7 September 2014

Blackcurrant Macarons


Towards the end of the month I'm doing a little road trip around the South of the UK. I'm visiting my cousin in Brighton, my parents and some old friends in Devon, my friend and my sister in Cardiff (which will be my first time in Wales), and finally my friend in Birmingham. They have all been kind enough to offer to put me up while I visit them, so to thank them I wanted to bake something.

I know my dad is a big fan of my macarons, and they tend to go down well with everyone else too, so I decided these would be appropriate Thank You presents. Deciding on the flavour was a little more challenging, but was greatly assisted when I read about this month's We Should Cocoa challenge.


September's We Should Cocoa is hosted by one of its creators, Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog. She has chosen jam as this month's ingredient to pair with chocolate, which set my mind whirring with chocolate-jam combination fillings for my macarons. In the end I decided on a sort-of ganache using white chocolate and the only jam I have in my cupboard, blackcurrant jam.

The macarons turned out pretty well, and the blackcurrant flavour definitely comes through. I think my friends and family will be happy to receive these!


Makes 30
Ingredients

  • 230g Icing Sugar
  • 115g Ground Almonds
  • 4 Egg Whites
  • 72g Caster Sugar
  • 250g White Chocolate
  • 3 Tbsp Blackcurrant Jam
Recipe
  • Preheat the oven to 145C - try to avoid using a fan oven if possible but if it's unavoidable, make sure you place the baking trays above and below the fan to avoid cracking of the macaron shells.
  • Line a couple of baking trays with macaron mats/ stencil a 2in cookie cutter over a couple of sheets of parchment paper.
  • Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds together into a bowl.
  • In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and caster sugar until very stiff. If you take the whisk out of the meringue, the meringue should stay inside the whisk in the same shape as when you pulled it out, even if you hold the whisk upright.
  • Dump the icing sugar/almond mix into the meringue and use a spatula to fold them together. After each fold, use the spatula to push down on the mixture as if you want to get rid of all the bubbles (which you do). Push it against the sides of the bowl, then continue to fold and repeat the process. Do this until a drop of mixture disappears into the rest of the mixture after about ten seconds.
  • Dispense the mixture into a piping bag and use it to fill the circles on the macaron mat/ parchment. 
  • Pick up each baking tray in turn and whack it down onto the kitchen counter. Turn it 90 degrees and repeat.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the macaron shells easily peel away from the mat/parchment.
  • Make the filling by melting the chocolate in a microwave, allowing it to cool slightly and then stirring in the jam.
  • Place a teaspoon of filling on half of the shells, then place the other shells on top.

1 September 2014

Baking With Spirit: September 2014

After many years of enjoying the smell (and my friends enduring me asking to sniff theirs), lately I have acquired a taste for beer. This has got me in the mood for baking with it, and experimenting a little bit more.

I wonder how many of you have learned to love a particular alcoholic beverage over time? I think this would make a fun theme for the challenge, so I'm going to ask you to bake with an acquired taste. I would prefer the acquired taste to be alcoholic, but if you've genuinely loved everything since your first sip I will allow some food choices too. The dish still has to include alcohol, though!

Here are the rules:

  • Bake anything sweet or savoury that contains alcohol and follows the acquired taste theme.
  • Post about it and email me a link and photo at cakeoftheweek@hotmail.co.uk
  • The deadline is the 28th
  • Tweet me @cakeoftheweek to have your post shared, and don't forget to share this page!
Don't forget to check out last month's round up, where I let you all run free and go crazy.

I'm linking this up to the Food Blog Diary, which lists a lot of the food challenges and giveaways that go on in the foodie blogosphere every month.

30 August 2014

Baking With Spirit: The "Go Crazy" Round Up

Due to technical difficulties at the start of the month, I was a little late posting this month's Baking With Spirit Challenge. To make things easier and make up for the shorter time available to enter, I decided to let you all go crazy and bake whatever you wanted as long as it contained alcohol.

Considering how late I posted the challenge, I'm impressed that I got any entries at all! Thanks to those of you who took part. Don't forget that Baking With Spirit has its own Pinterest board full of all previous entries - perfect for boozy inspiration.

If anyone wants to host the challenge for a month, do get in touch (email, facebook, twitter, pigeon?)

And now, without further ado, here are this month's entries:


Laura kicked things off by posting these amazing Cheddar, Ale & Chive Savoury Muffins. Having only recently shown a savoury side on her blog, I'd Much Rather Bake Than..., I hope she continues if she has more like this up her sleeve.


Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog entered these luxurious looking Chocolate Lavender Parfaits. She got the recipe from one of her many chocolate books and tinkered with it to add the lavender flavour. Delightful!


Next is my entry: Chocolate Tart. I added whisky to the pastry base and substituted Greek yoghurt for the usual double cream to produce a slightly more tangy version of the tart.


These Bailey's And Chocolate Miniature Cheesecakes from Pauline's Occasional Baking Adventures are only Pauline's second foray into cheesecake making, but you can hardly tell. They look delicious, and are right up my street since I love Bailey's.

Thanks to all those who entered; come back on Monday to see what I have in store for next month...

25 August 2014

Chocolate Tart


Well it looks like we're having another dreary bank holiday weekend. I spent the first two days in Norfolk watching my good friend Ross Woodhouse (expect big things from this guy) sing at a festival, followed by his excellent Disney cover band, Club 33, the day after. Though I have to admit that the weather included sunny spells (without summery temperatures) on Sunday, I could have done without the frequent cloudbursts on Saturday. Let's not even mention the awful rain we've had today.

To cheer you up, today I'm bringing you a very tasty chocolate tart. I've been teasing this for quite a while on my Facebook page, so if you've been waiting on tenterhooks you can finally relax. I took a bit longer than I should have with this post because I didn't really have a lot to say, and wasn't in the mood to ramble (though I appear to have risen to the challenge this afternoon!)


This tart came about because I had serious chocolate cravings. I'm not usually a pastry girl, but I used a recipe I've used in the past and had forgotten how surprisingly easy shortcrust is to make, especially with the help of a food processor. Ever trying to cut back on fat, I used 0% fat Greek yoghurt instead of the more traditional double cream.

I wasn't thinking when I made the filling and added fridge-cold Greek yogurt to warm melted chocolate, causing the filling to seize up a bit and set prematurely, hence the rugged look. The tart tasted as I would have hoped, however: chocolatey, rich and there was an added tang from the Greek yoghurt. I'd definitely recommend giving this a try for an afternoon coffee accompaniment.


Ingredients

Pastry:

  • 125g Plain Flour
  • 55g Salted Butter
  • 15g Caster Sugar
  • 15mL Cold Water
  • 15mL Whisky
Filling:
  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 150g Milk Chocolate
  • 120g 0% Fat Greek Yoghurt
Recipe
  • To make the pastry, either a) throw all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until they start to clump together; dump onto a floured surface and use hands to bring the dough together or b) use your fingers to rub the flour, butter and sugar together to form a mixture resembling breadcrumbs; stir in the water and whisky and use hands to bring the dough together.
  • Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins to allow it to rest.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan and line a 23cm greased cake tin with parchment paper.
  • Bring the dough out of the fridge, take the cling film off and place the dough on a floured surface.
  • Use a rolling pin to roll the dough so that it is just wider than the cake tin and about 1/2 cm thick.
  • Use the rolling pin to help pick the dough up and place it inside the tin. Use your fingers to push it into shape and cut any excess off the top with a sharp knife. Prick the pastry all over.
  • Bake the pastry in the oven for 15 mins, or until it has turned golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Make the filling by breaking the chocolate up and placing it in a microwave proof bowl. Heat it at 30 second intervals until melted.
  • Allow the chocolate to cool (this is important, otherwise the mixture will seize up), then stir in the Greek yoghurt. 
  • Pour the filling into the middle of the pastry and allow to set before serving. 




I'm entering this into Baking With Spirit, my monthly challenge which is centred around baking with alcohol. This month I have let you all go mad and do what you please, and you have until the 28th to get your entries in.


I'm also entering this into Lucy's #CookBlogShare link up over at Supergolden Bakes.

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13 August 2014

Wild Cherry Cake



My Dad recently was courageous enough to drive for five hours just to see his beloved eldest daughter (me). We tend to do a bit of exploration of the local area when he comes to visit, since I've only lived here for a year and he had never been until he came to see me here for the first time. This time we decided to go and explore the Sandringham estate and Hunstanton (one of the closest beaches), hoping that the forecast rain would not materialise.

Sandringham, for those who don't know, is an estate owned by the Royal family and advertised as "the Norfolk retreat of HM The Queen". One of the things I like most about the scenery is that the backdrop to the estate is a large pine forest. A while ago I wouldn't have thought much of this, but in the depths of Cambridgeshire where farmland and irrigation dominate the landscape, trees are hard to come by and it is rather refreshing to be surrounded by forest.

To be honest, we didn't spend a lot of time at Sandringham and didn't go into the official estate and gardens because of the eye-wateringly high entry fees. Instead, we drove to the coast. I'd not been to the seaside in the UK for well over a year, so despite the ominous dark clouds and high winds it was refreshing to see the North Sea and inhale the salty-seaweed smell that you only find on the beach. We were only on the beach for five minutes before we were treated to a heavy downpour and an unwanted shower. We quickly retreated back to the car before driving further inland, away from the rain.


Towards the end of the day I suggested we go and pick some blackberries. I had been really surprised to find ripe berries in July, but nobody at work was very surprised so it must be common in East Anglia; in Devon, where I grew up, we were lucky to see them before September. On the way to my blackberry spot we were treated to another downpour and headed to some trees for shelter. As we got closer I noticed some fruit hanging from the nearest tree, and as we looked more closely we saw we were surrounded by trees laden with fruit.

We weren't entirely clear on the exact species of fruit we were picking/eating, but we identified several types of plum and some wild cherries that were a yellow-red colour. I was especially excited to find the cherries because they are so expensive to buy, and here they were, practically on my doorstep, for free. We took as much as we could, and the next day I came back for more. The plums were on the small side so when it came to dividing up the species it was tricky at times to decide if they were plums or cherries, but I don't think it really matters too much.


I'm pretty pleased with this cake, and have naturally found excuses to eat it for breakfast as well as at other times of day. You can of course use store-bought cherries, or even another stone fruit if it suits you better. Hulling the cherries was rather laborious, but unless you enjoy risking your teeth with every mouthful I can't see another way around it. If you don't fancy the whisky, just leave it out.

Ingredients

  • 300g Cherries
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 200g Butter
  • 3 Eggs
  • 50mL Whisky
Recipe
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan and line a springform tin with baking parchment.
  • Hull and halve the cherries. You can drain any excess juice and add it with the whisky at the end of the recipe, if you like.
  • Put the cherries in a mixing bowl and stir in the flour, making sure all the cherries are covered.
  • Add the caster sugar and baking powder and stir well.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, then pour into the cherry mixture.
  • Add the eggs to the mixture, followed by the whisky.
  • Use a spoon to break the egg yolks, then fold the ingredients together until well combined.
  • Pour the batter into the springform tin. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out without any batter on it and the top springs back when gently pressed down.
  • Serve warm with custard or ice cream; equally delicious served cold.
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I'm adding this to Lucy's #CookBlogShare link up at Supergolden Bakes. She writes a round up every week and has a pinterest board dedicated to entries.


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