Amazing Cakes #26: Spanish Lemon Meringue Cake.

Helena Garcia’s Spanish Lemon Meringue Cake. Recipe from The Great British Bake Off Book of Amazing Cakes.

It has been a very difficult few weeks in our family following our recent bereavement. Blogging had been going by the wayside for a while anyway as work in school and baking for SmartCookieSam’s online business has been occupying a lot of my time. It is a shame as I love trying out new recipes.

We had a family BBQ one Sunday and although when it is hot I don’t really bother with a pudding or cake. It’s just too much effort. But a recipe in the Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes caught my eye. In the 2019 series, the lovely Helena Garcia baked a gorgeous sounding Spanish Lemon Meringue Cake which was a childhood family favourite which her grandmother used to make. It has a digestive biscuit base like a cheesecake, a filling made of condensed milk, lemon juice and egg yolks. Then topped with meringue and a final sprinkling of crushed digestive biscuits. I thought it would be perfect to serve with berries and was an ideal summer dessert.

I was a little bit rushed by the time I wanted to start the cake. We had been over to the coast for a walk on the beach with the dog and we got back later than planned. This was down to Mr S losing his glasses on the beach so we had to go back and retrace our steps while he looked for them. They must’ve got swept out to sea. So by the time we got home, it was well into the afternoon with not much time left before the BBQ was going to be started.

I got out the cake tin I needed; a 20cm springform one and got it greased and lined. When that was done, I crushed the digestive biscuits up. I couldn’t be bothered to get my food processor out so I crushed the biscuits by hand by putting them in a clear plastic freezer bag and banging them to crumbs with the end of a rolling pin. When that was done, I melted some butter and mixed it together with the crushed digestives, save for two spare tablespoonfuls which were reserved for the top of the cake to decorate it. The rest formed the base of the cake which got pressed into the tin.

Now to work on the filling. The filling was a simple mix of lemon juice, egg yolks and condensed milk mixed together and then poured on the top of the base. Then onto the topping: I used the egg whites used after separating the yolks out to make the filling as well as some caster sugar to make the meringue. I whipped the egg whites up until the meringues formed stiff peaks and then folded in the caster sugar bit by bit. The meringue was then spooned onto the top of the cake. For a final touch the remaining digestive crumbs were spooned in the tin before baking.

The oven had been preheated since I had started getting the ingredients together and I put the cake in the oven for roughly about 25 minutes. After about this time it came out of the oven and was left to cool in the tin for 30 minutes. I found that my cake cracked slightly and that it looked a bit unappetising but that didn’t put us off it.

I’m pleased to say the cake went down extremely well and a couple of family members even had seconds. One even picked at the crumbs off it! There were some leftovers for the next day (I sneaked a piece when I got in from work!)

I think that the Lemon Meringue Cake would work well with other flavours, such as lime and ginger or coconut. I might test this out in the coming weeks, so watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam! xx

Blueberry Cheesecake

On my Patisserie course at college this week, we got to make blueberry cheesecake. I do love a good cheesecake even though they are not healthy. I’ve made a few over the years, some fantastic and others: well you’d put them straight in the bin. But this one made during my evening class I have to say was the best yet. It was another one where I couldn’t wait to get home to show my family what I’d created. I’d also managed to use gelatine for the very first time without it ruining the whole dessert.

This cheesecake was less sweet and cloying than some cheesecakes I’ve tasted. Yet it still tasted rich and decadent. I also love blueberries and the purple/ lilac colour palette turned it into a pretty looking dessert as well.

We used frozen blueberries to make a compote which formed the basis of the flavour throughout the whole cheesecake. Our tutor said fresh blueberries would also work but as they were going to be pureed eventually it was fine to use frozen. Not only that, but frozen blueberries are so much cheaper than fresh ones! The blueberries were placed into a medium saucepan and heated through. As soon as liquid started to seep out, we added caster sugar. Our tutor then told us to wait until the blueberries were “violently boiling” to add a splash of lemon juice to the pan. We then took the blueberries off the heat and let them cool.

Our cheesecake was to have a ginger nut base. This worked really well with the blueberries. We crushed up the ginger nuts in a giant bowl using the end of a rolling pin and then added melted butter to the crushed biscuits. These were then put into the base of a lined springform tin. The springform tin had also been greased.

The next step was to weigh out and prepare the filling. Our tutor explained to us that we were going to make our cheesecake with a graduated colour layer effect starting with a plain layer of cheesecake and then adding blueberries to a smaller and smaller proportion of cheesecake mixture so that it darked the colour. Using leaf gelatine made me feel nervous but we were told to put the leaves into a small jug with cold water to cover. This softened the gelatine. While this was soaking, we weighed out some double cream and had to whisk it so it increased in volume by 50%. I was the only one in the class who chickened out of whisking my cream by hand. I just couldn’t get it to thicken. As soon as I got out the electric whisk, it thickened up immediately! Why waste time and effort when you have labour saving devices to help?

We then had to weigh out some cream cheese, caster sugar, natural yoghurt, vanilla extract and lemon juice into separate bowls. The cream cheese was whisked a bit first as it always comes out of the tub in one lump. I know you can get “low fat” cheesecakes and the like but I hate using low fat cream cheese and natural yoghurt for baking with. You never get the same effect. If you are making cream cheese frosting with low fat cream cheese, it never thickens up.

Once the cream cheese was ready, we had to add all the other ingredients into the bowl along with the whipped cream. My God this was when I felt like getting a massive spoon and digging in. I had to steel myself. The gelatine was then ready to be microwaved for 20 seconds and then folded into the cream cheese mix.

We also had to puree the blueberries using a hand held stick blender. It got very messy and we had to be careful that purple blueberry juice didn’t get splattered all over the kitchen and on ourselves.

We then were asked to measure out about half the cream cheese mix (which equated to roughly 300g) and to spread this on the ginger nut base. This needed to chill for about half an hour while we got on with the next layer. It didn’t quite set in the time, so our tutor shoved them in the college blast chiller for a few minutes.

We weighed out 50g of the blueberry puree into a separate bowl and then added it to the remaining cheesecake mix. This turned the mix into a delicate lilac colour. We then used half of this remaining mix to make the middle layer of the cheesecake. Once again, the cheesecakes were returned to the blast chiller to make the next layer set.

We had to set aside another 50g of puree to add to the remaining cheesecake mix. This turned the mixture into a purple colour as the photo below shows. The remaining puree was put into a presentation plastic bottle which chefs use for garnishes.

While the purple layer was being set in the blast chiller, our tutor asked us to make some sweet shortcrust pastry up for next week. This would be put into the freezer as we are going to be baking lemon meringue pie. Always great to make a head start!

We were also given ideas of how to decorate our cheesecakes. Whenever I’ve seen feathered patterns or hearts on garnished plates, they look so pretty. I was really keen to have a go at some hearts. We were shown how you use a skewer to drag it through the cheesecake. I started off around the edges like a clock face then chose to add extra hearts in between.

After a final blast in the chiller, we were asked if we wanted to add cream to our cheesecake decoration. I whipped up enough cream to make some rosettes around the edges and put the cream into a large piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. But I thought a two-tone effect would also work where you put some puree into the bag.

To finish my cheesecake, I piped twelve rosettes around the edge of the cake and then topped each one with a spare frozen blueberry. I was so thrilled with the whole thing but the next test was to get the cheesecake out from under the base and into my cake box to take home. One of the tutors suggested sticking it on the hot plate for a few seconds. This worked a treat!

We didn’t get to try out the cheesecake until the following day. I know I am doing WeightWatchers and to date I have lost 9.5lbs in 3 weeks. But faced with such a treat in front of me, that was too much temptation to bear. Mr S’s sister was coming for the weekend and we would have a slice of cheesecake for dinner. I dread to think what the Smartpoints were for it and I am ashamed to say I also had another slice on the Saturday. Wipe the slate clean, Sam enjoy the weekend and start again on Monday!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Leftover Mince Pie Ice-cream.

First of all, I’d love to say a massive Happy New Year to all of you. I hope that you had a great Christmas. I know that some of us have a rough ride over Christmas and New Year, not to mention through the winter months but I hope that my little blog helps to cheer people up in a small way. The past few months chez SmartCookieSam have been very hectic, hence me being very quiet on here recently. I really miss blogging and sharing tips but I’ve really struggled.

I’m determined to be kinder to myself in 2019, although I’m not one for making resolutions. This includes having some time to myself and finding ways to de-stress which don’t involve comfort eating and putting my mental health at risk. One way of making myself organised and to get myself back into blogging is to set myself an achievable challenge. I would love to be one of those bloggers that bakes something everyday but that is just not going to happen. So instead I found a 30 Day Cooking Challenge image from Google and thought I would use this to base my blog posts, baking and family meals on. Each month I’m hoping to choose a theme/ chef or book to concentrate on. Whether this will work later on in the year, I don’t know but I’m going to start the year on a positive note.

This is an example of a 30 Day Cooking Challenge template which I’ve found on Google Images.

For January, I am starting off by using the three Eat Well For Less books. I love these books and enjoy watching the TV series. Although a few of the participants do make me want to scream at them as well as it being blooming obvious that the families know they are being filmed walking around Tesco. But having said that, the books have some fantastic recipes in. My job can be hit and miss being a supply teacher, so at leaner times of the year the Eat Well For Less books have been an enormous amount of inspiration to me. As January is usually a time when I do cut back after the excesses of Christmas, I am looking forward to seeing what I can make fitting into the 30 Day Cooking Challenge. As January is a 31 day month, I will simply choose another savoury recipe to add to the challenge.

The three Eat Well For Less books. I’ve used the first two a bit, but the latest one which is the yellow one is new to me!

Day one for the challenge is meant to be soup. As it is New Year’s Day we are still in family meal mode and we usually have a roast dinner with leftover Christmas Pudding. Any New Year’s Eve leftovers get eaten today, too! For lunch we have had what was left of the antipasti with Italian meat and olives, as well as doughballs and garlic dip. In a little while I will be putting on the oven for a roast pork dinner with all the trimmings with Christmas pudding to follow. Instead we are swapping and having Day 2, which is dessert on Day 1 in the challenge.

Only there will be something else to go with our Christmas pudding leftovers. Mince Pie Ice cream! This is really a cheat’s recipe but a fantastic way of using up leftover Mince Pies. I’m really surprised we have any left to be honest, but this idea from Eat Well For Less is so versatile. In fact “you can do this with whatever you fancy- leftover Christmas Pudding, chocolate cake, cookies, shortbread or even a jar of Dulce de Leche to make your own caramel swirl.”

All you need is a 500ml tub of plain vanilla ice cream. I used Mackies Ice Cream which is one of my favourite vanilla ice creams. And what is more, it was on special offer in Morrisons when I bought it. But you can use any brand you like. All you have to do is to take the ice cream out of the freezer and let it soften for 15-20 minutes. When it is soft enough, tip the ice cream into a bowl and squish it slightly. Then add in your leftover mince pie pieces all crushed up. I used 4 of my leftover mince pies, leaving 2 left for Mr SmartCookieSam to have with his cup of tea. Fold in the added mince pie pieces, put into a freezerproof container and return to the freezer until you need it.

One of my favourite vanilla ice creams- Mackies.

I used four mince pies to flavour my ice cream.

Softened up vanilla ice cream.

The chopped up mince pies were stirred through the softened ice cream.

Perfect accompaniment to left over Christmas Pudding as a New Year’s Day treat.

Apple Amber Cake

I cannot believe how lazy I’ve been about my blogging recently.  Life has just been so hectic and every time I try to sit down and write something, there’s always something else to do.  I’ve also started on a diet, so I have been trying my hardest not to bake as much. This is torture to me as I really miss it.  So I made a deal with myself. I  said I would bake only for Cake Club or for special occasions. Famous last words: I lasted 4 days after joining Slimming World!  It got to Sunday lunch time and I was working my way through a massive bag of beautiful rosy apples my Dad and step mum had given me.  I just had to bake something and found the perfect recipe in Miranda Gore Browne’s book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can.

Apple Amber is a traditional Irish pudding which is a bit like an Apple Meringue Pie.  Miranda’s recipe is a cake version where the base is a whisked lemon sponge.  The apples are spooned on top as a filling and then the meringue goes on top and is baked in the oven.  It sounded too mouthwatering for words.

First, I had to make the apple filling.  This I tried to do on the Sunday morning when really I should have been finishing off my pile of ironing.  The ironing basket was getting as tall as the Empire State Building but that didn’t stop me from baking!  I used 3 apples as they were quite small and finely chopped them.  Miranda had said to grate them but I find grating things hard work. So I peeled the apples, cored and sliced them into little cubes. They were then put into a pan to stew with some sugar.  As my apples were eaters and quite sweet, I drastically reduced the sugar but added in lemon juice.  Once the apples were pureed down a bit, I took them off the heat and stirred in two egg yolks.

Miranda suggests using a springform cake tin but I couldn’t find the right size one in my cupboard. I just used a normal circular tin but a deep one I use for Christmas cakes.  This gave me enough depth for the lemon sponge cake base, the filling and the meringue part.  As the filling was cooling, I started on the cake part. I whisked butter and sugar together in my KitchenAid, then added in some vanilla extract and two more egg yolks.  While this was whisking away I weighed out the dry ingredients for the cake. I used self raising flour, baking powder and some lemon zest. Finally I added in some milk.

The cake baked very quickly in my fan oven and only took about 20 minutes. I felt the time passed by in a flash as I was doing the meringue part while the sponge was cooking.  Apart from smashing an egg on the work top and then making a mess of separating another egg, I finally managed to make some meringue.  I’m getting better at meringues but sometimes I worry about burning them.

At last it was time to assemble the whole cake together and finish it off in the oven.  I spooned the apple mixture on top of the sponge still in its cake tin and then finally on went the meringue.  I wanted it to look like a big snowy mountain but it just looked like a big mess.  I just hoped it would taste nice.  Back into the oven it went for 15 minutes.

When the cake was ready to come out it smelled wonderful in my kitchen.  I gave it time to cool down before attempting to get the cake out of the tin.  It slid out easily apart from one tiny bit of sponge which got stuck to the side of the tin.  I had greased it, too.

Later on I served the Apple Amber Cake up for pudding.  I had a tiny mouthful and found it quite sugary, even with my sweet tooth. Funnily enough Mr SmartCookieSam, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth liked it and over the next couple of days had more slices of it.  My son ate the cake and meringue bit and left the fruit! I will definitely have a go at baking it again but was wondering if there was a way of reducing the sugar content in the meringue and the apple puree so that it didn’t taste so sweet.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Venetian Zabaglione Cake from Delia’s Cakes.

For the final recipe in my May Cooking The Books Challenge I had to bake something from the Dessert Cakes chapter of Delia’s Cakes.  I looked at all the recipes and wanted something different, something I’d not tried before.  I kept going back to the Venetian Zabaglione Cake, a recipe I’d originally seen back in Delia’s How To Cook Book Three.  This was also to be my fourth and final contribution to the Afternoon Teas down at the Village Hall in my village Open Gardens.

 Delia says the cake is “my adaptation of a cake still served in the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice.  You can eat it sipping a Bellini cocktail or with coffee at any time of day.”  Nearly two years ago I was lucky to go to Venice and the Italian Lakes for my 40th birthday treat.  It was so busy that we didn’t go to Harry’s Bar so I never got to sip Bellinis there but I did enjoy a lovely pistachio ice cream from a back street gelateria.  It was delicious.  But I did enjoy a Bellini on a cafe terrace overlooking the beautiful Lake Como.  Since then I’ve never had another Bellini but the memory of that perfect day stays with me all the time!

St Mark’s Square in Venice.

My Bellini cocktail with olives and other nibbles on the side.

So the cake sounded perfect to me, except for one thing.  It needed Marsala wine in it and I hadn’t got any.  Ages ago I’d bought some to make a tiramisu with, put the remainder in our drinks cabinet.  But it ended up being used in other recipes and I wasn’t going to spend loads of money on something I wouldn’t need.  Instead I added another Italian liqueur to the recipe, some Amaretto which was extremely strong but tasted fab.

The Zabaglione filling had to be made first and this is how it was started off:

Egg yolks were whisked together, then some sugar was added to the mix.

Then I added to the egg yolks, some flour and the Amaretto and kept whisking.

The mixture was added to a saucepan and heated.  I kept on stirring this until it thickened and then transferred it to a dish to cool and set a little.  This was a bit like making a custard. I then popped it into the fridge while I baked the actual cake.

Here is the zabaglione mixture in the dish ready to be popped into the fridge.

The cake itself was an all in one vanilla sponge.  At this time my phone was on charge so I didn’t take any pictures.  It was baked in a 20cm/ 8″ diameter deep and round tin and then cut in half horizontally.  This was then left for a couple of hours until the filling and icing was ready to use.

Out came the filling when the cake was ready to decorate. I whipped up the original filling with some double cream.

To decorate the cake, a generous portion was put on top of one half of the cake, the other cake was put on top of it and then I added it to the top and sides.  I didn’t read the recipe properly and wondered why there wasn’t enough icing left to decorate the cake.  According to the recipe, the remainder just goes on the side of the cake and the top is dusted with icing sugar.  I ignored this and spread the icing all over the top as well. No wonder you could see bare cake through the thin layer!

The result, a bit messy but I hoped it would taste fine in the end.

I must admit I had serious doubts about this cake, the Amaretto was very strong and I was worried about whether people would like the taste or enjoy it in the hot weather.  I did put a warning note next to the cake about the alcohol content but when I went down to the Village Hall I didn’t see the cake on display.  My hubby said he had seen it out earlier on that day, does that mean it had gone?  I don’t know.  All I hope if it was served was that people enjoyed it!

I did like baking the Zabaglione Cake although it was very fiddly and it would be great to try it with the Marsala in, as it should have been made.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Eton Mess

Now there’s two days until the end of the month and I have two recipes left to try out from Jo Wheatley’s A Passion For Baking as part of my Cooking The Books challenge for March 2014.  Today, being Mothers’ Day I wanted to make a scrummy dessert for our lunch.  I wanted something everyone in our house would eat and something not too heavy and sickly.  All of the desserts in Jo’s first book looked lovely and I want to try them all out eventually.  I chose Eton Mess because it meant I would have to try out making meringues, something which I haven’t really done. Normally I just buy the ready made meringue nests you get in the supermarkets, but Jo’s recipe would not only test my meringue skills but jam making ones too! I would have to make a strawberry jam like sauce, now jam making is something else I really struggle with.  I can never get it to set properly!

Late this morning I was also trying to make an Onion and Cheese Tart  for our lunch with the Eton Mess as the pudding.  The meringue was going to be the time consuming bit as they would be in the oven for an hour baking plus the time they had to stay in there after to cool down.  This was a bit of a pain as I needed the oven to bake the tart in.  I have a double oven range cooker but I only cook roasts in the other one. It was funny as I was trying to sort out the Eton Mess downstairs in my kitchen, my hubby was upstairs moaning at my kids for the mess in their bedrooms.  I give up!

Anyway, I was well out of it down in the kitchen and I got down to it straightaway. Here’s how I got on:

I had to make the meringues first. Here, I am whisking up three egg whites until they held soft peaks.

After that, the second stage was to add some caster sugar bit by bit to the egg whites. It took a long time to get the meringues stiff!

The meringues were a bit runnier than I expected but I managed to pipe them onto some baking parchment ready to pop in the oven.  They were baked for about an hour on a low temperature (of 100oC), then were left to cool down in the oven afterwards even when the oven was switched off.  This helped them to crisp up and set a little bit.

Here are my finished meringues. They don’t look very pretty but then it didn’t matter as I was going to break them up in chunks anyway!

While the meringues were baking I got on with the jam.  Jo’s recipe mentions strawberries but being as strawberries aren’t in season at the moment I used a mixture of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to make up the same quantity needed for the jam.  I got the pan to the boil first to get the sugar dissolved which was also in the pan, then the heat was turned down and cooked for another 15 to 20 minutes longer to thicken up. Once this had happened I set it aside to cool down until I was ready to assemble the pudding.

Boiling the jam.

Whipping double cream and half fat creme fraiche together.

When it was time to get the pudding ready I got out some double cream and half fat creme fraiche.  I’d had to use some of my double cream in the onion and cheese tart so there wasn’t enough to put on the Eton Mess!  You needed 600ml of double cream, I only had 350ml, so I added in a small tub of half fat creme fraiche I had in the fridge.  This was whipped up together with my  electric hand whisk.

A huge bowlful of whipped cream and creme fraiche.

When it was ready I started to assemble the puddings.  I don’t have any tall sundae glasses so I used some tumblers.  The strawberry jam went in the bottom of the glasses first, with pieces of crushed meringue, cream with jam stirred through, followed by plain cream and finished with more meringue pieces. I’d forgotten to save some fruit to keep for the top of the puddings.

My finished Eton Messes!

Showing the crushed homemade meringues on top of the cake.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our puddings and they were very naughty but nice.  My hubby is convinced that Eton Mess has vanilla ice cream in it, I told him he was wrong! To me Eton Mess is like a pavlova but messed up! If he wants ice cream with it I suppose you could have a scoop of it on the side.  I couldn’t help him out there, we didn’t have any ice cream in to give him!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Chocolate Macaroons from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

A week last Friday, when it was Valentine’s Day marked the end of a very busy week for us.  We had just got over a nasty flu virus and were still not feeling one hundred per cent.  The last thing on my mind was Valentine’s Day.  To be honest I don’t really care much for Valentine’s Day, if you love someone you show them every day, not just on 14th February. I do like to buy my hubby a card, we have a nice meal at home and I bake something for him.  It’s usually a big chocolate cake but this year I wanted to make something different.

Chocolate Macaroons- a pretty Valentine’s Day treat for my hubby.

After I had managed to bake some pistachio and hazelnut macaroons a few weeks back, I was keen to try another recipe.  My hubby was pleased when I bought some macaroons home from Betty’s in Harrogate once and he enjoyed them.  So once again I turned to my trusty Nigella book “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” which I am baking from for this month’s Cooking The Books challenge.  Nigella has a recipe for Chocolate Macaroons within the Chocolate chapter of her book.  These sounded utterly sublime sandwiched together with a swirl of chocolate ganache.

So off I nipped to Morrisons to buy some chocolate and cream to make the recipe.  I had everything else in the cupboard and I hoped that Nigella’s method for making the macaroons would work as well as Lorraine Pascale’s did the previous time.

I needn’t have worried.  The macaroons came off the baking tray perfectly and I spread chocolate ganache in between two shells to sandwich them together.

Deliciously chewy, the chocolate macaroons came out well. I’m afraid to say my hubby wasn’t the only one who ate them!

When my hubby got home he ate a couple with a cup of tea and said they were delicious.  My appetite had begun to come back after my flu virus so I must admit I sneaked a couple out of the tin, so did my daughter.  They vanished very quickly.  I will definitely bake them again as they worked out so well. I need to try some other flavours, my daughter has asked if I’ll make some raspberry ones.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pistachio and Hazelnut Macaroons using Whynut Pastes.

The fabulous goody box which Whynut sent me. It contained two types of pistachios, some hazelnut paste and some pistachio paste.

I had two small tubs of nut paste, here’s the pistachio one. A little goes a long way!

A couple of months back I was excited when WhyNut sent me a goody box through the post inviting me to try out some of their pistachio nuts and nut pastes.  I used the fresh nuts in different ways in to make some Pistachio Cupcakes and in cookies but wanted to try out the nut pastes to delicately flavour some macaroons. Now this was going to be a big challenge for me.  I’ve always wanted to be able to bake macaroons but always thought they looked far too fiddly and complicated.  I tried once but to be fair I rushed them and didn’t follow the recipe properly.  The result was a sloppy mess and since that bungled attempt about 3 years back I’ve never bothered since. But I had the nut pastes to try out so all I could do was try and try again!

So I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook what recipes they would recommend for baking macaroons.  One suggestion was to try the recipe in Lorraine Pascale‘s first book “Baking Made Easy”  I remembered seeing a macaroon recipe in the book, it was for strawberry and lemon ones.  Being as the title had “made easy” in it, I did hope that would apply to the macaroons too!

A couple of weeks ago we had a get together with my mum’s side of the family. We didn’t get round to exchanging presents at Christmas and I love making foodie presents. I always think macaroons look so pretty in a gift box and I had some brightly coloured ones bought from Lakeland to put them in.  I knew my family would appreciate the macaroons and wouldn’t take the mickey out of me if they looked like they’d been trodden on either!

Delicate pistachio flavoured macaroons, flavoured with Whynut Pistachio Paste.

So, jobs done and dog walked I started on the macaroons.  First I preheated the oven to 150oC as I was using my fan oven to bake them in and found my silicone macaroon baking sheets.  They hadn’t been used before so I hoped I could use them properly.

I weighed out icing sugar, some ground almonds and some egg whites into a bowl and mixed it so it formed a paste. When that had done I had to heat some water and sugar on the stove.  I was dreading this after my fiasco of burning my thumb when I got hot sugar syrup on me when I tried to make lemon meringue cupcakes a couple of years back.  I tried to be so careful.  I did rely on my sugar thermometer to help me.

After this some more egg white was mixed in a bowl until I got medium stiff peaks, then to this I added the sugar syrup. This was then whisked until the mixture became stiff and shiny.  At this point I added a teaspoonful of the nut paste and a couple of drops of food colouring paste.  For the pistachio macaroons I used a small dab of mint green paste, for the hazelnut ones I had to use a cream coloured food colouring as that was all I had left in the cupboard! After this I then folded the egg white mixture with the almond paste mixture.

Now for the piping bit.  To make it easier to carry I put the silicone macaroon mats on top of a flat baking sheet (the sort I use for cookies) and then started to pipe the macaroons into the bases.  I used one sheet for the pistachio flavour, the other for the hazelnut ones.  To pipe I used a large “Get A Grip” disposable piping bag from Lakeland which I swear by.  The nozzle I used was a straight one and I’m so glad I used a piping bag.  Otherwise it would have gone everywhere.

Before putting the macaroons in the oven I gave each tray a sharp tap on the side of the cooker and also left them for about 1/2 hour to stand before baking them.  Apparently this forms a skin on the macaroons.  Then they went into the oven for about 12-15 minutes, Lorraine suggests leaving the oven door slightly ajar! This was a new one on me but I tried it.

When the time was up and I looked in the oven I was so pleased.  The macaroons actually looked like they should. I was all set to do a big happy dance around the kitchen.  It was a major achievement to me.  What’s more they came off the tray without sticking as well.

The macaroon shells were filled with some whipped cream flavoured with a little pistachio paste.

After leaving the macaroon shells to cool for a while I got on with the filling.  I whipped up a tub of double cream then halved it into two bowls. To one bowl I added a spoonful of Whynut Pistachio Paste and to the other a spoonful of  their Hazelnut Paste.  These were spread carefully onto the shells with a small pallette knife and left to set.

Here’s the second attempt at macaroons- this time they were hazelnut flavoured using Whynut Hazelnut Paste.

The macaroons were filled with whipped cream and hazelnut paste.

Each family member got a gift box of 6 macaroons each and along with their spice jars and granola, the macaroons went down very well. They looked smaller than the ones I’d seen in the shops but everyone loved them.  I was so happy it has inspired me to try out some more flavours in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books Challenge January 2014: Key Lime and Lemon Cheesecake Loaf from A Lighter Way To Bake

Sunday 12th January 2014.

I had had a busy week and had been food shopping the previous Friday for stuff we’d run out of.  I was in Morrisons in Wetherby, somewhere I don’t go that often and it was absolutely heaving.  I’d found the last parking space in the car park and even then I had to drive around to find it.  I had about 1/2 hour to run around the shop and eat a sandwich for my lunch. When I got in the shop it seemed like the whole of North Yorkshire was there.  Not only that but it had a different layout to my local Morrisons and I ended up going out of the shop without half of the items on my list.  One of those was some leaf gelatine which I needed to make our Sunday lunch pud with.

I was really keen to try out the Key Lime and Lemon Cheesecake Loaf from the Puddings and Desserts chapter as I love the flavour of Key Lime Pie.  It serves 12 and a small slice was 239 calories which I thought is a massive saving compared to the usual full fat cheesecakes I have made in the past.

You know when there are some days when you think, why didn’t I just pick up a frozen cheesecake in the shop? Well this was one of those days.  It started off well but I had to break off to drive my daughter to York.  So with some gentle encouragement I asked her to help me with the digestive biscuit base.  I then realised I had forgotten the gelatine for the cheesecake but would have no chance to get any. Would it set without it? Probably not!

My daughter was in charge of crushing the digestive biscuits.
My daughter was in charge of crushing the digestive biscuits. She enjoyed doing it as she made a divine mango cheesecake last year on her Catering GCSE course.

Crushed digestive biscuits mixed in with a little melted butter.

The cheesecake is meant to be made in a loaf tin. I asked my daughter to prepare the loaf tin with cling film while I got ready to take her into York. She said she preferred a circular one. Well as you can guess the digestive biscuits did not cover the bottom of the tin so we went back to the loaf tin we were meant to use in the first place!

The crushed digestive biscuits in the bottom of the loaf tin. This was then put to rest in the fridge while I took my daughter to York.

After a couple of hours I was back home panicking as I had not had chance to buy any gelatine.  This was a cheesecake that had to set in the fridge with gelatine, not a baked one so I had to hope for the best.

I beat in low fat cream cheese, light sour cream, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon and lime zest into a big bowl and then added in some lemon juice.

After this I added some freshly squeezed lime juice. At this stage the prepared leaf gelatine should have been mixed in but this wasn’t to be!

This is the only size loaf tin I have and it was very full and runny. I had to carry it very carefully over to the fridge. This was very difficult as our fridge door always swings shut unless you hold the door with your right hand and the other hand has to hold the food. I had to ask my hubby to hold the door for me!

Well, due to the lack of gelatine the cheesecake did not set properly.  We ended up with no pudding for our Sunday meal as it clearly wasn’t ready.  It stayed in the fridge overnight until Monday. I got in from work and poked the top of the cheesecake in the fridge. The top looked set but as I got it out and tried to cut it I realised it wasn’t a knife I needed but a spoon!

I was so ashamed of what the cheesecake turned out like that I didn’t take a photo. I put a couple of spoonfuls into a bowl and really enjoyed the taste of it.  It was sloppy so was more like a lemon and lime possett than a cheesecake.  No one else really fancied it in that state and sadly as I couldn’t over indulge due to my diet it ended up in the bin.  All because I forgot the gelatine! I’ll definitely make it again though.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx