Sunday, June 16, 2013

Creme Brulee Macarons

If you've read any of my previous posts about macarons you will know that I love to mess with the shells. I guess that it has something to do with a childish instinct to touch the untouchable and make a mess! Something I may not have told you before is that I spend an unreasonable amount of time in very expensive department stores, not trying on make-up, not oogling the beautiful clothes or the expensive jewellery. No, surprise, surprise I spend time drooling over the beautiful and amazing macaron selection!! I have macaron selection menus from Selfridges, Brown Thomas and Cocoa Atelier, I even leave the Selfridge's macaron menu sitting on my make-up table for inspiration.

Frequently, however, inspiration strikes from odd places. When I found this delicious vanilla  bean paste at an unbelievably good price I was determined to use it in macarons. However, how does one adequately compliment vanilla? Sure it goes with almost anything but what will bring out it's sweet smooth taste? Salted caramel and burnt sugar, me thinks. Hence a creme caramel inspired macaron.

Creme Brulee Macaron (more instructional photos to follow)

125g Ground Almonds
175g Extra Fine Icing Sugar
75g Caster Sugar + extra for sprinkling
3 Aged Egg Whites
3/8 tsp Cream of Tartar
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste

1 Can Condensed milk
1/2 tsp Salt

To make the filling submerge the can of condensed milk in water and boil until almost all the water has boiled off twice. Remove can carefully from the water and then leave to coll completely before opening (This is actually dulce de leche but it works for me, u gotta problem with it?? i joke!)

Now beat your egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean bowl, once light and fluffy slowly add the caster sugar and continue to beat until you have reached stiff peaks. In a seperate bowl, sieve together the ground almonds and icing sugar. Fold the almond and sugar mixture into the meringue and add the teaspoon of vanilla bean paste. Continue folding until the mixture becomes smooth and when dropped onto a plates flattens out. Pour into a piping bag and pipe in little 1/2' diametre circles on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Let the macarons sit and set on the counter for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180'. After the shell has set, sprinkle each macaron with a small amount of caster sugar, try if possible to cover the surface of the shell. Then using a blow-torch and a very gentle hand melt the sugar without burning either the macarons or the parchment paper.

Baked the macarons for precisely 10 minutes and then run water between the cooking sheet and the parhment once cooked to remove the cooked macarons from the paper.

Match up your macarons and then pipe a layer of caramel (dulce de leche) on one half. Sprinkle a tiny, tiny pinch of salt (a few grains) onto the caramel and then sandwich with a second macaron. Finally just enjoy =)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pizza crackers

Last week we went to a party of a friend of a friend. I always find it difficult to know what to bring to these situations. What do you do when you know nothing about this person's taste's or food peculiarities and yet want to make a good impression? The only thing I could think to do was take what I know and run with it. The party was a pizza party and therefore the invention of pizza crackers!

One is never enough!

These are SO so easy to make and suit any occasion as a present. The buttery taste and texture is exactly like the high end crackers that cost 4/5 quid for a pack of less than 10, so no-one will guess that you made these for next to nothing.

Pizza Crackers (adapted from cracker recipe from Ina Garten)

100g Butter (softened)
85g   Mature Cheddar (grated very fine)                             

160g Plain Flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Basil

Beat together your butter and herbs. Sieve the flour and salt onto the grated cheese and mix. Let the flour sit on the cheddar for a minute before combining the dough. The mixture will be very crumbly but fear not it will come together. Lay out some cling-film onto the counter and pour the mixture onto this. Work the mixture together into one long line of crumbs, about 1 inch in diameter, length-ways in the centre of the cling film. Now roll the cling film around the dough and make it as tight as possible. Squish the dough together and tighten the cling film, twist the ends to make sure it is as compressed as possible, flatten off all the edges so that the crackers are either square or rectangular, then throw them into the freezer for 20 minutes.

(I have found that I can actually make these crackers while simultaneously preparing to head to the party. Just by using this time to go and do my make-up etc and then doing my hair while they bake, it works out really nicely, and makes me feel like some kind of Nigella/ Martha Stewart style powerhouses of female efficiency and etiquette in one!)

Preheat your oven to 180'. Take the dough out of the freezer after 20-30 minutes at most, if you have left it for longer I would suggest letting it de-frost on the counter for a while and cutting a test slice, if the slice cuts cleanly without difficulty then go ahead. However if you cut them while they are too frozen they will break in half and will not cook as evenly. Cut into even (as possible) 1/3 inch slices and lay out onto a baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes on 180' or until brown on the edges and crispy looking. Remove from the baking sheet immediately to stop the baking process and cool or a wire wrack. Then just pretend you are eating a delicious thin crusty pizza, share and enjoy =)

Honeymoon first Stops: Boston and Las Vegas

We left London on A Saturday afternoon and flew to Boston, arriving in at 7.30pm Boston time. We somewhat regretted flying from London when ...