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.

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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Salted Caramel and Apple Chelsea Buns

I am really into cooking with apple and toffee-ish flavours at the moment because it is all autumny and lovely. I have also been baking a lot of cakes using old recipes lately so wanted to try something new. I bake bread quite often, I just don’t blog about it because it is usually less fun than cake but these Chelsea buns were a bit too lovely to not talk about.  I made them for my team at work to have for Monday breakfast.

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I used the a recipe I found here  but used a batch of my preferred Nigella salted caramel recipe. I also found it needed about 50ml more milk than stated and I doubled the proving time on both prove and used one large baking tray.  Amazing!
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Lemon cupcakes with lemon Italian meringue buttercream

Ever since I ate a cupcake with  Italian meringue buttercream, I knew I had to learn to make it. It was so creamy and light and grown up – less like icing and more like the nicest mousse in the world. The thing is, it really difficult to make – it uses Italian meringue (boiling sugar poured and whisked into egg whites to cook them), you need a sugar thermometer and to handle boily sugar without melting your skin off.  On the surface of it, these cupcakes look pretty simple but actually the icing has taken a lot of fiddling and practice to get them right. The first test I did, there seemed to be too much butter in the recipe I used and I poured in the boiling sugar incorrectly so it clumped at the bottom. The second attempt (this one) was much better.

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To make the buttercream you are going to need a stand mixer – I think you might be able to try it with a hand whisk but I needed two hands to get the boiling sugar in safely whilst whisking all the time. I have a Kenwood KMix (a beautiful white one which goes with my shiny white kitchen) which is probably my most used kitchen item, I turn it on at least 3 or 4 times a week. We do bread, pizza dough, biscuits, cake, brownies etc. in it.  It had been a toss up between that and an Artisan but I think the Artisan looks a bit twee, it is much more expensive for almost no additional benefit and my granddad worked for Kenwood his whole life so I have some deeply rooted brand loyalty,  Isn’t it beautiful? I still tell it that I love it from time to time.

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Anyway on to the cake – I made lemon sponge with a lemon curd centre, lemon italian meringue buttercream and homemade chocolate buttons on top.

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

For lemon curd buttercream add:

  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 3 tbsp of Lemon Curd

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. Mix in zest, juice and lemon curd for lemon flavour icing.

For the cake (makes about 16)

  • 250g unsalted softened butter
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon

For the filling

  • Jar of Lemon Curd

For the buttons

  • White chocolate

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180c (I have always used an oven thermometer to check because most ovens are way out – except my brand new oven. That is perfect) and put some cases in a muffin tin or two
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one. Sift in the flour and then add the lemon zest and the juice of one lemon and mix until well combined.
  3. Spoon it into the cupcake mix into the cases for about 2/3 full. I use an ice-cream scoop (I have 3 in different sizes and this ensures they are all exactly the same)
  4. Bake for about 15 – 18 ish minutes but keep an eye on them from around 12 minutes
  5. When they are beginning to look golden and are springy to the touch they can come out
  6. For the filling, core out your cupcakes using either a corer or a sharp knife, put a teaspoon of lemon curd in each one and replace the tops
  7. To make the chocolate buttons, gentle melt the white chocolate and pour into silicone button mold like this one from Amazon 

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Speculaas/Speculoos Cupcakes

The week before last I was in Amsterdam. I was mainly working but I did manage to visit a supermarket and stock up on some amazing Dutch delicacies. I have a bit of a thing about Speculaas biscuits (or Speculoos, depending on your country) and I have been hankering after a jar or three of Speculoos paste for ages although I hear you can buy it in Waitrose. So I came back with a suitcase full and OMG it is so tasty. It is like Nutella but make of ground up biscuits, I am not sure you are supposed to just spoon it out of the jar but yeah… it happened.

 

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Anyway, to stop myself just scoffing the lot, I decided to make Speculoos/Speculaas cupcakes. I had seen a few recipes online (mainly in French) but in the end just made something up.  They turned our pretty well:

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So here we go (if you want to bake along at home)

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 100g softened butter
  • 150g Speculoos paste
  • 200g sifted self-raising flour
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs

For the icing:

  • 100g butter softened
  • 100g Speculoos paste
  • 400g icing sugar
  • drop of milk (if needed)

To decorate:

  • Speculaas/Speculoos biscuits

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160c and line a muffin tray with about 12 large cupcake cases
  • Cream together the butter and Speculoos paste until totally combined
  • Add in the sugar and cream together until light and fluffy
  • Add the eggs in one at a time mixing thoroughly after each one
  • Add in the sifted flour and fold in until just combined
  • Fill the cupcake cases about 2/3 full (I use an ice-cream scoop for this to make sure they are all the same size)
  • Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes or until they are springy to the touch
  • Allow to cool properly before icing or it melts or slips off
  • For the icing, cream together the butter and Speculoos paste and add the icing sugar in batches. Add a drop of milk if needed to keep it smooth.
  • Pipe on to the cakes and add a shard of speculaas biscuit to decorate.

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So tasty. I also made Stoopwafel cupcakes! Post to follow.

 

Rhubarb and Custard Cupcakes

I love rhubarb – I love rhubarb so much that I have been fantasising about rhubarb vodka for months. Finally, I have some and an equally rhubarb obsessed friend to enjoy it with. As an accompaniment to our rhubarb vodka drinking this week, I thought I would make some rhubarb cupcakes (thankfully rhubarb is still just about in season) and the obvious accompaniment was custard.  These have two flavour (Rhubarb/Custard) swirled icing, with compote in the centres and a drizzle of rhubarb syrup on the top which really cuts through the sweetness.

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Ingredients:

For the cakey bit:

  • 200g unsalted butter softened
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod seeded (or 1tsp vanilla essence)

For the compote

  • 400g rhubarb
  • 4tbsp golden caster sugar

For the icing

  • 250g unsalted butter softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla essence
  • Rhubarb vodka (2 tbsp) Optional
  • Rhubarb syrup

To decorate

  • Rhubarb syrup

Method:

  1. To make the compote Put the rhubarb in a pan with 4 tbsp sugar and heat gently, covered, until tender. Uncover, turn up the heat slightly, and allow some of the juice to evaporate. Taste for sweetness, adding more sugar if necessary, then drain the rhubarb, reserving the juice (this is the rhubarb syrup). Allow to cool.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 170c and line a cupcake/muffin tin with 12 cases
  3. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat together until light and creamy making sure you use a spatular to clear down the sides
  4. Add the eggs one at a time whisking in and making sure each one is fully combined before adding the next
  5. Sift in the flour and fold in being careful not to over stir it
  6. Divide the mixture between the 12 cases but don’t fill more than 2/3
  7. Bake for approximately 20 mins until they are golden and spring and a skewer comes out clean
  8. Remove from tins and place on cooling rack
  9. When they are completely cool, core the cupcakes and spoon in the compote to the centres and replace the sponge circle.
  10. For the icing, soften the butter with your whisk, add in the icing sugar and whisk fully batch at a time
  11. Divide the icing between two bowls equally. In one bowl add the vanilla essence and a couple of drops of yellow colouring and in the other add a few tbsp of the rhubarb syrup and vodka plus a couple of drops of red food colouring
  12. Pipe on to the cakes (see tutorial below for how to do two colour icing)
  13. Drizzle some of the syrup over the cupcakes (I had to reduce the syrup down a bit more to make it more jammy)

They taste pretty good (Adrian – my fiance – says these are his new favourites)

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Inside shot:

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Also if you fancy trying this at home – I found this great tutorial for doing the two-tone icing: