Thursday, 19 May 2011

Lemon & Blueberry Macarons

Macarons are still all the rage in the baking world.  These little beauties look so cute but are difficult to master!  There are many recipes and blogs out there teaching you the basics but I think its something you probably need to see and feel to know you are getting it right. 

My first attempt was laughable.  More like an almond gooey cookie.  See I took some photos of shame - they are at the bottom of this post, Macaron Madness.

My second attempt I thought were great until I tried to peel them off the paper.  Hmmm...wet bases.  Also, they were rather flat.

You can just about make out the green tea mac's atthe back.  I split the batch and made two flavours.

Attempt number 3 was lemon macarons.  I need to practice the piping too!

Filled with lemon butter icing and a lemon curd centre - lemonicious!

Attempt number 4 was blueberry.  These were filled with fresh blueberry coulis and lemon butter icing.  These macaron shells I managed to cook perfectly but forgot to push in the 'tails' on my blobs.  These had an amazing chewy texture, the warm fruity gooey blueberry centre and a refreshing lemon flavour!  Oh my!  I can understand how people get addicted to these! :D

Blueberry & Lemon - these were soo good!  Again lemon butter icing but with a fresh blueberry coulis.

When I tasted the lemon one I thought, "Hmmm....nice."  After my teeth sank into the chewy macaron shell of the blueberry one and my mouth was filled with taste and texture sensations, a slow smile spread across my face.  "Yeah!  This is what macarons are all about!"  I've still yet to try a bought macaron.  They don't do them here in my town - I'd have to go to the food hall of Selfridges or Harrods in London I think.  But for now, these will do! ;)

Aren't they just cute?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

I took Minh to a local farm last weekend as I'd been up since 8am and even though it was approaching lunchtime, Daddy had not surfaced.  The farm grows its own food to sell and use in the cafe and also to feed the animals on the farm.  The animals provide meat for sale in the farm shop and cafe too.

We had a lovely walk around (well, Minh did - he was in the baby carrier hanging off my shoulders!).  I wish I'd put on proper footwear that morning as flip-flops were not the best choice for a walk!

Anyway, I saw some lovely red rhubarb stalks in the farm shop - all grown on site.  I bought them thinking I'd make a crumble.  They sat at home for a week before I put them to good use.  I wanted something cakey but with a juicy rhubarb filling.  I came up with a Rhubarb Crumble Cake.

Sponge Base:
125g unsalted butter (softened)
125g caster sugar
2 free range eggs
125g self raising flour (sifted)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Rhubarb Topping:
200-250g rhubarb (about 2-3 stalks)
3 tblsp sugar (or to taste)

100g plain flour
75g butter (cold and cut into small cubes)
30g caster sugar

A little demerara sugar to sprinkle (optional)

Wash the rhubarb stems and chop into 1 inch/2 cm pieces.  Place in a saucepan with 2 tablespoon of water and 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Stir as the water boils then cover and simmer for 5 mins.  The rhubarb should be beginning to soften but you do not want it all to be mushy.  Taste and sweeten if necessary.  If too sweet, add a squirt of lemon juice.  Cake is sweet and so is crumble so a little tartness is ok, but not mouth-puckering!!  On to cake making!

Preheat oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.

Grease a 7x7 inch square non-stick baking tin (I'm sure a 8 inch round will be fine) with buttery paper.  Sprinkle some self raising flour in then tip the flour to coat the inside of the pan before banging the excess out.

Beat the butter and suager together until it is soft, light and fluffy.  It gets lighter in colour the more its whipped and gives the cake a lovely light texture.

Add the vanilla to the bowl.  Crack in one egg, add a tablespoon of the (measured) self raising flour.  Mix until just combined.  Add in the remaining egg, another tablespoon of flour and again, mix until just combined.

Change to a large metal spoon (so you don't bash out that lovely air you created when beating butter and sugar), tip in half the flour and fold in.  Then tip in remainder and fold in.

Spoon mixture into the tin and using the spoon spread the mix to cover the base and a little way up the sides (to keep the rhubarb in).

Blob in the rhubarb covering the surface as best you can.  There will be gaps don't worry!  If you put too much rhubarb in, you may get a very soggy cake!

Tip the plain flour in a bowl, add the cold cubes of butter in and rub with your fingertips until it forms crumbs.  Stir in the sugar.  Use the crumble topping to cover the rhubarb.  Sprinkle the demerara sugar on top.

Place in oven and bake for 35-45 minutes.  The edges of the cake will be brown and test the centre by poking a skewer in the middle.  There shouldn't be any sloppy cake mix sticking to the skewer. 

Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning out to cool on rack.  To turn out, loosen edges of cake with a palatte knife.  Place a plate over the tin and flip over the cake tim onto the plate.  The cake should plop out onto plate.  Remove the tin, place rack on the bottom of cake and flip back to right side.

And Taaa-Daah!  :)

I used double the quantity as I made one for my neighbours too.  The cake went down well with my hubby (Mr Leaf) and he has been taking chunks of it to eat at work!