Sunday, 30 December 2012


Ahhh I love holidays and having people around to cook for! In the past few months I have been lucky enough to be given several baking cookbooks, one of them being 'Best of Pierre Herme.' It's a fabulous book full of very challenging recipes, with the greatest challenge being that they are all in French! Tonight I tried out the easiest recipe in the book, and Herme's signature - the ispahan.

Ispahan is a gigantic macaron filled with fresh raspberries, lychees and rose buttercream. This combination of flavours has been recreated in many desserts on restaurant menus and in other cookbooks. One of the other books I receieved, Sweet Studio by Darren Purchese has a dessert with the same flavour profile.

Anyway onto the Ispahan. My high school french came in very handy for this recipe, and combined with my knowledge of macarons, i'm pretty sure I got the recipe right. It tasted amazing and Dad declared it one of my best desserts yet. I did make two fairly big flaws: -
1. My macaron shell on the top cracked. Either because it was undercooked or because my raspberry layer underneath was too uneven.
2. I left the finished dessert under the window whilst Dad pressure sprayed the outside of the house. Who knew our windows were so leaky? The result was a very speckled dessert from the water spray!

Oh well! It just shows i'm not perfect!

So for the recipe. Here is a translated version. It is my translation so I accept no responsibility if I have made mistakes! Having said that it worked for me! There seemed to be a lot of mixture - I ended up making 22 macarons with leftover mixture and filled them with leftover rose buttercream and had extra buttercream left over. I think there was probably enough mixture to make another whole Ispahan!

(translated from Bestof Pierre Hermé)
Serves 6-8.Preparation 90mins. Cooking 60mins

Rose Macaron
250g almond meal
250g icing sugar
6 (180g) egg whites
3g pink food colouring
250g caster sugar
65g water

Italian Meringue
4 (120g) egg whites
250g caster sugar
75g water

Rose PetalButtercream
90g full cream milk
3-4 (70g) egg yolks
45g caster sugar
450g butter, softened at room temperature
4g rose essence
30g rose syrup (eg Monin)
(I didn't have essence & syrup so used 35g rosewater)

To Assemble
200g lychees in syrup
250g fresh raspberries
Fresh rose petals

Rose Macaron
Place almond meal and icing sugar in a food processor andpulse until combined. Sift mixture into a medium-sized bowl.
Add the food colouring into 3 egg whites, add to almond mealmixture and stir to combine.
Place the extra 3 egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer.
You need to ensure the almond paste is bright pink like this, otherwise it will become too pale when the egg whites are added.
In a small saucepan add the caster sugar and water. Heat ona medium heat until it reaches 110 degrees. Turn stand mixer to high to whipegg whites. When the syrup reaches 118 degrees, remove it from the heat andpour onto the whipped egg whites, in a slow, steady stream.
Keep whipping the egg whites until it becomes thick andglossy and reaches approximately 50 degrees.
Add approximately 1/3 egg white mixture to the almond mealpaste. Stir to incorporate and loosen the mixture. Fold in the remainder of theegg whites.
Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a #12 tip*.Line 1-2 trays with non-stick baking paper or a silpat and pipe 2 20cm discs,starting from the centre and working outwards.
The discs resting on the bench.
Leave the discs to sit at room temperature for approximately30 minutes or until a crust has formed. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (160fan-forced). (I baked at 140 degrees because that's what I usually do!)
Place the macaron discs in the oven and bake for 20-25minutes or until cooked. Remove from oven and leave to cool.
*I only have a size 9 tip which worked ok.

Italian Meringue
Place the caster sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bringto a boil, brushing down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush. Letcook until it reaches 118 degrees. Meanwhile place the egg whites in the bowlof a stand mixer and whip until soft peaks form. When the sugar syrup is attemperature, add to egg whites, while the motor is running, in a slow steadystream (as per the macaron recipe). Continue to whisk until mixture is cool.Put aside 175g of the meringue for use later. (The remainder can be used tomake meringues or something else)

Rose PetalButtercream
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl.Place the milk in a small saucepan, bring to the boil then pour over the eggyolk mixture. Whisk to incorporate then pour the mixture back into thesaucepan. Heat on a low heat until mixture reaches 85 degrees (be careful notto let the mixture stick to bottom of the saucepan.) Pour mixture into the bowlof a stand mixer and whip on high to cool mixture. Pour into a bowl and placein the fridge to continue to cool.
Place the butter into the bowl of the stand mixer (don’tworry about cleaning it.) Using the paddle, beat butter until soft and creamy.Pour in cooled crème anglaise mixture (the one you just put in the fridge) andbeat to combine. (If it curdles keep beating!) Using the lowest speed, or by hand, fold through the Italianmeringue and both the rose essence and syrup. Transfer into a piping bags witha #10 tip, ready to use quickly.

To assemble
Cut the lychees into a 2cm dice and let drain in the fridgeovernight (or pat dry well with a paper towel if you forget!) Place one of themacaron discs on a plate with the flat side facing up. Pipe the rosebuttercream over the disc, leaving 3 cm border. Place a row of raspberriesaround the border of the macaron. Next place a ring of lychees inside theraspberries. Repeat two more times, alternating rings of raspberries andlychees until the disc is filled. (you should have 3 rings of raspberries and 3rings of lychees.)
Place the second macaron disc on top, with the flat sidedown.
Decorate the top of the macaron with 3 fresh raspberries and5 rose petals, ‘gluing’ the decorations down with a dab of glucose. 

Don't leave uncovered under a window where it can get wet!!!

Leave in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.

Sarah xx

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

How about a macaron tree?

Pistachio, candy cane, gingerbread and plum pudding flavours.

More macs to come thanks to one of my Christmas presents being Zumbarons!

Sarah xx

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Macaron Showdown: Zumbo Packet Mix vs. Recipe

L) Packet mix R) Recipe
It's no secret that I love everything Zumbo! When I first saw the packet mixes in the supermarket I was a little dubious. Could macarons really work coming from a box? Would people even attempt to make them? Macarons have a stigma associated with them that they are difficult and and unachievable to make. Maybe a packet mix is the answer to make them accessible to everyone? Well I was about to find out!

 I decided to conduct my own little experiment. Make two batches of salted caramel macarons; one from the packet, and one from his recipe book.

The handy kit, complete with piping bags
 So I set off on a macaron baking frenzy. I must say it was lovely having all the ingredients all weighed out! No weighing of egg whites required.

So it all started off fairly simply. Beat one mixture till thick and creamy (pictured above), then add in the sifted almond meal and stir until combined.

Issue #1: piping without a tip results in wonky circles!
Next, place your macaron batter into one of the supplied piping bags and pipe onto paper-lined trays. Leave to dry on the bench then place in the oven.... And this is where it all became pear shaped! 

I don't really have many words to add - the pictures say it all!

Issue #2: The shell when still hot, completely stuck to the baking paper, cook it for 2 minutes more and they were overcooked and crunchy.

Issue #3: Most of the shells cracked.

Issue #4: There is a huge air bubble between the top and bottom of the shell
But I persevered anyway and made the salted caramel filling.  The filling was very easy to prepare and oh-so-delicious!

I scrounged around and found the best, uncracked shells and voila! Here is my result.

Definitely not professional quality!

Most of the macarons appeared overcooked. Even after leaving them in the fridge overnight some of the shells were crunchy ie overcooked. The problem is, when I took the shells out earlier they would not come off the tray. Another thing I noticed was that the shells had a caramel flavouring. I wasn't a huge fan as it smelled and tasted really fake. 

Surprisingly the box says that it makes 15 macarons... well I made 11 and ended up eating a whole lot of cracked shells. Considering I did use the circle template supplied to make the correct sized shells, I assume Zumbo's serving size assumes that you will have many failures along the way.

So what about the recipe? Well not surprisingly it worked very well. Shells were perfect, filling was fairly simple to make. The caramel maison was delicious. However, from the picture below you can see that the recipe caramel buttercream is a lot lighter than the packet mix version. This is a result of much more butter. I'm not sure if I made a mistake somewhere along the line but it definitely was not as caramel-y as the packet mix. Next time I will add less butter to the caramel maison in the recipe. 

Finally the cost. The Zumbo packet mix retails for around $7.50 and I got 11 from it. If you didn't have so many cracked shells You could probably get up to 30. On the other hand it cost me around $10 to make the macarons from the recipe, and this recipe makes 50 macarons. It is much more cost effective to bake from scratch, not to mention the better end product!

So in summary, skip the packet and make them from scratch. It's more cost effective, results in a better macaron and requires a similar skill level. It might take you an extra hour or so due to the extra weighing, and piping all the extra shells but it's well worth it, especially because they freeze so well.

Just make sure you:

1. Sift the almond meal and icing sugar. Discard anything that doesn't sift through. If you skip this step your shells with be lumpy, not smooth.

2. Beat the macaron mixture more than you think you should - it should be loose and easily slide off a spoon. You aren't making a sponge!

3. Leave your macarons on the bench for at least 30mins so they form a skin before placing in the oven. Alternatively use a hairdryer on a low setting to dry the tops.

Sarah xx

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Salted Butter Popcorn Macarons

Back in September I had the amazing opportunity to go to Sydney for almost a week. One of the highlights was visiting Zumbo's dessert train at The Star. I absolutely loved the salted butter popcorn macaron so it didn't take much convincing to make a batch at home. 

The recipe is in Adriano Zumbo's first book - 'Zumbo' although it is probably in his new macaron book too (which I can't wait to get my hands on!) Take note family, that's a big Christmas present hint!

I'd never tried making Zumbo's macarons before as I have my own tried and true recipe, however I did decide to follow his, which to be honest, was very similar to my own! Same process entirely which made things easy. The ratio of ingredients was slightly different. What I did learn through this recipe, however, was a fabulous 'new' way of making the silkiest buttercream you could imagine. I'm definitely now a convert to this method rather than my usual (simpler) way of beating together icing sugar and butter. Zumbo's method is not gritty in the slightest. You do need to be careful that it does not curdle. I thought mine was ruined until I whisked it a little more and it magically reformed itself!

Anyway these beautiful macarons are for all my lovely dietetic friends whom I have had the pleasure of studying with the the last four years. Tomorrow is going to be such a bittersweet day!

Salted Butter Popcorn Macarons
Adapted from the recipe by Adriano Zumbo

Makes 50

100g caster sugar
38g water
75g lightly beaten egg (about 2 small eggs but you need to weigh)
45g egg yolks (save the yolks from when you separate the whites for the shells!)
200g unsalted butter, softened and cubed.
3g salt flakes

1 bag microwave popcorn butter flavoured
extra melted butter for brushing

100 macaron shells - See here for my recipe I won't write the method for the shells below, just make them a neutral colour ie don't dye them.

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and cook until the mixture reaches 121 degrees.

Meanwhile place the egg and yolks in a stand mixer and whisk to combine.

Once the sugar syrup has reached temperature, remove from heat, turn the speed up on the stand mixer and slowly pour the hot sugar onto the egg mixture. Keep beating for approximately one minute or until the mixture reaches 50 degrees.

With the mixer still running, add the butter, one cube at a time, allowing it to fully incorporate. Keep mixing until it looks uniform and thick.

Fold through the salt - don't beat it in or it may curdle the mixture!

Place in the fridge to firm up a bit.

Cook the microwave popcorn according to instructions. Place half the popcorn in a food processor and process well. Either eat the other half of the packet or make popcorn balls!

With a pastry brush, lightly coat each macaron shell in melted butter then sprinkle with the processed popcorn.

Leave the shells to set for about 5-10 minutes depending on room temperature. By the time you have finished sprinkling the last shell, the first on has probably already set!

Place the buttercream in a piping bag and pipe onto half the shells. Sandwich together with an buttercream-free shell and leave in the fridge overnight to allow the flavour and chewiness to develop.

Bring to room temperature before serving.

As with most macarons, these freeze really well!

Sarah xx

Popcorn Balls

Sometimes things just work. Random leftovers come together and bam, you've got a star dish! Well that's what happened these balls. I had random leftover popcorn, I had some cream in the fridge. I also had made some (runny) popcorn ganache that I didn't end up using as a filling for macarons. So what on earth do you do with popcorn ganache? Well should you end up in this predicament, I suggest you make these!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Rainbow Layer Cake

 A few weeks ago I made a rainbow checkerboard cake. Inspired by the pretty colours, I made another rainbow cake for a friend's birthday, however this time it was a layer cake.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

3 Days, 3 Salads

I love spring! Finally there are decent fruits and vegetables back in season. Although I love soup, after six months worth I crave salads.

I'm not one to follow recipes, I prefer to buy food then decide what to cook. Armed with a vegie drawer full of fresh vegetables, I set about to make myself some yummy dinners. Here is the result:

Day 1: Fennel & Orange Salad

 Thinly sliced fennel, orange, goat's cheese, craisins, slivered almonds with a citrus dressing

Day 2: Barbecued Vegetable and Barley Salad with a Lemony Pesto Dressing

Barbecued zucchini, corn & asparagus, blanched broad bean, avocado, feta, pearl barley, lemon juice, pesto.

Day 3: Roast Beetroot Salad

Roast beetroot, chickpeas, baby spinach, feta, za'atar,  pomegranate molasses, verjuice, tahini. 

Sarah xx

P.S. Sorry for the lack of posts recently!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Rainbow Checkerboard Cake

Almost forgot to take a photo!

A week ago it was my colourful, bubbly friend's birthday. So what better to do than make the brightest cake I could?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Zumbo at The Star, Sydney

I finally made it! I have been waiting to try Zumbo's macarons for as long as I knew about them. At The Star, Zumbo goes one step further by having a dessert train! It's awesome! Think sushi train but with dessert ;)

If you're lucky enough to be around from 6-8pm Wednesday to Saturday you can attend 'Sugar Daddy' ie happy hour! During Sugar Daddy pink and white plates are $4, while black plates are $8.

There are two ways you can go about eating the macarons on the dessert train, you can pick a random plate and try and guess the flavours which is a fairly amusing game, or you can go and select a plate from the cabinet. I went for the latter and chose salted butter popcorn, rum & coke, vegemite and pancakes with maple syrup.

Clockwise from back left. Vegemite, salted butter popcorn, rum & coke, pancakes with maple syrup.

I LOVED the salted butter popcorn, as did everyone else who tried it. My second favourite was the vegemite as it was not so sweet. Rum and coke was interesting (in a good way), however I did not really like the pancake one as it was super sweet. Actually in Zumbo's defence I never order pancakes so it was unlikely it was going to be my favourite!

Other macarons available that day included blackened vanilla, salted caramel, malted milk custard crunch, peach iced tea and dark chocolate.

Now I couldn't just sample the macarons so I chose one dessert from the train. It was a splice and it was pretty good, although I preferred the macarons. Most of the desserts that night were chocolate based which isn't really my thing. I think in total there were 5 desserts going around which I thought was a little on the meagre side however it was a Thursday so I guess not super busy.

Of course there are still all the other amazing Zumbo cakes and pastries on offer in addition to soft serve. You can also get takeaway.

All in all I loved it! The shop itself is amazing! It's the closest i'll ever get to Willy Wonka's! In terms of the dessert train I guess it's something fun to do with a group of friends but the selection isn't all that great.

If only there was a Zumbo Patisserie in Melbourne!

Sarah xx

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Zucchini Soup

Last week I spent the week in Sydney at the International Congress of Dietetics. Not only was the conference amazing, Sydney turned on the loveliest weather. I have slight weather envy! Spring is definitely here!

I was dreading coming back to the dodgy Melbourne weather. Thankfully it has been beautiful ever since I got home. Finally the weather is getting warmer, the sun is shining and strawberries are back! Give it a couple more weeks and hopefully eating outdoors will become the norm.

I have been frustrated at the price of fruit and vegetables lately - everything is so expensive! I guess it is due to the fact that we are in between seasons. However a couple of days ago I managed to pick up zucchinis for less than $1/kg. Perhaps an indication that spring vegies are coming in?

Anyway this soup is great. It's based on a recipe by Neil Perry. You don't need to be a fan of zucchinis to enjoy it as it tastes more like the garlic, parmesan and basil that are blended through it. It can be eaten either hot or chilled.

Zucchini Soup
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1kg zucchini, roughly chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small bunch basil
1.5L vegetable stock
50g parmesan cheese
Freshly cracked pepper

In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add zucchini, garlic and basil and saute for 10 minutes or until zucchini is translucent. Add stock and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Add parmesan cheese and stir. Blend soup in a blender/with a stick blender until it is smooth. Liberally add cracked pepper and enjoy!

P.S. This entire recipe is very easily done in a Thermomix. You don't need a different recipe - I'm sure you can figure it out!

Sarah xx

Friday, 31 August 2012

Strawberry Vacherin

Every family has a certain cake that is requested year after year on birthdays. Well for us, it's a strawberry vacherin. Now this is no basic chocolate cake and it is more a dessert rather than an afternoon tea treat. It is, however, very easy to make and very versatile. Above all it tastes delicious!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Giggle and Hoot

I'm sorry that it's been a long time between posts, I do have an excuse. I have been a guinea pig in a dietary study so have had to follow a strict, boring diet for the past 3 weeks. Thankfully I only have one week to go so i'll be back cooking and eating and blogging as usual! You don't want to see what I've been eating recently... ;)

So instead of baking things for me, I baked a birthday cake!

I haven't edited this photo at all, sure I could have photoshopped
all the blemishes out but then I'd be lying about my skill!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Tom Turtle, CBD

Ever stood in front of the ice cream display struggling to decide what flavours to choose? I am such an indecisive person, especially when it comes down to the more important things in life such as choosing ice cream flavours. Luckily there is a place for all you indecisive people out there. It's called Tom Turtle and they serve their ice cream in little cubes, which allows you to try several of their quirky and interesting flavours. It's not cheap, but it's good for the novelty factor.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

More Macarons...

I love baking macarons - they look pretty and the flavour combinations are endless. This weekend I tried a few different flavours in addition to my standards.

I always find it much easier to make a large batch of macs, after all they freeze so well. Given the time that it takes to make them (4 hours start to finish this time!!!), it's definitely worth making a batch.

This time I experimented a little and made four flavours:

Peanut Butter

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Shanghai Round-up

Well another visit to Shanghai is coming to an end. I've been a bit slack with the pictures this time, but I have definitely made up for it in dining out! In the last 18 days, I have managed to have only 4 lunches and 3 dinners at home (well my parent's home.)

So here is a list of my favourite things this time...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The BEST meal of my life! (ie Ultraviolet, Shanghai)

I am in two minds about blogging this experience for it was the best culinary experience of my life and I know that I will not be able to do it justice through words and photos.

The Menu

Ultraviolet is a new restaurant/experience/concept by Paul Pairet, the owner of Mr & Mrs Bund, one of my favourite restaurants. Opening only in May, after 15 years of development and 2 years of delays, Ultraviolet is an entire sensory experience to induce the 'psycho-taste'. Each of the 22 courses ( YES 22 courses), is enhanced by a new atmosphere - think new sounds, smells, lighting even temperature and matched with a suitable beverage be it wine, beer, cider, juice, tea etc. The wait staff were amazing and perfectly choreographed to the second as well as being so friendly and relaxed.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

French Toast

Yesterday I made challah. The only thing better than challah is challah french toast with caramelised cinnamon bananas and raspberries!

Sarah xx

Saturday, 30 June 2012


So i'm not Jewish, nor do I claim to know a lot about Jewish food culture, the one thing I do know is that so many Jewish celebrations revolve around food which is awesome. Challah is eaten every Friday night for Shabbat. It's a delicious, slightly sweet bread, a little like brioche however it contains no butter. The only downside to challah is that it goes stale fairly quickly, which doesn't matter too much because it makes fabulous french toast!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Milo Biscuits

Yes, I am procrastinating AGAIN! Somehow whenever exam time comes around the house gets clean, my room gets tidy and I bake non-stop. Oh well - at least I'm productive!

Anyway given my recent obsession with Milo i have been searching for new ways to eat Milo, rather than simply with a spoon. Although i found several recipes for muffins, cupcakes, cake and biscuits, i decided I'd just play around with my tried and tested cookie recipe and see what happened.

This is the recipe that I use for choc chip/M&M/white choc & macadamia cookies. However, when adding Milo instead of chunky bits it resulted in a fairly crunchy biscuit. I think this is due to the high sugar content of the Milo. Maybe next time I need to reduce the caster sugar. Nonetheless they are tasty but if you like chewy biscuits then I'm afraid this recipe isn't for you.

Milo Biscuits - makes 28 biscuits

125g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 3/4 cups SR flour
3/4 cup Milo

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line 3 trays with greaseproof paper.
Cream butter and sugars until thick and creamy. Add extract and egg and beat until well incorporated.
Add flour and Milo and beat until mixture is homogenous.
Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and place on the trays. Flatten them slightly.
Bake for 12 minutes


Sarah xx

Monday, 25 June 2012

Apple, Pecan and Gingerbread Cake

As much as I love baking it's not often that I make the cake two days in a row. That was the case with this gorgeous cake from the July edition of Delicious Magazine. Honestly it is one of the nicest cakes I've eaten all year combining some of my favourite ingredients: apples, pecan nuts. ginger and cinnamon. How could it go wrong?

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Ganache Chocolate, CBD

A couple of weeks ago my friends and I were complaining that after dinner we never have room for dessert. Fast forward a few weeks and along comes a brilliant plan - dessert BEFORE dinner! Ahh the wonders of being an adult...

Anyway as we were in the city we went to Ganache for no particular reason other than it was 5.30pm on a Saturday and not many other dessert places are open. We ended up getting takeaway so decided on getting virtually one of each and here is what we chose...

Friday, 22 June 2012

Egyptian Lentil Soup

Brrrr! It's a bit chilly in Melbourne at the moment!!! So what better to do than make soup? I have had soup every day this week, whether it be for lunch, dinner or both!

This lentil soup is one that I hadn't made before. I saw it in Feast magazine awhile ago and dog-earred the page. It is a beautiful soup. Before you go thinking 'oh yeah just another lentil soup' this one is different - it has a mound of caramelised onions on the top which impart a beautiful sweetness to the dish. It was so simple to make and definitely something warming to eat at this time of year.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Choc Bit Coconut Slice

This is such a simple recipe and it is delicious! I know there are other variations out there but this is what my Mum used to make when i was a child. I haven't yet met anyone who doesn't love this slice and it is so simple to make that anyone could do it!

The biggest issue with this slice is that it is fairly ugly! Delicious yes, but not too photogenic.

Did I mention how easy this recipe is? Don't believe me? Check this out!

Rococo, St Kilda

On a freezing Melbourne morning my friends and I headed down to St Kilda for brunch. The original plan was Galleon but they were super busy so we ended up over at Rococo.

I don't really have much to say about our meal and the service was average. We started off with coffees which were nice then got the food.

Avocado & fetta on sourdough with 2 poached eggs

Banana and hazelnut bread with mascarpone and strawberries

I know Rococo has a fairly decent reputation and to be honest the food was nice HOWEVER the portions were huge and the food overpriced. I mean $18.50 for avocado & fetta on toast with 2 poached eggs. Really? I would have preferred to pay half the price for half the serve! Another gripe we had was that the top of the menu clearly stated no alterations to menu items. Seriously - this is breakfast, the time where you are allowed to add an extra egg or take off the tomato.

I probably won't be going back in a hurry. I can get nicer food for a cheaper price elsewhere!

Sarah xx