March 26, 2009

Pistachio Macarons

Made some more macarons tonight - pistachio ones. Shells came out well at 150C@14min. I managed to reduce the sugar amount as well so they're not so sweet. I followed Cannelle et Vanille's Pistachio Buttercream recipe to make my filling (by the way, I adore her blog, and am very inspired by her photos and recipes!) which turned out a bit soft. That's my problem with buttercream always, it being soft at room temperature. I stuck it into the fridge to set, but how am I going to bring it around?

March 23, 2009

Macarons Galore!

Was quite domesticated over the weekend - went to buy flowers to beautify the house and continued experimenting with macarons.

I went to Far East Flora to do a spot of flower shopping after having not gone there since the last events I did in Dec. I wanted to get some nice spring flowers since Mar 20 is supposedly the first day of spring. After looking at the rather dismal selection at Far East, I finally settled on some of my favourite ranunculus in orange and canary yellow tulips. Bought some assorted wild flowers for fillers, and added on some more creamy yellow ranunculus that I came across later. I also bought some alliums, which are those round ball flowers with long thick stalks, but don't have a photo as they're still blooming into their full round glory. Boy do they smell strongly of onions!

Oh, and I also bought a rosemary plant. This is the first time I'm attempting to keep a plant, and I thought what better plants than herbs? My hoarding collecting compulsive nature told me to buy a bunch of different plants (they had lavendar, basil, mint, thyme etc) but I checked myself and decided that I should see how the rosemary works out for me. Well, after 4 days, it's still alive, yay! But I haven't used it yet. I wonder how I should cut the sprigs? If I cut it off at the top will it grow back? Hmm.

Next up, I attempted another batch of macarons. This time, I decided to have fruit-flavoured ganache. I settled on the combinations of strawberry + white chocolate and my fave banana + chocolate, and correspondingly the pink and yellow colours :) Since my last attempt at the Italian meringue method was not very successful, I decided to persevere in my determination to master it. And of course, having bought a small saucepan and candy thermometer to boil sugar syrup, I must make full use of it! My brand new food processor was also finally taken out from its box and made to do some work - first to grind the tant-pour-tant and then to puree the fruit.

Firstly, the macaron shells. I think I overmixed it during the macaronage as the batter spread a little bit more than I liked, hence I ended up with quite big macaron shells. Or it could also be due to my bad estimation per blob of batter. However, my sizing was at least more consistent this time so I had consistently big shells that at least matched each other (important for sandwiching). The batter was also a bit too sweet for my liking, as the italian meringue sure had a lot of sugar syrup. It might also be that I overcooked the syrup. Whatever it is, I'm not sure if it would break the recipe if I lower the sugar content.

After piping the shells and letting them rest to dry, I baked 3 batches of macarons using 3 different oven settings. The last time my shells were undercooked (or too much sugar) which resulted in them sticking to the paper and being annoyingly hard to peel off. This time, I baked at 150C convection for 13 min, 150C convection for 15 min, and 160C conventional for 15 min. For the convection settings, I pre-heated the oven at 180C first before lowering it. I was doing extensive research on the net prior to baking to determine the best settings but alas, oven temperatures and settings are just so temperamental (pardon the pun!) and everyone seemed to have their own little trick like pre-heating at high temps, or sticking a wooden spoon to keep the door ajar etc. I gave up and decided to just experiment. Both the 150C@13 min and 160C@15 min gave me similar results although the 13 min one was a little bit sticky still. at 150C@15 min it was dry, but the shells were a bit burnt. I like the idea of convection setting so I think I'll try 150C@14 min or 140C@15 min next time.

And then the fillings. I followed the recipe for a basic ganache i.e. equal parts of chocolate and cream (but I didn't add butter) and added pureed fruit to it. For the white chocolate though, because of the high cocoa butter content, I used much less cream. The trick is to get a thick enough consistency to pipe when set. While my consistency was more or less ok, the fruit flavourings were not meant to be. Despite adding more fruit than was called for in the recipe I was following, neither the strawberry nor banana came out strongly in the ganaches, with the taste being overwhelmingly chocolate. I think next time I will add fruit flavour to bring out the real fruit. Or not do ganaches. Ahh, so many new permutations.

Since this foray was quite successful, I will go back to the french meringue method to see if that can be made less sweet. And of course experiment with oven temperatures, and new filling flavours. Till the next time (I wonder when that will be?), I leave you with these pretty pictures.

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March 18, 2009

Crockery Spree

Somehow the above looks a little vulgar. Whatever. Warning: the following post may be a tad rambling about nothing of any interest to you -- dishes. You have been warned.

I went a little crazy today and finally bought all (ok not really all, more like half minus a little bit) the flatware, glassware, bowls, plates, cups I've been wanting for a while. I really needed some retail therapy but clothes buying is oh-so-passe, so it was off to Ikea for me to do some major damage to my wallet.

I ended up with 2 sets of various black and white plates and bowls in different shapes and sizes (large, small, square, round, rectangular, tiny), some glasses, cute dessert spoons, a coffee cup + saucer set, and a large white dish with red flowers. Why only 2 sets you might ask? Cos one is too lonely, and 4 or even 6 is a lot for someone who doesn't really entertain (although that's really my ideal). And 3 is just a weird number. But 2 means it's just nice for me and my brother or another guest. I also bought 3 candles that were in glasses that were the perfect size for trifle desserts. Yes, somehow, despite ALL the different shapes sizes colours of glasses that Ikea carry, they did not have one that was the perfect size.

I think the crockery lust in me has yet to be satiated, and I probably can hit a few more shops like Iwannagohome! or Tangs to accumulate some more stuff. Once the floodgates are opened, there's no turning back baby. The problem would be how to match them. For proper entertaining I probably need to just buy more of the same from the Ikea range, and add a few noteworthy pieces here and there. But where do I stop? I'm sure I'd want 6 of everything that's nice! Sigh.

Now, what in the world am I going to do with them?

No more tears. I think I am truly going nuts.

March 11, 2009

To Buy or Not To Buy

How important is it that I be able to afford little luxuries when I crave them? Such as the list of cooking gadgets that seem to be forever growing - cast iron pans, ice cream makers, fancy cake tins and molds etc etc. Not that I actually would use them. I just WANT them. My food processor is a good example of my bad hoarding habits. It's still in its box after so long. I've yet to bake another batch of macarons after I rushed out to buy the food processor cos I really needed to have one to grind my tant-pour-tant.

But I digress. The point I was trying to make is about material comfort. I find myself stopping me from buying the above things (more often than not!) simply because I think I should save. Not that I can't really afford it now, but I think maybe my money would be better stashed somewhere in case I become poor. But that begs the question, if I don't buy it now when I can actually afford to (and enjoy the benefits of it for longer!), when would I buy it? Definitely not when I'm penniless either! Such is the irrational nature of consumer behaviour.

Bah, why can't money be endless.
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