chips n gravy

Archive for the ‘Pastries’ Category

my version of the torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus : Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

I apologise for the late post. This is my first DB Challenge and being late as well as well as not exactly happy about having a cake (due to my inept baking skills) to boot was not exactly the kind of start I want to be a DB’er.  Anyway, the reason for the late post was due to me down with what I initially thought was a bad case of cold and headache was actually a sinus infection. After a visit to the doctor, I developed a reaction to the prescribed antibiotics. I woke up in the middle of the night having chest pains. It was so painful I thought I was having a heart attack. So I had to go to the docs again to ease the reaction and being prescribed new drugs. This has been 6 days ago, and today I finally felt better for the first time in close to 2 weeks since the symptoms started.

In between the sinus ordeal, bad weather, organising everything in preparation to welcome my new baby girl this coming Sunday, (don’t be alarmed, I am not giving birth, just getting my piggy girl a much needed companion) .

I will be adopting from the Melbourne charter of the Australian Cavy Sanctuary, a small privately run shelter that is supported by volunteers and fellow guinea pigs lovers. I wanted to take the time out to mention that, animals of any kind deserves our respect and care as with any other human beings. G-Force, the movie about guinea pigs doing all sorts of things may boost guinea pigs sale throughout the world, but I just want to say that, guinea pigs overbreeding is a major problem throughout the US, UK and even here in Australia. At any given time right now, each of these private shelters that is ran out of their love for guinea pigs are looking after more than 100s of pigs at a time. So, if you are interested in getting a guinea pig after watching the movie, PLEASE, do your read up properly before getting one. It is not the same as getting a toy that you can just discard afterwards. Should you really want to get a piggy even after you have done the proper read up to understand the great responsibilities of caring for them, please adopt rather than buy. Buying only fuel more backyard breeders who breed and keep them in inhumane conditions. ACS has a really great support network, so when you adopt, you are not only just helping minimising the overbreeding and the vicious backyard breeder cycle, you are also joining a network of massive support at any given time should you and your piggy need it. We are a family.

Back to the torte.

My torte may not looked like the original Hungarian torte, but rest assured that it does taste the alright albeit less sickly because I did not use the actual buttercream recipe, but instead a buttercream that is although similar is based on the french pate a bombe. This happened because of two reasons; I was not keen to use so much butter and I had too much egg yolks left over from baking so much macarons.

I also skipped the caramel layer as from all the feedbacks from the forum, most of the girls were having problems with the top caramel layer and was not really impressed by it. So I made a burnt toffee caramel flavoured with some intense espresso to get that slight bitterness and made a “ganache” with it. This is then used as a filling in the macaron. Technically, that is my caramel layer.

Again, a play on salt. Salted crushed peanuts to give the extreme sweetness of this cake a much needed reprieve and also after the sweetness of the cake, my tasters were taken aback by the bitterness of the macarons on first bite. That said, the macarons with the bitter filling was a bigger hit than the cake.


Cupcakes for little boys. I whipped up some last minute cupcakes for W’s mom to bring home to W’s 3 little nephews. Chocolate are always a winner and this is my Devil’s Food Chocolate cupcake with white chocolate ganache and decorated with Oreos.


It was a quick whip up.


Part A:

  • 110 grams AP flour
  • 112.5 grams caster sugar
  • 30 grams cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 122.5 grams milk
  • 57.5 grams softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste

Part B:

  • 1 whole egg


  1. Mix A until just mixed. Then beat at high speed for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add in egg and beat again at high speed for 2 minutes
  3. Pipe or spoon into prepared tray or cupcake liners and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes.


I always follow a ratio of 2:1 of white chocolate:cream. I will quickly zap the cream in the microwave and then pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute before whisk it evenly.  I will then sick the chocolate into my freezer until it is just set, then take it out to give it a quick whisk.


Pipe ganache onto the chocolate, I just squirt them out using a #5 nozzle onto the middle of the cupcake and topped with Oreos which I tried to (if possible) break into halves.


That is how I would describe the week that has passed. It was a week of laziness and bitterly cold wind mixed with unpredictable weather. W’s parents were in town for the weekend to visit. He got the dates totally messed up, telling me they be visiting THIS coming weekend. I was flustered, I don’t think the house was presentable enough. But nonetheless. It was a weekend of bargain hunting with his mom, that said, it was a real bargain as we just happened to be at Steve Madden’s at the DFO Morrabin and it was closing down. Steve Madden shoes for aud 1.00 anyone? Yes. It was really ONE dollar. I don’t think I need to explain what happened next.

Coincidentally,  another nearby fresh produce (mostly really lovely hard to find flours, nuts and lentils and beans) store were closing down as well and relocating with everything at a 50% off. Sadly, we went too late, I missed out on bargain almond meal!!! Grrr, imagine the amount of macarons I could have made, nonetheless, I made away with plenty of good quality polenta, made some polenta cheese sticks, (they were gone before I can even take some good pictures. Next time, when I make them again, I guess), a good kilo worth of hazelnut meal (only 10.00 Aud), lovely dark rye flour, besan flour, Spanish Saffron (2 gram for 1.49 aud), some organic fenugreek seeds, tomatoes, apples, and plenty of nuts.

It was also a weekend of herb and vegetables planting, I have managed for the first time with the help of W’s mom lovely green fingers in planting several kitchen herbs and vegetables. In a week’s time, I will know if the herbs survive or not and hopefully the borlotti beans and sugar snap peas seed will sprout. As does the blackjack zucchini that I have sown. I also lucked out on some really lovely lemon verbena and planted that in too, maybe beside the zucchini were not a very wise idea, but only time will tell how it goes. It was also for the first time I realised that the annoying tree that is opposite my kitchen windows is actually a feijoa! Never really saw them drop any fruits. Must be those darn birds…..

If my garden venture were to be successful, I am going to plan myself a fig tree, bay tree and an almond tree next.

I also went to the “A day in Pompeii” exhibition which is currently being held at Melbourne’s Museum on Sunday. It was a real eye opener and seeing the body plaster casts of the actual victims, you cannot help but really feel sad. The plaster of a man still being shackled to chains while trying to escape and he made it as far as the town’s gate by crawling with chains and balls before the boiling lava engulfs him. Ironically, today (24th August) is the day where Vesuvius strikes down on Pompeii. Sometimes, you cannot but feel blessed in times like this.

Ok, back to the topic, I have been continuing to bake macarons and beside one totally failed batch (never bake in anger) I had been successful in baking macarons and making my kind of flavours. Granted, it is still not as sophisticated as I wanted them to be, but taste and texture wise, I have to say I am pretty pleased.



I apologise for the pictures. These were some of the macarons that I made for W’s mom to bring home back to Wagga. Front row from the left are the Chocolate macarons with a peppermint dark chocolate ganache and Bourbon Vanilla macarons with a white chocolate vanilla creme. The back row from the left was the surprising hit my macarons flavours; Curry and coconut and the purplish colour (I really wanted a black black macarons but I cannot find black powder colouring) macarons is my Oreo’s macarons.


These are my Curry and coconut macarons. Curry flavoured shells with a coconut creme ganache and custard filling.

I am really exasperated by this. I want a midnight black colour. I have tried Wilton’s black colour paste and also the popular Americolor’s black gel paste. Wilton’s produce a purple colour while Americolor’s produce the above, a dark grey colour. I honestly believe black colour shells will really look nice with the Oreo’s filling, even though right now, they match in colour.

This one is my Oreo’s macarons made using Wilton’s colour paste. Main macaron is the standard size I have seen at Lindt’s and the one on the right is the smaller size which I much preferred. I like the little bite sized macarons which I think is just nice. Not overwhelming, so you would not be sick of it.


Oreo’s macarons



W’s dad does not like chocolate at all but he loves his strawberry jam. The above macarons were made this morning. It is a take on strawberry & cream. Pink macaron sandwiching strawberries cream made with St. Dalfour’s Strawberry jam. I would prefer to use fresh strawberry puree but it was a really last minute planning. So this was what I made. The olds both loved it and I packed them enough to bring back home.


close up of the 1st batch of my curry macarons. I forgot to sprinkle some dessicated coconut 😦


blueberry basil macarons. I made 10 of them as a taste test. They were gone lightning fast! Did not managed to take picture of the completed macarons.

Coming up, interested in some sourdough bread that has Guinness in it?

from left to right, lemon-thyme, peanut butter, nutella-dark chocolate, oolong macarons with chai cream, coffee-toffee

from left to right, lemon-thyme, peanut butter, nutella-dark chocolate, oolong macarons with chai cream, coffee-toffee

Ok, First recipe for the macarons. Of all the flavours that I had made, this one were the most popular, I have gotten rave reviews from all my tasters, and they are asking for more. Who knows, I may end up THE boutique macaron seller of Melbourne (haha, dream dream dream).

MACARON with a Burnt caramel/toffee with espresso ganache.

Now, before I start on these recipes, I just want to say that sometimes I have some pretty unconventional methods to make my life easier. It is not that I do not want to follow the proper way of preparing stuff, but for me, shortcuts is because I understand how they are, so I do all these things, especially with a microwave. So, I will share them with you should you not already realised these methods by yourself already, and to make your life easier too.

Always prepare your filling for macarons ahead. Planning is important. I like to plan. I started the filling by making a drop dead safe (no spattering sugar, this will only happened later) to make caramel. It only have 4 ingredients, and they are all dumped together and heat up. It is the same recipe from my layered banana cake post. You can half the recipe to make for the filling, because 1 cup will already make enough filling for 1 recipe of macarons.

Next up, 1 cup of the salted caramel is mixed with a coffee syrup. Use 3 tsp of espresso powder with 1 tbsp of boiling water, (yes I make them bitter, but you will understand why when you taste it). Now here come the fun part. You can microwave the caramel-coffee at a 30 sec interval on high until it turns quite dark and smelled this deliciously burnt smell (not burnt like Oh-no burn, but a desirable burn) then cool it in the fridge, and when it is almost set, give it a good whisk and transfer into air tight container and chilled overnight. If you have done it correctly (I did not use a candy thermometer, just by eye) you will get this lovely smooth paste that is reminiscent of Carambar. Do note that when you microwave them, do not do longer than a 30 sec interval because, longer than that, it will, spatter all over the place.

For the macaron shells, I prefer the French meringue method. It is quick, less hassle, and does not requires you to cook any sugar. Depends on the weather, just keep some whole eggs (in their shell) in a dark, airy, cool place. I kept my eggs like that for close to 2 weeks in this weather (Melbourne’s winter and inside our house is an average 20c). By then, the egg white is completely liquid, it will be easy to seperate and you do not even need to age it overnight. Just seperate them and leave the whites out uncovered on your table top for 2-3 hours. I will just crack mine and then proceed to sift the almond meal and sugar. By the time that painful process is over, the egg white can be whipped. To know if your egg white is aged real well, you will notice that immediately as you whisk it, it will form a lovely foam similar to beer foam.


I shopped around for the recipes and compared them. I looked at Tartlette’s, Mercotte’s, Pierre Herme’s (I have the book) and also Stephane Glacier’s recipes.

  • 90g egg white (it can be a little over the required amount, because as it aged, the moisture content will evaporate and you will get a lighter in weight egg white. Just reweigh before you whip them).
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 200g PURE icing sugar (those powder mix contains cornstarch in them, so its a no-no) and make sure you sift them well to get rid of all lumps.
  • 110g almond meal – sift. make sure you really press into the sieve to get the maximum amount out of your almonds.
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp of egg white powder- this stabilises the meringue further so technically, if you failed even with this, I do not know what to say.

The thing is, you really have to sift the almond meal and the icing sugar really well. And I prefer to use them immediately after I sifted them because if you let them sat too long after sifting, they will lump up again. This is personal experience. So just sift and use immediately.

Whip egg white with the egg white powder and add your sugar in SLOWLY, I do mine tablespoon by tablespoon and whisk it well each time. This ensure your meringue be smooth and shiny and would not be grainy. Really whip your egg white till very stiff peaks. Over whipping of  egg whites will actually get you very dry egg whites, but to be honest, if you add your sugar correctly, and with the addition of egg white powder, you will have a very stable meringue. VERY.

After that, always fold in your tpt (almond + icing sugar) in batches. I do mine in 4 batches and fold in in a clockwise motion scraping the bottom each time (like how you would fold the sponge) to mix in the tpt. Do not mince at the meringue, will cause it to collapse. Oh, I have seen enough apprentices “mincing” at the meringue or even batter with their dough scrapper or spatula. Regarding the over-mix under mix part, the magma flow thing, well, google a video of how magma flows, and you will understand why people say that. So, to test, just do a flow test, if the batter drop back into the rest of the batter from your spatula flows like magma, and when you pipe, it does not have a peak, and even after you whack your baking tray to flatten it and release air pocket, it still holds it shape. Then its good. I do not rest my batter as some people does to form that skin, mine is just pipe and go, and they always form skin. So yeah, maybe I am just lucky. As for the temperature, each oven is different, I have a oven that is not very strong in heating, so as mentioned in previous macaron post, after 4 batches, I baked them at 100c for 30 minutes with the door ajar by propping a wooden spoon against it. Play with your oven and test.  Do some research around the web and see what people temperatures are, and these will be useful to help you. If fail, try again, because the results will be worth it.

Good luck!

There had been so many bloggers raving about macarons and so many bloggers making them so well. I am just posting because this is the first time I am making macaron with the current oven in the house, and its sort of a get to know you session. Above is the first ever batch i made, notice there was 2 with bumps. Ah well, did not stopped it from being delicious.

As the bender continues, Its scary is it not, this macaron thing. Once you start, you cannot stop. You just keep making them. It is like childbirth, a painful process (my arms are sore from sifting so much almond meal) but you keep doing it because the results are so worth it.


first ever batch from this oven.


second batch

BTW, it is painful to bake macarons with a small oven and with only 2 trays and 1 silicon mat. Like my lime green silicon mat? Funky isn’t it? 😀 Making them yourself is so much worth it, not only you get to learn to be patience and these temperamental babes really test your knowledge of baking and understanding of your individual ingredients, but it is also cheaper. In Melbourne right now, cheapest I have found is 1.95 aud at Cacao. Lindt new cafe that is at Collins St sells their Delice Macarons for 2.00 aud a pop and it is really not that great, still they are being sold out. When I went to the ChocolateRush festival last weekend, only the Cacao’s stand was selling macarons and they sold out, beating all those fancy cupcakes stands. The macaron craze has officially arrived in Melbourne, no thanks to that stank of a show, Masterchef Australia. (Let’s not even go there, I am a big fan of Masterchef UK, but Masterchef Australia, 1/3 into the season, for me, you just sank)


the second batch fresh out of the oven

I was able to finally gauge my oven’s temperature after baking 4 batches. 160C for 5 minutes then followed by 100C for 30 minutes with the oven door ajar. When I was an apprentice, we used to make them in those big industrial pastry ovens, and what I remembered was my seniors they would use double tray (no need for me) and also baked it really low after the initial crust setting. When it is macaron baking time, the ovens will be occupied for at least 3 hrs. So, remembering them, I bring down my temperature and it worked beautifully, no sticking to the silicon mat and with a nice crisp shell and chewy center, just how I like it.


I am pretty relieved. I have not baked them for ages (like years) and macarons is still one of those things that strike fear into my heart whenever I think about baking them (especially with unknown oven). Now, I have to say, layered cakes and artisan bread is still my crux. 😀

So, you may ask, what flavours did I make? The pictures above are whats left of the macarons after a 2 days carnage.  Two flavours were wiped out and these are what’s left and I am continuing to make more.

The flavours:

  • Crunchy peanut butter (finished)
  • Burnt coffee-toffee (finished)
  • Nutella with Dark chocolate (barely surviving)
  • Thyme scented lemon curd
  • Orange with orange marmalade
  • Oolong with Chai.

I am still on a bender, what I have up next, is thinking of making some adult macarons with a Shagger buttercream (Shagger- a cocktail made from Jagermeister, orangejuice & milk) and vodka lime buttercream. That is on my list. Also, to do some chocolate macarons a la Pierre Herme. Oh~ also Basil & blueberries. Ah, the possibilities are endless and only can be stopped by your lack of imagination.

Are you addicted? Because I am. They are so loveable.

p/s: i am not the most diligent of blog keeper and should any of the posts recipes interest you, please feel free to drop me a message and I will post up the recipe. ^_^

banan-caramel1-wordpressBanana cake layered with salted caramel mousse, dark chocolate glacage spiked with gorgeous leatherwood honey, topped with caramelised banana and accompanied by a 70% callebaut dark chocolate ice cream that sat on a bed of finely crumbed cinnamon streusel which is garnished with crushed candied cashews.




  • 198gm salted butter, softened
  • 225gm caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs (60gm each)
  • 220gm AP flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda, sift together with flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder, sift together with flour
  • 60ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 big bananas, roughly chopped half and mashed the other half.


  1. Preheat oven to 180 CELCIUS.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar until really light and fluffy. You can see the butter turned an off white and the sugar has all been incorporated into the butter (no sandy texture).
  3. Add the eggs slowly.
  4. Mix in the milk and vanilla essence.
  5. Mix in both the mashed and chopped bananas. The reason here is to have the banana moisten the cake and to have the banana flavour, but also to have chunks of bananas that is lovely to bite into.
  6. Add in the sifted flour, baking powder and baking soda in batches.
  7. Incorporate the flour until just mixed. DO NOT OVER MIX! This is very important so you would not get a really hard cake.
  8. Pour into a lined or greased 8 inch cake tin. I used a round cake tin lined with parchment
  9. Bake in oven for 35 minutes or until skewer came out clean.
  10. Transfer to a line rack and let it cool completely.



  • 300gm dark brown sugar
  • 335ml cream
  • 85gm butter
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt


  • Just dump them all into a pot and bring to slow boil and whisk it intermittenly.
  • Let cool.
  • This yield 2 cups. More than enough for sauce and also for mousse.



  • 150gm cream
  • 180g 70% dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) honey (I used leatherwood honey from Tasmania)


  • put all ingredients in a mixing bowl and melt over the bain-marie.

4. Caramel Mousse


  • 1 cup (australian std cup) salted caramel
  • 1 cup (australian std cup) cream
  • 2-1/2 sheet gold quality gelatine sheet (this is 2gm each, which will equal to 5gm)


  • Soak gelatine in ice water to soften. Then squeeze out all the excess water.
  • Heat a small amount of caramel just enough to melt the gelatine. Put the gelatine pieces into the heated caramel and whisk thoroughly to incorporate the gelatine.
  • Pour back the gelatin-caramel mixture back into the rest of the caramel and let cool but not set.
  • Whip cream until soft peak.
  • Gradually fold in caramel into the cream.
  • Refrigerate mousse until almost set. Firm but not runny.


  1. Trim the crust and sides of your cake.
  2. Divide cake into 3 layers (although I only did 2, it is much better to divide them into 3).
  3. Spread mousse onto the first 2 layers and also leave some mousse to filled the side. Smooth mousse.
  4. Pour chocolate glacage over entire cake.
  5. Refrigerate until set.


Serve with reserved caramel sauce. Chocolate ice-cream optional. This is a decadent cake. W loves it. I had fun baking it and it was a fun using banana cake as the sponge rather than using normal sponge.

6736_122395529972_764169972_2998525_1297651_nVanilla cupcake with caramel filling, caramel and cream cheese frosting then garnished with chopped tim tam’s.

This is a clear winner. Made a dozen for W and his mates during their weekend Winton racing trip.


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