Chocolate Lime Macaroons

Well hello there. It’s been a while I know, but I just haven’t been feeling the baking mojo of late. A seemingly endless round of family illness and grotty cold weather had left me feeling rather uninspired.

The good news is that this week the sickness has abated and I’m slowly getting back into the kitchen 馃檪

My first post flu cravings were for comfort and sweetness. What better than a coconut macaroon to cheer me up. But, as it’s me in the kitchen, it’s a coconut macaroon with a twist. Of course I turned to chocolate as a first choice, but i thought this might make it a little sickly and there was a little extra something needed to take the edge off so I dabbled with a little lime. The results were just what I needed.

This is a very simple recipe and quite quick to make too. They are ideal as a biscuit replacement with your afternoon cuppa, but pretty enough to be served at a high tea.

Chocolate Lime Macaroons

2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
160g desiccated coconut
Grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime ( reserve the rest in case your mixture isn’t quite wet enough)

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200g dark chocolate

50ml single cream

Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix together. The best way of doing this is with your hands. It will feel very dry to start with but you really need to squeeze the ingredients till they start to come together. If it’s not pressing together add the reserved lime juice 1 tsp at a time.

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Turn out your mixture onto a greaseproof sheet and press it firmly into a square about 1 cm thick.
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Take a small cookie cutter and press firmly into the mixture.
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Very gently transfer to a lined baking sheet. You will need to be quite delicate when easing the shape out onto the tray as this is a VERY crumbly mixture.

Keep cutting and repressing your mixture until it is all used. I had enough to make 24 hearts.
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Place the tray in an oven preheated to 180degrees for 10- 15 minutes, just until the coconut has started to brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool on the tray for 5 minutes to allow them to firm up a little before placing on a wire cooling rack.
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When the macaroons are completely cool melt the chocolate and stir in the cream until it is completely blended.
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Dip the macaroon in the chocolate ganache and place onto greaseproof paper 聽until the chocolate is set.
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These can now be kept for up to a week, ( if you have a stronger will that I ), in an airtight container.
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A Bient么t.

Cranberry, Orange and Cinnamon Muffins

Happy New Year!

Yes I know, it’s a little belated but we have all been under the weather here in the last few weeks, fortunately Christmas itself was sickness free, but we’ve been making up for it since…

Now that the veil of flu is lifting from HillyWillys house, it’s long past time to get back into the kitchen.

After the most wonderful Christmas eve meal small person and a sumptuous dinner from Hubby the kitchen has been a relatively HillyWilly free zone. Time to put that right 馃檪

But what to cook? After the excess eating of Christmas and new year I thought perhaps I should try something slightly less …. decadent, but still super tasty of course so I have opted to give you some healthy, low fat muffins, I can assure you they are still delicious and as they are lower in fat that means you can eat more of them…… 馃槈

Cranberry, Orange and Cinnamon Muffins.

300g flour
1tsp Baking Powder
25g Brown Sugar (plus a little extra to sprinkle on top)
1tsp Cinnamon
1 Orange (zest and flesh)
100g Dried unsweetened Cranberries
100ml Skimmed Milk
100ml Orange Juice
1 Egg
25g Salted Butter ( melted )

About an hour before you are ready to bake soak the cranberries in the orange juice. This will give them a nice plumpness and add a bit of sharpness to the flavour.

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In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Add to this the zest and flesh of your orange and the drained cranberries and stir well.

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In a separate bowl beat the egg and add the milk and orange juice and stir well. Melt the butter and whisk it into the liquid. If you wish to substitute the butter for sunflower oil you can do so, but don’t forget to add a generous pinch of salt.

Add the liquid to the dry bowl and beat until fully combined.

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Divide the mixture into muffin cases ( this amount should make 12) and place in a preheated oven.bake at 200degrees for 20-25 minutes.

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When the muffins come out you can if you wish add a sprinkle of brown sugar to the top, or if you are being really good you can skip this step 馃檪

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Allow to cool and enjoy.

A Bient么t.

Red nose Reindeer Biscuits

It’s become something of a tradition that I bake a batch of christmassy biscuits for small ones class just before the holidays and I saw these and thought they were perfect.

But I must begin with a confession.

This blog post features my 2nd attempt at these biscuits.

When I made the first batch they didn’t turn out so well. 聽I saw pictures posted on-line by the lovey Alex at Sugar Plum Patisserie and got over excited, grabbed the cookie dough that was languishing in the bottom of my fridge and started baking.

Well had I actually thought about it I would have realized that the dough in my fridge was far to soft and would totally lose any shape that I had moulded it in as soon as I put it in the oven, and the decorations would not stand up!
The results were tasty, but the look was … not quite as intended.
In the ever sobering words of small person “I like your biscuits mum, but why have you made them with big bushy eyebrows?”

Time for a second attempt.

Red Nose Reindeer Biscuits (mark 2)

For the sugar dough

sugar dough ingredients

400g Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
225g Butter
200g Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla essence

For the decoration

decorations
Chocolate chips
Salted pretzels (traditional knots snapped in half)
50g dark chocolates (melted)
Small red sweets (smarties, jelly sweets, foam strawberries. All are fine!)

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, add a teaspoon of flour with each egg to avoid curdling.

making the dough
Add the vanilla essence and beat well.
Sift the flour and baking powder and fold in gradually.
When the mixture comes together turn out onto a floured surface and kneed till smooth.

Dough!
Place the dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate for minimum of an hour.

Roll out your dough and cut into triangles.
Place the triangles on your baking sheet and pinch the top corners to make ear shapes.

pinch to make 'ears'

Bake at 170 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until just turning golden brown.

Now you have to work fast.

First take your pretzels (2 for each biscuit) and push them into the top of your biscuits to make the antlers. Then take chocolate chips and press into the biscuit to make the eyes. This must be done when the biscuit is still soft, or they will fall off when you move them.

pretzels and choc chips

Allow them to rest on the baking tray for 5 minutes, then move them to a cooling rack.

When the biscuits are completely cool, melt the chocolate and spread a small amount on the bottom of your triangle.

chocolate nose

While the chocolate is still warm press a red sweet into it, then allow the chocolate to harden completely.

Rudolph!
Not a bushy eyebrow in sight.

These are such a fun Christmas treat for kids and also great for kids to make with you.

I hope you enjoy them as much as small persons classmates did!

A Bient么t.

Orange Curd

This week has been a bit of a dead loss when it comes to my kitchen. As I explained in the previous post I’ve had a very poorly small person to look after and food has been WAY down the agenda. Thankfully now she is on the road to recovery and my thoughts turn back to the kitchen.

Despite the fact there are a million and one things to be getting ready for Christmas I needed to relax so I decided to make one of my favourite preserves before even thinking about what I should聽be doing.

Curd was always something of a mystery to me until a few years ago when I watched a dear friend whip up a batch of lemon and since then there has been no stopping me!

I have ( of course ) experimented with lots of different flavours* and textures, but I always come back to orange as my ‘comfort’ food standby.

*great flavours I have tried include; Kiwi, Raspberry, Passion fruit. There is something about the consistency of curd that, for me, demands a flavour with a bit of a bite to them so I always find that slightly acidic fruits work best. I’ll let you know how Mango turns out once I get round to it!

Another tip when making a different flavour is to always combine your fruit juice or pulp with the juice of 1 lemon as this will greatly improve the set and reduce the overall cooking time.

Orange Curd

100g unsalted butter

200g granulated sugar

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

2 oranges

1 lemon

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Bring to the boil half a a pan of water, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Place a glass bowl on the rim of the pan and ensure that the boiling water is not touching the bottom of the bowl.

Put your butter into the bowl and melt.

While the butter is melting, juice and zest your oranges and lemon and in a separate bowl beat your eggs.

When the butter has just melted pour in the sugar and stir until it has dissolved.

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When the mixture is smooth add the combined juice of the oranges and lemon and stir gently, but well.

When the mixture is well combined slowly pour in the beaten eggs, stirring the mixture at all times.

ImageYou MUST stir this mixture gently (do not beat) for around 5 minutes to ensure that the egg well mixed with the other ingredients. if you do not combine the ingredients corectly at this point you may well end up with ‘strings’ of egg in you finished curd.

After around 5 minutes the mixture should be smooth and pale orange in colour, now is the time to add the zest. Of course this is a matter for personal taste and I know a lot of people prefer their curd to be totally smooth in which case just don’t add it.

Now you have to be patient.

Heat the curd over the water for 25-30 minutes. During this time stir occasionally and make sure there is still enough water in your pan!

After about 20 minutes of simmering you should notice the mixture begin to thicken. Using a metal spoon now, stir the mixture and ensure that you scrape around the sides and the bottom of the glass bowl as the curd will thicken round the edges of the bowl more quickly and you will not get an even consistency.

Dont worry if it takes a little longer for your mixture to thicken as it depends on the type of oranges you use and how big they are. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat, just leave it until it thickens of its own accord.

When it is ‘done’ is also a matter of personal preference. I prefer a slightly runny set for my curd so when the mixture clings to the back of my mixing spoon and coats it without running off this is my perfect potting temperature!

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If you prefer a thicker set then just leave the curd to cook for a few more minutes.

Pot up into sterilised jars and seal immediately.

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These quantities will make enough for around 2 100g jars. Unless you are making this as a gift I wouldn’t advise making much more than this at a time as it only keeps for between 2 and 3 weeks.

Once your jars have cooled store the curd in the fridge and enjoy at your leisure.

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I can thoroughly recommend it on toast!

A Bient么t.

Cinnamince PIes

Cinnamince Pie

Mmmmmm Mince Pies

I’m just putting it out there; I LOVE mince pies.

One of the best things for me about the build up to Christmas is the smell of mincemeat gently bubbling inside a crispy pastry shell. Oh just thinking about it makes me want to sing carols and stuff my face with pies – not at the same time obviously, that would be gross.

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, 聽the humble mince pie is a singularly British concoction that starts to appear around mid-November, hangs around for the festive season then disappears for the rest of the year. It is a small sweet pastry shell filled, 聽not with minced-meat, but with mincemeat. I hope that’s cleared that up.

I’ve been making my own mincemeat filling for a few years now, as it tastes so much better than shop bought, 聽and of course you can monkey around with it till it tastes just how you like it .Home-made mincemeat is VERY easy to make, but rather time consuming so its best to prepare it reasonably well in advance. The joy of this is that when it comes to actually making the pies, it takes a matter of seconds to fill the pastry cases.

You also get to monkey around with the pastry shell. Some people favour puff pastry, but my preference is definitely shortcrust and of all the different types I’ve tried out, my absolute favourite for mince pies is sweet cinnamon pastry.

This is my favourite mince pie combination to date, I hope you enjoy.

Mincemeat
(can be made up to 3 months in advance… definitely jar it and聽 leave it overnight before baking. This recipe makes around 1kg.)

200g Apples ( peeled cored and finely diced)
100g shredded suet
175g raisins

100g sultanas

100g currants

175g Brown sugar

1 Orange ( rind and Juice)

1 Lemon ( rind and juice)

2 tsp mixed spice

陆tsp Cinnamon

陆 tsp ground nutmeg

4 tsp Armagnac

4tsp Amaretto

add juice to fruit and nutsSimply put all of the ingredients, except the brandy and amaretto, into a large bowl, mix well and leave covered with a cloth for at least 12 hours.

place in an ovenproof dish and bakeStir the mixture well and place in a large dish and bake at 120 degrees for 2- 2&1/2 hours ( dont let it get too dry).

Take it out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

jar and top with greasproof paperOnce cooled stir in the brandy and amaretto and spoon into sterilised jars. Top with greaseproof paper and seal jars.

Cinnamon pastry

200g Flour
100g Butter (diced)
50g Cinnamon sugar*
1 Egg (beaten)
Icing sugar to roll out pastry and dust finished pies. .
(* if you don’t have any cinnamon sugar there is a method here, or you can add 1/4tsp ground cinnamon to regular granulated sugar)

ingredientsCut together the butter and flour until there are no large lumps left. I have this nifty little pastry blender gadget, but a knife works just as well, but a bit slower. Finish by rubbing the flour and butter through your fingers until the mixture looks like sand.

blend pasrtyAdd the sugar and mix well.

Gradually add the beaten egg and bring together with a fork. You only really need a few spoonfuls of the egg as you don’t want your pastry too wet. When it starts to go sticky on your fork use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. If its too dry add a little more egg, if it’s too wet add a little more flour. (reserve the remaining egg to brush the pastry).

gradually add egg

Kneed well until smooth and crack free, place in a polythene bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour before rolling.

ball pasrty dough, then refrigerateWhen your Pastry is cold and a little stiff, sprinkle your work surface with icing sugar and roll out to desired thickness ( I like about 1/4cm). Cut a large circle and a star for each pie.

roll and cut pastryGrease and flour your baking tin ( I prefer to use a deep tin as this tends to minimise spillage from over boiling in the oven), lightly place your pastry circle into the tin then spoonabout 1&1/2 to 2 tsp of mincemeat into each case. Gently place your star on top and brush with beaten egg.

fill and top piescook聽 in a 200 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brow. Remove to a wire tray and allow to cool for 5 to 10聽 minutes.

Cinnamince PiesWhen still warm, dust with icing sugar and eat immediately. You’ve waited long enough 馃檪

You can serve with cream or cr茅m茅 fra卯che and i can assure you that they are just as tasty cold ( if they make it that far)

A Bient么t.

Avocado and Pistachio nut Loaf

I do like a nice loaf. And (if I do say so myself) this is a rather nice loaf.

I made a version of this a little while ago, but it was lacking 聽…. something. I had no idea what that something was, so I left it and moved on to sweeter things for a while. When I was shelling some pistachios for a recent recipe it suddenly occurred to me that these could be the very thing my old loaf needed.

The problem with pistachios is that they take so long to shell, 聽I just couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm for a while. You may notice that in the recipe below I’ve been rather vague about the amount of pistachios used as I got a little bored at around the 30g mark and decided that was enough, but in all honesty a few more wouldn’t have gone a miss.

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Avocado and 聽pistachio nut loaf

200g Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Salt
100g Sugar
100g Butter
1 medium Egg
1 ripe Avocado
100ml Creme Fraiche
Zest of 1 Lemon
3cm piece of Root Ginger
30-50g shelled Pistachio nuts

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Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
Fold in the flour, baking power and salt and stir well.

In another bowl mash the avocado until smooth, add the zest of one lemon and grate in the piece of ginger. Stir in the creme fraiche and beaten egg.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well until fully combined.

Shell pistachios and place in a plastic bag and roll hard several times with a rolling pin and crush into small pieces.

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Tip the bag of crushed nuts into the batter and combine.

Tip the whole mixture into a greased and lined loaf tip and cover loosely with baking paper. Bake at 180 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the baking paper cover after the first 35 minutes.

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During the last 15 minutes of baking time test the loaf with a wooden skewer, when the skewer comes our clean, then you are ready to take the tin out of the oven and rest it for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes take the loaf out of the tin and allow to cool completely ( if you can ).

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I thought about adding a glaze or crust to this loaf, but in the end I’m really glad I didn’t as it simply doesn’t need any embellishment.

This is a lovely loaf to enjoy the next day when the cake has become more dense (and a lot easier to slice). Either on it’s own or spread with a little butter.
It’s not exactly sweet, but it’s not exactly savoury either, somewhere in-between, but it’s 聽very good with a feet-up cuppa, and lasts up to a week if stored wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight container.

Enjoy 馃檪

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A Bient么t

Pain au Pud

I’ve been mulling this recipe over for a long time and imagining how yummy it would be, but as of a few days ago I’ve never made it. There is a very good reason for this. The reason is that the recipe requires 3 slightly stale pain au chocolate, and they have never existed in our house. Of course one or two* pain au chocolat have crossed the threshold but they have never survived long enough to become even a tiny bit stale, a lifespan of less than 5 minutes is more usual.

Now as it happened I was looking after the small person of a friend for an afternoon last week and when she came to pick him up she brought, as a thank you, an enormous box of pain au chocolat for us to consume during our collection time coffee. Now with the best will in the world ( in addition to the fact I’d spent most of the afternoon feeding the children on freshly made biscuits and cakes ) there was not much of a dent in box when she left. And so it transpired that even after a few days there were a few pastries left lingering in the cupboard. It was time.
.
*probably a few more than that.

Pain au chocolat pudding

3 pain au chocolat
200 ml milk
3 eggs
75g vanilla sugar

Slice the pain au chocolat thinly (1/2cm slices) and arrange in an ovenproof dish.

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Put milk into a bowl ( probably a slightly larger one than I used…) and whisk in 3 eggs. Stir in the sugar till well mixed.

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Pour over the slices of pain au chocolat and allow to soak until the slices are soggy.
With traditional bread and butter pudding you have to soak the slices for a little longer, but as the pastry is a lot less dense than bread the soaking time is significantly shorter. About the same time as it should take to pre- heat your oven to 175 degrees should be perfect.

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Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the ‘custard’ begins to set then remove from the oven and rest for a few minutes then make a cut right down the centre of the pudding. I know this sounds a little peculiar, but trust me on this. It will made your pudding rise beautifully, and stay risen!

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Return your pudding to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, until it is well risen and the ‘custard’ is set.

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Rest for a few minutes before cutting, then serve warm with a big dollop of double cream or creme fraiche. If by any chance there is any left over, it also tastes great cold.

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