In a bowl combine the pineberries and maple sugar, mixing well. Set aside to macerate on the countertop for at least 30 minutes before serving
Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream, sugar and vanilla extract on medium-high until stiff peaks, about 3-4 minutes.
Chill in the refrigerator until needed
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, mixing well
Using a large hole cheese grater, grate in the butter, then cut using a pastry cutter, or knife, until mixture resembles a coarse meal. You will still be able to see the butter in pieces pea-size or slightly smaller
Make a well in the centre of the dry mix
Mix together the lemon juice, vanilla, milk and the egg
Pour into the well and mix until just combined to a dough ball
Lightly flour a countertop, transfer the dough from the bowl and roll (using a floured rolling pin) to 1 inch thickness
Cut out biscuits with 3inch biscuit cutter and place on parchment lined baking sheet
Lightly brush the tops of the biscuits with the gee wash
Sprinkle turbinado sugar on top of the biscuits
Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack before serving
Slice each biscuit crossways in half
Spoon some of the vanilla cream on the bottom half
Top with a generous amount of the maple macerated pineberries
Top with the other half of the biscuit
Repeat with additional dollops of vanilla cream and macerated pineberries
Happy World Chocolate Day! Yes the food calendar which so often celebrates obscure treats and foods has of course a day designated to everyone’s favorite sweet treat. In whatever form- be it dark, milk, white, ruby or golden, nearly everyone I know has a soft spot for the timeless treat that is chocolate. In fact so much so in my case I ended up competing on a reality baking show about it. But I won’t bore you with those details.
It only seemed fitting given the day that it is that I highlight one of the keystones of my baking journey thus far- my Smokin’ Pig Licker Brownies. Bear with me and see past the name- by know you know I do like to create a talking point! Originally conceived from an idea combining two stalwart (yet polar opposite) favorites in the food world – chocolate (sweet) and bacon (savory) I will forever be indebted to these tasty morsels for earning me the “award winning” in my press kit bio title.
Wanting to pair chocolate and bacon led me to research whether this combination was a historic one, steeped in the recipes of olde, or a more recent affair. It proved to be a little of both. I mean think of the “mole sauces” of Mexican cuisine- pairing sweet and savory was indeed nothing new. But how about actual bacon? It was through this that I stumbled upon “Pig Lickers” and what they involved. A treat hailing from Southern US state fairs, Pig Lickers as such are “treats made by coating cooked bacon in chocolate, and then garnishing with chunks of sea salt”. Are we feeling it yet? The name alone had me hooked let alone that fact that it combined my two holy grail ingredients.
But I wanted to push it a little further. State fairs to me always bring that cliched image of candy floss, hot dogs, and chilli dogs. Wait! Chilli dogs?…chilli? Chilli and chocolate! There you have it! My end result- these brownies would be a classic combination of chilli and chocolate, with a thumbing of the culinary nose addition of bacon- in not one but two forms! The smoky, heat of the decadent brownies would be studded with crispy, sweet bacon pieces and then topped off with the aforementioned Pig Licker- a sliver of crispy bacon enrobed in chocolate, sprinkled with shards of sea-salt. Bet you’re on board NOW?
Before I depart to smother my bacon (!) a couple of words of advice. Don’t be tempted to use thick cut, or peameal, bacon here. The fat-to-meat ration is off and doesn’t work. Instead of crispy morsels of Umami goodness playing with luxurious chocolate, you get chunks of meat which just doesn’t sit right- taste or texture wise. Also don’t stress about tempering the chocolate. I mean you can if you want to go for the whole professional “snap” (*triggered*) finish if that’s your jam but at the end of the day these are rustic, wholesome, come-as-you are treats. Which I hope you enjoy!
1 cup bacon, finely chopped
2 teaspoons maple syrup
¾ cup unsalted butter, cubed
6oz semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 cup sugar
¾ cup plain flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon mild chilli powder
2oz dark chocolate chunks
3 full pieces of bacon 3 rashers, each cut into 4
4oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Sea salt flakes
Set your oven to 350°F and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment leaving an overhang each side
Fry the bacon in a pan until just starting to crisp. Add the maple syrup and fry until a shade browner and crisper. Remove from the heat and leave to cool on a plate
Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat, and allow to cool
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, smoked paprika and chilli powder.
Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together until uniform in color
Fold in the chocolate chunks and bacon pieces. You may need to break up the bacon pieces as they may have stuck together while cooling
Pour your mixture into the lined tray and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares
To decorate, place the larger bacon pieces in the frying pan and cook until crisp. Remove and leave to cool. Melt the remaining in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), or in a microwave on short bursts, until fully melted
Coat the bacon pieces one at a time in the melted chocolate. Place a bacon piece on top of each brownie and sprinkle with sea salt
2oz semi-sweet chocolate (I use bars with 1/4 oz square so I can put 2 in each dish)
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lightly grease 4 individual (0.25L) mini-cocottes, ramekins or other ovenproof dishes and place them onto a baking tray
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or your fingertips to work the butter into the flour until a rough, crumbly mixture – similar to thick breadcrumbs or damp sand is achieved
Add the milk, chocolate milk and stir just until the mixture comes together
Spoon this into the prepared smaller baking dishes. Push 2 x 1/4 oz square of chocolate into the middle of each pudding. Set aside while you prepare the sauce
Combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, water, butter and vanilla in a pan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.
Once it reaches a rolling boil, remove it from the heat and ladle this over the cake in the ramekins.
Bake the puddings for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre of a pudding comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let the puddings cool for about 15 minutes before serving (be careful syrup is hot!)
MACARONS! The very word alone is enough to induce a nervous twitch in most bakers. These deliciously delicate Franco delights are notoriously tricky to make and master. Requiring high maintenance and careful handling I think of them as the Madonna of the cookie world. However fickle they are, they are NOT impossible to make though. Slow, steady precision is the key here. I’ll be perfectly honest and say this is not recipe to attempt whilst young kids are running around your legs in the kitchen!
There are a few keys things I would advise-
The recipe for the macarons themselves is in metric. A more precise way of measuring this helps with achieving a better result
Let your egg whites “mature” overnight at room temperature. This helps increase their elasticity which yields a better whipped meringue
Sift your almond mix. You want to avoid knobby almond bits!
Add your sugar slowly and in stages
Work out any frustration- make sure you bang them on the counter, and leave to rest afterwards
As disheartening as it may be- if at first you don’t succeed, try again. You’re not the only person who may have a bake fail- macarons have a tricky reputation for a reason. Take courage!
I wanted to create something a little different here – surprise! A few years ago, I had tried a “macaron burger” at a food event. This was exactly as it sounds- a miniature beef patty sandwiched between two macaron shells and finished with a bun-mimicking sprinkle of seeds. Did it work? For me, no. There was something jarring about the chargrilled beef flavour against the sweet almond macaron. It didn’t manage to hit the mark of that pleasing interplay of sweet and savoury.
With this idea as a springboard, I started thinking that the sweet/ savoury interplay was the route I wanted to take. Could I improve on a “macaron burger”? Maybe but I also thought it was visually predictable. What else could work with an almond rich flavour? The next stop on my train of thought was of course…curry. There’s an abundance of curry dishes which use almond as a base in their gravies. And so, development began! Research led to a dish called “Badami Curry”, from Mughlai cuisine of Northern India. Using a creamy almond soup made with finely ground almonds I decided this would be the main inspiration for this macaron recipe. For the filling elements, I wanted to keep flavours that worked with the concept of Badami- a centre of mango & ginger curd nestled inside a rim of rich cardamom buttercream- all ingredients often featured in Mughlai cooking. Topping of with a sprinkling of Nigella seeds gives a pleasing gentle mustardy hit to cut through the almond sweetness.
Please don’t be daunted by these. Yes, they are a project requiring some planning but trust me they are well worth it. You and anyone who tries them will be talking about them for a long time afterwards.
Makes 28 macarons
*For best results start this recipe 2 days before you want to serve the macarons
100g egg whites (usually between 3–4 large egg whites)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
80g fine sugar
1–2 drops yellow gel food
125g ground almonds (make sure it’s made with blanched almonds)
125g powdered sugar
3 teaspoons good quality curry powder
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons heavy cream, or whipping cream, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
salt, to taste
Mango & Ginger Curd
1 cup fresh mango, chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger
½ cup sugar
2 ½ Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 large whole eggs
2 egg yolks, from large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and cold
Decoration to finish
1 Tablespoon Nigella seeds
Gold leaf (optional)
48 HOURS BEFORE
Add egg whites to a dry, clean bowl. Cover with cling wrap and set aside on your counter for 24 hours
To make Mango & Cardamom Curd
Puree the mango pieces and ginger together in a blender
Whisk together the mango/ ginger puree, sugar, lemon juice, eggs, and egg yolks in a heavy based saucepan over low heat. Stir over low-medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and it’s just starting to bubble
Add the cold butter 3-4 pieces at a time, stirring until each addition is melted and incorporated
Turn the heat to low and continue stirring and cooking the mixture for 2-3 minutes until it is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. (Test by drawing a line through the curd on the back of the spoon and the line should not drip)
Pour into a clean bowl. Cover the surface with cling warp to prevent a skin forming and store in the fridge until needed
*This recipe makes more than needed, the curd can be kept in the fridge in and used for a range of things from drizzling over pavlovas, to spreading on toast, to swirling in homemade ice-cream.
To make macarons
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground almonds, powdered sugar, and curry powder. Pulse 4-5 times making sure that all the ingredients are blitzed. Line your counter with baking paper and using a large sieve, sift the mixture from the food processor to remove any large almond husks pieces, onto the baking paper. You can use a spoon to work through any large lumps as you don’t want to discard a lot of the dry mix because then you won’t have enough dry ingredients in the batter. Transfer this almond mixture to a large dry, clean bowl. Set aside until later
To the bowl of a stand mixer add the eggs whites (prepared from the day before) and cream of tartar. With the whisk attachment fitted. beat together on medium speed until very soft peaks form. Once the egg whites begin leaving tracks, you have soft peaks. Stop beating.
Add about 1/3 of the sugar. Beat on medium-high speed for about 10 seconds, then with the mixer continuing to run, add another 1/3 of the sugar. Beat for 10 seconds, then with the mixer continuing to run, add the remaining sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff glossy peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, slowly and gently fold the food colouring into the egg whites
This is the tricky bit! Slowly fold the beaten egg whites into the almond mixture in 3 separate additions, folding until combined before adding the next addition. After you add all the egg whites, pay very close attention to the consistency of your macaron batter. Continue folding the batter until it thins out into the consistency of a thick syrup. A more helpful cue is the “V-test”. Drop the macaron batter off your spatula back into the bowl. The batter mixture should fall off the spatula in semi-fluid globs, leaving a “V-shaped” trail of batter hanging from the spatula It’s best to go very slow so you don’t accidentally overmix and damage the batter consistency
Spoon the macaron batter into a piping bag fitted with a medium round piping tip. This may be somewhat messy as the macaron batter is very drippy
Holding the piping bag at a 90-degree angle over the baking sheet, pipe batter in 1.5 – 2 inch rounds about 1-2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. The piped macaron batter flattens out. Bang the pan a couple times on the counter to pop any air bubbles, then use a toothpick to pop any further remaining air bubbles. If using, sprinkle the tops of the flattened macarons with a few Nigella seeds to your liking
Let the piped macarons sit out until they are dry and no longer tacky on top, usually 30-60 minutes dependant on your kitchen humidity. This time allows the top to firm up and form a skin. Do not let them sit out for longer than they need to because they could begin to deflate
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Note: as the macaron shells bake, they should form feet. To test for doneness, lightly touch the top of a macaron your finger. If the macaron seems wobbly, it’s not done and needs another few minutes. If it seems set, remove them from the oven
Let the shells cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to continue cooling. (The macaron shells may stick to the parchment paper/baking sheet if you try to remove them too early. If this is happening, let them cool on the baking sheet a little longer before removing. Nonetheless I’ve found they sometimes need some gentle persuasion)
While the shells are cooling you can prepare your buttercream filling
To make Cardamom Buttercream
Make sure your butter is softened to room temperature before beginning. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy.
Add powdered sugar, cream, and ground cardamom. Beat on low speed until these ingredients are incorporated, then increase to medium-high speed. At this point, you can add more powdered sugar if the frosting is too thin or a splash of heavy cream if it’s too thick
Add salt to taste. This helps the filling from being overly sweet. Transfer to a piping bag with a small round piping tip. Set aside until needed
Once your macarons shells have fully cooled, pair up together with those of a same size
Transfer your chilled cured into a piping bag, with no nozzle fitted. Set aside until needed
Using your prepared bagged buttercream, pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge on the flat side of half of the macaron shells. This will form a barrier for your curd filling
Snip the end from your bagged cured (you want an opening about 3-4mm wide), and pipe a dollop of curd into the void inside your buttercream ring
Using another macaron shell of similar size, sandwich together, giving a slight twist to trap the curd and buttercream inside
Repeat until all shells have been filled and paired up. The finished macarons can be further decorated with gold leaf if using
Refrigerate the 24 hours so the macarons and flavours can mature. Bring to room temperature before serving for best taste
Cover leftover macarons and refrigerate for up to 5 days
These are a perfect bite for afternoon tea. Buttery, deliciously crumbly shortbread laced with floral Earl Grey and spiked with the zesty burst of sunshine from a lemon glaze- they are practically perfect for an al fresco tea break in the sunshine.
This is my tried, tested recipe as approved by my Scottish husband! Whilst traditional shortbread is a straightforward (and tasty!) mix of three simple ingredients – butter; flour and sugar, here I’ve added ingredients that I’ve found amplify a shortbread’s more desirable properties. The combination of semolina, rice flour and cornstarch elevate it’s crumbly moreishness while at the same time preventing it from becoming a chalky, dry shard.
I usually cut mine into the no-fuss finger shapes – easy to handle whilst sipping, whilst maximizing the dough amount. Using a cookie cutter is possible but may result in some surplus offcuts. If you choose this route a handy hint is to stir the offcuts into ice-cream. Even more to enjoy!
Check out this #recipe for Earl Grey & Lemon Shortbread
In a food processor, combine the floor and the loose tea leaves. Pulse 4-5 times until leaves are mixed finer into the floor
In a large bowl combine the flour/ tea mixture, semolina, rice flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Whisk together to further combine
Add in the cubed butter and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture is just beginning to bind together. Every so often do a quarter turn of the bowl to make sure you’re using all the dry mixture. You’ll want a texture somewhere between breadcrumbs and damp sand before you stop. Be wary of overworking the butter into the mixture – you want to avoid a dough that feels slimy from the butter melting too much into the dry ingredients
Tip the crumb mixture into your prepared tin and press the dough so that it forms a solid layer. Level the surface with the back of a spoon or measuring cup, making sure the mixture is evenly spread and uniform. Prick all over with a fork
With a knife or pizza cutter score the shortbread into 24 rectangular pieces (2 cuts by 7 cuts) taking care not to cut the full way through the compressed crumb
Refrigerate for 30 mins minimum
Preheat your oven to 325°F
Remove the shortbread from the fridge and bake for about 35 minutes or until a very pale golden brown.
Remove from the oven and after 5 minutes rest in the tin, cut fully through the baked shortbread with a knife or pizza cutter at the score lines you previously made
Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the fingers out of the tin with a palette knife or the parchment paper overhang and finish cooling on a wire rack
While the shortbread cools, prepare the lemon glaze
To make the Lemon Glaze
In a bowl or jug combine the powdered sugar and lemon zest. Add the fresh lemon juice to your personal taste (2 -3 teaspoons)
Make sure the shortbread pieces are fully cooled before glazing. Dip or pipe the glaze onto the shortbread pieces to your personal preference. (I usually transfer mine to a piping bag and drizzle lightly over the shortbread)