Monday, December 27, 2010

L to R: Green tea, Peppermint, Lemon and Tiramisu
The fruit of many hours in the kitchen. Credits to Weizhen for giving me the idea of doing a tiramisu version... V (close friend) really liked it even though she isn't even a macaron person. One of Gem's friends also enjoyed the tiramisu one. Whoopee! :D
Thinking that i would be leaving on sunday for my Canadian adventure, i thought i had time to do up the literature review of my dissertation. But instead, i discovered that the 31st is THIS friday. Good job, Jo. So now i'm rushing out my literature review and am guessing that i'm making more headway in these few hours than in the last 7 months.
Just thought of sharing this photo with you, as part of my macaron madness journey. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

it's been birthday meals after birthday meals (treats from friends and family. love.), and then doing my research's interviews in the last week or so.

and today, i spent 14 hours in the kitchen baking macarons for parties i'm going to. it was a real macaron marathon i tell ya. started the morning off with coffee-chocolate shells (zen's great idea of making tiramisu macarons), and moved on to making green tea shells, then lastly, lemon shells. from 10:30am to 12:30am, thereabout. I really enjoy the process, i'll admit. though the repetition of steps and the worry over whether the macs will crack/will not have feet/will have lopsided feet drives me a little nuts.

and i found out 2 keys things to prevent macaron death. 1) get level trays. 2) Air-con

Spoilt biscuits, aren't they? Even i don't rest in air-con rooms. hurhur. the lengths i have to go to to make them, just because i live in singapore where the humidity is high.

can't wait to experiment with flavours! going to attempt to deviate from the usual flavoured white chocolate filling and try making a buttercream. It's lots more work though. Meh.

hopefully i'll have photos to show you tmr. :) for now, toodles, good night.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Counsellors and people who have done transcribing before will know this.

1hour of recorded conversation takes about 8 hours to transcribe. Recently did an interview that lasted 1hr 25 minutes or so. And i have 5 more interviews to do.

Jesus, I need your divine speed...


Opened the fridge to find little brown-yellow bits on the shelves. Thinking they were broken pieces of fried noodles, i nudged one of them with my finger to swipe it off the shelf. I noticed it was soft but thought, maybe it was the, i don't know, the cool air and liquids that softened the noodle.

Then it hit me. Each piece of "broken noodle" was the same length. One had a tiny black dot on it, conveniently looking like the noodle had an eye.

Then i thought: Worm? Maybe. But they aren't moving. Maybe they are dead.

Took a piece of tissue and picked one up and did a double take when i found that my noodle MOVED. IT WIGGLED. @#$$%$^%&*&!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you know me well enough, you will know that worms are my greatest nemesis. Next to snails.

I was shrieking bloody murder inside but managed to clear off all my "broken noodles" from the fridge shelves with enough tissue so that my fingers wouldn't be able to feel their soft bodies.

I called mum in her office (yes, i was that desperate to find out where in the world the critters came from) and i was told they came from one of the mangoes.

Now i jump at the slightest sensation of anything wriggly or ticklish on my skin. Ugh.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Made green tea macarons today! They were pretty much a success because i decided to be patient and pipe less macarons on each baking tray. It minimised the number of fail macs so for once i had more "pass" than "fail' mac shells. Gave most of them to 2 friends by the end of the day and i'm hoping they like 'em. It's really a pleasure to just bake and give the outcomes away. I'm enjoying the baking process so much so that the pleasure is all in the baking and not the eating.

I kept the fail ones to eat and one nice one to take a shot of and post it here tomorrow.

So far i've been achieving some level of success with the italian meringue method, but i still have that annoying problem of having a hollow space in between the shell and the base. Oh well. They taste fine, but perhaps the texture isn't quite so satisfying.

I'm quite determined to achieve success with the french meringue method. In all my 4 attempts, i've failed 4 times. But i'm not throwing the towel in yet. I've already got my egg whites aging on the dining table, waiting for their turn to be made into macarons... i need ideas on what flavour i should attempt next.

So far, i've done:
- rose with white chocolate filling
- chocolate with chocolate and vanilla-peppermint filling
- green tea with white chocolate and passionfruit ganache/chocolate peppermint filling
- lemon/orange blossom with lemon curd filling

hmm, what's next? Maybe...

- chocolate with salted caramel
- vanilla/chocolate with peppermint buttercream
- chocolate with butterscotch filling
- some fruit thingy...?
- some cinnamon thingy?
- some lavender thingy?

I owe my sister a pure peppermint one with crushed candy canes in the filling. Am trying to devise a yummy way of making that macaron.

Going to zonk out now, in 3,2,1.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Short note to self:

1) too much green tea powder killed the green tea macaron!
2) but this time, my french macarons didn't fall flat and didn't have that hollow beneath the shell which is a good thing. so, aged eggs do work. i left the egg whites on my dining table for 24 hours before using it. no feet still though, but it's an improvement nonetheless.
3) mom questioned me on how much money i throw away every time i make an inedible fail batch.... i've made a calculation, and depending on what i put in the batter, it can range from $4-$17 bucks. So far, that is. my heart breaks every time macarons go straight into the bin, but what am i to do? they are just simply not edible.

in other news, my 4-5 year old Acer Travelmate has died. Hard disk crashed. And has taken away all my recipes with it. Really sad but what am i to do? Dad and i also discussed that paying a base cost of $350 that can balloon to $3000 for the lost data is not worth it. So... it's goodbye school work, music, photos, recipes. May whatever cyberspace god that that is out there watch over you. sigh. :(

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Note to self:

1) the left/back side of my oven sucks big time. Temperature rises really really fast, i finally saw it objectively with my oven thermometer.
2) the right side sucks small time, so beware.
3) To increase number of successful macarons, pipe batter in the middle of the tray and place in the middle of the oven, (therefore, try to "undermix" the batter a little since i'm going to have the batter sitting in the piping bag), OR,
4) Pipe as per normal but place tray in vertically and to the right side, and shift tray around as per needed. Eg. When macarons start to puff up, crack, etc. I'll still lose some though... I think i might go the way of point 3. Much less heartbreak and wastage.

Made some lemon ones with my newfound technique. Some got destroyed due to uneven heat but otherwise, i think i can now finally finetune my baking time to achieve a less dry macaron. 14 minutes seems a little too long. Shall try 12-13minutes the next time.

Chocolate shell with dark chocolate mint filling, and the other one is lemon with lemon curd filling. I can't wait to make my green tea with white chocolate ones! The green tea powder is pricey so i've to make sure that i can consistently make okay macarons before using the matcha powder.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

After my 4 failed trays of macarons (4! FOUR! That's a painful lot of failed macarons...) two nights ago, yesterday afternoon i gritted my teeth and set to work again to find out what went wrong and what i should be doing to achieve nice looking macarons. Notice i say "nice looking", because perfecting the insides is another madcap adventure altogether.

The recent consistent failures really started to sap my reservoir of hope and belief in myself. For every 1-2 pretty macarons you see here on this blog, there were tons more that didn't make it. Tray after tray of wasted ingredients, time, money and energy.
But it was those early successes (Thank You Lord!), without knowing how in the world i did it, that's keeping me driven to keep trying. It was because i managed to make them before that i know it's possible to make macarons at home! It's not just for the professionals. I read up on macaron 101s from credible bloggers (who are equally MacCrazy), made notes and tried to understand the problem behind the failures.

So back to yesterday afternoon.

Inserted my first (rather crowded) tray of macarons into the oven, and as usual, they started their dismaying habit of puffing up and cracking, and not developing any feet... In my desperate attempt to save them, i opened the oven door slightly to reduce the temperature in hope of stopping the impending macaron death. Before, i would have kept the temperature at 150degress (Heat should be set to come from the bottom. But that's just my oven.) because that's what the recipes said.
But this time, i decided to take things into my own hands. (though i did remember some advice out there that mentioned to lower the temperature once you put the macarons in. some people agreed, some disagreed. i didn't think it would work for me, but...)

Strangely, i noticed that some macarons looked smooth. The top wasn't cracked, and to my delight... they started to develop FEET. Even, pretty feet. The pretty ruffled bottoms! I was on the verge of screaming. Hyperventilating. But okay, theatrics aside, all i did was message 2 of my life's dearest people, Jiejie and Gem.

Sure, some of the macarons died because of the uneven heat distribution in the oven. BUT HEY! Some turned out looking REALLY good! I was ecstatic. And i still had one more tray to experiment with.

So, preheated the oven back up again to 150-160degrees (it overshot a little this time) and buanged the 2nd (not so crowded) tray in. I did the same thing, which was to let the temperature settle down to 140degrees thereabout. I had to sit in front of the oven and stare into the window very intently, watching the oven themometer's needle and watching my macarons' reaction to the heat.

Result: Perfectly smooth, feet-ed macarons. I was so pleased. And messaged Jie and Gem that i could now Rest in Peace.
(to which Jie replied: "Dun die so fast leh, u havent made the peppermint ones")
Oh yeah, I had promised to make her those.

I'm not 100% sure if this is the solution to my macaron problems (other than not making them on a humid day). So i'm going to try again soon to replicate the conditions, after i'm done eating/passing out to GP List the ones i just made. The positive thing about seeing the same looking failed macs is that i know i'm doing everything consistently. Which means, there are perhaps only just 1-2 (God forbid more than that) factors that need to be tweaked. Guess it turned out to be the temperature fluctuations.

I'm guessing that the higher temperature first allowed the shells to puff up nicely and harden while the falling temperature ensured that they don't crack right through. 140degrees allows the insides to cook and the macaron to form pretty feet.
The 1st tray. With dead and live macarons.

The beginnings of a discovery...
And here! Pretty macarons! FINALLY! After so many heart breaks.

I've got empty lemon and chocolate shells waiting to be filled... Yummy. :D Shall go look for ideas now. It took so much reading up to get the right tips online! Once I get consistent results with the italian method, i'm going to venture into the french method. Muah hahaha...
Now, if only the same zest for my dissertation would kick in...