So we’ve reached the third week in the competition and the bakers dozen are now down to 9; the tasks are increasing in complexity, as well as the judge’s expectations. This week they were asked to conquer desserts – with a trifle, floating islands and petit fours; for me, I did struggle to decide on what to do. I didn’t fancy making a trifle because the majority of the people in the house are all watching their weights and trying to shift it, so the last thing to do would be to make a great big pud. I considered the floating islands but they didn’t really appeal to me. My last option was petit fours – not the best category since I’m not very good with fiddly things.
I rewatched GBBO for a bit of inspiration and went for 12 macarons as a starting point; I have only ever made them once before and they just didn’t work, so I was quite nervous about making them. The finished result were 12 (misshapen in places, sorry) green mint chocolate and hazelnut macarons.
Now I just needed ideas for the other half of my bake. My mum had been blackberry picking while I was on holiday and so the fridge was bursting full of them; flicking through Edd Kimber’s ‘Say It With Cake’, I found his recipe for a blackberry and mint cake and found this to be the base of my sponge petit four. What I actually made were 12 tiny double-layer squares of a chocolate and blackberry cake, sandwiched together with blackberry jam and mint whipped cream, adorned with a blackberry on the top.
If I’m totally honest with you, I could have done a lot better; I have recipe books with lots of ideas for petit fours – even in the ‘GBBO Everyday’ book for this series had tonnes of them in there, but I thought I’d just do my own thing instead. In future, I’d have gone with something different; however, the macarons tasted amazing, exactly like an Aero mint chocolate bar, and the small cake squares were bursting with flavouring from the blackberries. So regardless, I’ve included both recipes on here, in case you felt like attempting them yourself at home.
Mint chocolate and hazelnut macarons – adapted from ‘The Boy Who Bakes’
- 170 g icing sugar
- 160 g ground almonds
- 120 ml egg whites, divided into 2 equal batches
- 160 g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp green food colouring
- 220 g dark chocolate (60-70%), finely chopped
- 240 ml double cream
- 50 g unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into small pieces
- 2 tsp peppermint extract
- 50-75 g chopped hazelnuts
- Preheat the oven to 170C/fan 150C/ gas mark 3 and line 2 baking trays with parchment.
- Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds into a bowl and add the first batch of egg whites; mix together to form a thick paste then set aside.
- In a small pan add 50 ml water and the granulated sugar, and set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and get your thermometer ready; meanwhile, put the second batch of the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk on a medium speed. Once the temperature reaches 110C, whisk the egg whites on high speed; when the syrup gets to 118C, take off the heat and pour it slowly down the side of the bowl avoiding the beaters.
- Continue to whisk the meringue on high speed until it has cooled and the bowl is no longer hot to the touch but still warm. Add the food colouring and continue whisking to combine fully.
- Scrape the meringue onto the almond mix and gently fold together; the batter should fall into a thick ribbon from the spatula. Add the batter to a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm wide plain nozzle. Pipe rounds of about 2.5 cm – 5cm on the prepared baking trays; leave to rest for approx 30 mins, until the macarons have developed a skin and aren’t sticky.
- Place in the oven and bake for 12-18 mins; immediately slide the parchment onto the work surface and allow them to cool before gently peeling them off the paper.
- To make the filling, add the chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set aside; put the double cream into a small saucepan and bring just to the boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow it to stand for a couple of mins before stirring gently to combine together. Add the butter and peppermint extract and stir gently until smooth and combined.
- All the ganache to thicken, enough to be able to hold its own shape, and then fill a piping bag and pipe onto half of the macaron shells. If you don’t want to pipe, you can spread thickly using a palette knife. Scatter the chopped hazelnuts on top of the ganache and then sandwich together using the other half of the shells.
Chocolate, blackberry and mint cake squares
- 115 g unsalted butter
- 25 g cocoa powder
- 4-6 tbsp hot water
- 115 g self raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 115 g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1-2 tbsp milk, if needed
- 100 g blackberries
- 150 ml double cream
- 0.5 tsp peppermint extract
- Green food colouring (optional)
- 60 g blackberry jam
- Approx 28 blackberries to adorn the top
- Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 12 x 9″ traybake tin.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together then set aside.
- In a jug, add the cocoa powder and hot water and blend together until smooth, allow to cool slightly; put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating until fully combined. Add in the chocolate and continue to beat until incorporated; lastly, with the mixer on low, sift in the flour mix in three additions and mix to combine. If you find it to be too stiff or it sticks to the spoon for too long, add in the milk to soften the batter.
- Fold in the blackberries gently; then pour into the prepared tin, level out and smooth the surface. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until springy to the touch; allow to cool in the tin for 5 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the filling, simply whip the cream until it just holds it’s shape, then stir in the colouring and peppermint extract. When the cake is cold, cut into squares of 2″ wide and 2″ long. Spread a tsp of blackberry jam onto 6 of the squares, then spread the cream on top. Sandwich together and spread a the cream on top, finish with a blackberry on top; repeat for the remaining squares.