This week I had a very enjoyable afternoon away from the office and instead spent a couple of hours on a macaroon course at L’atelier des Chefs with my mum. It was a lovely Christmas present from my parents and we booked the first afternoon I could get off from work.
Even though I’ve been baking a little while now, I’ve never actually made macaroons, so I was very much looking forward to learning some great tips about how to make the perfect macaroons.
My mum on the other hand is a bit of a pro at macaroons even if she claims not. Her piping skills definitely gave this away to the rest of the group who all voted her macaroons the best of the day. Star baker you could say!
The chef took you through all the basics and everyone was put into groups of three to make your meringue mixture. We all had a giggle getting to know each other, particularly when we all started piping our meringues. There was definitely a mixture of styles of macaroons on display, but we all learnt something and had fun along the way.
We were shown how to make four different fillings including:
- Orange and lemon buttercream
- Vanilla and praline
- Mint chocolate
- Salted butter caramel
All of them were delightful but I think my favourite was the vanilla and praline.
We had a lovely chef look after us and he shared some fantastic tips including:
- Sieve your ground almonds and flour to ensure your meringues are beautifully light.
- Use pasteurized egg white to get a really good consistent quality of meringue. So feel free to buy those boxes of egg whites ready done for you.
- Make sure you fold your ingredients together for your meringue really gently to keep as much air into the mixture as possible.
- Your meringue should be glossy and hold its shape.
- Use dried natural food colour to prevent any extra moisture getting into the mixture – which I have since found here (They are quite expensive though as you have to buy a large tub and only require at most a quarter of a teaspoon)
- Use a perforated baking tray to ensure the heat will be evenly distributed (but you can of course just use a normal baking tray)
- Turn your baking sheets round and up and down in the oven to ensure an even bake.
- When piping make sure the nozzle of your piping bag is vertical and very close to the baking paper so that your mixture creates a round puddle from the centre going out. And if you pipe close to you, you’ll be much more steady.
- Count out loud 1,2,3 and then move to piping the next meringue. This will help with the size consistency.
- Tap your baking tray so that your meringues flatten before going in to the oven. As the chef said, “this gets rid of the nipple”, cue giggles from the group.
- Leave your meringues to dry out before popping them in the oven.
- You know your meringues are done when they easily peel away from the baking paper.
- Let your meringues cool before adding any filling, or it’s likely to melt!
- Eat within 24 hour or your meringues will go soft, this shouldn’t be a problem!
Now this really should lead me to make some macaroons at home, but I thought I’d eaten my fair share this week.
Instead, my thoughts turned to my 10 year anniversary coming up in just over a week. I know you’re not meant to celebrate the original anniversary of meeting your husband, but 10 years is a long time! And we’ve only been married for 2 and a half, so it’s a shame not to acknowledge all the time we’ve spent together over the last decade.
So what could be more appropriate to bake then a love cake?
A simple cake that really involves very few ingredients other than some strawberry jam. However, don’t be fooled by its simplicity.
It’s lovely and light and although it has a look of something that could be quite heavy, it serves up something a little unexpected with a centre that takes you right back to your childhood when you spot what looks to be a jam roly poly style cake hidden inside.
Actually, let’s be honest, it basically is a jam roly poly shaped as a heart. And I’m not actually sure mine looked much like a heart once it was baked and out the oven!
The swirls are what give the unassuming sponge some character; deep red jam contrasting against the spotless sponge.
The sponge is actually quite dainty, (contrary to the appearance) and the jam is gooey, particularly so when enjoyed warm from the oven. It really is just like having a spoonful of love.
A humble cake, made with love.
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp cornfour
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
175ml milk, plus extra for glazing
2-3 tbsp strawberry jam
Preheat the oven to 200C
In a large bowl, combine the four, cornflour and salt. Use your fingertips to rub in the lard and butter until you have a mixture that resembles the texture of breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar and then gradually add the milk until you have a soft dough. You may not need to use all the milk so don’t add it all at once.
Lightly knead the dough on a floured surface until you have a smooth dough. This won’t take long, so be careful not to overwork the dough.
Roll the dough out to form a rectangle roughly measuring 50x20cm then spread jam over your dough.
Roll the dough up from the long side, like you would if rolling a swill roll or a roulade.
Bring the ends together and stick them together using a little milk to help them stick.
You can then shape the dough in to a heart.
Make small incisions over the surface of the heart shape and brush the top with milk.
Place your dough on a baking tray and bake from about 15-20 minutes until golden brown and the base is cooked through.
Don’t worry if you have some jam oozing out the jam, this just adds to it’s charm.
Enjoy as is, or with custard, cream or some greek yoghurt.