Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Apricot Macarons / Macaroons with Curaco Liqueur Buttercream - RECIPE - www.siliconemoulds.com


I really have not baked much at all in recent months - apart from the odd celebration cake here and there..... so for this reason, my blog has been rather sparse for some time.

Most regular bakers will, I'm sure, agree - that controlling their weight whilst baking lots of yummy things can become a problem. Bloggers even more so. After all, there is no point in posting recipes if you have not actually tasted and eaten the food from the recipe you are posting. My only real solution is to not bake so much, resist the temptations or both. I'm in the both camp. If it isn't there, I do not have the urge to eat it - but I miss the therapeutic side of baking.

Creating celebration cakes is not a problem. I can happily make those with no temptation of nibbling off cuts. It's not for me. My recipes are tried and tested, so I have no need to taste. Off-cuts either go to work colleagues or straight in the bin. As a regular baker, the safest place is straight to the bin and eradicate any temptation to want a sneaky piece.

Macarons on the other hand, are a different story. I love ADORE making macarons. 

I love the smooth, shiny surfaces, their little ruffled feet. I love seeing lots and lots of shells, all perfect in size and shaped lined up in little rows. I like to make them just a little bit different almost every time. To box them up oh so pretty... and then photograph them. Yes. It makes me smile inside - without so much as taking a bite,


I mean - how darn adorable are these little apricot macarons with their blushing cheeks. You'd think they would be really hard to make - but no - it isn't that hard or as scary as you may think.

I made a Youtube tutorial (several years and stones heavier) if you want to watch how I make them.

Since then, I've adjusted things a little....

During the months of high humidity, I have previously had problems with batches of macarons cracking. I went though a spell of making them during the day in high humidity a couple of summers ago. Batch after batch and tray after tray of cracking macarons. I couldn't understand it at all. Settling for nothing other than perfect, they all went in the bin.

I was literally at the point of chucking the towel in one evening and made a last ditched attempt. Humidity had dropped to much lower than during the day and those macarons were perfect.  I could replicate this and knew the humidity was my ultimate problem, but it took a while to suss out the solution.

I've now increased the sugar content a little in my shells. Not a lot. 

When they bake, the shells come out a little drier. Especially if I want to make really pale coloured shells like these and not have them discolour at all around the edges. What this means is that when you eat a plain shell, it's more crispy and less soft and chewy in the centre, which isn't good. The solution ?  Well, most places that make macarons in France cook them so the shells are quite dry like this. 

The secret is to fill them at least two or three hours before serving if filling with buttercream and jam. Leave overnight if filling with ganache. The moisture in the filling re-hydrates and restores the centres. If you want to make macarons the easy way - give them a little time to "mature" after filling rather than eating them off the baking tray.

The other good thing about shells which are on the dry side is that they keep quite a while in an airtight container unfilled. Once filled, store in the fridge, but serve at room temperature. Best used within 3 days of filling.


RECIPE

180g of ground almonds
200g of icing sugar (220g if humid)
180g of egg whites - split into two lots of 90g
200g caster sugar
80mls water

Grind together the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor or spice grinder until smooth. By grinding both together, you get a much finer powder and much nicer texture.

To the above, add one lot of 90g of egg whites and mix thoroughly to form a stiff paste. 

If colouring your macarons, add gel paste food colouring now and mix in thoroughly. Add enough gel paste to roughly get the colour you want and then double it... at least ! Macarons will lighten a lot on baking and you still also have the other ingredients to add. For vivid macarons, I often add up to 1/2 a small tub of Wilton gel paste colour to just one batch. These were to be pale and I still used at least 1/2 tsp minimum (mix of golden yellow and rose to create a medium orange colour before baking)

For fan oven, set to 140 deg C for pale, 150deg C for bold colours.

Put the sugar and water in a pan. Bring to the boil without stirring. When temperature reaches 110 deg C on a sugar thermometer, whip the second batch of egg whites to stiff peak.

At 118deg C, take the sugar syrup off the heat. Whip the eggs at high speed with a hand mixer whilst pouring in the sugar syrup and whip until lit looks like meringue and the outside of the bowl is warm but not hot.

Mix 1/3 of the meringue into the almond / sugar / egg white paste to loosen, then gently stir in the rest. Pay attention to mixing in thoroughly so there are no streaks and the mix is even. It should be thick but just pourable and lava like.

I like to put the mix (macronage) into a disposable piping bag. I work with about 1/2 the mix at a time. One batch is enough to fill 3 tray loads of macarons using the large side of the revolutionary macaron mats

I pipe centrally, to within 5mm of the outer ring. As the mix relaxes, it will perfectly fill each cell.

Pop the trays in the oven for 5 minutes with the oven door ajar. This creates the skin and sets the macarons without the need for leaving them for ages on the kitchen worktops. After 5 mins is up, close the door and bake for a further 20 mins at 150deg C or 22 / 23 mins at 140deg C

Remove the trays from the oven and allow to totally cool before removing.

FILLING

To fill these macarons, I made two batches of the buttercream below. Pipe a ring round the inside edge of the bottom of a shell and plonk a teaspoon of jam in the centre. I used Lidl's Apricot jam - which I really like as they add a little citric acid which means it's a little more tart than most apricot jams.

230g icing sugar
65g salted butter
30mls Curaco (or other orange liqueur)

Beat together until smooth. If a little stiff, add a little more Curaco. If too soft - add a touch more sugar. I usually make buttercream by eye - but on this occasion I weighed it specially for you.

The stalks are little pieces of broken pretzel inserted between the shells.

The shells were dusted with dry powdered food colourings and a brush, a little like applying blusher. Couldn't be simpler.

Have fun !

Sarah-Jane Nash - www.siliconemoulds.com - April 2015



Monday, 13 April 2015

Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya and Homemade Harissa Paste (Digital Pressure Cooker Recipes)


Some of you may know, I'm addicted to cooking with my digital pressure cooker and I LOVE one pot recipes... especially when they are simple, easy and packed full of flavour. The fact that from start to finish, you can have this meal on the table inside 20 minutes is simply a huge extra bonus !

Last week, my husband and I went out for a meal to Marrakech Restaurant in Wymondham and had a super meal. If you live locally - do pay it a visit.. can highly recommend. Ali makes his own 3 month fermented harissa which is simply amazing.

We didn't have Oliver with us - he had a few days in Scotland with my parents. Photo below of him with my mum at the train station.

This little monster is getting huge and is now 6.1/2yo. Doesn't seem that long ago he was icing biscuits in his high chair !



My Kinda-Harissa has little to compare with that (especially since I only made it yesterday !) - but it doesn't half liven things up and makes a fab flavour infuser to add to a dish. I reckon it would make an awesome marinade too.

The harissa recipe makes about a standard mug full of paste in volume - so you'll probably want to store it in a 500ml jar or similar. I had already used about 1/4 of the paste made from this jar before the photo was taken.

For the Kinda-Harissa

6 tsp dried flaked chillies (1/2 one of those small supermarket jars)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried chopped garlic
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 jar of Lidl sundried tomatoes (about 8)
100g of hot and sweet peppadew
3 tbsp mirin
6 x 4 > 5" long, red finger chillies - seeds and all
1 x seeded red bell pepper
75ml olive oil

Very little to this. I basically sprayed a little oil on the bell pepper and chillies and roasted in the oven for about 15mins.

Add all dry ingredients to the jar.

Blend the peppadew, pepper and finger chillies together. Add to the jar, followed by olive oil and give a good stir. Refrigerate at least over night - but I imagine flavour improves after a few days. You'll need to wait on an update for that !



Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya (Digital Pressure Cooker recipe)

I'm sure you can adapt this as you wish. I made this today at work for lunch and volume wise, it will easily serve 3 > 4 adults. Basically, add whatever you like meat and vegetable wise to bulk it out.

I was purposely trying to cook on a budget today to see how good a meal I could make for as cheap as possible. We worked out that including the harissa paste used, this worked out approx £1.10 per serving.... cheaper and tastier than a basic sandwich !

You may want to go easy on the harissa paste until you work out how hot it is..... our jar is quite pokey.

Ingredients : 

1 x chicken breast (diced into approx 1cm pieces - to make it go further !)
g of chorizo (cut similar to above) (1/3 of a chorizo from Lidl - whole thing was £2.09)
1 cup of long grain rice (washed and uncooked)
1 x carrot, diced
1 x onion, diced
1/2 can sweetcorn
1/2 can kidney beans
1 x knorr chicken stock cube
good pinch salt
2 tablespoons of harissa (from above recipe)
2 tablespoons tomato puree (double concentrated)

Switch on digital pressure cooker and set time for 12 minutes. Timer will not start count down until the unit reaches pressure - so you can also use it on any section to brown.

Brown the chicken, chorizo and onion for just a few mins with a little oil. Be sure to use a silicone spatula or similar so not to damage non-stick coating in the bowl. 

Crumble in the stock cube and add all the other ingredients plus 325ml of water. Give it a good stir, then pop on the lid and allow to cook at pressure for 12 mins.

Carefully release steam, give a stir and it's ready to serve :-)

Sarah-Jane Nash - www.siliconemoulds.com - April 2015

Friday, 10 April 2015

Fabulous Fruity Flapjacks - A Simple Recipe to Make with the Kids


These flapjacks are seriously tasty and very easy to make. The recipe is also incredibly versatile....

Add some of this and a bit of that - dried fruits, chocolate chips, nuts, seeds and the flavour transforms.

You could make these bars in a standard type silicone mould or tin and cut into squares, but I used our 6 cell Toffee / Fudge Bar Mould (available from www.siliconemoulds.com ). They were very easy to release and I ended up with universal sized bars which were easy to wrap and store.

The bet bit is the fact I can break a large bite sized chunk from a bar to munch at my desk in between phone calls !

Ingredients 

420g of porridge oats
80g dessicated coconut
250g salted butter
250g soft brown sugar
6 > 8 tablespoons of golden syrup
(for a chewier flapjack, use half golden syrup and half corn syrup)

I also added 250g of dried fruit. Total, with the fruit made 18 flapjacks

Simply melt together butter, sugar and syrup. When melted and combined, stir in coconut, porridge oats and any other add-ins. If you don't like coconut, replace with some extra oats.

Place moulds on to baking trays. Spoon mixture into the cells of your moulds and press down. Leave a couple of mm from the top of each cell, as the syrup will bubble up a little during cooking.

Bake in a preheated fan oven at 160deg C for approx 12 mins until light golden. Allow to cool and then refridgerate for a couple of hours to harden before wrapping. Seem to keep, wrapped for a good 10 days or more.



I like Mornflake Jumbo Scottish Oats because they are very coarse and chunky. You may prefer a finer porridge oats of making for children (though my 6yo didn't seem to mind the oats - he just didn't want flapjacks with fruit !)

Sarah-Jane Nash, www.siliconemoulds.com - April 2015

Homemade Walnut Whips - RECIPE (Cheats Method !)


Like Walnut Whips ? You'll love these !

With out simple recipe, they are SO easy to make as well as being cheaper, bigger and tastier than shop bought.....

No cooking and just 3 (or 4) ingredients

INGREDIENTS (makes 8)

8 Walnut halves
400g of your choice of chocolate - I used Belgian milk chocolate
1 jar of marshmallow fluff
3 tablespoons (approx) of nutella - optional

To make these, you will need an 8 cell silicone DARIOLE mould - available from www.siliconemoulds.com in a choice of red or black. The 8 cell silicone dariole mould is a really handy silicone bakeware mould to have in your kitchen. We also used it to make these english madeleines and bicardi jelly shots - both of which are very easy recipes to make


8 cell and 12 cell dariole moulds are available from www.siliconemoulds.com

The pretty gift box was made using the Crafters Companion - The Boxer ... which is a scoring board for making gift boxes. I used two sheets of Kanban A4 stock card and scored them at 5cm right round. I cut an aperture window for the box lid and put some acetate behind it. So simple.


First of all, chop up your chocolate and put it into a PLASTIC microwavable bowl. 

I only ever use plastic bowls when working with chocolate, as chocolate is very heat sensitive. Glass retains heat and keeps warming the chocolate long after you want to.

Microwave at 50% power for 30 second bursts, stirring each time and scraping the bowl with a silicone spatula - even if it looks like nothing is happening to start with. When the chocolate is about 50% melted, take out and just keep stirring until all the chocolate melts. If you microwave or over heat chocolate and take it out of temper you will either get fat bloom or sugar bloom.... so don't over-do it.

Using a brush or back of a spoon, coat the inside of all the cells of your dariole mould with chocolate. As it sets, you can add a second layer if required. Remember to keep back some chocolate to cap the walnut whips after adding the filling. 


You will need a plastic sandwich bag or disposable piping bag. I turned mine inside out and rubbed a little oil into the surface. This was to help make it easier to open up and reload with more mashmallow fluff.


Open up the piping bag and place into a glass or mug, folding the top of the bag over the rim. This makes it easy to hold the jar with one hand and spoon in the mallow with the other.


Pipe the mallow in to about 12mm below the rim and then add some nutella on top - leaving about a 6mm gap to cap it with chocolate. I did some with and some without the nutella as you can see below.


Finally, cap the cells with more melted chocolate.

NOTE - the ones with nutella on top of the mallow were much easier to cap. The chocolate happily sat on top of the nutella layer. If using marshmallow fluff , add a very THIN layer of chocolate and when set, cap off with more. If you add more than a smidge of chocolate directly on top of the fluff before hardening, it sinks and the mallow comes up - so it ends up insides on the outsides !


Pop into the fridge for 20 mins to harden before releasing. They pop out so easily.


A little more chocolate on the top and pop on the walnut. Handle these with gloves, or you'll leave fingerprints on the chocolate.

Have fun !

Sarah-Jane, www-siliconemoulds.com - April 2014

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Smore Than Peanut Butter Cookies - Recipe



Love peanut butter ? Love Nutella chocolate spread ? Love marshmallows ?

If the answer to the above three questions is "yes" - then you will adore this simple recipe for these divine sandwich cookies. Honestly - these are SO easy to make, you may wish to make them with your kids.


Ingredients

250g of chunky peanut butter
250g of soft brown sugar
65g of desiccated coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

For the filling

Marshmallows
nutella chocolate spread


You will either need two x revolutionary macaron mats (use large side) - or trays prepped with baking paper. I like to use the macaron mats as my cookies all end up perfect shape and size.

I've actually forgotten how many cookies this made as it's a couple of weeks since I originally made them and didn't get round to writing up the recipe....oops ! I'm pretty sure it made 20 sandwich cookies / 40 cookies if unfilled.

Literally, mix all ingredients together by hand with a wooden spoon - adding desiccated coconut last. First time I tried this, I did it with a hand mixer and almost burned out the motor.... it was smoking a bit !

Damper your hands and roll into small balls - about the size of a 20p in diameter - then flatten a little in both directions with a fork. These cookies don't spread.


Bake at 175deg C for 10 mins, until golden. Allow to firm up on the mats before transferring to a wire rack to totally cool.

Filling your cookies :

First of all, pair your cookies. I like to lay them out in rows with tops and bottoms opposite to each other. I do the exact same when I make macarons....

For the filling in these, I like to use the large pink and white type marshmallows - those made by Princes are really nice, as are Sainsburys.

One marshmallow is enough to fill two sandwich cookies.

Put two or 3 marshmallows on a saucer and blast in the microwave for a few seconds until all melted and puffed up. Take a spoonful of mallow at a time and put on to one cookie bottom. Don't go too mad - as it will spread. Do the marshmallow bit on half of all the cookie and LEAVE for at least 10 mins.



Put nutella chocolate spread on the base of the other half of the cookies.

Once the mallow has stiffened up and turned firm but sticky, you can eventually sandwich your pretty little cookies together and enjoy.

Little word of warning - if you sandwich them too early, they will slide apart and end up a sticky mess - so it is worth waiting :-)

Sarah-Jane Nash - www.siliconemoulds.com - March 2015


Beef Biryani - A One Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Recipe



I really cannot tell you enough how much I adore my electric pressure cooker.... It's revolutionised my kitchen..... My old stove top pressure cooker has long gone. The electric one is SO much better. 

It's silent. The heat on the stove doesn't need adjusting. It automatically seals when it gets to pressure. It keeps warm after cooking has finished.....

Basically, I can go and get on with ANYTHING else I fancy in the house and just let the pressure cooker simply get on with it..

I'll be honest - I have two. I have one at home and one at work ! I use the one at work for homemade soups for lunch (given I often end up feeding staff too), casseroles etc. I waxed on about them so much that my mum and my best friend now have them too and I believe love theirs as much as I do mine.

First - a little word about cooking rice in a pressure cooker.

Cooking rice and pulses is so quick and easy in the pressure cooker. I often cook just rice to serve alongside something else.

If you are just cooking rice, use 1 cup of WASHED, long grain rice. Add a little salt, a tiny dribble of oil (to prevent foaming) and 1.1/2 cups of water. Bring to pressure and cook for 12 minutes for perfect rice. 

If you haven't washed the rice first, there will not be enough water. I don't wash it after cooking and there will be no liquid left to drain.

I never cook less than 1 cup of rice in my pressure cooker. Always make sure it's at least 1/5th full and never more than 1/2 full with rice / pasta / pulses to allow for expansion. Of course - you can cook far more rice than one cup if you wish to - just use the 1:1.1/2 ratio of rice to water.

For this recipe, as there is already liquid in the pot - I don't add as much water....

This recipe is enough to feed 4 people. If you have a 6ltr electric pressure cooker, there is enough volume in the pot to double this recipe if required.


Ingredients :

500 > 600g stewing beef ( I like skirt as a cut)
150g greek or thick yogurt
1.1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp garam masala
3 cardomom pods (cracked open - I use the bottom of the jar !)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
2 heaped tsp chilli powder
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 cup milk
1 cup long grain rice
2 medium onions
handful of fresh coriander

For this recipe, the meat really needs to marinade for at least a couple of hours or overnight (if you have time) to infuse the flavours.


It's very simple. Take all the spices, garlic, ginger, yogurt plus 1 tsp of the salt and mix with the beef. Set aside in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.



When ready to cook, finely chop 1 onion. Turn on the electric pressure cooker. If it doesn't have a brown function, just set it to 15 mins on any cooking section and cancel it when you are done

Add a tablespoon of oil and add the chopped onion. After a minute or two, add the marinaded meat and brown for a few minutes to enhance the flavour. Add in 150mls of boiling water and then bring to pressure for 30mins. If I was using chicken instead of beef, I'd just cook it for 10 mins instead of 30. Skirt is a tough, stewing cut of been but very tasty - if I was oven cooking skirt, I'd give it a good 3 hours to get it as tender as this !

When the 30 mins are up, wait 5 mins for the pressure to drop before carefully releasing any excess steam. Open the pressure cooker and add the 1 cup of washed rice and 1 cup of milk.

If you like coriander, finely chop the stalks and add these now. Reserve the leafy green tops as garnish. Give a good stir and replace the lid. Reset the cooker to cook for 12 minutes.

With about 5 mins left to go, finely slice the remaining onion. Fry in some oil until golden and crispy (almost over-done).

As soon as the beeper on your oven goes, carefully release steam. As we know there is very liquid left, it is safe to do so and won't spurt liquid out the vent (soups etc need to be left to drop pressure naturally before opening).

The biryani may initially look a bit wet - but inside about 60 seconds, the excess moisture will soon evaporate off.

Serve dressed with crispy fried onions and leafy, fragrant coriander.

Sarah-Jane Nash - www.siliconemoulds.com - March 2015

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Herman The German - A Cinnamon, Apple and Raisin Coffee Cake Recipe



Have you heard of Herman The German ?

Well - it's a kind of sweet sourdough starter that was doing the rounds a few years ago. The whole point is that you were given some of this starter to keep, feed and nurture and bake into a cake and had to give several lots of it away to friends. You know - pass it on and keep the thing going..

Some people loved it, for others it was a nightmare and some I'm sure will have slung it straight in the bin.

The thing with sourdough starters is that it's a living breathing yeast. It's a lot easier to look after than you may think and will happily live in airtight container in your fridge for a few months between feeds. Give it a little attention a day or two before you wish to use it, and it'll burst back into life.... you'll literally see it bubbling away and coming alive.

I guess I was lucky as back then, I didn't get landed with Herman. However, several years later and with a love for sourdough - I've been WAITING on him landing in my lap..

No such luck.

Waiting no longer, I took some of my dormant rye / white mix sourdough bread starter from the fridge and fed it with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 cup of plain flour and 1 cup of milk (as required in place of water in a sweet starter.) It's been quite some time since I last used it, but within 36 hours, it was burbling away and ready to bake.



I swear - this is probably THE best cake I've ever eaten. I've made it several times now and it's still in the number 1 slot. It's not a looker, but boy does it taste good and is an awesome tray bake recipe.

RECIPE 

Makes two 8 x 8" cakes - I used 8" square silicone bakeware moulds.

2 cups of sweet sourdough starter
2/3 cup oil
2 eggs
2 cups of plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of raisins
1 eating apple, chopped
1/2 eating apple grated

Mix all wet ingredients in one bowl, and all dry in another - then combine. This will make a VERY thick batter - almost heading towards a dough consistency. That's ok. Spread half the mix into each mould / baking pan.

I lined the bases of my moulds with baking parchment. It was not really required as even without cake release or greasing / flouring - this recipe did not stick.... but it did make removal from the moulds in one piece much easier.

For the topping

1/2 cup of soft brown sugar
2 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix the topping ingredients together and then drop "blobs" all over the top of the batter. As the cake cooks, this will form little gooey caramel like puddles in the top of the cake.

Bake at 160 to 170 deg C Fan oven for 30mins

1.1/2 cups of walnut halves - chopped
1 1/2 cups of icing sugar - to finish

After removing the cake from the oven, add a little boiling water to the icing sugar and mix to a thick paste. Scatter over the chopped walnuts and then use a fork to drizzle icing over the top of your cakes.

Allow to cool before serving.

Sarah-Jane Nash - www.siliconemoulds.com - Jan 2015