macarons

Macarons are in, now, right? Those little French meringue based biscuits with creamy fillings inside, they’re everywhere. Big ones. Eensy little ones. Flavours from vanilla to chocolate to pistachio to bubblegum and creme brulee. Vegemite macarons, for Pete’s sake!

la belle miette

Macarons are delicious. Macarons are also expensive, especially if you go to a fancy little French place like La Belle Miette for your macarons (or are lucky enough to have someone treat you to some for your birthday.)

chocolate and vanilla

This is why you should make your macarons. I know the macaron is billed as a very difficult little cookie. However, with practice, a good eye and an excellent scale, you should be right. Especially during the holidays, when you have so much free time.

pb'n'j

I use Bravetart’s recipe and fill mostly using differently flavoured buttercreams. You may also want to check out eat.live.travel.write and the excellent step-by-step photography there, or Bravetart’s macaron myths and commandments.

close up

easter bunny macarons

Well. It is Easter.

I have a bit of a fetish with macarons. I tend to have these loves; in 2008/9/part of 10 it was cupcakes, cupcakes galore; any kind of miniature cake that could be decorated and cute, I fell for. Now it’s macarons. I’ll get one if they’re available with my coffee, I drool over the rows and rows in Larent Boulangerie Patisserie and the Lindt Chocolat Cafés. I read about the best methods to make them, I dream about them. I dreamt about these ones, actually; piping the little ears on weird, bright pink carnival colours. Strange dreams, I have sometimes.

I got the idea for these from raspberri cupcakes, who makes the most amazing macarons, really, but I decided to take the recipe from Secrets of Macarons by Jose Marechal, for no reason whatsoever except that I had it on hand and I couldn’t be bothered printing out the recipe.

I’m still a macaron baking newbie; a lot (and by a lot I mean probably most of them) of my bunnies have cracked faces or bums. But they taste delicious. And they are cuter than a button.

Easter Bunny Macarons

Adapted from Secrets of Macarons by Jose Marechal

100g almond meal

100g hazelnut meal

200g icing sugar

75ml water

200g caster sugar

2x80g egg whites (that’s 160g egg whites in total, about six eggs’ worth)

Food colouring, if desired

For the decoration; I used blue and white muisjes balls for the eyes and noses, which are Dutch aniseed sprinkles. You can just as easily use silver cachous or white sugar balls for the noses, and edible marker pen lines for cute smiling eyelids or eyes. Chocolate sprinkle whiskers and white chocolate chip tails.

For the ganache:

200g dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped

200ml cream

50g butter

Sift the ground nuts and the icing sugar together and set aside.

Bring the caster sugar and water to boil and keep boiling until the mixture reaches soft ball stage, 105-115ºC, if you have a sugar thermometer, which I don’t. When the sugar is almost ready, start beating 80g of the egg whites in a stand mixer. When it makes soft peaks, add the hot sugar and water in a thin stream while still beating.

Continue beating after all the mix has been added for about ten minutes, to cool it down. (This is the Italian meringue. If you want to add colours, like I did, add them now. I added about half a capful of pink food colouring.)

While this is beating, combine the rest of the egg whites with the ground nuts and icing sugar. Incorporate about a third of the Italian meringue in, to loosen the batter, then fold the rest in gently. Whatever you do, don’t over mix the macaron batter. When it’s ready, it should be kinda like thick pancake batter; a spoonful dropped back on the surface should disappear in about thirty seconds.

Preheat oven to 150º. Line two baking trays with non-stick paper and pipe 3cm rounds of batter. Make sure you leave enough room to pipe bunny ears on half of them.

Rap the trays on the benchtop and let them set for about half an hour, in which time you can decorate them (i.e., put faces and bunny tails on them. If you don’t have white chocolate chips, you can wait until after you’ve incorporated the Italian meringue into the rest of the batter to colour the mix, and before you put pink colouring in, take out about a half cup of mixture to pipe onto the bums.)

Bake about 14 minutes, and gently place the baking paper on a damp benchtop to make it easier to remove the shells.

For the ganache: bring the cream to boil, then pour it over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Cool down a little, then whisk in the butter. Keep at room temperature and pipe onto the bunny bums; sandwich with the heads and show off to all your friends.

mango tree

Sometimes, when life’s just crapping all over you, you just have to bake.

Sometimes, it’s so bad, you can’t do much. Honestly, all you want to do is sit back and eat the thing, not slave over a hot oven in humid Melbourne summer weather for something that may not work anyway.

So. Today was that day.

If you remember how to make lemon curd, make it. If you still have some left over from last time, like me, aren’t you lucky? Yep, you are.

Now take 125gm cold butter (I use salted, that’s just my preference) and chop it roughly into cubes. Put 1 2/3 cups of flour into a food processor and while it’s going, add in the butter. When it’s just about in a ball, turn it out and knead it into a ball. Refrigerate it for about 20 minutes and then roll it out on the same floured surface. Cut little circles out and put them into a patty cake tin, prick the bottoms with a fork and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes. Let them cool and then fill them with that lemon curd.

If you have leftovers, I suggest you make a lemon meringue pie like I’m going to. Just put the rest of the rolled out shortcrust pastry in a little springform tin, blind bake for oh, 20 minutes maybe? Fill with lemon curd then make meringues (also like last time) except not as much. Pile it on and bake in a 200°C oven for maybe ten minutes. Not entirely sure. I’ll let you know how mine turns out.

Hope your day was better than mine. If not, listen to this and you’ll feel better.

sugar, baby

I like to cook to music. Today I made scones, lemon curd and meringues, all from the Masterchef Cookbook (Volume One – from the first season. The first season in Australia, I should add. I couldn’t find a copy in Amazon OR on the official website, so it’s just a link to the website at the moment. Sorry!) I am a huge sweet tooth, in case you couldn’t tell – for instance, meringues, for you poor unfortunates who live under rocks, are basically sugar and egg white.  I think that the egg whites are there to make the sugar stand up on it’s own two feet, because basically it’s just SUGAR, all the way.  But that’s ok.

Back to the cooking to music – for my scone lemon curd meringue marathon (well… ) I listened to The Cat Empire’s So Many Nights – I feel that TCE (apart from being my favourite band in the world) make the best music for cooking to. I have yet to find someone who can best them for getting me upbeat when I’m down, as well. I am a big comfort eater, I have to admit, but cooking and music always cheer me up. In fact, for dinner I had one of my favourite (savoury) comfort foods: poached eggs. Thanks to Kickpleat over at Everybody Likes Sandwiches for the perfect way to poach eggs.

Happy January 2.

Buttermilk Scones

I used buttermilk instead of milk in this recipe because I had it on hand and also, I think it gives a great taste. However, I added more than the recipe called for because it was too dry. Just add as much as you feel is right without you having to overwork the dough – the death sentence for scones. Also, I like to cut my scones into triangles, because then you don’t have to re-roll the scraps.

Makes 6-8 largeish triangle scones

2 1/2 cups s.r. flour

30g butter, room temperature

1 cup buttermilk

milk to brush over

jam and cream, to serve. or butter and jam. or lemon curd, below.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper. Sift the flour from a height into a bowl and rub the butter in. Make a well and add the buttermilk; cut in with a knife. Turn the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead together. Flatten into a large disc shape and cut with a sharp knife into six or eight triangles. Alternatively, you could cut circles out with a cookie cutter; use a rolling pin if you like, but I don’t like to make more dishes than I need to. Place onto the baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes. (The recipe suggested 12-15; I checked at twelve minutes and put them in for another eight. Use your discretion and your knowledge of your oven.) Serve with any or all of the above suggested accompaniments.

Lemon Curd

I would probably add more lemon juice than I did today; I didn’t have many options, our tree only just squeezed out three lemons as it was. However, I do suggest you use home-grown lemons. If you don’t have a tree yourself, ask around, they tend to hide in people’s backyards. Or side yards.

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

3/4 cup caster sugar

1/4 tbsp cornflour

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

juice of 3 lemons

125g butter, chopped

Whisk together eggs, yolks, sugar and cornflour until sugar has dissolved. Whisk in zest and juice then place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (half a lemon in the saucepan will mean that the water doesn’t leave any discolouration on your pan) without letting the bowl touch the water. Stir in one piece of butter at a time, waiting until it melts before adding the next piece; the curd is done when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. I find it useful to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl at intervals. It should look like a large, sunny egg yolk. Very large. Cool and spoon into a wide-mouthed jar, package up with a gingham square and a pretty label and give to your neighbour as a gift.

Meringues

This was part of a larger recipe for Aussie Mess, based on Eton Mess – add cream and seasonal fruits and a coulis, and voila! Pudding. Or dessert, as we Aussies would say. I piped them into large nest-like shapes, to be piled with cream and berries; I’ve also seen tiny meringues served at a café with the hot drinks. Very cute.

6 egg whites

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 120°C and line two large baking trays with non-stick paper. Beat the egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form; add sugar gradually (very gradually – you don’t want grainy bits. Let the sugar dissolve.) and beat until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Pipe or spoon onto prepared trays and place in oven for five minutes. Reduce heat to 100°C and bake a further 45 minutes.