Macarons

Macarons can be the stuff of nightmares. A single streak of unmixed meringue in the batter can cause the entire batch to crack, unsieved ingredients can make the macarons go lumpy and bad luck can ruin an entire tray for even the most competent baker. That being said, if you can master the art of making macarons, you can succeed at almost anything in the kitchen.

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These orange macarons were some of the best I have made (although the feet are a little more frilly than I would normally want.)

One of the most distinctive elements of a macaron is its foot. Observing the foot of a macaron can give you a good indication of how it was made. Both oven temperature and mixing techniques affect its formation. The foot should be even all the way around, either completely vertical or with a light outwards bulge, and have lots of small pockets of similar sizes. If the foot goes over the top of the shell (giving a cracked appearance), your batter is not mixed evenly; if the feet bulge massively outwards and appear as more of a skirt, you have over mixed your batter. If your macarons are consistently not developing feet, allow them to dry longer before baking as the formation of a skin over the top of the shells will encourage rising from the base of the macaron, helping with the formation of the feet. The lack of feet can also indicate that your oven temperature is too low and a skirt can indicate the temperature is too high so I would encourage investing in an oven thermometer if you wish to make macarons semi-regularly.

Everyone’s oven is different and macarons are a very good way to discover where the hot spots in yours are. If a single batch of macarons has very different results across the tray, this indicates that there isn’t great circulation in your oven. If you don’t have a fan oven, there isn’t much you can do about this but you can adapt in the future by removing macarons in hotspots early and then baking the rest for another few minutes.

The classic image of a macaron is a brightly coloured shell with a smooth filling. The colour of the shells is often indicative of the flavour. When it comes to choosing flavours, the list of things you can choose is almost limitless. I have eaten savoury macarons, I have eaten sweet macarons and there are a particularly interesting set of flavours in the middle where the macarons are sweet but use traditionally savoury flavourings. One that I tried whilst baking for this post was a rosemary and olive oil flavoured macaron and it was delicious!

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Salted caramel and dark chocolate macarons.

Once you have mastered the basic macaron, you can begin to experiment with different fillings and flavours. Why not use them as decoration on cakes or a dessert? They don’t just have to be a delicacy on their own.

I hope you enjoy baking them and that your macarons come our perfectly every time.

 

Macarons:

2 egg whites

140g icing sugar

65g ground almonds (or almond flour)

35g granulated or caster sugar

Pinch of salt

Gel food colouring

Flavourings (these could be extracts like vanilla or orange, rose water, cocoa, green tea etc.)

 

Ganache filling:

Dark chocolate:

150ml double cream

150g dark chocolate

1 tsp sugar

 

White chocolate:

100ml double cream

200g white chocolate

Flavourings

 

 

 

Place the icing sugar and almonds into the bowl of a food processor and blend for a minute.

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Push the mixture through a fine mesh sieve – this step takes time but is important if you want your macarons to have a smooth, glossy top. Once there is only a tablespoon of bigger chunks of almonds left in the sieve, you can discard these and stop. If you would like to make chocolate shells, replace one tablespoon of the mixture with one tablespoon of sifted cocoa. Use the same technique for green tea shells but with two teaspoons of matcha green tea powder instead.

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The sieved ingredients should have no large lumps.
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These large lumps will be ground down as you force them through the sieve. It just takes a little time and elbow grease to do so!

Add the egg whites to the granulated sugar and salt in a separate bowl and whisk with an electric hand beater until a stiff meringue is formed. You should not feel any grains of sugar if you rub a little between your fingers and you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without anything falling out.

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If you wish to colour and flavour your macarons, use the tip of a knife to add a small amount of gel colour to the meringue. Do not use liquid food dye as it will make your meringues collapse and will also fade in the oven. If you are using a flavoured extract, add a quarter of a teaspoon to the egg whites and beat it in.

Add half the dry ingredients and fold them in.

Once the first batch of dry ingredients starts to mix in, add the rest and continue to fold. Ensure that you use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl as any unmixed in bits of meringue will cause the macarons to crack.

Macarons are surprising forgiving at this stage. You want to keep as much air in during the folding as you have to knock it out again later to get the mix to the correct consistency and this is easier when you have a lighter mix to start with – it will make sure you don’t over mix the batter.

Once the almonds and icing sugar have been incorporated into the meringue, continue to mix until you reach the right consistency. This is when you can lift some batter on your spoon and as you drop it back into the bowl, you can draw a figure of eight with it without the stream of batter breaking. The batter should be thick but still flow a little, any blobs you make on the surface should slowly ink in over about twenty seconds.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Pour the batter into a piping bag and pipe circles of batter about an inch and a half (about 4cm) wide leaving at least an inch (2.5) between them.

Lift up the baking tray and bang the base of it onto the surface ten times. Rotate the tray round so the other side can be banged too and repeat the ten bangs. This will remove air bubbles from the macarons which you will see popping on the surface. You can sprinkle the centre of your macaron shells with sprinkles or something related to the flavour to give a more exciting finish.

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From the top left going clockwise, these shell are for: Plain vanilla, black sesame and white chocolate, orange and chocolate, chilli chocolate, rosemary and olive oil, salted caramel, rose and finally, green tea. The shells are mostly unflavoured.

Place the macarons in a warmish dry place for half an hour to an hour until a skin has formed over the top of them (you can touch the surface of them without it sticking to you).  Some people say this step is optional and I have made macarons before without letting them dry and they did work but the best way to work out if it works for you is practice. Make a couple of batches, leave some to dry and place other straight into the oven and see how they come out!

Preheat the oven to 150°C (gas mark 2).

Place the macarons one tray at a time on the top shelf of your oven for twenty minutes or until you can lift one off the tray without it sticking. If they stick a little, just give them another two minutes and try again.

Once the shells are cooked, let them cool on the tray until you can touch them without burning yourself. Peel them off the baking sheet and place the shells onto a wire rack to cool.

 

To make a ganache filling, heat the cream until almost boiling and pour it over finely chopped chocolate.

Leave for two minutes for the heat of the cream to melt the chocolate and then stir the two together. You can add flavourings of your choice or sugar to the ganache at this point.

Let the ganache cool until it has thickened up to a thick piping consistency and is no longer warm to the touch.

Match up macaron shells of similar sizes in pairs. On one of each pair, pipe a small dollop of ganache and sandwich the two shells together.

Leave the macarons overnight in the fridge so the ganache can set fully and the flavours can meld between the filling and the shells.

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As you can see, the feet did not appear on either the rose, orange or salted caramel macarons. I am still working out why as I need to get used to my home oven again after university.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. For other sweet treats, check out my list of baked goods – last time was a sophisticated chocolate and hazelnut tart – or if you are looking for something a little bit more on the savoury side, why not make yourself a classic bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for another delicious soup – it’s super easy and an absolute classic.

H

Pea Soup

Pea soup is fantastic. Its fresh taste and bright colour make for an amazingly summery dish which is light and silky to eat. The additional effort required to strain the soup is most definitely worth it as it results in a smooth, velvety mouth feel; garnishing with a little herb oil (mint, thyme or garlic work best) gives a delicious, restaurant standard dish for very little extra effort.

Peas have been cultivated for almost 7000 years with records of them reaching back to the 5th millennium BCE in Egypt where they grew in the river delta of the Nile. Over the next few thousands of years, peas slowly migrated all over Asia. By the Middle Ages, the pea had made its way to Europe and nowadays they are everywhere.

The legume family, of which peas are a part, has formed a huge part of the human diet for millennia. From soya and broad beans to liquorice and peanuts, legumes permeate our lives and not just in their edible forms. Pernambuco, more commonly known as brazilwood outside of the classical music world, belongs to the same family as the common pea but is one of the most valuable woods on the planet with top end violin bows (which weigh less than 100g) costing thousands if not tens of thousands of pounds. Pernambuco was so in demand that there are currently severe restrictions on the cutting down and exportation of the wood to let the population replenish after years of over-harvesting.

Retuning from that tangent, there are several different species in the fabaceae family which are eaten; one of the most interesting to me is the butterfly pea. This strain is more known for its flowers than the peas it produces as the flowers are a vibrant shade of blue. They are used in teas along with other foods but the most fascinating thing is that the blue dye contained in them is an indicator. When in the presence of an acid (such as lemon juice) the dye turns from a deep blue to a bright pink. As a result of this, the butterfly pea flower has become incredibly popular in molecular gastronomy and in gimmicky drinks such as blue gin which turns a lurid shade of pink when the tonic is added.

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Butterfly pea flower tea with with lemon (left) and without lemon (right).

The soup recipe below gives a way for the flavour of the pea to shine through. It is very easy to overpower it with stock (a mistake you will make only once) but it is simple to prepare and will wow you and any guests you serve it to. Like any vegetable soup I make, I love to serve it with something bready for dipping. This time, I tried making green onion flatbreads which were delicious but it would probably have been easier to buy some nice sourdough from the local market. I also like to garnish my soups with a little flavoured oil and this time, I infused a little bit of olive oil with garlic and thyme by warming it gently and then letting the oil cool before straining out the solids. The thyme really does lift the soup to the next level!

I hope you like the recipe!

 

 

 

Pea Soup

Serves 4 or 5

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Cost per portion: around 25p

 

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

2 large garlic cloves

1 litre weak vegetable stock (make it up to half strength as you don’t want to overpower the taste of the peas)

500g peas (fresh or frozen)

Pinch of sugar

1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme (optional)

Salt and pepper

 

Thinly slice the onion and place into a large pan with the oil.

Add the garlic and sauté for five to eight minutes until the onion goes soft.

Add the stock and bring to the boil.

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Once the stock is boiling, pour in the peas and cook for two/three minutes – check the peas to see if they are cooked through.

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When the peas are cooked, liquidise in a jug blender or using an immersion (stick) blender.

Strain through a fine metal sieve a cup at a time. Use a spoon to push the blended soup through the sieve and you will be left with a thick mush comprised of the pea skins which can be discarded.

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Season with salt and pepper and serve piping hot with bread for dipping.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you like soup, you should check out my recipes for butternut squash, curried parsnip and red pepper and tomato soups or if you would rather have something sweet, check out my recipe for lemon drizzle cake.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for a delicious apple crumble.

H

 

Lemon Drizzle Cake

When talking about classic cakes you must not forget to mention the lemon drizzle cake. Classy, sophisticated and packed full of tangy lemon flavour, this cake is sure to make frequent (although possibly short lived) appearances in your house. It freezes magnificently and can be defrosted whilst retaining all of its flavour.

The recipe I present below is far more like a Madeira cake than a Victoria sponge; it has the classic crack along the top and a denser texture which I have found holds up better under the deluge of syrup poured on top. Whilst you want the cake moist, you do not want it soggy and although you could use a standard Victoria sponge recipe for the cake mix (check out how to do that here, just replace the vanilla with some lemon zest), the cake can get a little mushy if there isn’t enough of it to evenly soak up the drizzle. An added benefit of the syrup is that if the edges of the cake dry out a little in the oven, they will absorb more liquid and end up just as soft as the rest of it.

Drizzle cakes are quite “in” at the moment. An appearance on the Great British Bake Off in the signature challenge a several years ago created a significant spike in their popularity as it showed that many variations are possible. I have seen bright purple blueberry drizzle cakes, vivid pink raspberry drizzles and even made a gin and tonic flavoured one. Citrus fruits are the safest way to go as the sharpness of the juice contrasts with the sweetness of the syrup giving a balanced flavour but as long as you make sure your drizzle is suitably tart, you should be fine.

Everyone says that their recipe is the best; theirs gives the most interesting and moistest results however yet again, the recipe I use is very similar to the one my mum uses when she bakes lemon drizzle cake and I have never found one that can compare. There is no sugar crust on the top and the syrup gets all the way through the entire cake thanks to the holes poked in before the drizzling commences – which must be done while the cake is hot! This results in a very even spread of syrup with a little more around the edges (but who is going to complain about cake with extra flavour?) Although they are traditionally baked in loaf tins, I like to make mine in a Bundt tin as it gives a beautiful shape to the cake and makes it particularly easy to portion out. It also allows me to turn the cake out onto a plate and give it a thick lemon glaze which does not sink in and gives the cake an appealing finish.

I like to eat my cake with a nice cup of tea during a work break or after a good meal. Let me know when you like to eat your cake be that as a treat or just whenever you possibly can – which is totally understandable and relatable.

Enjoy the recipe.

 

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Prep time:  20 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

 

Ingredients:

8 oz. (225g) butter

8 oz. (225g) sugar

12 oz. (337g) self-raising flour (or plain flour with 3 tsp baking powder)

4 eggs

60 ml milk

Zest of 3 lemons

 

For the drizzle:

Juice of 3 lemons

4 oz. (112g) icing sugar

2 tbsp. Water

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4.

Grease the Bundt tin and line with flour – or use two loaf tins.

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Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the lemon zest and beat again to incorporate.

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Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour after each to prevent the mix from curdling.

Add the rest of flour and beat until combined.

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Pour the mix into the tin(s) and spread out to an even layer. Give the tin a few bashes on the base by lightly dropping it onto a countertop to remove any air bubbles.

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Bake for 45 minutes. If the top starts to brown too much, cover it with foil to prevent it from burning.

 

Remove the cake(s) from the oven and leave in the tins to start to cool.

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Once the cakes have been removed from the oven, heat the drizzle ingredients until a clear liquid is formed.

Use a skewer to make lots of small holes all over the cake(s) ensuring that the holes go all the way to the base.

Slowly spoon the hot syrup over the top of the cake and let it be absorbed. If you are using a silicone mould, you can pull it away from the edges of the cake to let the syrup get all the way to the base.

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Leave the cake(s) in the tins to cool.

Remove the cake(s) from the tin(s) and serve.

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If you fancy, you can always garnish the cake with candied peel or a thick lemon glace icing (made from sifted icing sugar and a small amount of lemon juice).

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This cake goes amazingly well with all sorts of tea and is super moreish. The moist crumb is quite dense but doesn’t go soggy resulting a cake that is both flavourful and a wonderful texture.

For another treat that goes fantastically well with a cup of tea, check out how to make my fluffy buttermilk scones or if you are looking for something a little more savoury, why not make yourself a hearty chicken pie?

 

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with another recipe for a delicious soup – though this one is a little bit more summery!

H

 

Victoria Sandwich Cake

The Victoria Sandwich is possibly the only time where I will promote putting jam on first and then cream. If one is using a buttercream filling, the jam goes on second but when using double cream, as you should for a traditional Victoria Sandwich, the filling is so soft that putting the jam on top of the cream would mean ending up with an awful mess.

The cake, as you may have guessed, is named after Queen Victoria and was created during her reign to celebrate the invention of baking powder. It differed from the pound cake, which was the standard cake at the time, because the Victoria Sandwich was a much lighter cake owing to the addition of a raising agent. A Victoria Sandwich should have cream, raspberry jam and be dusted with icing sugar. In the recipe below, like the recipe from the Women’s Institute, I use a little caster sugar instead.

The cake itself is created using equal quantities of flour, butter, sugar and eggs. It is a very quick and easy cake to bake and, if you are in a hurry, all the ingredients can be placed in a food processor and mixed until a homogenous batter is formed. The only problem with this type of sponge is how sensitive it is to oven times and temperatures. Their sensitivity is so high that they are often used to check ovens and every day before filming the Great British Bake Off, a Victoria sponge would be cooked in each oven to ensure the oven was working properly.

Owing to its simplicity, the Victoria sponge is a fantastic base for many other cakes. It is incredibly easy to adjust to create other cakes – replacement of the vanilla extract with espresso or lemon and orange zest leads to very different but no less delicious sponges. As it is very pale, colouring the batter is simple making Victoria sponge a classic base for rainbow cakes. If you are like me and don’t particularly like chocolate cake, Victoria sponge can be a great way to get your chocolate fix if you replace the traditional cream and jam with chocolate ganache. The cake is sturdy enough to withstand stacking and decorations can be placed on top to make themed cakes, I recently created a Harry Potter Cake!

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As it turns out, fondant wings are quite brittle and don’t always hold up under their own weight! The layers were each coloured with the house colours for Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin

It may be basic but the Victoria Sandwich cake is a classic for a reason.

 

 

Victoria Sandwich

Ingredients:

For a medium sized cake:

170g (6 oz.) butter

170g (6 oz.) oz sugar

170g (6 oz.) oz self-raising flour or plain flour with 1 ½ tsp baking powder added

3 eggs

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

 

For a large cake:

225g (8 oz.) butter

225g (8 oz.) sugar

225g (8 oz.) self-raising flour or plain flour with 2 tsp baking powder added

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

To fill:

150 ml double cream

Raspberry jam

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (160oC).

Butter two eight-inch tins and line the bases with parchment paper. Flour the sides.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add the vanilla extract and beat again.

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Add the eggs one at a time followed by a tablespoon of flour to prevent the mixture curdling.

Mix in the rest of the flour slowly until the mixture is fully combined.

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Divide between the two tins.

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For small cakes, bake for around 25 minutes.

For large cakes, bake for around 35 minutes until a skewer inserted in comes out cleanly and the cakes are beginning to pull away from the side of the pan.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the tine for five to ten minutes.

Take the cakes out of the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.

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Once the cakes have cooled, whip the cream to soft peaks.

Remove the parchment paper from the base of the less domed cake and place it on the serving plate. If it is very domed on top, use a bread knife to level it.

Spread the jam over the top of the cake and then pipe the cream onto that. If you don’t have a piping bag, remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the top cake, spread the cream onto that and sandwich the two halves together.

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Sprinkle a little caster sugar over the top and serve.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe and if the sound of coffee or orange cake tickles your fancy, have a look at my Coffee & Walnut and Chocolate Orange cake recipes! If you are a fan of sweet food, check out my fool proof recipe for meringues of if you are looking for something more on the savoury side, why not make yourself some delicious salmon? Its pan-seared, crispy skin and served with a light and fresh lemon couscous.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with another classic batch cooked meal.

H

Choux Pastry

A common misconception in baking is that it is difficult to make profiteroles or éclairs. This stems from the use of choux pastry as the base of these delicious goodies. Choux is famously finickity and problematic to bake but this is just not true. As long as you follow the recipe, it should work every time!

Unlike most other baked goods, no specific raising agent is used in choux pastry, rather the high moisture content results in a lot of steam being created in the oven which inflates the pastry as it cooks. The reason the flour is added to boiling water when creating the paste is that it starts to cook and the bursting of the starch granules traps even more water which helps the paste to rise in the oven. This leads to a very light shell which is hollow inside and ready to be filled with all the yummy things that we love to eat – cream, chocolate, caramel.

Once cooked, choux buns are surprisingly sturdy and can be stacked up leading to desserts like the stunning croquembouche. These are giant towers of choux filled with crème anglaise or Chantilly cream and held together by melted sugar. They are adorned with webs of spun sugar, glazed almonds and edible flowers and are really something to behold. Much as they are fun to make, I would recommend becoming more familiar with baking choux before you attempt one!

Although associated with French cuisine, the man who allegedly invented choux pastry came from Florence. He worked for Catherine de Medici and left Florence with her when she travelled to France to marry the Duke of Orleans (who later became King Henry II of France). Originally called pâte à Panterelli after its creator, the pastry had several incarnations before arriving at the pâte à Choux we know today. It is called this because of the resemblance of the cooked buns to cabbages (and choux is the French word for cabbage).

I am a massive fan of choux pastry. I first made it a seven or eight years ago and in 2011 (when I was fifteen) made my first croquembouche. Looking back, it was quite an achievement that I came out of that with only a minor burn from the melted sugar so if you do try this yourself, please be very, very careful. Having said that, I made one three years ago in a house where the power failed and I was assembling it by torch light as the sun set because I’m stubborn and don’t learn from my mistakes. Luckily I survived that one unscathed but hopefully when you try making choux pastry, it will be a little less eventful!

 

 

Choux Pastry

 

Ingredients:

100g strong white flour

75g butter

3 eggs

1 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (2100C).

 

Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.

Sift the flour onto a piece of baking parchment.

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Heat 150ml water in a pan with the butter, sugar and salt until the butter is melted and the mixture is boiling.

Once the mix comes to the boil, pour in the flour and beat the mixture over the heat until it starts to form a ball and come away from the sides of the pan – it will look very lumpy and curdled at the start but I promise it will come together.

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Once the paste starts to come away from the sides of the pan, continue to cook it – still beating it – for another minute.

Pour the mix into the flour bowl from earlier (so fewer things are made dirty) and leave the ball to cool for five or ten minutes. You can speed this up by spreading it up the sides of the bowl.

Although you can do the next stage by hand, its far faster to use an electric beater. Add the eggs one at a time – it is fine if the flour mix is still a little warm at this point.

After you have added the eggs, you should have a smooth, glossy, sticky paste.

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Choux paste before the addition of eggs (top left) and after each of the eggs has been added

 

For profiteroles, pipe into circles an inch and a half across (or just dollop it onto the tray if you can’t be bothered with all the posh stuff. If any of the profiteroles have a tip on top from the piping bag, use a damp finger to flatten it out to prevent the tips from burning.

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For éclairs, pipe lines of paste four inches long onto the paper. Remember that they will expand a lot in the oven so space them out by an inch or so!

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For gougères, add some grated cheese to the mix and then treat as you would for profiteroles.

 

Sprinkle the tray with water (not the pastry) and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Try not to open the oven until this time as it will result in the choux deflating before it is finished cooking.

Check that the choux has puffed up, is golden and hard when you take them out of the oven. If not all the puffs are cooked, rotate the tray and give them another few minutes.

Once you remove the pastry from the oven, use a sharp knife to make a small hole in the bottom of each one and place them upside down to let the steam escape.

You can also place them hole side up in the oven for another minute to help dry them out (this is particularly useful when making a croquembouche as the choux buns have to be sturdy.)

 

Gougères are served plain or can be filled with mushroom duxelle (see my beef wellington recipe), or meats like beef, ham or pate.

 

For éclairs and profiteroles,

Filling:

400ml double cream

4 tbsp icing sugar

Vanilla (½ tsp vanilla paste or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)

 

For the ganache:

200ml double cream

250g dark chocolate (chopped)

 

For the filling, whip up the double cream with the sugar and vanilla to just lest than stiff peaks.

Pipe a generous amount through the hole in the bottom of each profiterole/éclair until they feel heavier and start to bulge.

 

For the ganache, heat the rest of the cream until just before boiling and pour it over the chocolate.

Leave for two minutes and then stir until the chocolate has melted and combines to make a glossy ganache.

Dip the top of each profiterole or éclair into the ganache and place onto a tray to set.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you fancy a nice comforting main, check out my recipe for Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne or for another chocolatey dessert, why not make yourself some melt in the middle chocolate fondants?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious stir fry recipe.

H

White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart

One of the essentials in the home baker’s arsenal is shortcrust pastry. This crumbly pastry is quick and easy to make and is so versatile that it can be used in almost any situation. From quiches to pies to tartlets and petite fours, shortcrust pervades the baking world.

Like most things in baking, shortcrust pastry is all about the ratios. Made with twice as much flour as fat, the basic recipe has barely changed in about three centuries. Butter, lard, shortening or full fat margarine are rubbed into flour and then bound with a small amount of cold water. The butter is rubbed in as opposed to being blended which prevents it actually mixing with the flour. The breadcrumb like result is actually tiny bits of flour surrounded by butter which helps prevent the build-up of gluten. This is also why the pastry is kneaded only enough to come together in a ball. If it were kneaded anymore, gluten would build up making the pasty case incredibly tough and unpleasant to eat. The technique also gives rise to tiny bubbles of butter which melt in the oven leaving lots of tiny holes causing the flaky nature of the pastry.

Many variants on shortcrust pastry exist and tend to be used for specific recipes. Sweetcrust is the most common, where a small amount of sugar is added after the flour and butter are combined and the mixture is bound by an egg yolk. This is used in a lot of fruit tarts, tartes au citron and other sweet treats. Chocolate shortcrust is also very popular for, unsurprisingly, chocolate tarts although sometimes, the pastry is used when the filling isn’t chocolatey and all the chocolate flavour comes from the cocoa in the crust.

For my recipe below, the pastry is baked blind before being filled. This is because the fillings are both set in the fridge as opposed to being cooked in the oven. Blind baking requires weighing the pastry down before it is partially cooked to prevent it bubbling up in the oven. The weight is then removed before the pastry finishes cooking so the base can gain a nice golden colour. Other recipes like Bakewell tarts, where the frangipane is baked after it is added to the tart, still require the initial partial bake as this helps prevent liquid from the filling being absorbed by the pastry and causing a soggy bottom.

The white chocolate mousse that I use is very light. It isn’t too strongly flavoured as white chocolate is exceedingly sweet and although it is paired with raspberries which are relatively tart, the main raspberry flavour comes from the raspberry caramel which is also very sweet. To avoid the tart being too sugary to eat, the white chocolate mouse is mild and the texture is light and fluffy which counters the cloying sweetness from below. Decorating the tart with fresh raspberries also helps balance out the flavours.

This tart is stunning to look at – as well as eat – and is sure to make an impact on anyone you serve it to!

Raspberry and White Chocolate Tart

Prep time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 30 mins

Resting time: 2 hours 30 mins

Total time: 4 hours

For the pastry:

225g flour

120g butter

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp water

Pinch of Salt

For the raspberry caramel:

200g raspberries (fresh or frozen and defrosted)

80ml double cream

280g sugar

2 tbsp glucose syrup (or another 20g sugar)

25g butter

For the white chocolate mousse:

200g white chocolate

300ml double cream (split into 100ml and 200ml portions)

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

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Stir through the sugar and a pinch of salt.

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Make a well in the middle and add the water.

Mix together with a butter knife as much as you can and then pour the dough onto a cold surface and knead/squeeze it until all the little bits come together to form a homogenous ball.

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Refrigerate for half an hour – you can reduce this to 15 minutes if you flatten the dough out so it has a larger surface area or put it in the freezer.

Roll out the dough to the thickness of a pound coin.

If you are using a traditional fluted tart tin (as I do in my chocolate and salted caramel tart), place the rolled out dough into the tin and make sure it is smoothed out properly.

If you would prefer to have vertical sides (which I would recommend for this recipe) so the tart is a bit deeper, cut around a 9 inch tin and place the resulting circle in the base of the tin.

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Roll out the remaining dough again into a very long oblong and cut into either one strip an inch and a half in height and long enough to stretch around the inside of the tin or two strips which you can combine to make the sides of the pastry case.

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Wrap the long sheet of pastry around the inside of the tin and use a little water to seal it to the base.

Prick the bottom of the pastry case several times with a fork to prevent it from bubbling up while cooking and then place the pastry back in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C).

Remove the pastry from the fridge. Place a layer of foil over the case and fill it with baking beads – if you don’t have these then you can use rice/beans/lentils or any other heavy dried food. Just remember if you use food instead of baking beads, the food will have to be thrown out.

Place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the case from the oven and take the baking beads out of it before returning the case to the oven for a further 15 minutes so it fully cooked.

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Remove the pastry from the oven and leave it in the tin!

To make the raspberry caramel, blend the raspberries with the cream – if you don’t have a blender, you can use a potato masher.

Strain through a mesh sieve and use a spoon to push as much of the cream through the sieve as possible leaving only a little raspberry pulp behind which can be discarded – you should have just under a cup of raspberry cream.

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The strained raspberry cream is super smooth and yummy.

Place the sugar, glucose syrup and a quarter of a cup of water into a pan.

Place this on a high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Allow the sugar to boil unstirred until it reaches a dark golden colour.

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The bubbles get larger as the sugar syrup becomes thicker and thicker. In the bottom right image, the caramel has started to turn golden.

Pour the raspberry cream into the sugar. BE CAREFUL as this will boil rapidly, steam a lot and possibly splatter a little.

Stir the cream through and add the butter.

Boil this for another three or four minutes to make sure the caramel will set properly.

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Pour the caramel into the pastry until it comes half way up the case. You can reserve a couple of tablespoons of this for decoration if you wish.

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Place this in the fridge for at least an hour or two before you make the white chocolate mousse.

To make the white chocolate mousse, break the white chocolate into a heatproof bowl with 100ml of cream.

Place this in a microwave to melt the chocolate stirring at 30 second intervals. Stop when there is still a little solid chocolate left as you do not want this mix to become too hot and the latent heat in the melted chocolate will be enough to ensure the rest of it melts.

Whip the remaining double cream and fold this into the white chocolate mix.

Pour this into the tart until it fills the pastry case and place in the fridge for at least two hours to set.

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Using the reserved caramel from earlier, pipe lines across the surface of the tart and decorate with fresh raspberries for a professional finish.

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This tart is delicious and the perfect way to round off a meal.

I hope you

Yule Log

To those of you who celebrate, have a very merry Christmas and to those of you who are not Christian, happy holidays! Whether you celebrate or not, one thing that you have probably taken advantage of is the myriad of festive foods which are available at this time of year. Whilst things like Christmas cake and Christmas pudding tend to divide people into the group that likes them and the group which thinks they were created by the devil in the eighth circle of hell, one thing that I feel almost everyone likes is the Yule Log.

The original Yule Logs were not cake. They were, in fact, a carefully selected piece of wood which was burnt around Christmas time. This started around 800 years ago in Europe. It was a huge lump of wood meant to last the entirety of the twelve days of Christmas; the stump left at the end would be used to kindle the log the following year. The stump would be kept in the house and was believed to ward off bad luck and illness.

The modern cake version of the log is a swiss roll masquerading as a tree stump by scratching the icing and often using leaves and berries as decoration. Whilst originally a plain Genoese sponge with a chocolate filling, nowadays you tend to find the reverse; a chocolate sponge with whipped cream inside. This is then slathered in chocolate ganache, buttercream or truffle mixture which is textured to look like bark. It is not uncommon to take a large slice and rest it on top of the log to resemble a branch.

I really like swiss rolls as they are incredibly simple to make. They can be created in 90 minutes and are certain to impress anyone you serve them too. As it uses a whisked sponge, the cake is very light and bakes in a short space of time. Whilst people always make a big deal about how to prevent the roll cracking, the answer is simple: don’t let it dry out! Avoid overcooking the sponge and make sure to place the damp towel over it while it cools. That’s all you need to do!

Although it is traditionally a Christmas dish, this cake is still perfect at any occasion during the year and owing to the speed at which it can be made and assembled, is a very good one to have in your baking inventory.

 

Yule Log

4 eggs

100g caster sugar

60g self raising flour

50g cocoa

 

For the filling:

300ml double cream

¼ cup caster sugar

¼ cup water

2 tbsp Bacardi or other white rum

 

For the ganache:

300ml double cream

300g dark chocolate

50g butter

20g dark brown sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

 

 

Line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment and preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until its thick and creamy (about eight minutes).

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5 vs 8 minutes – the extra few minutes makes all the difference in the thickness of the mix

Sift the cocoa and flour into the beaten egg and sugar and fold together taking care not to lose too much air.

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Before, during and after folding 

Pour into the tin and spread out evenly.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

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Before and after baking

 

While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup.

Heat the sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved and place into the fridge to cool.

Lay out a piece of baking parchment larger than the swiss roll tin.

Remove the cake from the oven and flip out onto the parchment and remove the paper covering the base.

Place a damp tea towel over the cake to make sure it doesn’t dry out!

 

While the cake is cooling, make the ganache.

Heat the cream, vanilla and sugar until the cream is just about to boil.

Pour the cream over the chocolate and butter and leave for three minutes.

Whisk the ganache until everything comes together.

Set aside to cool.

 

Whip the cream to soft peaks – you do not need to add sugar as there is enough in the syrup and cake already.

Add the Bacardi to the syrup.

Remove the tea towel from the top of the cake .

Use a pastry brush to brush a layer of syrup onto the cake – this will help keep it moist and roll properly. You don’t need to saturate it, just give a nice coverage.

Spread the cream onto the cake going up to both long edges and one of the short edges – make sure to leave an inch along one of the short edges to start

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Use the baking parchment to start to roll the cake up. Lift from the short edge (with no cream) and fold the edge over, try not to crack the roll (but its fine if it does start to crack).

Continue to roll up the cake – try to get a nice tight roll.

End with the outside edge on the base so it doesn’t unroll!

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Once the ganache has started to set but isn’t hard – it should hold its shape when a spoon is dragged through it – cover the cake including the ends. The easiest way to do this is by placing lots of small blobs over the cake and then spreading them  out.

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Before and after adding texture to the ganache

Use a fork to make circles on the ends and run it up and down the length of the cake to make it look like a tree.

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This makes a perfect end to a Christmas dinner for those who don’t like Christmas pudding (or have both).

It is an ideal dessert if something goes wrong with your planned pudding as you can make the whole cake from start to finish in 2 hours.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Let me know in the comments if you try it at home or drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you like this and want to keep with the Christmas spirit, check out my gingerbread house recipe. It tastes amazing and looks incredible. It’s a showstopper at any occasion! Alternatively, for a slightly more savoury meal, why not try your hand at making miniature beef wellingtons – a delicious dinner and surprisingly easy to make.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a healthy soup – ideal for a quick lunch and that new year health kick to make up for the Christmas guilt.

H