Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Baking Adventures: Zumbo Macarons

Its been at least two years since I last made macarons, but this time I had the handy help of Zumbo packet mix which a friend so kindly gifted me.

Now I've always maintained that the beauty of macarons is partly due to the huge amount of skill required to absolutely perfect the art of making them. So much effort goes into making such a tiny little morsel and also such premium ingredients. Firstly you have the stability of the meringue to deal with, then consistency of the mixtures to ensure you crunchy but not dry shells which do not have hollows, have perfect 'feet', are not burnt or overworked and then a filling that complements that with all the flavours balancing perfectly. My first disclaimer is that having a packet mix really to me only assisted in saving time from having to separate egg whites and measure out ingredients. Ultimately a lot of love and time is required!

Anyway, I took a lot of photos along the way so you could see how they turned out:
You get three packets - one for the meringue (essentially powdered egg whites), almond meal mix and then the filling mix. The fourth item (bottom right) is two piping bags and the circle template.

I started by marking out my circle template on my baking paper. I've actually kept this template because its uber useful and cute! The outer ring is the exact spacing required between your circles so its really easy to use.

This was my final mix in the piping bag - I knew that my meringue mix wasn't stiff enough so I worked it for a lot longer than the directions implied. And then when I put my almond meal mix in, I knew not to overwork it so I didn't complete the last step. That said, I think mine was actually a little more runny than it should've been, but I am always a fan of underworking rather than overworking. I loved having the piping bags included because as you can see it was neat and easy to use and I just threw it away after!

So this might not be the best photo, but this is how many shells I was able to make out of my mix. Definitely more than enough for the '15 servings' implied on the box. Granted, they said it makes 15 so that you could pick out the best 15 pairs of shells.

The shells straight out of the oven. These did not 'feet' as much as the second tray as I didn't leave them out to rest long enough prior to baking (as I was being impatient).

And voila the end result! Keep in mind I didn't pipe the filling (too lazy) and I honestly don't think its necessary, unless you want perfectly evenly filled macarons.

So my verdict -
Are they easy? Indeed, yes they are definitely not difficult.
Are they failsafe? A resounding no here. I mean mine turned out well, but I can imagine a lot of people who think packet mixes would be easy would not appreciate that there are a lot of 'pressure points' to baking macarons as Zumbo points out which could make or break the end product. I have done a lot of research about making macarons so I knew what to do, how to fix potential issues, the temperature control of my own oven and how macarons bake out in that environment.

Ultimately, if you're an at home baker who really wants to try out macaron making then go ahead and use this packet mix as it definitely makes it more 'macaron for dummies' like, but do not expect them to turn out perfectly. Then again, I'm a bit of a perfectionist so others may be OK with how they turn out regardless!

Oh and were they yummy? Well of course, how can salted caramel macarons not be yummy? :)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Life in Photos: July 2013

Where has this year gone? I'm almost halfway through to my next birthday and its now more than halfway through the year. Insane!

Anyway, a few random snaps from July, with some being the end of my whirlwind holiday before I flew home :(

I love Pinkberry. London and US trips are not complete without being able to have as much Pinkberry as possible. And NO, it isn't just any froyo. No other compares. Though they sadly didn't have one of the toppings I usually get.

I didn't get to Paris this trip (a huge bummer for me, I've been to Paris every other Europe trip because its one of my all time favourite cities in the world). Anyway, if you haven't already noticed from my blog Pierre Herme is one of my all time favourite things in the world. At least I got to get my fix in London (again, another must do when I'm in London or Paris!). You haven't had macarons until you've had Pierre Herme.

Pret A Manger sandwiches never disappoint, right? Mine is the middle one - Falafel and Haloumi. It was warm, gooey and just fabulous for the weather in London at the time.

In case you didn't notice, I love haloumi. I had an amazing haloumi wrap when I was at Glastonbury and I'm craving it I tell ya! I will have to find somewhere at home that compares. This was my quick and easy lunch the other day - haloumi grilled on a really hot pan for all of 1 minute, then tossed over some fresh greens. Love!

I had a week off work and the weather was glorious one day so I went and sat at the beach to read. There was (as usual at that beach) a couple taking wedding photos. So beautiful! And the sun was casting beautiful light over the water.

This is my favourite yoghurt - extra thick vanilla - and I added some freshly cut strawberries because they are no longer uber expensive! Yay! But they don't compare to Spanish strawberries which were so tasty and so cheap!

Oops I apologise, I just realised practically all the photos are food related haha!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Quotable Quote

I was link hopping recently and came across this quote on someone's blog post about travel. This is so true, and not just about travel but about life in general. It's a quote I'm trying to listen to!

Be careful of the yeah-but. The yeah-but will kill your dreams.

You can read more from where this came from here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Duck and Waffle, London

As you might remember I just got back from holiday and as usual when I go to Europe, I try to make a stopover in London to see family. I ate at quite a few places which I will hopefully post about soon, but the first I will post about is the hot spot Duck and Waffle in the Heron Tower. It is 24 hours (!!!) but it is a funky urban eatery that is blessed with having an amazing view of the London city skyline and the shard due to its location.
We went for sunset, though unfortunately it wasn't an amazing one (well not a blazing red and purple sky like I often see at home). But never fear, it was still a great view!

There is a great 270 degree view, including of the Shard. You can see the balcony tables below are at the chain Sushi Samba.

Now finally some pictures of some food!
Raw scallops and tuna - this was zingy and fresh which is of course is important with sashimi. Not a stand out though.

Spicy ox cheek doughnut with apricot jam - this was interesting, with a thick doughy outside covering the soft ox cheek meat. Definitely one to share as it isn't something you would want to eat too much of!

My holiday was full of eating lots of foie gras so this was no exception - the dish is called 'foie gras all day breakfast' and features nutella. This was a great mix but I'd definitely had better foie gras!

Now my favourite of the share plates - the pollock meatball (lobster cream and parmesan) to the left and then the paper bag filled with bbq spiced crispy pigs ears which were amazing!

Their signature dish is definitely the above - ducks egg with a crispy confit duck leg and mustard maple syrup all on top of a waffle. This is definitely hugely inspired by the popular dish in the US of chicken and waffle and definitely was cooked to perfection. The waffle perhaps could have been crisper but I think thats personal preference for how one likes their waffle. Definitely one to share!

As I'm a dessert fiend, we had a heap of desserts to share. Clockwise from the back was the vanilla baked alaska meringue, dark chocolate brownie sundae then the torrejas at the front which is like a french toast. Definitely my favourite was the baked alaska, but I love meringue. Again these were good, but not amazing.

What's my end verdict - well I think the prices aren't cheap, but the food is decent quality and you really get what you pay for with the amazing view and the fact it is a 24 hours joint! I could definitely see this being as a classier option than McDonalds or a kebab at 3am!

And lastly, this is one of my favourite shots - from memory I tried doing it HDR but the glare of the windows doesn't make it turn out quite so nicely. But still, amazing view over London :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Travel Tip Tuesday: Make Up!

If you follow me on twitter you would have seen me post a picture of this, but this seriously is one of my favourite travel tips so I just had to share it again.

Years back I was reading a magazine and came across this 'model's secret' tip for make up on the go - storing all your make up essentials in contact lens cases.

This seriously works for anything - lipstick (just chop a bit off and bring your lip brush), concealers, foundations or even powders (though this turns out a little more messy). As you can see I used mine for my MUFE Face & Body Foundation and Garnier BB Cream, but I also already had a mini sample size of my MAC concealer otherwise that would have gone in another container.

It struck me as crazy when I was camping at Glastonbury that ladies were bringing their whole make up bags with full sized everything. No wonder their make up bags were so big! This I think works great for your handbag essentials for touch ups as well :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Holiday Shoe Haul

So I've been back for a week and I've unpacked in that haphazard way I always do to just have things 'out of sight, out of mind'. Well now I've got some time to actually sort through it so I thought I would do a post about some of my shopping.

Shoes have and always will be my weakness. Whenever I go into department stores, chain stores or really any store, I'll always go straight for shoes. Something about browsing shoes is just so much easier and better than browsing racks of badly hung and merchandised clothing.

Anyway this pic includes shoes my sister purchased but yes we carried back all these shoes back on our trip, plus all our other shopping goodies. We travel with quite small suitcases (most would call them the medium sized ones) so the amount we managed to stuff into our suitcases is quite a feat!

My shopping on this trip was very low-mid end range, rather than focusing on the high end as I normally would. Partially it is because I was looking for some fun fashion purchases to just colour my wardrobe without wanting to spend too much as I am meant to be saving at the moment!

The best purchases would definitely be these Marc by Marc Jacobs - they were having 70% off shoes! Even with the prices being more expensive because they were in GBP, 70% off still made it a good deal comparable to sale season in the US.

The other good buy was the Melissa for Vivienne Westwood orb flats from Liberty London which I ended up having to get a size up because they had sold out. Nevertheless, at 50% off they were a must buy for me! I would have liked them in black, but I do wear and own far too much black.

Oh I must mention I also love the T bar Zara pink and black suede shoes in the middle. I'm usually wary of buying Zara overseas because we do have it in Australia and everyone wears it. But these were love at first sight.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Shoe Watch - Nike Studio Wrap Pack

I saw this new pair of 'shoes' from Nike in a travel magazine recently and just fell in love - they were spruiked as a good alternative to packing runners when you're on holiday and I can see why.

These Nike Studio Wrap Pack shoes are claim to be light weight and able to be worn for yoga, dance, barre and all sorts of other exercise. At $110 they aren't cheap but certainly not expensive either considering the amount of gear you get - look at the pic below!

These are definitely going on my lust list!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Post holiday blues

If you hadn't already noticed from my twitter account, I'm back from my holidays and of course with it being winter here in Sydney post holiday blues inevitably hit!

Actually, there's been lots of change in my life recently so I was in fact looking forward to coming home despite enjoying my time away from work and exploring the world.

I'll be trying to get back to posting more regularly again but bear with me while I return to my normal life schedule. For now, here's a quick photo from Glastonbury Music Festival which I attended as the last leg of my trip - it was absolutely amazing! If you ever get the chance to get tickets, go!

This is a photo of the Pyramid stage on the final night with headliners Mumford and sons playing. It's not even a great photo (I wish I had taken the time to stop and take better photos) but exemplifies Glastonbury's spirit so well!