On The Menu :: Macarons and an Orange Chiffon Cake

Hi everyone! Missed me much? 😛

My excuse is that I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks, experimenting with new macaron recipes and techniques, while at the same time, working and doing all other chores!

Although I’m still battling with hollow-ish macarons, I have to say they’re looking pretty damn good 😀 They also taste pretty awesome! I mean, who doesn’t like meringue??!! I’d attribute my macaron success to the Italian Meringue method which really does produce a much more stable batter for amateur bakers to work with. It does take a little more effort, what with having to whip up the egg whites as you’re preparing the sugar syrup but it’s not impossible since you should be using a stand mixer.

After two batches of macarons using the Italian Meringue method, I think I’ve got it down pat and would be pretty comfortable using this very recipe for the future. There’s nothing that I need to tweak really; it’s more my technique that needs to be worked on:

1. I’d like to increase the amount of egg whites I’m currently using because it’s such a small quantity that my stand mixer takes forever to whip it up and that results in a broken meringue and thus, hollow shells.

2. I’ll also pipe my macarons and allow them to rest, one batch at a time. The first time I used the Italian Meringue recipe, I remember piping a lot of macarons out at the same time and the feet turned out fine. The second time, however, some of my macarons had uneven feet which apparently is because of OVER-resting. For my third attempt, I’ll definitely pipe my macarons out one baking sheet at a time and see if it makes a difference.

3. I’ll be checking in on my macarons at the 12 minute mark — 15 minutes produced much too over-cooked macarons, ie some were slightly browned.

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| Raspberry Jam Macarons (above) and Pandan Kaya Macarons (below) |

After a very long time too, I finally baked a chiffon cake, my kryptonite. I think I’ve found THE recipe and will be using this as the foundation for different flavours in the near future because my cake was tall, light, fluffy AND spongey – MMM YUMYUM! Alton noted though that it was SALTY so I may have to go easy on the salt in the future. I reckon instead of 1/4 teaspoon, I should simply eyeball “a pinch”.

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I know I’m no baking extraodinaire but I’ve been toying with the idea of selling some of my bakes. Any one out there with any experience selling to cafes or even to friends and family? I’d love some advice on how else to get started… For now, close friends, family and colleagues have been my guinea pigs/taste testers 😛 I mean, word-of-mouth IS the best form of advertising 🙂

Bon appetit, mes amies et la prochaine fois  🙂 xx

Macarons :: The Beginnings

For months now I’d toyed with the idea of baking macarons but had always put it off because the task just seemed too daunting, what with the thousands of horror stories I’ve come across.

Then one day, a couple of weeks ago, I woke up and thought “Today’s the day – I’m gonna make me some macarons!” And made some macarons I did indeed.

The very first recipe and method I used for that virgin attempt was BraveTart’s French Macaron recipe which can be found here and boy, did the results surprise me because I think my macarons turned out pretty decent!

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| I spy with my little eye… feet! |

What I took away from this attempt was how absolutely tedious making macarons truly are. I was beyond tired by the time I was done baking. It didn’t help too that I started baking after dinner – not the best decision I ever made but my impulses, they do get the best of me.

I wasn’t happy too that my macarons didn’t have nice flat bases. I only later realised that my macarons were actually slightly undercooked! OOPS. Regardless, my macarons were still super yummo and it gave me the confidence to attempt a second batch.

Since BraveTart’s recipe worked for me the first time round, I decided to use it again. This time, however, I did a few things differently:

1. I used non-stick baking paper, instead of my silicon baking macaron mat.

2. I made my own almond meal and used the food processor to mix the almond meal and icing sugar together.

3. I allowed the macarons to “rest” before being baked.

Once again, my macarons were edible – I mean, who doesn’t like sweet baked meringues? But this batch was definitely over-baked because I popped them back into the oven for an extra 5 minutes when they didn’t just slide off the baking paper. Also, I thought I’d “freehand” the piping – BIG MISTAKE because I got BIG MACARONS. OMG, they were massive. Not in the least bit dainty. And euuuww… I got frills! Not feet!

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So, I’ve decided that for my third attempt, I’d like to try my hand at the Italian Meringue method which is supposed to produce a very stable meringue that apparently is almost impossible to over-mix.

Gah! Wish me luck! And if you have ANY tips/advice on baking macarons, send them my way! 🙂 Have a great week ahead, y’all! xx

On The Menu :: Pandan Chiffon Cupcakes

So, of course it’d happen to me that the day I decide I need and like to bake, my digital weighing scale goes KAPUT.

JUST AS I BEGAN BAKING.

FML.

I had to resort to using cup measurements which IMHO, just aren’t as accurate. I mean, I’m no MasterPatissier but I like the specificity provided when measuring out ingredients by weight. 

All things considered, my cupcakes turned out pretty well. I reckon they could have come out of the oven after 15-18 minutes, so I’ll keep that in mind for Round Two! They also feel a little dense but that’s probably because I didn’t re-measure my homemade cake flour, after all the sifting etc… I blame my silly weighing scale for my callous and careless behaviour.

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Anyhoo, the house is smelling DIVINE – I love that subtle smell of pandan wafting through the air 🙂 Whets my appetite and makes me want to bake MORE. NAO! 😛

Many thanks to Kitchen Tigress for her recipe which can be found HERE. 

Bon appetit, mes amis! I hope you give this recipe a go! 🙂 xx

On The Menu :: Marble Cake (Mayhem)

On my days off – if I’m not teaching – I’ll lazily get into the kitchen for a spot of baking. I’m terrible like that – lots of plans swimming around in my head but such a procrastinator, it’s disgusting! Anyhow, in the last month or so, muffins of all shapes and sizes have been making quite the appearance. Alongside (some pretty ugly) Portuguese Egg Tarts. So as you can imagine, I am well and truly sick of baking – and consuming – muffins or egg tarts.

So seeing as I did not have to teach today, I thought I ought to bake something a little more “special” to munch on this week. At first I was tempted to revisit The Little Teochew’s Steamed Chocolate Cake but decided against it and in the end, settled to bake her Marble Cake.

Now, my Monday had not started out manic. But as I began to bake, I slowly but surely was descending into a kitchen nightmare. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20. For starters, I wish I’d read The Little Teochew’s post a little more thoroughly and had instead gone with Pick Yin / Life is Great’s Marble Cake … …

(a.) I would not have chucked into my MIL’s old food processor 225g of flour, 225g of sugar and about 100g of not-quite-softened unsalted butter; only to say to self …

(b.) “OMG. This food processor isn’t big enough! HTF am I going to blitz this all up?!” Keeping in mind that some 4 eggs and another 125g of butter hadn’t gone into the mix yet.

(c.) I then pushed on because I THOUGHT that a blitz or two will help “reduce” the “total size” of the unmixed ingredients (I know. WTF logic is that?!), so I switched on the food processor and hit “HIGH”. No. “LOW”. No… “PUSH”.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING TO MEEEEEEEEEE……….!!!!!!!! THE FOOD PROCESSOR DOESN’T WORK! HTF AM I GONNA SEPARATE THE FLOUR FROM THE SUGAR SO THAT I CAN CREAM THE BUTTER AND THE SUGAR?!

FMFL.

Now ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, if ever anyone tells you that they have a particular kitchen appliance in their possession, PLEASE DO NOT EVER assume that said appliance is in good working condition. ESPECIALLY IF YOU’VE NEVER EVER SEEN IT IN USE.

In retrospect, I should probably have tested out the food processor – hit a few of those damn buttons to see if it’d actually whizz or not. But being the ever so impulsive me, I just threw all the ingredients in. As instructed. I could have picked out the cubed butter and simply threw out the flour and sugar but I’m McScrooge remember?

To cut the long story short, after throwing out the obviously broken food processor, I cursed, swore, beat, blended, huffed, puffed and FINALLY, produced a Marble Cake for afternoon tea.

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The cake is decently yummy but I do agree with The Little Teochew on the texture of the cake’s crumb. It isn’t as fine as I myself prefer it to be so my next marble cake recipe will definitely be Pick Yin’s!

Bon appetit, mes amis! Have a lovely week ahead! xx

Cook’s Block

“Cook’s Block”, not too different from the widely-known “Writer’s Block”, is what I believe I’m suffering from at the moment. I am just so BORED of the recipes that I’m recycling day in…. day out. Don’t you sometimes feel like you need a new recipe ever so often just to spice (pun not intended) things up a little?

After 4 consecutive weekends of baking muffins in under one hour, I decided I had HAD IT with them blueberry muffins! Choc chips included or otherwise! I had had ENOUGH! Especially since my very last round of muffins turned BLUE from me leaving my frozen blueberries in the mix for much too long (and also because I had thrown in an additional 100g too much of raisins). I was annoyed and was desperately seeking a new challenge.

So off I went in search of a new recipe and chanced upon The Little Teochew’s recipe for a STEAMED chocolate cake. The result – a cake that satiated the thirst for a new recipe, as much as it did a craving. A sweet, moist, fudgy, chocolatey craving. And boy did it bring back great memories! Childhood memories of my favourite Royal Chocolate Cake from Dino’s Cake House 🙂 The Royal Chocolate Cake is very much like Lana’s but for a fraction of the price and with a much lighter and fluffier sponge.

MMMMMM 

As for the chocolate pudding recipe, the following is what I used, except I should have spent a little more time whisking it AFTER taking it off the heat. Not that my pudding/frosting wasn’t good, but it could have been BETTER without a few visible lumps here and there.

Chocolate Pudding Frosting

INGREDIENTS

4 cups water (1 cup will be used to make the cocoa paste)
175g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
120g butter
90g cocoa powder
90g cornflour

METHOD

1. Combine cocoa powder, cornstarch and 1 cup of water to make a smooth paste.

2. Bring all other ingredients to a boil.

3. Take butter mixture off the heat and whisk in the cocoa paste.

4. Return butter/cocoa mixture to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and continue whisking for another 2 minutes.

5. Take the chocolate pudding mixture off the heat and place it into a larger bowl of icea, all the while whisking as it cools to avoid a skin forming on top of the pudding.

6. Cover with cling wrap, making sure to press the cling wrap lightly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.

7. When the pudding has come to room temperature, leave it to cool further in the fridge until the cake is cool enough to be frosted.

* * * * * * * * * *

I had soooo much pudding leftover after frosting my cake GENEROUSLY that I could take some into work for my colleagues to tuck into. It was also my husband’s after-dinner dessert for three subsequent nights 🙂

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The verdict: Well, the parents-in-law said that the cake is so wonderfully moist and fudgy – much better than those store-bought mudcakes! I guess it’s a win!

Bon appetit, mes amis! xx

 

On The Menu :: Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’ve been on a muffin baking spreeeee because these beauties – they’re so easy to bang out and always always ALWAYS taste yummy! Best thing is knowing that I have our “on-the-go” brekkie sorted for the week! 😀 If you know me, my car is where I eat and where I used to make/answer phone calls. It was the only time I didn’t have to sit in on a meeting or reply an email! A no phone zone it definitely wasn’t… Before I get stoned, please know that I used a hands-free set! 😛

Anyways, back to muffin baking! So, in my research to DEFINE the act of not overmixing, I chanced upon Michael Ruhlman’s culinary ratio and by golly, it all just made perfect sense!

Now:

For every 200g of plain flour, you will need 200ml of milk, 100g of eggs (beaten), 100g of oil/melted butter, 100g of caster sugar and roughly 2.5 teaspoons of baking powder.

Which means that the ratio is 2:2:1:1:1 🙂

In addition, the main “ingredient” should be about the same as the amount of flour. You can also replace all or a part of the milk with tea, coffee or any other flavoured liquid.

So now, we have a GREAT standard muffin recipe that we can adapt any way we so please 🙂 I know, I know – this probably isn’t NEWS to you, but it is to me! I love that I will ALWAYS have great muffins, as long as I work with THE RATIO.

With regards to not overmixing (which was what I’d set out to DEFINE in the first place), make sure to only combine all the ingredients in just 15 – 20 strokes. I could probably have settled for 15 but after biting into one of my muffins, I don’t think the extra 5 strokes hurt at all. As long as your batter looks lumpy and gross, you’re on the right track 😛

Bake muffins at 180 degrees celsius for about 15-20 minutes and when done, turn them out onto a tea towel to cool (as per Alton Brown’s muffin method man) or simply use a wire rack. Because I made mahooosive muffins, I only got 8 out of this recipe.

I have to state that my preference is for the muffin method – that is, one bowl each for wet and dry ingredients. I’m happy to skip creaming the butter and sugar because that just means less to clean up! What about you? Are you for the muffin method or the creaming method?

Can’t wait to try out other (sweet) muffin flavours! Gah! Bon Appetit mes amis! xx

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My mahoosive muffin!

New Build :: Design Elements

A year and some months ago, A and I decided that it was time to move out of our apartment and look into buying a block of land somewhere in the suburbs. We wanted a little more space which would accommodate a growing family. As luck would have it, we found a good size block in a great location within a matter of weeks – we’re literally a stone’s throw away from the shops (which includes the likes of KFC, Maccas and Hungry Jacks) and a mere 3-minute drive from A’s parents’ house.

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It is by no means a vast expansive block of land but we figured we’d start small and work our way to our dream home later on in life.

The first hurdle we had to cross was of course, the house plan. We had visited heaps of display homes and requested for plans from a lot of different builders but they were all just very… standard. They just didn’t maximise use of the space that we would have – it’s a SMALL block which means we can’t afford dead spaces in the house. At the same time, we didn’t want to be restricted to any old run-of-the-mill layout JUST BECAUSE we have a smaller than average block.

Anyhow, it really is to A’s credit that we’ve got something different to look forward to because he spent night after night designing and re-designing the house plan until finally, we had something we loved and that we knew best suited our needs. I’m super proud of him and am always telling people (who would listen) that he designed it himself. Pretty much 🙂

Fast forward a year later and the builders are almost ready to lay down the slab. This means that our house could be ready for us to move in to come January/February 2014! As a result, we’ve had to work doubly hard at consolidating our ideas – no more “Maybe this might look nice…. or that…???” Also, as we aren’t hiring colour or design consultants, I really have to bring my A game to the (interior design) table. We know we don’t want to play it too safe but the house still needs to flow. Here are some of the elements that we will definitely be incorporating into our house:

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Lucky for us, we’ve been really in sync with each other, so fingers crossed furniture buying and even choosing elements such as interior wall colour shouldn’t be too tricky. It helps that I’ve done enough bar/club renos for A to trust that I know what I’m talking about. Most of the time 😛

Anyhow, have you any design advice for our new build? I’d love to know! Any little tip helps 🙂 xx