Tag Archives: macarons

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!

Macarons: Be Inspired

I am often asked by readers how I first came to even think about making macarons, how I conquered the wretched task of growing feet on them, how I conjure up flavours and how I style them as I do today. The truth is, I’m mad, mostly, and I’m a flawed perfectionist. Oxymoron, no? Let me explain.

Mad to want to continue making macarons even though sometimes I get slapped in the face with cracked shells and uneven feet, because I really quite enjoy the process of nurturing them into being, and watching my delighted friends savour (or at least they pretend to…) these treats. But a lot of times, I do this at the expense of immense frustration and foul moods that come with getting it all wrong. Sadistic…..? Yes, just a little bit.

And I really do seek perfection in everything I do or make, macarons included. I try my darndest to get them to look right, taste right and even the process has to feel right. If the shells are a tad too chewy, or too crispy, I am inclined to throw them away (although M thinks it’s a waste of food and stops me from doing so now…). If they look wrinkly, they go straight to the bin. If the flavours don’t come together, again, bin-bound. If they look, taste, and feel right, but I don’t style them well, I feel like crap, as if I have wasted the few hours making them.

So it takes the attitude of a perfectionist for me to pursue the whole shebang of making macarons, because I constantly am seeking ways to make them better and better, and I won’t rest until I do. Unfortunately, I am flawed and I’m not a complete whiz at making macarons, so I never quite get them to be perfect. Come to think of it, it might just well be this flawed-slash-perfectionist nature of mine that empowers me with dogged determination when it comes to making macarons.

Above all, I am inspired to make them. And the very man who inspires me (other than M, of course) to do so is none other than pastry maestro, Pierre Hermé, himself. Ever since I had my first bite of his macarons, I never looked back. I was intrigued and captivated by the ingenious flavours that he came up with. And I grew very curious as to how this man could pack so much flavour into such a tiny and delicate mouthful. Before I knew it, I was getting busy in the kitchen, trying ways and means to dig deep into the mystery that were macarons, experimenting like I used to when I was a scientist, troubleshooting problems, discovering the tricks of the trade, playing with colours, dreaming up of flavours that would please my palate, capturing the beauty that belonged exclusively to macarons. My world was changed.

So imagine my delight when I was invited to meet Pierre Hermé for an interview at the Quintessentially Epicure event in early September. And imagine my horror when I realised it fell on the same day as my graduation. Both were once-in-a-lifetime events, but my family was here and I couldn’t possibly miss my own graduation. I was gutted to miss the event and I thought I would never have the chance to meet Pierre Hermé again.

Boy, was I wrong! Just this afternoon, I was invited to attend Pierre Hermé’s book signing event at the Belgravia boutique in London, to celebrate the release of the English edition of his ‘Macaron’ book (which I bought a couple of weeks ago!). And this time, I’m fighting tooth and nail to see him!

So, calling all Pierre Hermé fans, do drop by the boutique on 4 November 2011 Friday, from 4.30p to 6pm, and be inspired by the man himself! If you happen to see me hugging my Macaron book with a silly big grin on my face, please do say hi!

(Weeeeeeeee!!)

Address: Pierre Hermé Paris, 13 Lowndes Street, London SW1

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

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

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

Also check out my other food adventures.

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!

 

The Day I Called On Pierre Hermé…And A Giveaway!

[ANNOUNCEMENT] We have a winner! Congratulations, Sam Becker, you have won the 16-piece Macaron Assortment from Pierre Hermé! We will be in touch with you shortly via email to arrange for the delivery of the macarons to you. I hope you enjoy the macarons!

To everyone else, thank you all for your comments and participation in this giveaway – I know many will be disappointed at not winning this, hopefully there will be more to come for everyone! Otherwise, I’d strongly recommend you to pop by the boutique and get yourself some macarons, they are completely worth the trip!

Friends and family, shakers and movers of this blog, you know how much I love Pierre Hermé, don’t you? If you don’t, all’s forgiven, don’t worry – because it’s never too late to know that I really, really do. So, imagine my delight (well, delight is an understatement, because I was literally bouncing off the walls) when the good people at Pierre Hermé came knocking on my door.

‘Rachel, would you like to drop by our boutique for a visit?’

‘Hell YEAH!’ 

I would be a fool not to, because this, oh this invitation, is akin to winning the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

As I stepped into the chic Pierre Hermé Paris boutique at Lowndes Street, I was Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. The boutique offers a wider selection of Pierre Hermé products than the shop at Selfridges; in fact, it offers the same selection as that in eight out of the ten Parisian shops. There are macarons (but of course), chocolates, tea blends, jams, pound cakes, scented candles and even recipe books available at the Lowndes Street boutique – it took every sane fibre of my being not to go on rampage in the shop. I just wanted to get my hands dirty with every(damnrightdelicious)thing that Pierre Hermé has created.

It’s no wonder why I would feel this way. Pierre Hermé seeks perfection and pleasure in everything he creates. Once hailed as ‘the Picasso of Pastry’ by Vogue, Pierre Hermé has revolutionised the flavours, textures and the art that is pastry-making, and he owes this passion and constant seek for perfection to the lineage of pastry chefs that he came from, the training with the master Gaston Lenôtre, and his Alsatian heritage. Olivier, the manager, also shared that even the boutique decor, packaging and branding were carefully composed – as a result, Pierre Hermé’s products are now well-known and synonymous with perfection. Indeed, having stepped into the boutiques in London and Paris, and sampled a fair bit of Pierre Hermé’s creations, I can testify to all this. I’ve been to many elite pâtisseries during my time in Europe, I have to say that the quality of the pastries created by Pierre Hermé is and remains truly unsurpassed; one bite is all it takes for one to know what perfection should taste like. The pilgrimage that many travellers make to the Pierre Hermé boutiques in Japan, France and London is also testament to how highly revered these refined treats are.

For the uninitiated, you might want to know what treats I’m referring to. Now, I consider myself pretty fortunate to have easy access to Pierre Hermé as I live in London. But with this Golden Ticket, I consider myself even luckier and very humbled by what I was about to sample, thanks to the team at Pierre Hermé. I have to say that it was pretty embarrassing for me to try and stifle my X-rated gasps at the Lowndes Street boutique as I bit into each macaron. That’s the magical thing, you see…I am so familiar with most of the flavours (because I run to the shop at Selfridges whenever I have cravings) and yet, Pierre Hermé’s macarons never fail to surprise me every single time. I am always bowled over by the symphony of flavours, whether it’s the classic ones like Infiniment Caramel (Salted Butter Caramel) or the seasonal ones such as Huile D’Olive & Vanille (Olive Oil & Vanilla) or Asperge Verte & Huile De Noisette (Green Asparagus & Hazelnut Oil). The textures were perfectly balanced, as always, with the slightly crispy and chewy shell giving way to melt-in-your-mouth filling perfumed in the most pleasurable ways. The thing about these macarons is they always tease, please and inspire me – take for example my latest experiment, Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache, which was inspired by Pierre Hermé’s Truffle Blanche & Noisette macaron. That is how I like my pastries – they should make me want to close my eyes to indulge in, and tell stories with the imagery they create.

The pleasures didn’t end there with the visit to the Pierre Hermé boutique. I was also given some chocolates and the Ispahan jam, two products that I have yet to try from Pierre Hermé. These chocolates were some of the most exquisite that I’ve ever had – especially the Corso, which is gianduja with olive oil, fleur de sel and bits of black olives enrobed with dark chocolate. Like salted butter caramel, the Corso wows with savoury notes to the bittersweet and velvety smooth chocolate coating. M even stole some of these chocolates when I wasn’t looking (that didn’t make me very happy…). The jam really impressed as well. I, for one, absolutely adore the Ispahan flavours of lychees, raspberries and rose; this jam was the perfect way to enjoy these flavours without any of the cloyingness that comes with the usual jams. The subtle aroma of rose and tartness of raspberries came through to temper the sweetness of lychees and the sugars used to make the jam. I had this straight out of the jar, and no offence to Pierre Hermé, this was so good that I couldn’t resist slapping some on a peanut butter sandwich. Pierre Hermé makes a range of other flavours as well, such as Envie (pear & violet, blackcurrant), Montebello (strawberry & pistachio) and Eden (peach & saffron, with pieces of tender apricot). Word has it that new macaron flavours are also turning up in September (also the one year anniversary for the Lowndes Street boutique and 10th birthday for the pioneer in Paris!), and a certain Ispahan pound cake is making way into the boutique very, very soon! I’d be camping out to get my hands on these when the time comes!

As you can see, I had a pretty swell time with the folks at Pierre Hermé stuffing my face with macarons, but before you turn green with envy, I would like to share something with you too!

Pierre Hermé Paris is giving away a 16-piece Macaron assortment in a ‘London Landmarks’ gift box illustrated by Soledad Bravi, who is the illustrator for the iconic French Magazine ELLE (last image on this post, credits to Pierre Hermé Paris) to one lucky reader of this blog!

Here’s how YOU can qualify for the giveaway:

1. You have to live in the UK (as the macarons will be delivered to you).

2. Like the Pierre Hermé Paris – London Facebook page and leave a comment at The Pleasure Monger (here on this blog post) with your valid email address and Facebook name, telling me that you did so.

Once you’ve qualified for the giveaway, you can increase your chances of winning by:

1. Following Pierre Hermé Paris – London on Twitter and leaving a comment here on this blog post with your valid email address and Twitter name, telling me that you did so.

2. Liking The Pleasure Monger Facebook page AND liking the link to this post! Leave a comment here on this blog post with your valid email address and Facebook name, telling me that you did both.

3. Following me, The Pleasure Monger on Twitter AND tweeting this message: Pierre Hermé #Macaron Assortment Giveaway @pleasure_monger http://bit.ly/qrvrk5 . Leave a comment here on this blog spot with your valid email address and Twitter name, telling me that you did both.

4. Stumbling this post (when you click on the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see the StumbleUpon button, please click on this!). Leave a comment with your valid email address and Stumble username, telling me that you did so.

The winner will be selected using random.org and contacted via the email address and/or the Facebook/Twitter usernames that you use to comment on this entry. This giveaway will be closed on 3rd August 2011, GMT 2359h….Go on and win some macarons, tell your friends about it and GOOD LUCK!

 

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.

What I Have Been Up To and…My First Guest Post!

I miss you guys, I really do. So here I am, clearing the cobwebs to say……I’m STILL alive and that I hope you haven’t forgotten about me. It’s been a while since I wrote anything here. I’ve got tonnes of comments and emails to reply to (I’m sorry, please give me some time). I have not baked or cooked anything recently. The last thing I made was tau yew bak  (braised pork belly), which took me 4 hours on Chinese New Year’s Eve and that was it. So it must have been a week? And that’s a ridiculous record in my books because it means that I’ve been feeling pent up from the lack of my favourite activities. Nothing remotely interesting happened over the last week. I’ve just been holed up in the study, poring over mountains of journals and books, with a pencil and my laptop fired up to get me to the finishing line. I shan’t say too much here, all shall be revealed by the end of this week. And yes, hopefully, you’ll see me resurrecting my annoying self on Facebook, Twitter and the blog when ‘things are revealed’.

It sounds like I had a sucky week, eh? That was pretty much the case, except for the one thing that I’ve been looking forward to for a month now. You see, I started putting my heart, soul and food (but of course..) out for the world to see on 14 February 2010. As the first birthday of my blog approaches (I’m thinking of making something to celebrate this, any ideas?), I marvel at the journey that I’ve been on for the past year, especially with regards to all the cooking and baking I’ve done. Personal growth as a humble home cook aside, I’ve also had the great fortune of meeting quite a few bloggers through all that writing. One of them is none other than Notabilia, who has invited me to pen my very first guest post. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the birthday celebrations for my blog, so thank you for this party, Notabilia.

For this month’s ‘Cooking With…’ instalment over at Notabilia’s, I created a fusion pastry of sorts, something that is inspired by my home country, Singapore, and my current time in London. Over the years in Europe, I’ve become acquainted with beautifully crafted pastries that have not seen the light of day in Singapore.

One of the pastries that has me eating out of its hand (or feet, you’ll see why) is the French macaron. I became enamoured with these delicate babies when my friend took me for birthday tea at Ladurée in Harrods slightly more than a year ago, and it is an understatement to say that my life was changed after that. A few months later, I took the first bite of Pierre Hermé’s ingenious creations, and I became obsessed, in the most psychotic of ways, with these almond cookies. I endeavoured to make them in my kitchen, the first time without incorporating almonds, and without using the proper method. They were delicious but were without feet. Then I tried making them again, this time using the proper method, and lo and behold, I got lucky. One macaron flavour then paved way for another in my kitchen. I was making them regularly in 2010, constantly thinking of new flavours to try out, and I am always excited to get my hands dirty.

So what are these feet that we’re talking about? You know the ruffle-y bit underneath that smooth surface, the bits that are getting cosy with the filling? That’s the feet. Getting them to appear is a bit of a terrifying, stressful venture that drives bakers nuts, and yes, all macaron aficionados should inspect these cookies for proper anatomy. So we’ve got the appearance sorted. How about the taste? Well, a macaron should have a crispy exterior that yields to a slightly chewy centre, and then the shell should cave to the most luscious cores, such as creams, ganache etc. The difficulties are apparent in making a macaron. We need to master the perfect balance between crisp and chewy textures, and we need a good filling. We also need feet. Such a massive amount of effort goes into making these babies that it’s no wonder bakeries hold these ransom for exorbitant amounts of cash. It is also for this reason, that I have gotten round to making macarons at home.

I’m happy to say that feet are aplenty since my first proper attempt, and I hope they continue to pitter-patter their way through my life or at the very least, take The Pleasure Monger to its second birthday (you see, the business of getting feet or no feet seems to be jinxed and I hope that I didn’t just do my luck in). Enough about macarons and getting all nostalgic on my side, let’s bring you over to my first guest post at Notabilia’s to have a look at the recipe! In the meantime, wait for my return!

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.

 

Happy Chinese New Year

As Chinese New Year approaches, you’ll see a flurry of activities in every Chinese household. We spring clean to rid of ill-fortune and welcome good luck. We deck our homes in red and gold, both auspicious colours for the Chinese, to celebrate the most important traditional Chinese festival. We cook, we bake, we feast and we grow fat with our dear family and friends, all in the name of the new year. It is a time to gather with loved ones, particularly so on the eve of the Chinese New Year when we have reunion dinners with our families. It is a time when we say, out with the old, in with the new. This spring festival lasts for fifteen days, and is so important that even those away from home will endeavour to keep to the traditions of preparing ourselves for a blessed year ahead. Like us.

As we bid farewell to the Year of the Tiger and give a warm welcome to the Rabbit, we find ourselves somewhat wedged in no man’s land for Chinese New Year. This is the 4th year that we’re spending the festival overseas without our families. Nobody kicks up a big fuss over Chinese New Year in London, you don’t feel the excitement in the air, in fact, you wouldn’t even realise that the Chinese are celebrating it unless you set foot into Chinatown. That is where you will see families huddled into crowded supermarkets, peering into baskets and baskets of goodies, filling their trolleys up with groceries and cartons of mandarin oranges, and yes, you might even catch the occasional Chinese New Year song. But once outside of Chinatown, everyone is oblivious to the festival. The only way you’ll experience it is if you step into a Chinese home, such as ours.

Although our home severely lacks decorations, we are on our way to putting up three miserable couplets that we bought years ago. I haven’t managed to get a bunch of pussy willow, and doubt I will have the time to do it. I even contemplated putting up red packets (known as ang baos) on my Christmas tree, which I’ve only taken down last week. We haven’t bought any groceries appropriate for the new year. The only things that hint at the festival are a couple of red packets that we received from our parents, and a heap of oranges and clementines in our fruit basket. Traditionally, tangerines are a symbol of good luck and oranges are that of wealth. You will find that many food items we consume or exchange with family and friends are a symbol of either, or that of good health, happiness etc. These items are chosen as such because their names sound like the respective blesssings in Chinese. We couldn’t get tangerines, but all the same, clementines are a type of mandarin oranges, so that’s good enough for us.

During Chinese New Year, we visit our family and friends to wish them a blessed new year, and to catch up on our lives. No one shows up empty-handed and it’s important to bear gifts as a show of goodwill. These gifts are typically returned in other forms, depending on what the host family has purchased, really. Of these, the most important ones are oranges or tangerines. These are given in pairs, and for the more superstitious host families, never show up four oranges as four sounds like death in the Chinese language. The host families will return the oranges from their own stash to you, and this means that they give their blessings to you too. As you can see, oranges are a staple during the new year, and this, my dears, is the source of my inspiration for the Year of the Rabbit.

With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to put a twist in the traditional Chinese New Year snacks. Instead of pineapple tarts, kueh bangkit, love letters and what-not, I decided to make some clementine macarons to welcome the new year. In a way, it is a perfect {fusion} representation of our circumstance as we are celebrating Chinese New Year in London. I put a dash of grated clementine zest in the macaron shells and made them a beautiful sunset shade of orange with the wonderful bottle of food colouring that Dad gave me in December last year. I also filled the shells with an orange buttercream that has been infused with orange zest and orange and lemon juice for the citrusy fragrance and tartness. The flavours worked beautifully (although they turned out a little sweet because my oranges were unusually sweet) and I think they make rather pretty gifts. So if you would like to present something different to your loved ones this year, why don’t you make a box of these clementine macarons instead? The possibilities are endless, really. You can make the buttercream however sweet or tart you want, and you could even make pineapple macarons in place of pineapple tarts.

I’m really happy with these macarons and wish I could box them up and give them to our families. But everyone’s 6000 miles away and besides, M and I might just finish the whole stash before our friends come over tomorrow night…..Oh well, there’s always next year, and the year after…..

For now, the plateful of clementine macarons do well to brighten up our currently un-festive home. That, and a bunch of oranges and a couple of red packets. Oh, and the couplets too. Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! I wish you prosperity, good health and happiness for years to come. Have a good one, and eat loads on our behalf!

Here’s the recipe:

Clementine Macarons with Orange Buttercream

For the macaron shells:
(adapted from heavenwildfleur)
Makes 34 shells

66g egg white, aged
2g egg white powder
60g caster sugar
90g almond flour
110g icing sugar
1/3 teaspoon grated clementine zest
A few drops of orange food colouring

1. Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Blitz almond flour, icing sugar and grated orange zest to combine and make the meal as fine as possible. Sift blitzed ingredients 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 onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking.

6. When a crust is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking.

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

For the Orange Buttercream:

100g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice (adjust levels according depending on personal taste)
3 teaspoons orange juice (adjust levels according depending on personal taste)
2/3 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange-infused milk (leave 1 tablespoon orange zest in 2 tablespoons of milk in fridge, overnight)

1. Beat butter and icing sugar together till creamy.

2. Add juices and zest and beat till smooth.

3. Add milk and beat till combined. If this is too runny, chill buttercream before piping onto shells.

4. Fill cooled macaron shells with buttercream and sandwich.

Enjoy!

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.

 

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

When the Mactweets Challenge: MacAttack #13 came around, I knew it was time to get some egg whites out and age them a little. We were warned that this was the 13th challenge, you know, the unlucky number for some, and guess what, I had a bit of an unlucky start this time! I was all ready to whip my egg whites up for Fall-themed macarons, and as luck (or the lack thereof) would have it, I spilled the aged egg whites before I could even grow feet on the macs. My clumsy hands in an over-packed fridge were very much like bulls in a china shop, I knocked the whites over, mopped up the gooey spill and mourned the tragic loss of my aged egg whites. I was ready to throw in the towel and skip this challenge but macaron gurus, Jamie from Life’s a Feast and Eunice from Heaven in a Wild Flower assured me that fresh egg whites will whip up nicely anyway. Heeding their advice, I cracked some new eggs and separated the whites from yolks. There was no looking back and I was glad that I listened to them.

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

For this month’s challenge, we were asked to create macarons that spoke of what Fall meant to us. The first thing that I thought of was a piping hot cup of Japanese green tea in my cold, cold hands! I admit I did dream about sipping on a mug of hot chocolate about two seconds after I thought about green tea, but I felt that hot chocolate was a little too much for autumn, and better appreciated in the bitter cold of winter. I had wanted to make a matcha & white chocolate mascarpone filling (which I made last month and friends loved them), but I had a tin of adzuki bean paste in the pantry, just dying to be married to matcha already. I couldn’t deny a match made in heaven, could I?

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

 

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Whilst I am not a big fan of winter in London, I quite like autumn. Yes, most of the trees are bald in the blink of an eye, but the occasional tree is decked out in warm gold leaves that turn a seductive shade of mahogany. To me, it is the rarity of this sight that makes London very beautiful despite the cold and the ubiquitous bare trees. Regrettably so, it can get too cold to wander along the streets, and when that happens, what I love most is to curl up in my couch, with a duvet draped round my legs and a cup of hot Japanese green tea to sip on. With every cup of green tea, I also insist on having something sweet to nibble on. This is the ‘way of life’ that M and my sister-in-law, M have instilled in me. Both Ms are true connoisseurs of teatime accompaniments and I am glad that I have been well-taught.

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

 

 

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

For about two months now, I’ve been a bit obsessed with matcha, and have made cupcakes, polvorons, macarons and more cupcakes with matcha (posts to follow soon). There’s nothing I like more than having matcha-based pastries with hot green tea. The flavours are strong, yet subtle and so very alluring. Here, the sweet earthiness of adzuki beans are perfectly balanced with the bittersweet matcha & white chocolate buttercream. If you love matcha as much as I do, you might want to get cracking on these macarons in your own kitchen.

Here’s the recipe:

For the macaron shells (makes 22 shells):
(adapted from heavenwildfleur)

55g egg white (these are not aged, and will turn out a little more chewy)
3g egg white powder
45g caster sugar
70g almond flour
80g icing sugar
1 teaspoon green food colouring
Black sesame seeds

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 onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on the shell.

6. When a crust is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking.

7. Cool parchment of baked shells on cooling rack. Unmould when the shells are completely cool. (I also dusted the shells with a little bit of edible gold lustre, they do give a nice sheen but they didn’t show up well on the pictures..)

For the Matcha & White Chocolate Buttercream:

55g white chocolate
40g unsalted butter
50g icing sugar
5g matcha powder (you can add more if you like a stronger flavour, as the sweetness of ready-made adzuki bean paste can differ – See ‘Assembling’ section below)

1. Melt white chocolate and butter and leave to cool.

2. Beat in icing sugar and matcha powder until well-combined and creamy.

Assembling macarons:

1. Spoon matcha cream onto one shell.

2. Add one small dollop of adzuki bean paste on top of the cream.

3. Sandwich, and you’re done!

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Hope you enjoy making these and let me know what you think of the recipe!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey. And if you can’t get enough of matcha, you might like my Lychee Chiffon Cake with Matcha Whipped Cream Frosting.

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 Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

 

Lychee Mascarpone & Emperor’s Seven Treasures Macarons


Lychee Mascarpone and Emperor's Seven Treasures Macarons

This is a first for me on two levels. I have been encouraged by heavenwildfleur to join the Mactweets challenge for a while now, and yes, after making macarons a few times now, I am happy to say that I’m finally onboard with the folks at Mactweets! For this attempt, I’ve also used a new way of incorporating flavours into my macarons…with tea-infused jelly! As you can see, this is all very exciting for me!

Lychee Mascarpone and Emperor's Seven Treasures Macarons

This month’s Macattack Challenge 12 is PINK, and mind you, this is no ordinary pink. It’s PINK, representing the pink ribbons for the Breast Cancer Awareness month of October. I am very glad to be partaking in this on my first Mactweets challenge, as breast cancer is a debilitating disease that has struck close to home when one of my loved ones was diagnosed with it a few years ago. So most of all, whilst it is exciting to be caught up in the macarons buzz, this challenge is very meaningful to me. If you’re able to, please do spread the word and take part in the campaign for raising awareness on breast cancer. Thank you.

Lychee Mascarpone and Emperor's Seven Treasures Macarons

As I’ve mentioned, I am trying out a new way of incorporating flavours to my macarons. This is not a novel method, but it certainly is in my kitchen and thank goodness, it worked! My friends loved the macarons, even more so when they knew that these were made for a good cause.

I have always loved the Ispahan, a lychee-based rose pastry, and so for this challenge, I decided to make some lychee mascarpone macarons. I wanted to give another dimension to the sweetness of lychees, and to achieve this, I made some jelly infused with one of my favourite teas, Emperor’s Seven Treasures, which is a blend of different green and black tea leaves with fruity peach-like nuances. I thought this was a really delicious combination; the floral and fruity fragrance of the tea-infused jelly complimented the sweetness of lychees and white chocolate mascarpone very well! The watery and soft nature of jelly also cuts the thickness of the lychee white chocolate and mascarpone cream I made, and when eaten on the day after they were made, the cream and jelly came together as a wonderfully light filling with different textures to delight the palette.

Lychee Mascarpone and Emperor's Seven Treasures Macarons

Here are the recipes for the shell and filling.

For the macaron shells:
(adapted from heavenwildfleur)

100g egg white, aged
3g egg white powder
90g caster sugar
140g almond flour
160g icing sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon red food colouring

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 onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking.

6. When a crust is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking.

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

For the Lychee White Chocolate Mascarpone Cream:

120g white chocolate
20g unsalted butter
150g mascarpone, room temperature
150g lychees

1. Melt white chocolate and butter and leave to cool.

2. Blitz lychees in food processor, remove the juice by pressing purée through a sieve. Retain 6 tablespoonsful of the lychee juice, and also retain all of the pulp.

3. Whisk mascarpone till loosened, and beat in white chocolate mixture till combined.

4. Add the lychee pulp and 3 tablespoons of lychee juice, beat till combined.

For the Emperor’s Seven Treasures Tea-infused Jelly:

1/2 tablespoon Emperor’s Seven Treasures tea leaves
120ml boiling water
3 tablespoons lychee juice (from above)
1 tablespoon gelatin (depends on the instructions on the packet and how hard you want the jelly to be)

1. Steep tea leaves in boiling water and lychee juice for 10 minutes. Filter.

2. Add gelatin to filtered tea and refrigerate to set.

3. Once jelly is set, cut jelly into small cubes.

Assembling macarons:

1. Spoon lychee mascarpone cream onto one shell.

2. Add 2-3 cubes of tea-infused jelly on top of the cream.

3. Sandwich, and you’re done!

There you go, my PINKarons for PINKtober and my first Mactweets challenge! Hope you enjoy making these and let me know what you think of the recipe!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey. But if you adore lychees, you might like my Lychee Chiffon Cake with Matcha Whipped Cream Frosting. Also check out my Lychees, Rose and Raspberries Entremet here – The Ispahan Cake!

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

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post is featured on Foodgawker, Tastespotting and Photograzing. Check out my profiles on PhotograzingFoodgawker and  Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!