My Kitchen Favourites – Macarons

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Thank goodness it’s April, the beginning of spring and lighter baking. As much as baking indulgent cakes and desserts pleases the little fat child inside of me I’m always pleased when we reach the summer months as it gives me the opportunity to test out fruiter, lighter and brighter bakes. This is not to say they can’t be indulgent though and macarons are exactly that, light, bright jewels of pure indulgence.

This edition of Kitchen Favourites is in honour of my new baking bestie, the macaron. We may not always see eye-to-eye but with there are a few tools and ingredients which have ensured we will always have a life long friendship.


FOR BAKING

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TWO CHICKS|FREE RANGE LIQUID EGG WHITES

Aside from being cast as one of the most difficult bakes, the one issue I have with macarons and meringue is that I have to separate eggs. Food wastage is one of my biggest pet hates so when I bake macarons or meringue I always try to use the egg yolks for something else such as custard or rich shortcrust pastry.

This isn’t always convenient though so you can imagine my delight therefore when I discovered Two Chicks and their carton of liquid egg whites. Absolutely genius!! You get roughly 15 liquid egg whites in each carton which translates to 7 batches of macarons in my world, and at a very affordable price of £2.25 from most leading grocery stores they have fast become my favourite kitchen ingredient.

The Two Chicks brand also includes Liquid Whole Eggs, Pancake mix and Chirps, a light puffed egg white snack.


FOR GUIDANCE

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SWEET MACARONS | BY JACQUELINE MERCORELLI

There are so many different Macaron recipes out there. Some using the French meringue method, others opting for the Italian meringue method. Before I read this book, the French method was all I used. To be honest it was all I was really aware of as the Italian recipe always seemed more daunting and long winded. I’m right, it is more long winded but daunting it is not and this guide made me realise that.

The Sweet Macarons guide by Jacqueline Mercorelli, a self taught French baker and blogger since 2005 gives you recipes for both methods and guides you through the process with ease. A must read for anyone wanting to make macarons at home.


FOR DECORATION

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EDIBLE LUSTRE DUST | SUGARFLAIR

So you’ve made your macarons and now you want to decorate them with finesse. There are so many options to choose from be it dusting with coco powder, espresso powder, sprinkles or chopped nuts, the list really is endless. One of my favourite options thought is Edible Lustre Dust. The effect gives macarons that real wow factor and turns them from pretty to stylish. I love working with Lustre Dust as it can be added to almost anything. When mixed with a tiny splash of vodka you can create a gold paint to brush over macaron shells, fruit and fondant or left as dust it can be scattered over buttercream.


FOR PREPARATION

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3AM JOURNAL | KIKKI.K

The last 4 weeks have been some of the most manic of 2016 so far. I took a week off work last week before Easter just so I could catch up with it all. I’m generally a very organised person, but if I showed you my iPhone notes app you’d have a hard time believing that. With random thoughts, recipe ideas and meeting notes all thrown randomly in the mix to say it’s chaotic would be a severe understatement.

I decided last month that my thoughts needed a home, but not just any home. As a self confessed stationary obsessive I wanted them to live somewhere pretty, which is why I’m so happy to have found Kikki.K Stationary.

The Swedish brand was the creative child of Kristina Karlson a stationary lover looking for beautiful products and stationary for her new home office. Her light bulb moment came weeks after struggling to find anything that inspired her. If you can’t find it, create it, was her motto and it wasn’t long before Swedish design stationary boutiques popped up in her favourite cities around the world.

Thank you Kristina, I see a bright future for me and Kikki. K Stationary.

My Kitchen Favourites – Cakes and Macarons

Hello there! And welcome to the first post of my brand new blog design. I’m sorry it’s been a little quiet on here these last couple of months, but it’s been a pretty hectic start to the year. Hectic but exciting I should say as already in 2016 not only have I been busy building my “made to order” business (more details on this will be shared shortly), but we’ve also moved out of our rented flat and are in the exciting, albeit gruelling process of buying our very first home. Therefore with 2016 seemingly the year of newness, I decided to give my blog a gorgeous new home too. However, as with all new homes it is going to take a little time settling in so please bear with me while I find my feet in these new surroundings.

You may notice that my recipe categories have been refined a little which I hope you are okay with. This way I am able to focus on the bakes I love most and give you the best content I can. Reductions leave room for additions though so you will also see that some new areas have been introduced, such as Baking Biography, where I will share my baking tips, essential ingredients and equipment, regular roundups of my current Kitchen Favourites, troubleshooting and reviews of my favourite bakeries, cakeries, and anywhere else that sells baked goods.

And with that I give you my first Baking Biography post in the shape of my current Kitchen Favourites for cakes and macarons.


FOR BAKING

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A traitor to our beloved metal tins, silicone molds have taken over kitchens in recent years and I haven’t exactly been their biggest fan. I was first introduced to silicone in the shape of a cupcake liner but as an avid lover of the classic paper liner I quickly disregarded them. Them and every other large silicon mold I was introduced to.

However, and I say that with emphasis as and I haven’t exactly given silicone the best Kitchen Favourite review so far, when I tested these French patisserie silicon molds I was pleasantly surprised. Although completely non-stick I sprayed them with a tiny bit of some cake release for good measure, but I really don’t think they needed it. They almost fell out of the molds when I brought them out of the oven, and they were so evenly baked  I could have passed them off as almost professional.

Unfortunately, although these softened my uncertainty of silicone, I haven’t been completely converted and remain an advocate for classic metal tins and parchment, however for smaller bakes such as these and macarons I would recommend them, not just for the great results, but also for how easy they are to store away.


FOR GUIDANCE

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“How Baking Works (and what to do when it doesn’t)” is James’ (you know the sciency guy from Season 3 of The Great British Bake off who created a giant Paris-Brest choux wheel in the shape of a bicycle) second book, but the first that I was aware he had published and my goodness I’m glad I found it. It does exactly what it says on the tin, to the extent that I have been reading it cover to cover like a novel. I don’t think I’ve ever read a baking book with such depth before.

Compared to his first book “Brilliant Bread” it covers everything non yeasty such as cakes, cookies and macarons which suits me down to the ground considering my recipe offerings. Best of all though is how he explains the theory and science behind baking techniques, why certain ingredients are so important and my favourite of them how to prevent common baking blunders.

While the title may call to all novice bakers out there, I urge those of you who are experienced not to be deterred.

Buy your copy of “How Baking Works” HERE


FOR DECORATION

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Not the most glamorous item in My Kitchen Drawer but putting my spatula to one side Piping Nozzles are my most used tool, so ensuring I have the best quality is important.

Over the years I have managed to amass dozens of nozzles of all designs and sizes, and I must say it has become a rather impressive collection. Of this hoard three have become my staple and I can’t seem to get through a bake without them.

Kitchen Craft are my favourite supplier for nozzles as they are hardwearing, dishwasher safe and you can get almost every design in small, medium and large. The Sweetly Does it Range is supplied in almost every baking shop in the UK, Super Markets and Amazon and they cost between £2.50 – £4.00

I could talk to you all day about how I use them, but will dedicate a whole post to this very soon.

Large Closed Star – Tip size: 20mm (9 point star)

Large Round – Tip size: 12mm

Large Petal Tip – Tip size: 24mm


 FOR PRESENTATION

cake stand

I like to think of cake stands as the shoes of the baking world. No seriously bear with me here.

On a few occasions recently I have seen beautifully dressed cakes, adorned with intricate designs and toppers presented only on their cake boards. This to me is like wearing your best dress with a pair of old flats; you look beautiful but the shoes are letting you down.

A good cake stand is like the perfect pair of heels. It will give your cake height and drama for presentation, and can either be the splash of colour you need to bring your cake alive, or the perfect way to make a simple design sublime.

I am obsessed with marble so could be happier with this White Marble stand from John Lewis, Croft Collection. It is utter perfection.

Sadly this is no longer available online at John Lewis, but you can buy it from Design Luxuria HERE.


 

Bake Yourself Happy

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We all have a happy place. One person’s may be a sunflower field in the summer, another’s a park filled with golden leaves in Autumn. Mine isn’t a specific place, or a specific season. It’s anywhere when I am baking. I’m good at spreading my passion in the form of cake and cookies, but very rarely do I shout from the rooftops about why this pastime fills me with so much joy. So with the Season 6 of The Great British Bake Off looming (so excited I could scream) I think now is as good a time as any to explain how like me, you can bake yourself happy.


MAKE IT THERAPUTIC

OKAY so I know the idea of baking a cake is not everybody’s idea of a relaxing afternoon, however I am a strong believer that even if you see baking as a stressful chore, that doesn’t mean it has to be. Whether you are an amateur or one of those who can whip up a sponge with their eyes closed baking is known to be a fantastic stress reliever. Techniques used such as stirring, mixing and kneading are in fact very similar to the methods proven to relieve stress such as squeezing a stress ball. Working through the steps of a recipe in a methodical way helps clear your mind of everything else going on in your head, and when it’s just you, your kitchen and a bowl full of ingredients there really is nothing to be stressed about.


SET CHALLENGES

My favourite thing about baking is the fact that it’s almost 100% trial and error. I like setting myself a challenge as nothing is ever truly rewarding when it’s easy. And I LOVE that triumphant moment when I (to put it in so many words) NAIL IT! At the start of the year, when I established this blog as wholly baking, I set myself a few challenges; step up my cake decoration and tackle the ever stubborn macaron. Quite a feat for the year and my kitchen bin has seen many disasters; however there really is no better feeling than the moment you finally bake a successful batch of macarons.


EAT YOUR CREATIONS

If baking doesn’t make you happy, then unless you’re living off grass and water I can guarantee the feast afterwards will. I rarely bake for myself as I enjoy baking for others much more, however that isn’t to say I never eat my creations; after all they do need to be tested. This goes hand-in-hand with my earlier point on relieving stress too as eating a thick slab of brownie, a dozen macarons or a slice of cake releases the warm and fuzzy hormone that relaxes the muscles and causes a grin from ear to ear, and that in my opinion is worth the additional calories.


BAKING FOR OTHERS

As mentioned earlier although I do eat my own creations, I actually get the biggest kick out of baking for others. Not only does it give my bake a purpose, but it also gives me a chance to share my passion with those that I love. While on the forefront it looks like a rather solitary hobby, when you look at it from this perspective in my option it could be argued as rather social. Another bonus of course is knowing that somebody has enjoyed what I’ve made. Whether it be a cake I’ve made for an order or a new batch of brownies I’m testing, getting a compliment is such a boost and spurs me to go on and make even more.

And on that note, if anybody needs me I’ll be in the Kitchen!