Tag Archives: Whisky

Irish Coffee & walnut brownies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Coffee & walnut brownies

Makes 20 brownies
Adapted from Le Larousse des desserts

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Yummy goodness in progress.

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Greek yoghurt & honey cake: Deliciousness guaranteed, sharing optional

A large portion of this blog wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my trusty electric whisk.  All the macarons, the seal cake, the meerkat cake and most of the cupcakes – basically anything involving whisking egg whites into peaks or creaming together butter and sugar (which I’m too lazy to do by hand – shocking, I know).  The whisk also had a stick blender attachment, which made it ideal – only one appliance to make both cakes and soups saves on storage space – and was why I commandeered it from was given it by my mum when I moved up to St Andrews for uni (maybe also because it was free).  I forget whether it was my mum’s just before or just after she was married, but either way, it was older than me.  By several years.  And yet it still worked wonderfully.  It served me well whilst I was in St Andrews, and I loved it to bits, but by the time I started packing for my move to NZ, it was nearing the end of its (long) life span.  The motor was clearly just a few icing sugar explosions away from giving up (I’d had a couple of scares towards the end of my time in St Andrews).  Rather than shipping it over, having it break and then having to get a new one, I figured I’d skip the first two steps, give the whisk/blender an early retirement and just get a new one when I arrived here.  Simple as.

Well… in theory.  Apparently electric whisks with a stick blender attachment are few and far between now, and those that do exist have pretty poor reviews.  Damn.  So I’ve had to buy an electric whisk and a stick blender separately, which is slightly frustrating in terms of storage, but I guess that now I can whisk egg whites or make buttercream icing and blend soup at the same time.  Because that would totally end well…  I’m just hoping that they last me a long time (although their predecessor has set the bar pretty high).  It’s taken me four months to actually get round to buying them.  Four months of getting excited about recipes until realising they require egg whites to be whisked into soft peaks.  Four months of no soup (I like my soups smooth).  A bit ridiculous really, but when I realised that my Random Recipe entry for this month involved whisking egg whites I finally had to get my act together (thanks Dom!).  And it turned out to be a fantastic recipe to test out my new electric whisk.

Following on from last month’s theme of “first and last,” the theme for this month’s Random Recipe challenge is “the middle.”  I randomly picked A Treasury of New Zealand Baking as my book, which has 232 pages of recipes, so I turned to page 116, which houses a recipe for… Greek yoghurt and honey cake with a raisin lemon syrup.  I’ve been rather lucky with my Random Recipe entries over the last few months, and it seems that the streak continues.  I’m not complaining!  The cake turned out rather scrumptious.  It’s wonderfully moist and full of flavour thanks to the syrup that gets poured over the top at the end.  It’s excellent for breakfast (the amount of whisky in the syrup is minimal and it gets simmered anyway), for morning tea, for afternoon tea and for dessert.  I can say that with confidence, because I’ve (enthusiastically) tested all those options out personally.  I know, I know, I totally took one for the team.  It also keeps for a good few days, and it’s almost tastier after a couple of days as the flavours in the syrup pervade the cake over time.  Confession: this cake is so tasty that it’s a little difficult to share.  I had originally planned to take it in to the lab, and well… that never really happened.  Ahem.  I’ve had great breakfasts this week though (it has raisins, thus it’s totally breakfast food…  Don’t judge).  I think next time I’ll tell them I’m bringing cake so that I have to actually follow through with it.

Greek yoghurt & honey cake, with a raisin, lemon & whisky syrup

Serves 8-10 as a snack, 5-6 for breakfast
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

The syrup would also work wonderfully with spiced rum instead of whisky, or alcohol-free if necessary.  It’s quite dense so it works wonderfully for breakfast or as a snack (in smaller portions) accompanied by tea.  The cake is kept moist by the yoghurt in it, so it’ll keep for a good few days (in fact, I think I preferred it after a couple of a days as the flavours of the syrup develop).

Ingredients

240g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
240g unsalted butter, softened
120g caster sugar
3 tbsp honey
Zest of 2 lemons
4 eggs
240g unsweetened Greek yoghurt

For the syrup:
180ml water
120g caster sugar
120g seedless raisins
Juice of 2 lemons
2-3 tbsp whisky
2 tbsp honey
1 star anise

Unsweetened Greek yoghurt, to serve (optional)

Directions

1.  Butter a 24cm round cake tin.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium bowl and stir together.

3.  Zest the lemons into a large bowl (keep the lemons to use the juice in the syrup later on) and add the cubed butter, sugar and honey.  Beat together until light and creamy.  Then beat in the egg yolks one at a time (put the egg whites directly into a large clean bowl for later).  Once all the egg yolks are incorporated, add about a spoonful of the flour mixture and beat in, followed by about a spoonful yoghurt, and continue alternating between the two.

4.  In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites into soft peaks.  Gently fold the egg whites into the cake mixture.

5.  Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1h05 until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 10 mins in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Making the syrup:
6.  Whilst the cake is in the oven, start prepare the syrup.  Add all the syrup ingredients, except for the yoghurt, to a small saucepan and allow to marinate whilst the cake is baking.

7.  As the cake is cooling, heat over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 mins until thickened and syrupy (a syrupy syrup – my descriptive abilities amaze me sometimes).  Allow to cool a little, but not completely, and fish out the star anise.  Once the cake is completely cool, slide it onto a plate and then gently pour the syrup over the top and spread the raisins out evenly.

8.  Serve warm or cold, with a large spoonful of yoghurt if desired.

Enjoy!

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Happy World Whisky Day!

Today is the first World Whisky Day!  Isn’t that exciting?  (Correct answer: yes!!  If you don’t like whisky, bear with me, or just skip this paragraph).  So the day is supposed to be all about celebrating world whiskies, which is wonderful, except that it’s a Tuesday, so as much as I’d love my day to involve tasting lots of whisky, my day will actually consist of sitting at my desk and pulling my hair out whilst trying to understand exactly how one goes about calculating the strengths of magnetic and tide-induced electric fields and trying to organise the logistics of transferring some rays down to the aquarium.  I clearly very much chucked myself into the deep end for my Masters.  Woops.  Anyway, I digress.  So today is not likely to involve much whisky-drinking for me (perhaps a wee dram this evening as I finish unpacking and tidying everything away), I decided to add some whisky to the recipe I’m sharing today.  Because whisky-eating is the next best thing, obviously.

This month’s Random Recipe challenge theme of “lucky number 17” was chosen by Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog – we had to choose the 17th book on our bookshelves.  The only flaw was that my cookbooks spent most of the month in a box somewhere between Edinburgh and Auckland, and thus not terribly accessible.  So I decided to adapt the rules to doing the 17th recipe in a food magazine that I’d bought on arrival to try and get an idea of what is actually in season here (since it’s the total opposite of the Northern hemisphere and I felt like a total foodie criminal buying apricots in March…).  Well, it was the 17th recipe that I could actually feasibly make (so I didn’t count the recipes that required a food processor, electric whisk or barbecue), which ended up being poached stone fruit with cinnamon honey syrup.  Helloooo delicious-sounding recipe!

As I mentioned earlier, in honour of World Whisky Day, I decided to add some whisky to the recipe.  I used Milford 10 year, which is a New Zealand whisky, since I know absolutely nothing about NZ whisky and figured this would be a good excuse to make a start on that.  This turned out rather delicious, and makes such a wonderful late summer dessert.  It’s so easy to make as well, and can easily be prepared in advance and served cool, or warmed up.  The addition of the whisky was perfect, too, and comes in as a subtle flavour.  I’m submitting this recipe as a second entry to this month’s Simple and in Season blog challenge, since all the ingredients are in season (although it’s coming to the end of the stone fruit season – sad times!), and are definitely local (unlike the mangoes in my mango and chocolate muffins) – even the whisky!  Now that I’ve been reunited with my cookbooks, next month I’ll be back to the proper Random Recipe rules, I promise!

Poached stone fruit with a honey, cinnamon & whisky syrup

Serves 2
Adapted from Food (February March 2012)

I used Milford 10 year whisky, but use whatever good whisky you have available, preferably one with fruity, honey undertones.  The original recipe also used apricots, but I couldn’t find any nice ones, so I just used nectarines and plums, but this would work with most stone fruit.  The total poaching time depends on how ripe the fruit are, so try to choose ripe but still quite firm fruit.  If you want to add a bit more of a whisky kick to it, stir some through the syrup once it’s been taken off the heat.

Ingredients

375ml water
50g light brown sugar
85g liquid honey
4 tbsp whisky (optional to add more at the end)
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 peaches
4 plums

Directions

1.  Add the water, sugar, honey, whisky and spices to a medium saucepan (make sure it’s large enough for all the fruit to fit) and bring to the boil.

2.  Turn down the heat, add the larger stone fruits and allow to simmer for about 2 mins before adding the smaller stone fruit.  Allow to poach for 5-15 mins, depending on how ripe the fruit is to start with, until just tender.  (The plums that I used were ready in about 5 mins, but the nectarines took nearly 15 mins.  If the plums start to be too tender, remove them into the serving bowl.)

3.  Remove the fruit into a serving bowl or individual dishes, and return the syrup to the heat.  Simmer down until the reduced by about half.  Remove from the heat and stir in 1-2 tbsp whisky (optional) before spooning over the poached fruit.  Serve with yoghurt, ice cream or dainty little biscuits.

Enjoy!  And happy World Whisky Day!!  (Also, drink responsibly and all that jazz…)

PS – I know that the fruit are a little too large for the martini glass and it looks a bit odd in the photos, but I didn’t have anything else that was vaguely fancy to present them in.

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Random Recipe #9: Chocolate & whisky charlotte

Dom mixed things up for this month’s Random Recipe challenge by pairing all the participants up so that each blogger randomly picked a book number and page number for their partner.  I was paired  up with the lovely Camilla from Little Macaroon, a Scottish expat currently living in Singapore.  Her blog is full of beautiful photography that desperately makes me miss expat life and discovering new cultures and countries!  It also really makes me miss living somewhere warm and sunny (grumble grumble)…  I picked book number six, page 124 for her which was steamed and roasted duck with honey and oyster sauce (how delicious does that sound?!) and you can read about the adventures involved in acquiring and roasting a 2.7kg duck here.  She randomly selected book number two, page 42 for me, which was a recipe for a chocolate and whisky charlotte from La Popote des potes.

A charlotte is a dessert that consists of a truffle-y custard or fruit mousse surrounded by sponge fingers.  I’m not sure how popular they are here in the UK, but in France they are quite widespread.  My mum, who loves both charlottes and chocolate, was super-enthusiastic when I announced what I had to try and make.  Luckily, she even has a charlotte dish which I was able to use, although you could probably make one in a large soufflé dish or something similar – the key thing is that the dish is deep enough for the sponge fingers to stand up in.  I’d never tried making a charlotte before, so I enthusiastically followed the recipe to the letter.  The results of my first attempt were… disappointing.  Oh, it tasted wonderful, but it wasn’t particularly presentable.  The sponge fingers didn’t fit snugly against each other, and the chocolate filling filtered through the resulting little gaps.  The sponge fingers were also clearly a lot less dense than the filling and rose up and came away from the edge of the dish, leaving some huge gaps between them (we forced them down a bit after the filling had set, but it wasn’t ideal in the presentation stakes – see the photo below).  What had come out of my fridge really didn’t match the photo in the book.  And even though it tasted good – rich, but deliciously chocolatey with a hint of whisky – I was disappointed.  This is a dessert that would be served to guests, so it is supposed to look nice – why hadn’t it worked properly?

Part of the problem may have been that sponge fingers in France (biscuits à la cuillère) are a bit shorter and fatter than the ones in the UK, so perhaps they fit together a little better, or are slightly denser.  A little hunt around Edinburgh didn’t turn up any imported French sponge biscuits, so I turned to the source of all dessert-related knowledge, Pierre Hermé’s Larousse des desserts to see if there were any helpful tips on making charlottes work.  All of his charlotte recipes involved soaking the back of the sponge fingers in an alcoholic sugary syrup to soften them so they could be pushed together.  This isn’t the first recipe that I’ve tried from Popote des potes that hasn’t quite worked, so out of frustration (and perhaps a little bit of spite), I refused to be thwarted and decided to make the charlotte again, but this time with the added step of dipping the sponge fingers in a whisky syrup.  I can be quite stubborn at times…

I was faced with a minor issue though: I’m currently on my own (my mum is on holiday), but the recipe serves 6-8 people and is difficult to split (8 egg whites and 5 egg yolks?  How unhelpful).  I was never going to be able to eat it all myself, but then realised that I could I make it anyway and give it to Craig and his family to test.  Genius idea!  (Though somewhat stressful in case it didn’t work at all…)  Craig helped out and did an excellent job of lining the dish with the sponge fingers and squeezing them together.  This time, the charlotte worked much better – hurrah!  Craig has reported back to say that his family all enjoyed it and thought it was absolutely delicious (phew!).  Even with the addition of the whisky syrup, the flavour of the whisky wasn’t over-powering, but was a lovely warming addition.  The closest thing to a criticism that I could get out of Craig was that it was quite rich, which is hardly a major issue, it just means you can’t wolf the whole thing down by yourself.

Chocolate & whisky charlotte

Serves 6-8
Adapted from La Popote des potes and Larousse des desserts

I used a charlotte dish because I had one, but I’m sure that a large soufflé dish could be used.  I used 12 year anCnoc whisky, a single malt from Aberdeenshire which is quite light and has notes of honey and fruit.  Use your favourite whisky, or whichever whisky you think would best go with chocolate.  This is a very rich dessert, so I wouldn’t recommend serving it after a heavy meal!  What is wonderful about it though is that it can be prepared in advance (although remember that it does contain raw eggs) and kept in the fridge until ready to serve.

Ingredients

For the lining:
Sponge fingers (the amount will depend on the circumference of your dish – we used about 18)
80ml water
100g caster sugar
60ml whisky

For the chocolate filling:
310g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
185g unsalted butter
8 egg whites
5 egg yolks
50g icing sugar
6 tbsp whisky
Chocolate shavings to decorate (optional)

Directions

1.  Mix the sugar and water together in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and allow to boil for about 5 mins to form a syrup.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Once fully cooled, stir in the whisky.

2.  Dip the non-sugar-coated side of a sponge finger into the syrup and place standing up in the charlotte dish, with the sugar-coated side facing outwards.  Repeat with the rest of the sponge fingers until the sides of the dish are fully lined.  If there are gaps between the fingers, pour a little bit of whisky syrup into the bottom of the dish and allow to soak up into the base of the fingers, before carefully squashing them together to close any gaps.  You may need to add a few more fingers – none of them should be able to move from side to side.

3.  Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmer water, until a smooth chocolate mixture has been achieved.  Remove from the heat.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites into firm peaks.  As they begin to firm up, add the icing sugar and continue to whisk for a few minutes.

5.  Stir the egg yolks and whisky into the chocolate mixture, before folding into the egg whites with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Pour the mixture into the prepared charlotte dish, cover with a lid (or tin foil) and refrigerate for at last 4 hours until set.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings before serving.

Enjoy!

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Of penguins and porridge

I have serious issues with the Scottish weather.  This isn’t a new development, far from it, but I was particularly reminded of this over the weekend.  At the beginning of March, we had beautiful weather (and in fact at the end of February too, since I managed to end up with a sunburnt nose whilst fieldworking) – granted it wasn’t 25°C let’s-hit-the-beach-in-our-bikinis weather, but it was still warm enough during the day to swap my boots for ballet flats.  This is a major thing for me, because I get cold really easily.  The weather last week was a bit iffy – mostly sunny during the day, with a few unexpected rain showers in the evenings, but the main issue was the cold wind (and associated occasional horizontal rain).  St Andrews is coastal, so it tends to be quite windy anyway, but there were several days where walking down the street felt like you were participating in some sort of wind tunnel experiment.  Consequently, not only did I have to switch back to boots, but I spent most of last week sporting what can only be described as a bit of a macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) hairstyle.  In case you don’t know, this is what a macaroni penguin looks like (from National Geographic Stock):

I know, I know, it’s a HOT look.  Though I didn’t have the yellow-and-black thing going on (how impressive would it be if the wind could do that?!), just the crazy side tufts.  And this is coming from somebody whose hair is usually always at least a little bit messy, and accepts it as such.  So anyway, despite the macaroni penguin hair, at least it was still mostly sunny.  Now I know it can’t be sunny forever, but it’s very nearly officially Spring, and I was quite a fan of this whole it’s-getting-warmer-let’s-pretend-it’s-nearly summer thing.  However, the weather clearly had other plans, because the temperatures dropped and it rained the entire weekend.  In true Scottish style, we were treated to every possible kind of rain – fat rain, misty drizzly rain, sideways rain, etc.  I even got caught in some upwards rain at one point (apparently Scottish weather hasn’t got the hang of gravity yet).  Oh and it briefly hailed, too.

This return to wet, wintry weather resulted in a sudden craving to have porridge for breakfast.  This happens to tie in rather well with this month’s Breakfast Club, hosted by Taste Space, who has chosen the theme “Whole grains.”  I hadn’t really decided what I wanted to do for the challenge yet, but porridge fits the bill perfectly, because guess what?  Porridge oats are whole grains, hurrah!  I get the impression that “Whole grains” were chosen because they are healthy, and we were probably supposed to come up with a healthy breakfast, which this might have been, if I hadn’t been slightly over-enthusiastic with the quantities of honey and whisky that I added the first time I made this (resulting in a great start to the day!).  Oh well.  It’s still whole grain-based.  And whisky is made from barley, and that’s a whole grain, too…  So ya, heather honey and whisky porridge – whole grains all round!  Oh and it’s yummy, too – it’s still raining (torrential at the moment) so I made it again for breakfast today (with slightly more sensible quantities of everything, as in the recipe below).

Heather honey & whisky porridge

Serves 1
Adapted from BBC Food

You could use clear honey and spiced rum instead of the heather honey and whisky.  Or any other combination of flavours.  I suppose the whisky (or rum) is optional, but why wouldn’t you want to add it?  I used Glenfarclas 10 year, because I think it tastes a bit like fruitcake, and I decided that was appropriate for breakfast.

Ingredients

40g porridge oats
2 tbsp double cream, plus extra to serve
200ml whole milk
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp whisky
1 tbsp Scottish heather honey

Directions

1.  Add the oats, cream, milk, sugar and whisky to a small saucepan and simmer over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally (always clockwise if you’re a purist.  Before you ask, I have no idea why.) until thickened to your liking.

2.  Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, stir in the honey and drizzle a little bit of extra double cream over the top.  If you like your porridge really sweet, sprinkle a pinch of brown sugar over the top.

Enjoy!

PS – Dear Scottish weather, could you please stop raining now?  Thanks ever so much.  Yours, etc., M.

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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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