Friday, 9 November 2007

There went the Bride

Well, the honeymoon's over and it's back to work. I thought I would share with you some pictures of the wedding cakes and the petits fours I made to go with the coffee. In the end I made turkish delight, marshmallows, the nougat and some fudge. We had macarons progrès in various flavours as well - which I was still filling on the wedding day just before going to the hairdresser !
Our "formal" wedding cake was a 10" square fruit cake and a 4" round "top tier" with sugar models of us dressed in copies of our outfits. The sugar flowers (cerise dendrobium) were wired onto a piece of wooden dowelling and then covered in a black ribbon. I did some cornelli work in a no1 nozzle around the sides of the cake which I continued about an inch over the side onto the top of the cake. I piped our names and the date on the top of the cake with some pressure piped hearts. I also ran a thin black ribbon around the bottom. I really went to town with the ingredients and packed the cake with luxury fruits, some candied peel picked up in Paris and lots of Cognac ! The recipe is my Mum's and it's a really good recipe for people who reckon they don't like fruit cake - simple and delicious !
The figures were modelled using Wilton people moulds and Squire's Kitchen modelling paste. I was really pleased with the bride, but not so much with the groom. It was really difficult to get the black colouring on the jacket to be even, and I just couldn't get his hands to look right. I think I was the only one that noticed though !
I used the Pierre Hermé recipe for the macarons, with varying success, mainly due to overmixing with the later batches . I made up a large plain batch and then split it for the different flavours. I left them to "cure" for about 40 minutes and almost all of them developed feet. The pistachio and griotte ones were the best "lookers", along with the black sesame ones. These looked like little black pebbles off the beach and tasted really exotic, very pungeant and peppery. I was really pleased with the texture of this one as well, it had a crispy shell with a very tender insides.
The main disapppointment was the salted butter caramel ones - I made a gorgeous caramel and some plain macarons, sprikled with a little Maldon sea salt - they tasted exquisite but unfortately the caramel was slightly too soft and ran out of the biscuits. There was an upside to this disaster - they tasted just as good, so my last minutes at my parents' house as a singleton was spent stuffing my face with salted butter caramel macarons !
I served Marshmallows, Turkish Delight, Fudge and my special nougat for petits fours. The fudge was a little soft and could have done with the sugar being taken a couple of degrees higher. The Turkish was from a very simple recipe from my mother's copy of Mrs Beeton - it is really more of a jelly flavoured with rosewater but I infinitely prefer it's very clean flavour. I tossed it in cornflour and icing sugar, but clearly not enough as it had all soaked into the jelly ! It was yummy anyway...
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I really like the American wedding cakes finished with smooth buttercream and had seen a really cute design in a Kate Sullivan book which worked really well with our 40s/50s retro food. I made a 4 tier design with 4 flavours - rich chocolate, lemon and poppy, coffee and walnut praline, apple and caramel.
Pierre Hermé Macaron Recipe
For almond paste for macaroon base
390g ground almonds
390g icing sugar
145g fresh egg whites
For meringue
380g granulated sugar
95ml water
145g egg whites (older ones are better)
2g powdered egg white
The equal quantities of ground almonds and icing sugar, mixed together, is called a "tant pour tant". Beat in the egg whites to form a tacky dough.
. For the meringue, put the sugar and water in a pan and boil to 121°C . Meanwhile, start whisking the egg whites and powdered egg until they start to rise. While continuing to whisk the whites, pour the boiling sugar on to them in a steady stream so the sugar cooks the whites. Continue whisking at a moderate speed until the temperature of the meringue drops to between 45°C and 40°C. . Put the almond paste in a mixing bowl and beat in the colouring. Beat in about a fifth of the warm meringue. Fold in the rest of the meringue and work it well until it obtains a dropping texture. You can add any flavouring at this point. . Prepare a baking sheet. On it place a sheet of baking parchment with 55mm circles marked on it. Leave 1cm gaps between each circle. Fill a piping bag with a Savoy plain tube (10 or 12 mm) with the mixture. Pipe about 42 macaroon circles. . Lift the tray, tap the underside all over with your free hand. Each circle will spread a little and even out. Leave the mixture in a warm, dry place for 35 to 40 minutes before baking. The macaroons are ready to bake when their surface is smooth and no longer sticky. If you don't allow them to set their surface will crack during baking. .
Preheat a convection oven to 165°C. Put the tray of macaroons in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Every oven is different. They are ready when the surface is crisp and the underneath is also set and lifts easily off the baking sheet.
Fill with whatever flavour ganache, buttercream etc takes your fancy. Preferably leave to meld and mature for 24 hours, but alternatively stuff self until sick as soon as macarons are filled.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Here Comes the Bride

I'm getting married on Saturday. Next Saturday. 7 days away ! I've decided to make a special treat for our guests to have with their coffee and have been lovingly making a selection of candies. It's been a long time since I made confectionery and it's been great to dust off the sugar thermometer and make it earn its keep. While we were on our last jolly to Paris, Dearly Beloved and I visited the fabulous G Detout in the Rue Tiquetonne. This is a veritable treasure chest of ingredients for both the professional pastry chef and the ardent home patissier. It was great to buy stuff like succulent griotte cherries in kirsch, mimosa balls and candied fruits - the sort of delicacies you just can't find in the UK unless you're employed in the pastry field. Anway, and I promise I am getting to the point, one of my purchases was a big tub of succulent glace fruits so I decided to make some nougat for one of the candies.
I'm really very pleased with the result. The red is glace cherry, the orange candied french orange peel, the green is some luscious pistachios which I roasted lightly. If my pictures tempt you to have a bash at your own nougat (and it's really quite easy) please make sure that you have your tin well lined with rice paper and that you weight it down very sternly. Leave it for at least 24 hours to set up firmly (I left mine for about a week) before you try cutting it. It can get ugly in the cutting, as the nougat will be firm. After trial and error I discovered than a heavy chopping knife, dipped in boiling water after every cut, makes the cleanest cuts. Yummy !

My Wedding Nougat
20oz granulated sugar
10oz liquid glucose
4oz clear honey
2 large egg whites
4oz whole, roasted pistachios
2oz glacé cherries
2oz candied orange peel, chopped
1) Put the sugar, honey and glucose syrup together in a pan and bring to the boil. Wipe down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush - this will prevent them from caramelising and spoiling the syrup. Boil the syrup mixture to 140c/284f and take off the heat. Pour into a pyrex jug to prevent overcooking and to make the pouring process easier.
2) As your syrup is cooking, put your whites into a freestanding mixer such as a Kitchenaid and whip to a soft peak. When your sugar is ready, turn the whisk on low speed and pour it over the egg whites. Turn up the speed on the whisk and whisk until starting to cool and well doubled in volume. Fold in the pistachios, cherries and peel.
3) Decant into a an 18x28x2cm baking tray lined with rice paper - this can become quite a sticky task ! Lay rice paper over the top and weight down. Leave overnight to set up.