This is just a quick post to acclaim the absolute amazingness of this lunch.
For six euros, this enormous gelato was a much more cost effective indulgence than Harry’s bellinis. The brioche bun was so big that my husband had to hold it for this photo on account of my ridiculously tiny hands. Even his hands are dwarfed by this delicious monstrosity. I had two outrageously large scoops of chocolate and creme catalan gelato and I kid you not, I ate every. last. speck. of this. Hubs didn’t even get a look in. And i’m not even sorry.
I honestly couldn’t direct you back to this place if I tried, considering how hopelessly lost I got in Venice. Just look for a big crowd among the twisty lane ways. You won’t be disappointed.
Actually, if you’re good at following maps (hint: i’m not) then follow the link below to their website.
For the month of October we got to take on one of many bakers’ deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares : macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze.
So this may seem a little controversial, but I have come to the conclusion that macarons are a bit of a rort. This is not my first macaron rodeo so i’ve had a little experience with baking these finnicky little biscuits and I still think that the amount of time and emotional energy that is invested in these, albeit delicious, little sweets is a bit absurd. I know that there is a scientific method that we follow, but the number of variables that are utterly out of the home baker’s control and the significant impact that these variables have on the final product mean that I mostly put these in the ‘too hard basket’. For the sake of this challenge though, I dusted off my macaron stencil for a final go at them.
I’ve had zero success with the french method, so Rachael’s Italian Method was my chosen recipe. I know its all voodoo but I find something comforting in the stability of the italian meringue. But really, we all know that once that tray is in the oven, all you can really do is pray to the Mac Gods and hope that they are feeling benevolent and will bestow your little macs with some tiny little feet to stand on.
I decided to fill mine with a chai buttercream
so I flavoured a normal buttercream recipe with chai powder
(you can see how some of the tray behind went wonky and refused to pop up their sweet little feet)
but this one was pretty damn footsy!
and I was feeling a little bit artsy
so I decorated the top shells with some edible gold paint
So, lovely readers, how have your adventures in macaron making been? Many successes? Or is the formula to footed macs still as elusive as ever?
Macaron Shell Ingredients
140g ground almonds, room temperature
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g granulated (white) sugar
40g (weight) water
1. Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.
2. Sift into a large bowl, putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.
3. Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. Set aside.
4. In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.
5. Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.
6. While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.
7. Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. About 1 minute before the end, you can add food colouring, if not done at the almond paste stage. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and it should be thick and marshmallowy when you lift the whisk.
8. Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula. You do actually want to get a lot of the air out of the mixture – you do this by folding and squashing the mixture against the side of the bowl, rotating the bowl a quarter turn with each fold. Be sure to firmly scrape the bottom of the bowl with the spatula, so you don’t leave a layer of almond paste there. Mix until you have a homogenous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.
9. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 – #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm / 1 1/2” in diameter, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.
10. Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. If you have any tips sticking up, press them gently down with a damp fingertip.
11. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. If you touch it, it should be only just tacky.
12. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2. Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 18 minutes (20 minutes if using cocoa in the shells), one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.
13. Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling racks for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.
Chai Spiced Buttercream Ingredients
125g unsalted butter (softened)
1 1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 sachet chai powder (1-2 tbsp depending on your taste)
1. Beat the butter and icing sugar until combined
2. Add the milk, one tablespoon at a time and beat on high until light and fluffy
3. Mix in the chai powder
4. Fill those macarons!
But before we riddle, lets get to the real business of this post – goodbyes.
And so it is time for another goodbye. This time it’s my Extension 1 English class that i’m farewelling. Of course, my farewells happen with cake. After all, a class party without cake is just a class. Not that my classes are boring…
In this class we study an unusual topic that is all about challenging the things in this world that we suppose to be true. My students grappled with complex intellectual concepts that sometimes resulted in some minds being blown. But these girls persevered and trusted me when I kept telling them that it would all make sense soon. I’m so grateful to have had the privilege to teach such clever, hard working and all round cheerful girls. They tackled every challenge with unwavering good humour and this even extended to the difficult task I gave them for our final class: bring in dessert that reflected the elective that they studied this year (Textual Dynamics).
pancakes with bacon and maple syrup to challenge the conventions of breakfast foods being either sweet or savoury (not to mention eating breakfast for afternoon tea!)
intertextual foodstuffs with monopoly house fruitcake
a deconstructionist eton mess
texturally dynamic rocky road (puns galore!)
They set the bar pretty high, so I had to pull out all the stops to bake a textually dynamic cake. After considering some of the texts we have studied, in particular, the graphic novel ‘Building Stories’ by Chris Ware which looks remarkably like a board game, I thought, why not make something that looks like a cake but is not a cake?
See? Looks like a chocolate cake, but isn’t a cake.
What is it?
It’s a pinata!
It looked like a cake, tasted like a cake, but when we cut it open and lollies spilled out it became clear that it was a pinata! A cakey, tasty pinata but a pinata nonetheless. This was such a fun cake to make and eat and I felt like it reflected the atmosphere of our classes perfectly.
Next, using a scone or cookie cutter, cut a hole in the centre of each layer of cake and remove the circle (to eat later, but keep the circle from the top layer of cake!) Then layer each slice of cake, using the icing to keep it all stuck together.
Pour in your lollies (I used jaffas and smarties) so that they just reach the height of the second last layer of cake.
Place the final circle of cake on top of the lollies making sure that the top is level
Its the weekend. Thank god. For some reason this week has really taken it out of me and all i’ve craved was a sweet, sweet night of deep, deep sleep. But when things get like this, no matter how tired I am, I think that there is nothing that a delicious slice of cake can’t fix. A simple layer cake like this gingerbread cake with cinnamon buttercream is the perfect thing to soothe the soul.