Sunday, 30 August 2015

Coffee Macarons

Picture me, head in hands asking why-oh-why do I do this to myself...
Macarons. They tease me, tempt me, and ultimately taunt me.
But I keep on coming back to them!
It's been a while since I made these little devils delights. But one batch, and I'm hooked again...
So, here's a pairing of two of my addictions: coffee and macarons!

Coffee Macarons 

3 egg whites (100g-110g), at room temp. Aged for 2-3 days.
2 tbs caster sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
200g icing sugar
125g ground almonds/ almond meal
1tbs instant coffee granules (use good quality freeze dried coffee), dissolved in 20ml boiling water. 

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. 
Beat until soft peaks form, then add the caster sugar, slowly down the side of the bowl.  
Beat at high speed just until stiff peaks form. Add the cooled coffee mixture. Fold it in. 

Sift half the almond meal / icing sugar mix into the meringue and fold in.   
Then sift in the remaining almond meal and icing sugar. 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.
(This is a tricky part - as you need to avoid both under-mixing, and over-mixing!)  

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 to release air bubbles. 

Now, turn on your oven to 150'C

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

Bake at 150'C for 15-16 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

200g dark chocolate, cut into small, even sized pieces.
100ml cream ( 35-40% fat content) 

Place both ingredients into a double boiler (a heatproof bowl placed over a pot of simmering water) 
Heat slowly, stirring frequently until all the chocolate has melted. (Alternatively microwave, in 30second bursts. Stir in between. Do not overheat!) 

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 matching-sized macaron shell on top.

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



Sunday, 23 August 2015

Queen of Hearts Cookie Tutorial

The hardest thing about the "Mad-Hatter's Tea Party" themed class was limiting the number of cookies we decorated.  The story of Alice in Wonderland is a feast for the imagination, and the movie versions (I'm partial to Tim Burtons, but enjoy Disney's too!) are full of amazing imagery.  So, there are so many (too many!) great Wonderland cookie ideas to choose from. 


One of the ideas I love, is using a heart cookie for the Red Queen's face. It's just so appropriate and so clever - with her being the Queen of Hearts!
 I'm not sure who did it first - I've seen versions by Ali Bee's Bake Shop, Sugarbelle, Sprinkle Bakes and several more. Well done to whoever thought of it: brilliant! 

Here's my version: 

Here's how:          Outline where her face will go. 

Flood the area with white "15 second" icing (flooding consistency royal icing)

While the white background is still wet, add two blue (eye-shadow) ovals. Allow to dry. 

Once the face has dried, pipe on eyelids, eyebrows, and lips (a little heart of course!)   

Use a small open star nozzle (Ateco 14) to pipe on red rosettes of hair. This needs to be stiff-peak icing. Fill any gaps between rosettes with a single floret of icing 

Keep going...

Allow to dry completely 

"Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality"
Happy decorating!


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Coffee and Walnut Cake

This was not the cake I'd planned to make for my sister's birthday. I had something prettily decorated  in mind instead; some flowers, some lace. 
But time ran away from me. So I baked something simpler instead. 
Ha ha! 
Like it's simple for me to whip up a batch of macarons. Sure! 
But I suddenly got a bee in my bonnet about decorating this coffee and walnut cake with coffee macarons (darn bees! darn bonnets! darn macarons!). And with a bowl of aged egg whites sitting in the fridge, I couldn't find an excuse not to give them a bash.  (Macarons and I have relationship issues.) 
Anyway, they turned out ok. And as always, even if they don't look perfect, macarons taste great. 
So did the rest of the cake, actually!

Coffee and Walnut Cake
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

Preheat the oven to 180'C
Grease and line 3x 8inch cake pans
(I used 4 x 7 inch cake pans, because I prefer slightly taller, smaller diameter cakes)

360g cake flour
400g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt 4 large eggs + 2 egg yolks
220g butter, cut into cubes, at room temp.
300ml buttermilk
10ml instant coffee granules, dissolved in 15ml boiling water (use good quality, freeze dried coffee granules)
2 tsp vanilla extract
175g walnuts, finely chopped

Sift the dry ingredients (including the sugar) into the bowl of an electric mixer. Use the paddle attachment on low speed to mix the ingredients together.

Add the butter to the mixer, and beat on low speed until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Mix in 250ml of the buttermilk.
Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 - 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
While this is mixing, in another bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and remainder of the buttermilk together.
Add this to the beater in 3 batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between additions.
Mix in the dissolved coffee and vanilla.
Beat until just incorporated.
Fold in the walnuts.

Divide the batter equally between the 3 cake pans.

Bake at 180'C for approximately 30 - 35min, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

Allow the cake layers to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

 Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream

200g caster sugar
5 egg whites
250-300g butter, at room temp cut into cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
15ml instant coffee granules (freeze dried ) dissolved in 20ml boiling water.

Dissolve coffee granules in boiling water. Allow to cool.

Put the egg whites and sugar into a mixing bowl, and place that over a suitable saucepan of simmering water. 
The bottom of the mixing bowl must not be in contact with the water.

Whisk constantly, until the sugar granules have dissolved and the mixture is hot to touch. 

Move off the stove, and to the mixer.
Using the whisk attachment, whip until it forms a thick and glossy meringue.

When the mixing bowl feels neutral to touch, change over to the paddle attachment, and add the butter one cube at a time, beating on low-medium speed. Keep adding butter until it reaches a pipe-able consistency. 
(It may curdle, but just keep whipping until it reaches a satiny smooth consistency and holds its shape.)
 Add the vanilla extract and coffee; beat well to incorporate. 

Spread between the cooled cake layers, and over the surface of the cake. 

To complete the cake as pictured, pour chocolate ganache over the top of the cake and allow it to dribble down the sides . 
And despite my shaky relationship with macarons, I'll be posting the recipe for these coffee flavoured ones soon. 

Happy baking!


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Braided Nutella Bread

So, I may become a little theme-obsessed.
Ok, I freely admit it. I do. I do!

For my son's recent Penguins of Madagascar party, it was all about black, white and orange ... and so of course I had to carry that through from the decor to the food. (With the minor concession of dark chocolate substituting for black... I'm ok with that.)

The kids' table had Flings (in lieu of "Cheezy Dibbles" - Penguins' favourite snack, apparently); orange wedges;  liquorice; home-made white marshmallows and popcorn. (And the other baked treats that I posted on Facebook.)

I had a bunch of ideas for the adults' table, but had to restrain myself to just a few, and made dark chocolate tarts, cookies and cream cheesecake with Oreo truffles and a braided Nutella bread.

So, I'm working on putting the cheesecake recipe together for you, but for now here's the link for the braided nutella bread.
As always, when working with a yeast dough you have to have the patience of two provings.
But (as always) it's worth it!

Happy baking!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Penguins of Madagascar Cookies

Here are some cookies from our Penguins of Madagascar themed party. ('Cause I'm already totally over these critters and ready to move on...!) 

I made royal icing transfers for the penguins, because that seemed easier than sketching each character onto the cookies. And it was a very easy process. So easy that I managed to do them during the school holidays with yells for Mom interrupting me every 5 seconds.

To make transfers, print out appropriately sized images. Tape them to your work surface and tape a sheet of clear acetate on top. You'll be piping your royal icing onto the acetate.
 These are shadowy, bad-angled photos, but basically I outlined and filled in the black areas first.

Allowed those to dry, then outlined the white areas and filled those in.

When the white areas were set, I filled in the orange beaks and added the feet.

Last were the eyes - blue dots with black pupils.

The penguins were left to dry for 24 hours before I lifted them with a palette knife and transferred to freshly flooded cookies.
A few of the feet broke off in the process, but they were easy enough to pipe onto the dried cookie.

Enough of the Penguins now. If you want to see the cake pops, they're on the Tea, Cake and Create Facebook page. 



Sunday, 2 August 2015

Penguins of Madagascar Birthday Cake

I can't tell you how much I struggled with the idea of this cake!
It was my own fault - for the 2nd year in a row, I steered my son away from a Skylanders themed party (one Skylander character would be challenge enough to make, but the boy wanted 6 on his cake!) and so we settled on Penguins of Madagascar instead.

I knew that the party colours would be black, white and orange. But that was about as far as I got.
Watching several episodes of the series didn't help clarify it for me. If you've seen it, you may understand why my brain was a little bamboozled afterwards!

The Penguins of Madagascar is a spin-off of the "Madagascar" films. The series follows the adventures of four penguins: Skipper, Kowalski, Private, and Rico who perform various paramilitary missions to protect their home in the Central Park Zoo - Wikipedia. 
So, basically they're a bunch of paramilitary penguins. Ok. I can work with that....

I started with the 4 team members, Skipper, Kowalski, Private and Rico in their kung-fu-esque action poses, and took it from there...

Here are a few behind the scene, progress shots...

Checking levels 

Covering with ganache - upside down method

Ganached cake

 Fondant / modelling chocolate blend

Paneling the cake


Mission accomplished!

Next year, it's definitely Skylanders - I've promised.
I'd better start working on those characters now!

Happy decorating!