Monday, 30 May 2011

Apricot, Peach & Vanilla Jam Recipe

I love making jam, I think it is largely since for years I thought jam was a rather difficult thing to make. Truth is, nothing could be easier, fruit, sugar, boil, done.  However nothing I can think of quite makes you feel like a domestic goddess as much as making preserves.

I came across an Apricot & Vanilla Jam recipe in this months Jamie Oliver magazine and since I had decided to make afternoon tea in celebration of the Grand Prix (hubby was watching the racing and I was looking for a distraction), jam seemed like a fitting idea. 

I halved the original recipe and had exactly enough jam to fill my single jar, I obviously replaced some of the apricots with peaches to turn it in to Apricot, Peach and Vanilla Jam.  After boiling my jam for an hour my fruit was still rather chunky so I gave it a little mash before pouring into my sterilised jar and placing in the fridge to set.

This jam is gorgeous, especially on toasted brioche or scones.  I love apricot and peach and the vanilla really is another flavour here, not just a subtle hint. The flavour is beautiful and it really was a breeze to make, so if you haven't yet made jam you should definitely give this one a try.

Apricot, Peach & Vanilla Jam

Makes 1 large jar

400g apricots
3 ripe peaches
1 vanilla pod
350g caster sugar
100ml water

Cut the fruit into quarters and remove the stones, place in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and add to the pan along with the sugar and water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat and leave simmer for one hour. 

After 40 minutes, sterilize your jar by washing in boiling water and placing in the oven. Once your jars are in the oven turn the heat to 160C allow the oven to come up to temperature, leave the jars in the oven for the final 20 minutes of cooking your jam.  Pour hot jam into the hot jar. 

Place jam in the fridge to set.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Mac Attack #19 Ballpark Snacks - Toffee Popcorn Mini Macarons

This months Mac Attack is a great one, what could be more fun than Ballpark snack macs?

Hot Dogs, Popcorn, Peanuts, French Fries, Crackerjacks, Corn Dogs and Soft Drinks. No sophisticated and elegant flavours allowed, this month was all about junk food.  Snack macs with a ballpark twist, sweet and salty, creamy, crispy or ice cold the possibilities are rather exciting.

I have been to a ball game, hubby and I went to see the NFL in London last year (I think that counts). The game was fantastic but the snacks were terrible, lets just say at Wembley Stadium I had the worst hot dog I have ever tried in my life, I say tried because I chucked it after one bite. 

I'm convinced that this is us Brits. being quite frankly rubbish and in my head the ballpark snacks in the U.S. are utterly awesome and a big part of the experience and excitement of the day.  Needless to say I decided not to take inspiration from Wembley Stadium for my Mac Attack and instead decided to make my ballpark macs the ball game snacks I always dreamed of.

I finally decided on Toffee Popcorn Mini Macarons, sweet and salty, cute and bite size, perfect macarons for a ball game.

I considered adding ground toffee popcorn to the macaron batter, this would have been very brave, totally bad ass and awesome if it had worked but I had a very strong suspicion that it wouldn't.

 As it was with just a sprinkle of toffee popcorn on top, the toffee caused my macarons caramelised slightly on top and around the edges, so I imagine toffee popcorn in the batter would have been a disaster. 

 The slight caramelisation (although not strictly right for a macaron), really added to the toffee popcorn-ness of these macarons.  You could taste the toffee popcorn sprinkle brilliantly and when combined with the toffee filling, the added chew from the slightly caramelized pieds (feet) and their adorable miniature size, these really were very much like toffee popcorn.

The popcorn boxes just pulled it all together perfectly, I didn't buy them especially for this, I have had them cluttering up my kitchen for ages now and was really pleased to find something so fabulous to use them for.  I am obviously a trashy mac type of girl because I love both these and my Oreo Macarons from last month. Malteser Macarons coming up...

Toffee Popcorn Mini Macarons

100g (about 3) egg whites, room temperature
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
1tsp cocoa powder
30g toffee popcorn.

Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.

Place the toffee popcorn in a food processor and blitz to crumbs.

Sift together the almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until half stiff, gradually add the caster sugar, beating until the egg whites become egg whites reach stiff, firm peaks stage. The mixture should be glossy.

Fold the beaten egg whites into the dry ingredients, incorporating gently with a rubber spatula.  Once fully incorporated, use your rubber spatula to press down the mixture, going back and forth to press out the oxygen.  The mixture will be smooth and fall in a ribbon from the spatula when ready, do not over mix.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 0.5cm plain round piping tip and pipe 1-1.5cm rounds onto your prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with your toffee popcorn crumbs over the piped macarons.

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Leave the trays out on the kitchen counter for around 30 minutes to set, when they feel hard to the touch they are ready to be baked.

Bake in the centre of your oven for around 5 minutes. Touch the top of a macaron and gently move your finger side to side. If there is no wobble they are ready.

Leave the macaron shells on their baking trays to cool before using a palette knife to carefully remove them.

Toffee Filling

50g light muscovado sugar
3 tbsp water
100ml double cream

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and place over a gentle heat until the sugar has melted. Bring to a gentle boil and let it bubble away until you reach Soft-Ball Stage (around 5 minutes).

Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cream.  Return to a low heat and let the mixture gently bubble for a further 5 minutes or until thickened.

Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and place in the refrigerator for half an hour, whisking occasionally, until thick and pipe-able.

Marry up the macaron discs and pipe the toffee caramel onto the flat side of one macaron in each pair. Sandwich the macarons pairs together and serve on a pile of toffee popcorn.

Pop over and visit the lovely macaron people at Mac Tweets and feast your eyes on the fantastic macarons made by everyone each month. I love everyone's amazingly creative ideas and all the gloriously different recipes.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Random Recipe Challenge 4: Just Desserts - Walnut and Honey Loaf Cake Recipe

It seems a little early in the month to be posting my Random Recipe Challenge but I have an ominous feeling that this month is going to be crazy busy. I felt it was best to get all my monthly blog challenges done as soon as possible, (Mac Attack coming soon), as with all the changes happening at the bakery I'm going to be a little caught up and I didn't want to miss out on the fun. Especial since this months themes are so perfect.

Although I will be busy in the coming months but I'm determined not to let my blog suffer, there will be less time for recreational baking but I will post every cake and afternoon tea delight I make, recipe and all and of course there will always be cupcakes.

The lovely Dom over at Belleau Kitchen decided to let all us bakers do what we do best this month, it is finally time for dessert!  It was easy to locate all my baking/dessert books as I categorize my cookbooks like a crazy lady, (sections include Travel, Jamie Oliver, Cupcakes, Macarons, General Baking, Pasty etc), I'm very uncool.  I decided to go for the General Baking section and happily landed on Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days.  It's one of my newer books and I've only had the chance to try a couple of recipes so it was a good one to land on. 

I am so glad I opened the book to this page! This loaf is amazing, beautifully flavourful yet not overly sweet, the honey flavour is subtle and the walnuts a perfect addition.  Although the cake appears to have a crust, once doused in syrup the entire cake is soft and incredibly moist, without being wet.  This cake is a total winner and I may even bake a few at work in the coming weeks.

Walnut and Honey Loaf
Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days
Serves 8-10

190g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
190g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
190g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
25g plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp runny honey
60g walnuts, roughly chopped
One 8.5 x 17.5cm (3½ x 7in) loaf tin with 7.5cm (3in) sides
(I used a 11 x 22cm loaf tin as that is all I had at home, I didn't have any problems).
Preheat the oven to 170°C, then grease the loaf tin with butter and dust with flour. Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs one at a time, whisking well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add these dry ingredients to the batter in two stages and mix on a low speed until just incorporated. Mix in the yoghurt, vanilla essence and half the honey, then stir in the walnuts by hand. Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the sponge is firm and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean of any uncooked batter.

While the cake is cooking, place the remaining honey in a small saucepan with 50ml of water and bring to the boil, allowing the syrup to reduce by about half. Pour the warm syrup over the cake when it comes out of the oven, then leave to cool in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack and allowing to cool completely before serving.