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.

Salted Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes

I have created a monster. Genuinely, I think there are some things that are probably best left in my imagination for the sake of people’s dental and pancreatic health and this is definitely one of them. I have been thinking about doing a popcorn cupcake for a while and then that morphed into a toffee popcorn cupcake and then finally I thought that actually salted caramel is way nicer than toffee so… yeah.

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It is a vanilla sponge, with a salted caramel core, salted caramel buttercream icing, Butterkist toffee popcorn and salted caramel sauce drizzled on top.

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Here, have a recipe:

Sponge:

  • 175g Softened Butter
  • 175g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 1 Vanilla Pod deseeded or scraped or whatever you call it or you can use 2 teaspoons of Vanilla Essence instead
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 175g Self-raising Flour

Filling:

  • 2 quantities of Nigella’s salted caramel sauce (hold some back for the icing and the drizzle)

Icing:

  • 80g butter, softened
  • 400g icing sugar, sieved
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 100g of the salted caramel

Decoration:

  • Butterkist Toffee Popcorn (or similar)
  • Few tbsp of salted caramel

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C
  2. Put the butter and sugar into bowl and mix until light and fluffy. You can’t over mix it, so when you think it is done enough, do it a bit more.
  3. Scrape in the vanilla seeds (or put in the essence) and add the eggs whizzing well between each egg and scraping the sides clean
  4. Add the flour and fold into the egg/sugar/butter mixture
  5. Bake for about 18minutes but keep an eye on them from 10 minutes. They are done when they are all springy and your skewer comes out clear
  6. Leave on a cooling rack for 30 minutes or so until they are totally cool
  7. Next, take the corer or use a sharp knife to take out the centres. Push a bit of the caramel sauce into the middle of each one. Make sure you save some caramel left for the icing and for the tops of the cake.
  8. For the icing cream the butter until it is really really soft and add a small amount of the icing sugar. Keep adding icing sugar slowly, adding milk in between additions to moisten the mixture if you need to. If the mixture is too hard or looks like it is cracking when you make peaks with it, add a splash more milk. Add more icing sugar if it is too sloppy or buttery. Next add the caramel you will probably need to add bit more icing sugar was needed to stiffen it up again. Beat until fluffy and smooth.
  9. Pipe it on to the cakes starting at the outside and working in and up – you don’t have to be very neat about the icing as the popcorn covers it.
  10. Cover the top with as much popcorn as will fit and then a bit more.
  11. Get a disposable icing bag and add a few tablespoons of caramel, cut the very tip off and drizzle over the cakes to finish

And there we have it. Sorry, world.

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