Sunday, 19 December 2010

Strawberry linzer cookies

I'm awfully excited about spending Christmas in my new home!! Due to move in 4 days, I've been busy ensuring the house renovations get completed in time, contacting the movers, and getting started on packing stuff into boxes... busy busy busy!!! Thank goodness things at work has lightened considerably.

Trying to clear as much as possible out of my fridge before the house move, I finally got down to baking those linzer cookie dough I prepared and kept in the freezer about 2 weeks ago. Linzer cookies are one of my favorites during the Christmas holiday season. I wish I had more time to make them into interesting holiday shapes... Merry Xmas everyone!!


110 g ground almond
260 g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
227 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
135 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 large egg yolk
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup strawberry preserves

Sift together flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl, then set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add in the vanilla essence, egg yolks, lemon zest and ground almonds while continuing to beat. Add in the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Shape dough into a round ball and wrap in plastic. Keep in the fridge until firm (about 1 hour) or up to a few days. At this point the dough can also be stored in the freezer for a few weeks.
Roll dough between 2 baking sheets until about 0.6cm thick. Using 5cm cookie cutters of any shape desired, cut out pieces of dough, placing them on prepared baking trays around 2cm apart. Using a smaller cookie cutter, cut out the centers of half of the cookies. Bake for around 12 to 15 mins in a preheated 180 C oven. Cool on wire rack.
When ready to assemble cookies, place strawberry preserves in a saucepan and heat gently. Spread around 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of heated strawberry preserves on the bottom of a full cookie, top with a cookie without centers, sandwiching them together firmly.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Galette aux pommes (Apple galette)

I do realize its been over 2 month since my last post. Work has gotten the better of me lately... This weekend I got back into the kitchen with a vengeance! I made chicken cordon bleu on Friday for dinner (no pictures unfortunately as we were hungry!), linzer cookie dough on Saturday (stored in the freezer in advance preparation of some christmas cookie baking coming up), and a galette aux pommes for tea on Sunday which I'm sharing with you here.

I love how free form galettes can be. It can be made with a variety of fruits or fruit compote and in almost any shape one prefers. There are also both sweet and savory versions. To keep it as a light snack I made this one without any cream filling.

Recipe below adapted from Australian weekly's "Pies & Tarts"

- 300g pâte feuilletée
- 2 large apples
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
- 30g butter, chopped
- 1 tbsp fruit glaze (or apricot jam)

Preheat oven to 240 C.
Roll puff pastry into shape of your choice on a lightly floured surface till around 3mm thick. Place onto oven tray and turn edges in around 1.5cm, pressing down lightly. Set pastry aside. Remove core from apples and slice them into thin pieces. Toss apple slices in lemon juice. Arrange apple slices on pastry. Sprinkle sugar over apple slices and dot with half the butter.
Reduce oven to 190C, place galette in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Dot with remaining butter and bake for a further 25 - 30 minutes until browned.
Brush hot galette with warmed fruit glaze (or apricot jam that has been warmed and sieved).
If desired, serve warm with ice cream.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Pumpkin & apple muffin, with raisins & walnuts

Yes, you read the title right! This is one muffin filled with plenty of goodness! Made with pumpkin & apple purees, plus raisins and walnuts to round off the yummy-ness... And, there's no fat used in this recipe. Convinced? I hope so... hahaha...

Following recipe makes 9 medium sized muffins:


210g plain flour
260 to 280g white sugar (adjust based on personal preference)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon (adjust based on personal preference)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cloves (adjust based on personal preference)
2 eggs
290g pumpkin puree
80g apple puree
40g chopped walnuts
90g raisins

Preheat oven to 175 C. Grease muffin pans or line with muffin cups. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ground cloves together in a bowl. Separately mix the eggs, pumpkin, and apple puree together smooth. Add wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix till just combined. Be careful not to over stir. Stir in carefully the raisins and walnuts. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin pans or cups. Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Pumpkin bread

Nope, its not yet thanksgiving but there's always no harm in making some yummylicious pumpkin bread, which is exactly what I did last weekend. This bread has a beautiful golden crumb that somehow reminds me of bright sunny days. I love its slightly sweet taste and soft crust... not to mention its a healthy choice!

Recipe below is adapted from Bread by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno. It makes a tiny loaf that's just nice for 2 of us at home. You can double the recipe if you prefer a full 500g loaf.

- 150g pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp honey
- 250g white bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp milk for glazing
- nuts or seeds of choice for sprinkling on top

Sprinkle yeast into 60ml of water. Leave for 5 minutes, add honey and stir to dissolve. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Add the yeast mixture followed by pumpkin puree. Gradually mix in the flour to form a fairly firm, coarse, sticky dough. If its too dry, add a few tablespoons of water. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead till smooth, silky and elastic, about 10 minutes. Put the dough into a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until double in size, about 1.5 hours. Knock back, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Shape dough into a round loaf. Place on an oiled baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Prove until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Brush the dough with milk glaze and sprinkle with nuts or seeds of choice. Bake in preheated 220 C oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on wire rack.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Earl grey & baileys milk chocolate mousse cake

I realized its been about a month since my last post.  For 2 weeks I was away in Europe on a holiday and upon return work got the better of me for another 2 weeks... It wasn't until this weekend that I finally found some time for therapeutic baking!  

I first made this mousse cake about a year ago when earl grey flavored desserts got very popular in Hong Kong.  This was before I started this blog, hence it was never written about in a post.  I wish I had a shorter and more fanciful name that could adequately describe the perfect blend of earl grey, baileys liquor and chocolate... well, if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know!

There are 3 main parts to this dessert: butter génoise as base, a layer of baileys milk chocolate mousse set over the génoise in the middle, and earl grey mousse (in a dome shape) on the top.  A layer of dark chocolate wrap is added round the mousse cake to finish off, adding both flavor and aesthetics.  It might all sound very time consuming given the many parts to this but each part takes only a short amount of time to complete.  None of the steps are too complicated.  Also, the 2 mousses are set separately and assembled only when both are ready so saving a considerable amount of time. For me, the unforgettable taste of earl grey, baileys and chocolate deliciously harmonized in one single dessert makes it worth it! =P

Recipe below makes 8 individual cakes using 6-cm cake rings & dome molds

1. For the butter génoise
-  2 eggs
- 40g sugar
- 40g plain flour, sifted
- 20g unsalted butter

2. For the baileys milk chocolate mousse
- 80g milk couverture
- 130g whipping cream
- 20g baileys liquor
- 1 sheet gelatin (2.5g)

3. For the earl grey mousse
- 11g earl grey tea leaves
- 125g fresh milk
- 175g whipping cream
- 50g egg yolks
- 40g sugar
- 2.5 sheets gelatin

1. For the butter génoise
Preheat over to 180 C.  Hand-whisk eggs and sugar over bain marie till mixture reaches 40 C.  Using an electrical whisk, beat eggs and sugar on high speed till fluffy and peaks form.  Fold flour into egg mixture in 3 batches.  Be careful not to overmix. Melt butter over bain marie, add a scoop of egg & flour mixture and mix well.  Fold mixture back into remaining egg & flour mixture and fold gently till batter surface is uniformly shiny.  Pour into 9-inch round cake tin and bake for 18 mins.  Let cool before cutting into small 5-cm rounds placed at the bottom of lined 6-cm cake rings.

2. For the baileys milk chocolate mousse
Beat whipping cream on medium speed till soft peak forms, set aside.  Soak gelatin sheet in cold water for a few minutes till it blooms.  Melt gelatin sheet over bain marie, then add 1 teaspoon of whipped cream and mix well.  Keep gelatin mixture over bain marie.  Melt milk couverture over bain marie.  When its fully melted, fold in 1/3 whipped cream, then add in gelatin mixture and mix well.  Fold in remaining 2/3 whipped cream into mixture, then gently mix in baileys.  Pour mousse into lined cake rings over butter génoise.  Leave for about 2 hours in refrigerator till set.

3. For the earl grey mousse
Soak gelatin sheets in cold water for a few minutes till it blooms. Prepare earl grey milk by boiling earl grey leaves and milk in a small sauce pan.  Cover sauce pan for 5 minutes after boiling to intensify tea flavor in the milk  Strain leaves and ensure there is 80g of earl grey milk for the mousse. Boil prepared earl grey milk and whipping cream together.  Whisk egg yolk and caster sugar till frothy, then pour in 1/3 of earl grey mixture and mix well.  Pour egg mixture back into remaining 2/3 earl grey mixture and boil, stirring constantly, till mixture thickens slightly.  Add gelatin leaves and mix well.  Pour mousse into 8 pieces of 6-cm dome molds and leave for about 2 hours in refrigerator till set.

4. Assembly
Remove baileys milk chocolate mousse from cake rings (using hot towel or flame torch).  Gently remove earl grey mousse from dome molds (by carefully dipping bottom of molds in hot water, taking care not to allow water into the mousse) and place each dome on top of each baileys milk chocolate mousse layer.  Wrap exterior of individual cakes with dark chocolate, leaving top of dome layer visible.  Top with dark chocolate decoration if desired.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Guilt-free banana walnut wholewheat muffins

We were having breakfast one morning last week when Herr Scherrer suddenly asked "Hey hun, can you make me some banana muffins?". I was amused by his request as the only other time he's ever asked me to bake something specific were also banana muffins... of all the many things that come out of my kitchen.... =P

Bananas are easily available all year round from most Hong Kong supermarkets. The problem though is getting bananas that are ripe enough, if not you'll end up having to wait a couple of days before being able to bake those muffins. I was lucky that day though, got my ripe bananas on special offer at HK$4 for 6!

Instead of my usual banana muffin recipe, I decided to make a healthy version this time, using milk instead of butter and replacing white flour with wholewheat flour. I had a bag of walnuts at home and decided to throw that in too, modifying a wholewheat banana nut loaf recipe I had from Carole Clements' The Great Big Baking Book into a healthy wholewheat banana walnut muffin recipe. The guilt-free muffins were moist and nutty, not greasy at all due to the omission of butter. I'll recommend it to anyone who is looking for a healthy treat!

Recipe below makes 5 muffins:

- 130g wholewheat flour
- 75g sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 ripe bananas
- 60g milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
- extra walnuts for sprinkling on top

1. Sift flour, baking powder and ground cinnamon together.
2. Add sugar and salt and mix well, then set aside.
3. Smash bananas with a fork into a puree, leaving some bite-size chunks intact.
4. Combine milk, egg and vanilla and add to smashed banana, mix well.
5. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir till just combine, careful not to over mix. Mix in the walnuts towards the end.
6. Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin trays, filling to the top.
7. Sprinkle the extra chopped walnuts on top.
8. Bake in 177 C preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
9. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Oooh those buttery sablés

You can't tell from the photos but I went sablé cookies crazy this weekend! I made at least 100 of these buttery yummies, enough to fill 2 large cookie jars! I love the taste of rich buttery cookies and sablés are one of my favorites. As always, with biscuits and cookies its always easier to make a big batch of dough at one go and freeze part of it if you don't wish to bake it all at once.

A french cookie originating from Normandy, sablés are crisp yet delicate and crumble nicely in your mouth. A french chef once told me I should never to refer to sablés as cookies... hehe.... anyhow, pair it with a good cup of coffee and you pretty much get my idea of a lovely afternoon tea.

These dainty bites come in all sorts of fancy designs, e.g. swirls and checkers. I was a little lazy with mine and went with four chocolate and vanilla quadrants placed alternate to each other.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Cherry hazelnut financiers

I recall the first time I came across financiers a few years back. It looked very much like a cupcake, in fact, I did think it was a cupcake until I bit into it and was pleasantly surprised at its texture - somewhat of a cross between a sponge cake and a moist cookie. The one I had was made with almond flour topped with berries.... yummy!

A little bit of research about financiers taught me that they are traditionally made flourless and baked in ingot-shaped pans, hence the name. A classic french petit four, no good baker should ever mistake it for a cupcake, so I'm told! The must-have base ingredient of a classic financier is beurre noisette, or brown butter, giving it a wonderful and distinct buttery & nutty flavor. These days financiers are commonly baked with fruit toppings.

Over the weekend I got my hands on a big bag of cherries. Perfect for a hazelnut financiers recipe I've been wanting to try out. I love financiers with almonds, but I love it even more when its with hazelnuts!!

Recipe below adapted from FCI's Fundamental Technique of Classic Pastry Arts (makes about 18).

- 190 unsalted butter (for the beurre noisette)
- 30 g cake flour
- 30 g bread flour
- 190 g sugar
- 135 g hazelnut paste
- 150 g egg whites, at room temperature
- cherries for topping

1. Place butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the milk solids have separated out in the bottom of the pan, and the butter has turned a light, golden brown and has a very nutty aroma. Set aside to cool.
2. Combine the cake and bread flours in a mixing bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend. Add the sugar and hazelnut paste, stirring until very well blended.
3. Then, add the egg whites, a bit at a time, beating well and scraping down on the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
4. Stir in the cooled beurre noisette, beating until the batter is smooth.
5. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate the batter for 1 hour, or until well chilled.
6. Preheat the oven to 177 C.
7. Fill cupcake baking cups (up to 2/3 full).
8. Bake financiers for 10 minutes.
9. Remove financiers from oven and top each financier with a cherry, pressing the cherry halfway into the dough.
10. Bake financiers with cherry for another 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Best served warm.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Victorian milk bread

I still think nothing beats the wonderful smell of bread baking in the oven!  Still in the habit of making my own bread for breakfast whenever I can, sometimes the type of bread I end up with is dependent on the ingredients I find available in the kitchen.  Last week I realized there were quite a bit of milk in the fridge and decided on the classic victorian milk bread.

Known for its soft crust and crumb, this bread keeps well and remains crisp. The dough is easy to handle hence allowing it to be shaped creatively or even braided if one doesn't want to bake it in a loaf tin.  Most of the time milk loaves don't come with additional toppings but I decided to sprinkle poppy seeds over mine this time. Instead of kneading the dough by hand, I used a bread machine, removed the dough after rising and followed the recipe below from step 5.

Recipe below taken from "Bread" by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno

- 2 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 350 ml tepid milk
- 500 g strong white flour
- 1.5 tspp salt
- egg glaze, made with 1 egg and tbsp milk

1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 100 ml of milk in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Stir in half of the remaining milk.
2. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted milk. Mix in the flour. Stir in the reserved milk to form a sticky dough.
3. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
4. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise for 45 minutes.
5. Knock back, cover, and leave the dough to rise again until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Grease a 500g loaf tin. Shape the dough into a S-shape to fit in a loaf tin. Cover with a tea towel, then prove until the dough is 2.5cm above the top of the tin, about 1 hour.
6. Brush the top of the loaf with the egg glaze. Bake in 200 C preheated oven  for 45 minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Monday, 28 June 2010

French fruit jellies aka Paté de Fruit

We just had a very wet and gloomy weekend here in Hong Kong.  It was raining for almost 1.5 days, definitely a disappointment for anyone planning for the outdoors.  Many people were looking forward to the Germany vs England world cup match and by now most of us have heard or seen replays of Frank Lampard's disallowed goal that was actually in.  

Rainy days were always fun for me as a child growing up in Singapore as we were almost certain there would be clear blue skies after a good shower and if you're lucky, even a rainbow.  Dark skies often made their point and move on promptly, giving way to sunny weather quickly, all within a few hours.  Having had no time for any kitchen creations the whole week, I was kind of happy to have Saturday indoors while it was pouring outside.  I've been wanting to try making paté de fruit for some time and it was the best lazy afternoon to do it.

Not wanting to head out in the rain, I looked into my kitchen cupboards to see if I had enough of the right ingredients. Thankfully, paté de fruit only requires 4 basic ingredients: fruit puree of choice, sugar, liquid pectin and lemon juice.  I had a choice of making either strawberry or peach flavored paté de fruit and settled on peach after considering my last post was on strawberry macarons.

Like macarons and eclairs, paté de fruit is popular with food bloggers and I had no problems finding plenty of recipes, guides and information on the internet which is always great for initial attempts.  In terms of recipe I eventually settled for one provided by talented Helen of, who also uses liquid pectin.  

In my opinion it all went pretty well up to the point I had to remove the set paté de fruit out of the pan to cut into little bite-size pieces.  I was ready for the extensive amount of non-stop stirring required, and the constant monitoring of the candy thermometer.  But none of the "to dos" and "not to dos" I read on the internet warned me that the paté de fruit was going to be so absolutely sticky that I should have lined the pan up the sides, such that I could just lift the entire piece out easily.  I had lined only the bottom of the pan and after loosening the sides with a spatula, I tried to flip the entire piece out on a parchment paper only to have half of it fall on the side of the pan...argh...given how sticky the paté de fruit was, tearing it off from the side of the pan meant I pretty much destroyed it... : (  Thankfully I still manage to save the other half of it....

So, for the sake of anyone else that's attempting this at home, my list of notes would be:
1. Be prepared to stir the mixture non-stop for about an hour closely monitoring the temperature via a candy thermometer.
2. Don't try this at home without a candy thermometer, its futile.
3. Use a big saucepan or pot with tall sides, it helps with the evaporation and stirring.
4. Line the bottom & sides of the pan using a single sheet of parchment paper so you can lift the entire piece of paté de fruit out easily instead of trying to flip it out.  Coat the top with sugar before flipping it over on a clean surface and tearing the parchment paper off to coat the other side, then using a sharp knife cut into small pieces or shapes or your choice. 

So pictures you see here are that of my half a pan of paté de fruit that survived.  To make it more interesting I used a cookie cutter to cut it into flower shapes instead of the conventional cubes.

I've been told its good to leave recipes after each post so I'm making a point to do so from now on, even though I'm really lazy when it comes to typing or copying out recipes. =P

Below is the recipe I used, slightly adapted in terms of methodology (including my own notes) from Helen's posted at

380g peach puree, drained through a medium sized mesh to remove any large pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice
400g sugar, divided into 100g and 300g portions
4 tablespoons liquid pectin

1. Line bottom and side of a 8x8-inch pan with parchment paper and set aside. 
2. Place the peach puree in a saucepan or pot  and add in the lemon juice. 
3. Stir in 100g sugar and heat mixture until the temperature registers 45 C, stirring constantly. 
4. Add the remaining 1.5 cups (300gr) sugar and the pectin to the pot and slowly bring the mixture over medium high heat to 93 C, stirring constantly. 
5. Turn the heat down a bit and keep the mixture at 93 C for 2 to 3 minutes. 
6. Turn the heat back up and slowly bring the mixture to 106 C, keeping it there for an additional 2-3 minutes (turn the heat down if necessary to do so). 
7. Remove from the heat and immediately pour the mixture into your pan lined with parchment paper. Let set for a couple of hours in room temperature.
8. Remove set mixture from pan by lifting parchment paper off from the side.  
9. Lightly dust top of the set mixture with sugar to ensure its not sticky.  Turn set mixture over and tear off the parchment paper before dusting the other side with sugar.
10. Cut shapes with a sharp knife or cookie cutter dusted with sugar and roll the pieces in sugar till nicely coated. 
11. Store in refrigerate.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Italian meringue & fruity macarons...

Much has been said about how temperamental french meringues can be when it comes to making macarons. Known as macarons au blanc monté, the french meringue method is definitely less of a hassle compared to its italian counterpart, but extremely sensitive to conditions such as humidity and temperature. Not a reliable choice for home bakers who have little control over weather conditions in the kitchen.

Most professional cookbooks recommend the italian meringue method, i.e. macarons au sucre cuit, which requires heating sugar syrup to exactly 118 C, then pouring it it gradually into a bowl of egg white while its been whipped. The rest of the recipe is pretty much similar to the french meringue method.

Last week I decided it was time for me to try the macarons au sucre cuit and find out for myself if its worth the extra trouble. A standing whisk is definitely recommended for this task for a couple of good reasons: (1) One has to start beating the egg whites while the sugar syrup is heating up; (2) The sugar syrup has to be poured into the egg whites while it continues to be whisked; (3) The egg white & sugar mixture has to be beaten for a good 10 to 15 minutes till it cools down and a firm meringue forms. I don't know about other home bakers, but I definitely couldn't have managed all these if I didn't have my standing mixer, which btw I've had for about 15 years now - I'm amazed its still working after all I've put it through!

So what were the key differences? When I got down to folding the dry ingredients & italian meringue together, the mixture was noticeably smoother compared to my previous attempts with the french meringue. It also took me less folds to get the dry ingredients properly mixed in, though I've read on the internet that it should take longer (hmm...?). Other differences were my shells took 5 to 10 minutes shorter in the oven to bake and had tidier & prettier looking feet (the latter made me jump for joy!).

My conclusion? I definitely prefer the italian meringue method. A little extra hassle with sugar syrup is definitely worth it for beautiful looking shells!

For those also interested to try it out, I made reference to Duncan's basic macarons au sucre cuit recipe posted on (He has also put together great tips and guides for macaron making.). I adapted his basic recipe to create strawberry and mango flavored shells, which I filled with strawberry chocolate ganache - bascially adding strawberry puree to a standard chocolate ganache recipe.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Passion fruit panna cotta

Panna cotta is an Italian dessert believed to have originated from Piemonte, a region in northern Italy. I love it for its simplicity and yet versatility. It goes well with most fruits, particularly berries, and is a good base for plenty of flavors.

Last week I made some panna cotta at home and paired it with passion fruit. A popular combination, it works well due to the passion fruit's tangy taste. It also adds a sweet smelling fragrance to the dessert. Leaving the seeds adds an extra crunch.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Macaron recipe

After this post on 22 May regarding my macaron-making attempts, I received a couple of requests to share the recipe I eventually used. Many apologies to those who have been waiting for the recipe but I just got round to typing it out today… Also loaded below a photo taken of the same batch of macarons you see in the 22 May post, except this shot was taken with my new D5000 SLR. I got the camera the day after, so the photos you see in the 22 May post were with my compact camera. There’s a big difference in photo quality! Thanks to all who recommended the camera! I still have a lot to learn about taking good photos but totally love the camera!

Original recipe was taken from FCI's Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts. As explained in my previous post I made some modifications to suit my own kitchen working conditions, mainly the high humidity level in Hong Kong. I’ve posted both the original recipe as well as modifications I made below so you can determine for yourself what is most suitable for you.

Recipe makes about 25 macaroon sandwich cookies

- 115g almond flour
- 200g confectioners' sugar
For the meringue:
- 90g egg whites, at room temperature
- 8g confectioners' sugar (I used 30g. Higher sugar content helps hold the structure of the meringue and batter better, which counters the effects of high humidity in HK. If you're afraid that your shells are too sweet, you can reduce the sugar level. Alternatively, you can try adding about 2g of egg white powder.)
For the finish:
- 100g raspberry or other jam


Preheat the oven to 162 C (325 F). (I preheat the oven just 15 mins before the macarons are due to go in. Also, as I use a convection oven I had the temperature set at 137 C / 280 F instead.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine the almond flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process for about 1 minute, or until very fine. Set aside.

To make the meringue, place the egg whites in the bowl of the standing electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat on low to aerate. Add the sugar, raise the speed to high, and beat for about 3 minutes, or until soft peaks form. Take care not to overwhip or the meringue will be dry and it will be difficult to fold in the dry ingredients.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold the almond mixture into the meringue until well blended. (I stopped folding when a line cut into the batter with a spatula edge disappears gradually.)

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with the #2 tip. (I used a 1.5cm tip.)

Carefully pipe 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds of the macaron batter onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Set them aside for about 1 hour, or until the macarons form a skin on their surface. (My macarons had skins after about 30 mins.) This is extremely important, as the skin helps the macarons hold their shape during baking.

Bake the macarons for about 10 minutes, or until firm and just beginning to brown around the edges. (I had to leave my macarons in the oven for 25 minutes before they were done. Also, I bake with a dehumidifier running in the kitchen, next to my oven.) The macarons should not color much during baking. Watch carefully, as the high sugar content can cause the cookies to burn quickly.

Immediately transfer the macarons to wire racks to cool.

Using an offset spatula, lightly coat the flat bottom of 25 of the cooled macarons with a thin layer of jam. Cover the jam with another macaron, bottom side down, pressing gently to make a sandwich cookie.

Serve the macarons immediately or store them, air-tight in layers, at room temperature for a day or two.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Choux puffs and rings

I find choux pastries really cute to watch after they have been in the oven for about 15 minutes. The way it gradually balloons up and the surface bubbles with butter... its as if they are doing little giggles while growing to size.

So taking a break from macarons last weekend, I made some assorted choux puffs and rings and as expected spent quite a few minutes in front of the oven door just staring at these cuties... hahaha...

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Baby tiramisu macarons

I was tempted to title this post "somewhat tiramisu" macarons which was the label I used for photos of these macarons posted on my facebook page. Encouraged by my not-too-disastrous pilot attempts at macarons last week and extremely kind comments left by friends on my macaron photos posted on facebook, I was eager to work on some interesting macaron flavors this week. There were quite a bit of mascarpone cheese left in the fridge, and I knew I had kahlua & cocoa powder in the kitchen cupboard, so I ended up setting my mind on creating some tiramisu macarons!

A quick research on the internet didn't yield me a tiramisu macaron recipe that I could use or modify with the ingredients I had identified for use... that meant I had to improvise somewhat blindly which is always risky for me. For some reason I thought it might be good to have coffee flavored shells, so I added some instant coffee powder to the ground almond and powdered sugar mixture. Just as I was ready to bag and pipe the brown colored batter, I suddenly recalled Herr Scherrer's suggestion to make bite-size macarons, hmm... so I ended up piping little circles no more than 2cm in diameter (some around 2cm, some closer to 1.5cm due to my lack of consistent piping skills).

So into the oven they went after resting on the baking sheet for around 30 mins. I absentmindedly set the oven temperature and timer at 138 C and 25 mins which was what worked for my last batch of macarons, but forgetting that these macarons are much smaller!! So when I looked into the oven 15 mins later, I could tell some of these baby macarons were going to end up with a cracked top. I immediately reduced the temperature and timer and managed to salvage most of it, though quite a number were goners...

Next came the filling. Still trying to go with the tiramisu theme I scooped around 60g of mascarpone cheese into a mixer bowl, went with my gut feel and threw in 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and 1 teaspoon of kahlua. After a few minutes of beating I tested the mixture and realised i probably added too much cocoa powder as the choco taste overwhelmed everything else. I quickly threw in another 20g of mascarpone cheese and 1 teaspoon of kahlua. In my view the end result was still a little heavy in terms of cocoa, but the last minute rescue managed to balance it out a little - I could definitely taste the kahlua. If I were to try this again I would probably use 3/4 or half the cocoa quantity.

So... if you have been reading my lengthy rant above you'll understand why I labeled my photo "somewhat tiramisu" macarons. One could almost think of tiramisu when biting into these macarons but it could have been more distinct had my gut feel been more accurate... oh well...

Other than macaron escapades, the past week I also decided its time to "upgrade" to an SLR in an attempt to shoot better photos of my kitchen creations. I've so far been using a compact camera and as much as I enjoy its convenience, I also get a little frustrated at times by its simplicity. So, these photos of "somewhat tiramisu" macarons are with my new nikon D5000!!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Apricot mascarpone macarons

I must confess I was never really into macarons, even when it got really popular with home bakers as well as commercial outlets in recent years. It could be due to the lack of really good macarons here in Asia - no Ladureé or Pierre Hermé outlets here in Hong Kong as far as I'm aware. To be honest, I'm not quite sure why macarons never really caught my interest. That changed recently when I received a generous box of Confiserie Sprüngli's luxemburgerli last winter. There must have been 10 assorted flavors in that box, and it took me (together with Herr Scherrer) no more than a few days to gobble it all down...

When I started researching into macarons with the intention of trying to make some at home, I realized its must be one of the most blogged about baking topic - great for me as I had a lot of references available as well as tips from fellow bakers who generously share their trial and error stories. From what I could gather, its an extremely frustrating process for those brave enough to attempt it at home - plenty of issues including macarons not having feet, batter spreading too much resulting in completely flat macarons, macarons has little peaks that won't go away, to rest or not to rest batter before baking, how much folding is enough / not enough.... gosh the list seems never ending... yet, the idea that one could improvise any sort of flavors into those sandwich cookies is enticing for a home baker - its like having a blank canvas with endless possibilities and room for creativity - the catch is one needs to master the basics first.

After a long period of procrastination, one day I happen to have some egg whites left over in the fridge from working on something else. Almost all macaron recipes advocate the use of aged egg whites for best results... so guess what I did? Yes, make macarons!

I'm very thankful to all who have shared their own macaron making experience on the internet - I must have picked up quite a bit of tips from them as my first attempt was not a complete disaster like I thought it would be. My shells came out too soft as I followed the recipe exactly, forgetting that Hong Kong's humidity required it to be left longer in the oven. My second batch came out too hard after I over adjusted the baking time. I finally got the baking time right in my third attempt. Surprisingly, all my attempts had healthy looking feet. I think I still have to work on my piping skills to ensure I get consistent size rounds.

Photos posted here are those of my third attempt - green & orange macarons with apricot mascarpone filling. I'm definitely thinking of interesting flavors to attempt next.... watch this space!


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