All posts by michtsang

Tiramisu macarons


In thinking about new flavours for macarons, I find myself drawn to desserts that we like and thinking whether there can be a macaron version. A while ago I made a coffee macaron and on reflection I thought it reminded me of Tiramisu, an all-time favourite dessert in our household. Today I decided to make macarons based on our Tiramisu recipe. I made these with chocolate shells paired with a rum chocolate ganache and a coffee jelly. J is not allowed to go near the coffee so I made some with just the chocolate ganache, without the strong coffee jelly.

Macaron shells
150 g almond meal
140 g icing sugar
10g valrhona cocoa powder
58 g egg whites (about 1.5 egg)
1 g meringue powder
150 g caster sugar
38 g water
2-3 drops of each of brown coloring gels
58 g egg whites extra

Put the first lot of egg whites into your stand mixer.
Clip the sugar thermometer according to manufacturer’s instructions to a milk saucepan. Put the water and caster sugar in and dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Some recipes say you should stir this gently – I’ve found that so long as I didn’t splash the sugar around, I won’t even have to stir. Use a clean pastry brush to brush down the side of the saucepan to avoid any crystallization if the liquid splashes up. Increase the heat and bring to the boil.
To make coffee-coloured shells, I added brown gel colourings to my Italian meringue. The amount depends on the strength of your gel, what depth of colour you desire and how it mixes with other ingredients. Practice is the only way to test it out. I scrapped 2-3 tiny balls out using a tooth pick.

Cook the sugar syrup until it reaches 70°C. You should monitor your sugar thermometer, and as it reaches this temperature, add the meringue powder to the egg whites and whisk in medium until it becomes frothy.

Once the sugar syrup has reached 118°C (soft ball stage), take the saucepan off the heat, decrease the mixer speed to medium and slowly trickle the sugar syrup in, down the side of the bowl. (Be warned not to get the syrup onto the whisk as you will then have spun sugar.) Increase speed to high and whisk until the bowl is warm to touch, about 8 minutes.

20120409-072001.jpgAdd the extra egg white to the almond meal mix, then add the meringue and use a large spatula to thoroughly combine it.

20120409-072030.jpg

Continue combining the mixture to soften the meringue. To achieve “macaronnage”, I mixed the batter about 18 times.

20120409-072300.jpg

Wait 30 minutes for the skin to form.

20120409-072535.jpg

I fan-baked them at 125°C, for 18 minutes (longer than normal as cocoa ones need more time to cook).

Once out of the oven, the macarons were left for 2 minutes on its trays before I checked them. They peeled off the baking paper quite easily. I then slid the whole sheet off the baking sheet onto my cool marble counter top. This causes a thermal shock and will make it even easier to peel off.

20120506-151916.jpg

I paired this with a rum chocolate ganache, and the recipe follows:

120g chocolate, chopped
100ml cream
1 tbsp rum

Melt cream in a pot and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes until the chocolate melts. Mix the rum in till the ganache is smooth. Cool in the fridge for 60 minutes until firm for piping.

Coffee jelly
3 heaped tsp Moccona coffee granules
4 tbsp sugar
100ml hot water
1.5 gelatine sheets

Let the sheet bloom in a bowl of 250ml cold water for a a few minutes.

Dissolve the sugar and coffee granules in the hot water.

Squeeze the water from the bloomed gelatine sheet and add the sheet into the coffee mix, stir to completely dissolve the sheet. Cool in fridge to set.

This recipe makes plenty, so save some in an airtight box for later!

20120506-151826.jpg

In the meantime, I used a small icing spatula to lift off thin sections of the coffee jelly. I placed these on one pair of the domes and the chocolate ganache onto the other pair of the domes.

20120506-152013.jpg

These need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the ganache to flavour the shells, so don’t eat it yet! These can keep in the freezer for up to 3 months – just wrap a few of them (4 or 6) with cling film wraps and place them in a airtight box. Bring them out an hour before serving to allow them to return to room temperature. The moisture will cling to the cling film and not your macarons.

The one in the left is the chocolate flavour.

20120506-152112.jpg

Where as the one on the right has the coffee jelly layer. My tasters said they were yum! Although the coffee jelly is quite strong when tried on its own, it achieves a striking balance when paired with the rich ganache and sweet shell. Hm-mmm!

20120506-152123.jpg

Chocolate chestnut mini cupcakes


J: mummy can I have a cupcake please?
Me: ok (grabs one from the box and gives her one, and walks out of the kitchen)
A few minutes later, J came to find me,
J: mummy I’ve finished my 2 cupcakes !!! They were delicious!
Me: I only gave you one, how did you get another?
J: I tippy-toed onto the bench, grabbed the box and chose one!

Now I can’t leave things on the kitchen bench!!

Recipes are written to be followed, right? Well sometimes not I guess. Especially when you can’t find an easy and quick recipe that allows you to use up your chestnut puree!! Even in this day and age where you have search engines that do all the work for you in 0.01 of a second?? So I say recipes are developed and improved upon to allow us to face whatever life throws at us (leftover chestnut purée that is).
So here you have a recipe that I personally designed. You have 3 options (having choices are good):
A) chocolate chestnut cupcake with no flour component. In which case don’t add the last ingredient. This gives a gooey decadent dessert-like cake.
B) chocolate chestnut cupcake with plain flour. This is what I made in the photos, for I wanted something less rich for J.
C) chocolate chestnut gluten-free cupcake, using almond meal instead of plain flour. Well that’s if you needed to make cupcakes, but discovered at the last minute that you have ran out of flour because you have been making macarons for far too long and had forgotten the need for flour. You however have almond meal well stocked in the pantry, so go ahead and use it!

Ingredients

110g dark chocolate melts
4 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
200g chestnut purée
75g dark chocolate bites (those that hold their shapes during cooking, and you can omit this if you think there is enough chocolate already!! J insisted she wanted these, so in they go)
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g flour (or almond meal if you want these to be gluten-free cupcakes)

Instructions

Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water. This will take about 3-5 minutes. Stir to make sure all the chocolate has melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk the egg whites until it forms a soft peak.

Beat the egg yolks with the caster sugar until it is pale and creamy.

Add the cooled melted chocolate, mix to combine.

Add the chestnut puree, mix slightly just to combine (having little lumps of chestnuts inside is like discovering little treasures – oh how I wish I had glaced chestnuts!!!)

Mix in the dark chocolate bites and baking powder.

Mix in the flour or almond meal.

Last but not least, fold in the egg whites.

In the mean time, J has been lining the tray with mini cupcake cases.

Drop them into mini cupcake cases. You will have enough to make 30.

Bake at 175 degrees Celcius for 13 minutes.

Rest for 1 minute in the pan, and then remove to cool on a wire rack.

No icing needed, but if you really wanted, you could do a simple 1:1 chocolate ganache (i.e. 1 part chocolate to 1 part cream – eg 50g chocolate melted with 50ml hot cream, like for my macarons)

and rating…don’t really need to say much =)

(ps. sorry about the holes in the cupcakes – this was a rather hurried job and I didn’t sift my flour and baking powder…and also probably over mixed it a bit! Did not affect the yummyness though, so all good.)

Peking duck with Chinese pancakes


20120420-111003.jpg

This is the cheats way to a Peking duck dish. I didn’t make the roast duck – I bought it. I really don’t have the time to make the roast duck and when these are so readily available, how could I not buy them instead? The time saved could be used to make another batch of macarons or, watch a movie with J! Equally pleasurable. The pancakes are a totally different story. These should be homemade. The aroma of the pancakes cooking will draw everyone to the kitchen and they will wait at their seats patiently, for you to say, ‘Dinner time!’ or in Chinese ‘Sik Fan la!’

This recipe will make about 30 smallish pancakes. Here’s how:

340g plain flour
240ml boiling water
1 tbsp sugar

Combine plain flour and sugar in a bowl. Add hot water gradually to the flour, stirring with a fork as you go.

20120503-212326.jpg

Keep pouring and mixing with a fork until the mixture starts to get sticky.

20120503-212441.jpg

Bring the mixture together with your hands. Knead the dough on the countertop until the dough is not sticky anymore, and feels elastic.
Add more flour/water as required (you shouldn’t need to!) It should end up quite smooth and elastic and non-sticky.

20120503-212802.jpg

Cover with a wet tea towel, and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

20120503-214119.jpg

Cut your dough in half. Roll out the first half on a floured surface to about 3-4mm thick and cut with large round cookie/ pastry cutters. Gather the off-cuts together, re-roll, and re-cut until all the dough has been cut, including the other half.

20120503-214042.jpg

Lay out all the dough circles on a baking sheet, and brush the tops of every other circle with sesame oil.

20120503-214245.jpg

Sandwich each pair together, with the sesame oil inside.

20120503-220022.jpg

Roll out each pair as thin as you can – don’t worry about it sticking, it just won’t because of the oil which makes it elastic and very flexible.

20120503-214612.jpg

Heat a pan on medium heat, pick up the rolled out pancake, and lay it into the dry pan. You should be able to place two pancakes in the pan at the same time,
It will start to bubble within 30 seconds. Not like a eggy pancake, but you will see the pancake rise in places.

20120503-222106.jpg

Turn it over and cook the other side. Once you see nice brown spots on it, they are done! It will take about 45 seconds for each side.

20120503-215121.jpg

Lift out, and place on a plate and let it rest for about a minute before carefully peeling the two paired pancakes by running your finger between them to break the seal, let the steam escape, and then carefully peel the top pancake from the bottom pancake.

20120503-215234.jpg

Finished pancakes

20120503-215342.jpg

How the inside looks like of a paired pancake

20120503-215408.jpg

They look quite inviting with the irregular shapes.

20120503-215418.jpgA quick tip: get yourself into a bit of a pattern while making them:
1) roll out 2 pancakes pairs
2) place in hot pan to cook
3) roll out 2 more pancakes pairs
4) flip first 2 pancakes pairs, wait 30 seconds for it to cook
5) remove from pan and set aside
6) place second lot of pancake pairs in hot pan to cook
7) roll out third lot of pancake pairs
8) flip second pancake pairs (and now you are at the point where you starting repeating these actions)
9) tease apart the first lot of cooked pancake pairs which had been set aside in step 5).
10) remove second pancake pairs from pan (8) and set aside
11) place third lot of pancake pairs in hot pan…

So essentially you move between your board, the pan and the plate with the cooked pancakes.
Once you get into a pattern, it will take no time to finish them all, and they will look identical in colour.

The duck and condiments
The hero of this dish is the duck, so don’t carve into it too early or risk draining the wonderful juices that are inside.
I have to admit I don’t like to eat the visible fat that lines the duck skin, so when slicing I would try to remove as much of them as possible.
I removed the legs and wings first, so that I have a wider surface to carve the skin and meat from (traditionally only the skin is eaten! The meat is reserved to make a secondary dish, like Sang Choy Bow, but I like the meat in these pancakes so I would carve the meat out along with the skin).
Chop cucumber and spring onions into similar sized lengths, usually the length of your finger, and put some Hoisin sauce in a small dish for serving.

To assemble, you pick up a piece of the pancake. Spread a little spoonful of hoisin sauce on it and place a piece of duck on. Top with some cucumber and spring onion slices, and roll it up tight. The gorgeous smell of the flour pancake mixed with the duck is purely addictive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, so make you make enough for everyone.
Give it a try, this is a fun dish!

20120420-110950.jpg

Seafood Chowder


I learnt this easy seafood chowder from watching Masterchef Australia. Fleur Sullivan, the chef, is from NZ!

This seafood chowder is made with roux, a mixture of flour and butter. I’ve modified this recipe a bit to reduce the amount of butter to make it lighter. You can pretty much add any seafood in as you like, using any in season, fresh produce you can find locally. Choose a firm type of fish, like Hapuka, which is a grouper in NZ. You can also use little neck clams, scallops or mussels.

Ingredients
150g butter
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
150g plain flour
100ml white wine
140g tomato paste (equivalent to 1 tub of tomato paste)
2 litres seafood* or fish stock, warmed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
Celery stalk, 10cm piece
1 stalk fresh thyme
300g Harpuka or Basa, diced
20 prawns, shelled and deveined
2 squid tube, cleaned and scored, cut int strips

*The seafood stock is one I’ve made earlier with the heads of scampi heads boiled down with “the holy trinity” vege trio – onions, carrots and celery (Mirepoix in French). This vegetable mix is a very common starter for soups and stews. They are usually finely diced and then sautéed in oil or butter.

Instructions

In a large heavy based saucepan melt butter and add diced vegetables. Sweat for a few minutes but do not allow to colour.

Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes or until mixture has a sandy texture.

Slowly pour in the wine and tomato paste and bring together as it thickens to remove all the lumps.

Add the warmed stock slowly, stirring continuously, and drop in the herbs and spices.

Allow the chowder to come to the boil, and stir to keep the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add all the fish and shellfish and simmer until the shells begin to open and the fish is cooked through.

Serve with sourdough or ciabatta.

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Salad


I LOVE Vietnamese food. I can’t seem to get enough of it. On our last Christmas trip to Hong Kong we went for Vietnamese lunches for not once, not twice, but at least four times (mum correct me if I am wrong but that is all the photos are showing.) I’ve got to do something about that – make it at home!. This here is admittedly a summer dish – light and refreshing is what it is, so it wasn’t particularly fitting for a cold autumn dinner. It didn’t stop us from eating it all though, as it was so delicious!

The ingredients you need are relatively simple:

Ingredients

300g Rump or Sirloin beef, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, juliened
1 cup of bean sprouts
a handful of mint leaves
1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts
1/3 red capsicum, sliced
1 sping onion, juliened
2 stalks of lemon grass, whites only
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp corn flour

Sauce

4 tbsp Fish sauce
4 tbsp palm sugar, shaved
2 tbsp shao xhing wine (or sherry)
juice of 2 limes

Instructions

Marinate the beef with the lemon grass, fish sauce and corn flour for 30 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and place the rice noodles in. Cook for 3-5 minutes, check to make sure they are cooked (and not over! Cooking times will vary with different brands, so always test it.) Drain and rinse in cool water. Drain again and set aside.

Heat the wok and add about 1 tbsp oil. Quickly stir fry the beef until it has just cooked (about 1 minute). Remove from pan and set aside.

Mix the bean sprouts, cucumber, spring onions and capsicum in a bowl.

Using tongs, pick up some rice noodles and place them on the bottom of a bowl or the centre of a plate. Place a handful of the vegetables on top, add some beef slices, some freshly torn mint leaves and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts.

Place the sauce in small bowls for each person to pour over the noodles.

Easy peasy! Are you making this today?