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.
75g egg white (from approximately 2 jumbo eggs)
50g ground hazelnuts (hazelnut meal)
50g ground almonds (almond meal)
100g icing sugar
• 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
• follow the method for the hazelnut shells above, adding the cocoa powder to the ground almonds and icing sugar when you blend.
200g granulated sugar (white sugar)
1tsp sea salt flakes
• in a small pan combine the sugar 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
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..!