Monday, October 24, 2011

First post after a month at work

Where have I been you ask?

It's been about 1 month since I've started at my new workplace. In summary... I'm on a ridiculously steep learning curve.

I've had 1 traumatic event, which happened to be my first ever case done as an employee. That sure was scarring, but I learnt valuable lessons: to not be intimidated, to find ways out from being cornered to give solutions.

And then though i had expressed reservations about working with a certain population of folks, i'm now working with them and I must say they are generally a delightful bunch once you can engage them.

There have been times that i mentally try to plan an escape route for myself... I entertain strange thoughts like running away to work in a cafe, run away to be employed in something less taxing on the social front... Things like that. Because things can get so hard. In the initial weeks, I was really shaking in my shoes, worried that I'll be assigned a counselee. I felt like I wasn't ready, I felt indescribably anxious. I was a wreck behind my desk. Stressed, worried, desperately praying, fearful, feeling inadequate. You name it.

To some extent, my anxiety has lessened... and I'm not sure if it's because my self psycho-ing is working or whether it's because I'm suppressing my fear. I've written out all the words of encouragement and prayer that people have given me and stuck them on my cubicle walls. I read them and meditate on them when I'm afraid. I have to constantly tell myself that I want to love my job, i'm just here to help, I'm just here to love, just here to be human to another human being. I want my life's purpose to be in sync with my job, and I want to see it as part of my life and not separate.

I knew this was a journey with the Lord, my choices have all along been made with the intention of following the Lord's guidance. I also knew that this wasn't an easy path to take, but I know that the Lord has meant for me to be here, right now. That's the thing that gives me the assurance to carry on and to carry on in good faith that He will protect me and lead me through no matter what.

I know that it's not an easy path to take because i began with the understanding that it's part of God's plan to mould me. And as we all know, a moulding and refining process is never easy. Hence the struggling. I'm faced with my personal fears every day. Which would explain my heightened levels of anxiety.

Yet looking back, i think i've come some way. About 2 years ago, i was way more anxious. While I waited for a student to walk in for counselling, I was in a state of near panic. I would be getting sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, racing thoughts. I remember jumping in my seat every time i heard the sound of the lift landing at the floor I was on.

I don't feel that kind of panic now, but i do still feel pretty stressed. So i take the time to examine my thoughts and try to plant more helpful thoughts in my head to stop myself from over thinking and reacting.

So yeah. This has been the state of affairs. Some might think i'm being too hard on myself. Maybe I am. I guess it's because i just don't want to hurt anyone. I just want to get better at what i do so that I would be able to bring more help than confusion.

Lord. Let me know that You are near. That I'm never alone in that counselling room. You are the greatest counsellor who ever lived and who still lives. Help me to love your people just like you do, and attend to their deepest needs wherever they are at. Help me to grow and mature, and to sharpen my skills so that I can help bring light to what has been in darkness. I'm determined to walk through this because you have ordained this so. Lord, have your way! In Jesus's precious name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Farewell, but not a Goodbye!

We've been friends since junior college and i always, ALWAYS am thankful for all the times we've shared together. So many that i need photos to remind me of the things we got up to. I didn't enjoy college life (i thought i would, since it was the "cool" college to be in) but in the end, i hated it but instead met the core group of people who would be my friends for life. I thank God for them. :)

Y will be going to HK for a work stint and though we don't meet up as often as we should, the months that she will be away will be felt, honestly. So we decided to have a girly meet up over tea and delicious bites at this place called Arteastiq at Mandarin Gallery.

The 2SC10 Library Gang
Y's Ginger spice tea. It has a good ginger kick! Me like. Comes with biscuit, milk and sugar cubes.

That's where the good spice kick comes from

Lychee... something... Can't remember. I just remember thinking that everything was presented so prettily.

My duck breast wrap. It was soooo good. On the sweet side though, but that suits me just fine. I was amazed at how much salad they were able to squeeeze into that tiny bowl/cup. The other stuff in the plate includes the mushroom soup (thick and had loads of finely chopped mushrooms), croutons and a garlic puree salad dressing (spicy! and left us all garlicky in the mouth)

The wrap, upclose.

Monkeying around as usual.
You can probably tell that we had set a theme, which was so wear summery dresses. So tai tai, huh. :) But it was nice to play dress up for our girly outing la. Since we hardly ever do something like this.

I'd say the food isn't cheap and for bigger eaters, you might find the portions a little wanting. Which is why ordering your food with the teas might help fill you up. The general sentiment was that the food was good, so, if you don't mind paying for presentation, you can try this place. The ambience is lovely: dainty, delicate, whimsical.

We'll be having another outing soon, just to spend more time with Y before she goes. And hopefully when i start working (*kaching!*kaching!*financial freedom*!) and when XH's baby gets a little older, we can troop over and raid Y's apartment in HK. Teeheehee.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I could have been born anywhere in this world. I could have been born in poverty, or a place where the news of Jesus has not been reached. I could have been born into a rich family, or a messed up family, rich or poor or average.

But God put me here. I know what comfort is. I also know pain. I know who God is because of my upbringing and being in a community that has helped lead me in my walk with God. I may not be in the most perfect situation, as there are always worst, or better.

And I see, that i have much to be thankful for. I don't know the whole picture, but there must be reasons for me to be here and not somewhere else. And that's comforting to know. :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Coupla new food adventures over at the food blog, I've added the link now under Bare Essentials. :D

Monday, August 15, 2011

Marina Barrage

Went to Marina Barrage and the weather was looking iffy over in the west, but NEA said that it was merely going to be cloudy over at our destination. So, with faith we journeyed to the marina barrage!

It was the first time in my ENTIRE life (so far), that I stepped onto Marina Bay Mrt station. Seriously. And so, here we are! This was the less "open" way in though it all leads to the same place. The architecture of the barrage is quite something to behold. And then it opens up to reveal a wide open space. But that's not all...

Us on top where everyone is either kite flying, picnic-ing, snapping photos, playing cards, lying around, frisbee-ing... oh, it was grand. :) There was so much happiness going on up there. These grassy slopes remind me of the architecture of the arts faculty in NTU.

What seemed like the residential kuching. People stopped by to pat the little girl. She was such a pretty ginger cat.

She had orange eyes!

She looks like she's having a word with God now.
No sitting? I lie down. :) Metal sculpture of something along the lines of: What goes around, comes around. Can you see us in the reflection?

Not very nice composition but I loved the sky... For some reason, the red from the sky was captured on the camera's screen but not when i uploaded it and viewed it on the PC. Meh.

Gorgeous skyline.

Pilgrimmage to a macaron place...! ($3 per macaron. omg. Flown over from Belgium.) Every time I encounter a macaron "degustation" session, I would scrutinize them like a mother in law would scrutinize her future in laws. HAHA. I stare, squint, touch, assess... I'm thinking: which mac is this? French? Italian? What do the feet tell me? What do the shells feel like? Why is it not shiny? Matt? Where is the filling? It's suppose to be visible! Are the shells hollow? Are they fully matured? How does it feel at the first crunch, where's the chewy texture???

The first nom. We had, vanilla, passionfruit chocolate, gingerbread, hazelnut and caramel. They were delicious but I notice something rather interesting. My first bite was met with crunchy shells! It was so odd! It was also biscuity and wafer like. It was CRISPY?! Though the inside was slightly damp looking from the filling. But it was just pure strange. As recommended, i let them rest for a few more minutes before taking another bite The insides did soften but I must say, they still had quite a bit of crispy going on, which I thought was rather odd. And i think I will conclude that it's because they had to fly over from Belgium and being in the dry cabins, the moisture got sucked out. Hm, it's just my hypothesis because I remember when my sister brought the Pierre Herme's macarons back, they also had this same dry, crisp, texture that was biscuity which i thought seemed very contrary to what I thought macarons were suppose to be like. But of course, then again, I've not had macarons STRAIGHT from the store, so I wouldn't know what its original texture was suppose to be. Anyhow, I still enjoyed them, though $3 a pop is quite... bah. Paid for their air ticket to Singapore.

The last nom.

This was the place.

Beautifully lit trees outside. Loved walking along the wooden boardwalk.

The End! :D

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Hey folks! Man... I'm not sure if anyone comes by anymore, other than my dear friend Zzen. :)

Guess I've just been enjoying my time while waiting for my results of the dissertation, which is back. Not too great, not to nasty either. Out of two reviewers, one called for major changes. I'm given 2 months to complete it, but I'm not going to take all that long... Yes, I'm enjoying my student life, but I think it's about time to get out and earn my keep. Time to save for my big day as well... :)

I've been cooking more, doing stuff in the kitchen so that mum doesn't have to prep dinner when she gets home. Which is fine with me. I love cooking Every opportunity i get, i'd do it!

Posted a couple of posts on my food blog... With more to come. *sly smile*

A church mate asked if I would like to be her baker for her wedding dessert table. OH. HOW COULD I GIVE UP THAT OPPORTUNITY?! I'm honestly THRILLED by the prospect. As much as I would LOVE to do table deco, I know I don't have the experience for that, so we're leaving that to her aunt. I'll just be concentrating on the food.

The theme is "summer" and "pink". So I've got a list of 7 items right now (jie and i sat together to think and research), and maybe I've got to think of a few more, that I'm going to propose to her. I'm not going to do all 7 of course. I'm pretty much a one man show, so... it would be too heavy on me! Thankfully, the choices I've picked are not too fussy. Maybe except for the macarons. But those... those are Divas. And Divas are fussy.

So, with these 7 items and more to come, I'll be doing my experimentation and there'll be photos aplenty. Hoo yeah!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Goodbye KTM

Gem and I visited the KTM railway last sunday. It was quite an experience walking along the railway without fear of, you know, getting zapped to death by the power lines or mauled by an oncoming train. The stuff we saw along the way looked so old that it was a little difficult to comprehend that the trains stopped running only just a couple of weeks ago. We felt like we were visiting ancient ruins from another era.

Just some of our snaps from the day. :)

Us. Before starting our 1.6km walk.

Can't have a railway post without the obligatory track photo.

Train traffic light?

Nice shot of a flower by Gem. :)

We saw some tadpoles swimming in surprisingly clear water.

Super duper ultra kazuper ooooolllddd 3 pin socket and switch.

Old BRICK drain. BRICK!

Tall creepy climbies.

Gem's nice shot of a resident dragonfly.

-.-" Me and my nonsense.

Uh. Like I said.

Very hardy wood plank, part of the train track. Had very beautiful grooves, almost like, i quote Gem, "tiger stripes".

The bridge at rifle range road where we got off the tracks.

Top of the bridge.

We were pretty famished, so I actually gave in to our (yes, our) McDonald's cravings. I hardly ever patronize Macs because to me, Macs food isn't real food. Don't ask me for any rational explanations, I have none. My irrational (?) explanation is that the food comes across to me as plasticky. It's only good when it's hot, and once it cools, I feel like I'm biting in fake rubber food.

I was hoping that our little trekking excursion that afternoon would lead us all the way to the rail mall, but fat chance! Haha. It was one looooong short 1.6km trek.

And yes, from now on, all my food rantings will now be logged in to my new wordpress blog. Hopefully I'll still have the time to cook and bake when I start work! In other news... the results of my dissertation is going to be released soon. *quiver*

Thursday, July 07, 2011

I've done a little updating on my food blog. :) Just sayin'! (

I'm going off now to get some ingredients for something that I've been dreaming of making ever since I saw it on Giada at Home. Blueberry and mascapone cheese turnovers. Mmmm... :D

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I've been silent for a long time. All you needed to do was to press that one button.

I have been having thoughts of moving out and living away because I've had enough of all this breathing down my neck. I'm too old for this nonsense.

Where can I run?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Typing out this post from my iPhone! But I wonder if there's a better and more mobile way to blog on the go. Sorry folks tt it's been quiet here. I've been having quite a lot of thoughts. But just havent had the time or patience to sit still and get the thoughts in order.
I should be back when I'm thrown work to do and tts when I'll be stuck in front of my computer. Haha.

As for the macaron business. Received another request to provide macs for a friend's house warming! Am very honoured and really want to give it my best. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

I've published a new blog.. mainly for my macarons. heehee. :) For now, at least.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

1) My god brother's dad gave me his old iphone 3GS which is still in fabulous condition. I feel sooo blessed. Until now, it still hasn't sunk in tt i now own an iphone. It's not something i would rob the bank for, but it's certainly something i did wish i had from time to time when i see how handy it is in remaining accessible, and accessing people and information. My whole family (plus god brother's) all carry around those coveted devices while i was the only one carrying a lookalike: a white Samsung Jet. haha. I don't have a plan with the 12GB data plan though, so i'm still relying on wifi for now. If you told me 2 years ago that i would be receiving an iphone for free, i would tell you, "that's impossible" and say you're nuts. Well, now lookie here. :) Like i said, very blessed. :)

2) Dissertation has been HANDED IN, believe it or not! Even i cannot believe it. I have looked back and wondered... HOW IN THE WORLD did i actually WRITE THAT?! It's practically a book. For all the months of whining, or moving in gear 1, stalling, and starting up and chugging on... It's finally done. It has not been approved for official printing and hard cover binding YET. It's just been handed in to be examined. Supervisor says she does not foresee much amendments to be made. I sure hope so...

3) Though supervisor tells me to take a break, she then proceeds to tell me about a publication opportunity. I thought: Why not? Good for me, good for her as well. And so... i now have to begin a feat of condensing the 22,600 words dissertation into a 8,000 word document. Good luck to me. I was also told that the process of writing and publication can span from a few months to years, and the journal can also REJECT your article even after you've spent precious time and effort to write it to meet their requirements. I need to be prepared for that.

4) Macaron madness is about to ensue... All for the upcoming WEDDING. I CANNOT WAIT. I can now focus ALL MY ATTENTION on making sure that they turn out nice. In the past, having to multitask between macaron baking, dissertation and washing up meant that my macs would mess up because i wasn't able to watch the oven like a hawk. As a result, the temperature goes way beyond and my macs go boomz. hurhur.

5) Many many meetups with friends to be done. :D Finally!

6) I think i might have discovered a way to ARREST the FLU when you know you're starting to get sick! Disclaimer: this has happened to me only ONCE, so i cannot confirm if it is 10% effective. Anyway, recently, i caught the flu bug from a friend and when i felt the sorethroat, i immediately burst into action: breathing in the aromatic pure essential oils that i have. I have quite a nice collection because i like not just the smell, but the other uses and benefits they have.

I used my aroma lamp (novita, that my group of close pals gave me for my b'day. whee! :D) and practically positioned it beneath my nose and mouth while i was working at the computer. I'd inhale with my mouth wide open. Sure, i DID choke and sputter because the intensity of the oils in the vapour can feel quite uncomfortable (stinging feeling) in your air passageways. But, i noticed that my symptoms started to cease at the runny nose stage. I did have some help from salt (gargle at night to stop soreness and 1 clarinase pill to stop the runny nose on one particular day when i needed to be outside). But other than that, all i did was breathe in oils like clove, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree, pine, thyme, peppermint, lavender, when i sleep or when i was doing my work at the computer. And really, to my surprise, the flu development STOPPED. Well, it could have stopped cos Gem said he's pray for me. Haha. But yeah. The next time this happens? I'm going to replicate it and see how it goes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thought for me today:

I can't just see a person for who he is to become and encourage them in that direction. I need to walk beside them, through the ugly parts and all, to bring them into the reality of that vision.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This sounds weird to me, even. But yes, i'm going to be catering macarons for a friend's wedding. I'm quite dazzled by the whole prospect because i'm really just a novice baker and all i've done is to give macs away for fun. And yes, i still do get downright ugly macarons no matter how many times i've pursued making the perfect ones.

And true, i've ever toyed with the idea of setting up an online store for my baked stuff but even then, they were just dreams... Dreams encouraged by those around me to bring to fruition but gained no real ground because i'm not confident of my ability to commit since i'm suppose to be getting a "proper" job after i graduate. (Friends see the potential but i'm not sure if my family would balk at me becoming a stay home baker. Hmm.)

So yes, to my surprise, a request from an old classmate came around on FB and i readily said yes. It's a great honour. Being able to provide something for a friend on her special day is a great privilege i don't take lightly.

And it's certainly a wonderful opportunity! I'm not sure if you can call it a big break, but we'll see how it goes... I guess i'll only know how good my stuff are when i get feedback from a wide range of people. 500 people at the wedding. No small number, yo. I'm glad i'm just starting off with an order of 200. I cannot fathom making 500 macs at the moment. D-8

Gem and i have had a few conversations on what happens if it really takes off. Not in a large scale way, but what if people begin to write in asking for orders for various events like birthdays and baby showers. Would i be able to manage it all? I don't know. I count myself really blessed that Gem is a designer! He not only designs environmental sets for events, he also has had a hand in designing wedding invitations, namecards and the like. Heehee. So, no mystery as to who will be helping me with my namecard if i even decide on making one. Haha.

So, yes. Although this is going to be my first time doing something like this, i'm going to have to pray hard... That the macs don't mess up on me and my friend on her special day. I hope that everyone will enjoy my handiwork as much as i enjoy making them for their eating pleasure. :)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

I looked down at the last piece of sushi in my plastic box as i was about to cross the road and i was overwhelmed by how fortunate i am to be able to not just eat, but to have the finances to enjoy food, and food that i like.

The food in my palm was a reminder that Sg has to import a large proportion of its food sources and that the balance of the food chain is so vulnerable to the health and state of our planet.

I was also reminded of the people in Japan. Here i was enjoying what many of the affected Japanese may not be able to at this point in time.

My heart ached, but i was also grateful to the Lord.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Italian Meringue, post macaron class...

1st Attempt

1) Used thermometer to measure temperature of sugar syrup.
2) Sugar caramelized although thermometer said it was at 116C, which is about right.
3) In my haste, and absolute bad estimation of what 30 seconds was, i added in the hot sugar into the egg whites and i got scrambled candied omelette in the electric mixer. Fail max.
4) Hard time washing up. And formulating how NOT to mess up the second time. Washing off hard sugar off surfaces ain't easy.

2nd Attempt

1) Used thermometer to measure temperature of sugar syrup. This time, was more careful with the fire, and allowed the temperature to slowly creep up till 116C. Still caramelized around some corners. :(
2) Added it to the eggs in hope that a little browned sugar wouldn't hurt.
3) Wrong.
4) When the sugar hit the cool eggs, the sugar became solid blocks of candy swirling around in my bowl.
5) :(
6) I did achieve a meringue for my pains, but decided that having hard lumps of candy in my meringue won't be nice in my macarons.

3rd Attempt

By now, i am a little cheesed off at myself but i'm not giving up. This time, i decided to use another chef's methodof gauging if the syrup was done. I used her instinctive method of sticking a fork in to syrup and then seeing if i can blow out bubbles from the fork thongs. I had highly doubted if i could even be able to do that cos i... uh, felt inadequate. Not that i doubted her logic, since i've seen her do it.

1) So this time, i did the same thing again, slow but not that slow a fire.
2) Realized egg whites were not beating up into foam cos there was too little in the bowl bah. Added a bit more egg whites.
3) Behold! I tested the syrup at a few points and discovered that I COULD blow bubbles when it was right! I WAS SO PLEASED. And the sugar was NOT caramelized. Geez. No need for troublesome thermometers that clatter about and now i really don't trust this made in china one i bought. Sigh. Money wasted. Next time, if i ever do want to get a cooking thermometer, i should get the infrared type since they don't rely on sitting in the pot and that can cause the tip of the thermometer to touch the bottom of the pot and mess up everything.
4) Added the slightly cooled (30seconds) syrup to the eggs. No mishaps. No cooked eggs, no sugar crystals. Just, nice firm and glossy meringue ready to use.

Third time's a charm, huh?

Lets see how these italian macs turn out... It's my first time making them after those mac classes i've had which taught me a new thing or two. :)

Update: the macs turned out very nice. :) Some still had lopsided feet for some strange reason, but otherwise, they were really nice! :DD

Update: i think the lopsided feet are caused by my uneven and heat warped baking pans! Dargh. Also... italian meringue macs tend to be hollow inside. Sheesh. So the first batch that i made that turned out so nice was simply due to beginner's luck eh.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Credits go to:

Since last year, i've been meddling with tons and tons of sugar, almonds, egg whites and possibly suffering from fat overload from trying to cook and get rid of all the spare egg yolks lying around. All in the name of making one of my favourite desserts: the macaron.

I've tried the french method, italian and even swiss methods of making the meringue and i've had so many failures and partial successes that at times, i throw tantrums just because of a tray of failed macarons. And okay, there was one particular day when i had 16 failed trays all in one row. Talk about discouraging.

But you know. When i want something to be made right, i stick to getting it down right.

I've been reading this blogger's macaron posts over and over again for a while now and i've been given so many tips and pointers without her knowing it. I am forever grateful to her! For her honesty, her candidness, and her efforts, because now i can make macs at home and make macs to give away to others without having to spend a bomb on those being sold commercially which aren't that delicious. Some are great, but would me a pretty penny. (But of course, some flavours are beyond my ability to recreate so i'm still thankful)

Yes, so these are my chocolate macarons made with her recipe that includes dehydrated egg whites. I didn't age my egg whites (read: impatient) but they still turned out decent i guess. What i'm most stoked about is that they are so nicely filled up (no hollows), have nice, smooth, non oily and non translucent shells and they have feet! Most of my french meringue macs die before reaching the oven (weird batter), or come out looking like something else altogether. The only thing i'm not toooo satisfied about is that they do not that that delightfully crisp exterior. They are just soft all the way through.... Hm. :( I wonder if it has something to do with not aging the eggs or not having them rest enough.

Nevertheless... Thank you Miss NSHP! :D

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Little update on my progress writing my book. Uh, i mean dissertation. I don't think people would be very interested reading about this, so this is just me recording down my milestones somewhere so that i get it off my chest. Journaling it somewhere.

I would say I'm doing pretty well, meeting the supervisor vetting deadlines for Chapters 1, 2 and 3. I've currently got my paws wrapped around chapter 4 which is the Results section and all i can say is: This is madness. Just this one chapter has got me laying out 79 pages full of qualitative data. Really tiring and tedious work but you know, this is my hardwork. And honestly, things achieved simply aren't all that worth it.

My brain is feeling pretty taxed at this point. I'm nowhere near giving up of course, but yeah... Currently I'm pretty darn exhausted mentally. I just don't feel like looking at 79 pages of data and doing my write up on what i have found in my research. I'm actually 2 days behind schedule for this chapter because of the sheer amount of consolidation of data for just 8 participants.

Yet, i'm glad i'm here right now. I've come pretty far. What would i do if i could do anything i wanted right now? Make macarons.

But it ain't happening today, baby.

I'm glad i've got a list of things planned ahead of me once i hand my work in for examination. Tea with my ex-boss and ex-colleagues (yay!), attending an old friend's recital (yay!), and cooking myself nuts on the 1st of May at a friend's place for a boardgame gathering.

You can't imagine how STOKED i am about that! Big house, big kitchen, Joline is the Executive Chef of the day and i even get a Sous Chef (okay, his domestic helper) to help me! How cool is that. :) It's like a dry run for my future cafe. *ahem*

And then it's whipping up macarons for people who've asked or who are on my mind, whipping up macs just because, for experimentation... meeting friends that i need to catch up with. Boy. I'm glad the gov is giving out the growth dividend on 1st may too then. Imma gonna need it.

So yes. I'm looking forward to all that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

French and Swiss meringue Macs

these are my french green tea macs. i'm so proud of them because most of the other times when i tried making french macs, they either fail BEFORE even going into the oven (and that's when i actually dilligently aged the egg whites. *shrug*) or they fail so badly that they end up looking like all kinds of macawrongs. and i don't mean minor fail. i mean, so major that they can pass off as japanese prawn crackers.

these were still slightly hollow but a definite improvement from all the other macs i have made. the previous macs had very obvious hollows and sunken, collapsed insides. At least these had insides that rose and even stuck to the shell. There were still air gaps in these but overall, a stark improvement from failed macs to macarons with just partial hollow insides! the feet aren't great but it's a start to something better.

there we go. *chomp* the filling was made with fresh milk (didn't have cream), white chocolate and butter, infused with jasmine green tea.

french and swiss meringue (from the TOTT class) macs hanging out together. they look so different don't they!

(photos taken at night, so... oh well. none of those nice, brightly lit window photos that i love)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Sub-Geeky Macaron Post. Beware.

I wish i had more information to make this a full on Macaron Geek post. But since i don't, i'll just do my best with whatever i know. Sorry that i've not been updating but yes, much has been happening in the kitchen while i serve house arrest... though i really should be focusing on my dissertation. In my defense, high kitchen activity equals lowered stress levels, so... better to destress, no? :)

anyway, i just came back from HANDS ON MACARON class at TOTT (Tools of the Trade). Apparently i had registered for another mac class with another cooking school but it was one of those you-cook-i-watch kind of things which isn't my cup of tea but at that time, i thought it was the only mac class available. But Gem found a mac class in TOTT that allowed us to get bustling and he registered and paid for the class for me. I WAS ECSTATIC. I'm back and boy, i am HIGH from the experience. Major high. I would probably be feeling higher if i were in a French kitchen, but this is a start. I'm so indebted to the boyfriend for his thoughtfulness and generousity. THANK YOU DEAR! I WILL REMEMBER THIS FOR LIFE! CAN YOU NOW SEND ME TO PIERRE HERMES' KITCHEN? Hee.

I've relearned the way to make macs the swiss meringue way. Okay, okay. I know swiss meringues aren't looked up to as THEE way to make macs. It is often read through blogs that PH uses the italian meringue, but at class, i was told he uses the swiss way. *shrugs* it would make sense to do it the swiss way since you don't have to let the macs rest for hours before baking. With people eager to buy some of those holy pieces of pastry, i'm not sure which way he sticks to.

But since i've tried PH's macarons and i've tried the swiss meringue ones... i really can't say that they are the same in texture. PH's are more "biscuity". The macs are drier, more crisp. The shells are crisp and the insides are softer, but not extremely moist. Surprisingly different from what i'm used to. I'm not sure if that's the result of them being flown all the way back to Singapore in my sister's luggage and sitting in the fridge for a few days because i was too in awe to eat them.

UPDATE: Sister said that the PH's macs are actually soft! So, it seems like the flight from France to Sg in the luggage cabin did dry them out. Ah so des ne. So, they weren't biscuity after all.

Anyway. The swiss meringue macs are chewier with very sturdy shells. But then again... it's because they haven't had time to mature in the fridge. I should wait a day or two before i give my full verdict. But i'm pretty sure that they aren't going to become crisp and light like PH's. Hmph.

I guess i can only say that in PH's kitchen, they have extremely controlled conditions like temperature and humidity. Being in Singapore, the humidity is already a meringue murderer. So, replicating the conditions and churning out macs like his is close to... I don't know. I still choose to be optimistic about my endeavours. Hurhur.

Things i learnt today (not in any sequence wrt to mac making):

1) Italian meringue buttercream: Do not be afraid to let the sugar boil! And DO NOT, DO NOT, stir the sugar! Just let it sit and boil away... Then do the bubble test with a fork, which will tell you if it's ready. How to? Stick a fork into the syrup, lift it out, and blow through the thongs and if you can blow out BUBBLES (i kid you not), then the syrup is ready. Problem is though, is when to put in the fork. Hmm. Trial and error i guess. Alternatively, you can go spend on a thermometer. Now i know why my italian meringue macs are kinda wonky... I hardly wait that long for the sugar to boil up because i'm afraid that the whole thing will caramelize and i will have a hard time scraping my sauce pot clean.

2) That it is very shiok to call the instructor "Chef??", "Chef!", "Uh..., Chef...?". Heh. Machiam in Gordon Ramsey's kitchen, but without the yelling of profanities. Didn't get to yell out "YES CHEF!" though. (You might be able t0 tell, FoodNetwork and the Asian Food Channel is very much a part of my life...)

3) When doing up the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a Bain Marie, the water needs to be BOILING. Not simmering. Whisk it from all directions and NO pussy whisking. It almost looks like you're beating it to death. To tell if it's done, is to stick your finger in. Ouch. But yes, ouch is the reaction you want. You want the mixture to be HOT, but not cooked. Tricky. But do-able. She taught us to be instinctive in our baking, and not follow thermometers. Hmm. I think there may be howls of protests from both camps about this.

4) Once in the electric mixer, to tell if it is done, stick your finger in and if the meringue comes out standing up stiffly, with a good firm stretch till it kinda shrinks at the tip and droops over, it is done. Firm peak on the whisk does not mean a rod straight beak. She said that it should be a single beak that curls down slightly at the tip when the whisk is lifted.

5) When mixing the dry and wet, you can simply stir the spatula around. None of that folding you normally see in other mac videos. I think this is peculiar to the swiss meringue. Stir and mix till the batter is well mixed but still thick and drops down in a thick and slow ribbon when the spatula is lifted.

6) Piping. Learnt a NEW skill! Pipe perpendicular to the table, STOP, twist deftly in a small circle to cut off the meringue and more importantly, this will stop the macs from having pointy "hats", or, er, nipples. I'll stick to hats, okay? Anyway, I think this is more crucial for the swiss meringue because it is a very firm meringue and it does not spread out and flatten as much as the french and italian meringue.

Piped by my partner who is new to piping macs. Good try! Here was our first batch of green tea macs. Haha. This was without close supervision from Chef. This is Chef's perfect looking macs. Our choc macs! Turned out nice because we had more supervision from Chef during the meringue making part and piping. I was determined to have them without hats, so i took my time to pipe them. Okay, but they still have... nipples. Meh. Me with my piped choc macs. Very pleased. I am not usually this neat. 7) This mac batter bakes well at 150C. Chef says DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DURING BAKING! Hmm. Okay. I try. But my home oven is wonky and not trustworthy... 150C on the dial does not mean 150C inside the oven...

8) Fillings can be piped using a plastic bag with a corner snipped off. Keep it small though. No need for metal tips here.

9) Whipping cream for chocolate ganache must be 35% something... Milk fats, i think?

10) Chocolate couverture must have at least 53.5% cocoa butter and solids. Do not store ganache in the fridge to set, but leave it in the open.

11) Finished buttercream looks thick, gathered together.

12) Heat was from the top AND bottom of the oven. How strange. If i did that in my oven, i would get... Oreo cookies.

(Above) We get to drink all the Gryphon tea we want. Heaven much. Tea goes very well with macs. If only i had the time to sit still and enjoy my tea with the sweet macs.

(Above) The very cool induction stove. So that none of us get a chance to blow ourselves or TOTT up.

And of course, the finished products: Green tea mac with green tea buttercream (this was SOOOO DELICIOUS) and red bean paste dolloped on top. (sorry for the weird alignment. I can't figure out why Blogger has formatting issues i've never had before. also, the photos don't look too good due to the lighting and also because i had to switch between a proper camera and my phone's camera. Proper camera batt was dying on me. Gah.)

Sister's verdict of swiss macs: She prefers the french meringue macs i made a couple of days ago with Tartelette's recipe, in terms of texture (soft). She finds these too chewy. But lets see how it goes after a day or two of maturing in the fridge.

It was a really, really, REALLY fun day in the kitchen at TOTT. We had a chef who was generous with her sharing, classmates who were eager to learn, a fellow food photographer (with DSLR somemore), free tea, coffee and ICE water (godsent), TOTT staff to wash up after us and help with equipment, and the encouragement for one another when some of us didn't make it or made it with our macarons. It was good fun. :) I would so do it again! If only the classes didn't cost so much though.