Macarongs

Well, after all my happy “my macarons have feet, and look like macarons!” excitement the other day, I made a batch today that was mostly made of fail.

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They still taste lovely, but don’t look especially pretty.

I think the problem is that I halved the recipe. I didn’t have enough almonds for a full recipe, so thought I’d give it a go. When I scooped the meringue out of the bowl, there was lots of crystalised sugar stuck to the bottom, so I think the sugar was cooling too quickly to combine properly with the beaten egg whites.

So, I’ll eat my macarongs, chalk this up to experience, and make another, full, batch at the weekend.

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Macarons

Well, so much for me posting here on a regular basis! I have been baking during my 10 month absence, but it’s not really been worth writing about. Lots of bread, a very tasty lemon drizzle layer cake, lots of cupcakes, and that’s about it.

I also tried making macarons again for the first time in a while, and kept failing. I appear to have lost my mac knack when it comes to the French meringue method. It probably didn’t help that I was using a recipe that included malted milk powder, but even when I made a plain batch following BraveTart’s wonderful how to, I failed miserably.

I’m choosing to blame my oven.

After hearing about my friend’s very talented teenage son having massive success making macarons using Italian meringue, I decided it was time to stop being scared of boiling sugar and try it for myself. I’d heard that Italian is more forgiving, and less likely to fail because of things like an inconsistent oven temperature, so I found myself a recipe, and got to it.

And it worked.

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I made a white chocolate ganache for the middle, which actually isn’t as overwhelmingly sweet as I feared it might be, and it’s lovely and smooth, despite me over-beating it to the point that it almost curdled. Whoops.

I matured them in the fridge, which I haven’t done before, and it does make a difference to the taste and the texture.

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Very very pleased. A friend has asked me to make some macarons for her daughter’s 5th birthday, so I’m going to make one more practise batch before saying yes.

They’re still not perfect. My piping technique defintely needs honing. But they look like macarons, and taste like macarons, and that makes me happy.

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Cinnayum

I love cinnamon. Unfortunately, much of the UK doesn’t, unlike the US which has such wonders as Big Red, cinnamon Altoids (which, despite being made in England, aren’t sold here) and cinnamon flavoured toothpaste. We do have a couple of Cinnabons now, but they’re fortunately far enough away from me to make it a pain to get to one, because otherwise I would be eating my own body weight in them daily, and would soon be round(er), and covered in cinnamon and cream cheese icing – much like a Cinnabon.

One of my favourite things to make and eat to feed my cinnamon addiction is cinnamon raisin bread, but I’ve not made it in a couple of years. I wanted to give Harry a workout and see just what he’s capable of, so decided to make my go-to-cinnamon raisin bread recipe of old. I’ve always divided the recipe by three to make just one loaf, but I decided to push my mixer to its maximum eight cup capacity and make the full quantity.

Harry coped beautifully. I used the bread hook right up until the point the dough began to climb the hook and pull away from the sides, and then I kneaded by hand, because there’s something wonderfully therapeutic about kneading dough.

I wish there was some way to capture smell and send it over the Internet, because the bread smells amazing when it’s cooking. It was really hard waiting for it to cool down enough to be sliced without falling to bits, but it was worth the wait.

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Love it. I’m taking two of the loaves into work tomorrow, because otherwise I’ll just eat it all.

Also, cinnamon is one of those words where if you type it enough times, you start doubting that you’ve spelled it right. A bit like ‘the’ and ‘tongue’. Or is that just me?

Pasta

I’ve never made pasta before, but I’ve always wanted to give it a go, and now I have my shiny KitchenAid pasta attachment, I decided to test it out.

I halved the manual’s recipes for egg pasta and spinach pasta, because WOW, over 2lb of pasta.

The recipes are as follows (in their original quantities):

Egg pasta:

4 large eggs (7⁄8 cup eggs)

1⁄2 cup water

3 1⁄2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Place eggs, water, flour, and salt in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater. Turn to Speed 2 and mix 30 seconds. Exchange flat beater for dough hook. Turn to Speed 2 and knead 2 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for 1 to 2 minutes. Let it rest for 20 minutes. Divide dough into 4 pieces before processing with Pasta Sheet Roller attachment.

Spinach pasta:

1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 tablespoon water
4 large eggs (7⁄8 cup eggs)
4 cups sifted al lpurpose flour

Place spinach in a towel and wring out all water until spinach feels very dry. Finely chop spinach using a food grinder attachment, food processor or blender. Place chopped spinach, water, eggs, and flour in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater. Turn to Speed 2 and mix 30 seconds. Exchange flat beater for dough hook. Turn to Speed 2 and knead 2 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for 1 to 2 minutes. Divide dough into eight pieces before processing with Pasta Sheet Roller attachment.

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We’ll be eating this for dinner tomorrow, probably with some kind of cheese sauce (mostly because we don’t have any tomatoes, tinned or otherwise, in the house right now and I can’t see me being bothered to go out to buy any).

I really enjoyed making the pasta – there’s something very soothing about it. I did find that the mixer head started jumping up and down once the dough came together – I don’t know if it’s because the beater is too low, or too high, or because the dough is quite stiff. That’s the drawback to being a total KitchenAid newbie – I don’t know what’s normal.

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Gnocch Gnocch! Who’s there?


Gnocchi with bacon, chicken and spinach Alfredo sauce, that’s who!

I’ve been making the above recipe by Heidikins Cooks for a good while now, and it’s comfort food at its very finest. Stodgy and filling and cheesy and bacony – bacon makes everything better. Well, it doesn’t make clogged arteries better, but it’s yummy. I do trim the rind in an effort to be health conscious, but I should probably throw the rind away, or make fat balls for birds or something, rather than frying it until it’s a cinder and then eating it, which is very Homer Simpson of me.

Don’t let my photo put you off (I know it looks a little like vomit) – it really is tasty. We rarely have fresh spinach in the house, so we use frozen, and I’ve yet to find frozen spinach that doesn’t disintegrate into lots of bits.

I’ve faffed with the recipe a bit – I use two chicken breasts instead of 1/2, and two rashers of bacon instead of four, and a whole onion. I also add pepper to the sauce, and use just a cup of cheese. The recipe says it serves four, but, um, usually it feeds two of us, three at a push (and when it serves three, we’re all left desperately running our finger around the bowl to get the last bit of sauce). When three of us are eating, I cook 500g of gnocchi – for two of us, 250g.

I’ve made a vegetarian version of this using Quorn chicken pieces and fake bacon, and it was just as yummy. For the health conscious among you, run away. I’ve have made a low-fat version of this, but it still clocks in at a whacking great 16 Pro-Points (for both the veggie and the meat versions). As a once-in-a-while meal though, it’s not too bad. A healthier option is to ditch the cheese sauce and use a tin of chopped tomatoes instead, with a little pesto stirred in just before serving.

I’ve yet to attempt making gnocchi, but it’s on my to-do list – it looks like fun.

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Yorkshire puds

It’s not a proper Sunday roast without a Yorkshire pudding, and I like my puds to be soft inside, with a nice crunchy outside.

I’d be a complete failure as a 50% Yorkshirewoman if I couldn’t make a decent Yorkshire pudding, but they’re deceptively simple, and thus easy to cock up. The secret is a: pre-heating your pan, then b: adding oil and heating that for at least five minutes. You’ll know when it’s hot enough, because when you add the batter, it’ll puff up just a little almost as soon as it hits the oil.

This is the recipe I’ve used for years (essentially, anyway, give or take a few mls of milk and grams of flour – linking you to this one because I’m too lazy to type up my own) – Jamie Oliver’s Yorkshire Puddings. You can make up a couple of batches really easily, and freeze what you don’t use. Chuck ’em in the oven for about five minutes, and yum. Much better than anything Aunt Whatsherface makes.

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(rubbish photo is rubbish because my dSLR is at work, so only had my ‘phone to hand)

There’s nothing spectacular about this recipe – but it’s a classic, and this is the first thing I made with my KitchenAid mixer (who is called Harry, jsyk). It probably seems like overkill, but I’d never even touched a KitchenAid before today, so I wanted to make something simple as I get a feel for it.

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Cupcakes and puddings and muffins, oh my

Why The Accidental Cupcake? A friend made a comment about accidental cupcakes, and I decided that would be the name of my theoretical, won-the-lottery, bakery/geek-bookshop.

Let’s face it, that’s never going to happen, so instead,  I decided to start a blog about baking, because nobody else does that, right? 

As I’m fortunate enough to have the most amazing friends in the world, I recently became the proud owner of my very own beautiful and shiny Empire Red KitchenAid stand mixer and blender (which I’ve had less than a week, and I keep talking to them and telling them how gorgeous they are – that’s normal, isn’t it?). Given these recent additions to my life, and the fact that I want an excuse to a: cook more and b: take more photographs, now seems like the perfect time to start this blog.

So, here it is – The Accidental Cupcake. It’s going to take me a while to get up and running, but watch this space.