More and More Salted Caramel Macarons

Is it even possible to be drowned in macarons of your own making?

Possibly.

Especially in my household, where I have gone wild with macaron making, and churned out a factory load. Salted caramel anyone?

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Of course, having not made them for a while, I had a few slip ups along the way. I based this on the Pierre Hermé recipe, which is wonderful, but I had to make a few adjustments based on what I had available. Instead of coffee extract I added a few drops of caramel flavouring to the macaron batter, and added some brown food colouring to prevent the macarons looking too garishly yellow.

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Don’t get too ambitious about the caramel. I thought I would try and get it as dark as I could, but just ended up burning it. The second batch, made more cautiously, turned out much better.

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I really wanted a few flowers to decorate these photos, one of the sad times when I wish I still had a garden. Instead I slipped out in the rain to the nearest park, and picked a few wild blooms to scatter. I think it makes quite a pretty, albeit short-lived effect.

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I think I have to resign myself to the fact that my flat has a pretty crap oven. The heat just doesn’t distribute evenly enough. My macarons look pretty, and taste lovely, but are exceptionally delicate, and certainly can’t be transported anywhere. With a bit more temperature/time adjustment, oven tray manipulation, door acrobatics and perhaps simply a new oven I’ll figure a way around it. In the meantime, there are these to be eaten, and plenty too!

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Lemon Curd Macarons

When I first moved into the new flat, I was thankful to find out that it could bake a cake perfectly well. Then I got a hankering to bake macarons again; it had been a year since my last batch and wouldn’t it be a great test for the oven?

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They flopped, badly. I had used my hitherto almost foolproof recipe, so was aghast when I opened the oven to see some very sorry specimens, covered with cracks, and not a foot to be seen. I baked a second batch and found exactly the same problem had occurred. Third time lucky? No chance.

So I attacked the box of eggs, stocked up on ground almonds and icing sugar, and prepared to get to the bottom of what was causing my macarons to fail. After a lot of trial, error, cursing and using up approximately 15 eggs in 2 days, I think I’m getting there. Thanks A, for eating a 9 egg yolk omelette.

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Firstly, humidity levels are higher by the sea. I’ve needed to rest the macarons for much longer in order to get the shells to dry out.

Secondly, I’m getting used to using a gas oven for the first time. I’ve noticed the macaron shells brown on the bases far more quickly than they used to, and this makes sense given that the main heat source is coming from below. However, this extra burst of heat is also causing the shells to crack on top too.

So here’s what I did.

To counteract the humidity, I tried to dry out my icing sugar and ground almond mixture as much as possible by putting it in the airing cupboard overnight. Then whilst resting the trays of macarons, I left all the windows open to increase the air flow through the house to dry them out. It took around 40 minutes of resting compared to my usual 15 minutes.

Then I doubled up the baking trays in the oven to reduce the excessive amount of heat coming up below the baking macarons. I then adjusted the oven to sit between Gas Mark 2 to 4 to see which held the greatest level of success. Gas Mark 2.5 turned out to be the winner.

The remaining flaw with these macarons is they still have the dreaded hollow shells, which I am going to continue to work on in my next batch!

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I was so busy at trying to get perfectly risen macarons that I had barely even considered what they would be filled with. In the end, I stuck for a sweet and tangy homemade lemon curd. This was roughly based on the Pierre Herme recipe in my Macarons book. I’ve included a quick recipe for this below.

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Tangy Lemon Curd

Mix together two egg yolks and 1 whole egg, 125g caster sugar, and the zest and juice of two lemons. Whisk gently in a bowl sat over a pan of simmering water, until thickened. Then sieve the curd, and blitz in cubes of 100g lightly salted butter until smooth with a handheld blender.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I’ve discovered that I can’t seem to make macarons in my current oven. Mega sad face. I’ve made several cracked pied-less batches but I can’t quite figure out what I am doing wrong here, or what exactly is the difference between my old oven and this one.

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On the other hand, I have had a lot more success with cakes. I decided to bake a batch of cupcakes to cheer myself up with the failed macaron attempts, and used some cute new polka-dot pattered cases.
DSC_0457I decided to try out a new recipe for meringue icing from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet. Although I freaked out slightly at the part where I had to cook egg whites and sugar in a saucepan, it was suprisingly easy. An extra bonus is I find this creamy buttercream far more palatable than the traditional half butter to icing sugar kind.

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I didn’t have my usual star-shaped nozzle to hand so splodged the buttercream on with a plain tipped  one instead, and had a bit of fun with the mini gummy sweets…

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I wasn’t totally happy with my icing technique, but A took some photos where they do look very pretty in their sweet swirly glory. Plenty of practising still needed, and considering the wedding cake I’ve been comissioned for has turned into cupcakes, there will likely be many many more cropping up onto this blog in the next coming twelve months. So be prepared for cupcakes galore!

A Housewarming Cake

So, I’ve finally become an adult.

Hahaha, who am I kidding?

I have however moved into my first non-student flat ever, as well as sadly bidding farewell to rent-free days chez parents. Despite tearing my hair out in stress over all the admin associated with moving house, I seem to still be in one piece in a new place.

First impressions? Mixed, but it always takes me a while to settle comfortably into a new place, so not too worried about that.

Of course, whenever I move anywhere new, the oven’s gotta work. Ours is pretty old, runs off gas (all my recipes are in centigrades, noooo) but I’ll get used to it.

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So I baked this – a coffee and walnut cake. It isn’t the prettiest of bakes but it’s just so tasty. The buttercream is luxuriantly rich, silky smooth and not too sweet. The perfect foil to a soft, slightly squidgy sponge cake. Apologies for phone snap, I didn’t have my camera handy (ahem, forgetful packing).

Now that there’s only two around, I think it’s probably time to get out my smaller cake tins again. I’ve not made a 15cm cake for a while, and it looked absolutely weeny, but it certainly ekked out plenty of portions (as well as using up a hefty block of butter!).

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Adapted from Poires au Chocolat

For the cake:

  • 110g unsalted butter, softened
  • 110g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • milk

For the buttercream:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 60g granulated sugar
  • 60ml water
  • 150g lightly salted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso powder mixed with 1 tbsp hot water
  • toasted walnut halves, chopped into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 15cm cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one, followed by the espresso powder. Then fold in the flour and add just enough milk to loosen to dropping consistency. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin then bake for around 20 minutes, then drop the oven temperature to 170˚C and bake a further 15-20 minutes until the top is springy and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool, then unmould and slice into two halves.

In a mixing bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks until broken up. Heat the sugar and water in a small pan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Boil until it reaches the soft ball stage, then slowly pour the syrup onto the egg yolks, whisking all along until completely combined and creamy in colour. Whisk until room temperature, then slowly add in the softened butter, bit by bit, whisking as you add each batch until thoroughly combined. Finally whisk in the dissolved espresso powder.

Sandwich the cakes with half the buttercream, and spread the remainder on top.

Nutella and Clotted Cream Tart

I confess I’ve been quite distracted lately. Oh the stresses of a house move! Piles of cookbooks, scattered on the carpet, and a disconcerting realisation of just how much bakeware I own. Driving hours down motorways, finding a parking spot in a maze of “permit-holder only” streets. Knowing I won’t be getting my own until reams of paperwork have been filled, signed and stamped.

This is one of the last things I baked before the move.

A sheet of vanilla-scented shortcrust pastry, forgotten in the freezer. A jar of nutella, sneaky spoonfuls taken out. Clotted cream, left behind from scone-making. Toasted hazelnuts, waiting in a glass jar.

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Let’s say this was a success story in the use of leftover ingredients again.

The tart is a riff on a bakewell tart, but nutella takes the place of jam, and I’ve made a vanilla scented sponge using clotted cream in the place of butter. Fact: clotted cream is a fab butter substitute, and no softening required! Next time I think I would add ground hazelnuts to the cake batter for even more hazelnutty flavour, and drizzle some melted chocolate over the top.

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Nutella and Clotted Cream Tart

  • shortcrust pastry to line 25cm tart tin
  • 2 tbsp nutella
  • 120g clotted cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 125g self raising flour
  • hazelnuts, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line the tart tin with shortcrust pastry and bake for around 20 minutes until lightly coloured. Spread the base of the tart with nutella and set to one side.

Beat the clotted cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour together into a smooth batter. Spoon over the nutella and smooth the surface. Decorate the top with hazelnuts. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is springy. Leave to cool and serve warm or cold.

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Lots of goodbyes this week and adieus to friends, family, faithful running routes, local cats and the garden! I’ll be back.