French Macarons

Yesterday was the Macarons class and we baked Almond Tuiles, Lemon Sables, Madeleines, Palet Coconut and Orange Palet too. The attention, of course, was on the finicky ones. Most of us who signed up had baked Macarons before but failed certain times. So, this class was precious to us since we wanted to learn from the more experienced and knowledgeable one. And boy, did we learn new stuff!

The whipped egg whites should be shiny and when you scoop a little out, should be devoid of sugar.

Chef tended to my partner and I first and we had a good batter, so said Chef. Minutes into putting the piped macaron shells into the oven, he opened the oven door and observed. Something’s not right…and then he immediately looked at the oven temperature. Someone had tuned it up to 350F when it should have been 325F. The shells cracked and he explained that the heat was too much for the shells.

With coffee ganache

Something went wrong with the other pairs too. Think it was the piping. The baked shells did not turn out as well. Chef decided that we should start a new batch again and throw away those imperfect ones. Oh! What a waste! So many of them, all into the bin! The second time round, the results were much better. 

With pistachio and lemon ganache

With raspberry ganache

A few pointers:
1. The important step is whipping the egg whites. There is no need to use aged egg whites. Just make sure there is no speck of yolk in the whites when you whip.

2. The sugar is added to stabilise the whites. No salt added for his recipe. Go on low speed after the whites reach soft peak stage and sugar added @ ard speed 3 or 4.   The initial whipping speed is at speed 10!!!!

3. If the whipped egg whites becomes a bit too dry (overwhipped), add a little egg whites during the folding stage. Need not whip again.

4. The almond flour affects the quality of the turnout of the shells. Check if there is cornstarch added which tends to remove moisture. Better not to have cornstarch.

5. Chef opened the oven door ever so often to check on the other trays of shells. It seems that such action does not affect the baking! To tell if the shells are ready, when you place your finger on the shells, they should feel a bit shaky on the feet. Take out and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes before adding the filling.

6. Chef did not rest the shells after they are piped. It doesn’t seem to matter! But in his recipe, he recommended resting for 30 minutes before baking to form a crust which helps to avoid cracking. But it works without resting too!

Next step is to test baking them without the supervision of Chef. =p

I think I have had enough macarons for now.

I’m glad I’m not doing the washing.

Fall, my fav season

Courtesy of Yumi Yang

The kitchen counter cooking school.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home CooksThe Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

She did it again! This is such an empowering account of 9 culinary novice turned triumphant home cooks. Besides tracking the learning journey of these nine ordinary women, the author also included snippets of facts about the food that we consume, some of which can be rather alarming. It’s part educational due to this and simple recipes are provided too.

Some of the facts listed in her book:

– “Commercial poultry growers have researched how to engineer chickens through breeding to grow significantly greater portions of breast meat. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts fetch as much as six dollars per pound – roughly five times the retail price for whole chickens and at least twice as much as the other portions of the bird. The downside? To maximise profits chickens are often confined to massive barracks where they are provided an endless supply of feed around the clock but given little exercise. Some birds grow so big so fast, they ultimately cannot support themselves under the weight of their mighty breasts and fall down. Detractors of the industrial poultry process say that they system ratchets up the stress level for the chickens and breaks down their immune systems, thus requiring mass poultry growers to use a lot of antibiotics.”

– I realised Alfredo sauce is made up of cream, pasta water, some (Parmesan) cheese and maybe some garlic & pepper. Darn…so easy!!!

– Vinaigrette = 1 part acid (vinegar/ citrus juice) + 3 parts oil

– On parts of a cow: Chuck –> shoulder –> a lot of muscles = tough –> stew;  Shank & brisket –> thighs –> braise; meat near the ribs is tender; Behind the ribs are short loins and then sirloin –> most expensive cuts –> tenderloin, filet mignon…

May I suggest you read this book and especially the chapter on ‘What’s in the box?’. It’s important to learn to read the labels on boxes of pre-mixes or any ultraprocessed food that we buy.

Above all, learn to cook from scratch because you have control of what goes into that particular dish and I’m sure you only want the best for those whom you cook for. It’s really not that difficult; it just takes a little bit of time.