Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Violet Macaroons

Violet Cakes' Macaroons
Ever since that afternoon I spent at Violet Cakes however long ago I have been besotted, foolishly besotted, by a macaroon.

Everything else of that afternoon seems distant in my memory now, apart from that golden, crispy, syrupy rounded mound of baked coconut.

Before my near death experience involving sugar, my only knowledge of a macaroon (the real deal, not the contemporaneous meringue kind, I’m talking about the poor macaroon that was overshadowed by that) came from a packet of 4 overly chewy macaroons commonly found in my aunts, or even dating back 10 years ago, my late nan’s flat - where there would always almost certainly be a packet of chocolate dipped store bought macaroons. But hey, I knew no better, and I still ate the whole bloody packet.
Who says the coconut cant be desiccated?! 
The recipe for Violet’s delicate, perfectly proportioned macaroon can thankfully be found in Leon’s Baking &Pudding’s book - I will take this moment to mention how lucky we are that Ptak & the founder of Leon live in the same neighbourhood. Leon is one of the best food chains in England, but truthfully, I bought their book for the macaroon recipe but I’m sure I will be dipping myself into some more recipes such as the Lemon Bars fairly soon (as should the poor soul reading this). 

What really sets this recipe apart from the rest is the addition of honey; it makes the world of difference through extra subtle sweet flavours on top of that already coming from the caster sugar (trust me, it works). It also makes the macaroons extra sticky, so sticky you will need to keep your paper towels well away until its time to wipe the stickiness from your fingers - licking is totally acceptable btw. 

The Recipe: Violet Macaroons

Adapted from Leon Baking & Puddings: Coconut Macaroons 

150g desiccated coconut 
150g caster sugar 
3 egg whites
3 heaped tbsp honey of your choice 
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Makes 6 large macaroons 

Deep, medium sized saucepan 
Ice cream scoop

The Method:

Place all the ingredients except vanilla into the saucepan and stir on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the bottom of the pan leaves bubbles when scraped across - about 7 minutes. 

Take off heat and leave to cool completely, about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180 C. 

Place baking parchment over a baking tray. 

Scoop level amounts of mixture straight onto the baking tray making sure they are slightly spaced apart. I used an ice cream scoop to get uniform macaroons. 

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. 

Leave the macaroons to cool completely before removing from the parchment. This allows the macaroons to crisp up. 

The macaroons will lose their crispiness if stored in an airtight environment, so try to eat them ALL on the day of baking! 

So, here's the big question that's playing on both our minds - do you plunge yours in chocolate or leave them raw?

Love Em xx 

Friday, 19 April 2013

No Fuss Pomegranate Juice

Spring has finally landed in dreary Britain, the forecast promises just 2 rainfalls per week as of now. Everyone’s mood is sufficiently uplifted and there are crazy cats in the shopping centre wearing only tshirts, linen “man” trousers and flip flops.

Something that fails to fit perfectly into this new bout of good old weather is the recent epidemic of measles - whoever said the jab should no longer be mandatory must...what were you thinking?! But anyway, a trip to the Turkish Food Centre to nurse my sister's flu (at 25 she is fully vaccinated from measles so I have no idea where I’m even going with this) obviously turned into me purchasing some really pointless items like honey (hate toast) and 2 for £1 pomegranates. I called mum over to cop a feel, they mostly felt soft and bruised so I was sceptical of this generous offer. She confirmed.

Luckily we managed to find 2 huge ruby gems hiding in the back baskets and immediately I started having these perverse fantasies where I was juicing these huge pomegranates with my £6 hand blender and putting 2 fingers up at the guy who decided to price Pom at £3.

Please excuse my weird fingers!

The Recipe:
Makes 1 serving of pomegranate juice. So, 1 pom = 1 cup of juice.

1 large pomegranate
1 ice block
Ice cold water

Special Equipment 
Old chopping board
Large knife
Cheap hand blender
Measuring jug

Note: You never really know whether your pomegranates will turn out sour or sweet. So if they are sour, adding a teaspoon of sugar before blending the pips should do the trick. 
Pomegranate goodness
The Method:

On an old chopping board, cut the pomegranate in half (lengthways) using a sharp knife.

Cut the half segments in half so that you have quarter cuts of pom.

Either peel the skin off the segments with your hands, or if its too tough, gently peel back using a knife.

Remove the pips and put them into a deep measuring jug with a block of ice (along with sugar if your pips taste sour).

Pulp the pips down to a thick froth using a hand blender, some pips and bits of pip skin should still remain.

Place a sieve on top of your serving glass and gently pour the juice through the sieve and into the glass, making sure not to spill any if you're using a large sieve.

Add ice cold water to taste, the more water the more diluted the juice will be so try to add as little as possible.

So when I wrote this I didn't realise there would be a thunderstorm 3 days later... 

1 pomegranate = 1/2 cup pips
Love Em xx

Friday, 12 April 2013

Sweet 'n' Salty Popcorn Chocolate Chip Cookies

Jealousy  is never a wonderful thing. Im lookin’ at you foodie, I know you’re also jealous of that ever talented food blogger with the enticing food photos constructed by someone with an incredibly skilled eye for colour schemes.

So you just gotta make do with what you’ve got and visit the timber yard every once in a while for cheap bits of scrap wood. Or go to your boyfriend’s house and rape every inch of their marble worktops with your semi-professional camera that you hardly know how to use. Thank you boyfriend’s family.

Now think about how jealous the person sitting next to you in a real slash fantasised setting will be when they catch you crunching (and then chewing) on this abnormally good cookie. You will bite into this and it will taste odd, thankfully you won’t be able to stop. 

If you ever wanted to sneak your own popcorn into a cinema, this is the perfect way to do it - crush and cram them into a concealable cookie; one that slides perfectly into that tiny zip pocket in your hand/man bag and viola, George Clooney has never appeared so sensational.  

Lastly, I would recommend doubling the recipe in case you felt like saving at least 2 for yourself. 

Heap your quarter cup
Chocolate and Vanilla will never make you thinner.
The Recipe

Adapted from Joy The Bakers Buttered Popcorn Chocolate Chip Cookies 

1/2 cup sweet 'n' salty popcorn
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 + 1/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate

Makes 20 large cookies

The Method

Preheat the oven to 180 C and line two baking trays with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and both sugars either with a freestanding mixer or electric whisk, until pale and fluffy - 4 minutes.

Add egg and vanilla.

Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix on low until just incorporated.

Using a metal spoon or spatula, fold the popcorn into the mixture. Dont worry if the popcorn breaks apart in the mixture, let this happen!

Lastly, fold in the chocolate.

Using an ice cream scoop take a level amount of dough and plop onto the baking sheet, making sure the dough is spaced 5cm apart. Or take a tablespoon and scoop out a heaped amount of dough onto the sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, leave for a couple minutes longer if the cookies are not yet golden.

Leave to rest for 5 minutes, eat warm or leave to cool. Cookies will last up to 3 days.

Love Emxx

Friday, 5 April 2013

Streusel Topped Pear Loaf

Pear Loaf
I'm that sort of personwho wants to explore every single food market in England. That is me. Iprobably make most people die with cringe yet still continue to be the most judgmental character on the planet. This is what Easter holidays does to mypoor (already sizzling) brain - causes me to write nonsense that has nothing todo with a pear loaf.

Broadway Market in Hackney was where I endedup last weekend. What a thriving place. Take away the hipsters and I’llhappily drive East every weekend. Unfortunately I cannot handle the occasional stagnantwhiff of charity shop when I’m haggling for a whole coconut cream cake so maybeI’ll just turn up when I want to purchase the most beautifully stump-likeorganic pears or, equally so, a small aromatic coffee from Climpson and Sons (totally worth the £2.40 out of my friend's pocket). So what I really want tosay is, if you’re tolerant of 2013’s trendsetters and a total foodie, go toBroadway Market, there is so much to smell, taste… and gasp at.
Streusel Topped Pear Loaf 
If you’re a fan of cinnamon, fruit and cake (as separatecomponents), this loaf combines all of that together and tastes like a tea timeaccompaniment. I studied Boston’s Flour Bakery’s Banana Bread and turned it intothis delicious thing of pear beauty. The funny thing is, it was already a thingof beauty before I messed with it. So can you just imagine how darn amazingthis loaf tastes?! 

The Recipe
2 pears, grated
210g plain flour
2 eggs, large
230g golden caster sugar
2 tbsp yogurt
120g corn oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
Streusel Topping
40g rolled oats
30g dark brown soft sugar
40g cold butter, cubed
2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

The Method

Preheat the oven to 165 C.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy - 4 minutes.

Slowly drizzle in the oil. Set aside.

Peel and grate the pears and quickly add them to the mixture (to avoid oxidation) followed by vanilla and yogurt. Mix until just combined.

Add in the flour, bicarb, cinnamon and salt and fold into the mixture using a metal spoon or rubber spatula. Fold until you can no longer see any white streaks.

Pour mixture into a lined loaf tin (or two) and bake for 45/55 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. But wait! Don't have a rest yet, there's still streusel to prepare.

Make the streusel topping by adding all the ingredients except the butter into a small bowl. Combine, then add the butter and using your fingers or a knife, make a crumbly mixture.

As soon as the streusel is made, quickly take the loaf out of the oven (after 20 or so minutes in the oven) and evenly sprinkle the streusel on top. Return back to the oven for the remaining time.

Once baked, let cool in the tin for ten minutes and turn out - then enjoy!
1 slice never seems adequate
A pear a day...
Love Em xx
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