fruit

Chocolate, Cardamom and Raspberry Macaroons

I’m no macaroon master. I’ve never really committed much time to perfecting the art and will fully admit I’ve had a few disasters which have put me off practicing (not the best attitude). That said, I’ve recently been playing around with the classic patisserie staple and have become a lot more comfortable with the making process. This spiced chocolate variety is my favourite experiment to date and although they’re not entirely perfect to look at, the shells are both crisp and chewy, the fillings are well balanced and, most importantly, each mouthful is deliciously moreish.

Ingredients:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 80ml water
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 15g cocoa
  • 160g egg whites
  • pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 10-12 cardamom pods
  • 1 punnet fresh raspberries

For decoration (optional):

  • some additional dark chocolate, melted
  • edible gold paint

Method (makes about 30 macarons):

  1. Before I begin- you will need a sugar thermometer, an electric whisk or stand mixer, a food processor or blender, some greaseproof paper with 4cm circles traced on to use as a piping guide (see here) and piping bags.
  2. The first thing to do is weigh out your ingredients accurately (this is something I don’t often do but for this recipe, its a necessity!) and line up to 4 baking trays with your greaseproof paper templates.
  3. Now, place your ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor and blitz until very fine (about 30 seconds- 1 minute). Pass through a sieve into a bowl, discarding the chunky bits.
  4. Next, pop your water and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once dissolved, increase the heat and boil until the temperature reads 115c on your sugar thermometer.
  5. While your sugar syrup is heating up, stir half of the egg whites (80g) in with the ground almond mixture to create a thick paste. Place the other half (remaining 80g) in a clean bowl (or bowl of  a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks.
  6. Take your sugar syrup (which should now be at 115c) and, while whisking on a high speed, pour it into your stiff egg whites in a slow stream. Your egg whites will become smooth and glossy (as you would expect from meringue). Now continue whisking for about 5 minutes until the bowl has cooled down to room temperature.
  7. Take 1/3 of this cooled meringue and stir it into the almond paste to loosen the consistency. Once well mixed add the remaining meringue and fold, very gently, until you have a mixture which is thick enough to be piped without running but not so thick that the meringue isn’t fully incorporated.
  8. Pile the mixture into a piping bag and snip the end off (about 1cm diameter). Take your macaroon template and pipe vertically (not at an angle) into each circle. Be sure to leave a tiny bit of space for spreading. I find that working quickly is best for consistency as you develop a bit of a rhythm.
  9. Once you’ve piped all your circles lift the trays a few inches off the work surface and drop them down a few times- this eliminates air bubbles. Now leave them for an hour to form a bit of a skin before baking. Preheat the oven to 140c (fan).

  1. While your macaroons are forming a skin, make the chocolate cardamom ganache. To do this, put the cream in a saucepan, crack the cardamom pods and add to the pan then very gently heat. Bring to the boil then set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Chop the chocolate finely and scrape into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Once infused, strain the cream into another saucepan and bring to scalding point (just before boiling) then pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then stir together to form a smooth ganache. Set aside until cool and thickened.
  3. Now your macaroons will be ready to bake; they will take around 18-22 minutes but check after 15. You’re looking for a crisp top and chewy middle, and they should peel off the greaseproof when ready.
  4. Cool the macaroon shells on a wire rack when they’re baked.
  5. To assemble the macaroons, pipe the thickened ganache in a ring around one shell and place a raspberry in the middle, then sandwich with another shell. Decorate with drizzled chocolate, edible gold paint and freeze dried raspberries.

Enjoy!

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Cinnamon, Fig and Pecan Cheesecake

This bake pairs perfectly with a strong coffee and would round up a cosy dinner party really well; the cinnamon spiced filling studded with ripe figs and the nutty pecan base make a nice change from your regular vanilla cheesecake and definitely bring Autumnal vibes to the table.

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Ingredients:
Base
200g pecans
300g digestives
150g butter

Filling
4 eggs
125g caster sugar
600g ricotta cheese
150g mascarpone cheese
45g plain flour
1tsp cinnamon
5 figs

Extras
more figs, honey, mint

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Blitz together the pecans and digestives in a food processor. Add the melted butter and blitz again until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Tip into a 12inch spring form tin (with a lined bottom) and pat down over the base and up the sides. Chill for 15 minutes.
  3. Bake the base for 10 minutes then set aside to cool completely. Turn the oven down to 160c.
    In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Add the ricotta, mascarpone, flour and cinnamon and whisk again until combined.
  4. Pile the filling on top of the pecan base. Slice the figs in half and arrange, flesh side up, on top of the cheesecake.
  5. Bake for 40-50 minutes (there should be a slight wobble in the middle). Leave to cool completely before removing it from the tin.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of honey and some toasted pecans.

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Enjoy!

A Very Late Christmas Cake

I have got to apologise for my lack of posts over the festive period. My intentions were to share lots of recipes with you, but I’ve been a huge let down on that front! It’s not that I haven’t been baking (I haven’t stopped as a matter of fact), I just haven’t had the time between working almost full time and getting all sorts of Christmas errands organised to take photographs and upload…

Now that I have a quiet week before I go back to being a manic crazy person again, I thought I would share my Christmas cake (better late than never!) which, ironically, I made over a month ago!

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The cake was created for a Christmas canapé party and is made in the traditional way- i.e. lots of booze, fruit, marzipan and icing ( I used Sailor Jerry spiced rum, as it’s my favourite!).

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The cake topper was my own creation, crafted from ready to roll white icing which I left to harden and then painted with food colourings. The icicles are made from melted mints.

Again, apologies for the belated post- maybe you could bookmark this and recreate this wintery sleeping fox cake as something a bit different next Christmas!

My Halloween Showstopper

This toffee apple cake, sandwiched together with salted caramel and toffee frosting, makes for the perfect table centre piece, especially when topped with honeycomb, haphazard spun sugar and mini toffee apple decorations… Give it a go this Halloween and you’re guaranteed to be popular with friends and family, old and young!

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For the sponge, you will need: 450g plain flour, pinch salt, 3tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp baking powder, 3tsp cinnamon, 1tsp ginger, 250g caster sugar, 200g light brown soft sugar, 300g melted butter, 5 eggs, 3 apples

Grease and line two 20cm cake tins. Preheat the oven to 180c (fan).

Sift together the flour, salt, bicarbonate, baking powder, spices and caster sugar. Mix to combine. In a jug, mix the eggs, melted butter and brown sugar. Chop your apples finely into chunks.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Pour in the wet eggy liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon to fully combine and incorporate. Fold through the apple.

Separate the mix between the two tins and level the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.

When cooked, leave for 5 minutes to cool in tins then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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For the toffee frosting, you will need: 200g dark brown soft sugar, 100g butter, 100ml milk, 600 icing sugar, and more milk for loosening

Place the sugar, butter and milk in a saucepan and melt. Stir gently and set aside.

When cooled slightly, add the melted mixture to the icing sugar and stir until combined. If too thick, add drops of milk until a spreadable frosting consistency is achieved.

For the salted caramel recipe I use, click here. 

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To assemble the cake:

Trim the tops of the cakes if they’re not even, then spread 1tbsp salted caramel over the tops. Spread a generous swirl of the toffee frosting over the bottom layer and sandwich the other sponge over it. Coat the entire cake in toffee frosting, using a palette knife to achieve a smooth finish. Drizzle some salted caramel over the top.

For the crushed honeycomb recipe (optional) visit my last post and cancel out the chocolate!

Sprinkle the honeycomb in a circle around the top of the cake.

For the ‘toffee apples’, you will need: some roll out red icing, some kebab sticks and some caster sugar (amounts will depend on how many apples you would like!)

Roll the icing into small balls (slightly smaller than golf ball sized) and stick onto the end of a kebab stick. Place in the freezer to harden.

Place some caster sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once dissolved, let the sugar brown then remove from the hob. Take the icing balls from the freezer and dip in the sugar then leave to set. Arrange in a haphazard fashion around the top of the cake.

Enjoy!

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Rhubarb and Custard Eclairs

After catching up with last weeks Patisserie round on Bake Off, I decided to whip up my own eclairs using some rhubarb from the garden… What I came up with combines crisp choux pastry filled with stewed rhubarb and a delicious vanilla custard- what’s not to like?

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First, make the vanilla custard filling. For this you will need: 300ml milk, 2 egg yolks, 50g caster sugar, 1 vanilla pod, 4tsp plain flour, 4tsp cornflour, 300ml double cream (lightly whipped).

Mix together your egg yolks, caster sugar and the seeds from the vanilla pod in a bowl. After these are well combined gradually add the flours a little at a time, making sure you mix well between each addition.

Now heat your milk in a saucepan until just boiling. Add to the paste-like mix in the bowl and whisk, then return to the saucepan and heat for 3-5  minutes (or until well thickened). If it becomes lumpy, just whisk more vigorously.

Transfer to a bowl and cover with clingfilm to avoid a skin forming. After half an hour the custard will become almost set- now you need to stir to loosen then fold in the cream- your filling is now ready for piping!

Now prepare the rhubarb element of the filling; you will need: 3 sticks rhubarb, 3tbsp ginger syrup, 4tbsp caster sugar.

Heat the oven to 180c (fan).

Roughly chop the rhubarb and spread onto a baking tray. Drizzle over the ginger syrup and sprinkle on the caster sugar then cook for 15-20 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

Using the back of a fork squash the rhubarb and transfer to a bowl. It should be sticky and soft. Leave to cool.

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For the choux pastry, I followed Paul Hollywood’s basic recipe. You can find that here .

To assemble the eclairs, you will need: your choux buns, the vanilla custard, the roasted rhubarb, a sprinkling of ginger, 5tbsp icing sugar with a little water and food dye, and some crystallised ginger for decoration (optional).

Slice your choux buns in half horizontally. Take a piping bag and fill with the vanilla custard. Pipe little dots of the filling inside the bottom half of the bun until covered.

Now take your rhubarb and place on top of the custard layer (as pictured above). Close the lids on top.

Mix the icing sugar with a little water and food dye and drizzle over the tops of the buns for added sweetness, then place a piece of crystallised ginger at one end with a mint leaf as a final flourish.

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I hope you enjoy this latest recipe!

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Indulgent Apple and Ginger cake…

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Last week I was lucky enough to receive a gorgeous bundt tin from Cooks Collection in Bedfordshire. Since its arrival I have been devising recipes which would work well in the ring mould, and this apple and ginger concoction fits the bill perfectly. Bundt tins are really popular at the moment and this particular model is heavy duty, well priced and high in quality, so I’d recommend purchasing one from Cooks Collection ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cooks-Collection/169508156414879?ref=ts&fref=ts ) whilst the trend is still in full swing.Having tested the bundt with my own recipe, I can see why they’re so well liked; the narrow flumes of the tin allow cake mix to rise evenly and quickly without losing moisture, and as long as you grease and generously flour the mould, turning out a cake with an attractive pattern is guaranteed.

Anyway, on to the bake; this cake is pudding-like in its moist consistency and contains chunks of apple and fresh root ginger, making the flavour strong and distinctly autumnal. The top of the cake is doused in a hot toffee sauce shortly after baking which locks in moisture and spices as well as adding a sweet crunch to the light sponge. My housemates and I have been enjoying this cake warm with a cup of tea on this windy autumn evening and I suggest you do the same as soon as possible!

To make this simple yet delicious cake, you will need:

300g butter, 150g soft dark brown sugar, 150g soft light brown sugar. 200g golden syrup,300 ml milk, 300g plain flour, 100g self raising flour, 5tsp baking powder, 1tsp cinnamon, 2tsp ground ginger, pinch salt, 4 eggs, 2 thumbs grated root ginger, 2 apples (peeled and chopped into little chunks.

First off, preheat the oven to 180c (fan) then grease and flour the tin.

Chop your butter into chunks and place in a saucepan along with the syrup and sugars. Put this over a high heat and stir until melted. Once melted and combined, remove from heat and cool slightly, then add the milk and stir. Set aside.

Now sift your flours, baking powder, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, then add the slightly cooled syrupy liquid and mix thoroughly.

Whisk your eggs in a jug and add to the large mixing bowl in 3 additions, mixing well between each one.

Finally, fold in your grated ginger and chopped apples and pour evenly into your bundt tin.

Bake in the preheated oven on the middle shelf for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

In the last minutes of baking, melt together 100g dark sugar, 20g butter and 3tbsp golden syrup in a saucepan (this is your toffee glaze).

Remove the cake from the oven and leave for 5 minutes in the tin.

Although you shouldn’t usually take the cake out of the tin when it’s warm, you have to with this recipe as the sauce will give the cake added moisture if its still steaming. To do this simply place a wire rack over the bottom of the cake and flip it over, then tap the tin on the top and the cake should be released.

Now pour over the warm toffee sauce, decorate with a bit of grated ginger and some white icing and tuck in while its hot from the oven!

TIP: This cake is still delicious and moist when cooled, but if you like just whizz it in the microwave for 30 seconds to heat it through and recreate that just-baked feel.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, I absolutely love it and it’s perfect now the weather is getting colder. If you’d like a similar tin (or a whole range of brilliant bakeware) visit http://www.cookscollection.co.uk/ and like their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cooks-Collection/169508156414879?ref=ts&fref=ts to see their new stuff!

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Blackberry and Almond Mini-Cakes

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Great British Bake Off viewers; cast your minds back to week one, challenge one and you might recall the miniature cakes the contestants were asked to produce. Well, today I sought inspiration from that very task and baked blackberry and almond sponges on a small scale. I do not have a sophisticated method when devising recipes, but I hope that isn’t reflected in the end result (my ideas today stemmed from the blackberries I’d just picked and I made the rest up as I went along)! If you’d like to try it, you will need:

110g self raising flour, 110g caster sugar, 110g butter (soft), 2 eggs, 2tsp almond extract, 1 cup blackberries, juice 1 lemon, 200g mascarpone, 100g icing sugar, 5tbsp apple sauce and extra blackberries for decoration (makes 10)

First of all, sift the flour and sugar together, add the butter, eggs and almond extract then mix until combined. Once mixed, fold in 2/3 of the blackberries whole. Let the mix settle whilst you carry out the next step.

Place the remaining blackberries in a pan over heat with a sprinkling of caster sugar and the juice of a lemon. Stir until boiling then sieve away the liquid (the jam-like blackberries you have left should be very soft and will cover the tops of the little cakes).

Take a silicone mould (or any small mould you have) and grease with butter. Place a teaspoon of the soft blackberries in the bottom of each hole then fill 2/3 full with the sponge mix. Bake for 15 minutes at 190 then leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make your mascarpone filling. For this, simply whisk the icing sugar with the cream and it’s done ( I added a little of the reserved blackberry liquid to give the pinkish hue but this is not necessary).

Once cooled, turn out each cake and cut in half. Spread a little apple sauce over the bottom layer, followed by a squirt of the mascarpone cream. Sandwich the two pieces together and decorate as you please.

Enjoy!

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