For the past few days we’ve been basking in real summer warmth. You know the type, when it’s almost too hot to do anything, when the dogs spend their days sprawling in the shade, the most energetic thing they do is to open and close one eye, just in case they should miss something. When the lizards scatter across the terracotta tiled roofs and when the frogs in the pond lay motionless in the sun, so well camouflaged one could almost miss them. The chickens take it in turns to indulge themselves in the dust bath and our newest addition, the ducks, spend every waking hour on the water.
These are the days when meals need to be leisurely and most certainly eaten outdoors in the shade. Fortunately it was Ascension weekend, making it a four day break for many.
We had the most charmingly delightful guests staying and thoroughly enjoyed being able to take the time to chat to them and share a meal and a few glasses of wine, and of course some eggs and our first salad of the year from the garden!
Which actually leads me to my post today. We all love to entertain and to share lunch or dinner with friends and family. But to me there is little point in doing this if it becomes incredibly stressful and utterly exhausting. I am always looking for ways to make dining a pleasure for all but at the same time relatively easy and simple, whilst making things as nice as possible. Of course a bbq is a simple choice with plenty of side salads,
but what about dessert?
Many people are passionate about the perfect French Macarons, but I do like to make desserts myself, I enjoy pretending to be a pastry chef for an hour but I am hopeless at making macarons. I have tried and failed and tried again, they are never a success, ever! In fact they cannot even be called edible, the taste is fine but the mixture never sets. So I have graciously admitted defeat. Instead I now make a Kiwi classic, learnt from our time spent in New Zealand. The utterly delightful Melting Moment.
They are light and buttery and so simple to make and they have the flavour of a super light, melt in the mouth, crumbly shortbread with a flavoured buttercream layer in between.
Quite often recipes for these suggest a lemon icing. I have used orange and it was delicious. I’ve even added a little orange zest or lemon zest to the biscuit batter to mix things up a little and with great success I might add. There are numerous variations, the list is endless, as long as your imagination really. However, for lunch this week I chose what I consider three of the classics. Vanilla cream, a rich chocolate cream and a strawberry cream.
This recipe makes 15 biscuits. Remember each biscuit is made up of two sandwiched together so this is 30 individual biscuits.
for the Biscuits
- 275 grams butter, softened
- ½ cup icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 ½ cups flour
- ½ cup cornflour
for a Basic Buttercream Icing
- 1 Cup Icing Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 60g softened butter
Now this is where you can make things just as you want them and experiment a little.
For the basic buttercream, mix all the ingredients together and mix thoroughly until you have a really smooth cream.
For the Rich Chocolate Buttercream I added a heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder to the above recipe and a teaspoon of boiling water.
For the Strawberry Buttercream I blended a handful (4 or 5) strawberries in the small bowl of the food processor and added these to the mixture, stirring well until well blended.
- Preheat the oven to 160C/320F
- Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
- Beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla essence together in a mixer for 3 to 4 minutes until light and creamy. This part is absolutely vital for the success and light texture of these biscuits.
- Combine the flour and cornflour and mix gently into the butter cream mixture. Do not over mix at this stage.
- Place a small amount, about the size of a walnut, spaced apart on the baking trays.
- Use a fork dipped in a little flour each time to flatten them a little.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes until the biscuits are firm. They should remain pale in colour.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Now you can fill these with your choice of filling. I use a small sized palette knife and spread a good sized portion on to the underside of one biscuit. Sandwich this together with the second biscuit on top.
These will keep for two or three days in an airtight container.
They may not be French Macarons, but I promise you they are a pretty good compromise. In fact I have served these to French friends, admitting my failing at their French delicacy and they have devoured these with much relish, so they must be half ok!