Tag Archives: baking

1 Ingredient: Peaches

1 Sep

Alas, the time has arrived once again when summer is rapidly coming to an end. But before we resign our hardly worn sandals to the backs of our wardrobe and slip into a pair of shamelessly fluffy slippers, let’s have one last ditch attempt at embracing the Great British Summertime. Fruit is an overwhelming summer staple in England (largely to do with our affinity for Pimm’s), however peaches, plums and nectarines often get pushed to the side as strawberries waltz around in the spotlight. Yes, they’re versatile and oh so juicy, but they’re not the only ones. The light, sweet flavour of peaches with the slight tinge of acidity they provide make them perfect partners to rich, salty flavours such as cured meats and blue cheeses. They are just as complementary to sweet flavours and the fresh, woody textures are only further enhanced with a scattering of brown sugar or cinnamon.

Like most people, my Pinterest boards are filled with things I’ll never get around to doing, and yet I couldn’t resist experimenting with the sweet little pie pops I’ve been seeing around. A small dollop of store bought jam seemed a bit of a disservice to them though and I wanted to ensure that they tasted as good as they looked, which is a level of adorable that could only be matched by Zooey Deschanel knitting by a fire whilst wearing a onesie.

Peach and Salted Butterscotch Pie Pops 


It’s even smiling…

These little pie bites are filled with a peach and salted butterscotch jam, however it doesn’t stop there. As with most pastry, there’s always the worry of it coming out a little bit dry, so I wanted to make a dunking syrup to serve with the pies. Lazily all I did was add water to oh hot damn, this is my jam and then sieve it, leaving me with a glorious butterscotch-y peachy sauce.



(For peach and salted butter jam and syrup)

400g (roughly 2 large) peaches

70ml/1/3 cup lemon juice

200g/1 cup brown sugar

200g/1 cup preserving sugar

1 tsp good quality salt

100ml/1/2 cup water

(For pie dough)

200g/2 cups plain flour

55g/1/2 stick cold butter

70ml/1/3 cup cold water

(Glaze for pie)

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp milk

1tbsp icing sugar


Cookie cutters

Lollypop sticks or paper straws


1. To make the jam, remove the skin from peaches (I went at them old school with a peeler but do what you please), and cut into cubes. Add to pan with brown sugar, preserving sugar, lemon juice and water (omit water if you’re not making the syrup) and bring to boil. Simmer on gentle heat for 20 mins.


2. Whilst jam is simmering, make your dough. Sift flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Cut butter into cubes and rub into flour using your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs. Add cold water and stir using blade of a knife, before scrunching together with your hands to form dough. The texture should be firm yet incorporated, so add a drop more water if it’s not holding but resist the urge to add too much as you want the dough to be dry. Wrap dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 15 mins.


3. Turn the heat up on the jam and allow to boil for 10 mins. Once it’s ready it should be thick and syrupy, and peaches should have softened down to a pulp. Don’t worry if they haven’t, just mash it gently with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cool, add salt to taste. There should be just enough salt to compliment the sweetness of the jam but not so much that it overpowers it. At this point, strain the jam through a sieve to leave you with a sticky jam and a delicious salted butterscotch syrup.


4. Preheat oven to 190 degrees/375f. Take your dough out of the fridge and place on lightly dusted surface. Grab a rolling pin (I bought one specially for the occasion) and roll your dough. You want it to be thick enough to support the filling, yet not so thick that the dough overpowers the filling. I found that roughly half a cm was the perfect thickness.


5. Cut out desired shapes. The need to be big enough to hold the filling yet not so big that they can’t be supported on a stick. My cutters were about 2 inches wide. Press lollypop stick/striped straw (I cut mine in half) into heart, dab a small amount of water on either side and seal a small strip of dough over straw to help to support it.


6. Spoon a small amount (maybe a teaspoon) of jam into the centre. Dab water lightly around the edges and place cut out on top. Press your fingers around the edges to seal down well.


7. Go around the edges using a lolly pop stick or a fork to help to bind the two sides together. Plus it helps all the cuteness.


8. Using the tip of a knife, pierce two small holes in each pop to let any steam escape. To get a golden brown finish, I mixed egg yolk with icing sugar and milk and lightly brushed each pop with glaze. I also sprinkled a small pinch of pink decorative sugar on each.


9. Bake for 15 minutes or until very lightly golden. Cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes, and then serve with syrup.




A long and winding road; Two girls’ longstanding battle with macaroons.

18 Aug

Just like anyone with a Pinterest account and an Instagram filter, I have fallen head over heels in love with macaroons (or ‘macarons’ if we’re going to get fancy). This obsession began a few years ago as I nonchalantly picked up this pretty little foreign object, not knowing that it would brazenly barge into my life, stick its smug flag into my brain and set up camp. That first bite hit me like a dozen eggs (harharhar). The perfectly crisp shell collapsed beneath my teeth to reveal meringue-y goodness mingled with a bittersweet chocolate ganache, and suddenly I was hooked. However the bottomless Prosecco took its toll on me and as I tumbled into bed that evening, macaroons became a hazy dream.

The next time I stumbled across macaroons was during another long, wine fuelled afternoon at a food festival. Amongst the stalls of gourmet mac and cheese and cooking demonstrations was a lonely little stall that stirred that little macaroon monster that had gripped its hooks into me that fateful day. I still didn’t know exactly what they were, but within the hour there I was, my mouth stained more than that hippy bloke’s big coat (ed. I think I mean Joseph and his technicolour dream coat…R.E. never was my strong point). This time I managed to remain just sober enough to retain some information about my new found discovery, and took home a box full of these colourful little treats. From then on my daydreams revolved around the moment I could get home, put the kettle on and nibble on these little bits of heaven whilst reading the papers (*cough* Daily Mail online) and pondering life’s great mysteries (is Kris Humphries black or white??). Obviously the creme de la creme of macaroons lies in the cobbled streets of Paris, tucked into boutique bakeries as Pierre Herme’s minions elegantly pipe lavender infused buttercream onto perfectly crafted shells, but £3 for a macaroon is not a cheap habit and it was time to take matters into my own hands.

As anyone that has worked with meringue can tell you, that is one tricky thing to master. Yes, yes, in theory ‘whisk to stiff peaks’ doesn’t sound overly complicated, however whisk for a minute too long and you’re left with a big, soupy mess, too little and you have a grainy mulch on your hands. I did my research and ordered Hisako Ogita’s ‘I Love Macarons’ (http://www.amazon.co.uk/I-Love-Macarons-Hisako-Ogita/dp/0811868710), stocked up on icing sugar, and armed myself with a piping nozzle and some baking sheets.

As I should have predicted, my first attempt was a flop. I didn’t let them set for long enough and I forgot to rap the second and third batch (crucial in forming the pied, which is a defining characteristic in a proper macaroon). However it could have been worse, and undeterred I enlisted Kate to make a second batch with me.


The first attempt

We all too enthusiastically began weighing out our ingredients and fantasising about the complex flavour combinations we were going to put on our award winning bakery that would spark a cronut-like craze. People were going to be queuing down the street. Should we drop out of uni now or later? Ah. Thank goodness we held off. If this was a spiritual journey towards creating the ultimate macaroon, this was a bad acid trip on a beach in Thailand. The batter was hardly thicker than water and our pitiful attempt at red velvet ended up in a muddy burgundy.


The face of defeat

After a handful more tragic attempts, things began to look up. Some 2 years after my meet cute with macaroons, I finally managed to conjure up something that vaguely resembled those little cookies I loved so dearly.


Success! ‘Better than Laduree!’ said someone…probably

So, after many failures, I have compiled a list of tips that I found helped smooth out the process:

-Draw out circles using the widest part of your piping nozzle on a piece of greaseproof paper and keep that piece of paper. It’ll save you a lot of time and effort if you just pop that underneath a transluscent baking sheet rather than drawing it out every time.

-Yes, follow the recipe carefully, but not too carefully. On my first few attempts I was so careful to stick to the recipe that I failed to notice the mess that was unfolding in front of me.

-Don’t sweat the small stuff. I once spend an hour bashing ground almonds with a pestle and mortar because the grains were too big to fit through my sieve. Don’t do this.

-If you have the means, get a decent food processor. I don’t have the means, so use one I got from Wilkinson’s for a fiver and you can definitely tell the difference.

-Start off simple. Don’t be over adventurous with flavours until you’re confident.

-Avoid liquid food colouring. Instead go for a gel, paste or powder.

-Never stop whisking, Jack. Once you’ve turned on that electric whisk, don’t stop until you get the right consistency.

-Allow to cool for a few minutes before you remove the shells from the baking sheet.

-Very lightly butter your baking sheet to stop the shells from sticking.

-Read your recipe over a few times and make sure you understand it. Terms like ‘macaronage’ sound made up but it’s an important step in getting the consistency right.

So happy macaroonage, people of the internet, may your pied’s walk a smoother path than mine, and other macaroon puns.


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