mint-macaron21My first experimental batch of macarons for this month is with the Italian meringue (sucre cuit method).  I borrowed from Mercotte’s  recipe that is favoured by Tartelette, and strongly resembles the quantities and techniques used by Pierre Hermé.

Unfortunately … I was disappointed in the outcome. 

Probably not surprising my maiden effort with the Italian meringue method was disappointing.  In addition to being pretty heavy-handed in the kitchen (never good when making meringue!), I did also take a few short cuts.  1) I did not use eggs that had been separated ahead of time.  2) I did not dry out my almond meal.  And 3) I did not wait after piping to put the macarons in the oven. 

But that is all part of the experiment, I guess. 

The resulting shells were sort of smooth (though a far far cry from the little treats I savoured in France!).  They were also the most fragile I have made.  They certainly had the right texture though – a crisp outer shell and soft centre – and the taste was lovely, too. 

All in all, worth the effort.  But chalk this up to being a record of (hopefully) mastering the techniques over time.

{ Basic macaron }

* Ingredients *

120g egg whites
25g sugar
150g almond meal
150g icing sugar
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.

{ Mint Chocolate Ganache }

* Ingredients *

120g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves

* Directions *

Heat cream and mint until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour cream through strainer, over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.


In honour of French patisserie treats, I have short-listed a few items to bake this month.  First up were madeleines.  Next challenge, profiteroles.

I am fascinated by choux pastry (pâte à choux).  This multipurpose pastry can be used to create cream puffs, profiteroles, and éclairs.  I recently attended a class at Black Pearl Epicure and the lovely Kristie Rickman, head pastry chef at E’cco, demonstrated a few pastry essentials.  Choux pastry was on her list and she created a number of mouth-watering cream puffs.  Inspired by Kristie, I decided to recreate the golden puffy delights at home.

As my deliciously light madeleines turned out perfectly, I thought I would continue with Sherry Yard as recipe guide for the choux pastry.  Kristie shared a sensational chocolate custard recipe, so there was no question what to use for filling.

There are a few steps to this recipe, but all are very simple.  The end result is worth the effort!  In fact, I was given some feedback on these little chocolately puffs of goodness.  They were apparently absolutely delicious … but just way too small!  So next time I make pâte à choux, I need to upgrade to éclairs!

{ Pâte à choux } adapted from Sherry Yard

Makes about 18 medium sized puffs

* Ingredients *

¼ cup water
¼ cup milk
45g butter, at room temperature, cubed
½ cup plain flour, sifted
2-3 eggs, at room temperature

* Directions *

Place water, milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until butter melts and mixture just comes to the boil.
Add all the flour to the butter mixture at once and use a wooden spoon to beat until well combined. Place over low heat and cook, stirring, for at least 4 minutes or until the mixture forms a mashed potato like appearance.  Remove from the heat.
Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed for a few minutes to cool the mixture down.  Then start to add the egg one by one.  Make sure the egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.  Before you add your last egg, check for consistency.  (See notes.)  Once done, the dough should be shiny and smooth.  At this stage you can fill a piping bag with the choux paste and use straight away or freeze for later.  (See notes.)

puff-ballstopsbottomsPreheat oven to 220 C or 425 F.  Line a baking sheet with Silpat.  Pipe the profiteroles onto the baking tray. For medium sized puffs, pipe about 3-4 cm in size (1 ½ inches).  Brush the tops with a little egg mixture. Bake for 10 minutes, or until puffs begin to rise.  Turn the temperature down to 180 C or 350 F.  Carefully prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon and bake for another 15 minutes.

When the puffs cool, cut the top half off each one with a serrated knife.  Set the tops over a cooling rack.  Drizzle ganache over each puff top (you can use any recipe you like for the ganache).  Place the puff tops in the ridge to set, about 15-20 minutes.

Fill the puffs with a filling of your choice.  Use the Chocolate Custard recipe below or choose plain whipped cream or vanilla custard.

Then replace the tops to finish off your lovely puff!  If you are greedy like me, try to eat these cream filled sensations in one single bite.  All the flavours complement well.  If you can somehow resist not popping the whole thing in your mouth in one go, they still taste pretty good, too! 

{ Chocolate custard } adapted from Kristie Rickman

Sufficient to fill 18 medium sized puffs

* Ingredients *

3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g plain flour
250ml milk
50g good-quality chocolate
100ml cream, softly whipped

* Directions *

Lightly whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Add the flour and whisk to combine.
In a saucepan, slowly boil the milk.  Once the milk has reached a boil ladle about ¼ cup into the egg mixture and whisk well.  Then transfer the egg mixture into the rest of the milk and cook slowly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Add the chocolate, stirring until to melt through.
Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on the top to prevent a skin forming. Cool to room temperature. Once ready to use, stir in the cream.  Transfer to a piping bag to pipe mixture into the prepared puffs.

{ A few tips … }

1.  You can freeze the pastry before you pipe into puffs.  Transfer the mixture once cooled to a piping bag, seal and then freeze for up to 2 weeks.  I made my pastry a week ago, popped it in the freezer, then let it defrost for about an hour before piping.
2.  The work of adding the eggs is made much easier using a stand mixer.  But you can complete this step by hand if necessary.
3.  The number of eggs given is a bit of a guide.  When you have added the second last egg, check the consistency.  The pastry should be more firm than runny.  If it is a little runny, add the last egg.  Sherry’s tip is to pinch off about 1 teaspoon of the dough with your thumb and index finger, then pull your fingers apart.  The dough should stretch rather than break.  If it breaks, add the last egg.
4.  Steam helps these little puffballs rise.  Sherry recommends putting a cup of hot water into a baking dish at the bottom of the oven when you put your puffs in to bake.
5.  When I cut the tops off my puffs, I set out the bottom half in the same order as the tops on a separate baking tray.  That way I could match the correct top and bottom together easily when it came to assembly time!
6.  Filled puffs only last a couple of hours in the fridge – but probably not a problem if your household has a sweet tooth like mine!

So for my short-list of French-style patisserie treats this month, I have one challenge to go.  Next week I will be tackling croissants.  Souhaitez-moi bonne chance!

lamingtons6The lamington is probably the most authentic Australian baked good.  Its origin is not challenged (unlike the Pavlova) and it is firmly established as one of our nation’s treasures – a bit of a culinary icon, in fact.  You cannot attend a school fete without seeing stalls and tables piled up with these coconut covered gems.  It is also not uncommon for fundraising to be supported by ‘lamington drives’.

I have not met an Australian yet who does not like the lamington – Vegemite, yes, lamington no.  It is probably not a surprise though that most people enjoy a fluffy sponge cake coated in chocolate.  But more of a surprise that most people also like that chocolate coated sponge cake encrusted with coconut.  Seems most Australians are partial to the coconut.

They say the Lamington was named after Lord Lamington who was the elected Governor of Queensland in 1986 through to 1901.  Evidently, the lamington was created purely by accident – like the brownie – with a stale sponge cake coated with melted chocolate and then dipped into coconut to create a make-shift dessert.

Lamingtons are incredibly easy to make, and the recipe I use for Lamingtons is so very simple.  Just bake a basic sponge, cut into squares, coat with a layer of chocolate and then a layer of coconut.

Enjoy these to celebrate Australia Day or any other time of year.  If you are in the Northern Hemisphere (and experiencing a bitter winter), hopefully the coconut brings you a little sunshine with every bite.  Enjoy!

{ Lamingtons } (recipe by the Australian Women’s Weekly)

* Ingredients *

6 eggs
¾ cup castor sugar
1 cup self raising flour (all purpose + 2 tsp of baking powder)
1/3 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
1/3 cup hot water
15g (about ½ oz) butter, melted

4 cups (500g / 16 oz) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/3 cup cocoa
15g (about ½ oz) butter, melted
½ cup milk

3 cups (250g / 8 oz) desiccated coconut

* Directions *

1. Preheat oven to 190 C / 375 F.
2. Grease a 23cm (about 9 inch) square slab pan.
3. Beat eggs in medium bowl with electric mixer until thick and creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beat until dissolved between each addition.
4. Transfer mixture to large bowl.  Fold in sifted flours, then combined water and butter.
5. Pour into prepared pan, bake for about 30-35 minutes.   Stand 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
6. Trim crusts from cake, cut into 25 squares.  Dip each piece in icing toss in coconut, and stand on wire rack to set.
7. For the chocolate icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl.  Stir in butter and milk, stir over hot water until icing is smooth.

{ A few tips … }

1. It is best to make the sponge the day before and refrigerate.  It will be easier to cut and handle during the coating process.
2. When you are ready to coat the lamingtons, line a baking tray with parchment and then top with a cooling rack.  This will be perfect for your little coated cakes to rest.
3. For variation, you can split the sponge and fill with jam before coating.  You also do not have to stick with a plain sponge.  Chocolate or even strawberry is a nice variation – like the sponge layers of my Rainbow Cake.   Some lovely examples of variation are pretty pink lamingtons and berry ripple lamingtons.