So this wins the longest name for bastardised macarons, yeah.
I had this bowl in my fridge with some egg whites for a while now, well since the Secret Cake Cavalry meet. I’ve run out of butter. I have no caster sugar left and I need some fridge space back.
What I am going to be sharing with you here is not some flour confection genius. It’s just using up stuff. What I have found in all the years of raising feral sproglettes is that sometimes you only have half an hour to achieve something and that is all that you will get. So this blog was not pre-meditated, I had no plans as to what I was going to write or bake for that matter. This recipe is perfectly achievable in under an hour from start to finish.
From time to time, I come across friends who declare that they just simply cannot bake, and I can sympathise with that because 15 years ago, I couldn’t either. In fact, 15 years ago I couldn’t even cook. As a student, I used to rely on the charity of my housemate who would cook for me. Breakfast was some bizarre concoction of rice krispies, chocolate and butterscotch sauce with Frijj chocolate milkshake. If I were feeling swish, I had shop bought croissants which I warmed on my extra hot radiator.
In fact, 5 years ago, I still wasn’t really baking. I did do some baking but it was sporadic. I was often pleased with the result but I didn’t consider myself a baker because in my head, a baker was someone who would turn out some elaborate and fanciful and beautiful creations. Perfection every time.
I don’t have childhood memories of my Mum teaching me how to bake some wonderful exotic cakes and biscuits when I was little. My Mum kept her pots and pans in the oven. It was never used. She had a tabletop round oven which would only be used at the end of the Ramadhan month to bake biscuits for Eid Mubarak and occasionally when she felt that my Father earned her special vanilla sponge cake. The only part of the process I had ever been involved in was the creaming of butter and sugar. I don’t think I graduated past that stage.
What turned me to baking was the fact that I got fed up of being so disappointed with the quality of cakes I was buying. You must know that feeling when you can recall the taste and flavour of a certain cake that you had had as a child, only to be sorely cheesed off at how foul the shop bought version is. I can’t find a substitute for my Mum’s vanilla sponge cake. I can’t buy it. I can get close enough if I were to make it myself but it’s not the same, is it, when you have to make it yourself.
The biggest motivation is the absolute glee and excitement radiating from the sproglettes when they realise that the oven is being fired up, the butter is out and I am shouting at them to tie up their hair and to stop asking me if it’s their turn to lick the bowl this time. I love the fact that my children think (and I know they are biased) I am the best baker in the world. That they can appreciate the subtleties of a good scone and that they can still have Grandma’s rock cakes two years after her passing because I’m now making them. These are the stuff that childhood memories are made of – the impromptu night time baking when the children get to stay up late and brush their teeth twice because the rice pudding is hot out of the oven and it won’t be as special if eaten cold the next day. Our family experiences together are held together by countless moments around the dining table, eating together, over-eating together and generally settling squabbles due to sugar induced rushes.
The point I am trying to make is, before I digressed yet again, that it doesn’t really matter if you can’t bake. If you fancy doing it then do it cos you ain’t gonna get any good doing nowt. Nothing taste better than cake fresh out of the oven, no matter how rubbish you are at baking. I’ve eaten a lot of first attempts of home bakes before and I am still standing. Just take baby steps. Have a stab at the basics – some scones, sponges and shortbreads. Seriously, get a tried and tested recipe and follow it. In time, you will learn to work out what is a good recipe that will work, and you will learn to trust your sense of smell and go by how things look. It is not rocket science. Invest in a good oven thermometer – I am not joking about them self opinionated ovens, they are the kitchen equivalent of the pariah printer.
The recipe is from Hugh Fernleigh-Whittingstall. I chose it because it was easy. I wasn’t too convinced that it was going to produce the super shiny chic French macarons but these tasted divine. I sifted the ground almond once and once more after it was mixed in with the icing sugar and cocoa powder. It was a true chocolate hit, chewy and moist and went well with a glass of cold milk. They are perfect to store in the fridge for a few days(occupying the space that the bowl of egg whites had earlier) I did do a few substitutions – I added some morello cherry jam into the chocolate ganache and I used light muscovado sugar instead.
Ingredients (makes 12 sandwiches)
125g icing sugar
3 tbsp cocoa
165g ground almonds
3 egg whites
caster sugar light muscovado sugar ¼ tsp vanilla extract I didn’t use any
– Preheat oven to 150c.
– Take the icing sugar, cocoa and sifted ground almond and mixed them in a bowl.
– Whisk the egg whites til stiff and gradually add the muscovado sugar til the mix become stiff and glossy.
– Beat gently half of the icing sugar, cocoa and almond mix into the meringue mixture til well combined.
– Fold in the rest and mix well.
– get two baking trays, line them with baking parchment, and this is the clever bit courtesy of Hugh FW. Rather than drawing out 24 4.5cm circles on the baking parchment, just get a cutter about 4.5cm size, dip it into cocoa powder (Hugh suggested flour) and stamp circles onto the parchment.
– Fill a piping bag (with a 1cm plain nozzle) with the mixture and with the tip pointing downwards, close to the surface, pipe out into the circles.
– Once you have done that, give the baking trays a firm tap (read that as a good old bang) to deflate any air bubbles.
– Bake for 15-18 minutes.
– Cool for a few minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack.
Chocolate Cherry Ganache
100ml double cream
100g 70% chocolate, chopped into small chunks
2 tbsp. morello cherry jam
– Gently heat the double cream. You may wish to use your hob, I live live dangerously and play chicken with the microwave.
– Chuck the chocolate chunks in and just stir. I use the time to contemplate my bank balance, consider how I can justify a £300 pair of quad skates and how long many more patrons of the tattoo studio can I con into believing that I am actually a she-male. Good times, indeed.
– Add the morello cherry jam, stir to mix well and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
– I heap a teaspoon for each sandwich, never mind if you end up with leftovers. Eating it neat is a perfectly acceptable option.
I’d really encourage you to try this recipe. It is very forgiving. Undercook it, it really wouldn’t be that obvious. Have it warm with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce. Overcook it, you have the ganache to compensate for it. Really overcook it, then you’ll just have crisp cookies that you can dunk in milk.