Bake-off Wednesdays: Patisserie

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First of all: It’s the semi-final! That seems to have crept up stealthily without me noticing…

Now then – Patisserie.

I love patisseries and their pretty little yummy morsels. I marvel at how people can make such tiny things so precisely, especially when you see a whole row of something and they’re all exactly the same…

Personally, I like to eat food from patisseries but i don’t make food from patisseries. I’m more of a rustic cooking kinda girl – not by choice, the food just turns out that way… and that’s what happened when i attempted to make Macarons this week too.

I know macarons are notoriously difficult to make, I tried to make them years ago and they didn’t turn out particularly well, and ever since I have just enjoyed eating them. A lot. No trip to London is complete without visiting Laduree or Pierre Herme. But I decided it was time to try again. I have two books on macarons that just sit on the bookshelf looking pretty, so i dusted them off and had a go.

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My macarons didn’t turn out like these beauties.

They tasted like macarons, with that wonderful chewy inside and crunchy exterior – i flavoured them with cinnamon and filled them with apple puree and honey ganache so they had the flavours of an apple pie – but, they looked a bit of a mess. No point in lying about it. I couldn’t pipe equal shaped circles – i couldn’t even find the right-sized nozzle so used a star-shaped one (that why they look a bit rippled). Some of them had ‘feet’ and some didn’t, some had ‘feet’ on one side and not the other, some erupted. It was all a bit crazy in my kitchen.

However, they did taste amazing so i will still share my recipe with you, and hope that yours turn out as pretty as the professionals. (if they do, feel free to make me jealous with photos).

I think I will attempt them again, but maybe when I have digital scales, more piping nozzles, and a better oven and/or oven thermometer – so in a couple of years perhaps 😉

Recipe taken from two recipe books – Macarons by Berengere Abraham and Macaroons by Parragon books

Cinnamon & Apple Macarons with Honey Ganache

*For the Shells*

2 large eggs, whites only (yolks will be used in the ganache)

60g ground almonds

110g icing sugar

1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

1tsp cinnamon

*For the Apple*

450g cooking apples

3tbsp caster sugar

1tbsp water

*For the Honey Ganache*

2 leaves gelatin

100ml honey

2 eggs, yolks only

3 tsp caster sugar

250ml whipping cream

The day before making the macarons, separate the egg whites from the yolks and keep in the refrigerator – the egg whites need to be ‘aged’.

*The honey ganache takes 3 hours to set so you may wish to make that before the macarons*

To make the shells: Bring the egg whites back up to room temperature. Put the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz for a few seconds. Sift the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

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In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), whisk the egg whites until they are soft peaks. Gradually add in the cinnamon and caster sugar until glossy and firm.

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Sieve the almond/sugar mixture over the egg whites and fold in with a spatula, until well combined. This will take at least 50 ‘folds’! Continue until it looks like a shiny batter.

Fit a piping bag with a 1cm nozzle, fill with the mixture and pipe out 15 circles onto two baking sheets covered in greaseproof paper. If they are a bit peaked, wet your finger and gently push down.

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Tap the baking trays sharply on a work surface to get rid of air bubbles. Leave to stand at room temperature for at least an hour, until a crust forms (you should be able to touch the top of the macaron without it feeling sticky).

*I used some slightly larger bits of almond and icing sugar to make a crumble topping for the macarons at this point. Just dry fry in a small pan and sprinkle on top before cooking.* 

Whilst the macarons are resting, pre-heat the oven to 150F and make the filling (or have a cup of tea).

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When ready, cook the macarons for 10-12 mins. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully peel off the greaseproof paper and leave to cool completely.

Use one or both of the fillings to sandwich the macarons together.

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To make the Apple: Peel, core and chop the apples. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and water, and simmer for approx 10 minutes, or until the apple is soft. Mash with a fork to make a puree, and leave to cool.

To make the Honey Ganache: Put the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water and leave for 5 minutes. In a saucepan, heat the honey over a low heat until warm. Remove from the heat, drain the gelatine leaves and add to the honey. Stir well until dissolved.

Whisk the egg yolks with 1tsp of the caster sugar and then add to the honey/gelatine mix. Whisk the whipping cream with the remaining caster sugar until firm, then add to the honey mixture and combine well. Leave to cool, then chill for at least 3 hours in the fridge.

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These two were the most photogenic – about a third could probably pass as macarons, the rest were best ‘deconstructed’ – thank goodness they tasted good!

I think a more technical book might be best to read before re-attempting them, as mine were pretty but not particularly helpful – i gleaned more information from the internet. If anyone has any macaron-making tips please share!

Uh-oh it’s the final next week… Who do you want to win?

Bake-Off Wednesdays: Desserts

On the weekend, the OH and I walked some of the Bath Skyline Walk. This is a 6 mile walk around the outskirts of Bath, featuring hills, fields, woods, a ‘sham castle’ and views of the city. We only had time/energy for about half of it, but managed to fit in all of the above!

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Views of Bath and the ‘Sham Castle’ built in the 18th Century by Ralph Allen, to improve the view from his house!

We took a tub with us in the hope of collecting some blackberries, and we weren’t disappointed.

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Although a lot of the bushes weren’t quite ripe yet, we managed to fill the tub, and eat a couple… In a couple of weeks time I don’t think you’ll be able to move for blackberries on the walk – we may have to go back!

I’d decided to incorporate some blackberries into this week’s bake-off challenge, and because this week we are trying to be healthy-ish (to combat the excesses of the last couple of weeks!), I tried to find a dessert that wasn’t completely naughty.

I remember Crème Caramels were made by the bakers one year, and so decided on one of its distant relatives – the Panna Cotta.

Panna Cotta, the dessert made with mountains of double cream? I hear you. Not what automatically comes to mind when thinking of healthy desserts, but I had a thought it could be made with yoghurt, and a quick search of the internet provided me with a few recipes that seemed to agree with me.

Most seemed to incorporate greek yoghurt with some double cream and milk, so i bought both and had a go….

Now, this didn’t end up as healthy as I’d hoped, because I had to make them twice…  It all tasted lovely the first time round, but didn’t set properly, so was more like a very creamy yoghurt dessert than a set dessert – see photo below!

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I’d followed one recipe in terms of the gelatine to cream/yoghurt ratio, but looking at other recipes they all seem to have more than mine did. So I tried it again, and upped the gelatine content substantially.

This time things looked more promising!

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Flavour-wise, I decided to infuse the cream with some thyme that we had leftover in the fridge, and used honey-flavoured greek yoghurt to add a bit more flavour.The blackberries were great, I just left them fresh, but you could make a coulis with them if you wanted. I also crumbled up a butter galette biscuit to add some texture – a ‘biscuit crumb’, if you will 😉

We ate this for breakfast as it didn’t feel as naughty as a traditional Panna Cotta!

Thyme and Honey ‘Panna Cotta’ with Blackberries

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

3 Gelatine Leaves

175ml Milk

50ml Double Cream

250g Honey-flavoured Greek Yoghurt

20g Caster Sugar

Approx 4 sprigs of Thyme

Blackberries

Put the gelatine leaves into a bowl of iced water and leave to soften for five minutes.

Put the milk, cream, sugar and thyme sprigs into a small pan and bring slowly to the boil.

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Remove the softened gelatine from the iced water, gently squeeze out the excess water and stir into the milk and cream (discarding the thyme sprigs). Remove from the heat and stir until the gelatine has dissolved.

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Pour this mixture through a sieve to get rid of any lumps, and pour into the greek yoghurt slowly, whisking as you go. When thoroughly combined, pour the mixture into your moulds (I used tea cups), cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 5 hours.

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When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around the rim of the mould, and briefly dip the mould into hot water to help loosen the panna cotta. Jiggle it around again, repeat if necessary, and gently pull away from the sides with your fingers or a spoon. It will come out eventually! Alternatively, if you can’t or don’t want to get it out you can serve it in the mould/teacup etc – see photo below. It still looks pretty, just slightly less impressive! If turning out, do so onto your serving plate and garnish with blackberries, biscuits, and another small sprig of thyme (if desired).

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This dessert definitely tasted healthier than a normal Panna Cotta, I think the yoghurt gave it a fresher taste, and the thyme made it slightly more savoury. It still tasted good though, and I will definitely be making it again next time I want a ‘lighter’ treat!