Thom & Aimee

Two Hobbits. The Kitchen. The Garden. And trouble ensues.

Tag: macarons

Hello Kitty Macarons (Rose; Green Tea with Azuki Beans)

When there are parties and celebrations, we are never one to back down. It might mean long hours in the kitchen and being covered in flour and sugar, but the end result always brings a great wave of satisfaction and pride. The ‘funnest’ part (is funnest even a word) was coming up with the flavours. Oh, the joy of imagining a melange of different textures and tastes!

Every celebration is a milestone in life, especially for a child who is marking her very first birthday. A close friend of ours decided to host a themed party of 70 guests in a beautiful Chinese restaurant. Her only brief was “Hello Kitty” – the famous Japanese cartoon cat that has no mouth. Its popularity is immense worldwide and the female population go crazy for it. (Don’t ask us why, we never got its appeal.) Oh, that and one of the flavours had to be rose.

The only other flavour we had to brainstorm over was the ‘green’ macaron. (There was a colour theme for the party: mint green and coral pink.) We could have easily chose mint and dark chocolate, but we weren’t big fans of mint-flavoured items (or that’s just me). Hence, we decided to play on classic Japanese flavours such as Green Tea and Azuki Beans (Sweet Red Beans). They are natural partners and commonly used in modern Japanese desserts. (Ah, my inner Gintoki is salivating at the thought already.)

A trial test was done before the actual production to make sure that the ears were perfect. The first trial had the cats looking more like bears, as though it was a Rilakkuma party instead. You could say that we were slightly troubled by this incident, we couldn’t, after all, hand over 140pcs of Hello Teddy.

The Rose macaron was the easier one out of the two. Using our newly bought rose syrup from Fortnum & Mason London, the meringue biscuits turned out lightly fragrant instead of the usual heavy bandung notes. For the Green Tea macaron, quality tea powder was used (you can find them in Takashimaya, albeit the high price tag) to flavour the shells and the white chocolate ganache. We added the sticky Azuki bean paste in the middle of the ganache to add layers of each bite.

I can only say that the party was a success and although the little girl might not remember it when she grows up, here’s hoping that we added a tiny sparkle into her life.

The party decor was done up by our friends The Magpies.

Mango and Yoghurt Macarons (Mango Lassi Macarons)

Last of the Indian musketeers (this reminds me of the excellent Bollywood film ‘3 Idiots’) is the Mango Lassi macaron. It’s probably the most familiar item for anyone not of Indian ethnicity. It was also the very first item I tried at the restaurant. So this brings back many delicious memories.

Mango is featured plenty in Indian cuisine. One other mango item that I love would be in the form of a festive confectionery called the mitthai. In which, the chefs in the restaurant can make really outstanding mango-flavoured mitthais that prove to be one of the most popular item among the guests. Or the mango kulfi, a traditional Indian ice-cream moulded predominantly made with evaporated milk and moulded in small cylindrical metal cans. And of course, who can forget the King of all mangoes – the Alphonso?

We did think of using the famous Alphonso mangoes since it was conveniently in season, but the fruit can command a rather exuberant price tag. Thai mangoes can do the job equally, if not brilliantly well. To emphasize the presence of the yoghurt, a dollop of the dairy product sits naked alongside the mango ganache that is spiced with a hint of cardamom. The idea was to give different layers as one bites into the macaron. To create another dimension, you could try placing a small piece of cooked mango on the yoghurt. It’s the ice cold yoghurt-y drink at one go.

The project brought us a balanced amount of creativity and discipline. This being the first collection of macarons in which we created the flavours from scratch, only gave us even more satisfaction and determination. There is still room to improve, but this only cements our love of playing with contrasting ingredients. And with this Indian-inspired macaron collection, I bid my last farewell to three wonderful year of yummies, friendship and growth.

And hello, new challenges. Now, that’s another journey to take.

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Spiced Darjeeling Tea and Milk Chocolate Macarons (Masala Chai Macarons)

Ah, masala chai. I have a dangerous addiction to this creamy tea concoction. Whenever I visit the restaurant, a knowing smile will appear on my colleagues’ faces and out comes a cup of this hot luscious stuff. There is something comforting about this drink. It makes you want to sit by a window and read a good novel. Or pen out a short story. Because it sends you away to somewhere far filled with eclectic colours and heavy aromatic smells. Tea on its own is a beautiful thing, but when it takes the form of masala chai, now that’s a whole different story.

My friends who have visited India will always mention masala chai and its allure. The tea beverage vary in different regions of India with each using their own mixture of spices. Traditionally, ginger and cardamom are the foundation with other ingredients added on such as cinnamon, clove, star anise or fennel. The spices are infused together with tea, milk and sugar, resulting in a warm sweetened drink.

Our masala chai macarons are kept minimal with ginger and cardamom dominating the palate. The floral Darjeeling tea was probably a tad too subtle against the full-bodied chocolate. As you bite into it, the spices gives a powerful hit, followed by a soft velvety milk chocolate and last but not least, a fragrant tea aftertaste. Was it like the drink itself? Well, close enough – it was like having afternoon tea in a resplendent Rajasthani palace with gourmet chocolates and of course, a china-bone tea cup of heavenly masala chai.

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Saffron, Cardamom and White Chocolate Macarons (Rasmalai Macarons)

We don’t really divulge a lot about our personal lives since food really is the focus on this blog. But life and food are so intertwined that sometimes they form part of our memories. Like the vivid pink strawberry cream cake I had on my fourth birthday, the fried breaded prawn balls Mama used to make for reunion dinners, or the fresh crunchy prawns we had for our first supper in China. This time, I celebrated a transition in my career with a few culinary additions.

I will only say that I worked in a fine-dining Indian restaurant for the past three years. (There aren’t many in Singapore, so make a guess.) It was in this place that I was given plenty of opportunities and met amazing people whom I can keep as friends. This was also where I learnt so much about Indian cuisine and fell in love with it. (And was so spoilt after, no other restaurant can do Indian better.) So what better way to show my appreciation and respect than to present Indian-inspired macarons to the very people who made work a bliss?

N and I went to the storyboard to recreate three of my favourite Indian desserts (or drinks). One of them was Rasmalai, a cottage cheese dumpling steeped in cream flavoured in saffron and cardmom, and then sprinkled with pistachio. The beauty about the snow white dessert is that the pure simplicity of it; the ingredients came together to create a complex and rich aroma and texture. The cottage cheese is like a sponge, soaking up the spiced milk – bursting and crumbling in your mouth.

To capture the essence of Rasmalai, we decided to put the milky soup as the forefront of the macaron. Saffron and cardamom are the two main spices used, and they were infused into white chocolate which acts as a great substitute to the clotted cream. The paneer (cottage cheese) was a little tricky. With two powerful spices alongside the cloying buttery white chocolate, there might be a battle of flavours with the cheese. Perhaps one day, we might try this macaron again, but with cheese. Like the Rasmalai, the macaron was kept white and showered with chopped pistachio nuts. It tasted so much like the actual dessert so success!! In fact, this was probably my favourite out of the three.

Fun fact: N loved sprinkling the pistachio so much, she accidentally had the nuts on all the shells. Well, they were still pretty though.

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Le Noël Blanc

Christmas came and went like a ghost from a Charles Dickens novel. We have been planning for our first dessert table for more than a month now. Different state of emotions ran through us: excitement, fear, calmness, confidence then the usual freaking out. The funny thing about Christmas was that there was always not enough time whether you were feeding six or 50 people. Something was probably missing or not done. (That was always solved with a glass of pinot noir and a small amount of charm.)

Dessert tables can be daunting. Just google it and you can find plenty of different inspirations and examples. The beauty of a dessert table at its most basic and importance is that it must be an aesthetic masterpiece. Some might disagree but we have a reason of saying so. A lot of colour coordination comes into play, alongside complementary props. Many use icing and fondant to achieve that level of thematic consistency, which is something we as bakers are not keen on. To all cupcake and fondant lovers, sorry, we are just not that into them.

But as all dessert tables, yes, there was still a theme to abide to.

Working with an upcoming events boutique The Magpies, we were given a small brief: White, Rustic and French. The France that everyone knew well were the chic streets of Paris with their high-fashion houses and a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. To achieve rustic charms, we decided to drop ourselves into a region famous for its rolling lavender fields and charming bastides (country houses): the south eastern part of France, Provence.

When one speaks of a Provençal Christmas, the famous 13 desserts come to mind. Here was the difficult part. As fascinating and mouth-watering 13 desserts could be, churning out so many types of sweets could become literally a Nightmare before Christmas. There were a number of other factors that came into play: the need of balance between the savoury and sweet, dietary specifications, a tight baking schedule and availability of ingredients and recipes.

So, many recipes were tried and tested. Those you see on the table above are the successful bakes after weeks of homework. We tried to keep the Provençal spirit alive with or without the 13 desserts. It may not be the best representation, but it was still as delicious. We hope to execute the real Provençal Christmas desserts one day. Someone, please let us know where we can find a good Calissons recipe in English!!

Here was the menu that was served:

Two types of hassle-free tea sandwiches, one with eggs and chives, and the other was roasted chicken with cranberry sauce. Lovely roasted potatoes served with mustard mayonnaise. And a personal favourite – mini Caramelised Onion and Gruyère tarts.

The sweets were fronted by a magnificent chocolate Gugelhupf cake (I’d call this the show-stopper), toffee nut macarons, dainty orange blossom crème caramel cups with meringue, and a dark chocolate fondue served with marshmallows and bananas.

To quench one’s thirst, we had Lemonade and Pastis de Marseille. (Yes, it’s a summer drink but pastis is such a fixture of the Provençal culture that we had to serve it.) We also gave Ginger nut Biscuits as a little gift to the guests.

At a glance, the menu does not seem extensive or difficult. To be honest, we did not meet with any major mishaps other than some burnt caramel. This was our first dessert table after all, we could aim for the stars but it was better to get it right for a start. As with many beginnings, it can only get better the next time.

Pictures are from our friends at The Magpies. (Thank you girls!) For the recipes, just scroll down to the end of the entry!!

By the way, The Hobbit came out 2 weeks ago and we were very very happy and satisfied fans. If you have yet to watch it, go catch it (especially in HFR 3D, it’s eyegasm galore)!!!! WE INSIST.

Now that Christmas is over, there is only 3 more days to the New Year…. we feel old already… *sobs*

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Jasmine Macarons

Jasmine Macaron
To complement the other macaron, we decided to go with Jasmine for its light and gentle fragrance. Strangely, I do not associate Jasmine with sweets very much. My weekend dim sum breakfasts usually consist of savoury petite dumplings, and I usually wash the oil down with xiang pian cha (jasmine tea).

The beauty of tea is that it can be enjoyed in the most simple of ways.  In fact, the Chinese usually appreciate tea on its own – leaves and water. Our family gatherings usually end with a tea-drinking session. Everyone would crowd around the little tea table and observe my cousin’s little performance of preparing tea. It’s a time of laughter and bonding. If inspired, some of the kids would try their hand on poetry, often with hilarious outcomes. (Chinese poetry is extremely deep. I don’t get it 90% of the time.)

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Orange Flower, Ginger and Rose Macarons

Orange Flower, Ginger and Rose Macarons

This has been dragged for too long. November brought the lazy out of us, and the kitchen was left alone for awhile and pending posts were always in progress. Now that 2013 approaches (just 11 days to go!), the familiar feeling of urgency creeps up. I always feel that way at the end of a year. Like there is not enough time to accomplish anything. January 2012: I will lose the extra weight. December 2012: Hello to more lumps!

Note to self: no more New Year resolutions!

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Frivolité Macarons (Salted butter caramel and apple)

Pierre Hermé was probably the first celebrity I’ve ever met and something I never forget. Having him shyly thank you for enjoying his famed desserts was just surreal. Then, macarons were not as popular as they are now. One could say my virgin taste of a macaron was from the Master’s hands (No, not John Simm’s). Since then, there was no looking back.

There are plenty of macarons offered within the island today but good ones are scarce. Having tasted many of the tiny sweets from across the world (thanks to a well-travelled brother), we were able to appreciate how difficult it is to have consistent and almost perfect macarons in one box.

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Pear and Elderflower Macarons

Last week was filled with plenty of drama in the kitchen, hence the little break before we embark on another upcoming dinner. Under lucky circumstances, we managed to work with a secret supper club Petals & Bowls. They embrace good food and company in lush gardens. Please support them!

This event got Thom & Aimee into a roller-coaster ride of hysteria. We didn’t know it will bring so many crazies. It was only after the whole affair that we could finally sit and catch our breath. But it was worth it, really.

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