Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Blueberry Macarons

blueberry macarons


I love macarons! That's probably not too surprising if you've seen my other blog posts, but I really have fun making them (in the Italian style) and trying out different fillings. These are my first summer batch, filled with a simple but effective blueberry buttercream.
For the first time, I tried using liquid egg whites instead of separating the eggs themselves (they were on offer in my local supermarket, and I had no use for egg yolks). The macarons turned out just as well as when I separated my own egg whites, and it meant I could easily measure the volume of egg whites I needed :)

Makes around 24 macarons (48 shells)

Ingredients:

For the blueberry jam:

  • 45g (3 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 200g (2 cups) frozen blueberries
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

For the macarons:
  • 160g (1 & 1/4 cups) ground almonds
  • 175g (1 & 1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 4 (125ml/1/2 cup) medium egg whites
  • 165g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 50ml (3 tbsp and 1 tsp) water

Method:

1. Place the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor (or high power blender) and blitz for 2-3 second bursts, until the mixture is very fine. Don't over blend the mixture as the almonds will start to turn to almond butter.

2. Sieve the almonds/icing sugar into a large bowl. Add 2 (60ml/1/4 cup) of the egg whites, and beat until a smooth paste is formed.

3. Heat the granulated sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Then stop stirring and place a sugar thermometer in the pan. In a grease-free bowl, add the remaining two egg whites. Once the sugar/water has reached 112C, start whisking the egg whites at a medium speed (I used a stand mixer and found this required less of my attention than a handheld).

4. Once the sugar/water syrup has reached 118C, the egg whites should be white and frothy (like shaving foam). Turn the stand mixer down to a low speed, then carefully pour the syrup onto the egg whites, whisking constantly. Be very careful not to touch the syrup as it is super hot! Once all of the syrup has been added, turn up the speed of the mixer to high and keep whisking until the mixture is shiny and forms peaks when the whisk is lifted from the mixture (this should take between 5 and 7 minutes).

5. Dip a toothpick into the violet food colouring and then dip into the meringue mixture. Whisk briefly. Add more food colouring until you have the desired purple colour.

6. Use a metal spoon to fold a third of the egg white mixture into the almond/sugar paste. Once incorporated, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

7. Fill a piping bag with the macaron mixture, and cut off 1cm from the end (or use a large round nozzle). Grease and line four baking trays with parchment paper and hold the piping bag vertically above where you want to pipe. Pipe directly down onto the tray until you have a circle 3cm wide (or whatever shape you like - I also like making rectangles so that they look like mini eclairs). Repeat across the trays, leaving about a 1&1/2cm gap between each macaron shell.

8. Tap the tray on the surface a few times, then leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, until a "skin" has formed on the macarons - this means that when you gently touch the macaron, no mixture goes on your finger.

9. Whilst waiting to bake the macarons, make the blueberry jam by pouring the frozen blueberries, sugar and lemon juice into a saucepan. Place on a low-medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring regularly.

10. Boil the mixture for around 5 minutes, pressing the blueberries against the sides of the pan to break them down. After 5 minutes the mixture should have thickened slightly. Set aside to cool.

11. Once at room temperature, pour the jam into a blender and blitz briefly. This will give a nice thick jam.

12. Preheat the oven to 170c (150c fan)/ 340F/ gas mark 3. Before you place the baking trays into the oven, tap the trays against the surface again. This gives the perfect "foot" of macarons. Bake the macarons for 10-12 minutes - keep an eye on them after 8 minutes in case they are browning too much. Remove the macarons from the oven and transfer the macarons (with the baking paper still attached) to a wire rack to cool.

13. To make the filling, cream the butter against the sides of a mixing bowl until it is very soft and spreadable. Add half of the icing sugar and beat in.

14. Add the remaining icing sugar and 2-3 tbsp of the blueberry jam. Start beating the mixture. If the mixture is very stiff, add a splash of milk to loosen the mix. The buttercream needs to be thick enough that it holds it's shape when lifted from the bowl, but not so thick that it requires muscle power to move the buttercream around the bowl.

15. When the macaron shells have completely cooled, flip half of them over. Fill a piping bag with the blueberry buttercream and pipe about a teaspoon of buttercream on each flipped shell.

16. Top each covered macaron shell with an uncovered shell and press down lightly.

17. These are best to eat at least 24 hours after sandwiching as the shells go very soft. However, they are still delicious straight after assembly! They should keep in an airtight container for around a week (they will get softer as time progresses).

18. Enjoy!

If you liked these, here are my other macaron recipes :)

blueberry macarons
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Sunday, 15 April 2018

Granny Cake (Gluten-free, Vegan, Nut-free)

Lemon Granny Fruit Cake


Have you ever been asked to make a cake that was gluten-free AND vegan? Once you start looking for recipes for such bakes, they are few and far between. This cake is based on an old-fashioned cake known as "Granny cake". It's a fruity sponge/bread, perfect with a cup of tea, and contains no dairy, eggs and is easy to make gluten-free (without the addition of nuts).
To make the cake extra special, I added a lemon syrup to the cake once it came out of the oven, which worked really well I think!
If you aren't gluten-free, normal self-raising flour would be totally fine to use.
This makes one traybake, but could be baked in a loaf tin (you would need to add about 20-25 minutes to the baking time to account for the extra depth of the cake however).

The cake can be frozen, and will keep in an air-tight tin for around a week.

Makes around 16 squares (fills a 20 x 20cm square tin)

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 450g (3 cups) gluten-free self-raising flour (or normal self-raising flour if not making gluten-free)
  • 65g (1/3 cup + 1 tsp) soft light brown sugar
  • 60g (1/4 cup + 2 tsp) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder (or normal baking powder if not making gluten-free)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 450g (2 & 1/2 cups) mixed dried fruit (I used a combination of raisins, sultanas, glace cherries and mixed peel - use whatever your preference is)
  • 125g (1/2 cup) vegan margarine/butter (I used Trex)
  • 250ml (1 cup and 2 tsp) unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp oil, and 1 tbsp gluten-free flour (for greasing)
For the topping:
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 30g (2 tbsp) icing sugar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 160c (150c fan)/325f/gas mark 3. Grease the base of a 20 x 20cm square cake tin with oil and dust with the flour.

2. Pour the flour, brown sugar, caster sugar, baking powder and spices into a bowl and mix well, ensuring there are no clumps of brown sugar.

3. Rub the vegan margarine/butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

4. Add the milk and the dried fruit, and stir until well combined.

5. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden and springy.

6. Whilst the cake is baking prepare the syrup by pouring the lemon juice and icing sugar into a saucepan. Place on a low heat and cook until it thickens slightly and turns clear.

7. When the cake has finished baking, take out of the oven and set aside. Gently reheat the syrup until it is easy to stir. Skewer holes over the cake and pour over the syrup. Set aside to cool fully.

8. Once fully cool, turn out of the tin and cut into squares.

9. Enjoy!

Lemon Granny Fruit Cake
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Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Peanut Butter, Blackberry and Spelt Blondies

Peanut Butter, Spelt Blondies


These blondies are strange but delicious! They are free from refined sugars, and the peanut butter makes the blondies taste amazing. The secret ingredient is an odd one, but believe me, it works! Cannellini beans make the blondies lovely and moist, and I promise the end result tastes nothing like baked beans. We've made them to keep us going on long hikes, and they were the perfect treat.

These are best kept in the fridge if not eating them straight away (due to the fresh berries and beans). If kept in the fridge, they will last for about a week.

Makes around 16 squares (fills a 20 x 20cm square tin)

Ingredients:

  • 130g (1/2 cup) crunchy peanut butter
  • 180ml (3/4 cup) maple syrup
  • 80ml (2/5 cup) coconut oil (melted), plus a little extra for greasing
  • 2 eggs
  • 160g (1 & 1/3 cups) spelt flour, plus a tbsp for dusting
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g (1 cup) fresh blackberries

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 200c (180c fan)/ 400f/gas mark 6. Grease the base of a 20 x 20cm tray with a little oil, and dust with flour.

2. Beat together the peanut butter, maple syrup and coconut oil. Whisk in the eggs.

3. Add the spelt flour, salt, baking powder and berries, and gently fold in.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden on top and the mixture shakes very slightly in the centre when you shake the tin.

5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before slicing.

6. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter, Spelt Blondies

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