Kung Fu Café
Since 2011

A Trip to Paris!! | Macaron Délicat à la Thé Vert

Beware: Photo heavy and ramble-y post! 🙂


“Like a good Chanel purse, the macaron is timeless and elegant, and always a treat!”
Bake Bellissima



I absolutely love a good cuppa tea, and being British, tea is a large part of our daily lives. However, I also love the Japanese culture, and have taken a very fond liking to their sencha 煎茶; whenever I’d have green tea in a Japanese restaurant or café, it would always have a delicate taste and leave my mouth feeling refreshed, although others would complain of how weak the tea appeared to be. But for me, I think that’s the key! I love the way these leaves are processed and I love how soft and subtle the flavour is. I bought some good quality sencha tea bags, but to use a whole teabag would make the tea so strong that it leaves a bitter after taste in your mouth, even when using warm water (as opposed to hot)! I had never liked Chinese green tea because of this reason, but perhaps it’s not the flavour of the leaf, it’s just its strength that I dislike. So now I simply rip open the teabags, and use literally a small pinch of leaves, pop them in the bottom of my cup, and pour over hot water, and I absolutely love the taste! I just keep the ripped teabag in my empty pot of Teapigs matcha, which has made a very useful pot for varying my sencha around! Not forgetting that the matcha itself was beautiful! I’ve converted dad to green tea because of this, too, and now I feel that I can enjoy this lovely Japanese daytime ritual into my daily life, too.

So yes, I love a good British cuppa, and also a gentle chawan of matcha. I’m very confused as to what to believe regarding the health benefits of tea; some say that it counts towards your daily water intake, although I think that these days most “experts” agree that it doesn’t because of its caffeine content. However, I have read that tea has as much caffeine, if not more, than coffee, but it simply releases it over a slower period. Both green and black tea contain around 30,000 polyphenolic compounds, some of which have been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and inflammation, and their exact biomechanical mechanism is still not clear.1 Also, polyphenols can act as antioxidants, and for a long time this was thought to be the reason for their health benefits.1 However, recent studies have shown that this only plays a small part in their effectiveness.1 Yet, according to Disler et al. (1975), drinking tannin-containing beverages such as tea with meals may contribute to the pathogensis of iron deficiency if the diet consists largely of vegetable foodstuffs. 2



Anyway, regardless of whether it’s healthy or not, I believe that it’s a marvellous beverage! It’s perfect for any occasion: celebrations with loved ones, get-togethers with friends, consoling one who’s upset, as a snack, a post-meal cleanse, a breakfast necessity… and so I decided to infuse matcha (powdered green tea) into macarons in order to celebrate my love for tea and the Japanese culture, and also because I’ve just recently got back from a trip to Paris! These were originally a trial of green tea macarons to be had as a spring treat for Father’s Day, especially seeing as dad took quite an interest in the Japanese culture, and they were secondarily going to be for celebrating a trip to Paris should my abstract have been accepted. But they came out so well the first time I decided not to make them again, and the next time I will make them, I will try and feature a different flavour, I think. Flavours I’ve love to try and make include, and are not limited, to a few I have just quickly found on Foodgawker:


• Chocolate macarons with an orange ganache, or orange macarons with a chocolate ganache!
• Lime macarons (green) with a coconut buttercream (white), sprinkled with desiccated coconut
• Pistachio macarons (green) with a raspberry or strawberry buttercream (pink/red)
• Rose macarons (pink)
• Vanilla macarons (white/light) with a Nutella filling (dark brown)
• Basil macarons (green) with a strawberry ganache (red)
• Matcha macarons (green) with a match and white chocolate ganache (green and/or white) with a dusting of matcha
• Chocolate macarons (brown) with a dark chocolate and pepper ganache (dark and spicy!)
• Lavender macarons (pink) with honey-early grey infused buttercream
• Chocolate macarons (brown) with a peanut butter frosting (yellow-brown)
• Vanilla macarons (pale) with vanilla bean buttercream and a fresh strawberry (to make it very pale pink)
• Chocolate macarons (brown) with a coffee ganache
• Custard cream macarons (or another English biscuit!)
• Wasabi macarons (with strawberry, ankou, or white chocolate filling)
• Savoury macarons with dill, cream cheese, and salmon

I went to Paris to present at my first ever international conference, the 10th International Conference on Diffusion in Solids and Liquids DSL-2014. Seeing as this is a food blog, I won’t talk too much about the conference, but will focus on my various pâtisserie exploits of Paris! 🙂 Originally, I was going alone, but then Ed suggested that perhaps he could come along. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out because our dates for various things clashed, which was a shame. 🙁 But I thought “hey, why doesn’t my bro come?” He agreed, and so he came! I could have gone alone, as I’m always up for doing things alone, but this was just a little holiday (as we spent a few days extra in Paris after the conference), and doing things in the capital is always much more fun with a friend than alone.

The conference venue, Le Tapis Rouge, was absolutely stunning, and I felt so privileged to have been there. I did feel rather out of place at first, so I was pleased that I decided to dress up relatively smartly, although there were others there in jeans and white trainers! We even had amazing live instrumental music and delicious pâtisserie in our coffee breaks, such as madeleines, pains aux chocolates, and even macarons, along with various other hors d’oeuvres… yum! The conference itself was interesting, and I met two lovely fellow researchers, Özer who is a fellow PhD student from Turkey, and Igor who is a researcher from Russia with 43 publications, and spent the evening gala meal on the Wednesday with them and my brother.



Myself, Igor, Özer, and Tim, outside of Cathédrale Notre Dame 🙂

I was really quite disappointed with my presentation. It didn’t go nearly as well as it did in the practice runs, and I was way more nervous when I presented at the CRES conference last year in front of about five times more people, including Iain Stewart! I think the proximity of the audience (i.e. I was standing really close to the audience in Paris) and perhaps knowing that the speciality of the audience in Paris was closer to my field than the geologists at the CRES conference, but I still don’t understand why I got quite so nervous. Usually, I read quite a bit from a script that I have, because I know then that everything will go according to plan, and that’s always worked really well for me and I can still project my voice well. But this time I was just a nervous and jittering wreck. I also think I had too much content to get through in the allocated time… which was fine when I was confident in presenting, but then as soon as I lost confidence, everything went out the window! I didn’t run out of time, but next time I will reduce my content so that I can speak slower and more thoughtfully, but it’s difficult to know until you’ve run through the presentation under more nerve-wracking circumstances. I wanted to put in as much as possible, but there were some things I should have left out, even though it was nice to have them in… oh well. It was an experience, and I was quite down on myself for a few days afterwards. As long as I learn from it then it would have been worth it. I just feel so lucky to have had this experience, because if it wasn’t for Omya and Plymouth University, then I wouldn’t have gone to Paris.

So, naturally, being in the capital of France, one has to sample as many pastries and delicacies as possible. Tim and I went to LOTS of places, and I tried a few of the things I set out to try. On the first morning, we had an early morning breakfast at Du Pain et des Idées. I wanted to visit this bakery as I had heard (more like read on blogs) a few things about it. As we walked to Rue Yves Toudic, Tim pointed the bakery out saying “that looks like a really nice place,” and it turned out to be the place! Tim had a snail pastry with raspberry and cream cheese, and I had a pain au chocolat with banana. It was absolutely delicious, although I have to say that mine was slightly burnt on the bottom. Nevertheless, the layers inside were soft, the pastry was crisp on the outside and the flavour was amazing. Tim also made a really good choice with his pastry flavours, although I think that whatever we chose would have been great.

Later that day we went to Jacques Genin, who according to David Lebovitz, may be the makers of some of the best caramels in the world. On the first of our visits, we tasted seven of their beautiful chocolates: milk chocolate, grapefruit milk chocolate (couldn’t taste much difference to the natural), ginger milk chocolate (lovely combination of flavours!), dark chocolate, dark chocolate infused with tea (what type of tea I don’t know, but the flavour was extremely subtle if non-existent), raspberry dark chocolate (I found it quite “fragranced,” but Tim really liked this one), and basil dark chocolate (very distinctive, and probably my favourite one!). We also had a green and purple pâté de fruit (or “Posh fruit pastels”), and we think the green one was kiwi and the purple was blackcurrant. The flavours were really delicious; they must use real fruit extract. We bought a couple of fruit jellies for friends and families, and left.


The following day we decided to return, and had a dégustation of six caramels this time, along with a thick hot chocolate to share, which is just like the Spanish chocolate a la taza that I love so much, and a mille feuille vanilla. The caramel flavours we tried were mangue passion, natural, café, pistache de Sicile, noix de cajon and cassis. I’m not a massive fan of caramels but they were definitely of the variety to make me want to try and make my own some day! We bought some caramels as gifts for others, and cried as I handed over my debit card. The caramels are sold at 110 € /kg, and the pâtés de fruits at 90 € /kg…

The next morning we had breakfast at a the bakery Liberté; I really enjoyed the clean and modern look of this place, and seemed really busy yesterday lunch time when we walked past. We bought all sorts of things, such as a pistachio financier (with a possibly raspberry filling), a large madeleine, pain au chocolates, pain aux raisins (which is Tim’s favourite), a Viennese chocolate bread, and a large chocolate log. Unfortunately, the chocolate log bread actually seemed a little undercooked, as it was quite doughy in some parts, but the quality of their cakes and pastries made up for this tenfold! The only thing I would complain about is that there was nowhere I could get a British cuppa to wash it all down with!


Of course, we tried some nouvelle cuisine, which was delicious, and again, I wept as I handed over my debit card. But it was definitely a lovely treat and something I’m going to try and do myself at home! We went to L’Office and Chez Marie Louise, but this is all for another blog post. 🙂 We also had an amazing falafel at L’As Du Fallafel, and delicious crepes at Crêperie Josselin, my two favourite hangout spots. Actually, I think L’Avant Comptoir was probably my favourite, and I made a special stop there just to try Le Beurre Bordier, or the Bordier Butter, that I’ve heard so much about. It took us a second glimpse to make sure we found the right spot, as the stand-up wine bar is a little hidden. The place smelt absolutely delicious and reminded me of the best Spanish tapas bars you could find, with cured meats in the background, wine glasses everywhere and their menu, with each of their different tapas, hanging on card from the ceiling. We each had a different glass of red wine, and ordered a portion of poitrine de porc caramélisée and a mini crème brulée; the only complaint I have is that there wasn’t enough. The pork was cooked to perfection, and the crème brulée was the best I’ve ever had, with a wonderfully caramelised top, yet not too caramelised (i.e. burnt), and a very smooth, creamy and rich pudding underneath. We also helped ourselves to baguette slices and Bordier butter… if I had the means to store the butter in our hotel rooms and carry it back, then I would have found some to buy to take back home. It was some of the creamiest butter I’ve ever had!

Of course, I visited Ladurée, and sampled six of their macarons: réglisse (liquorice; unfortunately we couldn’t taste any liquorice…), l’incroyable guimauve chocolat coco (chocolate and coconut “guimave;” the subtle taste of coconut was lovely), l’incroyable guimasse fraise bonbon (strawberry candy “guimave;” Tim really like this one!), caramel fleur de sel (salted caramel; by far my favourite, as the combination of salt and caramel is always a winner!), fleur d’orange (orange blossom; couldn’t taste any orange, but I guess orange blossom doesn’t taste of orange! It sounded intriguing, though), and menthe glaciale (iced mint; a seasonal flavour, and was nice, although not my favourite macaron flavour). We were quite lucky with queuing in this store, because I walked in when there were only a few others in there at the counter; after I arrived, suddenly a flurry of other people did, too! I would loved to have stopped off in their café for some tea and pastries, but we decided that we already had enough that day!



I also tried to visit Pierre Hermé, but unfortunately the queue was so large that it backed out into the street, and people were shielding themselves from the rain using their umbrellas. I had already dragged Tim around many pastry shops and things that day, so we decided not to queue, especially seeing as we were to have macarons from Ladurée, anyway. However, I’m by no means an expert in the art of pâtisserie, but I must say that going by other people’s reviews that the photos I’ve seen, I am slightly tipping to the side of preferring Pierre Hermé’s macarons over Ladurées. This is because the macarons from Ladurée usually have a shell that’s not as dome-shaped as Pierre Hermé’s, and their feet seem to protrude over the edges. Either way, I’m sure they both taste equally as great, and Ladurée do claim to be the creators of the first ever modern day macaron that we enjoy today. Tim also said that mine tasted just as good as Ladurée’s and so to me, that was a great compliment! Thanks, bro! 🙂

And finally, we visited Sadaharu Aoki, which is probably my favourite pâtisserie that I’ve found in life so far! We bought a bamboo, which is layers of biscuit joconde, crème au thé vert, ganache au chocolat noir, punch au thé vert (altering layers of matcha-infused buttercream, dark chocolate ganache, and biscuit sponge). I was tempted to go for matcha-adzuki, as it combined traditional Japanese flavours like matcha and ankou (red bean paste). But I love the combination of matcha and dark chocolate, which is also what prompted me to use this combination for this macaron recipe that I’ve posted. We also bought a tarte caramel salé, one of the most sought after pastries in Paris. They were both absolutely delicious, but as Tim said, nothing that I couldn’t make myself. Of course, I took this as a large compliment, and so my next baking mission is to make a lovely little entremet, that I will try and develop my own recipe for, and also a chocolate caramel tart, as there is a recipe I can follow for that here. These are the sorts of things I’d make for dinner parties, perhaps a trio of desserts, being macarons, a tart of some sort, and a joconde or opera entremet.



Macarons, in actual fact, are definitely better up to three days after they’ve been made (three days is what Ladurée recommends!). This is because the flavour from the ganache has its chance to impart itself into the macaron shell via osmosis. I find that macarons are nice when they’re fresh, nicest after a few days, and then after that they shell gets a little soggy; the flavours are there but the shell doesn’t have that crispness to it on the outside anymore. I remember biting into my first ever batch of chocolate macarons after a few days left to “marinade” in the fridge, and the flavour was so rich; much better than I had ever imagined!

I struggled deciding what filling to put inbetween green tea/match macarons; I love the visual impact pink and green has, because it stands out right away, yet they complement each other quite naturally, I find. So I decided to make a pink buttercream of raspberry and strawberries. Now, I absolutely love buttercream, but I found that it just didn’t complement the macaron that nicely, because it’s just too sweet. Cover a birthday cake in it, why not? But I don’t think it was meant for macarons, not this one at least. I also wanted to use typical Japanese flavours, such as wasabi and ankou (red bean). But the wasabi would have also been green, and I wanted to try and make a contrast of colours, but the ankou filling I made was too runny, unless I added lots of icing sugar, in which case it would have been a buttercream, which I didn’t quite want. So I decided to go for a rich classic ganache combo that I really love: green tea and dark chocolate.



Matcha and dark chocolate just go really well together; fact! That’s what made me choose the Sadaharu Aoki’s bamboo entremets over all of the others; because it had Japanese flavours that just meld really well with typical Western ones. I went really upmarket and used Tesco Finest dark chocolate in my ganache, and I had a choice of two flavours: Tesco Finest Peruvian 70% dark chocolate, single origin, fruity with subtle red berry notes and Tesco Finest Ecuadorian 74% dark chocolate, single origin, floral & spicy with subtle notes of green tea. I certainly preferred the latter; it was rich, dark and spicy, and really went well with the macaron shell. The other flavour was just too sweet and perfume-y for me. Here’s some more blub regarding the Ecuadorian chocolate (it sounds delicious!):

“Made with cocoa beans from plantations in Esmeraldas, Los Rios and Manabi in Ecuador. A slight hint of coconut aroma contrasts with the rich earthy tones of this Ecuadorian bar. The initial flavour of molasses is followed by notes of green tea, with a depth of gentle woody spices to finish.”

I also really struggled with what to decorate the macarons with. I would liked to have done so with a chocolate “paint” or a cocoa powder dusting, but decided to settle with a matcha paint and a sprinkling of broken sencha leaves from a teabag. The paint was a little too translucent, and when it dried it didn’t have the effect I was hoping for. I also didn’t have a brush so it was difficult to get the desired design, too.

To make the macarons, I decided to go for the chocolate macaron recipe, as it’s one of my favourites and has worked really well for me each time I’ve tried it. But perhaps the cocoa powder stabilises it in a different way to the matcha, or was it simply my technique this time wasn’t good enough? I think that I knocked too much air out of the batter during the macaronage phase, or perhaps I simply didn’t stiffen the peaks enough, because after the hour of waiting, the piped macaron batter had flattened almost entirely. And also, at 45 minutes, the tops weren’t sticky to the touch before baking as is the case with the chocolate macarons. This is the ratio of ingredients that I used(which yielded 10 shells, although 3 of them were green, oddly shaped, and undercooked, so fell apart…):

• 35g egg whites
• 40g ground almonds
• 67 g icing sugar
• 11g granulated sugar
• 1 tsp matcha

Ratios:
• Eggs: 1
• Almond: 1.14
• Sugar: 2.23; icing: 1.91; granulated: 0.31

I also put these macarons on the top shelf of my oven (top shelf out of three shelves in oven) and then some in the lower third portion. The ones on top rose nicely, but browned; that made me REALLY disappointed because they looked perfect except for their colour! I also think that rotating the pans, even if you think it’s unnecessary, to ensure an even rise of the foot, because you don’t know if there are hotspots in your oven or not. And the ones on the lower shelf didn’t rise enough because the top macarons were shielding them (do not use a fan assisted oven… so I used top-bottom heat!). Luckily I could practice this a few times because we make such small batches of macarons at a time! It’s a bit fiddly, but it’s worth it, I think. Patience is definitely the key, because I can only cook one tray at a time in the lower third of my oven for (almost?) perfect macarons! So, I put the lower macarons in the top shelf for a few extra minutes, and they then rose spectacularly, but collapsed with an uneven foot as soon as I took them out of the oven and sank unevenly (wish I had a photo of when they immediately came out of the oven!). Perhaps this is also a sign of them not being in the oven for long enough? Here, it says that if the tops don’t move from the feet when nudged, they’re done. I don’t know if they were done or not but I’ll test next time!

The next recipe I decided to try was adapted from Not So Humble Pie, and I think was successful, because I had to make my sugar ratio a little higher:

• 100g egg whites
• 120g almonds
• 200g icing sugar
• 30-35g granulated sugar

Ratios:
• Egg white: 1
• Almonds: 1.2
• Sugar: 2.3-2.35; icing sugar: 2, granulated: 0.3-0.35

I followed the same recipe as for the chocolate macarons, but I whipped the egg whites for longer and don’t think I “knocked” as much air out as previously.

I left them on the side for an hour and still thought that they were slightly “tacky” to touch, but put them in the oven anyway and they came out really well! I did pipe very small shells, as they do spread out a lot more than you think! I did this by drawing a small circle on the underside of the baking parchment with marker pen, using a cork from a wine bottle as the template, and I would make sure that my piped (*ahem* dolloped) macaron batter was within that small circle, so ideally they would all spread out to the same degree. They spread out perfectly and the “feet” were even! For me, the best results for even feet came from baking my macaron shells on the underside of a roasting dish that I have in the lower third of the oven (so that they don’t brown!). The ones on the circular pizza dish I rotated every 5-10 minutes to ensure that they feet were even, yet on the roasting dish I didn’t have to… I think I’ve found my method! 🙂

According to Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings, having to leave the macaron shells on the side to “dry” before being put in the oven is a myth, and that not leaving them to dry works for her (and in Singapore the humidity is 60-100% every day!). I have to say that I’m a little scared of having cracked shells and no feet, and so I always have left them to “dry” before baking them as I’ve had those aforementioned baking disasters before. But it must have been other factors that contributed to those things, but perhaps drying them can be my own macaron ritual! 😉

I think I tried to fool myself into thinking that these were healthy; made with eggs and almonds, and infused with green tea! But then of course there’s the icing sugar in the shell, the granulated sugar in the shell, and the chocolate! I suppose that cream and butter in the ganache are healthy, though, but not the amount of sugar in the buttercreams. 🙂 I would love to try and make paleo macarons someday and see how well they come out!

Anyway, onto the recipe! I tried to be all posh and that by putting the name in French, as if they were part of my own pâtisserie shop (one can dream, can’t they?), but I came up with all sorts of combinations for names in French… I’m not sure which is correct, and I should probably ask Ed (especially seeing as I took some all the way up to Aberdeen when I saw him there!):

• Macarons à la thé vert avec ganache au chocolat noir ou de la crème au beurre de haricots rouges et fraise.
• Crème au beurre de haricots rouges et fraise.
• Macarons au thé vert avec ganache au chocolat noir ou crème au beurre aux haricots rouges et fraise.
• Macarons à la thé matcha et crème à la haricots rouges.
• Macarons à la thé matcha et la crème de haricots rouges.
• ???

Macaron Délicat à la Thé Vert
Kung Fu Café and Not So Humble Pie
Makes 8-12 shells (4-6 macarons)

Ingredients
For the matcha shells:
• 43g ground almonds
• 67g icing sugar
• 1 tbsp matcha
• 35g egg whites
• 15g granulated sugar

For the dark chocolate ganache:
• 100g dark chocolate
• 100g double cream
• 35g butter

To decorate:
• cocoa powder
• matcha
• sencha leaves
• cocoa powder or matcha “paint”

Preparation
For the macaron shells:
Add a splash of lemon juice to a very clean bowl together with the egg whites. Whisk for about 30-60 seconds until very frothy. Sprinkle in the granulated sugar, and continue to whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (the kind where you can hold the bowl upside down over your head!).

Then sieve in the icing sugar, matcha and ground almonds together over the egg white peaks. Now, this is the part some people refer to as “macaronage” (i.e. macaron-ing). Use a wooden spoon or pastry scraper to knock the air out of the batter. Use the spoon to scoop the batter around the outer edges of the interior of the bowl and then almost scrape the batter down the middle of the bowl in a zig-zag pattern until the final consistency is similar to that of magma. A useful video to watch can be found here.

A test to see if the batter is of the appropriate magma-like consistency is to take a clean plate, and dollop a spoonful in the middle. If the peak slowly disappears into itself, then the batter is ready. If it’s still visible after about 30 seconds or so, then it needs some more air knocking out! If the batter is too runny, then you’ve over mixed!

Prepare a heavy-duty baking sheet with baking parchment. Spoon the batter into your piping bag (or icing syringe, etc.), and dollop macarons onto the parchment paper, leaving at least an inch worth of space between each shell. This depends entirely on how large you want your macarons.

Bash the tray on the surface of the worktop 4 times, rotating each time. This forces air bubbles in the macaron batter to rise to the top. Use a toothpick to pop any large ones. Leave the macarons on the side for an hour to air dry, so that they’re not sticky or tacky to a light touch.

Preheat the oven to 155◦C, ensuring that you do not use fan assist. Pop the tray into the lower third of the oven for 16-18 minutes.

Leave to cool completely before peeling the shells off the parchment.

For the dark chocolate ganache:
Melt the butter and chocolate over a very low heat until melted and combined. Remove from the heat, pour in the cream, homogenise well and pop in the fridge until thick enough to pipe. Before piping, leave the bowl out of the fridge for a while to bring the ganache up to room temperature.

Assembly:
Fill an icing syringe or piping bag with the ganache, and pipe some around a macaron shell leaving about a mm of edge, working your way into the centre. Then, very gently pop the other macaron shell on top, and press VERY lightly to make the ganache pop out and spread to the edges of the shell but no farther, and so that there’s a smooth, unblemished edge around the ganache. Be very careful not to crack and break the shells with your fingers.

Pop in the fridge for anywhere between 2-5 days before taking out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before devouring. 😀

Shells baked: 16.03.2014
Shells filled: 17.03.2014

Du Pain et des Idées
34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France
Website

Jacques Genin, Fondeur en Chocolat
133 Rue de Turenne, 75003, Paris, France
Website

Ladurée
21 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

L’Avant Comptoir
3 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006 Paris, France
Website

Liberté
39 Rue des Vinaigriers, 75010, Paris, France
Website

Pierre Hermé
72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

Sadaharu Aoki
35 Rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris, France
Website

References
[1] Uncovering the secrets of tea, Chemistry World, January 2013, Page 31.
[2] Disler, P. B., Lynch, S. R., Charlton, R. W., Torrance, J. D., Bothwell, T. H., Walker, R. B. & Mayet, F. (1975) ‘The effect of tea on iron absorption’. Gut, 16 (3). pp 193-200.

Three-Tier Chocolate Oreo Cake | Birthday Celebrations

Last weekend was the birthday of a good Crossfit friend and training buddy. She’s famous for her Oreo cheesecake, so of course, the best way to celebrate was with an Oreo cake! 🙂

One of her good friends arranged a meal out at one of her favourite places. I said I’d make a cake, and got to it. She ended up with two cakes, because her friend was concerned that mine may not be big enough to feed all of the people at the meal, but it was THAT BIG that it did!

Geraint said that it was the best cake he ever had (yep, I had permission to put this on my blog as a direct quote 🙂 ), so if you’re looking for a good party cake that’ll go down well with everyone (I mean, who doesn’t like Oreos?), then here’s the cake!

However, I was faced with a predicament. How can I get photos of the inside of the cake without cutting the cake? I can’t give my friend a cake with a massive slice missing! Plus, my brother, Tim, was desperate for some. So of course, I made TWO cakes!

I was going to make two two-tier cakes, but I wasn’t happy with the first batch of chocolate cakes I baked (maybe I didn’t mix the batter well enough and assume that there was still sugar in the bottom, so it seemed that the cake didn’t cook for long enough). But then after making the other two batches of cakes successfully, I put the first batch back in the oven to soak up the residual heat, and they seemed ok. And hence, I had two three-tier cakes! One of which I covered in white frosting (I do like contrast; usually with a white cake one expects the cake inside to be light, I suppose), and the other turned grey because of the Oreo crumbs I mixed in (it tasted amazingly but it looked like plaster or wallpaper paste!).

So my plan was to give a cake away to my friend for her birthday, and to have the other cake to give to various other people. But I ate so many Oreos whilst baking these cakes and got through spoonfuls of the frosting. If I could just eat a slice and be done with it, great, but I eat most of the cake in its raw and deconstructed form! Damnit!

I didn’t really have big hopes for this cake, but it was so soft and moist, and I put that down to the copious amount of sugar and the hot water. Just make sure that you put the hot water in last, because it’s just easier to make sure it’s all mixed that way and then you get great cakes from the oven. Last week I made the cake in Ed’s flat with his very retro oven, and the cake just didn’t work. Although I blame his oven for that (because I’ve had the same issues when baking cakes when I was there in February; it would cook the outside so quickly but the inside would remain raw…)! Ok, so they say that a bad workman always blames his tools, but this is such an essential tool!

So I ended up eating about half of the cake with my brother and I, gave some to someone at Crossfit, to my parents, to my four work colleagues, and a load to Ed when I went to Aberdeen for the Unconventional Gas conference. Everyone said it was great, and I agree; it was a tasty cake! The cake on its own was nice, but combined with the Oreo cream in the middle and the frosting on the outside was great. Definitely make sure you put cream in the middle, rather than frosting; it adds a completely different dimension and all of the all of the flavours just meld together.

A lot of people also asked me how I made it, to which I replied that it’s full of sugar! Everyone then referenced the BCC Horizon documentary that says that the most palatable combination is half sugar and half fat, and that’s how we get fat. No wonder the frosting tastes so good! It’s literally butter and sugar! This is just the visual representation of diabetes. Seriously. But I want to watch the programme myself; I presume there’s lot of pseudo-science going on in there, especially if their whole programme is only based on observations of twins eating stuff, then generalising it to a whole population. But anyway, I’ve not seen it yet, but hope to at some point!

The restaurant we went to was really nice. It’s South American food, so all of my favourites. Tim ordered a burrito and I ordered a spinach curry as it sounded a little different from the things I’d usually order. But of course, Tim and I remain disappointed, as we usually do, with food when we eat it. It’s so overpriced for what it is. I felt so sorry for poor Tim, because he was so looking forward to his beef-stuffed Burrito, but he was so disappointed and actually angered by the burrito. Lol.

Anyway, this is definitely a cake I will make again in the future. It’s absolutely delicious, and the Oreo tastes definitely comes through. And one thing I have noticed, is that when I post food on Facebook, people usually comment, and tell me in person that it looks great, which is lovely.

Two-Tier Chocolate Oreo Cake
Two Tiny Kitchens, AllRecipes, and BBC Good Food
Makes 2 x 20 cm cakes

Ingredients
For the cake; 2 x 20 cm cakes:
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 ¾ cups plain flour
• ¾ cup cocoa powder
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 ½ tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 x eggs
• ½ cup groundnut/peanut oil
• 2 tsp vanilla essence/extract
• 1 cup boiling water
• Oreos

For the filling; three-tier cake (two-tier cake):
• 284 ml double cream (190 ml double cream)
• 1 tbsp icing sugar (1 tbsp icing sugar)
• 4 tbsp Oreo crumbs (3 tbsp Oreo crumbs)
• 1 tsp vanilla (1 tsp vanilla)

For the icing/frosting; three-tier cake (two-tier cake):
• 1 ½ cups (172.5g) butter (1 cup butter)
• 8 cups icing sugar (5-6 cups icing sugar)
• ⅔ cup milk (⅓ cup milk)
• 2 tsp vanilla (1 tsp vanilla)

To decorate:
• Oreos!

Preparation
For the cake:
Separate a pack of Oreos. Put the Oreos with the vanilla filling still attached in the bottom of two silicon cake moulds or pre-lined baking tins, filling side up. Reserve the other side of the Oreo.

Preheat oven to 175°C.

Sieve the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt.

Then mix in the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix well until homogenised.

Then add in the hot water (make sure you mix all of the other ingredients first before adding the hot water, because it’s more difficult to mix and you’ll end up with a weirdly textured cake). Mix well until 100% homogenised. The batter will be very thin and runny.

In the meantime, use a food processor to grind the leftover Oreo shells into Oreo dust (it looks like dirt!). Or you could pop them in a resealable plastic bag, and bash them with a rolling pin until they’re crumb-like (just don’t split the bag!).

Pour the batter into the baking tins/moulds, and bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins/moulds.

For the filling:
Empty the cream into a bowl, and whip using an electric mixer/food processor/beater until thick. Add the vanilla, Oreo crumbs and icing sugar, and whip until combined.

For the frosting:
Just before you want to assemble and frost the cakes: sieve the icing sugar in a bowl and add in the milk. Mix until combined. Then melt the butter in a large Pyrex bowl in any residual heat in the oven (or you can turn the oven back on, or do it over the hob). Then add the vanilla and mix well until combined. Leave to return to a consistency that’s easy to handle/use.

Assembly:
When the cakes have cooled, remove from the mould/tin, and put it on a plate. Use the frosting to make a ring around the top of the cake (this is a sort of barried for the filling). Then spread the filling all over the top, and then gently place the other cake ontop. Then cover the whole cake in the frosting, and decorate as desired with Oreos, cookie crumbs, etc.

Enjoy with friends and a huge glass of whole milk. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Baked: 20.03.2014
Iced: 21.03.2014
Enjoyed: 22.03.2014

Merry Christmas from Kung Fu Café! | Sweet Potato Truffles & Coconut Chocolate Ganache

Here’s to seeing the end of 2013 with loved ones and continuing the good fight by achieving many more goals in 2014. Merry Christmas everyone!

This year has been an amazing year full of personal growth and lessons learnt. I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings and whatever happens, if I continue to improve as I have been in 2013, then I’ll be stronger because of it. 🙂

These photos are the first photos I’ve taken with a background! I decided to give it a go as it was Christmas, and I absolutely love Christmas themed food photos! Not only was it a nice and simple challenge for me (i.e my first use of a background, albeit simple!), it captured what I love most about Christmas; preparing food especially for loved ones (although the meal was my mum’s, not mine!) and being grateful for everything.

My parent’s house is absolutely perfect for shooting photos; the kitchen is so rustic, the living room is very grand with pine furniture, dark leather sofas and a roaring fire, and the whole house is just absolutely bathed in light – there are windows everywhere! I love this place so much, and really don’t want my parents to scale down and sell it! I’ll buy it from them for my photography practice (for a greatly reduced price, of course 😉 ).

Anyway, as you can see, these photos are of my Christmas dinner just before devouring it. So I’m very pleased with how these photos came out providing that it was a few quick snaps (although I did prepare the setting and gold reflector, candle and regular old orange lamp before dinner was served. I really like how the Christmas lights, candle and Bucks Fizz came are out of focus and the dinner looks so perfect. We didn’t eat around this table (hence why I could set up all of my photography stuff there!), but the meal was certainly as delicious as it looked! Thanks mum! 🙂

And for dessert, we had a friend’s Christmas pudding! She makes and sells them every year, not giving out her recipe, and packaging them in beautiful red crepe paper, plastic and gold string. This is where I got the inspiration for making my own paleo Christmas puddings! These ones are definitely different to conventional Christmas puddings in that they’re more moist and fruity. I think you can see how moist they are in my photos, and they’re slightly lighter in colour than regular puddings. But they were absolutely delicious! Today we had my Christmas puddings. 🙂

So, as well as making my own Christmas puddings, I’ve also been making paleo mince pies! The crust/pastry is made from a recipe I’ve adapted a little and is made from almond flour, egg and oil, and the middle is my own mincemeat creation that includes fruits soaked overnight in brandy and all sorts of Christmas flavours. Someone ordered 20 mince pies from me (without the tops; someone who ordered 12 mince pies from me said a mince pie isn’t complete without a top; differing opinions I suppose!) and tried to call me on Christmas eve to thank me and tell me that the pies were “unbelievable!” That definitely made it all worthwhile! I don’t make a massive profit from the foods I make, and if I’m going to go into business with this, I think it’s worth playing around with prices to see what is the biggest profit I can make without taking advantage of my customers; but the mince pies I only just scrape myself into a profit margin with the price I’m selling them for. Mince pies are so cheap in the supermarkets, but it’s so timely to make them by hand (pressing the pastry into the moulds, and forming the lids, too, not to mention making the mincemeat in advance). But I suppose that these mince pies would be more expensive as they’re homemade and are also gluten free, too!

You can also see in the photos below that the texture of the mince pie crusts are different, and I think that’s dependent on the coarseness of the almond flour I use, and also how much I pack the dough into the moulds. In some ways I like the large pies with a smoother crust, and having a bulging top means you can put more filling in the middle. But at the same time, I quite like having flat tops because you can stack them more easily.

Anywho, the recipe below is for sweet potato truffles/balls. I absolutely love these and they’re perfect for the Christmas season! I think they’re great for a healthier treat, especially if the ball is left plain or perhaps covered with nuts. And even if they’re covered in cocoa powder and chocolate ganache, at least they’re made with healthier and more natural ingredients, rather than all of these additives formed in a lab!

I think a large ball would be a great post-workout snack, as they’re chocked full of carbs like sweet potato, and fat like almonds. The photo below is a ball covered in cocoa powder, and it looks just like the MCCs (modified calcium carbonates) I work with! You can see an SEM (scanning electron micrograph) of an MCC grade in the left picture below. Of course, the MCCs and sweet potato balls are on a completely different size scale. 🙂

I made these relatively large. They were fairly small when plain, but after adding and rolling them in different things, they plumped up in size. I rolled them in currants, desiccated coconut, dried goji berries, crushed pistachio nuts, cocoa powder and hemp seeds. Some I even rolled in this delicious chocolate-coconut ganache (which I thoroughly recommend serving with any dessert!).



I think these would be great for parties, lunch boxes, snacks, post-workouts, as a breakfast on the go, a snack before bed… any time, really!

I would love to make these again, but a little smaller, and all covered in chocolate ganache. These would be great on any party table, especially around Christmas, as they just have so many Christmas-y flavours and tastes… not to mention colours! They’re perfect to give as gifts, too, especially if presented in a nice box with a ribbon. 🙂

Maybe these could even be made into some sort of cake/patty as a starter, but with apple incorporated into the mix instead of dates? Some experimenting is afoot!

It’s not necessary to blend the ingredients; you could just mash them. The dates would be better blended, but of course you could omit the dates (if sweetness isn’t your thing) and perhaps replace them with more sweet potato or oats or something. I would also love to stuff these with melted peanut butter! Now THAT would be amazing!


Boxing day WOD:
Leftovers for time! 🙂

Sweet Potato Truffles
Adapted from: Nutrition Stripped
Makes 24 truffles

Ingredients
For the truffles:
• 4 x small sweet potatoes
• 1 x cup of almond flour
• ¾ cup of rolled oats (or coconut flour)
• 1 cup dates or dried fruit
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• ½ tsp nutmeg
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• pinch of salt

For garnishing:
• *nothing*
• dried currants
• cocoa powder
• desiccated coconut
• dried goji berries
• crushed pistachio nuts
• raw shelled hemp seeds

For the chocolate ganache (makes how much?):
• ¼ cup cocoa powder
• ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
• 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey

Preparation
For the truffles:
Put the sweet potatoes, whole, in the oven at 175°C for an hour, or until they’re soft when inserting a knife in the centre. Leave to cool.

When cool, peel off the skins off (keep the skins to pop in the oven for a primal-style pizza!) pop them with the rest of the ingredients into a large food processor, and process until smooth.

I only had a small processor, so I processed the oats until they became flour, the dried fruit until it turned mushy, and mashed the insides of the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Then I homogenised by hand; it took a little longer but everything came together into a dough in the end.

Roll these balls out into as many truffles as you desire! 🙂 I rolled them out into sizes about ¼ the size of the palm of my hand, and got 24. I could happily eat one in a large bit, or in two more moderate bites 🙂

For garnishing:
Roll each truffle into your chosen garnish, ensuring that you don’t smush the shape of the balls with your hand!

You could incorporate the cocoa powder into the actual ball itself to make it entirely chocolate.

For the chocolate ganache:
Melt the coconut oil over the hob (VERY gently) and take off of the heat. Add the maple syrup and cocoa powder, and stir to create a sauce. Add more coconut oil to make the sauce thinner, less coconut oil/more syrup and cocoa powder will make it thicker. I like mine thick! Let the sauce cool a little.

Roll each truffle into the chocolate ganache, or drizzle on top, and pop on non-stick baking paper. Store and cool in the fridge. Serve on a cool day (or immediately from the fridge) to ensure that the ganache will remain hard (otherwise the coconut oil will melt!). At this time of year in the UK, there will be no problems with ensuring that it remains cool!

Store in the fridge in an air tight container.

All baked in my lovely kitchen: 22.11.2013

Rave at the Box (any excuse to bake!) | Quadruple of Primal Treats

Menu du jour:
1. Banana & nut brownies
2. Coconut brownies
3. Honey, lemon & almond cookies
4. Chocolate & pistachio biscotti

What a week and what a crazy weekend! Where do I start?

Firstly, I should probably apologise for a very photo heavy post. But these brownies are just so damn photogenic. I love the colours of these banana brownies in particular, and the fact that they’re a little thicker/taller than the coconut ones (although the coconut brownies are a little gooey-er) makes them slightly easier to shoot.

I also tried a slightly different set up when taking these photos; I put my white boards on a coffee table so I could get differently angled shots easier than before, and it seemed to work! I took the Friday afternoon off because a) I was being incredibly unproductive that afternoon and all of the labs were packed, and instrumentation I needed was in use, and b) it was sunny and so I wanted to make the most of the light (as it had been dark and raining all week!). Although, it did get too sunny that afternoon (too sunny?! Yes!) and the direct sunlight made the shadows too harsh! Can’t win, eh? But I managed to get around it. 🙂 (I have posted a photo of my set up, but please excuse the cables; I was testing my internet connections and there usually aren’t that many!)

So anyway, onto the food!

Although these treats are technically primal (paleo for the most part), they’re still concentrated (i.e. too many nuts, lots of honey, maple syrup, dried fruits, etc.), and so they’re still only a treat. I need to keep reminding myself of this; I swear there were twice as many of these treats before I took them to the party at CFP, but I just ate most of them in the space of two days. I tried my hardest to resist, but I just couldn’t. I would have eaten them all if it wasn’t for the potential shame of turning up with an empty box and broken promises!

Of course you can alter the sweetness with the amount of honey/maple syrup you add, and as well as the squidgy-ness with the amount of sweet potato and flour. Also, the more things you add, the less squidgy they will be (hence why the coconut brownies look a lot moister than the banana ones!).

These also go superbly well with coconut cream! How do you make coconut cream, you ask? Just open a tin of coconut milk, mix well, put in a mason jar and pop into the fridge overnight, et voilà‎! Coconut cream! It’s light to taste and so delicious! Although these brownies are moist enough to enjoy without anything else. 🙂

Just make sure that the brownies are cold before you cut them, otherwise they’ll crumble a bit too much! Although if you’re like me and put a million different things in them, it’s always going to be difficult to cut a clean slice every time.

And don’t get rid of your sweet potato skins! They make excellent pizza bases! Just put on some toppings and pop them in the oven. 🙂 I would love to try and make these with avocado or beetroot. I would also like to try these with oats, too. I’ve used black beans in brownies, and they came out really well, although a little drier. I think my next test will be to try them with mung beans as they’re a little bit mushier in texture and may make for a softer brownie. We will see and I will post the results at some point! If they come out well, I may well try and scale it up to make it in to a cake for my brother’s birthday. He’s into health foods and getting as much protein as possible. Beans have a lot, so I’ll make it into a protein cake! I could even add protein powder and peanut butter, but I think adding a large chunk of meat will be taking things a bit too far…

The honey almond cookies were supposed to be biscotti, but I think I accidentally put in twice the amount of honey and syrup, as well as too much baking powder! So when I popped the batter (yes, batter, not dough!) on a baking sheet, I thought that it was too runny, but it sort of kept its shape. And when I had baked it for the first time, it was as flat as a pancake (and just about spilling over the edges, too!). It still tasted really nicely though, and would have been a shame to have got rid of those lovely ingredients. So I scooped the batter back up, made them into cookie shapes, and baked them again. And ta daaaa! Saved biscotti turned biscuits!

I’ve never even been a big fan of biscotti. They definitely have nice feelings and associations… when else do you have biscotti other than with tea or coffee? And tea and coffee means either a break, time to relax, or good old ramblings and nattering with someone special. Or that first cup of tea in the morning… that’s to die for! Anyway, getting off topic… the photographs on the other blogs made the biscotti look SO divine, so I thought I would give it a go! But one thing that puts me off of biscotti is that they are SUPER crunchy! I like crunchy things, but sometimes they’re too hard… maybe I’ve just had bad biscotti in the past? But either way, the ones I baked weren’t hard at all – they were still quite soft and fairly chewy with a really nice taste! More like soft biscuits/cookies than hard biscotti and remind me of Roman sweets. 🙂

The brownies are definitely my sort of thing though! Especially the banana ones, as I love banana! But then again, the coconut ones were so chocolately and moist, so I liked those, too. I did have a lot of complements the night that I took them to the rave at the box! And even afterwards, on Facebook, someone posted that they only remembered having little brownies/cakes that tasted delicious. I’m glad they went down so well! I’ve even had several people ask me for recipes, and so, here they are! Today, someone from the box even posted photos of this sweet potato pie that they had made, but added pumpkin in, too, and served it with Swedish glacé (dairy free ice cream)… and it looked so good!

It turns out that I have inspired quite a few people to cook more things and eat more paleolithically, and I’m always really pleased to hear such feedback. And not even regarding food and nutrition, but I’ve recently had feedback about how I inspire some people down at the box with their training and various other things. It really touches me every time I hear something like that, and really makes me feel great, as though my work on this planet is helping me to fulfil what I set out to do. If I can inspire people to try new things and push harder in order to try and better themselves in some way, then I am very happy, indeed. 🙂 That’s what I believe we’re all here for, and I believe that’s what optimises the human experience!

Earlier that day we had a “leaving WOD,” beautifully crafted and it was a partner WOD, too, which are always fun. The atmosphere was epic! I was with Emily and we kicked butt! The WOD was as follows:
Cash in: kettlebell handwalk in plank position in pairs (using 3 KBs)
WOD: 30 partner alternating wall balls 9/6
30 partner alternating pull ups
30 partner alternating sit ups
30 partner synchro skips (1 rope)
30 partner alternating press ups (legs of one partner on another)
30 partner alternating plate complex 20/15
-burpee
-cluster to overhead
-2 x alternating OH lunges
Both partners then stand on a 2.5kg plate for 5 seconds to finish WOD!

The photos from Crossfit are not mine, but nabbed from Facebook. 😀

The photos of the hoodie are also another surprise in the post I received last week from a friend I made at PrimalCon a few weeks ago! It was such a thoughtful gift, and the postcards are of Emerald Bay around Lake Tahoe, as we toured there one evening on a beautiful boat. In return, I have posted a load of English tea to the US! He has tea most probably for life! Although if he drinks it at the rate I do, it certainly won’t be for life! I was very touched by this gift, as it was incredibly thoughtful, and will take place in my heart along with a few other special gestures I’ve received in my lifetime. Thank you. 🙂

Oh, what else? Plymouth Raiders won their basketball match on Sunday night again Durham Wildcats! It was a great match to watch and I’m so glad I was with my favourite people!

I could go on about a lot of different things, but I will stop there, and maybe save it for next time. 😉 Here’s Monday’s WOD!

Monday’s WOD at CFP:
(After-party WOD I think!)
“The Grim Reaper and his gurned up mate”
In pairs with a 40 min timeout:
100-70-40
Push press 35/25
SDHP 35/25
KB swing 24/16
Press ups
Sit ups

Banana & Nut Brownies
Adapted from: Eat Drink Paleo

Ingredients
• 3 x small sweet potatoes
• 2 x large bananas, chopped (+ 1 for decorating!)
• 2 x eggs, beaten
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ~1 cup dried fruit and nuts (I used a mix of walnuts, dried cranberries, dried goji berries, pecans, dried physalis, large raisins, golden raisins and a handful of macadamias!)
• 1 cup of good quality, unsweetened, cocoa powder
• 2 tbsp coconut/almond flour
• 1 heaped tbsp baking powder (gluten free)

Preparation
Put the sweet potatoes, whole, in the oven at 175°C for an hour, or until they’re soft when inserting a knife in the centre. Leave to cool.

When cool, peel off the skin and mash the insides in a large bowl (keep the skins to pop in the oven for a primal-style pizza!). Add the rest of the ingredients (dry ingredients first, followed by the wet ingredients) and mix until well homogenised.

Spread in a baking tin lined with non-stick parchment paper (I used a silicon baking tin; they’re fantastic!) so that they’re 1″ thick. Use the one banana reserved for decoration by chopping it into 25 slices and arranging them on top of the batter. Cook for 25-30 minutes at 185°C, and let cool. Carefully remove the brownies and cut into sizes as big as you like. (In my case it’ll just be one big portion all for me!)

I used a 20 x 20 cm silicon baking tray, but I think a slightly smaller one would have been better for thicker brownies.

Coconut Brownies
Adapted from: Eat Drink Paleo

Ingredients
• 3 x small sweet potatoes
• 2 x eggs, beaten
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ½-1 cup of toasted, flaked coconut
• 1 cup of good quality, unsweetened, cocoa powder
• 2 tbsp coconut/almond flour
• 1 heaped tbsp baking powder (gluten free)
• White chocolate and double cream to decorate

Preparation
Put the sweet potatoes, whole, in the oven at 175°C for an hour, or until they’re soft when inserting a knife in the centre. Leave to cool.

When cool, peel off the skin and mash the insides in a large bowl (keep the skins to pop in the oven for a primal-style pizza!). Add the rest of the ingredients (dry ingredients first, followed by the wet ingredients) and mix until well homogenised.

Spread in a baking tin lined with non-stick parchment paper (I used a silicon baking tin; they’re fantastic!) so that they’re 1″ thick. Cook for 25-30 minutes at 185°C, and let cool. Carefully remove the brownies and cut into sizes as big as you like. (In my case it’ll just be one big portion all for me!)

I used a 20 x 20 cm silicon baking tray, but I think a slightly smaller one would have been better for thicker brownies.

I melted white chocolate (not paleo, I know!) with double cream, spread it across and sprinkled flaked coconut all on top for decoration.

Chocolate & Pistachio Biscotti
Adapted from: Paleo Spirit

Ingredients
• 1 cup almond flour
• ¼ cup coconut flour
• ¼ good quality cocoa powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ¼ tsp salt
• ½ cup maple syrup
• ½ cup pistachios, halved/crushed
• 100 g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until homogenised. The dough should keep its shape when pressed together, otherwise you may have added too much syrup!

Form the dough into one 1″ thick log on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely (about an hour).

Cut into ½” thick slices, place on their side, and put back into a preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Allow to cool before decorating and serving. I covered the biscotti in the white chocolate/double cream glaze I made for the coconut brownies, but it didn’t look as nice as I hoped it would! I think pure, intense white chocolate would have been better, but we live and learn! 🙂

Honey, Lemon & Almond Cookies
Adapted from: Steak, and Sass

Ingredients
• 1 cup almond flour
• ½ cup coconut flour
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ¼ tsp salt
• zest of 1 lemon
• 8 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup maple syrup
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup slivered almonds

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until homogenised. Spread onto a baking tray (with large sides!) lined with baking paper, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely (about an hour).

Scoop the dough up, shape little balls of equal size, and press onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Let cool entirely before serving.

All baked in my lovely kitchen: 24.10.2013

Chocolate Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars

Blog post is here.

Photo: I actually find this book really quite useful; but there’s a lot of material to get through. How do people finish doctoral projects in 3 years?! With the amount of mistakes and wrong turns I’ve made…

I have a love-hate relationship with studying and writing, although I think most people do.

I’m kind of stuck in a weird limbo at the moment. I’m writing and revising from home, because that way I can start early, use cooking and preparing food as a break, and walk around, talk to myself, have limitless cups of tea, and stay in my PJs. I also have my brother to chat to and I just feel more comfortable at home. When I get restless from sitting down all day, I can stretch, walk around and do whatever without looking weird.

Some days I really enjoy writing and being productive, and really get into what I’m learning, and I actually learn for the sake of learning. Whereas other days I just can’t do it.

My productivity is really determined by my emotional state. I don’t mean “if I’m happy I do well, if I’m sad I do badly,” but more a case of mental clarity. I suppose it’s because most days I have to think meticulously about what I’m doing, so when I’m clouded mentally with mind junk (which happens often) I just can’t focus. And doing only a few hours of work a day (whether it’s writing, lab work, planning, revising…) just isn’t enough.

And it’s not just a case of brushing off a bad day; it’s the guilt and worry that comes with wasting a day, which further adds to the mental bog and decreases further productivity.

I’ve been trying to read through the Foundations of Colloid Science, and it’s a good book. I find it clear and interesting. I also am reading through Dani’s thesis, and now I have a better understanding of colloid science and the background of the stuff I (think I) need to know, sometimes I think “hey, I get this, and last week/month/year I didn’t! Maybe I can do this! This doesn’t seem so bad!” And other times, I really worry as to whether I can actually produce anything like that, and worry and guilt start to enter my consciousness. And depending which line of thought dominates my mind will determine my attitude towards the PhD, studying, and sometimes even life.

Last Friday, I only did a few hours revision, and again on Sunday, and as a result, I felt really refreshed yesterday. I have also been getting more sleep too, and that really helps. Although sometimes it does make you resentful when your whole day is dedicated to working – I usually get up earlier so I can pursue my own hobbies, but what’s the use if you feel tired all the time? I tend to go through cycles where I sleep more and do fewer hobbies, and then I sleep less and do more hobbies, which eventually leads to me being quite tired and run down, so I sleep more.

The other day I made some these chocolate oatmeal peanut butter bars as a break, and I really do find cooking, trying things, etc., relaxing. It’s a nice break and makes you immerse your mind into something completely different!

Photo: There’s nothing like reliving Japan days (ahem) by drinking some delicious green tea – very soothing!

I also used to cook a lot of Japanese food when I was younger, which stemmed from a love of martial arts, to Oriental culture, and to the unique language, customs and of course, food! Even the icon for my blog is a little piece of sushi! 🙂

Of course, there are just too many things to do in a lifetime! Not only is there the stuff I do now: science-y stuff, Crossfit-y stuff, and the occasional cooking, but I’d love to learn Spanish, French and continue Japanese, as well as pick the piano up again, play badminton again, and all sort of other sports too long to list here! (That’s another post!)

I used to study a lot of Japanese and its culture, including its history (inspired by video games – how geeky!), and I feel as though I’ve already been there! I “relive” it often 🙂 It’s a dream to go to Japan one day, maybe with someone I feel close to and can have a good time with, not just for a typical “holiday,” but to do all sorts of things. For example, on my life, I’d love to visit Kyoto, Himeji Castle (and others, too!), go on a pilgramage around the island of Shikoku stay in a traditional ryokan and have some kaiseki, climb Mount Fuji, bathe in an onsen, see a Kabuki play, visit lots of cultural sites, Shinto and Buddhist shrines, take all of the JLPT tests, see a Kabuki play, visit the Ninjutsu dojo (my ultimate dream at one point in my life, hehe!), spend time on the lovely beaches in Okinawa (of course, maybe get some Karate training in, too – and visited Crossfit boxes around Japan, of course!)… and stop off at other places like Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines 🙂

One can dream, right?

Wednesday’s WOD:
In teams of 3:
a) 5 mins max ring dips
Rest 3:00
b) 5 mins max HSPUs
Rest 3:00
c) 5 mins max kb swings 24/16
Rest 3:00
d) 100 burpees
100 press ups
100 wall balls

Chocolate Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars
Syrup from: Yummy Recipes
Makes 10-12 bars or 20-24 squares

Ingredients
• 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup coconut oil (no substitutes, this is what gives its creamy texture and flavor)
• 2 cups rolled oats
• 1 ¼ cups milk (and/or) white and dark chocolate
• ¾ cup dried dried fruit and a few glaceed cherries

Preparation
In a milk pan, melt the peanut butter, honey, coconut oil and chocolate over a low heat. Remove from the heat, add in the oats and dried fruit, and stir until combined. Line a 23 x 23 cm pan with baking/non-stick parchment, and then spread the mixture in that. Put in the fridge until hardened. If you want to speed it up, pop into the freezer. Keep in the fridge! 🙂

Macarons au Chocolat

Chocolate macarons are my most favourite macaron. They’re so beautifully rich, and the osmotic-like absorption of the ganache’s flavour from the shell makes them so much more delectable. But they’re also incredibly simple to make… once you’ve got the technique. After I made the macarons for the second time, I knew the recipe and what to do off by heart. It’s not the recipe itself that’s difficult; it’s just keeping an eye on the consistency of the batter (i.e. knowing what to look for), and getting to know your oven!

Perhaps I’ve finally mastered the recipe and got to grips with my oven?! Or perhaps not… just because I’ve made decent looking macarons a couple of times doesn’t mean a thing! Especially as on a more recent attempt, they failed completely.

I ran out of icing sugar, and used desiccated coconut in place of the almonds. When I baked the cookies, they developed no foot at all, and had a completely different texture to regular macaron shells. However, I still sandwiched them with the chocolate ganache and put them forward in the badminton league buffet. I did get compliments though, as they were quite tasty, although nothing like the macaron I was hoping for!

There are many variations of making macarons posted all over the internet; some people try it and have great success, while others try and have little. Sometimes it’s just that the instructions can be quite ambiguous. When a recipe states something along the lines of “now, incorporate the almonds and icing sugar with the egg whites, being sure not to over mix. You know that you’ve over mixed when the batter is dull,” it can mean anything! But for me, the most important part of making macarons was the “macaronage,” which some people use to refer to the part where the almonds and icing sugar are incorporated into the egg whites, and the right amount of air is knocked out of the whites. If the batter is over mixed it will become very runny, and won’t be able to hold its shape when piped. However, if it’s under mixed, you won’t get a perfectly smooth shell and too many air bubbles inside. The piped macaron shells are then left on the worktop for about an hour to air-dry. This helps to create a hard shell, so that when the air inside of the macaron shell expands in the oven, the shell is forced upwards thus creating the “foot” at the bottom. If the shell isn’t tough enough, then it’ll crack and no foot will develop. I have read on a few other blogs that leaving them out to “air-dry” wasn’t a necessity for them, but in my experience, is it a necessity for me!

The following video is a great instructional video on how to make macarons. The part about knocking the air out of the egg whites was what I found the most helpful: if you plop some of your batter onto a plate before baking, and the peak slowly disappears, then you’ve got the perfect batter. It should have a “magma” like consistency. I found that to be a top tip!

I use a roasting tin with parchment paper to bake my macarons, because it doesn’t distort with the heat of the oven, therefore giving lopsided shells. Also, I place the roasting pan on top of a broiler pan in the lower part of my oven. This stops the heat from the bottom of the oven being too harsh on the shells, and also keeps the macarons perfectly at mid/lower-level in my oven! However, I can only bake about a maximum of 12 shells at a time. So macaron baking requires patience!

The temperature at which people bake their macarons is also a hot topic. Too low or too high temperatures result in undesirable consequences, which is why it’s important to “get-to-know” your oven. A further note is that the size of the macaron shell I believe is entirely of your choice, as I’ve seen and bought macarons of varying sizes. Some like them rather large but other prefer them bite-size. Personally, I prefer slightly larger maracons, that require two or three minute bites. But that’s just me. 🙂

And finally, macarons do taste better with time, which probably goes against almost all rules of French pâtisserie! But I suppose that as macarons aren’t pastry, the rules of pastry don’t apply. It takes time for the shells to absorb the flavour of the ganache, which gives them a very soft and flavourful interior. Some people recommend eating them after 2 days, but the ones that I bought from Zürich airport (along with other sources) suggested up to 5 days for maximum flavour. In fact, the blog Not So Humble Pie suggests that if you’re leaning towards either over or under-baking your macarons, go towards over-baking them, because if they’re a little too dry, the moistness from the ganache can help to rectify the issue after a few days of mingling!

A great trouble-shooting guide, as well as other tips and discussions, can be found here.

Macarons au Chocolat
Adapted from: Not So Humble Pie and Kokken 69
Makes 8-10 shells (4-5 macarons)

Ingredients
For the shells:
• lemon juice
• 40g ground almonds
• 57g icing sugar
• 10g cocoa powder (or replace with icing sugar and add some vanilla essence instead)
• 35g egg whites
• 11g granulated sugar

For the ganache: (enough for about 15-20 macarons!)
• 200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
• 200g double cream
• 70g butter, at room temperature

Preparation
For the shells:
Add a splash of lemon juice to a very clean bowl together with the egg whites. Whisk for about 30-60 seconds until very frothy. Sprinkle in the granulated sugar, and continue to whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (the kind where you can hold the bowl upside down over your head!).

Then sieve in the icing sugar, cocoa powder and ground almonds together over the egg white peaks. Now, this is the part some people refer to as “macaronage” (i.e. macaron-ing). Use a wooden spoon or pastry scraper to knock the air out of the batter. Use the spoon to scoop the batter around the outer edges of the interior of the bowl and then almost scrape the batter down the middle of the bowl in a zig-zag pattern until the final consistency is similar to that of magma. A useful video to watch can be found here.

A test to see if the batter is of the appropriate magma-like consistency is to take a clean plate, and dollop a spoonful in the middle. If the peak slowly disappears into itself, then the batter is ready. If it’s still visible after about 30 seconds or so, then it needs some more air knocking out! If the batter is too runny, then you’ve over mixed!

Prepare a heavy-duty baking sheet with baking parchment. Spoon the batter into your piping bag (or icing syringe, etc.), and dollop macarons onto the parchment paper, leaving at least an inch worth of space between each shell. This depends entirely on how large you want your macarons.

Bash the tray on the surface of the worktop 4 times, rotating each time. This forces air bubbles in the macaron batter to rise to the top. Use a toothpick to pop any large ones. Leave the macarons on the side for an hour to air dry, so that they’re not sticky or tacky to a light touch.

Preheat the oven to 155◦C, ensuring that you do not use fan assist. Pop the tray into the lower half of the oven for 16-18 minutes.

Leave to cool completely before peeling the shells off the parchment.

For the ganache:
Melt the chocolate and cream over a low heat in a saucepan; allow to cool to around 50C. Cut up the butter in a bowl, pour over the chocolate sauce, and whip until smooth. Pop into the fridge until thick enough to pipe. Before piping, leave the bowl out of the fridge for a while to bring the ganache up to room temperature.

Assembling the macaron:
Fill an icing syringe or piping bag with the ganache, and dollop a splodge into the centre of a macaron shell; not too much or too little. It takes a little practice to get the right amount, so that when the two shells are sandwiched together, the ganache spreads to the edges of the shell but no farther, and so that there’s a smooth, unblemished edge around the ganache. Pop in the fridge for anywhere between 2-5 days before taking out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before devouring. 🙂

Bon appétit!!

Shells baked: 19.12.2011, shells filled: 20.12.2011.

Macarons

I’ve been dying to try and make some macarons for a long long time now. But before I attempted, I would like to try them first. A few weeks ago, my PhD led me to Switzerland to visit my sponsor company for a couple of days. I was certain that Zurich airport would have macarons… and indeed they did! I ended up purchasing a box of 6 of these fairly expensive Lindt macarons from their “Délice” selection,” while my supervisor bought some Swiss chocolate for his family/friends. So finally, I get to taste Swiss macarons! I’m sure they’re the same as the French ones.

And as a side note, Zurich airport is the best airport I’ve ever been to. The security is such a pleasure to go through. That’s probably because they had security stations for groups of gates, rather than one large security area for loads of people. It made everything to much quicker and relaxed. Also, every time I see the recent Lindt advert on TV with Roger Federer, I think to myself “woo, Switzerland!” I much prefer the normal-TV version to the extended one:

However, I just found it quite funny though when, about two weeks later, my mum went to a supermarket and found mini macarons on sale for a fraction of the price of the Lindt ones… I’ll have to decide if they rival those of Lindt when I get home this weekend!

Now that I have finally tried macarons, I had no excuse to attempt to bake my own. I have to admit, I was terrified that something would go horribly wrong after hearing how difficult they are to get perfect, how you have to become accustomed to your own oven and all of these Swiss and French meringue methods. But I think that my macarons are ok! Sure, they look a little homemade (I think it’s partly to do with using too small a nozzle on my piping bag – so it’s difficult to pipe smooth circle – but then again I still think my batter is too under mixed, after reading this post by Brave Tart).

Light in new place difficult for photography as it only comes from one angle and is so depepdent on the day.

My first attempt at macarons this week were lavender shells. However I think that the batter I used was severely under mixed (due to my fear of over mixing the batter, after hearing dreaded things about that!), as the shells were so thin and crumbly. Although when they were in the oven, I did get excited when I started to see the “feet” developing and even thought to myself “perhaps I’ve got this macaron stuff down!” Of course, I hadn’t. The only good thing about these ones was that they had fairly bump-free tops (most probably as a result of under mixing and the batter being too runny).

The second attempt weren’t too bad. I think that the feet were good! I did get a little impatient though and sandwiched the white chocolate ganache between the banana flavoured shells before it had completely cooled. But they tasted ok and weren’t too bad!

I was quite pleased with the coffee and Nutella macarons I made on my third attempt, but was very disappointed that there seemed to be no feet.

I’m going to attempt one more time this week using a slightly different method I’ve found during my readings of macaron baking. And seeing as it’s nearly 4pm on a Friday afternoon, I only have a few hours of the day left to get cracking…

(Baked) Beignet Biscuits


I was reading a blog post about Café du Monde and decided to visit their website. As a result, I started reading lots of different articles about the New Orleans French Market; definitely a place I’ll have to pass through at some point in my life.

I started reading about Café du Monde and the French Quarter after I found a recipe on TasteSpotting for Beignets. Beignet (ben-yay) is French for pastries made from deep-fried dough. However, the American-style beignet refers to this deep-fried choux pastry that’s finished off with a covering of icing sugar. I would love to have a delicious cup of café au lait with a fluffy beignet in Café du Monde someday, but for a student like myself (who has just spent a fortune on a new DSLR), my own kitchen and homemade concoctions will have to do for now.

I thought these would be brilliant to make as another treat for the buffet that we’re having tonight at the badminton league match, but I didn’t want to fry anything because a) I couldn’t be bothered, and b) I wanted to make a slightly healthier version. I was going to make empanadas, but think I’ll do those for the match next week. So I found a recipe for baked beignets, but mine didn’t seem to rise as well as the original recipe’s seemed to. So I improvised, and they transformed from failed non-fried beignets to some nice soft pillow biscuits with some sweet and aromatic cinnamon glaze. They don’t keep soft for more than about 2 days though, 3 if you’re lucky.


The dough was extremely elastic, soft and easy to handle. I originally made 15 beignets from it, but after realising that they were a little heavy for one person (i.e. because they didn’t rise – had they have been friend goodness they probably would have been too small!), so I cut them in half. I brushed them with the cinnamon syrup and they actually tasted really nice: they’re ever so slightly crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside; great with a cup of a tea or coffee as they have a beautifully lovely faint cinnamon scent. Mmmmm…

Baked Beignet Ciscuits
Source: Sugar Plum Blog
Makes 30

Ingredients
For the beignets:
• 2/3 cups + 2 tbsps (190ml) warm milk
• 7g sachet dried yeast
• 1 x egg
• 2 tbsps butter
• 2 tsps vanilla flavouring
• ½ tsp salt
• 3 ½ cups (600g) flour
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp + 2 tsps olive oil

For the cinnamon glaze:
• 3 heaped tsps sugar
• 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Preparation
Whisk together the warm milk and yeast in the bowl until it turns bubbly and you can hear it crackle. Then, add the egg, sugar, butter, vanilla flavouring and salt, and mix well.

Sieve in the flour and mix until the dough is homogeneous throughout and elastic in texture. Collect the dough into a ball, and cover it with 1 tbsp olive oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for an hour in a warm place.

Take the dough, and roll it out in a large rectangle: about ½ an inch thick. The dough should be nice and easy to handle. Cut them into about 15 squares.

Then brush a baking sheet with 1 tsp olive oil and neatly arrange the squares on the sheet, cover, and leave again for half an hour in a warm place.

Brush the beignets with 2 tsps oil, and bake for 35-40 minutes at 150◦C. Remove them from the oven (make sure they’re cooked throughout), and brush each one with a generous splash of the cinnamon sugar glaze. To make the glaze, put three heaped tbsps of sugar in a bowl, along with 1 tbsp of ground cinnamon. Then add 2 tbsps of boiling water and mix until a syrup is formed.

Then, cut each one in half with a sharp knife, and put the kettle on. 🙂

Enjoy. 🙂

Alfajores | Valentine’s Day Argentinian Style

My boyfriend and I aren’t doing anything special for Valentine’s Day. We were supposed to have celebrated our three year anniversary this time last month, but we never did. However, the opportunity presented itself last week when I came into possession (thanks to my mum!) of some vouchers for an Italian restaurant. So I supposed we have already celebrated Valentine’s Day a little early! As a result, I have only made a pretty little blue giftbox with some homemade goodies for him. He also bought me a cute turtle when he was on the ferry back from France this weekend. Unfortunately, these alfajores weren’t finished by the time I gave Ed the box, so I’ll present him a couple when we next meet, providing that the chocolate has hardened on time!



Chocolate jacuzzi.


My cute little soft turtle.

According to Wikipedia, alfajores are traditionally Arabic, and they’re a long slender cookie, similar to the Italian Bones of the Dead biscotti-type biscuits. However, in Argentina they’re a huge hit, and involve a delicious bite of dulce de leche sandwiched between two cookie biscuits, and then usually covered in chocolate. They’re in every street corner in Argentina, and very commercialised. People would eat them for snacks, and as breakfast, too.



One of the twelve alfajores that I bought home with me to the UK.

I could spend a long long time talking about the deliciousness of these, and of the other foods I sampled in Argentina, but this will have to be for another time. For now, I will speak of only alfajores! They’re quite simple to make, but so delicious to sample!



The ingredients of the alfajor biscuit.


Cutting the biscuits.



Getting ready to pop them in the oven!



Alfajores ready for the dulce de leche filling!



Each only had about half a teaspoon worth of dulce de leche.



Ready for their chocolate coating…



Just look at that chocolate! Talk about calories; altogether I used to about two and a half large bars of chocolate to coat these 23 alfajores!

And there you have it! Alfajores just like those in Argentina! If you decide to make these, please don’t make the mistake I did when making the dulce de leche! And I really hope that you enjoy this little touch of Argentina in your kitchen. 🙂



Can I really wait that long until the chocolate sets…?

Argentinian Chocolate Coated Alfajores
Adapted from: Tea & Cookies and Project Foodie
Makes 20-25 alfajores.

Ingredients
• 215g (1 ½ cups) plain flour
• 115g (¾ cup) cornflour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 135g lightly salted butter
• 130g (½ cup) sugar (I used Hermesetas sweetener)
• 1 egg
• 1 egg yolk
• 2 tsp vanilla essence/flavouring
• approx. 150g of dulce de leche
• 275-300g milk chocolate
• desiccated coconut, to decorate (optional)

Preparation
1. Melt the butter in the microwave in a large mixing bowl. Then add the sugar and cream with a wooden spoon.
2. Sift in the flour, cornflour and baking powder and mix together. Then, beat in the egg, and then the egg yolk.
3. Now, roll the dough into a large ball, place in cling film and whack in the fridge for 2 hours (or one day at the most).
4. Remove the dough: if it’s too hard, leave to stand until it’s manageable enough to work with.
5. Split the dough into portions. Seeing as it’s quite a difficult dough to roll out because it falls apart easily, it’s better to work with smaller portions.
6. Use a rolling pin to roll out one of the portions as thin as possible (about 1/8 of an inch).
7. Preheat the oven to 175◦C.
8. Cut out shapes of your preference. Do this with all of the dough, ensuring that there are an even number!
9. Bake for 5 minutes, and then swap the position of the trays from front to back and top to bottom, and then bake for another 5 minutes.
10. Turn off the oven and leave the alfajores to cool for another 10 minutes in the oven.
11. (Or you could just bake for a total of 10-15 minutes, ensuring that the position of the trays are swapped halfway through).
12. Let the alfajores cool completely before proceeding with the next step.
13. Sandwich the alfajores between approx. ½-1 tsp of dulce de leche.
14. Leave to set in the fridge for a while, as it’ll make the next step easier by preventing the alfajores to slide around its dulce de leche centre.
15. Melt chocolate in your preferred way, either in the microwave ensuring that you mix the chocolate after every 30 seconds in order to stop the bottom from burning, or over a bain-marie.
16. Cover the alfajores in a generous layer of chocolate.
17. Sprinkle with coconut if you so wish.
18. Leave to harden, and then enjoy. Just don’t get addicted!

Tips
When rolling out the dough:
It’s easier to roll it out in small batches, because that way you can ensure an even layer, and also the dough itself can crumble and break easily.

When decorating the alfajores with chocolate:
Lay the alfajores, once coated in chocolate, in a non-stick oven dish, as it’s a lot easier to remove them once the chocolate is dry, and to wash up afterwards!
Be sure not to coat in in too much, otherwise you’ll end up with cracked alfajores when scraping them off of the dish! I learnt this through experience; although I knew at the time my alfajores would be difficult to separate from the dish, I was in a hurry and couldn’t be bothered…I’ve learnt time and time again that one has to be bothered and give plenty of love to the food, to get great tasting and exceptional looking results. What you give to your recipe is what you will get back. 🙂

¡¡Buen Provecho!!



Cracked alfajores. :’-(


These seem to be OK. I love the irregular chocolate ripples; this is where imperfections, as with most things in life, makes for uniqueness and beauty. Though they may have bumps and unsmoothed chocolate, they still taste pretty damn delicious!


Happy Valentine’s Day! 😀