Tag Archives: Mac Attack

Cocktail in a Macaron: Rose Martini

You may be aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and if you weren’t aware, then you are now…), and in support of this cause, this month’s Mac Attack theme is “Pinktober“.  The premise is simple: make your macarons pink (is it just me or does that sound a bit like a euphemism…?) and/or girly.  As soon as I read the challenge, I knew exactly what kind of macarons I wanted to make, but I’ve been putting off making and posting about them.  It took me until today to realise why.

Breast cancer is probably one of the most talk-about cancers (in the Western world anyway), and everybody seems to have been affected by it either directly or known somebody close who has been diagnosed with it.  Perhaps that’s not the case, but it’s the impression I get.  So, here’s the thing that’s been holding me back: talking about breast cancer makes me feel like a bit of a fraud.  Thankfully, my exposure to breast cancer has been limited.  My Scottish grandma was diagnosed with it when I was 11 or 12, but the extent of my knowledge of the whole affair was that Granny had gone into hospital for a little operation, but everything would be fine.  I have a vague feeling that she might have had to have two operations, but I’m really not sure.  (She’s fine, by the way – this would be the very same grandma that accidentally char-grilled the summer fruits crumble a few months ago.)  We lived in Norway at the time, so there were no hospital visits to drive home the reality of it – perhaps that’s one of the reasons that my memories of it are so abstract (which I feel kind of guilty for – made worse now that I realise, of course, what the outcome could have been).  Basically, I’ve been putting this post off because deep-down, there was a lingering, guilt-tinged question: who am I to speak of breast cancer?  What do I know of it, of its far-reaching and awful consequences?  Nothing, that’s what.  And I’m so very aware of how lucky that makes me, but I still feel like a fraud for trying to write a post about it.

Having realised that I had nothing knowledgeable, meaningful or inspirational to say about breast cancer, I decided that I’d better get my act together and make some macarons, because at least when it comes to macarons, I vaguely know what I’m talking about.  Ever since I made Rose Martini cupcakes a few weeks ago, I’ve been wanting to try turning the cocktail into a macaron.  Since the “Pinktober” theme revolves around girliness and pinkness, a macaron based on a cocktail involving rosewater seemed totally appropriate…  I went for plain, pearly shells (it doesn’t really come through in the photos) and pink ganache, and piped little pink ribbons out of chocolate onto some of the macarons.  I even made larger pink ribbons out of chocolate.  I might not have any meaningful words to contribute to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but if you’re going to do something, do it properly, so at least these macarons look the part.  Oh, and the Rose Martini flavour totally works as a macaron.  Hurrah!  So, here we go, be aware of breast cancer; ladies, you’ve probably been told about 56 million times before, but check yourselves.  And eat macarons.  They’re not a proven cure for breast cancer, but they make life that little bit more luxurious, and everybody needs a bit of that sometimes.

Rose Martini 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 my standard recipe

I added some some edible glittery pearl powder to the macaron shells which gives them a very subtle pearlescent sheen, but you can’t really see it in the photos.  In keeping with the “rose” flavour of the ganache and the “Pinktober” theme, I had been planning to colour the ganache a pale pink, but as you can see, I put a little too much colouring in so the ganache turned out bright pink instead.  Woops.  Both the colouring of the ganache and the pearl powder for the shells are optional.  I’ve also included instructions right at the end on how to make the chocolate pink ribbons that are in the photos.  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 30 mins 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
Edible pearl powder (optional)

For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
25g vodka
15g white crème de cacao
3g rosewater
Pink food colouring paste/gel (optional)

For the chocolate pink ribbons (optional):
A few square of dark chocolate (large ribbons only)
A few squares of white chocolate
Pink food colouring paste/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, ground almonds and pearl powder 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 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 vodka, crème de cacao, rosewater and a few drops of pink food colouring paste (how much you add depends on how pink you want the ganache to be – remember that if it’s not bring enough, you can add more colouring, but you can’t make it pale again, so it’s best to be cautious!), 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.  If you don’t want to decorate them, skip to the very last step.

To make the large pink chocolate ribbons:
10.  Whilst waiting for the ganache to cool, line a baking tray with baking paper (it doesn’t have to be perfectly cut or anything).  Prepare a piping bag with a very thin piping tip (this is to draw the outline of the ribbon).  Melt the dark chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Allow to cool slightly and transfer to the piping bag.  Pipe the outlines of the ribbons (if you’re not confident in piping the shape, you could draw the outlines out on the baking paper in pencil before piping).  Put the baking tray in the fridge for the outlines to harden.

11.  Prepare a different piping bag with a slightly wider tip (this will be to fill in the outlines).  Melt the white chocolate in a different small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water, add a few drops of pink colouring paste (as with the ganache, the amount will depend on how bright a pink you’re going for) and stir until smooth.  Allow to cool slightly and transfer to the piping bag.  Remove the baking tray with the hardened dark chocolate outlines and fill them in with the pink white chocolate.  Put the baking tray back in the fridge for the filling of the ribbons to harden.  Once hardened, the ribbons can be gently peeled off the baking paper (remember that they are just chocolate, so if left somewhere warm, they will melt…).

To make the small pink ribbons on the macarons:
12.  Follow step 11, but when the pink white chocolate is ready to pipe, pipe a ribbon shape directly onto the macarons (I’d recommend practicing on a piece of baking paper or any less presentable macarons first).

13.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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Mac Attack #21: Lemon granita with a chocolate macaron crumble

I’m not sure where July has gone, it seems to have just sped by, and somehow it’s already the 1st of August, so I should probably get myself into gear and post my entry for July’s Mac Attack challenge (the deadline was yesterday, not cutting it fine at all, nope…).  Actually, aside from my general disorganisation, there’s a very logical reason that I’ve left it to the very last minute.  You see, the theme was “ice-cream” so we had to create a dessert using ice-cream or sorbet and macarons.  But here’s the thing – actually, before I go any further, I hope you’re sitting down (so far nobody has died of shock at the up-coming revelation, but I don’t want to take any chances) – I don’t like ice-cream.  Yes, you did read that correctly, and I’m fully aware of how bizarre a concept that is (try being a child living in a fairly warm country like Nigeria and having an aversion to ice-cream…).  My main issue with ice-cream is that it’s too cold, which I know is the whole point of ice-cream, but there you go.  I’m also not a great fan of the texture.  So the thought of creating a dessert including ice-cream didn’t exactly have me jumping for joy.

Luckily though, I do quite like sorbets.  I know they’re cold too, but they always seem slightly less cold than ice-cream to me, though I’m not really sure why.  And I tend to let them melt a bit before I eat them anyway (thus somewhat defying the point, I know).  I also much prefer the lighter and smoother texture of good quality sorbets, and I love how fruity they are.  So I thought I might do something involving a sorbet of some sort.  But, because I’m a bit lazy, I wasn’t feeling especially motivated to make my own sorbet and I’m not really sure where to find good sorbet in Edinburgh (any recommendations welcome!).  This left me in a little bit of a pickle.  And then, on Friday, it suddenly hit me – perhaps I could do something with a granita!  They’re frozen, so that’s totally close enough to ice-cream/sorbets, right?  I’m going with yes.  My first foray into the world of granitas was the G&T granita that I made for World Gin Day, and although it took 9 hours to freeze properly, it turned out to be easy to make and rather delicious.

I decided to try out a lemon granita recipe that I came across in delicious. a few months ago, and go for the cop-out option of sprinkling some crushed macaron shells over the top to create a dessert.  This was going to be the first time that I made macarons using my mum’s oven, so I wasn’t sure how they would turn out (since every oven is different and I’m not quite used to this one yet) – crushed macarons seemed the safest bet in case they went horribly wrong.  I was going to make the lemon granita on Saturday, but it ended up being warm and sunny (a rare occurrence in Scotland, but it does occasionally happen!) so we went for a wander in the Pentlands (a series of hills just outside Edinburgh).  Which means that although I made the macarons shells that evening (which thankfully turned out fine), I didn’t have time to make the granita and ended up making it yesterday.  It turned out rather yummy – fresh and summery, and the macarons shells complemented the very lemon-y granita wonderfully.

Lemon granita with a chocolate macaron crumble

Serves 3
Granita recipe adapted from delicious. (June 2011)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!

The shells can be made a couple of days in advance and kept in an air-tight container until required.  The granita can also be made in advance, though will require some thorough stirring to break up the ice crystals before serving.  Adding a splash of vodka to the granita is completely optional, but I find that it slightly enhances the flavour of the lemons.

Ingredients

For the granita:
150g sugar (granulated or caster – it doesn’t really matter)
150 ml water
Grated zest of 1 lemon
200 ml lemon juice (roughly 5-6 small lemons)
100 ml vodka

For the macaron shells:
40g aged egg whites
27g caster sugar
48g ground almonds
72g icing sugar
3g cocoa powder (at least 70%)

Directions

To make the granita:
1.   Place the water and the sugar in a small saucepan and simmer gently over a low heat for around 10 mins until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid reduces a bit to a slightly syrupy viscosity.  Remove from the heat and pour into a heat-proof bowl and allow to cool.

2.  Mix in the lemon juice and allow to rest for 30 mins, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the lemon zest and vodka, and pour into a freeze-proof container with a lid (an old plastic ice-cream tub is ideal) and place in the freezer.

3.  After 2 hours, remove the container and stir with a fork (don’t worry if it’s still liquid).  Place the container back in the freezer for a further 30 mins, before removing and beating with a fork.  Once again, place the container back into the freezer.  Repeat every 30 mins for a total of 4 ½ to 5 hours (not including the initial 2 hours).  Store in the freezer until ready to serve.

To make the macaron shells:
4. Line one or two flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

5.  Blend the icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder together (don’t skip this step!)  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

6.  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.

7.  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.

8.  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, but these don’t have to be perfect – they’ll be broken up later).  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.

9.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

10.  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 fully on the baking trays before carefully removing them and storing them in an airtight container until required.

11.  When ready to serve, break the macaron shells up into pieces.  Remove the granita from the freezer and beat with a fork to break the ice crystals up.  Spoon into 3 bowls or glasses (martini glasses make for impressive-looking presentation!) and sprinkle with the broken up macarons.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Mac Attack #19: Cucumber sandwich macarons

The Mac Attack challenge for this month is “Ballpark snacks” and I have to admit, this theme had me rather stumped for a while.  I feel part of the problem is probably that “ballparks” are not especially on my radar – I’m not terribly sporty for a start, but any sports that involve a modicum of skill are really not my strong point.  Having said that, I do love watching rugby and tennis, and I can watch golf to a certain extent (usually whilst doing other things).  It’s not exactly rugby season at the moment, so that leaves golf and tennis.  I don’t really associate any particular food with golf, and the same goes for tennis.  Well, of course there is the oh-so-British combination of strawberries and cream that is so strongly associated with Wimbledon, which is still more than three weeks away so I didn’t really feel that was quite appropriate, but I have no particular food associations with Roland-Garros which is in full swing (groan) at the moment.  So as I said, stumped (insert awful cricket joke here).

Then the other day we were in Luvian’s (for a change) and I saw the most intriguing bottle.  Initially attracted by the refreshing, translucent, Caribbean sea green colour, my initial plan not to augment the already-overflowing Alcohol Cabinet (I’m moving out in about a month, so I need to finish bottles off, not add more) by buying any more liqueurs rapidly got thrown out the window when I saw what it was.  My thought process went something along the lines of: cucumber liqueur?  Hello.  I wonder what that tastes like?  Oh my gosh, I could make cucumber sandwich macarons for the Mac Attack challenge!  Like at the cricket.  Genius!  Hmmm… but I don’t really understand cricket fully and I never watch it.  Oh but I totally understand cucumber sandwiches.  And I really wonder what this tastes like.  And it’s so pretty.  Never mind, one extra bottle won’t make much difference.  So I walked out with a bottle of cucumber liqueur and some other liqueur as well.  Woops.  But there was the added bonus of an idea for macarons.

When I got home I realised had no idea how I was going to make cucumber sandwich macarons.  Never mind, the first step was clearly to taste the cucumber liqueur.  It’s the most bizarre thing.  I associate cucumbers with being cool and refreshing, and tasting neutral to salty.  This cucumber liqueur tastes most distinctly of cucumber, but it’s sweet and with that slight alcoholic warmth.  I quite like it, but I still can’t get my head around the unexpectedness of it.  So how was I going to make these macarons?  I didn’t think a ganache would work particularly well, so I decided I’d have to make some sort of jelly.  I happened across a cucumber jelly recipe, so I adapted that by adding a bit of the liqueur to it.  I’m not sure it really did anything.  Never mind.

So how did they turn out?  Well, I feel they’re quite like the liqueur in that they’re a bit unexpected.  The shells are sweet, so although the jelly is more savoury than sweet, they’re a bit like sweet sandwiches, which makes them rather different.  Unfortunately, the jelly was clearly wasn’t completely solidly set and it soaked a little bit into the shells and made them slightly soggy.  I think they were better just after they’d been made, when the shells were quite crunchy.  But they were still good – I think the best description would be “interesting.”  Make of that what you will!

Cucumber sandwich macarons

Makes about 50 small triangular macarons
Filling recipe adapted from The Times Online
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!

Unlike most other macarons, these are much better eaten sooner rather than later, and are also better straight out of the fridge (so they’re cooler and more refreshing).  The jelly should be made first as it can take a while to set, and it can even be made the day before.  The macarons obviously don’t have to be triangular (it is quite a faff) but it makes them more reminiscent of actual cucumber sandwiches.

Ingredients

For the cucumber jelly:
2 cucumbers
4 sheets of gelatine
3-4 tbsp cucumber liqueur
Pinch of salt

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

Directions

To make the jelly filling:
1.  Line a couple of brownie or tart tins with cling film or tin foil (this will make it easier to lift the jelly out later).

2.  Wash the cucumbers and dry thoroughly.  Roughly chop them up and liquidise them in a food processor (the closer to liquidised, the better).

3.  Submerge the leaves of gelatine in a small bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes.  Add the liquidised cucumber and softened gelatine leaves to a large saucepan and bring to the boil briefly, mixing well to dissolved the gelatine.  Remove from the heat, add the cucumber liqueur and salt and mix well.  Pour a thin layer (no more than about 0.75cm thick) of the jelly mixture into the prepared tins, and refrigerate for a few hours until set.

To make the macaron shells:
4. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper.  Make a small triangular template out of card (with edges of about 2cm) and trace spaced-out triangles out onto the baking sheets.  Set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

5.  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.

6.  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.

7.  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.

8.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out triangles using the drawn-out templates to guide you.

9.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

10.  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.

11.  Cut out triangles of cucumber jelly and place one triangle between each pair of macaron shells.  Store in the fridge in an airtight box, but not for too long so that the shells don’t go soggy.

Enjoy!

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Mac Attack #18: Quadruple chocolate macarons

I think my last ten posts or so have mentioned my dissertation (of doom) at least once, so if you follow my blog at all, you’ve probably realised that it has been the focus of my life for a good few weeks.  So much so, in fact, that I sadly did not have time to take part in April’s Mac Attack challenge, the theme of which was “decadently chocolate.”  As soon as I read the challenge, I knew exactly what I wanted to make, but I had to make a choice between which deadline to miss: Mac Attack or my dissertation.  A tough one, but I’m afraid my dissertation had to win out in the end (I hear education is considered quite important) and I spent a lot of time in a computer lab instead of my kitchen.

But I handed the dissertation in last Thursday and, working on the assumption that I haven’t failed said dissertation, I finished my degree yesterday (!!!), and consequently, I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands.  Time to try out these macarons!

The challenge wanted something decadently chocolate, so I’ve basically added chocolate in every possible way.  Cocoa powder in the shells, white chocolate and crème de cacao in the ganache and dark chocolate and more white chocolate for decoration.  That’s four types of chocolate (I’m counting crème de cacao as a kind of chocolate).  Decadently chocolate?  I definitely think so!  Yummy?  Yes, apparently so!  (They’ve been taste-tested by Kat and Craig, as ever.)  Worth trying even though I’ve totally missed the Mac Attack deadline by about two weeks?  Absolutely!  (I got a bit lazy with the decorating bit and couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of cleaning the fine tip, so I cut the end off a freezer bag instead, but clearly didn’t do a very good job – hence the rather messy white chocolate drizzle.)

Quadruple chocolate 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

If you’re more of a dark chocolate fan, I’m sure the ganache would also work perfectly fine using dark chocolate and dark crème de cacao instead of the white chocolate and white/clear crème de cacao.  The macarons 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
8g cocoa powder (at least 70%)

For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
4cl (40g) white crème de cacao

To decorate:
A few squares dark chocolate (at least 70%)
A few squares white chocolate

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, ground almonds and cocoa powder 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.  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) and the crème de cacao, 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.

To decorate:
10.  Melt the dark chocolate in a small bowl over a pan of boiling water, and once fully melted, pour into a piping bag fitted with a fine tip (or a freezer bag with the tip cut off), and drizzle across all the macarons.  Melt the white chocolate in a separate small bowl, and drizzle across the macarons in the opposite direction to the dark chocolate (make sure you clean the tip thoroughly, or use a new freezer bag).

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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Mac Attack #17: Blood orange & five-spice macarons

I was a little bit naughty last month and didn’t take part in the Mac Attack challenge.  But please, hear me out: the theme was centred around Valentine’s Day, and well, let’s just say I’m not such a fan of the whole Valentine’s Day thing.  So I hope I’ve made up for it this month!  The challenge for March is “Sugar and spice and everything… fruity” – so a seasonal fruit combined with a spice.  I got quite excited by this, because I thought hurrah!  Spring (which officially started yesterday) – that’s practically summer!  So I enthusiastically started looking up which fruits are coming into season here in the UK in March.  My enthusiasm was pretty short-lived.  Waitrose informed me that seasonal British specialities for March are: rosemary, smoked haddock and cucumbers.  Not particularly helpful in the fruit department (although cucumber is technically a fruit, but I immediately thought of cucumber sandwiches, and I feel that would only ever be appropriate for a theme related to cricket or afternoon tea).

Then I came across Eat the Seasons, a website that tells you which produce is in season each week of the year.  Ya, that’s right, it does it by week.  Now that is dedication!  I made these macarons last week, which was week 11, and I had a choice of: bananas, blood oranges, kiwi fruit, lemons, oranges, passion fruit, pineapple and pomegranate, all of which, I should add, are imported to the UK.  It’s funny because despite usually being winter fruits, citrus fruits always make me think of spring and summer – probably because they have such a refreshing taste.  So even though they are technically going out of season rather than coming in, the blood oranges at the greengrocer’s looked so good, and I just had to get some.  I also love the colour of Moro blood oranges – and red is a warm colour, so that totally fits with the change of season (because everybody knows that it’s warm in Scotland in spring, ha ha…  I wish).  So even though they might technically be nearing the end of their season, and the greengrocer’s didn’t have any Moros so mine weren’t blood-coloured, I still think they fit the theme.

The next step was to choose a spice to go with the blood orange.  My immediate thought was cinnamon, but I couldn’t do that.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the combination of cinnamon and orange, but it stinks of Christmas.  Cloves were also off the cards, for exactly the same reason.  Then I happened across a mouth-watering recipe for honey-glazed blood orange and five-spice tartelettes.  I was rather intrigued by the combination, so once I had finished drooling over the photos, I decided to be adventurous and attempt blood orange and five-spice macarons.  (And I also had to make something special to make up for missing last month’s Mac Attack, remember?)

The only thing left now was to work out how I wanted to make them.  The five-spice would obviously be added to the shells – for a start, it’s a dry ingredient, so that makes it easy, and also it would add a subtle speckled appearance to the shells.  How to incorporate the blood orange though?  I felt that a chocolate ganache of some sort might over-power the five-spice, and I wasn’t really feeling buttercream.  And then I had a minor epiphany: blood orange curd.  It would be fruity, not too heavy, and it wouldn’t (shouldn’t) overpower the five-spice.  So now you know why I made the curd last week!  Anyway, luckily my experiment worked, and everybody who tasted them said they liked them.  I actually made several people play “guess the flavour” and it was fun – I’m now a big fan of this game.  I was also very impressed when people guessed correctly since the flavours were subtle and I’ll be perfectly honest, if I hadn’t made them, I don’t think I would have ever managed to guess!

Blood orange & five-spice macarons

Makes about 70 small macarons (so about 140 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!

The food colouring is totally optional, but I decide to make the macarons look like blood oranges so I made the shells orange and added dye to the curd when I was making it so that the inside of the macarons would look like the inside of a blood orange.  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 30 mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
120g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
79g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
144g icing sugar
2 tsp five-spice
Orange or yellow & red food colouring paste (optional)

For the filling:
About 200 ml blood orange curd (follow the link for the recipe)

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, ground almonds and five-spice powder 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 orange food colouring paste, or equal amounts of yellow and red (to make orange) just before the end and mix well (this is totally optional, but it just adds a bit of colour to the macarons, and it’s also kind of fun).

4.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

5.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

6.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

7.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

For the filling:
8.  Once the shells have fully cooled, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of  blood orange curd 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 evenly.

9.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

PS – So that was a bit of an epic post.  Oops!  I seriously need to work on being more concise…  Sorry!

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“Auld Alliance” cranachan

Tomorrow (January 25th) is Burns Night, a celebration of the life and works of the Scottish poet Robert Burns on the day of his birth.  I’m not actually sure what there is to celebrate about his life (apparently he was basically a drunken misogynist and racist) or his works (not having been to school in Scotland I never studied any of his poetry, but I have been assured by various friends that it was a lucky escape), but as far as I’m concerned, it’s an excuse for a dinner party, or Burns Supper, so I’m all for it.

If you’re going to do a Burns Supper properly, there are a whole set of traditions associated with it, including a piper and a heck of a lot of speeches.  Including the Address To a Haggis.  Yes, that’s right, an 8-verse poem in Scots dialect recited to a stuffed sheep’s stomach.  So anyway, I don’t happen to have a piper on hand and (despite being Scottish) I sound ridiculous attempting to pronounce any Scots words, so I think we’ll be skipping most of those traditions (shock horror, I know), though perhaps I’ll attempt to convince one of my friends with an actual Scottish accent to do the Address.  We shall see…

Now that I’ve rambled a bit, I’ll get to the point: food.  Well, more specifically: dessert.  One of the traditional Burns Supper desserts is cranachan, a concoction of oats, whipped cream, honey, whisky (depending on who is making it) and raspberries.  I’m not sure why there are raspberries in a dish that is usually served in January – they’re not exactly in season – but we’ll gloss over that.  I’m not a huge fan of oats though (I find them rather boring), so I was looking for an alternative and suddenly it hit me – use a macaron base to get a bit of crunch just like the oats!  Genius!  Using a macaron base would be a perfect way to introduce some extra colour, too…

I also discovered that this month’s Mac Attack (#15 – MacInspirational) was all about incorporating macarons into your favourite dessert.  So ok, cranachan isn’t my favourite dessert, but here was the perfect excuse to try out my idea. I’ve done a trial run, which I’m quite happy with and am only planning a few minor adjustments – making the bases bigger and slightly “puffier” and also crumbling macarons over the top to create a bit more crunch.  So I give you the “Auld Alliance” cranachan – a perfect Scottish-French partnership (I know, I know, I am just so witty):

“Auld Alliance” cranachan

Serves 8
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
The topping was made from my imagination

The shells can be prepared the day before, but to get maximum crunch, it’s best to add the topping just before serving, otherwise the cream soaks into the shell and softens it.

Ingredients

For the macarons shells:
150g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
100g caster sugar
180g ground almonds
270g icing sugar
Pink & purple food colouring paste (optional)

For the topping (these are all very approximate measures – definitely refine them to your tastes):
550ml double cream
20 tbsp icing sugar
20 tbsp whisky
15 tbsp heather honey (or just normal set honey if you can’t get heather honey)
300g raspberries

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 (a wide nozzle is best to make the large shells).

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 good dollop of pink food colouring paste and a few drops (splodges?) of purple just before the end and mix well (this is totally optional, but it just adds a bit of colour to the dessert, 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 10cm but I’m going to try 15cm next time. Make sure you make at least 8 – any extra shells can be crumbled and used for decoration at the end).  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 – because these are big shells, a bit longer might be required).  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 10-15mins (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.

To make the topping:
8.  Add the cream, icing sugar and whisky to a bowl and whip into stiff peaks.  Once this is done, add the honey and mix into the cream (heather honey is set, so use the electric whisk).

9.  Spoon a thick layer of the whisky-honey-cream onto the macaron shells (you could also pipe it into a pretty pattern if you are feeling enthusiastic/have the time).  Decorate with raspberries and crushed left-over macaron shells before serving.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods