Monday, 13 October 2014

Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches

A few weeks ago, over on instagram, I flippantly asked Erika Raxworthy to come over and bake with me; Erika thought it was a great idea, there may even have been an emoji, a flamenco dancing chica! I hadn't remotely expected my offer to be taken up, so there you go, sometimes you just have to ask. Emails were exchanged, plans were hatched, and a macaron ice-cream sandwich date was set.  

Erika's blog and instagram images are clean, uncluttered and super elegant. In person Erika is super elegant and just lovely; clean too, but that sounds really creepy... We had lots of fun making and shooting the ice cream sandwiches, it was quite warm and things got messy pretty quickly! The images below I took the next day when it was a little cooler, my daughter constructing and all the kids eating! For the shots taken on the day head over to Erika's blog

I made macarons in two flavours, hazelnut and chocolate. I attempted to make shells using coconut meal, laughingly awful, definitely need to overhaul that recipe! If you are making macarons for the first time it will likely be frustrating, but remember they'll taste great even if they are cracked or wonky, have no feet, look like mini erupting volcanoes...Our sandwiches were filled with pre cut and refrozen doughnut shaped discs of ice-cream; firstly because I was worried the shells would crack if we attempted to squish scoops of ice-cream between them, but mostly because I'm a neat freak when it comes to macarons.  It turned out to be completely unfounded from the squishing side of things; my kids made their own after dinner last night, with giant balls of ice-cream, and the shells held up just fine. Neat, no, lots of fun, yes. I'll definitely make these again, they'd be fantastic after a relaxed lunch or casual dinner, a perfect "make your own" dessert. The sweet answer to the taco. 

Hazelnut Macaron Shells

75g egg white (from approximately 2 jumbo eggs)
50g ground hazelnuts (hazelnut meal)
50g ground almonds (almond meal)
100g icing sugar
25ml water

 line 1 large baking tray with baking paper
 combine the caster sugar and water in a small, heavy based pan and set aside
 put the ground hazelnuts, ground almonds and icing sugar in a blender and blitz on the pulse setting for a minute or so • push the nut powder through a sieve into a large bowl, if you have a small amount that won't be pushed through the sieve just toss it out, any more than a teaspoon and it's worth repeating the blitzing stage or embrace it and go for a more rustic macaron
 divide the egg white in half, use scales for this stage, you may need to lightly beat the egg white with a fork to break it up(for 2 eggs I crack and weigh each egg white separately, they are usually a consistent weight, but if you double/triple the recipe I'd weigh once then divide in half) put half in the bowl of a stand mixer, set the other half aside
 over a low heat stir the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves • increase heat to high and bring the syrup to a boil, it's ok to swirl the pan but do not stir (!) • use a wet pastry brush to remove any crystals that form on the side of the pan • check the temperature with a sugar thermometer, you are aiming for 118ºC, but when the temperature reaches 110ºC whisk the egg whites until firm peaks form
 when the sugar syrup reaches 118ºC turn the mixer to low and slowly pour into the bowl, once all the syrup is in, turn the speed to high and whisk until cool
 pour the unbeaten egg white over the nut/sugar powder, tip the meringue on top and using a spatula, mix together in a circular motion, lifting the batter from underneath • this method takes a bit of mixing, the batter is ready when a ribbon of batter falls from your spatula and disappears back into the mix within 20-30 seconds
• use a spot of batter under the corners of the baking paper to stick it to the trays
• fit a piping bag with a 10mm nozzle and fill with the batter • pipe 6cm rounds, about 2cm apart, onto the baking paper, you should make approximately 12  • tap the tray on the bench, turn through 90º and tap again
• preheat the oven to 150ºC while the macarons rest on the bench for half an hour or so
• bake for 22 minutes, lightly push a macaron from the side, if it moves away from the ruffled foot around the base put them back in the oven for another couple of minutes, then check again
• cool on the tray for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack
• pair each shell with a similar sized partner and store in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.
• store unused shells in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Chocolate Macaron Shells

75g egg white
90g ground almonds
90g icing sugar
20g cocoa powder
100g caster sugar
25ml water

follow the method for the hazelnut shells above, adding the cocoa powder to the ground almonds and icing sugar when you blend.

You could stop at simply ice-cream in your sandwich, but who does that? Add what ever you like really, or just make these; salted caramel, chocolate ganache and sour cherry compote. You're welcome :)

Salted Caramel

200g granulated sugar (white sugar)
60ml water
125ml cream
1tsp sea salt flakes

in a small pan combine the sugar, syrup and water 
 stir over low heat to dissolve the sugar  increase heat and bring to boil, do not stir 
 use a wet pastry brush to dissolve any crystals that form on the sides of the pan 
 boil until the caramel is medium amber colour, swirl the pan occasionally but no stirring! 
 remove from heat, add the cream and sea salt, prepare for frantic bubbling, stir until combined 
 return to the heat, stirring continuously for 1 minute
 allow to cool at room temperature
 store unused caramel in an airtight container for up to a month 

Chocolate Ganache

175g of your favourite chocolate, no soft centres
125ml thickened cream

 finely chop the chocolate and tip into a heat proof jug or bowl
• bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan then pour over the chocolate, stir once or twice to ensure the chocolate is covered then walk away
 after 5 minutes stir until smooth, leave to cool and thicken at room temperature
 unused ganache can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week, if you can resist just eating it with a spoon...

Sour Cherry Compote

jar of morello cherries
arrowroot (or tapioca flour)

Morello cherries only seem to be available in huge jars. Strain the cherries, retaining the juice in a measuring jug. I had about 250ml juice. 1 tablespoon of arrowroot will thicken 250ml liquid. If you don't want to use all your cherries, or have less liquid than me, just reduce the quantity of arrowroot accordingly; e.g. 1/2 tablespoon arrowroot for 125ml juice, 1 teaspoon of arrowroot for just over 60ml juice (62.5ml or 1/4 cup) etc.

 tip cherries and juice into a pan
 mix 1tbsp arrowroot with 1tbsp water, stir until smooth, then blend into cherries
 stir over a medium heat until thickened
 you'll probably have lots of cherries left over, you may have to make a cheesecake or a pie, I have wicked plans for mine :)

Milly, enjoying her creation, messy but so gooooood..!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sherbet Lemon Marshmallows, scratch that, Passionfruit Marshmallows with Lemon Sherbet

Things have been pretty sweet this week, I've been taking part in "the sweet swap" organised by Aussie food bloggers Chew Town and Belly Rumbles. It works like this; I parcel up 3 packages of my chosen homemade sweet and post them off to my designated swappers; I then wait, impatiently, for my 3 packages to arrive.

They arrived over a week, on 3 separate days, I didn't open any until the last arrived, I like to prolong the surprise; deferred gratification, in kids it can indicate intelligence... It seems I underestimated the importance of packaging, the parcels I received were gorgeous! That overachieving Amanda at Chew Town even baked her own tags! I loved the contents just as much, 3 of my favourite things; chocolate, nuts and a honeycomb hybrid.  A perfect crunchy, hazelnutty ferrero rocher like chocolate from Julie at I Dream in Chocolate, gorgeous spiced pecan chocolate cups from Nicole at Seeking Victory, and a mad maple comb from Amanda at Chew Town. They were all sweetly delicious, a real treat.

Sherbet lemon marshmallows were my confection of choice, until i realised I'd bought passionfruit instead of lemons, who does that? So, passionfruit marshmallows with lemon sherbet. I love this marshmallow recipe, the texture is amazing, mousse like and spongy, never rubbery. They are super sweet, and paired with a fizzing lemon sherbet are quite something. To make lemon marshmallows, simply substitute the passionfruit juice in the recipe below with freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice. I sent my sherbety, marshmallowy packages off to Sara at Belly Rumbles, Simon at The Heart of Food, and Lucy at Bake Play Smile. I loved the image of the marshmallows Simon posted on instagram, I'd be lying through my teeth if I didn't admit it influenced my own :) thanks Simon!

Passionfruit Marshmallows

180ml strained passionfruit juice (approximately 10 large passion fruit)
20g powdered gelatin
500g caster sugar
2 egg whites
snow sugar* for dusting

  • lightly grease a  20cm by 25cm (or similar) cake pan and dust with snow sugar
  • combine passionfruit juice and gelatin in a bowl, set aside
  • combine caster sugar and 1 cup (250ml) water in a medium sized saucepan and cook over gentle heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves  increase heat to medium and cook until syrup reaches 125ºC on a sugar thermometer, approximately 10 minutes but you need to keep an eye on it  remove from heat, add passionfruit mixture to syrup and stir until gelatin dissolves, the mixture will bubble alarmingly!
  • meanwhile, using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt until frothy  gradually add passionfruit mixture, whisking continuously on medium speed until mixture has doubled in size  slowly decrease speed and mix until mixture is just warm
  • pour into prepared cake pan, spread evenly, then dust top with snow sugar 
  • stand at room temperature for around 3 hours or until firm, then release the marshmallow by running a knife around the edge of the tin and tipping it onto a board using a sharp knife, and a ruler if you have my OCD leanings, cut marshmallow into 4 by 5 cm rectangles and roll in snow sugar to coat  store in an airtight container between sheets of baking paper at room temperature for up to 2 weeks
  • when you are ready to serve, arrange on your serving dish, dust liberally with lemon sherbet, and finely zest a lemon over the top, watch them fizz then consume as soon as possible
* in Australia snow sugar is available from The Essential Ingredient but can be substituted with a 50/50 combination of icing sugar and corn flour (or potato starch for a gluten free alternative) 

makes approximately 25 large marshmallows

adapted slightly from Catherine Adams, Rockpool Melbourne

Lemon Sherbet

75g citric acid
95g icing sugar
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1 lemon

  • combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl, pass through a fine sieve 3 times
  • store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week
adapted from Lisa Featherby's recipe in the Australian Gourmet Traveller

Monday, 1 September 2014

Brownie Marshmallow Cookies with bonus Marshmallow Pops

The end of the year is birthday season in our house, and while it may be September, I have a planner, she’s turning 12… She's chosen a tea party theme, pretty china and tiny treats. Given Miss M is off to high school next year, I’m grabbing the concept and hanging on. There is the small matter of a major kitchen/living area renovation to navigate first… but hoping for the best, we’re recipe testing :)

The lovely Jane from emerald + ella sent over some products from her online store, really pretty party products that suit our theme perfectly! The white straws with tiny green polka dots are my favourite, and the thank you stickers are perfect for someone who is hopeless at sending out thank you notes, even if I have the best intentions.

My instagram and pinterest feeds have been full of images of s’mores, apparently August 10 was National S’mores Day, I love how Americans celebrate food! Combined with the Donna Hay brownie cookies I’ve been wanting to make for a few years, best not to rush things, I dreamt up the brownie marshmallow cookie, like a whoopee pie, but so much better! The cookies are great by themselves, just the perfect combination of crunch and chew, and really easy to make.  They can be sandwiched with almost anything; salted caramel, peanut butter, buttercream, ice cream, strawberries and cream, whatever you fancy really. The marshmallow is slightly trickier, you’ll need a sugar thermometer and an electric mixer, but again you can play with flavours, create something new…

The recipe will give you 10 large, or 20 small, brownie marshmallow cookies and a whole lot of left over marshmallow; you could double the cookie mix, but we are in party planning mode and got a bit carried away, making marshmallow pops and a slab of marshmallow to cut up and fill the goodie bags.

Brownie Cookies (adapted from Donna Hay) 

275g dark chocolate, chopped
75g milk chocolate, chopped
40g butter
2 eggs, at room temperature
130g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
35g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder

makes 20 individual cookies

  • preheat your oven to 180ºC
  • put 200g of the dark chocolate into a small pan with the butter, stir over a low heat until smooth, set aside
  • sift together the flour and baking powder, also set aside
  • put the eggs and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, you can use a hand held electric mixer but expect a sore arm, whisk together for 10-15 minutes until really thick, pale and creamy
  • gently fold the flour/baking powder, melted chocolate/butter and all the remaining chocolate through the egg mixture, leave to stand for 10 minutes
  • while your cookie mix is resting, line 2 trays with baking paper
  • I used a small ice cream scoop (size 40 for the lovers of detail!) to scoop and drop small mounds of the cookie mix onto the trays, a slightly heaped dessert spoon will give you the same amount, give the cookies room to spread, about 3cm
  • bake for 10 minutes, but check after 8, the cookies should be puffed and cracked, dry on top, but still very soft
  • leave on the trays until completely cool

Strawberry marshmallow

180ml strawberry juice (approximately 1 regular punnet, blitzed and strained)
20g powdered gelatin
500g caster sugar
2 egg whites
a pinch of salt
snow sugar* for dusting

for the marshmallow pops

12 pretty drinking straws
40g white chocolate, melted
40g milk chocolate, melted
sprinkles, 100s&100s etc for decoration

for the cookies, marshmallow pops and individual marshmallows; fit a large piping bag with a 10mm plain tip, lightly grease a 12 hole mini muffin tin or silicon mold and dust with snow sugar, you’ll also need to lightly grease a small cake or loaf pan and dust with snow sugar for the leftover mallow mixture

if you are making double the cookies you’ll just need the piping bag and cake pan

  • combine strawberry juice and gelatin in a bowl, set aside
  • combine caster sugar and 1 cup (250ml) water in a medium sized saucepan and cook over gentle heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves 
  • increase heat to medium and cook until syrup reaches 125ºC on a sugar thermometer, this can take up to 10 minutes, but you need to keep an eye on it
  • while the sugar is bubbling away, using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt until frothy
  • when the syrup reaches 125ºC remove from heat, add strawberry mixture to the syrup and stir until smooth, the mixture will bubble alarmingly!
  • with  your mixer on med/low, gradually add the hot strawberry syrup, whisk continuously on medium speed until mixture has doubled in size, slowly decrease speed and mix until mixture is cool
* in Australia snow sugar is available from The Essential Ingredient but can be substituted with a 50/50 combination of icing sugar and corn flour (or potato starch if you’re after gluten free) 

assembling the cookie sandwich cookies and marshmallow pops

if you plan to make the marshmallow pops as well, the next few steps require a bit of juggling, you’ll need to work quite quickly, before the marshmallow starts to set, no pressure…

  • while the marshmallow is mixing, pair up similar sized cookies on a tray, one faced up, one faced down
  • as soon as the marshmallow mixture is cool, pour around 1/2 into the piping bag, leave the rest in the bowl for the moment
  • pipe a walnut sized mound of marshmallow on the upturned cookies, then pipe the remainder into the holes of your mini muffin tin, refill your piping bag if you run out
  • when all cookies and pops are piped, tip the left over marshmallow into the cake tin, spread evenly and dust with snow sugar, leave to set at room temperature for about 3 hours
  • sandwich your cookies together and store in an airtight container, they will soften gradually but are good for 3-4 days
  • poke a straw into the centre of each marshmallow pop and leave to set at room temperature for around 3 hours or until firm; when set, gently ease the edges of the marshmallow away from the tin then pull on the straw to release
  • dip the marshmallows in the melted chocolate and decorate with sprinkles; I rigged up an elaborate holes in a box contraption to keep the pops upright as they set, but honestly think up turning them in a glass or jar would work just as well!
  • when the marshmallow in the tin has set, ease away from the edge of the tin, turn upside down over a board and bang sharply on the bench to release
  • using a sharp knife, and a ruler if you have my OCD leanings, cut marshmallow into 2.5cm squares and roll in snow sugar to coat, bag up in your goodie bags or store in an airtight container between sheets of baking paper at room temperature for up to 2 weeks

Monday, 4 August 2014

Velvet Cupcakes & Mini Layer Cake

What do you call a red velvet cake minus the colouring? I'm going with nude velvet; I'll probably get a lot of inappropriate traffic with those search terms... I don't like adding colouring when I bake, so when my daughter requested red velvet cupcakes, nude is what she got, oh dear.

Every Monday, after school and before netball training, Milly hangs out at a friend's house, close to school.  When I remember I send snacks, on a good week I bake. The last few months have been a bit fraught, and this week, for the first time in what seems like a while, I baked for fun. I also broke 2 of my "style over substance" baking rules; I made cupcakes so tall they were difficult to eat, and I left the stems and leaves on strawberries. I knew they'd taste good and I wanted pretty over easy to eat. I'm sure normal baking habits will resume at some point, in the meantime I'm going with it.

One cupcake tray was all I could find, so I baked the left over batter in a mini 6 inch cake pan.  I didn't have enough frosting for my mini cake, I made more, chocolate ganache too. Now I have left over frosting and ganache, I'm in a 'baking to use up leftovers' spiral, I see no end, just lots of cake and dirty dishes. The cupcakes and mini cake were really pretty and a huge hit; the cupcakes are my pick, they were lighter, more moist, and had a higher frosting to cake ratio :)

Nude Velvet Cupcakes

325g plain flour, cake flour if you can find it
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
330g caster sugar
375ml canola oil
2 large eggs
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml (1 cup) buttermilk
2 tsps white vinegar
1 1/2 tsps bicarb soda
1 large punnet strawberries

mascarpone frosting, recipe below

 preheat your oven to 175ºC and line 2 12 hole muffin trays with paper cupcake cases, I always use dark or foil cases, I think they look better when baked. If you want to make 12 cupcakes and a mini cake, also grease a 6 inch round cake tin and line the base with baking paper
 over a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt, set aside
using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or hand held mixer, mix together the oil and sugar until combined, then add the eggs one at a time, make sure your first egg is completed incorporated before you add the next • scrape in the vanilla seeds and mix to combine • the batter looks really weird at this point, but stick with it!
 with the mixer on low, tip in 1/3 of the flour/cocoa comb and mix until just combined • add 1/2 buttermilk, mix until combined • repeat with remaining flour and buttermilk, finishing with the last 1/3 of the flour/cocoa
 in a cup or small bowl, mix the bicarb soda and vinegar together, it will foam up, tip into the cake batter and mix until combined
 divide the batter equally between your cupcake cases, I use an ice-cream scoop with a release for this, it helps me to keep the cakes the same size. If you are making 12 cupcakes and a mini cake, fill your cupcake cases first, then tip the remaining mixture into your 6 inch tin.
 bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, the 6 inch cake will take 30-35 minutes, check it after 30 minutes • to  check for doneness (is that even a word???) gently poke the centre of your cake with a skewer or piece of uncooked spaghetti, the skewer will come out clean when the cake is cooked
cool your cakes on a wire cooling rack, when completely cold they are ready to frost

to frost the cupcakes

fit a piping bag with a star shaped tip, fill the bag 2/3 full with mascarpone frosting 
 starting at the centre, pipe a large swirl of frosting on top of a cupcake; there are lots of excellent frosting tutorials and videos online, there are basic instructions on the Wilton site here.
 top each cake with a strawberry half (feel free to chop the tops off, or go the pretty route and leave them on)

to assemble the mini cake

when the cake is completely cold, use a serrated knife to cut the cake into 2 layers • if the top layer is very domed, cut the top off, cooks treat!
you'll need 2 piping bags, both fitted with plain tips, fill one 2/3 full with the mascarpone frosting, the other with the chocolate ganache
put the base layer of the cake on your serving plate, starting at the outside of the cake, pipe alternate blobs (for want of a better word, please suggest better words in the comment section below!) of the frosting and ganache, work your way in, and repeat until the cake is covered
carefully place the second layer on top, again starting at the outside of the cake, cover the top with piped blobs of frosting, then pile the strawberries on top

mascarpone frosting

250g cream cheese, at room temperature
250g mascarpone, at room temperature
150ml thickened cream, at room temperature
icing sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone together until combined, add the icing sugar, mix slowly at first, then increase speed and mix until light and fluffy
add the vanilla seeds and cream, on medium speed, mix until combined

chocolate ganache

175g chocolate, milk or dark
150ml thickened cream

chop the chocolate into small pieces and put in a heat proof bowl • heat cream in a small pan until just simmering, allow to simmer for a minute then pour over the chocolate • do not stir at this point, do NOT stir, leave for 5 minutes 
 stir cream and chocolate together until smooth and glossy, leave until cold and firm enough to frost

Monday, 2 June 2014

White Chocolate Yoghurt Pots with Black plum and Roasted Fig

Two good things; it's finally winter in Australia, hurray, and Mamamia is running a competition for food bloggers, "Food Blogger Idol"! Just come up with a recipe using Rachel's gourmet low fat yoghurt and blog about it. Simple right..?

While it's technically winter in Sydney, seasonal fruits still reckon it’s autumn, so the black plum and roasted fig yoghurt was the choice for me. Cue white chocolate pots with hazelnut madeleines. Impressive, decadent and super easy to make; this could be the perfect dish! 

The yoghurt pots are creamy, silky and slightly tangy, and paired with fresh fruit and crisp, buttery madeleines they are the best :) For breakfast or brunch; there's dairy, fruit, carbs, that's the major food groups covered... Ditto as an after lunch dessert. 

It's all made ahead, and served in beautiful glasses it's perfect for a dinner party. Just take the glasses out of the fridge for the 15 minutes it takes to bake the madeleines, your guests should be super impressed, seriously, the madeleines smell amazing while they bake! Go the extra step and halve some figs and plums, dust with icing sugar then pop under the grill until the sugar bubbles and starts to brown. If your guests don't call you Martha, don't invite them back :) 

White Chocolate Yoghurt Pots

250g Rachel's black plum and fig yoghurt (1 large tub)
300ml thickened cream
220g white chocolate
vanilla bean (or 1tsp vanilla bean paste)

• weigh out your 200g of Rachel's yoghurt, set aside. Scoop out the remaining yoghurt, put in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for when you're looking for a snack... Divide the black plum and fig compote from the bottom of the pot equally between 6 glasses. Set aside.
• tip the white chocolate and 50ml of the thickened cream into a glass or metal bowl, and place it over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water, white chocolate burns really easily!) stir until smooth, set aside to cool
• split the vanilla bean in half, scrape out the seeds and add to a bowl with the remaining cream; whip until soft peaks form
• fold the cooled, melted chocolate into the cream, then fold in the yoghurt, divide between your 6 glasses, cover and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours to set

Hazelnut Madeleines

15g melted butter, for greasing the tray
20g four, for flouring the tray
155g caster sugar (I used golden, but it's neither here nor there)
155g butter
80g flour, sifted
80g hazelnut meal
3 jumbo eggs (approx 200g)
1tbsp frangelico

• melt the butter over a gentle heat, keep heating until the butter turns golden brown, and smells gorgeously nutty and caramelly (so totally a word...) remove from the heat and pour into a bowl, this stops the cooking and prevents the butter burning
• put the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer if you have one, or use a hand held electric mixer, add the sugar and whip until thick and pale
• add the flour and ground hazelnuts and gently fold in
• add the frangelico and melted butter, mix until combined
• cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for somewhere between 2 hours and overnight
• when you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180ºC
• if you have a piping bag and you're not afraid to use it (!) pipe the batter into the trays, filling each shell 3/4 full, alternatively just use a couple of spoons :) if you're making them for a dinner party, just put the trays back in the fridge, then pop them in the oven while you're clearing the main course
• bake in the centre of your oven for 12-15 mins, the madeleines should be brown and crisp around the edges, and spring back when lightly pressed in the centre
• tip the little cakes into your serving bowl and eat while still warm, if not definitely on the day they are baked