Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s sooooo good to be able to stay at home and do what you like. Such a relaxing day, and it’s hard to come by. Baking macarons to the songs of Michael Buble, I can’t help but be thankful for the wonderful company of the hubs who periodically reaches out and sing those jazzy songs into my ears.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Note to self:

Use double trays during baking.
Set oven to slightly below 300F.
Rest macarons shells for at least 30 min before baking.
Don’t be afraid of the macaronage. Just mix well!
Use silpat rather than parchment paper, if you can.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Macarons

I shall persevere, until the mystery of the finicky ones is solved.

I have had successes with them but the recent failures had only serve to spur me on to bake more often, test the recipes and discover what the plausible cause(s) of failures would be.

Since I had bought a bottle of raspberry jam two days ago, I thought of the wonderful combination of white chocolate ganache and raspberry jam. The filling wouldn’t be too difficult to make. The tricky parts as usual, were the whipping of the egg whites and the macaronage.

This time round, I decided to pay more attention to everything, including having the exact weight of the egg whites and blending the almond flour and powered sugar using the food processor. I realised then that I have been using less egg whites for the past few attempts! Goodness! Soo desne!

Everything seemed to go smoothly. The pre-baked macaron shells sat neatly on the baking sheet waiting to be dried. Then in went the sheet pans at 325F. About 12 minutes later, they came out…uncracked yet without the feet! Oh my goodness! What’s wrong again?

Perhaps it’s the temperature? I adjusted a little. Since the oven did not have digital reading, I would have to gauge by trial and error. The second sheet pan went in and the macarons came out, uncracked and some with feet. Hmm…better but still not well done. Tempered with the temperature again until I decided to use double sheet pans.

And it worked! Too bad this was the last batch!

The rest was easy. This time round, the macarons were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Wonderful!

Note to self:
1. Use temperature of 310F for about 12 minutes for this oven.
2. Buy oven with digital reading.
3. Use double sheet pans during baking.

Hmm…what flavour shall I bake the next time?
Oh! I realised I have baked 10 different macaron flavours! Yay! #6 of the to-do list is completed!

White Chocolate ganache
150g white chocolate, finely chopped
5 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl. Put the cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and heat until the cream has come to the boil. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and leave to melt for 1 minute. Stir until smooth then leave to cool. Cover and refrigerate until thickened.

Monday bakes

The bananas that Yumi brought over on Friday are ripe and ready to be turned into a banana bread. I have baked this a few times and they have received raved review. No harm baking again. Brekky for the next few days!

And since I have chocolate ganache lying in the fridge, I might as well bake chocolate macarons. I really want to improve my technique. I made a few mistakes but in the end, the presentation turns out ok though I’m not sure about the texture. My friends would have to be guinea pigs again while I try and try again.

Too runny a batter! Darn!

Inconsistent sizes =(

Macarons in a ramekin

Chocolate macarons!

Friday bakes

This weekend is packed to the core. While we do not have any halloween party, we do have invitations of various kinds and this provides a good opportunity to bake since there would be people who could possibly polish the food off. Yay! And since I have only about a month more to go before I let go of my beloved standmixer, I need to maximise the use of it.

First up is Joanne Chang’s Apple Snacking Spice Cake which is easy to bake and delicious for munching. I have been attempting some of her recipes and thus far, they turn out good!

Somehow, the combination of apple, raisins and pecan nuts won’t get you nowhere.

Next up is banoffee macarons, one that Yumi chose to bake from the Macarons book that she gave me months ago. Since I had just attended the French Macarons class, I’m ready to apply what I’ve learnt. Having to eyeball the whipped egg whites to a shiny, smooth consistency is key to having a sexy looking macaron shell and I’m nervous about it. We do have feet this time but the shells are a tad hollow. What is wrong again??

Last but not least, we baked Spiced Chai Latte Cupcakes. Baking them made me think of the reason why I started baking in the first place – that I was captivated by the many many cupcakes that I saw online and was thus enticed to bake them. Cupcakes are easy to bake and they are absolutely not as finicky as macarons. I got the idea to bake these cupcakes from the blog – Love & Olive Oil – but adapted a little using the Chai Latte teabags instead of the black ones. Thus, I also adjusted the amount of spices used – half of the amount indicated. The frosting is just amazing! It’s so delicious and not as heavy as the usual (American) buttercream. The cupcakes turn out moist and the whole combination is just heavenly! This cupcake recipe is for keeps.

Happy baking!

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.

Busy but happy Friday

Love it when friends come over for a meal or to cook together!

It’s Yumi’s first attempt at macarons. Deep in me I was afraid of what the weather can do to the end result of the macarons. Remember, my previous failed attempt was on a humid rainy day too?

And the shells did crack! I’m really not sure if it’s the macaronage or the weather. But it’s too much of a coincidence to ignore the possibility that the humidity might play a part. Oh well. We’ll try again. It’s a lot of fun baking with Yumi though.

Some pics.

They looked good after being piped but you only know the results when you take them out from the oven.

The salted caramel is also difficult to handle. Have to wait a long time before it cools and hardens slightly.

After the baking of macarons came second round – cooking bak chor mee! This time, it’s with the 2 gals from BC. They wanted to learn how to make the dish and we had fun too!

  
Fun with the gals

Happy faces! Yay!

=)

 

Mint & Chocolate macarons

I’ve decided to stick to the methods in the macarons book that Yumi bought me because it has worked for me thus far. A few nights ago, I have made the filling which consists of fresh mint leaves infused in syrup first and then, chocolate. Nowadays, ingredients have to be prepared on separated days since it’s rather difficult to find long period of time to bake (busy).

Thankfully, this time round, there are feet and I suspect it has to be the macaronage that caused the downfall of my previous macarons. Too much stirring!

Desiring some designs on the shells, I used my silicon brush to add some strokes of green but I must say, the soft ones will give better result.

Mint and chocolate filling
25g fresh mint leaves
40g caster sugar
150g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. Lightly crush the mint leaves between your hands and place in a small saucepan with the sugar and 100ml cup water. Slowly bring to the boil so that the sugar dissolves, then simmer gently for about 3 minutes. Remove fromt he heat and set aside to infuse for at least 1 hour.

2. Tip the chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Bring the mint syrup back to the boil, then strain into the chipped chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Leave to cool and thicken slightly before using.

Cracked!

I’m not sure what caused them to crack. I was shocked when the first batch came out and tried to remedy the situation by using an extra baking sheet. In addition to that, I turned down the temperature to 325F instead of 375F.

No luck.

And there was no pied or foot, the pleatlike frills at the bottom of each macaron. No pied, no macarons. I have failed.

Devastated.

The good hubs encouraged me, telling me that the ‘macarons’ still taste the same. Oh well, it’s not the same anymore. It’s just not macarons with the cracks and without pied.

I’ll try again! It must be the weather! Humidity is an enemy to these finicky cookies. Or another possibility is that I’ve overmixed. Argh!

* Possible cause for no pied – drying the mixture too much. The length of drying time for macarons varies from season to season. Try to set your air conditioner at “dry” mode or use an electric fan on a humid day in order to quicken the drying process and create a smooth texture. (Hisako Ogita of i ❤ macarons).

The next time I bake macarons, it will be Autumn.

Aged egg whites

Cracked! And the matcha doesn’t add too much colour to the cookies. Must add colouring!

No feet!

Macarons fever.

This film makes the baking of macarons looks so scientific. It actually is. Thus far, I’ve baked 5 different flavours. 5 more to go before the end of the year!

Malted Chocolate Macarons

At last…macarons again. This morning has been rather cool and it’s back to baking again!

The hubs thought the ganache made the whole macarons taste less than sweet. “Macarons are supposed to be sweet right?” I thought that it was okay but we all have different tastebuds, so that’s all right.

Not sure how the two of us would be able to finish these macarons but we’ll try. More running perhaps?

Some of my macarons have really awful cracks. Hisako Ogita in her book, I love macarons, suggested that:
1. they are baked without drying the surface of the macarons.
2. I did not use two oven trays when baking.
3. The oven was too hot, and the bottom of the baking sheet got too much heat.

I quite suspect that the heat in the oven was too hot. These days, things get baked faster than expected. Perhaps, it’s the weather?

Cendol Macarons

This is inspired by the dessert we often have at the hawker centres back home. To me, the coconut milk taste stands out whenever I consumed it, coupled with the red beans and I love chewing on them. Thus, this is my take on this Cendol macaron.

The basic recipe for the shell is used and coconut buttercream for the filling. To lend a cendol appearance to it, red bean paste and coconut jelly are added. Later, strawberries are inserted to give a more vibrant outlook to the dainty macaron.

Basic recipe (adapted from Macarons by Annie Rigg)

Makes about 40 shells = 20 filled macarons
200g/ 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
100g/ 2/3 cup ground almonds
125g egg whites (aged) – about 3 eggs
a pinch of salt
40g /3 tbsp caster sugar

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and ground almond and sieve it. Set aside.

In a spotlessly clean and dry mixing bowl, put the egg whites and add a pinch of salt. Using  the whisk attachment, beat until they will only just hold a stiff peak (looks like the bubble bath foam).

Continue to whisk at medium speed while adding the caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time. Mix well between each addition to ensure that the sugar is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next spoonful. The mixture should be thick, white and glossy. A test to perform to show that it is ready is to invert the mixing bowl. If nothing falls out, you are all set to go!

Fold the confectioners’ sugar and almond mixture into the egg whites. The mixture should be thoroughly incorporated and smooth. Do not overmix! When it is ready, the mixture should drop from the spoon in a smooth molten mass.

Fill the piping bag with the mixture and pipe evenly sized rounds, about 3.5cm across onto the prepared baking sheets. I used the 807 Ateco piping tip.

Tap the bottom of the baking sheets sharply, once, on the work surface to expel any large air bubbles.

Add any edible decorations (I added gold glitter) onto the unbaked macaron shells. The top left one was a mistake; I added too much!

Leave the macarons for at least 15 minutes, and up to 1 hour, until they have “set” and formed a dry shell. They should not be sticky, tacky or wet when tested with your fingertip.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Bake the macarons on the middle shelf of the preheated oven, one sheet at a time, for 10 minutes. The tops should be crisp and the bottoms dry. Leave to cool on the baking sheet before inserting the filling.


Coconut buttercream

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g confectioners’ sugar
70ml coconut milk
2/3 tablespoons caster sugar

Beat the butter until creamy and pale. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating well until the buttercream is smooth.

Whip the coconut milk and caster sugar until it turns slightly frothy, and add this to the buttercream. Beat until smooth

Pipe in the buttercream and add the red bean paste, coconut jelly and/or strawberries on the shell before sandwiching it.

Enjoy!

Cappuccino macarons

I admit I’m addicted to my new-found love. I think about it day and night, the different flavours I can create and the various designs. I aspire to bake every flavour found in the book and this desire has grown stronger each day. Today, the shells were good even though I have placed my egg whites near the hot oven (how could I forget about it??!). I was afraid that the shells would collapse and all my effort to age it would go to waste but hey, they turned out pretty well!

Note: Pipe shells of the same size in the same tray. I know this is commonsense but I went to pipe a bigger one in a tray filled with smaller versions. Sigh!

These macarons are for my ESL students tomorrow. It is going to be my last time seeing them and thereafter, the summer break begins. Would I volunteer for another season? I’m not sure yet. I would love to have more time in the kitchen since these last few months in Boston would be really a time that I could spend honing my skills in cooking and baking. Once I get back to reality, it would be busy days ahead. I’m not sure if I would go back to the state in which I left for work in the dark and left the workplace again in the dark. I know it’s not healthy and I hope to strike a balance especially now that I have a family. Well, for now, I would just enjoy the time that I have left here to pursue my interest.

Art lesson – macarons

We are going to Joy’s today to view the much anticipated The Finland Phenomenon and that means baking macarons for my friends!

I’m baking the flavours – white chocolate & raspberry and white chocolate & strawberry. Bearing in mind my previous attempt, I hope to make more discoveries today.

So, the changes I have made are (1) draw out 2-cm circles instead of the 4-cm ones since the batter will spread a little; (2) whip the egg whites a little longer & (3) to allow the oven to heat up again after a batch of shells are taken to ensure that the next batch would be baked at the specific temperature.

As usual, my piping skills need brushing up because I was still unstable as I piped out the meringue mixture. The first two batches of shells came out a bit weird. Some of the shells have ‘half-feet’ and the shapes came out a tad off a concentric shape. However, the last two batches – those that I really cannot be bothered to do a good job of piping and these two batches didn’t even have the circles drawn on the parchment paper & mat – came out surprisingly well! For the silicon mat, I realised that I need to put in the oven for 1 to 2 minutes more and the shells came out beautifully well!

Working with raspberries is a little tricky. They are so delicate I’m afraid that I would crush them, knowing how ‘rough’ I can be. They have to be washed and then dried and in the end, not all could be used since some of them are rather soft. In the end, I did about 7 of the white chocolate & raspberry macarons. It’s really testing of patience having to place them properly and to pipe out those white chocolate ganache (remember my piping skill sucks?).

I much prefer making the white chocolate and strawberry because I used the jam and not the real fruits! But I must say, the process got easier as I became more confident.


You should have seen me at work when I’m baking. I sprout nonsense or sing when I’m stressed. So, the hubs has to bear with all my acts and listen to the monologue.

But hey, I really had fun baking macarons. On to the next few flavours from the book. I intend to cover as many flavours as possible!

As usual, I’m quite upset with the turnout of the pictures. Many of them are not sharp. I’m so waiting for the online lesson on Food Photography next weekend starting 13 May and hope I can get something out of it.

Macarons adventures started!

This day, I have decided to take the plunge to bake Macarons. I have put this idea off for months and since this week is a relatively relaxing one for me, I thought why not try this today?

I have read up quite a fair bit about Macarons because I’ve heard that it is not an easy bake, that it is finicky in nature. Hisako Ogita’s I love Macarons made it seem so achievable to bake these dainty goods; you don’t need sophisticated apparatus to make them! And it is perhaps a Macaron cookbook given by some friends here that prompted me to take the step to BAKE.

Of course, there are plenty of resources in the Internet and many of them are so rich in information. Some of them are videos which really help visual learners like me. If you are like me, you might want to try some macarons from famous patisserie for benchmarking. =p I tried Miette’s when we went SF and Bouchon Bakery by Chef Thomas Keller in NYC. Macarons from them are good, especially the Pistachio ones from Bouchon Bakery.

There are two common ways of making macarons, the Italian Meringue method and the French meringue one. I much prefer the latter since it is less troublesome and will be more suitable for first-timers like me.

Generally, the ingredients necessary are ground almond, icing sugar, egg whites, pinch of salt, caster sugar and any garnish that you want to put on the shell. For filling, I’m going for good old chocolate ganache.

My egg whites are aged ( a few days old in freezer) since this reduces the moisture content while at the same time preserve the proteins bonds from the egg whites.

Things to take note: 

Early in the morning, I have drawn circles on the underside of the parchment paper to assist me in the piping of the shell later. I drew up circles of 4cm in diameter. But I realised that the next time I do it, I would keep to 2 cm since the batter will spread a little.

I used parchment paper, silicon mat and wax paper but in the end, I think I prefer parchment paper because for the other two, my shells stick to them. Perhaps, they need more time in the oven and I would continue to experiment with them in future.

There are two things that I’m fearful of. One is whether I have whipped the egg whites to stiff peak and from what I’ve read, the test is that when you invert the bowl, the meringue won’t fall out. Secondly which is the more important and dreaded stage is the macaronage, the mixing of meringue with almond and sugar. This is the ‘make-it-or-break-it’ stage. Overmixing will cause the shells to crack and be feetless, something you would not want for your shells!

 

The batter is said to be ready when it resembles that of a smooth molten mass (think ‘magma’).

Most of my shells turn out well, except for a couple which cracked and they all have feet, thank God! For the cracked ones, it could be due to my unsteadiness in my piping (yes, I did tremble when I piped).

One thing that baffled me is the inconsistency in the sizes of my shells. Some are obviously bigger than others (they spread more when I piped out). So, does it mean that it needs more egg whites since it is runny? Updates: I think I might have the answer to this after reading Veronica’s write-up! It could be because I dumped in all my dry ingredients in one go rather than in four additions! Okay! I’m so going to try again in my lab aka kitchen. I have never loved experiments and research that much until now. Woohoo!

This being my first attempt, I’m rather pleased with the result. The taste resembles those of which I had eaten from the bakeries and though I fumbled and dropped some apparatus here and then (startled the hubs), it was still a wonderful adventure.

I’m hooked and wanting more!

Useful resources:

I love the macaron tutorial from Tartelette.

Loaded information from Ms. Adventures in Italy.

A little bit of Macaron history from Serious Eats.

I’m loving The Pleasure Monger‘s macaron journey!

The video helps a lot though I know nothing about French.

Check out Kitchen Musings‘ Macaron Chronicles!

There are numerous bloggers out there who are doing a mighty good job in macarons. The above are but a few that I read up on. Their blogs already contain quite a few links to more useful sites.

I need more time to read and experiment!

The video is Chef Joanne Chang’s demonstration on macarons.