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...


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