Not Bad For a First Timer

macaroons

They’re not the perfect rounds you’d see on the streets of Paris, but for a first attempt I am quite pleased with these macaroons. With raspberry filling and vanilla meringue they’re light and delicious mouthfuls which are incredibly moreish; so much so that they were demolished within a couple of hours! In the background you might notice some slightly less attractive chocolate macaroons- they were just as tasty but who wants to look at uneven and wonky creations (not me!) ?

So if it’s a patisserie challenge you’re after, you will need 125g ground almonds, 175g icing sugar, 3 egg whites and 75g caster sugar (and any additional flavourings you fancy).

The key to baking success with macaroons is taking note of the method and sticking to the recipe. Firstly you will need to whizz together the almonds and icing sugar into a fine powder. In a separate bowl whisk up your egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the caster sugar and mix until thick. It is at this stage that you can divide the meringue between different bowls and add flavourings or colours. You will then need to add the almond mix to the meringue and fold together. Spoon this into a piping bag and pipe even circles onto baking sheets then leave to form a skin for at least 20 minutes (this is important as it creates that smooth top characteristic of macaroons). Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 160 then leave to cool and fill with buttercream or ganache.

Your macaroons should be crisp on the outside but chewy in the middle. Good luck and happy baking!

Everyday Bakes

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The result of not having a decent camera to photograph my university bakes coupled with my aversion to mobile uploads has resulted in JUSTNICESTUFF experiencing a certain lack of posts in recent weeks, so I figured now was the time to make an exception to my no phone-photo rule  and update you on my baking. Pictured here are six of my favourite March creations (which seem to share the theme of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate).

Starting from the top left is my novelty chocolate birthday cake decorated with three different ganaches; it’s supposed to be a raccoon (in relation to a house joke… has anyone seen that Friends episode?.. ‘this raccoon came in’… No? Never mind). Top right is the three layer carrot, walnut and ginger cake I made last night topped with cream cheese frosting. On the second row we have a cinnamon swirl with homemade pastry and white chocolate chip muffins. On the bottom row are my triple chocolate shortbreads alongside the ultimate chocolate cake- no calories spared. If you’re after any of these recipes, just ask and I will deliver!

 

Basket Weave Picnic Pie

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Crispy shortcrust pastry bursting with fresh flavour- this pie is the perfect partner to a sunny picnic or lunch el fresco. With layers of roasted peppers, courgettes, red onions, sweetcorn, spinach and crumbled feta, anyone would love a slice of this with some fresh strawberries and Pimms. To make this, whip up some pastry and fill a loaf tin with whatever ingredients you fancy, you can’t go too far wrong so give improvisation a go! Finish it off with a rustic lid or create an attractive basket effect by weaving strips of shortcrust into a pattern as I have here.

I’ll Roll With That

A strange and fairly new to the scene phrase that bounced about between the fashion weeks this season, ‘Normcore’ is the label that’s been bestowed upon many who’ve dared to… well, dress in a very nondescript and distinctly muted fashion. Yes, at last sporting trendless and simple clothes has been identified as an intentionally styled look. I for one am pleased about this deviation away from those competitive trend-worshippers who appear to spend their lives forcing an image more extreme than the next person in a bid to look different- surely a dependence on multiple clashing prints, overpriced branded basics and attention grabbing accessories is a tiresome one which points towards a certain insecurity in personal style as opposed to anything else?

Whether you agree with that or not, the ‘Normcore’ look is undeniably more wearable than others and its trademark of t shirts, jeans, singular colours and general air of nonchalance is one I would quite happily sport.

It has to be said, this ‘look’ is nothing new, but its recognition as just that (a look) is. Adopted mostly by off duty models, I think it’s an image that says ‘I’m comfortable, I like what I’m wearing’ and ‘I don’t need to look as though I’ve swallowed a Henry Holland print collection to feel at ease among the fashion week regulars’.

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‘Normcore’ looks as though it’s going to stick around for a while and quite frankly I am pleased that my everyday laziness and affinity with black could now be (quite wrongly) identified as style. I can see a surge in Alexander Wang sales on the horizon in response to this new non-trend, and that can’t be a bad thing.

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(No you’re mistaken, that’s not an off duty supermodel above (HA!), but a candid snap of myself; perhaps this can illustrate my enthusiasm for one-palette-no-effort dressing ie. my appreciation of ‘Normcore’).

Procrastination Central

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Just a quick update to say I’m still here!

This said, I am currently feeling very much like this baboon I came across in Tanzanir; fed up, sorry for myself and in need of some sympathy. No, nothing has happened to provoke this… that’s just the problem. Three deadlines and nothing has happened- I appear to have lost the ability to write essays. The ideas are there, the focus and articulation is not. That left the building approximately a week ago when I sat down to a blank word document. ..

Anyway, I will be back and blogging about things other than my disinterest in essays as soon as I am rid of deadlines. See you then!

 

 

A Valentines Overload

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JUSTNICESTUFF has been dormant for a couple of weeks now, and for that I can only apologise and explain that the blame sits with countless essays (which I have avoided and deliberated with ease and enthusiasm) and a saddening lack of camera. This said, the minimal contact I’ve had with my readers has led to a feeling of reluctance, so I thought I’d create a post using some less than inspiring photographs (dare I say the words.. mobile and upload..?) instead of my usual ‘proper’ images.

So, last weekend was a heavy one on the waistline and presented me with multiple reasons to bake. First of all, Valentines Day allowed me to bake my staple cupcakes after a break of experimenting with patisserie and pastries. I asked my boyfriend what his favourite desserts were and transformed two into cupcake recipes. The above image shows the strawberry cheesecake variation which involved a biscuit base, strawberry spiked sponge and a cream cheese topping and the banoffee pie cupcakes which were made up of a banana sponge, a toffee centre and vanilla buttercream complete with handmade hazelnut chocolates and spun sugar. As you can imagine these elaborate and horrendously unhealthy treats went down well.

The second occasion I was asked to produce the goods for was my Granny’s birthday. As a huge fan of chocolate and coffee, I thought she would love this two tier mocha cake with chocolate dipped strawberries and fresh blueberries. The result was incredibly rich, but everyone loved it nonetheless.

After a rather ample helping(s) of each of the bakes, I can safely say my jeans were feeling a little tighter come Monday morning.

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Visit Dishoom (and that’s an order)!

If you ever find yourself wandering around Shoreditch in search of a great meal, look no further than Dishoom. Serving a wide demographic of diners (not just those donned with suitably trendy bangs, beanies and beards), Dishoom kicks the common trend of fad vegan cafes and those restaurants littered around parts of East London where waiters often wear the all too familiar ‘I’m here for the vibe not the cash’ expression.

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Open all day for Indian style breakfast, lunch and dinner, Dishoom offer a wide range of tapas-style plates as well as larger dishes. Everything on the menu is designed to be shared resulting in a sociable eating experience, perfect for big groups and couples alike. Some of my favourites from the dinner menu included the spicy and perfectly light breaded calamaris, juicy hot masala prawns and chicken biryani with mint yoghurt sauce. What I also enjoyed was that each table is provided with a range of fantastic chutneys and sauces which are mindfully explained and recommended for certain dishes by the staff. Not only are the waiters efficient and the food delicious, but the tasteful interior of the building boasts a distressed finish with modern touches which makes for an interesting and undeniably trendy environment to eat in.

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Booking a table is not permitted at Dishoom, and you can expect a wait on busy nights due to its understandable popularity. Awaiting your table is made enjoyable at the restaurant’s vibrant cocktail bar though, where you are armed with a novel alarm which lights up when your place is set. The cocktail bar tenders are charasmatic and offer a huge array of cocktails unique to Dishoom including favourites such as Bombay Pimms and spiced rum punch.

So, if you love Indian food and fancy experiencing it in a slightly different way, why not head to Dishoom in Shoreditch or Covent Garden for a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner-feast soon?

Bit Tarty

At last I’ve tackled a strawberry tart (I promised I would after my recent trip to Paris). As the pinnacle of French patisserie, this is a staple you need to add to your baking repertoire. I am unsure of how it tastes yet, however after ‘sampling’ elements of the tart separately I am hopeful that it will be delicious!

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The bake is made up of a sweet shortcrust pastry, vanilla creme patissiere (which I’ve never made before but it is much easier then I anticipated) hulled ripe strawberries and a redcurrant glaze.

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If you’re after a challenge why don’t you select a patisserie classic and whip one up- you might surprise yourself!

Moroccan Flatbread

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When making Moroccan food, it’s nice to have all the accessories that go with it to enjoy the complete taste experience. With that in mind I decided to make some flatbreads spiked with middle eastern spices to accompany a beef tagine and fruity couscous. These bakes are soft in places, crispy in others and packed with ras-el-hanout as well as honey which adds a welcome sweetness. As a first attempt at flatbreads I am pleased with the result and think they will be great for scooping up sauces or dipping in oils and dips.

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