March 29th, 2007

Parisien Macarons (with tried recipe & process photos!)

handmade macarons made by Coco&Me - sold at Broadway Market, East London

(The paper discs make the display colourful despite it being only two types of Macarons!)

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Macarons. Macarons. The Heavenly Macarons.

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They are what dessert foodie’s Heaven is made out of. Delectable morsels that have a smooth domed surface, which encases a texture that can only be described as soft, gooey, slightly chewy… Mmmm… Which you’d be munching slowly… savoring every bite… with the ganache chocolate centre combining in your mouth… Mmmm… But then… will be finished before you know it! Ahh… Just imagine Homer Simpson’s drooling passion for his Donuts – that same passion applies to me about Macarons…

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I sell pink Macarons (with raspberry jam + ganache centre) & chocolate Macarons (with dark ganache centre) at my stall. I would love to sell many different coloured ones, as one of the attractions of these morsels is the array of colours it could come in, irresistably displayed like cute buttons. But work-time-wise, I am at my limit. I already make more than ten types of cakes every week, & chocolate truffles, etc, on top of that… Pink & chocolate colours are by far the most popular at the market it seems, so I’ll stick to those colours for now!
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So without further ado, here is the recipe(s) for Macarons.
I’d be explaining the base recipe which you’d use to create any colour Macaron you’d like. And then I’ll also list the ingredients list for Chocolate Macarons, which requires you to swap some of your almond powder with cocoa powder.
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Warning:
… … This dessert is very difficult to master. A perfect Macaron MUST have ‘THE FOOT’ which is the raggedness around the edges. It mustn’t come out cracked. It must be round. Each Macaron must be of same size.
… … So I’m afraid it’s all about trials & tribulations! I’m yet to meet anyone who’d made it perfectly from their first go. It took me numerous attempts with recipes from many sources to get it looking alright enough for me to sell. To have to try again & again til perfection is a test of endurance for your love of Macarons. Just remember, every single step in the recipe is important, otherwise, sorry to say, you’re doomed for failure.
… … Also, please remember that everyone’s oven is different. Is it fan or convection, is it pretty old & not precise with temperature, does it have heat spots… (I have a heat spot on the right for example). Every oven has it’s own knack. So I recommend the use of an oven thermometer! This little biscuit requires preciseness.
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Although despite these warnings, please don’t be intimidated by its complexities. Try! & besides, you’d always be able to eat them test batches for yourself, right!? (Like I do). Surely no harm done… ;-)
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Macarons Recipe:
Makes approximately 16 sides (but all dependent on how big you pipe it)
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Ingredients:

  • 50g Almond powder
  • 90g Icing sugar
  • Liquid food colouring (optional)
  • (and for the meringue the following:)
  • 60g Egg whites (about 2-3 eggs worth), at room temperature
  • 30g Icing sugar
  • For the centre: jam, buttercream, or ganache (5:4 ratio of cream & chocolate. Read below for the recipe)

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Prepare:
a. Sift almond powder & the icing sugar TWICE. It’s your chance to get rid of the not-so-fine almond powders.
b. Line baking tray with cut-to-size baking paper (or prefably a silpat if you’ve got one). Place this tray on top of another tray (Doubling up the tray delays the heat cooking the Macaron from the bottom. This insures that the outer surface is dried up first before the inside starts to lift it up. This is what makes that all important ‘foot’ & the smooth surface that is not cracked).
c. Have a piping bag ready.
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Method:

  • 1. Whisk the egg whites with the icing sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks.
  • 2. (Optional) Add food colouring (Literally droplet at a time, as these droplets paint the whites unapetizingly vivid if you’re too generous. But also remember that the colour intensity will be slightly less once you incorporate the dry ingredints later!). Mix it in to the whites.
  • 3. Deposit the pre-sifted dry ingredients (almond powder & icing sugar) in to the white in one go.
  • 4. Use the spatula to fold it in. Once all the dry ingredients has been incorporated & dissapeared, you must check wether you’ve reached perfect consistency. Test by lifting up the dough with your spatula – HOW DOES THE DOUGH FALL? If it is not falling down in ‘GENTLE’ continuous ribbons, try mixing it a tiny bit more. The technique for mixing at this point is to “fold & press” your spatula against the side of the bowl to deflate the air out of the whites. Do this til you’ve passed this vital ‘dough fall’ test. But just remember, don’t over mix it either… (This folding process is called ‘macaronage’. This is the most tricky bit of Macaron making. I find that you can only know how much one should fold by practising again & again…)
  • 5. Spatula the mixture in to a piping bag. (tip: having the bag over something like a juice decanter like the picture below is much easier than the professional way!)
  • 6. (skip this if you’re using silpat) Scrape the left over mixture from the now empty mixing bowl & smear it under all four corners of the baking paper. It’ll act as a glue to stick the paper to the tray.
  • 7. Pipe 3-4cm rounds on to the baking paper. Make sure to leave atleast 2cm around it as it will spread later.
  • 8. Once all piped, drop the tray horizontally on to your work surface to knock some air bubbles out & to spread the dough out a bit. (If you’re doing this at night, & you’re worried you’d wake your kid upstairs (for example), layer some kitchen towels on the work surface to dumb the sound!)
  • 9. Leave it aside for 20-30 minutes. This is to dry the surface of your macarons. After the time is up, check how dry it is by gently touching the surface. Does the dough stick back? Leave it aside for another 10 minutes. Once it’s not sticky, proceed to the next step.
  • 10. Prepare your oven shelves – you’d want to place your trays on middle shelf. I’d like to cover the shelf above it with foil so that there’s no direct heat hitting my Macarons & discolouring it brown.
  • 11. Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees.
  • 12. Pop your trays in. (Make sure they are doubled up!!) Sit by your oven with your oven gloves.
  • 13. Once ‘the foot’ graciously appears (it’s usually after 4 – 5 minutes), & has reached it’s maximum height, open the oven & quickly but safely take the bottom tray away (meaning don’t double it up anymore). Place the macarons tray back in the oven.
  • 14. Change the temperature dial to 170 degrees.
  • 15. Bake it for another 5 – 7 minutes. If the colour of the surface is starting to brown, turn the oven off, keep the door shut, & bake it with the remaining confined temperature.
  • 16. Leave aside to cool together with the hot baking tray.
  • 17. Once cooled, you’d have to remove it off the baking paper. To do this, you dab water on the baking paper under each Macaron & wait a few seconds. The paper should peel off easily without giving. Just do this process slowly & patiently – these Macarons are delicate stuff (if you’re using silpat, just use a knife & slide them off). Now, you can either go to the next step, or decide to store these discs in a consealed tupperware – it’ll keep for several days.
  • 18. Pair up the Macarons.
  • 19. Pipe the ganache centre mixture (Please read the ganache recipe below) or any other mixture of your choice & sandwich the Macarons together.
  • 20. Place in a tupperware & store it in a refrigerator.
  • 21. Best eaten the next day!
    .Step by step photo of the Macaron making process
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    1:1 Ganache centre recipe:
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    Ingredients:
    50g of fresh double cream
    40g of dark chocolate
    1. Have the chocolate ready in a mixing bowl.
    2. Heat cream in a smallest saucepan you have. Bring it to simmering point
    3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.4. Leave to stand for 10 seconds. Then use your spatula to mix it in – SLOWLY – from the centre, incorporating more cream from the sides as you do it.
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    Chocolate Macaron Recipe:..Ingredients:
    45g Almond powder
    90g Icing sugar
    5g Cocoa powder
    Red liquid food colouring
    (and for the meringue the following:)
    60g Egg whites (about 2-3 eggs worth), at room temperature
    30g Icing sugar.Method:
    Please follow the basic recipe above. The red food colour will add that extra richness to the chocolate colour. To make green tea Macarons, you can user the same measurements as this – just swap cocoa to green tea powder, and omit the red colour.
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    “AHHH. Donuts Macarons… What can’t they do.” – adaptation quote from Homer Simpson…!
    .Update 20.06.07

    ps: Which is the correct way to spell – macaron or macaroon? The original french version is ‘macaron’. But the english version seems to be ‘macaroon’… Pronounced with the ‘oo’ too. But doesn’t that point toward the American Coconut Macaroons…, not the French kind? If anybody knows, please advise me!!

March 25th, 2007

The road to Lewes & the groundhog roundabout

street.jpg

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This week, I decided to take a break from my hectic schedule. I really needed a break from everyday life, which I do love & enjoy, but also grinds me in to a heap of tired state.

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So I took this Saturday off. There were no pre-orders for big cakes, & the Easter chocolate fever is yet to come. – We planned to do a day trip to a county town called Lewes (East Sussex. It’s near Brighton), where friends of ours live who had left London last Autumn for a better life there (good thinking!).

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Leaving the house 10am, & thinking that our car journey would be around 2 hours, we left high spirited. It’s so unusual to have a day off on a Saturday, it felt good to make a proper day out of it. We had our car-nav device which would guide us there no problem.

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BUT… somehow, we managed to spend almost 3 hours on just getting to Streatham! Still, we drove despite being hit by bad traffic everywhere, I mean in a seriously bad way (which was a test of composure indurance). THEN…, our bad luck got nailed down, as we hit a road closure on our exit on a roundabout. We follow the diversion signs – which brings us back to the same roundabout! Jeez, it did not make sense. The diversion signs were just not good enough – pointing this way, that way. D kept his cool throughout & try another route, but again we were at the same roundabout… We program the car-nav to come up with alternate route. but try as it might, it would try to take us back to this god-damn roundabout a number of times…

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At this point, we were already driving 4 hours. The thought of another 1 hour drive to get to their house, spend a measly 2 hours with our friends & then face another long long time getting home (with an active toddler strapped in to his car seat), in time for his bedtime…, it would be just plain madness. We U-turned home…

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March 18th, 2007

Sneeze guards

fruit tarts from Coco&Me

(I was meant to photograph those sneeze guards on site today at the market – but had completely forgotten to do so…. So instead, here is a picture of my fruit tarts, which are very very popular – I manage to sell atleast 25 0f these heart shape ones alone)

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Last week I finally got around to buying some plastic sheets to place in front of my cakes. It was recommended that I do it by the market inspector the other day. And after experiencing little kids grabbing my items from the table & deeming it unsalable, & cheeky adults reaching for the cake crumbs from my chocolate cake, it was about time I sort this out once & for all.

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First, I searched & searched for a proper ‘sneeze guard’ online, but to no avail (hey, there’s a market opportunity here someone!) – so my solution was to buy seven A5 size poster holders in see-through acylic, and line them together as per the picture above.
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As a format it works fine, I love the fact that it’s in seven pieces as I can transport it no problem. BUT…, I must admit that it has created a different ‘air’ between me the seller, & the customer, & I don’t like it. Suddenly my cakes do not look as accessible as before, & it makes my stall look too showy behind the plastic… I have already had people mention to me that my cakes look ‘too good to eat’ (a nice way of saying ‘pretencious’ I think) & walk off. Oh well, I worry that it might bring my sales down…, but it had to be done, so I better get over it I guess.

March 11th, 2007

This busy bee ain’t floatin’ like a butterfly

Firstly forgive me for this short blog entry – this week I’ve been ultra ultra busy & really feeling the candle burning on both ends. I feel caved under with so many things to do & I’m cranky… I know that half of it is just about being busy in my head with so many things to think about too…

Anyway, so I’d like to take a break from this week’s blog duties, I will try to get abit more sleep in me & recover my happy self! I’ll be back with a proper entry next week tho! Til then, t xxx

March 4th, 2007

Luxury Brownies (with secret recipe)

Luxury Brownies - homemade by Coco&Me.

Dearest readers, this week I’d like to share with you my secret recipe for BROWNIES that I sell on my stall.

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The Brownies War:

As you can imagine, brownies being so popular, there are many stalls selling them at my market (I counted ten stalls/ shops). It’s big headed of me to say this I know, but, I’m proud to say that mine always sell-out no problem. I make tonnes of it too – about 30 chunky slices per week – & on a week when I know the business will be good (ie: sunny weekends, & Christmas weekend), I make 40 – 50 slices, & they still go.
Because of this, I briefly debated wether to share this recipe online like this, but…, what the heck, I’ve got enough ‘regulars’ devoted to mine, & it’s competitively priced. Even if someone do a copycat, I’m confident that it won’t affect my sales!
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The history of Brownies:

Obviously, the name comes from the colour of this cookie/ cake. The origins, on the otherhand, is uncertain – but folklore has it that it was created by accident by a careless cook who’d forgotten to add baking powder to the chocolate cake. (Many origins of cakes are invented by careless cooks! Tarte Tatin was also created similarly.)

The first brownie recipe was published by Fannie Merrit Farmer in 1896, which calls for a nut tobe embedded in the centre. All early brownies contained chopped nuts too.

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LUXURY BROWNIES RECIPE

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These brownies are ‘seriously’ the BEST. I can assure you. Wanna know why? Because it’s got plenty of delicious nuts (pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans) in them, & it is double chocolatey, as it uses both cocoa & solid chocolates in the recipe – which is unusual, when most recipes call for just ‘either or’.

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Texture: moist, dense & fudgy.
Difficulty: easy as pie.

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Ingredients:
230g Butter, roughly cubed
310g Sugar
(Granulated or Castor)
200g Whole eggs (approximately four) whisked up
230g DARK Chocolate
- in small pellet form or chopped finely so it melts quickly (very important)
140g Flour
40g Cocoa Powder

200g of nuts of your choice (pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans – You can use just one type or use all four types like I do. They add different crunchy textures to every fudgy bite, which makes the brownie interesting til the last bite)

20cm square baking tin
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Prepare:

a. Butter the baking tin. Then line the bottom & the sides with baking paper.

b. Sift together the flour & the cocoa powder.

c. Have the chocolates ready in a large mixing bowl.

d. Leave aside some nuts to decorate the surface of the brownies with (in my opinion, walnuts look best).

e. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

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Method:

1. Melt the butter completely in a large pot.
2. Add the sugar. Dissolve.
3. In a separate mixing bowl mix the solid chocolates & eggs (make sure to mix well).

4. Pour the piping hot mixture (from 2) over the chocolates/eggs in a bowl. Mix quickly & thoroughly – make sure all the chocolates have dissolved (if you still have lumps of chocolates left, zap it at 10 second intervals in the microwave until it melts).

5. Spatula in the flour & the cocoa powder. Mix until no traces of flour can be seen.
6. Mix in the nuts. (Make sure you leave some aside for decorating the top with).
7. Pour the mixture in to the prepared tin.
8. Evenly decorate some more nuts on the top surface.
(Make sure each slice would have a decorative nut)
9. Bake in the oven (that has been pre-heated to 180 degrees) for 18 to 22 minutes. It’s cooked when the edges have gone slightly dry, the top is shiny & has cracked. The centre of the brownie shoudn’t be wobbly when shook. Remember: the toothpick method won’t work on this fudgy brownie!
10. Leave aside to cool. Don’t cut until they’ve reached room temperature, or even better leave it untouched for a WHOLE DAY to rest – I can promise you, it’ll taste better tenfold.

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Brownies recipe explained in image sequence.

Note:

This recipe is versatile – instead of nuts, you can put pretty much anything in there – like dried fruit such as dried cherries, or fresh fruits like raspberry. Baking is meant to be fun & so don’t go out-of-your-way to buy the nuts if you haven’t got it (as nuts can be expensive). Use whatever that is in your store cupboard & experiment! like, be creative with sliced almonds & spell a letter on the surface!

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