Monday, November 19, 2012

Baby Milk Bottle Macarons

Baby Bottle Macarons
Around this time last year, I thought I was at the lowest place I could possibly be. I made myself a birthday cake, which turned out to be the happiest thing I've ever made. It was just the thing I needed to lift my spirits at the time, and it still makes me smile to look at that cake.  It's been an incredibly year since then, and it's crazy to think about everything that I've gone through. Sorry there wasn't a post last week, somehow this particular time of year seems to bring out all the drama and this time around baking was not the coping tool that I needed.
Baby Bottle Macarons
After my last batch of animal macarons, I swore to myself that I would take a step away from doing cute shaped macarons because it seems like everyone is doing them these days! But this weekend was Betty's baby shower and I couldn't resist pulling out one more weird macaron shape for the occasion. I tried my best to make them look like little baby milk bottle macarons, with blue tops because she's having a boy :) Unfortunately it seems that the funkier I made the shapes the more bumpy and uneven the macaron shells turn out. They are far from perfect but I think you could still tell what they were supposed to be, or at least I hope you can!
Baby Bottle Macarons
I added a few white sprinkles on the side of each bottle to look like the measuring lines on a bottle, which I think worked quite well. It was a bit of a pain to sift through my rainbow sprinkles to find the right length of white sprinkles and carefully place them on each shell. I filled the shells with a simple white chocolate and vanilla bean ganache. After this, I swear I'm going cold turkey on the funky shaped macarons, I really want to focus more on making some beautiful smooth shells with some intense, lovely flavours. This time around I did try out a tip I learnt from BraveTart, I added a small amount of salt to the shells to help balance out the intense sweetness and I think it's genius. Will definitely be using salt in my macaron recipe from now on.
Baby Bottle Macarons
Baby Milk Bottle Macarons
(makes about 15 macarons)
For the macarons: (if you are a beginner with macarons, read up and practice plain macarons first. BraveTart has lots of useful advice and info on the subject)
100g aged egg whites (you can use fresh eggs too, just make sure they are room temperature. I always use fresh these days, and zap it in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds)
110g almond meal, at room temperature and well sifted
200g icing sugar
50g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Optional: 1 tsp powdered egg whites (available from The Essential Ingredient), helps to stabilise egg whites but is not necessary
To decorate: blue or pink food colouring (I used Wilton's gel icing colour), white sprinkles

For the ganache:
200g white chocolate, finely chopped
120ml (about 1/2 cup) pure/pouring cream (or heavy whipping cream in the US, min 35% fat unthickened)
1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/pure vanilla extract)

Prepare the macarons first; line two baking sheets with baking paper. Place icing sugar in food processor and pulse for a minute to remove any lumps. Stir in almond meal and pulse for about 30 seconds to combine. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites, salt and egg white powder in a medium mixing bowl until the egg white powder dissolves and it reaches soft peaks. With the mixer on high speed, gradually add sugar and beat until it reaches stiff peaks. Add meringue to your dry mixture and mix, quickly at first to break down the bubbles in the egg white (you really want to beat all the large bubbles out of the mixture, be rough!), then mix carefully as the dry mixture becomes incorporated and it starts to become shiny again. Take care not to overmix, the mixture should flow like lava and a streak of mixture spread over the surface of the rest of the mixture should disappear after about 30 seconds.
Baby Bottle Macarons
Place about 1/5th of the mixture in a separate bowl and add blue/pink food colouring to it. Place blue mixture and white mixture in two separate piping bags. I attached a 0.5 cm round tip to the white bag and a narrower tip (about 0.25cm) for the blue. Pipe the white mixture in rectangles to form the base of the bottle. Pipe a narrow line of blue above each rectangle as shown in the picture above, then pipe a small triangle of white on the top of each blue line. I find it is easiest to use a wooden skewer dipped in warm water to help neaten up the edges. Additionally, you can place white sprinkles along the side of each rectangle to look like measuring lines.

Leave to dry for at least half an hour, so that when you press the surface of one gently it does not break. This will help prevent any cracking and help the feet to form on the macs. Preheat your oven to 140-150°C (285-300°F), depending on your oven. Place on top of an overturned roasting tray or another baking sheet if your sheets are not professional grade, for better heat distribution. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your shells. Carefully test if the base of the shell is ready by gently lifting one and if it's still soft and sticking to the baking paper, then it needs to bake for a few minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for a few minutes, then gently remove from the sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely. 

Prepare the ganache; place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and gently heat cream and vanilla bean & seeds in a small saucepan until it just comes to the boil, then pour hot cream over the chocolate and set aside for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. Remove vanilla bean pod. Using a whisk, gently combine mixture until it is smooth (if there are still lumps, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until they are gone).  Set aside to cool (or chill if you want to speed it up), until has returned to room temperature and is thickened enough to hold it's shape but still pipable. Sandwich macaron with the ganache (by piping it or using a spoon to spread it). Chill in the fridge in an airtight container overnight, serve at room temperature. 
Baby Bottle Macarons
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Ispahan Marshmallows (Lychee, Rose & Raspberry)

Ispahan Marshmallows
Wow, it's been an exhausting week. I'm only just starting to get over being jet lag's bitch, so if I start to ramble in this post please excuse me because I'm very sleep deprived. It's been pretty hard to get back into the swing of things, I'm suffering some serious post-holiday blues as you would expect after having such a fun and food-filled trip. I've been catching up with friends and going through our giant collection of holiday photos and while it's nice to see how much fun we obviously had, I'm sad that it's over. I keep wishing I was back in Barcelona or Paris!
Ispahan Marshmallows
Speaking of Paris, I had the chance to sample some of the lovely treats at Pierre Hermé while I was over there. This included his famous ispahan creation, which combines the flavours of rose, raspberry and lychee. It's a truly perfect marriage of flavours; the sweetness of the lychee and the fragrance of rose are the perfect counterbalance for the tartness of the raspberry. One of my favourite treats that I picked up were these ispahan pâtes de fruits with two distinct layers, which worked well to keep the flavours distinct while in a single mouthful.
Ispahan Marshmallows
I decided to do a similar effect but with some homemade marshmallows instead. I'm always surprised whenever I post a marshmallow recipe how many comments I get from people who have never tried homemade marshmallows. It's a real shame because you are really missing out if you've only ever tried storebought ones. They are nothing alike and I've never been a big fan of the mass-produced version. The homemade ones are so light and fluffy, and you can add all kinds of delicious flavours to them. They're a lot of fun to make once you get the hang of it.
Ispahan Marshmallows
My original plan was to top these marshmallows with some crumbled freeze-dried raspberries, to give it a pretty pop of colour as well as an extra tartness. Unfortunately I didn't have much luck finding anywhere that sells them, but I did manage to find some really pretty dried rose petals. They're mostly meant for infusing, so I wasn't sure how well they would work sprinkled on top. I tried to chop it up very, very finely and only sprinkled on a little bit, but even then I'm not sure it was a very successful experiment as the petals were quite soft. If I had the choice again I would definitely replace it with my original idea of the raspberries.
Ispahan Marshmallows
This recipe is a great opportunity for anyone who hasn't tried the combination of these three flavours together, or hasn't tried a homemade marshmallow before. Some tips when making the marshmallows; it can get sticky and messy with all the sugar syrup, so make sure you have all your kitchen utensils ready to go and your ingredients measured out beforehand. Make sure you give your marshmallows enough time to set and dry out uncovered either in a cool room or in your fridge, as they will release quite a lot of moisture while they are setting. If you don't let them release that moisture they will go all goopy and sticky when you dust them. Not a huge deal if that happens, just leave them out to dry for longer and re-dust them. When cutting and handling the marshmallows, use a light touch and keep your hands dry and well-dusted.
Ispahan Marshmallows
Ispahan (Lychee, Rose & Raspberry) Marshmallows
(adapted from my Oreo Marshmallow recipe, makes about 40 marshmallows)
2 x 250g (about 1 cup) sugar
2 x 2 tsp liquid glucose or light corn syrup
2 x 1 tbsp gelatine powder
2 x 1 large egg whites
Vegetable oil for greasing

For the raspberry rose flavour:
125g fresh or frozen raspberries, pureed & strained
1-3 tbsp rose water or rose syrup, adjusted to taste

For the lychee flavour:
1 can of lychees in syrup, or about 250g fresh, peeled lychees, enough to make 2/3 cup of puree

1/2 cup (75g) icing sugar (confectioner's sugar), sifted
1/2 cup (75g) cornflour (cornstarch)
Optional: edible dried rose petals, finely chopped, or freeze dried raspberries

Grease and line the base and sides with baking paper of a 24x32cm lamington tray, or two 20cm square cake tins. You should lightly grease the baking paper as well, to make it easier to peel away from the marshmallow once it is set. Make the raspberry rose layer first; place 250g caster sugar, 2 tsp glucose in a small saucepan. Place raspberry puree in a measuring cup and top up with rose water or rose syrup to make 2/3 cup of liquid. Alternatively you can replace any amount of the rose with plain water, adjust it to your taste. Add puree mixture to the saucepan and place on low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Place 100ml cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle 1 tbsp gelatine powder over it and set aside to soften. Increase heat on saucepan to medium-high and insert a sugar thermometer. Boil for 3-5 minutes, until sugar thermometer reaches 120°C (250°F) (I got my candy thermometer from a $2 dollar shop for those wondering). Remove from the heat and carefully add gelatine to mixture and whisk until gelatine dissolves and no lumps remain (if you are worried about this step you can heat the bowl of gelatine over a pot of simmering water first to make it smoother before adding it).
Ispahan Marshmallows
Place egg white in a large mixing bowl and start beating with an electric mixer with a whisk attachment on high speed. Gradually add hot sugar syrup to the egg white while mixing, if you are using a hand mixer you should beat your egg whites to a stiff peak before you start adding the syrup, but it works fine to add it as soon as you start beating the egg in a stand mixer. Beat until mixture is glossy and thick, about 5 minutes on a stand mixer and closer to 10 with a hand mixer. Before mixture starts to cool too much, pour mixture into prepared tin and use a spatula to quickly smooth top. Try to keep it as smooth as possible so you have nice, neat layers. Repeat entire process above for the second layer, replacing the raspberry and rose with lychee puree instead (I topped it up to equal 2/3 cup of liquid using the lychee syrup from the can). Sprinkle the dried rose petals or freeze-dried raspberries over the top for decoration.

Leave to set at room temperature overnight (or in the fridge uncovered if you are doing this in summer). Mix icing sugar & cornstarch together in a large bowl. Using a lightly greased knife or dusted with the icing sugar mixture, cut 3-4cm sized squares. Roll marshmallows in the icing sugar mixture, covering all sides well then shake off any excess. Place on a wire rack or a piece of baking paper to dry for at least a few hours, then store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 week (you may need to re-coat in the icing sugar mixture after a few hours after you first dust them).
Ispahan Marshmallows
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