Recipe: Chocolate & Whisky Macarons

I have to admit, when I was sixteen and a guy was trying to impress me by telling me he could bake, I was skeptical. Just sounds a little like a cheesy chat-up line, right?! Clearly he was keeper right there and then (his cookie recipe remains our favourite to this day!), because six years on he made these.

 photo Macarons_zpsximvjnww.png photo Chocolate and Whisky Macarons 4_zpsf6nrcbkr.jpgChocolate macarons. Filled with a boozy, rich, chocolatey ganache.

I know – I’m a lucky girl! These macarons are crisp on the outside, delightfully chewy on the inside – the perfect macaron. But, in my opinion at least, it’s the ganache that steals the show. Impossibly rich and chocolatey, with a real kick coming from the whisky. We’re big whisky-lovers but if you’re worried about enjoying it then feel free to cut down to just one teaspoon. Oh, and these amounts made a shit-load of ganache too – way more than you’ll need for filling the macarons. I highly suggest chilling the mix and then rolling into truffles. You can thank me later…

 photo Chocolate and Whisky Macarons 2_zpsegmjhcln.jpgIngredients (makes around 25 macarons, and plenty of ganache!)

  • 170g icing sugar
  • 160g ground almonds
  • 120ml egg whites from about 4 medium eggs, separated into 2 equal batches
  • 160g granulated sugar
  • 1/2tsp raw cacao powder (1tsp if using normal cocoa powder)
  • For the ganache: 225g dark chocolate, 140ml double cream, 2 tbsp butter, 2 tsp whisky

Mix the icing sugar, cacao powder and ground almonds together, then sieve into a large bowl, discarding any particles that stay in the sieve. Add the first batch of egg whites to the almond mixture, mix to form a thick paste and set aside.

Tip the second half of egg whites into the bowl of your KitchenAid (or a large, clean bowl with an electric mixer set up nearby). Place 50ml water and the granulated sugar into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook until the syrup registers 110C on a sugar thermometer, then start to beat the egg whites on high speed. Once the syrup is at 118C pour it gradually into the whites, avoiding the moving whisk. Whisk on high until the mixture has cooled slightly and you have a shiny meringue mixture (soft peaks are good here). Tip the meringue onto the almond mixture and gently fold together until fully combined.

 photo Chocolate and Whisky Macarons 1_zpsgwnolysl.jpgHeat oven to 170C and line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment. Transfer the batter to a piping bag and pipe rounds (around a 50p size) onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave to rest for 30 mins (not in the fridge) – they should develop a film or skin on top. Bake for 13-15 mins, then cool for a few minutes before gently peeling the macaroons off the paper.

To make the filling, heat cream until warm (not boiling) and then add finely chopped chocolate, stirring until melted and combined. Add in the butter and whiskey and stir until combined, then let cool until thicken. Place the chocolate mix into a clean piping bag with a smaller nozzle and pipe around the edge of half the macarons. Fill the centre with more ganache and sandwich with another macaron half.

 photo Chocolate and Whisky Macarons 3_zpsekg8jkwb.jpgChocolate and whisky might seem like an odd combination, but it’s one I think really works perfectly. A slightly smoky whisky against a bitter-sweet but creamy desert is one of my ideas of perfection and these macarons take it to the next level. They are even better after a few days, when the moisture from the ganache softens the macaron a bit more, making them a little denser, a little brownie like. And they are so small, it would b a crime to have less than three at once…

What’s your favourite chocolate-y recipe?

Baking: Hot Toddy Cupcakes

Yep, I’m on a diet. Nope, I shouldn’t be eating cakes. Especially not moist stick cupcakes, slathered in zingy sweet alcoholic icing, drizzled with tangy, spiced ever more alcoholic syrup.

 photo 2015-01-03 18.14.24_zpsc05yoh56.jpgBut these are SO DAMN TASTY.

Just the right amount of spice to warm, the right amount of lemon to make you feel energised, and enough sugar to add some life back in…these are wonderful winter bakes. With or without the whisky (I love the stuff) these are enough to chase away a cold, brighten up a miserable afternoon, and put a smile on anyone’s face. They’re like a hug in a cupcake.

 photo 2015-01-03 18.14.18_zpsjxfdtogb.jpg photo 2015-01-03 18.13.36_zpstsbxnxwo.jpgI like to avoid cupcake and proper cake mixing, as they are so much better when made with an electric whisk. I refuse to add to my kitchen equipment with one yet – my parents will undoubtedly disown me if anything else gets purchased. These were made using my boyfriend’s electrical items…and now he has a shiny purple KitchenAid (when are we moving in together?!) I’m hinting that he really doesn’t need a hand-held one too…BUT anyway, if you fancy making these by hand, have two as you’ll have burnt off enough calories!

 photo 2015-01-03 16.01.18_zpsf74tpdmm.jpgNow, there’s a lot of ingredients here, but the recipe is simple, many of them are easily found in the average cupboard (I had everything but the cloves). The amounts make 11 generous cupcakes – I reckon they’d be great as mini fairy cakes too!

Ingredients (sponge)

  • 120g self-raising flour (the advantages of a well stocked kitchen, I normally stick to plain!)
  • 115g caster sugar (again, I usually use ordinary granulated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 big teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • 140g very soft unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon, along with two tablespoons of juice
  • Splash of milk, if the mix looks too dry

Ingredients (icing)

  • 150g butter, again very soft
  • 325g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of whisky

Ingredients (syrup – makes a little more than you need, add some to hot water for a warming drink!)

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons whisky
  • 3 cloves

 photo 2015-01-03 15.33.34_zpsthefjgq2.jpg photo 2015-01-03 16.00.14_zpsofburr7y.jpgStart by making the sponge. Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.

 photo 2015-01-03 16.03.53_zpstjrjfvzx.jpg photo 2015-01-03 16.07.33_zpscribqyil.jpg photo 2015-01-03 16.08.59_zpsnasm0tcd.jpgAdd everything else (not the milk) and beat until combined. Add the milk if needed.

 photo 2015-01-03 16.09.07_zpsjqrikkdq.jpgDivide between cupcake cakes and bake for around 18 minutes at 170C.

 photo 2015-01-03 16.09.15_zpsfaq64jff.jpgWhilst the cakes are baking make the syrup; it needs plenty of time to cool. Put all the ingredients into a good saucepan and heat, slowly and on a low heat, until simmering. Simmer until you have a syrup-y consistency, but you don’t want the mix to darken – it will taste burnt if it does. Try not to stir (or it will crystallise) but instead swirl the pan from time to time. Pass through a sieve into a jug and let cool.

 photo 2015-01-03 17.26.40_zpszsl83aph.jpg photo 2015-01-03 17.26.49_zpssxzsmp80.jpgAnd while the cakes and the syrup cools, make the icing. Beat the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the icing sugar in stages. Yep, this causes the kitchen to suffer a bit of a ‘snowstorm!’

 photo 2015-01-03 17.29.27_zpsf9kohue6.jpg photo 2015-01-03 17.29.54_zpstpe4h6gh.jpgOnce the icing sugar is all mixed in, beat in the honey, lemon juice and whisky. Taste and adjust if necessary.

 photo 2015-01-03 17.47.07_zpshtorltno.jpgAdd the icing to the cupcakes – I had a lovely boyfriend ready with his piping bag but otherwise I’d have just piled it on with a spoon. Drizzle over the syrup, and there you go.

 photo 2015-01-03 18.15.52_zpsuvxpdbwi.jpgZesty, spicy, warming cupcakes with the most delicious whisky kick. One of my best bakes.

Have you baked anything recently, or are you trying to be ‘good’ too? I promise I’ll be back to more healthy recipes soon!