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Sunday, April 25, 2010

End-of-April Mac Sale

I mentioned in my previous post (First Macaron Sale) that I'd have the macaron sale once a month. This week is the last week of April and I'm having my second mac sale already. Why? Because next week is finals week and I'll be extremely busy. Anyway, this time the flavors are banana caramel, green tea, apricot white chocolate, avocado chocolate, and lychee. The most interesting one for me is the avocado chocolate because I based the flavor on my favorite juice ever since I was a kid: avocado juice! It is a common beverage in Indonesia and is usually made by blending fresh avocados, sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate syrup. So, I made the buttercream with similar ingredients and the resulting flavor was close to the juice's. The most difficult one to make was lychee. I wanted to infuse as much lychee flavor as I could to the buttercream, but it was impossible without using lychee extract. To solve this problem, I added lychee juice to the buttercream and mixed in almond powder to keep it from turning into soup. Then, I made lychee jelly and pushed a piece of it into the center of the buttercream. I could taste the lychee in the macaron, I hope my customers can taste it too :)

Here are the pics!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cake and DEFENSE!!

It's that time of year when graduating grad students become anxious and work like crazy. Yes, it's time for defense! What I mean by defense here is the final presentation for grad students in which they defend their thesis research. After countless hours of preparation and practice, my boyfriend and labmate passed their defense presentations this week. What can heal a tired soul better than cake? None! So, I baked cakes for them to replenish their blood sugar and well.. just to celebrate. For my boyfriend, I made his absolute favorite cake: fruity cream cake. Basically, it's two layers of genoise cake with creme chiboust and fruits in between. I used only strawberries because that's what I had in the fridge, but you can use any fruits you want. The cake was airy, creamy, fruity, vanilla-ey.. In short, it's c'est magnifique if I dare to say so myself :)
I attempted to draw the square graduation hat with chocolate buttercream, but it turned out looking like an old telephone. Oh well, taste is more important :p

As for my labmate, I had to make a cake that did not need refrigeration, did not need any dishes to eat it, was sturdy enough so that it wouldn't fall apart during transport (me walking to my lab), but still tasted good. Solution: cupcakes! I used the same genoise batter for the cupcakes and they rose beautifully creating little domes upon baking. I then topped them with apricot cream cheese frosting and decorated them with some sugar pearls. Yummmm, love those cupcakes :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Earl Grey Chocolate Chip Ice Cream & Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich

Got some leftover shells and earl grey dark chocolate ganache from making macarons, so I decided to use it to make ice cream. Just mix the ganache with regular vanilla ice cream base and stir in some mini chocolate chips before freezing. The result was not bad.. I could still taste the earl grey and the chocolate chip was a nice touch. I sandwiched the ice cream between two macaron shells to make macaron ice cream sandwiches. They're sooo cute! Too bad I only have black macaron shells left, I think it will be much cuter if the color is brighter :(

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Macaron Sale!!

To gain experience working in a "food establishment" for my pastry school application and to cover the ingredient costs, I had my first macaron sale this week. I made 5 different flavors of macaron: black forest (chocolate buttercream + homemade cherry jam), red velvet (chocolatey shell + cream cheese buttercream), mango, honey lemon, and rose. I packaged 5 macarons in a plastic bag and sold them for $3 each package. Not really looking for profit here, hence the inexpensive price (compared to about $1.60/macaron in stores). Thanks to the support from my friends, the 26 packages I managed to make were sold out in a few hours. Yeayyyy!! I'm sooo happy ^^ I'll probably make this a monthly thing, so I'll sell macarons with different flavors each month. I thought of doing this twice-a-month, but it is impossible since my schedule is too hectic. Next month, I'm going to make lychee, avocado chocolate, blackberry, green tea, and banana caramel macarons. Can't wait for next month! Anw, here are some pictures of the macarons in this month's package ^^

Friday, April 9, 2010

Earl Grey & Honey Lemon Macarons

Along with the rest of the world, I'm having a macaron craze right now. I can't get enough of it! So, I'm currently experimenting with flavors, traditional and new, in macarons. This week's flavors are earl grey tea and honey lemon. Earl grey is probably one of the staple macaron flavors and you can find it in almost every macaron shop. On the other hand, I've never seen a honey lemon macaron before so I'm more excited in making this than  the earl grey one.

For the macaron shells, I used Pierre Herme's recipe and just colored them differently for each flavor. I added brown and red food coloring powder to the earl grey one, and yellow to the honey lemon one. For the earl grey ones, I also sprinkled some earl grey tea on the macaron shells before baking so that people could kind of guess what the flavor was. As for the honey lemon ones, I tried to be creative and added shreds of lemon peels on the shells before baking and it turned out to be a bad idea. I didn't think the small amount of moisture in the lemon peel could cause the shell to kind of bubbled up during baking.
(look at the bad ones at the back, I tried to hide them)

Luckily, I only added shredded lemon peels on my first batch. Anw, now for the fillings. I used Pierre Herme's recipe for earl grey chocolate ganache, but instead of milk chocolate, I used Valrhorna dark chocolate (61%). Actually, the floral note of the dark chocolate complemented the earl grey fragrance quite well. For the honey lemon filling, I made a batch of honey lemon curd and use a little bit of it to make honey lemon buttercream. I added more honey to the buttercream because I thought the honey flavor was not very pronounced in the curd. At the end, the buttercream had a distinctive honey flavor and it was not as sweet as
I though it was going to be, so everything turned out well.

Here they are, earl grey and honey lemon macarons :)

I like the earl grey ones better since I'm a big fan of chocolate, but the honey lemon ones are delicious too. I think I mentioned in my previous posts that I don't like citrus or sour taste in my sweets and the honey lemon macarons surprise me. I quite like it despite its sort of intense sourness. If you want to make these macarons, just follow the recipe in my last post for the shell. As for the filling, find the recipes below :)

Earl Grey Dark Chocolate Ganache

190 g heavy whipping cream
5 tea bags earl grey black tea (I used Stash Premium Earl Grey Black Tea)
200 g dark chocolate (I used Varlhorna)
70 g unsalted butter

1. Steep the tea bags in simmering heavy whipping cream fro 30 minutes to get maximum flavor. If the cream comes to a boil, turn of the heat.
2. After 30 minutes of steeping, remove tea bags and squeeze of the cream out of them. Add enough heavy whipping cream to make sure it's 190 g. Boil the cream for 1 minute.
3. Pour the hot cream over finely chopped chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes.
4. Stir the chocolate mixture and add the butter. Stir the mixture until smooth.
5. Refrigerate the ganache until use.

Honey Lemon Buttercream

Honey Lemon Curd (adapted from here)
5 large egg yolks
1 large egg
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus more for garnishing
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

1. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the whole egg, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest and the honey.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Set the bowl with the lemon mixture over the boiling water, reduce the heat to moderate and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 7 minutes.
3. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter.
4. Pass the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl.
5. Ladle the strained curd into a container. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming; refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours.
*You'll have plenty of honey lemon curd leftover after making the buttercream.

Honey Lemon Buttercream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup honey lemon curd
about 1/4 cup or less of almond powder

1. Beat softened butter until light and fluffy.
2. Add honey and honey lemon curd into the butter and mix thoroughly. The mixture will look curdled.
3. Add almond powder by the teaspoonful until the mixture does not look curdled anymore.
4. Store in refrigerator until use and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before filling.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

For the love of macarons..

People are going crazy for macaron and bakeries everywhere are adding macaron to their menus. Even McDonald's in France sell macarons now. Years ago, I tasted my first macaron from Bakerzin and didn't like it at all. I thought it was too sweet, the texture was weird, and it had no flavor. After that, I totally forgot that macaron even existed until I read about Mr. Pierre Herme and his crazy macaron creations on the web two years ago. I had never made macaron before, so I figured I'd try it out. I used a recipe which claimed to be Laduree's and the result was decent. I got the feet, the shine, the volume, but the taste was not as good. The center was hollow and the taste was very sweet and bland. I kind of gave up, because it was too much work and the result was not satisfying.

Last year's Thanksgiving, my friends went to Paris and brought me the famous Pierre Herme's macaron. I looked at the vibrant little cookies and I immediately fell in love. To be honest, I didn't really like some of his flavor combinations because I like traditional and simple flavors in general, but other than that his macaron was perfect. It was not overly sweet, the texture was nice, and the filling was very flavorful. So, I set up my KitchenAid mixer and started experimenting with different macaron recipes.

So far, I have tried 4 different recipes: Francois Payard's, Pierre Herme's, Helene Dujardin's (Tartellete), and Laduree's (claimed to be). My top two choices are Herme's and Tartellete's. Mr. Herme's recipe is rather time-consuming and involves more step as it is based on Italian meringue technique. Tartellete's recipe, on the other hand, is much simpler and based on regular meringue technique. With those recipes in hand, I had successfully made macarons with various flavors: matcha, pistachio, rose-pistachio, strawberry cream, gianduja, chocolate, banana caramel chocolate, blueberry cream, and passion fruit milk chocolate.

I have gone a long way from disliking this little French cookie to absolutely adores it and it seems like the rest of the world does too. I mean, how can you resist biting into this delicate colorful little cookies? If you have never tried macarons before, I recommend you to try a good quality one and then make them yourself. You can fill the cookie with any of your favorite buttercream or jam and mix-match the flavors if you make them yourself. Interested? Check out Tartellete's and Syrup & Tang's blogs, they have very detailed instructions on how to make macarons. Or you can check out my passion fruit milk chocolate macaron post in this blog for Pierre Herme's recipe.

An Addiction: Azuki Matcha Mont Blanc

Being a person with a huge sweet tooth, what reminds me the most of Japanese food is not sushi, not ramen, not udon, and not teriyaki. One flavor combination that screams "JAPAN!" for me is matcha + azuki bean. I am absolutely addicted to this combo and  still can't get enough. Ice cream, mousse cake, bread, I have made them all based on this flavor combo, what more can I make? As I looked for inspirations from my cookbook collection, I stumbled upon one popular Japanese cake: Mont Blanc. No, it's not the pen and no, it's not the mountain either. It is a cake or meringue topped with cream and covered with chestnut cream. I think it was originally a France dessert but it became very popular in Japan, so it also screams "JAPAN!" for me.

Traditionally, Mont Blanc has a meringue as a base and some kind of cream as a filling as I mentioned before. Some pastry chefs have modified the recipe and use different types of cakes and fillings to make Mont Blanc. Since I was craving for matcha + azuki bean, I tried to incorporate this flavor combo in Mont Blanc. What I ended up with was a Mont Blanc with green tea sponge cake as a base, azuki bean cream for the filling, and traditional chestnut puree/ cream for the topping. Voila, here's my Mont Blanc...
I added store-bought roasted chestnut in the middle of the azuki bean cream to make it more interesting, but it made the whole thing difficult to cut with a spoon. Probably next time I'll pipe some chestnut cream instead of putting a whole chestnut inside the cake. Nevertheless, I still smiled satisfactorily when I put the first spoonful into my mouth. The matcha cake worked extremely well with the azuki bean cream as expected and the roasted chestnut along with the chestnut cream further enhanced the eating experience by providing an additional layer of flavor and texture. I loved it!! It became my most favorite matcha + azuki dessert that I had ever made. Hmm.. maybe I can use this flavor combo to make macarons. Note to self, try it next time.