Tag Archives: Almond

The Diva of the Kitchen

13 Jun

Last night was a cold, wintery night here in Sydney, and after having our lovely friends Vanessa and Marcus over for lunch (see Vanessa’s fab blog here http://vanessajanephotography.wordpress.com) Mark and I found ourselves with a quiet night ahead! While Mark was happy playing PS3, I decided to tackle what I like to call the Diva of the Kitchen, the macaroon.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t find her to be too much of a prima-donna, but she definitely has that reputation, so I learned whilst pouring over the hundreds of recipes on the internet! There were basic recipes, variants on basic recipes, lists of what to do, lists of what NOT to do, discussions on how long to age egg whites, how long to let rest before baking, what special mats to bake them on – I got tired of reading – so I just decided to give it a go!

My friend Tamara came over and helped me with my mission (see Tamara’s pretty blog here http://tamarabell11.wordpress.com) When we returned from Woolworths with the ingredients, I realised that I had made the same mistake I always make – I had not read the recipe from start to finish before beginning to bake! I learned that I should have separated my egg whites and had them resting at room temperature DAYS AGO, and I needed to have at least 3 hours up my sleeve for resting time! I had not aged my egg whites, nor did I have hours up my sleeve – and they still worked! So don’t be scared, fellow bakers, just give them a go!

 

French Almond Macaroons

Ingredients
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 125g almond meal
  • 110g egg whites aged overnight or longer, at room temperature
  • 30g white sugar
  • Pinch of salt
Method
  • Use a pencil to draw golf-ball sized circles about 4cm apart onto a piece of baking paper. 

(Note: You only have to draw circles on the baking paper if you want absolutely even-sized macaroons. If you’re skilled with piping and don’t mind eyeballing the amount of batter per biscuit, skip this step).

  • Double sift almond meal and icing sugar. Mix the almond meal and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a large, clean, dry bowl whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip until stiff, firm and shiny peaks form.

(Note: If you choose to colour your macaroons, add food colouring at this stage. Take care not to over-beat eggs and lose the peaks in the process).

  • With a flexible spatula, gently fold in almond and icing sugar mixture into egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and ‘flow like magma.’ When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing.
  • Using a piping bag, pipe the batter onto the baking sheets onto the previously drawn circles. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove any air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to allow skins to form.

(Note: When making these myself, I baked half of the biscuits straight away, and let half of them rest for one hour. They both worked, and tasted fabulous, although the ones that I allowed to rest, definitely had better ‘feet’).

  • Bake in a 160’C fan forced oven for 10 to 11 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar, and rotate the baking sheet after 5 minutes for even baking.
  • Remove macaroons from oven and transfer on the baking paper to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a knife underneath the macaroon to carefully remove from paper.
  • Pair macaroons of similar size, and pipe your filling of choice onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macaroons, and refrigerate to allow flavors to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
A Few Tips
  •  Sift your dry ingredients at least twice – multiple times if necessary. You want your ground nuts to be powdery, no lumps. Almond meal and icing sugar mixture may be pulsed in a food processor to make finer.
  • Use old egg whites. Everywhere I read said to leave them out for three days at room temperature if you don’t mind waiting for that long. Using fresh egg whites is more likely to result in macaroons that are too fragile and flat.

(Note: My egg whites were fresh, and I bought them that night straight out of the fridge at Woolies. I brought them down in temperature by letting them sit in a bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes to remove the chill of the fridge).

  • The final macaron batter should have the consistency of magma. What’s the consistency of magma? Not too liquidy, nor too stiff. If you form a peak, it should slowly and completely sink back into the batter.
  • If the cookies form peaks on their tops after piping, flatten them with a wet fingertip.
  • Prevent your macarons from burning by using a double layered baking sheet (stack two sheets on top of each other) and by propping the oven door open with a wooden spoon for the entire baking period.

I ran out of time to make a proper ganache filling – I must admit that! I used Betty Crocker frosting – which was nice, but WAY too sweet for my liking. There are a million ganache filling recipes online that I am dying to try. The first one being white chocolate and raspberry! But that will come – another day, another blog post!

 Here are my pretty macaroons, photographed by my beautiful husband!

 

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A Greedy, Needy, Life-changing Love

12 Jun

I have been devouring the latest issue of the Donna Hay Magazine over the last few days. This morning, I turned the last page, and was pleasantly surprised with what I saw featured on her “Things I Love” page.

Here she writes lovingly about the macaron. This caught my eye as my husband loves macarons, and I’ve been wanting to try cooking them for a while. This may just be the little push I needed. In the interim, enjoy how Donna waxes lyrical about her favourite biscuit.

“When I was 24 years old, I visited Paris for the first time and fell deeply in love. It was a greedy, needy, life-changing love and it was with a petite Parisian more beautiful than any I’d ever seen. I fell in love with the macaron. From the moment I locked eyes on the colourful pods in neat rows, their crisp shells back to back, it has been an ongoing ardour. I know it’s true love, because I can never fault them and I never tire of them. My hunt for the perfect macaron has seen me enter every patisserie from Sydney to Soho. Their softly chewy fillings and myriad flavours drawing me in every time. I love the way their fragile crusts form little peaks on top that look as if they’ve been kissed before they were baked. And, although I still covet these heavenly confections from Pierre Herme in Paris, I’m delighted my love for the macaron is no longer restricted by a long haul flight. Now I keep the general store’s confiserie stocked with an array of delectable macarons, and indulge in my sweet affair as often as I like. But the most exciting thing about this love is that it’s best shared, so that everyone can enjoy a little joie de vivre” (Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 51, p.170).

Welcome to Eat Your Heart Out! Care for some nougat?

9 Jun

So I have been reading blogs for a long while now… I started off with the beautiful, inspirational ramblings of Style Me Pretty, The Bride’s Cafe, A Cup of Jo, just to mention a few. Once I had finished planning our wedding, I moved on in a rather natural progression to blogs which feature beautiful homes, fabulous interiors and DIY projects… I became obsessed with Young House Love, Colour Me Happy, A Room for Everyone.

Following our beautiful wedding in November of 2009, I found myself to be a wife – who had to produce a meal most nights. What to cook?? My mum is a beautiful cook, and has always had yummy, nutritionally sound meals on the table for us – every night of my entire life. So apart from the half-hearted sitting-at-the-bench-chopping-what-she-told-me-to-whilst-chatting-about-our-days, I really had/have NO skills in the kitchen!

So in my quest to solve the never-ending question of what to cook, I began buying cook books.  Slowly but surely, I have completely fallen in love with cook books, food styling, food photography and generally making tasty, pretty treats.

This blog is a place where I hope to showcase the pretty food I make, the food that my friend’s make, recipes we come across, handy tricks of what to do (and what not to do!) and anything else my heart desires.

So what better way to start a blog, than with a piece of nougat and a cup of tea?

Cranberry, Pistachio and Almond Nougat

Ingredients

  • 3 sheets edible rice paper
  • 1/4 cup glucose syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 1  egg white
  • 1/2 cup pistachio kernels, toasted
  • 1 1/3 cups blanched almonds, toasted
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries

Method

  • Place glucose syrup, honey, sugar and 1/3 cup hot water in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat.
  • Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until sugar has dissolved, brushing down side of pan with water to remove sugar crystals.
  • Place a candy thermometer in pan (don’t let it touch base). Increase heat to medium. Bring to the boil. Boil, without stirring, for 12 to 15 minutes or until mixture reaches 150°C on thermometer (see tip).
  • Remove pan from heat.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat eggwhite in a large, heatproof bowl until soft peaks form.
  • Gradually add syrup in a steady stream, beating to combine.
  • Working quickly, fold through pistachios, almonds and cranberries.
  • Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Using a wet spatula, smooth top, pressing down firmly.
  • Top with remaining rice paper, trimming to fit. Press down firmly.
  • Stand at room temperature until set.
  • Lift from pan. Cut into squares. Serve.

The next time I make this recipe, I will soak the rice paper first. I’m not sure if I should have, but I didn’t, and the rice paper was crunchy and snappy. Not soft and melty like it should be. I’d also use slightly less honey, as the balance of flavours was definitely overpowered by the honey.

Other than that, a winner!