Tag Archives: homemade

Macarons part deux

Coffee and chocolate macarons

I don’t know if you follow us on twitter, but if you do you’ll know that I managed to sneak in the second attempt of macaron making today.

Mixing on baby’s floor a.k.a multitasking

Those of you with babies will know that this is a minor miracle, especially when baby is napping less and moving more!

Nevertheless, I had my points for improvement from last time and was therefore focused and efficient.

Coffee macaron mix

I decided that whilst I’m still learning, I will reduce my quantities to just one egg white. I can’t stand waste! I didn’t weigh it though, so next time I will.

I made a few more folds when mixing than last time (although it was technically fewer as I had a larger volume then…but you know what I mean!). I think I should do more folds still next time as the mix was still a little pointy.

Time to rest

I also let the macarons rest for the full hour before baking, although I found some advice today saying 20-40 minutes is plenty…hmmm. Please ignore the fact that I didn’t fill my circles – laziness? lack of time? I just wanted to make more!

Some cracks did form, but only on half of the macarons – the ones at the back of the oven. Next time I might turn them around halfway through cooking.

Nicer bottom eh? This time only one stuck to the baking paper! I baked them for 15 minutes and then left them in the oven for another 2 minutes with the oven switched off.

Macaron “feet” starting to form

So the infamous macaron feet did start to form, which is much better than last time! Maybe with a little more folding the feet will improve. I’ll also reduce the resting time.

I filled the macarons with a chocolate buttercream, too generously according to just one person ;)

They were gone within an hour!



Macarons in the making

Coffee macarons – first attempt.

I was tempted not to write this post. I definitely didn’t want to include any photos, but here we are!

For our anniversary (first year is paper) Shake bought me a little french book on making macarons. He always manages to pick something I have been thinking about without having told him! 

Today whilst baby napped I decided to make my first batch. I was really strict about measuring the ingredients accurately (very unlike me…) and borrowed an electric whisk for the egg whites as I wanted to make them as best I could.

I actually had to whisk the whites in the spare room so it didn’t wake the boy up – that’s one disadvantage of his room being next to the kitchen!

People seem to be daunted about making macarons, and having tried now I can see why! So, the purpose of this post is to document what went wrong and what I will change for next time.

Macarons resting

I am happy with my measurements, but having carried out some research after I made my mix, it is suggested to use egg whites that have been left out for at least 24 hours! Oops. Well, next time I will plan in advance.

Another factor I can change is that I think I needed to mix the mixture?batter? a little more as when piped onto the tray the macarons had little peaks (you don’t want to know what Shake said they looked like…!). I used a damp finger to smooth them down before baking, but this is apparently a sign of under-mixing.

Cracked macarons

I’m not 100% sure what was wrong with the shells above, but it might again be due to the mixture not being mixed enough? Or I didn’t leave them out for long enough before baking? Or they were in the oven for slightly too long? Hmmm….who knows!

Interestingly, these shells came off of the paper very easily, whereas the shells from the shelf above stuck to the baking paper. I say “interestingly”, but actually this was annoying!

I used a tip I read here (from the Macaron Queen :) ) and put some water under the sheet for a few minutes and they did mostly come off.

I made a coffee buttercream to fill the shells and we did sample a few.

They tasted pretty great, but obviously not as good as these (yet!).

If you have made macarons before and have any suggestions/hints for me I’d love to hear them!





Alternative Chocolate Cake

Sometimes I need chocolate, but I don’t need as much comfort as this cake provides.

Sometimes I don’t have any butter. This is rare, but sadly true.

Sometimes I feel like using different flours, just because they make me feel a little less naughty.

So when these powers are combined, I make this Olive oil, Chocolate and Rosemary cake.

The recipe is from one of my favourite books – Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. It’s honestly worth buying the book for the chocolate chip cookie recipe alone – they are the best I have ever tasted. Hmm. I need to buy some chocolate chips this week…

I really hope you make this cake soon. You won’t regret it. The flavour is so interesting (in a good way!) with the nutty spelt flour, hint of herb and the comfort of the good, dark chocolate.

Chocolate, Olive Oil & Rosemary cake

olive oil for the pan
3/4 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped/shaved into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 180degreesC. Rub a 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with olive oil.

Sift the flours and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the olive oil, milk and rosemary. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, gently mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate.

Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly and smoothing the top.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is domed, golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

The cake is extra delicious when served still warm.




Chocolate mousse

Can you guess what we’re making?

It’s time to use up those egg whites!

Chocolate mousse is something I remember my mum making when I was very little, whenever my parents had dinner parties (80s-tastic!). I was allowed to lick the bowl :)

I made up my own recipe after reading a few from my favourite people (David/Julia, Raymond, Molly, Deb), so feel free to modify as you like.

I recommend using a good quality chocolate (70% plus) as it will make a difference to the overall taste.

Chocolate mousse
- serves 2 greedy people


100g  dark chocolate
glug of double cream
tablespoon vanilla extract (mine still tastes of rum, which was a good thing here)
a shot of strong coffee (I used what was left in our cafetière that morning)
2 eggs whites
6 teaspoons caster sugar


Combine the chocolate, double cream, vanilla and coffee in a heatproof bowl.

Melting for the mousse – mmmm chocolate soup

Melt the chocolate and above ingredients over a pan of simmering water. The water shouldn’t touch the bottom of the bowl – you don’t want the chocolate to overheat.

Meanwhile, start whisking the egg whites in a large clean bowl. This won’t take too long if you have an electric whisk, but it took me about 7 minutes to get them just right by hand.

The whisking begins…

When your whites have formed stiff peaks start to incorporate the sugar, one teaspoon at a time, whisking between each addition.

Whisking continued

When the chocolate has cooled slightly and the egg whites are ready, it’s time to start combining the mousse.

Using a metal spoon (so you don’t loose all those lovely bubbles) place 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate bowl and stir through in a figure of eight.

Mixing mousse

Once this third has been combined, stir through a tablespoon at a time until all the egg whites have been used. Try not to over-mix.

Pour into serving dishes and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Use your finger to tidy (and eat) your mess…

Optional: serve at 10pm after your husband has rocked your teething baby to sleep.

Chocolate mousse helps (parents) with teething – FACT.

How do you use your egg whites? Feel free to leave a comment below :)







Bake’s mayonnaise

Bake’s mayonnaise

Sorry for my absence. It has been a busy week and there has been little time for blogging.

But, I’m back and have plenty to share with you!

I call this my mayonnaise because my darling mother tells me that I make it “wrong” – because I don’t always use her recipe ;)

It isn’t wrong, of course, as you only need to search “mayonnaise recipes” to find 1,000 different ways to make it. It is so simple to make that you just won’t need any from a jar again.

As usual, I don’t use a mixer or electric whisk but my muscles and some patience!

Bake’s mayonnaise


2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
olive oil
sunflower oil (or any oil that doesn’t have a strong flavour)
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice from a lemon
pepper to taste


I’m sorry, but I didn’t measure anything before or after I used it (even though Shake told me to!). I tend to add a bit of this or that until I’m happy with how it looks and tastes…

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl for 30 seconds or so. Add a pinch of salt.

VERY slowly start adding olive oil

Slowly adding olive oil…

Keep whisking the whole time.

Once the mixture starts to thicken, switch from olive oil to sunflower oil (or keep with the olive oil, but ours is expensive!).

If after whisking a while the mix doesn’t thicken at all, you may need to start again. Don’t throw away your hard work! Add it very slowly to your new egg yolks and then continue. 

A lot of whisking, but slowly thickening.

Continue to add sunflower oil until the mayonnaise is nice and thick. Stir in the crushed garlic.

Mayonnaise ingredients

Squeeze some lemon juice in, this will thin the mayonnaise a little but give it a good flavour kick. Add more sunflower oil and whisk again if you want it thicker.

Adding lemon juice

Add pepper as desired. We like a lot.

Store in the fridge for up to a week. Don’t serve to pregnant ladies (raw egg).

Enjoy some on toast, dip some veggies in it, make some potato salad…

I’ll share with you soon what I do with my egg whites – don’t throw them away!






Vegetable seeds for the winter garden

Vegetable seeds for winter garden

I’ve never grown winter veg, so this is going to be an experiment.

I’ve gone for the scatter-gun approach and bought a pack of anything that can be sown in September or October.  Including some vegetables I’m famous for hating – though I’m trying to work through my food issues as best I can.

It was also a good way to learn the French names for some of the less common vegetables.

And I must start work on that field soon, or I’ll have no-where to sow these.

Bread proofing box – improvised alternative

Improvised bread proofing boxOne of the challenges of baking sourdough here is that it proves very quickly in the heat. If I’m out working in the morning, it can be over-proven by the time I get back at lunch.

So I’m using our cool box (for our shopping) as an improvised proofing box. Currently four ice-packs seems to retard the dough just enough for my purposes.

It’ll be a very different story in the winter though, so I’ve been checking out some designs for home-made proofing boxes.

I feel another carpentry project may be on the horizon.


Pain Poilâne meets Tartine Bread

They say a baker’s score is their signature, and my initial A actually works quite well as a cut. (Plus you can call it anarchy bread if you’re that way inclined)

I’ve been baking daily using the Tartine Bread method and I’m really pleased with the results. Each day I’ve been trying a different mix of flour, starting with the suggested 90% white / 10% wholemeal, testing varying amounts of white flour, grey flour, wholemeal and rye (up to 10%). The technique holds up well for all these combinations, so I decided to push on with my original goal of producing something similar to a Pain Poilane.

The snippet I had from Wikipedia was that Pain Poilane is 70% grey flour and 30% spelt, which was as good a starting point as any. I found spelt flour (farine d’épeautre) at one of the Bio stores nearby, but was a little put off by the price (over double the cost of wheat or rye).

Due to the extra expense of the spelt flour, a part of me was hoping the difference in taste would be negligible (as the recipe was tasting pretty good already). But it was a hit, and has had the best reviews from all the family. So great for the taste, but a shame about the price. Now I need to find a local mill that can offer a better price if I’m buying larger quantities.

Collapsed a little due to (forgetful) overproofing, so the crumb is tighter than planned

Recycling and carpentry

We bought a few boxes to sort out our recycling, but in this part of the world the sun and the wind make short work of any plastic bin you might leave around outside, so I built a box to sit by our front door. It also doubles a bench of sorts.

Recycling and carpentry

Building a simple frame from reclaimed fence posts

The design evolved from the wood that was available, rather than any master plan. It’s made entirely from scrap or discards from other projects; fence-posts filled with nails, shelves from a broken unit, trim used as temporary support on some previous building work etc. But with a coat of appropriate treatment and a couple of coats of paint, this should last for many years.

The lid was made from bits of an old shelving unit

This particular shade of blue complies fully with the in-laws/landlords brand guidelines. :)

Ready for the great outdoors

Couiza Bio Festival

Festival entrance

Last weekend we visited the (14th!) annual Bio (Organic) festival in Couiza.

We weren’t looking for anything in particular, but were hopeful to see like-minded people and enjoy the surroundings with baby.

Alongside the produce market (fruits, vegetables, honey, bread, cheese, wine, herbs, seeds…) were craftspeople (selling clothes, handmade leather shoes, wicker baskets, tools, pottery, children’s toys), demonstrators, films, lectures and a whole area dedicated to green building/construction.

Bio market

The location was beautiful – stalls set alongside the river Aude – and the weather just perfect.

I especially enjoyed a stall where a lady had recycled children’s clothes into handbags – very creative! The place was full of families who would have probably been interested in the section for clothes swaps. Had we known this was here we would have brought the many clothes baby has now grown out of!

We didn’t stay for too long but I am already looking forward to the next festival when my french will hopefully be considerably better. One of the talks was about the role of the midwife in France – in the UK I was told to have a home birth next time so it would have been useful to listen to that lecture!

Market stalls