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. 


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