Baking challenge: raspberry friands, pistachio and rosewater madeleines, and another attempt at macarons

Pistachio and rosewater madeleines

As the longest and hottest summer I have ever known in the Northern Hemisphere stretched through August and into September, then past the first week of October, the chorus of voices wishing away the heat and the long lazy days grew ever-louder. It’s now cold and dreary once again, and dark, so very very dark, at 4pm, where a few short months ago it was light and shimmery past 10 o’clock. The only real upside to cold nights in, frankly, is that it becomes tolerable to bake again, whereas flicking the oven on over the summer was torturous.

People often gravitate towards the rich, heavy, sticky and chocolatey in winter – and why not? – but I think there’s a place for light, refreshing and zesty, too, if only to remind one of summer days past. This trio of petit fours showcases some lovely floral, fruity and sharp flavours that are lovely together, but would work beautifully on their own too.

Trio of petit fours

I decided to make friands (and influence people) because, as usual, I had a large jar of egg whites sitting in the back of the fridge, waiting for their day (I don’t know quite how I manage to acquire so many egg whites, but a recipe which uses up a great quantity is always useful). Coincidentally I picked up a Waitrose recipe card for friands around the same time I was planning my three bakes and have just tweaked the recipe a bit to showcase raspberries – I think the sharpness of raspberries works so well with the richness of butter and ground almonds which are a feature of friands.

I’ve been trying to crack macarons for years, though I have admittedly not applied myself particularly diligently to this task. As usual, the results were pretty inconsistent, although this batch produced better shells than usual and I got a few very pretty, completely perfect macarons out of them for a change. I used this recipe for macarons with honey buttercream, tinting the shells butter yellow with a dab of food colouring paste.

The prettiness of the pistachio rose water madeleines, and the opportunity to use my mini tin, were reason enough to try them out. They were my favourite of the three bakes – the good pinch of salt balanced out the sweetness and mouth-filling floral notes and made them incredibly moreish.

This post is part of my challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the signature challenge for week nine (patisserie week) of series three: three types of petit fours – twelve of each

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Baking challenge: a thousand splendid macarons (or 60, at least)

This post is part of my personal challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the showstopper challenge for week four (biscuits week) of series two: make three flavours of macarons, twenty sandwiched macarons per flavour, for a total of sixty pairs (i.e. 40 shells per flavour, a total of 120 shells).

Macarons. My bete noire.

There was a veritable fashion, some years ago, for food bloggers to write about conquering the mighty mountain of macaron baking. The challenges were epic, the trials and misfortunes of misshapen batches amply documented and the subsequent triumphalist posts, full of tips and tweaks on how to make perfect macarons, were long and technical.

That time – of refined and elegant biscuit, of brutal perfectionism – is now past. Blogging and foodie tastes now run to the simple, the artisanal, the rustic, the thrown together. No less delicious than the delicate refinements of the macaron but also no less stylised and no less of a statement. What it says about the world as it is could be anyone’s guess – does the hankering for the handmade, rough and ready baked goods signify a desire for security and a rejection of the trappings of materialism at a time of global austerity signified by the ornately fussed and primped-over patisserie tray?

Macarons: caramel popcorn, Earl Grey salted caramel, and chocolate and peanut butter
Macarons: caramel popcorn, Earl Grey salted caramel, and chocolate and peanut butter

I’m no social anthropologist. All I know is that I am relatively relaxed about macarons, for the simple reason that I find them very difficult to make. If they bake all the way through and don’t stick stubbornly to the baking sheet, I’m pretty satisfied. My macarons may resemble cottage cheese to some – lumpy and bumpy – but I’m happy to have something more than a scrap of crisp shell and a handful of (almond) dust beneath, to be honest.

Continue reading “Baking challenge: a thousand splendid macarons (or 60, at least)”