Last weekend we went to stay with an old friend who is now married to a fantastic chef. What a bonus….friend plus chef! They were excited to have us try out something new, St Agur, a beautiful creamy blue cheese with some yummy bread, olives and a large glass of red wine, if you haven’t tried it yet please do. Ive tried blue cheese once and and lets say I have never tried it since but this is different, its enriched with cream so it’s smooth, soft and not pungent. Mr. Chef came home late after a long day in the kitchen with a beautiful Guinness bread they make in his restaurant and thus I’m inspired to make this recipe….(though I am hoping he might give me his one…)
GUINNESS BREAD (mine is actually Beamish Bread!)
1 tbsp treacle
200ml of stout-Guinness or Beamish
150ml of milk
225g coarse whole meal brown flour
250g plain white flour
2 tbsp soft dark sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Porridge oats to sprinkle on the top
Preheat the oven to 190 C. Grease a 2 lb loaf tin. Melt the butter and treacle in a pan gently. Meanwhile mix the flours, bicarb and sugar together. When your butter and treacle are melted, add the milk, stir together and start mixing into the flour. Slowly add the stout and mix thoroughly. Pour into the tin and bake for 40-50 min or until when tipped out, it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. Take out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Since my first attempt at macarons, I’ve been able to think about little else. Ive seriously even been dreaming about them! There has been a few failed attempts, which I have to say, were very disappointing. Especially since my first attempt was pretty nearly there. Fluke! But today was the day and I think I finally understand them, it’s a matter of getting the feel of that all important state of macaronage…mixing the meringue into the almond, icing sugar mixture till it flows like lava. Here’s the recipe.
110 g egg whites
250 g caster sugar
75 g water
2 tsp red food colouring
300 g ground almond
300 g icing sugar
100 g egg whites
First of all prepare your baking trays,3 large…I made a template with baking paper and sharpie to put under the baking paper as a guide.
Add the water, food colouring and then the sugar to a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, not stirring till all the sugar is melted and when a small drop is dropped into a glass of water becomes a soft ball. Meanwhile put 110 g of egg white into a mixer until the soft peak stage. Turn the mixer on high and carefully pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl and keep whisking until cooled to 50 C. It should be stiff and shiny and beautifully pink.
In a large bowl combine the ground almond and icing sugar, add the 100g of egg white and mix to a thick paste. Mix one third of the merengue mixture into the almond mix then mix the rest of the merengue in. You need to knock some of the air out till the mixture is well combined and flows off the spatula like molten lava.
Place your piping bag with a large round nozzle into a large glass and fill halfway with your macaron mixture. Pipe close down to the tray filling the circle guide underneath. Twist to lift off. When all the trays are filled, give them a couple of whacks of the counter to smooth and dislodge any air pockets.
Leave for 30- 60 minutes until a skin forms and you can touch it with out getting your finger sticky. Preheat the oven to 140-150 C depending on wether you have a hot oven. Cook for 16-18 minutes checking to see if its browning or cracking, if so put a wooden spoon into the door of the oven to keep it slightly ajar. When cooked they should be firm to a gentle touch. Leave to cool.
DARK CHOCOLATE N STRAWBERRY GANACHE
40 ml cream
2 large tsps strawberry jam
200 g dark chocolate broken up
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
65 g butter
Put the cream and jam in a small pan and bring to the boil, dissolving the jam into the cream. Take off the heat and throw in the broken chocolate. Quickly mix in till melted into the cream. Mix in the vanilla paste and leave to cool. When cool to the touch beat in the butter.
Pipe the ganache between two macaron shells and voila…beautiful macarons….and if not this time, try and try again until you succeed…it’s worth it when you do,!
In our house the most sought after part of the Sunday roast, is the roast potatoes. I always have to make enough for seconds, so there’s no fighting. Crispy and crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, what more could you want to go with your roast chicken and veg…
BEST ROAST POTATOES
1 1/2 kg of floury potatoes
1 tablespoon of salt( don’t worry it’s diluted in the boiling water and flavours them perfectly )
4 tablespoons of oil
Preheat your oven to 200 C. Boil some water. Peel and chop your potatoes into nice size pieces. Place them in a large pan along with the salt and boiling water. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime put your oil on a roasting pan and heat in the oven. After 10-15 minutes strain out the water and leave the lid off to dry out for a few minutes.
They should be fluffy looking on the outside if they are floury potatoes, but don’t worry if not! Put the lid on and give them a shake to roughen up the edges. Carefully yet quickly get your hot pan out of the oven and throw your potatoes in. As quickly as possible coat all sides of the potatoes with oil and put back into the oven. After twenty five minutes take them out of the oven and turn onto a different side. After another twenty minutes or so they should be golden and crispy, ready for pride of place on your dinner plate.
This could be a flying success or more realistically a complete and utter failure. But not being one to shrink away from something new, I’m going to give it a go, now when I say ‘a go’, I mean a go involving four children on their school holidays kind of go…maybe it would be wiser to have a little patience and wait another three weeks. When my kitchen is only hosting me and my youngest helper, age three. But then patience isn’t my best quality, so here I am making macarons for the first time….with interruptions guaranteed.
CHOCOLATE AND STRAWBERRY MACARONS
The strawberry ganache filling
40 ml cream
70 g strawberry jam (or indeed pulverised fresh strawberries, for a less sweet version)
1 tsp of vanilla bean paste
200 g white chocolate
65 g of butter
170 g icing sugar
160 g ground almonds
4 egg whites separated into two and two
160 g sugar
50 ml water
1/2 tsp of red food colouring
1 tbsp cocoa powder
To make the ganache
Place the jam and cream in a small pan and bring to the boil. When the jam has melted add the broken white chocolate and mix in till thoroughly melted. Add the vanilla paste and cool till skin temperature then beat in the butter. Cover with cling film and leave to cool.
To make the macarons
Grease and line two baking trays. Mix together the icing sugar and almonds along with two of the egg whites to make a thick paste, leave aside. In a saucepan melt the sugar and water together and boil until syrupy. In a clean metal bowl start to whisk your final two egg whites till soft peaks form then drizzle the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl whilst continuing to whisk the egg whites until its all stiff and shiny. Halve the almond mixture, mixing cocoa powder into one half and red food colouring into the other. Fold half the meringue into the cocoa batch and the other half into the red batch. Make sure it’s well incorporated but not over mixed as it will go thin and runny. Fill your piping bag with one mix and without a shaped nozzle, pipe rounds onto the paper giving a twist as you lift off. Leave at least an inch in between each macaron. Give the tray a few taps off the counter. Pipe your other batch the same and leave for 30-60 minutes until it has formed a skin and is dry to the touch. Preheat your oven to 160 C. Bake for 14 minutes, they should be crisp on the outside with a little ‘foot’ at the bottom and slightly chewy on the inside. Leave to cool. When the ganache and macarons are completely cooled, pipe the filling in between two macarons.
Oh how pretty….and don’t panic if like me they cracked a little and the foot wasn’t very big (all be it because I was in a rush and was late for a tinker bell party, so I didn’t leave enough time for the skin to form before baking) they tasted pretty yummy and next time I’m gona smash it….when I do you’ll know because I’ll leave you a picture!
So grandma and grandad are coming to visit, we are all excited but grandma is coeliac so the challenge is on to make something delicious but without wheat. I realise that something I make and adore is gluten free without even trying to be. These biscuits have absolutely no flour and even better no butter. They are intense, chewy and totally yummy.
CHEWY DARK CHOCOLATE AND HAZELNUT BISCUITS
250 g dark chocolate chopped into small pieces
3 large egg whites, at room temp
250 g icing sugar plus 75 g for coating
60 g cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp corn flour
1/4 tsp salt
40 g chopped hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 180 C and grease two baking trays. Melt 200 g of the chocolate (reserving 50g aside) in a bowl in the microwave on high for 30 second bursts, stirring each time until its all melted. Leave aside to cool. In a clean bowl, whisk your egg whites till the soft peak stage then add 125g of icing sugar and whisk till stiff and shiny. In another bowl mix together 125g of icing sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, corn flour and salt. Then slowly add small amounts to the egg mixture whisking slowly after each amount until all stiff and glossy. Now quickly add your melted chocolate, chopped nuts and reserved chocolate and mix in. It will probably seize up a little but keep mixing until fully incorporated. Now scoop tablespoons of the mixture and coat them well in the last 75g of icing sugar and gently shape them into balls before placing them on the prepared tray. Should make around 20. Bake for around 10 minutes until slightly firm and crackled on top. Cool on a wire rack.
We all remember making these at school, a little more rudimentary maybe but the concept is still the same. Any room could be brightened up with these pretty little gems, and depending on what card you have, they could be pretty and soft, bold and bright or even monochrome. Just have fun and let the kids join in!
Cut your card to about 26 cm x 12 cm, basically you want a long rectangle. Fold in half on the length.
On some thick cardboard, use your knife to score lines 1cm from the top down to 1cm from the bottom, spaced 1 cm from each other all the way across your rectangle. Glue the height together at the edge. Using contrasting card cut a 1cm thin strip 25cm long. Glue the strip to the top of your lantern. I used some pegs to hold in place till it drys. Cut another strip and do the same on the bottom of the lantern.
Make five more the same but with different coloured card. When dry tie some cord from one side of the top to the other and string onto a long length of cord. Find the perfect place to enjoy your pretty lanterns.