Tag Archives: Baking

Banana & walnut muffins

To put it mildly, our freezer is rather chock-a-block.  To the point where something inevitably comes cascading out whenever you open it, which is mildly annoying when all you want are a couple of ice-cubes for your G&T.  I mean, uhm, water.  Several weeks ago, I decided to start playing “freezer roulette” – open the freezer, and use up whatever comes tumbling out (as long as it belongs to me – actually nobody quite remembers precisely what belongs to whom, which is a whole other issue, so the game also requires some detective work).

Banana & walnut muffins

After several bananas came shooting out at me a few weekends ago, I decided that banana & walnut muffins were on the cards for breakfast.  I enthusiastically set about whipping them up, not thinking about what I was going to do with a dozen muffins – I obviously wasn’t going to be eating them all by myself, even spread over two breakfasts.  Excellent planning, right there.  Since it was a Saturday, my usual tactic of taking surplus baking into the lab wasn’t going to work, so banana & walnut muffins were forced upon kindly offered to anybody who had the misfortune of stopping by the house that weekend.

Luckily, the muffins turned out rather scrumptious – filling without being heavy, full of banana and walnut flavour and with a lovely slight crunch on top (although this softens up if left overnight).  I’d wanted to add extra walnuts to the topping but ran out, so that would add a further delicious crunch.  Nobody complained about being effectively force-fed muffins.  And they make a fabulous breakfast by the way, especially since they don’t take too long to throw together.

Freezer roulette anyone?

Banana & walnut muffins

Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

These make great breakfast muffins as they’re easy to throw together.  If you’re using frozen bananas, remember to take them out far enough in advance to defrost (you can leave them out overnight if making these for breakfast).  Toasting the walnuts is optional, but I find it really does enhance the flavour and really doesn’t take long.  If you’re a big walnut fan, feel free to add some to the topping as well (I would have, but I’d run out).  Muffins are best eaten the same day, but they will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container – the topping will just go a bit soft.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
200g all-purpose flour (190g)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 very ripe bananas (defrosted frozen ones are fine)
100g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
80 ml rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1 egg
1½ tsp vanilla extract
75g walnut halves or pieces

For the topping:
50g light brown sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
15g unsalted butter

Directions

To prepare the muffins:
1.  Roughly chop the walnuts halves or pieces and toast in a frying pan until fragrant (watch they don’t burn).  Set aside to cool whilst preparing the muffins.

2.  Line a muffin tin with liners or set out 12 silicone muffin moulds on a baking tray.  Preheat the oven to 210°C/fan 190°C.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl and stir together.

4.  In a medium-sized bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.  Add the sugars, egg, oil and vanilla extract and whisk together (either by hand or by electric whisk).

5.  Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture using a metal spoon until just combined (there should still be a few small streaks of flour in the mixture).  Fold in the toasted walnuts and spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin or moulds, not filling them more than ¾ full.

To prepare the topping:
6.  In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Rub in the butter, until crumbly in texture.  Sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.

7.  Bake for 18-20 mins, until risen and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Either eat them warm or remove from the tin/moulds to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Since these muffins are made from scratch, I’m submitting them to this week’s Made with Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior.  One of the guiding principles is to avoid using frozen produce when you can use fresh, and whilst I did use frozen bananas, this recipe works perfectly whether using fresh or frozen bananas, so I’m sure that’ll be acceptable.  Plus the bananas only ended up in the freezer because we had a deluge of overripe fresh bananas in the first place.

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

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Alcoholic sunshine in a cupcake

Baking with SpiritFalling off the blogging radar (i.e. – not really having time to blog) means that over the last few months, I haven’t been participating in the various blogging challenges that I usually join in with.  One of my favourites is Baking with Spirit, hosted by Jan over at Cake of the Week.  (Would saying that it’s my favourite make me sound like an alcoholic?)  After missing several challenges, I was all set to participate last month – I’d set aside time and had recipe ideas and everything – but had forgotten to consider that crème de framboise might be a little difficult (read: nigh on impossible) to come by in rural NZ.  After that total fail in planning on my part, I was terribly excited when this month’s alcohol of choice turned out to be “Limoncello.”  I love the stuff.

Woohoo, I'm back to Baking With Spirit!

I actually don’t know if limoncello is any easier to find in rural NZ than crème de framboise, but I circumvented the issue by making my own over the weekend (and I’ll post the recipe soon).  Yesterday was the birthday of one of my labmates so I had her round for dinner and decided that limoncello cupcakes would make an excellent celebratory end to the meal.  Lemon cupcakes with limoncello drizzled over them after baking (you wouldn’t want any of it to bake out…) and topped off with a cream cheese and white chocolate icing (with limoncello added, of course) and all washed down with a small, digestive glass of limoncello – now that’s a great way to bring some sunshine into what was a cold and tempestuously grim weather day.

Alcoholic sunshine in a cupcake

This post actually should have gone up yesterday evening, but the aforementioned foul weather won out and we were treated to a powercut for most of the evening (though thankfully not until after dinner had been cooked), so my plan to blog (or do anything else requiring electricity, like… writing a thesis) had to be abandoned.  Instead, we huddled under blankets, polished off a few more of these cupcakes and drank limoncello and G&Ts by candlelight.  Hopefully my late entry will be forgiven – sorry Jan!

This is what we were missing during the powercut: daylight.

Limoncello cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes
Cupcake recipe adapted from The Great British Bake Off
Icing recipe slightly adapted from Domestic Sluttery

I used home-made limoncello, which isn’t too sweet, so these have a very lemony flavour, but this may vary depending on the limoncello that you use.  I just went for simple two-tone icing to fancy the cupcakes up a bit, but they can also be decorated with lemon zest or white chocolate shavings (or both).  They are best eaten the same day or the next day, but will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.  Whilst not super alcoholic (by my standards), do remember that none of the alcohol gets baked out in this recipe, so perhaps not ideal for children.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
1 lemon
100ml whole milk
125g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
200g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
About 90ml limoncello

For the icing:
Yellow gel food colouring (optional)
150g cream cheese, softened
35 ml limoncello
150g white chocolate

Directions

To prepare the cupcakes:
1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C.  Line a muffin tray with 12 paper cases or set out silicon muffin moulds.

2.  Zest and juice the lemon and set aside, separately.  Stir ½ tsp of lemon juice into the milk and set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk the butter with an electric whisk until creamy.  Add the sugar and lemon zest and whisk together until light and fluffy.

4.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs together with a fork.  Add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tbsp at a time, whisking well after each addition.

5.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl and stir together.  Fold ⅓ of the flour mixture into the butter with a large metal spoon or a spatula, followed by ⅓ of the milk mixture.  Alternate adding the remaining thirds of flour and milk mixtures, and on the last addition fold together until nearly incorporated.  Add 3 tsp of lemon juice and stir well.

6.  Spoon the batter into the prepared paper cases or silicone moulds.  Bake for 25-28 mins until golden and the tops are just firm to the touch.  Allow to cool for 2 mins in the tin or moulds before turning out onto a wire rack.

7.  Whilst still hot, poke holes in the top of the cupcakes (I like using pointy chopsticks for this) and spoon about 1½ tsp of limoncello over the top of each cupcake – do this slowly so that a maximum amount of limoncello soaks into the cupcake rather than running over the top and down the sides.  Allow to cool fully.

To prepare the icing:
8.  Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, prepare the icing.  If you want to pipe the icing onto the cupcakes (as opposed to spreading it over), prepare a piping bag with your chose piping tip (I used a Wilton 1M tip).  If you want two-tone icing, paint three stripes of yellow gel food colouring up the inside of the piping bag.  Set the piping bag in a tall glass (this will make it easier to fill) and set aside.

9.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and limoncello until smooth.

10.  Melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl), stirring regularly until the chocolate is smooth.  Add to the cream cheese and whisk together until the icing is smooth.  Either spread the icing over the cupcakes with a knife or transfer to the prepared piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes.

Enjoy!

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Kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake

Goodness, it’s been a while since I showed some signs of life, hasn’t it?  I previously mentioned that things were likely to be a bit quiet as I knuckled down and got on with this whole MSc thesis-writing lark,* however  I didn’t quite expect to more or less completely disappear from the online world (with the exception of Instagram – have I ever mentioned my addiction?).  A scheduled post about one of the best cakes ever (shameless plug, what?) not going up several weeks ago (let’s pretend that I didn’t only just notice today) rather helped to reinforce this absence.  I am, however, still alive and kicking.  I’ve been baking, too, to de-stress a bit and take a break from thesis-writing.  I just haven’t had the time to take any half-decent photos or write recipes up.  Or collate any Sunday Smiles posts either for that matter.

Bet you'll never guess what kind of cake this is…  Oh wait.

AlphaBakesWhilst Microsoft Word and Excel get their act together, unfreeze and stop repeatedly crashing on me (I’ve had a fantastic morning…), I thought I’d share this utterly amazing kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake with you.  Anybody thinking that kumara is some terribly exotic, amazing new ingredient that’ll be impossible to find in a normal shop, it’s just the Kiwi (and Australian I think?) name for sweet potato.  Rather conveniently, the challenge letter for AlphaBakes happens to be “K,” so I’m sending this cake in as my entry to Caroline Makes, this month’s host.

Cake in progress

After a classic case of forgetting to check a recipe for quantities before going shopping and consequently overestimating the amount, I ended up with some surplus orange kumara the other day and decided that some cake was in order.  I dug out a recipe that I’ve had bookmarked since last year, and threw some chocolate in, just because I could.  I added some cinnamon in too, since I’m actually incapable of not adding cinnamon to pretty much everything during autumn and winter (in spring and summer I only add it to about 50% of everything…  I might have a cinnamon problem).  The cake came out wonderfully moist and utterly scrumptious – the combination of kumara and cardamom was a pleasant discovery for me.  The cake also happens to be gluten-free, but you’d never guess it (I feel gluten-free baking has a reputation for rather heavy and dry results, but I haven’t dabble much with gluten-free, so I could be wrong).  Suffice to say, the lab loved it.

This totally wasn't my breakfast.  Ahem.

Kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake

Serves 10-12
Adapted from The KitchenMaid

I’m rather liberal with spices, so if you’re not into strong flavours, you may wish to reduce the cardamom down to 3 tsp.  I’ve yet to locate good quality dark chocolate chips (with more than 70% cocoa) that aren’t overly sweet, so I prefer using good dark chocolate and just chopping it up myself, however if you do have good dark chocolate chips, feel free to use them.  This cake also works as loaves or mini loaves (great for breakfast…), though the baking times will have to be adjusted (probably around 50 mins for two loaves or about 35 mins as mini loaves, though don’t hold me to that).  The drizzle is, of course, optional.  The cake will keep for a few days in an airtight box.

Ingredients

For the cake:
450g orange kumara (sweet potato)
150g dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)
300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs, room temperature
225g ground almonds
4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

For the drizzle (optional):
100g icing sugar
¾ tsp ground cardamom
Just under 1 tbsp boiling water

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Preheat the oven to 205°C/fan 185°C.

2.  Scrub the kumara and pierce the skin several times with a fork.  Place on a baking tray and roast for about 40 mins until there’s no resistance when a knife is inserted through the thickest part.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool until it can be handled.  Peel the skin off and mash the flesh in a small bowl with a fork – you should have around 325g of cooked flesh.  Set aside.

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 195°C/fan 175°C.  Line the bottom of a 24cm round cake tin with baking paper.

4.  If using chocolate and not chocolate chips, chop the chocolate up and set aside.

5.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla extract.  Beat the eggs in, one at a time, adding about 1 tbsp of ground almond with each egg (this will help prevent the mixture from curdling).

6.  Add the remaining ground almonds, the spices, baking powder, salt, mashed kumara and chopped-up chocolate and stir together with a spatula or spoon.  Evenly pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1h-1h10, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (if the cake starts to brown a little too much on top, just cover it with aluminium foil).  Allow to cool for 10 mins in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

To prepare the drizzle:
7.  Once the cake has cooled fully, add all the drizzle ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Pour into a freezer bag, snip a small corner off and drizzle over the cake.

Enjoy!

Also makes an excellent breakfast in mini loaf form…  I'm all about cake for breakfast, doncha know.

*Heavy sarcasm alert.  It’s anything but a lark, just in case anybody was unsure.

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Bring in some pears, I’ll bring back a cake

Ten days ago it was suddenly so cold that I got my winter sheepskin slippers out and was considering changing over to my thicker duvet.  Today it’s so warm that I’m back to rocking shorts and jandals… but with my Barbour thrown on because of the rain-in-every-possible-direction that we’re currently being treated to.  This topsy-turvy weather is difficult to deal with.  We’ve had some rather full-on stormy weather the last few days – rainy, blustery gales that make me feel like I’m in Scotland in November… if I ignore that it’s 22°C at the moment, April and we have palm trees in our garden.

It's a wee bit wavy out in Matheson's Bay…

I do love watching the sea when it’s all ferocious like that.  Aside from dramatic sea views, there are a couple of good things about this weather.  Firstly, the rain has filled up our water tank (yay, showers and clean hair all round!*) and secondly, somebody brought in a glut of pears to the lab yesterday that had all been blown off their tree in the wind.  I’ve had an upside-down pear cake recipe bookmarked for ages, just waiting for pear season to start, so as soon as I saw the small mountain of pears, I knew some of them would be reappearing in the lab today in the form of cake.  Well, assuming the recipe worked of course…

And this is what I'll turn a small mountain of pears into…

I had a moment of panic when, having popped the cake in the oven, I decided to have a little munch on a sliver of leftover pear and discovered that it was sour as (let’s not dwell on why I didn’t think to try the pears before I baked with them).  Oh no, I thought, what have I done?  I can’t possibly bring a horridly sour cake into the lab.  I needn’t have worried though; the caramel completely mellowed out the pears.  In fact, I’d go as far as saying that firm, slightly sour pears are the best to use in this cake, as they’ll hold their shape when cooking and retain their pear flavour but the sourness will get baked out.  The cake went down an absolute storm at the lab – I even overheard claims from several people that it was the best cake they’d ever tasted.  I’m not sure that I quite believe that, but I’ll still take that as very high praise.  Unfortunately, the cake went so quickly that I didn’t really manage to get any decent photos of it.  A victim of its own success, clearly.  No doubt I’ll be making it again soon, so I’ll update the photos then.

This would have been a good time to test the pears.

Upside-down pear & ginger cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Firm, slightly sour pears would be the best to use for this recipe – the baking will mellow their sourness but they’ll still keep their shape and won’t disintegrate into mush.  The actual number of pears required obviously will depend on their size and the size of the cake tin.  Whilst utterly delicious as a snack (or breakfast…), this cake would also make a wonderful dessert, served with whipped cream or a caramel sauce.  The cake is best eaten the next day so that the caramel can really soak in, and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
300g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
3 or 4 firm pears

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
130g light brown sugar

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Line the base of a 24 or 26cm round deep cake tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt into the egg mixture and stir together with a spatula or large spoon until just combined.

4.  Peel, core and cut the pears into eighths.  Set aside.

To prepare the caramel:
5.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together to make the caramel.  Once the sugar has completely melted and the mixture is smooth, pour into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the pears over the top of the caramel, then cover with the cake batter, smoothing the top (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

6.  Place the cake tin on a baking tray large enough to catch any caramel that might bubble over the sides (way easier than cleaning a caramel-encrusted oven…) and bake for 50-55mins until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool in the cake tin for about 5 mins before turning out onto a serving plate to cool completely.  The cake is best eaten the next day.

Enjoy!

My housemates got to the cake for breakfast before I did…

*Just to clarify, we have actually been showering over the past three months.  Just quickly and not necessarily at home.  And there may have been some scrimping on the hair-washing.  Isn’t that a lovely note to end on?

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Irish Coffee & walnut brownies

I really had high hopes of getting back to a regular blogging schedule.  Evidently that hasn’t happened, and even Sunday Smiles has completely flown out of the window.  With two months until I’m supposed to be handing in a 40,000 word thesis, I’ve accepted that a regular blogging schedule is unlikely to magically throw itself together any time soon.  So I’ll stop peppering the blog with excuses and apologies for not posting, and just hope that you, my lovely regular readers, will hang in there and put up with some seriously sporadic posting.  Will a pretty picture make up for it a bit?  Let’s give it a try:

Have I mentioned how idyllic my surroundings are? I'm actually jealous of myself.

That’ll be the view from a recent evening walk I took with one of my housemates.  Which is obviously not what I’ve been doing instead of blogging.  Perhaps not so surprising that I absolutely love it here, eh?  Moving swiftly on before you all hate me…  I’m sure you’re aware that it was St Patrick’s Day the weekend before last.  (Oh that’s why the internet was suddenly almost entirely decked out in green…)  A couple of my housemates and I went to visit one of our other housemates who is doing research up north (my current housing situation is currently somewhat convoluted and there’s a fair bit of subletting involved) for St Patrick’s weekend.  I, of course, brought baked goods.  And gin, obviously.  But lets focus on the baked goods.

Chocolate and walnuts – a promising start for any baked goods (unless you dislike chocolate or walnuts…)

I wanted something vaguely Irish-themed since it was St Patrick’s and all, and had an urge to bake brownies (which are also easy to transport – win!).  I looked up my favourite brownie recipe (coffee & walnut brownies, since you ask) to see how I could Irishify (totally a word) it.  And it hit me: Irish Coffee & walnut brownies.  Oh yes.

Hang on a second, where did all the brownies go?

AlphaBakesConfession time: I didn’t actually use an Irish whisky – there wasn’t any in the cupboard so I used Glenfiddich, my usual baking whisky.  Luckily the brownies turned out so scrumptious that nobody picked me up on it.  The whisky flavour does come through subtly and goes wonderfully with the other flavours in the brownies.  Success!  I’m submitting these brownies to this month’s AlphaBakes challenge, which is being hosted by Caroline Makes.  The special letter this month is “I,” so that’ll be I for Irish Coffee…  That totally counts as an ingredient, right?  I’m also attempting to sneak my entry in because I totally thought the deadline was today…  It was yesterday.  Thankfully, I’m way more on the ball with my thesis due date…

Oh that's where all the brownies went…  Into the biscuit tin.

Irish Coffee & walnut brownies

Makes 20 brownies
Adapted from Le Larousse des desserts

I used Glenfiddich as that’s my usual baking whisky, but just use whatever you favour – an Irish whisky would obviously be ideal…  You can also use freshly-brewed espresso rather than instant coffee if that’s what you have at home.  These will keep for a several days in an airtight container, though they’re so moreish that I doubt they’ll last that long!  These are probably best enjoyed with a coffee – an Irish Coffee, obviously.

Ingredients

70g walnut pieces of halves
140g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
125g unsalted butter
2 tbsp espresso-style instant coffee
4 tbsp boiling water
3-4 tbsp whisky
1 tbsp cream
60g all-purpose flour
150g caster sugar
2 eggs

Directions

1.  Line a 20 x 25 cm baking tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to fan 170°C.

2.  Roughly chop the walnuts, then dry toast them in a small frying pan until fragrant, taking care not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool.

3.  Break half the chocolate into pieces and add to a medium heat-proof bowl with the cubed butter.  Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).  In a little ramekin or glass, dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water.  Add to the chocolate and butter mixture along with the whisky and cream and melt together, stirring occasionally.  When all melted together and smooth, remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

3.  Sift the flour into a small bowl.  Roughly chop the remaining chocolate into small chunks and stir into the flour, along with the cooled toasted walnuts.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until well mixed and a little foamy.  Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture.  Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula then pour into the prepared baking tin.  Smooth the top of the mixture if necessary and bake for 18-22 mins until a knife point comes out with a little mixture still stuck to it.

5.  Cool for about 20-30 mins in the tin until just warm, then remove and allow to cool fully on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Enjoy!

Yummy goodness in progress.

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Earl Grey & lemon melting moments

It would appear that posts on Sharky Oven Gloves are like buses: so sign of one for ages and then two come along nearly at once.  In order to counteract yesterday’s slightly mammoth post, I’m going to keep this one on the shorter side.  Nothing to do with the fact that I’m watching the Scotland vs Ireland Six Nations rugby game whilst I write, obviously, and that it’s 3:30am here – I apologise if this post doesn’t score very highly in the coherence stakes.  It turns out that waking up at 3am was worth it in the end though, both for Scotland’s totally unexpected (albeit perhaps not terribly deserved, but I’m not complaining) win and for this morning’s beautiful sunrise, which has nothing to do with today’s post, but was too pretty not to share:

Adding a pretty sunrise photo is totally not a ploy to distract you from the general shoddiness of this post.  It's totally working, right?

AlphaBakesI might not have been very good at actually writing up posts and publishing them, but I have still been baking away and keeping an eye on the various challenges that I usually take part in.  This month’s AlphaBakes is being hosted by Ros over at The More Than Occasional Baker, and the randomly chosen letter is “E.”  Nothing immediately sprang to mind on reading the challenge (as a basic ingredient, eggs don’t count), so I made myself a cup of tea to think about it and it hit me (not literally): Earl Grey.  I do love baking with tea – it’s such an easy way to add delicious flavours and there are so many different types to choose from that the possibilities are endless.

E is for… Earl Grey!

I find that Earl Grey is flavourful enough to work in dense cakes yet delicate enough for lighter cakes or biscuits.  It’s been so warm and summery (I know, I know you all hate me, and it won’t help my case to mention that this recipe was baked in a bikini after a good long swim in the sea – have I mentioned that my life is a little ridiculous at the moment?) that I decided to go for the lighter biscuits option and settled on making Earl Grey and lemon melting moments which are basically Earl Grey and lemon shortbread  biscuits sandwiched with lemon buttercream.  The zingy lemon flavour is perfectly refreshing for summer, and the biscuits themselves really were just melt-in-the-mouth.  Pure yumminess!

I totally didn't forget to take photos whilst making the melting moments…

Earl Grey & lemon melting moments

Makes about 20 melting moments or 40 biscuits
Adapted from lemonpi

I used Twinings Earl Grey teabags, but you can obviously use whatever Earl Grey you have at home, though do be aware that they are all a little different, so you may need to adjust the amount of lemon slightly.  If you’re a little pushed for time, the shortbread biscuits are also equally delicious on their own without being sandwiched with lemon buttercream.  I piped the buttercream into my biscuits but I don’t think that really adds anything and just creates extra washing-up.  The biscuits will keep for a few of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the biscuits:
180g unsalted butter, softened
60g icing sugar
180g all-purpose flour
10 Earl Grey teabags (I used Twinings)
60g cornflour
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt

For the buttercream:
60g icing sugar
30g unsalted butter, softened
1½ tsp lemon juice

Directions

To make the biscuits:
1.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and icing sugar with an electric whisk.  Sift the flour, cornflour, contents of the Earl Grey teabags (just tip any bits that don’t go through the sieve into the bowl) and salt into the bowl along with the lemon zest, and mix together with your hands until it comes together (this may take a wee while, but perseverance is key).  The dough may be a little crumbly but don’t worry.  Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate for a good 20 mins or so.

2.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.

3.  When the dough has chilled, pinch off just less than a teaspoon of dough and roll into a ball.  Space them out on the baking trays, leaving about 4cm space between them.  Flatten each ball slightly with a fork.  Bake for about 15-18 mins until firm but still pale.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the buttercream:
4.  Once the biscuits have cooled completely, make the buttercream.  Sift the icing sugar into a medium-sized bowl and add the cubed butter and lemon juice.  Using an electric whisk, mix until smooth and of a stiff consistency.

5.  Pair up the biscuits and add a little dollop of buttercream to one of each pair before gently sandwiching them together.  They may need to sit a little while for the buttercream to set slightly.

Enjoy!

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Happy ever-so-slightly belated Chinese New Year!

I’m afraid that life has completely gotten in the way of blogging.  Again.  I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the past few weeks in the lab fighting the incredible slowness of the one computer that runs the programme that I need for my research.  Which doesn’t really make me want to come home and spend more time staring at a computer screen.  Then there’s the minor detail that I’ve decided to move up to Leigh permanently (well, until the end of my MSc) because I love it so much here.  So I’ve been back and forth between Auckland and Leigh over the past two weeks to pack up my Auckland flat and also deal with visa extension applications and other such joys.  And between all of that, please don’t hate me too much (especially if you’re in the northern hemisphere) but we’ve been having such a wonderful summer that it’s been impossible to resist the call of the outdoors.

Any post with dragons in is automatically awesome, right?

Today’s post should have gone up about two weeks ago.  For Chinese New Year.  Evidently that didn’t happen.  However, since today is the Chinese Lantern Festival, which is still part of the New Year celebrations (from what I understand), I’m totally letting myself off on that one.  We went to the Lantern Festival in Auckland yesterday, and there were some super awesome lanterns (funny that).  Including a whole montage of penguins and polar bears, which, before anybody gets upset about the ecological inaccuracy of that (I totally did before I read the explanatory panel), was apparently meant to symbolise China’s scientific interest in both polar regions.  Still not sure how that’s quite relevant to New Year, but it sure looked awesome!

Penguins and polar bears – always so closely with Chinese New Year…

One of my housemates is Chinese and another is Chinese-Malaysian, and they cooked a big Chinese New Year’s Eve meal for us (which was totally amazing).  I was asked to make a dessert (it took my housemates about a week to figure out that I’m not half bad in that department).  I wanted something fairly light and bite-sized – I had no idea how many people would be coming, but was sure that the main meal would be pretty filling – that I could preferably prepare the evening before so as not to get in the way of my housemates’ preparations on the day.  In the end I settled on that most Chinese of desserts: chocolate and ginger macarons.  Because ginger is totally a Chinese flavour, and I made the shells red and piped Chinese characters in gold on the top of each macaron, which means they’re clearly Chinese New Year-themed.  Ok, so it’s a little tenuous, but everybody loved them and they went down an absolute treat.  (Phew!)

A very Chinese dessert.  Ahem.

I didn’t just pick some totally random Chinese characters by the way.  One of them is which means prosperity or blessing – obviously an important symbol for New Year – and the other is shé which means snake – because it’s the year of the snake.  My housemates wrote them out for me to copy, so any mistakes are totally not my fault.  I’m really happy with how they turned out though – adding the characters really just made them that little bit extra special.

Mad Chinese piping skills!

We Should CocoaI’m submitting these macarons to this month’s We Should Cocoa, which is being hosted by Jen over at Blue Kitchen Bakes, who has chosen “ginger” as the special ingredient to be combined with chocolate.  An awesome choice, might I add, since I do love ginger.  The bitterness of the dark chocolate in the ganache cut through the heat of the ginger wonderfully and also went some way to counterbalancing the sweetness of the shells.  The ganache is pretty intensely chocolatey though, so if you’re not a huge dark chocolate fan, be warned that you might not be able to wolf down a whole batch.

These all disappeared rather quickly over the course of the evening

Chocolate & ginger macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves
Royal icing recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

Colouring the shells and piping Chinese characters on them is obviously totally optional.  The recipe for the royal icing decorations on top makes far more than you’ll need, but any leftovers will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for a few weeks.  The ganache can be a little finnicky and is best if you can avoid cooling it in the fridge as it may cool too quickly and harden. If you do need to cool it in the fridge, just make sure not to forget about it!  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’re best 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!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
100g room temperature egg whites (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Red food colouring paste or gel (optional)

For the ganache filling:
40g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
20g unsalted butter
150g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
40g Frangelico (or Amaretto)
1 tbsp ground ginger

For the royal icing decorations:
1 egg white
1 tsp Frangelico (or Amaretto)
250–280g icing sugar
Yellow or gold food colouring paste or gel

Directions

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 round piping tip.

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 into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.  Add a few drops of the red food colouring gel to the mixture just before the end and mix well to get the shade of red that you wish.

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 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.  Sprinkle the shells with the raw sugar and leave the shells to set for about 30 mins (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 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins 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 ganache 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 butter and chocolate chocolate (broken into pieces), the Frangelico and sift in the ginger.  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?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to thicken on the countertop (or in the fridge if absolutely necessary – if it’s taking too long or not setting).

9.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair. Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

10.  Leave in the fridge for a few hours in an airtight container to set before piping decorations on top.

To decorate the macarons:
11.  Prepare a piping bag with a very thin round tip.

12.  Sift 250g of the icing sugar into a medium-sized bowl, and add the egg white, Frangelico (or Amaretto) and a drop or two of the food colouring gel (the amount to add will depend on how intense you want the colour to be, obviously).  Whisk them together with an electric mixer until the mixture is stiff and can be used to pipe without running.  If the mixture is not reaching a stiff stage, add more icing sugar a little at a time and keep mixing.

13.  Transfer the mixture to the piping bag and pipe the decorations on top of the set macarons.  Allow the mixture to set before returning to the fridge so that the macarons have spent at least 24h setting before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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Langues de chat

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back into the swing of things.  I opted to start Monday morning off gently by cleaning out some tanks that we needed yesterday for moving eagle rays* – a necessary task, but one that didn’t require too much brain power.  Ideal for the first day back at the lab.  So we’re starting off gently on the blog, too, with a super simple recipe for a little French biscuit called langue de chat, which translates as “cat’s tongue.”  No cats are involved in this recipe, so nobody panic – the name derives from the supposed similarity in appearance between the biscuits and a cat’s tongue.

Totally look like cat's tongues, right…?

Now in France, langues de chat are fairly run-of-the-mill – you can buy a packet in any supermarket – but outwith France, they’re virtually impossible to find (and extortionately priced if you do).  My mum adores langues de chat but, living in Edinburgh, she doesn’t get to eat them terribly often, so when I happened across a recipe a few years ago, I set about making some as a surprise for her birthday.  I felt a bit silly because I’d never even thought to look for a recipe – like croissants, they’re so readily available that nobody bothers to make them.  Except that unlike croissants, they’re ridiculously easy and quick to make, and homemade langues de chat are infinitely better than their industrial counterparts (and also don’t contain any dubious ingredients like powdered egg whites and palm oil).

Little batons all ready for the oven…

My mum loved them, and now I make langues de chat from time to time as an accompaniment for desserts if I want to jazz them up a little – their characteristic pale centres and browned edges make them all pretty and presentable.  Incidentally, it’s this distinctive appearance that is the trickiest part of these biscuits, as it can be ruined by a few seconds too long in the oven, but taking them out too soon means that they won’t be fully baked.  Watching them like a hawk is recommended.

No prizes for guessing who didn't watch the first batch like a hawk… (The one on the right is from the first batch.)

Apologies for the quality, but see what I mean?  It’s also taken me a few years to get them looking close to perfect – the original recipe suggests using two teaspoons to form the little batons, but they inevitably end up a little wonky.  So this time I decided to try piping the batons and it worked much better.  They’re not perfectly uniform, but more importantly, they’re not wonky, so I’m happy with them (hence why they’re finally making an appearance on ze blog).  So what does one do with langues de chat?  They’re thin, dainty and a little crunchy, but not particularly filling, so they lend themselves well to any kind of accompanying-a-dessert situation – they’re good to serve with sorbets or ice creams, with desserts that would do well with a little added crunch (think poached fruit, chocolate mousse, etc.), or for dipping in syrups or chocolate fondues – or just something to nibble on with a cup of tea.

We hoovered up most of them before I got round to taking photos… These were the only ones left

Langues de chat

Makes about 35
Adapted from Guide de cuisine de l’Etudiant

The batter is incredibly straightforward to make, but the baking part can be a little tricky – keep an eye on them in the oven as a few seconds too long can result in the loss of their distinctive pale centres.  The quantities in this recipe make enough for about 2 or 3 people (because it’s impossible to have just one) with a little bit of snacking on the side, but can easily be scaled up to make more.  They go brilliantly with ice cream, poached fruit, chocolate fondue, or just on their own with a cup of tea.  They’ll keep in an airtight container for 2-3 days (they may start to lose their crunch a little after a couple of days).

Ingredients

4 knobs of unsalted butter (roughly walnut-sized)
2 heaped tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
3 heaped tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Directions

1.  Prepare a piping bag with a round tip of about 8mm in diameter.  Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.  Lightly butter a couple of baking sheets.

2.  Only just melt the butter in a small heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat and add the sugar, whisking well until the mixture becomes pale and smooth.  Sift in the flour and mix well, followed by the egg and the vanilla extract, once again mixing until smooth (if the mixture becomes too liquid-y, add a little bit of flour).

3.  Transfer the mixture to the piping bag and pipe thin batons of about 3cm in length onto the baking trays, leaving enough space (about 2-3cm) between each so that they can spread out in the oven.  (Alternatively, you can use two teaspoons to form the batons, but this is a slower, more fiddly method and the biscuits may end up a little wonky.)

4.  Bake for 8-12 mins, making sure to keep an eye on them – only the edges should brown, the middle should stay pale.  (The batter will spread or flatten quite quickly at the start, but if the batter starts to spread too much and the biscuits run into each other, turn the temperature right up to make the batter “seize” and stop it spreading.  When they come out of the oven, cut them apart and return to the oven for about 3 mins so that the edges can dry properly.)

5.  Allow to cool fully on a wire rack before eating.

Enjoy!

*For anybody wondering why the heck I was moving eagle rays, an explanation will find its way into a future post.

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White chocolate sloe gin cupcakes

I’ve already submitted an entry to this month’s Baking with Spirit blog challenge, but I’m going to be a little over-eager and submit a second one.  “Gin” is the spirit of choice this month, and well, if you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed that I have a bit of a thing for gin.  In fact, Janice, the host, very kindly mentioned this fact in her challenge post – I felt rather honoured at being lauded as a baking-with-gin expert.  The flip side of that is that I wanted to come up with something worthy of such praise.  The Leiter Fluid macarons are rather fabulous (if I do say so myself) but I’d already been planning on making them anyway for Skyfall’s NZ release.  I wanted to make something specifically for Baking with Spirit.

I’ve been rather busy and stressed out so I didn’t think I’d actually have enough time to make something in the end.  However, I had a bit of a super crappy day on Tuesday, and when I got home, I knew I had a date with my oven.  It’s an electric oven, so nobody panic.  I meant a date to bake with it and thus de-stress, just to make that clear.  Awkward.  Soooo anyway, moving swiftly on…  I decided to make some white chocolate sloe gin cupcakes since I bought a bottle of sloe gin on a whim (it was on sale…) a few weeks ago but it was still unopened.  A situation that obviously needed rectifying.  And rectifying with panache, obviously, accompanied by a Sloe Gin & Tonic.

There are three steps to this recipe.  The cupcakes themselves, which I based on my white chocolate and hazelnut “naked” cupcakes, are pretty basic – they’re just white chocolate cupcakes.  The fancy-pants part of the cupcakes starts with the hidden ganache centre, an idea I borrowed from my knock-your-socks-off Cointreau-filled Masquerade Black Tie cupcakes.  Ganache, incidentally, is a great way of getting a good dose of alcohol into cupcakes or any other baked goods.  The cupcakes are then topped off with a white chocolate and cream cheese icing which includes a little extra dash of sloe gin, because one might as well go the whole hog.  I made the icing swirly, just because I could.  And it looks pretty.

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest – these cupcakes aren’t the lightest cupcakes you’ll ever eat and they’re also pretty high on the sugar front.  They are not cupcakes for eating every day, unless you’d like to land yourself in a more or less permanent sugar coma.  But for a one-off or a special occasion, they’re rather phenomenal.  The sloe gin goes marvellously with the white chocolate, though it does make for a rather sweet combination.  They’re also suitably sloe gin-y since none of the sloe gin that goes into these cupcakes is baked off – it’s all in either the ganache or the icing.  And that, my friends, is the secret to making alcoholic cupcakes like a pro.

White chocolate sloe gin cupcakes

Makes 14 cupcakes
Cupcakes adapted from Saved by Cake
Ganache by Sharky Oven Gloves
Icing adapted from Home Bake

Just a warning in case you’ve skipped the preamble, these are quite alcoholic and very sweet.  Do use a good sloe gin, whether shop-bought or homemade, since the flavour comes through pretty strongly, particularly in the ganache.  Colouring the icing is obviously optional, but it makes it fun.  You could also colour the ganache if you wanted – add the colour once the chocolate has fully melted as this will help you judge the colour better.  Any leftover icing can be stored for a couple of days in an airtight container in the fridge.  These are best eaten on the day, but will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box – like most cupcakes, they are best eaten sooner rather than later though.

Ingredients

For the cakes:
300g white chocolate
100g unsalted butter
180g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the ganache:
40g double or whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g white chocolate
40g sloe gin

For the icing:
55g white chocolate
150g cream cheese, softened
75g unsalted butter, softened
2-3 tsp sloe gin
375g icing sugar
Red food colouring gel or paste (optional)

Directions

To make the cakes:
1.  Set out 14 silicone cupcake moulds on a baking tray or line two cupcake/muffin tins with liners.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C.

2.  Break 200g of the white chocolate into pieces and add to a heatproof bowl with the cubed butter.  Gently melt together over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring often (make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl as white chocolate can burn very easily and keep an eye on the mixture).  Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate and butter are smoothly melted together.

3.  Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining chocolate and set aside.  Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a medium bowl, stir together and set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until the mixture is smooth, thickened and creamy.  Whisk in the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate mixture.  Add the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula until just combined.  Finally, fold in the chopped chocolate.

5.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake moulds or liners, not filling the liners more than ¾ full.  Bake for 20-22 mins until risen, golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow to sit in the silicone moulds for a couple of minutes for the cupcakes to firm up a little before removing and them and transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

To make the ganache:
6.  Whilst the cupcakes are baking, make the ganache.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces) and the sloe gin, mixing 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?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool fully.

7.  Once both the cupcakes and ganache are fully cooled, use an apple corer to hollow out a hole in the top of each cupcake (make sure not to go through the bottom of the cupcake).  Fill a piping bag (or zip-lock bag with a corner cut off) with the ganache and fill each hole with the ganache (the piping bag makes it way quicker and is also easier to do neatly).

To make the icing:
8.  Break the white chocolate into pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (again, make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl as white chocolate can burn very easily and keep an eye on it). Once smooth, remove from the heat and allow to cool whilst preparing the rest of the icing ingredients.

9.  Prepare a piping bag with the tip of your choice (I used a Wilton 1M large star tip).  If you want the two-tone icing effect, paint three stripes of the red food colouring gel up the inside of the bag.

10.  Add the cream cheese and butter to a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until smooth.  Add the room temperature white chocolate and sloe gin and beat until smooth.  On a low setting, whisk in the icing sugar in several additions (this helps to avoid an icing sugar cloud).  Add a few drops of red food colouring to get the colour you want and whisk until the colour is uniform.

11.  Transfer the icing to the prepared piping bag and pipe big swirls on top of the cupcakes.

Enjoy!

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A Bond-themed Cocktail in a Macaron: Leiter Fluid

Super-duper exciting news: Skyfall was finally released in New Zealand yesterday!!  I’ve been vastly unimpressed at having to wait a month after its release in the UK to see it, particularly since I’ve been hearing how good it is.  Miraculously, I’ve managed to avoid hearing about or seeing any spoilers, which, over the course of an entire month spent on facebook and Twitter, is a rather impressive feat, though I’m assuming that I’ve managed this mostly through sheer luck.  And I suspect that perhaps some of my closest friends who share my Bond love have carefully avoided posting spoilers since they knew I wouldn’t be able to watch it yet.  If so, I’m incredibly grateful.  Anyway, the suspense has been killing me.  Not helped by having to walk past a giant Skyfall billboard every day…

I was finally able to watch Skyfall yesterday evening with some of my labmates.  Wow.  Fantastic.  I can’t really say much more without giving away any spoilers, but I loved it.  Whilst Kat, Craig and I were watching our way through all the Bond films during the summer between our third and fourth years of undergrad, Craig made us a particular cocktail one evening.  I believe it’s mentioned in one of the books (possibly Casino Royale), so we didn’t really invent it, but I think he slightly adapted it and then we re-named it.  It consists of equal parts of gin, red vermouth and Campari and then topped off with tonic to fill the glass.  So basically a Negroni with tonic.

But we wanted a Bond-themed name for the cocktail, and we eventually settled on Leiter Fluid (that’s Leiter as in Felix Leiter).  By “we” I really mean Kat and Craig – I’m not particularly inventive, so I was probably more focussed on sampling the drink itself.  Anyway, in honour of Skyfall’s release and also of this month’s Baking with Spirit theme of “gin,” I decided to take the Leiter Fluid and turn it into a macaron.  Leiter Fluid macarons – oh yes.  I decided that the flavours of the drink (particularly the Campari) would pair well with a dark chocolate ganache, and indeed they did, although they ended up coming through rather more subtly than I expected.  Which is no bad thing.  And the sweet shells balance the bitter ganache perfectly.  My only gripe is that the shells didn’t come out quite as swirly as I wanted, but luckily that doesn’t affect the taste!

Leiter Fluid macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe by me

I used Gordon’s gin in the ganache since I find that the Campari and red vermouth mask any real subtleties of good gins.  The ganache can be a little finnicky and is best if you can avoid cooling it in the fridge as it may cool too quickly and harden.  If you do need to cool it in the fridge, just make sure not to forget about it!  (Not that I’m speaking from experience…)  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’re best 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!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
Red food colouring paste or gel (optional)
100g room temperature egg whites (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar

For the ganache filling:
50g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
20g Campari
20g gin
20g red vermouth
A small glug of tonic

Directions

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 round piping tip.  If you want to make the macarons swirly, brush three or four lines of food colouring up the inside of the prepared piping bag (this might be a bit messy.  I did three stripes).

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 into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.  If you want to make the shells a uniform colour, add a few drops of food colouring gel to the mixture just before the end and mix well.

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.  Sprinkle the shells with the raw sugar and leave the shells to set for about 30 mins (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 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins 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 ganache 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 chocolate (broken into pieces), the Campari, gin, red vermouth and a glug of tonic 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?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to thicken on the countertop (or in the fridge if necessary – if it’s taking too long or not setting).

10.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair.  Then place 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!!)

Enjoy!

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