Sneak Peek: An Anniversary and a Birthday

March 5th, 2012

              Gumpaste roses

Going through my email inbox for the first time in 6 months, I’m awfully embarrassed to confess that I found at least 5 email enquiries related to my blog posts that I’d somehow missed replying, the oldest one dating back to Oct last year. I’m obviously not one of those super career women who can juggle marriage, motherhood, having a full-time job, running a household and having a side hobby without dropping one of them.

Besides my tardiness in replying emails and a less than pristine looking flat, poor H has been terribly neglected these past months. His frequent work-related trips that take him away from our little imp and me haven’t helped the situation. H and I are desperately in need of some quality alone-time with each other, which is why we’re both looking forward to our 1st R&R trip without our mini-me #1 and before mini-me #2 arrives in a few months time. The timing couldn’t be more perfect as the end of this month marks our 10th wedding anniversary.

Gumpaste roses

I’m planning a 3-tiered cake to celebrate the occasion and have some vague idea about the design; it’ll include the gumpaste roses that I’ve made over several evenings this past week and H prefers an all-white covering for the cake.

The only thing is, I’m not sure if I’ll have enough time to actually make the cake when we get back from our trip, given that I’ll have to hop right back into work mode the following day.

There’s also A’s 2nd birthday cake to bake and decorate before we leave. Right now, I’m thinking of a blackforest Mickey Mouse cake. With just 4 days to go before the planned birthday party and all of them being work days, I’m beginning to feel the stress of it all!

Mad about New Macaron Flavours

December 1st, 2011

               Jasmine and Olive Oil Vanilla Macs

With less than a month before I go back to work full-time (this was back in Oct, so this post is really late), it was time to get all the baking in that I could.

WL and C came over to bake macarons (what else?) from the PH book. WL wanted to make the jasmine and olive oil with vanilla flavoured ones. These are two flavours that I’d probably never have tried, but I was happy to give them a shot, especially since I knew that WL had been wanting to make the olive oil flavoured ones for a long time now.

               Olive Oil Vanilla Macarons

I was worried that the olive oil ganache would break since the recipe called for a large amount of olive oil to be emulsified into the ganache, but nothing really exciting happened. We did have to re-emulsify the ganache after we placed it into the fridge to cool to a pipeable consistency, but it wasn’t difficult.

The only thing I would have changed was the olive oil that we used. WL had brought a strong, flavourful oilve oil, which turned out to be more grassy than fruity, resulting in a ganache that tasted very strongly of olive oil with no vanilla flavour at all.

Interestingly, most people who tried the olive oil macarons actually LIKED them A LOT, despite the distinctly grassy flavour. I’ve since come across an Australian olive oil in the supermarket that sounds like a potential candidate based on the description on the bottle, but can’t bring myself to make this flavour again so soon.

               Jasmine and Olive Oil Vanilla Macs

The jasmine flavoured macarons were not particularly exciting. WL felt that compared to the one she had tried in Paris the macacrons we made weren’t as strongly flavoured and that the flavour would fade really quickly.

She also thought that the addition of a jasmine essence (which we didn’t have and is mentioned in the book, but not included in the recipe) would make a huge difference. I actually thought that the flavour wasn’t particularly weak and I could still make out the jasmine even after 2 days, although it was admittedly less obvious than on the day that we had made the macarons.

               Montebello Macarons

Still driven by the fact that it wouldn’t be long before I would literally have no time to bake, I flipped through the book for more non-chocolate flavors to try. I was immediately drawn to the vibrantly colored shells of the Montebello macarons, which is a flavor with pistachio ganache filling and a raspberry jelly center.

               Montebello Macarons

The batter for the Montebello was more fluid than the other macarons that I’d made from the book and I could make out a very faint salty aftertaste due to the amount of coloring I had to add to make the brightly colored shells. The flavor was otherwise fantastic. Who would have thought that pistachio and raspberries would make such a great combination? I was also pleasantly surprised that the small amount of pistachios I used could impart such great flavour. I’ll definitely be making these again.

               Hazelnut Praline Macarons

The other flavour I chose to make was the Pietra macarons. I didn’t have Piedmont hazelnuts (I don’t know if they are available here) and used regular supermarket ones.

The brittle was easy enough to make (ok, so I did end up with a small sugar burn, but mainly because I used too small a pot for the hazelnuts and sugar), but the crushing part wasn’t. The instructions in the book said to finely crush the hazelnut brittle, but didn’t say how. I did consider using a blender, but thought that the brittle would just turn into paste. I ended up putting the brittle in Ziploc bags and smashing them with a rolling pin. Not the best method, since the hard brittle made many small holes in the bags, leaving bits of caramelised hazelnut all over my kitchen counter.

Hazelnut Praline Macarons

The buttercream was pretty standard, only redeemed by the crunchy bits of praline. Sadly, the crunchiness didn’t last beyond 3 days in the fridge. I also felt that the overall flavour was pretty one dimensional unlike the Montebello ones. I’m unlikely to make these again, except maybe for someone who LOVES hazelnuts.

Mad about Plaisir Sucré Macarons

October 20th, 2011

              Plaisir Sucré Macarons

The PH Macaron book has finally been published in ENGLISH last month after years of speculation about when it’d actually hit the shelves. This gave me the push I needed to try another recipe from my French copy of the book.

When I told H that I’d finally be baking macarons again, he immediately said, “I only like the chocolate ones!” So I decided to go with the Plasir Sucré macaron. Okay, so he doesn’t really like milk chocolate, but hey, at least it’s chocolate and there’s coffee (which H loves) in the shells!

Plaisir Sucré Macarons

I honestly thought that this particular recipe would be fairly simple to follow. But the fillings turned out to be really annoying to make.

First up, the hazelnut praline centre. The recipe said to “pour” the mixture into a gratin dish and leave to set in the fridge/freezer, but there was nothing pourable about the chocolate-nut mass I ended up with. I had to press the mixture into the dish and when I tried to unmold it from the dish, it wouldn’t budge a millimetre. To make a long story short, I ended up with many broken bits of praline and a very messy, chocolatey counter top.

Next, the milk chocolate ganache. This took more than 3 hours in the freezer to take on a even remotely “scoop-able” consistency. It was close to midnight and I had no idea if the ganache would firm up further, so I added more melted milk chocolate and the ganache quickly thickened up to a pipeable consistency. I’d definitely recommend making the milk ganache a day ahead.

Plaisir Sucré Macarons

The shells still turned out crispier compared to my usual macaron recipe. I was a little surprised by this since I’d already reduced the baking time and baking temperature, given my previous experience with his Macaron au Chocolate Amer recipe.

The crispy shells meant that the 24 hour maturing and 2 hour thawing time recommended in the book could not be ignored. This is the one thing that I dislike about the PH macaron recipes. I mean, who wants to wait an entire day and then some more to sink their teeth into something that already took more than half a day to make?

Macaron

So were the macarons worth the wait? Absolutely! I prefer the Chocolat Amer ones, but these were wonderful too. I especially liked the crunch of the hazelnut praline centre and the distinct taste of the hazelnuts. I was slightly disappointed that the Gavottes on the shells weren’t crispy anymore, but I’d already expected that given the humidity and the thawing time.

If you’re looking to purchase the English version of the book, I’m afraid that it’s already entirely sold out on Amazon and being offered at ridiculously high prices by resellers. You probably have a much better chance tracking the book down at your local book store, which is exactly what I did.

I’m ending this post with photographs of some other things I’d baked in the past 6 months and didn’t have time to blog about. Fingers crossed that my next post will be much sooner!

Strawberry Cheesecake

              Strawberry Cheesecake

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

              Triple chocolate mousse cake

Roasted Bell Peppers Pizza with Sheep’s Milk Feta Cheese

              Homemade Pizza