Monday, 30 November 2015

Reindeer & Snowman Brown Sugar Cookies

This is my first bake after the macaron photoshoot to kick start Christmas bakes! Reindeer and snowman brown sugar cookies!


It's a relief to start off with a simple bake after really hectic days working on the macarons. Well, simple to me :p. It's pretty tedious to decorate iced cookies but straightforward. No tricky meringues or electric mixers involved, and you can leave your bake lying around to dry or the dough resting in the fridge while you are busy with other things. These cookies keep very well, up to a month in a cool and dry place.

I always choose to use brown sugar cookies as my cookie base instead of regular sugar cookies although they don't appear as pretty because they really taste and smell so much better! I always get rave reviews for these in terms of taste.

It's the same recipe I use over and over again so I won't type it out. Please refer to this post for the recipe for brown sugar cookies and royal icing, and this post on how to make homemade templates. Roll the dough to 1/4" thick. As a rule of thumb, the more detailed the iced features are, the bigger you should make the cookies or it will be a real pain to include all the details. The reindeer cookies are about 12 cm tall because there are a lot of fine details.

Just to share some photos of the process...

Tracing out reindeer outline using edible marker and homemade template

All outlined! It took me a day's work to bake and outline all 20 cookies.

Use a Wilton 1S tip to outline the reindeer by tracing the edible marker outline. I use charcoal powder to colour the icing black.

I believe I haven't actually shown photos of this step. Here's how I fill outlined cookies. Pipe some icing within the boundary...

Then use a toothpick to nudge the icing into tight corners.

Day 1 of icing cookies!

Day 2 of icing cookies! All done!

Just some tips on colouring royal icing, add a little colouring at a time to avoid making the colours too strong. Don't be afraid of mixing colours to make the subject more realistic or have colours that are softer on the eyes. E.g. tone down shocking pink colour (using purely pink gel food colouring will result in this) with a tiny toothpick dip of green, teal or blue; adding a tiny dash of charcoal, black or purple food colouring to make the the electric blue appear more muted. The brown hues of the reindeer are actually made up of a mixture of cocoa powder, and brown, orange, and ivory gel food colouring. The grey hooves of the reindeer are made from leftover light brown icing with some charcoal powder and a drop of white gel colouring. Starting from a brown base makes the grey appear warmer. How do I figure this out? You are not going to like my answer :p. 凭感觉 or "by feel". After a while I just know what colours to add to the mix by looking at a reference picture. I still can't get some colours perfectly right all the time but practice helps :).

Remember to let the iced cookies dry thoroughly before storing or packing. I speed up the process by oven drying using the fan mode with the heat turned on for a few seconds. It may take an hour or so to dry thoroughly. Alternatively, leave the cookies out to dry overnight in an air-conditioned room. Drying out in the open in hot and humid Singapore may not be such a good idea.

All packed and ready to party!

With love,
Phay Shing

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Sunday, 29 November 2015

'Moo Moo' Chiffon Cake (Japanese Cream Cheese Chiffon & Charcoal Chiffon)


This is one of my two animal chiffon cakes this week! Cream cheese chiffon was requested and I was happy to try the lovely Japanese cream cheese chiffon shared by Baking taitai from a Japanese cake champion! The theme was ‘cow’ or 'moo moo' so I used Cream cheese chiffon with Charcoal powder to make 3D 'moo moo' patterns for the cow both at the bottom (or top) and sides of the chiffon. I also simplified the recipe into whole egg yolks and whites as I have some experience with low egg yolk: egg white ratios, and also the difference in the weight I used and the original recipe was not very significant. Hope you will like my 'moo moo' chiffon!


Recipe for this yummy Cream cheese Moo moo Chiffon is in my next cookbook Deco Chiffon Cakes launching in Sept 2016!  Hope you will love this yummy creation and do kindly link back if you use the recipe. Thank you!

With lots of love,
Susanne

Moo Moo Chiffon now in Deco Chiffon Cakes


Very happy that many have tried out the Moo moo chiffon from Deco Chiffon Cakes successfully and given good reviews in terms of taste and texture! 



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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Creative Baking: Macarons book with Marshall Cavendish

*Update (26/4/17): The Chinese edition of Creative Baking: Macarons is in print! Available only in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

The books are available in major bookstores in Hong Kong and online here:

http://www.popular.com.hk/jsp/product/product_search.jsp?vca001=2&vas001=PRODUCERS&KEYWORD=%AE%FC%C0%D8

The books are available in the following bookstores in Macau:

澳門星光
澳門文化
宏達

Readers from Taiwan are advised to purchase from online store at this stage.

*Update (14/6/16): Creative Baking: Macarons is now available on Amazon!

*Update (13/4/16): Great news! Creative Baking: Macarons is now available on Book Depository!

*Update (29/3/16): I have included a section at the end of this post to answer any queries that readers may have. Some have contacted me in private but I thought it would be good to collect all the queries and record it here.

* Update (8/3/16): Creative Baking: Macarons is available at all leading bookstores :).


*Update (19/2/16): Great news! Creative Baking: Macarons is available for preorders in Malaysia from MPH! Click on this link to find out more and take advantage of the 20% discount! The book will also be available on Amazon in the near future. Will post the updates here when the time comes!

Here's a short write-up on what the book is about, taken from the Marshall Cavendish 2016 catalog under the Cuisine section.



***********************************************************************************

The photoshoot is finally over!! I am sharing this post to let you have a sneak preview of the Creative Baking: Macarons book that is going to be published by Marshall Cavendish :). It's been a privilege and joy to work with the same talented team as the one that helped on Creative Baking: Chiffon Cakes. Unlike the photoshoots for chiffon cakes that were spread over a few weeks and 3 sessions, the photoshoot for macarons took place over 2 consecutive days with the team from Marshall Cavendish and Hongde Photography working overtime on both days to complete the shoot. Thank you all for your hard work! Still amazed at the professionalism and spontaneous creativity that the team displayed!

It was a hectic two days but we had our moments of cute overload. My favorite dose of cute overload is this bunch of sheep :).




These crabs gave us a good laugh with their smiley faces and playful demeanor :)


There's also cheery rainbows...


Delicious looking food...


Modes of transportation that actually look cute...


Wonderful group shots....


And some photos of my hands :p. Here's one of them...


The book is not just all about pretty pictures. There will be sections covering the basics, use of natural ingredients for colouring macarons, different types of fillings that are not too sweet, FAQs, and recipes and templates are provided for all 30 designs featured in the book. If you think that macarons are too difficult to make for homebakers, fret not! My first attempt at macarons did not look like macarons at all! But with more practice and knowledge of what is needed for a batch of successful macarons, I managed to churn out macarons that are good and cute! The Italian method is used for all recipes, which is more forgiving and foolproof than the French method.

Susanne and I are also very thankful for the generous support of Phoon Huat and Chew's eggs for providing ingredients that we needed for the photoshoots.

Thankful to my hubby who helped to take care of our kids while I was busy with the photoshoot, and to the kids for providing us with toys and even artwork as props.

Creative Baking: Macarons is scheduled to be out at Kinokuniya, Times and bigger Popular stores in March 2016. Really thank God and the team again!

Queries from readers
I am including the following section for readers' queries. Will update now and then if necessary.

1. Can I reduce the recipe by half?
Yes you may divide all ingredients by two and work with a 100g almond meal recipe. I have included 200g almond meal as the basic recipe as some people may have difficulty working with small quantities of egg whites when preparing the Italian meringue. But I have worked with half the amount and it's OK too :).

2. Do I turn on the fan in the oven when baking macarons?
Please don't. My apologies for not including this detail in the book. You may end up with browned and/or lopsided shells. You may turn the fan on for the first minute just to stabilize the oven temperature if it drops too much when you first place the tray of macaron shells in. But don't leave it on for too long or your shells won't turn out well.

3. Must I use an oven thermometer at all times?
Yes!! Well this question wasn't asked but I realised that many homebakers assume that their actual oven temperature is exactly what is set on the oven. Home ovens can be off by 10-20°C so it is crucial for an oven thermometer to be in the oven during baking at all times. It's an inexpensive investment that is necessary. I use a cheap basic built-in oven with analog functions at home but rely on the thermometer (which costs $10) to achieve better temperature control.

4. Why is my batter runny even if I just folded until no traces of meringue is seen? 
Chances are you didn't beat your egg whites until soft peak stage before adding the syrup into the egg whites. You may find that your piped shells take an awfully long time to dry as well.

5. Why does my batter turn bubbly after sitting out for a while?
This is a sign of the meringue breaking down. When the Italian meringue is prepared properly, this should not happen. Either the egg whites were underbeaten before the syrup was added or the meringue was not beaten long enough to cool until body temperature after the syrup was added. 

6. Why are my macaron shells hollow?
This question has been addressed in the book but I have gotten this same query from quite a number of people on foodie Facebook groups so I will just highlight it here with a more detailed explanation than what is included in the book. It seems like this problem is pretty common among homebakers.

There could a few factors or a combination of these factors that can cause the space between the top outermost layer which is formed during drying of the shells before baking and the fluffy cake-like interior.

- Baking temperature is too low during the initial baking time before internal structure has set. The oven has to be at 130-140°C during the initial 10-15 minutes (depending on size of macarons) of baking time. Use an oven thermometer to monitor the actual oven temperature at all times!

- Underbaked. This is related to the previous point. Underbaked shells have internal structures that are not fully set yet. So when you remove the tray of shells from the oven, the internal structure will collapse. Reduce the heat towards later half of baking time to ensure shells are baked through but not browned.

- Egg whites not beaten to soft peak before pouring in the syrup. If the egg whites are unable to hold a peak for a second before disappearing and the egg white bubbles still appear large instead of fine, the egg whites are not beaten long enough. The resulting meringue will not be stable.

- Italian meringue not beaten long enough. Make sure that the meringue is sufficiently cooled before you stop beating at high speed. This make take anywhere from 10-15 minutes depending on size of your batch. I usually blow a fan at the stand mixer to help it cool faster. Make sure that the meringue is at least body temperature before you stop beating.

- Didn't bang tray on the table after piping. Any trapped air bubbles that are not released in the batter will gather to form the air pocket under the outermost layer of the shell.

- Under-folded batter. Not enough air is knocked out of the batter.


With lots of love and thanks,
Phay Shing

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Monday, 23 November 2015

Sweet Cony Chiffon Cake


This is a sweet Cony Chiffon Cake made for a jc friend for his sweetheart =p! So it’s a sweet loving creation hehe. I rarely have pictures of sliced chiffon cakes as they are usually for friends. So I’m really thankful he sent me some pictures showing the texture (while they were cutting up the poor rabbit… ok turns out she didn’t bear to cut it the previous day :p). 



The Vanilla Chiffon Cake has reduced egg yolk and is steam-baked for greater moisture. He said it was delicious :p. Similar to Forever Friends, I used a 6-inch wilton ball cake pan. 

Reduced egg yolk vanilla chiffon cake
2 egg yolks
33g sugar
65g vegetable oil
70 ml water
10 ml vanilla extract
90g cake flour
Charcoal powder

7 egg whites
75g sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Prepare a tray of water at the bottom of the oven for steam baking.

2. Beat egg yolks with sugar with whisk till pale yellow before stirring in oil, water and vanilla extract.

3. Next add in sieved flour and whisk till no trace of flour found. Scoop out 5 tsp and add charcoal powder (to black shade), scoop out another 5 tsp and add a drop of pink food coloring, scoop out another 5 tsp and add few drops of strawberry paste.

4. Meringue: Beat the egg whites with ¼ tsp cream of tartar till stiff peak, mixing in caster sugar in 2 additions. Scoop out 10 tbsp meringue to the black, pink and red batters respectively.

5. Gently fold in the meringue in 3 additions into the cream, brown and pink batters respectively.

6. Divide the cream batter into a wilton ball cake pan leaving an inch from the top (for face), 2 oval glass bowls filled to 1 inch thick (for ears).

7. Bake the chiffon cakes in the bowls for 15 min at 160°C and then 5-10 min at 150°C, and the wilton ball pan for 15 min at 160°C and then 20-25 min at 150°C or when skewer comes clean.

8. Invert the chiffon cakes once removed from oven.

9. Pour the black, pink and red batters side-by-side in a baking paper-lined 10-inch tray. Bake the chiffon cake at 14 min at 160°C.

10. Unmould the chiffon cakes by hand by gently pulling from the sides of the tin and then flipping the cakes over. Unmould the layer cake by peeling off the sheet.

The eyes, nose and mouth were cut from the black cake using round cutters, oval cutters and knife. The cheeks, mouth, ear pads and hearts were cut from the pink and red cake using oval cutters, hearts cutters and knife. The features were assembled onto the main chiffon cake using marshmallow cream (melt marshmallows with a sprinkle of water in the microwave).

With lots of love,
Susanne


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Strawberry Raspberry Yoghurt Chiffon Sponge & Pudding Mini Cakes

There's endless possibilities when it comes to sponge and pudding cakes! Here's my another attempt at making a different flavour. Strawberry raspberry yoghurt flavour!


All these sponge and pudding cakes are inspired by the well known Pandan kaya cake, a cake that is refreshing and flavourful while being fondant and cream (buttercream and heavy cream) free at the same time. My first experiment with lychee rose flavour was so well received with quite a number of order requests from those who have tried it that I had to try other flavours. My Matcha Azuki bean sponge and pudding cake was also very refreshing and yummy :).

For this experiment, I decided to try out my silicone heart shaped moulds bought from Daiso.


It is very easy to unmould the cakes from silicone moulds and the finishing is very clean and smooth. Unmoulding from paper cupcake cases was trickier, as I found out from my Matcha Azuki attempt.

As usual, my family and neighbours were my guinea pigs had the privilege of being my taste testers.

Raspberry and strawberry yoghurt chiffon sponge cakes
Ingredients (makes two 15x15cm layer cakes):
1 egg yolk
10g caster sugar
20g canola/ vegetable oil
10g raspberry puree (you may substitute with strawberry yoghurt drink or other types of berry puree)
10g strawberry yoghurt drink
1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp (optional) strawberry paste
30g cake flour
A pinch of salt

2 egg whites
20g caster sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Steps:
1. Line two 15x15cm trays with parchment paper. Set oven rack to second lowest position. Preheat oven to 160°C.
2. Prepare the egg yolk batter. Whisk egg yolk and sugar until pale and thick. Gradually add oil and mix well. Add puree, yoghurt drink and 1/2 tsp strawberry paste. Mix well. Gradually add in sifted cake flour and salt. Whisk until no trace of flour is seen.
3. If you intend to have one shade of pink for the sponge layers, you can skip this step. If you would like two shades like what I did, divide the egg yolk batter into two. Add another 1/2 tsp of strawberry paste into one portion of egg yolk batter.
4. Prepare the meringue. In a clean metal bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form, gradually adding in the sugar when soft peaks start to form. Do not overbeat.
5. Divide the meringue into two if you have two shades of pink batter. Fold the meringue into egg yolk batter in 3 additions.
6. Pour the batter into prepared trays. Bake for 10 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Note that every oven is different so baking times may vary. Immediately flip the cakes onto baking paper. Carefully peel off the baking paper attached to the cakes. Cool with a sheet of baking paper over the cakes.
7. Use heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out layer cakes that can easily fit inside the mould. I forgot to take photos of this step as I made this cake on the same day as the Matcha Azuki bean cake.

Strawberry yoghurt pudding
Ingredients:
(A)
72g evaporated milk
167g strawberry yoghurt drink
1/8 tsp strawberry paste
1/8 tsp rose water (optional but adds a subtle fragrance that compliments the strawberry flavour)
25g caster sugar (add more or less according to taste. Mine is a little sour due to the yoghurt so add more sugar if you prefer a sweeter pudding.)
1/16 tsp salt
1 and 1/4 tsp agar powder

(B)
24g custard powder
140g water

Steps:
1. Mix ingredients in (B) in a jug. Set aside.
2. Place all ingredients in (A) in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Make sure that the mixture is warm or at least room temperature before the agar powder is added or you will get hardened bits of agar in the pudding.
3. Stir (B) again before slowly pouring into (A), stirring the mixture in the saucepan continuously. Bring to a boil while stirring. Remove from heat.

Assemble the sponge and pudding cake by alternating layers of sponge and pudding in the mould. Chill in fridge overnight before serving.

Neighbour's kids loving it :).



If you prefer fruity and piquant flavours, this cake is refreshingly good as an after meal dessert :).

With love,
Phay Shing

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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Banana Steamed Cupcakes

This is going to be my first demo class with hands-on for participants! I was told to keep things as simple as possible for my first try. The focus of my demo will be on showing the technique of beating egg and sugar with the electric mixer, and folding in the rest of the ingredients. The Singapore flag snowskin mooncake was purely demo so it was less involved. Here's my easy-peasy banana steamed cupcakes!

Banana Nutella flowers with MnMs ladybugs!

A peek at the texture and banana filled cupcakes...

I sliced off the top of the dome a little because it was smeared with Nutella.


I have a short downtime before the madness of icing/decorating over 200 macarons and filling about 250 macarons begin for the creative macaron book so I took the chance to make the steamed banana cakes for photography and taste test. I made steamed banana cupcake earlier on but with cat and bear designs. This design is simpler :). There is not much change in recipe except for the change in type of cupcake cases I used. As mentioned in my previous steamed cake post, I have chosen to use a method that involves beating whole eggs with sugar instead of just mixing wet and dry ingredients together with a hand whisk or spatula. The resulting texture is lighter and fluffier.

Ingredients (makes six 50x50mm cupcakes):
2 large eggs (at least 60g)
80g brown or white sugar (use more if you prefer sweeter cake. Mine is a lower sugar version.)
80g vegetable oil or melted butter (I used extra light olive oil but do use butter if you prefer the buttery fragrance)
140-150g mashed overripe banana (about 2 large bananas. Choose really really ripe ones for a more banana-y flavour)
1 tsp vanilla extract
140g cake flour*
2 tsp baking powder*
1/8 tsp salt*
1/4 tsp baking soda

Decoration:
Fresh small bananas
Lemon juice
Nutella
Red MnMs (optional)
Edible black marker (optional)

* You may replace with self-raising flour.


Clockwise from top left corner: 1) eggs, 2) mashed bananas with vanilla extract, 3) cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt sifted together, 4) brown sugar and 5) extra light olive oil. 


Steps:
1. Beat egg and sugar in a mixing bowl with electric mixer on high speed for at least 10-12 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every 3-4 minutes with a spatula. Mixture should more than double in volume. When you drop the mixture from the beaters forming a letter "O", it should be able to hold the shape for several seconds before fading back into the bowl of mixture.


2. Drizzle oil onto the mixture and gently fold in a little at a time with a spatula. Be really gentle to avoid deflating the beaten egg mixture.

3. Add in mashed banana with vanilla extract a little at a time and gently fold in.



4. Add sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt gradually and gently fold in.





5. Fill cupcake cases until almost full with batter. You may choose to add 1/2-1 tsp of nutella when the cases are about 2/3 full and fill the cupcake cases with more batter until almost full. Tap the cases on the table a few times to release trapped air bubbles. Do not use cupcake cases that have overlapping folded sides or it will open up during steaming. If you are using cases with folded sides, place the cupcake cases in a heatproof container that are slightly bigger than the cases like the smaller cupcake example below.



6. Steam for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Freshly steamed!


You may decorate the cupcakes with some banana slices and nutella.


Dip the banana slices in freshly squeezed lemon juice for about a minute before patting dry on paper towels. This will prevent the slices from browning quickly.



 Slice off the dome of the cupcake if you have trouble balancing the banana slices on top of the cake. Add a bit of Nutella in the middle, place the banana slices on top and top up the middle with more nutella. You may use a piping bag like I did or simply use regular plastic food bags or ziplock bags.


 I added some ladybugs for photography. These little critters are actually red MnMs with patterns drawn using black edible marker.



Please place them on the nutella patch instead of the banana slices if you do use MnMs for decoration. The red colouring will bleed onto the banana slices within a few minutes!

I hope you can try this simple "bake" at home :). I managed to make this for my kids within a busy morning with other things to do. Both kids gave this a thumbs up as they had it for dessert after lunch :). My parents had some the next day and they were still good and even better after re-steaming!

With lots of love,
Phay Shing







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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Cinderella Carriage Tier Chiffon Cake


This is a sweet fairy tale Cinderella cake I made for a friend’s friend’s little girl. The cute little Cinderella princess (chibi version =p) was provided by her and I was given the challenging task of making her carriage. I sought to use soft sweet colours that were Cinderella themed. Blue, as was the gown she wore to the party, and light pink, her mother’s gown, and of course cream colour for a classic look. I have shared recipes for the Vanilla chiffon cake (reduced egg yolk) for top tier, and Strawberry yoghurt chiffon cake for top tier. The Cinderella carriage was crafted from 2 vanilla bowl (Glass bowl, Iwaki brand, 11.5 mm OD) chiffon cakes. I stuck them together and did some carving for the pumpkin shape. The details on the carriage were added using layer chiffon cakes, which I also used to create the ribbons, frills and letters. I rolled some of the pink layer cake into mini swissrolls for the carriage wheels. I used marshmallow cream (made from melting some marshmallows with a sprinkle of water in the microwave) to join them on.

Thankful the mummy shared everyone loved the cake.. and the little girl really looked like a princess beaming with her cake!

Don’t we all love fairy tales?

With lots of love,
Susanne

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Monday, 16 November 2015

Animal Train Macarons (update on orange white chocolate filling)

I made this for my younger kid's birthday :).

Choo-choo!


I have to confess that this came at a time when I was really busy with bakes for the Creative Baking: Macarons book so I had to make do with whatever designs I am already making for the book and play around with whatever leftover batter I had. The macaron shells were actually made over a couple of session due to this reason. Thank God they freeze well! Remember to place the shells in airtight container with baking paper between each layer of shells when freezing. Completely thaw before opening the container.

The train macarons are going to appear in the macaron book but with a slightly different design. Keep a lookout for it :).

The basic macaron and strawberry white chocolate recipe can be found here. I found that the orange white chocolate recipe can do with some improvements so I will type out the updated recipe here. I opted for non-refrigerated filling for ease of transport and handling as I have to bring it to school by public transport.

The key to improving the flavour of filling is the addition of orange zest and a good brand of orange extract/ essence, while toning down on the emulco as I find that it gives off a slightly artificial taste. The strawberry white chocolate on the other hand is really yummy even with the use of emulco as I add rose water to it to enhance the strawberry flavour.

The orange essence I use


Use the ratio of 0.55 for weight of Italian meringue/ weight of mass when portioning out for the various colours.

Just to share some photos of the process...

Piping out the train!

See how small the animal shells are!

Decorating the little animal shells with edible marker and royal icing

Finished icing!

Filling with orange white chocolate and strawberry white chocolate.

Orange white chocolate filling
Ingredients (fills about 10 macarons):
60g white chocolate, finely chopped
10g vegetable shortening
3/4 tsp orange extract/essence
1/4 tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp orange emulco
1/8 tsp salt
1 drop orange gel food colouring (optional)

Steps:
1. In a small saucepan, combine shortening, orange extract, zest, emulco and salt. Heat over low heat until shortening is melted and some moisture has evaporated from the mixture to prevent the white chocolate from seizing. Take about 3 minutes to do this. Set aside to cool a little.
2. Melt chopped white chocolate in microwave oven in 10 second bursts at medium power, stirring well after each round of heating. Alternatively, you may melt the white chocolate using the double boiling method. Melted chocolate should be smooth and flowy. If it is hard and rough, you have overheated it.
3. Gradually add the orange mixture into melted chocolate, stirring well with each addition.
4. Add a tiny drop of orange gel food colouring if you wish. Mix well. Leave the white chocolate to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes and check the consistency. If it has a toothpaste-like consistency, it is ready for piping onto the macaron shells. If it is still too runny, let it sit a while longer.


A closer look at the awesome feet on the shells!

Blessed birthday Mun Zhong! May you grow up to love God more and more each day!

With lots of love,
Phay Shing

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