Neapolitan Macarons

31 August 2015



It seems sad to say that September is upon us, the summer holidays are over and the kids are heading back to school. And we didn't really get a summer... the weather just never happened. 

One of my favourite  summer memories from home is having a treat after dinner. My Mom used to make us floats; a scoop of vanilla ice cream dumped into a glass of red lemonade. Old school fizzy lemonade, that had crazy amounts of sugar in it. And all manners of E numbers and colouring that are surely not allowed today. The kind that marked a big red ring around your lips. The ice cream fizzed up and this foamy top appeared. It became this tangy, sweet concoction and we loved it. It's one of those memories that, however simple it is in today's terms, is very special. 

Then there were those times when we went out for dinner. Desserts in restaurants were always so much more luxurious than those at home. Kids menus used to have trio's of ice cream, served in a tall glass with cream and cigarellos. I loved it when the waitress would ask you to choose your flavours after she listed them out. That to me was the epitome of swanky... I can choose more than just vanilla?? WOW!

I always chose neapolitan. 




I knew way back then that my sweet tooth was something I'd grow into and put to good use. I knew the restaurants that made their own ice cream, or brought in expensive ice cream as opposed to bog standard tub stuff. I liked to watch how ice cream melted against the wall of the glass. A good ice cream would leave a thick creamy smudge and not wipe of clean when you licked it. If I were lucky, there would be a ripple of chocolate fudge, or flecks of chips in the chocolate. It would be heaven.

As I've grown my tastes have clearly broadened. I still find neapolitan childishly decadent, and will indulge in it purely nostalgically but then.. given my penchant for baking (and procrastibaking) I can also make it into something, nay, anything else I want!!





Neapolitan Macarons

4 aged egg whites (Leave them covered over in a bowl on your counter over night- up to 24 hours.)
100g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
280g icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon strawberry essence
squirt pink food gel, or splash of pink food colouring
2 tbsp coco powder

Start with a clean, grease free mixing bowl and an electric mixer. 

On a high speed, whip your egg whites until soft peaks form. Continue whipping the egg whites on a high speed and start pouring the caster sugar into the mixing bowl. I start off with a slow and steady stream and stop after 1/3 has gone in. I let it whip for a while and start again, adding another 1/3 and then stopping pouring sugar. Repeat for the third batch. 

Continue whipping for a further 3-4 minutes until your egg whites form a thick and glossy stiff peaked meringue. 


Sieve together the icing sugar and ground almonds into a large bowl and discard any large lumps or bumps you found were too big to go through the sieve. 

Taking a spatula, fold the egg whites into the almond, dry mixture. Just a couple of folds at first. You need to them split your mixture in half. To half the mixture add the coco powder and to the other add the strawberry essence and pink food colouring.

Fold both your mixtures separately until fully combined. Remember: your aim now is to squash out any air in the meringue. You can be rough with your folds, just make sure to keep folding through, making sure all the dry mix has been incorporated into the meringue. Continue to the  “thick ribbon” consistency. Essentially that means the mix almost falls back on itself in around 10 seconds.

Line a few baking trays with parchment, and using your template, pipe circles onto the tray. I use a silicone macarons mat as a guide, under my parchment paper to pipe my macarons shells to size.

Holding your tray about a foot off above the counter top or table you are working at... drop it! Repeat this procedure a few times to pop any air bubbles left in your shells and allow the circles to settle. 

Now leave the shells to rest so that they form a skin and have become dry enough on the outside that you can lightly touch them.  This process could take up to an hour. (TIP: Leave them in a warm part of your house, like the windowsill where the sun is shining in.. they’ll be dry in no time!)


Preheat your oven to 130’. Once the macarons are ready for the oven,  pop them in for 8 minutes. After the 8 minutes, insert a wooden spoon into the oven door to keep it a little bit open. Continue baking for another 4-6 minutes until the top of the shell is crisp and if you wiggled it, gently, from side to side it should be one piece!

Remove from the oven onto a cooling tray and cool completely before filling. Continue baking whatever other shells are left in the same way. 





I filled these little confection perfections with my badass buttercream. That became the middle vanilla filling of the 'ice cream'. None of the flavours over power each other. They just come together in bite size morsels of mmmm...

You could of course, fill it with actual vanilla ice cream. But then.. lazy here went with frosting.




Link up your recipe of the week

Creme Brulee Baked Cheesecake

27 August 2015


I always find that when I am milling about the house, doing a hundred different things my mind is at it's clearest. I know that probably makes no sense in any real terms but when I have a few jobs to do I make a list. I hop from item to item on the list, marking off as I go. The marking off brings that clarity. It seems to be once there's one less think to think about, I can think more freely.

And it's then that I come up with random cake or bake ideas. 

I have a book, I put them in. Most never come to fruition because of reasons like.. I don't have the money for that amount of gold leaf, or I'm not sure that ingredient has been invented yet or... Am no, just no!

Now I am not saying that this Baked Cheesecake notion is new or even mine. But it did pop into my head while I was thinking about dessert week on this weeks Great British Bake Off. This weeks task was Creme Brulee, Cheesecake or Windtorte.

Creme Brulee or Cheesecake.. Creme Brulee... or Cheesecake... Finkle and Einhorn... 

CREME BRULEE CHEESECAKE! 

And as I mentally patted myself on the back for my ingenuity, I started making a new list.. of ingredients and things to add to the pantry.  Because damn.. I had such a good feeling about this!

Creme Brulee Cheesecake it was to be.



This super rich, creamy and oh-my-goodness-get-in-my-belly baked cheesecake is genuinely the best I have ever made. I have never really had any huge success with baked cheesecakes. They either crack, sink and fall in all the places you don't want them to. I scoured Pinterest looking for tips on handling a baked cheesecake and was pleasantly surprised with how little I had to change. With a few easy steps I was able to use my own recipe, the one I like the taste of, to get it perfect.

And I mean perfect when I say it. This is me blowing my cheesecake trumpet here.. Toot! Toot! Toot! Leaving the brulee aside, this baked vanilla cheesecake is the bees knees.




Creme Brulee Baked Cheesecake

The Biscuit Base/ The Crust
300g (crushed to crumbs) digestive biscuit
3 tbsps of demerara sugar
125g butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 190C/375F.
In a medium bowl mix together the crumbs, butter and sugar and press into a 9 or 10 inch round spring form tin.
Bake for 91-2 minutes until the crumbs have set and turned a dark golden colour.
Allow to cool fully. (Pinterest TIP #1; Allowing the crust to cool down significantly).

The Vanilla Filling
Three (3) 225g packets of full fat cream cheese
60ml of double cream
2tbsps of flour
pinch of salt
300g caster sugar
4 large eggs
the seeds from one vanilla pod

Reduce the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
Beat the cream cheese, double cream, flour and salt until smooth and fluffy.
Add the sugar and continue until smooth.
Add the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, mixing in the next after the last yolk has been incorporated.
Beat all the ingredients until smooth, ensuring there are no lumps or bumps.
Pour into the cooled crust.

(Pinterest TIP #2) Sit the springform tin in a large baking sheet, that has sides to allow you to fill the baking sheet with water. Fill your baking sheet with boiling hot water, about 1/3 the way up the cheesecake tins wall.
Put the whole lot in the oven for 50-55 minutes. Until the top has turned golden and when you move it, the centre jiggles a little bit.

Crack open the oven after the time alloted with a wooden spoon. Turn the oven off and allow the cheesecake to cool fully in the oven. Remove from the oven and refrigerate overnight.

Eat, as is the next day or brulee the top like I did.



Brulee:
Now I know that on the show.. you weren't allowed use a blowtorch. But guess what.. I'm not on that show. I did my time in the tent.. I will Creme Brulee the top of whatever I want, the way want to.

Sprinkle two tablespoons of sugar over the top of the baked and cooled cheesecake and just let at it with a kitchen blowtorch. Make sure you evenly coat the top of the cheesecake with sugar, and then use the blowtorch evenly to burn it. I over browned mine in spots but that crisp caramel texture was really good throughout.

As too was cutting through the top and getting the "crunch".. That audible crisp; that is basically the signature sound of Creme Brulee.


Once again I am linking up Jenny of Mummy Mishaps and with the wonderful bloggers of Great Bloggers Bake Off.

This week the lovely Michelle of Utterly Scrummy Food For Families is our host. Make sure you pop by over the next while and see what all the other bloggers have baked in homage to this weeks Bake Off.




Doughnut Macarons

24 August 2015


Did you know Macaron Monday was a thing? Well it's a hashtag at least and if you use Twitter or Instagram and macarons are your kind of thing.. #macaronmonday needs to something you search. 

So in our house, we really like macarons. We also really like doughnuts. (Well no,  that's a lie. Champ doesn't like any cake. At. All. He's only 2 so I figure he'll grow into it.) When I spotted the two combined on Pinterest, I thought the universe had aligned and all was right. There are still macarons. There's nothing doughnut about them apart from the glaze and shape but damnit they are cute!

Champ pretty much eats sprinkles, Dolly doesn't eat sprinkles (I know, I know.. my kids are weird right!) so there were some un-sprinkled doughnut macs glazed and filled for her. 




Doughnut Macarons (or The DMac, macanut, dougharon??)

aged egg whites (and by aged I mean crack the eggs, leave them covered over in a bowl on your counter over night- up to 24 hours.)
100g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
280g icing sugar

Start with a clean, grease free mixing bowl and a mixer. (I use the silver bowl and whisk off my stand mixer but, a hand mixer will do perfectly if that’s what you have!)

On a high speed, whip your egg whites until soft peaks form. Continue whipping the egg whites on a high speed and start pouring the caster sugar into the mixing bowl. I start off with a slow and steady stream and stop after 1/3 has gone in. I let it whip for a while and start again, adding another 1/3 and then stopping pouring sugar. Repeat for the third batch. 

Continue whipping for a further 3-4 minutes until your egg whites form a thick and glossy stiff peaked meringue. 


Sieve together the icing sugar and ground almonds into a large bowl and discard any large lumps or bumps you found were too big to go through the sieve. 

Taking a spatula, fold the egg whites into the almond, dry mixture. Your aim here is to squash out any air in the meringue. You can be rough with your folds, just make sure to keep folding through, making sure all the dry mix has been incorporated into the meringue.

You’re going for, what the internet describes as, a “thick ribbon” consistency. Essentially that means the mix almost falls back on itself in around 10 seconds.





I use a macaron silicone mat as a guide, under my parchment paper to pipe my macaron shells to size.

You can print off macaron templates which are very helpful in giving you a good reference for size. Line a few baking trays with parchment, and using your template, pipe circles onto the tray. You know, make the doughnut shape. Allow a good sized gap in the middle.

Holding your tray about a foot off above the counter top or table you are working it... drop it! They will fall back in on themselves as you do this but hopefully you will have left enough of a gap in the middle. Repeat this procedure a few times to pop any air bubbles left in your shells and allow the circles to settle. 

Leave the shells to rest so that they form a skin and have become dry enough on the outside that you can lightly touch them.  This process could take up to an hour. (TIP: Leave them in a warm part of your house, like the windowsill where the sun is shining in.. they’ll be dry in no time!)


Preheat your oven to 130’. Once the macarons are ready for the oven,  pop them in for 8 minutes. After the 8 minutes, insert a wooden spoon into the oven door to keep it a little bit open. Continue baking for another 4-6 minutes until the top of the shell is crisp and if you wiggled it, gently, from side to side it should be one piece!

Remove from the oven onto a cooling tray and cool completely before filling. Continue baking whatever other shells are left in the same way. 


The DMac (let's try it out) Glaze

30ml milk
120g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Combine the above ingredients in a bowl over a pot of boiling water,  and whisk until smooth.
Remove from the heat and immediately start dipping the tops of your cold macarons. 
Sprinkle with some sprinkles or 100's & 100's and leave to dry completely.







Sandwich your macarons with your favourite buttercream or try the ultimate in vanilla buttercreams...

Allow to sit for a while in the fridge, even better if you can wait until the next day and let all the flavours infuse and the yuminess set in. But if you can't, no one will judge you, go ahead stuff your face. You will just be like everyone else!




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Burnt Butter, Banana & Almond Quick Bread

22 August 2015



There's a stall in the market on a Saturday morning that sells the most beautiful crunchy breads. In fact there are a few stalls but one in particular is a local baker and he makes the most amazing loaves of sourdough. I don't bother to make bread usually, because we have a baker who surpasses me in every conceivable way, right at that market. I don't even bother with soda breads. My Mom takes care of all of that. I dabble in the worlds of pastries, cakes and cookies. I let those who can, make bread!

This week was 'Bread Week' on the Great British Bake Off and the choices were really good ones... The contestants had to make, a no rise quick bread, baguettes and a breaded sculpture. When it boiled down to it, the choice really wasn't that hard for me. I bake for me, my family and friends. i bake to share, so that knocked the sculpture out, the baguettes following close behind. 

There were three bananas that had seen better days, wasting away in my fruit bowl so I decided to make a quick bread. But added a little twist or two to it along the way...




This recipe follows your basic banana bread recipe, but I have complimented the flavours with a few very simple additions.

The first being Burnt Butter, which is literally what it says it is.. Burnt. Butter. You dump the amount of butter you need into a frying pan and let it melt down, and go golden. It releases this lovely nutty aroma, adds a hint of golden brown and another flavour layer to your baking. It's this wonderful, yet incredibly simple thing to do!

To meld with that nutty butter flavour, I also added ground almonds. Not so much that they over powered the flavour in the bread, but more that they complimented that whole loaf. Tossed some flaked and toasted almonds on the top and there you go...




Burnt Butter, Banana & Almond Quick Bread

3/4 very ripe bananas
80g of butter, melted and burnt
250g soft brown sugar
1 large egg
325g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
125ml buttermilk
handful of flaked almonds, toasted

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F or Gas Mark 4.
Toss the flaked almonds on a baking tray and leave in the oven for 5-10 minutes to toast up.
In a pan, melt your butter over a medium heat until completely melted and has turned a deeper golden colour.
In a bowl, mash your bananas with a fork and pour in the burnt butter.
Add the sugar, egg, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and buttermilk and mix until fully combined.
Transfer to a large loaf tin, that you have lined with parchment. Sprinkle the flaked almonds across the top.
Bake on the middle shelf for 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden or when a skewer is inserted into the middle it comes out clear.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling tray. Leave to cool in the tin fully and slice to serve.




Try some the following day for breakfast, toasted, with a swipe of peanut butter across the top. Or have in the afternoon with a big mug of tea! Whatever you have it... enjoy it!

Linking up with the wonderful Jenny over at MummyMishaps and the ever so lovely Jo of Jo's Kitchen who is our host for this week. Be sure to swing by Jo's linky to see what all the other bloggers made for Bread Week.




Mummy Mishaps


 
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