Sunday, January 17, 2010

Edible Fashion

Fashion has been quite a popular theme for me recently. Perfect for any girl really... which girl isnt fascinated by dresses, shoes and bags? And what's this? You can eat them too?! I think that's just an added bonus :)

Here are some of my favourite fashion inspired creations...

This little guy is still my absolute favourite! :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My new best friend

I'd been yearning for a DSLR for almost 2 years now. A couple of weeks ago, I finally gave in to myself and bought one, and it's finally here!  A belated Christmas present to myself :) Yay! Although I'm still getting used to the functions and how it all works, I LOVE it. I'm beginning to wonder why I put off getting one for so long. 

I was so excited the day I got it that I started snapping pictures of the most random things around the house - the window, receipts on the fridge, the camera box...etc It was so satisfying to hear the beep and click, click of the camera and then looking and the pretty photos that got captured. It does get heavy after a while tho, so I guess I'll be building some muscle soon!

But finally, this weekend I got to use my new best friend for real.

Photos taken with my Canon D500 :D

Cupcake display for Kaden's Christening


Little Kaden

 Wine bottle cake for a 70th Birthday

After writing all this I now know a lot about this wine ;)

Yay! Me being excited :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

If at first you don't succeed…

Curse and swear, tear your hair out in frustration, sulk, come close to giving up, do more research, get some fresh air, get hopeful, buy more ingredients and try, try again.

And when you do succeed, keep your fingers crossed and pray to the baking gods that you can keep succeeding.

In the last 2 years or so I've been stumped by the humble macaron. When done correctly, they look beautiful. However, a slip of the hand in any of the steps means that you can end up with some pretty mutated macaron shells. I've pretty much seen them all… lop sided, exploding from the top, feetless, hard, oozing…etc and the list of faults go on.

The recipe is very deceiving… calling only for approx 5 ingredients, all easy to get. The technique of putting it all together did not sound too hard when I read it either. How hard can it be? I've seen lots of people talking about the whole process online and how temperamental macaron batter can be. I could not believe something with less than 5 ingredients could be so difficult to put together. That is, until I tried countless recipes (both the french and Italian method) and was staring at what was probably the 8th batch of failed macarons that I begun to feel completely defeated. What did I do wrong?

Well, after some research I discovered that there is A LOT I could have done wrong. The sugar temperature, how the meringues are beaten, the way I combine everything… Gosh!

But then, 2 days ago… it happened. The ingredients all decided to align and I managed to make my best lot of macarons. I think this was either a fluke or I have finally managed to make this whole macaron thing work.

I think I'll just have to make more just to double check that I've got this right :)

In case you are wondering, here is what I have learnt on my macaron adventures... It may not all be right, but it's what worked for me.

  • I find that the Italian method is more 'durable' because the meringue is actually cooked so it makes the batter more firm.

  • Make sure EVERYTHING is exact - the weight of the ingredients, temperature of the sugar syrup...etc

  • When pouring in the sugar syrup into the egg whites, make sure the egg white have formed stiff peaks. Then when the recipe says slowly, it means pour it in a steady stream (kind of how you would pour milk into a glass). Make sure your mixer is still running (at medium speed). Once the sugar syrup is poured into the egg whites, whip on high to get all the heat out. It's ready when the sides of the bowl is cool enough for you to touch it.

  • I used a really fine sieve for the almond meal and icing sugar, somehow I think this helped because it made it much easier to incorporate the wet ingredients.

  • Use a piping bag with a nozzle to pipe the macarons. Make sure they are piped evenly.

  • Learn to know how hot your oven is. Mine is a fan forced oven and I find that I had to subtract 10 degrees or so from the recipe.

If you are curious, I used Adriano Zumbo's macaron recipe which can be found here. Follow everything exactly and you should get some great results :) (You can leave out the Cinnamon and colouring). For the filling I just made some ganache and piped it in.

I found that Adriano's recipe gave me approx 40 small macaron shells which will make approx 20 macarons.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Finishing off 2009 with a challenge

Hello 2010! I can't believe it's been a decade since I moved to Sydney and started living on my own. When I think of all the success and struggles that I've been through the last 10 years, I'm a bit excited and nervous to see where the next 10 years will take me.

Because I'm always up for a challenge, I decided to finish off 2009 with a nice tall one....

For those of you that watch Masterchef here in Australia, yes this is the chocolate swirled croquembouche (you can watch the episode online and get the recipe here).

This baby croquembouche was our new years eve dessert and since it was only me, the boyfriend and and another friend who was planning to eat this, we divided the recipe by 1/3. There was still heaps and it was supposed to feed 4?! (the original recipe says it serves 12) I think it could have fed 10 people easily.

Time to attack the croquembouche!

I can't take all the credit on this one, the boyfriend made all the custard fillings and helped with everything else. Overall, although it was slightly messy because I had to assemble it free hand and without the special cone, it was still yummy :) The pastry was slightly soft, the custard deliciously creamy and the toffee deep brown and crunchy. Was it worth all the effort? Maybe ;) Perhaps not for an everyday dessert but more for special occasions. You'll need lots of people around to help you finish it!

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