aka gorgeous almond “macaroon” style biscuits that are completely impossible to ignore when you walk past their tray. To me, it feels like there are so many skills to learn when you start baking – and especially baking for a baking blog. Obviously, there are simple things to master first, simple things to be able to build on. Sponge cakes, roll-out cookies. But then I gradually find there are more things – candy making, fancy-buttercream making, complicated-cakes, puff pastry, elaborate sugar craft. Of course most of these things are completely unnecessary and few but the professional do them – but they are so much more noticeable when you look at the “big blogs”. One small technique I had yet to master properly was piping.
Which is why these biscuits appealed to me and were on my new To Bake list. They were unusual, from a new book, looked darn tasty – and could give me a chance to improve on that old piping.
For Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive Mary Berry’s Complete Cake Bible. Readers abroad may not recognize the name – but Mary Berry is a classic – a little like a British Dorie Greenspan. This book (as the title may give away) holds every recipe you’re going to need, for every occasion, every ingredient, every time. As I read through it, almost every page had me thinking “Ooh”, “I should make that”, “That sounds nice”, “How clever!” or “That’s so pretty!”. Definitely a book I would recommend.
Happily, these cookies turned out delicious. They are moist and slightly sticky, bursting with almond flavour. The book says you would probably only make these as a gift as they are slightly fiddly. Well…ahem… my family enjoyed them very much and not one was shared! They are so delicate and small it becomes dangerously easy to munch on a couple at a time. I got the hang of the piping, and feel much more confident with that now.
Notes: I had three trays of cookies and each turned out differently. Tray 1 – had about 9 minutes and turned out perfectly. Tray 2 – same time, but for some unknown reason the piping detail disappeared whilst baking. Tray 3 – had 12 minutes, a little too dark. Just something to bear in mind! You can see the three different batches in the bottom picture.
Petit Fours Aux Amandes from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Bible, by Mary Berry
Ingredients: 2 egg whites
4oz (100g) ground almonds
3oz (75g) caster sugar
a little almond essence
To Decorate: glace cherries or angelica (these do NOT have to be chopped into heart shapes like mine, but I was baking with my arty sister and well…they are so cute!)
To Finish: 1tbsp caster sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 180’C/350’F/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with non-stick paper.
2. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold in the ground almonds, sugar and almond essence.
3. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle, and pipe into small rosettes. Decorate each rosette with a small piece of glace cherry or angelica.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden. Lift onto a wire rack.
5. To finish, mix the caster sugar and milk together and lightly brush over the cooked petit fours.
From left to right, Tray 1, Tray 2, Tray 3.