Like many an avid cook, I keep a book of recipes I have adapted to suit my tastes. To earn a place in my notebook, recipes must be for dishes delicious enough that I want to make them over and over again. As much as I'd like the book to be pretty, neat and written in my best handwriting, it's a mess. I scribble in it, cross things out and make revisions, and I often write cryptic notes and abbreviations that I can't always understand later. As you'd expect from an ex-pastry chef, a majority of the recipes are for desserts. Here are two of my most recent notebook-worthy recipes for mignardises - sweet treats to serve at the end of the meal, to nibble on while lingering over coffee, tea or a digestif.
Honey and green tea madeleines (pictured)
The best madeleines I've had were from the Dominique Ansel Bakery in Tokyo, Japan, where they're baked to order and served warm. Fortunately for us, the madeleines are featured in the cookbook Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes. This version is adapted for a green tea flavour, and while Ansel flavours the madeleines with grated lemon and orange zests, I've left them out so they don't overwhelm the matcha (green tea powder). For the same reason, be sure to use a light, subtle-tasting honey.
Make the batter the day before you want to use it.
115 grams unsalted butter
15 grams honey
120 grams plain flour
115 grams granulated sugar
2 tsp matcha, sifted through a fine sieve
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
3 large eggs, at room temperature, whisked
Icing sugar, for dusting
Put the butter in a skillet and set it over a medium flame. When the butter is melted and sizzling, stir in the honey.
Put the flour, sugar, matcha, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and whisk to evenly combine the ingredients. Add the eggs to the dry ingredients then whisk until thick and smooth. Add the butter and honey and whisk until fully incorporated. Scrape the mixture into a container, cover with cling-film then refrigerate for at least eight hours.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (or 180 degrees, if it's a convection oven). Spray a mini-madeleine pan with pan coating. Put the batter into a piping bag fitted with a 6mm plain tip. Pipe the mixture into the moulds to fill them almost completely (or use a small spoon to fill the moulds). Bake the madeleines for five to six minutes, or until they are fully cooked: they will be fragrant, firm to the touch and dry on the surface. As soon as you take them out of the oven, bang the pan on the work surface to loosen the madeleines so they fall out of the moulds. Turn them so the fluted side is up, dust them very lightly with icing sugar, then serve them immediately.
Clean the moulds, dry them, then spray them before baking the next batch of madeleines. The mixture makes about 100 madeleines, but there's no need to bake them all at once. Keep the batter in the fridge for up to a week and bake them as needed; they should be eaten fresh and warm.
Toasted coconut macaroons
These are not to be mistaken for macarons - the colourful and much more delicate meringue-based sandwich "cookies" popularised by shops such as Pierre Hermé and Ladurée. They are quick to put together and - unlike macarons - are not at all temperamental. Unfortunately, I don't know where this recipe is from; I didn't write down the source in my notebook.
Be sure to buy unsweetened coconut and try to get medium-shred.
120 grams unsweetened coconut
130 grams granulated sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
60 grams egg whites, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Spread the coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden, mixing occasionally so it's evenly toasted. Watch it carefully to ensure it doesn't burn. Cool the coconut to room temperature. Reduce the oven heat to 170 degrees.
Put the coconut in a bowl and mix in the sugar and salt. Whisk the egg whites until frothy, then add them to the bowl and stir until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Spoon the macaroon mixture into rough mounds about 2cm in diameter on the tray, leaving about 1cm between each one. Bake at 170 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the macaroons are firm to the touch and lift easily from the parchment paper; they should still be moist inside. Leave to cool before serving. Store the leftovers in an air-tight container, using a sheet of parchment between the layers, so the macaroons don't stick together.
For more recipes, go to scmp.com/topics/recipes