Malaysian Monday (err..Tuesday) 30 : Yam “abacus” noodles

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Guess what? For one day only, the whole of Sydney exists in an alternate tine-zone where it’s actually still Monday.

Not buying it huh? Didn’t think so.

Real reason for this late post? Too much fun. The weekend weather was glorious and we headed out to enjoy it. Then yesterday flashed by in a blur as I raced to get everything organised before Mr. Kitchen Hand and I went off to listen to this dude sing.

 He can really sing! It was an amazing evening.

So here’s my belated post about some interesting noodles made from yam. They don’t really look like their long and thin counterparts, more like an abacus bead or to my mind, an erythrocyte.

I don’t actually remember ever eating these noodles outside the home. Mum would buy the par-cooked noodles from the markets and she’d fry them up for us. We called these noodles “or-ee” (or means yam, and ee describes the glutinous rice balls in a dessert dish). But as I tried to find out more about the noodles, I discovered that these are actually a Hakka delicacy known as Sohn Pan Tzai.

Then as I tried to find out how to explain what Hakka meant, I stumbled across this Wikipedia page which explains the distribution of various ethnic Chinese groups in Malaysia. As I read, I was quite tickled to find a reference to Chindians. Heh! We’ve got our own Wikipedia entry now, saves a lot of explaining ☺ (Sorry if this is all not quite making sense, but if you have the patience and inclination to wade through those pages, it will become clear).

Anyway, back to these noodles.

MC Junior helped with pressing in the middles

I am such a sucker for yam (taro), and ever since I discovered the presence of fresh taro in the nearby fruit and vegetable shop (greengrocer), I’ve been constantly thinking about ways to cook them.

A lot of my favourite childhood dishes featured this tuber. I really like the flavour of taro, it has a “nuttier” taste than potato and a bit of a “floury” texture that I find appealing. Others in the family don’t quite enjoy the textural quality as much (not naming any names here). 

With this in mind, I prepared the following dish on a night when Mr. Kitchen Hand had to work late, which meant he would get fed at the office. Alas, only Mini Critic Senior was game enough to eat her dinner, and I had to break my pristine “not preparing anything different for the kids” record for MC Junior. She has an issue with certain textures and struggles with beans and lentils, so these noodles put her off straightaway. Poor mite!

If  you’d like to try them, here’s how I did it:

Yam noodles/ or-ee
(I started out with vague emailed directions from mum, then halfway through, when I was wondering why the dough was feeling so dry, I googled, found this recipe and discovered that I had to add oil to the mix.)

3 cups cooked, mashed yam (taro) from about 2 medium sized yam– not to be confused with sweet potato. I steamed the yam to ensure it didn’t absorb too much moisture.
Scant 1 ½ cup tapioca flour
About 7 tablespoons cold water (depending on moisture content of yam)
Dash of sesame oil
Generous pinch of salt
Few glugs of vegetable oil (extimating a couple of tablespoons here)
Lot of water for boiling, and a bowl of cold water to plunge cooked noodles into.

Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together until a smooth dough is formed (must be done while the yam is still warm). My dough was cracking slightly but it still cooked up well. Pinch out and roll small balls of the dough, flatten slightly and use your thumb to make a depression in the centre (think gnocchi meets thumprint cookies). When all the dough is used up, bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt. When it has reached a rolling boil, drop handfuls of the noodles in. When the noodles float, let them boil for about half a minute or so (depends on thickness/size of noodles), then scoop them out with a slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of cold water to stop it cooking.

Since I was going to use them immediately, I just placed the drained noodles in a bowl. If I remember correctly, the market vendors sold these noodles in tubs of water to keep them separated from one another (the tapioca flaour makes them sticky).

Use the noodles to make a stir-fry.

Here’s the recipe Mum emailed over:
Solid fried beancurd (Tau kwa)  - 2 cakes, sliced thinly (I forgot this)
Minced meat (chicken or pork) – I used about 200g of chicken mince
Dried prawns (2 tablespoons, wash and soak and  finely chopped) – pat dry with paper towel
Small onions (French eschallots) ( 8 to 9 ) – diced finely (I used half a large Spanish onion instead)
Dried shitake mushrooms (I used 4) - soaked and sliced thinly once softened
 Garlic - 2 tablespoons, chopped
 Parsley, Chinese celery (use regular if unavailable) and sliced chillies for garnish.
Dash of light soy sauce and dark soy sauce
Pepper to season

In a wok, fry the dried prawns in a little oil, then add in the onion, garlic and the mince. Stir-fry, adding a little water (about 3 or 4 tablespoons or so) and cover with the wok lid, it will help create steam and also “deglaze”’ the wok). Half way through, add the mushrooms. Keep cooking and stirring until the mince is well browned. Add the soy sauces, stir well then add the yam noodles and stir to coat with the sauce and heat through. I also added some pre-blanched and sliced baby bok choy to the dish. Check seasonings and adjust if needed.

Serve hot with the garnish.

(Makes enough for 3 or 4 portions, depending on size)

Have a great week ahead!

DB March 2010: The one where I discover lemons are sour

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ok, no beating around the bush – I bombed with this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. Not with the actual recipe though - each component worked perfectly, and the assembled end product looked fine. Until I tasted it….erk!

Lemon-lime tian with lemon caramel sauce - just don't do it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit. First the obligatory words:
The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

The tian is basically a layered concoction which starts with a pate sablee base spread with orange marmalade. The next layer is a flavored whipped cream topped with fresh orange segments,  and the dessert is served with a caramel and orange sauce. The dessert is actually built upside down and when unmolded, the bottom layer (the orange segments) becomes the top layer - very pretty.

We had to make the pate sablee, the whipped cream filling, the marmalade and the caramel sauce. The fruit had to be citrus of some sort, but we were given free rein deciding which citrus to pick.

Innocent looking but evil

Of course, I had to be different. “I’m not going for the obvious orange and chocolate combo, not me” I thought. Somehow, I don’t think I’ve quite worked my way through the rebellious teenage phase yet. If something starts going mega-big and EVERYONE wants to be in on it, then I’d avoid it like the plague. Which is probably why I haven’t watched Titanic or Masterchef or read the Da Vinci Code.

So, here we were at citrus fruit. Was I going to choose an orange or blood orange or mandarin like a normal person? You know the answer to that one already. I picked lemons and limes and paired them with a wattleseed flavoured cream. But as I discovered to my chagrin, lemons and limes are way too sour for this dish. Who’d a thunk it? (I’d even blanched the lime, and added extra sugar to both lots of fruit segments but to no avail).

Taste aside, the dessert was pretty easy to assemble. The challenge recipe for pate sablee was easier to handle than the one I normally use. However, I prefer the flavour and texture of my go-to recipe, which contains minimal egg and no baking powder. The challenge caramel citrus sauce is very yummy though (although my version was tangy as all get out) and I’d use it again.


Layering (I lined the bowl with plastic wrap for insurance)

Yes I know it looks more like a charlotte than a tian

And that’s about all there is too say about my dismal tian. It didn’t go to waste though, we pulled off all the citrus fruit from it and ate the wattleseed cream and lime-marmaladed sable pastry base. All of us that is except Mini Critic Senior, who ate all the lemon slices and pastry , then scraped the cream off instead.  Hmmm…I wonder who she takes after?

If you’d like to see the actual recipe, visit our host or here at the Daring Kitchen. And I bet the other Daring Bakers came up with more sensible flavour pairings, so do go take a look at their work. And don’t forget the Daring founders Lisa and Ivonne, go visit their blogs too.

Have a great weekend!

Strawberries for Megan (Feasting on Art recipe contest)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The blogosphere is quite an amazing place when you stop to think about it. Since starting this blog, I’ve learnt so many new things and “met” so many amazing and talented bloggers along the way.

As a relative newcomer to the scene, trying to find a niche is a daunting prospect. What have I got to offer that might set me apart from the other 146,000,000 (and counting) food blogs out there? I don’t really know the answer to this, but there’s one blogger who has definitely made her mark in the most ingenious way. I’m talking about Megan from Feasting on Art (the title of this post may have given it away), who offers a fabulous mix of stunning photography, interesting art tidbits and of course delectable recipes. Do I sound like a fan? Heck yeah! The first time Megan left a comment on my little blog, I was giddy with excitement - the cool kid at school talked to ME!

And do you know what I find hard to believe? Feasting on Art is not even a year old yet. It turns one in April, and to celebrate, Megan has put together a recipe contest, with the theme Strawberries. The deadline is March 27th ,  there are a few days yet to enter so put your thinking caps on. Visit this link to find out more.

Without further ado, here’s my entry of a lemon shortbread decorated with fresh pistachios and honeyed yoghurt, topped with a dried strawberry “flower”. I wanted to try and create something visually appealing as an homage to Megan’s blog – hopefully it does her justice.

Happy first blogoversary Megan ☺

Strawberry “flower”
Make this part first as it keeps in an airtight container for a day or two. Plan to do this when you are doing other baking so that you can utilise the preheating and cooling down heat of the oven.

It’s pretty simple to make really, just draw some circles on a piece of baking paper, flip over onto a baking tray and use as a guide to arrange thinly sliced strawberries on it. The thinner the better. Make sure the strawberries overlap to help them stick together.

Place baking tray in a very low oven (I started at about 75 ˚C), and leave until the strawberries are dehydrated. Alternatively, after about an hour or so, I put the tray on the very bottom rack when I needed to turn the oven temp up, then after I finished baking, I turned off the oven, put the strawberries on the middle rack and left them in there to dry out overnight.

Carefully peel off strawberries, and store between clean sheets of baking paper in an airtight container. The strawberry flavours will be beautifully concentrated and the texture will be a bit like fruit leather.

Lemon shortbread
(adapted from this basic recipe)
250g butter (room temperature)
¼ cup (about 25g) rice flour
265g plain flour
100g caster sugar
dash of vanilla extract
zested rind from 1 medium lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice

Beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy, about 2 minutes if using electric hand beaters. Add the vanilla, lemon rind and lemon juice, beat until well combined. Add the rice flour, beat until well mixed. Scrape down side of bowl and clean off the beaters using a spatula. Fold and mix the flour into the mixture in the bowl, using the spatula. Scrape and flatten and fold is the best way to describe it.  Do this until the mixture forms a soft dough (it will be very soft).

Scrape the mix onto a square of plastic wrap set on the bench top, flatten into a disc, wrap well and refrigerate until solid enough to handle (about an hour or more).

Preheat the oven to about 160˚C. Roll out half the disc onto a lightly floured surface, cut into desired shapes (don’t forget to flour the cutters too), then bake for about half an hour or until cooked and golden. Repeat with the other half of the disc. The dough is very soft, so dust with flour as needed.

Leave biscuits to cool for 5 mins or so, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Be careful, the shortbread will be very fragile so use a fish slice or large offset spatula to transfer from baking tray to wire rack.

Store in an airtight container.

Yoghurt with fresh pistachios
I dithered for ages trying to decide between using thick cream or yoghurt, but settled on yoghurt because the shortbread is already so rich.

The fresh pistachios were an impulse buy from the greengrocers. The texture of a fresh pistachio is almost like a raw pea, and the flavour isn’t that pronounced, with an almost milky aftertaste. The darn things require a lot of effort to peel so I wouldn’t use them very often. But for novelty value and sheer prettiness I’d buy them again. They’d do well stirred through rice dishes or salads I think. (On an arty note, green is the complementary colour to red).

¼ cup shelled fresh pistachios (could probably substitute dried, but the texture would be altered) – minced finely
about 3 tablespoon thick Greek style yoghurt, depending on taste
about 1 ½ tablespoons honey (again depending on taste)

Stir all the ingredients together and set aside in the fridge.

When ready to assemble, place a shortbread on a plate, dollop the yoghurt on top, then finish with the strawberry flower. Ta-dah! Serve immediately or the shortbread might go soggy.

Malaysian Monday 29: Nasi Lemak and the art of “bantai”.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hi everyone, hope the weekend went well. I spent one day of mine putting together this dish. Nasi lemak hardly needs an introduction - it’s been dubbed the “national” dish of Malaysia, probably due to it ubiquitousness (is that a word?). If you stood on a street corner in Malaysia and picked a direction at random, start walking and chances are you’d soon stumble upon a stall/shop/restaurant/ that sold nasi lemak*.

But just in case you’re not familiar with it, nasi lemak is literally translated as “creamy rice”. The dish is built up from a base of coconut rice with a few simple condiments like half a boiled egg, deep fried anchovies, peanuts and cucumber. A fiery sambal (chilli relish) is a must.

The “simple” nasi lemak is usually eaten for breakfast. But one can eat this dish anytime of the day, and when having it for lunch or dinner, more substantial accompaniments are included – usually a rendang (dry curry) of some sort, but really, anything goes. I jazzed up our meal with a prawn sambal and fried chicken.

Each separate component of nasi lemak is relatively easy to make, but because there are so many things to prepare, it can be time consuming. I’d actually forgotten how much time it involved.  I started early in the afternoon, but even with a few shortcuts thrown in, it was close to dinner by the time I’d finished cooking!

Our nasi lemak included the following dishes :
Coconut rice (recipe follows)
Fried anchovies
Fried beancurd slices
Peanuts (cheated by using storebought)
Hard-boiled eggs
Blanched spinach
Sliced cucumber
Fried chicken (a wonderful recipe from Malaysian blogger Love2Cook. Her blog is full of the most mouthwatering recipes)
Sambal tumis (chilli relish) which was then used to make sambal udang (chilli prawns)
(The sambal tumis recipe is by fellow blogger 3 Hungry Tummies whose cooking is enough to make me cry – with delight)

 Anchovies, beancurd slices and english spinach ready to be cooked

These beer nuts taste and look exactly like the peanuts the nasi lemak vendors use. Bonus find!
As for the sambal udang (chilli prawns) , herein lies the fine art of bantai cooking. Bantai is a hard word to describe – there are a couple of different meanings, but in this context, it means “having a go”. But it’s more than just having a go, it also implies jumping in without really knowing how to do something but doing it anyway. In fact, it’s probably a good word to describe my style of cooking ☺.

So, I’m sure there are “proper” ways to make a prawn sambal, but in the spirit of “bantai", I stir fried about 10 green prawns (deveined) with a little oil in the same pan that I made the sambal tumis in. Once the prawns started sizzling, I added about three tablespoonfuls of the sambal tumis and a crushed kaffir lime leaf. Once the prawns were cooked, I squeezed a quarter of a lemon over the whole thing to finish. Very tasty if I do say so myself!

Have a great week ahead, I’m sure there’ll be more “bantai-ing” happening in my kitchen ☺

Creamy coconut rice (for nasi lemak)
I always cook my rice in the microwave (which horrifies my mother), but this method will work for the stovetop absorption method as well.

Also, I don’t usually measure out my rice but for the purpose of writing this post, I did. Usually, I use the “knuckle” method of working out how much water to use – rest the third finger against the cleaned rice, and make sure the water level comes up to just past the first knuckle. Hand needs to be straight up. Obviously this method will have huge variations depending on the length of your fingers, but I find it works satisfactorily enough).

2 ½ cups long grained rice (eg. jasmine) – washed and drained. Washing removes the excess starch
3 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon water.
3 pandan (screwpine) leaves, knotted. I used a few more because they were frozen and I wasn’t sure if the fragrance would still be strong enough, luckily it worked. If pandan is unavailable, a chunk of peeled ginger (thumb sized) can be used instead. The purpose of the pandan is to scent the rice, obviously with ginger it will smell different.
About 2 large tablespoons thick coconut cream (more if preferred)
Pinch of salt (mix into the cooking water).

Place rice and water(and salt)  into the cooking container.  Push the pandan leaves into the rice so it doesn’t float. Cook rice as usual. About 5 minutes before the end of cooking time, use a fork to carefully stir in the coconut cream into the rice, making sure it’s well incorporated . Cook until the rice is done.

I can’t really give you cooking times because each microwave is different).

Serve warm.

*assumption based on no research at all.

T is for Tapioca

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Finally, we’ve got a letter T post! It took me long enough, but not for want of things starting with T…tomatoes, thyme, turmeric and toast anyone?

But when I opened the pantry, a bag of “sago” pearls caught my eye and that’s how I decided on Tapioca today.  It’s a little confusing, but a lot of commercially produced “sago pearls” are actually made from tapioca flour. True sago comes from a type of palm, but is also sold in pearl form, and can be used in much the same way as the tapioca flour pearls – hence the confusion.

Tapioca is the starch derived from the roots of the cassava plant (Manihot esculenta).  In Malaysia, it is known as ubi kayu (ubi=tuber, kayu=wood), and the tubers do look quite dark and “woody”. It was quite common to see the plants growing around homes when I was younger. Not only were the roots eaten, sometimes the tender leaf shoots were also served as a vegetable. However, I remember my mother warning us about eating tapioca leaves, explaining that it was poisonous.

 Frozen tapioca (cassav)

 According to Wikipedia, the plant contains cyanogenic glucosides. There are two varieties of cassava, a “bitter” and a “sweet” variety, (although non-bitter might be a better description). The former contains more cyanide than the latter. Eating too much improperly prepared cassava can lead to a disease known as konzo. Once cassava has been processed properly though, it is quite safe to eat - just don’t consume it raw!

Tapioca/cassava is a very hardy plant and an important food crop - Mum recalls tales of her family surviving on tapioca during the war (WW2). It is the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world (according to Wikipedia).

Tapioca dish (Recipe at the end of post)

In fact, you might not know it but you’ve probably consumed tapioca in some form or other as it is used as a thickener (in the food industry), and can also be found in crackers. If you’ve had “vegetable” chips or prawn crackers, chances are, there was tapioca flour in it.

I remember quite a few tapioca based dishes from my childhood, usually snacks or desserts, but I think I remember a savoury curried dish which utilised tapioca too (can’t remember what the dish was called).

One of my absolute favourites was a type of cake/pudding known as Kuih Bengkang Ubi Kayu, sometimes also called Kuih Bingka, (but I always knew it as bengkang – not sure what the word  actually means). There are a few different versions of kuih bengkang, some containing flour and eggs – which I’m not really a fan of. The only type of bengkang that I enjoy is the tapioca version.

I’d never attempted to make it myself before, as it was really easy to just buy a slice from a stall at the markets or from a street vendor.  So I didn’t realise how easy it was to actually bake it at home until I found some recipes online (bless you bloggers!) . When I smelt the bengkang baking in the oven, huge waves of nostalgia washed over me, and tears threatened – this was a kuih I haven’t eaten in over 10 years. And yes, it did taste as I remembered.

Thank you for taking the time to trawl to this post ☺ Have a great weekend!

(if you’d like to know more, there’s always  this:

Kuih Bengkang Ubi Kayu (Tapioca Kuih Bengkang)
Translated and adapted from here.

(I halved the original recipe and based it on the ratios found there which is 4 cups grated tapioca: 1 cup sugar: 2 cups of coconut milk)

Cassava (about three pieces)
Sugar – half cup (I used caster sugar) (This make a less sweet kuih, if you like things quite sweet, add a little more sugar, maybe a couple of tablespoons more)
Coconut milk – 1 cup (I’d try adding a tablespoon or two of rich coconut cream next time I make this, just to oomph it up a little).
Pinch of salt

Start with about three medium pieces tapioca/cassava (I used thawed frozen  cassava).
Blend the tubers until quite smooth, adding a little water if necessary (not too much). Place the pulverised/grated pulp in a sieve and drain over a bowl for about half an hour or so, catching any liquid that falls through. Carefully pour off the liquid and there may be some starch settled in the bottom of the bowl, if so, scrape that back into the pulp mixture. Measure this pulp in a measuring jug (don’t pack down).

Preheat the oven to about 170 – 180˚ C.

Based on how much pulp is collected, calculate the amount of coconut milk and sugar required. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl, add the salt and stir until well combined. Pour into a well-greased pan (I used a loaf pan for my small quantity), and place the tray in the lower third of the oven, bake for  about 1 hour, then move the pan closer to the top of the oven and continue baking for another half hour. Bake until the top becomes nice and browned, and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan, then carefully slide a metal spatula around the edges to loosen and tip the kuih out onto a chopping board. The edges may have stuck a little, but with a bit of careful manouvering it should come out in one piece. Slice into thick slices and serve at room temperature. It goes well with a glass of kopi-O (sweet, black coffee). My favourite bit is the crusty, chewy bit on the top.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

, was de-lightful....(*groan*)

Is it just me, or does this year seem as if it's going a bit like this? :

Our little weekend camping trip was definitely a welcome pause, time to indulge in a little R&R:

As an added bonus, we got to catch up with family and celebrate a little birthday.

Meet Mr. Kitchen Hand's parents - henceforth known as Nana Hand and Pop Hand (yeah, I thought of that myself!)

Guess who played a part in this cake? Yup, the Mini-Critics and Nana Hand joined forces to create this gorgeous cake for Pop Hand's birthday

There was time to stop and enjoy the little things in life.

And time to muck about with the camera

And best of all? There was lots of time to enjoy breakfast.

I've confessed to being a bit of a breakfast skipper, and part of the reason is time, or lack thereof. After I've grumbled my way out of bed, showered and fixed school lunches, put hair in plaits, made sure teeth are brushed, bags packed and matching socks are worn, it's a wonder we get out the door before the school bell rings. (Luckily for me, the heroic Mr. Kitchen Hand, who is a much better morning person, usually fixes the Mini Critics their breakfast). Some mornings I manage to make myself eat a bit of toast, but usually a quick banana will tide me over until a much saner time.

But camping breakfasts are so different. There is actually time to prepare, then savour each mouthful. Which we did.

Is that all the food we're going to get for this post, you may well be wondering?

Fear not, I've saved the best til last. Well, the best information, but not the best photos I'm afraid (the lighting was against my little point and shoot). This camping trip was what I like to term "soft" camping (ie easy camping). We'd actually pitched our tent in a caravan park, which meant hot showers, electricity, pool, lots of entertainment options for the kids and a proximity to civilisation and restaurants.

As part of Pop Hand's birthday celebrations, we'd booked ourselves a spot at the Back Deck Bar and Grill. It's always a bit hit and miss, making internet bookings based on a handful of reviews of unknown origin, but we lucked out. The dinner turned out to be fabulous. I must admit I'm easily swayed when there's pork belly on the menu, but everyone agreed that the food was pretty darn good.

The menu is a bit small - about 3 or 4 starters, 3-4 entrees and I think 5 mains, but the dishes we had were handled very confidently. It was a joy to sample pork belly that was crisp, smooth, silky, meltingly creamy and rich all at the same time. Nana Hand pronounced that her fish was cooked just right, and Mr. Kitchen Hand was very satisfied with juicy chicken enrobed in a crisp golden skin. The mini-critics chose something off the kid's menu and were rewarded with  house- made gnocchi and a slow cooked ragu, which they polished off in no time at all. (The rest of our table had either the pork belly or the fish).

Babe does Stonehenge

Nana Hand's fish

Dessert wasn't bad too, but a tad heavy on the creamy, milky, confections, and a little bit predictable - panna cotta, sticky date pudding, creme brulee, tiramisu. By the time we came to order dessert, the tiramisu was all gone so if popularity is any indication, it must be worth having. Our table had helpings of the sticky date pudding and a creme brulee instead. Both very good, but I would have liked a touch more "excitement" from the choices. To be fair, that's just because I like desserts and continually obsess about them so I guess I'm a bit jaded.

Overall though, the ambience, service and food all helped create a perfect night out.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say it was a perfect weekend getaway, and I'd definitely like second helpings if anyone's offering?

Macaron Monday

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sorry folks, needed to interrupt Malaysian Monday today so I could post my “Mac Attack 5”offering in time. This month’s theme was  “SPRING FLING : Baking Your Favourite Springtime Flowers”.

How I wish it really were spring in our part of the world!  But no matter, flowers are an anytime pick-me-up and I had two lots of flowers to turn to for this challenge: orange jasmine/mock orange and chrysanthemum.

Orange jasmine(jessamine)/ Mock orange (Murraya panniculata)

Unfortunately, the orange jasmine macarons didn’t quite turn out as well as I had hoped. If you’ve been round here before, you might remember my attempted jasmine sorbet. On that occasion, the floral scent was too overpowering. This time round, the scent was non-existent, probably owing to the heat during the sugar syrup boiling process (used in the Italian method of macaron making). (I made a perfumed water to start my macarons, using the method described in that sorbet post)

Luckily, plan B was put into action, and I sandwiched the macs with orange-blossom scented mascarpone, and added an oven dried orange segment nestled in the creamy cheese. The combination was wonderful, the bitterness of the orange rind counteracted the sweetness of the macaron shells and the scent of orange blossom water tied it all together.

Although I was pleased with the overall macaron combination, the shells still disappointed a little. Underbeating meant I had peaky shells for the first batch (but they came off the baking paper beautifully). Then I added a few more strokes to the mixture, and ended up with the browned top/sticky bottom dilemma again (even though I covered the tops with baking paper). I know this sounds trifling to anyone still attempting to get “feet”, but it’s a frustrating challenge trying to get the “perfect” shell.

L: Too little beating, R: Too much?

At least I’ve now pinpointed the problem as all the other variables (egg whites, ingredients, oven temperature) stayed the same between each batch.

Abandoning the Italian method, I tried the French way for my second attempt at flowery macarons. I used dried Chrysanthemum flowers which can be purchased from Asian supermarkets. These flowers are used to make a refreshing tea. One of my favourite childhood drinks was an iced and sweetened version. The flavour is quite herbal, almost chamomile-like but better (because I actually don’t like chamomile tea).

This time, the flavour results were much better! I could really taste the herbal/floral flavour in the shells. To amplify the taste, I infused some cream with the chrysanthemum flowers and turned that into a white chocolate ganache to act as filling.

Texture-wise however, the shells had a bit of a hollow dome in the centre (noticable after being bitten into), which I think may be due to the beating (or lack of it). Hmm…perhaps I need a new spatula (*dropping huge hints to Mr. Kitchen Hand*)!

Onto Mac Attack 6 and Happy Macaron Day for the 20th.

Oh, and have a great start to the week.

Chrysanthemum macarons
(ratios based on Tartelette’s macarons)

90g egg whites
30g caster sugar
200g pure icing sugar (powdered sugar)
110 g almond meal
1 tbsp dried chrysanthemum flower petals, finely ground (to ensure dryness, I pulled off the flower petals, discarding the hard middle bits, then lay the petals on some kitchen paper and microwaved this for about 10 seconds)

Pulse the almond meal, icing sugar and ground chrysanthemum petals in the food processor until thoroughly mixed. Set aside. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy, then add the caster sugar a little at a time until the meringue becomes glossy.

Pour the almond mixture into the stiff whites and stir/fold with a spatula until all the almond mixture in incorporated and the “batter” gets thick and gloopy (frequently described as lava-like flow). To test, plop a bit of this mixture onto a flat surface and the resulting blob should settle but hold its shape, not too flat and not too peaky. (This is the bit I’m still working on).

Using a large piping tip (1/4 inch is the common measurement), pipe rounds of the mixture onto baking trays lined with parchment paper. Allow room between the rounds (for airflow). Leave these shells to dry out a little. I turn the oven on to preheat at this point.

Everyone’s oven is different, so the baking part really requires trial and error. I place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven with another rack slightly above this. When the oven thermometer reads 150˚C, I place the tray of macarons on the lower rack and let it bake for about 6 to 7 minutes. By this stage, the “feet” should appear. I then rotate the tray to ensure even baking, and at this point, I slide a piece of parchment paper onto the top rack to protect the shells from browning too much. I then bake until the shells are dry enough to take off the parchment easily but hopefully not browned too much. With the French method, I find that I need to remove the tray and let it sit for 5 minutes or so before the macarons can be removed.

For the Chrysanthemum ganache, I scalded about 1 tbsp chrysanthemum petals in some cream and left to infuse for about an hour. I then strained the petals out and scalded the cream again to make the ganache. As for measurements, I’m afraid I forgot to write them down, but I usually use about 1 ¼ part chocolate to 1 part cream – white chocolate ganache seems to take much longer to stiffen than dark chocolate though, so patience is needed. In fact, when I filled the macarons, the ganache was still a little “runny” but eventually seemed to dry out.

T is for tents

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And B is for Biscuit (or C is for Cookie if you prefer).

The camping bug has bitten again and we’re off to spend a few nights under canvas.  Which means that this week’s EOWTTA is postponed. (I did start out trying to “eat the alphabet” every week, but life has a habit of happening around me, so do excuse  the tardiness).  While we’re Temporarily Taking off, we do hope To Turn up with a Timely and Thoughtful  post soon.

In the meantime, here’s a selection of biscuits/cookies I made to take along on our camping trip.  I think they’ll go nicely with the cups of tea I intend to have. Hope you have a great weekend too. Ta ta and Take care!

Home made Oreos
via Smitten Kitchen. I used the recipe provided there, but made up my own filling to go inside the cookies. One batch was plain/vanilla and the other batch was filled with a raspberry filling. I’m glad I only just baked these today because if I’d done them any earlier in the week, I don’t think there would have been any left to take on our camping trip!

For the filling:

Beat together 100g room temperature unsalted butter and 180g pure icing sugar until creamy and light in colour.

I then divided this butter filling in half, and flavoured one portion with a dash of vanilla extract and the other batch with thickened raspberry puree. To make the reduced raspberry puree, I smooshed about half cup (60g) thawed raspberries trough a sieve. The resulting puree was then heated on low heat in short bursts in the microwave until the puree thickened. I started out with about ¼ cup puree and after heating, I ended up with just over 1 tablespoonful


Crisp Lemon Biscuits and Buttery Ginger Biscuits from Mix and Bake by Belinda Jeffery.  I'm too lazy to type out the recipe for these but if you're really, really keen, email me and I'll try to help you out.