Gin and Tonic Macarons

The other day, probably late in the evening on my commute home when I was wishing it was summer, I was thinking about gin and tonic icing/frosting again. I was thinking about how although tasty, my previous incarnation was low on tonic flavour because you need quite a lot to get a strong enough flavour but too much liquid makes the buttercream curdle. And then an idea hit me, what about using tonic concentrate, like the Soda Stream stuff?  So a plan was hatched and successfully carried out. And here it is the recipe for Italian Meringue Gin and Tonic buttercream filled macarons!

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For the shells see my last post and use some green food colouring in the mix! Leave them to cool completely before filling.

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For the filling:

Basic Buttercream Recipe (makes enough for 4 lots of macarons but freezes really well)

  • 375g white caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100ml water
  • 6 egg whites
  • 500g soften unsalted butter in 2cm-ish chunks

For gin and tonic buttercream – this is the amount of flavour for 1/4 of the buttercream above

  • Zest of 2 limes
  • Juice of two limes
  • 1 tsp of Soda Stream gin and tonic concentrate (you can buy it in Ocado and most big supermarkets)
  • 3 tbsp nice gin (I used Sipsmith’s this time)

Method:

  1. Put sugar, golden syrup and water in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan and stir until totally combined.  Brush the inside of the saucepan with clean water on a damp pastry brush to dislodge any stray grains. Set over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. When the sugar mixture has come to the boil add a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until it reaches will into soft ball stage, 121°C
  2. Meanwhile put the carefully separated egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer (with a whisk attachment) and whisk the egg whites to soft peaks – be careful not to over whisk. Then slowly pour a steady stream of sugar syrup into the egg whites, being careful not to hit the whisk while doing so – I find pouring down the side of the bowl is the easiest way of doing this. Continue whisking until sides of the bowl feel cool. Add the softened butter chunk at a time one by one at a time and whip until fully incorporated and smooth
  3. Take 3/4 of the mixture out of the bowl (I freeze it in 1/4 mix portions and then defrost in the fridge overnight and re-whip when I need them – if the mix curdles when you do this just keep going, it will eventually come together) Add the flavourings and mix until incorporated
  4. Pipe it into the macaron shells and sandwich together

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Macarons, Macarons!

Finally! I have pretty much cracked it. It has taken weeks of practice, a class, many tutorial videos and reading pretty much every blog on the subject, but finally I am consistently getting good macaron results (nice high feet, a smooth top, not hollow insides etc)

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I thought it was probably time to share what I have learnt…

Ingredients:

  • 175g Icing sugar
  • 125g Ground almonds
  • 110g Egg white (I try to bring them up to room temp but I have had perfect results out of the fridge… I don’t age my eggs whites, I have also used pasteurized with no ill effects)
  • 75g Caster sugar

Method:

  1. Put your almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and whizz them together to make sure they are totally mixed and to break down the ground almonds a bit more. Don’t over do this or you will release too much oil from the almonds and make nut butter. A few quick pulses will do the trick.
  2. Sift the ground almonds, the icing sugar together and discard any big bits left in the sieve
  3. Whisk the egg whites for a minute or so and then add the caster sugar bit by bit with the whisk still on until it forms stiff, glossy peaks (still meringue will make much better macarons so stick with it!) .
  4. Fold the ground almonds and icing sugar into the meringue mixture one-third at a time. If you are adding colourings do so right at the start so you don’t have to do additional mixing at the end.  Make sure the dry ingredients are incorporated (there are no lumps or bits of dry stuff at the bottom) and the mixture is smooth, shiny and has reached the ribbon stage – over mixing will make your mixture wet and it will not make good maracons so if in doubt under mix! Under mixed macarons have bumpy tops but still taste good
    Spoon the mixture into a piping bag
    Pipe out circles straight lines across a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Leave a 1 cm gap between each macaroon shell. I do this by holding the piping bag vertically to baking tray and piping for the count of three and releasing “one-two-three-release!” counting for longer will give you bigger macarons!
    Rest at room temperature for about 30-60 mins until a skin has formed and the shells are no longer sticky. You can pre-heat the oven at this point. If you don’t have one already, get an oven thermometer. Ovens are rarely the temperature the dial claims it is and for macarons you need accuracy.
    Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at about 150c – keep the oven door slightly open with a spoon to prevent steam building up in the oven. Every 5 minutes rotate the tray.
  5. After 15 minutes, check the macaroons are cooked by gently lifting a macaroon at the edge of a tray. If the test macaroon does not stick, allow the tray of macaroons to finish cooking on the tray as it cools.
  6. Make sure the macarons are cool before filling.

Fillings…

Italian meringue buttercream flavoured in different ways is great as a light filling or use the left over egg yolks to make creme patisserie and flavour it up! Lazier fillings include nutella, jam er…lemon curd, whatever really.

Pistachio paste in base Italian Meringue Buttercream!

11030644_10155282300425302_4217013893606554780_n Coconut sprinkled on the shells after piping filled with white chocolate ganache made with a mix of double and coconut cream.

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The main thing to note about macaron making is that although you need to be precise and it takes practice – it is not magic. Follow the steps, enjoy even the less than perfect results (they will still taste good). under mix rather than over mix. Have fun. It is just a biscuit.

New York Cheesecake

Baked cheesecake is good, really good. It is pretty simple and it always goes down well at social occasions. It is easy to adapt by adding whatever toppings you like (fruit, sauces, a pint of caramel and 16 smashed up Dime bars etc) which means it is a good thing to take to birthday parties or barbecues. Anyway, I recently make a salted caramel and dark chocolate button one for a Eurovision Party.

 

Cheesecake

 

The recipe here is for the basic recipe but you can add whatever you like to the top.

 

Base:
100g butter melted, plus extra for tin
200g digestive biscuits smashed up with a rolling pin or whatever

Filling
3 x 300g Full-Fat Philadelphia cheese, or other full-fat soft cheese
250g golden caster sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
1½ tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1½ tsp lemon juice
3 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
200ml soured cream

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 170C. Cut out a circle of baking parchment and line the bottom of a 9 inch tin. This makes quite a deep cheesecake so in needs to be quite a deep tin. For the base, melt the butter in a medium pan then in the biscuit crumbs and mix until it is moist. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan with the back of a spoon and bake for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling. Sometimes I find the base can go a bit soggy, so if you like you can use a brush of egg white before you bake it to create a bit of a barrier from the filling.
  2. For cheesecake bit turn the oven up to 220C. In a  stand mixer (I use a KMix) use the paddle attachment to beat the Philly fairly slowly creamy for a minute of two. Keep the mixer running and add the sugar, then the flour making sure you scrape down the sides of your bowl a couple of times during baking.
  3. Switch the paddle attachment for the whisk and with the mixer on medium add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whisk in the eggs and yolk, one at a time scraping down the bowl from time to time. Stir the soured cream and whisk until smooth.
  4. Grease the sides of the springform tin and put on a baking sheet. Pour in the filling. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 120C bake for 40 minutes more. If you gently shake the tin, the filling should have a slight wobble. Turn off the oven and leave the door closed. Allow to cool for two hours in the oven. The top may crack but don’t worry, it is a good excuse to add more topping.
  5. Put it in the fridge for least 8 hours or overnight.

 

EXTREME CLOSE UP! Served with salted caramel sauce and homemade buttons (dark chocolate poured into a button mould)

 

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Finally, a non-spread biscuit recipe that works

It took a while and batches and batches of fail biscuits but finally I found a recipe that mades a non-spread sugar biscuit. You can add lemon zest or different essences for different flavours but I sort of like vanilla. I used these to make edible draughts which looked like the love child of iced gems and PartyRings.

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Ingredients:

  • 220g softened butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg, large
  • 425g plain flour

Method:

  1. Cream together the butter and the sugar – the key is to not over cream, just make sure it is all combines and smooth
  2. Add in the beaten egg and vanilla essence and mix
  3. Finally, add in the flour and combine into a dough (probably with your fingers)
  4. Divide into 4 portions.  Working with one at a time lightly flour the worksurface and gently knead the dough until it is smooth and workable.  Sprinkle on some more flour if it feels too sticky
  5. Roll out on a floured surface and cut of biscuit shapes

If you want to decorate them like I did, I used royal icing sugar and water plus paste food colouring and the flooding technique, outline the biscuit using a fine-ish nozzle on a piping bag and then fill in and tap to smooth out the icing.

The results were totally playable and pretty tasty.

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Best ever scone recipe

I haven’t been baking so much recently – life and work have been stressful and busy and finding the time for new complicated recipes has not really happened. I have been working on perfecting some old favourites though. Most recently my scone recipe. I love scones but until now everytime I made them it seemed they were tough and too flat. This recipe makes the most light, risen scones even plus it is super easy (using mainly store cupboard items) and goes perfectly with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

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Makes 8

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 85g butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 175ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • squeeze lemon juice (it can be the bottled stuff)
  • beaten egg, to glaze or use milk but it will be less shiny
  1. Heat oven to 220C Put the flour and other dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Add the butter, then rub in with your fingers until the mix looks like fine crumbs or whiz it in the food processor (I do this because I tend to over rub) Stir in the sugar.
  2.  Heat the milk in the microwave for about 30 secs until it is warm but not hot and then add a squeeze of lemon juice – the lemon juice is not for flavour, it is to activate the baking powder more quickly giving them a bigger rise
  3. Put a baking sheet in the oven.
  4. Make a well in the flour mix, pour in the milk and lemon and combine it with a regular dinner knife. Dredge some flour onto the work surface and tip the dough out. Sprinkle the dough and your hands with flour, then fold the dough over 2-3 times until it’s a little smoother. Flatten gently into a round about 3cm deep.
  5. Take a 5cm cutter, dip it into some flour. Plunge into the dough, then repeat, reforming and re-flattening the dough once or twice if necessary. Brush the tops with beaten egg, then carefully place onto the hot baking tray.
  6. Bake for 10 mins until risen and golden.
  7. Serve with jam and cream – AMAZING!

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Hazelnut Praline, Nutella and Salted Caramel Pavlova

Quite often I am asked to bake stuff that is gluten free. My tendency until now has been to use GF flour mixes and hope for the best. Results have been pretty mixed. Then I started thinking about meringue and how yummy it is obviously it doesn’t contain gluten.  So I decided to make a pavlova for a Thanksgiving potluck I was going to (and a cheesecake, forgot to take pictures so will blog that next time I make it) It turns out Nutella and salted caramel go really well together. I had been thinking about the combination but it was only when I doubled them up on a spoon, I realised they are REALLY GOOD. The pavolva was topped with fresh cream, Nutella sauce, salted caramel and homemade hazelnut praline crushed up and sprinkled over.

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The recipe:

For the meringue

  • 210g free-range egg whites (about 6 large eggs)
  • 420g caster sugar – I used golden for a more caramelly taste.

(weigh the egg whites and then do 60g of sugar per 30g egg white)

  1. Draw a 10 inch circle on a sheet of baking paper (to serve as a template for you meringue) and turn it over so the pencil mark is on the other side
  2. Line a roasting tray with baking paper and heat 420g caster sugar at 200C until the edges are just beginning to melt. Heating the sugar helps it to dissolve in the egg white more quickly, creating a glossy and more stable mixture. Now, turn the oven down to 110C.
  3. Add egg whites a bowl (you will find this much easier if you have a stand mixer). At first whisk slowly allowing small stabilising bubbles to form, then increase the speed until the egg whites form stiff peaks (and you could hold the bowl over your head – if it starts to go cotton wooly stop – it is becoming over whisked)
  4. Using a large spoon, add the sugar spoon by spoon while continuing to whisk. It is ready once you have a full bodied, stiff and glossy mixture (about 5 minutes). Don’t put in the melted edge clumps
  5. Spoon onto a lined baking tray making sure it is slightly higher around the edges to hold all the filling.
  6. Bake for around 3 hours at 110c. Its good to keep our meringues mallowy and soft in the middle, so take them out of the oven as soon as they lift off the baking paper with the base intact

Toppings:

  • 100g Nutella with 3 tbsp cream or milk stirred in to make a sauce
  • 1 quantity of Nigella’s salted caramel
  • 300ml of double cream whipped
  • Hazelnut Praline

For the hazelnut praline:

  • 200g white caster sugar
  • 50g toasted chopped hazelnuts
  • 2 pinches of salt
  1. Put the sugar in a smallish heavy bottomed pan and cover with 75ml water and stir gentle so the sugar is wet
  2. Heat the sugar until is is 105c – use a sugar thermometer and watch it like a hawk
  3. While the sugar is heating, line a baking tray with baking paper and put a thin layer of the hazelnuts on the tray and sprinkle salt evenly over them
  4. When the sugar is ready pour it over the hazelnuts
  5. Allow to cool and smash up two-third fairly finely and leave one-third in larger pieces to decorate.

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To assemble:

Put half the caramel and Nutella sauce in the centre, top with the cream and then drizzle the remainder of the sauces over the top using disposable piping bags if you want it to look neater, sprinkle with the crushed up and larger praline pieces

Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream

Toffee apples are an amazing thing but I find them rather too sweet so I got to thinking that salted caramel apples should totally be a thing (I know, I know, I am obsessed) I made a spiced apple sponge with salted caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream. The sharpness of the apples was a good contrast to the salty/sweet icing.

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For the cakes (makes between 12-16):

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 80 ml milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • half tsp mixed spice
  • 5 medium apples (750g) – I used Granny Smiths
  • 100g saltanas soaked in 100ml boiling water and allowed to cool (I did mine in half rum, half boiling water)
  • 25g butter, extra
  • 1/3 cup (75g) soft brown sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven 180°C and put cases in a 12 hole muffin tin – I usually do a few extra in a second tray just in case
  2. Peel and core apples. Cube into little cubes (no bigger than 0.5cm). Sprinkle cubed apples a bit of lemon juice to avoid browning. Melt the 25g extra butter in a large frying pan; cook apple cubes until browned lightly (about 5 minutes). Add brown sugar and saltanas (including soaking rum if used, if not drain the water off); cook stirring until it goes nice and thick (about 5 more minutes). Allow to cool completely.
  3. Beat together the butter and caster sugar until light & fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Add flour and milk in 2 batches folding in gently.
  4. Fold in the apple mixture into the cake mixture until totally combined.Fill cases to about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes (till golden brown springy).

 

For the buttercream (this makes enough for about 24 cakes; it is worth making lots and then freezing the rest if you are doing less cakes)

Basic Recipe

  • 375g white caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100ml water
  • 6 egg whites
  • 600g soften unsalted butter in 2cm-ish chunks
  • 2 quantities of Nigella salted caramel sauce (totally cooled – use it from the fridge ideally)

 

Method

  1. Put sugar, golden syrup and water in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan and stir until totally combined.  Brush the inside of the saucepan with clean water on a damp pastry brush to dislodge any stray grains. Set over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. When the sugar mixture has come to the boil add a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until it reaches will into soft ball stage, 121°C.
  2. Meanwhile put the carefully separated egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer (with a whisk attachment) and whisk the egg whites to soft peaks – be careful not to over whisk. Then slowly pour a steady stream of sugar syrup into the egg whites, being careful not to hit the whisk while doing so – I find pouring down the side of the bowl is the easiest way of doing this. Continue whisking until sides of the bowl feel cool. Add the softened butter chunk at a time one by one at a time and whip until fully incorporated and smooth
  3. Add in caramel and whisk until fully combined
  4. Pipe on to cakes and drizzle with a bit of caramel

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I used the left over icing a week later on a version of these cupcakes: https://bakeitinstinct.com/2013/07/08/salted-caramel-oh-salted-caramel/ and added sugar glass for some slightly Halloweeny decoration.

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