Category Archives: Baking Recipes: Macarons

My First Guest Chef Experience

[All photos in this post are courtesy of E at Heaven in a Wild Flower, who was the fabulous FOH at the supperclub the night I guest chef-ed (I would also like to add that she's mightily talented in cooking, design, photography above everything else that she's also good at)!]

Some of you may have read that I made my first ever guest chef appearance recently on 13 November 2011, at the Plusixfive supperclub no less, and I thought it would be nice to document my experience here. It was a real eye-opener for me to be changing gears on what I usually do, as I’m more of an amateur home cook who siphons off the excess things that come out of my kitchen to willing friends. To actually bake for something which I’ve been commissioned for, to offer my pastries to paying customers, now that is a different ball game. To sum it up, it was a daunting albeit rewarding experience for me, and I wouldn’t have embarked on it if Goz, head chef at Plusixfive, hadn’t bambi-eyed me into it (read this to see how a grown man manages to do this!).

Gula melaka salted caramel buttercream macarons

This was made even more challenging, when my oven decided to go kaput on my macarons the week before. I was getting cracked macarons left, right and center with the same recipe that have always worked for me, and I had no idea what went wrong.  I panicked quite a bit as I didn’t want to disappoint Goz and his guests, so I made batches after batches of macarons to test out every variable  (as I would have in my past life as a scientist before I made a career switch), and finally narrowed it down to an overheating oven. The odd thing was the oven didn’t have any effect on my other baked goods, and my conclusion was macarons are just extremely sensitive to heat. This was affirmed when I tried some new steps that I’ve now included on top of my usual recipe (not posted yet), which thankfully gave me beautiful macarons once again, just in time for the supperclub. I also spent a good amount of time tweaking my lychee chiffon cake recipe to perfection, and even had my husband mule some lychee essence back from Singapore to do this. A few hours before the supperclub on 13 November, I was absolutely relieved to get everything done in time for the guests.

Lychee chiffon cake

So after the nightmare that was the oven, you can imagine how anxious I was in having ‘em desserts meet the customers, especially since Goz was serving up his famous (and very very very yummy, I can attest to this) gula melaka ice cream right before my macarons and chiffon cake were presented to the guests! But I am glad to report that they received positive reviews despite the oven drama that I went through, and despite the fact that Goz set really high standards with his gula melaka ice cream. Some supperclub guests asked how I made the macarons and chiffon, others asked if they could order baked goods from me in future, some were wowed by the macarons, others were bowled over by the chiffon cake. I was just buzzing with nerves and excitement, then flooded with relief when everyone went home feeling happy about the desserts (or at least, they pretended to, being very cordial people they are!). T, one of the guests, left a comment on my Facebook page on the chiffon cake, and Jen who writes at Hungry Tiger Thirsty Dragon gave  us some glowing reviews on the desserts.

Jen has  kindly given me permission to quote an excerpt from her review here:

Desserts were the highlight of the evening: the gula melaka ice-cream was divine, salty-sweet with gorgeous caramelised notes. Guest-chef desserts were courtesy of Rachel of The Pleasure Monger: gula melaka macarons and lychee chiffon cake. The macarons were so good I could forgive the double-dose of gula melaka, and the chiffon cake was wonderfully airy and fresh.

Did I learn anything from this? Yes, a hell lot! Did I gain some confidence, which I’ve been told I severely lack? Yes, a teeny bit. Would I do this again? Yes, why not! Did I have fun? Without a doubt!

There you go, my first guest chef experience, and hopefully more to come.

Before I go, I’d also like to say that Goz’s rendang is DA BOMB, and personally, I would die for it. M gushed, ‘Man, Goz CAN cook!!’ as he fought me off with his spoon when I tried to stake a claim on the rendang. So, I’m urging you to sign up for the Plusixfive supperclub – hop on over here to find out how. Read these reviews if you’re not convinced! And scroll on for some snapshots of what you missed at the supperclub!

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 Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

The Pleasure Monger serving up at Plusixfive tonight!

Hello everyone! Just dropping by quickly to make an announcement, well…sort of anyway, because something’s big happening tonight at a mysterious location in London and I’m part of it!

Those residing in London may have heard of (if you haven’t, I wonder if you’ve been living under a rock…) PlusixfiveTHE supperclub that has been making waves in the dining scene with its kick-ass Singaporean food. Now, head chef gozgozgoz has kindly invited me to serve up some sweets tonight (some of you may have caught wind of this on Twitter, and boy, am I glad that gozgozgoz thinks I’m worthy of his supperclub)! It kinda came at a good and bad time. You see, I have been toying with the idea of doing the whole baking thing on a small-scale commercial basis after receiving some requests to do dessert tables for weddings in Singapore (I can’t do this ladies, because I’m not based in Singapore..unfortunately), but never had the guts/opportunity to do it, so this was the perfect thing to be commissioned for. The bad really showed up unannounced when I ran into some oven trouble last week and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to deliver. After a whole week of troubleshooting, I’m happy (and relieved) to present my Gula Melaka Salted Caramel Buttercream Macarons, and a new-and-improved version of my Lychee Chiffon Cake for the supperclub tonight!

This may be nothing much for all you funky, cool, talented chefs out there, but for a nondescript home cook like me, this fares pretty high up on the list. Wish me luck, everyone! And to all who are attending the supperclub tonight, I hope you enjoy the dinner (and the sweets, hehe)!

*Updated: This post is featured on Tastespotting. Check out my profile on  Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

My 7 Links

I’ve been tagged by the lovely Lady J on the 7 Links Blog Project, which was created by someone (please enlighten me if you know who it is!) to showcase the top posts from tagged bloggers in 7 categories. The tagged blogger then extends the invitation to do this meme to another 3 bloggers, so if you google this project, you will see that many before me have already done this!

It’s a mammoth task, I would say, to identify 7 of my top posts in these categories. I mean, every post that I’ve written here is a story that I’ve lived through, whether it’s about love, family, friends, and of course, food. So, whilst not many readers may agree with this, all my posts do mean a lot to me because they are part and parcel of my life!

For those who are new to my blog, I would of course ask you to start reading my blog from the very beginning, but that might overwhelm you, so I guess the 7 posts would do! If you’re a regular reader, perhaps some of these 7 posts would resonate with you, but do let me know if you think I have other posts that might better fit the bill!

1. My Most Beautiful Post

My husband, M, brings out the best in me, and all the most beautiful posts on my blog, be it words, photos, or our stories, are inspired by our times together…all our ups and downs, as a matter of fact. Here, I write about finding love, and finding beauty in imperfection in The Truth About Love.

2. My Most Popular Post

According to my site statistics, you guys are loving The Prettiest Cake I’ve Ever Made – Ispahan. This was an entremet that I made having been inspired by my favourite pastry chef, Pierre Hermé, who invented the incredibly seductive trio of flavours that are raspberries, lychees and rose. It was also the very first entremet that I crafted and in my humble opinion, one of prettiest pastries that I’ve put together. This was indeed a mean feat for me, because I’m not the most artistic, or that adept at making beautiful cakes! To my surprise, the editors at WordPress.com loved this cake, so much so that they featured this on Freshly Pressed. The good people at  Foodgawker and Tastespotting thought my Ispahan looked delicious enough to be featured as well, so do swing by and have a look!

3. My Most Controversial Post

So…I’ve ticked some people off on this one. I wrote about how we remained unimpressed by our visits to Paris. I was really misunderstood on this one – what I meant to say was how our visits were thwarted by a series of unfortunate incidents that seemed to happen to us and not anyone else. The less-than-pleasant experience we had in Paris had nothing to do with the jewels of Paris that so many have waxed lyrical on – but my words were misconstrued as a criticism for Paris. For the record, my husband and I are planning on another visit, because we know that treasures are waiting to be found in the City of Lights, and we hope and want to find them. Here’s how I Want To Love Paris.

4. My Most Helpful Post

I mean this in the most literal sense – it’s the most help I’ve tried to organise on my blog and it’s the Fundraising for Japan when the earthquake happened earlier this year. With your help, my dear readers, we raised £1510 for the disaster victims in Japan. I hoped our efforts gave rise to some good for them, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your donations!

5. My Most Surprisingly Successful Post

I wrote this after coming back from the best holiday ever in San Sebastián. I was at my wits’ end as to how I should do the city justice with my mediocre command of the language, and I was dreading how I was going to let the city down. I decided to stop thinking and just feel my way through this post, so I let my senses take over on this one and what transpired was a purely sensual piece of writing that surprisingly, sat very well with my harshest critic (myself), and also the editors on WordPress.com who gave me a much coveted airtime on Freshly Pressed. I remember just diving into this and immersing myself completely in this post as I wrote it. I warn you, this post (pictures aren’t great, but it’s all about the words….) might make you sweat, so brace yourself…San Sebastián – The Land of Promiscuous Eating.

6. My Most Underrated Post

Regular readers would know that I’m obsessed with making macarons. Some of you think that I’m a macaron goddess, not that I am…but errrr…do you know that I once started out this way too? If I can go from a macaron noob to what I have achieved today on the macaron-making front…so can you! Without sounding rude, stop telling me that you’re afraid to make macarons!! Don’t believe it? Check out my macaron journey from the very first post to the latest and I hope you’re inspired to make your own. Now, get your whisk on and just do it!

7. Post I Am Most Proud Of

Not exactly that, but I wrote about one of the things that I am most proud of in this post – starting my blog, writing, and pursuing my hobbies on baking, cooking and food photography that solidly define The Pleasure Monger today. Here’s what I was thinking when The Pleasure Monger turned ONE!

So here they are, my 7 links! Thanks Lady J again for getting me on this one. It was a good way to review everything I’ve written and put some things into perspective! Now for the next 3 bloggers I’m tagging…

1. Sherie at Maameemoomoo.

2. Shulie at Foodwanderings.

3. Annapet at The Daily Palette.

Please feel free to take part in this project even if you’re not tagged, just link it back to this post so we can all enjoy your posts too! Happy reading, everyone!

Happy Birthday, My Little Red Dot

London. A city where M and I chase our dreams, and perhaps even living other people’s dreams. It is fun and exciting. There’s always something to do. The summers are so irresistible and pretty that they make up for all the crap weather that rain relentlessly on us during other seasons. One smells freedom in the air – there are barely any boundaries to what we can do and where we can go.

Sounds perfect, no? Here’s the newflash – nothing is and ever will be. Despite everything we’ve got going on over here, all the milestones that we’ve crossed, and everything that we’ve achieved, we miss home dearly. We miss Singapore.

Some have fondly christened Singapore ‘The Little Red Dot’, for its incredibly small size, so small that it only appears as a red dot at the tip of the Malaysia Peninsula on the world map. But small it might be next to giants in the neighbourhood, Singapore is a whole lot of everything for us.

Singapore is love. Our family and friends are there. Our parents in particular have supported us in all the tough choices we’ve made, even though it is not easy for them. This year, I lived out one of my worst fears when bad news hailed from home. I’m just thankful to the big man upstairs that everything has blown over, and that home will always be home, with my family smiling back at me whenever they pick me up from the airport. Those smiles, hugs and the tender strokes on my head when I am feeling down, they are so very precious.

Singapore is everything else and beyond. Stability, efficiency, safety, we’ve got it going as perfectly as any other country can even dream of.

Think about all the social unrest in other cities. Right now, I’m thinking of the London riots and I shudder at how a developed city could descend into such chaos. Then my thoughts wander back to Singapore and realise how fortunate we are. As M put it very succinctly in one of our conversations yesterday – in London, we have to look out for places that are safe; in Singapore, we have to look hard for places that aren’t.

Things work as efficiently as they can possibly be in Singapore. Public transport letting you down? Trains not coming on time? The city crippled because of strikes? Trains packed to the point where you have to wait ages to board another one? Try living here. Getting banks/organisations to do what you went there to do – try waiting and people even die here while waiting in hospitals. I was in a horseback riding accident once and guess what, the nurse-led unit said I had to be flown to another city in UK to get an X-ray done. Go figure. (Well come to think of it, at least I could be flown, in other undeveloped countries, people walk for a day to get a checkup and even to give birth.)

My point is, every country has its trophies and skeletons. London offers many opportunities, both for carving out a livelihood and for leisure. It gives us freedom, the room to be creative and to think out of the box. But it is freckled. I’m sure there’s much to complain about Singapore too, seeing the debates that recent elections have sparked off. We don’t have that much freedom, we are controlled, some even say we’re puppeted, but I love The Little Red Dot nonetheless. After all, it is home. We have much to be proud of for a young, miniscule country with no natural resources whatsoever next to global giants. Our forefathers built our country with their very hands and little else. I hope we can go on and do the same for our children. Here’s to 46 years of independence and magnificent strides into the future, and more to come!

Happy Birthday, my Little Red Dot. We’ll be home soon.

[Photos: Palm Sugar and Coconut Salted Butter Caramel Macarons specially made for this occasion, from yours truly to you]

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Tastespotting. Check out my profile on Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

 

Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache

When the very talented and prolific Shulie, writer of Food Wanderings, approached me on Twitter to do a guest post for her tree-nut free macaron series, I was, first and foremost, starstruck and busy thanking the high heavens that I was hiding behind a Twitter profile in my unkempt getup so Shulie wouldn’t be able to see how flabbergasted I was. Within two seconds of losing my cool, I realised the dangers of crossing into tree-nut-free macaron zone……and right about 3 seconds later, I grew acutely aware of the itch in my hands to experiment in the kitchen again. Just so you know, the adrenaline rush did the trick and I said yes. Of course I would say yes, it’s Shulie, and we’re talking about macarons here!

Regular readers of this blog would know that I am obsessed with eating them, and I am equally obsessed with making them. I’ve created a multitude of flavours over the past year but to make a tree-nut free one sounded pretty daunting to me. I mean, aren’t almonds the very soul of macarons; if we do away with almonds, which are tree nuts, would I still find feet? Would it still be a….macaron?

I was hesitant, and very intrigued at the same time. It would be wonderful to make this work, however challenging it might be, because people do suffer from tree nut allergies (take Shulie’s son for example) and I hate to know that he can’t enjoy macarons if they were made of almonds. So I did my research..if you don’t know already, the tree nut family is annoyingly large. Almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia -almost every nut you can think of is a tree nut, except peanuts, which are legumes. Just working out the base of the macaron shells was extremely challenging. Predecessors in Shulie’s tree nut-free macaron series, however have managed to make tree nut-free macarons work using pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanut flour and cocoa nibs. I wanted to add on to this variety and soon found myself browsing the aisles of specialist stores, but the answer was right under my nose all this while – sunflower seeds. Now, sunflower seeds are a good source of nutrients and boast a distinctively nutty flavour with a sweet-ish aftertaste; these were just perfect for the shells. The sweetish nutty aroma was a perfect marriage with the salted white chocolate ganache that have been infused with the deep earthy flavours of black truffles; I was very pleased with these macarons.

I hope you enjoy the flavours as much as I have enjoyed making them. Most of all thank you, Shulie, for inspiring me to push boundaries with traditional recipes. I’m glad to have helped create yet another tree nut-free macaron recipe to add to your wonderful series; most of all, I’m happy to be able to offer macarons to everyone who couldn’t have them previously. No one should miss out, and it’s all thanks to your thoughtful initiative, Shulie!

Before you go, you HAVE to hop over here for the rest of the post and I promise you, more photos of my Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache await (I am very proud of this food styling approach I used this time….)! You will also get your hands on my recipe, so please go over now! Say ‘aye’ to nut-free macarons, and say hello to the lovely Shulie too! Oh, if you’re visiting from Shulie’s, a BIG hello and warm welcome to you!

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker. Check out my profile on Foodgawker to see my other featured posts!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.


The Pink Monster Is Here. Again.

My not-so-sincere but sombre apologies to everyone who hates pink. I’ve created a fluffy pink airhead. Yes, I did it again. I mean, I can’t help it, can I? Just look at it, just look at it! Yes it’s pink, but it’s pretty. Like these other ladies who look so alluring in shades of passion. Come on, admit it, you like this. Even if it’s pink… Urgh, forget it, memyselfandI like it, and that’s good enough reason for its existence.

I made Miss Legally Blonde’s reincarnate here, only two days after birthing this pretty lass. Sometime in February this year, I must have been bitten by the lovebug after Valentine’s Day. Pinks and reds were synonymous with amore, as were lychees+raspberries+rose with bites+of+heaven. I couldn’t run away from it. I just had to put these flavours in every single thing I made., well okay, except the curry puffs that sing..(that’s another story). M must have been sick of all these fruity and floral notes in February, not that I really cared…

Making this isn’t complicated at all, contrary to what I thought when I first tried The Ispahan (yes that’s her name). It’s much like making macarons, only bigger! Instead of making a white chocolate ganache base for the filling, I opted for a more weightless alternative – very much befitting an airhead – and made a lychee-and-rose infused whipped cream. This also means that you can’t mature the Ispahan as you do with macarons. The whipped cream is wetter than ganache, and will make the shells soggy. Assemble the Ispahan only when you are about to consume it – that’s the way you should have my version – young and airhead-ish.

Here’s the recipe:

The Ispahan
(Makes 2 Ispahans from 4 shells)

For the shells:

50g egg whites, aged
2g egg white powder
45g caster sugar
70g almond flour
60g icing sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon liquid red food colouring (depends on desired intensity)

1. Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Sift almond flour and icing sugar together in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites and egg white powder till soft peaks are formed. Whisk in caster sugar until stiff peaks form.

4. To the egg white mixture, fold in dry ingredients from Step 2 in 1/3 portions to combine. Add colouring, then fold in the mixture more vigorously. Test the consistency from time to time by lifting a generous dollop of macaron paste and dropping it into the mixing bowl. If the macaron paste does not settle smoothly after 30 seconds, continue folding the paste. If the macaron paste smooths out too quickly, you’ve gone too far.

5. Pipe out the shells (10cm diameter) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking.

6. When a ‘skin’ is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 11 minutes. Rotate the tray and then bake for another 9 minutes.

7. Cool parchment of baked shells on cooling rack. Unmould when the shells are completely cool.

For the filling:
4 pieces of canned lychees, diced finely
250ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 teaspoons essence of rosewater
1 teaspoon lychee liquer
1 teaspoon canned lychee juice

1. Whisk whipping cream will frothy, add caster sugar and continue to whisk till thick and of piping consistency. Do not over-whip the cream as it will split.

2. Add essence of rosewater, lychee liquer and lychee juice to the whipped cream and whisk gently to combine.

3. This cream can keep for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Assembling The Ispahan:

You will need the cooled shells, the cream, 12-14 raspberries and some edible gold lustre.

Note: Only assemble when you’re about to consume or serve this. Once assembled, serve immediately.

1. Pipe the whipped cream onto the centre of the shell, and arrange raspberries around the edge.

2. Add a dollop of diced lychees to the centre of the piped cream (where the large lychee is in the photo –> the intact lychee was added for photo-taking purposes as it looked prettier than a bunch of macerated lychees…).

3. Pipe more cream over the top of the lychee layer (same circumference as the first layer of cream). Also pipe more cream in teardrops between the raspberries.

4. Cover the top with another shell and add raspberries to the top to decorate.

5. Brush the top shell with some edible gold lustre, and dust more lustre on top of the raspberries to create the speckles you see in the photo.

If you love lychees, check out my lychee chiffon cake or my lychee mascarpone & Emperor’s Seven Treasures macarons here! I’ve also made a cake version of The Ispahan, which the editors of WordPress.com really liked, so do drop by and have a look!

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker, Tastespotting and Foodpress. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

Fundraising for Japan – A Success, And Yes, We Have A Winner!

Thanks to your generous donations, The Pleasure Monger’s fundraising event for Japan was a success! We may have fell short of the £2000 target, but we did raise a whopping £1510, which amounts to 76% of our target! To be honest, I wasn’t sure if anyone would donate when I organised this, but a number of you did; the funds that we’ve raised together are so much more than I could ever give on my own. I’m grateful for your support and I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The fundraising page that I’ve set up on JustGiving will run till 2016, so please continue to drop a pound or two to help the victims of the earthquake in Japan. I’m sure everyone knows that the people in Japan are still suffering from the aftermath. For people like us who can’t be there to deliver aid, we can help in other ways. Yesterday evening, I was just thinking how wonderful it would be if everyone who stops by this blog could give a pound or spare some change; we could very well raise £20000 in a month! And then we have other bloggers who are trying their best to raise funds (read the updates at the bottom of this post for more details on how you can get involved), bloggers who are way more popular, prolific and well-known than I am, and if every reader of theirs give a pound for every post they read, they could raise so much more. That £1 makes such little difference to us, but for the victims, every penny counts and the success of the fundraiser thus far proves that we can pool our resources together and make a HUGE difference. So please continue to give, within your means, to any of the avenues that are most accessible to you.

Now, let’s realise the promise I made. When I organised the fundraiser, I said that I would pledge a USD100 Amazon gift card to one lucky donor so long as he/she donates before 31 March 2011 (GMT2359h). So today, I used the random integer generator on random.org to pick a winner and the gift card goes to…….

SHIRLEY!

I’ll be in touch in the next few minutes with an Amazon email containing the gift card. Congratulations and thank you for your donation!

xx