Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hazelnut and Chocolate Macaroons (Macarons) - Home Sweet Home Bake Along (10/100)

Well, would you look at that, we're 10% of the way through this epic 100 bakes bake-along.

Finally back onto home territory - the good old French macaron.

And this was a good week for macarons - they shaped beautifully, they had glossy shells, they had feet.

Even better, the ganache was a delight to work with, didn't split, and the bitterness of the dark chocolate beautifully complements the sweetness of the macaron.

Replacing the usual ground almonds, with lightly toasted and freshly ground hazelnuts made these macarons like a grown-up Nutella, which, as I read in one of my new books for Christmas, was formally called Pasta Gianduja Supercrema (honest - you can read it on Wikipedia, it must be true.)

A little late for Christmas parties, but I think these would make an excellent addition to a buffet table for a rather nice New Year's do.

340g icing sugar, divided into 140g and 200g (I went my own way and replaced the 200g with normal caster sugar, and the macarons were still beautiful)
110g hazlenuts, toasted and peeled (this takes a very, very, very long time, and is probably completely unneccessary as you process them to powder and then sieve them, and the mixture is chocolate coloured)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 large egg whites
pinch of salt
125ml double cream
110g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate

Macarons previously: MacaronsAlmond Macarons, Chocolate Macarons, Lemon Macarons.

You may have noticed a bit of a pause on the Bake-Along Front - We agreed (Pigling and I) that because of the Christmas period we would extend the time allotted for the Macarons so we have until the 4th of January to finish them, and then the next week (before the 11th January 2015) will be Blondie Pie. Looks intriguing and not at all worthy of New Year's Resolutions!

In other news - Little Boy Red (well, The Fair Physiologist says it was him, but he being but five months old, I have my doubts) gave me the Great British Bake Off Official Calendar, which has a bake a month to do, so I'm definitely going to be baking those as well next year.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Banana Boston Cream Cake - Home Sweet Home Bake Along (9/100)

Firstly, I think the name of this cake is a complete misnomer - there's no cream, and (more importantly) there's no Boston.

I would like to propose a new name for it - Chocolate Banana Custard Cake. A more fitting, if less imaginative description, if I might say so.

Secondly, my cake looks nothing like the one in the book. Mostly due to Ganache Issues.

I don't like ganache - it usually splits, then doesn't come back together until it is far too solid to pour, it's lack of sweetener means that you need to use cheap chocolate for it to taste any good in the volumes required for this cake, and this cake has a lot of it! (So much so, that I covered it thickly, and there was still enough left over to make 7 good sized truffles. Humph)

Thirdly, overall, I don't think this is a cake I will repeat. The cake batter was so thick that it would barely spread in the tin, and the resulting cake was bumpy.Even though I baked the cake for the shorter than specified, it was dry, to the point where the custard couldn't offer much improvement.

And, as I've said, the ganache - because I used good, dark chocolate, it wasn't very sweet, it was rather bitter, and really didn't add anything to the cake - a chocolate butter cream, or a custard-whipped cream topping would have been better.

Even more telling was my colleague's feedback, "Not your best cake,"  they very kindly clarified by specifying it was the recipe not the cake, but to be honest, I wouldn't have minded, because they were right, and I like it when people feel they can offer good, honest, feedback!

So, not a great success, but given that we are 9 bakes in, that's not too shabby. Next week, we're back on familiar territory with Hazelnut and Chocolate Macaroons

100g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 medium banana, mashed
125g soured cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt (too much, in my opinion)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

250ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks (save the whites for next week!)
50g caster sugar
15g plain flour
15g cornflour

400ml double cream
400g dark chocolate, chopped


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spiced Cranberry Party Fudge

This recipe is so wonderfully easy, it makes for a perfect last-minute Christmas-y party snack.

Or just an indulgent treat to nibble with hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire.

Whilst a cat purrs contentedly on your lap, and the logs crackle and spark.


Inspired by Steph (Misplaced Brit)'s recent fudge recipes, and a Nigella Lawson recipe, this recipe requires less than 10 minutes of prep time, plus a couple of hours in the fridge, and makes a smooth, yummy fudge, with very little effort.

1 (397g) can of sweetened condensed milik
400g dark chocolate, broken into small chunks
50g butter
1 to 2 tsp ground ginger (I used 1 tsp, but could hardly taste it, I advise more)
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
50g dried cranberries, plus extra to decorate (optional)
gold balls, silver balls, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, cacao nibs, etc to decorate (optional)

1. Line a 7x10 inch deep baking tin with foil (I like Mary Berry's method - mould the foil over the outside of the upside down tin, gently remove, turn the tin over, and pop the moulded foil in)
2. Put the chocolate, condensed milk, butter and spices into a large microwavable bowl. Heat on full power for one to three minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the butter and chocolate have completely melted (mine took 2+1/2 minutes).
3. Stir in the cranberries, and stir until just smooth. (Don't panic if it looks a bit split/curdled, it will come out fine)
4. Acting quickly, scrape the fudge into the tin (it starts to solidify quite quickly) and sprinkle over the decorations to your heart's content.
5. Refridgerate for 1-2 hours until set, then slice into small squares.

Other treats for a Christmas party table: Mint Humbug Cupcakes, Parmesan Shortbreads, Linzer Cookies, Queen of Hearts Jam Tarts, Apple and Tomato Chutney (which would also make a nice Christmas present.)

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Edited (again) to add: I'm also entering this into Treat Petite December (Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer (hosting this month)) - the theme this month is Christmas!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Mint Humbug Cupcakes - Home Sweet Home Bake Along (8/100)

This bake fell conveniently near Christmas, and gives endless scope for Dickensian puns (see Bah-Humbug cupcakes.)

They manage to embody the toffee and mint of a traditional humbug in cake form.

They whip up easily in an evening after work. And judging by their rate of disappearance from the office, they are a popular choice amongst my colleagues.

Gill over at Tales of Pigling Bland made mini-cupcakes, which I think would be lovely for a dessert buffet table over the Christmas period, a festive bake for the office, or a make-ahead for Christmas Day or Boxing Day tea?

Having noted that cutting mint humbugs is tricky, I left mine wrapped, gave them a swift smack on each side with a meat tenderising hammer, and then unwrapped them.

Just don't hit them too hard, or the sharp shards of humbug go straight through the plastic wrapper and embed themselves in your worktop. Apparently.

I couldn't find dulce de leche for love nor money in the teeny-tiny independent supermarket I shop in, so we went with boiling a can of condensed milk in a water bath, topped up every 20 minutes, for 3 hours, and then resisting eating the entire contents with a spoon.

Other cupcakes that I've baked: Jaffa Cake Cupcakes, Devil's Food Cupcakes.

70g unsalted butter, softened
210g plain flour
250g caster sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
210ml whole milk
1/2 tsp peppermint essence
2 large eggs
50g dulce de leche
500g icing sugar
160g unsalted butter, softened
50ml whole milk
1/4 tsp peppermint essence
20g dulce de leche
6 mint humbug sweets, smashed, to decorate

Next up: Banana Boston Cream Cake (ooh-err missus!)


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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Parmesan Shortbreads - Home Sweet Home Bake Along (7/100)

I have a confession to make.

I really don't like Parmesan.

In my opinion it smells like something unmentionable and tastes even worse. I spent most of this recipe going "this is gross, this is gross."

However, there must be some strange reaction that occurs inside the oven, because these are delicious.

Little, savoury, more-ish bites. They'd make excellent Christmas canapes, or as Gill suggests a Christmas gift.

Needless to say, these were quickly eaten by my colleagues. Definitely one to repeat.

125g plain flour
125g finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp Maldon sea salt (rather specific!)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg yolk

Bake Off Style Instructions:
Mix all ingredients except butter and egg yolk together. Rub/cut butter into dry mixture. Use egg yolk to bring together in a dough. Chill. Roll. Cut.


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