Saturday, 9 July 2016

Everyday Pancakes

Pancakes are a firm favourite in our house. The boys love them, and Pete & I love them too! I love this pancake recipe because not only are the pancakes perfectly light, fluffy and soft - they are so easy to whip up you could have them everyday (although we tend to save them for the weekend!)

This is just the basic recipe, and I added some dark chocolate chips (chocolate is never a bad thing, eh?) but feel free to get creative, adding your favourite fruit, nuts - anything really!

Everyday Pancakes
Makes 6 large pancakes

1C plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1Tbsp sugar
1C almond or soy milk
1Tbsp vegetable oil
1tsp vanilla extract

1/4C dark chocolate chips (optional)

Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Prepare your batter by mixing the dry ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients (reserving the chocolate chips) and mix until smooth. Once the pan is very hot spray with cooking spray and pour 1/4c of batter at a time into the pan. Sprinkle with a few chocolate chips and cook until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake and then use a spatula to flip the pancake over. Cook until risen and golden, around 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and continue until you've used all of your batter.

If you want to keep the pancakes warm while you make the rest pop them on a baking tray in the oven on its lowest setting. 

Serve with fruit, maple syrup or whatever you fancy.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Black Sesame & Vanilla Macarons

I've always loved the sweets and pastries you find in China Town, there are always so many interesting flavour combinations and unusual ingredients. Black Sesame is a common ingredient in Chinese desserts, and has a rich, sweet flavour. I paired black sesame with subtle vanilla to create these unusual, delicate and delicious macarons.

Sweet, nutty black sesame shells filled with teal vanilla frosting and a sweet sesame paste center - these macarons are truly delightful!

Black Sesame & Vanilla Macarons
Makes 12

For the macarons
3/4C aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas) (180ml)
1/2C sugar (100g)
1C ground almonds (100g)
1/4C toasted black sesame seeds (25g)
1/2C powdered sugar (65g)
1tsp vanilla extract

1tbsp black sesame seeds

For the buttercream
2Tbsp vegan butter spread
3C powdered sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
2Tbsp almond or soy milk
1/4tsp teal gel food colouring (optional)

For the black sesame paste
1/2C toasted black sesame seeds
3Tbsp liquid sweetener (I used Sweet Freedom Syrup)

First make the macaron shells
Pour the aquafaba into a small saucepan and allow to simmer over a medium heat until it has reduced to 1/3C (80ml). This usually takes around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour the reduced chickpea water into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment and whisk on medium to high speed until soft peaks form. Add half the sugar and whisk until well combined, then add the remaining sugar and whisk at high speed until the meringue is glossy and thick - it should be the consistency of thick marshmallow fluff. Add the vanilla and whisk to combine. Set aside while you prepare your dry ingredients.

Grind the black sesame seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor until very fine. Add the the ground almonds and pulse a few times in a food processor until very finely ground. Add the powdered sugar and process for a few seconds, until well combined.
Sieve the almond-sesame-sugar mixture and discard any large pieces. Pour half the dry mixture into the meringue and use a spatula to mix the ingredients together, pressing the dry ingredients down into the meringue until everything is incorporated well. Add the remaining dry mixture and fold into the batter.

Now it's time for a crucial step - the macaronnage. Firmly press the batter against the side of the bowl and then scoop it up and turn over. Repeat this process a further 19 times. After macaronnage the batter should be thick and glossy but should fall slowly off the spatula like a ribbon and then settle/spread slightly in the bowl. If the mixture is too thick you can add up to 1Tbsp of water, but be careful not to add too much or the mixture will be too thin. 

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and seal at the top. 
Line two large baking trays with grease proof paper and carefully pipe 12 circles onto each, in one smooth motion holding the piping bag directly above the center of each macaron. Drop the baking sheets twice onto a hard surface (this helps to get rid of air bubbles and develops the 'pied') and use your finger to press down any bumps on the surface of the macarons.

Sprinkle the macarons evenly with the tablespoon of sesame seeds and leave them to dry at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Once ready to bake, place the first baking tray into a COLD oven, and then immediately set the oven to just under 100 degrees Celcius. Bake the macarons for 20 minutes (some ovens you may have to bake for longer but don't bake for more than 30 minutes) you can check that the macarons are sufficiently baked by gently lifting up a corner of the grease proof paper and lightly peeling it from a macaron shell. If it comes off easily and the macaron doesn't stick then you can turn your oven off!
Turn off your oven and leave the macarons inside with the door shut for 10 minutes, then open the door and leave them to cool inside the oven for a further 10 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely on the baking tray at room temperature.
Once the oven is COMPLETELY COLD you can repeat the baking process with your second tray of macaron shells. Once the shells are cooled, gently peel them from the baking paper and place them on a tray or rack, ready to fill.

Make the frosting
Cream together the butter spread, vanilla and one cup of the powdered sugar. Add the milk a teaspoon at a time and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix well, adding more milk as needed until you have a thick and creamy frosting. Add the colouring gel if using and mix until it's an even colour. Spoon into a piping bag and seal at the top.

Make the sesame paste
Grind the black sesame seeds using a coffee grinder, food processor or a pestle and mortar until extremely fine. Add the liquid sweetener a tablespoon at a time and mix well until you have a dark, glossy, thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag and set aside.

Pipe blobs of buttercream in a circle around the edge of each base macaron shell, pipe a blob of sesame paste in the center and carefully sandwich together with the top shells.

Place the macarons in the fridge for 24 hours or overnight before eating (this allows the flavors to develop and gives the desired chew) 
Macarons keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and in the freezer for months.