Saturday, May 21, 2011

Peppermint Macarons

This is the second batch of Peppermint Macarons I made. The first one done last weekend had the right color but there were obvious burnt marks on the shells. It was challenging for me to have light-colored macarons without brown marks that indicated an uneven distribution of heat in my oven. Although I used the fan mode, I noted the hot spots in my oven so I had to turn the tray around while baking before the shells get burnt. I know this is plain common sense but you know what, I try not to touch anything that is in the midst of baking in the oven.

The macarons, under my watchful eyes, came out well - peppermint green. I was careful when I added the coloring (Wiltons Green Verde) so as not to make them too green as in matcha macarons.

I had wanted to add mint candies, crushed finely to bits, and mix them with the almond mixture. However, I did not dare to do anything I was not sure of. The mint bits could blemish the macaron shells.

While surfing the internet, I came across a ganache recipe that is made with peppermint extract and chocolate. It is from Good blog to read.

Doing ganache is rather straightforward and as a mint lover, I was tempted to add more peppermint extract but I resisted. I did not want the mint to overpower and subsequently mar the taste of the macarons. As I mentioned earlier, I should have added fine bits of mint candies into the almond mixture during the pre-baking stage. 

In retrospect, whilst doing the filling, I could have experimented and added the crushed mints into the ganache to produce a crunchy and sweeter ganache. Better still, add some of Arnott's Mint Slice into the ganache. These mint slices are available at our neighborhood 711 stores. 

I guess it is also important to use good chocolates like Valhorna's and for the extract, pure peppermint extract by Nielsen Massey. The combination of these great products produced a nice flavored ganache.

Mum loved it and said it was the best compared to the others I had made. Of course, mum, you like all things mint!

As I had made too much of the ganache, I guess I will have to make more peppermint macarons before I venture into doing my next flavor - let me see - Rose Macarons? Oh wait, found a new recipe - Earl Grey Tea Macarons. The Madness never ending.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gold Macarons, not Lemon

I attended my third Macaron baking class last Saturday morning. I will be attending another one (hopefully my last with all that hundreds of dollars I have been spending per class) at the end of May. Call me crazy, mad, ridiculous and so on. But I simply enjoy baking and especially baking with others who have the same interest. It is like group therapy for me seeing others absorbed in trying their best to perfect, in this case, their macarons. In fact, my wife is the one who encourages me to, "Go and learn. Never stop learning. Who knows you will pick up a tip or two". "If it makes you happy, go on," and she will end up saying, "It's your money anyway". Apart from that, I think I just want to learn new recipes for macaron fillings. 

I know I can make references to the book I have by Jill Colonna or the millions of recipes for fillings on the internet but somehow, it is different in a class. You become a student all over again. You get to try out the recipe and see for yourself the outcome as it should be or should not be. You know what I mean?

I want to be honest here. When I did the macaron shells as soon as I got home after the class, I had intended to make Lemon ones with Lemon Curd fillings. Since I had made them in class a couple of hours ago, I thought I should try it out at home. Having had a bad experience with the coloring (as pointed out in my previous blog), I wanted to make sure I had bright and cheery and lemonnish yellow macarons. I used the icing gel labelled Buttercream yellow. Mistake! Again! What turned out were Coppertoned Macarons. Darn! Hey, wait! Got an idea. Creative outburst in the midst of defeat.

As part of a 'rescue' operation, I dusted the resting shells with gold powder - as you can see in the photo above. Did not bother whipping up the lemon curd anymore but came up with a Baileys cream filling instead. Thought it more suitable here. From Lemon Macarons, I am now presenting Gold Macarons with Baileys Cream fillings. I really cannot remember where I got the recipe from. Must be from the net but did not copy the URL. Give me time to search for the owner of this recipe before I post the amount required each of the ingredients. At this juncture, I suppose I can share the steps I took to make the fillings as they are the universal steps to make cream fillings. On hand, have

-a tub of mascarpone
-whipping cream
-Coffee liquer - which I obviously used Bailey but I am sure Kahlua or Tia Maria will do just as great

On a stand mixer, I whipped up the mascarpone till light. Added sugar and beat again. Poured in 1/2 cup of Baileys (always like a strong taste) and whipped it up again. Found it too liquid. Perhaps I should have added in more mascarpone. 

In a separate bowl, I whisked the cream till stiff. Folded the Baileys mixture into the whipped cream. Piped them out immediately on my waiting shells.

They say that after piping the fillings, keep the macarons refrigerated and allow the fillings to infuse into the shells. Point noted but not taken. I immediately popped one into my mouth. Delicious.  I took another and decided to bite off a little and let the remaining portion pose for a photo shoot. 

As I arranged the macarons and positioned the Baileys bottle outdoors, the mid afternoon humidity began to bother me and my poor macarons began to become more shiny and soft by the minute. Not sure if this happens to other macaron makers as well. Anyway, I must say I was quite pleased with how my Lemon, I mean, my Gold Macarons with Baileys Cream fillings turned out...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Macarons - A Grey issue

I feel so stupid. Yes, I have labelled myself that already so please spare me and do not repeat it after reading my post. You see, for coloring my macarons, I use Wiltons coloring gel. For those who do not live in sunny Singapore, or should I say now because of global changes, very humid Singapore, we do not have coloring paste/powder being sold in our local stores! If any Singaporean out there who knows there is one, do let me know. What is available are gel and there is Wiltons candy gel and Wiltons icing gel. By the way, I managed to search online and found a store in the UK that sells color powder. Ordered them online immediately. Back to my story.

I purchased a variety of colors and that included both types. I did not know the difference between candy and icing coloring gel. The attractive colors with fanciful names blinded me to think straight. For those who know where I am coming from, do not scoff. 

So one day, I used the black candy gel for my black macarons. I had wanted to make Blackberry macarons with blackberry curd. Ambitious, you say. To my greatest horror, I was churning out cement-looking macarons! No posting of photos this time round. They were horrible looking. They will give you your ultimate nightmare. The color was similar to cement - dull and grey. Add more gel, that comes to your mind and to mine too. And so I added more black coloring till I emptied the entire bottle. 

Viola! I made the perfect stone-grey-cement-looking macarons! Not black beauties but repulsive grey little tombstones. Really unappetizing! "Yucks! " My son, Dom, spewed out immediately. "No offence, dad. But if you were to throw any one of these ugly slabs at me, I will be knocked dead"."Thanks, son, Rub it in. Rub it in harder". I found out later that there is a difference between candy and icing gel. And so I learn - the hard way.

No Blackberry Macarons this time. So the frozen blackberries remain untouched in my freezer. Till I find the right color for my macaron shells to go with my blackberry curd, I will not experiment with black coloring anymore. Any color suggestions for my shells to go with blackberry curd? 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Still mad at macarons

As the title says it, I am still mad at macarons, that is, them not turning out perfect or as I would like them to be. But I have succeeded in getting those 'feet' and the soft texture inside the shells. The classes I have attended have helped me but it definitely must be what I had picked up and the steps I had meticulously followed in making that great macarons from Jill Collonna's Mad About Macarons!

Yes, I happened to google for macarons and came across Jill's website. I posed a question to her and to my surprise, she replied through my blog (Mac Madness 22 April) and encouraged me to keep working on them. Over the weekend, I purchased the book from our bookstore Kinokuniya and had since tried out two of her recipes.

The ones I am featuring are the Macarons Au Chocolat Noir or Dark Chocolate Macarons.

It was easy - looks easy, seems easy but not-so-easy to make them! Especially getting that egg whites beaten to the right consistency and folding the meringue into the almond meal and icing sugar were so tricky that I repeated the two steps not less than 3 times. Yes, when I saw that the whites were not what they were supposed to be, I discarded them and whipped up a new batch. Yes, when I thought the final batter did not lend a certain consistency as Jill has mentioned, I disposed them and mixed up a new batch again. I know it is painful to see them going to waste but it is even more painful not getting them right!

Finally, churned out the batch you are looking at:

I will not be publishing her recipe as I respect copyright issues but I did tweak the recipe for the ganache fillings. I used Valhorna Dark Chocolate Equatoriale 55% and reduced the recommended amount from 200g to 130g. I reduced the unsalted butter by 10g to 40g. Perhaps I should have stuck to 200g and 50g respectively. In any case, I am quite pleased with the macarons I churned out this afternoon.

Thanks again, Jill, for the encouragement you gave and the wonderful book you wrote. 

Cheers to a Cherry Cake

As a follow up to my previous post, I decided to bake the Cherry Cake adapted from robin's eurasian recipes. I had to tweak the recipe as I was baking half the recipe. But the tricky part was how does one half a recipe that uses 5 eggs? Came round that when I calculated the total weight of 5 eggs @60g each and divided it by two. Not too sure if that was a wise move but I simply did it.

I replaced the maraschinto cherries with what was available in my fridge ie Waitrose Glace Cherries. You will notice that for the cherries, half of 250g is 125g but as I wanted a little more cherries to be in the mixture, I added to 160g glace cherries instead.

The ingredients below are for a half recipe. Oh yes, I omitted the cherry essence as I did not have it and put in vanilla extract instead. On hindsight, I should not have added any. Why? Did not think the vanilla brought out the flavor as much as the cherry essence would have. So if you do not have the cherry essence, I suggest do not waste your vanilla.

Cherry Cake adapted from robin's eurasian recipes:

150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
125g unsalted butter (not stated in the actual recipe if salted or unsalted)
150g castor sugar (original recipe used fine sugar)
150g eggs (original recipe is 5 eggs so this is really up to you how you want to halve it)
1 tbsp milk (I used full cream)
1/2 tsp cherry essence ( I omitted it and replaced it with 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
160g diced glace cherries (original calls for 250g maraschinto cherries)
1) Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2) Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix well.
3) On a stand mixer, beat in butter and sugar till creamy ie 5 mins on high speed.
4) Add the eggs one at a time while beating for a few more minutes.
*5) Fold in half the flour mixture followed by the milk and vanilla extract and mix well.
*6) Fold in the remaining flour followed by the cherries.
7) Pour mixture into an 8 inch tin and bake for 60 minutes.

*Steps 5 and 6 were what I did instead of what the recipe called for - Fold in the flour mixture and add milk, essence and cherries. 

As soon as the cake was cooled, I cut it up to serve as dessert for my son and me. Too sweet for me! That is the problem when you add 35g more cherries into the batter. Well, at least I had the thumbs up from him.