making macarons (#2).

30 Jun 2012 § 1 Comment

Being my usual pedantic self, I’ve decided to document my earlier two attempts before I finally succeeded in making French macarons.

Attempt #1 to make macarons actually took place 5 years ago using a Pierre Hermé recipe. At that time, I couldn’t find ground almonds, and I actually bought whole almonds and blended it myself.

Needless to say, ‘unmitigated disaster’ was an understatement.

The amount of work it took to grind and then sieve the almonds was just too much trouble (note: this was before I had my first taste of salted caramel macarons!) and my macarons came out all crispy, cracked and sticky at the bottom – the perfect example of macawrongs! It was enough to put one off making macarons forever.

Attempt #2 was as recent as 2 weeks ago. This time, I did my research on the internet, browsing recipes, reading tips and tricks from various blogs. Amongst the many blogs and posts that I had read, these are the ones that I found most useful:

1. Stella Park’s website, BraveTart:

  • A post which dispels many of the macaron making myths – it certainly made the task less daunting as she details how it isn’t necessary to age the eggwhites, dry the piped macarons prior to baking, baby the meringue – and I like how she uses the French Macaron technique vs. the Italian (which involves melting sugar – although I’ve read that one is less likely to go wrong with the Italian method).
  • A post on the 10 Commandments of making macarons – infinitely helpful tips such as rapping the trays to knock out the air bubbles prior to baking.

2. The Food Nouveau, which has very detailed instructions on:

  • How to make macarons – this includes a helpful video! The recipe calls for aged egg whites though, as well as resting the piped macarons.
  • Macaron troubleshooting – probably the most comprehensive troubleshooting guide that I’ve come across. I kid you not.

3. A video by Chef Nini – watch this to learn the proper macaronage technique (from 1:44 mins onwards).

I decided to try BraveTart’s method as I was too impatient to age the egg whites (her post on making macarons and corresponding recipe can be found here). I followed the instructions to a T, with exception of processing the almonds and icing sugar (I sifted the almond powder). I also added 15gm of cocoa powder as I wanted to make chocolate shells.

Everything went well, including the texture of the batter (perfectly magma-like) and I proceeded to pipe the batter into small circles. The first tray went into the oven without any resting time, and I excitedly watched it rise.

Rise it did. Without any feet!!

I decided to try resting the second tray, but the same thing happened.

In the end, I had two trays of macaron shells with the following characteristics:

  • No feet – the first sign of failure!
  • Top of the shells were smooth but it had many small little holes like air bubbles
  • The shells came off the baking parchment without any problems – probably because of the lack of feet
  • Texture was almost right although it felt slightly too crispy on the outside

The footless macarons went in the bin and a quick post-mortem (I’m starting to believe that macaron-making is quite an exact science) after checking Food Nouveau’s troubleshooting guide told me that I should have…yes. Aged the egg whites. Rested the piped batter.

Sigh.

On we go then to attempt #3

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the macaron love affair.

30 Jun 2012 § 1 Comment

My serious love affair with macarons (eating, not making) only began in the last year or so. I’d previously tried the ones at Canelé Pâtisserie during a visit to Singapore many years ago but strangely enough, I didn’t think much of it.

When the macaron craze hit the shores of Malaysia with reviews after reviews pouring in on foodie blogs, I decided to give it another try. I started with the ones at Whisk (badly made, crispy shells, way too sweet):

…moved on to T Forty Two (still too sweet but better texture than Whisk):

…and finally found the perfect ones at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio, my current go-to shop for macarons. The sweet ones (cherry, strawberry, raspberry, etc.) were still too sweet for my liking while the tangy ones (lemon, lime) were nice but The Perfect Macaron for me was definitely the Salted Caramel macaron. It had a perfect balance of sweet and salty that got me totally hooked, but at RM4.40 per macaron, it was an expensive indulgence to say the least!

When Les Deux Garcons opened its doors at Bangsar, I made a trip there to try their famed macarons, but despite the good reviews, I didn’t like the ones here. The salted caramel macaron was a major disappointment as the filling was made of buttercream and honestly, I thought the truffle macaron tasted like gas, heh.

Along the way, both the boyfriend and my little girl were naturally introduced to the wonderful world of macarons as well – both of them are currently fans of the chocolate macarons from Nathalie’s. While I limit the ‘lil miss to two macarons whenever I buy a box from Nathalie’s, the boyfriend enjoys it so much that he frequently comments that he could ‘eat these like cookies’. This, plus my recent discovery that cake supply stores have started stocking almond powder, has finally led to my attempts to make some. After one failed attempt (macarons with no feet!), I finally succeeded last night and I’ll be documenting this in the next post, so keep an eye out for it!

Updated!

  • Attempt #2: click here
  • Attempt #3 (success!): click here

and i quote.

22 Jun 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve recently been spending quite a lot of my time on Pinterest – after a few half-hearted attempts at pinning, I’ve finally begin to appreciate the ease in which it allows us to immerse and lose ourselves in a virtual sea of beautiful pictures and beautiful words. The quotes that I would like to share below (and some of my accompanying thoughts) are amongst the ones that I’ve stumbled upon on Pinterest whenever life is getting me down – some of these are quotes I’ve found on days when I feel so emotionally fatigued that all I want to do is stay in bed, cut off all contact and wallow in my own thoughts and self-pity, while others appear like a well-timed reminder.

I’d like to think that everything – be it people, objects or words – finds us at the right moments and I hope one of these nine lovely quotes finds its way to you too when you need it most.

1. There’s more to life than just walking along the path ahead, routinely doing the things that we’ve always been doing, staying in our comfort zones. Dare to do.

2. When the strong needs saving, will anyone be there? I take comfort in the fact that my Superman savior takes the form of my parents – on the rare occasions when I truly crumble and break down, when trying to appear strong takes its toll, it’s my mother’s shoulder that I seek to wordlessly sob my heart out. I hope my daughter – as strong and determined as she may be (yes, her personality is very apparent, even at the tender age of three) – will cast me in the same role in future, if and when she has the need.

3. Noise and work – I deal with these just fine. But when it comes to trouble, especially the emotional kind that triggers my coping mechanism, I realize that I will begin to withdraw and distance myself  – outwardly trying to appear fine and at peace, while desperately trying to tame and stem the train of thoughts barreling through my head. I find that I’m very rarely calm in my heart and this kind of peace is something that I’m still learning to achieve.

4. Keep on stepping. Keep on moving. One foot in front of another. I thank god for my daughter. She is simultaneously my way forward as well as the anchor that keeps me grounded.

5. I’ve never been a fan of exercising, but by experience, the other two definitely works (short term solution, but I’m not complaining!). A good cry does wonders. A holiday by the beach, even more so.

6. I used to find it very hard to cut off friends that bring me down – I would agonize and fret over the things they do or say about me. But the past two years have taught me how to emotionally detach myself even when I’m in their presence, that it’s ok to put people like these aside – after all, their absence in my life only serves to make more room for the people who do matter.

7. This is from Tyler Knott, an author whom I wrote about here (I think it’s nice to tell people that you admire their work and I did just that a couple of weeks back with a short note telling him how much I love his poems and I even got a reply!). I actually found this quote today after spending the morning trying to shake off some hurtful memories. Forgetting is an act that I find very hard to do – I know in my head that I would be a much happier and better person if I could learn to forget faster yet my mind stubbornly clings on to certain things. Another work in progress, this.

8. When two people come together and the first flush of love has lost its sheen, incompatibilities are invariably revealed as individual personalities and quirks that has built up over the years, be it through nature or nurture, begin to clash. This quote is such a good reminder that at the end of the day, if love is still in both your hearts, the rights can outweigh the wrongs (don’t get me wrong though – there are some things that are impossible to forgive in my books no matter how many points have been gained in the ‘right’ column). I admit that this piece of advice is another one that does take some constant, internal reminding – sometimes, little squabbles does take its toll but despite everything, I am truly and eternally grateful (even though I rarely show it) that the boyfriend’s optimistic outlook towards everything does much to balance my infinitely more pessimistic, prickly and grumpy side, especially on particularly trying days.

9. I hope that when the time comes, I would have done enough to show my daughter right from wrong, but allow her to make her own decisions and choose her own path.

[/end of quote].

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