The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

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Sunday 9 February 2014

Pen friends and Macarons.

My lovely pen friend Elaine is a great cook. She makes little cakes for her grandchildren and this brought back so many memories for me.

When we were kids Nana made "cockles" which were biscuits "glued" together with icing and always in a big jar. She had a forcer that pressed them out in pretty flower shapes. If we were going on trips or holidays she would send a big jar of them with us. I loved these! I wish so much I had photos of them. 

It turns out Andy has the same memory. Both his Nan's sent biscuits in big jars with them on trips. His family would go on beach holidays and these biscuits would be sent with them. Oh how we both love these memories! We never forget these things. How wonderful they are.

My Nan was Cora Jean. Not until recently did I think what a cool name. She cooked so much for us all.

Andy's Nan was Ella Vee. She made cockles glued together with apricot jam. And his other Nana "Nanny Smith" made shortbread biscuits stuck together with white icing. Big jars of these were thrilling. We both have such memories of these things!

Elaine turns up at her daughters with containers of little cakes and macarons. I felt very impressed as macarons in my mind are fancy, fiddly, temperamental and potential nightmares going by cooking shows where I have seen them go wrong in every imaginable way. 

On Master chef, my favourite cooking show, the usual nightmare challenge is the Croquembouche which is a tower of macarons. And the master of this is Australian chef Adriano Zumbo. He always has seemed so nice and such a perfectionist and famous for his sweets and pastries. 

Elaine tells me in Sydney Adriano has shops too. Here in Adelaide Macarons have taken over from the cup cake fashion and are everywhere. They are about $2.80 each I have noticed and in lovely colours. Still I had not considered trying to make them. 

Then Elaine tells me she uses Adriano Zumbo  packet mix to make them! Really? And so I decide to try this and see how I go. A packet costs $7 something. You get around 20 macarons. So in a shop these would be almost $60. 

Elaine sent me a picture of her cakes and macarons... her macarons look much better than my first attempt I have to say...

You can see Elaine's arrival would be popular and welcome any time! I will ask Elaine if I can share her little chocolate cakes recipe as it is obviously her reliable recipe.

There is a video to watch and lots of tips from Adriano. I would say follow all this and become an expert. The instructions are good and every single thing you need is inside that box.

Mine were reasonably successful but I already know next time would be better. Still they are yummy and they went to Andy's "old girlfriends" today and apparently got a good reception!

Anyway I did hearts as things this week are towards my Valentines efforts...

And here they are ready to go. It was a great experiment and I think a wonderful gift for a friend who loves macarons or a teenager who would love a french themed party or afternoon tea. They come in several varieties and Adriano has other mixes too. I tried another one which I will post later in the week. It was a massive success and I will be using it again. It made me try something I would not usually have attempted!

As I cooked I felt like Adriano was there watching me. I'm sure he was not going to ask me to be his next apprentice. And my advise would be if you are thinking of making a croquembouche not to. Unless you have much more inner strength than me just don't do it!

Thank you Elaine! it is wonderful having pen friends and the things we learn from each other. Another joy in life!


  1. They look gorgeous Annabel...perfect for someone who is gluten intolerant too. Thanks for sharing re the packet mix. Who knew?...x

    1. Very pretty in lunch boxes or for deserts Mimi. Your DD might have great fun with these too... a gift for girl friends etc. Quite handy!

  2. My DD14 is crazy about macarons. We buy them for her as treats when we are away. She had salted caramel last week. We found a wonderful cake making store in Ballarat simply called "Cake" and she says they are the best ones she ever tasted. They teach how to make cupcakes and decorate at their store (have decorating parties) but I agree that macarons are the current thing in all things delectable. I believe sponge cakes have made a real comeback as well. Now ginger fluff was something my grandmother made to perfection. My nan was also Nanny Smith and she also made lovely forcer biscuits!

    1. Kaye there is a slated caramel mix in the range! It would be a great holiday thing for DD to do. She would be a little star among her friends! Forcer biscuits in jars must have been the thing amongst our grannies. Love it!

  3. We have just recently got out mum's forcer and had success. My cousin shared her mum's recipe and away we went, well actually DH did and did a very good job. It has been too hot to have the oven on since but we will certainly keep practicing. There are plenty of machines for sale on the net if you want to do it. When the cousins came to visit they actually arrived with 2 tins of biscuits from Aunty Thel.

    1. Barb I have an old forcer, I got in in an op shop! I would love your recipe as Nan's is lost I fear. I used one but they spread and lost shape a bit... I would love to stick them together with pale pink icing! xxx


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