I still kind of exist

It has been a while since my last post and if this blog was a child, I would be an abusive and neglectful parent. But much has changed in my life since the new year and cooking has not been a priority at the moment. Some of these changes include: quitting my job, starting uni again and buying my first car. You might not think these changes are that monumental, but I have never dealt well with change…especially when it involves leaving behind familiar people and plunging into a new social environment. So as an excuse to write a post about my insecurities, here’s some things I’ve made recently.

A potato rosti

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I was inspired after watching some people make it on My Kitchen Rules. Yes, I am time poor but still find time to indulge in reality tv…

I’ve tried making rosti before and it really is quite simple. After grating one raw floury potato, I added half a whisked egg and 2 tbsp of flour until sticky and not soggy. I then heated up some oil until hot and made four deliciously crispy servings. I can only imagine it going well with some smoked salmon which I unfortunately did not have at the time.

Another thing I had recently was some kaya toast! I have heard a lot about this phenomenal brownish spread and have always wanted to try some. My cousin bought some when he stopped over in Singapore and wow is it good! I can’t really describe how it tastes like but its got a similar addictive quality like sweetened condensed milk. It goes well with a bit of butter on toast.

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As you can see, I didn’t really use much Kaya… I need to make it last as long as possible haha

Japanese cheesecake

So along with the ragu posted last night, I also attempted to bake a Japanese cheesecake for my cousin’s birthday. Funny thing is, I think I was more excited about his birthday than him because I get to make all this food that I normally wouldn’t… (I need to get a life haha). Cheesecake isn’t even one of these things I eat often…but I think I was just sick of making Chocolate cakes.

The idea to attempt this cake came to me while I was walking down the street, like literally, I saw it in an Asian bakery and thought I might make it later when I had time. I’m not sure what’s so Japanese about this cheesecake. Maybe it was created by a Japanese person, I don’t know.

So I looked around the internet and found that most recipes have similar ingredient quantities. In the end I decided to go with one from here. For mine I didn’t have cake flour so used plain and substituted 5-7g for cornflour. I also took out the lemon juice. The whole recipe was pretty straight forward except I felt a bit uncertain when whipping the meringue as I always do. As my cake tin was a bit leaky, I lined it well and forwent the water bath and instead wrapped a wet tea towel around it when baking. I also placed a tray of water on the rack under it. Through the oven glass door I could see my cake rising nicely with a browned top. I even baked it a further 15min past the recommended time just in case. I was so happy and relieved!

Then this happened…

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The whole thing just collapsed as I opened the oven door slightly to let it cool. See I even knew not to take it out directly onto the bench top but even so I was robbed of my beautifully risen cake. So so cruel…

It really demotivates you to finish decorating, but I decided to press on and tried my hardest to pretty the thing up.

However, I have to say that it tasted pretty good and had a light moist texture without being too airy. Maybe for the next birthday I can perfect it…. Now to google “cheesecake collapse”. 😛

 

 

Gingerbread house 2.0 and a salad

So I decided to make a gingerbread house again, but with my previous experience, I was able to finesse it as much as I can. I used the same gingerbread recipe but spent a bit more time on icing the decorations.  To be honest, I enjoy making the house rather than eating it. Although it has a nice mellow taste of ginger, I was never fond of gingerbread; yet somehow I made three in the span of a month.

ImageThis time I added some almonds to the roof and piped some icicles which actually look quite good. Unfortunately, the gingerbread had lost its brittleness by the time we demolished it. I forgot to cover/wrap it up and it just sucked up the moisture in the air. It still tasted alright though. Image

Because I had work and church in the morning, I didn’t have much time to whip up anything complicated so I just made some stock standard pumpkin, rocket and spinach salad which is always an easy and safe dish to prepare.

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And it seems that other people had the same idea, as my friend later that night also made the same salad.. and also some turkey. So I guess that’s my Christmas feasting complete.

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I hope you guys had a joyful Christmas too. And since I’m off to Tasmania soon, I also wish you have a satisfying and meaningful new year!

Macarons!!

Macarons. So easy to Make-it-wrong. haw haw haw.

Comedic brilliance aside, these ‘biscuits’ are extremely volatile and easy to stuff up. Out of the 5 times I’ve attempted them, 2 attempts have resulted in almond cookies. As everyone else in Sydney has noted, they became quite the hype when Adriano Zumbo graced our screens in Masterchef.. but I’m not sure whether they are still that popular, I haven’t read a lot of macaron-related posts recently. Although McDonalds do sell macarons in their McCafe, so maybe they have just become a mainstream treat…Nevertheless, these little french creations are quite delicious if done right, and can appear in a limitless range of flavours.

I decided to jump on the “blogging about macarons” wagon to celebrate this blog making it through 1 month. I don’t know about other people, but blogging can be one of those things where you start with great aspirations.. and you tell yourself that you are going to post like everyday… but then its easy to just give up and allow it to fade into some untouched abyss in the interwebz. I’ve had 2 other blogs suffer that fate…

In the past, I’ve tried making popcorn ganache, salted chocolate and pandan coconut for the filling, but this time I decided to make….

Radioactive gloop.

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Ha ha.

I was actually trying to make green tea ganache but thought that it wasn’t green enough so decided to add in ‘one drop’ of green food colouring. Unfortunately, the bottle didn’t have one of those dropper caps and thus, in my shaky over-eagerness I turned the ganache into a highlighter shade. However, I have to say, this time my shells were near perfection and were the best I’ve ever made them.

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I ended up using a recipe from Jo the tart queen (thankyou) who adapted it from Le Cordon Bleu. I halved the recipe but it came out pretty well.

For the green tea ganache, you can use any of the ones you find on google, just make sure its for macarons… you don’t want any runny ganache ruining your beautiful macaron shells. Use matcha powder but if you don’t have any, you can infuse a heaped tablespoon of green tea leaves into the cream when you heat it up. However, it is best to use matcha as the white chocolate (don’t think dark/milk chocolate is a good combo) was quite strong and largely overwhelmed the subtle green tea flavour. 

They are finnicky things and so much can go wrong in the process, but if you are determined/ slightly crazy enough, give them a try!

For those attempting the macaron, here’s some tips. 

  • If you stuff up the meringue, its pretty much over. Over and over again I’ve read that you should:
  • Age the egg whites for around couple of days
  • Whip them at room temperature
  • Make sure your bowl/ mixer is very clean. No grease at all
  • For the almond meal and icing sugar
  • Make sure you sift and break up any icing sugar lumps
  • For the most important stage…the macaronage (mixing the meringue with the almond meal and icing sugar)
  • Sacrifice around 1/4- 1/3 of the meringue to wet the dry mixture first, make it into a paste, this would make it easy to fold in the rest of the meringue
  • Fold in 1/3 of the meringue at a time. FOLD CAREFULLY, this is a delicate stage where we want to keep most of the air in the meringue
  • However having said that, you also have to keep folding and folding until the mixture is lava like in consistency. This is really difficult to describe as most people have not mixed lava before… but the mixture should ooze slightly but still be holding its shape slightly for around 10 seconds. Keep mixing if it still looks like ‘ganache consistency’. It has to have some flow to it. Seriously just go watch a youtube video, its better than this rambling.
  • Piping
  • Pipe slowly if you are a noob like me. Also, if you can’t get a circle shape, try spiralling the piping bag slowly and outline the circle yourself before filling it 
  • Aim for small macaron shells (think 50 cent coin size), this would help fit more on the tray and macarons are enjoyed better if they’re smaller. I find that if they’re too big, they loose their delicacy. Also when you tap the tray of macarons after pipping, they tend to spread a bit.
  • Which brings me to tapping.. give them a hard 3-4 raps on each side of tray. Let out all those air bubbles.
  • Drying stage

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  • Important! Don’t be too excited and pop it into the oven after 15-20 minutes of drying.. Let it dry for at least 30 minutes… thats if its a dry warm day. If it is raining or humid you may need to dry it for an hour or even use the hairdryer from afar. 
  • When the macaron is slightly dry to touch and the mixture doesn’t stick to your fingers (its ok if its a little teensy bit sticky) then you are ready
  • I don’t know if this technique is recommended elsewhere (don’t blame me if it stuffs up pls :/) but I put my macarons in the oven without preheating it. I’m scared that the sudden heat would crack the shells. I guess this would be recommended for those who are not sure if their macaron has dried out enough
  • Also bake your macarons at a really low temperature like for me, I have a fan forced oven and baked it at 100 degrees. Better wait longer than risk stuffing up the entire tray.
  • Don’t open the oven to take a peek etc. You’ve come so far, just a bit more self-control and you’re nearly there.
  • Once the time is up, try slowly twisting or removing one, if its stuck really bad, don’t force it. Bake it for another 3-5 minutes. It’s actually better to overcook and dry out your shells than ripping them from the sheet with half of the shell still stuck to the tray. In fact, when you pipe the filling into the macarons, they will give moisture to the shells again.
  • Also you might want to wait until your shells are done before you start on the ganache. You may be too demoralized to pipe the ganache onto ugly stuffed up shells
  • Waiting stage
  • When the filling is piped in (remember don’t pipe too little or too much, get an ugly pair of shells and trial first with your piping) leave them in the fridge for at least a day, that way the shell will get some of its moisture back. I know that most people (me) can’t wait after their macarons are just done, so try one hehe…. just one though.

And finally enjoy!

If they don’t turn out well, just tell people you made almond meringue biscuits mmm

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Mini gingerbread house

While most may think that this gingerbread house was done in the spirit of Christmas, it was not. Instead, my friend wanted to have a ‘Hans Christian Anderson’ themed birthday party, and the gingerbread house was supposed to reference the candy house in the story Hansel and Grettel. I have never made gingerbread before, so making a house was a very steep learning curve. Thankfully, I found this simple recipe online which didn’t require a resting time for the dough. (Just a side note: how do people choose online recipes? I make my selection based on how many ratings there are and how good the rating is. I find that to be quite reliable.)

This time I struck gold in the online lottery of recipes! The gingerbread pieces held their shape and were thin and brittle. We only wanted a small house (8cm x 8 cm base) to place on top of her birthday cake, so that may have made it easier as well. The only problem faced was making the royal icing which is the glue to the house pieces. I deviated from this recipe and used one from taste.com.au, but it was way too runny. However, after adding a whole heap more icing sugar, the mixture turned out really well and thick. I didn’t even need to hold up the roof to let it dry.

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As you can see, my icing skills may need some improving…but at least the house is standing. The party preparation itself was crazily busy. We were also helping make food the whole day starting from 10 in the morning until the party at 6 and then continuing to serve and prepare food and clean up until 11. It was enjoyable, but as the night went on, my apprehension towards paying for catering decreased at a rapidly exponential rate. However, I have to say that I like spending time in the kitchen at parties, mainly because I am a bit awkward and too self-conscious trying to make small talk and be comfortable with many people at loud social events.. at least with cooking and serving food, it is something I can occupy myself with.

ImageAnyways, if you are hoping to make a gingerbread house in the near future, this recipe is good and simple.

Tiramisu (aka coffee) cake

Yay! so I finally finished my exams 🙂 and decided to make a cake.. not to celebrate the end of my study but for my mum’s birthday. There’s actually a lot of birthdays in November, even mine is in November. Sometimes I feel that making and giving food may be a better (and cheaper) present than chipping in 20 dollars, especially if you’re unemployed like me. Actually if you think logically about it, if you were getting paid say 20 dollars an hour in a hypothetical job, then cooking for around 2 hours would mean you gifted 40 dollars to your birthday friend/relative. Just kidding, you cook for them because you care and love them haha

So for my mum’s bday cake, I saw this recipe online for the tiramisu cake and thought it was doable and not too complex. Instead of using their chocolate cake recipe I used this one instead. Unfortunately, for me, the finished product did not look like their beautiful images. Firstly, the chocolate cake didn’t rise as high as I wanted although I did use this technique where you wrap a wet towel around the tin whilst baking to help the cake rise evenly with a flat top. Not sure if that stuffed it up, but I ended up with two cakes that were around 4 cm high.

Secondly, the filling tasted delicious but like the other comments on the page, the consistency was all wrong and was too runny. When I first tried to spread the filling it looked fine and seemed to hold its shape. But as I went to mix other stuff and turned back to the cake, the filling had become puddle of mess leaking everywhere on all sides of the cake and looked more like a sauce. Thankfully, I had some thickened cream and whipped that up and folded it into the ‘sauce’ to give it some volume.. and it kind of worked.

Finally, when I proceeded to decorate the cake I had all these fantastic ideas of tempered chocolate scrolls and cocoa sprinkled onto the cake in the form of roses… but I just gave up. I first tried tempering the chocolate and it seemed to go well until i tried to remove the scrolls from the paper and it just melted in my hands. The rose shaped cocoa also ended up more like clumps of cocoa… In the end to conceal all my mistakes I just haphazardly flung chocolate everywhere… I’ve realised the abstract look is the best solution to resort to when everything falls apart.

Having said all that, the cake actually tasted pretty good. To be honest I’ve only had tiramisu 2 times in my life but this tasted edible and pretty legitimate. Here’s a picture of the finished product!

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And here’s a picture of the insides

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And here’s a few tips if you want to use this recipe:

  • Add less marsala wine into the filling
  • Whip the filling over the bain marie for a longer time until it is really thick and custard like