Macaroons and muffins

A friend was given a surprise baby shower yesterday so I thought I’d bake something for her. I wanted something light and also quick to make and as she doesn’t know whether she’s having a girl or a boy, I thought I’d play on the fact that you can either get blue or pink bits and bobs for newborns – from wrapping paper and cards to toys and clothing, hardly anything is unconventionally yellow, green or orange. So, I made Dan Lepard’s trusty Blueberry and creme fraiche cupcakes from Short and Sweet but I only used a thinnest film of icing (with unrefined icing sugar) so that I could sprinkle stuff on top. I’m calling them muffins:

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Very light, these, the recipe is available here for those who don’t have the book. I’ve made them before, without any icing and they are very good indeed. I also made these great little Rose pink macaroons, again, recipe from Dan Lepard, available online. These were quite fun to do and very quick, my favourite bit was using a teaspoon of grated raw beetroot to colour the sugar, neat little trick and no need for colourings/ E numbers.

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These are ‘rough and ready’ macaroons, using both flaked and ground almonds for a more interesting texture and the flavour comes from rose water. As the recipe suggests, they do go very well with Champagne so a good idea for a party sweet. Think I’ll definitely make them again.

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Two kinds of meringue

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Rose and pistachio meringues and Cinnamon and almond meringues, I have mountains of them! I wasn’t planning on making any, just had a load of egg whites to use up. As it happens, we’ve a family get together later on today so I’ll take them to have with strawberries.

I’ve only ever made meringue once before, using the Swiss method given in the Ottolenghi book. Couldn’t really be bothered to do all that heating sugar and egg whites together first over a pot of simmering water so I looked up Dan Lepard’s method, which also uses a lot less sugar. I ended up using 45g sugar per egg white (less than even Dan Lepard), adding it slowly in once the egg whites had started forming soft peaks. These are best done in a proper mixer, not an electric hand held one as they do take a while to really firm up and turn glossy. I did dishes and other bits and bobs in the kitchen while making them, just going back to the mixer every now and then to tip a bit more sugar in. Used unrefined granulated sugar. For the Rose and pistachio, I added 1tsp rose water (for 4 egg whites), then took a spoonful and rolled it a bit in pistachios (pulsed in the blender first) and plonked on the baking tray lined with baking parchment. This is best done with two table spoons or a table spoon and a spatula. For the Cinnamon and almond, I added a good sprinkle of cinnamon, say half a teaspoon for 2 egg whites then sprinkled flaked almonds on top. Oven was at 100C (fan) and in they went for an hour and a half each. They are chewy in the middle, which is how I like them. If you want them to be dry in the middle, then bake for 2 hours + leave in the oven with the door open so they cool down slowly. The flavouring came from the Ottolenghi book although I didn’t follow their shaping, I really did just plonk them on the tray. I kind of like the slightly off shapes, they look more fun this way and they are very good – had half a rose and pistachio one with ice cream last night, just perfect dessert for this kind of weather.

Strawberry tart

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Perfect summer afternoon treat, Strawberry tart from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet. Sweet short pastry, a creamy ‘custard’ made with milk, egg white, cornflour, bit of sugar and vanilla and then lightened with creme fraiche, all topped with fresh strawberries. Very light and moreish. The pastry came out very short and crisp, not too sweet and I’ve used half fat milk and creme fraiche so am telling self this is actually moderately ‘healthy’. Have only finished it an hour ago and have already had two slices. Impressed.

Orange macaroon cake

I was a bit preoccupied yesterday. I had plans to make a bit of an elaborate cake (one that would require going out to buy ingredients) but I also wanted to finish reading a book (of which more later). By around 3pm I gave up on the elaborate cake (book nowhere near the end), had a quick look at Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet  and found Orange macaroon cake. Simplicity itself and, more importantly, I had everything needed. IMG_0605

It’s a basic sponge with the addition of orange zest, desiccated coconut and Cointreau then iced with a mix of orange zest, juice and icing sugar. I actually didn’t have enough orange zest for the icing so just used a dollop of marmalade instead and reduced the quantity of icing sugar. It has a deep, intense orange flavour from the combination of zest and Cointreau and it is very light, a perfect afternoon treat.IMG_0603

Dan’s recipe uses three smaller tins, ending up with three layers, I made it in my trusty old 20cm tin and cut it into two layers. Am pretty impressed with quick it was to make and how delicious it is. Might make this again.

Oatmeal and linseed loaf

Bit of an experiment yesterday, I wanted to see if I can use both yeast and sourdough starter in a yeast-only bread recipe. I ended up with a really good Oatmeal and linseed loaf, a mash up of Dan Lepard and River Cottage Bread Handbook.IMG_0600

The recipe I adapted was for Dan Lepard’s Soy and linseed loaf from Short and Sweet, I didn’t have soy milk so used semi skimmed milk and Greek yoghurt instead. Also added sourdough starter and then made the bread according to River Cottage. Very pleased with the result, although I wish I’d made a bigger loaf! Good crumb and a lovely texture inside.

Ingredients and method: in a mixer bowl (you need a dough hook attachment), soak 50g rolled oats with 100ml boiling water for 10 minutes. Add 325g strong white flour, 50g rye flour, 50g golden linseed, 100ml sourdough starter (or thereabouts, I actually never measure the sourdough starter, just tip out from the jar a quantity that feels right, have not been wrong so far), 1 and a half teaspoons quick acting yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, 100ml milk and 175g Greek yoghurt. Knead at a slow speed first to combine then increase speed and knead for 6 minutes. Alternatively, mix to combine then knead by hand for 10-15 minutes until the dough is elastic. Oil your hands and a work surface a little then shape the dough (it’s a little wet) into a ball and place into a bowl, cover and leave for an hour. Deflate, shape into a ball and leave for another hour and repeat this one more time. Take the dough out, deflate one more time then roll it up tightly. Flatten and stretch, then blanket fold and shape into a loaf – use more rye flour to coat. Leave to prove until doubled in size (took an hour and a half yesterday), meanwhile heat the oven to its highest setting (250C is good) placing a baking sheet or a hot stone in the oven first. Slash the loaf, transfer into the oven and bake for 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 180C and bake for a further 35. Leave to cool – this is the bit I can never do…

Cinnamon buns

In my world, a good bun is a thing of beauty. Sticky and crisp outside, soft and pillowy inside, stuffed with something lovely… oh joy! I do love a good bun, from savoury Chinese dim sum buns, British Chelsea and hot cross buns, the Buchteln my grandmother used to make (this is where my love of buns comes from) and finally, Scandinavian cinnamon and cardamom buns, which really are the best buns. I made Cinnamon buns for the first time yesterday afternoon, as they came out of the oven I proudly showed them to Beloved who thought I should wear them as a hat:

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The photo does not do them justice, they are so good, I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon eating them all but we were meeting friends for dinner so had to practice self restraint. The recipe came from Dan Lepard, I found it in Guardian archives. I even bought the wide springform tin specifically for buns a while back – don’t quite understand why it took me so long to get around to making them. These also achieve a double whammy on the sublime scale by having both cardamom (in the dough) and cinnamon. I also used rich and creamy Jersey milk in the dough. Have already had two (little ones) for breakfast… they’ll be gone by the afternoon at this rate.

Blueberry and strawberry ‘muffins’

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These were really meant to be cupcakes but I didn’t fancy sugary icing so I just decided to go without and turn them into muffins. They are really very much like clouds, super light and very moreish. Recipe was from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet, and was only meant to have blueberries but I had a load of strawberries too so used half and half. The really interesting thing about these is that you make a meringue, which you beat in, not fold into the mix. I thought beating meringue in would kill off all the air, making the cake heavy and dense but not in this case. This is probably one of the lightest cakes I’ve ever made. Highly recommended.

The reason I had a load of strawberries this weekend was that we were going to see a friend with a sweet tooth and I’d decided to make him a cake. Strawberries coming into season, I thought perfect, there are bound to be some good strawberry cakes on the web. My search returned quite a lot of same old same old – nothing wrong with a tart with fresh strawberries on top but that’s not what I was looking for. I found a great looking cake on Pinterest but did not fancy working out the American measurements so, in the end, I found two decent strawberry cheesecake recipes that I sort of combined and adapted. The result was pretty fab but I didn’t get around to taking a photo. We left the cake with the friend, so Beloved got the blueberry and strawberry ‘muffins’ yesterday as a consolation. Think I’ll make the cheesecake again, no baking involved and it was actually fairly healthy too.