As May slowly draws to a close (uhm, hello, how is it nearly June already?!), it’s probably about time that I post about this month’s Farmers’ Market, before the next one on Saturday 4th of June. Not sure how I’ve managed to be so disorganised with my blogging this month, considering I’m done with my academics. Perhaps that’s the problem – I suddenly don’t have a load of deadlines and time constraints, and consequently my time management has gone completely out the window (though I wasn’t exactly the Queen of Time Management to start with). So anyway, this has nothing to do with Farmers’ Market. Woops. Clearly my ability to ramble has remained unchanged.
What I really enjoyed about the Farmers’ Market this month was that I had no Dissertation hanging over my head. It had been handed in two days before, and although we still had to prepare presentations for the following Tuesday, I think we were all experiencing a sense of liberation. This meant that we could go on a leisurely wander around all the stalls without feeling guilty. Twice. Oh the joys of freedom. We spent quite a while hanging around the Pittenweem Chocolate Co. stall, tasting their hot chocolate (I definitely recommend the Caliente hot chilli chocolate by the way). We always stop at this stall (they sell chocolate – how could we not?), and every time they tell us about their café in Pittenweem, the Cocoa Tree Café. And every time we’ve had to say that although we’d love to go, we’ve got dissertations to write so we don’t really have the time for a day trip down to Pittenweem. But not this time! And we did actually hop on the bus for a little day trip down to Pittenweem about ten days ago, which was great fun. I’ll blog about that at some later point (if I get my spiralling disorganisation vaguely under control).
Aside from selling wonderful hot chocolate, they also sell several varieties of flavoured chocolate, which are all rather scrumptious. I really like their lemon-flavoured chocolate, and we happened to be planning a lemon-themed picnic at some point, so I acquired a bag of lemon-chocolate callets. The next step was to decide what I was going to bake with them. I’ve had a lot of love for the combination of lemon and basil lately (so fresh!), so I decided to attempt lemon and basil macarons and take them along to the lemon-themed picnic. Remarkably, they worked rather wonderfully (if I do say so myself), though they were less lemon-y than I expected. Consequently, I’ve added some lemon juice and zest into the recipe just to increase the lemon flavour a little. Oh and I think I can say they were enjoyed by all who tasted them – hurrah!
Lemon & basil macarons
If you don’t have any lemon-flavoured chocolate, then you could probably use about 1-2 tbsp lemon essence instead of some of the alcohol (though this may not work – apologies if it doesn’t!) and just normal white chocolate. The alcohol serves to heighten the flavour of the lemon and thin the ganache, but if you would like your macarons more lemon-y, then add more lemon juice and less alcohol. If you don’t have any mirabelle (a type of yellow plum) eau de vie, try using lemon vodka instead. Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit. They can be stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!
For the macaron shells:
100g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Yellow food colouring paste (optional)
For the filling:
40g single cream
150g lemon-flavoured chocolate
4cl (40g) mirabelle eau de vie (or lemon vodka)
6-7 sprigs of fresh basil
To make the macaron shells:
1. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside. Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.
2. Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!) Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl. Sift them again if necessary.
3. Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar. Add some yellow food colouring paste just before the end and mix well (this is totally optional, but it just adds a bit of colour to the macarons, and it’s also kind of fun).
4. Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well. Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture. Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes. The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.
5. Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter). Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round. Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.
6. Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet). Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C. When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.
7. Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer). Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.
To make the filling:
8. Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling. Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the lemon-flavoured chocolate, the eau de vie (or vodka), the zest and juice from the lemon and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?). Allow the mixture to thicken in the fridge (or freezer if necessary).
9. Strip the sprigs of basil and finely chop or shred the leaves.
10. Once the ganache has cooled, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair. Sprinkle with basil before placing the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.
11. Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)