Thursday, 24 April 2014

Chocolate Macarons with Kahlua Ganache

Macarons - these humble morsels have a reputation for reducing grown women to tears…both the women tearing their hair out doing the baking and those doing the tasting.

I've never really been a fan of the store bought variety (despite having ample opportunity to taste the real deal while living in France for a year.) For some reason they never really captured my imagination - or my taste buds for that matter.

That is, until a friend came over for dinner last week and brought a batch she had made…to say I was bowled over is an understatement.

They were so soft and light, seemingly completely insubstantial, yet packing a punch of chewy sweet delicious lingering flavour…I was smitten…and once they were sob finished, I had to have more…immediately!

Louise mentioned the Ottolenghi recipe so I did a quick search which came up with a few different options as well as instructions and oven temperatures that varied quite widely.
After a few experiments, I've found a combination that works well with my oven.

In a food processor whizz together:
110g icing sugar, 50g ground almonds, 12g cocoa powder.
Once its a fine powder, sieve into a bowl.
Using an electric beater, whip up:
2 egg whites until stiff.
Add in 40g castor sugar.

Once the meringue forms soft glossy peaks, add half the almond mix and fold in gently. Add the remaining mix and fold until incorporated.

Place a piping bag upright in tall glass to make it easier to fill then scoop the meringue into the bag.

Line 2 baking trays with non-stick parchment paper. As a guide you can draw circles leaving spaces to allow for the mixture spreading.
Pipe the meringue into each circle forming a disc.
Give the tray a bash on the counter to allow air bubbles to escape.

Leave the trays out for 15-30 minutes to allow the mixture to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 170ºC and bake for 12-14 minutes.
At 12 minutes open the oven door to allow steam to escape.
Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the trays.

Allow to cool.

For the ganache, heat 100g double cream in a saucepan.
Once its simmering, remove from heat and add 100g chocolate (I use Cadbury's Top Deck).
Allow to stand for 2 minutes and then whisk until its smooth and glossy.
Add 2 T Kahlua and mix it in.

I put my ganache into the fridge to allow it to harden.
After 10 minutes it should be firm enough to scoop between 2 macaron wafers.

I'm heading out to dinner with friends in town this evening and am wrapping a few macarons in a gift box for the hostess.
I've decorated my box with beautiful ribbon and an exquisite button from the new Incomparable range

I'm parting with these macarons rather hesitantly…perhaps I'll pop to the farm stall on the way and take her a bunch of flowers instead!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Easter Gift Pockets

Easter weekend is happening so late this year that it almost feels as though it must have been and gone already…and instead of being super prepared with all the extra planning time, I've fallen behind in my Easter preparations…just as well then that these pretty paper gift pockets are so quick and easy to make.

They are perfect for filling with small Easter treats and placing at each table setting or filling a basket at the door for guests to take one home with them as they leave.

You can whip these together while sitting in front of the TV…you might have to invite a few more guests to Easter though, as they're just so easy to make!

Use the template below or draw up your own using a triangle the size you require. Then draw two equal sized triangles next to the middle one…leaving a small triangle at the top for a fold over flap.

Fold over on the lines, glue the two opposite sides down together, fill with homemade goodies, close the flap and secure it with a cut out shape of paper and embellish it with the cutest Easter-themed buttons from our catalog.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Choc Chip Banana Muffins

If you've read through a few of our recipes, you'll have seen our guilt free banana muffins which are delicious and, unbelievably, healthy too.

This version notches it up on the taste scale and knocks healthy aside.

As a bonus, you need use only one bowl and they can be whipped together in about 5 minutes flat.

Which leaves just one question…what are you waiting for?

Turn the oven to 180ºC.
Mix together the following:
3 bananas, roughly mashed,
1 C sugar,
2 C flour,
1 t bicarbonate of soda,
1 t vanilla,
3 T sour cream,
2 eggs,
1/2 C butter, soft,
1 C choc chips (I used Cadbury's Top Deck)

Spoon into cupcake cases in a muffin tray.

Try to keep yourself busy for the next 20-25 minutes while they bake.

If they don't disappear within a few seconds, you could pop these cute Easter themed muffin top-pers on top…

Monday, 17 March 2014

Chewy Ginger Biscuits

Ginger is a firm favourite around here - whether its pickled, ground, fresh or crystallised there's bound to be a large supply in the store cupboard. 

The spicy aroma of ginger biscuits cooking is impossible hard to resist. 
With this in mind, I whipped up a quick batch of gingery, cinnamony soft sugar cookies.

To make a fresh batch, turn the oven to 175ºC and gather the following ingredients together:
1 & 1/4 C flour,
1/2t bicarbonate of soda,
1t ginger,
3/4t cinnamon,
pinch of nutmeg,
pinch salt,
3/8C butter,
1/2 C sugar,
1 egg,
1/8C honey
1/2 T water,
4T sugar and 1t cinnamon for dusting.

 Sieve the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt) together and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg.

Stir in the water and honey.
Add the dry ingredients and mix well.

Scoop tablespoon sized portions into your palm and roll them gently.
Dip in the sugar and cinnamon mix.
Place onto baking paper on a baking tray, press down slightly and bake for 8-12 minutes.

Let them cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.
Wrap them up in wax paper, tie them with baker's twine and finish off with a cheerful gingerbread man button. A cute and tasty homemade gift to take along for your next tea date.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Softy Giraffe

This softy giraffe is a quick and easy toy to create to take along to a baby shower as a sweet gift.

You can create your own giraffe using the template above (Note: seam allowance not included).
You'll need fabric, various coloured ribbons, stuffing, sewing machine and thread.

Cut 2 giraffes from complementary fabrics. Turn the template over for the second piece.
Pin various lengths of ribbon loops facing inwards on the right side of the fabric along his neck for the mane and 1 piece for the tail.

Place the fabric right sides together and sew together (I double back over the ribbons to secure them firmly into place) leaving a large enough gap to turn right side out and stuff.
Fill the giraffe with stuffing and hand stitch the opening closed.

If you can't bear to part with him, whip up another one or two.
Wrap in tissue paper with a big ribbon and an Incomparable heart pendant - the perfect finishing touch.

Optional: You can sew a patch of minky fabric or corduroy onto the body pieces before stitching together to add an extra tactile element for baby.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Shrove Tuesday - Mini Fold-Up Pancakes

Its Shrove Tuesday…which means pancakes, crepes, flapjacks, and these funny little folded up pocket pancakes.

These are much less time consuming than regular pancakes - you just scoop the batter into buttered muffin pans, pop them in the oven and watch with your nose pressed to the oven door while the batter morphs into strange and wonderful shapes forget all about them for 15 minutes.

To make 24:
Turn the oven to 200ºC.
Beat together:
6 eggs,
1 C milk,
1 C flour,
pinch salt,
1 t vanilla. 
Smooth out the lumps..then blend in 1/4C melted butter a little at a time.

Scoop into buttered muffin tins about halfway and bake for 15 minutes until puffy, golden and buttery.
The tray I put lower down in the oven didn't co-operate as well as the top tray in folding over and creating these pockets so next time I'll position both higher up.

These really lend themselves to be eaten like scones with whipped cream, jam and grated cheese.

A lovely new take on pancakes…I'm a bit of a traditionalist though, so I have a fresh batch of paper thin crepes ready to be served piping hot with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of cinnamon…all in a day's eating work. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Choc Chip Chocolate CupCakes

A few weeks ago I posted this recipe on my personal blog for a delicious and moist chocolate cake.

These cupcakes are very similar…one or two omissions and additions and you can create these delicious spongy morsels of delight cakes in time for tea.

This recipe makes 9 cupcakes - you can double up if you're baking for a larger party!

3/4 C flour,
1 t baking powder,
1/8 C cocoa powder,
1/2 C sugar,
1/3 C butter, soft (I use salted butter, so omit the dash of salt)
1 egg,
1/2 C instant coffee,
1/2 t vanilla,
1/4 C chocolate chips (I use Cadburys Top Deck).

Preheat the oven to 175ºC.
Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa and set aside.
Combine the coffee and vanilla and set aside to cool.
With the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar for 4-5 minutes.
Add the egg and mix well.
Alternate mixing in some of the dry ingredients and then some of the coffee mix until everything is well combined.
Fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour into cupcake wrappers set in a muffin tin.
Bake for 20 minutes.

For the chocolate frosting:
1/2 C butter, soft,
1 C icing sugar,
1/8 C cocoa,
1/2 t vanilla,
1/2 t coffee.
Whip the butter for 5 minutes until light.
Mix together the icing sugar and cocoa and add to the butter.
Add the vanilla and coffee and mix well.
You can add a little cream or milk to change the consistency if you like.

Pipe roses using a large star shaped piping nozzle.

I made a few fun cupcake toppers using pretty paper and these cute heart, star and cupcake buttons.

Simply cut out the shapes you want from scrap booking paper. 
Sew or glue a button into place. 
Then glue the top of a toothpick down followed by another cutout of paper to cover the back…these cupcake toppers are festive and perfect for baby showers, engagement parties, weddings, hen parties, tea for one...any occasion you can imagine. 
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