Are you ready to shake off the Bake Off?

My fellow bakers, we have regrettably arrived at the end of our journey; today marks the last Great British Bake Off episode this season. With so many incredible bakes from start to finish I'm really going to miss my fix of Wednesday night food porn! I may have to YouTube some M&S adverts next week... Anyhow, I've decided to leave the final episode to the experts and not embarrass myself by trying to go out with a bang and ending up with a crash and a burn so week IX: patisserie is where I shall leave you. Before I introduce my last bake, I thought it would be nice to do a quick re-cap of this series and share some of my favourite bakes with you...


Week I: Cake


Week II: Biscuits & Tray Bakes

Week III: Bread

Week IV: Deserts

Week V: Pies & Tarts

Week VI: European Bakes

Week VII: Weird & Wonderful Pastries

Week VIII: Advanced Dough

Week IX: Patisserie

 Mmm, tasty!!

For week IX: Patisserie, I decided to bite the bullet and give macaroons a go. I'd tackled doughnuts and eclairs so I figured why stop there?! With hindsight, maybe I should have stopped there. Let's just say that I don't think my concoction would have pleased the court of Louis XVI at Versailles...







Macaroons
125g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
90g egg whites
2 tbsp water
110g caster sugar
food colouring
150ml double cream for whipping

You will need a piping bag fitted with a 1cm nozzle

Pre-heat oven to 170ºC








Now, first things first, I have been told that it is pretty important to get the amount of egg whites correct with macaroons. 90g is approximately 3 eggs but do weigh them to ensure you have the correct amount. Also the first stage of this recipe asks you to add 40g of the egg whites only so make sure you've worked out how you're going to reach the right amount; I measured out the 90g first then placed a new cup on the weighing scale and poured back 40g of egg whites into it. Actually that's a lie - that's what I should have done, but I didn't even realise the dilemma until it was too late and ended up winging it (when I clocked on I tried to work out what I should do but the maths started to hurt my brain).







So, first step: put the icing sugar, ground almonds and 40g of your egg whites into a large bowl and mix. Once this has become a thick paste, put this aside and pour water and caster sugar into a small pan and heat gently. Once the sugar starts to melt, turn up the heat and stir until the mixture starts to go syrupy and thickens.












Whisk the remaining 50g egg whites until peaks form, and pour in the sugary syrup until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny. For coloured macaroons, add a few drops of food colouring then add this to the almond paste. Now here's where it started to go wrong... so I'd decided I wanted to make pale green and pink macaroons so because I had two separate colours and the recipe said the food colouring needed to be added to the egg white mixture, I decided to separate both the egg white mixture and the almond paste mixture in two. Roughly. Without weighing it. My only excuse is that Eve and I were at that moment engaged in a very heated debate about whether or not the double oreo was actually better than the original so we were a tad distracted. The result was that we were left with four bowls each with uneven amounts of mixture. After adding the food colouring and combining the mixtures together, we realised the nozzle for Eve's piping bag was a bit... small, and the mixture was too thick. Note to self: take heed when a recipe stipulates a particular piping bag nozzle size!





So it turned out to be a bit of a disaster after that as we had to place the mixture onto the baking tray with a spoon. The pale green mixture was far too loose and my '4cm flat circles 2cm apart' seemed determined to rebel against me by all combining together. We scrapped the green mixture. Ha! Take that you stubborn green splodges!! The pink mixture was slightly better but we still weren't quite able to create uniformed shapes... well let's not discriminate; we accept all shapes and sizes here!


I was a bit upset as I envisioned wondrous, puffy little beauties piled high on floral, gold decorated plates but my macaroon's came out a bit cracked and crumbly on top :( However I read somewhere online that Nigela Lawson makes her macaroons a bit more crackly-looking rather than adopting the standard, typical smooth-surfaced top so this made me feel better! Re-reading the recipe as I write this post, I have now realised why mine came out the way they did - I completely missed the part where the recipe says to leave the blobs to stand for 30 minutes before you put them in the oven so that a skin forms. Oh dear this really hasn't gone very well for me this time, has it? I should really pay more attention to instructions! Don't be hasty Master Meriadoc!

So after letting your macaroons stand for 30 minutes, pop the baking tray into the oven for 12-15 minutes then leave them to cool. Whip up your double/whipping cream and sandwich your macaroons together spreading a layer of cream between them. Et voilà! Your macaroons are ready to eat! For some reason once I added the cream my macaroons started to go a bit soft even though I kept them in the fridge... they tasted really nice and almondy as I picked at them before adding the cream, but after they were neatly (ok fine, not so neatly) sandwiched together they tasted quite horrible. Oh dear, what a disastrous bake! It's a shame it's the last one... I think this just shows that in future I should stick to just doing the eating!!

We've only got a few hours left before we say farewell to another year of fantastic creations and skilled bakers (and Paul Hollywood's mesmerising eyes). I'm so pleased that I set myself this challenge as I've had so much fun trying out new recipes and have learned a lot on the way... I now know how best to cut soda bread, to leave A LOT of time for fruit leather, that choux pastry isn't spelt 'shoe,' and best of all I can proudly say I know how to make doughnuts! I'm definitely going to miss Mel and Sue's witty puns and sharp comments. Make sure you tune in to see who wins at 8pm on BBC one! For the last time; on your marks, get set, (all together) BAKE!

For a full recipe please see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/macaroons_04669

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