Filipino Pop-Up Restaurant: Typhoon Haiyan Fundraiser

November 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s just over a week ago that my friend Gwyneth and I joined forces with our lovely cleaning lady Fe Silva and her formidable team drawn from our local Filipino community to put on a very special fundraising event to raise money for the UK Disaster Emergency Committees Philippines Typhoon Appeal.
Last Friday, 22 November, St Luke’s Church, Bowdon Vale in Cheshire was transformed from an austere place of worship into a lively restaurant packed with well-wishers and supporters:

It was Gwyneth’s young son Bill who came up with the idea. Moved by the plight of the Filipino people filling our television screens after the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan and wanting to help Fe with whom he has a special bond, he came up with the idea of a cake stall outside his house to raise money. Within 48 hours, this seed of an idea quickly germinated and grew into a plan for a full-scale Pop-Up restaurant catering for up to 50 people, offering authentic Filipino food prepared and served by a team comprising Gwyneth and myself and members of the local Filipino community – Fe, Kai, her husband Russell, their daughter Maru, Vicky, Jane, her daughter Jasmine, Helen, Mira and Meridel.

Another 24 hours later, our local church – St Mary’s and St Luke’s had offered a venue free of charge, an initial donation to the appeal of £1,000 and just as importantly, encouragement and help with publicity.

Next step was to decide on the menu. This is what we came up with:

MENU

Empanadas – miniature pasties
(contain chicken and pork)

Asian salad (V)

Pan de Sal – Filipino bread rolls with crunchy breadcrumb topping

Chicken Adobo

Picadillo (minced beef and vegetables in spicy but not hot tomato sauce)

Vegetable chop suey (V)

Steamed rice

Filipino Cream Puffs

Tropical fruit platter

Mango ice-cream

Filipino coconut macaroons

Coffee, tea, mint tea

Gwyneth took on the empanadas, salad and chop suey; I opted for the Pan de Sal, Picadillo, ice cream, and shopping for the tropical fruit platetrs. Kai volunteered to make an authentic Chicken Adobo and Fe co-ordinated a battery of rice cookers and sack of imported Filipino rice. Further help came from the locally-based MD of Bakkavor Laurens Patisseries who offered several stacks of profiteroles aka Filipino cream puffs, an offer we gratefully accepted.

The next few days were focused on shopping for and preparing the various dishes and of course publicising the event and co-ordinating all the guests.

Here are Gwyneth’s beautiful-looking empanadas and chop suey vegetables (thanks to Jenny Peachey too for helping with the veg prep). It’s a shame we don’t have more pictures but to be honest we were focused on getting the event up and running:

Here are some of the mango ice-cream and tropical fruit platters. I discovered that canned mango makes an absolutely superb ice-cream with no need to search out the ripest mangoes and laboriously purée and sieve them. My knowledge of tropical fruit has been expanded too after a trip to the specialist Asian groceries of Chinatown, Levenshulme and Chorlton to track down papaya, custard apple, persimmons and the unusually flavoured guava as well as the more familiar mango, pineapple and grapes.

The Picadillo was quick and easy to make, incorporates loads of veggies so no need for a separate side dish. Served with rice, it’s going to become part of our family mealtime repertoire:

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Greatest fun for me was making the Pan de Sal rolls – delicious soft and puffy brioche-like rolls made with the secret Filipino ingredient, evaporated milk, and with an intriguing breadcrumb topping:

Sorry there are no pictures of the coconut macaroons – they disappeared in a flash!

All bar two of the evening’s recipes are given below in case you’d like to try them yourselves at home. Kai has yet to divulge the secret of an authentic Adobo, and similarly Gwyneth’s husband Graeme is keeping his crunchy and vibrant Asian salad recipe close to his chest.

We’re so grateful for all the help and support we received and absolutely delighted to have raised the sum of £7,467.50 for such a worthwhile cause.

Pan de Sal – Filipino bread rolls

Adapted from a recipe on Allrecipes.com. Makes 20.

Ingredients

6g fast action instant dried yeast (the kind that can be mixed directly with the flour)
5g salt
500g strong plain flour
50g golden caster sugar
50g butter
2 eggs
240g canned evaporated milk
1-2 tablespoons milk sufficient to form a soft pliable dough
50g fine dried breadcrumbs
additional evaporated milk for dipping

Mix the yeast, flour, sugar and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter then pour in the eggs and evaporated milk and mix well together adding a little additional milk to the mixture to form into a soft dough. Knead for 12 minutes. A mixer with a dough hook makes this job easy but you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during the process. Form the dough into a ball, oil lightly, cover and leave to prove for 2 hours until the dough has increased in bulk noticeably. It probably won’t have doubled in size.

Divide the dough into quarters using scales, then divide each quarter into 5 small balls. Each ball will weigh 48-49g.

Form the mixture into small balls (weigh each one) and shape into rolls with a smooth top. Dip each ball in more evaporated milk then in dry crumbs. Place the rolls on a baking sheet crumb side up. Cover and prove for up to a further hour until noticeably enlarged (again they won’t quite double in size).

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Slip the rolls into the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 180 degrees C. Bake for 8 minutes then reduce the heat again to 170 degrees C and bake for 5 more minutes until the rolls are golden-brown top and bottom and are completely baked. Cool on a wire rack.

Filipino Empanadas

A hybrid recipe: the filling comes from Charmaine Solomon’s “The Complete Asian Cookbook” paired with an empanada pastry recipe suitable for baking rather than deep frying. Makes about 20.

Ingredients

Pastry

300g unsalted butter
600g plain flour
teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-8 tablespoons water
more beaten egg to glaze

Filling

3 rashers bacon
1 tbsp lard or oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion
250g pork and veal mince or Spanish sausage, finely chopped
125g finely chopped raw chicken
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato sauce
3 hardboiled eggs, chopped
2 tbsp chopped pickled gherkins

Begin by making the pastry. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool a little. Sift flour and salt into a bowl and mix well. Add the melted butter and beaten egg to the flour and salt and mix to incorporate, adding a little water as you do so to make a soft, pliable dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and need for about 2 minutes until smooth. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Remove any rind then chop the bacon into small pieces and fry until the fat runs. Remove the bacon from pan, add lard or oil and fry garlic and onion over a low heat until soft and golden. Increase the heat, add the meats and fry, stirring, until they change colour. Add salt, pepper and tomato sauce, stir well. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in hardboiled eggs and pickled gherkins and allow to cool before using the filling. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line 2 large baking trays with parchment.
Divide the dough in half and roll out the first piece to 3mm thickness. Stamp out as many discs as you can using a 12cm cutter. You can of course make smaller empanadas by using a smaller diameter cutter and less filling. Put a dessertspoon of filling onto the centre of each disc, brush the edges with water and fold in half to make a semicircle. Press the edges together firmly and either mark with the tines of a fork or crimp to seal decoratively. Place on a baking tray. Repeat with the second piece of dough then reroll the trimmings and repeat once more. You can of course make smaller empanadas by using a smaller diameter cutter and less filling

Brush the empanadas on the tray with beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Best served warm.

Filipino Style Picadillo

A recipe collated from various sources. Kai says that to be authentic, this should be runny, almost a soup. To make serving easier, we cooked the mixture down until it was thick and reduced, more like a chili.

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
500g lean minced beef
1 beef stock cube
240ml water
1 can chopped tomatoes (14oz)
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp fish sauce
150g (approx) waxy potatoes (eg Charlotte variety) unpeeled, scrubbed and diced
gnerous handful of frozen peas
1-2 peeled diced carrots
1 small diced red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onions and garlic in the vegetable oil until soft and golden(about 10 minutes). Add the minced beef and cook until brown. Add the tomato sauce, fish sauce, ketchup, stock cube and water Add potatoes and bring to the boil. Cook, uncovered over a medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add the vegetables and a little salt and pepper and bring back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes to cook the vegetables. Taste and add more salt, pepper, ketchup and/or fish sauce if required.

Filipino Vegetable Chop Suey

A recipe compiled from various sources. We made our version suitable for vegetarians but non-vegetarians can use chicken rather than vegetable stock and fish sauce rather than soy sauce to boost the flavour.

Ingredients

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1 small head cauliflower, separated into small florets
7-8oz baby corn, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 small head broccoli, head cut into small florets, stalk peeled and cut into batons
1 stalk celery, cut into batons
1 green or red pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into strips
8-9 oz green beans, trimmed
1 small chayote, cut into batons (courgette suggested as substitute or make up with more of the other vegetables)
4 oz mangetout, trimmed
half head cabbage, outer leaved removed, quartered and thick stalks removed then shredded
2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
1 tablespoon cornflour
235 ml milk
235 ml water
salt, pepper, soy sauce to season

In a wok or large pan heat the oil then fry the garlic and onion until golden brown.

Add the vegetables except the cabbage in the order listed above (firmest first) to the pan stir fry each for a few minutes before adding the next. This process should take 15-20 minutes in total.

Meanwhile slake the cornflour with some of the water.

Sprinkle the stock powder over the vegetables then add the water, milk and slaked cornflour to the pan and bring to the boil, stirring as the cornflour thickens the mixture.

Season with salt, pepper and soy sauce, stir, then throw in the shredded cabbage, cover with a lid and allow the cabbage to steam until just done, about 3 minutes. Stir and it’s ready to serve.

Mango ice-cream

Charmaine Solomon recipe from Philippines chapter of Asian Cookbook modified by me. She says it serves 6 – I think this quantity will serve 12 or more.

Ingredients

2 large egg yolks (70g)
1 teaspoon cornflour
50g golden caster sugar
470g milk, whole or semi-skimmed
further 33g golden caster sugar
2.5 sheets leaf gelatine soaked in a little cold water for 5 minutes
450-500g mango pulp (I used approx. 3 cans Sainsbury’s canned mango in light syrup drained, pureed and sieved to remove fibrous bits)
2.5 sheets leaf gelatine
200g whipping or double cream

Whisk the egg yolks with 50g sugar and the teaspoon of cornflour in a bowl until thick and light. Heat the milk with the remaining 33g sugar in a small saucepan until nearly boiling. Be sure to stir to dissolve the sugar while the milk heats. Pour the hot milk onto the yolks whisking constantly then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a very low heat until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a minute or two then add the softened gelatine and stir to dissolve.

Now stir in the mango pulp followed by the cream. Chill then pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine. Churn until frozen then pack into a freezer box and freeze until firm. Transfer the ice-cream from the freezer to the refrigerator approx. 40 minutes before serving to soften.

Filipino Coconut Macaroons

Adapted from various internet recipes hence the US cup measures. Unlike a traditional coconut macaroon that can be a touch dry, these macaroons are soft, chewy and tooth-achingly sweet and we think they’re best enjoyed petit-four sized to serve with coffee. Makes 40-50 petit four sized macaroons.

Ingredients

1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup flour
2 cups desiccated coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at time, then add condensed milk and vanilla extract and continue to beat until blended. A hand blender makes short work of this task.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and desiccated coconut. Add to egg mixture and beat until combined.

Spoon or pipe the mixture into petit four cases and bake in a 170 degrees C oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

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Parisian macaron update

April 17, 2012 § 2 Comments

Just back from our regular easter trip to Paris and Fontainebleau and this year, Bayeux in Normandy too. The focus of the Paris part of my trip was taking part in a couple of pâtisserie classes at the Lenôtre school on the avenue des Champs Elysées (making chocolate desserts and the legendary Gâteau St Honoré). Whilst there, I took the opportunity to use my carnet of metro tickets and my own two feet to explore the city, visit some iconic bakeries and pâtisseries, and try and work out by observation the newest Parisian pâtisserie trends.

In the first of three Paris posts, I thought I’d begin with an update on the macaron trend. In the UK I think I can say they’re officially mainstream now that our local Marks and Spencer Altrincham branch regularly stocks its Own Brand pack 6 pack. Paris is of course awash with them and whilst there I took the opportunity to try a cutting-edge selection from Pierre Hermé and classic favourites from Ladurée.

First stop was the Pierre Hermé Avenue de l’Opéra shop (which, cashing in on present trends just sells macarons and chocolates, not pâtisserie). One unwanted consequence of the proliferation of food bloggers is that polite requests such as mine to take a quick photo inside the shop are sadly refused. So here is a photo of said shop from a safe distance outside:

Here’s the selection of macarons I bought and subsequently tasted. The turquoise presentation box is just a little lurid perhaps?

whereas the bag in which it was presented with its pale blue panels and cut-out broderie anglaise style leaves is much easier on the eye:

The Pierre Hermé macarons are characterised by their generous (some might say overgenerous?) fillings and bewildering palate of flavours. For the record, this is the latest menu with some of the names as fanciful as the flavour combinations. With the aid of Pierre Hermé’s Macaron book which gives instructions in meticulous detail for constructing his signature combinations, I’ve added a little extra information.

MOGADOR: milk chocolate and passion fruit – yellow shells speckled with cocoa powder; passion fruit milk chocolate ganache
INFINIMENT ROSE: rose & rose petals – pink shells; rose buttercream
INFINIMENT CHOCOLAT PORCELANA: pure chocolate origin Venezuala Porcelana – chocolate shells; Porcelana chocolate ganache
INFINIMENT CARAMEL: salted butter caramel – light brown shells coloured with yellow food colouring and coffee extract; salted butter caramel filling
CARAQUILLO: chocolate, coffee & aniseed – chocolate shells; chocolate ganache flavoured with aniseed
AMERICANO PAMPLEMOUSSE: orange, campari and candied grapefruit – orange shells; white chocolate ganache flavoured with Campari, grapefruit juice and orange juice; cubes of candied spiced grapefruit peel embedded in the ganache filling
CRÈME BRÛlÉE: vanilla and caramel shards
INFINIMENT CASSIS: blackcurrant – purple shells; white chocolate ganache made with blackcurrant and redcurrant juice rather than cream; one or two whole blackcurrants in the centre
ISPAHAN: rose, lychee & raspberry – deep pink shells sprinkled with red coloured sugar or ruby dusting powder; white chocolate ganache mixed with pureed preserved lychees and flavoured with rose extract; square of concentrated fresh raspberry jelly in the centre
INFINIMENT MENTHE FRAÎCHE: mint – blue-green shells; white chocolate ganache flavoured with an infusion of fresh mint leaves and Crème de Menthe
INFINIMENT JASMIN: jasmine flowers and jasmine tea – shells whitened with titanium dioxide with dried jasmine flowers sprinkled on top; jasmine tea white chocolate ganache flavour boosted with jasmine essential oil;
MÉTISSÉ: orange, carrot and Ceylon cinnamon – orange cinnamon shells; carrot, orange & white chocolate ganache
PLÉNITUDE: chocolate and caramel – one chocolate shell; one caramel brown shell (coffee extract and food colouring); milk and dark chocolate ganache mixed with salted butter caramel
PIETRA: caramelised hazelnut and crispy praline
HUILE D’OLIVE À LA MANDARINE: olive oil and mandarin – one olive green shell (green colouring and coffee extract); one orange shell; white chocolate ganache flavoured with vanilla mixed with extra virgin olive oil
MOSAÏC: pistachio, Ceylon cinnamon & griottine – natural shells sprinkled with red sugar or ruby dusting powder; white chocolate ganache flavoured and coloured with cinnamon and pistachio paste; stoned griottine (trade name for morello cherry preserved in kirsch) in the centre
ÉDEN: peach, apricot and saffron – peach coloured shells; white chocolate ganache infused with saffron mixed with purée of fresh white peach and small cubes of soft-dried apricot
INFINIMENT VANILLE: vanilla from Tahiti, Mexico & Madagascar – natural coloured shells flavoured with vanilla seeds; white chocolate ganache flavoured with 3 types of vanilla pod
MÉDÉLICE: lemon and crispy praline hazelnut wafer – yellow shells sprinkled with hazelnut wafer shards; natural colour lemon cream filling
INFINIMENT CITRON: lemon – yellow shells; natural colour lemon cream filling

They sound amazing don’t they? The truth is though that sample one with your eyes closed and you’d be hard pressed to say what the flavour is. There’s a healthy dose of psychological trickery going on here and the apparent flavour is boosted if you a) your macaron is strongly coloured and b) you can read the description of what you’re supposed to be tasting.

That said, the macarons tasted pretty good, even the mint one which was surprisingly subtle and fragrant rather than being filled with a toothpaste-like substance as I joked it might be before tasting it.

I didn’t make it to Hermé’s flagship store which is on the Rue Bonaparte on the left bank. He now has a myriad of shops throughout Paris, like the one I visited on the Avenue de l’Opéra selling just macarons and chocolate. Presumably these are shipped in daily by the dozen rather than being lovingly crafted on the premises. Well, I suppose you have to ride that trend while it lasts…

The original and classic macaroon maker Ladurée is playing the same game. You can load up on macarons in various locations throughout Paris, even at their newest outlet Terminal 2 Charles de Gaulle airport, which is exactly what I did. You can opt for the classic eau-de-nil and gold packaging:

Or the dinky duck-egg blue and shocking pink “Hello Kitty” presentation box aimed fair and square at the Japanese market:

The current Ladurée list of flavours runs as follows:

PERMANENT FLAVOURS

Café – coffee
Caramel – caramel
Cassis Violette – blackcurrant and violet
Chocolat – chocolate
Fleur d’Oranger – orange flower water
Framboise – raspberry
Pistache – pistachio
Réglisse – liquorice (black)
Rose – rose water
Vanille – vanilla
Incroyable Guimauve Amande – incredible almond marshmallow

SEASONAL FLAVOURS

Citron – lemon
Fruits rouges – red fruit
Fleurs de cerisier – cherry blossom
Chocolat pure origine Colombie – Colombian chocolate
Praliné – praline
Marron – chestnut
Pomme Verte – green apple
Chocolat au lait – milk chocolate

Read the small print underneath the box to discover the list of ingredients needed to make this range of flavours:

sugar; almonds; eggs; butter; cream; cocoa; blackcurrants; raspberries; pistachios; chestnuts; coconut; hazelnuts; mint; lemons; morello cherries; whole milk powder; glucose syrup; cornflour; pectin; coffee; rose syrup (sugar syrup, natural red colouring, rose flavour); redcurrant; dark rum; honey; candied fruit (sugar, glucose, citron, ginger, lemon, orange); flavourings: orange flower, citron, lemongrass, chestnut, mint, mimosa, violet (invert sugar, propylene glycol, alcohol); cinnamon; star anise; ginger, gelatine (not porcine); emulsifier: soya lecithin; natural vanilla extract; vanilla; lime; rose essence; salt; sunflower oil; vegetable fat; barley malt extract; emulsifier: glycerides of fatty acids; colours: luteine, carmine, carminique, carantho, chlorophyll, spinach, coal black, brilliant blue fcf, carotinoids, caramel.

Yum!

If you still feel like buying some here’s where to go:

Pierre Hermé Paris addresses

72 rue Bonaparte, 6th arrondissement (flagship store – the full range)
185 rue de Vaugirard, 15th – pâtisserie, macarons, chocolates
just macarons and chocolates:
58 avenue Paul Doumer, 16th
39 avenue de l’Opéra, 2nd
Galeries Lafayette concession, amongst shoes in the basement (!); home on ground floor; and designers on the 1st floor, 40 boulevard Haussmann, 9th
Publicis Drugstore concession, 133 avenue des Champs Elysées, 8th
Printemps Parly II concession, Avenue Charles de Gaulle, Le Chesnay nr Versailles

Ladurée Paris and surrounding area addresses

16-18 rue Royale, 8th arrondissement
21 rue Bonaparte, 6th
75 avenue des Champs Elysées, 8th – AT DATE OF WRITING CLOSED FOR REFURBISHMENT
Orly airport West Terminal
Charles de Gaulle airport Terminal 2
Printemps department store concession, 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th
Chateau de Versailles, Versailles

Le vrai macaron Parisien

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Actually this is not a macaron but vrai Parisien Philippe, expert instructor for the pâtisserie class I took last Saturday, entirely devoted to the making of the perfect macaroon.

The venue was the Lenôtre amateur cookery school in the grand looking Pavillon d’Elysée in the heart of Paris’ 8th arrondissement.

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On the agenda were three classic macaroon recipes: vanilla, coffee and chocolate. I’m feeling too lazy to write up all 3 recipes in full, so here they are as photos. I’ve translated and annotated the base vanilla recipe below, but have taken the liberty of halving the quantities to make the numbers more manageable for the home baker.

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My fellow course participants were 3 Parisian ladies and 1 man who turned out to be a professional pastry chef. I decided to share my workbench with him and pick up some extra tips. The 6 of us shared a spacious kitchen nattily decorated with orange walls, sleek white cabinets and lots of chrome and stainless steel.

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Chef Philippe was a little stern at first and asked for no photography. As the morning went on, he gradually warmed and melted and by the end of the session, the no photography rule was relaxed as you can see.

All was of course in rapid Parisian French. This was clearly going to be a workout for my schoolgirl French as well as honing my pâtisserie skills.

So, what did I learn?

Ingredients

1) All the recipes include a mystery ingredient “tant pour tant amandes” which is nothing more than a 50:50 mixture of ground almonds and icing sugar. This is a mix that the professional pastry kitchen already has on hand as it’s the starting point for a number of recipes. It’s not something that the domestic cook needs that often so I’ve restated the recipe in terms of the underlying quantities of ground almonds and icing sugar.

2) The base recipe specifies vanilla powder rather than the more usual extract or paste. Ever wondered what to do with old vanilla pods other than them into a jar of caster sugar? Once the old pods are thoroughly dry, you can crush them in a spice grinder/ mini food processor to make a fragrant powder perfect for use in baking. I haven’t tried this at home yet but will give it a go with my next batch of old pods.

3) The egg whites are weighed for an accurate result. A medium egg white weighs a little over 30g so you’ll need 3 eggs for the base recipe I give below.

4) I need to mention the nasty subject of additives. Although not listed amongst the ingredients, Chef Philippe casually added a couple of pinches of white food colouring to his macaroon mix. On closer inspection, this turned out to be E171 titanium dioxide. At best this seems entirely unnecessary – the finished macaroons were an attractive toasty gold colour – and at worst possibly dangerous.

Philippe also added yellow food colouring to his coffee macaroons, again not in the recipe, and again unnecessary as the coffee extract used to flavour the macaroons (make your own by dissolving instant coffee granules in a very little hot water or consider that old standby Camp Coffee Essence) will also lend them a little colour.

Finally, the chocolate macaroon recipe specifies a massive 82 combined drops of black, red, blue and yellow food colourings to turn the mix into the requisite rich dark brown. When I try these at home, I will make do with a more delicate brown colour provided by the cocoa powder alone.

Equipment

5) I learned to use a much smaller piping nozzle than the one I’d used previously. The recipe specifies nozzles in the range between nos. 7 to 10. I’d estimate that the one we used in the class was about 12mm in diameter.

6) We used very convenient big disposable clear plastic piping bags. I’ve stocked up on these to bring home with me.

7) We used a powerful professional food processor to pulse the ground almond and icing sugar mix. I’m not sure if a domestic processor works quite as well but I’ve had good results from my Kenwood liquidiser.

8) Talking of my Kenwood mixer, this was the machine of choice in the Lenôtre kitchen. Chef Philippe prefers it to the more modish Kitchenaid.

9) To bake the macaroons, we used doubled-up (one stacked on top of another) baking trays lined with unbleached non-stick baking paper, again just like the stuff I use at home. The double trays mean a more even heat distribution.

10) The most versatile kitchen tool we used was a little plastic scraper, the kind used for bread making. This was a fantastic stand-in for a spatula and dead handy for filling piping bags, emptying bowls, rubbing ground almonds through a sieve etc. I’ve brought one of these home with me too.

Techniques

11) The consistency of the macaroon mixture is key to the shape of the finished product. The ground almond and sugar mix was folded into the meringue mix using a spatula in three phases, with 10 turns of the bowl for each addition. Then comes the key final mixing with a spatula, a further turning and folding of the mixture until it becomes smooth and glossy, holding its shape but only just. There is a special word for this final mixing “macaronner”. If you don’t get it quite right, the mixture will be too stiff and the piped discs won’t flow to a nice flat circle and will have little tails instead of being smooth on top.

12) When piping the discs, hold the tip of the nozzle directly above (90 degrees) and very close to the baking tray. Squeeze using the palm of the right hand against the top of the piping bag for a count of 3, stop the pressure then execute a quick flick of the wrist as if writing a comma with a fountain pen to release the nozzle.

13) Pipe in neat rows and keep a good distance (3cm or more) between the discs in order to ensure a good airflow and even baking. We piped 28 discs on a tray, a row of 6 then a row of 5 in the gaps, another row of 6, another of 5 then a final row of 6.

14) To ensure that the cooked discs with their still soft centres peeled off the paper easily, we carefully poured cold water onto the hot baking tray as soon as it came out of the oven. To do this, you need to set the tray at a slight slant over the sink and carefully lift up the edge of the paper before pouring water beneath it from a small jug.

15) I’ve never paid special attention to filling macaroons previously. I’ve simply spread them with buttercream using a small crank-handled palette knife. I’ve now learned to make a silky-textured buttercream with a crème anglaise base which is piped onto a macaroon disc in a similar way to piping the disc itself. Sandwich with a second disc, press lightly and you have a level filled macaroon with a perfectly even line of filling around it’s circumference.

16) Finally, the completed filled macaroons should be left to mature overnight in the refrigerator before eating. As if!

Apparently they can be frozen successfully if you need to make a big batch for a wedding, party, family celebration or similar.

OK so that’s the rather lengthy preamble. Time for a couple of pictures of the finished product. First, our neat rows of filled vanilla macaroons:

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Next, the top layer of our very desirable Lenôtre cake boxes filled with the chocolate and coffee macaroons ready to take home:

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Recipe for vanilla macaroons

Makes 25 to 30 filled macaroons

Ingredients

For the macaroon discs

125g ground almonds
225g icing sugar
100g egg whites
25g caster sugar
2 to 3g vanilla powder

For the vanilla buttercream

37g whole milk
15g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
30g egg yolks
Further 15g caster sugar
100g softened unsalted butter

Method for the macaroon discs

Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar together. Liquidise or pulse in a food processor for 10 to seconds and push the resulting mixture through a sieve.

Put the egg whites into a mixing bowl with about one tenth of the caster sugar. Begin whisking at a medium speed (level 3 on a Kenwood electric mixer) until the mixture reaches the soft peak stage. Gradually whisk in the remaining caster sugar and whisk until the mixture becomes a smooth, glossy, stiff meringue.

Gradually fold in the sieved ground almond and icing sugar mix using a spatula. Do this in 3 or 4 batches. Continue to fold the mixture with the spatula until it becomes smooth and glossy and a little looser but not too runny for piping well.

Using a piping bag fitted with a nozzle in the range 7 to 10 (10 to 15 diameter) pipe individual macaroon discs 2cm in diameter onto a tray lined with silicone paper. Space them at least 3cm apart. Leave the macaroons to dry for 15 minutes or so before baking.

Place a second tray beneath the macaroons than place in an oven preheated to 160 degrees C. Turn the heat down to 140 degrees C and bake for anywhere between 12 to 18 minutes until the macaroons have puffed up a little and have coloured lightly. They should have cooked, crisp bases but still be soft in the centre. Start checking after 12 minutes.

Remove the cooked macaroons from the oven and immediately pour a little cold water onto the hot tray UNDER the baking paper to form steam and help release the macaroons from the paper. Allow to cool for 5 minutes or so then remove from the paper onto a cooling rack with help of a small crank handled palette knife. Leave to cool completely before sandwiching together with piped vanilla buttercream.

Method for vanilla buttercream

Heat together the milk, 15 g caster sugar and the vanilla pod. Bring to just below boiling point then remove from the heat, cover and allow to infuse for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, using a balloon whisk, whisk together the egg yolks and the other 15g sugar until the mixture lightens in coloured just a little. Remove the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the mix. Pour the warm milk over the egg yolks and sugar and whisk together. Return the mix to the pan and, stirring the mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon, heat gently to 82 degrees C to make a custard/crème anglaise which has thickened just a little to the coating a spoon stage.

Pour the cooked custard into the bowl of a Kenwood mixer or equivalent and whisk at high speed until cool. The mixture should now be much thicker, pale in colour and softly creamy in texture.

Gradually incorporate the softened butter which you have previously creamed to ensure it’s the right texture for easy incorporation.

Keep cool if not using immediately and bring back to the right soft consistency for piping by gently warming OVER hot water.

That’s it – good luck with making these at home!

Contact details

École Amateur Pavillon Elysée Lenôtre
10 avenue des Champs Elysées
75008 Paris

Tel +33 (0)1 42 65 97 60

www.lenotre.fr

Luxemburgerli – macarons from Zürich

March 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’re still all going crazy for dainty pastel-coloured Parisian macarons. Meanwhile the Swiss firm of Sprüngli has quietly been making its own version going under the odd name of Luxemburgerli (little Luxemburgers) for some years now.

Above and below are displays at the very conveniently located Zürich airport branch of Sprüngli where we passed through last week en route to our half term ski holiday:

Pictured are a pyramid of vanilla Luxemburgerli plus trays of cinnamon (Zimt) and raspberry (Himbeer) flavours – I forgot to check what flavour the dramatic black ones on the left were. Dare I say it, these are daintier and more delicate even than the Parisian macaron, perfect for nibbling with coffee on the train journey to Luzern and beyond:

How do they come to be made in Zürich and how did they come by their odd name? According to the Sprüngli website www.spruengli.com the recipe originated at the Confiserie Namur in Luxembourg, a business with which the Sprüngli family had close ties. Patissiers from Zürich would go and work in the Duchy of Luxembourg and vice versa. It was in the late 1950s that one of the Luxembourg trainees started producing macarons in Zürich and they were given the nickname Luxemburgerli (the Swiss are very fond of the diminutive) in his honour.

Demand grew gradually and Sprüngli today produces 650kg of Luxemburgerli every day making them the company’s best seller.

So maybe the current trend for Parisian macarons is more than a fad and is here to stay?

Scottish macaroon bars made in Manchester

January 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

My lovely neighbour Deborah (who is married to a Scot), knowing of my interest in all things macaroon introduced me to the Scottish macaroon a couple of weeks ago. To accompany a cup of coffee she brought out a Lees original macaroon bar. This is more a confectionery item than a cake or biscuit – a very sweet fondant centre coated in chocolate and toasted coconut. Apparently this Scottish delicacy was originally made with a sweetened mashed potato (I kid you not…) centre but as this goes off very quickly it’s now made with vegetable fat and sugar.

As its Burns Night tomorrow, I thought I’d have a go at an authentic homemade version, a sweet something to follow our haggis and neeps.

It wasn’t hard to track down a recipe on the web. I consulted these 3 sources:

http://shirlsbaking.blogspot.com/2005/12/scottish-macaroon-bars.html

http://www.glesga.ukpals.com/mlrecipes.htm

http://www.madestuff.co.uk/2009/08/10/traditional-scottish-macaroon/

All the recipes were pretty similar but the third one has the clearest instructions and good pics as well.

I set to work on my unlikely quest to turn a couple of potatoes into a sort of deconstructed bounty bar.

I started with 125g prepared weight of mashed potato – this is just one and a bit medium potatoes – as I discovered, you don’t need much.

I had planned to weigh and document accurately but these ambitions went out of the door when I ran out of icing sugar part way through the process and had to put the project on hold overnight until I could buy some more.

Into the mashed potato I beat an unbelievable quantity of icing sugar – I would guess 375g, maybe even 500g. You just keep going until the mixture is thick and doughy enough to handle.

A very odd thing happened as I started beating in the sugar – the mixture liquefied and became a translucent wallpaper pasty gloop. Never fear, just keep adding more icing sugar and I promise you, it will come together to form a fondant like substance.

Next, I pressed my mixture into a tray and popped it into the freezer for 20 minutes or so to firm up a little.

Meanwhile I toasted quickly in a hot oven 50g or so of dessicated coconut. Beware, the difference between toasted and burnt coconut is about 45 seconds as I learned to my cost. So I began again with another 50g of dessicated coconut…I then mixed the toasted coconut with about twice the quantity of untoasted to produce a lovely tweedy effect – very appropriate for a Scottish sweet.

Next, i melted 2 whole bars (200g) of Green and Black’s chocolate – a mixture of milk and dark. All dark would have been just too restrained and sophisticated. I wanted the full milky sugary hit to complement the toothrotting supersweet centre.

With the mise en place sorted, it was time to complete the bars. I cut my potato fondant into 7 or 8 fingers. I then picked up a finger and shaped it into a sausage before half dipping, half rolling it in the melted chocolate, thence into the toasted coconut (a bit like egg and breadcrumbing a croquette or escalope). As I dipped and coated I held the bar very lightly, shaping and patting as I went. The completed bar was then placed onto silicone paper and popped into the fridge to set.

Here’s one of the little beauties ready to eat – despite inauspicious beginnings, it actually tasted rather good…

Macaroons made in Manchester revisited

January 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Just had a look at my blog stats for 2010 and apparently had over 12,000 visits last year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the page most visited was a post entitled “Macaroons Made in Manchester” which detailed my first not particularly successful attempt at making Parisian style macarons.

I imagine most people were looking for a supplier for these dainty morsels not wanting to see what some bumbling amateur was attempting to turn out.

I hate to disappoint so I’m delighted to report that there are at least 3 places where you can buy macaroons in Manchester now:

1) English Rose Bakery http://www.englishrosebakery.com/ was started up in June 2010 by friends Emma Brown and Wendy Lewis – they bake from premises in Oldham Street Manchester and sell at farmers’ and food markets in Chorlton and around Manchester. Website pics look gorgeousm very professional – I haven’ tried them yet but hope to catch up at their next event on Jan 15th.

2) My friend Gywneth and business partner Mike have set up “Vintage Afternoon Teas” and I believe sell a box of 10 macaroons for £6.00. Phone 07811 684 365 with enquiries.

3) Finally the mass-market option – Waitrose now with stores in Manchester, Altrincham and Wilmslow stock a box of 12 Maison Blanc macaroons priced at £6.49.

Happy shopping!

Pilgrimage to Chartres… and another twist on macaroons

April 22, 2010 § 2 Comments

We took a day out from our usual walking and climbing routine in the Forest of Fontainebleau to make the one hour drive west to Chartres. Chartres is dominated by its glorious gothic cathedral which soars out of the plains and can be seen from miles away. Here it is on a beautiful spring morning:

The grandeur of the building, the intricate carving throughout, the stained glass and the view from the belltower were all uplifting. Only the noise (I can’t bring myself to call it music) in the nave as we entered the cathedral marred our visit: a church service was in progress conducted by a guitar playing and singing group, loudly amplified and execrable. There was no-one attending the service but the performers themselves. More than a little self-indulgent.

After a visit to the cathedral, the modern-day pilgrim can take refreshment at the Bistrot de la Cathédrale. Despite its proximity to the cathedral (No 1, Cloisters Tel 00 33 (0)2 37 36 59 60) this is no mere tourist trap but an outpost of Chartres highly regarded “Le Georges” restaurant within the Grand Monarque hotel (22 Place des Epars Tel 00 33 (0)2 37 18 15 15).

Our visit was on Easter Monday so most shops were closed but we still had chance to wander through the streets. Chartres has a beautiful market hall:

And I spotted this wonderful old-fashioned butcher’s in the old town:

In terms of regional specialites, local pâtisseries sell sweets called Mentchikoffs. These are praline in a crispy meringue coating and were invented in 1893 to celebrate the Franco-Russian pact of that year. The white meringue poetically represents Russian snow. There’s also Pâté de Chartres made from mixed game birds served either en croûte or from a terrine. Another speciality as is the French classic Poule au Pot (pot roast chicken). King Henri IV who famously wanted to put a Poule au Pot on every table in France was the only king to be crowned at Chartres hence the connection.

I was mistaken in thinking that the green and yellow Chartreuse liqueurs are from Chartres – the liqueur is made by Carthusian monks in Voiron near Grenoble. The drink local to Chartres is the beer “L’Eurélienne”. Sadly there was no opportunity to drink some that day.

So that’s almost it for my quick gastro-tour of Chartres. I think it would be a fantastic place to be whisked away for a weekend – wonderful architecture, places to eat and drink and not overrun with tourists.

But before I finish I have to mention these macaroons spotted in the window of a pâtisserie:

Your eyes are not deceiving you. These are sweet/savoury macaroons and the flavours on offer really are salmon, foie gras, blue roquefort cheese, and, to cap it all, tomato ketchup! This isn’t witty, it isn’t clever, it’s just yucky.

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