Friday, 6 May 2011

Happy Zombie Jesus Day

 Ok, so I'm a bit late with this post, but I hope you all had a lovely Easter break.  My cousin Alice and I decided, at the last minute, to host an Easter afternoon tea party, so I spent the weekend frantically making food.  Of course, I chose to make macarons, which I can tell you now, are horribly difficult to make, and it's probably much easier to just buy them from a reputable cake shop.

image from wani-musician

Macarons, (as opposed to macaroons which are rather plebby coconut, sugar and egg-white little cakes/biscuits popular in England and Scotland), are French biscuits made from egg white, almond meal and sugar.  They are tremendously fiddly to make, and have to be piped onto baking sheets and then left for a while to sort of set, and then you have to watch them like a hawk when they are in the oven to make sure they don't brown or overcook.

The first batch I made, which were lemon flavoured, just went very flat.  It probably didn't help that I was using the French method, where the ingredients are mixed cold, rather than the even MORE fiddly Italian method, where the mixture is heated up to a particular temperature, but for god's sake, I don't own a candy thermometer!  They were still quite tasty, and I had to slap Mr Macska away from them before he ate them all up.

For the second batch, I whipped the egg whites to within an inch of their lives, and the resulting biscuits kept their shape much better.  They look a little lumpy but I only had one of those fancy piping nozzles.  These ones were flavoured with rose water.  The following day, I made a batch of rose water flavoured butter cream to fill them with.  I don't know if it is the case with all macarons, but these ones were incredibly fragile, and several imploded because I was gripping them too hard when I filled them.  It didn't help that my piping bag split down the side in the middle of this.  The verdict:  I will never make macarons again.  Or at least, not for at least a few months!

I also decided to tackle a Simnel Cake, which is a traditional Easter cake in England.  A light fruit cake, it has a layer of marzipan in the middle, and is topped with another layer of marzipan and 11 marzipan balls to represent the Apostles (minus Judas of course!).  I used a Nigella Lawson recipe which I found here.  After the bloody macarons, this was a doddle.  I used half the recommended amount of marzipan because I was feeling cheap, and lacking a blow-torch, I didn't scorch the top (although it would have been fun!).  Cake was delicious, especially a week later, and I don't even like fruit cake that much. Another excellent recipe from Nigella, bless her angora bosoms!

Finally, I also whipped up a batch of Coconut Ice Eggs.  These are the height of tackiness, I remember making them in primary school for Easter.  You make a batch of coconut ice, but leave it all white.  Then colour a portion of it yellow.  Make small yellow balls, and then encase them in white coconut ice, which you shape to look like an egg.  Put them in the fridge to set, then you can cut the "eggs" in half, and voila, they look like a hard-boiled egg!  To make it even more fun, I made some of the "yolks" in pale blue or pink, so when you cut them open, the colour was a suprise. 

Alice made cucumber sandwiches and provided the tea and all the lovely crockery, and Bella made cupcakes, which I then iced with lemon icing coloured pale pink, which confused everyone.  Our friend Milly (who comes from the same village in Tasmania as me, how quaint!) brought the most amazing cupcakes that were baked in silicone moulds that look like tea cups.  By then I was so delirious from all the sugar that I forgot to take a photo, but they looked fantastic.

 On Easter morning, while Mr Macska was in the shower,  I nipped outside and grabbed some ferns from the garden, and fashioned a cunning little nest, into which I put some chocolate "quail's eggs" from Koko Black.  He was very pleased with it, and the eggs were delicious, with a praline centre. Yum!

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