Tag Archives: Cointreau

Cocktail in a macaron: Between the Sheets

A few weeks ago, I happened across the recipe for a cocktail named Between the Sheets on the Cold Glass blog.  I have no idea who first named this cocktail, but they seem to have been in the cocktail-names-with-innuendo-are-far-more-amusing camp (incidentally, I totally share that view).  Or maybe they were just being hopeful, because the combination of white rum, cognac and Cointreau sounds potentially lethal to me.  But then Cointreau and I don’t always see eye-to-eye (particularly in the memory department), so perhaps that’s just a personal thing.

I think what intrigued me the most was the combination of ingredients in this cocktail.  I wasn’t sure how it would taste, but I decided that it sounded like something that could maybe work as a macaron…  So I attempted them the other day, and taste-tested them on Craig.  The unusual and rather unexpected combination of alcohols made pinning down the flavours rather tricky, not helped by the somewhat uneven distribution of the alcohols through the ganache (apparently I failed at mixing it properly after the addition of a little bit extra of each alcohol after taking the ganache off the heat.  Rookie error.) which resulted in each macaron tasting slightly different.  Luckily though, Craig enjoyed them!

You may have noticed that I raided my mum’s collection of decorative dishes and chose this cute little Chinese dish to try and make my photos a little more interesting – what do you think?  Anyway, back to the macarons…  The combination of white rum, cognac and Cointreau sounds rather odd, but it does work, at least in macaron form.  The Between the Sheets macarons, although very sweet, are perfect if you’re looking for something a little unusual with a subtle range of flavours that complement each other unexpectedly well.

Between the Sheets 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 adapted from Pure Gourmandise

As I only had waxed lemons I didn’t add any lemon zest to the ganache filling, but I think it would make a great addition.  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!

Ingredients

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 ganache filling:
40g double cream
150g white chocolate
14g white rum
14g cognac
14g Cointreau
7g fresh lemon juice
Orange food colouring paste (optional)

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 at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.  Add a few drops of 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 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 white chocolate (broken into pieces), the white rum, cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice and a few drops of orange food colouring paste (the food colouring is optional, but adds a bit of fun colour), 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.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a good 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 at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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The many uses of a chopstick and other important things that I learnt at University

I haven’t really unpacked all my stuff yet, partially because I have no idea where to put it all, partially because I’m a bit lazy and disorganised, and mostly because once it’s all unpacked, I really have to admit that the St Andrews chapter of my life is closed and that I genuinely have no idea where my life goes from here.  So anyway, the point is that today’s post is not about food (and is also incredibly long – you’ve been warned).  Instead, since University is supposed to be all about learning, I’m going to share the random things that I learnt at University, but outwith lectures and labs.  A few are serious, but most of them are fun little tidbits:

  1. Being a TCK (Third Culture Kid) in a non-TCK environment is hard work – As a result of having lived my entire life (until University) as an expat, I am a TCK, brought up in a mix of cultures.  Although I am half British, and it is therefore one of my “home” cultures, when I first moved here for Uni, I often felt like a total outsider, particularly in first year, simply because there were loads of cultural references that I just didn’t understand.  So culturally, I was (and still am) a bit of a foreigner, but I’m British and I have a very British accent, and a lot of the people that I met found this difficult to comprehend.  Basically, I didn’t fit into a box, so people didn’t really know how to react to me, and I found this quite tough and a little lonely at times.  I realise this all sounds a bit miserable, but don’t worry, although it took a while, I found friends who accept me just as I am, or put up with me because I feed them.
  2. Being able to cook and bake is a great way to make friends – Most people enjoy being fed yummy food, and if they don’t, they probably aren’t worth making friends with anyway.  I’ve always found that, in general, people are particularly enthusiastic about baked goods – unless they contain nuts and you feed them to somebody who is allergic to them.  That might not work out so well. 
  3. Everybody loves madeleines – It might be rather big-headed of me, but I like to think that I bake pretty delicious madeleines.  I have yet to meet somebody who hasn’t enjoyed them and gone for a second, third, fourth helping/finished off the plate.
  4. The effort that goes into baking a cake sometimes goes completely unappreciated – This is a bit of an awkward point, since I am still a bit upset over this particular incident.  I went to a lot of effort to make a birthday cheesecake for somebody once.  They took a miniscule slice of it, told me they loved it (I had baked a trial run and everybody who tried that one agreed that it was lovely), and put it in the fridge “for later,” which was totally fine since we were going out for tea.  So far, so good.  The issue arises in that ten days later, when they left for a two-week break, the cheesecake remained, completely untouched.  Needless to say, it was rather past its prime.  Nobody should ever have to throw out a birthday cake that they made as a gift to somebody.  I don’t wish to name and shame this person, but if they are reading this, I hope they are aware of how insulting it is to have to do that.  Rant over and lesson learnt to only make cakes for people who appreciate it.
  5. Leather handbags are really good for ripening bananas – I accidentally found this out whilst dissertating when I bought a rather under-ripe banana on my way to the Bute one morning and then forgot about it until evening by which time it had totally ripened.  Not that I would really recommend carrying bananas around in your handbag since they might get a bit squished, but it’s good to know.  In case you need to ripen any bananas quickly…  Uhm, ya.  I’ll just stop there.
  6. Muffins can form the base of a pivotal moment in a friendship – Kat and I got to know each other over the course of third year after bonding over cookies and field-working in a knee-deep river (in wellies), but I think we really became close friends when she unexpectedly ended up living with me last summer (long story).  We spent a lot of time faffing in the kitchen, but I think one of the most pivotal moments in cementing our friendship was when we decided to make a US flag for the 4th of July… out of iced mini-muffins.  Ya, we’re that cool. 
  7. Amazon sells food – Ingredients-wise, I’ve almost always been able to find what I needed in St Andrews.  The only exception to this is corn syrup, which I have never seen stocked anywhere.  However, I found out completely by accident that you can order it off Amazon.  Amazing!  Incidentally, Amazon also sells champagne, which I find kind of random.
  8. Allowing others to use your non-stick pans may not be a good idea – All my pans and most of my bakeware are non-stick, and good quality at that (there’s a Tefal factory outlet near where I’m from in France), and since most of what came with the flat was pretty disgusting, we ended up using all of my kitchenware for cooking.  As I’m sure you’re aware, metal should NEVER be used anywhere near anything non-stick.  Apparently not everybody is aware of this (even after being specifically told), and whilst my pans luckily did not sustain any major scratch-mark damage, there were a few near misses.  Moral of the story: never let other people use your pans (further enforced by the next point).
  9. Although somebody may wax lyrical about being God’s gift to the culinary arts, this may not actually be the case – If you’ve read my crêpe post, you may remember my little rant about somebody using my crêpe pan as a frying pan, and searing burning tuna steaks in it.  In my humble opinion, that is not exactly the mark of a culinary God.  Enough said.
  10. People give you strange looks when you whip out an oven glove and take photos of it in tourist spots – This is much less bizarre than it sounds, since my oven gloves are shark-shaped and therefore completely awesome.  You can read about the adventures of Toothamanga around St Andrews here
  11. Some people “have no nose for wine” (from the genius of ‘Allo ‘Allo) – I know somebody who was given a very nice, and fairly expensive bottle of wine for their 21st birthday.  When they eventually opened the bottle with other friends also lacking a nose for wine, they left about a glass-worth in the bottom of the bottle, popped it in their fridge and only removed it (untouched) when they moved out 8 months later.  Now, I’m no wine expert, but really?!  Poor, completely unappreciated wine.  And my poor friend that gave the bottle in the first place – a bit of a smack in the face to see it every time he opened their fridge.
  12. Tesco Market Value wine can de-block a bathroom sink – Tesco Market Value wine comes in little cartons, very similar to individual drinks cartons.  Craig and I bought one once for a laugh, just to see how utterly disgusting it was.  The only reason neither of us spat the stuff out after taking the smallest sips possible is that we’re too polite to do so.  I’m pretty sure labelling it as “wine” counts as false advertising and it should really be sold as “vinegar” or “sink de-blocker.”  If you think I’m exaggerating, the bathroom sink was a little clogged so we poured the carton down the sink to see if it would de-block it.  It did.  Enough said.
  13. Pieropan: Soave Pieropan wine can be relied upon to result in some seriously awkward comments – The first time we tried this wine, I managed to accidentally come out with a spectacularly awkward comment.  Every time we’ve had this wine (which, due to it being good both with food and on its own and also very drinkable, happens fairly regularly), somebody has managed to go off on a roll of unintentional and awkward comments, with truly hilarious results.  Consequently, we’ve affectionately nicknamed it “The Awkward Italian.”
  14. Always keep a spare bottle of gin or three – For some reason, the gin always seems to be running low or gone (why is the gin always gone?).  Don’t underestimate the value of having spare gin.  And tonic, obviously.  Oh, and also make sure that you always have limes/cucumber in the fridge as well.  The freezer is a great place to store spare gin, by the way.
  15. It is possible to get tipsy (possibly even drunk) off my muffins – After much practice, I now have the baking of muffins with rum (or any other alcohol) as the principle ingredient down to a fine art. 
  16. At a party, when in doubt, grab the Cointreau and hang out by the freezer – This is a particularly great tactic if you don’t really know anybody or don’t really want to speak to people who are in the drawing room.  Why the freezer?  Because that’s where the ice cubes live.  People will realise that you’ve hit on a genius plan and also hang out with you by the freezer, or you might already find a collection of fellow alcoholics already there to make friends with.  Sharing the Cointreau is optional, obviously, though highly recommended if it belongs to somebody other than yourself.
  17. BUT when you run out of orange juice/Passoã/both to make punch, Cointreau is not a suitable alternative – This might sound like a genius idea, and it tastes fabulous at the time, but it leaves you feeling a little bit on the rough side the next day.  And also leaves you with a bit of a blank memory.  I speak from (hazy) experience.  Let’s just leave it there.
  18. An illuminated punchbowl fountain is a brilliant investment – A totally awesome addition to any party.  The end. 
  19. You can get chatted up through eBay – The eBay seller from whom I bought my James Bond DVD boxset attempted to chat me up via eBay message.  I’m sure you can imagine my surprise and amusement.  The guy’s profile name thing was something along the lines of “Hotrod69” though, so I probably should have seen that coming (please refer to the following point if you chuckled at that).
  20. Maturity is overrated – I could give plenty of examples of my immaturity, but I’m just going to stick with one.  There is a lane in St Andrews which I’ve walked past almost every day for four years, yet I still chuckle a bit to myself whenever I do, because it’s called Butts Wynd.  I’d like to think that one day I might grow up a little, but I somehow doubt that will be happening any time soon (I kind of secretly hope it never happens.  Being totally immature is really quite fun).
  21. Making friends with local shop-keepers can only ever end in win – This one is pretty self-explanatory really…  If you get to know the shop-keepers (and they like you – baked goods help with that) of shops that you frequent often then they get to know what you like.  And they might set aside that last slice of your favourite cheese for you, or give you a reduced price on that lovely bottle of wine that they know you’ll love.  How is that not a win?
  22. Over-enthusiasm for dinosaurs at the age of 22 is totally acceptable…  If you’re a biologist – I know I said that this was a list of what I’ve learnt outwith academics, but I’ll make an exception for this particular point.  When I was younger, I never went through a dinosaur phase.  I think it was in second year that we learnt about how amazing dinosaurs are and I’ve been enthusiastic ever since (totally nothing to do with the fact that our professor dressed up as a swamp monster for the lecture).  I even own dinosaur cookie cutters.  Whilst my fellow biologists totally share my enthusiasm, most of my other friends think I’m crazy.  They are clearly missing out. 
  23. There is only one way to get away with dressing up as oneself for Halloween – Dressing up as oneself for Halloween is a complete cop-out, and I have serious issues with it.  To the point where at our last Halloween party, I threatened anybody who dared turn up as themselves with multiple shots of tequila (nobody dared).  However, if one happens to have been caught on Google Maps Streetview and there is a funny (though blog-innapropriate) story behind it, dressing up as oneself as seen on Google Maps is totally acceptable.  And highly amusing, for those who are aware of the back-story.
  24. Watching rugby in the library is incredibly stressful and difficult – Due to a heavy workload during the Autumn Tests and the Six Nations, I managed to end up having to watch most of the matches whilst working in the library.  Have you ever tried to keep quiet whilst watching a rugby match?  It’s remarkably difficult and really quite stressful.  Needless to say, not a whole lot of work ended up getting done.  Woops.
  25. There are approximately 562 different uses for chopsticks – The flat that I lived in for the last three years came with several sets of chopsticks.  I think I might have used them as eating implements a grand total of once.  However, I discovered that chopsticks are, in fact, incredibly useful.  Stirring jugs of Pimm’s, loosening out curls if the hairdresser was a little too enthusiastic with the hairspray, fishing teabags out of the bottom of a Thermos flask, making mojitos, stirring paint, poking holes in the tops of muffins to fill them with rum and pushing fairy lights into empty champagne bottles are but a few alternate uses (ok, so 562 may be a slight exaggeration). 

So there we have it – 25 of the crucial life lessons that I’ve learnt at University.

Wherever in the world you are, enjoy the rest of your day!

PS – As a reward for getting to the end of this mammoth post, here’s a special bonus life lesson: If you are staying in a B&B or hotel, always close the curtains – There were B&Bs across the street from our flat.  Apparently people didn’t realise that if they could see into our flat, we could also see into their room.  A surprising number of people didn’t shut the curtains, you can imagine the rest yourself.

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Cupcakes fit for a Masquerade Ball

The four weeks between the end of Spring Break and the beginning of revision week and exams are full “Ball Season” in St Andrews.  There are at least five balls happening (that I know of – I’m sure there are more) in the next four weeks, and I have a ticket for three of them, plus two Wine & Cheeses (dissertation?  What dissertation?) and various other events.  It’s the last few weeks of my final semester here, so I might as well make the most of it…

Even outwith “Ball Season,” I think St Andrews must hold one of the highest numbers of balls compared to other British universities – between those organised by societies, those thrown by the various halls of residences and those put on by the Sports Clubs, there are a lot of balls held throughout the year.  Most balls are Black Tie, so I now associate anything Black Tie-themed with St Andrews (because there are so many Black Tie-themed things around obviously…).  Black Tie cupcakes are no exception, and when I saw these I knew that I was going to have to make them.

I came across the original recipe for Black Tie cupcakes back in February, and they’ve been playing on my mind ever since.  I’ve been waiting for a good excuse to make them (well, not that I need an occasion to make cupcakes, but these sound rather special).   Tonight is the Masquerade Ball, so I think that counts as an appropriate Black Tie occasion.   I’m quite looking forward to it – for some reason I couldn’t go last year (I think it clashed with some other event) – so I decided to jazz up the cupcakes a little bit…

A ball is, of course, synonymous with the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol (well, to the students of St Andrews at least), so I obviously had to substitute some sort of liqueur instead of the vanilla essence.   A clear and colourless liqueur (so that the icing would stay as white as possible) that would go with dark chocolate and cream cheese icing was required.   Cointreau was decided upon (sadly I highly doubt gin would go with this combination).   The original ganache recipe requires corn syrup, which I don’t have, so I just used the tried-and-tested ganache recipe that I use for filling macarons, which also has the added advantage of being fairly alcohol-laden.  I decided to go with the masquerade theme as inspiration to decorate the cupcakes, hence the little masks made of chocolate on top.  Well, that’s what they’re supposed to be anyway.   So there you have it, Masquerade Black Tie cupcakes.   A lot of fun to make, totally presentable and rather tasty, too.

Masquerade Black Tie cupcakes

Makes 20
Cupcakes & icing recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction

These cupcakes are yummy, though very alcoholic (just a warning).  You can use vanilla essence, though try and use clear vanilla essence for the icing (if you can get it) so that it stays as white as possible.  I want to try these again with white crème de cacao, which I think would also go well.  It’s quite time-consuming to make them, but well worth the results!  If you don’t have any buttermilk, use the same amount of milk, add 1 tsp lemon juice and allow to stand for about 10 mins.  To make the masks, I just melted some dark chocolate down and then used a fine piping tip to draw the masks out onto a baking paper-lined baking tray and allowed them to cool in the fridge.  Store these in an airtight container in the fridge.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
65g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
190g all-purpose flour
300g caster sugar
1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp coffee granules dissolved in 175ml warm water
175ml buttermilk
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp Cointreau

For the ganache:
40ml single cream
150g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
50ml Cointreau

For the icing:
225g cream cheese
45g unsalted butter
455g icing sugar
2-3 tsp Cointreau

Directions

To make the cupcakes:
1.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C, and line a muffin tin with 20 liners, or set out 20 silicon moulds.

2.  Sift the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and mix together.  Add the eggs, dissolved coffee granules, buttermilk, oil and Cointreau and, using an electric whisker, mix until fully incorporated.

3.  Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners/moulds, filling them no more than ⅔ full, and bake for 18-22 mins.

4.  Transfer to a wire rack to allow to cool fully.

To make the ganache:
5.  Whilst the cupcakes are cooling, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the chocolate (broken into pieces) and the Cointreau, 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 for about 30 mins.

6.  When the cupcakes are fully cooled, use an apple corer to hollow out a hole in the top of each (make sure not to go through the bottom of the cupcake).  Fill this hole with the ganache filling (make sure you push the ganache down so that it’s properly filled).

To make the icing:
7.  Using an electric whisk, cream together the room temperature cream cheese and softened butter until fully combined.

8.  Set the mixer to low, and gradually add the icing sugar (be prepared for icing sugar clouds if you aren’t careful) and mix until smooth.  Add the Cointreau and mix until fully combined.

9.  Fill a piping bag with the icing, pipe it over the cupcakes and decorate with masks or a dusting of cocoa powder.

Enjoy!

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It’s nearly Christmas… Time for mince pies!

I have to admit, I’m very picky about my mince pies.  In my book, the less pastry, the better – the filling is my favourite bit.  The vast majority of shop-bought pies just aren’t quite up to my standard – snobbish, I know, but the home-made ones are so much better…

Yummy...!

Despite this being my 4th Christmas whilst actually living in the UK, I still get a little bit excited about being able to just buy mincemeat in the supermarket instead of having to track it down in some special expat shop or asking people going to the UK to bring some back if they can.  Outside the UK, mince pies tend to be few and far between.  Depending on where we lived, mincemeat (which, by the way, doesn’t have any meat in it whatsoever) ranged from wallet-shatteringly expensive to non-existent, so we generally only got mince pies if were in Scotland for Christmas.

Having said that, my Scottish grandparents spent Christmas with us once in Norway and brought about half a suitcase of mincemeat with them.  My grandma, mum and I must have spent the whole day in the kitchen, and that’s the first time I’d ever help make mince pies before (for the record, mine were a disaster).  I’ve had my grandma’s recipe ever since and, after a lot of practice, I’ve somehow ended up as the unofficial family mince pie-baker…

Tempting, aren't they?

Mince pies

Makes about 36 small mince pies (with lids)
Adapted from my grandma’s recipe.

The drizzle is completely optional – once cool, you can just sprinkle them with a bit of sugar instead or just leave them as they are.

Ingredients

250g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
125g unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg
2 jars mincemeat

For the drizzle (optional):
100g icing sugar
7-8 tsp Cointreau

Directions

To make the pastry:
1.  Rub the flour, baking powder and butter together to make fine breadcrumbs.  Stir in the sugar and the spices.

2.  Add the egg and knead together to form a dough.

3.  Split the pastry and roll out thinly (splitting it makes it a lot easier to roll out, and the thickness of the pastry depends on personal preferences – I like lots of filling so I tend to roll the pastry out as thinly as I can get away with).

To make the mince pies:
4.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.  Butter some muffin/cupcake/pie tins.

5.  Using a round cutter (I use one with a crimped edge, just because it looks prettier) cut out circles of an appropriate diameter to fit the muffin tins, and use a star cutter (or a smaller round cutter if you want proper lids – I like using stars because they look a bit different) to cut out an equal number of lids.

6.  Line the tins with the pastry circles and prick with a fork.

7.  Spoon in some mincemeat, but not right up to the top (it will bubble over).

8.  Lay the stars over the top and press the ends down to the edge of the pastry casings.  (If you’re using circles as lids, brush with a little milk so that the lids stick, and cut three slits in the top to prevent the pies exploding).

9.  Bake for about 12 mins and cool on a wire rack.

To make the drizzle (optional):
10.  Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl, add the Cointreau and whisk together to form a smooth paste.

11.  Once the pies have fully cooled, spoon the icing into a piping bag with a small nozzle and pipe the icing across the tops of the mince pies in a squiggle.  Leave to set for about 10 mins.

I told you they were better than the shop-bought ones, didn’t I?

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