Archive for January, 2010

Mad about Chocolate

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

              Shaved Valrhona Chocolate

When KJ suggested a potluck get-together for us ex-RJC classmates at JY’s place, I was excited for two reasons. The first being the prospect of having tea with old friends at JY’s swanky apartment, the second being an excuse to bake something before I run completely out of energy.

I was certain that my contribution would be some sort of dessert. Macarons would be too much work and muffins, cupcakes or brownies would be too boring, so I settled on a chocolate cake recipe that I’d already tried out on several occasions.

              Valrhona 55% Equatorial Blocks

The devil’s food cake was easily baked in the evening before. I was pretty sure that making the chocolate ganache would be a breeze to and I left it to the morning before the tea party. That was until I weighed the chocolate on my trusty digital kitchen scales and realised just how much 24 oz of chocolate was.

Chopping chocolate to a degree fine enough for ganache has never been an activity that I look forward to and 24 oz of chocolate was daunting. After the 2nd block of chocolate, I threw in the towel and decided to just cut the chocolate into smaller blocks, melt the blocks in a bain-marie and add the hot cream.

              Devil's Food Cake with Valrhona 55% Whipped Chocolate Ganache

The ganache turned out fine and I’ll probably be using this method for larger quantities of chocolate in the future. I was slightly concerned that the whipped ganache would be difficult to use given the really hot weather on that day, but everything went well.

Most importantly, my friends enjoyed the cake (at least I hope they weren’t just being polite :) ) and we had a great time catching up.

The recipe for this cake, courtesy of MarthaStewart.com, can be found here. Note: I only covered the cake with the whipped ganache and left out the last layer of ganache glaze. 2/3 of the ganache recipe is more than sufficient for the entire cake, including the ganache glaze.

Mad about A Macaron Croquembouche

Monday, January 4th, 2010

              Macaron Croquembouche

The Occasion
H’s birthday was this past weekend, but he didn’t want me slaving away in the kitchen to make him a birthday cake, insisting that I get some much needed rest during the New Year weekend because I’d been sleeping poorly the past 2 weeks.

Fortunately, I’d made a batch of macaron on New Year’s eve on a whim and decided to assemble a macaron tower for him instead! It would be experimental, but at least he would have some sort of a birthday dessert. Plus it would be way grander than any birthday cake if it worked out. :)

The Experiment
I’d always wanted to make a macaron croquembouche, but was concerned about a few things.

1. What to use for the cone base
2. How to attach the macarons to the cone
3. Whether the macarons would stay in place, given the weight of the fillings
4. Whether the macaron fillings would turn soft and melt before all the macarons had been attached

The Results
Concern #1 was easily resolved with a homemade cardboard cone covered with baking parchment paper. I’d originally considered using a styrofoam cone, but had no idea where to buy one.

I decided to go with caramel as the “glue” since traditional cream puff croquembouches are so constructed. I started attaching the macarons at the bottom and was really delighted when the 1st layer appeared to stick on to the cone really well. What I hadn’t counted on was the caramel not hardening well.

              Macaron Croquembouche Closeup

As it turned out, concern #3 was also a valid one, especially since the macarons in the upper layers began to slide downwards, resting on the bottom layers when the caramel started to soften, possibly from the condensation from the macarons, which had been refridgerated prior to being attached to the cone, or perhaps from a poorly made caramel.

Despite the air-conditioning being turned on, the macaron fillings also started to melt somewhat. This was particularly true of the buttercream fillings. I had originally contemplated filling the macarons with a simple jam filling to overcome the melting issue, but didn’t want to spend hours making the shells, only to end up with overly-sweet macarons that would then be unpleasant to eat.

And so it was that H’s birthday croquembouche stayed intact for a grand total of 10 minutes before I decided to take everything down, mainly because the assembled croquembouche was too tall to fit into my fridge and the bottom layers were getting squashed from the weight of the other layers sliding down and resting on them. I was miffed that many of my painstakingly-made macarons were now either somewhat squashed, smeared with sticky, non-hardened caramel on one side or had part of their delicate outer shells left hanging on the cone when I attempted to remove them. Fortunately, they still tasted good and H didn’t mind in the tiniest bit, especially since his favourite chocolate ones had remained intact.

Experiments to come
I’m determined to try this again some other time and I’ve got some other ideas on how to better attach the macarons to the cone (reducing the amount of macaron filling being one of them and possibly using only ganache), but I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got any suggestions on how to solve the problems I encountered!