e cooks :: macarons

29 April 2015

Even when I was younger and dating the wrong people, I always knew that there were certain qualities my future husband would have to have - patience, humour, intelligence, loyalty, the list goes on (what? I'm picky.) - but one thing I did not ever consider was a husband who would make macarons. It's not exactly deal-breaker material, but it has caught me by surprise... and all those around him, too. E has always loved cooking, but this is a whole other ball game and he is just crazy enough to enjoy doing it.

This post isn't to give you a recipe for how to make his macarons - that can be found in this book - but more of a "tips & tricks" from someone who has experienced the highs and lows of macaron making. I asked him to list the things that have gone wrong for him in the past and how to solve the problem, and key things that are not necessarily mentioned in the book that he has learnt from other sources.

So, if any of you are as crazy (read = enviably patient and passionate about gourmet cooking & baking) as he is, you might find this interesting, and maybe even helpful.

Maracon making tips & tricks

- Sieve everything for the dry shell mix, to make sure the batter is as smooth as possible.
- Rest the egg whites for the shells for  4 days if possible (in the fridge), 2 days minimum.
- Getting the colouring right will take a bit of trial and error, depending on the brand etc. It's important to get the weight as accurate as possible.
- When whipping the meringue with an electric mixer, make sure to whip on low speed while adding the sugar syrup so the syrup stays warm for longer and makes meringue firmer.
- When folding in the meringue to make the shell batter, make sure to get the perfect consistency (overmix - too runny, undermix - too stiff). When you get a spoonful and raise the spoon, the mixture should drop in a ribbon (not in lumps) but shouldn't be too liquid-y.
- Use a template under baking sheet when piping the shells, to make sure the sizes are all equal. Keep the nozzle straight while piping!
- Once you've piped, tap the baking sheet 3 times quite strongly, to make sure any air comes out. 
- Very important step, is to leave the piped shells to dry. If the air is dry, 30-45mins, if it's humid, 1h30mins to 2 hours. 
- How to tell if it's dried enough: the surface will look matte, and you should be able to run your finger over it and not drag the mixture.
- Every oven is different (E uses an oven thermometer), but on average, the baking of the shells should be at about 160C for 12 minutes.
- To check if they're baked: they should be firm at the "feet" of the shell when pressed down gently.
- Press down the centre of the shell to make a dip, allowing for more filling.
- Wait at least 24h (or even better, 48h) before eating, always at room temperature. They also freeze very well.


26 April 2015

If you're even a little bit of a foodie in London, no doubt you've heard of Bone Daddies' new(ish) popup, Shackfuyu. And you've most likely seen many of these on your social media feed, if you're that way inclined.

That would be their iconic Kinako French Toast with Matcha Soft Serve, but let's back up.

Remember when our blog/instagram followers-turned-friends group went to Morada Asador, and how that was supposed to be Shackfuyu but they had a flooding emergency? Well, we vowed to try Round Two, and this time there were no plumbing issues. There were 9 of us (Honey, Emma, VA, Jesse, Tamsin, Alex, Thach & my husband E), hungry and ready to test this hotspot for ourselves. 

First up, cocktails. I tried the Ringo Starr (gin, sake & apple juice - ringo in Japanese means apple, hence the name), which was my kind of drink - not too sweet, refreshing and light.

And then we ordered nearly the entire menu. Not that hard to do, as it's not huge, but very varied nonetheless. We chose:

Yellowtail Sashimi Tostada - avocado shiso
Aubergine - 4 miso - bubu arare
Prawn Toast masquerading as Okonomiyaki
Fried Potatoes - Japanese curry sauce
USDA Beef Picanha
Hot Stone Rice - goma tare - chilli - beef
Mentaiko Mac & Cheese - bacon - cock scratchings

Although I actually liked everything (there were mixed opinions about the mac & cheese around the table, but I personally enjoyed it a lot), the highlights for me were the beef (a must!), the prawn toast okonomiyaki, and the aubergine. They describe their food as current Japanese street food trends with a twist, which I think is a good way to put it - they all had a distinctive Japanese flair, but with an element of the unexpected.Every dish was unique and flavourful, and the portions weren't too bad either. We ordered 2 each of most dishes and that was enough for 9 people, just about.

Well, we did have to save plenty of room for dessert...

The Kinako French Toast is a bit of an icon now, and rightly so. They have got this so right. Kinako is a powder made out of soybeans, that is commonly used in Japan for traditional sweets and desserts. This goes perfectly well with the french toast, which is crispy on the outside, and fluffy yet moist on the inside. Spot on. As for the matcha soft serve, they actually had a little hiccup with their machine, which meant that we waited a while for our desserts to be completed. They gave us 7 free desserts and a massive cup of soft serve each (on top of the dessert!) to compensate, so we quickly forgot all about it in our sugar comas.

Honestly, this place is worth visiting for the dessert alone.

Would I recommend Shackfuyu? Absolutely. Grab a bunch of friends so you can try a bit of everything - or just go as a pair and stuff yourself silly.

14a Old Compton Street
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bruges :: the belfry tower & market square

23 April 2015

So, where did I leave off... I think we were about to climb 366 steps. You know when you see those signs in London tube stations, giving you the option of climbing x number of steps instead of waiting for the lift, and you think you're so fit and young that it's really no biggie and it starts off just fine. And then 3/4 of the way through, you're wondering if you've entered a parallel universe where the stairs are never-ending and it's some kind of trippy joke? Well, it was sort of like that, except with a bit of a Indiana Jones vibe mixed in - the staircase was incredibly narrow and perilous.

Neverthess, the Belfort one of the most iconic buildings in Bruges and is 83 metres high, promising to reward you with a panoramic view of the city after your little workout. The bells of the tower are also impressive - since the 16th century, they've had a carillon (a hand keyboard) to play the bells, which explains why we heard tunes such as the Beethoven Od to Joy whilst walking around town!

We managed to reach the top of the tower without breaking any limbs, and although the entire (small) area at the top where you can look out at the view is netted for safety, it was a stunning scene nonetheless and not a problem for taking photos. It was very windy up there though - not somewhere we wanted to lounge around in (and after reading that the tower leans 1 metre to the East, definitely not), but definitely worth the climb.

The Belfort is just one of the architectural gems surrounding the famous Markt (Market Square) of Bruges. It's a busy square, always bustling with people, and lined with caf├ęs and restaurants that are probably tourist traps, but are perfect for people watching. On Wednesday mornings, they have an open market with produce, meat, snacks and sweets, which we were lucky enough to be there for. There were locals and visitors alike, and I'm slightly regretting not trying the chicken they were selling - they looked delicious and seemed very popular.

Just a little street down from this main square, there is another smaller one, Burg Square. It's quieter, but beautiful and charming, and it's where you'll find the Town Hall, Bishop's Palace and the Holy Basilica. It also looked like a popular place for horse carriages to catch tourists, though we mainly used this square for one thing. To eat the best waffles we'd ever had.

But that's coming next time - the foodie highlights of the trip, all rolled into one, hunger-inducing post!