A question posed: how does one pep up a biting Monday morning after risking life and wheels navigating paths past bullish London bus drivers through Tooting in the morning rush hour? ‘With baked goods’ is the answer to that question.
My introduction (and by introduction I mean mandatory enforcement) of Baking Monday’s to my department commenced with my week being first up. Any excuse to exercise the elite biscuit making set complete with stainless steel icing gun – shamefully its first outing since given to me as a gift last Christmas from Matt.
Two hours and rolls of parchment later, I’ve managed my first attempt at Italian meringue in the form of amaretti biscuits. Double the amount than in the picture was made, with the most perfectly round and uniform ones selected for show and colleague consumption.
They have the signature initial crunch quickly turning to chew. Anonymous and unanimous votes of 4/5 all round from colleagues, with many coming back for seconds, thirds and into double digits – the best rating of all.
Perfect with the morning's strong coffee.
125g ground almonds125g icing sugar
3tsp plain flour
2 egg whites
75g caster sugar
1tsp almond extract
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F / Gas 4). Mix the sugar, ground almonds and flour in a bowl so they’re evenly distributed.Whist the egg whites in a clean and dry bowl until soft peaks form, then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny.
Tip I whisked these in my newly purchased electric food mixer – much easier to add sugar with two hands free. If you don’t have an electric mixer stand than an electric hand whisk will do the job fine – just try to secure your bowl as you won’t be able to hold it whilst you’re adding the sugar with the other hand.
Fold in the almond mixture and almond extract until just blended. Be sure not to over work the mixture with your spatula as you’ll lose all the air you just worked so hard to get. Fold until just combined.
Spoon the mixture in a piping bag and pipe into 3-4 cm wide mounds well spaced out onto baking paper. No need to grease the paper first. I found using a relatively wide plain nozzle looked neatest. Use a wet finger to smooth the top of each mound. The more you do here the more uniform they’ll look when cooked – don’t spend to long on this though. Bake until they just start to turn light brown.
Tip This time will vary depending on the size of the biscuits you’ve piped but I found 3cm wide ones only took 5-10 minutes or so. Which is strange as the original recipe states 40 minutes. Any dark brown bits will taste burnt and be all crisp and no chew.
Carefully slide something thin underneath each one to remove from the paper – I used a bowl scraper. Turn the oven off and leave the door ajar with the biscuits inside – this will allow them to dry out. Remove once cool and store in an air tight container. Scoffing a good few whilst still warm is recommended.
What’s especially pleasing is that this weekly occurrence has spurred colleagues of mine who have never before sought after those illustrious stiff peaks of the egg white to don the apron, pre-heat the oven and pick up a wooden spoon.
Not only was it their first practice attempt, but they enjoyed it. Enjoyed it so much that baking will now feature as a regular in their daily lives. Baking love shared.