Friday, July 23, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes Dipped in Fondant Icing

All by herself with the boys...

The story of these cupcakes must begin with the story of another cake. A birthday cake. A friend of mine announced a birthday dinner the day before it was to happen. I didn't have a present for him! Neither did Nooboy. So, I thought I'd make a cake for him. I thought, why not make my first fondant cake? Sure I've never before worked with fondant. Sure I had no cakes stashed away and must bake new ones. Sure there was only one night's time to get it done. No worries. All under control. Pfft. Me and time management have long been enemies. Oh well. It came out just fine. That's right, Time Management, I owned your ass! 

Here is what that cake looked like:

I know it's a bad photo. But I was already 30 minutes late for dinner. To explain the roach, the birthday boy (who is very tall, very macho, and only slightly gay) is terrified of them, so we thought it'd be a fun addition.

After the birthday thingy had come and gone, I was left with a whole bunch of left-over marshmallow fondant, and a whole bunch of pink marshmallows (I can't seem to find white only packs). The only logical thing I could think to do with them was cupcakes. I turned the pink marshmallows into pink MMF, made a batch of cupcakes, painstakingly embossed my rolled MMF with stamps and covered them. And they all mysteriously disappeared before my Canon had a look at them.

I still had a large-ish stash of MMF left, and since I've been smitten with CakeJournal's poured fondant cupcakes for so long, I thought I'd give it a go (I was also a bit lazy to go through rolling, stamping and covering them all over again). I was a bit unsure of how it would go with MMF, but it worked a treat. I just microwaved the fondant with a little bit of boiling water, stirred until it was all mixed in, and gradually added more water until it looked to be the right consistency.

Aren't they cute?

An army of cupcakes waiting to be piped.
They were then piped royal icing and topped with a couple of cachous here and there. And just as Louise from CakeJournal promised, the cakes all had perfect little domes. The vanilla cupcake recipe is from Joy of Baking and is very easy to mix up. I prefer to pipe the batter into the cupcake cases. I find I get a more even result like this, and can control exactly how much batter goes into into each one.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Creme Caramel

Remember me waxing lyrical about how much I love custard? In the days before I could make anything, my custard of choice came out of a little plastic cup with an aluminium cover and tiny little tabs on the bottom.

It was delicious. Sometimes I wouldn't even bother turning it out onto a plate. I'd just spoon it straight out of the cup. Yum. 

This time, I made my very own. From scratch. In my own oven. With eggs and everything. Aren't you proud?

My only issue is a bit of a silly one. The roasting tin I used to bake these in is kind of big for my oven. I can't just put it on an oven rack. It needs to sit directly in the grooves that the rack itself would rest on. Usually this isn't a problem, but when baking custards in a water bath, it all gets very heavy, so it took me about 10 minutes to get it in there comfortable. During this time my oven lost a lot of heat, so of course, I turned it up. Now, what you may not know about my oven is that it's kind of small and only has a heating element at the top. So, these turned on full blast and basically overcooked the tops (or is it bottoms) of my creme caramels. I had to do what I do for macarons and put in a foil covered oven rack just under the heating element. Dumb oven.

The solution? I just scraped those bits off before turning them out. And they were delicious. =)

Creme Caramel

1 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
Quick squeeze of lemon (optional)

2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream (at least 35% milk fat)
2/3 cup caster sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract

Add the caster sugar, water and lemon (if using) to a small-ish saucepan. Heat on medium, giving is a swirl every now and then to make sure all the sugar is dissolving. Try to resist the urge to stir. Instead, brush down the sides of the pan occasionally with water and a pastry brush. Cook it until is looks like caramel. It may take a little time, but watch it closely, because once it starts to take on colour it will brown quite quickly. The darker your caramel is, the more pronounced that burnt sugar taste will be in the end result. Once you're happy with how your caramel is looking, take it off the heat and immediately pour into your ramekins or dariole moulds, dividing equally. Swirl your moulds around a little bit to coat the bottom and gently encourage the caramel to crawl up the sides a little. 

At this stage, boil a big kettle of water.

Add the milk, cream, sugar and salt together in a pot and bring to a boil. As soon as it reaches boiling temp, take it off the heat. If you want to add any other flavourings (coffee, citrus, chocolate...) add it to the milk mixture.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. When the milk mixture is ready (i.e. scalded) pour into the eggs, whisking constantly. Strain into a jug and pour into the ramekins, over the caramel (which should have set by now). 

Arrange a tea towel in the bottom a baking/roasting dish so that is sits more or less flat. Place your filled ramekins on top. Pour hot water into it until it comes up 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake at 160°C for 30-35 minutes. To check if they're done, you can gently slide a knife into one of them. If it comes out mostly clean, but with a few little bits of gently set custard clinging to it, then it's done. You can also just give them a little shake. They should be wobbly in the middle, but shouldn't be too watery. 

When you determine them to be cooked, cool them on a wire rack, then chill overnight*. To serve, loosen the custards with a knife and turn onto a plate.

*I've seen recipes which say that 3 hours of chilling is fine. Which is probably ok, but as well as cooling the custard, chilling also loosens up the caramel, giving you that nice oozy sauce. As far as I can tell, the longer you chill it, the more sauce you will get (instead of it all clinging to the bottom of the mould).

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chocolate Crackles

This is my second attempt at writing this post. The first one just sucked. I'm not sure why. Something to do with pre-breakfast morning grouchiness. So to avoid that, I'm writing this now at half past midnight.

Chocolate crackles are the quintessential Australian confection. You will almost surely find these at an Aussie kid's birthday party. They're sort of restricted to kids though (no idea why). The last time I had one of these must have been at least ten years ago. Being an Asian migrant, my mother had no idea about these ugly looking chocolate thingys, so I only got to eat them at other peoples birthday parties. Which is fine, because if it were any other way, I'd probably weigh twice as much as I do now.

I made these ones last week for a friend from Canada to try. I've only made these myself once before in my life. That was probably about fourteen years ago. I made these with a teacher at school with two bowls and a microwave (yes, I remember). So yes, a six year old can make these (with supervision of course) and I promise you they are very yummy.

Chocolate Crackles

4 cups rice bubbles (or any other rice puff cereal I suppose)
1 1/2 - 2 cups icing sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup cocoa powder
250g copha*

Mix together the rice bubbles, icing sugar, coconut and cocoa in a large bowl. Melt the copha in a heatproof bowl in the microwave (or on the stove if you prefer). This won't take long, but probably a little longer than butter would take.

When it's all melted, pour it straight into the bowl containing everything else and mix together thoroughly, taking care not to crush all the rice puffs, if possible. If you find that it's all looking a bit gloopy and feels hard to move around, your copha may be starting to set, so just pop into the microwave for 30 seconds or so and it should loosen up.

Spoon into cupcake liners and refrigerate until set. That's all!

*Copha is an Australian brand of vegetable shortening. It is solidified coconut oil and is special in that it is solid at room temperature. For this reason, I'm not sure if you can substitute just any brand of vegetable shortening, as it's pretty important that it sets at room temp. I've heard of using melted chocolate to make chocolate crackles, so that may be the way to go, but the flavour won't be truly authentic.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chocolate Pavlovas and Mascarpone Mousse > Daring Bakers June 2010

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I did it! It is up :). 

I know it's late, but it is here. My first Daring Bakers challenge. Chocolate pavlova with mascarpone mousse. It was supposed to have mascarpone cream on top as well, but I thought that it kinda looked like something naughty... I also didn't want to have to buy a whole extra tub of macarpone just for that, especially seeing as I don't actually like pavlova. I know. I live in Australia and I don't like pavlova. The travesty. While we're on the subject, you should know that I also dislike Vegemite...

I blanched when I read "pavlova" in the Daring Bakers forums, and seriously thought about not doing this one. I mean, why make a dessert that no one's going to eat? BUT! I did it anyway. Aren't you proud? I reasoned that the chocolate may cover up the inherent sweetness of a pavlova a little. And I also planned to make the mousse the star of the show, which is how I ended up with these mini pavlova nests with a massive pile of mousse of top.

However, despite the mousse being lovely and dark-chocolatey, the stupid thing was still too sweet. Damn you, pavlova! 

So here is the recipe, taken straight from the Daring Kitchen website. Unadulterated and unchanged. I made 2/3rds of the recipe, so if you also dislike pavlova (in which case you probably wouldn't be making this) feel free to do the same. It works fine.

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):
3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):
1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone 
(don't forget we made this a few months ago - get the printable .pdf HERE)
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)
  1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chocolate Macadamia Brownies

I was a teenager before I discovered brownies, there being no brownies in our home before then. My parents, my Dad especially, were not big fans of sweets. Eventually though, they met and befriended a baker, who began to bring all sorts of pastry to their mah-jong sessions. There were butterfly pastries, almond stick thingys, uncooked croissants to bake at home, and there were brownies. His brownies were dark, dark chocolate, with crunchy, rich macadamia nuts dotted throughout. Slightly cakey, with a crusty top. And oh so sweet.

It has now been at least a year since I last had a brownie, and that last one wasn't very good. It was uber-dense, which is not a bad thing, but it was also hard as rock... They might as well have called it a cookie.

So, faced with brownie cravings, and a largish gap in the blog, I decided to bake brownies. Chocolate ones with macadamia nuts, just like the ones I remember oh so fondly. The recipe is one I came up with after about an hour of pouring over many, many brownie recipes, and is a happy medium between them. It is mostly done in one bowl (except for measuring), so makes for easy cleanup as well.

Chocolate Macadamia Brownies

150g butter
170g dark chocolate
150g brown sugar
50g caster sugar (optional, if you want it sweeter)
2tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
90g flour
30g cocoa powder
150g macadamia nuts, halved
Sifted icing sugar, to dust

Pre-heat oven to 160°C. Lightly grease and line a 20cm square tin.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. When it is smooth and shiny, remove from heat and let cool slightly before adding the sugar and vanilla extract, mixing well with a wooden spoon. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions.

Sift in the flour and cocoa powder. Fold in with the wooden spoon. Add the macadamia nuts and fold through. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top, pushing the batter into the corners of the pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewers (there may be some moist crumbs still sticking to the skewer, but no liquidy batter). Dust lightly with icing sugar and cut into 16 squares.

Note: I used 72% dark, bittersweet chocolate, but feel free to substitute milk chocolate if you prefer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes and Royal Icing Flowers

Yes, my new piping tips have arrived. I am thrilled. Not having a cake to decorate on the day that they came, I decided to whip up come royal icing and make sugar drop flowers. The next day, not knowing what to do with a rather large pile of sugar flowers, I baked cupcakes.

I really like cupcakes. Perhaps now more than ever before. I know that they've been gaining popularity for some time now, and so I'm probably a little late in saying this. But I really like cupcakes.

They're the perfect size for a sweet treat that isn't crippling with guilt. The recipes are easy to double or halve as I see fit. They're wonderful for giving away to friends and family. They're very cute. And they're yummy.

The first twelve of mine went into the oven that was accidentally overheated to 220°C, and were promptly forgotten about, so they came out slightly darker than intended with strange, scary, lopsided domes. But my dogs enjoyed them immensely. 

Royal Icing

2 large egg whites
3 cups of icing sugar
1tsp lemon juice (optional)

Beat the eggwhites until frothy (with the lemon juice if using). Gradually add the icing sugar while beating, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the icing is at the consistency you want it. It should barely be able hold a peak if you're using it to ice cookies, or a little stiffer if you're piping decorations. Cover the royal icing when not using as it can dry out very quickly.

For piping flowers, scoop out as you need and colour it as you like. Fill a piping bag fitted with a drop flower tip. Pipe onto baking paper with the pastry tip literally touching the paper. Hold the piping bag at a 90° angle to the surface you're piping on and twist as you squeeze. Lift only when the flower is complete. If you like, you can then go over all your flowers and pipe a center onto all of them.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes about 45 mini cupcakes.

100g butter
185g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla bean paste (or the seeds scraped from one vanilla bean)
2 large eggs
200g self raising flour
1/2cup milk

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each. Add the flour and milk in alternate batches and fold in with a spoon.

Spoon mixture into mini cupcake tin lined with paper cupcake cases. Fill them only about half full, as the cake will rise during baking. Bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes or until cooked (test with skewer) and slightly golden on top.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

90g egg whites (about 3)
160-180g white sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
250g butter, or thereabouts, softened

Boil a small amount of water in a smallish saucepan and turn down to a simmer. Place the egg whites with the sugar in a large bowl and put it on top of the simmering water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar over the heat until the sugar is melted, and the mixture feels smooth when you rub it between your fingers.

Take off the heat, and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form and the mixture is cooled. At this stage begin to add the butter, a little at a time, until all of it has been added. Your buttercream may appear to curdle, but keep beating and it will come together.

I piped my cupcakes with a closed star tip and a leaf tip. Feel free to pipe whatever you want onto yours.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Double Chocolate Cookies

My parents, as many of you may have gathered, have a lot of friends. Maybe more than me... One of them is obsessed with my white chocolate macadamia cookies. In fact any time that I bake any cookie, she wants to take a big stack home. Which is fine. I don't mind. Except that they cost me to make! Anything with nuts in it will cost me at about $8-10 to produce (I'm generous with my nuts you see). Anything involving chocolate, and the price shoots up as well. Macarons cost a small fortune to make what with almond meal being so expensive (I've taken to ordering kilo bags of the stuff to cut down the cost).

It turns out that baking is an expensive hobby. Who knew?

So, naturally, I don't like to waste things. Which in turn leads to the creation of these double chocolate cookies.

I had a large bowl of melted chocolate and butter left over from dipping my eclairs into. I thought chocolate cookies might be a good way to use it up. And I was not disappointed. Now excuse me as I go enjoy a cookie with a nutty sort of smile on my face.

Double Chocolate Cookies (adapted from the Donna Hay Chocolate book)
Makes about 35 cookies or so, depending on the size of each.

150g dark chocolate
100g butter
3/4cup brown sugar (tightly packed)
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
1cup (150g) plain/all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4cup (30g) cocoa powder, sifted
1tsp baking soda
1 1/2cups dark chocolate chips, or plain dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Melt together the butter and the dark chocolate, until smooth and glossy.

Mix together the sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and butter mixture, mixing well. Stir in the flour, cocoa and baking soda. Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls. Place on baking sheets and flatten slightly, spacing them out to allow for spreading. Bake at 160°C for 10-12 minutes, or until cracks begin to appear on the surface of the cookie. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Butter Cookies

I remember when I was little we'd often go around to my parent's friend's houses for public holidays. There'd always be sumptuous feasts, games (for both kids and adults), hours of TV and Royal Dansk Butter Cookies in a big blue round tin. My parents aren't big on the sweets, so we never bought these cookies ourselves, which only made those at other people's homes extra special. The piped ones always went first. And then the pretzel ones. And then nobody would have any room left for the crappy ones (another reason why we didn't buy any: the tins never get finished). 

It had been a long time since I last had one of these cookies from a tin. And I missed them. So like any food blogger worth her sugar, I baked some. 

They were really good. 

And then my Mother gave them all away. I only had 4! 4!

Oh excuse to make another batch I suppose.

Danish Butter Cookies
125g butter*
45g icing sugar
135g plain/all purpose flour
1tsp vanilla essence
1/2tsp baking powder**

*I always like to use salted butter, simply because I like the hit of saltiness among the sweet, but by all means use unsalted if you prefer.
**The baking powder is optional. Most butter cookie recipes are without it, but I like to give my cookies a bit extra crisp fluffiness.

These have got to be the easiest cookies I've ever made. All done in one bowl, with a hand mixer. Simply cream together the butter and icing sugar until light and creamy. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and mix in. Add the vanilla essence and beat in. And the batter is done!

Line a cookie sheet with baking paper. Spoon everything into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe into circles, or whatever shape you want. I found that the batter was a bit too stiff for piping, so I gave it a couple seconds in the microwave until it was pipable. Take care not to nuke it for more than 5-10 seconds at a time though, or you might end up with a melted butter soup. Bake at 150°C for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.

Try to refrain from eating all of them withing the hour.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chocolate Eclairs > à la Masterchef


Remember the coffee eclairs Gary and George made in series 1 of Masterchef Australia? Here they are! My attempt, except with chocolate instead of coffee fondant. I've been thinking about making these eclairs ever since they appeared on TV about a year ago. I don't really know why it's taken me so long, seeing as their actually pretty simple to make. The fiddly bit is putting them together I think.

I did have a couple of issues though. I wanted to have that really glossy dipped fondant topping, but tried to achieve this using marshmallow fondant, which was ok, but wasn't glossy, and tasted overwhelmingly of marshmallow (which Nooboy assured me was still delicious). I quickly switched to chocolate. Also, the first batch I baked came out rather tiny, so I then proceeded to pipe the remaining choux batter without a tip, using the coupler by itself. All in all, not a bad attempt, if I may say so myself.

Chocolate Eclairs (adapted from the Masterchef kitchen)

Choux Pastry
265ml milk
210ml water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
150g butter
265g flour (plain/allpurpose, sifted)
8 large eggs (59g)

For the choux pastry, place the milk, water, sugar, salt and butter into a medium-large saucepan. Bring this mixture to the boil. When the milk is boiling, butter is melted and salt and sugar has dissolved, add the flour. No need to be delicate here, just dump the whole lot in and beat the heck out of it with a wooden spoon. You need to cook this mixture until it is a cohesive, springy 'dough'. You need to wait until the mixture is coming together and away from the sides of the pan when as you mix. The 'dough' will take on a slight gleam on the smooth surfaces as well. 

At this stage, tip it all into a bowl and beat it a little to knock out some of the heat. This step isn't included in all choux recipes, but it makes it less frantic when you start to add the eggs. If you beat some of the heat out of the batter before adding the eggs, they are far less likely to scramble. 

Add the eggs two at a time, beating to incorporate completely before the next addition (here's some arm exercise for you, perfect for working off a little of the calories soon to be consumed). Once all the eggs have been added, piped onto lined baking trays, spacing them out as they will puff up to at least twice their size. I used a non-stick cookie sheet and didn't even bother to line it - they turned out fine. 

Baked in a hot oven preheated to 210-220°C for about ten minutes to puff up then turn the oven down to 180°C to dry a little. This is not really exact, just wait until the eclairs are puffed before turning down the oven. They should have a total oven time of about 20-25 minutes. Try not to open the oven while they are in there, as this can affect the puffing.

Cool completely on wire racks before filling.

Vanilla Cream Filling

600ml whipping cream (35-40% milk fat)
1/3cup icing sugar
1tsp vanilla paste, or the seeds scraped from one vanilla pod (add the leftover pod to a jar of caster sugar to make vanilla sugar)

Whipped the cream with the sugar and vanilla until firm peaks. 

Poke a hole in the end of each cooled eclair with a pastry tip (I, Asian that I am, used a chopstick for this). Pipe the cream into it. You can feel the weight of the cream go through the eclair as you pipe. I found that for a couple of them I had to poke a hole in both ends of the eclair, or use my chopstick or finger to make sure that there were no obstructions in the center cavity in order for the cream to fill the entire eclair. Use whichever method you are comfortable with.

Chocolate Topping

100g chocolate
50g butter
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler until smooth and glossy. Alternatively just give it short bursts in the microwave, stirring each time it comes out, until it reached that smooth consistency. Dip each filled eclair into the chocolate and let set. If you want, pipe something pretty onto it with some melted white chocolate.

The recipe is not actually published in the recipe section of the Masterchef website. However, the video of the making of them can still be found in the video section (Videos > Relive Masterchef Series 1 > Recipes Series 1). I found the video to be quite helpful, especially with showing how much you need to cook the choux before it comes off the stove. The video also shows you how to create the original coffee fondant topping. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chocolate Cup Cakes!

I really love cupcakes. I don't really care about the taste (not much different from normal sized cakes), but they're just so cute! And they're easy to decorate too. You can make them all fancy with buttercream roses, dip them in fondant, add cute little flags, or, if you're not really bothered, they can look incredibly charming with just a dollop of plain old buttercream on top. Also, if you don't want to eat them all (heaven knows why), they're easy to push onto friends and family, especially when kids are involved.

Recently, baking has become my go-to method of procrastination (uni work...pfft), and since I had a big bowl of Swiss meringue buttercream left over from a chocolate cake a couple days ago, I decided to make cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes :D.

The recipe for the buttercream can be found within the chocolate cake link above. The recipe for the cake itself come from Donna Hay's chocolate book. I love Donna Hay, and this is a great chocolate book. I am, however reluctant to post the recipes here on the blog (copyright and such and such). I apologize, but am sure you understand.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nooblet's Macarons > Strawberry Jam

Last night it was my friend Steve's birthday. Happy birthday! Steve (big, macho guy he is) likes strawberry flavoured things. When we go to a cafe, he always wants a strawberry flavoured milkshake, but is always too embarrassed to order it himself. He usually makes one of the girls present to order it on his behalf. When I started making macarons, he immediately requested strawberry flavoured ones. I thought his birthday would be the perfect occasion.

Strawberry Macarons

150g icing sugar
150g almond meal
120g egg whites
150g caster sugar, plus 35g caster sugar
50ml water
Pink food colouring (gel or powder preferable)

Preheat oven to 150° C and line a few baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.

Sift together the icing sugar and almond meal. Feel free to process the mixture before sifting if it makes your life easier.

Place 150g of caster sugar with the water into a small saucepan and cook over a low heat until 245° F, or firm ball stage. Meanwhile, measure out 60g of egg whites and beat to stiff peaks. Gradually add the remaining 35g of caster sugar to the egg whites and beat until thick and glossy. When the sugar has reached the firm ball stage (drop a little into a bowl of cold water, if it forms a ball that is malleable, but holds its shape, it has reached firm ball) add it gradually into the meringue while beating, until all the sugar has been incorporated and the meringue is cooled, thick, shiny, and forms a 'beak' when the beaters are lifted. 

Add the remaining 60g of egg whites to the icing sugar/almond mixture and mix until well combined. Add food colouring until the desired colour has been reached (note that the meringue will lighten the colour considerably when added). Gently fold in the meringue and continue folding until it reaches that 'flows like magma' consistency. It should be thick and aerated, but any peaks that form should manage to slowly disappear.

Piped onto lined baking sheets, and let rest until no longer tacky to touch. Bake at 150° C for about 20 minutes. Everyone's oven is different. I find that I need to place a foil covered oven rack just under my heating element or my macarons will burn. Perhaps in your oven, the macarons will take less time, or a little longer. Test them by gently touching one. If it is stuck to the bottom, and wobbles on its feet (threatening to separate into two layers), then give it some more time. When they are done, they should come off the baking paper relatively easily.

Cool up-side-down on cooling racks, then fill with buttercream. Refrigerate overnight before eating.

Strawberry Jam Buttercream

60g butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup milk or water
1/4 strawberry jam

Beat the with a 1/4 cup of the sugar until light and creamy. Add another 1/4 cup of sugar and beat in. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and beat in. Add remaining sugar with the jam and beat in. Add a little milk or water if necessary to achieve pipable consistency.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Nooblet is going through a slight refurbishment. During this angst-ridden time, please excuse any messiness (such as the wonkiness of header above). Nooblet thanks you for your understanding.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crème Brûlée

Please excuse my absence from the blog. I've been finding it hard to achieve non-macaron inspiration of late. Speaking of which, I made some decidedly un-noob macarons two days ago (one batch coffee, one batch nutella/praline), but they were gobbled up by my mother's friends at her dinner party. By the time I got home there were only two left. Two! So, no photos or post until I recreate them.

However, I made crème brûlée.

Just so you know, I really love custard. I love all things custard and all things filled with custard. I like profiteroles solely because they are filled with pastry cream. I love yogo and milo snacks because they are custard. So it is only natural that I love crème brûlée.

I've only made it once before when Nooboy's sister (the older one) brought home a crème brûlée set, with ramekins and a kitchen blowtorch. They were small and cute and tasted lovely. The only issue I found with the set was the blowtorch. We had to fill it up with gas before using it, which took ages, and we still invariably ran out of gas midway through the job.

So for a long time now, I've been wanting my own blowtorch. One which does not need to be filled. Last week I bought one. All one needs to do is attach it to the top of a butane can and voila! Nooboy laughed at me a little when we first turned it on as the flame was huge (I'm pretty sure I can weld stuff with my blowtorch). But he sure wasn't laughing when he had his mouth full of crème brûlée.

Crème Brûlée

2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (if you can't find this, you can use a vanilla pod, or just some vanilla extract)
Extra caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 120°C and place your ramekins in a baking dish.

Scrape out the vanilla pod (if you're using one) and add the seeds and the pod itself to the cream. Add sugar and heat the cream until it's steaming, but not boiling. Fish out the pod.

Whisk the egg yolks a little and gradually pour in the cream mixture, whisking all the time. Once all the cream has been added and the mixture is combined, pour through a sieve into your waiting ramekins. Pour boiling water into the baking dish around your ramekins, making sure the water comes at least halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 45-50mins until just set. They will still be wobbly. Cool on a wire rack and chill overnight.

When ready to serve, spoon some extra caster sugar onto your custard and roll it around a bit to cover the whole of the top. Blast with blowtorch until sugar is a beautiful glossy brown and caramelized all over. If you don't have a blow torch, you can pop them under a preheated grill, as close to the heating element as you can, until sugar caramelizes.

Note: I used four rather large ramekins for this recipe. If you prefer smaller servings, simply adjust the cooking time to suit. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nooblet's Macarons > Choc-Mint Macarons

I made more macarons! Of course, you say, what else?

I made beautiful little choc-mint macarons. This is their story:

I wanted to try the French meringue method again after hearing that it shouldn't be much harder than the Italian, and that the macarons it turns out are tastier and less sweet. So I did. Twice. And both times were disasters. Let me elaborate.
  1. Disaster number one happened because I desperately wanted to make pretty little pink rosewater macarons. I went out and bought rosewater. I dug around and found some red food colouring. I painstakingly measured all my ingredients out to the gram and spent almost an hour pushing almond meal through my ridiculously fine sieve. I whipped my egg whites and added sugar. And the the trouble starts. I add the red colouring halfway during whipping and, genius that I am, I decide to add a little drop of blue, reasoning that it would make a prettier pink. Wrong. I forgot to check the red and the blue for colour tone and it must have been warm blue because my "pink" look rather ugly and forlorn. Darn high school art and their warm blues and cool blues. But I baked them anyway, seeing as I am a stoic and stubborn baker. They rose up beautifully and had the cutest, tallest little feet. It was bliss looking at them. Until I bit into one. GIANT air pocket under the shell. How disappointing. They were also unforgivably crunchy. Urgh! They were not deemed worthy of photography.
  2. Disaster two happened because I was stubborn. I still wanted to make the French meringue method work. Also I wanted to try out some new green powder food colouring I bought. Choc-mint sounded like a lovely macaron flavour. Long story short, they turned out much like the ugly pink ones. I knew powder food colouring was potent. So I used a little bit. Not even 1/8th of a teaspoon and look how they turned out. Stupid green monstrosities. With giant air pockets. At least they weren't as crunchy as the pink ones. Sigh. Nooblet strikes again.

Not happy with my efforts, I set out to re-make the choc-mint ones. I fall back on my trusty sucre-cuit method. And of course, slightly less green powder. And they turned out lovely. Yay! Finally. I could cry for joy.

Choc-Mint Macarons (adapted from Ms Humble's lemon mascarpone macarons)

150g almond meal
150g icing sugar 
120g egg whites
185g sugar 
50ml water
1tsp peppermint essence
Food colouring

Sift together the almond meal and icing sugar. I prefer to do the icing sugar first, as the almond meal tends to clog up my sieve, slowing down any further sifting I wish to do. 

Measure out 60 grams of egg whites and set aside. Place the remaining 60 grams in whichever bowl you plan to whip it in. 

Place the 185g of sugar into a saucepan and add water. Heat on medium until it starts to bubble and turn down to a simmer. You can stir initially to ensure all the sugar dissolves, but try not to do this to much or too vigorously as the sugar on the sides of the pan can begin to crystallize. 

While your sugar is heating up, begin beating your egg whites until it is frothy and forms soft peaks. When your syrup hits 230°F, slowly add to your egg whites, beating all the time. I don't have a candy thermometer so I test my sugar using the cold water method - you're after the firm ball stage (i.e. it forms a ball which does not flatten itself in your palm, but which is malleable and can be formed with your fingers). Once all the sugar is added continue beating until the meringue is thick, glossy and cooled. The Italian meringue should be thick, beautifully glossy, slightly sticky and clings to your beaters, forming a beak-like shape. 

Add your unwhipped egg whites to the dry ingredients. You can beat the heck out of this. Make sure everything is incorporated at this stage (it makes it easier to fold in the meringue later). Add peppermint essence and food colouring (keeping in mind that the colour will fade a little when you add your meringue). 

Gently fold in egg whites one third at a time until you reach macaronage - that "flows like magma" consistency. I do this by folding just until any peaks manage to slowly disappear. If you've whipped your meringue properly, it should take a bit of mixing, so don't be afraid. 

Pipe circles a little more than an inch in diameter onto lined baking sheets. You can of course make them a bit bigger or smaller, depending on your preferences. Try and get good heavy baking sheets as this gives a more consistent result (I like the insulated ones). Some recipes say to now let them rest until they are no longer tacky to touch, but I find that it's usually ok to bake them right away if you're pressed for time.

Bake for 20mins at 150°C. Ms Humble's original recipe calls for only 14mins of baking, but I found that in my kitchen, this browned the macarons too much. So I wrapped one of the racks from my oven in foil and placed it directly under the top heating element to protect my little cookies. This worked fine, but at 14mins many of them were still sticky on the bottom, so I gave them just a little longer in the oven.

Once out of the oven (you can test them by nudging them just a little, they're done when they reluctantly loosen from the baking paper), let cool then fill.

Choc-Mint Buttercream Filling

125g butter (softened)
4 cups icing sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk

Cream together butter and one cup of the icing sugar. Once fully incorporated, add cocoa powder, another cup of the icing sugar and a third of the milk. Once fully incorporated, add the remaining icing sugar. Beat well and add the remaining milk as required until you reach a pipable consistency. Be careful not to add too much milk, as the buttercream can become too soft (which makes for a macaron with a filling that squishes out when bitten into).

Fill a piping bag and pipe onto half the macaron shells. Squish down with another macaron shell and pop everything into the fridge to mature for a day or two (if you can wait that long). Enjoy!

Note: Nooboy brought home the icing sugar which is cut with a bit of cornflour. I didn't find that my macarons suffered too much from this...impurity. So, thank you Nooboy for running to the store for me :). Also, as I used powder food colouring to devastating effects the first time, I dissolved it little by little into the batter before adding the meringue until I was happy with the colour. This way, I didn't have to worry about overbeating if it wasn't green enough. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Assassination of Bob

Today, Bob was MURDERED.

Hi, this is a guest post from Nooboy, to report on the purging of Nooblet's yeast, better known as Bob.

Today I arrived at home at 8:00pm, having just finished my late lecture at Uni, and I found myself looking at the kitchen sensing something amiss. On the kitchen bench a new void now exists, which can only be described as the missing elephant in the room. I look around and I see Bob's home upturned on the sink.
'Bob asked for it' Nooblet said as she entered the room.
'Bob asked for what?'
'He was bad'

What Nooblet meant by 'bad' (curse her and her 'woman talk') was that Bob had a number of issues:

1. He looked terrible, much like the ugly kid in kindergarten (you dont know why but all you can say is that they must have had a terrible upbringing) - but according to Nooblet he did not look that bad
2. Bob had a terrible stench, he simply 'smelt wrong' (quote from Nooblet)
3. Bob stank so bad Nooblet allegedly wanted to spew

So Nooblet poured Bob down the drain and much like the purging of our childhood clown fish friend, Bob went to where all bad thrush... I mean yeast, go: the sewer. Before the water in the sink could settle, Nooblet whipped out two more containers, methodically measuring equal amounts of flour and water into two new batches of sourdough yeast (much like the equation: lost pet + quick replacement = less tears). Yet to be named, they now sit on their high horse (shelf), staring down on all other lowly yeast and the sink, the scene of the crime. They act innocent on their assigned shelf like tweedle dum and tweedle dee, they are smug twins which live only to eat. Little do they know that they will soon end up in my stomach as light fluffy sourdough bread.

I Love my bread


Late Night Comfort Food > Ginger and Tofu Soup with Prawns

Late night snack = late night lighting = not the best photo. Oh well. It tastes good.

Since the blog started, it has been focused completely on either macarons or sourdough starters. So I thought I'd break it up with something a little bit savory.

Both my parents love cooking. And they're both pretty good at it. My Mum is amazing at the home style everyday food, that she seems to throw together like magic. My Dad prefers showing off with his flashier restaurant style dishes. Although this is one of  my Dad's recipes, it is uncharacteristically homely and comforting.

This is one of my favourite cold-weather dishes. Originally, Dad made it for me when I was sick with the flu. Ginger is supposed to have immune boosting properties, so I guess he was hoping it would make me better. I'm not sure if it worked, but it tasted so lovely that it became something we ate every autumn. 

The sharpness of the ginger is balanced out by the mellow flavour of the tofu and the prawns add an extra level in both taste and texture. Yum.

Ginger and Tofu Soup with Prawns
600-700ml chicken or fish stock (use water if you must)
200g firm tofu (make sure it’s the white, un-fried tofu)
50g piece of young ginger
100-150g green prawns (shelled, deveined and roughly chopped)
1 tbsp corn starch, mixed with a little water to form a thin paste
Small length of green onion (also known as spring onion or shallots)

  1. Bring the stock to the boil in a small to medium sized saucepan.
  2. Slice the tofu and ginger into a fine julienne and add to the pan. Let it simmer away for a few minutes to impart their flavour to the broth. The timing here does not need to be precise as both tofu and ginger are quite forgiving in that it takes a fair bit of time to ‘over-cook’ them. If fact, I’m not sure firm tofu can be overcooked. While they are simmering away, you can prepare your prawns.
  3. Turn up the heat and bring the soup to a rapid boil. Season with salt, and if you like, a little white pepper (I find the pepper isn’t necessary as the ginger gives plenty of spice, but Dad always added a little). Add prawns. When the soup returns to the boil (it should only take a few seconds) add the cornflour paste and stir (make sure you stir just before adding, as the cornflour likes to settle to the bottom of the bowl). When the soup thickens, turn off the heat and serve with a little green onion snipped in.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nooblet's Macarons > The First Perfect Ones

Lemon mascarpone macaron after 24hrs maturation

Oh, gorgeous insides...

I made perfect macarons. A monumental feat where Nooblet made something so decidedly un-noob. 

After my strange footless 'macarons', I wanted to try the sucre cuit method again. After all, it's supposed to be the more reliable approach to macaron making. And after yet another day's worth of 'research' on food blogs, I decided to follow Ms Humble's recipe for lemon mascarpone macarons which can be found here (Ms Humble is my Macaron Goddess, her blog is a must-read for anyone thinking of attempting macarons).

They turned out perfect. I had, in my own kitchen, beautiful fluffy macarons with tall, compact feet and delectably shiny tops. Having been scared by everyone on the internet into thinking macaronage (that flows-like-magma consistency) is impossibly hard to achieve and terribly easy to pass into over-beating, I was surprised to find that the batter took a fair bit of folding to reach the desired consistency. I found that this time, my macarons were weirdly invincible. I even piped them using a freezer bag (I know, zip-lock at least right?). But when they came out the oven, they were perfect. 

They have feet!

Just for the record, Nooboy took this photo and really wanted it to be included on the blog. Please don't judge me for graininess. I'm just trying to keep domestic peace!

And they tasted perfect too. The lemon mascarpone filling set of the sweetness of the almond meringue perfectly. And they were soft and fluffy after 24hrs maturation. I managed to rescue some from the jaws of Nooboy and his sister to share with my girlfriends and they loved them. I'm so happy!

Of course, this could be a fluke. One success amidst thousands of failures. But I'm hopeful. Stay tuned.  

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bob > An Update

Bob has been rising nicely, frothing up to twice his size every day. There's just one problem. Bob smells. Like really smells. I've never had a starter before. Are they meant to smell so bad? I've heard that they should smell beery, or acidic. But Bob just smells.

To be honest, he was smelly from day one. But I thought it was just my plastic container. On day two, I measured out 50g of Bob and washed out the container. The container no longer smelled. I rejoiced. However, it has been 2 days since and Bob still really smells. I'm worried.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bob > My Baby Sourdough Starter

Today I created life. Well, sort of. I made a sourdough starter! Yay!

I know, I know, not the best photos. But hopefully Bob will soon produce some pretty bread.

I've been thinking about doing it for a little while, especially after reading Mr Humble's guest post at Not So Humble Pie. I wasn't going to do it. I was just thinking that maybe I should be thinking about doing it. But today, I was making rice (as we Asians do) and was struck with what is hopefully an ingenious idea. Why not use that milky, cloudy rice water in a sourdough starter?

I've read up a little about sourdough starters (google, of course) and some recipes include pasta water, or potato starch. Why not rice water? It's definitely got starch, and apparently it's good for your plants, so why not for your yeasties? Please biology people don't prove me wrong...

I used a tall plastic screw top container, making sure the finished starter filled it by less than half (not hard, since it didn't even reach 1/3). All I put in was 100g bread flour, and 100g rice water. And that was it. Bob was born.

I will feed it like a good mummy over the next week. And then we shall see how my rice water idea panned out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On a side note...

Quick bit of news. I was talking to J over dinner tonight and he announced that he would like to be called NoobletBoyfriend. I told him this was just too long and impractical, so from here on, he will be referred to as NoobBoy.

Nooblet Macarons Part I (and a half) > Meet Macaron

For the benefit of Schnazzie (yet another nooblet, it would seem) I have decided to add a post that was not originally meant to be. This is the post to introduce to you my friend, and elusive prey, the macaron.

For those of you who do not know, a macaron is an impossibly light, impossibly pretty, and impossibly French confectionery. Some would even call it a cookie. A macaron is made up of several parts, i.e. the shell, the feet, the body (or interior), and the filling (please refer to figure 1.1, below).

Figure 1.1 - the macaron

The actual macaron part (the feet, the shell, and the meringue interior) is a baked wonder consisting of only four base ingredients - almond meal, icing sugar, sugar, and of course, egg whites. It is this 'cookie' that Nooblet strives to achieve.

The filling seems less important. It is fine as long as it's a ganache or butter-cream in a half-decent flavour. Apparently jam works too, and I imagine whipped cream can't be too horrible (although it can't be matured like a proper macaron...).

You eat it by biting into and savouring every little bit (please no popping the entire thing in your mouth). And then you reach for a second. 

Class dismissed.


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