Saturday, July 24, 2010

Finally - A Use For Avocado!

I know, I know, lots of people - probably most people in fact - love avocado.

I am not one of those people.

I don't like the smell, I don't like the taste, and I don't like the texture. Even getting it on my hands makes me shudder.

But these - oh wow. These I am in love with.

Avocado and pineapple macarons.

Who would have thought? Frankly I had never heard of avocado-and-pineapple flavoured anything until I tasted such a macaron from a box given to me by way of a belated birthday present (thank you, thank you - you know who you are - they were delicious). A quick Google search has, as usual, been enough to give me some idea of just how much I don't know. Apparently there are salads and everything.

Anyway, I'm not going to presume to give anyone a lesson on making macarons. They are fickle little beasties, and I've only been making them for a relatively short time. Really I'm still experimenting, but I've been lucky so far - most have worked, and none have been complete and utter disasters. I'm sure that will happen one day though! For those seeking help in this area, I would recommend you go and have a read of the Macaronicite articles at Syrup & Tang. I have found it extremely helpful, and I use his formula for my batter. Also, you really need an oven thermometer, and decent trays. Also a candy thermometer, for making the sugar syrup:
Which is then beaten with the (carefully measured) egg whites to form a meringue:

Which is then mixed quickly (but for the love of heaven not overmixed) into the almond meal, icing sugar, and (again carefully measured) extra egg whites:
It can then be coloured, flavoured (if desired, but not with anything too wet), transferred lovingly into a piping bag, and piped onto a paper-lined tray:

Then there's the resting, then the baking at whatever exact temperature your particular oven prefers to cook macarons, and finally the moment of truth: Have They Stuck??

In this case, the answer was just a tiny bit, which is okay. Phew!

The next day, out came the piping bag again - this time for the filling. I made this by blitzing tinned pineapple in my blender until completely smooth. I then removed the pineapple and blitzed the flesh of a whole avocado, gradually adding just enough pureed pineapple to make it fluid enough for the blender to deal with. Next, I creamed 125g of butter and 100g icing sugar in my trusty mixer until extremely pale and fluffy (I was going for a really silky smooth texture, and I also didn't want it to be overly sweet). Then I began adding the avocado-pineapple mixture, continuing to beat, and tasting after each addition. In the end, most of the avocado went in - probably only a tablespoon or so was left out.

The result? A light, delicate, not overly sweet filling that was perfect for my lovely little green macarons. I may or may not have eaten some of it with a spoon as well.

I also made chocolate-banana macarons. I wasn't quite as happy with the texture of my chocolate shells - the cocoa made them just a little... I don't know... cakey? They were still good, and still definitely macarons, but a bit softer, or something. I don't know. Maybe I used too much cocoa... (is 2 Tablespoons cocoa in a batch using 50g egg white too much? Anyone know?)

The chocolate shells had two fillings: a little dark chocolate ganache piped in teardrops around the edges (so it would show), and a banana buttercream (125g butter, 150g icing sugar, 1 pureed banana plus a little more than enough cream to allow the blender to puree the banana).

Then, when all my lovely little macarons had matured in the fridge overnight (sniff - don't they grow up fast?), I proceeded to impale them on toothpicks stuck into a polystyrene cone. Which sounds like madness, and it kind of is, but it's also kind of cool...

And no, Masterchef, is not the first place I've ever seen a macaron tower, but it was the first time I'd ever seen the actual process - and realised there were toothpicks involved, and that it just might not be too insanely difficult. And it wasn't - hurrah! I actually found that the macarons slid quite happily onto the toothpicks (granted I was careful about it). It helped that they were cold - I think it would have been a lot harder if they were freshly filled (as the poor Masterchef contestants had to do).

Anyway, here is my finished product (and my husband's birthday "cake"):

I'm aware that it is very definitely no Adriano Zumbo creation, but you know what? I am feeling pretty pleased with myself about this - not bad for a first effort, I think!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cupcake Hero Coconut - Vote Now!

Remember my Lime In The Coconut cupcakes? Oh sure you do - just scroll down a bit. Well, the roundup has now been posted over at Small Town Oven, and the competition is fiercely full of coconutty cupcakey contenders! Go take a look - and don't forget to vote! Up for grabs are some cool prizes, and the glory of being this month's Cupcake Hero!

Wish me luck...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Practically Magic...

Baking really is, isn't it? You put such simple ingredients together - butter, eggs, flour - add heat, and hey presto! Something delicious appears! Magic. I think that's what fascinated me so much about baking as a kid - that, or the strong possibility I would get to lick the spatula. Yeah... one of the two...

Anyway, reminiscing aside - it's Cupcake Hero time again! Woo hoo! This month it's being hosted by Sharlene of Small Town Oven, and she has chosen the theme ingredient of... Coconut!

My favourite thing ever with coconut is lime. I do a killer lime and coconut friand, for example. So I decided on lime and coconut, and then of course immediately got that Harry Nilssen song in my head. Oh, you know what I mean: "She put de lime in de coconut, she drank 'em both up..."

And from there, my head immediately goes two places: the Muppets, and that Sandra Bullock/Nicole Kidman movie, Practical Magic. I know, chick flick, right? But one of the few I actually really like. It's fun. And the funnest scene of all is the one where they're all dancing around the kitchen getting roaring drunk on Tequila. So in homage to this scene, I decided there had to be Tequila in the icing.

No, I'm not an alcoholic, I swear.

So here it is: my entry for Cupcake Hero: July (Coconut).

Lime in The Coconut Cupcakes

This is a three parter: there's the coconut cupcake, the gorgeously zingy lime curd filling, and finally the Tequila coconut buttercream. So, literally, the lime in the coconut. :o)

The Lime Curd
Zest & juice of 3 limes (about 100mL juice, maybe a little over)
100g butter
175g sugar
3 eggs

Combine butter, zest, juice and sugar in a saucepan and stir constantly over heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in eggs. Return to gentle heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, but do not allow it to boil. Allow to cool completely before using.

The Tequila Coconut Buttercream
200mL coconut cream
250g butter
350g icing (confectioner's) sugar
2 tsp Tequila

Put coconut cream into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until it has reduced to 100mL. Allow to cool completely.
Cream butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy. Beat in Tequila. Finally, beat in reduced coconut cream, then pipe a beautiful fluffy swirl onto filled cupcakes.

The Cupcakes (recipe adapted from The Essential Guide to Cake Decorating, by Murdoch Books)
125g butter
180gcaster sugar
2 Tbsp coconut liqueur
2 eggs

75g desiccated coconut
1 tsp lime or lemon juice (just for acidity - you shouldn't be able to taste it)
210g SR flour
200mL milk

Cream butter & sugar. Beat in coconut liqueur and then one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold coconut into mixture. Add the lime juice and half the milk and fold through, then half the flour, then the rest of the milk, and finally the rest of the flour. Don't worry if the mixture looks a bit lumpy:

It's because of the coconut.

Spoon mixture into cupcake cases (I got 18), and put in the oven:

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 10-15 minutes, or until cakes test clean with a toothpick.

At five minutes mine looked like this:

At ten minutes:

And done at twelve minutes:

Once cakes have cooled, fill with lime curd using the cone method:

And then top with a swirl of Tequila Coconut Buttercream.

Eat. Sing if desired... "Brother bought a coconut, he bought it for a dime, his sister had another one, she paid it for a lime... She put the lime in the coconut, she drank 'em both up, she put the lime in the coconut..."

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