CUTE SPOOKS FOR GREAT HALLOWTWEET…Meringue Ghosts

“Ghosts, like ladies, never speak till spoke to.”
Richard Harris Barham
Onto my last post for the Great HallowTweet and it’s been a fun ride this week. Thanks to a call from Renee @ Flamingo Musings, and I joined this fun & spooky ride. Take time to stop by the blogroll with the lit-up pumpkin on my sidebar & check out some Great HallowTweet posts.
The kids got adventurous this week on seeing the ghosts I meringued around with. The son decided to dig out to a book to make face paint at home, and the daughter wanted to paint his face.
He, who is always in for some wayward fun, was a good volunteer … until she began plastering him. But it was too late, and this is how it ended. Spooky… and she did a good job! She also sat the whole day melting candles left over from Diwali to make a set of candles for Halloween. She didn’t let me burn it for too long though!! I made these meringues out of egg whites saved for my Daring Baker French macarons. I had plenty saved because I was ready for failure, but that didn’t happen this time. I had a pretty easy macaron ride, thanks to Monsieur Lebovitz’s recipe, so I turned to GHOSTS! The son had a poetry week in school and they explored interesting forms of poetry including haiku, autobio, acoustic, CinQuain, limericks, etc. The students each made a little poem book with their creative thoughts. The poems made for interesting reading. Let me share his autobio with you which had mention of ‘ghosts’ so…

Your first nameRohan
Four descriptive traitskind, cool, peacfull, awesome
Sibling ofbrother of meher
Lover of (people, ideas)… Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, my dad
Who feelssad, happy, good
Who needs PSP, computer, TV
Who givesLove, Peace, Joy
Who fearsdark, my sister, ghosts
Who would like to see Jeff hardy, Matt Hardy, Kane
Resident of (your city)… Beverly Hills
Your last nameRajpal

Of course I asked him to pass these meringue ghosts if they frightened him. I got a ‘charming’ smile back as if to say, but these are sweet Mama. Here are my ghosts, and a few mice. The mice ‘happened’ because there was just a bit of meringue left in the bag. I used roasted pumpkin seeds to give them ears. You can use flaked almonds too.

My little ghosts were meant to be white but they began to turn brown about 30 minutes into baking a 100C. Maybe an element issue with my poor old oven, but they tasted darned nice. The kids loved the crispy exteriors and slightly chewy interiors. I think they liked these creatures better than macs!

Meringue Ghosts for Halloween
adapted from Joy of Baking
2 egg whites (120 grams)
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 powdered vanilla sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 105C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks.
Spoon the meringue into a large self-sealing plastic bag. Use a sharp pair of scissors to snip 1/2 inch off from one corner of the bag to form a makeshift piping bag.Hold the bag upright and squeeze the meringue, forming a wide base, a slightly smaller middle, and a curled top (almost as if you were piping a soft-serve ice-cream cone) to form a chubby, upright ghost shape.
Carefully press two candy eyes or two silver dragees or miniature chocolate chips into each meringue ghost.
Bake the meringues for approximately 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours or until they are dry and crisp to the touch and easily separate from the parchment paper. Turn off the oven, open the door, and leave the meringues in the oven to finish drying several hours, or even overnight.
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DARING BAKERS MAKE FRENCH MACARONS…YES, TIME FOR FEET AGAIN!

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.”
Winston Churchill
It’s the 27th again, time to post the Daring Bakers challenge, a wonderful & fun group brought together by Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. This month we were led into a merry dance; the challenge was to find ‘FEET’. Hail the great French macaron/macaroon, an elegant French cookie that I find entirely temperamental and fiddly. One that has reduced me to tears in the past, brought me to my knees in the quest for ‘feet’…yet one that gave me untold joy when I finally found them.
The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
Unless you’ve been frozen in permafrost for the past five years, you’ve likely noticed that cupcake bakeries have popped up all over like iced mushrooms. Knock one down, and three take its place. Much has been made about not only the cupcake’s popularity, but also its incipient demise as the sweet du jour. Since we seem to be a culture intent on the next sensation, pundits, food enthusiasts and bloggers have all wondered what this sensation might be. More than a few have suggested that French-style macaroons (called macarons in France) might supplant the cupcake. This may or may not come to pass, but the basic premise of the French macaroon is pretty damned tasty.In the United States, the term “macaroon” generally refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But European macaroons are based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. The flavor possibilities and combinations are nigh endless, allowing infinitely customizable permutations.
French macaroons are notorious for being difficult to master. Type in “macaroon,” “French macaroon” or “macaron” in your search engine of choice, and you will be inundated not only with bakeries offering these tasty little cookies, but scores and even hundreds of blogs all attempting to find the perfect recipe, the perfect technique. Which one is right? Which captures the perfect essence of macaroons? The answer is all of them and none of them. Macaroons are highly subjective, the subject of passionate, almost Talmudic study and debate. Chewy? Crisp? Age your egg whites? Ground the nuts or use nut meal or nut flour? Cooked sugar syrup, or confectioners’ sugar? In the words of a therapist, what do you think is the ideal macaroon? The answer lies within you…
A mac obssessed group of us foodie pals on twitter had ventured into mac territory a few months ago, and it took me many attempts before I got it right. Many translate into 6 attempts on a single morning, in a mad frenzy, batch after batch, failure after failure. It was on the 7th attempt that I finally tasted success with David Lebovitz’s French Chocolate Macarons with Pistachio Buttercream. All credit went to a great bunch of tweeples who held my hand. Of them many were Daring Bakers - Meeta, Aparna, Hilda, Jamie, Ria & Barbara! Jamie was crowned the Mac Queen…and boy, am I glad I got all that experience. What worked for me then was a much lower temperature and David Lebovitz’s recipe; I now call him the ‘Mac Mastah!!When the challenge was announced this month I was doing the salsa, the flamenco, the tango, the cha-cha-chaeven the macarona, if there was one! We needed ‘FEET’ here, and I knew just what I had to do; also knew just how to behave if they failed. No more tears, no more panic. Many egg whites lined up, almond meal made from scratch & I was ready to roll. Popped batch one into the oven with the DB recipe, and the first lot at 93C turned out beautifully, with the prettiest feet developing. All was lost at 190C & my tray bubbled over. UGH! I should have known, because that’s just what happened when I tried a David Lebovitz recipe during the mac attack at 190C.
Then again, no drama. Calmly wrapped the parchment paper, binned it & began all over again, but this time with my tried & tested 140C variant on the Lebovitz recipe, sans cocoa. Found colour inspiration and sound advice from Trissa @ Trissalicious. One look at her blog, & her beautiful coloured macs, returned me to an uber confident baker, unfazed by failure. Exchanged mails with her, and was back at it in no time, again with a 1 egg white batch. I divide the batter into 5 portions and added a drop of neon colour to each. Ended with vanilla sugar flavoured, pretty coloured French macarons, not perfect, but good enough for me. Loved doing the challenge, maybe because it worked for me. I sandwiched them with a vanilla butter cream, and the kids loved them. I’d do this again soon, but for the fact that I find macarons far too sweet. I might try them again in the winter with a bittersweet chocolate filling, or might try them again just because I love the way they look! They really are stunning little creatures!I did a batch with pumpkin pie spice too, just because I had some pumpkin puree left over from this Praline Pumpkin Pie here, and I wanted to make something pumpkin pie spice flavoured. These turned out delish too, but we finished them sooner because of the pumpkin puree filling, as it had more moisture. I preferred these to the vanilla buttercream ones, as I found them less sweet.Awesome tasty cookies. I’m including them here for the Great HallowTweet … a Halloween Bloghop by Renee @ Flamingo Musings (refer my post here)!

Vanilla Macarons with Vanilla Buttercream
as adapted from David Lebovitz’s recipe
(I made half this recipe )
Macaron Batter
1 cup powdered vanilla sugar
½ cup powdered almonds
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Liquid neon colours

Method:
Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.
Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps; use a blender or food processor since almond meal that you buy isn’t quite fine enough.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes. (They should stay in the bowl if you hold it upside down. try at your own peril!!)
Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you’re alone).
Divide into bowls and gently mix in the colour if you want too. See Trissa’s post here.
Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch (3 cm) circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.
Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons, then bake them for 15-18 minutes.
Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Double the ingredients if you are making the whole recipe above.
50gms butter at room temperature
50gms powdered vanilla sugar
1/4 vanilla bean
1 tbsp light cream
Method:
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into a bowl with all the ingredients, & whip together to firm consistency.
Pipe onto cookies & sandwich. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Note: For pumpkin spice macarons, 1 added 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice to almond meal & blended for a few seconds. For pumpkin buttercream, I mixed 1 tbsp of pumpkin puree to a white chocolate ganache. These macs should be consumed faster because the moisture content in the pumpkin buttercream could lead them to be soggy faster than the regular buttercream.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

~
Do stop by and see the other Daring Bakers around the world find their feet HERE!
Thank you Amy @ Baking Without Fear for this wonderful challenge!
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Persimmon Flan – I’ve Got My Eye Set On You…BOO!

“Where there is no imagination there is no Horror.”
Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.
I’ve got my eye set on you, also got my mind set on you, you Bootiful flan!

When Renee @ Flamingo Musings asked last month if I celebrated Halloween, and if I’d like to join her and gang for the Great HallowTweet, a halloween Bloghop, I was quite unsure. Nothing like Halloween here, and actually we don’t get ‘scary stuff’ in stores that I could include in my posts. So I was compelled to say no, but the temptation drew me in. As days went by, ideas kept cropping up, with twitterverse on fire with hallow tweets galore, I was sitting on the edge. I eventually jumped on board the Great HallowTweet and was having fun in no time. I had a flashing thought from a brilliant Halloween post from Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella, & decided to top my flan with an eyeball made out of marzipan. Made some marzipan (from almond meal that I made for my mac escapades), and have to say that my foodie journey is becoming more and more exciting! This flan is made out of persimmons, my first adventure with this very temperamental and unpredictable fruit!
Persimmons, known to the ancient Greeks as “the fruit of the gods” are rightly royal fruit. Had seen this stunning fruit on blogs before but never met one in my life. The sight of the basket full at the local market brought me to a grinding halt. The man at the shop tried desperately to sell me bruised, soft fruit, insisting that the others would ‘catch my throat’, and I gave the poor soul a disdainful look. ”Trying to palm off yesterdays fruit to me, eh?“, so I lovingly sat & chose beautiful firm persimmons in gorgeous fall colours!
A few tweets later, discussions with the Greek God of Food, Petah @Kalofagas, and I was harshly enlightened. What a fruit the persimmon is. Astringent beyond belief if unripe, and luscious to eat when bruised & soft. There are 2 popular varieties, the hachiya and the fuyu, the latter being less astringent, and therefore an easier one to deal with.

I find the persimmon too fiddly for me, somewhat like French macarons. Strange comparison you might think, but both have the potential to bring you to your knees. I’ve been there, done that, with both the persimmon and with macarons, so I really know! Both have the foodie in me perplexed. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on either, they reduce me to tears! Lesson learnt – Fruits of the God & ‘he’ knows how to figure them out! Unfortunately, I found the fruit downright fussy for me. It took me one astringent bite to decide. ACK, it had ‘caught my throat’! Thereafter began my battle. Sat them in a brown paper bag for days. Are they ripe? Cut one … ugh! Finally got 2-3 ripe fruit & was forced to chuck 2-3 unripe ones. Hmmm… just when I was ready to throw the towel in, I saw a tweet from Lisa @ Lisa is Cooking. She made Persimmon Flan, and boy did it look good! WOW!! That was enough for me to get back into the game. I discussed ingredients with her on ever dependable Twitter, and with great inspiration from her, arrived at this beautiful flan. I wouldn’t say that it had a discernable persimmon taste (or maybe I know only of astringent tastes), but the flan was drop dead gorgeous, and very delicious. No eggy taste either. Beautifully behaved, it turned out easily from the mold. I made 3 4″ flans, and 8 tiny little ones in fluted tart pans.
Persimmon Flan
Inspired by advice from Lisa @ Lisa Is Cooking
Persimmon puree

5-6 very ripe fuyu persimmons, calyx (cap)/stem removed
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp cinnamon powder (optional; you can even use pumpkin pie spice)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup apple juice

Method:
Place all of the above in a heavy bottom saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, a bit more if the fruit aren’t very very ripe.
Cool & refrigerate overnight for the flavours to marry.
Discard the cinnamon stalk (& seeds of the persimmon, if any. Mine were seedless), whiz in the blender. Yield 1cup persimmon puree.Caramel
1 cup granular sugar
1 tbsp water
Method:
Make a caramel out of 1 cup granular sugar. Heat 1 cup sugar in a heavy bottom pan,& stir gently only when it begins melting.Once it is golden brown & completely melted, remove form the fire & add 1 tbsp of water. BE CAREFUL at this point as it is dangerously hot, and will splutter. Allow them to bubble for a few seconds & come together. Quickly pour into your molds & twirl the molds around to coat bottom and sides (or only bottoms if you like).Custard:
1 cup persimmon puree
200ml low fat cream (25%)
4 small eggs
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tin/400ml condensed ilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon powder
Method:
Preheat oven to 170C
Place all of the above in a big bowl & whisk for 1 minute to blend.
Pour into prepared caramel lined molds, just below the tops.
Place in a roasting tin, and pour enough hot water in the roasting tin to some about half way up the sides of the molds.
Bake for 25-30minutes, until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool, and then chill. (Do not try to turn out the custard warm/hot. It will fall apart) Run a knife around the edges, or give the mold a good shake, and turn it out into he serving plate. Pour any remaining caramel over the top. (Tastes mighty fine with a LITTLE drizzle of cream too)

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

Be sure to take the Halloween hoppa which you will find on my sidebar & check out the rest of the gang on the Great HallowTweet! Thanks for taking me on Renee … BOOOOOO!!
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