DIY Gift: Festive mini-meringues

Video link

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

Video link

Bakewell Tart

Video link

This week, I’m sharing with you a video recipe! Yay!! This bakewell tart used to be my number 1 favourite when I was about 16. My gran made it once and gave me her recipe, I thought the sweet jam (she used apricot, a LOT of it) with fragranced almonds and earthy pine nuts was the absolute perfect combination.

I hadn’t made it for years so when I bit into the one I made for the video, it took me way back. I used damson jam instead which was a really good alternative, less sweet than apricot & more fruity.

Regarding the filling, as I didn’t have the original recipe, I looked around the internet for regular bakewell tarts but was unsatisfied with all of them (too little egg, too much sugar, flour???) so I made up my own. To me, the pine nuts are essential as they really take the tart to a whole new level. They balance out the sweetness that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Ingredients (for 6-8 people)

– 120g of ground almonds
– 120g of sugar
– 120g of soft butter
– 75g of pine nuts
– 2 small eggs
– half a lemon zest
– 1.5-2 tbsp of jam, damson or raspberry are best
– a pastry case, 20cm, already blind baked (see my pate sablee recipe)

Preheat oven at 180 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one. Add the ground almonds and lemon zest. Add 50g of pine nuts, keep the remaining 25g for decoration.
Spread the jam onto the pastry. Spread the almond mix on top of the jam. Sprinkle with the remaining 25g of pine nuts.

Bake for about 35min or until the middle of the tart doesn’t wobble.

Leave to cool completely or eat it slightly warm.

Video link

Mylène

Frozen yoghurt recipe

Since about a month, I’ve been obsessing over frozen yoghurt. I tried it in the new year for the first time (shop bought, not the soft scoop ones) and loved it straight away.
It’s become a habit in the evening in front of a film to have a bit of frozen yoghurt as dessert. Of course I had to try it myself and it was a success.

Now I make a batch once a week, it doesn’t cost much and it’s a very easy thing to do, you only need 2 to 3 ingredients but an ice cream machine is vital.

You’ll need to use natural bio-live yoghurt, I started to buy these 1kg tubs, perfect for a weekly batch. I’ve never used greek style yoghurt as I heard it was too rich and creamy to use for frozen yoghurt.

I like it with fruits, it’s very fresh and tasty. You can use pretty much any fruits you like.
So far I’ve used mixed berries (bought frozen, best quality and cheap), strawberries, passion fruits and mango.
All you need to do is blend or juice the fruits into smooth purée or juice. I never measure how much fruit I put in, I just eye it.
To give you a rough idea, I used a whole mango for 1kg of yoghurt and for the passion fruit one, I used the juice of 6 fresh passion fruits…
You can also use other flavours like chocolate, vanilla, caramel… but I haven’t tried it yet so I can’t really give you advice on it.

The frozen yoghurts I made had different results, the strawberry one tasted just like ice cream while the other ones had a strong yoghurt taste.

To sweeten the yoghurt, I use 3/4 cup to 1 cup of sugar per kg of yoghurt depending on what type of fruit I use. The sweeter the fruits, the less sugar you’ll need to add.

To store it, I use used tubs of 500g of yoghurt, it fits nicely in the freezer.
It freezes pretty hard but not completely solid so if you want to scoop it out, take the yoghurt out of the freezer 20 min before serving. I honestly don’t mind it hard as I eat it out of the tub (should I really share this information?) but I would if I was going to serve it to other people.

For 2.5 tubs:

– 1kg of bio live natural yoghurt
– 1 cup of sugar
– fruit puree or juice

Pour the yoghurt in a large bowl and add the sugar.

Stir and let it sit until the sugar has dissolved, around 2 mins.

Add the fruit purée and stir until well combined.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and let it churn for 30 min.

Spoon the frozen mixture into containers. Freeze and eat whenever!

Pecan biscuits

I know, it’s been a while (or should I say ages) since my last blog post.
I’ve been so busy in the last couple of months, I didn’t have any time to write. The other reason is that I’m always quite strict about the sort of recipes that I share, they have to be really good ones that I love, not just some random stuff that I thought was ok.

I have been baking a lot since my last post but none of the stuff I made blew my mind. Until… The pecan biscuits.

I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with pecan nuts. I seem to have a massive ideal in my mind about how they’re going to taste like, mainly because when I was a teenager, I wasn’t really allowed to buy any because they’re so expensive.
They became a sort of luxury baking product to me. The thing is that my “pecan bakes” never taste as good as I thought they would. Until…

The pecan biscuits recipe:

For about 15 biscuits/cookies, you’ll need:

– 115g of butter
– 75g of sugar
– 130g of plain flour
– 100g of finely chopped pecan nuts

Cream butter and sugar together until light and pale. Add the flour and nuts.

Refrigirate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven at 170C.

Shape balls with the dough and place on your baking sheet or tray, lined with baking paper.

Bake for about 15 minutes until the base of the biscuit starts to go brown.

You could eat them as they are or roll them in icing sugar.

Wait until cool before eating.

They’re really buttery and subtly nutty. Very crumbly too. I would say quite similar to a shortbread but 10 times better.

Mylène

Which kind of vanilla to use in your recipe

Vanilla is one of those things I take very seriously.
I think I’m a little bit obsessed about it but that’s ok. I used to think about it as a very bland and a bit too safe flavour, something you give to a fussy eater but since a couple of years, I’ve been experimenting a lot and realised that it’s maybe a simple flavour that everybody knows but it can be a very complex one too.

Over the last few months, I’ve been experimenting with it more and more with different recipes and combinations with other flavours. I’m going to tell you what are the big differences between all the commercial forms of vanilla and what I think is the best for your usual recipes.

Vanilla extract

extract

It’s probably the most used form of vanilla in the UK and US. It’s mainly made from alcohol (so you can’t buy it if you’re under the legal age, I know, vanilla extract binge drinking…). I find that even the really good quality ones still tastes fake. I almost never use it but I think the best way to cook with it is to bake it in cookies, combined with other flavours like chocolate and brown sugar.

Vanilla paste

paste

This is the strongest form I’ve used so far. It’s highly concentrated and still has vanilla bean inside. The taste is quite similar to the vanilla extract but tastes a little bit more real. It’s great in cakes. I would use it with care as it can overpower other flavours.

Vanilla powder

powder

This is the form I use the most in my everyday cooking. It’s strong but not as much as the vanilla paste. It’s basically vanilla pods that have been grinded so it’s a mix of seeds and bits of vanilla pod. I put it almost everywhere.
It’s very good value as well, one little pot will last you ages.

Vanilla sugar

sugar

I make my own vanilla sugar with leftover pods that are already scraped, you only need to put them in a container with ordinary sugar. The vanilla will infuse the sugar and the leftover seeds you couldn’t srape properly are going to give loads of flavour too. It’s great sprinkled on pancakes or with my pain perdu recipe. You can use it to bake as well, it just doesn’t have the strength to stand out amongst other flavours.

Vanilla pod

vanilla

I kept the best for last. It is definetly the best form of vanilla to use. If you want a clean vanilla flavour, this is the one to use.
I don’t even combine it with another flavour, I love to put it in custard, ice cream, rice pudding… Something that will really show off the flavour.
I know it’s a luxury as it’s quite pricey but it’s 100% worth it. And don’t forget to make vanilla sugar with your leftovers.

Mylène

Pâte sablée

In France, you can find quite a big range of pre-made pastries in supermarkets.
Most of them are already rolled out in a circle for you and it becomes harder and harder to find a block of pastry to roll in the shape you want.

You can find 3 different sorts of pastry: the “pâte feuilletée” which is puff pastry, the “pâte brisée” which is the equivalent of shortcrust but a bit different (I find it a bit more crispy and buttery) and then you have the “pâte sablée” which translates to “sanded pastry”, that pastry is used for sweet tarts and pies only. It’s very crumbly and buttery and a bit harder to work with as it contains less flour and more sugar than the two others.

I really like the pâte sablée because it gives a really crisp and sweet result, it tastes and looks much more like “French patisseries” than the other pastries.

I have made it myself since a while now. I normally use it for individual little tarts and I’ve used it a couple of times for big ones. The only down side is that it’s harder to work with.
When you actually make the pastry, it looks like cookie dough; it’s very sticky.
You’ll also need to chill it before you use it and the rolling requires a lot of flour on your worktop.

Tip:

If you’re planning to make a large tart, I highly recommend using a loose bottom tin: when you roll out your pastry, take the loose bottom part of the tin and slide it underneath your rolled pastry.
Fold the edges of the pastry inside the edges of the loose bottom and return it to the tin, then you only have to unfold the edges to make the sides. This way your pastry won’t break away too much.

For 500g of pastry or pâte sablée (1 large tart), you’ll need:

– 140g of butter
– 100g of sugar
– 1 egg
– 200g of flour
– 50g of ground almonds
– vanilla powder or extract

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

Add the flour and ground almonds and mix until well combined but do not overwork it otherwise you’ll end up with tough pastry.

Put it in cling film and leave it in the fridge for 1h before using it.

You need to refrigerate it after it’s been rolled out in your tin.

The colder it is before you put it in the oven, the better it is.

If you’re planning on blind baking it, don’t forget to stab it with a fork in the tin and to use baking beans.

This pastry freezes really well. I usually make a lot of it and freeze it in little portions.

For a recipe on our blog using this type of pastry click the image below…

banoffee pie

Mylène

How to make a good sorbet

The last couple of weeks have been so hot that I’ve been craving for sorbet.
I own an ice cream machine but use it rarely because I don’t usually have time to make ice cream or sorbet.

We’re going on holiday in a couple of days so I had to empty the fridge and our perishable food. I happened to have quite a lot of strawberries and cherries. I also had a bottle of limoncello I’ve been waiting to try in recipes since a while. All the omens were there: I had to do a sorbet.

I’ve made sorbets in the past but never really got it right. It was always rock hard or it would melt away after 2 minutes in a cup. So I had a look on-line for advice and found out how easy it is to master a sorbet.

You’ll need a few ingredients (for the measures, I used US cups):

– 3 measures of juice of your choice or fruit puree, relatively thin.

If you’re planning on making a lemon or lime sorbet, use 2 measures of juice and one of water otherwise your sorbet will be too sharp.

– (Sugar Syrup) 1 measure of sugar, boiled until the sugar has disolved, with 1 measure of water

– 2 to 3 tablespoons of a fruity alcohol

First make the sugar syrup and leave it to cool completely.

Pour your fruit juice in a tall and shallow container.
Add an egg to it (a whole egg, still in its shell). This may sound weird but as you add your sugar syrup to the fruit juice, the egg will float to the surface.

Add the syrup little bit by little bit, you may not need the whole quantity.

When the egg floats, it means that the amount of syrup is enough to make your sorbet the right texture.

Add the alcohol, it will help the sorbet not to become rock hard as the alcohol won’t freeze.

Taste your mixture.
It should be slightly too sweet. Once frozen, you’ll taste it less as it’s so cold. Don’t worry if you can taste the booze, I thought I put too much in mine but couldn’t taste any of it once frozen.

sorbet with mint

Mylène