Macaron Success!

I made macaroons, hooray!

DSC05140

Macarons are notorious amongst the baking community for being really hard to make. I am still in the process of trying to use up annoying random ingredients and saw this as a great way of utilising the ground hazelnuts I optimistically bought whilst holidaying in France.

The first batch of macaroons were distinctly lopsided, thanks to a combination of too-thick macaroon mixture, and an uneven baking surface. Undeterred, I tried again with the rest of the ground hazelnuts, and amidst the exploding shells, I turned out 6 absolute beauties!

I’m so unbelieveably proud of myself, I can’t stop beaming when I look at them. They tasted incredible as well – my favourite flavour has always been hazelnut anyway so they really hit the spot. Intense nutty flavour, crisp shell and chewy middle…yum yum yum. Next time I will play around with ground almonds and food colouring, can’t quite believe I actually made macaroons!

I wasn’t sure what to fill them with – in an ideal world a hazelnut buttercream would be perfect. I had a lot of chocolate so made a rough kind of ganache. It actually worked brilliantly – the bitterness of the dark chocolate really offset the sweet chewiness of the macaroon itself.

As well as baking, I have also been getting my crafty hat on. I’ve been thinking that my Daniel Craig teatowel is a bit wasted for drying dishes, and with the right sewing, would make an excellent apron. So that’s the next project lined up! 🙂

Biscuits and Books

Today I took a short trip towards Piccadilly in search of some fancy biscuits from Fortnum & Mason’s. Battling my way through hoards of tourists, I saw musical tins, boxes of heritage biscuits, chocolate biscuits and rather plain biscuits – but none of them really quite caught my eye. I do like the musical biscuit tins, but I was given one of them for a birthday many moons ago, so I haven’t really felt the need to go and buy another one!

Besides, the best biscuit recipe I’ve ever tried out has been my ever faithful fork biscuit one, thanks to Queen Mary of Berry. It can be found here. 

The joys of biscuit tins notwithstanding, Piccadilly does have another very, very attractive feature. It is in fact home to the largest bookshop in Europe – and it’s huuuge! I certainly had a very good time wandering all FIVE floors perusing at my ease, and I came out with several interesting choices….the great thing about this bookshop is I literally felt like I was browsing on, for instance, Amazon.co.uk – only I was actually able to read all the books immediately, buy them, and take them home straight away. Oh the novelty.

They had a very interesting range of grey-bound books by lesser known female writers, and I just wanted to buy ALL of them. Shame they were rather expensive at £14 a volume, so I left with just one, The Making of a Marchioness by the author Frances Hodgson Burnett – known for writing the popular children’s book The Secret Garden.

Rock cakes – they rock!

DSC06217
I had a Friday moment today, even though it is actually Thursday, and did a spot of baking. Rock cakes are so underestimated as a culinary delight. They are the perfect teatime treat, and easier (frankly) than pie to whip up.

DSC06218

Not to mention that they have that comforting dimension that makes me think of my 9-year old self, curled up by the window wishing I was Mary from The Secret Garden.

DSC06215

As I fancied it, I decided to make a funky variation of traditional rock cakes by incorporating coconut, and giving them a jammy whirl. I love the extra dimension the coconut gives them, but I do have a coconut-hater in the family, and I did make some without. They were just fiiiine.

Jammy Rock Cakes

Makes around 10

  • 8 oz self-raising flour
  • 3 oz butter (add 1/2 tsp salt if it is unsalted)
  • 3 oz caster sugar
  • 3 oz dessicated coconut
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • milk
  • raspberry jam (for this recipe, I prefer using a jam that sets well such as Hartleys)

In a large mixing bowl, rub the flour and butter together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then stir in the sugar and dessicated coconut. Tip the egg in, and gently mix together with a knife until it starts coming together. Add milk, a splash at a time, until it comes all together to form a rather sticky, craggy dough. It’s not as wet as cake mix, but it’s not as dry as bread dough or scone dough. Somewhere in between.

Using a spoon and wetted hands, dollop generous heaps onto a baking tray. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, mould a deep crater in the centre of each rock cake and fill with jam. Don’t be measly with this part as the jam is the best bit of the bun. Make sure your craters are nicely deep and big or the jam will overflow EVERYWHERE.

Stick the buns in the oven at 180˚C and bake until they are just starting to turn golden. Yum!

DSC06219

If you want to make more traditional rock cakes, this is the recipe I use.

Rock Cakes

Makes around 10

  • 8 oz self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 oz butter
  • 3 oz caster sugar
  • 3 oz sultanas
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • milk
  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling

In a large mixing bowl, rub the flour, cinnamon and butter together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then stir in the sugar and sultanas. Tip the egg in, and gently mix together with a knife until it starts coming together. Add milk, a splash at a time, until it comes all together to form a rather sticky, craggy dough. Follow the rest of the instructions as above, but sprinkle the cakes with demerara sugar before baking.

Scrumptious.

Banoffee Pie made complicated

Phew it’s been absolutely boiling this weekend! I’ve had a great time with loads of stuff going on. Firstly we went out for afternoon tea for a friend’s birthday – which was absolutely gorgeous. I LOVED the scones, give me them over cake any day!

I also had a birthday request for a Banoffee Pie!

It was very straightforward, though I made things more complicated by a determination to use up the extra ingredients cluttering up the kitchen. The base was made from an oat biscuit mix, that I baked before blitzing into crumbs. The caramel part was a bit of a kitchen improvisation. I made a caramel by heating caster sugar and muscovado sugar together with some water, and when this started bubbling, added the best part of a packet of butter. Then I realised that by mixing some dried skimmed milk with a little of the caramel, I was making something that seemed remarkably just like condensed milk! So I made a paste from milk powder and caramel, then added this to the bubbling caramel mixture, along with a hefty squeeze of glucose syrup, and heated it gently. It was a bit lumpy with bits of undissolved milk powder and burnt sugar that had caught, so it needed a bit of sieving, but that worked a treat, and I poured it into the biscuit case.

2 bananas were duly sliced and arranged on top, it was left to set in the fridge again, and all that was left was to whip up some cream (I had some frozen away) and sprinkle chocolate on top to finish – hey presto!

The verdict on the pie was excellent. I also noticed that there are a lot of websites telling you how to make condensed milk yourself if you want to give it a go. It looks extremely straightforward and the method very similar to the one I used here.

I picked up some new books whilst shopping today. I really enjoyed reading the Hunger Games, so picked up Delirium, which is also set in a dystopian US society. To my delight, it is part of a trilogy so I’ll be picking the other books up soon! Phew, can’t wait for the next weekend!

Victoria Goose Cake

The Great British Bake Off is back!

I shall be glued to my tv screen every Tuesday for the foreseeable future. How I love this programme.

The most amazing part is how people can produce such incredible creations under such stressful conditions, with the beady eyes of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood watching over. I am the kind of person who has to cook on my own – it goes horribly wrong if somebody is watching!

If anybody is interested in knowing the fate of my poor peppers, they sadly went the same way as the coriander. They continued to grow, got repotted, and then perished. Bah.

So to console myself (and in honour of Queen Mary and King Paul) I baked this cake with a giant goose egg, which resulted in a featherlight, melt-in-the-mouth golden fantastisch victoriakuchen ja? Or perhaps my German is just as appalling as my gardening skills.

DSC04542

Fab Flapjacks

Today, I went to watch the Women’s marathon, and it was awesome! I walked around a bit to get several vantage points, and it was fantastic seeing the Ethiopians taking the lead, and what a wonderful sense of support from the crowd. Truly inspirational!

IMG-20120805-00207

Possibly in light of this, baking this weekend also took on an athletic sort of theme. Athletes like to fuel themselves with things like oats and bananas…so I made errm, unhealthified versions of both. I used the recipe for Butterscotch Banana Loaf in Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet, and it turned out really well.

Then as for the oats, well, I made a big batch of flapjacks. I had no idea until I started food-blogging that flapjacks in the USA are a kind of pancake. This is an intriguing thought, as in the UK, flapjacks are as about as far from pancakes as you can possibly get.
 
It’s essentially a suspension of oats in a thick caramel. Incredibly sweet, rich and moreish. They are undoubtedly a great booster when your energy levels are flagging, though how much healthier they are in comparison with say, a banana, is somewhat debatable.
.
DSC06232