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.

Cork Board Art

This is a fun and simple project and the finished result looks great, it makes a spiffy new decoration for any wall. Most of the materials can be found around the house and the rest are cheap and easy to find in any stationary shop or supermarket. So this is how I made mine. 

1. I started off with my cork notice board which I painted baby pink to go with the colour scheme of my room.
You could skip this first step if you want to keep a more rustic feel with the cork board design.
I also found that cork notice boards are a lot cheaper than proper cork tiles.

2. While you wait for the paint to dry you can draw the design outline on some paper. Once it’s dry place it onto the board in the position you want.

3. Start placing your pins or nails over the paper design, make sure you use enough pins to get your desired look.

4. Once you have placed all your pins you can carefully rip of the paper around your pins.

5. Now you’re ready for the fun part. Start by knotting your thread or string onto one of the pins and loop around the other pins until you get your desired look then tie off with another knot. Repeat for each shape or letter of your pin design.
I chose to use a different coloured thread for each shape to make it stand out more. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

These cookies are quick and easy to cook and taste delicious, with a crisp outer layer and a gooey center these treats are best served when still warm, but if kept in an air tight container they last about a week. This mixture makes around 16 large cookies. So this is how you make them.

1. Preheat oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.

2. Prepare your baking trays by placing a sheet of grease proof paper on each.

3. Cream butter and the brown and caster sugar together, add your egg and vanilla extract , mix until smooth.

4. Sift in flour and salt and stir well. (I have to admit I rarely ever sift the flour)

5. Now it’s time to mix your chocolate chips in. (I prefer  getting a bar of cooking chocolate and roughly chopping it, that way you get a more rustic feel to the cookies and larger chocolate splodges.)

6. Using a tablespoon spoon your mixture into equal piles onto your papered baking trays. (Remember to leave enough space between them because they will spread out a lot.)

7. Place into the oven for around 10-15 minutes depending on how gooey you want them to be.

8. Take out and place on a wire cooling rack. After cooling for a bit they are ready for you to stuff in your face. Enjoy. 

Hanging Bird Decoration

This hanging bird decoration is really simple to make and looks great hanging in your home or perhaps to decorate your garden for a party. Use different coloured paper and birds to co-ordinate with your preferred colour scheme or desired look. I chose to use white paper with pink flowers around the edges so I would get a different effect on each bird and it matches the colour scheme of my room.

1. Make your chosen piece of paper into a perfect square. Diagonally fold your square into a triangle and press down the edges.

2. Unfold your triangle back into a square and take one edge and fold it back along the middle fold line. Repeat for the other side.

3. Take the top of the point you just made and fold it back on itself till the edge of the wings.

4. Take the top of the point again and fold it forward on itself till the point is on the edge.

5. Fold the whole shape in half down the center.

6. Hold the back of the shaped while you gently pull up the neck, once you are happy with the angle press down the edges, then do the same for the beak.

7. Lay your shape down and fold the wing back on itself gently, do the same for the other side. This will make the wings stick out more.

8. You can repeat these steps to make as many birds as you want for your hanging decoration. You could do them all the same size or slowly decrease the size of the square you start making your bird from. 

9. Once you have the desired amount of birds for your hanging decoration you need to thread your needle (make it long) and tie a knot at the bottom of the thread a few times to make it bigger.

10. Get the smallest of your birds and go from the bottom threw the back of the bird about midway up and pull till the knot reaches the back. Do the same for the next smallest duck and so on.

11. Once you have attached your birds, using the excess thread make a loop and it’s ready to hang.