Inspired by Masterchef: Marshmallows with Strawberries

When last week’s Masterchef focused on afternoon tea and pastries, I knew I was going to have to have a sweet week.   This may sound a little odd, but I’m not especially keen on marshmallows.  I don’t dislike them, but I can take them or leave them.   I don’t quite understand why some people love them in hot chocolate with lots of cream.   Yes, they look good, but they don’t really add anything that chocolate isn’t delicious enough to provide by itself.  Anyway, there was something about the marshmallows Andrew made that really made me want to try them.  They looked lovely and soft and pillowy, but had a raspberry hidden inside.   I would have used raspberries with these but the local shop didn’t have any, and strawberries were the closest I could get.   I also gave up on the idea of enclosing the strawberries inside the marshmallow as they looked so pretty  on top and would have been absolutely huge if I’d added another spoonful of marshmallow.    Well, to be honest,  the mixture left in the bowl was beginning to set anyway and would probably have just looked a mess if I’d tried to use it to hide the strawberries.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed with how these turned out.   I hadn’t realised that marshmallow was so easy to make.  But, they were very sweet and I don’t have a very sweet tooth.   As marshmallow is sweet, and mainly sugar, I’m not sure if anything could be done to make them less sweet.   I suppose just don’t eat too many at once.    Invite lots of people to your home to share them with, because unfortunately they are not at their best for long.  Many of the recipes on the internet said they could be stored for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container (if you don’t add fruit), but I found they were going a little soggy around the edges beyond a couple of days and the sooner they were eaten the better.

I read quite a few recipes when deciding how to make these but the finished result is mainly adapted from a James Martin recipe.

I would like to link these to Alpha Bakes, started by  The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes.  This month  the letter is M and it is hosted by Caroline.  I am also linking to Sweets for a Saturday.

Ingredients

230g sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

9 sheets of gelatine

2 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp icing sugar

2 tbsp cornflour

Strawberries (optional)

How to make Marshmallows

1. Mix the icing sugar and cornflour together.   Lightly oil a couple of small muffin tins.    Sift some of the icing sugar and cornflour over the trays.

2. Put the gelatine sheets in a small bowl and cover with 140ml of cold water.

3. Put the sugar, golden syrup and approx 100ml of water in a small saucepan with a sugar thermometer leaning against the side. Bring to the boil and leave until it reaches 127C, and then add the water and gelatine.   It will fizz up so stir it gently till the gelatine has dissolved into the sugar mixture.

4. Whisk the egg white and when it forms peaks, gradually pour in the sugar mixture.   Also add the vanilla extract. Continue to whisk for up to 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and holds its shape.

5. As the mixture begins to set very quickly once you finish whisking, immediately spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.  Top each mound of marshmallow with a strawberry.   Leave to set.   If you are planning to only eat some of these straightaway, don’t add strawberries to the ones you want to keep for more than a couple of days.

6. When you take the marshmallows out of the muffin tins, put them on a plate on in a tin, lined with icing sugar and cornflour.

 

Inspired by Masterchef: Chocolate Ravioli with Cherry Sauce

I considered whether to call these Nutella ravioli or chocolate ravioli, but as they are Inspired by Masterchef I felt chocolate fitted the title better.   After all, if I’d had a little more time I could have made a ganache first, like for my truffles, and used that instead of resorting to a bought chocolate spread.   But hey, who doesn’t like Nutella, and as there is no sugar in the dough, the sweetness of the Nutella is enough to make the whole ravioli taste sweet.   If I’d made a ganache I might have made it a little sweeter than usual.   I’d never made pasta before.   Well, I’ve made gnocchi but I don’t consider that the same as pasta, and let me tell you, making pasta by hand is hard work.   The dough is not very soft so it is hard work to knead it, and then when you roll it out, it is also quite hard work.  I wanted to make a really thin dough but I was getting fed up of rolling out the dough and so stopped when it was probably a little too thick.    And that is my only regret about this dish. The cherry sauce was delicious and went so well with the Nutella ravioli.    I was worried the ravioli might split in the water but they held together well.   Unfortunately, the pasta was a little thick and I felt they could have done with another minute in the water to make sure all the dough was cooked through.   If only I’d had stronger arms, more patience or a pasta machine, because this would definitely have let me down if I had been on Masterchef.  Despite this, I was pleased to have tried something new and really enjoyed them.   Next time, I’ll have a bit more experience and hopefully will manage to make ravioli I could imagine serving on Masterchef.

I am linking this to Spice n Sugar Tales for Cakes, Cookies and Desserts and to Sweet as Sugar Cookies for Sweets for a Saturday.

Ingredients – Makes 6

100g strong white flour

1 egg

6 tsp (or possibly more) Nutella or other chocolate spread

2 handfuls of cherries

1 tbsp icing sugar

How to make Chocolate Ravioli with Cherry Sauce

1. Make the pasta dough.   Put the egg and flour in a food processor and blend until it forms a breadcrumb consistency.

2. Turn this mixture out onto a clean work surface.   Use your hands to bring the mixture together into a dough and then knead until it becomes smooth and no longer floury.

3. Wrap the dough in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for about half an hour.

4. Take the dough out of the fridge.   Ideally use a pasta maker to roll the dough thin.   However, I don’t have one and had to use a rolling pin.   The dough is quite firm so it is hard work.   Roll it as thin as possible.

5. Using a round pastry cutter or glass, cut the dough into circles about 5-6cm across.

6. Put a tsp of nutella on half of the circles.  Using another circle, press the dough together all the way around so that the nutella is well sealed in the middle.

7. Gently put the ravioli into boiling water.  They will sink to the bottom.  After they rise, continue to cook for another 2 minutes.

8. To make the sauce, cut the cherries in half and remove the stones.   Add a little water and most of the icing sugar.   Heat gently and stir.   The cherries will go a little soft and release some juice so a syrup forms with the sugar, water and cherry juice.   If it is too dry add a little extra water.

9. Serve the ravioli on top of the cherries and drizzle the sauce over the top.   Sprinkle with a little icing sugar too.

Chilli Chocolate Truffles

It was almost two years since I last made truffles and as they’re so easy to make, and make great Christmas presents I decided it was time to make them again.  Now the strange thing about making truffles is that even though they are so easy, they make you want to show off.  You see, not everyone you know, knows how easy they are to make, and even if you tell them, they might not quite believe you.   So, taking a box into work can really impress your colleagues, in a way that offering them a piece of your homemade quiche does not.  And besides, these are definitely easier and quicker to make.

I used a finely diced fresh chilli to make these and I loved the slightly juicy texture the little bits of chilli gave to the truffles.  However, my husband wasn’t so keen on the bits and would have preferred a completely smooth texture.  If you think that might be how you’d feel too, I’m sure using chilli powder instead of fresh chilli would work equally well.   Also, if you did want to give these as presents, they would probably last longer with chilli powder rather than with fresh chilli.   And if you don’t like chilli?   Well, I’m surprised you’re reading this, but I’m sure there are lots of other spices that would also work.

I am sending this to Lyndsey at Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops for this month’s Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge whose theme is Christmas.

I am also sending this to Lisa at Sweet as Sugar Cookies for Sweets for a Saturday.

Ingredients - (I forgot to count but probably makes about 20)

150g creme fraiche

150g dark chocolate

80g sugar

1 fresh chilli pepper or chilli powder (1/4 tsp or more to taste)

2 – 3 tbsp cocoa powder

How to make Chilli Chocolate Truffles

1. Put the creme fraiche and sugar in a saucepan and heat over a low heat until melted.  Turn the heat off.

2. Break the chocolate up and stir into the cream and sugar mixture.

3. Deseed the chilli and dice finely. Add to the ganache and stir in,

4. Pour into a plastic container and put in the fridge to harden.

5. After a couple of hours, take the mixture out of the fridge.   Use a teaspoon to take out truffle sized pieces of the ganache.   Roll it between your palms to make balls then roll in cocoa powder.  I found some of the pieces of ganache kept breaking up and it was easier to roll the irregular shaped pieces in the cocoa powder, then roll them between my palms to get the right shape, then roll again in the cocoa powder.

6. Store in the fridge.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Ice Cream

Since getting my new ice cream maker last week I’d been looking forward to testing it out.   All week different flavours have been running through my mind and also conflicting opinions between me and my husband.    My husband loves chocolate, toffee and caramel type flavours.  I prefer fruit flavours.   He prefers real ice cream but I like sorbets and frozen yoghurts.   In the end, I came up with a compromise of raspberry ice cream with white chocolate chips.

It was less sweet than shop-bought ice cream so you might want to add more sugar than I did.   Maybe up to twice as much depending on taste.  To save time you could also leave some whole raspberries in the mix or even not bother with getting rid of the seeds and just mash the raspberries a little before adding to the cream.  Anyway, it makes a lovely summer dessert served with a few extra raspberries.

Ingredients – Serves 4

200g raspberries

300ml single cream

1 tbsp icing sugar

1tsp vanilla essence

100g white chocolate

How to Make Raspberry and White Chocolate Ice Cream

1. Put the raspberries in a blender and blend till smooth.

2. Cut the chocolate up to make small chocolate chips.

3. Put a sieve above a bowl and push the raspberry mixture through the sieve till only the seeds are left in the sieve.

4. Add the sugar, cream and chocolate to the bowl and stir to combine.

5. Put into an ice cream maker, following the instructions given for your machine.

Almond and Coconut Macaroons

I have just amazed myself.   These have turned out stunningly well for a first attempt at macaroons.  On the very day that I have decided to be healthy and lose just a little weight in January, I have managed to make the most amazing macaroons.   This is going to make that challenge so much harder.   I’m especially pleased they turned out so well as they are one of the things on my new year to-do list.   Not the first thing I’ve made though.   The first thing was creme brulees.   I made them two days ago and tested out my new blow torch.   They looked great and the blow torch caramelised the sugar really well.   The only snag was that they hadn’t set.   They still tasted good – like sweet vanilla flavoured cream, but they were a little too runny for me to  post them.   I’m not sure if the mistake was me or the recipe, but I shall just have to make them again.   What a shame!

Now, onto the Macaroons.   In 2010, everywhere I looked people seemed to be making and talking about macaroons.   I’d had them as a child.   My mum made them once or twice but I didn’t think they were anything amazing.   At first I thought, oh no, not another macaroon post.   But gradually my curiosity grew.  If all these people think macaroons are amazing, then maybe they are, and maybe I should make them.   In November, Jenna at Eat, Live, Run made Raspberry Rose Macaroons and it was probably this post that made me decide that I would definitely make them, at some point.   That time was today.   As I hadn’t made macaroons before I needed a method and a recipe and so I turned to Jenna’s post for the basics.     However, as lovely as raspberry rose sounds,  I wanted to make almond and coconut ones and so the recipe has been adapted quite a lot.    I also cooked them for about 5 minutes longer than Jenna as my macaroons were bigger.    The result is below.   Not a great photo, but great macaroons.

Ingredients – makes about 12

2 egg whites

125 g icing sugar

55 g ground almonds

5 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp almond essence

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

How to make Coconut Almond Macaroons

1.  In a bowl mix the ground almonds, desiccated coconut and icing sugar.  In another bowl measure out the caster sugar.

2. Beat the egg until it begins to stiffen.   Add the sugar and continue to whisk until it forms stiff peaks.

3. Add the almond essence and half the ground almond mixture.   Fold in then add the remaining ground almond and fold in too.

4. Put a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray.  If you have a piping bag you could use it but I just put spoonfuls of the mixture on the baking parchment.

5. Put in a pre-heated oven at 180°c and bake for about 15 minutes.

6. Let cool for about 5 minutes then put on a wire rack.  The macaroons are quite delicate so if you lift the baking parchment a little then peel the parchment away from the macaroon it helps avoid them shattering.

Lots of macaroon recipes call for making a cream filling then sandwiching 2 together.   This would be good but as we’ve just had Christmas and New Year I was happy to just to eat these plain.

Coconut Dates – Tumr Bel Nargine

When I heard about AWED and that the theme for this month was Saudi Arabia, hosted by Kitchen Samraj, I was really interested.   I don’t know about you, but I don’t know much about Saudi food and I was excited to get a reason and  opportunity to find out and do some research.

When I came across these coconut dates I felt they would go just perfectly with more of the cardamom coffee I’d made earlier.  When I then read that they are often served with coffee, and that cardamom coffee is also drunk in Saudi Arabia, I felt I just had to make them.  I adapted a recipe I found on  wikia.  The quantities were too large and I also wanted to make them a little less oily than the original recipe seemed to suggest so I dry fried the almonds rather than using oil.   The finished result was rich and chewy,with a strong taste of cardamom.  If you like a more subtle flavour, just use one cardamom pod.

Ingredients

125 g dates

2 cardamom pods

10 almonds, blanched

Small knob of butter

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

How to make Coconut Dates

1. If the almonds have their skins on, pour boiling water on them.  Leave for a minute.   Drain, squeeze each almond out of its skin.  Leave to dry or dry on some kitchen paper.

2. In a dry frying pan toast the almonds until they begin turning golden.  Be careful not to let them burn.

3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.   Add the dates and stir.   As the dates soften they begin to stick together, mash a bit with the spoon to break up individual dates.

4. Take the seeds out of the cardamom pods and crush in a pestle and mortar.  Add the seeds to the date mixture, which should be similar now to a heavy dough.   Continue to cook for a couple of minutes.   There will be a lovely smell of date and cardamom in the kitchen.

5. Take off the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.   When the mixture is cool enough to handle, divide the mixture into 10 equal sized balls.   Press an almond into the middle of each ball then roll in the desiccated coconut.

6. Serve on their own or with coffee, as a snack or at the end of a meal.