Sunday, 24 June 2012

Gateau Opéra

I can't quite remember when was the first time I heard of this French classic. What I do remember is the first time I saw it on a TV show (MKR Australia) where it was so beautifully presented and just blew me away. And that's also when I finally decided to re-create those beautiful slices of gateau that I saw on TV. But this is no ordinary gateau, it has quite a few elements to it which have to be prepared separately and assembled towards the end.

Gateau opera, in a nutshell, is a chocolate and coffee cake. It consists of three main components: A joconde sponge, or almond sponge, layers of coffee buttercream and a rich and velvety chocolate ganache. I do find myself to be quite particular about how the things I bake look on the plate these days and what I always do is a quick google image search to find some inspiration. Sadly 90% of what I saw (or more) simply did not fascinate me. And having spent some time researching the recipes, I decided to change the recipe slightly in an attempt to produce a better looking cake. Normally, the recipe would require a coffee syrup to be brushed onto the sponge layers but I find that doing this would produce a sort of dirty looking sponge due to the colour from the coffee powder. I substituted the coffee powder with rum instead, which in my opinion never goes wrong with chocolate anyway, and best of all it's colourless so I could preserve the natural golden colour of the sponge. The second thing that I changed was the flavour of the chocolate ganache, if you've read my previous entries you'd have known that I am now a big fan of earl grey and chocolate, and so I decided to add some depth of flavour to my ganache by infusing the cream with some earl grey. Lastly, most recipes call for the use of chocolate ganache (same thing used in the layering of the cake) for the top. Being particular about presentation as always, I decided to go with a more glossy chocolate glacage instead. That way I would get a better finish and produce a shiny surface at the top, like this:

This was also my first time piping words and drawing treble clefts on a cake. Some turned out better than the other.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Croissant Recipe

Be warned: This is a very long recipe. Recipe by Hamelman.

Makes 24 croissants

A)     Detrempe:

12 g dried/instant yeast
140ml cold whole milk
140ml cold water
42g melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
504g plain/ all purpose flour
12g salt
80g caster sugar

B)      Butter block  - 280g

C)      Egg wash – One large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk

Sunday, 17 June 2012


I don't know if it's pure chance or a hidden character of mine to pick on the difficult options when I start doing something for the very first time. I picked macarons when I first started baking seriously back in February and now I have chosen croissants as my first challenge for 'bread' making, or viennoiseries , specifically. In this occasion, though, a big driving factor was the fact that a loved one of mine loves to eat croissants.

The whole process of making laminated dough like croissant dough appeared daunting to me when I first looked into the recipe. I had never made bread before in my life and I had absolutely no idea how proofing works or how to roll a bread dough. My only experience of rolling a pastry was with the shortcrust pastry that I made for the lemon tartlettes.

The results: Failed two times and got third time lucky. :)

Monday, 11 June 2012

Macarons, take three.

Did I say I'm just a teeny bit obsessed with making macarons? Macarons and I have come a long way. I have baked these sandwiched french almond cookies for more times than anything else. Having said that majority of my previous attempts employed the french meringue method, which I now find inferior to the italian meringue method. I tried out the italian meringue method once before (see my other entry) and have since become a convert. A friend of mine invited me over for dinner tonight and there I thought 'Here comes the opportunity to put my macaron baking obsession to good use'. I personally think that macarons make a great gift for any occasion and look fairly impressive as well. I also wanted to seize this opportunity to re-create the flavours of the macarons that I had at Pierre Herme's london outlet that totally blew me away; the milk chocolate and earl grey ganache and rose-jasmine white chocolate ganache. I didn't have any rose essence lying around so I turned it into a pure jasmine white chocolate ganache instead.

As always, I could not resist snapping pictures of my baked products:

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Lemon Tartlettes

It's been about a week since I last baked. I made a trip to London to visit a friend earlier this week and gained lots of baking inspiration. My friends and I made trips to Laduree and Pierre Herme's london outlets and even visited Le Cordon Bleu's London campus. The quiche lorraine that I had at their cafe was excellent! I was also fortunate enough to have tried Pierre Herme's Rose and Jasmine macaron and I liked the earl grey infused chocolate macaron too! It's just a matter of time before I try to re-create those flavours myself. I also bought a book by Michel Roux on pastry from Harrods at a tenner. There's simply so much I want to bake and fortunately I've got the next few weeks all to myself so the oven will be my best mate for a while.

I've wanted to make lemon tartlettes even before I finished my exam in May. I like the fragrance of lemons but what I like even more was to use a blowtorch to make burn marks on meringues. :) Being a beginner in baking I had practically none of the equipments required, no tart tins, no blowtorch. I suppose baking can be a very expensive hobby especially at this early stage, but I see this as an investment provided I take good care of all my baking utensils.

The result: