Caramelised Honey and Osmanthus Macarons

Ah, macarons. I love making them as a challenge and because they look so pretty, but my family hates eating them. My family’s weird, man.

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The titanic baking supply store in Singapore, Phoon Huat, has a HUUUGE selection of dried flowers and I wanted to take full advantage of that before moving to Minnesota. So I chose a relatively obscure flower, the osmanthus, which I probably will not experience again for the next year, or until I next return to Singapore. D:

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If you’ve tried osmanthus’ slightly less obscure cousins* chrysanthemum or chamomile, you kind of have a rough idea of how osmanthus tastes like. It has a very gentle, mild sweetness, and it’s usually paired with honey in Chinese desserts like osmanthus flower jelly.

*I don’t mean cousins genetically, I just mean flavour-wise. If you want to talk taxonomy, jasmine is in the same family** as osmanthus but I always thought osmanthus tasted more like chrysanthemum or chamomile.

**And the family also contains olive which is even in the same subtribe as osmanthus but they taste nothing alike.

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I used an ermine buttercream recipe which is generally less sweet since it relies on flour and not icing sugar to thicken up. So it balances the inherent sweetness of the added honey.

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Overall I liked this recipe! I could definitely taste the osmanthus and caramelising the honey added a deeper flavour. It also wasn’t too sweet, which is usually the main complaint from my family.

I got the macaron recipe from here and adapted the buttercream recipe from here and here.

Ingredients

Macaron

  • 115g almond flour
  • 230g powdered sugar
  • 144g egg whites
  • 72g sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2g salt
  • About 1 tbsp of dried osmanthus flowers for decoration

Caramalised honey and osmanthus buttercream

  • 5g all purpose flour (2 ¼ tbsp)
  • 65g sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 113g unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • 1/6 cup honey (a nice flowery honey would complement well)
  • About 1/8 cup dried osmanthus flowers? I kind of just eyeballed the quantity.

Method

Macaron

  1. Process almond flour until fine (this step might be optional if your almond flour is fine enough) and sift. Combine with sifted powdered sugar.
  2. Combine egg whites, sugar, vanilla and salt. Whip until stiff.
  3. Dump in dry ingredients at once and fold until the macaron batter flows like lava.
  4. Pipe the batter onto baking paper placed on a baking tray to form 1 inch rounds. You might want to print a template out underneath if, like me, you can’t estimate sizes.
  5. Drop the baking tray from a couple of inches in the air onto the counter to burst air bubbles in the macaron rounds. Sprinkle some crushed up dried osmanthus flowers on the macaron rounds.
  6. Let dry for 30mins, or until the macaron rounds are dry to the touch.
  7. Bake at 150°C for 18 mins, or until you can cleanly peel the baking paper away from the macarons.
  8. Cool on pan before removing.

Buttercream

  1. Gently heat the milk with the osmanthus flowers over low-medium heat for about 10 mins. Then, sieve the osmanthus flowers out.
  2. In a small skillet, heat honey until honey turns dark. Remove from heat.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and whisk. Add the osmanthus-infused milk and mix.
  4. Heat over low heat and allow to come to a boil, whisking continuously. Once mixture starts bubbling, cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the honey. Stir until mixture is cooled slightly.
  5. Scrape onto a plate and cover with plastic wrap, touching the “pudding”. Cool to room temperature.
  6. Once room temp, beat butter until smooth and fluffy. Add “pudding” 1tbsp at a time, mixing well. When everything is added beat a bit more until fluffy. Add vanilla.

Assembly

  1. Pipe the buttercream in between two macaron shells.
  2. Keep in the refrigerator (preferably overnight, see notes).

Notes

  • I thought I’d be smart and leave the flowers in the milk at the step where you boil it with flour for extra ~flavour~. DO NOT DO THIS. The mixture will thicken up and make it a NIGHTMARE to sift out the flowers.
  • Processing your almond flour helps keep your macaron shells smooth! I find that even the almond flour that’s sold as “fine almond flour” isn’t quite fine enough for macarons, but that could be dependent on brand.
  • I liked this recipe better than my previous macaron’s recipe! Less sweet and more consistent.
  • I always thought that macarons tasted better after a night in the fridge once it’s filled. The shells absorb a bit of the moisture and flavour from the buttercream which makes the whole thing taste better and have a chewier texture. But they taste fine on the day as well.
  • If you’re baking macarons in a humid country like Singapore, it might help to have a dehumidifier on hand to dry the macaron shells before baking.
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Kaya Toast Ice Cream (Pandan, Coconut, and Toast Ice Cream)

Do you like chlorophyll?

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This all started with a Buzzfeed Worth It episode where they visited this amazing ice cream store which sold flavours like Coffee Cuban Cigar, Maple Black Truffle, and of course, Brown Bread. And then I thought hey what if I made a bread ice cream…but green?

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Just kidding. When I thought of bread I thought of kaya toast, which is basically the quintessential Singapore breakfast. Kaya is a kind of coconut jam, which may or may not contain pandan depending on region. And pandan is an aromatic…leaf?

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And then when I thought I was so original and creative I googled kaya toast ice cream and an ice cream store in Singapore already offers the flavour.

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So this ice cream was kind of divisive. The toast gave the ice cream a savouriness and saltiness which I appreciated, but some of the philistines who tried this thought it was weird.

The coconut is Strong in this one; it is definitely the dominant flavour. And the toast crumb garnish adds a nice bit of texture, and signposts that yes this ice cream does contain (gasp) gluten.

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I got the recipe for the pandan extract from here. The ice cream recipe is a mix of the ones found here and here.

Ingredients

Pandan extract

  • 9 pandan leaves
  • 1/4 cup water

Toast crumbs

  • 2 slices bread (I used white bread)

Ice cream

  • 250ml heavy cream
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 80g sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp pandan extract (can be storebought if that’s more accessible than pandan leaves)
  • 1/4 cup toast crumbs (keep the rest of the toast crumbs as a topping)

Method

Pandan extract

  1. Wash the leaves thoroughly, and cut the leaves up into small pieces.
  2. Blend the leaves with the water.
  3. Use a strainer to strain the pandan extract.

Toast crumbs

  1. Toast the bread long enough until the toast is a deep brown colour.
  2. Let cool to room temperature, and then blitz the toast until they form small crumbs.

Ice cream

  1. Put the heavy cream, coconut milk, pandan extract, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Once it has reached a boil, lower the heat to a gentle simmer and heat the mixture until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon (see notes).
  3. Take the saucepan off the heat and add the toast crumbs. Let steep for 30 mins. Then pass through a fine sieve.
  4. Chill the ice cream mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Churn the ice cream mixture in your ice cream machine until desired consistency. Garnish with toast crumbs.

Notes

  • I found that the ice cream mixture was quite thick to begin with and didn’t need to be heated for long.
  • If you don’t have an ice cream machine you can try the method here.
  • I had loads of extra pandan leaves so I just threw it together with the ice cream mixture at the boiling step.

Toasted Millet Porridge Sourdough

I finally got a Dutch oven, which has made a world of difference.

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Oven spring! And -dare I say- the hints of a ear opening up?

Gone are the days of finessing with a spray bottle like a savage. Now I just have to deal with 5 Seconds of Fear as I carefully lower the sourdough boule into hot cast iron.

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This sourdough is on the moist side since it contains porridge. Millet porridge to be exact, and putting it in bread is about the only time I’ll eat this grain despite its wide and varied purported health benefits. Although apparently millet porridge is a common Chinese dish, which is news to me and makes me question my Chinese heritage.

Toasting the millet gives the bread a nice nutty flavour. Also, millet is gluten-free but what do I care I’m putting it in bread.

I used one of the recipes here.

Ingredients

  • 225g whole wheat flour
  • 225g strong white bread flour
  • 175g toasted millet porridge (75g dry uncooked)
  • 325g + 35g water
  • 75g sourdough starter (mine is at 100% hydration, see notes)
  • 9g salt

Method

Make the porridge (2 days before baking)

  1. In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the 75g of millet until it smells good and you hear the occasional popping sound, stirring constantly. It took me longer than the 2-3 mins stated on the linked recipe.
  2. Transfer the millet to another bowl and add 1 cup of water. Cover and let sit overnight.
  3. Transfer the contents of the bowl to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Simmer for 20 mins.
  4. Bring the saucepan off the heat and leave the lid on for 10 additional mins.
  5. Fluff the porridge and cool.

Make the dough (the day before baking)

  1. Mix the flours and 325g of water. Cover and let the dough autolyse (see notes) for about 2h.
  2. Then, add the starter to the dough and mix using the pincer and fold method. Leave for another 30 mins.
  3. Stretch and fold your dough. Leave for 30 mins.
  4. Dissolve the salt in the remaining 35g of water and add to the dough. Also add the millet porridge. Mix using the pincer and fold method.
  5. Stretch and fold your dough an additional three times, leaving 30 mins before each stretch and fold.
  6. Cover and let the dough rise for an additional 6 hours.
  7. Shape the dough and transfer to a well-floured banneton.
  8. Cover and put in the fridge overnight.

Bake the bread

  1. Take the banneton out of the fridge and leave at room temperature for about an hour. Meanwhile, place your dutch oven in the oven (haha) and preheat to 260°C.
  2. After the hour, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Take the dutch oven out of the oven. Carefully place the dough into the dutch oven, and score the dough. Cover and return the dutch oven to the oven.
  3. Bake the bread at 260°C for 30 mins with the lid of the dutch oven on.
  4. After 30 mins, take the lid off and reduce the temperature of the oven to 230°C. Bake for an additional 10 mins.
  5. Remove the dutch oven from the oven, and transfer the bread to a cooling rack.
  6. Let the bread cool for at least 1h before cutting.

Notes

  • My starter was at 100% hydration. This bread was about 80% hydration, although who knows what the real hydration is with the millet porridge. If you have no idea what I’m talking about check out my previous recipe on classic white sourdough.
  • Autolysing just means letting your flour sit with the water before you add any salt or yeast. This is supposed to make the bread easier to handle and have better structure and taste since the flour absorbs the water or something. More here.
  • Turning and folding means you don’t knead the dough. It’s just an alternative method to build structure in the dough usually used for higher hydration sourdoughs, but it can be used for any bread really. Up to your personal preference.
  • Scoring helps direct the shape your bread will rise when baked. And it looks pretty.
  • If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can try baking it like I used to, for example in this recipe.

Caramelised White Chocolate Ice Cream with Ground Cardamom

You know how in science class you learn that matter has 3 states, and then you go into higher education and you learn that there are more states like plasma and Bose-Einstein condensates? Yeah this is the fourth state of chocolate.

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Don’t mind that crummy looking bowl. Apparently also known as the “toffee of milk”, caramelised white chocolate has an additional dimension of depth compared to regular white chocolate. It’s sweeter, creamier, and as the name suggests, it has caramel notes to it as well.

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I first heard about caramelised white chocolate when I went to Copenhagen, and the Summerbird chocolate store was giving out free samples (the way to my heart). And their most popular product was amber chocolate, which was basically caramelised white chocolate, but they managed to temper it to perfection. Perfectly snappy at room temperature, but melts in your mouth to coat your tongue with a layer of creamy caramel chocolate.

Caramelised White Chocolate Ice Cream with Cardamom

And then adding in the ground cardamom gives a little more aroma to the ice cream. Also I suck at scooping ice cream so here’s a lovely picture of some half-melted ice cream drowning in sauce:

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The salt is not optional. Helps cut through the sweetness and makes the whole thing a little more interesting.

I used David Lebovitz’s recipes for caramelised white chocolate ice cream and caramelised white chocolate, and just added cardamom.

Ingredients

Caramelised white chocolate

  • 120g white chocolate (see notes)
  • Pinch of sea salt

Ice cream

  • 3 medium egg yolks
  • 50g sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 125ml heavy cream
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Method

Caramelised white chocolate

  1. Chop the white chocolate into coarse pieces, and place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 130°C for 10 mins.
  2. Take the baking sheet out and spread the white chocolate with a spatula until the chocolate is smoothed out.
  3. Put the white chocolate back in the oven and bake for another 10 mins, stirring the chocolate at 10 min intervals. Repeat until the white chocolate is a deep golden-brown colour.
  4. Stir in a pinch of sea salt and set the chocolate aside.

Ice cream

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the yolks, sugar, and salt until well combined.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the cream, milk, and cardamom until warm.
  3. Add half of the cream and milk into the egg yolks and whisk. Then add the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.
  4. Heat over low-medium heat, stirring continuously. Heat until mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
  5. Meanwhile, ensure the caramelised white chocolate is warm (like just microwave it for 5-10s bursts, stirring well between bursts) and place a strainer over a bowl containing the white chocolate.
  6. When the ice cream custard is ready, pour the custard through the strainer into the white chocolate and stir until smooth.
  7. Refrigerate the ice cream overnight.
  8. The next day, churn the ice cream mixture in an ice cream machine until desired consistency.
  9. Freeze the ice cream until it’s a scoopable consistency. Serve with some flaky sea salt.
  10. Optional: I served my ice cream with some extra caramelised white chocolate mixed with cream to make a ganache.

Notes

  • When caramelising the white chocolate, the chocolate may sometimes appear lumpy. But don’t worry just keep mixing the chocolate and it will eventually smooth out.
  • If you’re rich and don’t want to make caramelised white chocolate, Valrhona sells some blonde chocolate which is the same thing.
  • For best results, use white chocolate with at least 30% cocoa butter. And use real white chocolate (with actual cocoa butter), check the ingredients list.

Charcoal Buns with Green Tea Matcha Custard Filling

It’s time for some oozy-gooey-flowy matcha.

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Ok so some people seem to get disgusted by the idea of a green sticky filling. Reminds them of snot or something. Well it’s time to open your mind and broaden your horizons because there’s a whole world out there waiting for you to explore. And some of that world consists of green custard, alright?

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The green custard is restrained by charcoal bread, which colour is more for dramatic effect rather than any health benefits, really. Charcoal powder is used quite commonly in Asian baking. I’ve used it before in my Charcoal Bread with Salted Egg Yolk Filling, but this time I’m going to be using a different recipe which I think yields a softer bun.

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Get some dramatic sunrise lighting on those buns.

Charcoal Buns with Green Tea Matcha Filling

If your ability to wrap a filling is better than mine, you’ll probably end up with more custard in your buns. And for those that haven’t eaten matcha before it’s like ground-up green tea, also commonly used in Asian cooking. It kinda has a mildly bitter, earthy taste, but I think it complements sweet things really well.

I used my standard Asian-style bread recipe originally used here, and just adjusted for the charcoal powder. I got the recipe for the filling from here.

Ingredients (makes about 12 buns)

Green Tea Custard

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 60g sugar
  • 10g flour
  • 10g matcha powder
  • 250ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Water roux

  • 75g water (1/3 cup)
  • 14g plain flour (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Bread dough

  • 300g bread flour (2 1/2 cup minus about a tbsp)
  • 14g charcoal powder
  • 1 packet instant dry yeast
  • 25g granulated sugar (2 tbsp)
  • 110g heavy cream (1/3 cup)
  • 100g sweetened condensed milk (1/3 cup)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 37g unsalted butter, softened (2 1/2 tbsp)

Method

Matcha Custard

  1. In a pot, whisk together the egg yolk, sugar, flour, and green tea powder.
  2. Add in the milk and set over medium-high heat. Heat until the custard thickens, stirring continuously.
  3. When the custard is thick enough that when you dribble a bit back in the dribble briefly retains its shape, take off the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  4. Divide up the custard into tbsp-sized portions and place on a lined baking sheet (making sure you have at least 12 portions, or however many buns you want to make). Freeze until solid.

Water roux

  1. Mix the water, flour, and salt together in a microwave-proof bowl until there are no lumps.
  2. Microwave on high at 15 seconds intervals, whisking the mixture until smooth every time you take the bowl out of the microwave. The mixture is ready when it is thick and leaves behind ribbons.
  3. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Bread dough

  1. Mix together the bread flour, charcoal powder, yeast, and sugar. Then add the water roux, heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and egg white. Knead well until the mixture is smooth and elastic.
  2. Add the softened butter in 3 additions, adding a new addition after the butter has been well incorporated into the bowl. Keep kneading until your bread reaches windowpane stage.
  3. Cover with a piece of oiled clingfilm and let rise until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
  4. Knock down the bread dough and split the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each dough piece into a ball shape, and roll flat.
  5. Place a tbsp of the frozen matcha custard in the middle of the dough disc, and wrap the dough around the custard well, making sure to seal tightly.
  6. Let the buns rise until doubled in size, about 1.5h.
  7. After doubled in size, brush the tops of the buns with some oil and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.
  8. Bake at 200ºC for 15-17 mins.

Notes

  • The frozen custard dough will retard the second rise of the dough, take that into consideration when planning the bake.
  • It can be difficult to judge when the bread is done since it is so dark, I just judged it by smell.
  • The times given for proofing the dough are a rough guide, since it is very dependent on temperature. Follow the visual cues (ie doubled in size) rather than the exact timing.
  • You have to use ground up matcha powder don’t use green tea leaves.
  • Make sure to seal the buns well!! The custard is super gooey and will seep out of any holes you’ve missed.
  • Use vanilla essence/extract whichever you prefer.