Monday, March 30, 2015

Chocolate French Macarons (Italian Meringue)

Who says that baking French macaron is easy???

I didn't.

I said that it can be fuss free and fail proof if you uses the Italian meringue method but I won't think that it is easy.

With my countless of macaron baking, I have learned that:

(1) A digital weighing scale is necessary for macaron baking! Please do not assume that all egg whites are 30g each!!! I have to weigh all ingredients to make sure that its proportion is exactly right.

(2) Knowing my oven is critical. I have learned that fan forced baking is bad for macaron baking and baked mine in the middle rack at 150°C with no fan. Chocolate macarons are typically than denser than non-chocolate macarons and need extra 3-5 mins to bake.

(3) Modifying my Always-Successful-Italian-Meringue macaron recipe to bake chocolate maracon is not as simple as adding cocoa powder! I have added too much cocoa powder once and made chocolate macarons that are crinkled, dense and compact! Geez! Then, I found this recipe from here at Callebaut Chocolate and its proportion is spot on!

(4) Adding cocoa powder makes denser batter and macaron. For this reason, I had to scale up my usual recipe to make enough macarons to feed my macaron-loving family. Besides, I didn't want to scale down any recipe to anything that contains odd number. And, so instead of using 2-3 egg whites, I had stick to the recipe from Callebaut Chocolate and used 165g egg whites (about 5 egg whites) and eventually baked 60 chocolate macarons.

Is 60 chocolate macarons too many for us? I thought so but I was wrong. Geez! And if you are baking these 
chocolate macarons for Easter, I reckon that you might have to bake even more!!!

Talking about Easter... My family and I are going to Singapore for our Easter break and I will be back at about 2-3 weeks later. Happy Easter!!!

Before going, I like to thank everyone who participated with your yummy banana-y food at Little Thumbs Up event with Faeez. We have more than 83* links for March 2015 and hope to have you cooking with us for the next Little Thumbs Up with the Chicken theme with Diana (The Domestic Goddess Wannabe) starting on 1st Apr 2015.

* will update the number at the end of Mar 2015

chocolate French macarons Italian meringue
Chocolate French macarons (made with Italian meringue)
The addition of cocoa powder made a firmer almond-egg-white paste.
Next, I made the Italian meringue.
Ta dah! The near-stiff peaks Italian meringue is ready!
Fold in the meringue into the almond paste in batches achieving the macaronnage and macaronner stage.
Very happy to see these perfect macarons!!!
Next, I made the chocolate ganache by combining equal amount of cream and dark chocolate.
Microwave with low power to melt all chocolate. Allow it to rest until it reaches a spreadable consistency. 
This is me sandwiching the macarons :)
And, this is me enjoying the crispy outside and fudgy inside of this chocolate macaron :D

No doubt that I love baking these because my family and I love chocolate macarons. However, I was feeling the urge to bake these because my friend's 13 years old daughter has been asking for a perfect chocolate macaron recipe whenever I see her at our picnics and gatherings. Here! Isabel, I have found the recipe for you.

Here are the recipes that I have used to bake these chocolate French macarons. It is mostly adapted from here at Callebaut Chocolate plus the chocolate ganache recipe that is mostly adapted from the book, I love Macarons by Hisako Ogita

Makes about 60 macarons or 120 shells
(number can vary depending on the sizes that you made)

250g almond meal (ground almond)
250g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder, Dutch processed cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona
165g egg whites, divided into 2 portions, 85g and 80g
225g caster sugar
60g water

Make enough ganache to fill 60 macarons
250g cream (35% fat)
250g dark chocolate, Callebaut dark chocolate callets with 70% cocoa

Preheat the oven to 150°C (NO fan forced).

Combine almond meal, icing sugar and cocoa powder and sift them three times or more and set aside.

Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat 80g of egg whites at medium low speed at first for about 10 mins. While beating, combine water and caster sugar in a small saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium high heat and cook the sugar water syrup to 118°C but not over 125°C.

Increase the mixer speed and continue to beat the egg whites while pouring syrup into the egg whites slowly in a steady and fine stream. Continue beating until the meringue is glossy and near-stiff peaks. Allow the meringue to cool to about 40°C.

Place almond meal-icing sugar-cocoa mixture in a mixing bowl and mix in the another portion of egg white (85g) to form a thick paste.

Fold in half of the cooled meringue first into the almond paste, scooping it up from the bottom of the bowl until the mixture is well-combined. Then, fold in the rest of the meringue into the almond mixture until the mixture is well-combined again.

Continue to mix in order to "deflate" some fluffiness of the meringue in the mixture and this step is usually referred as "Macaronner". In the book, I love Macarons by Hisako Ogita, it suggests scooping the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down for nothing more or less than 15 times but I like to gauge this stage by the look of the batter. I reckon it is ok when it looks firm and dripping slowly from a spoon.

Attach a 1 cm tip (I used Wilton tip 1A) to the pastry bag. Place the pastry bag, tip down, inside a cup or container and pour the macaron batter into it.

Pipe out the batter onto baking tray lined with silicon mats in circles and any shapes that you like. Gently tap the baking sheet firmly against flat surfaces to allow the batter to settle.

Allow the piped batter to rest at room temperature, uncovered, for 5 mins. Bake for 20 mins or until dried and slightly crisp. Note: My oven doesn't have bottom heat function and had to bake for another 5 mins at 130°C with NO fan forced to get the bottom of the macarons crisp. Please note that chococlate macaron is denser than non-chocolate ones. Typically, the non-chocolate macarons need 15 mins plus to bake and chocolate ones need an extra 5 mins of baking.

Allow macarons to cool on baking mat as they peel off easily only when they are completely cooled.

To make the ganache:

Place chocolate and cream in a heat proof bowl and place the bowl to microwave with low power for about 1 min or until the chocolate melts. Alternatively, place chocolate in a heat proof bowl and place cream in a saucepan and bring it to boil. Pour boiling cream into chocolate and allow mixture to sit for 5 mins.

Mix until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Allow mixture to cool at room temperature into a spreadable consistency. If ganache is too firm after cooling, warm it up slightly in a microwave with short burst of low power.

To assemble:
Using a spatula, spread a dollop of ganache onto the macaron shells.

Sandwich with another macaron shell. Press it slightly to secure. As these macarons are made with the firm kind of filling, they taste better after resting in the fridge on the next day.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Money / Australian Dollars Cake

"Mum, I don't live for my life. I live for money."

I remember the first time that my son told me this, I was like... WHAT???!!!

My son started saying this when we started giving him small amount of pocket money every week. As the primary school kids in Australia don't really need any money to buy their food and drinks during their lunch time or break, the money that we gave is really a small amount. It is so little that he can't really buy a can of fizzy drink with his weekly money... LOL!

Knowing the value of money, he works diligently to save all his money. Sometimes, he volunteers to clean the shelves and TV racks for 20 cents... This happens when Mum is stingy and son is very desperate... LOL! While saving his money, my son has learned that spending money on useless or unnecessary things is wasteful and prefers to gain more money from the annual interest given by the bank and so every single cent that he saves will mostly go to his school banking account.

Knowing that my son loves his money, I know exactly what my son wants for his 6th birthday...

A money cake!

money dollar cake
A money cake for my son - Everything including the stacks of dollars are edible!

This is how I made this cake...
My son wants his birthday cake to be a chocolate cake and so I baked this always moist and reliable stir-and-bake dark chocolate sheet cake recipe from the book, The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.

This recipe uses a significant amount of Dutch processed cocoa and dark chocolate.
As I'm baking this cake for a party of young kids, I prefer to bake with not-too-dark chocolate and used this chocolate with 45% cocoa.
Allow mixture to cool slightly.
While waiting for the chocolate mixture to cool, I did this.
And whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
Then, I did this.
And the cake is ready to be baked.
I have also baked a slightly taller cake and will be using it as the money cake base.
Although it cracks a little, it is sturdy enough to whole the weight of the entire cake.
See how moist is this chocolate cake!

To assemble the cake, I need ...
One: the classic buttercream 
Two: the rolled fondant and these edible money prints
Three: the chocolate coins

I put everything together and ...
This is the money cake for my son's birthday party!
Happy Birthday, Sweetie!
Funny that every kid at this party wants to eat the hundred dollar cake.
.. because the largest dollar denomination in Australian currency is $100!

"Mum, this is so cool!" my son screamed at me when he first saw the cake. I know that my son will like this money cake and I'm happy that he really do.

Dear son, you know that this money cake is not made of real money and yet you like it. So I wish that you will live your life to the fullest and don't live for money. I love you. Happy Birthday, my sweetie!

This is the dark chocolate sheet cake recipe that I have mostly adapted from the book, The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.

The original recipe makes one 13 x 9 inch sheet cake which can serves 15-18 and I have scaled up the recipe to be one and a half of the original amount and this scaled up amount can bake one 20 x 20 cm (8 inch) x 4 cm (1 1/2 inch - height) square plus one 33 x 23 cm (13 x 9 inch) x 3 cm (1.2 inch - height) cake.

You will have slightly less than half of 33 x 23 cm cake as leftover if you are making 5 stacks of dollar cake. This amount can serve about 15-18 persons. Why the leftover? I always prefer to have excess cake if I'm making a cake with a structural design as I will have to trim the edges and prefer to have backup amount just in case some part of the cake break or crumble.

375g (1 1/2 cup) unsalted butter
180g (6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped - I have used dark cocoa with 45% cocoa
150g (1 1/2 cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
337g (2 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
3 tsp vanilla extract
450g (2 1/4 cup) caster sugar - The cake is not sweet so please do not reduce this amount!
1 1/2 cup (375ml) sour cream

Adjust an oven rack or racks to the middle position/s and heat the oven to 350°F/ 180°C or 160°C fan forced. Line baking pans with baking paper with two sides slightly overhang for easy removal. Set aside.

Melt the butter, chocolate, and cocoa together in the microwave with medium power, stirring often, 1 to 3 mins; let the mixture cool slightly. If microwave is not available, you can melt butter, chocolate and cocoa using a double boiler over simmering water with constant stirring.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla together by hand until uniform. Whisk in the sugar until combined. Whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture until combined.

Sift about a third of the flour mixture over the batter and whisk in. Whisk in the sour cream. Sift the remaining flour mixture over the batter and whisk until completely incorporated. Do not over-mix.

The batter will be thick and so it is always good to give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure that all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 mins if you are baking one 33 x 23 cm cake at a time, 40 mins for the 33 x 23 cm cakeand 45 mins for the 20 cm square cake if you baking both cakes at the same time, rotating the pan/s halfway through baking.

Let the cake rest and cool slightly in the pan for about 20-25 mins. Remove the cakes from the pans by holding the overhanging part of the baking paper and lift the cakes off the baking pans. Leave the cake with the baking paper to cool completely on a wire rack for at least 2 hours. Peel off the baking paper, then flip the cake right side up onto a serving platter or use it to shape into a money cake.

This is the classic and easy buttercream recipe that I always used at here, here and here.

100g butter, soften at room temperature
240g icing sugar
2 tbsp warm milk

Beat butter with electric mixer until as white as possible. Gradually beat in half the sifted icing sugar, milk then remaining icing sugar.

To assemble the cake, you need:

a cake board
about 2-3 packs 750g rolled fondant in white colour
9 edible actual size money prints
(I have scanned the dollars and get then printed at an online baking supply shop)
rolling pin
roller cutter
metal ruler
alphabet cookie cutters, optional
colour gel, optional
chocolate gold coins that you can buy from any party supply shops, optional

Roll fondant into 3-4 mm thick and cut it accordingly to the cake board size and line the cake board with this rolled fondant. Set aside.

Trim the edges of the 20cm square cake and trim it further to the size of two dollar notes that are aligned together. Do the same for the 33-23 cm cake and trim it further to the size of 3 individual dollar note. Roll fondant into large sheet with 3-4mm thickness and cut the sheet into the sizes of the dollars and also 4.5 cm and 3.5 cm long strips to wrap the sides of the cakes.

Apply buttercream at the bottom, top and the sides of the trimmed cakes. Wrap the cakes with the rolled fondant that are trimmed according to their sizes and brush very little amount on the area of the fondant that you need to adhere the money print. Note: I have adhere the front and the back with the money print only for the $100 dollar cake that is facing the front of the cake. The rest are just the top of the cakes. Stack the cakes according to the way that you like. Use a lengthy edge metal ruler to press on the sides of the cakes to create lines to look like there are stacks of money in every block of the cake. Ta dah!!! Now, you have this stacks of money cake!

To decorate the cake further, you can 1) adhere more money print on rolled and cut fondant and place around the cake 2) colour a batch of rolled fondant and use the cookie cutters to cut out words like "Happy Birthday" or your name 3) decorate the cake with chocolate coins when serving the cake.

Happy Baking