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Archive for October, 2009

Macarons (October Daring Bakers challenge)

29 Oct

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I only tried my first macaron recently at Adriano Zumbo in Balmain. My sister has been raving about Macarons, especially those from Laduree in Paris. I guess living across the channel from France makes it easier to have the pleasure of trying French macarons. Zumbo’s macaron was a pleasant 1st experience and I was keen to try and make some of these babies at home.

I set aside the first week of my school holidays as ‘cooking week’. I was so excited about having the time to not have to worry about rushing about with work and I could take my time to ‘master the mac’. It was lucky I did have this time because as it turns out macarons are hard to make. It took me 3 attempts before they were half decent. By round 4 I was adding flavouring to them and by round 5 they were both flavoured and coloured. Although the food colouring was supposed to be red so I thought if I used a tiny bit they would be pink. It ended up being orange coloured powder and even though I only used ¼ tsp they turned out bright orange. Haha

I think if I wasn’t part of the Daring Bakers I would have given up after round 1. I am extremely grateful for the time and effort that other bakers spent to give me feedback and tips, especially Audax and Helen.

My Macarons from batch #1 were flat, had no feet and stuck to the baking paper so their insides fell out. They still tasted nice so I have frozen them to use in a future layered dessert.

 

Batch # 2 were slightly better, but still no feet and they had a few holes and cracks. I filled these babies with Crème Caramel Baileys ganache. I could have eaten this by the spoonful. Cleaning up after this batch was yum.

For batch #3 I decided try a recipe by Syrup & Tang after reading about the success of other bakers. This recipe had more sugar in the meringue, which I think worked a lot better. I finally got feet! I filled these cuties with either an orange buttercream, to please Brett’s jaffa passion, a dark chocolate ganache or a chilli chocolate ganache for a bit of a twist.

For batch #4 I added Twinings Blackcurrant & Apple tea to flavour the macarons. The blackcurrant flavour was amazing. I filled these beauties with either a dark chocolate ganache or a vanilla buttercream.

My final batch #5 was flavoured with strawberry & mango tea and filled with vanilla buttercream. These macarons had the best shape and texture out of the lot, even though they were bright orange. They tasted really nice too.

Making macarons also means you have to learn your oven and experiment with different oven temperatures. After the disappointing result from batch #1 I invested in an oven thermometer. I also added all the extra tips other bakers had given me into the following recipe so I wouldn’t forget them. This recipe worked for me but be prepared to give it a few try’s to work out your oven. Happy baking!

Macarons

Makes 1 dozen filled macarons

  1. Trace a 20 cent piece onto baking paper in alternate lines. Flip it over and use the back of the paper. Set aside.
  2. Weigh egg white and then scale the recipe appropriately using syrup and tangs formula. For example:
    Ingredient Formula Example
    Almond meal 1.3 x egg white 1.3 x 46 = 60 gm
    Icing sugar 1.6 x egg white 1.6 x 46 = 74 gm
    Castor sugar 0.8 x egg white 0.8 x 46 = 37 gm
  3. Place egg whites in a microwaveable bowl and put them in the microwave for 5 seconds on a medium setting. (This is a quicker alternative to leaving the egg whites overnight).
  4. Weigh almond meal and icing sugar. Sift twice and process at high speed. (Add powdered colour or flavouring at this step). I added 1 teabag which was 1 ts & ¼ ts red powdered colour.
  5. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add castor sugar a little at a time until stiff peaks form.
  6. Add half of the dry mixture and count strokes. (approx 18 strokes for 2 egg whites) Add remaining dry mixture. (Some tips from Audax: The consistency should be like cold thick honey, (inspect closely the look and feel of the batter), check by placing a tablespoon of batter in a line on the remaining mixture and it should disappear into the batter in about 30-60 secs. It better to under mix than to over mix. Take a spoonful out after about 35 strokes and putting it on a plate to see how it flattens out. If the peak doesn’t settle after about 30 seconds, I give it a couple more and try again).
  7. Spoon the batter into piping bag and pipe onto prepared baking paper on top of 2 stacked baking trays.
  8. Confidently bang baking trays on counter.
  9. Leave on bench top to dry for 1 hour.
  10. Preheat the oven to 175C. My oven thermometer said it was 180.
  11. Put the shells in the oven and turn the temperature down to 160C. Since my oven is actually hotter than the dial says I turned it to 150C.
  12. After 6 minutes, swap the top & bottom trays.
  13. Bake for another 4 mins & check. Total baking time should be 10 -12 mins. (Another tip from Audax: At the 5 minute mark the shells should have lifted and developed ‘feet’. At the 6-7 minute mark they should be starting to colour just slightly. They are probably ready if a shell moves only reluctantly on its foot when you lightly nudge it with a finger).
  14. Remove from oven and leave on the tray for a minute or two then transfer to a wire rack.
  15. Make filling

Orange Buttercream

  • 80g icing sugar, sifted
  • 20g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoons orange juice

To make the orange buttercream, place 1 cup of the icing sugar, the butter, zest and orange juice in a large mixing bowl. Beat with electric beaters until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the remaining icing sugar and beat until the cream is thick.

Baileys Ganache

  • 100 ml cream
  • 130g Dark chocolate
  • 1 Tb Baileys

Boil the cream. Add the Couverture. Add the Baileys and bar mix.

Note: I am posting this late. Oh no! Yes I missed the reveal date by 2 days. Brett and I attended a very boring pre-marriage course the other night and last night I went an my 3rd orienteering run. So much fun! At the moment exercise is taking priority in the lead up to the wedding and I also have to cut back on desserts so unfortunately no more macaron making for me, except maybe for a few Christmas presents. It will be hard to not eat a few though.

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Related posts:
  1. Vietnamese Chicken Pho & Chocolate wontons (October Daring Cooks challenge)
  2. Vols-au-vents (September Daring Bakers challenge)
  3. Vegan Indian Dosa’s (September Daring Cooks Challenge)

Chocolate Afternoon Tea

18 Oct

While I would love to report on a delightful chocolate afternoon tea at the Cavendish Hotel in London, sadly it was not the case. Verdict – not chocolaty enough!

Words cannot describe my excitement all week leading up to afternoon of indulgence. But alas, the so called ‘chocolate afternoon tea’ was simply an afternoon tea with a few chocolates – casemir to be precise.

Oh well, we still put a dent in the platter which consisted of sandwiches, scones, a lemon tart, a coconut slice, chocolate éclairs, and the highlight for me…chocolate dipped strawberries. Which clearly doesn’t speak too highly if that was the highlight!

ChocolateAfternoonTea

Anyway, not all was lost – I treated myself to a few goodies from Maison du Chocolat on Piccadilly afterwards. Next year, I think an indulgent chocolate pud will hit the spot…or I could just have one tonight!

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  3. Chocolate Week in the UK!

Chocolate Week in the UK!

16 Oct

Chocolate Week (12-18 October 2009) is a chocolate celebration featuring tastings and events from the UK’s best chocolatiers. Needless to say, I am extremely excited! My love of chocolate is the one thing that can derail my healthy eating habits, but for this week I have declared it to be a valid reason to indulge.

chocolateREX_468x481

After a lengthy session on the Chocolate Week website, I have booked in for the chocolate afternoon tea at the Cavendish Hotel. Stay tuned for the delights that await!

There is also loads of free tastings, samples, demonstrations and special events. Check it out and lock something in your diary!

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Vietnamese Chicken Pho & Chocolate wontons (October Daring Cooks challenge)

14 Oct

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

PA050348

Having never eaten this soup before but being a big fan of Vietnamese food,I knew I was going to like this challenge. I found it quite easy and thought it was very light and refreshing. I raided mum’s spice cupboard to get some cloves & coriander seeds but I had to buy star anise for the first time. I think if I was to make this again I wouldn’t use as much star anise. I think it overpowered the soup with a strong liquorice-type of flavour. By the way, I have been told that Pho is pronounced “Fuh?” and you say it like it’s a question.

There were 2 options with this months challenge. Either use store-bought chicken stock or make your own. Even though I eat chicken, I’m not a fan of chicken wings, drumsticks or other bits of chicken where you suck on bones. I mostly eat chicken breast and occasionally thighs. So I chose to buy some chicken stock so I wouldn’t have to make a stock out of bones. If you would like to make the longer version you can find the recipe here.

 

This month’s challenge included a 2nd dessert challenge to make a chocolate wonton. The recipe suggested by Jaden involved frying the wonton in oil, but since I am officially now on the ‘wedding diet’ (less than 10 weeks to go now), I thought a healthier option would be to bake them in the oven.

 

Vietnamese Chicken Pho

Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions

Servings: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

For the Chicken Pho Broth:

  • 2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
  • 1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
  • ½ onion
  • 1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
  • 1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce
  • 1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)

Accompaniments:

  • 2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
  • Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
  • ½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
  • ½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

Directions:

  1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
  2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
  4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
  5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
  6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
  7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
  8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customise their own bowl with these ingredients.

Chocolate wonton (Serves 12)

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil spray
  • 12 wonton wrappers
  • 50ml light thickened cream
  • 50g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces.
  • 1 Tb Crème caramel Baileys
  • 6 strawberries, sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Spray a muffin tray with olive oil spray & place wonton wrappers in holes.
  2. Bake in oven for 7 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  3. Meanwhile place the chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil.
  4. Immediately pour over chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  5. Add Baileys and stir until smooth.
  6. Spoon into baked wonton wrappers and top with strawberries.

Tip: Leftover ganache can be made into truffles. Make sure the chocolate ganache is well chilled before forming into balls.

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