Tag Archives: Vodka

When life gives you lemons… Just add alcohol

Saturday was the official start of winter in New Zealand.  Much like the UK, the weather here doesn’t pay any attention to official seasons.  Winter actually arrived last Tuesday, in all its tempestuous powercut-inducing glory (and really we were fairly lucky – a fair proportion of the rest of the country found themselves covered in snow).  On our first official day of winter, however, I spent the whole morning sitting out on the deck in the glorious sunshine, topping up my vitamin D reserves.

First official day of winter. Blue skies, blue sea, palm trees. Life is good.

Ya, that’s what the official start to winter looked like in Leigh, and we were lucky to be treated to similar weather the entire long weekend.  I sometimes still can’t quite believe that I live here.  Anyway, before you all turn away from your computer screens in disgust or hatred, I’ll reassure you that today we’ve been treated to a good dose of horizontal rain, a severe weather advisory and multiple powercuts.  So I think that this is a suitably winter-like day to share that homemade limoncello recipe that I mentioned in my limoncello cupcakes post.  Lemons brighten everything up, and I like to think of limoncello as liquid sunshine.  Alcoholic liquid sunshine.  Very drinkable alcoholic sunshine that doesn’t taste alcoholic.  Oh dear.

Ooooo hello…

I started making my own limoncello about two and a half years ago.  I wanted to try limoncello, but couldn’t find any to buy, so I looked up some recipes.  I picked the one that only required an overnight maceration instead of two weeks (because I’m impatient like that) and it turned out so scrumptious that I’ve yet to get around to trying out one of the recipes that take a little longer.  I’ll report back on the comparison when I eventually do, but in the meantime, this is a pretty handy sort-of last-minute drinks recipe to have up your sleeve.  I’ve actually never tried “real” limoncello, so I can’t tell you how this measures up to the stuff you’d drink in Italy.  I can, however, tell you that it’s bloody delicious, and super lemony.  Any time I’ve pulled out a bottle for friends, it has disappeared fairly promptly, which can only be a good sign…

When real sunshine is lacking… alcoholic sunshine will do.

Limoncello

Makes about 400ml
Slightly adapted from Waitrose

To sterilise the glass bottle, wash in hot, soapy water and pop in an oven pre-heated to 100°C for about ten mins or so, until dry.  Allow to cool before pouring the limoncello in.  Don’t use your super expensive special edition boutique vodka, but don’t use supermarket own-label vodka either – paint-stripper will always just taste of paint-stripper, no matter how many lemons you add.  I just used standard Smirnoff.  I love limoncello served straight over ice, but you can also serve it as a long drink, topped up with soda water.  Sometimes I’ll store the limoncello in the freezer for a day or so so that it goes a bit slushy.  I recommend trying that, too!  This should keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, although it’s unlikely to last even close to that long.

Ingredients

7-8 unwaxed lemons
125g caster sugar (granulated works fine, too)
150ml vodka

Directions

1.  Wash the lemons.  Zest and juice them into a large bowl (ideally not plastic – glass, pyrex or ceramic are all good choices if you have them).  Add the sugar, stir, and cover with clingfilm.  Leave to stand for about 12h or overnight, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has all dissolved.

2.  Strain the lemon mixture through either a very fine sieve, a muslin cloth or a normal sieve lined with kitchen roll.  Squeeze as much juice through as possible.  Stir in the vodka and decant into a sterilised glass bottle, ready to serve.

Enjoy!  (Whilst drinking responsibly and all that jazz…)

Since it’s homemade and all, I’m submitting this limoncello recipe to Made with Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior (I’m guessing it’s ok that I haven’t made my own vodka…).

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

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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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Cocktail in a Cupcake: Rose Martini

To celebrate the 1st birthday of the We Should Cocoa blog challenge, this month’s theme, set by Chele at Chocolate Teapot, is to bake something for a “virtual birthday party” – something chocolatey, of course!  Whilst a big cake would seem appropriate, I decided to go for cupcakes (I know that I totally missed the boat on National Cupcake Week which was last week) for the simple reason that I’ve had a cupcake idea floating around for a while and this seems like the perfect occasion to try it out.  Actually, it would have been my entry to last month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, for which the special ingredient was “rose” (you can see the round-up here), but my plans fell victim to the lovely bout of tonsillitis that laid me up in bed for a week (I’m still grumbling about it).

When I’d been looking for inspiration for last month’s challenge, I happened across the recipe for a Rose Martini, a vodka-based cocktail that contains white crème de cacao and rosewater.  To me that just sounded like a cupcake waiting to happen!  Incorporating white chocolate would have made it perfect for the theme, and I desperately wanted to see if the flavours would work in a cupcake, but never managed to get round to it (grumble, tonsillitis, grumble)…  However, this month’s theme has come galloping to the rescue, because I think that Rose Martini cupcakes definitely sound fit for a party, don’t you?  Wait, what’s that?  Oh, it’s supposed to be for a 1st birthday party…?  Can one year-olds eat cake?  I have no idea.  I don’t really have anything whatsoever to do with small children (can you tell?).  So anyway, these cupcakes are clearly adult-only.  I’m totally ok with that, because it’s not for an actual one year-old child…

The only problem with deciding to make cupcakes is that they usually come in batches, which is fine if you’ve got people to feed them to, but 12 cupcakes between just my mum and I is a bit much (I do love cupcakes, but I’d rather not make myself sick).  Especially since cupcakes don’t keep all that long, and stale cupcakes are rather depressing.  Thankfully though, I found a recipe to make two cupcakes (or one jumbo cupcake), which I adapted and doubled, and it ended up giving me five cupcakes filled with vodka, rosewater and white chocolate chips.  The icing included the Rose Martini ingredients: vodka, rosewater and white crème de cacao.  I may or may not have gotten slightly too enthusiastic about piping the rose (it took me five tries to get a decent one).  They turned out rather well, though quite heavy, and whilst the flavours do work together I think they could get quite sickly quite quickly.  I’d like to try adapting one of my tried and tested cupcake recipes for a full batch, just to see if it would make them a bit lighter.  We’ll see…  For now though, at least these look pretty!  And they do taste good, they’re just really quite heavy!

So all that remains (before sharing the recipe) is to wish happy birthday to We Should Cocoa – here’s to another year of challenges!

Rose Martini cupcakes

Makes 5-6 cupcakes
Cupcake recipe adapted from Sweet Road

The rosewater really comes through in this recipe, so if you’re not a fan, I would suggest decreasing the amount slightly, and perhaps adding slightly more vodka to cut through the flavour more.  The icing makes enough to pipe five roses, but if you want to just do some swirly decorative piping, you won’t need quite as much.  Also, don’t be worried if the cupcakes don’t really go golden – mine didn’t but they were still cooked!

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
75g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
25g unsalted butter
45g caster sugar
120 ml milk, room temperature
2 tsp vodka
1 tsp rosewater
½ tsp white crème de cacao
35g white chocolate chips (or chopped white chocolate)

For the icing:
2 tsp vodka
1 ½ tsp white crème de cacao
½ tsp rosewater
35g butter
70g icing sugar
Rose food colouring paste (optional)

Directions

To make the cupcakes:
1.  Line a cupcake tin with 5 or 6 liners or set out 5 or 6 silicon liners.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl and mix together.

3.  In a different bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well mixed.  Mix in half the milk (make sure it’s at room temperature otherwise it does weird things to the butter apparently), followed by the flour mixture.  Add the remaining milk, the vodka, rosewater and crème de cacao and mix until well incorporated (if the mixture looks like it’s separated or curdled or something, try mixing some more until vaguely smooth.  If that doesn’t work, add a little bit more flour.  If that doesn’t work, bake them anyway and hope for the best.  Sage advice right there.).  Stir in the chocolate chips.

4.  Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for 18-22 mins, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

To make the icing:
5.  In a measuring glass or small bowl, mix together the vodka, crème de cacao and rosewater.  Set aside.

6.  Cream together the butter and icing sugar (be prepared for a small icing sugar explosion if using an electric whisk).  When combined to form buttercream, add a tiny, tiny amount of rose food colouring paste (optional) and the alcohols, and mix well until completely incorporated.

7.  Once the cupcakes are completely cool, you can pipe the icing onto them.  To make an icing rose, use a rose petal tip.  Pipe a small blob in the middle of the cupcake, and then, making sure that the fat part of the tip is at the bottom, pipe vertical individual petals around the blob, turning the cupcake as you go (I realise that is a terrible explanation of how to make a rose out of icing – Google it, there are loads of videos available online).

Enjoy!

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Cocktail in a macaron: White Russian

Although I’m still not really sure where my life is currently going and whether I’ll get a post-grad somewhere and where that will happen to be, almost everybody else seems to have wonderful plans, courses and jobs lined up for after the summer.  One of the many people who know what they’re doing after the summer is a friend of mine (of cute-baby-seal-birthday-cake fame) who has been accepted to do a Masters at Oxford.  Getting into Oxford is something he’s wanted for quite a while now, so for a number of reasons, this is a really big thing for him.  He actually received the news way back in March, but at the time he only told a few people and asked us to keep it quiet because he wanted to wait for the right time to drop the “Oxford-bomb” so that the announcement would have maximum impact (I suspect that he had a few specific individuals in mind).  Apparently the “O-bomb” was finally dropped a few days ago, which means that I can finally share the congratulatory macarons I made for him with you (I’ve only been waiting five months).

I’d decided on macarons because A) I knew that Kat was making him a cake, and B) I was looking for an excuse to make macarons.  Not exactly much of a decision.  The difficult part was choosing which flavour to attempt.  At first I wanted to do something Oxford-themed.  The University of Oxford colours perhaps?  Hmmmm…  I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired.  Anyway, the shades probably wouldn’t have come out exactly correct anyway, and I didn’t feel like getting lectured about the exact specifications of Oxford Blue (to save yourself the Google search, you can find them here.  And yes, I actually looked them up…) complete with several historical anecdotes (I’m sure it would be very interesting, but not in response to a gift).  So I quickly scrapped the Oxford-themed idea, and decided to make macarons based on his favourite cocktail: the White Russian.

White Russian macarons?  Brilliant plan!  The only minor flaw is that, despite being a big cocktail fan, I’ve never actually had a White Russian.  Pick yourself up off the floor, and I’ll explain: it’s the cream.  It just totally puts me off.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cream.  Love cream (seriously – you’ll find at least three different kinds in my fridge at any given time).  But not in a cocktail – I just think it would make me feel very sick, very quickly.  I know what goes into it (vodka, coffee liqueur and cream), but I had to do a bit of guesswork with regards to exactly how the cocktail actually tastes.  Personally, I think the macarons were good, but I can’t vouch for how akin to an actual White Russian they turned out.  He seemed to have enjoyed them though, and that’s the main thing!  I’m also submitting these macarons to this month’s Mac Attack challenge, since the theme rather conveniently happens to be “kick it up with alcohol” (I know, it’s like the challenge was made for me!).

White Russian 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

The colouring of the shells is totally optional – I decided to colour them at the last minute but didn’t have any brown colouring.  My genius solution: use a mixture of all the other food colourings that I do have (because everything mixed together makes brown, see?) – luckily it worked.  If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you could make only the bottom shells brown and leave the top shells white, which is more reminiscent of an unstirred White Russian.  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
4 tsp coffee granules
½ tsp coffee extract
Coffee-brown food colouring paste (optional)

For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
4cl (40g) vodka
2 tsp coffee granules

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.  Finely grind the coffee granules.  Blend the icing sugar, ground almonds and ground coffee 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 the coffee extract and a dollop of brown food colouring paste (if you’re using it) just before the end and mix well.

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

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

6.  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 white chocolate and vodka ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces) and the vodka, 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.  Finely grind the coffee granules into a powder (or put them in a zip-lock bag and roll over them with a rolling pin).

10.  Once the ganache has cooled, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of  ganache onto one shell of each pair.  Sprinkle a pinch of finely ground coffee over the top of the ganache, and then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

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

Enjoy!

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