Friday, 21 September 2012

Pretty Pink Very Berry Macaron Recipe

I have been playing around with this recipe for a while now and I absolutely love the bold, sharp flavour the freeze dried berries give these macarons. 

These beautiful, bold, berry macarons are especially delicious when combined with the smooth, sweet and creamy vanilla buttercream.

You should be able to find some freeze dried berries at your local health food store, the berry mixture I use includes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and pineapple. 

I grind my freeze dried berry mixture into a fine powder in the food processor but be careful not to grind the mixture too much as it will begin to turn to a paste.

Very Berry Macarons

Makes about 70 macarons

30g freeze dried mixed berries
275g ground almonds
300g icing sugar
110g egg whites

300g caster sugar
75g water
pink food colouring paste
110g egg whites

French Vanilla Buttercream

250g unsalted butter, very soft
100ml water
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

To Make the Macarons:

Line 3 baking trays with parchment paper.

Using a food processor, blitz the freeze dried berries into a fine powder.

Sift together the icing sugar, dried berry powder and ground almonds into a large mixing bowl. Add the first batch of egg whites to the bowl but do not mix.

Place the sugar, water and food colouring into a small saucepan, stir to mix in the colour before placing over a medium heat. Boil until the syrup reaches 118C. Once the syrup reaches 110C, simultaneously, begin to whisk the second batch of white eggs on the high speed of an electric mixer. 

Pour the 118C sugar syrup onto the whipped egg whites, in a thin stream, avoiding the whisk. Continue to whisk until the meringue cools to 50C. Fold the meringue into the almond mixture with a rubber spatula, turning the bowl a quarter turn on each fold. 

When the macaron batter just begins to shine, it is ready, the batter should form a ribbon that falls from the spatula and holds its shape for around 20 seconds before sinking back into the mixture. 

Pour the macaron batter into a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe the mixture into uniform rounds onto the prepared baking trays. Tap the baking sheets on a work surface to let any air bubbles rise out. 

Let the macaron shells sit for around 30 min or until they form a skin, (no batter will stick to your finger if you touch one). 

Preheat oven to 160C. 

Bake the macarons for around 14 minutes depending on their size. Once they are baked the macaron shells will no longer wobble when touched.

To Make the French Vanilla Buttercream:

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until very soft, smooth and creamy, around 2 minutes.

Place both eggs in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a free standing mixer.

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and boil until the mixture reaches 118C. Once the sugar syrup reaches 110C start to beat the eggs on a medium speed. 

Turn the mixer down to a low speed and pour the 118C syrup onto the beaten eggs in a thin stream, avoiding the whisk. Continue to beat the mixture until the bowl is no longer hot and the mixture has become white and heavy.

Gradually add the butter to the syrup mixture and beat on a medium speed until smooth and creamy.

While beating the butter and syrup, the mixture may appear to separate and begin to look curdled. Do not panic! Continue beating the mixture until it becomes smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and beat well.

To Assemble:

Pair up your macaron shells, pipe around 1 tsp of buttercream onto the flat side of one macaron in each pair and top with the remaining macaron shell.


Friday, 14 September 2012

Halloween Treats: Homemade Candy Corn Recipe

I realised after making my Candy Corn that this was actually going to be a rather difficult post to write. 

I have never actually tried Candy Corn and consequently have absolutely no idea how much my homemade version resembles the real thing. 

At a little bit of a loss, I googled, 'what does Candy Corn taste like'.  

I was answered with a barrage of pretty angry criticism and as it turns out Candy Corn is far from the much loved American Halloween candy I thought it was. 

The answers ranged from the scathing to the simply blunt. 

One of my favourites was, 'pre-digested marshmallows and sweet vanilla sh*t meadow'.

...I'm not sure that's exactly how I'd describe my homemade version...

Still at a bit of a loss I decided to google 'what is the texture of Candy Corn' and thankfully this time I found an awesome Candy Corn review in which Candy Corn is described in fabulous detail.

'Candy Corn belongs to a class of candy called mallowcreams (mallowcremes), these candies are distinguished by a shiny, waxy-looking outer shell and a texture that starts stiff, but finishes with a melting quality'.

This was good news because that is exactly how I would describe this homemade version.

It seems that much of the Candy Corn criticism I came across, was aimed at the flavour, many said Candy Corn tasted like nothing but sugar and was overly sweet to the point of being inedible.

 This homemade Candy Corn is definitely incredibly sweet, even for me and that's saying something but you can definitely taste the vanilla and it has a lovely milky flavour, like a subtle version of English Milk Bottles, which I love.

NOTE: The original recipe suggest that the Candy Corn will taste better once left to dry out for a few days.  I would say that leaving the Candy Corn to dry out for a few days is a necessity, the Candy Corn is far to soft before this point, the outer shell needs time to develop and both the taste and chew is greatly improved.

Homemade Candy Corn Recipe

(Adapted from Food Network Magazine October 2012 Issue)

Makes 80-100 pieces.

4 1/2 ounces icing sugar
1/2 ounce non fat powdered milk
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
3 3/4 ounces light corn syrup
2 1/2 tbsp water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 or 3 drops each of yellow and orange gel food colouring paste.

Sift together the icing sugar, milk powder and salt.  Set aside.

Combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup and water in a large saucepan. Place over a medium heat and cook for 4 minutes, until the sugar has melted.

Add the butter and attach a candy thermometer to the edge of the pan. Bring the sugar syrup to 110C (230F). Remove from the heat and remove the candy thermometer.

Add the vanilla extract and the dry mixture to the syrup and stir continuously with a silicone spatula until well combined.  Pour the mixture onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes, until cool enough to handle.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Add 2 or 3 drops of yellow food colouring to one piece and knead until the colour is consistent throughout.  Add 2-3 drops of orange food colouring to the second piece and knead until the colour is consistent throughout. Leave the third piece of dough white.

Roll each piece of dough into a long strand around 18 inches long. Cut each stand in half and roll each half into a strand that is about 1/2 thick and 22 inches long.

Lay the strands side by side (orange, yellow and then white) and press them together using your fingers.  Cut into 4-inch pieces and then using a ruler or bench scraper, press each piece into a wedge, keeping the orange section wide and making the white part come to a tip.

Use a wire butter slicer or sharp knife to cut each wedge into individual pieces.

Lay the pieces out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper until dry, at least one hour.

Store in an airtight container with greaseproof paper between each layer.

 I suggest leaving your Candy Corn to dry for a full 3 days, see note above.

Why not try replacing the vanilla extract with another flavour, you could use this recipe to make strawberry, apple, lemon or blueberry candies! The best thing is that this 'candy dough' is great fun and very simple to work with, you would be able to colour and shape the dough into an array of designs.

I can't end this post without giving Food Network Magazine a shout out.  I have a subscription to the magazine via my iPad and I absolutely love it! Honestly, my excitement when it arrives in my Zino app every month is verging on the ridiculous. I have now tried hundreds of their recipes, dinners, desserts, cakes and now candies and every single one has been absolutely gorgeous.  I now count many of their recipes among my favourites.  I honestly think that Food Network Magazine is the best foodie magazine around and you can trust me, I buy them all. 


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Buttercream Bakery Grazing Sheep Cupcakes

Grazing Sheep Cupcakes

This cupcake cutie has stolen my heart.

 His adorable little face is so simple yet has so much character...

I think it's the eyebrows...

The buttercream grass is a breeze to create and if you would like to give it a go all you will need is a grass/hair piping tip, (you can buy these from most cake decorating stores or websites and they are relatively inexpensive), a piping bag and some quite stiff, grass green buttercream.

Have a great weekend everyone.

I'm in full work mode today but will be having a picnic in the sunshine tomorrow.

I can't wait!