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We didn't have school yesterday. We don't have school today. And we won't have school tomorrow.
I'm loving all this time off, but I think I'm getting a little cabin fever from not being able to leave the house/neighborhood at all. So what have I been doing? I've been filling up our fridge with fattening baked goods. Yesterday I made some teeny tiny almond paste hearts, smaller than the ones from the last post. I'm planning to use them on mini vanilla versions of the Haiti bake sale cupcakes. They're about the size of lentils, and they're so, so cute.
And lucky you, you get a tutorial on how to make them!
First, get everything you need together. Almond paste, of course, and food coloring of your choice. This was leftover from the Haiti cupcakes, so it's already colored. All you need to do is knead the coloring in bit by bit until you get the right shade and it's extended throughout all of the paste.
When working with almond paste, I always keep two things readily available: a clean dishtowel and a small, sharp knife. The knife is perfect for cutting out tiny details, and the flat side of its blade is wonderful for pressing and shaping the paste, especially when you're working with small pieces and your fingers just can't be as precise. Everything seems to stick to your hands when you're using almond paste (especially if you're like me, with two lovely cats and a dog that shed everywhere), and the dish towel - or paper towel, if you prefer - lets you wipe down your hands without constantly having to wash them.
Next, put on your favorite CD; this is the kind of work that begs for some smooth background music. I love Putumayo for baking (and for anything, really, but it seems especially at home in the kitchen).
Start with a piece the size of a small lentil. Tiny, I know. But bear with me.
Make an indent in the top with your pointer finger, so that you have a shape a bit like a bean.
A really, really tiny, adorable bean.
Press it gently onto your work surface. It's okay if it sticks. Actually, it's best if it sticks a bit.
Pinch the bottom with your thumb and pointer finger.
Press into the indent in the top to make it more pronounced.
Gently flatten the top two peaks. If you lose the heart shape, just keep pressing into the top indent and flattening the peaks until you get the right form.
Shape the heart by ever-so-gently pressing in the sides of the top peaks. If you mess up, don't worry. The great thing about almond paste is that it's like Play-Doh; you can keep fussing with the shape and it won't mess up the dough. If worse comes to worst, you can just squish it up and start over.
Now just make two dozen more!
I suggest kneading often to keep the paste from drying out while you work. Don't leave your finished figures out for long; store them in an airtight container in the fridge, or they'll develop cracks.
So there you have it. Teeny tiny hearts that look adorable on cupcakes and are perfect for Valentine's Day baking. They require a little patience and practice, but they're very cute and very much worth it. And after making as many hearts in the past few days as I have, they practically make themselves.