Tag Archives: Lime

Getting rid of the unseasonal October pumpkin-baking itch

So…  I’ve managed to acquire cuts on the tips of both my index fingers.  One resulted from struggling to get into a plastic carton of grapes (nope, I’ve no idea how I managed it either, but so much for being healthy and eating fruit).  The other came from a minor altercation with a cable tie (again, I’ve no idea either).  Now that we all know that I’m rather skilled at picking up random injuries (you’re perfectly welcome to laugh), my main point is that it hurts a little to type, so I’m going to try and keep this post short (ya, I know, ha ha ha – try is the key word there, ok?).

The majority of the bloggers that I follow are based in the northern hemisphere, so for the last few weeks my Google Reader has been awash with autumnal flavours, pumpkin recipes in particular.  Down here in the southern hemisphere it is, of course, spring, but it feels really strange to me not to be baking with pumpkins and apples and plenty of wintery spices in October, particularly with Hallowe’en coming up.  It’s not so easy to completely reverse seasonal habits and expectations.

To get the need to bake with pumpkin in October out of my system, I decided to bake with kumara (sweet potato).  I know that kumara and pumpkin aren’t the same thing, but pumpkin isn’t really in season any more.  In terms of baking, I think they’re more or less interchangeable anyway.  So I whipped up some spiced kumara cupcakes which turned out lovely and moist, thanks to the kumara.  I love baking with kumara for precisely that reason.  The spices come through wonderfully with the kumara in the cupcakes.  All those flavours are beautifully balanced by the cream cheese icing and the subtle freshness of the lime zest.  And as if they weren’t yummy enough already, I decided to top the cupcakes with roasted pumpkin seeds, just because.  I think I’ve got the need for pumpkin-baking out of my system now.  At least until Hallowe’en…

Spiced kumara cupcakes

Makes 16-18
Cupcakes adapted from Hello Cupcake!
Pumpkin seeds adapted from Serious Eats

The roasted pumpkin seed topping is entirely optional, but does add a lovely little extra something.  There will be leftover pumpkin seeds, and they are great for a snack – store them in an airtight box.  The cupcakes will keep for about two days in an airtight container, but are best eaten sooner rather than later.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
550g kumaras (sweet potatoes)
300g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Good pinch of salt
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
150 ml organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the roasted pumpkin seeds (optional):
50g pumpkin seeds
2 tsp organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the icing:
300g icing sugar
150g cream cheese
60g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lime

Directions

To make the cupcakes:
1.  Preheat the oven to 205°C/fan 185°C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2.  Scrub the sweet potato and pierce the skin with a fork.  Place on the 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 roughly mash the flesh in a small bowl with a fork.  Set aside.

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C/fan 155°C.  Line a couple of cupcake trays with liners or set out silicone cupcake moulds on a baking tray.

4.  Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt into a medium bowl and stir together.  Set aside.

5.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until pale and very fluffy (this can also be done by hand, although it will take longer).  Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon.  Then add the mashed sweet potato, oil and vanilla extract to the mixture and fold in until combined.

6.  Split the mixture between the cupcake liners or moulds, not filling them more than ¾ full.  Bake for 20-25 mins until risen and golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove the cupcakes from the oven but leave the oven on.  Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack.

To roast the pumpkin seeds:
7.  Line a baking tray with tin foil (aluminium foil).  Mix together the pumpkin seeds and oil in a small bowl until the seeds are well coated.  Then add the sugar and cinnamon and stir well.  Spread over the prepared baking tray and bake, stirring occasionally, for about 30 mins or until the seeds are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray.

To make the icing:
8.  Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, prepare the icing.  Prepare a piping bag with the nozzle of your choice (I used an open star Wilton 1M nozzle but a round one would also look pretty).  Place the bag in a tall glass (this makes it much easier to fill).

9.  Sift the icing sugar into a medium-sized bowl.  Add the rest of the icing ingredients and whisk with an electric whisk (if you want to do it by hand, I’d advise using room temperature cream cheese – it’ll be a bit easier) until smooth and pale.  Fill the prepared piping bag and then pipe sparingly onto the cupcakes (you’ll need all the icing).  Sprinkle roasted pumpkin seeds over the tops of the cupcakes.

Enjoy!

PS – Ok, so I didn’t manage to keep the post that short…  But I realised that if I wrote most of the post on my phone, only my thumbs were required to type – sorted!

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Happy World Gin Day 2012!

Today is World Gin Day!  How exciting is that?!  (If your answer was not something along the lines of “super duper exciting!” then just a heads up that this post might not be for you…)  Now, I’m a big fan of gin, in case you weren’t aware.  I was clearly spoilt in St Andrews when it came to Gin & Tonics, because every bartender in any pub or bar knows how to make a proper G&T (and if they don’t, they’re soon corrected).  Here in NZ…not so much.  I’ve run up against bartenders that think tonic and lemonade are interchangeable (they’re really not – have you ever tried Gin & Lemonade?  It’s foul.), and almost every G&T I’ve been served has a wedge of lemon rather than lime.  That might sound petty, but it really does affect the taste.  Particularly a gin such as Hendrick’s.  I know, I know – I’m still recovering from that particular experience.  I think I’ve just been going to the wrong bars here, but it’s still a little upsetting.  If anybody happens to know of a bar in Auckland that makes good G&Ts and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for it, then do please let me know!

Just like last year, I’m obviously not going to let World Gin Day pass by without blogging something gin-themed.  I’ve had this recipe idea planned since about April, when Craig sent me a link to a post on Total Food Geeks Edinburgh about lemonade scones, which I’d never heard of before.  The most important ingredient of the recipe is fizzy lemonade.  You know what else is fizzy?  Gin & Tonic is fizzy (though perhaps not quite as much).  You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?  That’s right.  Gin & Tonic scones.  Yes, really.  Clearly the perfect way to celebrate World Gin Day.

Whilst I had the idea back in April, it’s taken me a while to actually try it out, mostly because I was a little confused by the cream situation here in NZ and couldn’t find a double cream equivalent anywhere.  I’ll save the details for another post (bet you can’t wait), but it turns out that standard pouring cream here is somewhere between UK single cream and UK double cream.  So I made do with that.  Thankfully the recipe worked wonderfully.  The scones are light, fluffy and delicious, with a subtle G&T flavour.  I must admit that I could only just taste the gin, but that’s more a reflection on my taste buds than the actual recipe.  These scones would be perfect for an afternoon snack, served with lime curd (I told you that I had something special lined up for the batch I posted about yesterday) and accompanied, of course, by a Gin & Tonic.

Gin & Tonic scones

Makes 10-12 scones
Adapted from Total Food Geeks Edinburgh

Make sure to use a gin that goes with lime, such as Gordon’s, in this recipe.  You’re baking with it, so save your best gin for drinking.  Use freshly-opened tonic if possible to get the maximum amount of bubbles.  These are best eaten fresh, but can be made the evening before and covered with a tea e until the next day.  These are utterly delicious served with lime curd (click for the recipe – it’s very easy to make), but would probably also be tasty with lime marmalade.

Ingredients

300g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ large unwaxed lime (zest before cutting it in half)
50 ml gin (I used Gordon’s)
100 ml tonic
150ml UK double cream or NZ cream

Directions

1.  Line a large baking tray with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.

2.  Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and stir together.

3.  Zest the ½ lime (zest the lime before cutting it in half), and juice it.  Add the juice and zest to a measuring jug, along with the gin and the tonic.  Add the cream and stir together (an ice-cream float type texture is normal).

4.  Gently fold the liquid ingredients into the flour using a large wooden spoon (be as gentle as possible so as not to destroy the air bubbles).  The mixture should come together into a dough – you may need to use your hands towards the end.  The dough should be light and soft.  If the dough is too sticky to handle, add a little more flour.

5.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Gently roll the dough out to a 2 cm thickness.  Cut out the scones using a floured 6cm round cutter and place them on the baking tray.  Gently combine the scraps to make more scones (these ones might not come out quite as presentably – consider them quality control).

6.  Bake for 16 mins until the scones are golden and risen.  Cool on a wire rack, covered with a clean tea towel (apparently this keeps the tops soft).

7.  Serve with lime curd whilst still just warm.  They’re also delicious fully cooled.

Enjoy!  And happy World Gin Day!!!  (Also, drink responsibly, etc. etc.)

PS – Fun fact: this post contains the word “gin” or “G&T” 22 times (excluding those two)…  Definitely a successful blog post.

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From Venus to limes

Were you able to see the transit of Venus on Wednesday?  I was really quite excited about seeing it – I didn’t see the one in 2004 (I’m not sure that I was even aware of it), and the next one isn’t until 2117, so I’m working on the assumption that it’s highly unlikely that I’ll still be around in 105 years to see it.  New Zealand was one of the places where the whole transit would be visible, but sadly the weather here in Auckland was being rather uncooperative and it was cloudy or rainy for pretty much the whole afternoon.  We were restricted to watching live footage from Hawaii (one of the beauties of the internet) in between presentations at a lab group symposium during the morning.  Ya, we’re that cool.  Whilst being able to watch the transit live from 7000km away was pretty awesome, not being able to see it in real life was a little disappointing.  We had been thinking of taking a lab trip to the Auckland Stardome to go watch it (just in case you weren’t convinced of our coolness…) but that didn’t happen.

Not seeing the transit is obviously not the end of the world, but since it’s such a rare occurrence I was still a little gutted when I got home.  And also a little damp from the rain, which is not a rare occurrence.  I had a fail-safe antidote to being miserable though, in the form of lime curd.  I find that lime curd automatically makes everything better – it’s green, zingy and super tasty, so how could it not?  Citrus fruit always makes me think of summer sunshine, even though they’re usually in season through the winter, and as a result, I find that citrus-based things nearly always cheer me up.  Particularly when it’s something as easy to make as curd.  If you’ve ever had to buy a whole net of limes or lemons when you only need one, making curd is a great way to use up the surplus.  It’s also a great way to use up egg yolks.  What I also love about curd is that it can be made with any citrus fruit (I tried blood orange curd last year and it was fabulous) and in various combinations.  Lime and lemon work wonderfully together.  This curd comes out deliciously zingy, which is how I like it, and there’s no mistaking the lime flavour.  That said, it’s not sour (because that would be horrid), just full of flavour.  Curd is a brilliantly versatile ingredient as well – spread it on toast, crumpets, digestive biscuits; use it in muffins, cakes; the possibilities are endless!  Tomorrow is World Gin Day (are you excited?!), and I have something special lined up for this particular batch of lime curd – check back tomorrow to find out exactly what…  I’ll give you a clue though: it involves scones.  And gin (no kidding).

Lime curd

Makes enough to fill a small 300ml jar
Adapted from Waitrose

To sterilise the jar, wash in warm, soapy water and then dry at around 110°C in the oven.  Remove from the oven once dry and allow to cool fully before filling.  If you don’t have immediate plans for the leftover egg white, it freezes well.  If you find that the lime juice is a little pale, you can add a couple of drops of green food colouring to boost the colour (keep it minimal though).  You can use curd in plenty of different ways: on crumpets, on toast, to make dessert canapés, on a sponge cake, in cupcakes, etc.  The curd will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Ingredients

4 large unwaxed limes
55g butter
110g caster sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
Green food colouring (optional)

Directions

1.  Zest and juice the limes into a small bowl.  In another small bowl, beat the two eggs and the egg yolk together well.

2.  Melt the cubed butter in a large heat-proof bowl over a simmering pan of water (make sure that the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl).

3.  Add the sugar and the zest and juice from the limes, followed by the eggs.  If you’re using food colouring, add a couple of drops in, too.  Stir the mixture carefully and constantly with a spatula, making sure the mixture doesn’t boil.  Once the mixture coats the back of the spatula (turn the spatula flat and run your finger through the mixture coating it – if you can draw a line through the mixture and it doesn’t re-fill, then it’s done), remove from the heat.

4.  If using the curd straightaway, pour into a bowl, otherwise, pour into a sterilised glass jar.  Allow to cool (it will thicken further) before sealing and storing in the fridge.

Enjoy!

PS – How super smooth was my segue from the transit of Venus to limes?  Truly flawless.  Clearly not a case of remembering halfway through that “oh wait, this post is supposed to be about lime curd…” – that would never happen to me.  Never ever.

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Pimm’s cupcakes to celebrate the Royal Wedding

In case you haven’t heard (since there wasn’t any media coverage of it or anything), there was a Royal Wedding earlier today.  If you’ve vaguely followed the run-up to the wedding, you’ll know that William and Kate Catherine met at the University of St Andrews, so whilst they’re generally loved across the country, I think we all have a particular soft spot for them up here.  St Andrews is full of bunting (I have a secret love for bunting) and Union Jacks and a lot of people have been throwing parties, or attended the Royal Breakfast hosted in St Salvator’s quad, and have just generally been using today as an excuse for a celebration (it’s a busy weekend anyway with the May Dip on Sunday morning).

Unfortunately, I have a dissertation to write (which is why things have been a little quiet on the blog lately – I’ll start posting regularly again soon, I promise!), so no partying for me…  (Don’t be too sad, I’ll make up for it once the dissertation has been handed in.  iPlayer.  Royal Wedding Drinking Game.  Enough said.)  Instead I’ve spent the morning in the Bute computer lab with Kat, watching the Wedding on one computer and dissertating on another, whilst eating cupcakes.

Since they were in celebration of the Royal Wedding, they couldn’t just be any old cupcakes.  I decided to attempt Pimm’s cupcakes, because Pimm’s is just so quintessentially British and summery, with the added bonus of being super tasty, too.  They didn’t turn out as Pimm’s-y as I was expecting, but they were still lovely and fruity, and I think they can be declared a success.  Hurrah!  My dissertating, on the other hand was not such a success…  (30 words in 4 hours?  Epic fail.)  Never mind, the lack of productivity was worth it – the Wedding was beautiful to watch, Kate was beautiful (no surprises there) and so was her dress.  Though I would just like to say that I absolutely loved Pippa Middleton’s maid-of-honour dress – it suited her perfectly and she looked absolutely stunning in it.  So before I go off and dream about one day managing to look that exquisite (ha ha, good joke right there), I’ll just share these cupcakes with you for this wonderfully British celebration.  I’d also like to offer my congratulations and wish all the best to William and Catherine – I think they will make an absolutely superb royal couple.

Pimm’s cupcakes

Makes 16 cupcakes
Adapted from BakeSpace

This recipe isn’t quite as time-consuming as it looks, mostly because the glaze can be prepared whilst the cupcakes are in the oven, and the icing whilst they are cooling.  This would be a perfect street party food (to be kept in mind for the next royal event?)  I usually make Pimm’s with strawberries, but the raspberries worked really well with the cupcakes as they cut through the sweetness of the cupcakes perfectly.  I’m sure these would be wonderful served with a jug of Pimm’s.  Yummy!

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
225g butter, softened
200g brown sugar
230g self-raising flour
¼ tsp baking powder
4 eggs
3 shots Pimm’s No. 1
Handful fresh mint, chopped (or you can use 1 tbsp dried mint)

For the glaze:
8 tbsp Pimm’s
2 tbsp brown sugar
Handful of raspberries
Further 6 tbsp Pimm’s No. 1 (optional)

For the icing:
170g butter, softened
370g icing sugar
Zest & juice of 2 limes
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
Fresh raspberries (to decorate)
Fresh mint, finely chopped (to decorate)

Directions

To make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Line a muffin with tin with 16 paper cases or set out silicone moulds.

2.  Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl.  Add all the other batter ingredients and mix well.

3.  Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cases and bake for 18-20 minutes.

To make the glaze:
4.  Whilst the cupcakes bake, mix the glaze ingredients together in a small saucepan and mush in the raspberries.  Set on a low heat and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes until a little syrupy.

5.  When the cupcakes are done, remove from the oven, poke a few holes into the tops of each (I used a pointy chopstick) and spoon about 1 tsp of the glaze per cupcake into them.  Spoon in a bit of extra Pimm’s over the top of the glaze (optional, but so good).  Allow the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing:
6.  Cream the butter and icing sugar (be prepared for an icing sugar explosion).  Add the rest of the icing ingredients (except the raspberries and chopped mint) and continue mixing until smooth.

7.  Pipe the icing over each cupcake once they have fully cooled.  Sprinkle with some raspberries and freshly-chopped mint before serving.

Enjoy!

Right.  I should probably get back to the dissertation now…  Joy.

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Poisson d’avril: Crab slippers

It is, of course, April Fools’ Day today, a day of jokes and pranks, etc.  I feel I should post something funny or jokey, but well, let’s just say that being witty isn’t exactly my forte.  So I’m not even going to try and come up with something that inevitably won’t be all that funny – I’ll leave the amusement of the day up to the BBC (though I doubt they’ll ever top their 1957 Panorama report about the Swiss spaghetti harvest).  Instead, I’m going to be taking the French route.

In France, the 1st of April is know as “poisson d’avril” or “April fish,” and small children run around trying to stick or hook paper fish to people’s backs without them noticing (people they know, I should add).  It makes total sense as a child.  Thinking about it now though, not so much.  Anyhow, let’s skip over that.  When I was younger, we were never in France for the 1st of April, so I never got to partake in the whole tradition.  Despite not living in France or the UK as I grew up, we still followed quite a few traditions, such as Burns Night, the 14th of July (French National Day), or Galettes des rois for the Epiphany.  This isn’t one of them – try sticking a paper fish to a non-French person’s back and explaining yourself when they turn around and ask you what on Earth you’re doing?  Actually, don’t.  They’ll think you’re really weird, and you won’t even be able to trot out the I’m-6-years-old-therefore-I’m-still-allowed-to-do-slightly-strange-things excuse.  Unless you are actually 6 years old, in which case, go right ahead and let me know how you get on (though I’m not sure why you’d be reading this in the first place…).

So rather than attempting (and failing) to be funny, I thought I’d do something fish-related (because it’s poisson d’avril – April fish.  See what I did there?).  I realised the other day that I haven’t had crab in forever, and thus I decided to do something with crab.  So actually when I said fish-related, I really meant seafood-related – I’d be a pretty horrific Zoology student if I wasn’t aware that crabs are crustaceans, NOT fish.

I’d been thinking about chaussons aux pommes (“apple slippers” which are essentially stewed apples baked in a puff pastry casing) earlier this week and suddenly realised I could do a savoury version using crab!  “Crab slippers” (cue the rather entertaining mental image of a crab wearing slippers) struck me as a suitably odd-ball name for a recipe to be shared on April Fools’ Day.  I eventually realised that my awesome-sounding crab slippers were actually just crab pasties.  Sad times – pasties just don’t sound quite as fun as slippers!  Never mind though, the main point is that they had to taste good!  I obviously needed something to go with the crab – lime and chilli appealed to me, with a touch of cream.  It’s not a particularly ground-breaking combination, but I’ve never really used it before, so I decided to go for it.  I made these crab slippers pasties for dinner on Wednesday, and had the leftovers cold for lunch yesterday, and thankfully they turned out rather yummy both ways!  The only serious issue that I ran into was when I tried to make little pastry crabs to top the pasties.  It was too fiddly to make them anatomically correct, and they ended up with six appendages instead of ten.  It was pretty traumatic so I only made one.  (That’s not an April Fools’ joke by the way – that sort of thing actually upsets me…)

Crab, chilli & lime pasties

Makes 10 small pasties
Recipe from my imagination

One pasty per person would be enough for a starter, but you’ll need two per person (or even three if you have super-hungry guests) for a main course.  They are equally tasty hot or cold, so perfect to take on a picnic.  Ready-made puff pastry works perfectly for this recipe (that’s what I used), but make sure to use good-quality pastry made with real butter. If you have any leftover pastry, you can use it to decorate the tops of the pasties.

Ingredients

2 onions
650g puff pastry
2 dressed crabs (about 250g of cooked meat)
2 red chilli peppers
2-3 tbsp crème fraîche
1 unwaxed lime
1 tbsp of milk
1 egg yolk

Directions

1.  Butter 2 or 3 baking sheets (depending on how big they are) and pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Dice the onions and allow them to soften in a bit of butter over a low heat, until just golden.  Allow them to cool whilst preparing the rest of the pasties.

3.  Roll out the pastry into a rectangular shape with a thickness of about 4mm.  Cut out 10 squares of about 10×10 cm and lay them out side-by-side.

4.  De-seed the red peppers, chop them as finely as you can and add them to a large bowl with the crab.  Add the zest and juice of the lime and stir the crab mixture well.  Add the onions (it doesn’t matter if they’re not fully cooled, but don’t add them if they’re still really hot), some black pepper and the crème fraîche and mix well.

5.  Divide the mixture between each of the 10 laid-out squares of pastry (don’t let the mixture go right to the edge, since the pasties have to be sealed).  Brush two perpendicular edges of each pastry square with a tiny bit of milk, fold the square over and seal (the milk helps the pastry stick together), using the tines of a fork to crimp the edges.  If you’re adding decorations to the top, brush the bottom side of the pastry decoration with a bit of milk before sticking to the pasty.

6.  Whisk the egg yolk with a few drops of water, and brush it over the pasties.  Use a sharp knife to cut three small slits in the top of each pasty (I doubt you want exploding pasties), and bake for about 30 mins until the pasties are golden.

Enjoy!

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Cocktail in a macaron: Gin & Tonic

Today is Craig’s birthday, so Happy Birthday Craig (when you eventually get round to reading this)!

Now Craig is a big fan of gin, so obviously his birthday present just had to be something gin-related.  I decided to attempt to make Gin & Tonic macarons because I think macarons make brilliant presents – they’re something a little different, they look lovely, and I haven’t yet come across any good ones in St Andrews.   They also involve gin, so I was pretty sure they would go down well.  Providing they were tasty, obviously.

I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about making them though.  The gin would be incorporated into the filling, along with some lime zest and juice – that was straightforward enough.  I decided that a white chocolate ganache would be the best type of filling, simply because I find that a ganache can take more liquid (read: alcohol) than a buttercream.  The tricky part was working out how to incorporate the tonic.  I realised at this point that I actually had no idea what tonic tastes like.  I drink it all the time in G&Ts, but never on its own.  So I tasted it, and I think Kat’s description of “like bitter lemon and seltzer water” is pretty apt.  I can’t say I’m much of a fan.  So how on Earth was I going to include the tonic element?  I made myself a G&T (all in the name of culinary research, of course) and realised that whenever Kat, Craig or I make a G&T, the amount of gin that goes in effectively covers any taste the tonic might have contributed to the drink.  So I decided to add a bit of lemon zest, in an attempt to faintly echo the bitter lemon element of the tonic, but I felt that would be enough, because let’s be honest here, it’s all about the gin.

So how did they turn out?  Well, they were gin-y and lime-y.  And thus I think I can say that they were yummy.  The tonic flavour may have gotten slightly lost, but well, the tonic in a G&T is really there just to dilute the gin a little, so I don’t think that matters too much.  And anyway, Craig did manage to guess that they were supposed to be G&T macarons just from smelling them, so they can’t have been that far off.

Gin & Tonic 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

I added a speckled pattern to the shells just for a little bit of colour.  Since the only colourful thing in a G&T is the lime, I went for green, which coincidentally also matches the bottle of Gordon’s gin that I used.  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
Green food colouring (optional)

For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
40ml gin
Zest of 1 lime + 1 tsp of lime juice
Zest of ½ lemon

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 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.

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.  Pour a little green food colouring into a small dish, dip a paintbrush in the colouring (a clean one that isn’t used for actual painting, obviously), and flick the colouring across the shells whilst they set.  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 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 gin, the lime and lemon zest and the 1 tsp of lime juice, 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 push 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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White chocolate & lime cheesecake

This month’s We Should Cocoa is hosted by Chele at Chocolate Teapot, and the special ingredient is “Lime“.  Now when I think of limes, my first thought is Gin & Tonic, and my second is tequila shots (make of that what you will), neither of which have much to do with chocolate.  I considered making something chocolatey based around the idea of a G&T, but as much as I love gin, I wasn’t really convinced about how well the taste would go with chocolate.  And then I realised that I had been totally side-tracked by the thought of gin, and that the challenge ingredient was supposed to be lime.  Lime, not gin.  Lime.  Right, got it: lime.

So I scrapped the G&T idea (I made myself one to make up for it.  With a giant wedge of lime, just as a reminder), and started thinking about what kind of chocolate I thought would go best with lime.  I decided on white chocolate – the tartness of the lime should cut through the creaminess of the chocolate.  The next step was to work out what to actually make using this combination.  Cheesecake seemed the really obvious choice.  There’s just one minor detail: I don’t like cheesecake (shock, horror, etc.).  Whether baked or not, my issue is with the texture – it just grosses me out and makes me shudder.  This upsets me, because I always think that cheesecake just looks so good.  I occasionally manage to trick myself into thinking that maybe if I try it this time, I’ll like it.  So I order it.  And taste it.  And get grossed out and shudder a lot, and then somebody else has to finish it whilst I sit there feeling slightly miserable about missing out on dessert.  So whilst white chocolate and lime cheesecake sounded like a great idea, A) I don’t actually know how to make it, and B) who was going to eat it?  Certainly not me…  (Shudder shudder.)

Then suddenly it hit me: my flatmate loves cheesecake.  And she has a March birthday (it was yesterday).  I would make her a cheesecake for her birthday!  And of course, because there would be loads of people at her party, it would get eaten up (provided it tasted ok) and I wouldn’t be simultaneously tempted/grossed out by cheesecake leftovers in our fridge.  Genius!  Well, it would have been a genius plan, but she decided to go out for tea instead of throwing a party.  However, I’d made up my mind to attempt cheesecake, and wasn’t about to be thwarted by such a tiny detail, so I made her a mini cheesecake.  (Actually I made two, in case one went wrong and also because I wanted to try some, and it would be bad form to pinch cake off the birthday girl.  Guess what?  I still detest cheesecake.  The tester cheesecake went to Kat and Craig, who loved it.)  My flatmate proclaimed that it was tasty though, hurrah!

White chocolate & lime cheesecake

Makes 2 x 9cm cakes
Adapted from BBC Food

As you can see on the photo, the cheesecake comes out quite thick, but since it is a small cake, that’s fine.  According to my flatmate, it’s quite a rich cheesecake, so one mini cake would probably be enough for about 3 people.  I originally wanted to decorate it with lime green edible glitter, but I couldn’t find any, so I used green sugar instead.

Ingredients

35g unsalted butter
6 Digestive biscuits
50g white chocolate
1 unwaxed lime
12oml double cream
240g cream cheese
40g icing sugar
Green sugar or edible glitter, to decorate (optional)

Directions

1.  Line a baking tray with baking paper, and also cut out two strips of baking paper to line the insides of two 9 cm chef’s ring (make sure the paper is a bit longer than the inside circumference of the ring so that there is some overlap). Crush the digestive biscuits (putting them in zip-lock bag and using a rolling pin works really well).

2.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and add the crushed biscuits.  Stir until all the butter has been absorbed by the biscuits.  Remove from the heat and split the biscuit mixture between the two rings.  Press the mixture down into the bottom of each of the chef’s rings, making sure it is compacted and even, and then refrigerate for 1 hour, until set.

3.  Whilst the biscuit mix is setting, prepare the filling.  Grate the white chocolate, and zest and juice the lime (it should give 2-3 tsp of juice).  Whip the cream into soft peaks in a medium-sized bowl.

4.  In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese lightly until soft, then add the icing sugar, and the lime zest and juice.  Mix until incorporated.  Gently fold in the whipped cream and the grated chocolate, until smooth.  Spoon the mixture equally over the two bases, gently pressing it into the sides of the rings so that there are no gaps between the filling and the base.  Refrigerate for a further 2 hours until the filling is set.

5.  Transfer the cake (still in the chef’s ring) to a serving plate by carefully sliding it off the baking paper on the tray.  To remove the chef’s ring from around the cake, wipe the outside with a hot cloth and gently work it off.  Then carefully unpeel the baking paper from the sides of the cake.  Decorate with edible glitter, coloured sugar or even cocoa powder (or all three), and serve.

Enjoy!

PS – Ya, I decided to make something that I know my flatmate loves and is picky about, that I’ve never made before, and that I can’t eat so I couldn’t check if it tasted good or not.  And I decided to make it as a gift.  I’m well aware of the many fails in logic.

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