Lavender and Rose Birthday Macarons

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I know I claim not to have a signature dish and that I don’t like to keep making the same things over and over, but when it comes to my birthday, I can’t think of a more delicious, more tantalising treat than macarons. Macarons work for me because they are beautiful, they are small and they should be bursting with flavour (and not just taste sweet, like some shop bought ones; oh the disappointment).  The thing I like about making macarons, is once the basic recipe has been mastered, you can be creative with flavour.  In past blogs I’ve made bergamot macarons, rose, lychee and raspberry macarons; macarons flavoured with salted caramel, lemon, white chocolate and lavender. Pierre Herme is a constant inspiration; his flavour combinations are magical and change with the seasons. This year for my birthday, I’m focusing on two flavours, lavender and rose both recipes are from Pierre Herme’s Macaron book. People may accuse me of using ‘soapy’ flavours, but I love them and it’s my birthday!

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Ingredients for Lavender Macarons

300g ground almonds

300g icing sugar

110g ‘liquified’ egg whites (split the eggs 3 days before using and leave to age)

1 teaspoon dried lavender

5g purple food colouring

300g caster sugar

75g mineral water

110g ‘liquified’ egg whites

For the lavender cream

113g unsalted butter softened

190g icing sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1-2 tablespoons double cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 drops lavender essence

Directions for Lavender Macarons

* Sift together the icing sugar and ground almonds.

* With a pestle and mortar grind the lavender then add to the ground almonds and icing sugar mixture.

* Stir the food colouring into the first portion of the liquified egg whites. Pour the coloured egg whites over the mixture of icing sugar and ground almonds but do not stir.

* Bring the water and sugar to boil at 118°C. When the syrup reaches 115°C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of liquified egg whites to soft peaks.

* When the sugar reaches 118°C, pour it over the egg whites. Whisk and allow the meringue to cool down to 50°C, then fold into the almond-sugar mixture.

* Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

* Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment.

* Rap the trays on the work surface covered with a cloth to remove any air bubbles. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes until a skin has formed on the surface.

* Preheat oven to 180°C then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes.

* When out of the oven, slide the shells onto the work surface.

Directions For the lavender cream

* Beat the butter until light and creamy.

* Add the rest of the ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed until medium and whip for an additional 2-3 minutes.

* When cool, spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Pipe a generous amount of ganache onto half the macaron shells. Top with the remaining shells.

* Store the macaroons in the fridge for 24 hours and then bring out for 2 hours before serving.

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Ingredients for Rose Macarons

300g ground almonds

300g icing sugar

110g ‘liquified’ egg whites

5g red food colouring

300g caster sugar

75g mineral water

110g ‘liquified’ egg whites

* Sift together the icing sugar and ground almonds. Stir the food colouring into the first portion of the liquified egg whites. Pour the coloured egg whites over the mixture of icing sugar and ground almonds but do not stir.

* Bring the water and sugar to boil at 118°C. When the syrup reaches 115°C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of liquified egg whites to soft peaks.

* When the sugar reaches 118°C, pour it over the egg whites. Whisk and allow the meringue to cool down to 50°C, then fold into the almond-sugar mixture.

* Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

* Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment.

* Rap the trays on the work surface covered with a cloth to remove any air bubbles. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes until a skin has formed on the surface.

* Preheat oven to 180°C then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes.

* When out of the oven, slide the shells onto the work surface.

Rose Cream

200g caster sugar

75g mineral water

150g whole eggs

90g egg yolk

400g very soft butter (unsalted)

4g rose essence

50g rose syrup

* Bring the sugar and water to the boil in a saucepan. When it boils, clean the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush. Heat the sugar to 120°C.

* In a bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks until they lighten in colour. Pour in the hot sugar at 120°C and continue whisking until it has cooled down completely.

* Cream then whisk the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until it thickens. Add the egg mixture and continue whisking to obtain a smooth consistency, then add the rose essence and syrup. Smooth the butter cream by whisking it briskly.

* Spoon the cream into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Pipe a generous mound of cream on to half the shells and top with the remaining shells.

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Spinach, Egg and Filo Pie

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This is the dish that I made for the Borough Market cookbook club from the Honey and Co at Home book. I have made many variations of this pie before, including a rather good Jamie Oliver recipe with sundried tomatoes and lemon. However, I was drawn to this one as it looked so pretty. The ochre swirl of the eggs on the top make it look like a piece of art work and the golden, crispy pastry is just so tempting. What surprised me was the use of dried mint rather than fresh.  It really packs a flavour punch. This is a recipe that I will come back to again and again as it is just so delicious.

Ingredients

Makes a 23cm round pie for 8

70g butter

1 small packet of filo pastry

For the filling

50g butter

500g spinach

20g dill, chopped

40g (3-4) spring onions, chopped

A few springs of thyme

2 teaspoons dried mint

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

160g yoghurt

50g plain flour

8 eggs (set 4 aside for the topping)

50g pecorino

50g feta

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Directions

  1. Melt the butter for the filling in a large saucepan. Add the spinach and cover. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the spinach is all wilted, then remove to a colander to drain the excess liquid. Transfer to a large bowl, add the dill, spring onions, thyme, dried mint, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and mix well. Add the yoghurt, flour, four of the eggs, the pecorino and feta, and mix well to combine.
  2. Heat the oven to 200ﹾC/180ﹾC fan/gas mark 6.
  3. Melt the butter for the pastry and spread the filo sheets on the work surface. Brush the first sheet with butter and cover with another sheet. Lift these two into the round baking tin, allowing a little overhang. Repeat this process and lay another layer in the tin, slightly overlapping the first. Continue to do this until the entire tin is lined with filo, with pastry overhanging on all the edges. This will take about 4-5 double sheets.
  4. Fill the tin with the spinach mixture. Scrunch the overhanging filo pastry around the edges so that the top is not covered. Place in the oven for 10 minutes.
  5. Carefully remove the pie from the oven. With the back of a spoon, make 4 evenly placed depressions in the spinach and crack an egg into each depression. Use the tip of a sharp knife to swirl the yolk into the filling, but don’t push it in too much. Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes until the spinach mixture is fully set, the eggs are baked and the pastry is crisp all over.

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Medjool date, honey and macadamia breakfast loaf

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This month’s Borough Market Cookbook Club book was Honey & Co at Home by Sarit Packer and Itmar Srulovich. At the Cookbook Club, one book is chosen and we all make something different from it. There were about 15 of us who made different recipes from Honey and Co at Home, so we got to taste a good range of dishes. This breakfast loaf is not something that I would have chosen to make, and this is the beauty of the club. I’ve made plenty loaf cakes in the past and this seemed pretty ordinary. Well, boy was I wrong. This unassuming loaf is anything but ordinary. It is packed full of flavour. The orange zest and clementine peel elevate this loaf to a whole new level. The dates are soft and sweet, the macadamia nuts buttery and crunchy.  So now I have found my new, favourite breakfast loaf.

 

Ingredients

(Makes one large 2kg loaf or two smaller ones)

150ml full fat milk

110g honey

50g salted butter

280g self raising flour

Zest of 1 orange

Skin of 1 clementine, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

200g Medjool dates, roughly chopped

130g macadamia nuts

2 eggs

For the topping

50g cup macadamia nuts

Sprinkling of demerara sugar

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1.      Heat your oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4. Line your loaf tin(s) with a sheet of baking paper.

2.      Place the milk, honey and butter in a small pan and heat gently until the butter has melted. In the meantime, mix the rest of the ingredients apart from the eggs in a large bowl. Pour in the melted butter mixture and use a large spoon to stir until just combined. Add the egg and stir again until fully combined.

3.      Transfer to the baking tin, top with the macadamia nuts and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes.

4.      Open the oven and rotate the cake for an even bake, then leave for a further 20–25 minutes. It should feel lovely and bouncy when you press it. If you are using two smaller tins, they will bake in a shorter time – I would rotate them after 20 minutes and then leave for another 20 minutes to bake fully.

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Roasted Plum Pavlova with Tarragon

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The book for this month’s Borough Market Cookbook Club is in fact the Borough Market Cookbook. Hot off the press, it was only published earlier this month. It is divided according to season, so as soon as it arrived, I dived straight into autumn.

After considering Autumn panzanella, Watercress, russet apple and cobnut salad, Beetroot dahl, I turned to the page with Roast plum pavlova with tarragon and the deliberation was over. It was the tarragon that did it; I love desserts with herbs and was curious to see how the tarragon and plum worked together. After I had roasted the plums with the tarragon, I tasted some of the syrup, it was divine. 

The plums and tarragon on their own would be wonderful with Greek yoghurt or with porridge so I was really glad I had roasted extra.

After I had assembled the two smaller pavlovas, I was thrilled with how they looked. This is a real show stopper and would wow anyone. Hope the Cookbook Club crowd like it!

I’m now writing this a few days later and am happy to report they loved it.

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

For the roast plums

6 sprigs tarragon

150 ml water

1kg plums, halved and de-stoned

40g golden caster sugar

For the meringue

5 large egg whites (about 175g)

350g caster sugar (twice the weight of the egg whites)

70g toasted flaked almonds

To finish

600 ml double cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Leaves picked from 2 sprigs of tarragon

15g toasted flaked almonds

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200ﹾC fan/220ﹾC/gas mark 7.
  • Place the tarragon sprigs in a roasting dish with 150 ml water. Lay the plums over these, cut size up, ideally in one layer. Sprinkle the sugar onto the plums, macerate for 15 minutes, then bake for 20-30 minutes until soft but still holding their shape. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then transfer the plums, juices and tarragon into a smaller container and refrigerate until needed.
  • Weigh the egg whites. Weigh double the amount of sugar. Set the oven to 130ﹾC fan/150ﹾC/gas mark 2 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  • Add the egg whites to a stand mixer and whisk at a medium speed until they form stiff peaks. Increase the speed and slowly add the sugar in a steady stream. Continue whisking for 9 minutes until the mixture is glossy and has no hint of sugar crystals.
  • Scatter with half the almonds. Use a large metal spoon to carefully but confidently ripple through the nuts in two or three swoops. Spoon the mixture onto the lined baking sheet creating a circle of 26-28 cm in diameter, with high, wavy sides and an indent for the cream and fruit in the middle. Place in the centre of the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 110ﹾC fan/ 130ﹾC/gas mark ½ and bake for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave for 1 hour more. Remove the meringue from the oven and sprinkle the remaining almonds on top.
  • Whip the cream and vanilla extract in a bowl until they reach a loose stage, then spoon on top of the meringue. Arrange the plums and juices over the cream, then scatter with tarragon leaves and the flaked almonds.

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Bergamot Madeleines

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I’m still experimenting with bergamot. I have a very special cake coming up and I want to nail this flavour. I’m finding it tricky to get the Earl Grey flavour to come through without being overpowering. When I made the batter, I thought the flavour was quite strong, but when the madeleines baked, the flavour wasn’t as pronounced as I would have liked it to be.  I’ll add more zest next time. Having said that, I think my aunties for whom I made these tasty morsels will be happy with the flavour profile; not everyone is a bergamot fan.

I made the madeleines with my new mini madeleine tins which I bought in Corbridge, a beautiful village in Northumberland with a great cook shop. I hadn’t used this type of tray before, so I was guessing how long to leave the madeleines in the oven. The first batch was in for 10 minutes and were golden brown, but to be honest they were a bit dry. The second batch came out slightly paler as I brought them out after 8 minutes. They were perfect. I think it depends on your oven as to how long to keep them in for. The normal sized madeleines are usually baked for 9-10 minutes.  

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Ingredients

90g unsalted butter

2 tsp honey

2 large eggs

75g caster sugar

1and ½ tsp bergamot zest. (Use 2 tsp if you prefer a stronger flavour)

90g plain flour plus extra for dusting

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

3 tbsp icing sugar

1-2 tsp bergamot juice

Directions

  1. You can follow David Leibovitz’s suggestion and grease then flour the tins and put them in the freezer for an hour. This is supposed to create the characteristic bump on the back of the shell. However, the cakes will taste just as good if you don’t freeze the tins.
  2. Place the butter and honey in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to come to room temperature.
  3. Place the eggs, sugar, and bergamot zest in a food processor and mix until smooth and combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add to the egg mixture. Pulse a few times, just to mix in, and add the cooled butter and honey mixture. Process once more to combine, then pour the batter into a small bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. If you are using metal madeleine trays, brush the moulds with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Silicone trays should not need any greasing or flouring, but you can lightly brush with a little melted butter if you like. Tap to ensure that all the moulds are dusted and then shake off the excess flour. If you have put the trays in the freezer, you can take them out now.
  5. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter into each mould: it should rise two-thirds of the way up the sides of the moulds. If you only have one madeleine tray, place the remaining batter in the fridge until you have baked the first batch. You will need to wash and dry the mould completely before greasing and flouring again and repeating with the second batch.
  6. Bake for 8 minutes, until the madeleines are beginning to brown around the edges and they spring back once tapped lightly in the middle. Remove the tray(s) from the oven and set aside for a minute before releasing the cakes. The best way to do this with a metal tray, is to go around the edges of each madeleine with a small knife or spatula (to make sure they are not stuck) and then tap the edge of the tray on the bench until they fall out. With a silicone tray they should just fall out of their moulds. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.
  7. Add a little of the bergamot juice to the icing sugar and mix. If you add too much juice, the icing sugar will just sink into the madeleines rather than forming a white coat. Also, as you add the juice, check you like the flavour. You should be able to taste the bergamot, but it should not be bitter. When you are happy with the consistency, dip the narrow end of the madeleine into it and leave to dry.

 

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Blackberry and Star Anise Friands

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I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to bake these blackberry and star anise friands since before the book ‘Sweet’ was published. It was one of the most interesting flavour combinations promised in the pre-sale marketing.  I was already a friand aficionado and have posted about plum and almond friands as well as rhubarb friands in the past, but I have to say the blackberry and star anise combo is a whole different story. At first you taste the blackberry, then the orange with the almond background and then at the end the star anise comes to the fore. It is truly delightful. I followed the recipe exactly but I didn’t use quite as much icing sugar as I only did zig zags on the top, rather than cover them completely. I would definitely make these again and sooner rather than later.

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Ingredients

180g     unsalted butter, plus an extra 10g, melted, for brushing

60g      plain flour, plus extra for dusting

200g    icing sugar

120g   ground almonds

1 1/4 tsp     ground star anise, (about 3 stars blitzed in a spice grinder then sieved).

1/8 tsp salt

150g egg whites (from 4 large eggs) 

finely grated zest of one small orange (1 tsp)

18 whole blackberries (120g) cut in half lengthways

Icing (optional) 

60g blackberries (about 8), plus an extra 24 small blackberries, to garnish 

3/4 tbsp water

1 tsp lemon juice

165g icing sugar

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Brush the 12 holes of a regular muffin tin with the melted butter and sprinkle all over with flour. Tap the tray gently to ensure an even coating of the flour, then turn upside down to remove the excess. Place in the fridge to chill while you make the batter.

2. To brown the butter, place in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until melted. Continue to cook until the butter is foaming, gently swirling the pan from time to time, to allow the solids to brown more evenly. You will see dark brown sediments begin to form on the sides and bottom of the pan. Continue to allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a rich golden brown and smells of toasted nuts and caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes, to allow the burnt solids to collect at the bottom of the pan. Strain through a fine-mesh (or muslin-lined) sieve, discarding the solids. Allow the browned butter to cool slightly before using. It should still be warm when folding into the mix later: if it is too hot, it will ‘cook’ the egg whites; if it is too cool, it will be difficult to incorporate into the mix.

3. While the butter is cooling, sift the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds, star anise and salt into a bowl. Place the egg whites in a small bowl and use a whisk or fork to froth them up for a few seconds – you do not need to whisk them completely. Pour the egg whites into the sifted dry ingredients and stir until they are incorporated. Add the orange zest and browned butter and mix until the batter is smooth.

4. Remove the muffin tin from the fridge and fill the moulds just over two-thirds of the way up the sides. Place three halved blackberries on top, cut side down, and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 210°C/190°C Fan/Gas Mark 6 – starting with a high oven temperature and then bringing it down is the way to achieve the lovely brown crust you want – turn the tray around in the oven for even cooking, and continue to cook for another 8 minutes, until the edges of the friands are golden brown and the centres have a slight peak and spring back when gently prodded. Set aside to cool before removing them from their moulds: you might need to use a small knife to help you release the sides.

5. If you are icing the cakes, place 60g of blackberries in a small bowl with the water and lemon juice. Use a fork to mash them together, then pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to extract as much fruit juice as possible: you should get about 60ml. Sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl, pour in the blackberry juice and combine to make a light purple runny icing: it should just be thick enough to form a thin glaze on the tops of the cakes. Spoon the icing over the cakes, spreading it to the edges so that it runs down the sides. Do this on a rack, if you can, as icing them on a plate or sheet of paper means that the icing will pool at the bottom. Alternatively, put the icing into a piping bag and zig zag it over the top. Place 1 or 2 small blackberries on each friand, set aside for 20 or 30 minutes to set, then serve.

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Saffron, orange and honey madeleines

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Last minute lunch invitation and obviously I can’t turn up empty handed; I was lucky enough to have all the ingredients in my cupboard to make these deliciously beautiful shell-like cakes. These tiny treats are easy to make, but you need to be aware that the cake batter needs to be chilled for at least an hour and it is also recommended that the tin is greased, floured and then chilled. All this chilling is in order to achieve the hump that gives the madeleine its authenticity.  The recipe of course is from Sweet; what a brilliant buy that was, I’ve made so many of the recipes. Anyway, I packaged the madeleines into a box and tied a ribbon round it and presented it to a delighted hostess. Naturally, I ate one first; one has to taste test these things. The verdict: sweet, delicate perfection.

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Ingredients

90g unsalted butter, plus an extra 20g, melted, for brushing

2 tsp honey, plus an extra 3 tbsp, for glazing

¼ tsp  saffron threads

2 large eggs

75g caster sugar

scraped seeds of ¼ vanilla pod

 finely grated zest of 1 small orange (1 tsp)

90g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp baking powder

⅛ tsp salt

20g shelled pistachio kernels, finely blitzed

       Directions

  1. Place the butter, honey and saffron threads in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to come to room temperature.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla seeds and orange zest in a food processor and mix until smooth and combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add to the egg mixture. Pulse a few times, just to mix in, and add the cooled butter, honey and saffron mixture. Process once more, to combine, then pour the batter into a small bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. If you are using metal madeleine trays, brush the moulds with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Silicone trays should not need any greasing or flouring, but you can lightly brush with a little melted butter, if you like. Tap to ensure that all the moulds are dusted and then shake off the excess flour.
  4. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter into each mould: it should rise two-thirds of the way up the sides of the moulds. If you only have one madeleine tray, place the remaining batter in the fridge until you have baked the first batch. You will need to wash and dry the mould completely before greasing and flouring again and repeating with the second batch.
  5. Bake for 9–10 minutes, until the madeleines are beginning to brown around the edges and they spring back once tapped lightly in the middle. Remove the tray(s) from the oven and set aside for a minute before releasing the cakes. The best way to do this, with a metal tray, is to go around the edges of each madeleine with a small knife or spatula (to make sure they are not stuck) and then tap the edge of the tray on the bench until they fall out. With a silicone tray they should just fall out of their moulds. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Pile the blitzed pistachios on to a plate in a straight line and set aside. Melt the 3 tablespoons of honey in a small saucepan (a microwave is also good here) until very runny, then brush lightly over the shell-patterned side of one madeleine. With the shell side facing down towards the nuts, roll the narrower end of the madeleine along the pile of pistachios so that you have a straight 1cm strip of pistachios at the base of the madeleine. Repeat with the remaining madeleines, and place on a serving platter, nut side up.

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