe and warm.  Sit in the lamplight and read a book.  We should be cozied under a blanket and listen to the wind as it hammers against our windowpanes. 

But this is October.  Halloween weather and Halloween feelings.  And in these late days, we’ve grown to appreciate the dark, haven’t we?  We can feel it there inside of us.  Feel the crackle of autumn leaves in our chest.  The odd flicker of a jack-o-lantern’s candle. 

We like the way the hair on the back of our neck stands up when we see a fat spider hanging in a web.  We appreciate our hearts beating a little faster when we walk down an empty street and hear something scuttling in the bushes.  It’s a reminder of the season.  A reminder that the green of summer is fading all around us—and there’s a certain pleasure in watching that life pass.  The end of the green is what reveals the dark, after all.  

And in the dark, there’s a whole world of imagination.  Watch it play like a film on the white screen inside our mind.  A projector bulb flickers to life and then suddenly a black and white horror movie appears.  The dead are rising.  The monsters are coming out.  We watch the mummy drag itself from a jeweled sarcophagus.  Its face is all bandaged, and its flesh looks like desert sand.  We watch zombies rot and stumble through a graveyard.  And there too, in the eldritch vapors, is Victor Frankenstein’s monster, perpetually questioning his own humanity.  

 And behind him, a common man who’s growing tufts of animal hair from his face.  Yellow eyed, long fanged wolf wearing shredded clothes, prowling the shadows.  They’re like old friends now, aren’t they?  And we walk with our monsters in the dark.  We forget our lives and our responsibilities for a while.  We feel the strange old desires well up in us.  We too are creatures from long ago.  And we spread fear through our little town.  We realize that tomorrow the sun will rise, sweeping all of this away.  But for now we have the dark.  And we love it, don’t we?  We love it just as it is.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apple Pie Contest

 Apple Pie.  It's my favorite type of pie  Always has been.  Probably always will be.

For the second year I entered the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest.  Last year I tried to make a dulce de leche type crust AND a dulce de leche like filling.

Thanks to my nephew for being an excellent hand model
It was kind of a failure.  It looked great but tasted bland.  My idea totally bombed and I think in the end I was just shooting too big with the little pie making experience I had.  So I had intended to make a much simpler apple pie this year.  Until--of course--I read another bloggers post about a local pie shops apple pie with a vanilla-like custard and I was like.....mmm...damn...  So I had to try this.

I ended up adapting it a tad and actually combined it with another recipe from my Cook's Illustrated cookbook.  The main adaptation was that the pie contest requires a double crust and the original recipe had a crumb topping (which is my favorite because I actually don't really like double crusts that much).  Nevertheless, I had to abide by the rules.  I was a little nervous about creating a hybrid pie for this contest based on my past experimental pie making failure but I made a test pie first and it was damn fine.  Thus, I went with it.

See? There's a little sticker that says 'Semi-Finalist'!  Also, yes my pies name was Brunhilde, the female warrior.

And it paid off because I was a semi-finalist in the contest!  I think there were about 100 entries and I was one of 15-20 semi-finalists so I was very pleased with my progress.  I don't even care about the failed art-deco"esque" design I had worked out for the top crust that caused me to frantically start cutting out free-hand maple leaves with leftover pie dough and plopping them atop my mucked up design...  All that is water under the bridge because I made it to the semi-finals!!!!  I made a pie that was on the track to becoming an award winning pie!  It just boosts my confidence a bit so I am excited for next year now.


For the pie crust, I again used the one for my stone fruit pie post times and doubled it for two pies.

The first part of the hybrid recipe came from here. As I mentioned before, I combined it with a recipe in my Cooks Illustrated cookbook.  The following is my complete version and is only for one pie.

Apple Mixture

7 granny smith apples (I didn't weigh them but they were large apples)
3 1/2 oz granulated sugar
1 3/4 oz light brown sugar
zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon


8 oz creme fraiche
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp all-purpose flour

Egg Wash

1 tbsp heavy cream
1 large egg yolk

1.)  Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/4" slices
2.)  Toss the apples with both sugars, the zest, salt and cinnamon
3.)  Place them in a large dutch oven, cover and cook over medium heat--stirring often-- until they are tender but still hold their shape when pierced with a fork.  This took me between 10-15 minutes.
4.)  Dump them out onto a large baking sheet until they cool completely.
5.)  In the meantime prepare the custard by whisking together the flour and salt in one bowl
6.)  In a second medium bowl whisk together the egg, creme fraiche and vanilla extract until fully combined
7.)  Pour the dry ingredients (flour, salt mixture) into the wet and stir/whisk until fully combined
8.)  Once the apples are cooled, pour them, without the juices, into your pie dish (I arranged them individually to pack them in tightly and neatly because I was hoping it would slice well in cross-section for the contest judges.  I think it did...but your call) that already has your pie dough rolled into it.
9.)  Pour the custard over the apples
10.)  Place your top crust over the apples and trim and pinch and crimp or fork or whatever you want to do to make it look pretty
11.)  For the egg wash, whisk together the egg yolk and cream and with a pastry brush apply it to the pie crust.
12.)  Place pie in the fridge to chill while you preheat the oven to 425
13.)  Once preheated bake the pie for 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375, rotate the pie 180 and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until everything looks nice and done.
14.)  Remove the pie from the oven and let cool completely before slicing into.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Chocolate Macarons

Macarons.  Yes.  There are like 5 ingredients that go into macarons and they take less than a half hour to make.  Yet they still manage to frustrate the hell out of me.

I've made them four times now.

The first was disastrous and they looked more like potato chips than any sort of cookie I know of.

The second time was in a pastry making class and of course, due to a group effort and guidance from our instructor, they came out splendidly.

So, naturally being fully educated on the secrets of macaron-making I headed home to give them another shot surely knowing all that there possibly is to know about making them.

And I rejoiced when they came out of the oven for the first minute.  They looked pretty--and actually tasted great but I decided to make giant mega macarons (like the mouth-watering ones I gobbled down at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery this past summer) and didn't account for the extra baking time (I think this is what went wrong?) needed to bake them so they were more marshmallowy and had the thinnest shell imaginable.

But I did not stop there because I was fairly determined and irritated that I couldn't get a good macaron on my own.  So I went for a fourth try.  And these were definitely an improvement.  I did end up throwing out a batch but I ended up saving two--one being better than the other but both being better than the one I trashed.

I think the biggest problem I have with making macarons is getting the right consistency with the batter and not deflating the merignue.  I always read that it should be a "lava-like" flow...  Well, perhaps I need to start watching some Youtube videos of more lava flows because I'm having trouble with this.  Or maybe it just takes some more practice...  I'm going with I just need more practice--and I'm willing to accept that.  They are kinda fun to make and even more fun when they come out magnifque (that's French! like macarons!).  Plus, you can add just about any type of filling and flavor you can think of--buttercream, whipped cream, chocolate, ganache, fudge....  Get it?

My favorite is buttercream but I was actually making these for a friend who is anti-buttercream (he's cray cray) and pro-fudge (well, maybe not that cray cray) so I made a chocolate fudge filling.

Like I mentioned earlier--due to my lava-like batter troubles--these came out kind of flat which I think was a result of deflating the meringue.  I also had to adjust the baking times a tad between the batches because the first batch that I made and threw away had the same sort of marshmallowy under-baked texture that the mega macarons I tried to make had.  So I increased it ever so slightly by a couple of minutes.

Despite these ones being a vast improvement from my first batch (I dare call them a success), I actually can't wait to go another round at them.

This is the recipe from the Cook Au Vin pastry making class:

200g egg whites (our instructor believed chilled egg whites was best which I abided by but I've also read conflicting arguments for using room temperature ones)
200 g almond flour
350g powdered sugar
75g granulated sugar
1/2tsp cream of tartar
2tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I might add more or some food coloring if you want them darker or with more chocolate flavor)

Any filling of your choosing that amounts to about 2 cups

1.)  Combine almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor and process until well combined (you can also just whisk the two together but I wanted a smooth shell and so I didn't want any big particles of almond flour so I tried to get the mixture as fine as possible.  However, I did read somewhere once that if you process the almond flour too much you could end up releasing some of the oils and apparently that spells trouble for the batter so I guess just beware...
2.)  Set aside flour/sugar mixture
3.)  Combine in a mixer the egg whites and the cream of tartar and whisk on high speed until foamy.
4.)  Add the granulated sugar and whisk on high until stiff peaks form
5.)  Add the flour/sugar mixture in three separate additions until just combined using the lowest setting on your mixer.  Do not over-mix or you will deflate the meringue.
6.)  Add the cocoa powder in and mix on the lowest setting for 15-20 seconds
7.)  Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold the rest of the cocoa in until it's evenly distributed and hopefully you will have a lava-flow like batter
8.)  Pour the batter into a piping bag and pipe out 1 1/2 inch circles onto prepped baking sheets (I prepared templates and put them under some parchment paper/slipmat to better help my piping endeavor)
9.)  Let the piped out macaron circles sit out at room temperature for 1 hour.  This dries them out and helps them form their shell.
10.)  About ten minutes before the hour is up, preheat the oven to 315 
11.)  Bake for 5 minutes at a time turning the baking sheets 180 degrees after the first 5 minutes and then leave them in for another 5 minutes (10 total).  As I mentioned previously I kept my last two batches in for an extra two minutes (12 total for me) which I think helped them form a sturdier shell/bake through.
12.)  After they are done baking remove from the oven and you have two options here--let them cool at room temperature or do what my instructor recommended and put them in the freezer directly and leave them there for a day before filling.  Apparently this helps maintain a moist interior for the macaron and a hard shell.  I did this and it worked just fine.  If you don't have time, just let them cool completely and fill when ready.

So the next day I made the fudge and filled them.  I keep them in an airtight container in the freezer.  I've read often that they taste better as time passes so if you don't have to eat them right away then this might be a great option. Bon Ap├ęttit!