Baking | Donna Hay’s Strawberry and Vanilla Macaron Trifle … Joyeux Noel!

Strawberry Vanilla Macaron TrifleJoyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Bo Nadaor Merry Christmas! I’m beginning to get notorious with temptation. Things that draw me a point of no return are colour, texture, visual appeal … all magical in my eyes! Of course I’m talking food porn and all these beautiful food blogs are awash with sensational stuff these days. One such post I saw a short while ago was this Strawberry & Vanilla Macaron Trifle at Trissilicious, the very talented and sweet food blogger from Down Under. One look and I was sold. The dessert had me hypnotized. I HAD TO MAKE IT!

Strawberry Vanilla Macaron TrifleIt had MAGIC in it, a combination of some of my favourite things. Tell me dear readers, does this happen to you too?

I knew this was going to be constructed in my kitchen within the next few days, so great was the temptation. Strawberries √, Macarons – find feet {had to}, Vanilla bean √, Cranberry juice √. Intriguingly enough, winter in North India spells season 2 of strawberries in the year. We get a bounty in the summer months, and then again come January, we see fresh juicy red strawberries entering the market again. Lucky? YOU BET!!

Strawberry Vanilla Macaron Trifle This time we are luckier and they’ve entered the market a little early, in December, a bit steep yet, but firmly there. Red, ripe, juice and full of taste. So there was no question in my mind and I was thanking Triss for the wonderful idea. It’s a Donna Hay recipe, and is visually delightful and full of charm like all her recipes. I love the fresh look she introduces to cuisine, seasonal variations and great platings etc.

Strawberry Vanilla Macaron TrifleYou can make this in one large bowl like Donna Hay did, or in single servings as Triss did. I am a sucker for single servings, where I love to dress up the dessert individually and pass it around, so everyone can take in the whole picture. For me that in itself offers quintessential charm, the dream of a dessert which lingers on for long.

Strawberry Vanilla Macaron Trifle Made this as Christmas dessert after the BBQ we had last night. In India, Christmas day is referred to as Bada Din {Big Day} by the natives, a legacy left behind by the British Raj. It’s our adopted favourite festival too. Each year we have a BBQ on Christmas eve for the family & extended family, and the hub takes over the BBQ. This year was no different and we had chicken tikkas, paneer/cottage cheese tikkas in 2 variants, lamb curry, biryani, garlic butter naan … and then these little red, green and white delights to wrap it up.Strawberry Vanilla Macaron TrifleDinner was delicious. Nothing like hot tandoori food straight off the grill, cooked to perfection, smoked flavours enticing the palette. Dinner may have been Indian cuisine, but my dessert had been planned forever! It had to be in red, white & green, the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season served in some style. MACARON TRIFLE! I was unsure about whether I could pull it off. So I made the cranberry jelly a day in advance, and the macarons 3 days in advance. My jelly didn’t set in 2-3 hours as the recipe said, and needed some more gelatin too. It was a simple dessert to make.Strawberry Vanilla Macaron TrifleThe macaron Gods seem to be shining goodwill on me these days. I found feet yet again; but never underestimate these fiddly creatures. Of the 3 trays I baked, only 1 gave perfect feet!  Why? Ask ‘em Gods! Who knows, but I was glad to get 15 perfect feet, and I used 1 crackled top for the 16th! I also had success a few days ago with my savoury macaron experiment for MacTweets, but I have to admit that I love the sweet ones…savoury, alas, are not for me! That recipe post follows soon…Strawberry Vanilla Macaron TrifleWe were really STUFFED, yet once dessert was served, there was magic in the air. The goblets looked like ‘Santa was stuffed into each glass‘ in Mr PABs words. So befitting for the Big Day, and such an absolute delight!  The colours, the flavours, the textures…all in perfect harmony. The cranberry jelly and suspended strawberries beautifully balancing the macaron and the lightly sweetened vanilla cream. Light yet ever-so-satisfying dessert!

Strawberry Vanilla Macaron Trifle
Donna Hay’s Strawberry and Vanilla Macaron Trifle
Adapted minimally from Donna Hay’s Recipe
The trifle can be served individually or in a large trifle bowl.
Serves 6–8.

16 pieces plain macarons
1 vanilla bean, scraped
300 ml low fat cream
2 tbsps powdered sugar
200 grams strawberries, halved

Strawberry Vanilla Macaron Trifle

For the Jelly
3 1/2 teaspoons gelatine powder {original recipe uses 2 1/2}
750 ml cranberry juice
110 grams caster sugar
200 grams strawberries, quartered
Method:
Jelly
To make the strawberry jelly, place the gelatine and ½ cup {125ml} cranberry juice in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes or until the gelatine is absorbed. Place the remaining cranberry juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the gelatine and stir to combine. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes.
Vanilla Cream
Whip cream, scraped vanilla bean and sugar to soft peaks.
To assemble
Arrange the strawberries in the base of the serving glasses/bowls and pour over the jelly mixture. Refrigerate for 2–3 hours until set. {Mine took almost overnight to set}.
Set a macaron each in the glass/bowl on the jelly. Layer the cream over the macarons. Top with strawberries to serve.

Strawberry Vanilla Macaron Trifle

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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{Baking} STRAWBERRY & VANILLA BEAN MASCARPONE CAKE … PINK for Pinktober

“Almost all words do have color and nothing is more pleasant than to utter a pink word and see someone’s eyes light up and know it is a pink word for him or her too.”
Gladys Taber

Yes, it’s the PINK month of the year again, PINKTOBER, or October as the calender says it. October is officially known as the Breast Cancer Awareness month, and this pink ribbon flies its colour. I support the cause and do my little bit to chip in towards social awareness every year, October being kicked off pretty early {on the 3rd} by Mr PABs birthday. { I got an early morning groggy picture of him and junior below}.

Year after year, he gets a cake with some, or sometimes a LOT, of PINK! He is a  good sport, and doesn’t mind the PINK at all. There was a time over the past years that the kids would question the pink? “Why is Papas cake pink? That’s a feminine colour. Why don’t we make it blue“… etc, etc! I’m glad to say they learnt the cancer awareness message, and now enjoy the pink with the rest of the PAB bunch, no questions askedPINK rules October in my mind!

October 1st marks the beginning of breast cancer awareness month all over the world. American Cancer Society uses this time to boost their campaign to raise awareness to breast cancer and to inform people that there is now a 98 percent rate of survival if the cancer is detected early. October is the month where you will see pink ribbons everywhere, which has been the national symbol for breast cancer awareness since it was first introduced back in 1991.

I picked some pink off my blog today! I have to admit I was never a pink person by any stretch of imagination, and steered clear of the colour for as long as I remember. White, black, beige, blue are more me, and I almost hated the very sight of pink.  So much so, that my daughter was hardly seen in pink in her toddler years. As time went by, I began to soften my attitude to many things in life, and my first Pinktober experience had me warming to the colour. It’s strange how rigid and stubborn one can be, and then comes along a different perspective, through blogging as in my case, and teaches you how to accept things more easily. Dislike for a colour seems so  trivial, especially when there are so many serious issues around.

Of course I had grand plans, with PINK and frozen strawberry reduction syrup etc for the cake, but my plans went very wrong. A new oven, new baking tins,  and a new recipe are not the perfect combination, and before I knew it I was in a corner, cooling my heels. My baking prowess took a larger than life beating, and I sulked as I looked at the two flat as pancakes strawberry genoise cakes. It was a horror of a day, and even though I thought hmm, trifle pudding, the cakes looked no good, so sadly were binned. I was quite relieved I had made the mascarpone two days ago.

Soon it was late evening, and with the next day being a busy one, I just whipped up my tried and tested old faithful sponge recipe. Things looked more PINK and happy soon, but no time for pictures of the making of course. Old recipe, single baking tin and new oven worked better. But the sink full of dishes, and next days lunch preparation made me over-bake my sponge slightly. Had I taken it out 5 minutes earlier, it would have been the perfect one! Yet nothing that some vanilla mascarpone filling couldn’t fix! Pictures taken in a hurry as we had folk over for lunch … huff puff!

As you can see, it was pink all the way. I had dried strawberries for the top, which I forgot all about and they still lie in my fridge. I barely had time to hurriedly pipe on squiggles on the top, but the strawberry flavours and the vanilla bean mascarpone combined well and saved the day! In the end I was just glad I was able to go PINK!

Strawberry & Vanilla Bean Mascarpone Cake
Sponge
The sponge recipe is based on the weight of the eggs. Each egg weighs approx 50gms.
6 eggs {300gms}
125gms sugar(little less than half the weight of the eggs)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
150gms flour {half the weight of the eggs}
1tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 tsp strawberry extract/essence
2-3 drops red food colour
Filling/Topping
600gm mascarpone (homemade recipe here)
200ml cream, chilled (25% fat, that’s all we get here)
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 cup icing sugar for filling { adjust if required}
50gms dark chocolate ganache, optional
Method:
For the sponge
Preheat the oven to 190C. {I reduce it to 180C after 10 minutes of putting the cake in} Grease and line a 8″ spring form cake tin.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt thrice. Reserve.
Beat the eggs and sugar well with hand beater till very thick ribbon falls and holds in place for at least 5 seconds {beat for approximately 10minutes}.  Add vanilla extract and strawberry extract and beat for another minute.
Gently fold in the sifted flour; mix lightly so that air doesn’t escape.
Turn gently into tin and bake for 35-45 minutes till done. Don’t over-bake it or the sponge will be dry.
Once done, remove from tin after 5 minutes and leave on rack to cool completely. Cut horizontally into 4 layers.

Filling:
Whip the mascarpone with almost all the powdered sugar and the scraped vanilla bean until thick and holds peaks. Divide and keep 1/3 for topping.
Sandwich the layers with the remaining 2/3rds of cream.
Topping:
Whip the chilled cream till it holds peaks, and gently fold into the reserved beaten vanilla mascarpone cream.
Reserve 1-2 tbsp for piping designs on top. Frost the top and sides, pipe some designs on top {see video here} and drizzle some dark chocolate ganache down the edges if desired. Chill well before serving.

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{Baking} MIXED CHERRY & BERRY PIE … the day dessert was on Jamie! Great for Mother’s Day!

“Yield to temptation; it may not pass your way again”
Lazarus Long

  I really shouldn’t have stopped by. The minute I saw Jamie’s post title in my reader I was mesmerised but I knew I had to stay away. Yet, I reached there in a hypnotic trance following the strings of my heart! How they tugged, and not without reason. There she had posted the most gorgeous lattice crust Mixed Berry Pie, a pie I have long wished to try, but have never had the courage to.

But when someone so close to you makes and blogs about the most perfect looking pie under the sun, you know it’s more than safe to head out to the kitchen and take a stab at it. The hot weather here is not very pie crust friendly, and most certainly not pastry rolling friendly either; but I had THAT pie on my mind! I was prepared for lattice failure because at 40C+ I know that pastry and pastry strips don’t hold up well.  Take a look, I tried to do a lattice, didn’t succeeed a 100% well, but managed a patchy job, which was good enough for a first time.
I loved everything about the pie. First it had fruit in it, which as most of you know is my first love in baked desserts. You can use a mix of seasonal mixed berries, or even customise it to your tastes with berries of your choice. The pie crust is full of gorgeous goodness, and very very forgiving. It holds up well with good old patchwork, which I resorted to to a large extent as the pastry wasn’t doing too well in the heat. In the end, as you can see for yourself, it held the pie together beautifully.
For a step by step tutorial on pie crust making, do stop by at  Jamie’s post here, as she is quite the pastry queen! She’s had extensive experience in pastry making and can toss together a mean pie in minutes! {She and I are also partners in our blog dedicated to macarons @ MacTweets! have you been there yet? Do stop by and feel free to join a whole bunch of macpassionate folk find feet once a month!}
The verdict on the pie for me was out before I even sliced it. In my mind I thought, “If it looks and smells  this good coming out of the oven, it’s gonna taste even better!” Wasn’t far from it. It was divine in every bite. The fruit all firmed up beautifully, and had the perfect consistency. Mr PAB gave it a high five, and called it a quality dessert … well he did get a second slice for that!! I was bursting with pride, and when I tweeted it out to Jamie, so was she!! You could try making it for Mother’s day, trimmed with heart cut outs or flowers! She’ll  L♥VE  it!!

It was everything good, even it had a cup of butter in the crust. Well no butter in the filling, made up for that and it balanced beautifully! I reduced an egg in the pie crust because pastry making experience in hot weather has made me wiser. Maybe next time, if I make it in hot weather, I ‘ll use just the yolk. That might give me a firmer dough. I think you can even get the whole pie together, and chill it in advance, baking it later if you need to. Might just work out to be a good dessert to make in advance. Oh, and I have to say, it tasted very nice cold too!

MIXED BERRY PIE WITH SWEET PASTRY LATTICE CRUST
Adapted minimally from Jamie @ Lifes A Feast
Filling:

6 cups (ie one filled glass measuring cup) mixed berries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup vanilla sugar, or granulated
1/3 cup flour
Juice of 1 lime
*I used 2 cups fresh, seasonal pitted black cherries, 1/2 cup stoned plums, 1 cup frozen strawberries. You can use blackberries, blueberries, raspberries or currants too.
Sweet Pastry Pie Crust {Double crust}
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Method for filling:
Toss the sugar, flour, cinnamon and zest together in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place all of the fruit in a large bowl and, using your hands, toss with the flour/sugar mixture until all of the fruit is coated with the dry ingredients.
Method for pie crust:
Combine flour and sugar in the bowl of the food processor. Add chilled butter & whiz till breadcrumb like mixture forms,.
With a fork, vigorously stir in the lightly beaten egg until all the dry ingredients are moistened and a dough starts to pull together and form a ball.
Scrape up the dough together, re-flour the surface lightly and work very briefly and quickly until you have a smooth, homogeneous dough. If the dough is a bit too soft or sticky for you, refrigerate it for 10 or 15 minutes until it can be easily rolled out without sticking to your rolling pin.
Cut the dough in two pieces, one half slightly larger than the other (this larger part will be the bottom crust). On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough for the bottom crust until you have a circle about an inch (2 cm) wider all around than the bottom of the pie plate. Carefully roll up the dough around the rolling pin and lift and transfer to your pie dish, unrolling into the dish. Gently lift up the dough all around, sliding and pressing the dough down into the dish so as avoid stretching or breaking the dough. If the dough splits, no worry, it can simply be stuck and pressed together again.
Using a knife or your rolling pin lying flat on top of the pie dish, cut off all excess dough hanging over the edges. Repress the sides of the dough back into the (crimped) sides of the pie dish.
Pour the prepared fruit filling into the pie dish and push the fruit around until evenly distributed and filling any gaps.
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
On your floured work surface, roll out the remaining dough into a circle the size of your pie plate or slightly larger. Cut into even strips of any width. Form a lattice over the fruit filling. Using every other strip from the cut circle of dough, space them evenly across the top of the pie, leaving the edges hanging loosely over the edge of the pie.
Trim the edges of the dough strips and press (flour your fingers if they stick to the dough) the strips into the dough of the bottom crust. If you like, use any leftover dough to make decorative shapes for the top (I made hearts). ‘Glue‘ these shapes of dough onto the crust with a bit of milk. Gently and lightly brush the crust lattice with milk.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, until the crust is golden and cooked, and the fruit is bubbling. If any part of the crust begins to brown too fast – the edges of mine began browning well before the center, simply cover with strips of aluminum foil.
Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack. The filling will firm up perfectly when cooled to room temperature.
Serve plain, with unsweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥
On another note, my good friend Sid, the Chef at Large, asked if I’d like to host a giveaway on my blog for my local readers! YES please! So here we are. On offer is a delicious dinner for 2 at the Empress of China, Intercontinental Eros at Nehru Place, to be used anytime in the month of May. Do leave a comment on this post telling me what your fave Chinese joint in the NCR is! Will pick a winner on Tuesday!

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