Tag Archives: Valentines Day treat

Macarons – easier than you’d think

23 Sep
Chocolate orange macarons

Chocolate orange macarons

When I was wee we called them macaroons, but I’m going with the zeitgeist and will refer to them as macarons. Whatever you call them, they are the most scrumptious light almondy sweetie bonbons you will ever come across.

I always had this idea that macarons were tricky to make, that they wouldn’t rise properly, that they would just be too solid and not light and airy like they should be. Or that they’d be dry and crunchy instead of deliciously softly moist.

So, what changed my world view of macarons? Firstly it’s that I love them, and wanted to be able to make them. But mostly it was getting chickens. And then once we had so many eggs, I started making my own mayonnaise. And once you make your own mayonnaise you have a plentiful supply of egg whites. And I don’t like meringues much, so macarons were the obvious solution.

Don’t you love your life when macarons are the obvious solution!!

Basic macarons

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 75g caster sugar

To make these properly you need a few bits of kit. For starters, a food processor. You know, the kind that whizzes round and round and chops everything up really fine. You’ll also need a piping bag with a large plain nozzle. And your life will be a whole lot easier if you have either a food mixer too to whisk the egg whites.

Before you start, get your piping bag ready with the right nozzle in place, and prepare your baking tray (I line mine with non sticking baking parchment, but you could use rice paper, or a re-useable silicon mat).

  1. Combine the icing sugar and ground almonds and pop them in the bowl of the food processor. Whizz it briefly. Well not too briefly, get it all a bit more powdery and mixed together
  2. Put the egg whites into a scrupulously clean bowl (any hint of anything greasy and you will have a FAIL), and whisk them until you have soft peaks. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar, and get it all glossy and thick and gorgeous. At this stage I whisked in a few drops of orange essence.
  3. Now get yourself a big metal spoon (or a spatula) and fold half of the sugar/almond mixture into the egg whites. Once they are combined, add the remaining sugar/almonds and fold them in to make a light smooth mixture. Don’t over mix or you’ll lose all the air, but try to get rid of all the lumps.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the piping bag and pipe even sized circles of macarons mixture onto your baking tray.
  5. Turn the oven on: 140C or GM3.
  6. Now leave the tray of uncooked macarons at room temperature for about 15 minutes so the surface dries out ever so slightly.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then leave to cool still on the tray.
Macarons out of the oven

Macarons out of the oven

Make the chocolate orange filling…

  • 50g good quality dark chocolate
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  • zest of an orange, and some orange juice
  1. Melt the chocolate
  2. Beat the butter, and add the icing sugar and orange zest. Keep beating
  3. Fold in the melted chocolate and mix together
  4. Mix in some orange juice or cointreau if you want an adult version – enough to make the mixture just squidgy enough

You know what to do now.. spoon (or pipe) some chocolate orange filling onto half of the macarons. And pop a second macaron on top of each, to make lovely macarons sandwich. YUMMY.

 

 

 

Blondie

23 Jan

The first record I bought was Abba’s Arrival. The second was Blondie’s Parallel Lines. I was a little in love with Debbie Harry. Weren’t we all?

Blondie has stood the test of time. But these days Blondie is less of an aural treat and more of an oral one for me. I have at last discovered the Blondie (as opposed to the Brownie). It’s a squishy tray bake, like a chocolate brownie, but with a caramelly buttery flavour, almost like butterscotch. And of course the regular blondie can be pimped up, by adding all manner of bling. In this recipe I’ve added dark choc chips, brazil nuts, ginger and dried sour cherries. And they rock.

Pimped up blondies

  • 100g butter, melted
  • 150g dark muscovado sugar, bashed to get rid of all the lumps (or use a soft brown or light muscovado sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 140g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g crystallised ginger, chopped into wee nibs
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped into wee nibs
  • a handful of brazil nuts, chopped
  • a handful of dried sour cherries (or cranberries)

Grease and line an 8″ square baking tray. Pre-heat oven to GM5.

  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt. Leave to one side.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the sugar and melted butter – this is easiest with an electric beater. Don’t worry if it’s still a bit bumpy and grainy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and keep beating – it’ll change colour to a much lighter tan and will become fluffy and almost moussy.
  4. With a large metal spoon stir the flour mix into the buttery mix. Fold it in, without beating, or you will lose the lightness of the mix.
  5. Add the ginger, nuts, chocolate and cherries (or whatever you are pimping the mix with) and stir through.
  6. The mix will be relatively thick. Spoon it onto the baking tray, and spread it out.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the blondies are smelling too good to leave for a minute more, and they look golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and cool for about 20 mins before removing from tray and cutting into slices.

Perfect with an afternoon coffee. A proper real strong coffee.

Other ways to pimp your blondies:

  • Add smarties or M n Ms
  • Add any dried fruit
  • Try salted nuts if you enjoy that sweet-salt hit
  • Gobs of peanut butter stirred through once the mix is in the tray
  • Coconut
  • Chopped up mint toffees
  • Oh, just raid your cupboard, or the sweetie drawer (what you don’t have a sweetie drawer?) and see what inspires you

Sweet and salty nut brittle

18 Jan

Is salted caramel still on trend? A couple of years ago it seemed to be everywhere. And I was happy. I love that combination of sweetness and saltiness. I adore peanut butter, adore it even more on hot buttered toast with marmite. Or incorporated into a sweet with chocolate and a biscuit base.

So, a simple salty, nutty caramel brittle is pretty much the perfect sweet to make. And it turns out it was pretty much the perfect home-made Christmas present to give to nephews too! (Although obviously not for you, if your nephews have nut allergies).

Salty nut brittle 

  • 340g mixed nuts, preferably not salted. The type of nuts doesn’t really matter, but why not buy a bag of peanuts, of brazil nuts and pecans. Or hazelnuts, and macadamia and almonds. Whatever you prefer.
  • 400g sugar. Ordinary granulated sugar is fine, or you could use caster, or golden caster
  • 120mls water
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Maldon sea salt (there are other brands, but please use a good quality salt in flakes, not ordinary table salt)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F / 180C / GM 4
  2. Spread the nuts onto a big baking tray, as big as you’ve got – you’re aiming to get them into a single layer, if possible
  3. Roast the nuts in the oven for about 8 minutes, give or take. You’re looking for a golden browniness, not burnt.. and there’s a relatively short window of opportunity between the two. To make it easier in a minute or two, pour the nuts onto a large sheet of greaseproof paper or kitchen foil, or a bowl (this is so that you can QUICKLY pour them from whatever receptacle they are in, into a pan of hot hot hot caramel later on). While you’re at it, get another sheet of greaseproof paper, and line the baking tray with it, and leave to one side. You’ll need it soon.
  4. Now put the sugar, water, butter and golden syrup into a heavy based saucepan, and gently heat, stirring till the butter is melted and the sugar has all dissolved.
  5. Pop a sugar thermometer into the pan, and leave it in there while the mixture heats up to the boil. Keep it boiling, and stir occasionally if you can’t stop yourself
  6. Keep an eye on that sugar thermometer, and as soon as it reaches 150C (which incidentally is between ‘soft crack’ and ‘crack’ on my thermometer) take it off the heat, and quickly stir in the bicarbonate of soda.
  7. It should all swoosh up a wee bit which is exactly what you want it to do. Work quickly – pour in the nuts and stir them in. And then pour the whole lot out onto a baking sheet, with a piece of greaseproof paper on it
  8. Use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture nice and thinly … but not TOO thin
  9. Sprinkle generously with sea salt flakes
  10. And now walk away for a while. Leave it be. Come back when it’s cool
  11. Break it up with your hands and store in an airtight container. Then hide it somewhere you can’t reach, just to save yourself from eating more than you really should

I popped great big shards of this into kilner jars as Christmas present this year, and they went down a treat. If the shards had been smaller, I might have considered dipping them in chocolate to add to the sugar-salt-nut treatiness. It wasn’t required, but just imagine it enrobed with lush dark chocolate. Mmm.

For more recipes, go to my index here.

 

The cat’s whiskers

17 Jun

Not really, it’s cat’s tongues. Or Langues de Chat biscuits. But I’ll come to them in a minute.

We had some friends over for supper yesterday. We were going to barbecue, which is lovely and simple and just involves prepping a variety of things and then bringing it all together in a communal cook-a-thon on our most excellent portable barbecue (an upcycled old wheelbarrow).

But it’s Scotland in mid-June so the skies opened and it didn’t stop raining all day long. Add that to a cold wind and it was clearly no evening for a barbecue.

Plan B was homemade burgers. So we had a totally retro meal with prawn cocktail to start (with bought-in iceberg lettuce, because when I went to pick lettuce from the garden I discovered the rabbit had been there before me. Grrrr), and strawberry ripple ice-cream for afters, with langues de chat biscuits.

I could get seriously addicted to these biscuits, so it’s just as well that they are ridiculously easy to make. As far as a biscuit goes, I think these deliver the max on Ease of Making vs Tasty Loveliness. And if you’re careful you can make them look utterly professional in a uniform sort of a way.

Langues de Chat

Preheat oven to 200C / GM6. Lining a baking sheet (or two) with greaseproof paper. Find your piping bag, and fit it with a plain nozzle.

  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g softened, unsalted butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 120g plain flour, sifted
  1. Beat together the icing sugar and butter, till it is soft and fluffy
  2. Add the vanilla and then the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition
  3. Fold in the plain flour
  4. Dollop it all into your piping bag (you know that the easiest way to do this is to put the whole bag into a tall container, folding the bag over the edges, a bit like how you’d line a bin with a bin liner)
  5. Squeeze the mixture onto your baking sheets (if you’re a true professional, you might have drawn lines on your paper, so all the biscuits are the same length. I’m not).. you are probably looking for 2″ long squeezes. They expand a bit on cooking so leave enough room for them to spread out.
  6. Bake for about 8 minutes, until the biscuits are lightly golden and going nicely brown at the edges.
  7. Leave for a minute or two on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

These are perfect with ice cream. Or a cup of coffee. Or a bowl of strawberries. Or made into sandwiches with jam, or lemon curd, or chocolate ganache (but do this just before you serve them as they’ll go soft after a wee while).

As an aside, the ice cream I made didn’t work. It turns out that if you don’t put enough sweet stuff in with the cream it stays too hard and feels like solid cream with ice crystals in it. Bah. And in the past I’ve made such nommy ice cream. Never mind. The biscuits were great. So was the company.

Note to self These biscuits only help weight loss if you don’t eat them, or any of the raw mixture. Or perhaps if you limit yourself to only one or two. And I mean only one or two in total, not just one or two at a time. They are seriously more-ish!  But seriously, they come out as such teeny wee light wee biscuits that they might be good for some people on a diet – one or two biscuits might give you enough of a wee sugary hit, without breaking the calorie bank.

Chocolate morsels of love

20 Feb

Chocolate cakes of love

Over a year ago I bought a silicone pan to make wee heart-shaped cakes, intending to make wee treats of love for Valentines Day.

But I left the cake pan in Edinburgh, while I was enjoying Valentines in the country. So that didn’t work.

This year I remembered to bring the cake pan to the country, but had over-indulged so much already over the weekend that there was no way I was going to make any chocolate cakes, however cute and heart shaped they might be.

But this weekend was different.

I had a whole list of things to achieve: long walk with the dogs; drink with his kids in Glasgow; a couple of sewing projects to finish; soup to make; a curry to make (and eat); a greenhouse to clean and set up for the spring seed-sowing; laundry to wash and hang out; candle lit baths to loll about in. And I intended to do some veg bed digging too, but that didn’t get done. All the other things did get completed though (ish). And while I was on a roll, achieving so much, I ended up achieving more too – I made the cutest heart shaped gingery dark chocolate cakes. And it so happens they are perfect with fresh pears, not even poached, just chopped up and put in a bowl with all their juicy loveliness, accompanied by a sweet wee chocolate heart of cakey wonderfulness.

So, this is what I did:

Wee ginger chocolate hearts (or morsels of love)

Pre-heat oven to GM 5 or 6, if you don’t have a silicone cake pan, prepare either a 23cm sandwich tin, or a loaf tin, or put a load of paper cupcake cases in a muffin tin. 

  • 4oz soft butter (at room temperature if you have a warm room, otherwise pop it in the microwave at a low power setting in 20second bursts till it’s squishy soft)
  • 4oz light muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TBsp syrup from a jar of stem ginger
  • 3oz SR flour
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 balls of ginger from a jar of stem ginger, chopped fine
  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  2. Add the eggs and ginger syrup and beat again. It’ll probably curdle, but don’t worry too much about it
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa and BP and beat again
  4. Now fold in the ginger bits
  5. Spoon the batter into the cake moulds (or sandwich tin or paper cases, or whatever you are using)
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are firm to touch

Delicious warm (heat up for 30s in the microwave) with that blackcurrant icecream I first made a few months ago. Or as I said, just with fresh pears. Or on their own, just as a wee treat with a cup of coffee.

Wee chocolate heart cakes

I suspect that they would be mighty scrumptious with a cream cheese icing too.

Or replace the ginger nibs with some frozen raspberries, scrunched, or chopped up, and serve with a raspberry coulis.

Go on, experiment.

Beetroot cheesy muffins

2 Feb

I owe some colleagues some home baking. I’d promised one muffins and another doesn’t eat sugar, so it was clearly time to make another batch of  savoury muffins.  It would have been the Parmesan and Courgette Muffins again, if Tesco’s had any courgettes. But at 7pm I wasn’t about to go traipsing round town hunting down a courgette, so beetroots became a worthy substitute.

Now, if only I’d consulted with the facebook fairies before  I went shopping – the recipe could have been enhanced with feta cheese, goats’ milk, smoked salmon and creme fraiche. But there’s always next time.

Pink savoury mufflets

Savoury beetroot mufflets (a mufflet being a mini muffin)

8oz plain flour

1tsp baking powder

4 small beetroot, cooked and coarsely grated

2oz parmesan, finely grated

2oz mature cheddar, finely grated

200ml milk

about 1/3 tub of plain yoghurt

1 egg, beaten

75ml olive oil

about 3 -4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

Line a muffin pan with paper muffin cases.

  1. Mix together flour and baking powder in a big bowl (everything else will be poured in here eventually)
  2. Add beetroot and cheese and mix – try to get rid of the claggy lumps of beetroot
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, milk, yoghurt and egg together. Add the herbs
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix quickly together. Don’t over-mix, just bring everything together so the pink colour suffuses the whole mixture and it has no lumps of flour. The mixture needs to be quite soft and wet, but not runny
  5. Spoon a large soup spoonful of mixture into each muffin case
  6. Bake for 20 minutes (or until golden) in a medium hot oven (Gas Mark 5)

OK – they are out of the oven now. They are more like mufflets than muffins, slightly on the wee size, and not quite enough oomph in the flavour. So this is what I would do differently next time:

  1. Use baking powder that wasn’t past its best
  2. Use the correct size tin for the muffin cases
  3. Swap the milk and yoghurt for goats milk and yoghurt (thanks cousin!)
  4. Add some salt and pepper
  5. Use more sage or some nutmeg, or possibly orange zest, or dill, that would work
  6. Add some finely chopped scallions
  7. Cut some of the milk by volume, as the mixture was a bit too sloppy

Go on, have a go yourself – they are too easy.

And yes, they would be just delicious with a dollop of creme fraiche and some smoked salmon on top. Thanks Barry Bryson.

Hilda Gerber’s Chocolate Sauce

20 Dec

Hilda Gerber’s chocolate sauce is amazing.

It’s amazingly naughty and amazingly rich and for me an amazingly strong memory of Christmas and Hogmanay from my childhood.  It’s also ridiculously easy to make.  And once you can make Hilda Gerbers (the sauce is always just called Hilda Gerbers in our family) you can make the infamous Meringue Mountain, all gloriously seventies.

Hilda Gerber was a cookery writer in the 30s and 40s in South Africa.  Her manuscript for Traditional Cooking of the Cape Malays was found and published after her death in 1954.  Cape Malays are the descendents of slaves and political exiles, mostly from Indonesia and Bengal, who were brought to the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th and 18th century by the Dutch East India Company.  Their name derives from the trader language they spoke, called Malayu.  During the apartheid years any Cape Malay who converted from Islam to Christianity was reclassified as Cape Coloured. Their spices and condiments from the East, which arrived on the ships on their way back to Holland, pepped up the bland Dutch recipes in their colonial kitchens.

I intend to seek out some Malay recipes – I think the only one I have is Bobotie from my Aunt Joyce.  But surely I can get a Bredie recipe from my Aunt Astri?  And I’ve wanted to make mebos (delicious nuggets of salty-sweet dried fruit) for AGES but I suspect Scotland does not have the climate for drying fruit.

Anyway, Hilda Gerber used to ask local Malay women for recipes, so she could record them for posterity and compile a recipe book.  Some of the Malay women silently sabotaged her efforts to create an indigenous cookbook, and would miss out a key ingredient, such as the milk in potato pudding, so any efforts to make it will end up with potato scrambled eggs.  Hmmm, I’ll bet you’re not wanting to make this chocolate sauce now?

Anyway, all of that I have discovered in the last 24 hours, but Hilda Gerbers (the sauce) has been known to me all my life.  I wasn’t exactly weaned on it (although if I was it would go some way to explaining my current size) but it was always there on special occasions.  I suspect the recipe came via my grandmother who lived for many years from the 30s through to the 80s in South Africa.  So, here we go:

Hilda Gerbers Rich Chocolate Sauce

4oz dark chocolate

4oz icing sugar

4 eggs

8oz butter

  1. In a bowl over a pan of water, melt the chocolate.  Make sure the bowl is big enough to take everything, as all the other ingredients will be added to this later.
  2. Once melted, add the icing sugar.  You’ll think it’s all gone badly wrong, when it turns into rubble, but trust me, it’s ok.
  3. Add eggs and beat in, one by one.  Keep warm, but do NOT boil. It’s looking a bit better now, huh?
  4. Now take off the heat and cut the butter into chunks into the mixture.  Stir a bit, but leave to melt in and then stir a bit again
  5. That’s it.
  6. Leave it somewhere cool. Then eat.

Or, instead of just eating it by the spoonful, make a Meringue Mountain.

Make some meringues, the more the better.  Big ones, little ones, medium ones.  Crunchy ones and chewy ones.  Just lots.

And beat some cream, with a wee bit of sugar and vanilla if you want, but it’s not really necessary.

Now make the mountain. Stick some meringues to the bottom of your dish with a dab of cream.  Now squidge some cream on top of the meringues, so you can add another layer.  And keep going with layers of meringue and cream until you have a mountain.  Then pour the chocolate sauce over the top.  You’ll need to have taken it out of the fridge a while before pouring, or it just won’t pour.  Think about it, it’s mostly butter and chocolate which are quite solid in a fridge.

You can do all manner of other things with it other than the Meringue Mountain, but remember it is incredibly rich – so you won’t need much of it.  I suspect it would be good with a teeny tiny chocolate brownie and some vanilla icecream.  Or have I just gone too far?

Oh, and don’t even think of giving this to pregnant women. Or getting pregnant while you’re eating it.  DANGER.

I’m about to go make a batch to have on Christmas Eve.  Nom nom nom.

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