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.