Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Lavender macarons

Pierre Hermé's "Macaron" book in English finally arrived a couple of weeks ago.  It was a looonnng wait!  I eagerly sat down the minute I had time to flip through the pages, admiring not just the innovative (& sometimes legendary, if I may say) pairing of flavours but also the many beautiful photographs of macarons presented in the book.

I have a handful of macaron books at home and none of them has the sort of facinating recipes presented by this talented chef.  I'm truly in awe! 

A few months ago I purchased a bag of lavender buds and the idea of lavender flavored macarons have been swirling in my head ever since.  I was hoping to find a lavender related macaron recipe in Pierre Hermé's book, but unfortunately none of the 57 macaron recipes in the book used lavender. : ( 

Not one to give up so easily, I decided to reference PH's macaron recipes to put together a lavender flavoured macaron.  I followed one of his instructions for basic macaron shells, but used purple food colouring instead of the colour that was stated in the original recipe.  For the filling I thought of lavender infused white chocolate ganache and thankfully PH had an earl grey tea ganache that I could use as a close reference.

I'm pretty happy with my humble PH inspired Lavender macarons, if I could call them that.  The taste of lavender is distinct but not overpowering.  In the book PH shares that he finds white chocolate has "splendid flavour-carrying properties" and "has the advantage of receding into the background and bringing out the taste of ingredients that are added to it".  A great tip!!  PH has clearly illustrated that a macaron is a french cookie with endless possibilities.  As I often see written in articles about macarons: "Ladureé reintroduced macarons and made them world famous, Pierre Hermé reinvented them"...  I bought some passionfruit on my way home today - I can't wait to try out PH's famous Mogador macaron next!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Simple & quick oat cinnamon cookies

For a couple of weeks now we've been having a bit of a oat and bran craze at home.  Mostly due to my better half's strong desire to lower his cholesterol level (oats are supposedly good for that). 

One morning he sweetly asked me if I could make him some oat cookies.  It was such a simple request, I couldn't possibly refuse... also, its not as if I need a strong reason to head into the kitchen to bake...

This is a really simple & quick to make recipe - good if you simply want to enjoy the taste of oats and with a bit of cinnamon. I baked 1/3 of it and froze the other 2/3 in the freezer for future yum yum!


Recipe below makes about 30 cookies

115g butter, chopped & softened
95g granulated sugar
95g brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
130g self raising flour, sifted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
120g instant oats

Beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together with electric mixer until creamy.  Beat in egg then stir in vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Mix into butter mixture until dry and wet ingredients are well incorporated.  Stir in oats.  
Roll flat tablespoon quantity of dough into balls.  Place 5cm apart on greased baking sheet.  Flatten dough balls slightly with spoon.  Bake for 9 to 10 minutes in 190C preheated oven.  
Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely (cookies will initially be too soft to transfer to wire rack but will harden as it cools).  
(If dough appears too soft / butter begins melting while you are working on it, just cover dough with plastic and chill in fridge for about 15 minutes before working on it again.)

Monday, 13 February 2012

Azuki mousse & matcha genoise cake

I had another Japanese themed inspiration following one of my recent post here of sesame chiffon cake and Niseko, Japan. 

This time, its azuki beans.  I've always had something for azuki bean flavored desserts.  My dad loves those asian style azuki bean ice popsicles and as a kid I would often find some in the freezer at home.  It was a memorable cold treat after a hot sunny day in Singapore.

I wanted to recreate the childhood memory, and an important part of it is using whole beans (sweetened from a can) instead of azuki bean puree, so that one could enjoy the munch of whole beans, resembling the taste of whole azuki beans in the ice popsicles my dad used to buy.

Everthing else was kept simple to ensure the taste of azuki beans were clearly distinct.  The azuki bean mousse was paired with matcha génoise. 

Recipe below makes about 4 mini cakes

Matcha génoise:
2 egg
40g granulated sugar
35g plain flour, sifted
7g matcha powder (sifted together with flour)
20g butter
(There will be left over génoise but I find its easier to work with these quantities than something smaller.  You could half the ingredients and there would still be enough génoise for about 4 mini cakes.  Extra génoise can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the fridge for other uses.)

Preheat oven 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.  Melt butter over bain marie.  Fold flour & matcha into egg mixture in 3 batches.  Be careful not to overmix. Add a scoop of egg & flour mixture into melted butter and mix well.  Fold butter mixture back into remaining egg & flour mixture and fold gently till batter surface is uniformly shiny.  Pour & spread evenly into approximately 8 by 11 inch lined cake tin and bake for about 16 to 18 mins (if you are using half the quantity, use a smaller cake tin so your génoise would still have sufficient thickness).  Invert cake onto a wire rack and let cool before cutting out pieces of génoise rounds (or squares depending on your cake ring) that is slightly smaller than the cake ring you are using.  Place génoise rounds at the bottom of lined cake rings.  Set aside.

Azuki mousse:
2 gelatin sheets
180g azuki beans, sweetened (from a can)
180g whipping cream

Soak gelatin sheets in cold water till bloomed. Melt gelatin over bain marie and stir into azuki beans.  Whisk cream on medium speed till soft peak forms.  Fold cream into azuki beans mixture.  Pour over matcha génoise in cake rings and leave it fridge until set.

Remove mousse from cake ring (using hot towel or flame torch on external of ring to loosen mousse).  Wrap with dark chcolate and top with fruits and sprinkle of crushed pistachios as desired.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Apple & cinnamon tartlets (tartelettes)

Its great to be working from home.  I've been doing that the past week as the office is closed for renovations and its been fantastic!  I can enjoy my morning coffee and breakfast without having to rush out of the house to catch the bus.  I make conference calls, check emails and work on materials in between a little bit of bloomberg tv time (keeping in touch with market news) and kitchen time (making myself lunch & snacks).  

The only downside is my meal times gets a little mixed up.  Lunch time is bascially "whenever I feel hungry" instead of the usual 12.30pm at the office.  And one evening when Herr Scherrer had a night out with the guys while I stayed in, on a strange whim I had apple & cinnamon tartelettes for dinner. =P

Given it was an impromptu decision I was glad to have some leftover pâte brisée in the fridge which was just nice for a couple of tartelettes.  I sliced up some apples while resting the rolled out dough in mini tart pans in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Tossed the apples in some lemon juice, sprinkled over sugar and cinnamon and it was good to go!

Recipe below makes 4 tartelettes

For the pâte brisée:
250g cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
125g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
65ml cold water

For the filling:
4 small to medium size apples
sugar & ground cinnamon (to taste)
2 tsp lemon juice

Sift flour, salt and sugar together into large bowl.  Add butter to sifted flour mixture and cut it into the flour with a pastry scraper, until pieces of butter are the size of peas.  Form a well in the center of the butter & flour mixture and pour water into it.  Quickly incorporate the water into the butter & flour mixture until the dough holds together, adding additional water if required.  Gather dough into a disc / ball and wrap it in plastic and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out dough on floured surface until about 3mm thick.  Cut out 4 circles 2 inches wider in diameter than the tartlet pans.  Lift circles into the tartlet pans, gently pushing the dough into the bottom and against the edges, cut off any excess around the edges to neaten. Chill in refridgerator for at least 30 minutes.

Slice apples thinly, toss in  lemon juice, sugar and ground cinnamon.  Arrange apples neatly on top of rested dough.  Sprinkle additional sugar and cinnamon to your taste.

Bake in preheated 190C oven for 30 to 40 minutes.


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