Tuesday, 27 July 2010

How I Used up Some Frozen Cranberries

It's been a while since I posted, I know.

Last week we shut the restaurant in order to go on our summer holiday. We enjoyed a lovely four day trip to York, using our English Hertiage membership to pass the time in Castles, Abbeys and any other historical site we could get into. I think we managed to see 14 sites in 5 days - not bad!
Of course, castle fatique set in and now I can't bear the idea of seeing another ruin for at least a month. Anyway, more on all of that to come another time.

Since we got home, we have had plenty to do - a family party to attend, 20 tablecloths and 60 restaurant napkins to iron and a restaurant to restock and prepare, ready for tomorrow.
Typically, I have also had a cold.

Over the last few years, it's been great fun to see certain bakery items come into fashion. At the moment it seems to be Whoopie Pies. I look forward to trying to make them one day, probably when they are out of fashion. The idea of a marshmallow style icing is quite exciting to me, but I must admit I am a fiend for butter icing, which is why the cupcake trend appealed to me so much. There's nothing like a large swirl of brightly coloured butter icing to go with a morning cup of coffee a few times a week.

Of course, before these delights came the Macaron. I remember being in Paris a few years ago and pressing my nose as hard into the window of Laduree's as I possibly could to see the most vivid sugar rainbow you could ever imagine. Every flavour imaginable has the most incredible colour to match it. I wish I could find a recipe book to understand how the macaron is flavoured.

A few days before we left, I was searching through the freezer for a block of butter to make galettes with and I found 2 bags of frozen cranberries. Isn't it annoying how you can only find them fresh during the run up to Christmas? I know I'd use them all year round if I could. I love how versatile they are. Most of all I love the way their hollow bellies 'pop' during cooking. And the colour. WOW.

My thoughts turned to yet another Nigella recipe (I love her, what else can I say?). This time, cranberry curd was on the cards. Before I allowed myself to make it, I had to come up with a way to use it other than on toast, otherwise it'd end up at the back of the fridge with the Hellmans and a jar of pepperdews.

Macarons almost immediately sprang to mind as they need a slightly thick filling and I set about checking I had all the necessary ingredients. I did! Yay! Time to get cooking.

Cranberry Curd (from How to be a Domestic Godess)

250g cranberries
100ml water
50g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs

Place the cranberries and water in a saucepan, cover and cook on a low heat until tender and popped. Pass the cranberries through a sieve and put the puree back to the saucepan.
Add the butter and sugar, melting them gently.
Beat the eggs in a bowl and sieve them into the saucepan. Stir the curd constantly over a medium heat until it has thickened. It should coat the back of a spoon. Let it cool a little before spooning it into 2 250ml jars. Store in the fridge.


125g ground almonds
225g icing sugar
4 medium egg whites
a pinch of cream of tartar
25g caster sugar
Red food colouring

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds onto a piece of baking parchment and then sift again.
Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until just foamy and then add the cream of tartar and whisk to soft peaks.
Reduce the speed and add the caster sugar before whisking until the egg whites are at stiff peaks. Add a couple of drops of food colouring - once again, professional gels are best for a more intense colour.
Using a metal spoon, fold in the dry ingredients. The mixture should be smooth and shiny.
Place a sheet of baking parchment onto a baking tray and using a 1cm nozzle on a piping bag, pipe the mixture on top. The macarons should be no more than 2cm in diameter. Be sure to leave  an inch between each one. Tap the tray from underneath to flatten the macarons slightly. Leave the macaron trays on the side for 15mins so that they develop a skin.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 15mins, leaving the oven door slightly ajar to allow steam to escape as they cook.
They should rise from the bases to form a foot and be crisp and firm on top.
As soon as you remove them from the oven, run a little cold water underneath the baking parchment onto the baking tray. This will make it easier to remove them from the parchment. Allow them 3mins to cool slighty before you transfer them to a cooling rack.
Leave until completely cold andthen sandwich with the filling, using a good amount so as to be able to see a little of it.

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