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Comparing Macarons Like a Pro… November 25, 2010

Posted by blackpumpkin in Food.
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…when I’m not one. Lols. Everyone has different preference in taste. And I have my own ranking of macarons which I like.

Ong Susu just came back from Aussie and she helped me to buy some Lindt’s macarons. I’ve been really in love with these ever since I came back from Paris but I’ve yet to find some nice macarons which can beat Laduree’s or Sadaharu Aoki’s.

These Lindt’s macarons are sold at A$2.50 each. It’s ok. Nice but not as good as the ones I had in Paris. I find the crust a little too thick to my liking.. more like cookies. Huhu. But from these few flavours, I like pistachio the best. (And it’s a flavour ong susu picked for me!)

This is Santo Tome’s (Plaza Zocodover, Toledo) macarons. They were.. erm.. a bit hard. I kinda have a bad impression on Spain’s desserts. Lols. I guess you should only try mazapans in Spain since they’re famous for it.

The first ever macarons which I tried! Sadaharu Aoki’s macarons! Yummyyyy! I like the fact that they have small ones. Lindt’s macarons only come in one size apparently.. since Susu was a bit confused when I told her I want the small ones. Lol. But macarons are generally SWEET and having a big piece of macaron is.. erm.. a little too sweet for me.

The best macaron award goes to Laduree!! I love their rose flavoured macarons ^.^ It’s too bad that I didn’t get to try Pierre Herme’s macarons as I read it’s even better than Laduree’s?

Me <3 Prizes November 4, 2010

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Madu and I joined this video competition organised by Taylor’s. He’s the main cast, of course. And he plots what to do and stuff. It’s just a 30-sec video to show what’s your biggest fear.

But the annoying part is.. well, it’s a facebook competition. So you win by getting the most votes. Such competitions are NEVER fair. The most friends win, obviously. ARGHH. I spent the whole day sitting in front of my lappie to msg people in my list to “like” the video.

The good thing bout this competition is, I get to catch up with old friends 🙂 Ended up talking to them and catching up with their life. And I discovered who are the selfish people in my list and I shall NOT help them even if they need my help in the future. i.e. there was this girl who joined some competition like this before.. i helped her back then and now when I needed help, she ignored me! WTF RIGHT?! Damn selfish fella.

Oh! And there’s another girl.. I helped her click before too. But when I asked her to help me, she ignored me also. And after my competition ended, apparently she joined another competition and she has the face to ask me help her again! WTF MANN. I ignored her of course. Such selfish people do not deserve help!

There’s also lotsa nice friends though. I have many friends who not even helped me “like” the video. They helped me to promote too! That’s reallllly nice 🙂

Anw, we only ended up with the complimentary prize. Had 1k plus votes but still lost by 300+ votes. Nevertheless, I’m contented with a Carlo Rino bag! Other prizes include RM100 voucher for Tropicana Life and 1 month Muay Thai training for 2 persons.

Cookie, My Little Baby October 28, 2010

Posted by blackpumpkin in Pets.
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On 24th Oct, my dad came back telling me that there’s an abandoned puppy left sitting in a tyre in the field near our house. (I need to write down the date here or I’d forget!) And so, my bro and I went to check it out. The poor thing was left to fend for herself.. but she’s a pup sooo tiny. She hasn’t even opened her eyes! What’s more walk! Toothless and harmless, left with no food or drink. HOW ON EARTH WILL SHE SURVIVE?!

So I was telling my bro to just bring her home first and IF my parents really object to it, we’ll have to send her back to the field and maybe drop some hints to a neighbour who is a dog lover. Lucky though, my parents agreed that we’ll raise her.. but one condition from my dad – We can only raise her til she can take care of herself and then she’ll be set free! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! But we already have Jojo and Woofer at home and it’ll be really hard to manage 3 dogs since they have to go for walks twice a day (that’d be 6 times if we adopt the puppy)

Nevertheless, my bro and I still took the responsibility to raise her because we believe that we’ll be able to make our dad accept her when she’s ready to take care of herself! Huhu.


LOOOOK!! SO CUTEE! How can I resist her?! Her eyes are open now and she can walk already! Though still a little wobbly. I guess she’s about 2 weeks old. But handling a pup is so much like a practice to handle a real human baby!

We have to feed her milk once every 2 hours using a bottle, clean her poop, clean it when she pees.. And just taking care of her would’ve took half of my day (if you add them all up). Of course that includes playing time XD I can just sit down at stare at her the whole day. SO SO CUTEEE! Lols. She’s very obsessed with sucking now and she likes to sleep next to my foot or on my foot XD

IF really we could not rear her, I hope I’d be able to find a nice master for her. I don’t want to set her free! There’s lotsa dog-catchers here.. and they don’t catch. THEY SHOOT THE DOGS TO DEATH!! Just a week or two ago, two dog (which unfortunately do not have a tag though they have owner) were shot 😦 Plus, I read before that the market nearby sells DOG MEAT! @%$@*#& But I’m not sure if they’re still selling it now.

Anw, one more month to go.. *keeps finger crossed*

The Macarons Sequel (French Meringue) October 20, 2010

Posted by blackpumpkin in Baking, Food.
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I failed on my first attempt. There were feet, the shell doesn’t crack easily but the batter was thick when I mixed it, the macarons were wayyyy too sweet and chewy.

I failed again on my second attempt. The batter looks ok to me. Not too runny, not too thick. But there’s no feet this time! And the shell was porous (I swear I did bang the tray on the tabletop before leaving it to rest). It’s wayyy too sticky.  But mistakes I made.. I added rose liquid flavouring to the almonds so that might be one of its cause.

BUT I FINALLY MADE IT ON MY THIRD ATTEMPT! I was getting paranoid. I checked the humidity (Since it’s always humid here!) and found out that it’s always less humid around 2pm-4pm. So I started work at 2pm! Lols.

Ingredients:
95g egg whites (3 eggs)
30g granulated sugar
170g icing sugar
117g almond flour

The steps are simple.

24 hours before baking them:

  • Age the egg whites. Cover them with a paper towel and leave it in the fridge. Make sure there’s no traces of yolk or the egg whites will go bad.
  • Measure and prepare all other ingredients. Sift the icing sugar and almond flour. I don’t sift my almond flour though cos I buy my almond flour and my mom won’t let me use her food processor though the almond flour seems a bit coarse.

On the baking day:

1. Beat the eggs at medium speed until you see lotsa bubbles. Gradually add in granulated sugar (I pour them in slowwwwwly) and beat at higher speed. For my mixer, I used speed 3 at first, and increase it to speed 5. Stop when you see stiff peaks forming.

2. Mix the icing sugar and almond flour. Then add them to the meringue (1/3 each time). Use the fold in method. I add my gel paste colouring at the same time.


I read somewhere that we should not fold it for more than 50 times. Did that on my second attempt but I failed T.T But I counted the times I folded the batter.. it’s approx 60+ times. The batter must not be too runny or thick. Everyone says it should flow like magma.. I’m not sure how that looks but I stop mixing it once all the dry ingredients are incorporated and the peak dissolves after about 30 seconds.

3. I used a disposable icing plastic bag to fill the batter. After piping them, I bang the tray hard on the tabletop and poke all air bubbles with a toothpick. I let them rest for 30 minutes to form a skin which will help in the formation of ‘feet’.


4. Bake at 150°C for 13 minutes if you’re using a conventional oven. (Not sure of convectional/fan-forced oven since I don’t have one)

I was so soooo extremely excited when I saw feet forming! And there’s a crispy skin when I popped them into my mouth. Not super chewy like the first time. Anw, macarons cannot be eaten fresh. They need to be matured for a day or two. So I’ve filled them all and they’re sitting in the fridge now 🙂

There are certain things which I changed/did this time:

  • Used a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients instead of a spoon.
  • Did not add liquid flavouring to the almond & sugar mixture.
  • Used a non-stick parchment paper.
  • Poked all air bubbles with a toothpick on the shell.
  • Age egg whites for 48hours with a paper towel covering the bowl.

A few important points bout making macarons:

  • Aged egg whites reduce the moisture in the eggs and the macaron shells will not crack easily.
  • Best not to add liquid flavouring to the batter or it might be too moisture.
  • Overbeaten batter will be runny. If batter is thick, give it a few more folds. If it’s too runny, add in some dry ingredients.
  • Use powder or gel colouring. Liquid colouring affects its moisture.
  • Macarons turn brown if baked at high heat. And it’ll turn chewy if baked too long. I’ve been trying it with all sorts of temperature and time with my oven. Diff oven takes diff time and temperature.
  • French meringue is easier but italian meringue will be better if made in large batches ‘cos italian meringue is more stable. I used french meringue and the later batches which was left too long for their turn in the oven ended up cracked.

Here are some useful links to make macarons:

Syrup & Tang wrote a very good guide on macarons (methods, troubleshooting macarons etc)

On the other hand, Food Nouveau provides a detailed, step-by-step process with illustrations (:

And Veronica experimented the outcome of aged egg whites and fresh egg whites used.

This is Ms Humble’s troubleshooting guide which is pretty good too!

Woodfire-cooked pizza! October 17, 2010

Posted by blackpumpkin in Food.
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It was my first time to Michelangelo Pizzeria in Ipoh though it was opened since 2009 Dec (or so I read) Huhu.

The unique part of it is that the pizza’s made with woodfire. I didn’t take a pic of it cos it was kinda crowded. The shop opens at 6pm, I went there at about 6.30pm, and there’s already lotsa people there! The area is kinda small thus, catering not many customers.

I read really good reviews of the place. Especially on how friendly and nice the shop owner (Michael) was. I didn’t see him in person though. Either he’s not in at that time or he’s making pizza at the back. Huhu. But the waiters and waitresses are friendly. Madu ordered a can of Sprite and I didn’t want any. In most ahbeng or ahlian coffee shops, they’ll GLARE at you for not ordering drinks. But the waitress was nice enough to ask if I wanted an empty cup (She thought we’re sharing the drink). Though I don’t need it, but nice people like this makes me happy! ^.^

You can choose a few flavours for the pizza. But I guess the maximum you should choose is 4 flavours (It’s not good to test them with 8 flavours and see it all squeezed up in one pizza) We chose two only – Italian Sausage and BBQ.


The pizzas are all served on a pan, supported by a large, empty tomato puree can. The pizza’s not bad. Lotsa ingredients used. It was crispy and all. But the bottom part was a bit burnt (maybe I’m unlucky or something) and I find it a little bitter. Not the whole pizza was burnt underneath though. Only a few sides. Anw, I find the portion large for 2 person. Madu and I couldn’t finish it and we had to tapao. I guess 3-4 persons would be able to finish it.

On the way out, WE SAW THIS! ARGHH! I read a lot bout this being really nice and Michael decided to make them again! (It was limited edition before this). I think I’ll be back there to give it another try later. Huhu.

Bad ETS First Time Experience October 16, 2010

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I am a loyal supporter of KTM intercity train esp KL-Ipoh as I find train a safer mean of transport (too many accidents in the highway with speeding or drunk bus drivers.. I can’t trust them!). But I was really unlucky. I went to the station on Tue to get Thurs’s tickets and we had this.. er.. frustrating conversation.

 

Me: Nak beli tiket hari Khamis.

Lady: Komputer rosak!

Me: Komputer rosak sampai malam kah?

Lady: Ya. Esok datang lagi.

 

Pffft. Wasted 30 minute parking fee! So I went there again the next day (Wed).

 

Lady: Komputer rosak.

Me: Masih rosak?! Semlm saya datang, orang tu kata hari ni boleh beli?

Lady: Komputer rosak. Datang lagi esok.

Me: Tak boleh reserve kah?

Lady: Tak boleh.

Me: Jadi guarantee ada ticket kah?

Lady: Ehh.. tak boleh.

 

Wth. HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE A CONTINGENCY PLAN?! KOMPUTER ROSAK TAK PAYAH BUAT KERJA! Fuiisehhh! Anw, I went to the ETS counter (electric train). The girl there was friendlier and she said “GUARANTEE ADA TIKET!” lols. She even asked me to pakai lawa2 like my mom (cos I was lazy to change mine and I look like pasar malam ahsam XD) Pffft. Another 30 minute parking fee wasted.

 

SO, I went again the next day (an hour before the train departs) and I got the electric train ticket! Woohoo~! I was pretty excited. I rode Renfe’s train in Madrid and it was mad fast! I can’t remember the exact speed but I think it’s 300++ km/h.

 

BUT when I saw the train, I was disappointed. It doesn’t have the cool bullet exterior. It looks just like any other train except that it’s newer. And another major diff is that there’s a cafeteria in my compartment and they sell hot food (like rendang, bihun etc instead of junk food in  the normal trains).

 

Anw, I was hoping it’d go fastttt! Like the one in Madrid. But no. I was monitoring its speed on the TV. Fastest speed from Ipoh to Batu Gajah – 144km/h. Ooookay. So I thought, maybe cos the station’s too near so it didn’t have the chance to speed up. Again, no. After Batu Gajah, the fastest speed it went was 124km/h. ZOMG. Took about 2 hrs 30 min to reach KL Sentral. It’s like only 30 min faster. WHY WOULD I WANNA PAY EXTRA RM18 TO SAVE 30MINUTES?! So yea, no next time. I’m going for the normal trains.

 

On second thought though, perhaps they can’t go fast due to the uneven train tracks. Huhu. I think this reason is acceptable. Nevertheless, I’m not gonna take ETS again unless there’s no more tic for the normal trains! Huhu.

B.l.i.n.G. October 9, 2010

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I’ve seen lotsa people going to I-City but I didn’t know its name at first. I thought it was just a Christmas thing in Pavilion! Anw, I was amazed by those colourful LED lights (I have a thing for colours) and finally asked Madu to drive us there! Woohoo~!

Entrance fee is RM5 on Mon-Thurs and RM10 on Fri-Sun (per car). And when you pay RM5/RM10, you’ll get a cash-back voucher at the same price. The vouchers can be used to buy drinks or as admission fee into the Cold World or Safari in I-City. With one voucher, up to 5 person can use the voucher to enter the Cold World or Safari. If you’ve used the voucher and would like to enter either one, there’s an admission fee of RM2 per person.

I think the Safari’s not worth going to especially at night cos it’ll be kinda dark to actually take a pic of the animals’ statues. The Cold World is REALLY cold. They have lots of aircond in the room! And after the Cold World, there’s a chinese new year room with mandarin orange trees, squirrels and red tanglungs 🙂

It’s a little warm there cos.. well.. lights generate heat? Huhu. The area’s still kinda empty. Not sure what time the shops close but there’s a cafe and an ice-cream shop opened at night (that’s all I noticed as I was more interested in the bling blings!)

Despite going on a weekday, the crowd’s still huge after 8pm! I reached I-City at 7pm and it was so nice then. No crowds. I have the Cold World all to myself 🙂 I hope they’ll add a musical fountain in the future! Huhu. They do on the spotlights at 8.30pm and 10.30pm for about 5-10minutes. But it’s kinda boring cos there’s no colour XD or music.

Anw, it’s worth going if you like bling bling like meee! XD

Macarons – Phailed! October 1, 2010

Posted by blackpumpkin in Baking.
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I’ve been in love with these french desserts ever since I tried Sadaharu Aoki and Laduree’s macarons! (Btw, I tried this french macaron in Spain and it’s not nice at all!) And so, I’ve decided to try baking them myself!

I did lotsa research and freaked out a little when I read lotsa bad review on it. I saw people attempting to make them and still failed after 3 tries! But they didn’t give up (and I really salute them). I saw people complaining that their batter is too runny.. or the macarons don’t form feet, or the macarons ended up hollow, or having their macarons rising and then slumping in..

Oh boy, macarons are like women! I read that the measurement must all be accurate otherwise you’ll fail. Or the batter cannot be over beaten or under beaten, either one yields the same result – FAIL!

My story.. is different from the rest. Most people complain about having runny batter.. BUT MY BATTER’S NOT RUNNY! It’s a bit dough-like! And I freaked out. Couldn’t find the solution when I googled “Troubleshooting macarons” But I remember reading that overbeaten batter will be runny. So I kept beating them.. but not much help.

So I gave up and see what will my batter make.



It has feet! (: The shell doesn’t crack easily and it’s crispy! Lols. But the problem is that it’s chewy inside.. must’ve been because the batter was too thick. And it’s SUPER sweet! I mean FREAKING sweet! Anyway, since it has already gone wrong, might as well I do some experiments.

I first used 150°C for 14 minutes.. My macarons were pink (I added colouring) but chewy inside.
Then I tried 160°C for 15 minutes.. My macarons were light brown and ended up like cookies! ^.^

I prefer having them cookie-like than chewy. Lols. Anw, I think I know what to do next time. I need to reduce the dry ingredients and the sugar! Rawr. Oh. I didn’t make the filling in the end cos the shells alone was sweet enough. Lols.

Here’s the recipe I used (So NEVER use this recipe unless you intend to fail XD)

140g almond flour
225g icing sugar
100g egg white
40g granulated sugar

Next time, I’ll try to reduce to 25g granulated sugar, 180g icing sugar and 120g almond flour. Huhu. Will definitely post it here to announce my success or failure. Lols.

Home “Bitter” Home September 30, 2010

Posted by blackpumpkin in Holiday, LJMU, UK.
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I’m finally back in Bolehland and I missed Liverpool damn much! I missed everything there! The friendly people, the nice weather, the dog which loves to sit in the middle of the road while ignoring everyone else (my coursemate created a fb page for it), and my darling superlambananas (:

I seriously dislike the hot weather here! Ahhhh! And life has been so meaningless now that I’ve lost my aim. Lols. Back when I was in Liverpool, I have an aim that kept me going – superlambanana hunting! I’d walk for hours just to find for a superlambanana i.e. 6 hours walk to Royal Hospital, Edge Hill and Women’s Hospital or 3 hours walk to South Parkway station. And I’m proud to say I’ve found 58 superlambananas despite having them all relocated as they are now private property.


I stole this pic from Madu’s blog XD But hey, this is my album in facebook! So I have the right to use it. Huhu. Anw, it was really mad crazy. All my friends know how obsessed I am with it. They’ll inform me and tag me whenever they found new lambananas. And I’d go to forums and google to find the lambananas whereabouts. To save money, I’ll drag my friends to hunt for these lambananas by foot with me, along with my hand-drawn map XD But it’s not a bad thing to be so obsessed.

Because of these lambananas, I learned to draw maps.
Because of these lambananas, I learned to read maps.
Because of these lambananas, I discovered places in Liverpool which a normal student wouldn’t go.
Because of these lambananas, I won the photography competition by my uni.
Because of these lambananas, I met really nice locals.
Because of these lambananas, my life’s so much more interesting!

I spent my last night in Liverpool in Hampton by Hilton hotel. It’s just Hampton but when I googled it, “by Hilton” seems to be in its name too. Hmm.. afterall, Hilton’s really popular so I think they need to let people know XD

Anw, I think the hotel’s amazing! perhaps it’s because I’ve been staying in hostels too much. But the price is reasonable. It’s even cheaper than a hostel in London! And they serve yummy breakfast (: I super like their scrambled eggs and baked beans (:




I’m just lousy with angles so the room ended up looking somewhat tiny here. Huhu. Anw, all good things come to an end~


And I have to stuff my luggage with all the stuffs I bought for the past 3 months.


And also hand carried a shoebox-full of candies and chocolates home XD

I was damn worried my luggage will be overweight. I came with around 26kg or 27kg check-in luggage and asked Madu to bring another smaller bag for me when he came. And I went back with 36kg check-in luggage. Fuhhh. Lucky I have 40kg baggage allowance! (: So everything ended well. I’m super glad I didn’t have to pay or throw anything away. Huhu.

*sigh* everything seems like a dream now. I’m melting in Bolehland.. and living like a zombie without aim. Lols.

Hello Barcelona! September 17, 2010

Posted by blackpumpkin in Holiday.
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When you’re in Barcelona, there’s one person you MUST know of! Antoni Gaudi!


He’s an amazing architect and I am totally in love with his works! Though Madu tends to feel like puking whenever he sees his works. i.e. Sagrada Familia which has little humans sculpted on the temple, Casa Batlo with skull-like balcony.. Anw, because of Gaudi, I WANNA GO BACK TO BARCELONA! 2026! That’s the year Sagrada Familia is expected to be completed ^.^



This is Parc Guell, also the work of Gaudi. It was tooo crowded with people. But his work’s really beautiful there (: Ohh. And this is his only huge work which do not require admission fee XD

Moving on to less important stuffs (anything unrelated to Gaudi is not important =P), here’s the Museo d’Art. I didn’t go in but the exterior’s amazing enough. Looks like some castle (:

But Museo d’Art’s not where we intended to go XD Stumbled upon it while looking for Poble Espanyol.


And this is one of the shops in Poble Espanyol! (: We’ve made reservations to watch flamenco in Poble Espanyol Huhu. Didn’t walk much in Poble Espanyol cos the shops closing up.. which is really sort of a waste.



The flamenco’s dresses weren’t what I was expecting at all. I expected a flared dress with fanciful, bright colours. But the dancer in the pic was amazing.. She really put in lotsa energy XD And I think it’s a bit like tap dance. Huhu.

Ohh. Port Vell’s also not bad. The water’s crystal clear I tell ya! You can actually see fishies swimming in the water which is a really nice sight (:


This is really random. I was walking and suddenly I saw.. KUALA LUMPUR! Wth. Anw, out of curiosity, we went in and see what’s so special of it.. To be honest, nothing much -.- I don’t even see what’s so Kuala Lumpur-ish bout it.


Another attraction in Barcelona is the Magic Fountain of Montjuic. I took a folder-full of pictures but I can’t possibly upload them all here. Huhu. And we actually went there 2 hours earlier to get a nice place! Huhu. It only starts at 9pm.




Madu has this “thing” for moving vehicles i.e. Segway. And now, GoCars. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to rent a GoCar to drive. Lols. We drove it like.. 2 hours? And all the time, we were lost T.T Never drive your GoCar to La Ramblas or you’ll stuck in the jam for god-knows-how-long.


Some nice, huge bubbles pic for you to see. Haha I DIE DIE MUST POST THIS! Cos we paid for it. Rawr. I thought the guys were playing it for fun.. So I fished out my camera, snapped a pic of it.. and one of the guys came with his cap asking for money. WTH. Thus, we hung out there longer than expected over there to snap more pics XD

You can’t say you’ve been to Barcelona if you haven’t been to their beaches. So we went to Barceloneta beach, which was the nearest to our hostel. Huhu went there in the evening to avoid the sun.. but we’re not alone. (which was surprising)


Tadaaaa~ And that’s the end of my Europe trip! Huhu. The next time I go, I MUST go to Paris Disneyland for 3 days, and visit Sagrada Familia! ^.^