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.


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.


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 !


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


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