Chocolate Macarons

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With New Years Eve looming I found myself in a panic, drowning in a sea of loose plans and uncertainty.  Do I brave my most hated night of the year and go out, or do I chance the non arrival of a taxi at a house party and spend the night on a friends sofa? Have a sophisticated gathering with only my nearest and dearest or full blown party at my pad?!  The choices were endless and nobody seemed able to make a decision.  Eventually, after much humming and harring, I decided to have a gathering! Isn't gathering a nice word? So much less stressful than party.... a gathering *sighs*.


As a little treat for my guests I decided to retry my hand at macarons. My first attempt was a roaring success, perfect shells, perfect colouring and perfectly delectable.  Surely I couldn't recreate my little triumph?  Well, I didn't.  These macarons are ok, but not a patch on my last beauties.  I think I may have over mixed the batter causing greasy stains to appear upon the shells.  Oh well, nothing a dusting of edible glitter can't fix, well that and I forgot to age my egg whites. Ooops!



Chocolate Macarons
Adapted from Annie's Eats

Ingredients: 

110g ground almonds
200g minus 2 tbsp. icing sugar
2 tbsp. cocoa powder 100g egg whites (from about 3 eggs), aged at room temperature for 12-24 hours
50g granulated sugar

Method:

Sift the ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder together and set aside.

Place egg whites in a clean bowl and whisk until foamy.  Gradually add the sugar while you continue to beat the eggs until stiff peaks start to form.

Add the ground almond mixture to the bowl with the meringue and quickly but gently fold together using a wide rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  You want to achieve a thick batter that ribbons or flows from the spatula when lifted.

Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.  Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip.  Pipe into small rounds on the prepared baking sheets (each round should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter), spaced about 1 inch apart.  Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to develop a hard shell.

Preheat the oven to 150C.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size.  Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before moving the cookies.  For easy removal pour a drizzle of water between the paper and baking sheet, the steam created from the heat will prevent the macarons from sticking.

Once cool fill the cookies with Nutella or any other chocolate ganache you fancy.
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Did I tell you?

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I think I may have forgotten to mention.  One of my recipes has been featured in a real life cook book, one you can actually buy on the shelves of real shops.  How exciting!


The wonderful Thinkfood cookbook is filled with brain fueling recipes to really get your mind working at it's fullest capacity!  The book is filled with awesome recipes fro some of the best foodies on the bloggesphere and I even have an extra copy for my you, my darling readers.  My recipe is filled with brain boosting cranberries and pecan nuts. The perfect breakfast muffin to get your day started. Especially in the current climate :)


So, if you fancy trying out my published (oh yeah) recipe get your fine little booties along to my Pecan, Cranberry & Orange Muffin Thinkfood page. If you're feeling really saucy you could even do a sudoku while you're eating them ;)

Do you fancy getting your mitts on a copy of Thinkfood? Well here's your chance!  This competition is open  to readers from all over the world so get entering.  You get one entry for each of the following:

  • You must be a follower of Katiecakes! So get following and leave me a comment to let me know.
  • Tweet your socks off with: My brain needs food, let @Katie_Cakes feed it with her awesome giveaway http://tinyurl.com/27jt86w.
  • Mention this giveaway on your blog, twitter or facebook for another entry. Don't forget to let me know by leaving a comment.
The competition will close on Jan 3rd (once my New Year hangover is gone). Good luck.
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Florentines

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Florentines have been on my to bake list for weeks and weeks but every time I get myself geared up to make them something always pops up and throws a little spanner in my works.  Not today, no siree!  Today my plans involved the sofa, copious amounts of Ringtons tea, cuddles with my furry children and florentines! Nothing would stand in my way, except maybe a nap... I jest, I jest.  I didn't nap, I'm a good girl you see and naps make me a cranky mean face. Well, a crankier meaner face as my fiancee would say.


These florentines couldn't be easier to make, the cutting out part however is a bit more tricky.  It isn't difficult to do per say, more it's a bit of a faff and boy do you need a whole bucket load of elbow grease!  If I can offer you a Katie tested recommendation, do what I did and hammer your cookie cutters through the candy with a big arsed pan! That'll do it!


My very favorite thing about this recipe is once you're finished stamping out your florentines and packing them up in pretty little packages you can nibble on all the broken remains. Totally guiltless, don't you agree?

Cherry & Coconut Florentines
(Adapted from BBC Good Food Magazine)

Ingredients
140g light muscovado sugar
100g clear honey
200g salted butter
100g desiccated coconut
140g flaked almonds
300g glacé cherries , sliced
4 tbsp plain flour
400g dark chocolate (you could use milk or light too)
Edible glitter

Method: 
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Put the sugar, honey and butter in a large pan and gently melt together. When all the sugar has dissolved stir in the coconut, flaked almonds, sliced cherries and flour. 

Line a large baking tray with baking parchment (about 40 x 30cm), and roughly spread the Florentine mixture out to a thin layer - don't worry if you have small gaps, it should melt together in the oven. Bake for 10-12 mins until a rich golden colour, then set aside to cool and firm up. 

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over gently simmering water. Line a second large tray or board with baking parchment and carefully flip the cooled Florentine bake onto it. Peel off the baking parchment. Spread the melted chocolate over, if you're using a few types just leave a gap between each. 

Leave aside until set, then stamp out shapes using cookie star cutters - if the cutter is digging into your hands (as the Florentine mix may be a little hard), rest a small plate or pan on top of it and push down on this instead. Or do what I did and attack it with a pan! Finish your adorable cookies with a sprinkle of edible glitter for a bit of festive glamor!



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Afternoon Tea: The Ritz

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During my recent trip to London I was lucky enough to be treated to tea at The Ritz by my dear mum and dad.  Knowing my love for the wonderful British pastime of afternoon tea you can guess how elated I was!  Taking tea and champagne in a gold and pink gilded hall, I mean what more can a girl wish for?





I'm ashamed to say the cake plate was replenished more than once.
I had three of these!





If you are visiting London in the near or far future, I can't recommend this experience enough. Attentive staff, beautiful surroundings and a pianist playing your requested music. 

Bliss!
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Midweek Weekend Part Two

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I know, I know. There hasn't been any foodie posts up here in a while, bad Katie! I've been so busy with Pet Lamb during the festive season I haven't had a second to enjoy my time in the kitchen. But, the end is in sight, just one more market then I can whip, bake and cream to my hearts content. I promise!

For now, Please try to enjoy some pictures I took at RE-found Objects. Possibly the best shop in the North East of England and when about 50% of my wages end up each month.







This cushion will be mine, one day!



Regulars to this blog should recognise this beautiful green milk glass from many cupcake posts.

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My midweek weekend in pictures.

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As most of you who read my blog know weekends don't hold much value to me.  If I'm not busy with Pet Lamb, I'm working at the studio.  Since we're stuck at work while everyone else is off gallivanting and enjoying their hard earned time off we often decided to take a midweek weekend for ourselves.  Funnily enough, this works out better for us, the shops are quiet, no queues at the restaurants and the cinema is deserted.  Leads for a much less stressful day out, especially in the run up to Christmas.

This week our midweek weekend was spent enjoying this brisk weather in Whitby and Corbridge.  We were meant to spend the full two days down in Whitby but man alive was it cold, and closed!  It never dawned on me that a seaside town would close down for the winter.  Not that this bothered me, it meant I got to visit my very favorite shop in the whole world REfound Objects, but more on that later.












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Awesome things I bought in America - Part Three

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Next on my huge list of kitchenalia I stuffed in my suitcase is this amazingly awesome 'oreo' cake pan!  I bloody love this pan, I just can't get enough of it!  The fact that the cakes taste like giant brownies rather than a normal layer cake probably adds to my adoration!

 How cool is that?!  But no, that doesn't mean you get to eat the whole thing with a cup of tea ;)


Total wow factor right there!!  But, just because you don't have this cake pan doesn't mean you can't bake this totally yummy brownie cake for yourself, just use two 9" cake pans instead :D

Ingredients:


1/2 cup cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
14 Tbs. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

3 1/2 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt 

Method:


Preheat an oven to 350°F (180 C). Using a small pastry brush, grease 2 sandwich cookie cake pans with shortening or softened butter, making sure to coat the details and crevices in the pans. Dust thoroughly with cocoa powder; tap out excess. (Bake Easy people, get some! I didn't dust either).

To make the cakes, put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave until melted, stirring once, about 1 1/2 minutes. Alternatively, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over but not touching barely simmering water in a saucepan. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the butter, a few pieces at a time, until blended. Let the chocolate mixture cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, the 1/2 cup cocoa powder, the baking powder and salt until combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until incorporated.

 (I tempered the egg mixture by adding only spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture at a time initially).

Whisk in the flour mixture until combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and spread evenly. Gently tap the pans on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until the tops of the cakes are shiny and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 35 minutes.

Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a cutting board.

Meanwhile, make the buttercream frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, the 3 1/2 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks.

Using a large spatula, carefully turn 1 cake over so the printed side faces down. Spread the buttercream evenly over the flat side of the cake. Place the second cake, printed side up, on top.
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Cupcake Fun

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Has anyone noticed how good Tesco have been to the blogging world recently?  Every day I open my Google Reader to find a lucky fashion blogger showcasing some beautiful clothing from the new Tesco range (which is fab for a supermarket range, isn't it?!).  There I was, jealous of everyone thinking how fashion bloggers get all the breaks when into my inbox popped a lovely little email from who else but Tesco.  Not only have they been clothing the best dressed bloggers around but they're also launching an awesome Christmas cupcake decorating competition!  Wow, try saying that ten times fast!

All you have to do is bake yourself a pretty little cupcake and make an already adorable creation beautiful!  Two winners will get to spend an afternoon cooking alongside a delicious celebrity chef while ten runners up will be gifted a lovely cupcake decorating kit which looks suspiciously like this....







So, what are you waiting for?!  And if you fancy a little inspiration, here is what I whipped up this afternoon!



Let the baking commence!
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A little late!

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One of my new year resolutions kinda got away from me this year. You know the ones you make, glass of champagne in hand and promptly forget as your head hits the pillow in the wee hours of January 1st? It all came flooding back as I was clearing out my bookshelves ready for a delivery of new furniture, whatever happened to using every one of my many cookbooks by the close of 2010?!  With gusto, I grabbed a big old pile, my magnetic shopping list and a pen before boiling the kettle and settling down to plan us some delicious meals. I mean, I've got a month and a half.  That's plenty of time, isn't it?!

I started yesterday evening after a particularly difficult market with Pet Lamb.  I got home, aching from the cold and desperately battling with my desire to phone in the usual from my local tandoori. After what seemed like hours tearing between the cookbook and take away menu I finally forced myself to lay the menu to rest and flick the oven on.

Anyone that follows me on twitter probably remembers me spouting my distaste for The Delicious Miss Dahl and don't get me wrong, I'm still not a fan of her work but when I found Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights in a cheap book store for £1.99 I couldn't help myself.


 This recipe is from the Spring section of the book but the horrid biting wind wasn't going to stop me from crusting up a rack of lamb!  This meal was amazing, I urge anyone with an oven to whip this one up.  Not only is it insanely easy to make but the taste is just out of this world!  So here it is, Sophie Dahl's crusted rack of lamb with rosemary sweet potatoes.

Ingredients:

2 three racks of lamb
Olive oil
1 egg white
2tbsp ground almonds
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2tsp ground cumin
A handful of chopped fresh mint, parsley & coriannder.
50g feta, crumbled (my addition but boy does it work)
2 medium sweet potatoes cut into fat chunks
Small handful of chopped fresh rosemary

Method:

First of all brown the lamb in a searing hot pan with a drizzle of olive oil.  You only want to seal the juices into the meat so just brown the sides for literally a few moments.

Preheat the oven to 170C fan.  In a mixing bowl whisk the egg white, ground almonds, herbs, cumin, garlic and feta together and pat onto the lamb making sure it is properly covered.

You want to put the potatoes in the oven around 20 minutes before the lamb, in a roasting tin covered in 2 tbsp of olive oil and the rosemary.  When they have done their time , add the lamb to the oven in a seperate tray and cook for a further 20 minutes.  This will give you medium rare meat so adjust the timing to your liking.





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Awesome things I bought in America - Part Two

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Today is the perfect kind of day for getting cosy on the sofa and brewing up an aromatic cup of fruity tea.  Especially when you've been gifted Beauty and the Beast on Blu-Ray from your loving other half.


I was yet to find a decent infuser for my loose leaf teas until I discovered this adorable Alice in Wonderland themed cafetiere and tea cup in Disney Land.


Perfect with my delicious Black Cherry tea from my local favorites, Pumphreys.


Don't you just love days off?!
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Winner!!

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Because I'm lovely, and would feel guilty over eating a delicious advent chocolate while my poor fiancee is resigned to a rubbish Xmen calendar, I've decided to give both of my advents away to two lucky readers. Woo!

I used random.org to generate two comment numbers, I would post them here but I don't know how. So, since I'm not very technologically minded, I'll just tell you.....

Comment 20 & 4!!  

Congratulations to PinkBow and E is for Eleanor!  I'll be in touch shortly!

Also, I've decided to start project 365 over on Flickr in an effort to get to know my camera.  If you're curious and would like to follow my progress have a looky over here.  I'd love to hear your comments.


Happy Dia De Los Muertos everyone :)
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On the second day of Halloween my true love gave to me..

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In my eyes, Halloween is right up there with Christmas in the favorite holiday stakes! This year I'm making Halloween stretch the full weekend to squeeze out every last piece of enjoyment possible.  In celebration of this I've made a few delicious Halloween themed treats which I will be posting over the weekend.  

Yesterdays installment of Cupcakes from Beyond the Grave went down a storm at Pet Lambs event last night, as did these Hooting Halloween Owl cupcakes.  Those bad boys stole the show :)

I made a few adjustments to the recipe due to my cupcakes not rising as much as they should have.  This was due to me not reading the recipe properly and failing to fill the cupcake liners to the top so rather than using the tops of the cakes to create the eyebrows I used giant chocolate buttons.  I piped the frosting in my usual swirl to give the owl a bit of a bigger face and used orange candy melts for the beak.  I can't for the life of me find those little jelly diamonds anywhere, odd as I remember them being abundant when I was a kid.

You can find the recipe on the BBC Good Food site.
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