Pina colada macarons

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These are not the best looking macarons, but they taste great. I find it better to weigh out the egg white as opposed to blindly using white from 3 eggs. There can be enormous variations in the amount of white from egg to egg.

Ingredients

Macaron shells

  • 120g egg white
  • 65g ground almond
  • 60g desiccated coconut
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 130g icing sugar
  • Few drops of colouring if desired

Filling

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 240ml pineapple juice
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp rum
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 40g unsalted butter
  1. Mix ground almond, desiccated coconut and icing sugar together and give it a good mix
  2. Use an electric whisk and whisk egg white until soft peaks start to form. Continue whisking add caster sugar 1 tbsp at a time to the egg white until it forms stiff peaks
  3. Transfer 1/3 of the meringue to the dry ingredients and mix it into the dry ingredients
  4. Add in the rest of the meringue to the ingredients, this time gently fold it in
  5. Keep folding until the mixtures are well combined and slightly runny (you should be able to pick it up and the mixture will drop and form a trace and maintain its shape for a few seconds)
  6. Place baking sheet onto a baking tray
  7. Pipe the macaron mixture onto a sheet of baking paper (roughly 4cm in diameter)
  8. Tap baking tray on table surface to remove large air bubbles in the macaron batter
  9. Let it rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour
  10. Pre-heat oven when a thin skin begins to form on the batter to 170°C or 150°C fan
  11. Bake the macarons for 14-15 minutes
  12. Transfer the macaron shells onto work bench and gently peel the shells off the baking paper and let it cool down
  13. Mix egg yolks, sugar and cornfour together until smooth
  14. Heat the pineapple juice until it starts to simmer
  15. Add pineapple juice into the egg and sugar mixture and whisk continuously as you add the juice
  16. Once all the juice has been added, put the whole mixture back into saucepan
  17. Put it over low heat and whisk continuously until it thickens
  18. Once thick, put in the butter and mix it in while it is still warm
  19. Let it cool down to room temperature
  20. Once all shells and filling are cool, pipe the filling into the shells to assemble

 

Aladdin: Prince Edward theatre

Show of hands, who didn’t like Aladdin as a child? I certainly did. Needless to say, when Aladdin was announced to make a transfer from Broadway to the West End, the hype was endless. In fact, it was so popular, I couldn’t get hold of a ticket for the premier when I tried to book a ticket 7 months in advance! It is, after all, a perfect opportunity to relive childhood memories or to introduce your children to the story you yourself enjoyed.

The musical remained faithful to the story of the Disney version of Aladdin. So, there is little to say about the plot. Relatively speaking, the performance was fast paced and at no particular point did it come across as dull. The performance given by Trevor Dion Nicholas (as Genie) deserves much praise. I would be very surprised if Nicholas was not nominated for the Lawrence Olivier award for his work in this musical. I wondered how the directors would introduce the Genie and his magically appearance from within the lamp. These were all very well done and clever. Other than Nicholas, I think Don Gallagher (Jafar) and Peter Howe (Iago) deserve much applause too. In fact, the three mentioned actors outshone the Jasmine and Aladdin.

“A whole new world” is probably one of the most iconic songs from the original Aladdin movie. The flight on the magic carpet through the night sky, lit up with starlights and endless romance in the air. The magic carpet scene was without a doubt, magical, but I did not think Jasmine and Aladdin’s passion and love for each other came through with the particular performance I attended.

While I was thoroughly entertained by the show, there are certain aspects that I did not enjoy. The supposedly action packed scenes with the guards chasing Aladdin through the street and the three friends Aladdin storming the palace were extremely clunky. The sword fights were forced, slow and unnatural. In fact, the fights were so off, they distracted me from all the other aspects of the performance at the time. Overall, despite introduction of original scores, this musical failed to establish its own identify from its movie counterpart, much like other Disney stage adaptations such as the Lion King. Ultimately, this show’s success can be attributed to its magical element and the audiences’ desire to relive fond child memories.

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Fresh berries cake

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This is the kind of cake to make if you have a few hours to spare in the afternoon and don’t really know what to do. I also happened to have an excessive amount of sugar and eggs at home, so this is a good way to use up some of them.

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs (yolk and white separated)
  • 100+80g caster sugar (in separate bowls)
  • 160g self raising flour
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 70ml water
  • 600ml double cream
  • 60g icing sugar
  • Strawberries, blueberries and chocolate to decorate
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C (356°F) or 160°C (320°F) in a fan assisted oven
  2. Do NOT line 21cm round baking tin with butter or baking paper
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix the self raising flour with 100g caster sugar
  4. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg yolks, water, vegetable oil and vanilla extract
  5. Mix ingredients until combined
  6. Use an electric whisk, whisk egg white until it starts to form soft peaks
  7. Add the 80g sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, into the egg white until it forms stiff peaks
  8. Transfer 1/3 of the egg white to the cake batter and mix it in
  9. Add 1/3 of egg white to the batter and GENTLY FOLD IT IN, try not to knock out the air in the egg white
  10. Repeat step 9
  11. Transfer the cake batter into baking tin, tap the tin on the table a few times to remove the large air bubbles inside the batter
  12. Bake for 55-60 minutes, test with clean skewer and it should come out clean when it’s done
  13. Tip the cake tin upside down with the cake inside and let it cool upside down on a wired rack
  14. Let it cool for an hour and slice the cake horizontally into 3 equal portions
  15. When the cake is cool, beat the double cream with icing sugar until it is stiff (careful not to over beat, or it will become fresh butter)
  16. Spread cream between the cake layers and around the cake
  17. Decorate with fruit and flaked chocolate as desired

Chocolate and raspberry mirror glaze cake

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So after not doing any baking for a little while due to a rather busy schedule, I thought it’s a good time to start again to celebrate the return of the Great British Bake Off. So, here’s the show stopper challenge from week 1. A genoise sponge with a mirror glaze finish. This is technically not a very challenging cake under normal circumstances, but it is actually incredibly hard when attempted under pressure and time constraints due to various cooling steps. As always, I’ll breakdown the ingredients and steps for each components and assemble it all together.

Vanilla genoise sponge

  • 4 large eggs
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate ganache

  • 150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 70g caster caster sugar
  • 350ml double cream

Raspberry jelly

  • 100g raspberries
  • 20ml water
  • 1 gelatine leaf

Chocolate mirror glaze

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 30ml double cream
  • 1 gelatine leaf

Now, on to how to actually make it. I would recommend making the raspberry jelly first, followed by the chocolate ganache, cake and finally the mirror glaze. Only make the mirror glaze when the cake has been assembled.

Raspberry jelly

  1. Soak 1 gelatine leaf for at least 10 minutes, it should soften and become floppy
  2. Heat raspberries with water until simmering
  3. Blend the raspberry juice and sift to remove the seeds
  4. Heat the raspberry juice briefly until simmering, take it off the heat and add the gelatine leaf
  5. Stir until the gelatine has been incorporated completely
  6. Allow it to cool completely in a bowl, it should start to solidify

Chocolate ganache

  1. Add caster sugar to double cream
  2. Heat together and bring it to a simmer, mix continuously until the sugar is evenly distributed and melted
  3. Break the chocolate in a heatproof bowl
  4. Add the hot cream to the chocolate
  5. Stir until chocolate has completely melted
  6. Put it aside and let it cool down to set, it should get to a spreadable consistency

Genoise sponge

  1. Line the bottom and the side of a round 18cm cake tin
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180°C (356°F) or 160°C (320°F) in a fan assisted oven
  3. Melt butter in microwave and allow it to cool down
  4. Sift the flour and set it aside
  5. Add caster sugar to a eggs
  6. EITHER beat the sugar and eggs together in a free standing electric whisk OR with a hand held over simmering water
  7. Beat for AT LEAST 15 minutes (it will look like it’s fine and tripled in volume after 5-8 minutes, but don’t be tempted to stop whisking)
  8. Once the eggs are ready (quadrupled in volume and leaves a trail of ribbon when the whisk is lifted out), add the butter, vanilla extract and the sifted flour to the eggs
  9. VERY GENTLY mix in the ingredients by folding them into the eggs
  10. Transfer the cake batter gently into the cake tin
  11. Take the cake tin on the table a couple of times to remove large air pockets
  12. Bake for 25-30 minutes
  13. The side will start to peel away from the baking paper, also test with a skewer and it should come out completely clean
  14. Let it cool slightly in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn it out to cool on a wired rack
  15. Give the cake a quarter turn every 5 minutes in the first 30 minutes to stop it from sticking to the rack
  16. Allow it cool completely before slicing it in half horizontally

Chocolate mirror glaze

  • Soak the gelatine leaf in water for at least 10 minutes
  • Mix sugar, water, cream, cocoa powder together in a saucepan
  • Heat the ingredients, mix continuously
  • When ingredients start to simmer, take it off the heat
  • Rip the gelatine leaf into small pieces and add it in, mix until fully incorporated
  • Set it aside to cool down (about 30-34°C) and its still VERY SLIGHTLY runny

Assemble the cake

  1. Spread about 1/4 of the chocolate ganache between the 2 slices of cake
  2. Place the set raspberry jelly on top of the ganache
  3. Spread about 1/4 of the ganache on the raspberry jelly
  4. Place the other cake slice on top
  5. Spread the rest of the chocolate ganache on the top and side of the cake and smoothen it out to the best of your abilities
  6. Pour the mirror glaze over the cake, tilt the cake to spread the glaze evenly, try not to use a knife or spoon to spread. The glaze should be runny enough to spread
  7. Use a knife to gently smoothen out the glaze dribbling down the side
  8. Decorate with raspberries and melted white chocolate as appropriate

 

 

Eaton mess cake

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This recipe is adapted from Ed Kimber’s recipe on http://www.bakewithstork.com/recipes/eton-mess-cake

I found with the amount of flour used, the batter is very stiff, so I reduced the amount of flour by a little. Also, to get a good red/pink colour on the white chocolate glaze, I needed a little bit of food colouring.

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 320g caster sugar
  • 320g self raising flour
  • 320g unsalted butter (room temperature, very soft)
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs

Meringue

  • 1 large egg white
  • 80g caster sugar

Filling and decoration

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g strawberries
  • 150g raspberries
  • 100g white chocolate
  • Drop of red food colouring (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C (356°F) or 160°C (320°F) in a fan assisted oven
  2. Place a piece of baking paper at the bottom of 3x 20cm round baking tins and grease the sides with butter
  3. Cream caster sugar and the very soft butter together until smooth
  4. Beat the eggs until foamy and add in a little at a time until all the eggs have been added
  5. Sift and add in the flour a
  6. Mix in the flour into the cake mix and continue mixing until smooth
  7. Add in the vanilla extract and mix again
  8. Divide the cake batter evenly into the 3 baking tins
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake is golden and starts to pull away from the sides of tins slightly
  10. Remove from oven and let it cool down on a wired rack to room temperature
  11. Reduce the oven temperature to about 80-90°C
  12. Use an electric whisk to make the meringue, beat the egg white until soft peaks and add in the sugar 1 tbsp at a time until all the sugar is added
  13. Continue beating until the egg white forms stiff peaks
  14. Place baking paper onto a baking tray
  15. Use a piping bag and pipe the egg white into desired shapes
  16. Bake in the oven for about 60 minutes, or until the surface has dried up
  17. Whisk the double cream until it forms stiff peaks and store in the fridge until required
  18. Beat the unsalted butter with icing sugar until smooth and set aside until required
  19. Once the cake is cool, use a sharp knife to level the cakes and assemble the components
  20. Spread half of the double cream onto the first cake, cut the strawberries into halves/quarters (Size dependent) and place onto the cream
  21. Take some small meringues, break it up and place onto the cream
  22. Place second layer of cake on top and repeat step 21
  23. Place the final layer of cake on top
  24. Spread the butter cream around the sides and top of the cake
  25. Melt white chocolate in microwave (low power, white chocolate is easy to burn) or over a saucepan of simmering water in a heat proof bowl
  26. Blend 100g raspberries and sieve the content to obtain about 50-60ml raspberry juice
  27. Add the raspberry juice into the melted white chocolate and mix well
  28. Let the raspberry, white chocolate sauce cool down for about 15 minutes
  29. Pour onto the cake and let it dribble down the side of the cake
  30. Place the remaining meringue and chopped berries on top of the cake

 

Lemon and sugar brittle cake

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Ingredients

Cake

  • 160 self raising flour
  • 120+60g caster sugar (separated)
  • 4 eggs (yolk and white separated)
  • 80ml water
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest from 2 lemons
  • 800ml double cream

Lemon curd

  • 2 lemons
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk

Sugar brittle

  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp bicarbonate

Cake

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C (356°F) or 160°C (320°F) in a fan assisted oven
  2. Mix flour, 120g caster sugar together and mix
  3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg yolks, water, vanilla extract, lemon zest and vegetable oil
  4. Mix until the ingredients have been mixed and forms a smooth batter
  5. Beat  egg white with electric whisk until it is white and foamy
  6. Add the 60g caster sugar, one tbsp at a time to the egg white
  7. Continue whisking until the egg white is shiny and forms stiff peaks
  8. Add 1/3 of the egg white to the cake batter and mix it in
  9. Add 1/3 of the remaining egg white and very gently fold it into the batter, avoid releasing the air bubbles
  10. Add the remaining egg white and again, fold it in gently
  11. Once the egg white is fully incorporated, pour the cake batter into a 21cm round cake tin (without baking paper)
  12. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until well risen and skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake
  13. Turn the cake tin upside down and let the cake cool in the tin on a wired rack for at least an hour (if you had used baking paper, the cake would fall out of the tin during cooling)

Lemon curd

  1. Prepare lemon curd during cake cooling
  2. Mix lemon juice and zest from 2 lemons, butter and caster sugar together in a heatproof bowl
  3. Stand the bowl over simmering water in a saucepan, avoid touching the bottom of the bowl with the water below
  4. Once the sugar and butter have melted and incorporated, beat the eggs gently and add it into the lemon mixture and whisk immediately
  5. Whisk continuously for about 5 minutes and let it stand over simmering water for another 10-15 minutes (mix every 2-3 minutes)
  6. Cook the lemon curd over simmering water until it has slightly reduced in volume and coats the back of a metal spoon
  7. Take the lemon curd off the heat and let it cool

Sugar brittle

  1. Add honey to sugar in a saucepan and mix
  2. Heat until sugar has melted and turns to a dark yellow/very light brown
  3. Add bicarbonate and mix immediately
  4. Cook for a minute
  5. Pour in a baking tray covered with baking baking and let it cool and solidify

Assembly

  1. Whisk double cream until it stiffens, but not so much that it turns to butter
  2. Slice the cake horizontally to 2-3 equal slices (depends on what you can manage)
  3. Cover the slices with a layer of cream and a thin layer of lemon curd and put the slices on top of each other
  4. Pipe the remaining cream on the outside of the cake
  5. Break the sugar brittle into small pieces and use them to decorate the cake
  6. Spread the remaining lemon curd evenly over the cake

 

 

Green Day’s American Idiot: UK national tour

Have I ever been a big fan of Green Day? Not really. Did I find this show entertaining? Well, not particularly either. You can say this musical is THE definition of a jukebox musical. Very often, you’ll find a storyline strung together with dialogues and broken up with songs that are of little importance to the progression of the story in these jukebox musicals. Of course, some of the shows of this genre are actually very well done, for example Beautiful: the Carole King Musical and Sunny Afternoon.

What about the American Idiot? Well, I sat through the entire show and didn’t really manage to catch the name of more than 1 or 2 of the characters. Furthermore, I had very little idea as to what was going on in act 1. The issue is that they tried to squeeze too many songs into a very short period of time and provided little to no description of the events taking place. My interpretation of the story is largely based on educated guesses and there were certainly many MANY head scratching moments.

The overhead TV that appeared on and off throughout the play could have been used more effectively. For the most part, what was displayed on TV had no connection to the events taking place on stage. In fact, I believe the TV screen was playing a random footage of stars and galaxy at one point.  Whatsername was hitting on a metal gate to attract Johnny’s attention in Act 1 soon after they met. The noise was very quiet and could have been missed easily. This could have been made much louder to attract the audiences attention.

Despite all that, some of the musical numbers were good. I personally enjoyed “Wake me up when September ends”, “Jesus of Suburbia” and the titled song “American idiot”. This show didn’t feel like a musical at all. If anything, it’s more suitable to describe it as a scripted rock concert. One with seats and no shouting. In conclusion, a very bizarre and strange experience.

Score: 1.5/5