Sunday, November 8, 2015

Home Bake Box: Lavender Macarons

Getting things in the post is such fun – I still hand-write letters, shop online both for ‘proper stuff’ (clothes, household goods) and also craft supplies from Ebay, which is usually such a spur of the moment 99p (or less) purchase that by the time a little packet of die cuts or beads arrives, I’d forgetten I bought it!
I’ve written before about Degustabox and how much I like the idea of a parcel of goodies turning up once a month, so I was excited when I came across a new company called Home Bake Box.

They deliver a box every month containing all the ingredients you need – already weighed out and sealed in separate packets – to make a particular recipe. There’s also a recipe card, a longer leaflet and a whole load of online content you can go onto their website to access (eg different flavour combinations).
Home Bake Box is a small family run business so the kind of thing I like to support – they haven’t paid, or asked, or even know, that I’m writing this blog post. I subscribed for a couple of months though ended my subscription as I just wasn’t finding the time to bake along with all the other things I had planned.
Communication was great – when I tweeted a question about whether something was gluten free, I had a reply from Abhi straight away. As as aside, the macaron mix was gluten free but she said they couldn’t guarantee it was fine for coeliacs essentially due to other variables, so I thought it best not to chance it. But according to their website, gluten free and vegan mixes are coming soon!
Abhi admits on her website she thinks there is room for improvement with the look of the packaging and that the first time they tried to send out jam (as a filling for one of the cake recipes) the sachets leaked, though mine didn’t- I think I received one of the double-bagged ones! I actually like the plain and simple packaging though, and how neat all the little packets look inside the box. It makes the whole thing seem quite accessible and achievable which is good for more inexperienced bakers.
I also love the fact that the boxes are small and flat enough to go through the letterbox. While I love getting parcels, it’s a pain when it means knocking on elderly neighbours’ doors when I get home in the evenings as the courier has left my parcels with them! These however came straight through my letterbox.
So what were the two boxes I’ve received so far? Well, my heart sank – but in a good way – a little when I opened the first one. Macarons! I find macarons really hard and have even been on a one-day course to improve my technique. In a way I was pleased I would get to try again but at the same time a bit disappointed the recipe wasn’t something different that I hadn’t come across before. On the other hand I think for the majority of bakers, that would be true.
Similarly, the following month, which I haven’t baked yet, was Sachertorte. I was a bit disappointed again as I made a Sachertorte once before and it turned out fine – it wasn’t a particularly difficult or unusual bake. I guess it’s because I’m a fairly experienced baker but one thing that I would like to see Home Bake Box doing as the company expands is perhaps offer a beginner’s box, with something simple or something that most bakers won’t have tried before, and an advanced box, with something that is either more technically challenging or uses unusual ingredients that are hard to find in the shops.
Having said that, I’ve just seen on their website what was in their October box: ingredients for a pan de muerto, in honour of Mexico’s day of the dead – which is something I’ve never even heard of. I should have stuck with my subscription perhaps!
The box that I subscribed to cost £8.99 a month which is actually quite a lot for some of the recipes – though with the Sachertorte kit it even included gold leaf, which is expensive.
However, they also offer a Classic Bake Box, which looks much better and is £19.99 a month. If I had realised this when I first subscribed I probably would have bought one of these. In October for instance, as well as the pan de muerto mix, you got a 9-piece skull cookie cutter set and ingredients and icing for decorated sugar cookies, and the kit for a lime, marigold and orange genoise cake. I like the idea of being given a piece of baking equipment as well as the ingredients for the recipes.
So how did the macaron recipe turn out? Not quite as well as I had hoped, but macarons are notoriously difficult to make.

I followed the instructions, mixing the ingredients and piping the mixture out onto a silicon macaron mat I already owned.

I waited until they were cool to peel off the baking sheet but unfortunately a lot of them stuck. Perhaps they were too big and therefore not quite cooked through, I'm not sure.

I then made the filling, which was called buttercream but actually involved mixing the powder sachet with egg and milk to make a sort of custard, which was then allowed to cool. I filled the macarons with this and they did taste good, even if they didn't look all that great!

The pack came with a tiny little box to package a few of the macarons up in, which I did to give to my mum as a gift.

I'm sharing these macarons with Alphabakes, the blog challenge I co-host with Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker, as the letter she has chosen this month is M.



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