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 🙂

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  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 Bientôt.

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Candy Cane Cut-Out Cookies

It was time for a post festive season clear out of the snack-shelf* and I came across the remnants of the candy canes. A little the worse for wear and held in shape only by their cellophane wrapping.
Most normal people would have just dumped them in the bin, but I’ve never in my life claimed to be normal so it was into the kitchen they came to be used in ….. something…. The something turned out to be cookies, not your ordinary cookies, but cut out cookies of course!

I have a nifty little cutter that cuts holes in the centre of your cookie shape, but if you dont have one all you need is one large ( 4-5 cm) and one small (2-3cm), which will do the job perfectly.

This is a great bake to do with small people it’s a lot of fun with tasty and good looking results. We got a little carried away ( I know, you’re stunned) and decided to colour our dough as well, this is not strictly necessary, but it is really pretty 🙂

If you don’t happen to have any candy canes kicking about in your kitchen then any kind of boiled sweet or hard candy will be fine.

This recipe should yield between 20-30 biscuits
*it started out as small persons snack box, but has gradually grown and taken over a whole pantry shelf. Oops.

Candy Cane Cut-Out Cookies

225g Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
150g Butter
75g Sugar
25g Icing Sugar
1 beaten Egg
5 Candy Canes ( or a handful of boiled sweets )

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Cube the butter and rub into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and stir in then sift the icing sugar and mix well. Mix to a stiff dough with the beaten egg then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed well.

The next step is optional 🙂

Split the dough into 3 roughly equal parts and add a few drops of food colouring to each part and kneed until you get an even colour. ( it’s advisable to wear some gloves at this point unless you want technicolour hands for the rest of the day.

Place the dough into plastic bags and chill for at least 30 minutes.
roll out dough
Roll out your dough to between 1/4 and 1/2 cm thickness, cut your shapes and place onto greaseproof paper (VERY important not to bake them directly on the baking tray /cookie sheet).
place cookies on paper
Take your candy canes or boiled sweets and smash into small pieces, place a small piece of candy into the hole of each cookie.
place sweets in centreNow… you can of course reuse the ‘middle bits’ and re roll, or… you could place them along side and have lots of very cute tiny biscuits too 🙂
Place in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees and bake for between 10 and 15 minutes. Take them out as the cookie begins to brown and the candy is a bubbling liquid.
take out of oven
Leave then on the tray for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack as this will allow time for the candy to solidify.
cool on paper first
Once completely cooled store in an airtight container, or just eat them straight away!!

yummy cookies

Chocolate Chestnut Chili Torte

I had this idea a while ago and thought it would be a most excellent dessert for christmas.  I’ve been  Waiting ever since. Amidst all the preparations all I could think about was finally getting to make (and more importantly, eat) my pud, and hope it was as nice as I thought it was going to be.

Well the waiting is over and I can assure you it was most definitely worth the wait 🙂

There are a few flavours in here, but they complement each other wonderfully well.

Chocolate Chestnut Chilli Torte

  Chilli Pastry

200g Flour
100g Butter (diced)
50g Chilli sugar*
1 Egg (beaten)
Icing sugar to roll out pastry and sprinkle.
(* if you don’t have any chilli sugar there is a method here, or you can add 1tsp of chilli flakes and 1/4tsp of chilli powder to regular granulated sugar)
 Chocolate torte

200g Dark Chocolate

100ml Cream

100g Marzipan

50g Chestnut paste

7 whole cooked Chestnuts

Icing sugar to dust

Cut together the butter and flour until there are no large lumps left. I have this nifty little pastry cutter 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. Add 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 s 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.

Kneed well until smooth and crack free, place in a polythene bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour before rolling.
roll out pastry to 1/2cm
Once the pastry is chilled roll out to about 1/2cm thick. You will need the pastry to be relatively thick as there is a point with this torte when you will be using your hands and you don’t want it to fall apart when you pick it up.
Press gently into a greased and floured tin and blind bake* for 25 minutes.

*To ‘blind bake’ you need to cover the uncooked pastry with a sheet of baking paper and weight it down with pastry beads or uncooked rice and place in a pre-heated 180degree oven.
cover and blind bake pastry
Take the pastry from the oven when it has started to brown around the edges and allow to cool completely. When it is completely cold remove the beads/rice and paper .
baking rice
Roll out marzipan to about 1/4cm and line the pastry shell.
Spread a generous layer of chestnut puree on top of the marzipan.
The reason for the marzipan, should one be needed, is to stop the chestnut puree soaking into the pastry and making it soggy. And it tastes fantastic.

chestnut paste

Place the dark chocolate in a bowl over boiling water and when it has melted stir in the cream. It takes a few minutes for the cream and chocolate to combine so stir gently until the mixture is smoothe dark and runny.

heat chocolate and cream

Take from the heat and stand for 5 minutes before pouring into the pastry shell.
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Now you have to be patient. Set aside to cool for an hour and when the top of the ganache is set arrange your chestnut pieces gently on top. Now leave the torte to cool completely either in a cool place overnight or in the fridge for a few hours.
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When the torte is solid, you are free to enjoy 🙂

I would recommend serving with a little cream or creme fraiche. The pastry is not overly hot and the chocolate ganache complements the hint of chili without ambushing it completely. But in the wise words of small person “don’t eat the pastry on its own…get me some water”!

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A Bientot.

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.  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 Bientôt.

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 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 Bientôt.

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,  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,  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,  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  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

½tsp Cinnamon

½ 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  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  minutes.

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

You can serve with cream or crémé fraîche and i can assure you that they are just as tasty cold ( if they make it that far)

A Bientôt.

Epic Jelly ….. Epic Fail

I was in two minds whether to post this one or not as it didn’t turn out quite as planned, but then I thought “What the heck, why not” because someone might like it and it does look so pretty….

epic jelly
As I mentioned in my last post we have been celebrating (for what seems like forever) the birthday of the smallest person in the house and HillyWillys kitchen has been under a cloud of flour, chocolate, icing sugar and jelly. Lots of jelly. ( For my U.S friends that would of course be jello )

I had seen this recipe posted on line a few months ago and stored it in my ‘oooh that looks fun’ file and decided that small ones birthday party would be the perfect time to try it out. The fridge was re-shuffled, many plastic tubs were unearthed and I began…

Stained Glass Window Jelly
4 packets of assorted (brightly coloured) Jelly

1 small tin of condensed milk

3 6g packets of Gelatin powder

Make up your 4 different flavours of jelly and set overnight.

Jelly

Sprinkle the gelatin powder into a small amount of cold water and stir to a smooth paste, set aside for 5 minutes then stir again. At this point add 500ml of boiling water and mix until there are no clumps or lumps. Now add the tin of condensed milk and mix well. Set aside and allow to cool.

mix the coloured cubes

When your coloured jellies are well set turn out and cut into cubes and gently mix the  cubes in a large container. Take the cooled gelatin mixture and pour slowly into the container of jelly cubes. Return the large container to the fridge and set for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably overnight.

When your jelly is completely set. turn out. slice and serve.

stained glass Jelly

Now the title of the post will tell you that something went wrong, well 2 things went wrong in actual fact.

The first thing was that I had entirely failed to take into consideration that jelly isn’t a common dessert over here and whilst French cuisine is highly regarded around the world they are not exactly renowned for their acceptance of any food that is a bit different to their usual fare.  To put it mildly the children at the party looked terrified when I unveiled my masterpiece and were extremely reluctant to try it.

The second, and most important, thing was that the taste just doesn’t live up to the look.
Perhaps i used the wrong combination of jelly flavours, but it was just too much of a confusing taste to be considered lovely. The condensed milk/gelatin mixture is fantastic for the colour, but it makes the whole thing so sweet that my teeth were singing at the first spoonful. Perhaps (if I ever make it again) I would use single cream or evaporated milk instead to take an edge off the super-sweetness.

I would also recommend that if you attempt this one, only to use half of the jelly in each pack as there was rather a lot of it to dispose of.

So not my finest moment, but not everything always turns out quite how we would like, so its time to dust myself off and get back in the kitchen.

Thankfully the main event of the birthday cake was a triumph so the jelly incident was quickly forgotten, and I shall be putting up the recipe for that in a few days 🙂

A Bientot