From Paris, with love…

Orange and Lemon MacaronsOk we didn’t really spend the afternoon in Paris, but we did everything in our power to feel like it!

Before Christmas I went to a macaron masterclass run by Rachel Hanretty, known in foodie circles as Mademoiselle Macaron. The class held at the Edinburgh School of Food and Wine was fantastic, and for an evening myself and two girlfriends soaked up as much macaron magic as Rachel was willing to give us.

This past weekend we decided it was time to get together and try to put our new (and hopefully not forgotten) skills to the test. For those of you who haven’t made macarons before, it’s not exactly an easy process. There are lots of little tricks and techniques to remember, so I am glad we decided to tackle the challenge as a group.

Ingredients at the ready
Ingredients at the ready

We decided to do lemon and orange macarons. We used food colouring powder to colour the shells and the fillings were butter cream based with lemon and orange rind and essence – yum!

They say cooking is an art, baking is a science – I couldn’t agree more. So much can do wrong when making macarons, so here are just a few tips from our afternoon of creating.

  • All your bowls must be absolutely squeaky clean, any leftover grease or residue will ruin your meringue
  • On that note, you cannot over mix the egg whites, they need to be so stiff they can’t move an inch in the bowl, so if you are cautious like we were, just keep mixing
  • However you definitely can over do the macaron mixture once all the ingredient are combined. This is the part where you want the mixture to be shiny, but not too runny. Mademoiselle Macaron taught us a clockwise mixing technique, along with a specific number of turns to the bowl – we made sure we stuck to it!
  • Draw circles on your baking paper and that will help guide you when piping the mixture, and make the cut in the nose of the piping bag straight, that also helps
  • Take your macarons off the baking tray once they have been in the oven for the full time required – they will cool and peel off easier if you remove them from the trays immediately
  • When you don’t them out if they don’t feel like they will peel off easily, pop them back in the oven for another couple of minutes. Just keep an eye on the colour and watch they don’t burn
Make sure your egg whites and sugar can not move an inch when you shake the bowl
Make sure your egg whites and sugar can not move an inch when you shake the bowl
Circles drawn on the reverse of the paper, in pencil, will help keep your piping on track
Circles drawn on the reverse of the paper, in pencil, will help keep your piping on track

Finally, set aside ample time to eat the macarons as soon as you’ve filled them, because they are delicious. To complete our French afternoon we indulged in a baked camembert, warm bread and some fizz. What’s that saying? When in Paris?!

Baked Camembert, warm bread, humous and fizz
Baked Camembert, warm bread, humous and fizz

We gained so many extra tips and tricks that we would have never have figured out ourselves by following a recipe, so I highly recommend Mademoiselle’s classes. Head over to her blog to find out more about them, and get yourself booked in!

White Choc Chip & Cranberry Biscuits

Biscuits

White Chocolate & Cranberry Biscuits

Ingredients
175 g plain flour
100 g softened, unsalted butter
50 g caster sugar
25 g dried cranberries
25 g white chocolate chips

Method

Ingredients

Making shortbread or biscuits can get a bit messy s my advice would be to make sure you’ve got all your ingredients weighed and prepared before you start.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Line a couple of trays with baking paper. Weigh out the sugar, cranberries and white chocolate chips. Roughly chop the cranberries into little pieces. To prepare for rolling out the biscuit dough – cover your chosen surface in a little flour and also make sure your rolling pin has some flour on it as well.

When the butter is at room temperature pop into a large bowl and sieve in the flour. Rub the butter and flour together, using your hands, until you have a breadcrumb consistency. Then add the sugar, cranberries and chocolate. Mix until all ingredients are evenly dispersed throughout. Now start to bring the mixture together to form a dough. If the mixture is too crumbly and won’t “stick” together, add a splash of water.

Add the sugar, choc chips and cranberries to the breadcrumb mixture
Add the sugar, choc chips and cranberries to the breadcrumb mixture

For ease, I separate the dough in half. Place one half on the surface and gently roll our until about 1cm thick. Use your cutter (mine is heart shaped and left over from Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Great Pink Bake Off!) to make the biscuits and try and get as many as possible from your sheet of dough. Repeat with the other half of the mixture and any leftover dough.

Pre-baked cookies

Pop your biscuits in the oven for 15-20mins. After about 10 minutes I turned my trays around to ensure none of the ones at the bake were burning. Keep them in the oven until they are golden brown (I took mine out just before the 20minutes was up). When they come out the oven they will be soft, but will harden on cooling.

Then just pop them on your cooling rack or, in my case, get the kettle on and enjoy a warm one with a cup of tea.

Cheer me up brownies

image
Walnut & White Chocolate Chip Brownies

With a snuffly and sickly boyfriend on the sofa I decided to make brownies to try and cheer us up (and also to keep my distance from the sofa, I definitely do not want man flu!!!!)

This recipe is quick and easy, and you can pretty much throw in anything extra that tickles your fancy. I went for walnut & white choc chips.

125g unsalted butter
180g caster sugar
Two eggs
100g dark chocolate
40g cocoa powder
35g self raising flour
50-60g of whatever you fancy, i chose a mix of white choc chips and walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Melt butter and chocolate and set aside to cool. Mix sugar, cocoa and flour. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in any extra ingredients (walnuts and choc chips) followed by the melted butter and chocolate. Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper, pour on mixture so there is even coverage across the tray and pop in the oven for 20mins. Et voila, Tuesday night treats.

Enjoy chocolate lovers!