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Peanut butter Macarons


This one has been a long time coming. I have been saving my best peanut butter for these and finally it was time to open the jar of Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter. These are made in Nelson, New Zealand with only two ingredients: Peanuts, salt. Yes no added sugar! The nuttiness of the peanut butter matched nicely with the dark chocolate.

You can pair them with any colour shells of your choosing, but I’m particularly drawn to the purple and blue combination.

Macarons shell ingredients
150 g icing sugar
150 g almond meal
110 g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
150 g caster sugar
38 ml water
1 g meringue powder
a few drops of violet and blue gel colouring, separately.

Follow my basic recipe to make the shells.

I paired these with a peanut butter flavoured dark chocolate ganache.

Filling Ingredients:
100g whittaker’s dark chocolate
100ml full cream
4 tbsp good quality peanut butter

Instructions:
Break up chocolate into small chunks. Bring cream up to a boil in a pan, and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute before stirring. Stir until you have a thickish ganache and add peanut butter in. Stir and let it cool and thicken in the fridge. Spread or pipe a teaspoon of ganache on half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells.

The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to flavour the shells. These freeze well too (up to 3 months).

Beef, mushrooms and truffle penne pasta


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A while ago I made a Beef and Cheddar pie.
Then I made 3 more.
They were all slightly different – one with a truffle cream sauce and one with tomatoes and vegetables. The constant is the tender beef – it proved to be very versatile. I added creamy mashed potatoes to mini puff pastry-lined beef pies to make potato top pies, and then as ragu served with penne with a touch of tomato paste, as shown here.

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Ingredients:

  • 1kg beef, cross-cut blade, cut into 5cm strips
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 4 Tbsp Truffle paste if you wanted to make the truffle version, or 4 Tbsp tomato paste if you prefer
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 250ml white or red wine
  • 500ml beef stock (Simon Gault’s)
  • 3 tbsp cornflour + 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Season beef with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in the pan to brown the beef in several batches.
  3. Brown onion until it softens. Add anchovy fillets, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.
  4. Add wine to deglaze the pan.
  5. Return all the beef to the pan and bring to the boil. Cover and bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours (or you can use a pressure cooker like I did and it’s all done in 45 minutes!)
  6. When cooked, remove beef and flake meat off with a fork.
  7. Thicken the stock with cornflour liquid.
  8. Mix the truffle paste (or tomato paste) in with the thickened stock.
  9. Cook the pasta till it’s al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water. 
  10. Mix with ragu and add a bit of the pasta water to loosen the sauce. 

Note: I prefer to cook with cross-cut blade when making stews, casseroles and curries as the texture of the meat cut helps create this irresistible gelatinous goo that binds everything together. Yum!!

Little Molten Lava Chocolate Fondants


J didn’t believe me when I said “Come see gooey chocolate oozing out of these cakes”. Although only six years old, she’d seen a fair few chocolate cakes being cut into and was fairly certain that nothing normally oozes out. Not even from an ice cream cake.

I insisted and together we gathered around the little wobbly bobs of chocolate fondants, with a sharp knife and steady hands I sliced into the centre of the dainty little cakes.

“ooooOOOUUUUU” was the reaction I wanted, and got (phew!!) 🙂

“It’s coming out! Just like lava!” J looked at me, incredulously.

Yes dear, that’s why they are called Molten Lava Cakes!

I love how these turned out, the beautifully rustic looking cakes held its class. What is the secret, you may ask? Well when a chef shares his tip with you, listen up… Baked bean tins! Simon Gault shared his recipe and I’ve been collecting tins over the last few weeks in order to put this to the test…and so glad I did.

The following is my version with slight tweaks e.g. Oven temperature and time.  I also tested with a small 3″ Fat Daddio’s pan but that did not turn out as nice. If you have to make it right now and have not collected tins, you can use small ramekins or dariole moulds with the bottom lined with baking paper. Cooking time will need to be adjusted for a further 3 minutes. Now stop gawking and go make some!!

Makes 8

5 eggs
5 yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar
250g dark chocolate (at least 72% cocoa solids)
250g butter, plus extra for buttering the moulds
3 tbsp flour (or almond meal to make this dessert gluten free)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
icing sugar for dusting

Method

  1. Using an electric beater, whisk the eggs and yolks with the sugar until thick and pale.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double-boiler or in a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until combined and of an even consistency.
  3. Sift the flour over the mix and fold in until completely incorporated with no lumps. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and place in the refrigerator until firm.
  4. Butter 8 baked bean cans, lightly dust with cocoa powder and place on a baking tray with a square of baking paper under each can. Once the mixture is firm, pipe into the moulds, then refrigerate until set. (Make sure you have cleared some fridge space beforehand to accomodate your baking tray).
  5. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake the chocolate puddings for 14 minutes (wooden skewer test will show it is wet). Remove from the oven and, very importantly, allow them to stand for 3 minutes before removing from tins, to avoid cracking. Turn out the puddings onto individual plates by using a sharp knife and go around the sides of the tin. Dust with icing sugar.

Chocolate hazelnut crunch bar with feuilletine


Oh dear something as addictive as macarons and needed to be available in the fridge at all times! I’m just glad these are super easy to make and can be whipped up within the hour. Didn’t even need to use the mixer.

What makes these chocolate bars so irresistible? Two things: the hazelnut taste and the biscuit crunch. Devine combination, if you ask me.

If you are unsure what ‘feuilletine’ is, here’s a photo of them. A pile of crunchy ‘leaves’. These are quite hard to source – I’ve found recipes for making them so would be giving that a try next. In its place you can use Gavottes crepes or by crumbling waffle ice cream cones. It will be similar in taste and texture.

Regarding the hazelnut-chocolate combination, you can certainly change it to suit your latest cravings. I know I would be trying peanut butter, salted caramel, macadamia butter, almond cacao and also peppermint to name a few.

You can dress the bars up with whatever you like: a dusting of cocoa powder; hazelnut; hazelnut praline crunch; fresh-dried berries. Or left naked. Your options are endless which makes this an ideal ‘bring-a-dessert’ that *potentially* satisfies everyone.

Makes one square tray, cut bars sized to your liking. I got 39 (3 rows of 13 bars of  about 1.5 cm by 8cm)

For the crunchy Bottom layer:
250g milk chocolate (33% cacao), melted

100g roasted hazelnut paste (Nocciola from Equagold)

125g (about half cup) chocolate-hazelnut spread (instead of the hazelnut paste and chocolate-hazelnut spread, you can use the same amount of Forty Thieves’ Cacao Hazelnut butter instead.)

2 cups feuilletine (crunchy leaves)


For the filling:
300g dark chocolate (70% cacao) broken into small pieces, (I used Equagold)
300ml cream
50g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

  1.  For the bottom layer, line a square tray with 2 pieces of baking paper, with the paper hanging over the sides of the tray. (This will help you lift the slab off from the tray effortlessly.)
  2. Melt chocolate over a pot of simmering hot water. Once smooth, add the roasted hazelnut paste and  chocolate-hazelnut spread; stir until smooth. 
  3. Fold in the feuilletine until the chocolate is combined with the flakes (It should look like a mess!) Scoop the chocolate mixture to the prepared tray. Press the mixture down into a smooth, even layer. Let it chill in the fridge while you make the filling. 
  4. To make the ganache, place the broken chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream till it is just simmering and pour over the chocolate. 
  5. Shake the bowl a little and let this sit for about 2 minutes, this is so that the chocolate melts smoothly, avoiding any lumps in your final product. 
  6. Add the cubed butter and whisk until ganache is smooth. As you whisk, the cream will magically homogenize with the melted chocolate to form a shiny smooth, pourable ganache.
  7. Pour the ganache over the feuilletine and smooth with a spatula. Leave in the fridge to set, about 1 – 2 hours. 
  8. Decorate with whole hazelnuts, hazelnut praline crunch or anything you wish! Slice into bars before serving. 

*if you prefer a sweeter bar, you can make your ganache with a combination of dark and milk chocolate. The total chocolate to cream ratio will need to be altered for the ganache to work, to about 1: 0.8. (for example, 100g  total chocolate to 80g cream.) This ratio will work if you keep the milk chocolate in a smaller proportion to the dark chocolate. I would suggest for 200g dark chocolate and 100g milk chocolate to 300ml cream.

Styled by my little chef.

Lemon Lime and Bitters Macarons


I adore the mix of sweet and sour flavours. Think raspberries and chocolate; cherries in a Black Forest cake; passionfruit and white chocolate. The sharpness of an ingredient contrasting with the sweetness and richness of chocolate – very effective in waking up taste buds I would say.

Angostura isn’t something one can add to anything. After making these macarons though, I think my bottle would be finished rather quickly as lemon lime and bitters macarons have risen to my top 10 flavours.

Watch this space too for a lime and bitters marshmallow demo after my session at Vinnie’s Restaurant, Auckland! (Geoff Scott invited me to their kitchen to make some, how awesome!)

Macarons shell ingredients
(makes about 40 macarons)

150 g icing sugar
150 g almond meal
110 g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
150 g caster sugar
38 ml water
1 g meringue powder

Follow my basic recipe to make the shells.
Add daffodil yellow and kelly green gel colouring to separate bowls of macaron mix for different coloured shells.

Ingredients:
120g whittakers 28% cocoa white chocolate, broken into small chunks
60ml pure (heavy) cream
2 -3 tbsp angostura bitters (add more to taste)

Instructions:
Break up chocolate into small chunks. Bring cream up to a boil in a pan, and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute before stirring. Stir and add bitters in a little at a time, until it has been incorporated. Let it cool and thicken in the fridge.

Spread or pipe a teaspoon of ganache on half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells.

The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to flavour the shells. These freeze well (up to 3 months).