banana almond muffin pudding

The heart wants what it wants, and so does the stomach. During winter I don’t give strawberries a second thought but I could eat them any day of the week when they are in season. But there are some foods that you can’t help but crave – regardless of the season and once your head starts asking for it, your stomach won’t stop needing it until it is satisfied. The other day, despite the humidity, I decided that I needed bread pudding.

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Maybe it was the little bout of rain we had last week that make we want to curl up on the couch with a nice, steaming bowl of pudding. I am not one to ever deprive my stomach of what it wants – it really is the force that drives, and controls me, so I made this little variation of a traditional bread pudding.

I am not a huge stickler for sticking too close to a traditional recipe; if you can change it to make it better – do it! While a bread pudding usually uses bread (as per the name), I have seen it made with brioche and croissants so I don’t think anyone is going to be too scandalised by the fact that I made mine with muffins.

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To begin, break or cut three large and slightly stale muffins into eight chunks each. You could use three croissants or pain-au-chocolat instead of muffins, or six slices of white bread. The muffins I used were banana and almond flavoured which I knew would give the pudding a lovely moreish flavour and it also meant that I wasn’t going to have to add much else to make it delicious – the work was already done for me!

Place the muffin pieces into a baking dish and set aside. In a recipe using just bread, pouring a little melted butter over top of the bread chucks is recommended, but these muffins were practically bleeding butter so I decided to skip this step for time’s sake.

For each muffin that you use (or for each two slices of bread) whisk one egg, a ¼ cup of sugar and a ½ cup of milk with a teaspoon each of vanilla and cinnamon. This is essentially going to form he custard that the bread absorbs.

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“Custard-soaked bread” is not a description that does this dish any justice, so we need to make it a little more exciting. Sprinkle about a ½ cup of dried fruit or chocolate drops over the bread and pour over the custard mixture. You could use raisins, pistachio nuts or even cubes of apple. As I mentioned, my muffins already had banana in them and were topped with almond slithers, but I topped mine with fresh slices of banana and a few dried cranberries for a little colour.

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Bake your assembled pudding at 175°C for 45minutes until crisp and golden on top.

A nice crunch on top, and an oozy warmth in the centre; folds of bread filled with bursts of custard – just what the doctor ordered! And by doctor, I mean my stomach. Enjoy piping hot while staring out the window as the rain runs down the window, like tears at the realisation that summer will eventually finish, or refrigerate overnight to enjoy as a cooling treat in the midday heat. Or eat the leftovers for breakfast. I did, and trust me, your arteries might not thank you, but your taste buds surely will!

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macaron mercredi

Macarons were first made by in 1791 and since then they have become a quintessential French dessert.

As promised,today I made my first attempt at a very difficult task, and while not trying to sound too pessimistic, this whole operation was doomed from the start. Macaron-making requires some very accurate measuring… and my baking style is a little bit too free willed for that. On top of this, the universe just seemed to be against it; during my extensive research prior to baking I found that a commonly occurring word of advice was to avoid making Macarons if it’s raining- they are quite temperamental biscuits and they don’t like the wet weather. Anyway, it just so happened that today Summer decided not to show up :/

Anyhow, IF you are game enough to try this stunt at home, here is what you will need:

1 1/4 cups and 1 teaspoon of confectioner’s sugar (or icing sugar…they are the same thing)
1 cup of almond meal or ground almonds (chuck some almonds in a food processor if you can’t find meal at your grocery store)
3 large egg whites
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup of granulated sugar

You can also fund a collection of other recipes online (word of advice: use a French person’s recipe and not an American adaptation).

Step One: turn your oven on. Each oven is different so after several attempts you should be able to figure out the ideal temperature of yours; between 140° and 160° Celsius. I went for 160.

NEXT: whisk the icing sugar and almond meal together until they are combined. In a separate (and slightly larger bowl) combine the egg whites and salt with an electric beater on medium speed until foamy. The people in the know on the World Wide Web say plastic is a no-go, so make sure the bowl is stainless steel. Add the granulated sugar and mix on high until it forms stiff peaks (google it if this sounds completely foreign to you!). You know it’s ready when you can move the bowl without the mixture moving, or for the more adventurous, until you can hold the bowl above your head without wearing it. At this point you can add color if you so desire- powder or gel is best as liquid messes with the consistancy.Image

Fold the icing sugar mixture in as lightly as possible, it should take about 50 folds- count it if you feel like it!

With a round nozzled piping bag pipe inch wide circles of mixture two inches apart onto a parchment-lined baking tray. Image
Leave them to sit for 20-40 minutes until a thin film forms on top (this is why they don’t like the rain as ours wouldn’t do this).

Now it’s time to pop them in the oven! Like I said, each oven is different so cooking times will vary- I recommend trying about 10 minutes as we cooked our first batch for 15 and instead of being crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, they were just crunchy. everywhere. When the timer dings take them out and let them cool- now is the perfect time to make your filling. You can use anything, chocolate ganache, jam, cupcake frosting etc. I used pink raspberry flavored buttercream frosting.

When your cookies have cooled, match them up into pairs of the relative same size. Spread about a teaspoon of filling onto the bottom of one of them and sandwich together before refrigerating them to set (an hour-ish).

IF you have cooked them right they should have doubled in height and have a little ‘foot’ around the edges. I would direct you to a photo of ours to see this but that didn’t happen… I blame the rain! But here is our finished product regardless.

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All in all I don’t think today was a COMPLETE failure, they were edible and delicious, and not totallyyyyy ugly… But there is definitely room for improvement and I WILL PERFECT THEM!! And besides, even David Lebowitz took seven attempts before he was satisfied!

-D