Italian meringue macarons

For the first time, I’m going to share a macaron recipe.

It’s been about 2 years since I’ve been able to create good macarons but it hasn’t always been that way.
I rarely use this recipe as I prefer french meringue macarons.

To explain quickly, french meringue macarons are made with egg white whisked with a small amount of sugar to obtain a light but stiff base to then incorporate some icing sugar and ground almonds.
The italian meringue macarons are made by mixing half of the egg white (non whisked) with icing sugar and ground almonds and whisking the other half of the egg whites with hot sugar syrup to make a very stiff, heavy meringue which is then mixed with the almond paste.

Both recipes contain roughly the same amount of ingredients, only the actual method is different.

They also look and taste slightly different: The italian one looks matt and very rounded, with a small “foot” and is fragile and cakey.
The french one looks shiny, with a large foot. They have a slight crunch on the outside and should be chewy inside.

If you’re not a macaron crazy like I am, you may not tell the difference between the two but to me, this is important business.

Here is the recipe and some tips to creating the italian version to perfection.

For about 50 macarons, you’ll need:

– 200g of icing sugar
– 200g of ground almonds
– 2 x 80g of egg whites (4 large egg whites)
– 200g of sugar
– 80ml of water
– food colouring

First, you’ll need to grind the icing sugar and ground almonds together until you get a very thin powder, this will ensure your shells are smooth.
You can do it in a food processor but the almonds will certainly not be fine enough. I use a coffee grinder and it’s perfect. Sieve the powder that you get from doing this.

Heat the sugar and water together and let it reach 110°C.
For this step, it’s highly recommended to use a candy thermometer. If you don’t have one, count 4 minutes from boiling and you should get it right.
Just before your sugar reaches 110°C, start whisking half of your egg whites. Don’t whisk the egg whites until they’re firm otherwise the hot syrup will break them.
Add the sugar syrup, still whisking. Keep going until the meringue is cool.
I recommend using a kitchen robot because it will take a while to cool down.

Meanwhile, add the other half of the egg whites to your powders (almonds & icing sugar) and mix until you get a thick paste. You can colour the mix right now with the colour of your choice.

Always go darker than the shade you want as the meringure will lighten it up a lot.
I recommend using powder colours as they are much stronger than paste or liquid colours. The alternative is to add your colour to the meringue instead.

Fold a bit of the meringue into the almond paste to loosen it up a bit and then fold in the rest of the meringue.

This stage is the trickiest one: when to stop folding. You may have to fold the mixture for a while before getting the perfect consistency. You don’t want an under-mixed batter as it will form peaks and look rough and you don’t want an over-mixed batter as it will be impossible to pipe and never hold it’s shape as a circle.

The batter needs to be runny but not liquid.
If you take a spoonful of mixture, pour it on you worktop, leave it for 1 minutes, you’ll see how it behaves.

Line baking trays with baking paper, fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe your macarons, this requires practise!

Hit the bottom of the tray to bash the extra air out of the mixture and leave in your dryest room.
If you leave them in your kitchen, they’ll never dry because of the damp air.
This stage may take from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the weather and the temperature.

When you can very gently touch your macarons without the batter sticking to your finger, they’re ready to go in the oven. 140°C for about 20 minutes.

If you have a gas oven, it will be harder to get perfect macarons as the temperature is usually harder to control than an electric oven.

Take them out after 20 minutes and leave to cool completely before filling them with buttercream, jam, lemon curd, chocolate ganache….

Hope you enjoy the recipe

Mylène

Honey-roasted nuts

I love honey roasted nuts, I discovered them in the uk and it was love at first bite. The thing is that I like them quite sweet, nicely coated in honey.

Supermarkets offer some very expensive and very salty ones, with absolutely no taste of honey at all. I prefer the ones you find on mediterranean stalls but they’re incredibly expensive.

I found a few recipes, they were all similar but different in the same time. I found one that combined maple syrup and honey… Heaven.
Anyway, I got all the ingredients ready and started. I followed the recipe but just added a little more honey. I found the roasting time a bit short so made it a little longer.

The result was really great, you get golden brown nuts with a deep honey flavour but there are two things I wasn’t too happy with: the first is that the nuts stuck quite a lot to each other so I had to take them apart while they were still warm, one by one. The other thing is just my personal taste, I would have liked a bit more coating, I really like them very sweet. Everybody else thought they were just right.

nuts

You’ll need:

– 450g of nuts of your choice (I used almonds and cashews)
– 3 tbsp of honey
– 1 tbsp of maple syrup
– 30g of butter
– vanilla powder or extract, to your taste
– 1 pinch of cinnamon
– 2 tbsp of sugar

Heat the honey, syrup, butter, vanilla and cinnamon in a pan until all melted.

Lay aluminium foil on a roasting tray, transfer the nuts and syrup onto it. Make sure you coat all the nuts with the syrup.

Put the tray in the oven (180C) for 6 min.

Take the tray out and mix all the nuts, making sure they all get another layer of hot syrup on them.

Put the tray back in the oven for 6min.

If you’re happy with the look of your nuts at this stage, you can decide to take them out now or give them a stir and put them back in for a further 6min.

The nuts should be golden brown and the syrup not too runny.

Toss them in sugar while hot and eat cold.

Mylène

No new year’s resolutions… A very sweet recipe

I’m warning you now: the recipe I’m about to share will not fit in with a new year’s resolution plan to eat less sugar. But it’s soooo good….

I’ve made it twice now and I don’t know why I don’t make it more often, I absolutely love it, as does everybody!

I especially like the texture of the cake, which is really “almondy” but still moist, the outside it crisp and sweet and the orange syrup… it’s lovely.

It’s also great for dinner parties as well as for a quick pudding for 2, so fast and easy, you don’t need any fancy ingredients.

For 6 muffin sized cakes, you’ll need:

for the cakes:

– 70g of plain flour
– 110g of sugar
– 110g of ground almonds
– 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder
– 50g of chooped dated, or raisins
– 75g of melted butter
– 2 tablespoons of milk
– 1 egg

For the syrup:

– 110g of sugar
– the juice and zest of 1 orange

For the cakes, mix all the ingredients together, pour in muffin tins and put in the oven at 160°C for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the syrup by combining the sugar, orange zest and juice in a saucepan.

Simmer the mixture until slightly thickened (this will take about 10 minutes).

When the cakes are cooked, leave them to cool down for a bit before pouring the syrup on the top of each cake.

Eat cold.

Mylène

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

Chocolate tiffin

For my second chocolate recipe, I chose to make tiffins.

I love chocolate on its own, it’s such a good feeling to bite into a bar of chocolate but things made with chocolate, especially cakes, make me feel a bit sick.

Like all my dad’s family, I have a very slight allergy to cocoa, I sneeze when I eat something very strong in cocoa.

It’s not too bad as I don’t really enjoy the bitterness of a very dark bar of chocolate but you get that bitterness too often in chocolate cakes, mousses, ice cream…

I suppose it’s why I don’t really like them.

So these tiffins…
I made them with very good quality milk chocolate as I didn’t want them to be too high in cocoa content.

For 20 tiffins, you’ll need:

– 400g of biscuits of your choice, crushed (I used ginger biscuits, but I don’t think they worked as well as digestives or shortbreads would have)
– 200g of butter
– 140g of golden syrup
– 150g of mixed roasted nuts (almonds and hazelnuts are good)
– 30g of cocoa
– 70g of raisins
– 300g of milk chocolate

Mix the crushed biscuits, nuts, cocoa and raisins together.

Melt the butter and golden syrup together, pour it on the biscuit mixture and mix.

Lay a tin with baking paper and pour the mixture in.
Press it until you have a levelled base for your tiffins.

Chill for at least 1 hour.

Melt your chocolate, pour it on the biscuit base, then wait for the chocolate to set a little bit (20min) and run a knife on it to create paterns.

Enjoy

Mylene

Praliné

It’s been a quite exciting last few weeks; we’ve done summer fairs, created new biscuit designs, got a new toy (an air gun to give an edge to my biscuits and macarons), worked a couple of days in a deli (St Giles cheese), been approached by companies to sell our stuff…
Everything is going very well!

I didn’t have much time to try new recipes to share with you but I have that old classic that I’m going to write about: praliné!

It’s something very versatile that I use in a lot of things. It gives a nutty, caramel and vanilla flavour.
I use it in macarons with buttercream, home made chocolates, in ice-creams, chocolate spreads, flavoured crème brûlée, cakes, muffins… It can basically be used in any sweet thing.

It’s very easy to make, the main difficulty is in the grinding as lots of food processors can’t make it right. If you’ve got a fairly new one that can resist ice cubes, it would work fine. If you’ve got a coffee grinder, it’s even better, you just have to make sure you can wash it under the tap afterwards otherwise you’ll hate me forever for that recipe.

For 500g of praliné, you’ll need:

– 250g of sugar
– 250g of roasted hazelnuts (or almonds)
– 1 vanilla pod, scratched

Heat the sugar and vanilla seeds in a pan on their own until it melts and becomes golden.

Never stir the sugar, especially when it’s just starting to melts, you will ruin the caramel.

When you have your caramel, take it off the heat and mix the nuts in.

When they’re all covered in caramel, pour the mixture onto a tray layed with baking paper.
Let it cool down for 2 hours or until cool.

Break the nutty caramel in medium pieces by chopping it. Put everything in your food processor or grinder and grind until it makes a paste or, even better, a liquid mixture.

That step will take you a while, depending on how powerful and tough your equipment is.
Your praliné should now be ready to use! It will keep a while in a jar in the fridge or in the freezer, just take it out when needed and mix the desired amount into your preparations….

Mylene

Happy New Year!

That’s it, 2011 is already over! I know 2012 is going to be even better!

So this time of the year is the time for resolutions.

I usually think “no more greedy stuff!!!” but this time, I was given so much chocolate for christmas I HAVE TO be greedy.

Like a lot of people, I have a LOT of chocolate left overs from Christmas and I feel obligated to finish them all…

Anyway, a nice way to get rid of your chocolates quickly and in a nice way is to cook with them! Just replace the cooking chocolate with your Christmas chocolates.

Like I’m not a big fan of chocolate cakes, I decided to make chocolate bars.

I melted my christmas chocolates plus a little bit of dark chocolate (to contrast the sweetness of my Christmas chocolates) and melted it all together.

I then poured it into a tin with cling film and added what I wanted: almonds, hazelnuts, currants, cherries, caramel, fudge, pistachio, peanuts, biscuits… It’s your choice.

I chose almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and raisins for mine.

Chocolate goes with a lot of things so you can use your imagination to find a combination you love.

Here’s to a wonderful 2012.

Mylène