Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Salted Caramel Popcorn Macarons


Salted Caramel Popcorn...in macaron form. Popcorn Vanilla shells sandwiched together with a salted caramel frosting and dollops of sticky, salty caramel sprinkled with flaked sea salt. Perfection.


Salted Caramel Popcorn Macarons
Recipe by Charis Mitchell
Makes 15

For the macarons
3/4C aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas) (180ml)
1/2C sugar (100g)
1C ground almonds* (100g)
1/2C powdered sugar (65g)
1tsp vanilla extract
1C salted popcorn

For the salted caramel
1/2C light brown sugar
2Tbsp vegan butter spread
1/4C soy, almond or coconut milk
1/4tsp salt

For the salted caramel frosting
2Tbsp vegan butter spread
3-4C powdered sugar
1/4C salted caramel

Flaked salt to finish

First make the macaron shells
Pour the aquafaba into a small saucepan and allow to simmer over a medium heat until it has reduced to 1/3C (80ml). This usually takes around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour the reduced chickpea water into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment and whisk on medium to high speed until soft peaks form. Add half the sugar and whisk until well combined, then add the remaining sugar and the vanilla extract and whisk at high speed until the meringue is glossy and thick - it should be the consistency of thick marshmallow fluff. Set aside while you prepare your dry ingredients.

Pulse the popcorn in the food processor until finely chopped, with very few big chunks left. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
Pulse the ground almonds a few times in a food processor until very finely ground. Add the powdered sugar and process for a few seconds, until well combined.
Sieve the almond-sugar mixture and discard any large pieces. Pour half the dry mixture into the meringue and use a spatula to mix the ingredients together, pressing the dry ingredients down into the meringue until everything is incorporated well. Add the remaining dry mixture and fold into the batter. 

Now it's time for a crucial step - the macaronnage. Firmly press the batter against the side of the bowl and then scoop it up and turn over. Repeat this process a further 19 times. After macaronnage the batter should be thick and glossy but should fall slowly off the spatula like a ribbon and then settle/spread slightly in the bowl. Spoon the batter into a large piping bag and seal at the top.

Line two large baking trays with grease proof paper and carefully pipe 15 circles onto each, in one smooth motion holding the piping bag directly above the center of each macaron. Drop the baking sheets twice onto a hard surface (this helps to get rid of air bubbles and develops the 'pied') 

Top the macarons with the popcorn bits and leave them to dry at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Once ready to bake, place the first baking tray into a COLD oven, and then immediately set the oven to just under 100 degrees Celcius. Bake the macarons for 20 minutes (some ovens you may have to bake for longer but don't bake for more than 30 minutes) you can check that the macarons are sufficiently baked by gently lifting up a corner of the grease proof paper and lightly peeling it from a macaron shell. If it comes off easily and the macaron doesn't stick then you can turn your oven off!
Turn off your oven and leave the macarons inside with the door shut for 10 minutes, then open the door and leave them to cool inside the oven for a further 10 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely on the baking tray at room temperature.
Once the oven is COMPLETELY COLD you can repeat the baking process with your second tray of macaron shells. Once the shells are cooled, gently peel them from the baking paper and place them on a tray or rack, ready to fill.

Make the salted caramel
Put the brown sugar, butter and milk in a small pot and place over a medium heat. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes (it should only be bubbling a little bit, don't let it boil) stirring regularly. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Pour into a small jug, bowl or jar and leave to cool. As it is cooling give it a stir every 10 minutes or so as it thickens so that a skin doesn't form on the top. Once it's completely cooled pour 1/4C of the caramel out and then spoon the rest into a piping bag and seal it at the top.

Make the frosting
In a medium mixing bowl cream together the butter spread and 1 cup of powdered sugar until smooth. Add the salted caramel and mix well. Finally, add the rest of the sugar - one cup at a time - until a thick, smooth frosting forms. Spoon into a piping bag and seal at the top.

Assemble
Pipe a circle of salted caramel frosting onto each base macaron shell before filling the centers with a good dollop of salted caramel. Sprinkle on some flaked salt and then sandwich together with the top shells.

Place the macarons in the fridge for 24 hours or overnight before eating (this allows the flavors to develop and gives the desired chew) 
Macarons keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and in the freezer for months.


Thursday, 23 July 2015

Marshmallow Stuffed Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Peanut Butter + Chocolate + Marshmallow = one awesome cookie!

These cookies are the ultimate cookie indulgence...Peanut butter cookies, flecked with vegan milk chocolate chunks and stuffed with marshmallows which go all ooey gooey in the oven. Just so good!


Marshmallow Stuffed Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Recipe by Charis Mitchell
Makes 12

1/2C smooth peanut butter
1/2C granulated sugar
1/2C light brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1/3C vegetable oil
1 1/2C plain flour
1tsp baking powder
5Tbsp almond or soy milk
1/3C vegan milk chocolate chunks or chips
12 vegan marshmallows (I used Freedom Marshmallows)

Preheat the oven to 175/350 and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the peanut butter, sugars, vanilla, oil and milk until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and mix with a wooden spoon until a firm dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chunks.

Using an ice cream scoop, take a scoop of dough and flatted it down in the palm of your hand. Press one marshmallow into the middle and fold the dough around it, covering it completely. Roll the dough slightly so that it is a nice, smooth ball and flatten down a little onto the baking sheets.
Repeat until all the cookies are formed.

Bake for 12mins, until golden brown. Leave to cool for five minutes on the trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Cookies keep well for a week in an airtight container.



Monday, 20 July 2015

Birthday Cake Brownie Batter Macarons



I've got to admit, I was a bit nervous when making these macarons! I haven't made any in three weeks (I actually made some when I was in early labour with Ezra!), and I was slightly worried that I might have somehow lost my macaron-magic. Thankfully I haven't, so you'll be seeing plenty more delicious macaron recipes on here in the future!

These macarons are fun and super tasty! Vanilla shells topped with sprinkles (because why on earth not!?) sandwiched together with a swirl of chocolate frosting and a big blob of brownie batter...that's right, you heard me, brownie batter! I don't think I need to tell you how good these are...



Birthday Cake Brownie Batter Macarons
Recipe by Charis Mitchell
Makes 15

For the macarons
3/4C aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas) (180ml)
1/2C sugar (100g)
1/4tsp pink food coloring (optional)
1C ground almonds* (100g)
1/2C powdered sugar (65g)
1tsp vanilla extract
Assorted sprinkles

For the chocolate frosting
2Tbsp vegan butter spread
2Tbsp cocoa powder
3C powdered sugar (375g)
4-6Tbsp almond or soy milk

For the brownie batter filling
1C dry brownie mix (boxed is fine, or use the dry mixture from this recipe)
4Tbsp almond or soy milk

First make the macaron shells
Pour the aquafaba into a small saucepan and allow to simmer over a medium heat until it has reduced to 1/3C (80ml). This usually takes around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour the reduced chickpea water into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment and whisk on medium to high speed until soft peaks form. Add half the sugar and whisk until well combined, then add the remaining sugar, vanilla extract and the pink coloring (if using) and whisk at high speed until the meringue is glossy and thick - it should be the consistency of thick marshmallow fluff. Set aside while you prepare your dry ingredients.

Pulse the ground almonds a few times in a food processor until very finely ground. Add the powdered sugar and process for a few seconds, until well combined.
Sieve the almond-sugar mixture and discard any large pieces. Pour half the dry mixture into the meringue and use a spatula to mix the ingredients together, pressing the dry ingredients down into the meringue until everything is incorporated well. Add the remaining dry mixture and fold into the batter. 

Now it's time for a crucial step - the macaronnage. Firmly press the batter against the side of the bowl and then scoop it up and turn over. Repeat this process a further 19 times. After macaronnage the batter should be thick and glossy but should fall slowly off the spatula like a ribbon and then settle/spread slightly in the bowl. Spoon the batter into a large piping bag and seal at the top.

Line two large baking trays with grease proof paper and carefully pipe 15 circles onto each, in one smooth motion holding the piping bag directly above the center of each macaron. Drop the baking sheets twice onto a hard surface (this helps to get rid of air bubbles and develops the 'pied') 

Top the macarons with the sprinkles and leave them to dry at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Once ready to bake, place the first baking tray into a COLD oven, and then immediately set the oven to just under 100 degrees Celcius. Bake the macarons for 20 minutes (some ovens you may have to bake for longer but don't bake for more than 30 minutes) you can check that the macarons are sufficiently baked by gently lifting up a corner of the grease proof paper and lightly peeling it from a macaron shell. If it comes off easily and the macaron doesn't stick then you can turn your oven off!
Turn off your oven and leave the macarons inside with the door shut for 15 minutes, then open the door and leave them to cool inside the oven for a further 15 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely on the baking tray at room temperature.
Once the oven is COMPLETELY COLD you can repeat the baking process with your second tray of macaron shells. Once the shells are cooled, gently peel them from the baking paper and place them on a tray or rack, ready to fill.

Make the frosting
Cream together the butter spread and cocoa until smooth. Add half the powdered sugar and mix well. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and as much milk as needed until the frosting is thick but a nice soft consistency. Spoon into a piping bag and seal at the top.

Make the brownie batter filling
In a medium mixing bowl mix together the dry brownie mix and the milk until a thick, glossy batter forms. Add more milk if the mixture is too thick. Spoon into a piping bag and seal at the top.

Assemble
Pipe a circle of chocolate frosting onto each base macaron shell before filling the centers with a good dollop of brownie batter. Then sandwich together with the top shells.

Place the macarons in the fridge for 24 hours or overnight before eating (this allows the flavors to develop and gives the desired chew) 
Macarons keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and in the freezer for months.



PS: Lacey from Avocados and Ales wrote a fantastic Macaron Troubleshooting Guide for macarons made using my recipes! Check it out!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

How We Use Re-usable Nappies


I thought I'd share a bit about how we use re-usable nappies today, as it's something I feel passionate about and it's one of the things I'm often asked about.

When I was pregnant with Hal we started to look into an alternative to disposable nappies and I was overwhelmed with all the different types of nappies out there! While I was looking into it, I was contacted by a gNappies/gDiapers representative who asked if we'd like to try some of their disposable nappies, comprising of a washable outer and a biodegradable insert. I'm so glad I said yes! We've been using gNappies ever since, and they're so easy to use and comfortable for the boys bums! gNappies have really redefined the disposable, making it just as easy but kinder on the environment.



gNappies are so easy to use - they're velcro which makes things super simple as opposed 
to having poppers all over the place! We choose to use their handy disposable inserts for 

the first month or so with a newborn, as let's be honest - the last thing you need when 
trying to recover from giving birth and getting to grips with breastfeeding and sleepless nights is a pile of poopy nappies to wash! The disposable inserts are biodegradable, so you can even put non-poopy ones on the compost heap! We find that we only need to use one pair of gPants per day for each of our boys, and simply change the inserts each time we change their bums.



The plastic lining of the gPants protects the actual cloth pants from getting dirty most of the time, which is great as again, it means less laundry for us! We also swear by peepee-teepees (pictured in the top right hand corner of the picture above) which you pop on your little boy's willy for the moment when he inevitably pees while you're changing his nappy!




After a couple of months we switch to cloth liners. A couple of tips to prevent leaking - double the liners up! Put them cotton sides facing out and then pop into the plastic liner, this makes the gPants last longer and stops spillages! Also, we've found that you get less leaks if you use liners one size down from the pants your child is in (for example: medium gpants + small liner) don't ask me why, but it works!

We do one or two loads of nappy laundry per week, and gpants can always be thrown in with regular laundry to be washed. Newborn poopy nappies can be rinsed off and chucked in the wash, and toddler poops can be scraped/popped into the loo and flushed away before washing the inserts. We like to use disposable inserts at night as they hold more liquid so you don't need to change a nappy in the middle of the night!



We love using G-nappies - better for the environment, better for your baby and better for your bank account!



Do you use cloth nappies? Which ones are your favorites?
If you have any questions about gNappies or re-usable nappies, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them!

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Best Buttercream Frosting


I don't like to throw around words like, 'the best' unless I'm really, truly sure about it...but I can assure you that this is by far THE BEST buttercream frosting I've ever had - homemade or from a shop/bakery. I thought I was happy with my buttercream recipe, I didn't think it could get any better...then I discovered a secret ingredient that takes this frosting to another level...salt!

It sounds strange I know, but the addition of just a little bit of salt brings out all the flavors in the buttercream and makes it perfect.

This buttercream frosting is perfect for swirling atop cupcakes, covering layer cakes or even sandwiching between cookies.


The Best Buttercream Frosting
Makes enough for 12-18 cupcakes or one large layer cake

10Tbsp vegan butter spread (I use vitalite as it has a buttery taste)
5 1/2C powdered sugar
2-4tsp almond or soy milk
2tsp vanilla extract
1/4tsp salt
(optional: 1/2tsp vegan food coloring of choice)

Cream together the butter spread, vanilla and salt. Add half the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the food coloring (if using), one teaspoon of milk and the rest of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth and thick. Add more milk if needed before whipping vigorously for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. 

If not using immediately the frosting can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week or in the freezer for up to one month.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Birthday Cake Extravaganza


I turned 24 a few weeks ago, and to celebrate I decided to make the most ridiculously kitsch cake ever! I had a great time decorating the cake, taking inspiration from The Unbirthday Bakery (if you haven't seen their incredible cake creations on Instagram, you totally should!) 


I made four chocolate sponges (using this recipe) and layered them together with the most incredible pink buttercream frosting before covering the entire cake in buttercream and topping it with a smooth covering of dark chocolate ganache. Then the fun really started!

I dotted the cake with all my favorite vegan goodies including mini oreos, party rings, gold leaf, rocky road and honeycomb chocolate shards. I even made glitter-dipped cherries by painting ripe cherries with a little liquid glucose and then dipping them in edible gold glitter! And of course I couldn't resist topping the cake with some aquafaba macarons (these were earl grey flavor, made using the techniques from my Vanilla Chai Macarons


I have to admit that I was a little hesitant about cutting into this cake, but it was really yummy and I enjoyed sharing it with friends.

Now to start planning next year's cake!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Mother of Two


I'm now a mother of two! Little baby Ezra Joel Mitchell arrived at exactly 37 weeks, 7:20pm on 27th June 2015 weighing 8lb 4oz.

Labour was long (more than 30 hours) and ended rather dramatically, leaving me a bit traumatized and Ezra in need of special care for the first few days. Thankfully he's a strong little fella and is now really well and thriving. We are so glad to be home and I'm overjoyed to be together with all my boys, my beautiful family.

It's only been a week, but so far I'm loving being a mother of two.