Thursday, November 29, 2007

Matcha (Green Tea) Macarons and a Christmas Musical

I have come to realise that macarons, well, they GROW on you. I now understand why so many people are 'infatuated' with this cookie - the many colors that they come in and the many flavours that it can carry . I could not be happier with my second attempt at making this cookie - they were smaller and daintier, and the flavor of 'matcha' or green tea goes incredibly well with dark chocolate eventhough it wasn't the filling that I had originally intended for it.

I had initially planned to use a matcha butter cream for the filling, but for some reason that didn’t turn out – it was too runny, and I was tired and didn’t want to start another batch of butter cream. So, I just made some chocolate ganache – easy, quick and fuss-free. As expected, the flavour combination of matcha and dark chocolate was sensational.

The first time I made macarons, I left the piped batter to sit for half an hour for the ‘skin’ to develop. I felt though, that the ‘skin’ was too thin, so this time around, I left the piped batter to sit for two hours instead and the outcome was a crisper and less fragile skin. To make the matcha macarons, all I did was add 2 teaspoons of matcha green tea powder to the basic macaron batter.

I also wanted the macarons a little less sweet, so I lessened the powdered sugar by 35 grams and it turned out great.

Matcha Macaron Batter

125g almond flour
190g powdered (icing) sugar
100g egg whites
25g granulated sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
2tsps matcha green tea powder

Baking instructions and the recipe for the chocolate ganache can be found on my previous post.

I’ve not had time to do any blogging the last two weeks because of the many rehearsals we had to attend for a Christmas musical that our Church is staging this Saturday. It’s a really entertaining and enjoyable musical, so if you live on my side of the world, I welcome you to attend. You will not be disappointed!

EVENT: "Heaven's Lamb" Christmas Musical (SUPPER Provided after)
DATE: Saturday 1st December 2007
TIME: 6:00 P.M.
PLACE: Perth Christian Life Centre
3 Rangerview Place, Canning Vale 6155

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Elusive Macaron

I’ve always wanted to know what the hype was with Macarons. I’ve seen countless postings on this seemingly ‘hard to make’ French cookie in the last year or two but have never had the guts to attempt making them. Furthermore, I had never tasted them before until my recent trip to Singapore a couple months back. And even then, I thought, ‘Yeah, It tastes pleasant’, but it didn’t get a “WHOA!” out of me. Despite that, there was something alluring about it still. Maybe it was the different colours and flavours they came in. I couldn’t be sure.

I remember seeing some really gorgeous photos of macarons on Tartelette – the brainchild of the lovely and talented Helen and decided to refer to them again. Her Pistachio macarons were a sight for sore eyes. She breezed through the recipe like it was the easiest thing to make. I must say I had my reservations still because of the many different ‘must-do-in-order-to-achieve-success’ tips I’ve read on other blogs that she had done without. I doubted that I could pull it off the way she did. After all she is THE Tartelette, the Awesome baker!

I must tell you now that I DO NOT take failure gracefully and I’m hardly the type of patient person that will persevere with a recipe over and over until I succeed. On the contrary, when I fail in the kitchen, I SULK and I MOAN and GROAN, and I seek solace in the comforting arms of my husband and children. Yes, I’m not afraid to disclose the fact that I am somewhat of a DRAMA QUEEN.

It was not until I stumbled upon Veronica's Test Kitchen that I finally had the courage to embark on macaron making. Veronica’s obsession and persistence in mastering the macaron was truly inspiring, from her very funny and entertaining documentation of her failed attempt to her step-by-step journey to success ‘Macaron Chronicles’. And so began my exploration with the macaron. Suddenly, making the macaron didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. I followed Veronica’s findings faithfully and had success on my very first attempt. YAY!

I made hazelnut macarons by substituting half the amount of almond meal with hazelnut meal, just like Veronica did but instead of the Caramel fleur-de-sel filling she used, I thought that I’d start off with an easy chocolate ganache filling. I ‘aged’ (leave egg whites at room temperature) the egg whites for 43 (Veronica recommended aging the whites for 24-48 hours) hours before starting the recipe. Even so, I noticed the ‘skin’ of the macaron shell was very thin, which probably meant that my eggs were SUPER fresh and that I’d need to age them more in the future. Also, I carelessly spaced the macaron batter too close and a couple stuck together on the edges, no drama though, I just carefully pulled them apart. The other thing too, was that I didn’t expect the macarons to spread so much – I ended up with HUGE macarons! Other than that, everything was hunky-dory.

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache
(Taken from Veronica’s Test Kitchen)

62.5g almond flour
62.5 hazelnut flour
225g icing sugar
100g egg whites
25g granulated sugar
Pinch cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150C). Run the flours and icing sugar through the food processor and sift twice. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat at medium speed. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue beating until the whites attain medium peaks and are glossy.
Add the dry ingredients slowly to the meringue, taking about six additions all in all. Pipe the batter to a diameter of an inch and let rest for 30 minutes before baking. Bake for about 11 minutes or until done, turning the sheets halfway through.

Draw a circle template on the reverse side of the parchment paper. Keep your tip positioned about ½ inch above and in the middle of the circle guide, the batter is going to spread out more evenly into the circle you want. If your macarons stick, peel away the parchment rather than force the spatula to lift the macarons out.

Chocolate Ganache
85g semi-sweet chocolate melted with 1/3-cup heavy cream
Refrigerate until consistency becomes spreadable.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Malaysian/Singaporean Hawker Cuisine: Prawn Noodles

I don't often do posts on savoury dishes mainly because I HAVE TO cook dinner every Monday to Friday whilst I DON'T HAVE TO make desserts, bake cakes, pastries or cookies, thus the idea of baking becomes more appealing and is a treat for me. Styling and Photographing sweets is more fun too because the colors of sweets are more interesting.
However, every once in a while I whip up something savoury that takes a little more time and effort than the Monday to Friday dishes, something like this that I really take pride in preparing. I had some friends over recently to share this dish.

Most of you guessed right – This is Prawn Noodles or ‘Hae Mee’ as it’s known in Singapore or ‘Mee Yoke’ as it’s known in Malaysia. I’ve made Prawn Noodles in the past, but I must say that I was only totally happy with the flavour recently, thanks to Madam Chia Ah Bee, the mother of a good friend of ours from Singapore, Jeffrey Lim. On their holiday trip here two years ago, Madam Chia was kind enough to show me how she made her famous Prawn Noodles. Those of you living in Dover Road Singapore will remember Madam Chia for her noodle stall simply known as ‘Teck Hock Prawn Noodles’ that had been in the area since 1978. She is retired now and spends her time doing the things she loves like travelling, having her weekend mah-jong sessions, cooking for her family and watching cooking shows on TV.

Madam Chia Ah Bee (extreme right) with her family on holiday in Bangkok

Life wasn’t this easy for Madam Chia in the late seventies – she had been widowed in her mid 30s and had to be the only bread winner for her family of four children. Teck Hock Prawn Noodle Stall became her primary source of income. On Sundays and Public Holidays, she made and sold another of her specialty dishes, Braised Duck Noodles which was another popular favourite. I was told that Madam Chia had learnt her cooking skills from her mother and Mother-in-law, and this had become an invaluable asset for her in hard times.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to learn some of her ‘tips’ and ‘secrets’ to making some of the best tasting Singaporean dishes including this Prawn Noodle dish. The secret to making a memorable ‘Hae Mee’ is in the stock, which derives it’s rich flavour and coloring from prawn heads and shells that are sautéed until well caramelised.

I look forward to my next trip to Singapore when I will again savour Madam Chia’s skilful cooking!