Monday, 18 April 2011

Mac Attack #18 - Oreo Easter Macarons

This months Mac Attack Challenge is all about chocolate, a theme that is always OK by me and great for Easter. 

 I decided to make Oreo Macarons, a flavour I have been meaning to try for a while, the shells are a simple dark chocolate Macaron but I used a recipe I hadn't tried yet.  For the filling I have taken the yummy middle out of two whole packets of double stuffed Oreos and added a little butter, milk and icing sugar to make a very simple buttercream.

Once my Macs were sandwiched together with filling I used a paintbrush to brush a ring of melted chocolate on the top of each Macaron.  I crushed Oreos to ruble and using the chocolate as an adhesive sprinkled the rubble over my Macarons to create a yummy ring of mud.  I love that Oreos make such great mud!

I made little fondant carrot tops and affixed these to the centre of each Macaron using more melted chocolate. 

If you love Oreos you will love these and although I doubt the French would approve of my creation they really are delicious. 

These cute Macarons are great for Easter and children and adults alike will love the novelty of them but as the shells are plain chocolate you could easily make half a batch with Oreo filling and the rest with something slightly more adult and less sweet so that everyone is happy.

Oreo Macarons 
Basic Macaron Recipe adapted from Mad About Macarons

150g organic egg whites
100g fine caster sugar
180g ground almonds
260g icing sugar
20g unsweetened cocoa powder

2 x packets double stuffed Oreos
1 tbsp softened butter
4 tsp milk
6 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat oven to 150 C. Sift together the icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder.

Whisk the egg whites until half stiff, sprinkle the sugar over and whisk until very stiff but not dry. Gradually fold in the sifted ingredients.

Pipe small rounds, a couple of cm apart onto your lined baking sheet, using a plain 1 cm nozzle. Rap the baking sheet hard on the counter top to flatten the batter before baking.

Let them sit for 30 minutes to form a skin.

Bake for 12 - 15 minutes: you want them dry on top but, but still chewy underneath. Remove from the oven and let cool on their sheets for a few minutes before removing and placing on a wire rack.

For the filling:

Using a knife remove the filling from your double stuffed Oreos, reserving the cookies to decorate if you wish.  In a medium bowl combine the Oreo filling, milk and butter, beating until well combined.  Add the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time until you reach piping consistency.

For the decoration you will need:

30g dark chocolate, melted
a handful of Oreo cookie shells, crushed
orange and green fondant.

Simple paint a ring of chocolate onto the top of each sandwiched Macaron using a paint brush, sprinkle with crushed Oreos and affix small fondant carrot tops to the centres.

I'm so glad to get back into the Mac Tweets challenges after a few missed months and can't wait to get stuck into some summery Macaron flavours, I've been meaning to make lemon Macarons for months.

Random Recipe Challenge 3 - My First Cookbook

For the 3rd Random Recipe Challenge, Dom asked us all to go back to our first ever cookbook, for many I'm sure this will mean retro recipes galore but since I didn't start cooking until about 4 1/2 years ago, none of my cookbooks are that old.

I thought my first cookbook was this funny little cookie book but I wasn't sure so thought I'd better check with Mr. P. who immediately told me Jamie's Italy was in fact my first cookbook.  He was right, I remember now when he bought it for me, I love Italian food so I was pleased, I love this book and that funny little cookie book isn't the best.

I always aim for somewhere near the middle of the book for these recipe challenges, mainly because I know the cakes and desserts are always at the back of a cookbook and aiming for that bit would be cheating.

 I was so chuffed to land on this gorgeous sausage carbonara, I love carbonara but hubby isn't a fan so I very rarely make it, this was a fantastic excuse and even hubby admitted it was really good, the sausage meatballs are a lovely variation on a beautiful classic. 

Sausage Carbonara - Jamie's Italy

4 good-quality organic Italian sausages

 olive oil
4 slices of thickly cut pancetta, chopped
 sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
 500g dried linguine
4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
 100ml double cream
 100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
 zest of 1 lemon
a sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
extra virgin olive oil

With a sharp knife, slit the sausage skins lengthways and pop all the meat out. Using wet hands, roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them to one side.

Heat a large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil. Gently fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the pancetta and continue cooking for a couple of minutes, until it’s golden. While this is cooking, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the linguine, and cook according to the packet instructions.

In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan, the lemon zest and parsley. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and immediately toss it quickly with the egg mixture back in the pasta pan. Add the hot sausage meatballs and toss everything together. The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble. The sauce should be smooth and silky. If the pasta becomes a little claggy, add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water to loosen it slightly. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, season if necessary, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Eat immediately!

This months challenge really made me look back to a time I couldn't cook at all, just so you all know the full extent of my lack of culinary skill when I was given Jamie's Italy I will tell you this...

I couldn't even cook rice! I couldn't cook anything but my first few attempts at rice were bad, really bad.  I didn't realise you had to let the water absorb and kept topping up the pan with more water as the rice was cooking.  Such a fool!

  I decided to learn to cook because Mr. P. and I had been living together for a couple of years and eating rather badly.  Once I started I couldn't stop and I became completely obsessed with baking and cooking.  I was always amazed and astounded when I created something delicious in the kitchen and every tiny little triumph was like gold dust to me.  I have had so much fun on my culinary journey so far and can't imagine what life would have been like had I not learnt to cook.

I'm going to dig out my first ever cupcake book and bake something form that soon, just for nostalgia's sake really but I can't wait.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Delicious Carrot Cake Recipe

I love carrot cake and this is a beautiful recipe.  If I'm in a cafe I will always order carrot cake but I don't often make it at home, this is probably because I hate grating all those carrots! The grating attachment on my food processor doesn't grate them fine enough so I do it all by hand, which when you need 450g of grated carrots is no mean feat.

That being said this carrot cake was totally worth it and I highly recommend it, I might at some nuts next time but it is delicious without.  I always grate my carrots onto a plate lined with paper towels and then pat with further paper towels to soak up some of the moisture.  I have plenty of experience with dreaded soggy bottomed carrot cakes and do not wish to return to that dark place.

Carrot Cake 
 Recipe adapted from A Piece of Cake by Leila Lindholm

Makes 1 two-layer cake

For the cake:

3 organic eggs
270g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
180g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch of salt
150ml sunflower oil
450g grated carrots

2 x 20cm cake tins

Cream Cheese Frosting

65g unsalted butter, softened
240g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
100g cream cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2.  Line the bases of your cake tins, butter and flour the tins tapping out any excess flour.
2. Beat together the eggs and the sugar until pale and fluffy, add the vanilla paste and beat until well combined.
3. Sift together the dry ingredients and blend into the egg mixture.
4. Stir in the oil and the carrots.
5. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake in the centre of the preheated oven for about 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6. Leave the cake to cool.
8. Mix together the ingredients for the frosting, beating until creamy and smooth.
9. Once the cake is completely cool turn one of the layers upside down and frost the flat side, place the second cake layer flat side down on top of the frosted layer and spread the remaining icing on top.

I love carrot cake at Easter time and it's so easy to make your carrot cake more festive.  I made this one a couple of years ago now and even though it's a little messy Bunny is super cute.

However you decide to decorate your carrot cake it is a brilliant cake to have around the house at Easter and it's good to get some veg in after all that chocolate.

x x x