Monday, 28 May 2012

Macarons, Italian Meringue Method

I must say that having made macarons quite a few times before I am now more keen to bake something new, something I've never made before. However the thought of having more than 100g of egg whites sitting in my fridge from the making of creme patissiere and creme caramel just doesn't sit well with me. The fact that they're 'aged', i.e; left in the fridge for a few days, worries me even more as it's a fine line between aged egg whites and their rotten cousin. And so I decided to make some macarons, since aged egg whites are perfect for the recipe. In an attempt to learn something new, I (finally) decided to have a crack at the Italian meringue method, which most professional pastry chefs use and widely acclaimed to be superior to the French meringue method, which I had been using all this while. The reason I avoided the Italian meringue was because it requires a syrup to be made and brought to 118C and pouring it into the half whipped meringue to produce a cooked meringue prior to incorporation into the dry ingredients. This method is ideal for someone who owns a stand mixer as it means you could multi-task more easily, since the meringue has to be whipped to soft peaks while the syrup is cooking (for which you have the measure the temperature). Anyway with God's grace I somehow pulled it off. And I must say I'm now an Italian meringue convert. :)

Crème caramel / Crème renversée

I like custards, especially when they're baked well. The silky smooth, melts in your mouth texture coupled with the fact that it is served chilled make creme caramel the perfect dessert for a hot summer day like this. Creme renversee is how the Parisians would call this dessert although strange enough it's more commonly known as creme caramel elsewhere in the world. It belongs to the same family of baked custard as Creme Brulee and Pot-de-Creme but is the lightest of all. The recipes for creme caramel differ greatly as the amount of eggs(whites and yolks) can be easily adjusted to suit different taste buds. The more yolks you use the silkier and more delicate the texture will be, although it also makes the pudding set less well. I have been experimenting with different recipes a few times before my exams started and thought I'd give it another go now that exams are (unofficially) over. Raymond Blanc's recipe calls for whole eggs with extra yolks but I find the texture less silky and delicate compared to the yolks only recipe. That said, however, the yolk-only recipe that I used produced very unstable pudding and easily fell apart on turning out from the ramekins. And so I experimented with additional yolks until I got the result I wanted, like this:

Friday, 25 May 2012

Profiterole Swans!

Exam is now unofficially over. Unofficial in the sense that I still have one more paper to go next Friday but it doesn't require any revision on my part since it's about data interpretation. What a relief! I was on the verge of a mental breakdown yesterday after spending the last 2 months revising for the four papers that I have just sat for over the last week. Anyway I promised myself I'd bake something today and so I did. I made profiterole swans, or, swans made out of profiteroles, filled with whipped cream. The profiteroles weren't perfect because this is my first time baking them in specific piped shapes so I literally had to rely on my baker's instinct to decide when to take them out. The creme patissiere that I initially wanted to use was good when I made it but turned too solid after I refrigerated them. Not sure if it's meant to be like that. The whipped cream turned out over-whipped as well and I think I'll go with double cream instead of 'whipping' cream next time since ironically double cream has higher fat content and should be better for whipping. Overall, a little disappointing but the swans looked good nevertheless. Or shall I leave that to you to judge?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The countdown has started

I will be sitting for my second to last paper tomorrow and I cannot wait for it to be over! The paper after that does not test one's factual knowledge which means my revision pretty much ends the minute I finish the exam tomorrow!!!!!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Exams, exams, exams...

It's exam season and I've got four papers coming up having just done one on Monday. I've got another paper this week, two more next week and by then I would be relatively free as the last paper can't be prepared for. Would definitely like to bake something then. The trouble is to find a recipe from the my two-page long to-bake list.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

French Macarons vs Macaroons

So just to clear things up: Macarons are not the same as MacaroOns. In the UK, people tend to ascribe the name macaroon to the french-sweet-hamburger-like-confectionery, which is actually called macaron in french with a single 'o'. Macaroon (double 'o') on the other hand is a meringue based coconut confectionery and is more popular in America. Both are meringue based cookies but the final products look VERY different from each other.

French macarons that I've made recently, compare this with the coconut macaroons below

First entry of the blog: Cheesecake with a (massive) twist

So it's summer, the season of sunshine and the much dreaded exam period for a Uni student. Sounds a little random you might say, in which case may I gently remind you to read the title of my blog. Yes, I literally just started out baking about 3 months ago, reason being I was under too much stress from writing my final year dissertation. I wanted to find a way to get rid of the stress without getting wasted at the pubs. Long story short, here I am 3 months later still extremely into baking and in fact I consider this as one of my favourite hobbies now! Not sure if it's going to last after my last exam in June but judging from the way it is now I'd imagine myself doing this for quite a while!

Enough introduction, here comes the cheesecake. It's got a massive twist to it because it's not heavy and dense like the conventional NY cheesecake. It's not as creamy either. In fact, it's got banana and caramel in it. And it doesn't even have the traditional biscuit base. You might be tempted to stop reading by now but do bear with me.

This cheesecake has got a souffle base, i.e; it has got meringue incorporated to give it the rise. As a result, it has a very fluffy and soft texture and extremely light. In fact, the actual name for this type of cheesecake is cotton soft Japanese souffle cheesecake. Imagine cheese souffle but a sweet version. 

I've made this cake a couple of times before I decided to add my own twist to the flavour and the two random flavours that sprang to my mind were banana and caramel,. I must say I am fairly particular when it comes to the aesthetic side of baking and I always try to find ways to glam up my bakes. There's no exception to this one. I came across this guy on Masterchef whose name I've forgotten (sorry mate!) making some ornaments out of caramel and I thought I'd it a go based on what he did on the show!