My first Macarons!

This is the basic recipe for macarons. Because this was the first time I’ve made them I just made plain ones with no colour or added flavour. They are sweet with a slightly gooey center, a crispy shell with a smooth buttercream in the middle and they taste delicious. I know they don’t look perfect and are a little misshaped but for a first effort and without having a piping bag I think I did pretty well. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
You can make coloured macarons by using a food colouring paste/gel rather than liquid food colouring if you do that then colour should be added to the egg whites before whisking.
This recipe makes around 10-15 macrons depending how big you make them and heres how you make them.

1. Macarons need a steady, pretty low temperature to cook properly, too high and they easily burn, too low and they don’t cook through. Since the temperature of ovens can vary, these temperatures are a guideline, adjust to suit your oven.  Preheat the oven to 140°C fan oven, 160 °C regular oven

2. Sieve the icing sugar, followed by the ground almonds, into a large mixing bowl and carefully mix together.

3. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks.

4. Add the caster sugar a little at a time and continue to whisk until the whites are very thick and glossy (you should be able to hold the bowl upside down without the whites falling out).

5. Gently stir in the icing sugar and almond mix. The mixture will lose some air and become quite loose, don’t worry though

6. Fill a piping bag with the macaron mixture and start to pipe small blobs onto a sheet of greaseproof paper over a baking tray remembering the mixture will settle and spread out a little. (Or do what I did and make a rubbish piping bag from greaseproof paper and try piping it then).

7. Once you have piped all your mixture gently tap the baking sheet a few times on the work surface to help the macaron mixture to settle and to break any air bubbles, then leave to rest for around 15mins and the surface of the macaron should become smooth and shiny

8. Bake the macarons in the preheated oven for around 8 minutes, open the door to release any steam, close the oven door and cook for a further 8ish minutes.

9. Take out of the oven when the macarons are cooked when they feel firm and are slightly raised. Leave to cool don’t try and take them off the greaseproof paper yet!

10. To make the buttercream filling beat the softened butter until it is fluffy, then gradually beat in the icing sugar.

11. Place a small amount of the filling to the flat side of one macaroon and sandwich together with another macaron then twist lightly to create a bond. Do this with the remaining macaroons.

12. Your macarons are now ready to eat but they taste better after being put in the fridge.

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Pumpkin Soup

So I didn’t just want to waste the Pumpkin from making the Jack O’ Lantern at Halloween, so I decided to make Pumpkin Soup. I made sure to save the seeds and the pieces that I cut out of the pumpkin so I could use them later.
This Soup is creamy and smooth, with a crunchy light nutty flavour on top with croutons and roasted pumpkin/squash seeds. It’s a great seasonal recipe for when you’re coming in from the cold! Here is how I made it.

1. Preheat the oven to 120◦C. Start by peeling and chopping your pumpkin, squash and potatoes remembering to put aside the seeds.

2. Place seeds into a bowl along with one tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt, pepper and garlic power and mix.

3. Place a piece of tin foil over a baking tray and pour your seeds onto it and spread them out flat. Place in the oven at 120◦C and remember to turn over every 20 minutes to make sure they are evenly cooked. Cook for an hour total.

4. Peel and chop your onions and place in a large saucepan with two tablespoons of olive oil. On a medium heat, start to sweat your onions.

5. Once they are soft add your chopped pumpkin, squash and potatoes. Stir occasionally for around 10 minutes till the pumpkin starts to soften a little.

6. Peel and chop some garlic, I used one segment, and put it into your pot.

7. Boil your kettle and measure out 1500ml of water into a large jug and stir in your 3 stock cubes/pots. Then add the liquid to your vegetables, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes or until all your vegetables are soft.

8. While your mixture is simmering, cut your wholemeal seeded bread into cubes. Heat your remaining two tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add your cubes of bread and fry until they become crisp. Then remove from the heat and place in a bowl.

9. When your seeds are cooked, remove from the oven and place in the bowl with your croutons.

10. Pour in your 200ml of double cream into your vegetable mixture and bring the mixture to a boil.

11. Turn off the heat then use a hand blender to purée your mixture and voila you have soup.

12. Serve soup in a bowl with a sprinkling of croutons and seeds, seasoned with salt and pepper if needed.

Jack O’ Lantern

So this year I finally got the chance to make a jack o’ lantern by myself for the first time! I’d been wanting to make one for years as I’d only “helped” make them as a kid and I think it turned out great,! Even if a little wonky, but I think it works in his favour.
Also when I made the jack o’ lantern I saved the pieces that I cut out and the seeds, to do something with later. Have you got pictures of your spooky jack o’ lanterns? Share them in the comments.