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.

FUCK cake

Hurrah! It was my birthday on Friday. Happy Birthday to me and what a very happy birthday it was. I had some friends over on Friday night to christen our new house and celebrate. I am still recovering – best night ever and all that. I don’t think I have had a birthday cake since I lived at home 15 years ago so I decided this year that I would make my own (with help from A on the washing up). And, if I have to make my own birthday cake I am going to make it both amazing and offensive.  I give you the amazing FUCK cake.

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I used this chocolate, caramel and vanilla ombre cake recipe from BBC Good Food but sandwiched it with homemade salted caramel sauce (the usual Nigella recipe) – it was pretty tasty and I think the ground almonds made it particularly moist. Also when you cut it, you get impressive layers. Yay!

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The biggest challenge was finding the multicoloured strands/sprinkles – weirdly everywhere was out of stock. I could find metallic ball ones and pink ones (because baking is only for little girls or something – URGH) but not the basic kind. Found them eventually and used letter cookie cutters placed onto the chocolate ganache to make the letters.

The best endorsement of this cake came from a Christian school friend who said: “I’m offended by a chocolate cake. Well this is definitely a first!!!!” – My work here is done, people. Done.