Friday, 30 May 2014

Raspberry Macarons

You know what it's like when there's something that you really don't want to do, so you keep finding (valid) reasons to put it off, until you just can't anymore?
Well, there were these egg whites, you see. And they were in my fridge. Aging.
And I could have said that they were for Swiss meringue buttercream.
I could've, but ... talk to myself, yes; lie to myself, no.
They were for macarons.
Most people  have happy thoughts about these continental confections. I don't.
They've stumped me way too many times, but I'm cursed with persistence, and just had to try again.

So, with egg whites sufficiently aged (you really don't want to know how long they'd been waiting. Really, you don't.), I took the plunge.
In fact, I threw caution to the wind and added an ingredient: raspberry jelly powder.
If you're an amateur macaron-maker (like me), you probably don't want to play around with the macaron recipe much. But I was through being bullied by these truculent treats.
And what do you know: success!

Co-incidentally, though, on that very day, Daniela (Daniela's Deliciously Decadent) gifted me with some of her perfect macarons.
Mine looked like ugly sisters in comparison.

But, I'll share them and the recipe with you anyway:

Raspberry Macarons
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

3 egg whites (100g-110g), at room temp. Aged for 2-3 days.
2 TBS caster sugar
200g icing sugar
125g ground almonds/ almond meal
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 TBS raspberry jelly powder (or use 1 tsp raspberry extract)
Pink gel/ powder food colour

Prepare baking trays with parchment. Make sure that the parchment is flat and that the trays aren't warped.

Put the almond meal and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse until well mixed and finely ground.  Sift into a bowl. Discard the large granules which don't pass through the sieve.

Whisk the egg whites at low speed with an electric beater until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and caster sugar.
Beat until soft peaks form, then add the raspberry jelly powder and gel colour.
Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form.

Sift the almond meal / icing sugar mix into the meringue in two batches  - folding in between.
Once again discard any large granules of almond meal.

Use a spatula and a figure-of-8 motion to gently fold the batter until it is loosened and falls in "ribbons" from the spatula.

Transfer to an icing bag with the tip cut off or one fitted with a large plain round icing nozzle (not more than 1cm diameter).

Pipe small dots of batter beneath the corners of the baking parchment , to keep it in place on the baking tray.

Pipe your macaron rounds - about 3-4cm diameter, about 2cm apart. Pull your piping tip to the side - this leaves a tiny tail, which will settle.
Rap the tray twice on the counter. (Yes, really! If you don't air bubbles may crack the surface of the macaron as it bakes).

Now, turn on your oven to 150'C

Leave the macarons to stand for 15-30minutes until they form a "skin" - ie. when touched with a clean, dry finger they aren't sticky.

Bake at 150'C for 15-20 minutes.
Check that they're not browning as the end of the baking time approaches.

Leave to cool for 5minutes, then remove from the trays. If they are undercooked, they will stick to the parchment. You can pop them back into the warm oven for a few more minutes just to dry out a little more.
(Macarons are best after being filled and left for 24hrs - the filling rehydrates them a bit.)

Dark chocolate ganache

300g dark chocolate, cut into small, even sized pieces.
120ml cream ( 35-40% fat content) 

Place both ingredients into a double boiler (a heatproof bowl placed over a pot of simmering water) OR in a microwave-proof bowl.
Heat slowly, stirring frequently until all the chocolate has melted. 

Leave to cool down at room temperature. Place some cling-wrap onto the surface of the ganache to prevent a crust forming. 

Allow the ganache to set to spreading consistency, then either spoon or pipe it onto a macaron shell. Place another macaron shell on top.

Store the macarons in the fridge, but allow them to come to room temperature before serving.

It's a lot of work, isn't it!? But now you know...
If you want macarons, contact Daniela!


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Dry-Brushing Technique with a Stencil

"And I said what about Breakfast at Tiffany's
She said I think I remember the film..."

I don't remember seeing the film.
Which means I probably didn't, because I've got a pretty good memory for films and books.
My husband, on the other hand, could watch something three times and not recall it. Great for him, not so entertaining for me...
Don't worry, if he reads this, he won't remember it for very long ; )

But that's a complete by-the-by... Only vaguely relevant because I'm using our Breakfast at Tiffany's cupcakes to demonstrate a technique for you:

How to dry-brush a stencil design onto fondant.
(Which you might recall from a class, or might not...)

: )

Dust your surface with cornflour
Roll out the fondant
Use a cake smoother to press the stencil firmly down onto the surface of the fondant. If it isn't securely stuck down, then powder will creep under a loose edge of the stencil and spoil the effect.

Use a flat tipped brush to dry brush on the powdered food colour.

Brush off any excess powder.
Smoothly peel off the stencil.

Cut out your fondant disc.

Allow to dry before using to bedeck a cupcake swirl.

"And as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it..."

Happy decorating!


Friday, 23 May 2014

Colourful Cookie Pops

When I first started working with cookies and royal icing, I was fascinated with colour-flow techniques or wet-on-wet work. But then I got hold of some tiny icing nozzles (Ateco 00's weren't widely available in this country until recently, and PME's still aren't.) And I got caught up in fine lines: the challenge of detailed work.
Recently, though, I've re-discovered the delight of wet-on-wet work; not least of all because it's so jolly quick and effective!
So, these were some cookies that I did (jolly quickly!) for my niece's carnival themed party last weekend:

You'll need:
Round lollipop cookies. For the technique see here and here.
Royal icing - flooding consistency; in several colours.
A toothpick.

Icing technique:

Flood cookie.

Immediately (while the icing is still wet) fill in the spokes.
It's easiest to start with a cross,

 then do another cross at 45' to the first one,

 and a third and fourth.

Using a toothpick, pull through the icing clockwise around the outer circumference of the cookie.

Then, about 1cm in from that, pull through the icing in an anti-clockwise direction.

Continue alternating direction until you've reached the centre of the cookie.

Allow to dry completely (24hrs) before packaging or serving. 

Have a colourful weekend!


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Toffee Apples

Growing up in Pietermaritzburg, as the month of May advanced and the days became shorter and chillier, it meant "Royal Agricultural Show" time was approaching.
We were never very interested in the real reason for the show, but the fair that tagged along with the tractors and the cows was one of that sleepy town's annual highlights for us as kids. The show grounds were on our way to school, and we'd watch the daily progress of the fair's construction with mounting excitement.
It meant rides on the "Big Wheel" (or the "Looping Star" for the more daring), helium balloons, candy floss and toffee apples.
These days, although the show goes on, the fair is no more. Too much of the show-grounds have been taken over by offices and car dealerships.

So, in honour of all those fair days of youth, here are some toffee apples...

Toffee Apples:

4 cups white sugar
1 cup water
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
4 Tbs (60g) butter
2 Tbs golden syrup
Red food coloring
12-14 small-medium sized apples (Granny Smith or Pink Lady variety - for a good crunch!)

Prepare the apples-
Wash them in hot water to remove any waxy coating; dry thoroughly.
Remove the stalk, and push a wooden skewer or lolly stick into the stalk end of each apple.

Make the syrup-
Place all the ingredients except the food coloring and apples, into a medium-sized heavy-based saucepan.
Stir continuously over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Wash down any sugar crystals on the sides of the saucepan with a damp pastry brush.
Bring the mixture to the boil. Add the food coloring. Stop stirring.
Let the mixture boil gently until it reaches 140'C on a candy thermometer. (Usually 10-15 minutes).
If you aren't using a thermometer, pour a teaspoon of syrup into a bowl of cold water, it should harden instantly, and when removed from the water be brittle and break easily. If it is still soft and sticky, it is not ready.  

Once the syrup is ready, remove the saucepan from the stove. (You can place it in a basin of hot water to prevent the syrup from setting too quickly.)
Wait for all the bubbles to settle.
Working quickly, tilt the saucepan to the side and dip and twist each apple in the syrup. Tap off a little of the excess syrup. Place on the prepared baking tray and leave to set.

NB: Be careful - sugar syrup is extremely hot (140'C!).

Store the toffee apples individually wrapped in cellophane.



Sunday, 18 May 2014

Rice Krispie Treats

The past few weeks have been fruity. And by that I don't mean peachy. I mean pear-shaped. And by that I mean I've been going a little bananas trying to juggle way too many things!
 One of which was my niece's cake. I loved doing it, but I don't do big cakes often enough to be comfortable with them, so it was taking up a lot of brain space.
It stretched my capabilities, which is never a bad thing. (In hindsight!)

I usually make many of the decorations for a birthday cake in advance, so that closer to the party it's just a matter of baking, covering and assembling. But in this case I could only decorate the layers  once the cake was covered. And it took me an age just to cut out triangles and stripes.  (And then cut them out again because I didn't like the way they looked on the first attempt!)

To make life a little easier, though, the circus tent on top was made out of Rice Krispie Treat (RKT). It's really great for using in place of cake in details that you want to be lightweight; and you can mould / carve into a specific shape.

 I used a 4 inch cake tin to mould the base of the tent, and a funnel to shape the RKT for the tent top.

Rice Krispie Treats :
Recipe from Jessica Harris, Jessicakes

280g marshmallows
160g white chocolate
30g butter
200g Rice Krispies

Grease the sides of a microwave-proof bowl with Holsum (Crisco/ white vegetable fat).
Microwave the marshmallows, chocolate and butter together for 1 minute, stir; then microwave for another 30sec. Stir until smooth.
Add in the Rice Krispies, stir well.

Smear Holsum on your hands, then dig into the bowl and mix thoroughly by hand.

If you're using a container to shape/mould the RKT, spray it with non-stick baking spray, then pack the RKT mixture into the container. You can also mould it into shape by hand.
Once shaped, cover the RKT with ganache or buttercream before applying the fondant layer.
Easy-peasey lemon-squeezy.

Ok, that's me done for the day.
Sunday night movie time. Or maybe just bed...

Happy creating!


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Lemon and Lime Cheesecake

So, it's voting day in SA, and I've made my mark.
I checked that both ballot papers were stamped, I didn't touch the lines of the box with my X, and used my own pen in case there was "disappearing ink" in the official ones. No, seriously? I thought this democracy was beyond pre-adolescence. What are we, a bunch of 8 year olds??
Anyway, it wasn't the thrill that it was 20 years ago in '94, but it still felt great to cast my vote : )

But moving on from dividing up the political pie...
Take a slice of this:

Lemon and Lime Cheesecake
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

300g Tennis biscuits (or 250g plain biscuits with 50g shredded coconut added), finely crushed
120g butter, melted

 Mix the above together and press into the base of a greased springform pan.
Cover with cling wrap and put in the freezer for 30min.

Pre-heat the oven to 160'C

250g Mascarpone
250g medium fat cream cheese
250ml sour cream
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lime and 1 lemon

Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar together until smooth.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Follow with the rest of the ingredients.
Beat well.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared base, and bake in a water bath for 1 hour at 160'C
Leave to cool in the oven.

Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with more lime zest before serving.

Happy baking!