Selamat Hari Raya!

Wishing everyone who celebrates, a very blessed Hari Raya and enjoy the long break from work! 

3-Hour Macaron Baking Workshop @ Taylor's University

When I told people I was going to take a Macaron class at Taylor's University (Lakeside Campus), they were like,

"But it's so easy to make what!"

"Why you want to make? Just go out and buy la!"

Well, I've never, ever baked in my life. I mean, I've used a bread machine once where you throw everything into the container and the machine does everything else for you. So other than that, I've no clue about baking, be it yeast, oven temperature, piping techniques, or even whisking egg whites. The days leading up to the workshop, I was so excited I could hardly wait.

First things first, the campus looks spacious and is immaculately kept. With the lake in the center, it's so serene just to sit by the steps and look at the water. It's got a built-in mall, fine-dining restaurants (for the purpose of culinary students), pastry kitchens, chocolate rooms, wine rooms and much more. Basically, it was like exploring a box of treats. 

Although I must point out that the campus has horrible signage (or maybe I just can't remember my college days). It took me about 20 minutes just to find the specific pastry kitchen I was supposed to go and that was after trekking around other campus blocks. Good thing I came early.

Now, I must state that I didn't take any pictures namely because:

A. I didn't have my camera - gave it to caramel honey for his Melbourne trip.

B. I wouldn't have had time to take pics coz as it turns out, I was busy taking notes or involved in mixing, piping, etc.

Hence, I'll try my best to be as descriptive as possible. After all, I was there to learn so, utmost focus on getting the right measurements was needed and not trying to focus on getting good shots of the mixing bowl! There were few girls that had their DSLRs but honestly, I don't know how they manage to bake with their huge cameras dangling around their necks.


Back to the macaron workshop, the pastry kitchen was well equipped with industrial-sized ovens, and mixers but it seemed small in my opinion (had about 16 workstations). However, in our class of 20, we were put into groups of 4. All groups were given the ingredients (measured) and equipment plus each of us got recipes for macarons and various fillings.

Chef Karam did a demo of how to make macarons in front and we then had to go back to our stations to replicate what he did. It seemed easy (when he was making it) but there were lots of notes to take down especially the right oven temperature, when to take the sugar syrup off the burner, rationing the amount of sugar to cut, how much to whisk and how to see if your Italian meringue is forming right.


Exact Measurement:
125g ground almonds
125g icing sugar (can be cut depending on sweetness preference)
45g egg whites (1st batch)
45g egg whites (2nd batch)
125g sugar
A drop of coloring

Actual Process:
1. Mix together ground almonds and icing sugar with egg whites (with a paddle, if using a machine). Egg whites should have been separated the night before, at room temperature so that it sifts better.

2. Make Italian meringue with sugar - which starts of with boiling sugar and water until the temperature reaches 118 degrees. Why water? This is to avoid sugar from crystallizing. The pot should be covered with foil and holes should be poked on the top to let steam out.

While this is going on, a second batch of egg whites should be whisked slowly. Once the sugar syrup is done, pour over sides of the bowl containing egg whites (still being whisked) until properly mixed.

3. Fold meringue into ground almond mixture (which I found out, was simply mixing the two together) with a coloring of your choice and pipe onto sheeting pan. By this time, your oven should be on at 150 degrees (top & bottom).

Don't pipe the macaroons too close or the heat will not surround each macaroon properly and it may not rise. Also, very important, your sheet pan should fit perfectly on the tray. Any unevenness can cause the macaroons to be unevenly baked.

Pipping is one task where practice makes perfect. We did 3 whole trays and you can literally see the difference between the lopsided lumps on the first tray and almost-perfect circles on the 3rd tray!


4. Once you've piped onto a sheeting tray, pick up the tray and let it drop onto the table a few times - to let air bubbles escape the mixture and flatten an unevenness. I don't mean BANG the tray against the table but just gently lift the tray about 10 inches and let it drop on the table.

5. Place tray into the oven for about 8-10 minutes. Once done, pull out and leave until the macarons cool. If you're having trouble pulling them off the sheet pan, just stick the tray into a chiller (or a fridge) for 2 minutes for a quick cool-down.

6. Pipe a filling of your choice and sandwich the macarons.


NOTE: You should set the macarons aside overnight (air-tight container, plastic-wrapped and refrigerated) and only eat them the next day. This is to ensure the flavors are more infused.

Ours came out quite well, I have to say. Slightly crunchy on the top but chewy on the inside and not too sweet like some commercial macarons out there :)

Since the class was for 3 hours, the fillings for the macarons were made by Chef Karam the day before so we didn't have to make them from scratch. There were cream cheese, raspberry jam-butter cream, chocolate ganache and *rose-infused butter cream (which is my favorite so far). We can be really creative with fillings and that is quite obvious with macarons sold outside - I once saw durian flavored macarons.


Overall, the class was well taught and monitored. Chef Karam and his assistant (a Taylor's culinary student) helped out with ingredients and guided us when we were not sure what to do next. He also gave us pointers and tips on what to look out for when baking, proper way of pipping and tips on getting the Italian meringue right.

The only disadvantage I would say is that since the class was a Groupon deal, things were a bit crammed, like the making of fillings. Although we have the recipes and he went through them with us, it would have been fun to make a filling from scratch.

The whole process of making the shells of macarons (the top and bottom part) itself took almost 1.5 hours. Now I understand why macarons cost quite a bit outside. Apparently, in France, a single macaron can cost up to 2 euros each.


Next to our pastry kitchen, were the cuisine and bread kitchens. We were allowed to walk through and see what the other classes were doing so we had a great time watching people kneading, banging dough on the table, chopping vegetables and making pies. Let me tell you, the sight was so enticing to the senses. Everything looked and smelled good. This must be what it feels like to be in the Masterchef kitchen. LOL!

I don't mind signing up for their pastry classes again but it's a tad bit expensive (for a one-day thing). Granted they've got good facilities and qualified chefs but for people on a budget - not so practical :(

FYI for people who are planning on taking classes at Taylor's Culinary School, when you come to the split from the highway, take a right (to Jalan Taylor's) as it will lead you to an outdoor parking and much more closer to the campus blocks. Plus, parking is free on weekends :)

*rose-infused butter cream - chef told us about these spray cans that infuses any filling with its scent, be it lemon, citrus, ylang-ylang or in our case, rose. 4 spritzes to the butter cream filling, mix well and you actually get an aftertaste of rose - very delightful to the tastebuds!

More to come...

Watch out next week for my post on the Macaron Baking Workshop hosted at Taylor's University Lakeside Campus *squeals!*

Update: Head here to find out how the workshop went!

It's Gonna Be Loooong 10-Days

I just dropped off caramel honey at the airport. He's on his way to Melbourne where he's gonna have the time of his life with his aunt and cousins *sighs* Wish I was going too but due to financial constraints I had to stay back. Plus, caramel honey hasn't seen his aunt for years so it's only appropriate if he goes alone :)

He's always wanted to go to Australia and practically all of Melbourne has been crammed into his 10-day holiday. Yes yes, it's not a month but just 10 days. In fact, he'll be back next Sunday evening so I guess when you really think about it, 10 days is literally nothing. LOL!

I hope he buys me a super-big Koala (of course I told him to bring me a real one but that's another story).

Happy Thursday!

You know how sometimes you just wake up feeling all geared up, positive and full of excitement to start the day? Well, that's how I feel today.

Reasons? There's plenty.

Had lots of time to wash, dry, iron my hair before heading to work

Got to work with enough time to make hot tea before delving into emails

Listening to my just-purchased Madonna Celebration CD (always been a huge fan of Madonna)

Painted my toe nails yellow

Wearing pale yellow-ribbon earrings

On top of everything work-wise

It's Thursday (one day closer to Friday!)

    Here's wishing you guys a Happy Thursday and hope you have a great day too! :)

    Typo Misdemeanor

    Shortly after coming out of a meeting, I checked my email and found one - from a marketer, who's generally in charge of handling press releases to the media and for web publishing (which is where I come in). 

    The subject of the email was "Yani's handbag..." and for that moment alone I was puzzled as to what my name (shortened at that) was doing in an email from this guy. As it turns out, yesterday my colleague and I were doing some tests with text on one of our press releases that had been published on our website, some time ago. We entered a bunch of 'dummy' text and part of it was "Yani's handbag" (yes, my colleague has a wry sense of humor).

    The problem was I had forgotten to remove the 'dummy' text from the press release and it got published online by accident!

    OMG. My puzzlement turned to horrific embarrassment!

    To be honest, I quite felt like laughing too. I mean, this issue over "Yani's handbag" is just way to horrifyingly funny. I managed to remove the text immediately and re-published the press release but now I'm infamous for a 'Yani's hangbag'!

    6 months here and I've already made an impression *roll eyes*

    Later in the day, my colleague told me something about one of our web pages via Skype and instead of typing "got it", I entered "go tit". Arggghhhh!

    So you can just imagine the bunch of mockery and laughter that followed me today. Moral of the story: ALWAYS DOUBLE-CHECK whatever you do, especially if it's visible to the online world!

    Captain America: The First Avenger (Review)

    After all the hype, Captain America: The First Avenger is finally out and brings us one step closer to The Avengers next year. Pumped with an old-fashioned vibe, good actors, action-packed sequences and boasting U.S patriotism, this movie is pretty entertaining to watch. Seeing that this came from the makers of Iron Man and Thor, it seemed natural that the movie should be a hit (which is true, seeing how it's still leading at the box office.)

    Perhaps a brief overview of the plot would be good? Well, the story revolves around the pale, short yet determined and compassionate Steve Rogers (played by the dashing Chris Evans), who's been trying to get enlisted in the U.S. army to fight the Nazis or more accurately, the Hydra - a top-secret division of the Nazis, led by Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving).

    As luck would have had it, he got in and was selected to try the Super Soldier serum which would exaggerate his physical strength and agility. The procedure was a success which you can tell by how deliciously fit he looked after that. 

    Now, I've never read the comics or seen the cartoons, so as far as storyline goes, I'm not sure if the movie got it right. The movie did border on corny at some scenes but was still tolerable. Lots of elements add to the story of how Steve Rogers becomes the famed Captain America and you'd see familiar faces/references to other characters along the way. One important character was Howard Stark - of Stark Industries who's the army's prime weapon-supplier and obviously, father to Tony Stark (Iron Man).

    Movie making has come a long way with CGI but in the case of this movie, some scenes where Steve Rogers was supposed to look short and sickly-thin, seemed a bit off where his head looked bigger than the rest of him. I know its ground-breaking technology and all, but don't you think there's something off about him here?

    * Spoiler Alert!

    The movie's worth watching and from what I've heard, it's way better than the recent Transformers movie. One thing that's left debatable is the ending of the movie, where Captain America wakes up after being frozen in ice for 70 years and he looks just the same - the serum slows the aging process?

    Plus, the timeline of the movie kind of conflicts with Thor as the infamous Cosmic Cube which was held in Odin's vault, suddenly ends up on Earth (as shown in the post-credit scene in Thor) and used throughout Captain America? Feels like there's a missing puzzle piece there.

    Also, as all Marvel movies are famous for its post-credit scenes, (most of which were hints to the upcoming Avengers movie), Captain America is no exception. Except you don't have to wait till the credits roll. Right after the last scene of the movie, there would be a sneak peak (about 49 seconds I think) of The Avengers. So, just remember to stay awake right after the last scene :D

    Photos: Rotten Tomatoes

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