Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Battle with Macarons.........(2) The French Meringue Method with Fresh Egg Whites

After yesterday's attempt in making macarons......and succeeding it, I am indeed very happy, hehe :) However, I realized that this success is only the beginning, as a total success in 'Macaron Making' is not only to have a mac with feet, but the overall form of a macaron has to be standard, in order to have a perfect match when pairing them together, and also to have a perfect texture in and out ....for example, a friend told me that a macaron is supposed to be crispy on the outside (the shell part) and 'chewy but not wet' in the inside. Moreover, the inside should not be 'hollow' as some of mine actually turned out that way yesterday :(
I have been searching and googling the internet for more background stories of Macarons. OK, I admit I'm a bit obsessed with this little 'yo-yo'.........or 'totally' obsessed with it, :P
I realized that a lot of 'experts' out there do fail once in awhile in their macaron baking , even-though they have been baking it like baking a normal cookie.
I also realized that they stick to the method which they find they are comfortable with. I have also come to know there are in fact 3 methods of making macarons :-
  1. French method - this method uses raw egg whites (either fresh egg whites or the most recommended 'aged' egg whites) beaten to a peak (French Meringue) and mix into the almond mixture;
  2. Spanish method - beaten egg whites, but with higher sugar content, added to the almond mixture;
  3. Italian method - this one uses a cooked sugar syrup added into beaten egg whites (Italian Meringue) and then added to almond mixture.

A lot has been said about the above methods, some mentioned that the Italian method promises a more solid shell but a lower feet, while the French method is more straight forward and promises a higher looking feet, however, the shell sometimes can be hollow.......but no matter which method you opt for, the end result still bolts down to the 'macaronage' stage, where the 'folding' technique comes in.

Anyway, I wish to try all the methods if possible to see the end results and to find one that I am comfortable with. However, this 2nd attempt I chose to use back the French method, but instead, I used fresh egg whites instead.....meaning I just cracked open it from the shell and no aging involve, as I also realized that the 'egg white' is also one of the very often talk about caused of a failed macaron.

I used back the same recipe I did yesterday except for the egg whites. 

Well, like what I did yesterday, I piped all the mixtures on 2 trays of lined parchments papers. This time I also did not use my Mastrad Macaron Sheet as it doesn't fit nicely into the oven, I wanted to stick to just parchment paper this time. I let it sit for 30 minutes plus (about 45-50 minutes) for the second tray, as my oven can only fit one tray at a time. Not being very optimistic (as usual when it comes to macaron), I brought a stool and sat right in front of the oven staring into the window, praying for those 'dainty feet' to appear before my eyes (sounded really crazy , I know).

Yes!! during the 8th minute, those pretty little feet slowly and gracefully raised up from their little skirts. Hehe.........I couldn't believe my eyes and like many have said........I was jumpin up and down (ya, again) and was so thrilled that I have succeeded 2 days in a row!!! WooHoo!! Should I head to the nearest 4D outlet and try my luck? kekeke........nah! just kidding :P

So, waited for them to come out of the oven, check on the shells, pretty crispy and solid.......then broke them in half to check the inside, much better than the previous day I would say........not so much emptiness (hollow) this time :)

I promise to myself that I will try to bake macarons more often now, so that I can master it, and also next attempt, I will try with some flavoring in it.......maybe Mocha! I have so many Macs, for once in my life, that I can play with it..........enjoy my pics ya and hope that they will encourage you to whip up a batch too........don't worry too much about failing or having a feetless mac........try it first, to know what Macaron making is about, and you'll figure out the techniques later, trust me!!~

Till then........enjoy!

Happy Macarons Baking!!

You can even make 'Macaron Pop'....aren't they cute?

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    My Battle with MACARONS ......(1) The French Meringue Method With 'Aged Egg Whites'

    "Love it.......or hate it?"....LOL
    Macarons! Macarons! Macarons! Are you scare of hearing this word?  or are you furious with it that you have a 'Love Hate' affair with it, and each time you hear its name, it makes you has goosebumps, but yet you wanted so much to make it and hold it in your hands and feel it melting in your mouth? LOL.......
    I totally understand how you feel, as I am definitely one of them!! I hate Macarons! I love Macarons! I wish I can make it! I will make it!! Well, that's what I once said to these 'little monsters' and to myself that one day, I will make them without fail! Well, when I look back at my 'one and only' attempt that I had a batch of macarons with feet was way back last year in May, *sigh*...........see how scare I am to ever again face these little shells? hehehe (kidding)
    Well, you might be wondering why out of a sudden I was into making macarons again. Actually I suddenly get caught up with this macaron fever when I recently saw quite a number of blogs and websites with really pretty macaron pictures and all sorts of yummy flavors. It really kills me to even think back my failure in making them.......and I make up my mind that I'm definitely not going to let that failure haunt me and leave a scar in my baking history!! Sound serious huh? LOL.....
    So I decided it's time to try test them again since I haven't had any orders in line, I can concentrate in experimenting it again and maybe find out why I failed. I bought my icing sugar, ground almond and a tray of fresh eggs (Grade B). I'm sure a lot of you have ever gone through tonnes of tips and testimonials and advice and 'dos and don'ts' of macaron making. Here are some of the important ones......

    What others say:-
    1. You must use 'aged egg whites' at least 24 hours. Some even encourage you to leave it at the kitchen counter for about 3 days (wow, I wonder salmonella exist in those eggs or not?!);
    2. You must leave the piped macarons for at least 30 minutes or more before putting them into the oven to bake so that there will develop a 'shell crust' before the baking;
    And this time I used the very basic recipe from Bakerella, the Queen of Cake Pops and courtesy of Tartlette, the 'Queen of Macarons', hehe.

    Basic Macarons.....with Easy to follow steps
    110gm ground almonds
    200gm icing sugar, sifted
    90gm 'aged' egg whites
    25 - 50gm castor sugar
    Food colouring of your choice (powder/gel /paste)

    Let's start:-
    1. Whisk the egg whites in a standing mixer with a 'whisk' attachment at 'high' until foamy, then gradually add in the castor sugar and continue to beat until glossy- stiff peak form.  Once you reach a stiff peak, stop whisking. *Tip: Check on the peak after every 1-2 minutes.    

    2. Put the ground almond and sifted icing sugar in a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine them together.

    3. Then add your beaten egg whites into the almond mixture. Start to fold the egg whites to combine it together. 

    4. Stop folding halfway to add in your food colouring, then continue to fold until all the ingredients are fully blended. To get the 'right consistency' of the mixture, it's not easy, but here's a guide from Bakerella...... " run a knife through the batter and count to 10, the line should disappear by then, and you have reach the right consistency!

    5. Now that you have reach the 'magma' consistency, spoon all the mixture into a disposable piping bag with an open tip "O", and pipe onto prepared parchment paper (I piped mine on the macaron baking sheet that i just bought the other day). The size should be small, about 1.5" inches circle in diameter, as it will still spread a bit and stop.

    6. Let the macaron sit for about 30 minutes or more (even up to an hour will be fine) before baking. This process is to let the shell crust and raised during baking, and leaves the 'feet' visible at the bottom! (Happy to hear the word 'feet' or are you already started to pray for it to 'please' appear before your eyes? LOL....I prayed very hard for mine to appear, kekeke)

    7. Ok, finally , the waiting is over, now it's time to put the baking tray into the oven! Bake the macarons at a pre-heated of 150 degree Celsius for about 18-20 minutes. *Tips: Please monitor your baking time and temperature, as I find that my oven heat up more at 150 ~C and my macarons burned faster , so maybe a 130 / 140~ C would be better the next round. Check yours!

    8. Are you sitting in front of the oven like I did? hehe......See the 'feet' appearing? Yes, they did, right about the 7th - 9th minute........"hallelujah"

    9. Remove from the oven, and let it cool on completely. Slowly remove them from the parchment paper / silicon mate.

    10. You are ready to match your macaron pair, and pipe in the fillings of your choice. I filled mine with 'Chocolate Ganache' and put them back into the fridge stored in an air-tight container, as a lot of people says that the macarons taste better on the second day.........true or false? LOL....find out yourself  *wink*

    Finally! Some decent Macarons to pose for my photograph, LOL
    And so, this is the 1st battle I had with the macarons after a one year 3 months break from the last attempt. I will be making them more often now, as I still have a lot of gaps and holes to fill and fix........I'm not at all satisfy with my macarons, as some of them are hollow in the inside, the base were not smooth and the inside texture was still not really properly baked............ so, bake with me and we can share the experience together!

    Happy Macarons Baking!!
     p/s: Stay tuned for more macarons attempts from me....;)

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Bread Pudding

    Sounds familiar to you? For me , this is the first time I make Bread pudding, and in fact I have never try bread pudding before, although I have seen them very often at hotel buffet counters at the Dessert corner. I always wondered what does it taste like and is it good or not.........but never had the urgency to scoop some into my dessert plate and try it *tongue*
    What makes me made this ? Well, I think it's because I was browsing my cookbooks and files, and came across this bread pudding recipe that I have collected and kept for so long, but never have the intention to make it. I asked my sister-in-law if she would try my bread pudding if I make one, and her reply was......."erm, I don't really like bread that is soggy and wet".....I totally understand , as I don't too, hehe.
    Anyway, my mind was so set to making it that I even brought home the last leftover 4 pieces of bread from the office just so that I have everything that is required in the recipe to make this bread pudding.
    I bake this on a Friday night after dinner and wondered if I will test it right away , or maybe kept it for tomorrow's breakfast??

    Anyway, here is the recipe for a simple 'Bread Pudding' with 'Vanilla Pudding Sauce'
    This is the original recipe, as I halve it when I made it.

    8 slices of white bread
    85gm sultanas (I used raisins instead)
    113gm brown sugar
    3 cups whole milk
    3 large eggs, beaten
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    3/4 tsp cinnamon powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    butter , for buttering the bread and greasing the baking dish

    1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
    2. Evenly grease an oven proof baking dish.
    3. Butter each slices of the bread on both sides, then cut each slice into 4 triangle.
    4. Place a layer of the buttered bread on the bottom of the dish, slightly overlapping each triangle.
    5. Sprinkle the sultanas (raisins) and brown sugar evenly across the bread for the second layer.
    6. Continue to layer the bread , the sultanas (raisins) and brown sugar until all the bread are used up.
    7. Sprinkle the top of the pudding with sultanas (raisins) and sugar
    8. Beat together the milk, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the mixture on top of everything. Allow it to stand for 30 minutes so the liquid is fully absorbed.
    9. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

    Vanilla Pudding Sauce 
    1 cup whole milk
    2 Tbsp butter
    1/3 cup castor sugar (or brown sugar)
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1 Tbsp flour
    Dash of salt

    Mix everything together and bring to a boil for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside for 5 minutes, then pour on warm bread pudding and serve hot.

    I hope you like it, as I have learn to eat bread pudding now, and kinda like it too. I would agree to what they use to say, 'Bread Pudding' would be perfect to be served when the weather is cold and wet, it's very heart warming........and tummy warming too , hehe :)

    Happy Bread Pudding Baking, cheers!

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Elvis Presley's Favourite Pound The King's taste

    Hi, ever wonder why a cake was named after someone? Well, I am always curious when I saw a certain food or dish that are named after someone , as you just never know what's the story behind it. I mean, for example, the Famous Amos Chocolate Chips cookies, it's named after the founder - Mr Wally Amos and lots more .....
    This recipe tag "Elvis Presley's favourite Pound Cake" surely caught my attention when I was browsing through the Epicurious website for some cake recipes last year. I told myself that I'm going to bake this cake to find out the story behind it and also to why Elvis would say that it's his favourite. This recipe have been sitting on the No.1 post in my 'To Bake' list for so long, and finally, I realized that I have to bake it.....TODAY!!!
    Without any delay, I updated my Facebook status (hehe, posting the status in FB will helped give me a 'push'), and immediately I have instant supporters encouraging me to bake, it's a must bake, says Wendy (love you Wendy, you always inspires and motivates me, hehe). I have no more excuses to skip this time, and immediately head home after work, set my work station and.......tadah!
    Look at the pictures, and I'm sure you'll agree with me that this cake looks smooth and sleek in every angle, and the cake texture.........umph! ...perfect in every's moist and smooth, the so impact on the crumb but yet, it's not the dense and dry type , that you need water to wash it down your throat......well, I can tell I don't know how to describe the perfectness of this cake........but trust me.....if Elvis can call it 'his' must be something! *wink*

    I used a 10 inch bundt tin to bake this cake (just because I haven't yet had a chance to use my bundt tin since I bought it), but I'm sure any cake tin will be just fine. You can find the recipe here @ Epicurious and the only thing that I altered was the amount of sugar used (I used only 1-1/4 cups instead of 3 cups) , that's all.....the rest are all as per the original recipe.

    By the way, about how this cake got it's name, I google a little more and found that the story behind was that "this recipe actually appeared in a local newspaper (in the US) about 20 years ago, submitted by an old lady , who was a dear friend of The King of Rock'n' Roll, Elvis Presley. She made this Pound Cake for him every Christmas and also on special occasions, and he loved it. The old lady made the paper keep their promise in keeping her name anonymous , in fear of people would deluge her Tupelo Mississippi home with request by fans to make her cakes for them."

    Anyway, I don't know how true it was, but am sure glad that I bumped into such good recipe....cheers to the old lady and Elvis!

    Oh, not forgetting,  I have a 'helper'  when I'm baking this cake, LOL.......introducing my 'Little Baker'  - Angelica. :)

    It's always nice when you have a helper in the kitchen......hmm, or should I say, "sometimes", LOL . Anyway, this baking session was definitely fun for me and Angel as I haven't been having such a relax mood in the kitchen for quite some time you know, baking for orders are very different from baking for leisure. I would love to bake like this you Sweetie ...xoxo

    So, here's wishing you Happy Baking 
    and have a great weekend with your family!!

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Cherry Cake.......and baking CAN be therapeutic

    Headaches and migraines are my worst enemy!! Duh! Hate it when it attacks me .....and this time for a straight 2-day.....geez! it really spoils my day and not to mention, my mood too! Anyway, enough said about that stupid 'headache' of mine.......even the word 'headache' makes me 'geram' (angry) *tongue*

    What is the best solution to headache.....Panadol 500mg , Uphamol 650mg and the list goes on.....*sigh*.......thank goodness, this time while I'm about to bang my head to the wall to ease the pain, I suddenly thought of a phrase that I have heard or seen somewhere during my blog walking......"Baking can be therapeutic". Well, no harm trying right, I mean wouldn't it be 10x better than swallowing tablets every 4 hour? OK, I will give it a try, I told myself........after all I have seen this post by Wendy just yesterday, and it had indeed caught my attention. This is looks very 'pretty' in her photo and it's called 'Maria's Cherry Cake'.....interesting huh? I have always been curios as to why some cakes are named after someone......hmmm, there must be a story behind it, hope Wendy will tell me one day, LOL (Kidding, Wendy)  ^-^

    By the way, this is the first time (since I started baking) I used 'fresh' cherries to bake, as you know lah, Malaysia with this kind of 'sunny all year round' climate, it is impossible to have berries and of course cherries. To want them, you will have to pay a high $$ to get a punnet, and it's not that nice looking and fresh when it reaches your hand :(

    Because of this recipe, I drove straight to 'Pick & Pay' store that is just outside my house to get a punnet, and it cost me RM10.59 ( I think it's only about 20 cherries in it, and minus 2 rotten ones). Well, who cares......I wanna a therapeutic bake....right now!! LOL......

    This is the original version and the following one have been altered 'a little' by me. So, be free to try both if you like and let me if there is a difference or not, ok?

    Adapted from 'Table for 2'and recipe source from Cakes & Dessert by MPH Publishing 1987

    250gm fresh cherries, cut into halves and seeds removed
    100gm butter, softened at room temperature
    140gm castor sugar (Original recipe calls for 200gm)
    1/2 tsp vanilla essence
    1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
    2 medium eggs
    100ml non-fat yogurt (**This is not listed in the original recipe, I added as I have it in the fridge and to avoid it going expired in a day or two)
    200gm All purpose flour (I used HK Flour)
    1/3 tsp baking powder
    Some icing sugar for dusting

    1. Preheat  oven to 150degree Celsius and prepare a 9" inch baking pan.  Line the base and lightly grease the sides.
    2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
    3. Add in the eggs, one by one and mixing well.
    4. Add in the vanilla essence and lemon zest and turn the mixer to low.
    5. Sift in the flour and baking powder and slowly mix until well combined. Remember to scrape the sides of the bowl.
    6. Spread the batter onto the prepared baking pan and arrange the cherries on top, do not press/ insert it in.
    7. Bake at 160 degree Celsius for 50 minutes or until the skewer inserted to the center comes out clean.
    8. Let the cake cool on the wire rack for about 20 minutes, and dust the icing sugar on top before serving.

    Happy Baking........believe me, baking is therapeutic!! hehe.....