Sugarbird's Sweet Nothings

I am passionate about food. And cooking. And baking. And running. Come and find a new recipe, a funny story, some strong opinions and whatever else I feel like throwing in the mix today.
July 13th, 2011

Pistachio Macarons

I have been beaten by the tricky macaron more times than I care to remember. There was the strawberry macaron mush incident, and then there was the lumpy chocolate macaron fiasco. But not one to sit down and take being beaten quietly (any more), and inspired by the brilliant bakery that is Paul’s where I had a perfect pistachio macaron, I plucked up the courage to give the little devils another go.

It had to be pistachio as the perfect Paul’s macaron was green and glorious and I just had to try recreate it in some way. So I pulled out a bag of the glorious petit green devils, and subjected them to the blades of the little blender, and the game was on.

 

The basic concept of the macaron is not a complicated one. Ground almonds (and pistachios in his case), sugar and egg whites. Egg whites airy and whipped, gently folded in ground nuts. Pipe into little circles, bake and hey presto, macaron bliss. Or not. So all the prep went smoothly. Consistency seemed right, colour was good, piping was perfect. They baked up rather pretty, although a little wonky I have to confess, but I blame the oven for that. But the consistency was just not right.

Paul macarons are heavy and dense with rich, sweet nuttiness. They are strong and pack a punch. Mine were weak and spineless. The dome of the macarons was hollow. They were empty. How does that happen? Only the macaron gods can tell me. And they aren’t feeling particularly communicative at the moment. Rude and unfair I say. But what can one humble home baker do? They tasted nice, and nobody I fed them to complained at their hollowness. I think the pistachio buttercream helped make up for that.

I am sure that I will re-attempt them at some stage, when I am feeling brave and thick-skinned again. Until then, I am very busy with a project. A big one for me. Gone are the days of the office, and here are the days of self-employed uncertainty. I am starting up my own cupcake business and praying and hoping and wishing that it will take off a little. I’m not greedy, I am not out to be a millionaire, but just enough to keep me busy and keep me in sugar, butter, eggs and red wine. Wish me luck, and all fingers and toes crossed please 🙂 I will post up the website URL when its ready to launch. Until then Sugarbird Cupcakes will remain faceless. Just a rumour on a little, insignificant blog…

Pistachio macaroons

What you will need:
55g pistachios
55g ground almonds
200g icing sugar
Pinch or so of green powder food colouring, or paste if you prefer
90g egg whites (about 3)
20g caster sugar

For the buttercream
55g pistachios
250g icing sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened

What to do:
I like to set my piping bag up in a tall glass so that I can easily transfer the macaroon mixture into the bag. (You’ll need to fit it with a 1cm plain nozzle.
Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking parchment.
Grind the pistachios in a food processor to a fine powder then add the ground almonds, colour and icing sugar and continue to blend until the nuts and icing sugar are completely blended.
Don’t wash up the blender as you’ll need to grind more pistachios for the buttercream below.
Whisk the egg whites in a large, clean bowl to soft peaks. Slowly whisk in the caster sugar until stiff peaks form and the egg whites are glossy.
Now for the ‘macronage’: fold the nut and icing sugar powder into the egg whites until well combined. You’ll end up with quite a thick paste. Be careful not to overmix!
Spoon the mixture into the piping bag and pipe 3cm circles, about 2cm apart onto the baking tray. Rather than pipe in a circlular motion, you need to squeeze the mixture out then whip the nozzle away. The macaroons should flatten out, however, if you’re left with little ‘peaks’, flatten them with a wet finger.
Pick the trays up and carefully drop them onto the counter – this helps the macaroons develop characteristic ‘feet’.
Leave the macaroon shells to dry out for at least 30 minutes. (They’re ready when they’re no longer sticky to the touch). Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170C.
Bake the macaroons for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely before you try to remove them. If they are really sticky and look hollow underneath, try baking them for 5 more minutes.

For the buttercream, blend the pistachios to a fine powder, then blend again with the icing sugar until you have a pale green powder.
Beat the butter until soft and fluffy then beat in the pistachio icing sugar. If you’re using an electric whisk, I would beat the buttercream for a few minutes to make it really light and fluffy.
You can either spread the buttercream onto the macaroons using a knife or pipe it on for a clean finish.

April 28th, 2011

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

An invitation to a very last minute Easter Weekend Barbecue set my baking cogs a turning on Saturday. It was weekend so I had the intention to bake something anyway, and having a good reason, and people to actually eat what I was going to make, was just the little kick I needed to get started. In the background of my mind the thoughts had already been processing and contemplating what to do. I was vaguely aware that there were carrots in the fridge which needed using and there was some cream cheese that was crying out to be made into icing. So the decision I had already made was for carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese icing.

I had attempted these little beauties before, but due to the calamity which was me dropping a whole tray of uncooked cupcakes on the floor (yes, they are like buttered toast, they fall face down. Always) I had never really completed them. So it was the perfect time. I don’t often have full cream cream cheese in the house either, but having used some for something else earlier in the week, the big tub of philly made me think of the glorious combination of carrot cake and cream cheese. They do together like rum and raisin, like cranberry and pistachio, like maple and pecan, like strawberry and lime, like… ok. You get the picture I’m sure. Read the rest of this entry »