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A fun evening making French macarons

I’ve been obsessed with macarons for a couple of years now, but have never attempted to make them. Everyone always told me how hard and finnicky they were to create, so I just left it at that and continued to buy them regularly. But when I saw a TeamBuy coupon for a 2-hour macaron making class for $45, I jumped on it.

We booked a few weeks ahead of time, and ended up going to a class last night at Professor and the Pigeon – a cute little bakery and coffee shop located in Kitsilano. The class started at 6:30, and we had about 15 or 16 people in the class. BF was the only guy there, which wasn’t surprising.

There was a wide range of skill level in attendance. One woman said she’s tried to make macaron at least a dozen times before, and there were people like us who have never attempted it at all. I bake a few times a year – banana breads, pies, cookies, etc. But am by no means an expert.

The first thing we did was watch a demonstration on how to make the macaron shells. Then, she divided us into 3 teams, and we started making our own shells. The group I was in was making Earl Grey macarons. Yum!

We started out by measuring the ingredients, and we were both pretty surprised at how simple the recipe is: just egg whites, white sugar, icing sugar, and almond flour. :) We blended the egg whites and white sugar together until the batter formed stiff peaks, and then we were ready for the next step.

We then poured the icing sugar and almond flour on top of the egg white mixture, and started mixing together. It was really important not to overmix, but I was surprised at how runny the batter was (similar to the consinstency of melted chocolate). After we got it just right, we filled a piping bag and went to town. Ours came out a little bit uneven, but pretty good for a first try. :) Then you let them sit on the tray for at least 30 minutes, until they dry out a little so that you can touch them (kind of like a blister).

They don’t spend long in the oven, and it makes a big difference temperature-wise whether you are using a convection oven or a regular oven. Once removed from the oven, they have to cool completely before you can move onto filling them with deliciousness.

While they cooled, we started to make our Earl Grey buttercream filling. It’s a little disgusting knowing how much butter and sugar actually goes into the filling, so I’ll just skip over that part. :) We used ground up tea, mixed it with hot cream, and then added it to butter, sugar, and vanilla extract.

Now the fun part – assembling the macarons! :) I was a little bit stingy in the amount of buttercream I put into my macarons. Thought I could somehow make them healthier… but, don’t skimp out. They were much better when you put more buttercream than what you think is a healthy amount, haha!

Making macarons was a really fun experience, and made an awesome date night. We were concerned before going to the class that we wouldn’t be able to make them at home. But it turns out, they’re quite simple to make. You just need to know how to get the right consistency with the batter, and get the timing perfectly. I’m glad we took the class because it gave us hands-on experience before we attempt to make them ourselves. :)

Here is the finished product. So pretty!

photo 1

NOTE: This wasn’t a paid review or anything (although I did use a referral link to the coupon site), I just love macarons and was really excited to share this experience. The price for the class is normally $99, but you can buy it through TeamBuy (referral) for $45.

Have you ever tried to make macarons before?

Should tipping in restaurants be banned?

Should tipping be banned in Canadian restaurants?Tipping has been on my mind a lot. A few days ago, I read about a new restaurant in Parksville called Smoke and Water that will be banning the act of tipping (they don’t open until June). As someone who has really struggled with the concept of tipping, I find this really intriguing.

So instead of tipping, as you can imagine, the menu prices will be higher – about 18% higher. The owner will pay his staff a living wage (between $20-24/hr for servers and $16-18 for cooks), instead of having them work for less and rely on tips to make up the rest.

The owner will eliminate the tipping line on credit card/debit receipts altogether, and if someone does leave a tip, they will give it back to them. If they can’t get it back to the customer, they will donate the money to charity.

The newspaper articles I read about this restaurant said that this is likely the first in Canada of its kind. But I found that this is common in many places in Europe, and I know it’s the model of countries like New Zealand and Australia as well.

After the news broke about this new restaurant, I listened to a Freakonomics podcast about tipping, and a Wait But Why article called Everything you don’t know about tipping. And now I feel like the whole concept of tipping could be at its tipping point (hahahaha).

But the problem is, until the system is fixed – until workers get paid fairly – I will always feel a moral obligation to tip people in the service industry. When I get a massage or have my hair cut or go out to a restaurant, I often wonder how much of what I’m paying is actually going into the pockets of the people performing the service – and how much is going back to the owner. So I tip. Not necessarily because I got good service (bad service gets 10%, good service gets 15-18%), but because I feel like I have to. And that’s not right.

Related: How much do you tip?

Another thing is, why do some customer service jobs get tips, and others don’t? I’ve worked in retail and customer service for over 10 years, and never once got tipped. I had repeat customers, people knew me by name, I made them smile, and I worked just as hard as those people in tip-based jobs … except I only made a base wage. Doesn’t seem fair to me.

Recently BF has thought about not tipping as a mandatory practice. Instead, he thinks he should only tip when he feels he receives good service – and even though I agree with what he’s saying, I scoffed at that idea because the system is broken. We’ve never NOT tipped, but the man has a point. Tipping shouldn’t be mandatory, and it shouldn’t be expected. You should only tip if you want to, but unfortunately our society seems to be a bit tip-crazy, and a lot of people will openly judge if you don’t leave a tip wherever you go. Maybe these little changes could be the catalyst needed to make a big change to the whole system.

Related: The one where the waitress added in her own tip

It’s going to be interesting to see what customers think of seeing a significantly higher priced menu, and whether they will buy into the no-tipping model. For people who regularly tip less than 18%, perhaps that will be their cue to dine elsewhere. Or maybe customers and workers will start demanding this model be adopted by other restaurants.

What do you think about this no-tipping policy?

Do you think the Smoke and Water restaurant will be able to attract staff, as well as customers?

Luxuries vs. Necessities: GMBMFB Poll Results

Last week I bought my first television in two years, and that prompted me to write a post about luxuries vs. necessities. In that post, I cited a 2009 survey that polled over 1,000 Americans and asked what consumer goods they considered to be a luxury, and which they considered a necessity. The results were interesting, and I wanted to see if they have changed over the last 4 years so I conducted my own informal poll here at GMBMFB.

Just to recap, here are the results from the 2009 survey:

luxury_necessity2009

From the GMBMFB poll (338 participants to date), here are our results:

gmbmfb_luxuriessurvey

It’s interesting to see that the top 3 things we value in 2013 weren’t necessarily considered necessities just four years ago. A cell phone is now considered to be a necessity at 80%, whereas in 2009 a cell phone was only at 49%. Granted, I think that has a lot to do with people canceling their landline phones and moving over to something more mobile.

I would completely agree with the top 4 things on the GMBMFB poll: like I mentioned in the last post, all of these items are luxuries… but the top things on my list are a cell phone, high-speed internet, and a home computer. Having a car and a clothes dryer is also pretty nice, but I’ve lived without those things before. I’ve never had air conditioning, and rarely use my microwave or my dishwasher. I don’t own an iPad/tablet, cable TV, or a landline.

Do any of the results from the GMBMFB poll surprise you? Or were they exactly what you expected?

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