Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coconut and Lychee Macarons

Coconut and Lychee Macarons
Helllloooo! This is just a super quick post to let you know that I'm still alive! Things are just super, super busy. These macarons are my peace offering to you for being so neglectful of my blog recently. Well actually, I wasn't actually being neglectful, I was baking heaps over the last two weekends but everything I made was a complete and utter disaster. Yep I'm a flat out, freaking mess at the moment, and so is my kitchen.
Coconut and Lychee Macarons
These macarons were made for an upcoming party and are inspired by one of my favourite flavours from Gelato Messina. The ganache is made with lychee puree, and I was meant to add some coconut cream but somehow totally forgot to add it to the mixture. But the coconut on the top of the shell helps to make it for it as it got lightly toasted in the oven. I'm still having super annoying issues with hollow macarons so these were not technically the best but they still tasted great so I wanted to share them with you. I'm pretty sure that it's my oven that causing the issue, not the recipe, since it's the same recipe I've used since I started making macs. Hopefully you'll have better luck than me!
Coconut and Lychee Macarons
Coconut and Lychee Macarons
(makes 15-20 macarons)
Note: If you are a beginner with macarons read up and practice plain macarons first. BraveTart has lots of useful advice and info on the subject
For the macarons:
100g (3.5oz) egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
110g (about 4oz) almond meal, at room temperature and well sifted
200g (7oz) icing (confectioner's) sugar
50g (1.74oz) caster (granulated) sugar
Dessicated/shredded coconut to sprinkle on top
  1. Line two baking trays with good quality baking paper. 
  2. Place icing sugar in food processor and pulse for a minute to remove any lumps. Stir in almond meal and pulse for about 30 seconds to combine. (If you don’t have a processor just sift together with a fine sieve.) Sift into a large mixing bowl and set aside. 
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in a medium mixing bowl until it reaches soft peaks. With the mixer on high speed, gradually add sugar and beat until it reaches stiff peaks.
  4. Add meringue to your dry mixture and mix together with a spatula, quickly at first to break down the bubbles in the egg white (you really want to beat all the large bubbles out of the mixture, which is easily done by smearing the mixture on the bottom and side of the bowl with your spatula), then mix carefully as the dry mixture becomes just incorporated and the mixture starts to become shiny again. Take care not to overmix, the mixture should flow like lava and a streak of mixture spread over the surface of the rest of the mixture should disappear after about 30 seconds. 
  5. Place mixture in a piping bag with a 1cm round piping tip. Pipe circles about 3cm wide on your prepared trays, leaving about 3cm space around each one. Tap baking sheets carefully and firmly on the benchtop a couple times to remove any large bubbles.
  6. Sprinkle a pinch of coconut over the top of each piped shell.
  7. Leave to dry for about 60 mins, until when you press the surface of one gently it does not break/stick to your finger. This will help prevent any cracking and help the feet to form on the macs. (I find the easiest way to do this is to point a fan at the shells, but make sure you stick or weigh down the baking paper first)
  8. Preheat your oven to 130-150°C (265-300°F), depending on your oven (fan-forced ovens may need to be set as low as 100°C, it really depends) . You can place the sheet of piped shells on top of an upside-down roasting tray or another baking tray, for better heat distribution. 
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your shells. Carefully test if the base of the shell is ready by gently lifting one and if it’s still soft and sticking to the baking paper, then it needs to bake for a few minutes longer. 
  10. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for a few minutes, then gently remove from the sheet and place on a wire rack to cool. 
For the lychee coconut ganache:
250g (about 9oz) good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
50ml thickened or pure/heavy cream (min 35% fat unthickened) OR coconut cream
Half can (I think mine was a 565g can) of lychees in syrup (lychees well drained and pureed, about 100g puree)
  1. Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a pot of simmering water.
  2. Heat cream and lychee puree in a small saucepan on medium-low heat until it just comes to the boil. 
  3. Add hot cream mixture to melted chocolate a third at a time (mixture may seize up after you add the first part, but will hopefully melt back down as you add the rest. If not, return bowl to over the simmering water and whisk until smooth)
  4. Chill, whisking it every 5 minutes to ensure it stays smooth, until the mixture thickens but is still pipable. If mixture is too runny, you can melt in more chocolate, 50g at a time.
  5. Place in a small piping bag (ziplock bags with a corner snipped off are handy for this), pipe and sandwich between macaron shells.
  6. Chill macarons in an airtight container overnight to allow flavour to mature. Serve at room temperature.

Coconut and Lychee Macarons
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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Eton Mess Cake

Eton Mess Cake
Sorry for the late post this week, it's coming to you from the hazy world of head colds. Last weekend was my father-in-law's birthday and as per usual he requested a sponge cake with cream and fresh berries. This didn't surprise me but at first I was thinking, 'Damn I just made that kind of cake'. But then I had a small jolt of inspiration; if I used strawberries and cream and added some meringue to the cake I could make a cake inspired by one of my all-time favourite desserts, the Eton mess. This cake is made up of layered sponge flavoured with rose water, vanilla bean whipped cream, crushed meringue and a thick strawberry sauce. You cannot go wrong with that.
Eton Mess Cake
Eton mess is pretty much the ideal dessert for a baker like me. It's fresh, easy and delicious even though it looks like an absolute mess on the plate. I always love the mix of all the textures and flavours in it, with the fresh berries, tart strawberry sauce, crunchy meringue bits and fluffy whipped cream. This works really well for a naked layered sponge cake because it keeps it super light but still interesting (perfect for capping off a home-cooked roast dinner in the middle of winter, trust me!). And it's good for messy bakers because it doesn't matter if it looks a bit rough, it's supposed to be like that!
Eton Mess Cake
I was puffing my chest out feeling so original about this idea until I went back to look at the cake I baked for the same occasion last year and realised that it was nearly identical in presentation, right down to the topping of fresh berries and meringue cookies. Damn. It does taste completely different though. It's fairly messy once you start cutting into the cake, but I think that makes it extra appropriate for its title.
Eton Mess Cake
Eton Mess Cake
(makes a 3 layer 18cm (7") round cake, sponge recipe from Gourmet Traveller)
For the Sponge Cake:
Note: If you are new to sponge cakes make sure you click through to the Gourmet Traveller link above for extra tips. This sponge cake relies solely on the whipped eggs for leavening and it is important you follow all the steps carefully.
Sponge cake:
60g (about 4.5 tbsp) butter, melted and cooled plus extra for greasing tins
180g (about 1 & 1/3 cups) plain/all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
6 eggs, at room temperature
200g (about 1 cup) caster/superfine sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  1. Make sure your eggs are at room temp and preheat oven to 180°C (350° F) (you may need to adjust to 160-170°C (340° F) for fan-forced). 
  2. Brush three 18cm (7 inch) round cake tins with melted butter, line base and sides with baking paper, grease paper with a little extra butter and then dust lightly with flour. 
  3. Triple-sift flour and set aside. 
  4. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer until thick, pale and tripled in volume (about 7-8 minutes). Sift over flour in two batches, folding each batch in with a large metal spoon or spatula.
  5. Fold in melted butter. 
  6. Carefully pour equal amounts into prepared tins and bake until light golden and centre springs back when pressed lightly with your fingertip (about 20 minutes). 
  7. Pull cake gently away from sides of tin with your fingers or carefully loosen with a knife. Turn onto a wire rack, remove baking paper, turn back over swiftly and cool completely.
  8. Optional: I placed 1 tbsp rose water, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and stirred it over medium heat until it formed a syrup, poked holes through the cakes using a fork and brushed the syrup over the cakes to give it light rose flavour. This part isn't necessary but adds an interesting touch.
For the meringues:
4 egg whites, at room temperature
A pinch of salt
200g (about 1 cup) caster/superfine sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 120°C (250°F) (100°C (210°F) fan-forced) and measure all your ingredients. Line two baking trays with baking paper. 
  2. Place egg whites and salt in a large, clean mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. With the mixer on low, add sugar 1 tbsp at a time then whisk on high until thick and glossy (at least 5 mins). 
  3. Pinch a small amount of mixture between your thumb and forefinger. If mixture is smooth then the sugar has dissolved, if it is still grainy, beat for a minute or so more and check again. Beat until sugar has completely dissolved. 
  4. Place mixture in a large piping bag with a 1cm round tip and pipe on the prepared baking trays. I kept my meringues about the same size as my fresh strawberries 
  5. Place in oven and reduce oven temp to 90°C (195°F) (85°C (185°F) fan-forced). Leave the oven on for 60-75 mins or until the meringues are crisp (mine took longer but I prefer to leave them longer at a low temp than risk them browning at a higher temp), then turn off oven and allow the meringues to cool completely in the oven (2-3 hours). 
  6. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve cake.
Eton Mess Cake
For the strawberry sauce:
300g (5oz) strawberries berries, fresh or frozen, hulled and finely chopped
1/3 cup (about 65g) sugar
4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) + 4 tsp cold water
  1. Place strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat. Stir over heat until sugar dissolves. 
  2. Mix cornflour and water together in a separate small bowl then add to the saucepan and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes (if mixture becomes too thick, add water 1 tbsp and stir until it reaches the right consistency). Set aside to cool.
To assemble cake:
Note: Amounts of cream, strawberry sauce and meringue in this recipe makes more than you need to assemble cake but the extra amounts are good for serving on the side of the cake
600ml (about 2.5 cups) thickened (heavy) cream
1/2 cup icing (confectioners') sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/pure vanilla extract)
Strawberry sauce and meringue cookies from recipes above
Fresh strawberries to decorate, hulled
Glaze: 1 cup icing sugar, sifted, about 1-2 tbsp milk or water (I also added a few drops of rose water)
  1. Place cream, icing sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a large mixing bowl and beat on high until it reaches stiff peaks.
  2. Use a sharp, serrated knife to level the tops of your sponge cakes.
  3. Place first cake layer on your serving plate or stand and top with a thick layer of cream swirled together with dollops of strawberry sauce and crushed meringue cookies (ensure you retain enough meringues to decorate the top of your cake). Keep filling about 1 cm from the edge of the cake to stop mixture from overflowing when you sandwich layers on top.
  4. Sandwich with another cake layer and repeat. 
  5. Mix together icing sugar with liquid to form a thick, smooth paste for the glaze. Spread over the top of your cake using a spatula.
  6. Decorate with fresh strawberries and meringues. Place in fridge to allow glaze to set and store there until ready to serve. Can be served with extra cream, sauce and meringue cookies.
Eton Mess Cake
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