Archive for March, 2009

Mad about Cookies

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Butterfly & Daisies

I’m starting work at a new place on Monday. The plan was to take it a little easy for a couple of days before that, i.e. no baking, no running errands, no anything. BUT it figures that things rarely ever go as planned when it comes to rest.

Decorated Cookies

A week ago, my cousin SL texts me with a request for 20 custom cookies for her marketing course project to be collected on her 21st birthday.

I’d stopped taking orders for a long time now, but I couldn’t, in all good conscience, disappoint her, especially when I knew her to be all stressed out about her coursework and that she probably didn’t have much time to search for other alternatives.

How much work could 20 cookies be? I factored in about 8 hours of baking and icing, taking into account the various designs and colours.

Hearts

20 disposable piping bags and 5 hours into cookie decorating, all the while dealing with rapidly softening cookies and icing that refused to dry completely even in an air-conditioned room (oh, how I loathe this humid weather!), I remembered why I’d always limited cookie orders to a maximum of 3 designs with a choice of 4 different colours. Note to self: bake cookies longer and limit choice of designs and colour.

Happily, I was done right on schedule and stored the completed cookies in an airtight container, together with 2 small packets of desiccant.

"I'm a litte teapot"

The next morning, I was dismayed to find that some of the darker icing had bled into the lighter backgrounds. This was most apparent with the dark brown and red icing on white. My guess for the unslightly bleeds is that the darker icing had absorbed moisture overnight and proceeded to stain the lighter icing below, despite the airtight container and desiccant.

I was equally annoyed to find that the cookies had turned even softer, after just 1 day. There was nothing I could do to stop both the staining and softening process. I only hope the cookies survive till the time of SL’s presentation!

Birthday Cake Cookie

On the upside, SL has given me new cookie decorating ideas and a lesson in cookie decorating. I even managed to make her a celebratory cookie (and try out a couple of new designs for myself) for the all-important 21st!

Packed Cookies

I’m optimistic that I’ll still find time to bake when I begin my new job tomorrow, but for now, I’m happy that I got to do this just once more. :D

Mad about Macarons Again

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Heart-shaped Ispahans

A Baking Session
It’s been a while since I posted an entry on this blog and an even longer while since I baked macarons. Given the amount of time and effort that goes into macarons, I had no problems avoiding macaron making. That is until H invited WL over for a baking session one Saturday.

I was initially hesitant about WL’s suggestion to bake macarons for 2 reasons. First, the weather had been horribly wet and humid, which is generally bad for meringue making, not to mention macaron making. Which meant it would be safer to go with italian meringue instead of french meringue. Which in turn led to the second reason for my reluctance.

              Rose & Lychee Macarons

Italian Meringue Macarons
The last few batches of italian meringue macarons I’d made had a huge air pocket between the shell and the base. Since I’ve had many successful batches before with italian meringue, this is something that still has me puzzled. There are just too many possible reasons. Drying time? Baking temperature? Baking time? Unstable meringe? Still, we forged ahead.

Macarons

The Result
The flavours of the day were cocoa shells with dark chocolate ganache and hazelnut shells with salted caramel buttercream. As I’d expected, the shells did end up with an air pocket each, but once filled and bitten into, it didn’t matter at all. The overall texture and taste were still right. Most importantly, WL seemed more than happy with the salted caramel ones. :)

Heart-shaped Ispahans

French Meringue Macarons & Heart-shaped Ispahans
Unhappy about the air pockets, I made another batch of macarons with french meringue the following week. The weather was once again far from ideal; it was pouring outside while the egg whites were being whipped in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Fortunately, the heart-shaped Ispahan macarons turned out fine (1st and last photographs of this post) as did the regular sized ones, which I filled with rose cream and lychee pieces (2nd photograph of this post).

The Ispahans were visually impressive as always and my sister loved the combination of the tart raspberries, lychees and vanilla cream. But the best part for me was the lack of air pockets, which more than made up for the smaller feet that macarons made via the french meringue method seem to have.