Tag Archives: dessert

Achievement Unlocked – Level Macarons!

achievement

Macarons have been my biggest challenge to date. Generally I am quite satisfied with my ability to follow a recipe and get my expected result. With macarons, however, this was not the case.

Christmas Macarons

[Let me just clarify something quickly: macaroon vs. macaron. Think: coconut vs. almond flour.

Quick recipe for a macaroon: condensed milk and desiccated coconut, mixed in a ratio that lets you form little balls and place on a baking tray to bake at 180º until the edges start to brown and the biscuit is pretty firm]

My first attempt at macarons used a recipe from Dan Lepard‘s cookbook, Short and Sweet, which has proven delicious and basically perfect every time… until now. Then I tried Mary Berry and Great British Bake Off‘s chocolate macarons. I followed the instructions to a T, and they ended up burning anyway.

I figured it was time for a troubleshooting guide, when I stumbled upon this absolute gem. She even linked to her step by step guide to making macarons, which I tried after re-attempting Dan’s recipe using some of her advice. This was my result:

Her recipe was the first to start coming out right. But surely I didn’t have to follow all of her steps? Who has time to wait overnight for egg whites to mature? As it turns out, it is important, and it makes a substantial difference.

What also helped, was this guy. I absolutely love his work! His tutorials on macarons showed me that I might have been over-beating my eggs, and maybe I was “not overmixing” too carefully. Fully incorporated, people!

Red Christmas macarons

Eventually, I ended up with these bad boys, which I made for our Christmas party. Aren’t they beautiful! And added bonus was that they were gluten free, so everyone, even the fussies (though not the Banting folk), could enjoy dessert.

They were accompanied by vanilla cupcakes with green cream cheese frosting, and cute little marshmallow reindeer that my little cousin thoroughly enjoyed.

Marshmallow reindeer

Marshmallow reindeer

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Macarons

Makes about 30 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp creme of tartar
  • 210g powdered (icing) sugar
  • 125g ground almonds/almond meal/almond flour
  • 30g caster (granulated) sugar

Method

  1. Separate the egg whites. Leave overnight to mature in the fridge, and remove from fridge well ahead of time to allow to come to room temperature
  2. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds together. Place this into a food processor and blend together until very fine and resembles a flour. Do this in stages, and make sure you’ve scraped down the sides of the food processor to break everything up. Also don’t go for so long that the mixture starts to heat up (we are making macarons, not over-sweetened almond butter)
  3. Sift the icing sugar-almond mix back into the bowl. If there are any remaining chunks of almond, remove them, they will make the mixture lumpy – DO NOT PUSH THEM THROUGH
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and creme of tartar until very soft peaks form – peaks should hold their shape for long. Add the granulated sugar here in two stages, beating until stiff peaks form (but not hard peaks – they should have some movement to them still). Colour your meringue mixture now, using powder or gel food colourings – don’t use liquid colouring
  5. Add one third of the almond mix and fold in gently. Once it has started to combine, add the second third, and repeat with the final third. Ensure mixture is of the same consistency and there are no dry patches
  6. Place mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle about 0.5-0.8cm in diameter. Pipe this onto a stencilled mat or template, taking care not to put too much mixture for each biscuit as they spread quite a bit. Tap the baking tray firmly onto your working surface to remove any air bubbles. If there are remaining bubbles on the surface, give these a pop with a tooth pick
  7. Leave to form a shell at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Just before that time is up, preheat oven to 160ºC
  8. Place baking tray in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 140ºC and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before sandwiching together with filling. I filled mine with canned caramel (boiled condensed milk trick) sprinkled with some salt (salted caramel), a coffee buttercream, and some leftover green cream cheese frosting from the cupcakes
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Finally made Slutty Brownies

Holidays are a tough (yet wonderful) time for me because I tend to overindulge in all the wonderful things that I don’t generally have access to in the little isolated town of Grahamstown. You may also be aware that I don’t have easy access to a kitchen, which makes baking and cooking pretty difficult. However, I was recently lucky enough to be offered kitchen facilities in my Warden’s flat, and I took the opportunity to make something so wonderful and delicious, that I will most certainly be baking them again within the next two weeks.

The name is interesting, but they’re just so delicious and indulgent, that everyone wants a piece. Slutty brownies have been on my “To-make” list for a while, and I now see that I was not mistaken in choosing this recipe.

The Slutty Brownie is made up of a base layer of chocolate chip cookies, a layer of Oreos, and topped off with a fudgey brownie layer. Those are basically the three most wonderful treats in the world, right?

I chose to stick with simple box mixes, which made it cheaper and fail-proof. I didn’t want to end up with a dud layer of choc chip cookies and a perfect brownie on top, that would have been such a waste!

Just some casual ingredients waiting to become something awesome!

Just some casual ingredients waiting to become something awesome!

The three main components: cookie dough (delicious as is, by the way, who cares about Salmonella...?)

The three main components: cookie dough (delicious as is, by the way, who cares about Salmonella…?)

Place the cookies into neat rows to make sure you get evenly distributed Oreo-goodness

Place the cookies into neat rows to make sure you get evenly distributed Oreo-goodness

Try not to notice the fact that I was 1 Oreo short...

Try not to notice the fact that I was 1 Oreo short…

Add your brownie layer

Add your brownie layer

Pop it into the oven

Pop it into the oven

I would advise that you bake for a few minutes longer than the recommended time to cook the brownies, because they are quite thick, and all that baking heat needs to get deep down through to the cookie layer. Your cookies are not that likely to burn, just beware if you are using a metal cooking dish.

See the lovely layers, so inviting and tempting

See the lovely layers, so inviting and tempting

Ooey gooey delicious finished product

Ooey gooey delicious finished product

They could possibly have stayed in the oven a little longer, but then the ooey gooey-ness of the brownies would have been lost. The softer brownie also offsets a crispier cookie layer, so you really get to enjoy the textures. The Oreo layer is like a small burst of happy in your mouth, a pleasant surprise each time you come across one with that characteristic sweet frosting inside.

What happens when you don’t let your cake cool

One of the perks of being a student is that you get a free adrenalin rush every time you have an assignment to hand in that you obviously only finished at the last minute. Man, that buzz!

Oooo the buzz!

To live life even more on the edge this morning, I decided I wanted to bake a cake. I had finally figured out my recipe for MY chocolate cake, and all its icings and frostings, and it was going to be wonderful, and in the true nature of spontaneity, I wanted to make it NOW! As in, today. Imma have cake for breakfast man, I don’t care that I have to hand my essay in two hours from now. Cakes are quick to make, right? Well, they are. The thing that takes the time is the cooling.

The cake came out delicious: perfectly fluffy. I just need to make it even more chocolate-y, because you can never have enough chocolate! But, like I said, that cooling time… Sigh, I gave up waiting when we had to leave in 10 minutes and I hadn’t even assembled anything. It’s kinda cool, right? Wrong. The thing completely broke – a crack right down the middle: it was wonderful to watch.

Toughest part of making the cake: using a manual hand-mixer - I literally had to crank it to get them to whisk

Toughest part of making the cake: using a manual hand-mixer – I literally had to crank it to get them to whisk

I started out so well!

I started out so well!

It was too late to do anything about it, however, so into a plastic container it went to be rushed to Uni so I could submit my essay. Best breakfast ever!

It is a delicious mess, that will be rectified and properly shared in the near future. When I can buy more 70% dark chocolate (it was on sale this weekend – that shtuff’s expensive!). Oh, and who needs spoons?

The cake worked very well in theory, and many components were delicious and successful indeed. I must say, however, that I am not sold on cream cheese frosting, so that will definitely change in my next attempt.

Perhaps I could pass this off as some kind of pudding rather than a layer cake? It doesn't matter, it tastes delicious anyway!

Perhaps I could pass this off as some kind of pudding rather than a layer cake? It doesn’t matter, it tastes delicious anyway!