Sunday, 22 April 2012

Coconut Macaroons (NOT Macarons !) - The Cookie Type

Not to be confused with Macarons....

Both are truly delightful - but in very different ways.

Macaroons are kind of coconut heaps. Crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside. Rustic looking Childs play to make. Make these and I promise you, they'll stay in your recipe book forever and ever and ever.

Macarons are made with ground almonds and are a meringue like shell which is crisp on the outside, but chewy when you bite in. Typically filled with some kind of buttercream or ganache. Known for being pretty, petite, daunting to make and easy to ruin - and often really bright colours. Actually - they aren't that bad ! I've got loads of recipes on this blog.


225 > 250g dessicated coconut
175g caster sugar
2 large egg whites
75g milk chocolate
75g plain chocolate
zest of 1/2 a lemon, finely grated

Whip the egg whites with the sugar to combine. They won't fluff up - but will look a bit foamy.

Combine the 200g of dessicated coconut. Add enough to combine with the egg whites until it looks dry and holds together when you squish it in your hands. I needed 240g this time.

Form into semi-flattened balls. This batch made nine macaroons.

Bake in a fan oven at appxo 160deg C (180deg C for normal ovens ) for 10 > 12 minutes until golden. Allow to cool.

Once cool, remove from the silicone sheet.

Melt the milk and plain chocolates together. I use half and half as good plain chocolate is too bitter for my taste, but milk can make them a bit overly sweet.

Dip the bases in the chocolate and leave them sat upside down until the chocolate hardens. Drizzle or pipe some more chocolate over the top and if desired top with a glace cherry.

These keep well in an air tight container for several days.

It's been a busy couple of months and I'm very behind in blogging. Ironically, I'm blogging my new stuff just done before the other things I've photographed and not shown you yet - so things may get a little out of season shortly !

Here is Oliver 15/4/12 with his new training bike.

No pedals - it's to promote balance and no need for stabilisers. He was whizzing around on it with his feet off the floor inside a few minutes. Despite the sunshine, it was bitterly cold and a very windy day !

Coconut Dream Chocolate Truffles & 10 Year Anniversary (20/4/02)

Want to make a gift ? Homemade chocolate truffles are delicious and very special.

You can find a pretty box, or they are very easy to make your own as I've done above. My box was made with a Crafters Companion Boxer Tool and just one A4 sheet of Kanban Card . The card I used was patterned on the one side. I kept the pattern on the inside for the box base, and then lined this with baking parchment for a softer look.

I can knock up boxes like this in just a couple of minutes and it can transform a gift into something that is a true delight to open.

For the ganche (centres) you will need :

8oz of milk chocolate (I use Callebaut or Belcolade Belgian Chocolate)
125ml double cream
Some dessicated coconut (about a handful)
A tablespoon of glucose or corn syrup
Malibu coconut liquer (optional)
2 or 3 knobs of butter

Gently toast the dessicated coconut until golden. 

Put the cream in a pan and bring just to boiling point. Take off the heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir to combine the two. Add the glucose and once the chocolate is melted, also a couple of knobs of butter. If you want to add alcohol, add about 25ml now along with the dessicated coconut.

The ganache will be quite runny. It needs to go into the fridge to firm up. It could take a few hours or even overnight.

Note - if you can, do wear some disposable gloves for the next stage - it's messy !

Once set, roll teaspoons of the ganache in your hands to form balls. Set these on a baking tray lined with a silicone mat and refrigerate again  for 15 mins or so to firm up once more.

You will need about 200g (guessing) of chocolate for dipping your truffles. I like to dip them and then place back on the silicone mat where they remain until hardened. These will set fairly quickly - but you can pop the tray in the fridge to speed setting if required. See this previous blog post for information on tempering chocolate.

Ten years ago on 20/4/02, I married my best friend. Steve and I married in a church wedding in Bothwell, Scotland.

Such happy and sad emotions. My Dad gave gave me away. The following day, I left Scotland and moved to my new home in Norfolk with Steve.

Newly married couple signing the registry

The bridesmaids - sheltering from the wind ! Alexandra, Hayley, Andrea and Kathryn.

It seems SO long ago now - but still so clear. Happy Days

Friday, 20 April 2012

Victorian Garden Tea Party!


Great Grandmother: (Sarah-Jane's)
Jessie Kerr

Melting Moments

Another of our family's traditional recipes. A light, tasty, biscuit - ideal for a tea party!

5 oz lard
3 oz butter (or marg, if that's what you use)
6 oz caster sugar
10 oz self raising flour
1 egg
2 teasp vanilla
Scotts Porage Oats.

Cream fats & sugar and beat in the egg. Work in the flour and vanilla essence. When you have a thick paste, spoon out a small portion the size of a walnut or more, wet your palms and roll into balls. Toss in the porage oats and place on a greased tray/mat/liner.  Press each biscuit ball out very slightly.

Oven: moderate
Time: about 20 - 25 mins (depends on size of ball). 
          (Be careful as they burn easily. They should still be very pale when you remove them from the oven). 
Cool on a rack

Serve: With Great Grandma Jessie's tea-set, on her own hand-made, drawn-thread, crisp, white traycloth.
Complete the Tea Party with some little assorted finger-sandwiches and scones with jam and clotted cream.            

Have a lovely Tea Party!
Hely x
Friday 20th April 2012

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Apple and Rhubarb Springtime Pie

How inspiring it is to see the sun!

Today, I decided to check out the fridge. I had 4 large brambly cooking apples and some rhubarb needing to be used up, so I thought I may as well make something really nice with them. Forget the calories for just this once.... there's nothing to beat a lovely, juicy, crunchy, fruit pie!

As I reached for the rhubarb I found a packet of supermarket pastry that my husband had bought recently....was that a HINT?  I've only ever made my own pastry, but I thought I'd give it a go.

Apple and Rhubarb Springtime Pie

(British Apple Strudel?)

I turned on the oven to pre-heat at 200 deg

The pastry was a bit stiff. You are meant to let it 'come to room temperature', it said, but I decided to 'wing it'..... so out came my trusty silicone mat!

The pastry cracked as I rolled it, then it got a little moist and sticky to touch.... but no worries, it rolled a treat.

I cut the apples and rhubarb into big chunks and put into a greased baking dish, adding rather a lot of sugar.  I filled in the pastry cracks and covered the dish holding the apples and rhubarb, lining the top edges of the dish with strips of pastry to give it a thicker rim.

Rolling out pastry on a mat is a 'breeze'!

With the pastry trimmings I re-rolled (above) and 'cut' strips for the top of the pie. I used the BACK of a knife, and very gently at that, because a knife would damage my precious mat!

The pastry pack said 10 minutes in the oven, but I knew it would be longer with all the fruit.

After about 10 minutes I turned it down to 180, and about 10 minutes later it was READY!

I didn't take too many photos - my mouth was watering too much to wait......

Serve - with a good dollop of fresh cream or creme fresh!


(I'm now wondering if it was really Sarah-Jane's Apple Strudle which had unconciously inspired me?)

Have a wonderful springtime!
Helen x

Wed.11th April 2012

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Crazy Candy Cane Macaron Shells ( advanced - method )

I admit it. I'm a macaron (not macaroon) addict. It's more so the process of making them than eating them to be fair. Saying that, those blueberry and lemon ones and the chocolate and coconut macarons take some beating and are truly delicious.

These were nice. They were minty and creamy and smooth.... and crispy and chewy.... and I didn't want to share them.

Truth be known, it wasn't because I wanted to sit down and eat a whole plate load unlike a few of the others I've previously made. It was just because they were so damn pretty !

I could easily have sat and looked at these and smiled all day long..... that's when you know you're a baking addict.....

They even looked awesome just piped (before baking) on my double sided macaron mat.

The actual macaron recipe was no different from any other macaron shell ingredients.

I used my standard macaron shell recipe and the Italian method as you can find on this earlier blog post, except I used a tsp of peppermint extract instead of orange extract to flavour the shells.

I wanted a candy cane twist effect and it took a little thinking on how to achieve it before I began. 

If you have never made macarons before, start with a basic single colour shell and have a go at this once you've got to grips with the basic method.


You will need some VIOLET /  PURPLE and RED gel paste food colourings and a cocktail stick. Note that you need the gel paste types and not liquid. I was looking for a near white macaron shell with really red markings.

Well - if you have made plain macarons before with no colouring, you will be well aware that they will turn out a creamy colour at best - and more likely have slightly darker tinged edges. If you cook macarons of any colour at too high a temperature, the  edges will fade or discolour. I've also found that lemon oil extract does that too.

So exactly what did I want Violet / Purple gel paste for ?

Well - the reason is simple. Violet neutralises yellow. That's why old ladies use a purple shampoo to make their hair white.

The almonds have a yellowness to them as do raw egg whites. When you mix up the initial paste for first stage macarons, you will see it's a kind of pale yellow colour. Well - baking that won't make it white will it !

If you add the tiniest tiniest amount of violet gel paste to buttercream icing you can make it white. Don't believe me ? I blogged about it here last summer. It's important only to add a teeny weeny bit at a time, otherwise it gets a greyish hue. That can be counteracted with buttercream by adding a bit more butter.

It's pretty much the same with macarons. Add a tiny tiny bit of violet to the macaron paste and mix it in. Add very very tiny amounts using your cocktail stick at a time and mix each time thoroughly before deciding to add more. Eventually it will just happen. The macaron paste is NOT going to turn white - but it significantly lightens / removes the yellowness by a surprising amount. I'd suggest keeping a 1/2 teaspoon of the original paste aside as a comparison.

When you have colour corrected as much as you dare, continue by making the sugar syrup and then adding this in the normal way to your egg whites - and then folding in to the almond paste. It's going to look pretty much white by this time.

To get the candy cane stripe effect, take a small artists paint brush and  liberally paint stripes of red gel paste inside your piping bag. Don't be scared of the food colouring here. About 5 is right - no more than 6. Make sure you keep the bag open and do not let it close - otherwise the stripes will smudge.

Load the piping bag with the macaronage and pipe out your macarons either on to one of our macaron silicone baking mats (which have a different size of macaron cells on either side) or on to some baking parchment.

You will need to pipe directly from above and not from the side to get this effect.

When you get to the end of the piping bag, wash it out and then repeat the steps for the candy cane effect.

To bake set the oven to 160deg C. Put the macs in for 5 minutes, with the door ajar.  This step cuts out the need to let them sit for 30mins and let a skin form.

After 5 mins, shut the door and turn temperature DOWN to 120deg C. This is a much lower temperature than normal, but helps preserve the colour. You will need to cook your macs for approx 30 mins.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool totally before attempting to remove from the silicone baking sheet. As long as they are properly cooked and cooled, they can be removed very easily from the mat.

Happy Baking and Happy Easter to all !

Chocolate Tempering (and new mould designs !)

There is a knack to making chocolates and chocolate bars. That is, it you want to get the nice snap when you break it, and glossy finish with a smooth texture throughout.. 

Had I known a few simple things much earlier about tempering chocolate, I wouldn't have spent a fortune ruining the stuff !

Some of the many disasters include white mildewy type marks all over the surface (or in patches), crumbly interiors and dull finish.

If you look up chocolate tempering on the net, there are many web pages that tell you how to do this. They all use two classic methods. 

The one for best results includes pouring chocolate on to a piece of marble, scraping it back and forward to cool it and then back into a bowl before pouring into moulds.  I'll tell you now that this seemed like too messy and too much effort. I would also have needed to invest in a big lump of marble. There is so much "stuff" in my little kitchen at the moment that I have nowhere near enough storage space as it is. I therefore admit that this method was instantly put on the sideline....

The second method is called SEEDING. It seems to be the simplest and will give great results - as long as you get it right....

This is one of our new chocolate bar moulds. It's now a registered design and due to launch in about 4 weeks.

I've fallen in love with these chocolate bar moulds - which we have available in two different sizes. This one makes finished chocolate bars of 70g or thereabouts (depending on what fruit / nuts / sweets you decide to use for decoration - if any).

Here is the larger 3 cell chocolate bar mould which produces a chocolate bar with approximate weight of 100g (mine ranged from 95 to 120g depending if they had extra additions or not).

Simply wrap in cellophane and tie with ribbon - or make a pretty box / card sleeve - they make such a stunning  home made gift.

For moulding your chocolate and getting good results, there are a couple of things you need to buy.

First thing is good quality couverture chocolate. This has a higher cocoa butter content and can be re-tempered quite easily. I buy really nice Belgian chocolate sold under the names of Belcolade or Callebaut from It normally has about 1 year sell by date on it. The stuff I buy comes in callets.

Callets are like small drops rather than a big bar. The Belcolate callets are like giant chocolate buttons, whereas the Callebaut callets are teeny weeny ones in comparison.

For early practising, you will get astonishingly good results with supermarket basics dark chocolate - 100g bars from the likes of Sainsburys are about 42p. Don't bother trying to work with budget grade or commercial brand white chocolate. I've wasted a lot of money myself trying that..... It doesn't taste as nice - but it tempers quite nicely.

Secondly, you need a chocolate thermometer or laser thermometer. I've got a laser thermometer (cost about £15.00 with postage) and the temperature range is both high enough to use for candy making / sugar syrup for macarons and low enough for tempering chocolate. It's not at all fiddly, and the temperatures are really pretty accurate.

Lastly, get a glass bowl if you do not already own one. Using other bowls such as earthenware creates hotspots unlike the glass which transmits a much more even heat and can burn or overheat your chocolate.

To temper your chocolate by the seeding method, you first need to melt it. This can be done by zapping it in short 15 second bursts in the microwave or using a double boiler (glass bowl over simmering water). If using the double boiler method, be sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl and DON'T get a single drip of water in the chocolate or it will seize and become useless.

For the microwave method, simply stir every 15 seconds and remove when a little more than half melted. The residual heat in the bowl will continue to melt the rest of the chocolate. With the double boiler method, I prefer to pour boiling water into a pan and sit the bowl over the top. Leave it and wait until the chocolate melts. It is important not to let the temperature of your chocolate exceed 120deg F - so check the temperature regularly.

Once melted, you can begin the seeding process to cool the chocolate evenly to 80 deg F and then warm slightly until you reach moulding temperature. To do this, you need to add a little solid chocolate into the melted chocolate. It is important to stir constantly. It is best to use a silicone spatula as you can get all the chocolate away from the sides of the bowl.

Stir this until it melts in and add more if required. Check the temperature regularly. For plain / milk chocolate, it's ready to pour or dip (enrobing) truffles at about 85deg F. For white chocolate, you want a lower temperature of 80 to 83deg F.

I used to get ok results without a thermometer SOMETIMES. Success would be hit and miss. Sometimes the finished chocolates would BE perfect, but more often than not they would quickly develop a bloom (whitish covering) or go crumbly inside. These of course were entirely edible - but they didn't look nice and the texture was very wrong.

If you want super results every time, the pouring temperature of chocolate is crucial.... as is a chocolate thermometer (or laser thermometer) .

Incase you had not already guessed. this chocolate robot mould is another new registered design we'll be launching soon. The metallic effect on the chocolate robots was achieved by brushing a tiny bit of lustre dust (used for sugarcraft) inside the mould as suggested by a Facebook Fan. I think it was Ellie (sorry - I can't find the old chat post now !)

Sarah-Jane Nash, April 2012

Friday, 6 April 2012

Chocolate and Coconut Macarons

Well - it's been a while since I blogged about macarons, and since I've got so many photos and recipes backlogged, it's about time I do.

I made these around mid / end of February and they were a huge hit. One of my favourite flavours to date (along with the blueberry and lemon ones). The coconut filling really packs a punch.

I baked them on the double sided macaron mat and this produced one sheet of large shells (50mm diameter) and one sheet of small cells (30mm diameter).

 More recipes for macarons can also be found on my blog via the drop down menu.

180g icing / powdered sugar
180g ground almonds
40g cocoa powder
180g of egg whites (split into two batches of 90g)
80ml water
200g of caster sugar

For full written instructions for method, see this previous blog post.

Alternatively, see this blog post for video tutorial

Coconut filling :

40g desicated coconut
50ml milk
30ml Malibu (coconut rum)
300g icing sugar
75g butter

Add the Malibu to the coconut and leave to sit for an hour or so.

Make buttercream filling in the normal fashion. Add all the ingredients together and beat for about 5 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

This produced plenty to fill all the macarons and a little left over.

Sarah-Jane Nash -