Tag Archives: White chocolate

Bleu-blanc-rouge pour le 14 juillet!

We had a potluck party last night to celebrate various happenings at the lab.  The original excuse was somebody being accepted into a PhD programme, but since one of my labmates recently handed in, we added that as a further excuse.  And then “oh, it’s French national day on Sunday?  Let’s celebrate that, too!”  So a Woohoo PhD/no more PhD/Bastille Day party.  Sacré bleu, what an excellent idea!

Macarons tricolores 1

As the lab’s bona fide French person, I wanted to do something relevant to Bastille Day, something French.  I was considering madeleines, a particular speciality of mine, and always a popular offering.  But then I realised that it’s been a while since I made macarons…  And then it hit me: I could make blue, white and red macarons like the French flag, aka macarons tricolores!  So one blue shell, a white filling and a red shell.  I think that qualifies as suitably French.

Macarons tricolores 2

I used a white chocolate ganache for the filling.  I was originally going to add Amaretto, but discovered that we didn’t have any, so I used Frangelico instead.  It was a delicious alternative.  I thought that making two batches of shells would be terribly time-consuming, but actually I was able to make the blue shells whilst the red shells were setting and they then set whilst the red shells were baking.  So actually it worked out rather well.  I didn’t work the blue batch for quite long enough which is why nearly all the blue shells ended up with nipples, which irritates my perfectionist side, but doesn’t affect the taste.

Macarons tricolores 3

The macarons were a hit and definitely a fun way to celebrate le 14 juillet (Bastille Day).  Everybody loved the whole French flag thing, as well as the taste (most important).  Now get your berets on* and have a marvellous 14 juillet.  Maybe even let off some fireworks (if that’s legal where you are).

Super keen French Mel

Yup, super keen French person, right here.  Cocorico!  (That wasn’t last night by the way, but a few weeks ago when France played the All Blacks at Eden Park.  France lost.  Quelle surprise.)

Macarons Tricolores

Makes about 80 small macarons (so about 160 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

Obviously making two colours of shells is totally optional, but it does make these macarons fun, and is actually not as time-consuming as you’d expect.  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’re best 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:
150g room temperature egg whites
270g icing sugar
180g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
Red & blue food colouring paste or gel (optional)

For the ganache filling:
40g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g white chocolate
30g Frangelico or Amaretto

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1.  Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare two piping bags with plain round piping tips of the same size (if you only have one, you can wash it in between the two batches of shells, but make sure to dry it thoroughly).

2.  Split the egg whites evenly between two large mixing bowls.  If you can’t get it exactly evenly, adjust the proportions of all the other ingredients according to the weight of the egg whites.

3.  Blend half of the icing sugar (135g) and half of the ground almonds (90g) together (don’t skip this step!).  Sift them through a medium sieve into a bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

4.  Make the French meringue by whisking the one of the bowls of egg whites into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding half the caster sugar (50g).  Add a few drops of the red food colouring gel to the mixture just before the end and mix well to get the shade of red that you wish.

5.  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.

6.  Transfer the mixture to one of the previously prepared piping bags and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 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.

7.  Leave the shells 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.

8.  Whilst the red shells are setting, repeat steps 2-7 with the remaining shell ingredients, but this time add blue food colouring to make the batch of blue shells.

9.  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 one red and one blue shell up by size.

To make the ganache filling & assemble:
10.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the chocolate (broken into pieces) and the Frangelico.  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?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to thicken on the countertop (or in the fridge if absolutely necessary – if it’s taking too long or not setting).

11.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a 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.

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

Enjoy!

*I’m allowed to stereotype because I’m French.

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Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits

I’m afraid that I’ve rather neglected the We Should Cocoa blog challenge over the last few months – another victim of my general disorganisation and just that whole life thing.  I had planned to sneak back into the challenge last month, with a knock-your-socks-off mango and chocolate twist bread (the special ingredient was “mango“).  I was, however, thwarted by my general inability to successfully work with yeast, and the bread came out a complete failure.  So much for that plan.

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits 1

We Should CocoaThis month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Victoria of A Kick At The Pantry Door, and she has chosen the marvellous ingredient of “mint“.  I have always been a fan of the truly fabulous combination of dark chocolate and mint, and was a champion Bendick’s Mint Crisp and After Eight snaffler as a child (and totally not still as an adult, ahem).  Luckily, this month I actually have an entry to send in, in the form of some rather scrumptiously adorable crème de menthe and chocolate sandwich biscuits.  Which I realise is quite a wordy recipe title.

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits 2

These biscuits go in for a double chocolate whammy – there’s cocoa powder in the biscuits themselves, and the filling in the middle is white chocolate based.  I know that white chocolate and mint can be quite sickly, but it’s only a thin layer, so actually it works, balanced by the cocoa powder in the biscuits.  The mint flavour is quite subtle, which I like.  The original recipe referred to them as wafers, but I feel that suggests that they’re quite crisp, whereas actually they’re more on the chewy side of the biscuit spectrum.  I love the little holes in the top biscuits – I think they’re rather cute.  I’d wanted to use a fluted cutter so that the holes would be all pretty and scalloped, but discovered that I didn’t have one small enough.  Next time!

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits 3

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits

Makes 45-48 sandwich biscuits
Adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies

If you don’t have any crème de menthe (or don’t want to use alcohol), you can also use peppermint extract, though in lesser quantities, particularly in the filling – taste as you go.  The biscuit dough can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for up to three days, or frozen up to three months.  To freeze the biscuit dough, form into a log, wrap in baking paper, followed by tin foil and seal in a ziplock bag or airtight container.  You might need to cut the log in two to fit.  The finished biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Ingredients

For the biscuits:
225g caster sugar
190g all-purpose flour
70g unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
200g unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp crème de menthe

For the filling:
150g white chocolate
1-2 tsp cream
1 tsp crème de menthe

Directions

To make the biscuits:
1.  Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and stir together.  Rub in the butter with your fingers.

2.  Mix the milk and crème de menthe in a glass or ramekin.  Whilst mixing the sugar mixture with an electric whisk, pour in the milk mixture.  Mix until the dough clumps around the beaters.  Knead for a few minutes with your hands to make sure it is evenly mixed.

3.  Spread a 50cm piece of baking paper or tin foil out on the work top.  Roll the biscuit dough into a 40cm long log of about 4cm in diameter.  Wrap in the baking paper and twist the ends.  Refrigerate for at least 1h until firm.  The dough can be refrigerated for up to three days, or if keeping for longer, it can be frozen up to 3 months.

4.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/fan 155°C.

5.  Once the dough is ready, slice into 4mm slices and space them at least 2cm apart on the prepared baking trays.  Refrigerate any slices not going straight into the oven.  Bake for 12-13 mins (they will puff up in the oven and are ready about 1½ mins after they’ve deflated again).  Using a bottle cap (a wine screw cap works excellently – I found that beer caps were a bit more difficult to get a grip on.  An apple corer would also work in a pinch) cut a circle in the centre of half of the biscuits.  Leave the cut-out centres in until cool – take care as the biscuits are quite fragile.  Remove the biscuits to wire racks to cool fully.

To make the filling & assemble:
6.  Once the biscuits are completely cooled, prepare the filling.  Break or chop the white chocolate into small pieces and add to a heat-proof bowl with the cream.  Melt together over a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Once the white chocolate is smoothly melted, remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the crème de menthe.  Don’t worry if the chocolate seizes up.

7.  Spread about ½ tsp of the filling onto each of the base biscuits and top with one of the biscuits with a hole.  Allow to set before serving.

Enjoy!

PS – The raw biscuit dough is really quite tasty.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Alcoholic sunshine in a cupcake

Baking with SpiritFalling off the blogging radar (i.e. – not really having time to blog) means that over the last few months, I haven’t been participating in the various blogging challenges that I usually join in with.  One of my favourites is Baking with Spirit, hosted by Jan over at Cake of the Week.  (Would saying that it’s my favourite make me sound like an alcoholic?)  After missing several challenges, I was all set to participate last month – I’d set aside time and had recipe ideas and everything – but had forgotten to consider that crème de framboise might be a little difficult (read: nigh on impossible) to come by in rural NZ.  After that total fail in planning on my part, I was terribly excited when this month’s alcohol of choice turned out to be “Limoncello.”  I love the stuff.

Woohoo, I'm back to Baking With Spirit!

I actually don’t know if limoncello is any easier to find in rural NZ than crème de framboise, but I circumvented the issue by making my own over the weekend (and I’ll post the recipe soon).  Yesterday was the birthday of one of my labmates so I had her round for dinner and decided that limoncello cupcakes would make an excellent celebratory end to the meal.  Lemon cupcakes with limoncello drizzled over them after baking (you wouldn’t want any of it to bake out…) and topped off with a cream cheese and white chocolate icing (with limoncello added, of course) and all washed down with a small, digestive glass of limoncello – now that’s a great way to bring some sunshine into what was a cold and tempestuously grim weather day.

Alcoholic sunshine in a cupcake

This post actually should have gone up yesterday evening, but the aforementioned foul weather won out and we were treated to a powercut for most of the evening (though thankfully not until after dinner had been cooked), so my plan to blog (or do anything else requiring electricity, like… writing a thesis) had to be abandoned.  Instead, we huddled under blankets, polished off a few more of these cupcakes and drank limoncello and G&Ts by candlelight.  Hopefully my late entry will be forgiven – sorry Jan!

This is what we were missing during the powercut: daylight.

Limoncello cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes
Cupcake recipe adapted from The Great British Bake Off
Icing recipe slightly adapted from Domestic Sluttery

I used home-made limoncello, which isn’t too sweet, so these have a very lemony flavour, but this may vary depending on the limoncello that you use.  I just went for simple two-tone icing to fancy the cupcakes up a bit, but they can also be decorated with lemon zest or white chocolate shavings (or both).  They are best eaten the same day or the next day, but will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.  Whilst not super alcoholic (by my standards), do remember that none of the alcohol gets baked out in this recipe, so perhaps not ideal for children.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
1 lemon
100ml whole milk
125g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
200g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
About 90ml limoncello

For the icing:
Yellow gel food colouring (optional)
150g cream cheese, softened
35 ml limoncello
150g white chocolate

Directions

To prepare the cupcakes:
1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C.  Line a muffin tray with 12 paper cases or set out silicon muffin moulds.

2.  Zest and juice the lemon and set aside, separately.  Stir ½ tsp of lemon juice into the milk and set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk the butter with an electric whisk until creamy.  Add the sugar and lemon zest and whisk together until light and fluffy.

4.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs together with a fork.  Add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tbsp at a time, whisking well after each addition.

5.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl and stir together.  Fold ⅓ of the flour mixture into the butter with a large metal spoon or a spatula, followed by ⅓ of the milk mixture.  Alternate adding the remaining thirds of flour and milk mixtures, and on the last addition fold together until nearly incorporated.  Add 3 tsp of lemon juice and stir well.

6.  Spoon the batter into the prepared paper cases or silicone moulds.  Bake for 25-28 mins until golden and the tops are just firm to the touch.  Allow to cool for 2 mins in the tin or moulds before turning out onto a wire rack.

7.  Whilst still hot, poke holes in the top of the cupcakes (I like using pointy chopsticks for this) and spoon about 1½ tsp of limoncello over the top of each cupcake – do this slowly so that a maximum amount of limoncello soaks into the cupcake rather than running over the top and down the sides.  Allow to cool fully.

To prepare the icing:
8.  Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, prepare the icing.  If you want to pipe the icing onto the cupcakes (as opposed to spreading it over), prepare a piping bag with your chose piping tip (I used a Wilton 1M tip).  If you want two-tone icing, paint three stripes of yellow gel food colouring up the inside of the piping bag.  Set the piping bag in a tall glass (this will make it easier to fill) and set aside.

9.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and limoncello until smooth.

10.  Melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl), stirring regularly until the chocolate is smooth.  Add to the cream cheese and whisk together until the icing is smooth.  Either spread the icing over the cupcakes with a knife or transfer to the prepared piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes.

Enjoy!

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White chocolate sloe gin cupcakes

I’ve already submitted an entry to this month’s Baking with Spirit blog challenge, but I’m going to be a little over-eager and submit a second one.  “Gin” is the spirit of choice this month, and well, if you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed that I have a bit of a thing for gin.  In fact, Janice, the host, very kindly mentioned this fact in her challenge post – I felt rather honoured at being lauded as a baking-with-gin expert.  The flip side of that is that I wanted to come up with something worthy of such praise.  The Leiter Fluid macarons are rather fabulous (if I do say so myself) but I’d already been planning on making them anyway for Skyfall’s NZ release.  I wanted to make something specifically for Baking with Spirit.

I’ve been rather busy and stressed out so I didn’t think I’d actually have enough time to make something in the end.  However, I had a bit of a super crappy day on Tuesday, and when I got home, I knew I had a date with my oven.  It’s an electric oven, so nobody panic.  I meant a date to bake with it and thus de-stress, just to make that clear.  Awkward.  Soooo anyway, moving swiftly on…  I decided to make some white chocolate sloe gin cupcakes since I bought a bottle of sloe gin on a whim (it was on sale…) a few weeks ago but it was still unopened.  A situation that obviously needed rectifying.  And rectifying with panache, obviously, accompanied by a Sloe Gin & Tonic.

There are three steps to this recipe.  The cupcakes themselves, which I based on my white chocolate and hazelnut “naked” cupcakes, are pretty basic – they’re just white chocolate cupcakes.  The fancy-pants part of the cupcakes starts with the hidden ganache centre, an idea I borrowed from my knock-your-socks-off Cointreau-filled Masquerade Black Tie cupcakes.  Ganache, incidentally, is a great way of getting a good dose of alcohol into cupcakes or any other baked goods.  The cupcakes are then topped off with a white chocolate and cream cheese icing which includes a little extra dash of sloe gin, because one might as well go the whole hog.  I made the icing swirly, just because I could.  And it looks pretty.

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest – these cupcakes aren’t the lightest cupcakes you’ll ever eat and they’re also pretty high on the sugar front.  They are not cupcakes for eating every day, unless you’d like to land yourself in a more or less permanent sugar coma.  But for a one-off or a special occasion, they’re rather phenomenal.  The sloe gin goes marvellously with the white chocolate, though it does make for a rather sweet combination.  They’re also suitably sloe gin-y since none of the sloe gin that goes into these cupcakes is baked off – it’s all in either the ganache or the icing.  And that, my friends, is the secret to making alcoholic cupcakes like a pro.

White chocolate sloe gin cupcakes

Makes 14 cupcakes
Cupcakes adapted from Saved by Cake
Ganache by Sharky Oven Gloves
Icing adapted from Home Bake

Just a warning in case you’ve skipped the preamble, these are quite alcoholic and very sweet.  Do use a good sloe gin, whether shop-bought or homemade, since the flavour comes through pretty strongly, particularly in the ganache.  Colouring the icing is obviously optional, but it makes it fun.  You could also colour the ganache if you wanted – add the colour once the chocolate has fully melted as this will help you judge the colour better.  Any leftover icing can be stored for a couple of days in an airtight container in the fridge.  These are best eaten on the day, but will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box – like most cupcakes, they are best eaten sooner rather than later though.

Ingredients

For the cakes:
300g white chocolate
100g unsalted butter
180g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the ganache:
40g double or whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g white chocolate
40g sloe gin

For the icing:
55g white chocolate
150g cream cheese, softened
75g unsalted butter, softened
2-3 tsp sloe gin
375g icing sugar
Red food colouring gel or paste (optional)

Directions

To make the cakes:
1.  Set out 14 silicone cupcake moulds on a baking tray or line two cupcake/muffin tins with liners.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C.

2.  Break 200g of the white chocolate into pieces and add to a heatproof bowl with the cubed butter.  Gently melt together over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring often (make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl as white chocolate can burn very easily and keep an eye on the mixture).  Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate and butter are smoothly melted together.

3.  Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining chocolate and set aside.  Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a medium bowl, stir together and set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until the mixture is smooth, thickened and creamy.  Whisk in the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate mixture.  Add the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula until just combined.  Finally, fold in the chopped chocolate.

5.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake moulds or liners, not filling the liners more than ¾ full.  Bake for 20-22 mins until risen, golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow to sit in the silicone moulds for a couple of minutes for the cupcakes to firm up a little before removing and them and transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

To make the ganache:
6.  Whilst the cupcakes are baking, make the ganache.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces) and the sloe gin, mixing 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?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool fully.

7.  Once both the cupcakes and ganache are fully cooled, use an apple corer to hollow out a hole in the top of each cupcake (make sure not to go through the bottom of the cupcake).  Fill a piping bag (or zip-lock bag with a corner cut off) with the ganache and fill each hole with the ganache (the piping bag makes it way quicker and is also easier to do neatly).

To make the icing:
8.  Break the white chocolate into pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (again, make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl as white chocolate can burn very easily and keep an eye on it). Once smooth, remove from the heat and allow to cool whilst preparing the rest of the icing ingredients.

9.  Prepare a piping bag with the tip of your choice (I used a Wilton 1M large star tip).  If you want the two-tone icing effect, paint three stripes of the red food colouring gel up the inside of the bag.

10.  Add the cream cheese and butter to a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until smooth.  Add the room temperature white chocolate and sloe gin and beat until smooth.  On a low setting, whisk in the icing sugar in several additions (this helps to avoid an icing sugar cloud).  Add a few drops of red food colouring to get the colour you want and whisk until the colour is uniform.

11.  Transfer the icing to the prepared piping bag and pipe big swirls on top of the cupcakes.

Enjoy!

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Cocktail in a Macaron: Mojito

A friend who came up to visit from Wellington about ten days ago asked if I could show her how to make macarons when she was here.  Of course I agreed – it may be a little time-consuming, but I do love making macarons.  We just had to decide what flavour to go for.  Which, considering the near-endless possibilities when it comes to macarons flavours, wasn’t quite as straightforward as it might sound.  We wanted something colourful and for some reason green kept popping into my head, which I kept associating with mint.  And suddenly it struck me: mojito macarons!  Of course!!

There’s something so summery and refreshing about mojitos, and I love them.  They taste like they should be sipped on the beach or by the poolside, whilst on holiday.  It’s not the first time that I’ve made mojito-based baked goods – I made mojito cupcakes a while ago (which, incidentally, I thoroughly recommend if you’re also a mojito fan).  And I’ve actually made mojito macarons before, about a year and a half ago, but with a buttercream-based filling rather than the white chocolate ganache that I used this time.  The buttercream version was just a little too sweet when combined with the already sugary shells, so between the two I much prefer the ganache version.

My initial mojito macarons were made with bright minty green shells since half the fun of macarons is being able to make them all colourful, but it actually looked rather garish and I wasn’t happy with them (one of the reasons I never blogged about them).  I tried swirly shells for the first time when I made kir macarons a few weeks ago, and I loved the swirly shells so much that I decided that I wanted to try them again for these macarons.  The swirly idea turned out to be the perfect way to make the shells colourful without being lurid, and I really think it’s just the right amount of green.  What do you think?

I must confess that I totally forgot to add lime to the ganache.  I was so focused on the mint that the lime just completely slipped from my mind (woops).  So I’d suggest adding the zest of a small lime and about 1 tsp of juice to the ganache to make it more mojito-like, although despite the omission the macarons still tasted just like a mojito (albeit a rather sweet version) and felt all summery whilst we wait for summer to get its skates on and hurry over to the southern hemisphere…  I’m fed up of winter!

After my friend had left to go back to Wellington, packed off with a little box of macarons and the knowledge of how to make more, I looked up the blog challenge themes for this month.  Imagine my pleasant surprise when I read that the theme for this month’s We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at the Chocolate Log Blog, is “cocktail-inspired” – a special theme chosen to celebrate two years of the challenge.  Happy birthday to We Should Cocoa!!!  Mojito macarons clearly fit the bill perfectly – the ganache is made of cocktail, white chocolate and cream – so I’m submitting them.  I then discovered a new blogging challenge started by Janine at Cake of the WeekBaking with Spirit which this month involves baking or cooking with “rum.”  I’ve already entered my banana, hazelnut and spiced rum upside-down cake but I’m also going to submit these macarons since they involve white rum which is just so different to spiced rum (no kidding).

Mojito 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 by me

Whilst I forgot to add lime, it would make these even more mojito-y.  I’d suggest adding the zest of a small lime and 1 or 2 tsp of freshly-squeezed lime juice to the ganache at the same time as the rum, and decreasing the quantity of rum so that you’re only adding 40g total of liquid (excluding the cream), otherwise the ganache will be too liquidy to set.  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’re best 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:
Green food colouring paste or gel (optional)
100g room temperature egg whites (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Raw sugar or golden granulated sugar, to decorate

For the ganache filling:
Small handful of fresh mint leaves (about 4-5 sprigs or 10g)
40g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g white chocolate
40g white rum
2 drops mint extract (optional)

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1.  Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain round piping tip.  Brush two or three lines of food colouring up the inside of the prepared piping bag (this might be a bit messy.  I did three stripes, so if you want your shells to have slightly less green, then just paint two stripes).

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 into 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.  Sprinkle the shells with the raw sugar and leave the shells 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.  Remove the mint leaves from their stalks if necessary, and finely chop.  Set aside.

9.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces), the rum and mint extract 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?).  Once smooth, stir in the chopped mint leaves.  Allow the mixture to thicken in the fridge (or freezer if necessary).

10.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a 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.

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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White chocolate & hazelnut naked cupcakes

It appears that I’m going through a hazelnut phase at the moment.  I’m not sure why – perhaps my vestigial Northern hemisphere-oriented seasonal body clock is attempting to convince me to ignore the bright little clumps of daffodils that I pass on my way to and from uni by distracting me with hazelnuts and other such nutty, autumnal flavours because we’re coming up to September and said body clock thinks it should be autumn soon, not spring.  Or perhaps I toast hazelnuts in largeish batches so that I always have toasted hazelnuts available for use straight away when I bake and may have been a little overenthusiastic with the amount of hazelnuts that I toasted on Sunday such that they didn’t all fit into my designated toasted hazelnut jar (don’t judge) so I clearly had to bake with the overflowing ones.  Perhaps there’s an element of both…

Either way, I baked with hazelnuts this weekend.  More specifically, with white chocolate and hazelnuts.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d borrowed Marian Keyes’ Saved by Cake from the library.  One of the recipes that caught my eye was for white chocolate and macadamia nut cupcakes which she suggests can also be made with hazelnuts.  It sounded like an excellent way to sort out my minor toasted hazelnut over-abundance issues.  And indeed the cupcakes turned out wonderfully.  Now I realise that they don’t look like much, but oh boy are they scrumptious, and in fact their “nothing special” look makes tasting them an even more delightful surprise.  The combination of white chocolate and hazelnuts works fantastically well.  The white chocolate flavour subtly permeates right through the cupcakes and the hazelnuts intersperse it with a lovely toasted nutty flavour and also give a great crunch which keeps the cupcakes texturally interesting.

I’m also aware that they don’t look too much like cupcakes – one generally expects cupcakes to be topped off with great big swirls of icing.  Or even small swirls of icing.  But these are icing-less.  The original recipe doesn’t feature icing, and I’d initially thought that I might add some white chocolate-based icing, but when I tasted the cupcakes I realised that icing of any sort would probably just be too much and overpower them.  I was going to call them “muffcakes” since they look rather like muffins due to their lack of icing, but still have the texture of a cupcake.  Then I realised that that sounds like something else entirely – I haven’t looked it up on Urban Dictionary, but I don’t particularly want to.  So I’ve called them “naked cupcakes” instead.  Which I’m not sure is much of an improvement but it does sound slightly classier.  I’m just going to stop talking now and share the recipe.

White chocolate & hazelnut naked cupcakes

Makes 15 cupcakes
Adapted from Saved by Cake

To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell fragrant (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using.  These cupcakes will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box, but are best eaten sooner rather than later and are perfect for an afternoon tea break.

Ingredients

300g white chocolate
100g unsalted butter
100g toasted hazelnuts
180g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1.  Set out 15 silicone cupcake moulds on a baking tray or line two cupcake/muffin tins with liners.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C.

2.  Break 200g of the white chocolate into pieces and add to a heatproof bowl with the cubed butter.  Gently melt together over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring often (make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl as white chocolate can burn very easily and keep an eye on the mixture).  Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate and butter are smoothly melted together.

3.  Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining chocolate and the hazelnuts and set aside.  Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a medium bowl, stir together and set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until the mixture is smooth, thickened and creamy.  Whisk in the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate mixture.  Add the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula until just combined.  Fold in the chopped chocolate and hazelnuts.

5.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake moulds or liners, not filling the liners more than ¾ full.  Bake for 20-22 mins until risen, golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow to sit in the silicone moulds for a couple of minutes for the cupcakes to firm up a little before removing and them and transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

Enjoy!

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Cocktail in a Macaron: Kir

If you read my Sunday Smiles post, then you already know that today’s post features swirly-shelled macarons.  You also know that these macarons are my entry to two different blog challenges…  The random letter for this month’s AlphaBakes challenge, which is being hosted by Caroline Makes, is “W” and upon reading that, I immediately thought of white wine.  This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Choclette at the Chocolate Log Blog, and she has chosen “blackcurrant” as the special ingredient, which are very much not in season here at the moment.  This was minorly problematic for all of about ten seconds until I my eyes settled on my bottle of crème de cassis, which is a blackcurrant liqueur.  White wine and crème de cassis…  The stars have aligned and I have been presented with a kir…  Recipe challenge win.

I’m not sure how well known kir is outside of France.  Phil from As Strong as Soup correctly guessed that today’s macarons involve crème de cassis (well done Phil!), and also mentioned kir in his comment, but I gather he’s spent a fair amount of time in France, so he might have a bit of an advantage.  I feel that kir royale – champagne with crème de cassis – might be a little better known, and kir is basically its forebear (I think).

Now kir is technically supposed to be made with Bourgogne aligoté (a Burgundy made with aligoté grapes), but I doubt it’s particularly easy to find outside of Burgundy, and so I’ve always made do with whatever white wine I happen to have.  Incidentally, if you’ve got some white wine that’s a little past it’s best or that perhaps didn’t taste as wonderful as you expected, adding some crème de cassis vastly improves matters (there are limits however…  Wine so much past its best that it’s turned to vinegar or Tesco Market value “wine” are both far beyond the help of crème de cassis).  I was a little heavy-handed with the crème de cassis when I was made the one in the photos (woops…), so it’s not usually quite as dark.

So far, I’ve found that best way to transform a cocktail into baked goods is in the form of macarons…  I might even go as far as saying that it’s one of my specialities.  Kir macarons were a no-brainer, and I knew since the beginning of July exactly how I was going to make them, right down to the swirly shells, and the exact proportions of the ganache – I went with a white chocolate base (which also starts with W – do I get bonus points for AlphaBakes?) and a 1:2 ratio of crème de cassis to wine – but I just had to find the time.  I love macarons, and I enjoy making them, but they are time-consuming.  I finally tried them this weekend though, and boy were they worth making the time for.

I was a little nervous because this was the first time I’ve tried macarons in my oven here, but they worked well.  The feet could have been a little more developed, but that’s more of a macaronnage issue than an oven issue – I guess my technique is a little out of practice.  I’m really happy with the swirly effect though – I’d never tried it before, and I love how they turned out!  I’ll definitely be playing around with that again.  The white wine flavour is more of a very subtle undertone and doesn’t quite cut through as much as it would in a kir, but that was a deliberate choice on my part since I love the flavour of crème de cassis.  If you want more wine flavour, you can just adjust the ratio of the two alcohols to your personal taste.

Kir 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

These are quite strong on the crème de cassis flavour – if you’d prefer a stronger wine flavour, then just adjust the ratio of crème de cassis to wine, ensuring that the total amount of alcohol doesn’t exceed 45g max (otherwise the ganache really won’t set).  The macaron shells and the white chocolate in the ganache are already very sweet, so choosing a wine that will cut through the sweetness is ideal.  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’re best 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:
Purple or pink and blue food colouring paste (optional)
100g room temperature egg whites (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar

For the ganache filling:
40g double cream
150g white chocolate
30g white wine
15g crème de cassis
Purple or pink and blue food colouring paste (optional)

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1.  Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain round piping tip.

2.  Mix together a little bit of pink and blue food colouring paste in a small ramekin to get the shade of purple that you want (or just use purple food colouring paste).  Brush three lines of food colouring up the inside of the prepared piping bag (this might be a bit messy.  Purple hands are totally hot though, so no need to worry.  I forgot to take a photo before filling the piping bag, but you get the idea from the photo below.  If mixing your own colour, keep what’s left for the ganache if you want the same shade of purple.  The swirls are totally optional, but it just adds a bit of colour to the macarons, and it’s also kind of fun.)

3.  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.

4.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.

5.  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.

6.  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.

7.  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.

8.  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:
9.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces), the white white wine, crème de cassis and a few drops of purple or pink and blue food colouring paste (the food colouring is optional, but adds a bit of fun colour), and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Allow the mixture to thicken in the fridge (or freezer if necessary).

10.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a 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.

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

Enjoy!

PS – Apologies for the super long and rambly post…  Well done if you made it all the way to the end!!

 

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Zoosday Tuesday: Pufferfish cake pops

Considering my general enthusiasm for Christmas in my last post, it would be reasonable to expect today’s Zoosday Tuesday post to feature some Christmas-related animal, like reindeer or something.  But no, today’s post features…  Pufferfish!  Ya, I know, a bit of a curve ball, right?  Or a puffed-up, spiky ball might be more accurate.  Many times over the course of last (academic) year, Kat was my partner in crime when it came to baking and trying out new recipes.  But we haven’t baked together since Graduation at the end of June (being in two different towns makes that a little difficult…) and I’ve really missed it.  So when I went up to St Andrews a few weeks ago to visit her, we decided to rectify that and bake together again.

Obviously, we didn’t pick something straightforward to make.  Oh no.  I’d had the idea of pufferfish cake pops a few weeks previously, so that’s what we decided to attempt…  We had great fun mucking around and creating a general mess (well ok, so I created most of the mess and Kat cleaned up after me.  This is why we make such an awesome baking team – though I clearly get the better deal).  Neither of us had made cake pops before, so we more or less made it up as we went along (with lots of taste-testing along the way, obviously…), but that’s how we’ve always baked together, so nothing new there!

We faffed around quite a lot whilst making the cake pops and then got distracted by James Bond (helloooo Daniel Craig) and a fair amount of wine, so it took us two days to make them but I think they turned out rather cute.  Before anybody comes out all smart-arse and points out that pufferfish aren’t that colour, I’ll just say that there are at least 130 known species of pufferfish.  These are blatantly the very rare orange-spiked pufferfish (which is clearly not a species that I’ve just made up, ahem).  So anyway pufferfish cake pops, definitely a success!  And unlike most pufferfish, these aren’t poisonous, which is always a bonus…  They also happen to taste delicious.  Hurrah!

Pufferfish double chocolate cake pops

Makes ~24 cake pops (we ate quite a few before they reached cake pop stage)
Cake recipe adapted from SquirrelsLarder

Making cake pops does take a while since there are several stages that involve waiting for things to cool, chill or set, but you can leave them to cool/chill/set for quite a while as you go about your business and fit the cake pop making process around it.  We chose to make the cake because home-made cake is always better, but you can just use shop-bought cake and crumble that up if you want to save some time.  Although I’m giving directions using an electric whisk, you can make these entirely by hand as well.  I know, because that’s what we did.  Since making these, I have read that adding some Crisco (or other vegetable fat product) helps to smoothen the chocolate coating.  We didn’t use any so I can’t tell you for sure whether this works, but if you do try it, let me know!  We found that this video gives a useful overview of how to make cake pops, so if you’ve never tried them before, watching it might help to visualise some of the stages.

Ingredients

For the cake:
175g unsalted butter
175g brown sugar
3 large eggs
150g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
1 tbsp water (optional)

For the cake pops:
200g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g white chocolate
Caramel food colouring gel
Black food colouring gel

Directions

For the cake:
1.  Butter two 20cm sandwich cake tins (or one larger tin if you don’t have two – it doesn’t matter too much since the cake is going to be crumbled once it has been made).  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Using an electric whisk, beat the sugar and butter together in a large bowl until well mixed.  Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl with a fork then mix into the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time (if the mixture curdles, add about 1 tbsp of the flour and continue mixing until smooth again).

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into the mixing bowl and fold into the butter and sugar mixture.  If the batter seems too thick, add some of the water, but this depends on the batter (we didn’t need to add any).

4.  Split the batter between the two sandwich tins (or pour it all into the larger tin), smoothing the tops with a spatula.  Bake both on the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean.

5.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the cake pops:
6.  As the cakes are cooling, making the buttercream icing.  Whisk the softened butter and icing sugar together in a medium bowl using an electric whisk (be prepared for a minor icing sugar explosion).  Add the vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth and fluffy.  Set aside about 4 heaped tbsp of icing in a small air-tight box, ziplock bag or small bowl with a cling-film cover and refrigerate.

7.  Once the cakes have cooled completely, crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl.  A good way of doing this is by rubbing the two halves of each cake together (watch this video for a demonstration).  Add about half of the buttercream icing to the crumbled cake and mix together (the easiest way is to just use your hands).  Once mixed, add some more of the icing and continue mixing.  Continue adding buttercream icing until the mixture binds together enough to roll into balls.  Add any remaining buttercream icing to that which has already been set aside.

8.  Roll the cake mixture into small balls (ours were a little smaller than golf balls – we were making these in St Andrews, you can’t seriously be surprised at our choice of comparison) and place on a baking tray.  Put the baking tray in the fridge for a few hours until the balls have hardened a little (we left them overnight).

9.  Once the balls are set, melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Add a drop of chestnut food colouring gel and mix well.  Remove the  cake balls from the fridge.  Dip the pointy end of a bamboo skewer into the melted chocolate and insert into one of the cake balls (don’t poke it all the way through to the other side – ⅔ of the way in is good).  Dip the cake ball into the melted chocolate and gently roll until coated.  Allow the excess to drip off before sticking the skewer in a piece of styrofoam or in a tall glass (or cupcake stand – the important thing is that the cake pop isn’t in contact with anything).  Repeat for each cake ball.  Allow all the cake pops to fully set (this may take a few hours).

10.  Dip a toothpick into some black food colouring gel and gently dab it around the top of the cake pops to make little black spots (look at the photos to get an idea).

11.  Remove the buttercream icing from the fridge and remove about 1 heaped tbsp into a small bowl.  Add a drop of black food colouring gel and mix until the colour has been fully incorporated.  Add a tiny bit more if necessary to get the colour that you want.  Transfer the dark grey/black icing to a piping bag prepared with a thin round tip.  Pipe the eyes and mouth (use the photos as a guide).

12.  Transfer the remaining buttercream icing to a different small bowl.  Add a drop of the chestnut food colouring gel and mix well.  Add more if you’re not happy with the colour (but remember to only add a tiny amount at a time).  Transfer to a piping bag with a slightly thinner round tip than used for the eyes and mouth.  Pipe tiny spikes over the top and sides of the cake pops (again, refer to the photos as guides).  Then pipe the fins as little triangles built outwards over each other.  Try and make sure that both fins are at the same level on the cake pop (this can be quite difficult – having somebody to hold the cake pop steady for you is a great help.  Thanks Kat!!).

Enjoy!

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Manly moustachioed Movember cupcakes

As you may know, last month was Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a disease that I feel that most people (in the developed world) are now aware of (though whether they do anything about it is another matter entirely).  Whilst it is, of course, important to raise awareness of breast cancer, there are plenty of other cancers that are hardly spoken of, but really should be.  Have you heard of Movember?  If so, marvellous.  If not, then it’s a campaign that revolves around men’s health and aims to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancers in particular (which are the two most common male-specific cancers in the UK), but other cancers and health issues, too.  I feel that this is an excellent cause, especially since men seem to be notorious for not going to see the doctor when they probably should (based on the men in my family), so the more awareness the better.

Aside from being an important cause, what I also really like about the Movember awareness campaign is they’ve made it fun and different.  The idea is that men who want to take part in raising awareness grow a moustache for the month of November (Moustache, November, Movember.  See what they did there?) and get sponsored to do so in order to raise money which goes towards men’s health charities (I think the charities are country-specific).  It’s fun, it’s different, it’s interactive (sort of).  Excellent.  Now, for obvious reasons, I haven’t grown a moustache for Movember (that would be a newsworthy feat indeed…  And rather worrying), but I’ve gone for the next best thing…  Manly cupcakes with moustaches!  Obviously (because the photos totally hadn’t given that away already).

Now I realise that “manly cupcakes” are a bit of an oxymoron, since cupcakes are supposed to be all cute and everything.  When I first came up with this idea, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to make the cupcakes manly, short of adding bacon to them (which I have actually seen recipes for).  Bacon was out, so what other ingredients could I use?  Beer.  Beer is manly (clearly there’s no stereotyping going on here whatsoever…).  Guinness is very manly.  And I know that you can bake with it because I’ve eaten chocolate Guinness cake before and it was tasty, so chocolate Guinness cupcakes were clearly the answer, adorned with chocolate moustaches for Movember (because clearly that makes them so much manlier).  Sorted.  They turned out rather delicious, if I do say so myself.  They’re wonderfully moist and although you’d expect the combination of chocolate and Guinness to be heavy, they’re surprisingly light.  They were even given a Manly Seal of Approval by Craig (though considering that the last baked goods I gave him were pink Rose Martini macarons, these were highly likely to be deemed manly in comparison…).  So here we go, manly moustachioed cupcakes for Movember!

Chocolate Guinness cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes
Cakes adapted from My Baking Addiction
Icing adapted from Home Bake

Don’t be put off trying these if you don’t like the taste of Guinness, because it’s a subtle flavour that blends perfectly with the chocolate rather than coming through outright and overwhelming the cupcake – trust me, because I really don’t like Guinness as a drink, but I love these!  The chocolate moustaches are a fun decoration, but have a slight tendency to droop a little if the cupcakes are left out somewhere warm, so it’s best to add them at the last minute before serving, or to keep these cupcakes in a cool (but not cold) place.  If you don’t want to make chocolate moustaches, you could just use chocolate sprinkles or a dusting of cocoa powder to finish them off.

Ingredients

For the cakes:
330g all-purpose flour
300g caster sugar
65g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
375 ml of Guinness (or other stout)
120 ml milk
120 ml organic rapeseed oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
150g sour cream
100g dark chocolate chips (optional)

For the cream cheese icing:
50g white chocolate
200g cream cheese, softened
100g un-salted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
450g icing sugar

For the chocolate moustaches:
A few squares dark chocolate (at least 70%)

Directions

To make the cakes:
1.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.  Line two muffins tins with 24 cupcake liners, or set out 24 silicone muffin moulds on a baking sheet.

2.  Into a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda, and mix them together.

3.  In a separate large bowl, whisk together the Guinness, milk, oil and extract (using a hand whisk, not an electric one).  Gently whisk in the eggs, one by one, followed by the sour cream (it might start of lumpy, but it will smoothen out, I promise).  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients gradually by adding a little at a time (I started off whisking then switched to a wooden spoon when the mixture thickened a little).  Stir in the chocolate chips (optional).

4.  Spoon the mixture into the liners or moulds, taking care not to over-fill them (the mixture will be quite wet).  If you added chocolate chips, most of them will have promptly sunk to the bottom, so bear this in mind and try to scoop some into each liner or mould.

5.  Bake for 25 mins, until the cupcakes have risen and are set in the middle, but still soft.  Allow to cool in the tins before turning out and icing.

For the icing:
6.  Whilst the cakes cool down, prepare the icing.  Melt the white chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).  Remove from the heat and allow to cool down to nearly room temperature.

7.  In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese and butter together using an electric hand whisk.  Once smooth, beat in the white chocolate and vanilla extract.  Mix in the icing sugar a little at a time (unless you’d like a humungous icing sugar explosion), until the icing is fluffy and smooth.

8.  Spoon the cream cheese icing into a piping bag with a large round tip and pipe icing swirls over the tops of the completely cooled cupcakes.

To make the chocolate moustaches:
9.  Line a baking tray or tin with some baking paper.  Melt a few squares of chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate is smooth, and allow to cool a little.  Spoon the chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip and pipe out the moustache shapes (if the chocolate is still too hot, you’ll feel it through the piping bag – please don’t burn yourself!).  Allow to harden before carefully peeling off from the baking paper and placing on top of the cupcakes.

Enjoy!

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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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