Archive for February, 2008

Mad about Valentine’s Day Sweets

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

              Heart Shaped Ispahan

While on vacation last month, I had this grand plan to bake Valentine’s Day themed cookies when I got home: hearts, roses, butterflies, the works. But Chinese New Year celebration (and of course, the mandatory recovery period from all the over-indulgence festivities) got in the way and Valentine’s Day has come and gone with no cookies in sight.

Small Heart Shaped Macaron

To make up for the slack, I decided to try baking heart-shaped Ispahan macarons, something I first saw on Flickr (at Pierre Hermé) and then again at Carousel at Royal Plaza at Scotts. I also wanted to try out the age-old flavour combination of strawberries and cream with this Pierre Hermé inspired dessert.

              Macarons with Strawberries & Cream

In keeping with the original PH Ispahan flavours, I paired fresh raspberries with raspberry cream (instead of the usual rose cream) and lychee bits. For the experimental version, I used fresh strawberries with vanilla cream and buttery shortbread pieces in the middle and assembled this combination with both 3″ heart-shaped and 3.5″ round shells. I even managed to put together a small heart-shaped macaron.

Macarons with Strawberries & Cream

I’m completely thrilled with the results; the visual impact of both raspberry and strawberry versions is undeniable (in my opinion anyway)! I’m also very glad to report that both versions are equally wonderful tastewise! Afterall, how can one go wrong with strawberries and cream? :)

I definitely won’t be waiting for Valentine’s Day to roll around before making these gorgeous little desserts again!

Mad about Caramel Fleur de Sel Macarons

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

              Caramel Fleur de Sel Macarons

With Chinese New Year baking completed and no baking schedule for Valentine’s Day, I finally had some time to make caramel fleur de sel, something that I’ve been wanting to try for the longest time.

I used Chef Pang’s recipe, found on Chubby Hubby’s blog, but found the resulting caramel way too salty on its own. It might have something to do with the accuracy of my digital weighing scale (I rounded up the amount of fleur de sel from 3.75g to 4g), but the next time I make this, I’m definitely cutting the sea salt down to 3g or maybe even 2g.

              Salted Caramel Macarons

I really couldn’t bear to throw all that caramel away and turned it into a buttercream filling for macarons instead. I also used vanilla flavoured macaron shells made with hazelnuts instead of almonds.

I have to say that I loved the resulting flavour; slightly savoury with a deep caramel flavour that still shone through the buttercream. I included them in a box of macarons I’d made for a dinner party at WL’s and they quickly became the most sought-after macarons, beating even the ever popular dark chocolate and opéra flavours!

These are definitely going onto the menu!

Salted Caramel Macarons

Caramel Fleur de Sel Recipe (adapted from Chef Pang’s version)

200g sugar
Sufficient quantity water
1/2 tsp pure vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla pod
200g whipping cream, warmed
3g fleur de sel
140g unsalted butter, well-chilled and cut into cubes

1. Place the sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan. Add just enough water to dampen the sugar.
2. Cook the sugar to 160 degrees C without stirring. The sugar syrup should take on an amber hue.
3. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the vanilla bean paste or the scrappings from the vanilla pod.
4. Add in the warm cream a little at a time - be very careful here as the caramel will foam up and sputter. I recommend wearing an oven mitt.
5. Add the fleur de sel and stir to make sure that all the caramel has dissolved.
6. Allow the mixture to cool to around 40 degrees C.
7. Add the cubes of butter and blend in the butter using an immersion blender until you have a smooth glossy paste.
8. Line the surface of the caramel with cling wrap to prevent a layer of skin from forming and chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Mad about Pineapple Tarts

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Pineapple Tarts Closeup

I must confess, I’m not exactly crazy about pineapple tarts. Yes, completely inconceivable, I know, given that these tarts are a staple in every household here in Singapore come Chinese New Year. But I have two perfectly valid reasons; my family makes them EVERY year and the process is extremely laborious, especially if one makes the pineapple jam from scratch.

              Pineapple Tarts

In the past few years, my dad has taken over the time-consuming process that is pineapple jam making. I think it could be because:

a) He actually enjoys the process because I cannot imagine why anyone would otherwise take on a task which consists of grating 8 - 10 ripe honey pineapples by hand and then standing in front of a hot stove, constantly stirring a pot of juicy grated pineapples for 3 - 4 hours until almost all the juice has cooked away and the jam has caramelized to a lovely golden colour.

b) He wants to make sure that his favourite pineapple tarts are on the Chinese New Year baking schedule. There’s no denying the persuasive power of the following argument: “But I’ve already spent hours slaving over the stove making the jam.”

              Pineapple Tarts

My mum prefers open-faced tarts to rolled balls of pastry with pineapple filling, so the next steps are making, kneading, rolling and cutting the tart dough. The small tarts are then brushed with egg yolk, filled with pineapple jam and finally topped with strips of pastry, which are then also brushed with egg yolk. It may sound easy, but I’m usually pretty tired by the time we get to the 4th tray of tarts.

Every year, after the last tray of tarts comes out of the oven, I tell myself that I won’t make pineapple tarts next year. But deep down, I know that we’d still end up doing it because my brother, who’s a really picky-eater and who’d travel miles for good food, tells us that he’s yet to taste any pineapple tarts that are as good as these. :)

Here’s wishing everyone a very Happy Chinese New Year!