On Passion, and a Sugar Anemone Cake


I made this cake recently for a good friends birthday. A beautiful cake for a beautiful lady. Happy birthday Jackie! And may you never lose your smile.

I also recently read this post from Chris Guillebeau. For those of you that don’t know, I have long dallied in motivational stuff in general. Chris’s site is awesome. Check it out. And the TEDX is awesome. Also check that out. But the message in this particular post/talk really struck a cord with me.

Even though I’ve been to many seminars and read many books, I still haven’t found the courage to do what I love. What I’m really passionate about. Part of it is not knowing what I’m passionate about. But what I do know is that I don’t like what I’m doing now. I’m climbing the proverbial ladder. But I know, with a deep and horrible certainty, that it’s the wrong ladder.

Caking is the closest I’ve come. I want to start making cakes more often. I’m curious what it could lead to.

I’ve always operated with a faith that things will work out, a strange long-term optimism. Does anyone share this optimism? And how have you guys found your passion?


Hazelnut Macarons With Nutella Ganache

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I’m really excited to be adding the first macaron post to this blog. I’m not sure if the macaron “craze” is still going on. I guess it’s no longer the “next new thing” but is now just “the thing”. You can find macarons pretty easily in Sydney. A good portion of cafes have a tray or jar of them ready to go. I will say though, the quality does vary, and it certainly pays off to taste your way around town as each macaron establishment seems to have its own style and tendencies.

Baroque Bistro (and little sister La Renaissance) has a really beautiful, tall macaron with punchy, assertive flavors. Ladurée has a slightly more squishy looking macaron, with a more delicate flavor and texture combo. I really love both these places. Initially I didn’t really want to like Ladurée as they bake their macarons in Switzerland or something and ship them to the land of Oz frozen, but given that the taste is fantastic, and the store and packaging is so cute and inspiring…Yeah, I’m a sucker for packaging. And a bit of a Francophile. There. I said it.

Adriano Zumbo and Lindt also get a mention here, but I’m not a huge fan of either. Lindt I find is too firm and way too sweet. But you know, if that’s your thing… Zumbo’s macarons are a tad crunchy for me, but the flavors he comes up with are too fun not to explore every now and then.

Most often though, I get my macaron fix at home. I spent plenty of time and money and tears on getting these right, and I’ve come to a point where I’m pretty happy with them. Every now and then though, they like to remind me that they are not to be taken lightly, and will come out of the oven crappy on purpose. Just out of spite.

That’s not to say these little cookie/pastry thingies are too difficult to make. They just take a little care. They’re supposed to be French (*ahem* Italian impostors), and they are proud like a good Frenchman should be. The recipe is below. Give it a go and let me know how you get on.

I’ll just note that it was really hard to me to write up this recipe without it becoming a thesis. I hope to post up my experiences with making macarons in the near future, with what I found works and doesn’t work. In the meantime, Ms Humble has some really fantastic posts about macaron making on her awesome blog that you should check out, like now.

Hazelnut Macarons with Nutella Ganache

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 100g almond meal
  • 50g hazelnut meal
  • 120g egg white (approx 4 egg whites)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 65ml cream
  • 50g nutella

Start by making the filling. Heat the cream in a saucepan and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let this sit for a bit then stir it all together until smooth. Stir through the nutella and leave it aside to rest and firm up a bit.

Pre-heat your oven to 150°C.

Blitz together the icing sugar, almond meal and hazelnut meal together in a food processor until very fine. It should clump together a bit when you squeeze it.

Throw this mixture in a bowl and add 60g of egg whites. Mix together. This will look like a stiff clumpy thingy, but that’s totally normal!

Throw the other 60g of your egg whites into a clean bowl, or the bowl of your mixer if you are using.

Add your caster sugar and water to a clean saucepan and heat until 118°C. If you don’t have  a sugar thermometer, you can still do this using the cold water test.

When you start heating the sugar, start gently whipping up your egg whites. You want your syrup to reach the right temperature at about the time when your egg whites hit soft peaks.

Once your egg whites are holding soft peaks, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup, continuing to beat your meringue as you go. Continue to beat this until the bowl is no longer hot to touch (I like to use metal bowls as they are a truer indicator of the temperature inside). Your meringue should now be thick, shiny, sticky and white.

Fold your meringue into the egg white, nut meal mixture that you created earlier, adding it a third at a time with a silicone spatula. Be gentle with this stuff, but don’t be too afraid to knock it around a little either. This is the bit where you are trying to achieve “macaronage”. Basically, you want to knock enough air out of the mixture that when the macarons bake, they don’t rise too quickly and crack. However, you want to make sure you don’t knock too much air out of thing that it collapses in the oven. Yeah, this is the reason why people say macarons are finicky.

It might take you a couple of tries to get the right consistency, but don’t be afraid! Once you’ve don’t it a few times you’ll get a feel for what it should look and feel like. As a guide, if you lift your spatula and trail a ribbon of the batter over itself, it should begin soften and disappear into the rest of the batter with a few wobbles of the bowl.

Your macaron batter is now ready to pipe! Piping is another thing that becomes easier with practice, but if you haven’t done it before, YouTube is a fantastic place to start.

Pipe out your trays of macarons on baking paper and let them hang out on the counter for a while (I’ll talk a bit more about this in a later post).

Bake one tray at a time for about 20mins each. They should start forming feet at about 5 minutes in. To test them, you can try plucking one up from the tray. If it pops up easily, it’s done. You can also try prodding them. If they wobble and feel soft on their feet, they need more drying/baking time in the oven. If they feel nice and firm, there’s a good chance they’re done.

Once cooled, flip them over, pair them up, pipe the ganache on one side and sandwich them together.

Once you’ve done all this, you will have macarons. But don’t eat them yet. Let them sit in the fridge overnight. They will be much much better. Trust me.