Australian coffee and tea chronicles

My husband and I spent two weeks visiting our son who lives in Australia. Our last visit to Australia was 27 years ago when I was about my son’s age. Love the big hair, eh-yea?Patty & koala

The food and drink were wonderful, never had a bad meal. Coffee and tea were available everywhere.

The Australians love their coffee, drinking it all day and late into the night. Coffee shops are on every corner and most of them are not marketed chain stores. Lattes are called flat whites, pictured above.  At home in the U.S. I have pretty much given up coffee and milk, so drinking these were a leap of faith. The cows in Australia must be happier because the milk was creamier and frothier and didn’t make me ill. The baristas made each cup of flat white with love swirling me their signature on each one whether it was a ceramic or paper cup. I saw very few Starbucks but McDonald’s restaurants were quite prominent and they all had McCafe’s inside. McCafe’s served coffee and tea and were lovely respites serving, wait for it…..macarons!

I didn’t abandon my love for hot tea. It was everywhere also. All of the hotels we stayed at had kettles to boil water for tea.

The best part about drinking coffee or tea at a shop was enjoying a sweet or pastry.

Tim Tams are Australian favorites so I stocked up at duty free on my way home. They are chocolate covered cookies with caramel filling. They now come in a variety of flavors.

Tim Tams

Family friends from Australia had told us about the Tim Tam Slam for years. The first coffee shop we saw in the Brisbane airport validated that it really exists. The steps are: 1) bite off the diagonal corners of the Tim Tam. 2) use it as a straw to slurp up a warm cup of tea or coffee, 3) pop it in your mouth and enjoy the melted Tim Tam.

tim tam slam

We’ve been home for a few weeks now. I have returned to my daily spot of tea, sans sweets and pastries. The relaxed feeling of sipping coffee or tea lingers in memory. A moment of civility. Cheers.

great barrier reef

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Spring Green

I spent the past week in the snowy mountains. Upon returning home the trees have burst out with flowers, shoots of grass have sprouted, and the sun has warmed the earth.  I’m feeling green. The color of spring.

Two months ago for the tea party I made goodie bags with Matcha green tea. I started drinking it during menopausal years for an energy boost. According to Wikipedia Matcha green tea is a finely milled or fine powder green tea.  Japanese tea ceremonies focus on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. Matcha is used to flavor and dye foods such as sobi noodles, ice cream, pastries and even a Japanese candy called wagashi.

Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest & can last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight.This slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production of amino acids in particular L-Theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying, the result will be auokuro tea. If the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha. Tenchacan then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.

It can take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha. Now I know why it is so expensive. I purchased 1.5 ounces for $14.

Matcha green tea

My fellow blogger, jothetartqueen has made many recipes with Matcha green tea. She is a trained chef and I appreciate her talents and daring skills.

For my challenge I made macarons and candy laced with matcha.I’ve made macarons before check out this earlier posting.

Match tea macarons from  Mélanger :: to mix

100 g egg whites

35 g egg white powder

125 g almond meal

125 g powdered sugar

2 tsp Matcha green tea powder

Syrup: 150 g sugar and 50 ml water

Directions

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, and add the matcha tea powder.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

green tea macarons

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

baking sheets of macarons

Chocolate ganache 

120g dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.


chocolate ganache

the final product

Matcha White Chocolate Pistachio Cups – The Sweetest Kitchen

Makes about 10-12 mini cups

Ingredients
For the outer shell:
140 grams good quality white chocolate (at least 30% cocoa solids)
About 1/2 teaspoon Matcha – or enough to get a nice pastel green color

For the filling:
1 cup pistachios, shells removed
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon flavorless oil, but you may need less or slightly more (I used canola)
pinch or two of Matcha
25g icing sugar

For the filling, place pistachios and salt in a food processor and blend until it starts coming together in a ball. This could take up to 15 minutes and you’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl often. If you’ve ever made your own nut butter, it’s basically the same process. With the motor running, add some oil slowly until the nut butter begins to thin out. Do not use too much though as you don’t want it to be runny. About the consistency of commercially prepared peanut butter is good. Add a pinch (or two if you like) of Matcha to the nut butter and blend again until well combined.  Set aside.

paste

Place 12 mini cupcake wrappers into a mini cupcake baking tray. Note, I only got 11 1/2 cups using this recipe!

For the outer shell, melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring constantly. Do not let the bowl touch the water, and do not get water into the chocolate. When chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat, immediately sift over matcha and stir until well combined and matcha is dissolved. Do this in small amounts so you can ensure you get the green color you want. If you put in too much matcha, you might get an unappealing dark green color that no one wants to eat!

When you reach your desired color, place about 1 even teaspoon of melted chocolate into each mini cupcake liner. Using the back of a small spoon, bring the chocolate up the sides of the paper liners and smooth down the bottom to make it flat. Repeat for each liner. Place the tray in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes to set.

Measure 96 grams of pistachio butter and transfer this amount to a clean bowl. Sift over the icing sugar and stir (or use your hands) to thoroughly combine. Form 12 balls from the pistachio butter/icing sugar mixture using about 1 teaspoon, just slightly rounded, each. Place on a clean surface. Take out the baking tray from the refrigerator, ensure the chocolate is hardened, then slightly flatten the pistachio balls with the palm of your hand and place 1 ball into each chocolate cup.

candy cups

Pour 1 teaspoon of chocolate (you may need to re-melt it) on top of each pistachio ball, ensuring the filling is completely covered. To get a smooth top, do not use a spoon or knife to flatten or spread it; just pick up the tray and tilt it around (you may need to tap it gently on the countertop) to get the chocolate to cover the filling and you should end up with a completely smooth top. Repeat for each cup. Refrigerate until set, around an hour.

To serve, let the cups come to room temperature and for a more intense matcha flavor, dust some matcha over the top of the cups.

 

tea cup

 

Patty’s Points:

1. Loose green tea that is steeped, cannot be blended into Matcha tea. I tried doing that before reading the Wikipedia article. How silly! A coffee and tea shop owner thought it was a good day also. I was also surprised she had never heard of matcha green tea. Only a few shops carry Matcha green tea. I have found better prices on the internet but haven’t delved into purchasing it as yet. I have purchased “shots” of Match green tea that was added to a smoothie which was yummy.

2. Macarons are fun to make, now that I have mastered them. I whipped out the batches in about 2-3 hours. I sprinkled the Matcha tea atop each cookie for a nice accent.

3. The candies were actually pretty easy to make. Unsalted pistachios can take a while to find, look somewhere where they have bulk items. These candies are so rich, they don’t need any additional salt so try to get the unsalted type.  I had to make adjustments to the amount of powdered (icing) sugar so make sure to taste it as you mix it.

4. These treats are quite rich, so eating one or even half of one was plenty for me to sample.  They made nice treat bags.

What a fun way to use tea! Another culinary adventure!

 

I took a macaron cooking class. See what I learned

4-H was my first leap in cooking. I learned how to make dishes from the project recipe books with lots of practicing. But, I have never taken a cooking class. I’ve seen plenty of food demonstrations (that will be a future blog post) but never taken an actual class from a chef.

Ever since the macaron adventure in February 2012 I’ve been obsessed with macarons.  I have looked at different recipes on blog posts and macaron cookbooks. jothetartqueen has a chocolate macaron recipe; The Seaside Baker, my BlogHer Food friend, makes tons of macarons and has several flavors posted on her  blog; and a friend went to France and brought back a package of French macarons and a macaron cookbook completely written in French.

I saw an opportunity to take a macaron cooking class. I thought I could learn from a professional chef and fine tune my technique. After all, I am self-taught, studying recipes and cooking by lots of trial and error. I wanted to see what an expert could teach me.

I was off to a rocky start as I rolled in 15 minutes late and as my online reservation wasn’t received. But, they had room in the class and I fell into an affable group of two women, Erin and Susan, who welcomed me to the class. Susan has a knitting blog, so we bonded quickly.

When I jumped in, Erin was sifting the almond flour with the powdered sugar. Tip #1 was to sift the dry ingredients twice for a finer flour and to throw out the bigger pieces. You could even put it in the food processor first before sifting. You can’t over sift the dry ingredients.  Tip #2 store your almond flour in the freezer so it doesn’t spoil.

Next was the egg whites. Tip #3 whip them until foamy on a medium speed before adding the sugar and when the sugar is incorporated whip at a high-speed until stiff peaks are achieved. Deborah our chef said the bowl did not have to be cold but the egg whites should be at room temperature and “aged” at least one day.

Tip #4 use a Silpat liner under the parchment paper to prevent burning as well as an extra cookie sheet underneath. Our first batch of blueberry macarons turned out great. Perfect in fact.

Then we learned how to make a berry cream filling. That was new for me because I have used pre-made fillings like curd, jams, Nutella, or caramel in the past. I volunteered with three other students to go to the stove and make the filling. It turned out to be a lovely curd-like filling using cream, marscapone cheese, berry filling, eggs and sugar.

So I took those techniques from class and fine tuned my macarons.

Problem #1: Too hot an oven. The recipe called for 375 degree oven. After the first batch I turned it down to 350-360 degree F. See the first batch on the left is a little too brown compared to the light green batch on the right.

Problem #2: Cracked macaron. I think this happened because I didn’t let this batch dry completely for 30 minutes, I might have popped them in at 25 minutes.

Problem #3: Powdered mango. The mango macaron recipe called for powdered mango. In our class we had powdered mango. I asked Chef Deborah how to make it and she said to food process dried mango. As you can see below that did not happen. I dried it in the oven twice and pulverized it 2-3 times in the food processor and I got maybe 2 pinches of mango powder into the mix. I added some water to it and used it to make my filling.

I made two fillings Lime Cream and Mango Cream. I can’t believe I used a stick of butter for each of these fillings with the curd flavoring. They tasted good. mmmm butter.

While I was in the class, I asked lots of questions and I think Chef Deborah liked that. There were four groups of students, 15 in all, and four helpers clearing away our dishes. If I was taking the class for the first time I would’ve been overwhelmed. Making macarons calls for many details. I knew my subject and kept up with a fast paced class. All in all, I am glad I took the class. I felt more confident making my macarons today.

Pièce de résistance (my fine accomplishment). Embrassez le cuisinier (kiss the cook)

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