Mocha Macarons (Mocharons?)

I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with macarons since the Zumbo craze a few years back- they’re delicious, of course, but they’re also expensive and just a tad pretentious for what they are. And I was convinced that they’d be hard to make, even though I do know my way around meringue and baking in general. I wrote them off as something I’d never bother to make years ago.

For my later, I received a gift certificate from my mother in law to the Paris International Cooking School (sadly, in Sydney, not Paris, but it was still an awesome gift!), and walked out of there a few weeks later with a bunch of recipes, a full belly, and, inexplicably, a bottle of gourmet coffee flavoured syrup I’d purchased on a whim. Predictably, that syrup sat in the dark recesses of my baking cupboard for a month or so, until today, when another impulse purchase took me by surprise – a 2kg bag of almond meal.

You can see where this is going.

With all these ridiculous ingredients, guests on their way, and a healthy fear of what was to come, I had to work out the most fool-proof option for making these macarons. Thank goodness for Elaine and her recipe at The Spruce Eats,

as not only did she provide a really simple and effective base recipe that I could change up a bit, but she also talks the reader off the ledge every step of the way.

All I did differently here was add a teaspoon of cocoa to the macaron mixture, and a dash of coffee syrup to the filling. And it was perfect. Chewy, light, barely sweet, and a breeze to cook for only 110 calories a pop (if you make 12). I did, however, find that I had to keep them in the oven longer, but ovens are notoriously fickle, so I took that with a big old grain of salt.

Ingredients

3/4 cup icing sugar

3/4 cup almond meal

2  egg whites

Small pinch maldon salt flakes

1/4 cup caster sugar

1tsp cocoa

Filling:

2/3 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup icing sugar

2tsp coffee syrup

Method

Preheat the oven to 140 C. Line two baking trays with baking paper, and draw 12 circles on each of them, using a shot glass as a stencil.

Sieve the icing sugar and ground almonds into a large mixing bowl, ensuring there are no lumps – I like to whisk the end result, just to be sure.

In a separate clean bowl (I used my stand mixer here), whisk the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Add the caster sugar little by little, whisking until the whites are glossy and stiff peaks form.

Gently fold in the almond mixture. Don’t worry that the meringue loses air, this is normal.

Fill a piping bag with the mixture. Don’t use the star nozzle like I did at first – you want a round, flat base here. Pipe the mixture onto the rounds, filling in the circle.

Gently bang the baking trays on the bench to release any air pockets. Leave on bench to dry out for 20 minutes.

Bake the macarons for 15 minutes, opening the door halfway through to allow any steam (and hence moisture) to escape. Remove from the oven, and allow to sit in their trays until cool. They might seem a little underdone, but will firm upon cooling.

To make the filling, cream the butter and gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add flavouring and beat a little more. Spread 1/2 tsp of filling onto the flat side of one macaron, sandwich with another, and gently twist to cement them together. Repeat with remaining cookies.

 

 

 

 

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Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins

While I do take a healthy diet and lifestyle very, very seriously, I’ve long said that the secret to my success is that I haven’t cut anything out, I’ve just cut it down.  Sugar, fat, carbs, white food, alcohol, bagels, cake – you name it, I’ve almost certainly eaten it since starting  my fitness journey nearly 18 months ago. It’s all about balance, and making sensible choices in terms of portion size and what else you eat that day. Conscious, mindful eating. That’s my boring trick.

Today, I was expecting anywhere between 1 and 12 people in my house today, with no idea what time anyone would be over. I wanted something delicious, fun to make, and flexible to cook/store, that my kids and I could bake in the middle of a heatwave. These muffins were just the ticket. Part muffin, part cheesecake, and 100% delicious, we had as much fun making them as we did eating them. And when only 2 people ended up dropping by, I simply froze the extra (non-frosted) cakes, so we now have emergency cake. PLEASE tell me I’m not the only person who feels far more comfortable in life knowing that there is emergency cake stashed in the freezer!

This recipe is very closely adpated from Taste.com.au, however, by making 20 smaller muffins instead of 12 jumbos, I cut the calories to a much more palatable 297 calories, proving once again that you can have your cake and eat it too!  They’re pretty sweet – I don’t think I could have eaten a jumbo muffin anyway – these the perfect treat size. For me, any way.It’d make a perfectly respectable whole cake, too, provided you used a rather large tin – with four eggs in there, the rise is considerable. I’d hazard a guess that the cream is pretty optional in the icing, and will skip it next time (and there will be a next time!), although it wasn’t ruining anything by being there.

Makes 20

Ingredients

muffins:

125g butter

1.5 cups caster sugar

250g cream cheese

1tsp vanilla

4 eggs

250g strawberries, diced

cheesecake frosting

150g cream cheese

1/2 cup thickened cream

3/4 icing sugar (the original recipe calls for 1/3, but I found it was too runny and tasted far too much of cream)

1/2 tsp vanilla

10 strawberries, hulled and halved

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and line muffin tins with patty pans.
  2. Beat cream cheese and butter until combined. Add sugar and beat until pale and creamy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, and beat after each egg until fully incorporated.
  4. Add vanilla and mix.
  5. Add flour and gently combine. Fold through strawberries.
  6. Spoon mixture into cases until 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. When cooked, remove pans from oven and allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Transfer to rack to cool completely.
  8. While muffins are baking,  combine all icing ingredients and beat thoroughly until thick and fully incorporated. Rest in fridge until ready to use.
  9. When muffins are cool, pipe or spread the icing over the muffin and top with a slice of strawberry. (my kids ate the strawberries on me while I was still using them – any other berry works just as well!)

 

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