In the Kitchen: Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Ganache (Yum!)

Macarons are absolutely divine, that is, when they are baked just right. I'm talking about the famous Ladurée colourful macarons and the glamorous gold dusted Pierre Hermé ones. They are cute to look at (so Instagrammable!), soft when bitten into and contain explosive melt-in-your-mouth flavours sandwiched between the two biscuits.

When in Perth, however, I have not been so lucky to find such delicious macarons. I've had some here and there in Garden City or at Saturday markets but they have always disappointed. ): Mind you, these little French treats don't come cheap. In my desperate search to find decent macarons, I thought, why don't I make myself some?! You know, it doesn't hurt to try.

Fast forward two weeks of baking practice (butter cake, banana bread.. all the basics), I've finally grown enough balls to try making some of my very own macarons! It's my first time and I went easy on myself by selecting a really simple macaron flavour by Chowhound: French Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Ganache. 

Naturally, I was giddy with excitement over the weekend. I was surprised that I didn't need any traditional plain flours to make macarons so I had to go out and buy some almond flour/almond meal which is crucial to making those little biscuits (who knew?). The preparation of the recipe was pretty breezy as I went along and I caught myself thinking "Wow, I'm winning this!" since I am known to be a baking disaster.

Prep... prep... prep... and the macarons were ready to be piped onto my Lékué Macaroon Kit mat which came together with this set that I received as a gift some years ago. I've never had to chance to use the kit but these days with more time on my hands, I've finally put it to good use! I must say, any Macaron fanatic or aspiring baker should really get one of these because it makes piping those little biscuit circles so easy! No more worrying about uniform circles.

Off into the oven it goes ~ I actually made enough batter for about 50 macarons (that's 100 biscuits) but only ended up with 15 because I killed burnt the rest off. Getting the temperature and time right for baking macarons is seriously not the easiest thing in the world. Too short and the biscuit is undercooked, too long and it burns and cracks. It's also extremely time consuming because after piping the circles, they have to be left to dry for at least 30 minutes or else the shells will crack. 

After burning and cracking my first batch of shells, I looked up on Google and was overwhelmed by the number of "Macaron Troubleshooting" tips out there. Its a testament to how difficult and delicate these things are. I decided to just wing it and went for the trial-and-error method instead of reading them up because there could be 101 reasons for cracked macaron shells.

Finally after my fourth attempt, my shells came out beautifully (only 7 in the 36 actually cracked)! I finally figured out the ideal temperature for me: 150˚C for 20 minutes by baking multiple batches and using a lower temperature. While many recipes encourage baking at 160-170˚C for 12-15 minutes, I find that a lower temperature for a longer time results in a more evenly cooked shell.

After it cooled ~more waiting~ I could finally put in the dark chocolate ganache. I popped the first successful one into my mouth and was horrified by the texture - it was way too chewy! I was left feeling pretty disappointed last night. It seemed like my macaron plan has failed.

So, imagine my surprise this morning when I ate one and realised that when left overnight, it became so soft yet crisp just like a real macaron should be! I would recommend eating the macarons only the next day. I think the trick to macarons is in the patience and waiting (and not to mention, not over-beating the eggs and sugar, or over-mixing the batter, or setting the wrong temperature....) LOL.

I took about 4 hours to bake and only 15 survived the challenge but hey, at least I got the good fifteen and learnt a few lessons.


The 23rd Celebration

It is the 27th of October and I am one year older. Actually if you think about it, on birthdays people basically turn one day older - not any different from any other day. Every day, we just slowly move towards the one year mark where we say "Wow, I'm one year older" but not really.

My birthday begun with B asking me "How do you feel now that you are one year older?" - a question he asks every year. This year is different because I liked how it went. I responded by saying "I feel old" which is what most girls would say anyway. Without a pause, B said to me "I do too but the point is to grow old together". It's true - why do I care about growing old? It's not even a bad thing when the two of us are doing it hand in hand.

I have always been a person to make a big deal of birthdays because I like celebrating someone's special day and this means getting them a cake, a present or a few presents and talking about it a month in advance. This birthday, however, feels different to me as I am typing this alone at home. I have no plans to be anywhere and I don't wish for anyone to gift me with anything. Is this the effect of growing up?

Just last week I was doing some work for my Mum, which involves calling people up and asking them a bunch of questions for a survey and of course I had to ask "How old are you this year?". I was utterly shocked when some people actually said "Umm, I'm not sure but I'm born in XXXX". How can people lose track of their age? Don't people celebrate their birthdays every year and be reminded of how old or young they are? It turned out that she is only 34, making this situation more absurd to me. It sounded like she might start losing track of the decade of her age too.

Now that I think about it, it may not be so absurd after all and I probably was a little judgemental about it. Perhaps age is just a number to her and the most important thing is to enjoy every single day of life - then really, what does her age tell her? Nothing. Someone could be 80 years old and still have an adventurous, kind and open heart like an innocent child has. In contrary, someone could be just 30 years old but feel so trapped and sick of life like how an old person nearing death might feel.

Age is really just a number. It might somewhat indicate how you look but it should never be used to rule your life ("Oh i'm too old for this!"). It should never be used as a countdown to when your life ends, because let's be honest, we don't know when that day could be and it could be tomorrow. Age should really be used to remind people of how possibly short life is and how every single minute is important and precious, especially with your loved ones. This is also why B and I try to never go to bed angry - why let the anger of today spoil tomorrow? Isn't one rotten day enough?

What B said really touched me and I keep thinking about it today. I'm 23 this year, which is by no means old but I'm all ready to enjoy all the moments that life may bring. A birthday shouldn't be made into a big deal but it should be an opportunity to slow down and take our time to enjoy being surrounded by our loved ones. It is only the third of my birthdays that B and I are spending together but I am looking forward to so many more, one precious day at a time.


Spring is here!

It's middle of October and two weeks into Spring now. This means that it's getting nearer to the 5 months of waiting time for my visa. All this waiting is making me a little impatient ~~ Hopefully the visa will be granted in good time!

I've been cooking a lot so at least that is keeping me busy. I think I'm 100% a better cook now than ever before. I've stopped freaking out when touching raw meat and I can whip up some decent meals for B after he comes back from work (did I mentioned he's now full-time employed?!?!). I'm really ecstatic about B's job because I think it's a great company that he can learn lots from. Certainly a good company to get a first proper job in!

Lots of people have been asking me: "what do you intend to do in Australia?" or like "what kind of job are you going to get?". I haven't really thought about it because I don't really want to make lots of plans before getting my visa. It's pretty scary to think that they *may* reject me and I will have to be apart from B.

But that aside, more good news! B and I have managed to bid for a BTO in Bukit Merah and we have already selected our unit at City Vue @ Henderson, which looks like a really nice estate. It will only be ready in 4 years so we have got much time to figure everything out. Life is moving pretty quickly for us ~