DIY Gift: Festive mini-meringues

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It’s that time of year again… The time when we’re all trying to find original gifts before Christmas. Instead of giving someone yet another box of chocolates, making your own gift is going to be cheaper and also so much more appreciated.

These meringues make a great little treat bag, use a fancy label and some twine or raffia to tie them with and they’ll really look the part.

For approximately 40 mini meringues

– 70g of egg whites (about 2 egg whites)
– 70g of caster or granulated sugar
– 70g of icing sugar
– flavours to your choice (peppermint extract, chocolate, spices, citrus, nuts…)
– food colouring (optional)

Preheat your oven at 100C.

Whisk the egg white and slowly add your regular sugar.
Whisk until firm and until all the sugar has desolved.

Sieve the icing sugar and add it to the egg white mixture. Gently fold until well combined.

Divide your mixture into as many parts as you want different flavours.

Try not to overload your mixture, a little flavouring goes a long way.
You can use freeze dried fruit powders and natural extract to give a strong flavour to your meringues.
You can add zest but make sure not to put too much in.

Do not add melted chocolate or watery ingredients (juices,…) to your mixture, it will not work out.

If you want to flavour them with chocolate, use a bit of cocoa powder or dip them in chocolate once baked.
You can add finely chopped nuts but not too much, it’s better to sprinkle them with nuts once they are piped.

Once you’ve decided which flavours you want add them to your mixture and fold in.

If you are using food colouring, one nice effect is to make a colourful line in your piping bag using gel paste colouring and a paintbrush and brush a line or two along the length of the piping bag.

Transfer the meringue mixture into a piping bag. You can use a nozzle but it’s optional.

Pipe the meringues on trays lined with baking paper. Pipe them however small or big you want them, they shouldn’t expand too much during baking so you can space them fairly tight.

Put the trays in the preheated oven. Meringues are very fussy with oven temperatures, if your oven is known for being hotter than it says, leave it a tiny bit open (use a wooden spoon in the door so the oven won’t shut properly). If the meringues start to crack, lower your oven temperature immediately. If you know your oven is too hot and that the meringues crack every time, don’t worry, they’ll still look gorgeous, they’ll just be a little bit more home made looking.

Leave the meringues to bake for 30-40 min or until you can pick one up and no traces of unbaked meringue are left on the tray. They should be crisp to the touch and handle a poke with a fingernail without cracking (I know, very scientific…). They’ll be lovely and soft inside. If you want them crisp all the way, they’ll need an extra 15 min of baking.

Leave them to cool down completely before devouring or wrapping!

Mylène

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Pain d’épices

For this first december post, I wanted to share something that sounds very christmassy.

To me, it doesn’t really feel like christmas is only in 3 weeks as we were thinking about christmas biscuits and products to make ages and ages ago. However, something that makes me think of christmas is gingerbread cake (pain d’epices in french, meaning spiced bread).

When I looked online for a british recipe, I found out they were all with golden syrup and most of them with black treacle. The french recipes use honey instead, as golden syrup and treacle are practically unknown in France.

I was quite excited to use golden syrup, I absolutely love the smell of it but I was really disappointed… I didn’t find that wintery taste I was looking for, I could hardly taste the spices and the treacle was overpowering, even if I didn’t put much at all.

So what was I going to do???? Well, like most girls when they don’t know what to do, I phoned mummy!

As I already knew to use honey instead of golden syrup, I only wanted to know what blend of spices she uses. In french supermarkets, you can buy a gingerbread mix, the spices are already put all together so it’s really easy to use.

I’m a great believer of using fresh, unground spices, you get much more flavour, so I had to buy all these spices that I couldn’t find anywhere for weeks but I finally did (except one).

I was very happy with my final french gingerbread, just how I like it!

pain d'epices

For 1 gingerbread, you’ll need:

– 1 desertspoon of mixed spices (cinnamon, staranise, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, clove)
– 250g of honey
– 50g of sugar
– 10cl of milk
– 100g of butter
– 200g of flour
– 1 egg
– 40g of ground almonds
– 1 teaspoon of baking powder
– 1 teaspoon of baking soda
– the zest of an orange

Heat up the milk and honey together in a pan.

When it comes to the boil, take it off of the hob and add the butter.

When it’s melted, add the sugar, flour, egg, ground almonds, baking powder, soda, orange zest and spices.

Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin (or little individual ones) and bake for about 45min to an hour, until completely cooked in the middle.

Leave to cool down and eat!

Mylène

Poached pears

I’ve always seen recipes of poached pears in red wine but never really had the occasion to make any. I don’t usually buy pears. Most of the time, when you buy them in supermarkets, they never go ripe and stay hard for ages.

Anyway, the other day, my mother in law bought (incredibly) large pears and I had the green light to do whatever I wanted with them. I thought about poaching them in red wine but didn’t have any…
I had some cooking white wine so I decided to change the usual recipe and try it with that!

Like I never tried before, I looked up online for a recipe. All the recipes were totally different so I decided to make my own.

The result was quite impressive. It was all looking very posh and delicate. The flavors were quite surprising, like all the alcohol goes away and I used spices, I couldn’t really taste the wine but it was still giving good flavors.

I then found some more pears and did the same with red wine. In England, prices of wine are very high so with my tight budget, I didn’t want to waste most of the bottle on only 4 pears so I’ve made some changes.

For 4 poached pears, you’ll need:

– 4 ripe pears, carefully peeled but with the stalk left on
–  About 250ml of red or white wine (for the proper recipe, use about 600ml)
–  100ml of apple juice (you can use something else, I just had some in the fridge), no juice in the proper recipe
–  3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
–  1 tablespoon of honey
–  1 vanilla pod, cut in half and scraped
–  1 teaspoon of cinnamon
–  1 teaspoon of allspice

Put all the ingredients except the pears in a high sided pan, make sure the liquid is quite high in it, it has to cover more than half of the pears. Simmer it for 5 min and add your pears, stalk up; if they don’t stand properly, just cut a tiny slice at the bottom, it should then stand nicely.

Cover with a lid and cook for about 20 min or until soft and tender. Stab one with a knife to make sure it’s soft in the middle. If your pears weren’t completely in the liquid, turn them around a couple of times to cook them properly.

When they’re cooked, you have two options: take them out of the juice , keep them in a tub, refrigerate them and cook the juice for about 30minutes or until reduced and thickened. Serve when both pears and syrup are chilled.

You can also leave the pears in the juice, put everything to soak overnight in the fridge and reduce the syrup the day after and chill it again.

Personally, I prefer the white wine version, mush sweeter and delicate but the red wine one is brilliant because of the red color of the pear.

Mylène

Halloween

As you know, Halloween is here and it doesn’t only mean kids coming to knock at your door for treats . It means an other occasion to make seasonal and fun recipes.

When I think about Halloween, I especially think about pumpkins. They are wonderful for loads of things. Pies, soups, toasted seeds for a healthy snack, muffins, ice cream, cupcakes, cheesecakes,…

I couldn’t wait to try some recipes. So let’s buy pumpkins!

The first recipe I tried was a pie.

It was a “normal” pumpkin pie recipe that I found in one of my vegetable cook books. I used very dark sugar instead of light brown and all I could taste was the sugar and the spices. I couldn’t taste the pumpkin at all. It was still good but not wonderful. Well, maybe it’s only personal taste.

I wasn’t totally impressed by the pie so I had to try something else. I then made cupcakes. I used a recipe found on the internet, very easy to find. I made them and they looked really good and tasted great!

 

I was glad with the result of the cupcakes but I still had half a pumpkin to use.

I didn’t even think about it for one second, it had to be soup otherwise the kitchen would have been full of goodies and I would have been too tempted to resist eating them!

The soup was very nice, especially the texture but if I could have had another variety of pumpkin, it would have been much better (the one I had was grown for the size and shape and not for the taste). Anyway, here is the recipe…

You’ll need

:

– 1kg of pumpkin
– 2 sweet potatoes
– 2 onions
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 800ml of vegetable stock
– a pinch of cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg
– 200ml of cream (less or more, depends of your taste)

Chop all the vegetables. Cook for 5 min the onions in some olive oil. Add the other vegetables and cook for 2 min. Add the stock and the spices. Cook until the pumpkin is tender.

When it’s cooked, blend the vegetables and add the cream. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!