Gingerbread macarons


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Since it’s Christmas, I’m sure you’d agree with me that it’s appropriate to have macarons flavoured for the merry season.

It’s been a while since I’ve designed a new flavour for my macarons, as I’ve been far too busy dreaming up other desserts [see previous posts for Tarts]. However as I prepare for our trip to HK, I’m yet again faced with a dilemma – what flavours should I make and bring?

Salted caramel and creme brulee have been past favourites and an idea was formed one afternoon while I was sipping a spiced vanilla creme brulee drink – it tasted totally like gingerbread biscuits…! And so this is how this recipe came about…Merry Christmas!
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Macarons shell ingredients
(makes about 40 macarons)
150g icing sugar
150g almond meal
110g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
150g caster sugar
38ml water
1g meringue powder
2 drops of gel colouring, I used brown for half my shells and sky blue for the other half.

Spiced chocolate and caramel ganache
1/2 cup Salted caramel (See recipe in salted caramel macaron recipe)
120g 28% cocoa White chocolate
60ml cream
1 star anise
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon

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Instructions

  1. Follow my basic recipe to make the shells.
  2. Heat cream and the star anise till it just begins to boil. Remove the star anise and pour over white chocolate that has been broken up into small pieces in a bowl.
  3. Wait for a minute before stiring. Leave in the fridge for 10 minutes for it to set a bit and mix in with your half cup of salted caramel.
  4. Mix in spices.
  5. Spread or pipe a teaspoon of your spiced chocolate ganache on half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells.
  6. The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to soften the shells and also for the flavour to fully develop.

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A tale of two tarts: salted caramel or hazelnut?


1. Chocolate mousse, hazelnut and nutella tart 2. Salted caramel, chocolate mousse and strawberries tart

It’s the school holidays and J wanted to make chocolate mousse, while I wanted to test out my newly purchased Gobel tart rings. I usually make tarts with ganache but thought hey I could use mousse! We discussed the elements and J came up with a plan, a cross-sectional drawing of her mousse design.

After a bit of debate, we had two ideas:

  1. Chocolate mousse, hazelnut, Nutella tart
  2. Salted caramel, chocolate mousse and strawberries tart

For the hazelnut tart, a thin layer of Nutella (you can of course use chocolate ganache) was spread on the base of the tart, then a thin layer of roasted hazelnut paste and then topped with the chocolate mousse.

For the salted caramel tart, a thin layer of salted caramel was first spread on the base of the tart, then topped with chocolate mousse. Some freeze dried strawberries were added to give a contrasting taste to the sweet and salty caramel.

For both, cocoa nibs, crunchy chocolate pearls and feuilletine shards were added for texture.

I like how I can do the components separately (to fit in with school holiday activities) and then assemble right before serving.

Hope you will enjoy these!

Sweet almond tart base
Makes 10 x 9″ ring tart bases
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200g all-purpose (plain) flour
40g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
100g butter, cold and cubed
1 egg (I use size 8)

  1. Sift and combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Add the butter and ‘rub in’, working the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until it resemble small crumbs
  3. Add the egg and incorporate it into the dry ingredients.
  4. Work the dough lightly by gathering the dough with your fingertips and folding it over with a downward push of your palm. Work quickly and lightly, till it comes together.
  5. Wrap up the dough inside a folded sheet of baking paper, gently roll flat with a rolling pin and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  6. While the dough is resting, prepare the tart rings by buttering them.
  7. When the dough is ready, lightly sprinkle some flour on your bench or chopping board.
  8. Roll out the dough on the board with a rolling pin to a thickness of 2-3mm. You may need to add more flour to keep it from sticking as it is a very soft dough.
  9. Cut out a circle of dough larger than your ring and place onto the buttered tart ring or mould.
  10. Press well onto the sides. Use a glass to flatten the bottom and sides to ensure you have straight edges.
  11. Cut off excess dough by going over the top of the tart ring with the rolling pin.
  12. Pinch the edges up slightly.
  13. Prick holes at the base with a fork.
  14. Rest in the fridge for 30 – 60 minutes to stop it from shrinking.
  15. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  16. Using ceramic baking beads or rice, blind bake at 180 degrees C for 15-20 minutes or when browned all over. Set aside to cool completely

1. Chocolate mousse, hazelnut and nutella tart 2. Salted caramel, chocolate mousse and strawberries tart

Putting it all together
Chocolate mousse, hazelnut, Nutella tart

  • Cooled tart base
  • Nutella (or melted chocolate)
  • Roasted hazelnut paste (Equagold)
  • Chocolate mousse (Mousse recipe)
  • On the top – Chocolate crunchy shards, pearls, cocoa nibs

Salted caramel, chocolate mousse and strawberries tart

1. Chocolate mousse, hazelnut and nutella tart 2. Salted caramel, chocolate mousse and strawberries tart

These turn out more rustic than elegant ;) still delicious regardless!

Glorious Tiramisu with Bailey’s


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This is how I make Tiramisu – for as long as I can remember. 
Trouble with making Tiramisu is what do you do with the left overs. I’ve learnt that if I used a narrow based bowl that opens up to a wider top, while aesthetically pleasing, I would have half-used packets of lady fingers and left over mascarpone cheese filling yet wouldn’t quite be enough to make another! I’ve found that if I use a straight edged rectangular bowl (20cm by 15 cm straight edged Pyrex bowl) it would be close to perfect, with just enough left to also make some cute little deconstructed pots of Tiramisu. 
This also won me the top prize at my previous job’s departmental cooking competition so it has truly been tasted and approved by many. My current colleagues love it. My point of difference is the use of Bailey’s – lots of recipes call for rum or brandy but I love Bailey’s and have always preferred Tiramisu made with Baileys. Airy and pillowy; velvety and light; a glorious pick-me-up dessert.

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 400g mascarpone cheese (2 packets of Tatua Mascarpone cheese)
  • 350ml cream, whipped
  • 22 Italian Lady fingers
  • 1 cup cold instant coffee (Moccona)
  • ½ cup Baileys 
  • 1 tbsp of your best cocoa for dusting

Instructions

  1. Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, whisking constantly. This is your sabayon, remove from the heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored.
  2. Add Mascarpone to whipped yolks, beat until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks.
  4. Gently fold the whipped cream in the mascarpone sabayon mixture and set aside.
  5. Mix the cold espresso with the Baileys and dip the lady fingers into the mixture just long enough to get them wet, do not soak them! Do only several at a time.
  6. Arrange the lady fingers in the bottom of your bowl.
  7. Spoon half the mascarpone cream filling over the lady fingers.
  8. Repeat process with another layer of lady fingers and mascarpone cream.
  9. Dust with cocoa.
  10. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. It tastes better the next day.

If there are any leftovers, I often make up small individual servings, as shown here.

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(Styled by J)

One pot ham and potato chowder soup


The weather had been quite flippant in the last few weeks and we find ourselves so looking forward to summer that we are wearing jandals already, looking longingly to the sky as if to say ‘I demand summer weather, NOW!’. Of course that had no results whatsoever and we resolve to having warm, hearty, comfort food once again.

What can be better than a good old mug of soup in a blustery cold afternoon? Why, a good ham and potato chowder soup with grilled garlic pizza bread for dunking of course!
This soup is made with a roux, but rather than using a separate pot to prepare it, I add it all into the pot and cook it at the same time. Less washing, more time to enjoy the food and company!

This makes enough for 6 servings, and I usually freeze half for later.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 slices of ham, cut into small square pieces
  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and diced to 3/4 inch pieces
  • Small brown onion, diced
  • 2 medium sized carrots, diced
  • 1 cup of sweet corn kernels
  • 50g butter (about 4 tbsp)
  • 50g plain flour (about 3 tbsp)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, boiling
  • milk, for creaminess and consistency adjustment (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large dutch oven pot cook ham until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.
  2. Add the onion and sauté for just 2 minutes. Let them cook till transclucent, but not browned. Add the potatoes and carrots to the pot. Cook for another 2 minutes, moving the potatoes from time to time to make sure the surface caramalises a bit.
  3. Push the vegetables to the side of the pot so that you have the centre of the pot clear of food. Add the butter and flour in and stir vigourously. The flour needs to cook but you don’t want it to stick to the bottom of the pot. At least not so much that it browns. Cook for another minute to ensure the flour is completely cooked.
  4. Add the hot chicken stock a ladle at a time to the pot. Stir to mix before adding another ladle. You can add as much as you like to achieve the consistency to your liking.
  5. As the soup heats up it will thicken. Add the corn kernels, cook until the potatoes are fork-tender. For a creamier taste or consistency adjustment, you can add some milk in, to your liking.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls. Serve with grilled pizza bread.
  7. Dunk and eat.

Chestnut macarons


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Chestnuts have a special place in my memories. From the great – chestnut cream layered sponge cake that was to be found at most birthday celebrations (mango is also a very popular option) – to the not so great – braised chicken with chestnuts. Well at least I remember not liking it so much because I felt that the dish was too singular in texture with everything soft tasting and lacking contrast. I do have to mention though that my favourite way of having chestnuts is having them almost raw. Just blanched, peeled, popped into an airtight bag and away you go. I remember having these as snacks on my hikes across the hills.

Chestnut purée is, however, a totally different matter. When made with the proper balance of chestnut, water, sugar and cream, it becomes one of the tastiest element in any dessert. Take the classic Mont Blanc chestnut tart. Fine strands of piped chestnut cream perched on top of a dome of silky mousse, who can resist! Take it up another notch by tempering this smooth delicate entremet with the intense flavour and sweetness of a candied chestnut. Simply divine.

Ever since I tried Joel Robuchon’s chestnut tart at Le Salon De The de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong, I have had my heart set on making chestnut macarons. This week I finally had time and oh boy what an amazing flavour. I think it is close to knocking salted caramel off its place and claim the top seat of my all time favourite macaron.

Macarons shell ingredients
(makes about 40 macarons)
150g icing sugar
150g almond meal
110g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
150g caster sugar
38ml water
1g meringue powder
2 drops of gel colouring, I used brown for half my shells and white for the other half.

Chocolate Chestnut purée

120g 28% cocoa White chocolate
60ml cream
120g chestnut purée

Instructions

Follow my basic recipe to make the shells.
You can add some cocoa powder to the shells (as I have done here) to add depth to the shells.
Heat cream till it just begins to boil and pour over white chocolate that has been broken up in small pieces in a bowl. Wait for a minute before stiring. Leave in the fridge for 10 minutes for it to set a bit and mix in chestnut purée.
Spread or pipe a teaspoon of chocolate chestnut purée on half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells.
The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to soften the shells and also for the flavour to fully develop.

A blog about my kitchen adventures, photography, family and experiences

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