Lemon Madeleines

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Lemon Madeleines

When I feel like whipping up afternoon tea really quick (in 15 minutes), I’d always make madeleines using the recipe adapted from my trusty Marie Claire cookbook, Marie Claire Cuisine. I love this cookbook for its simplicity and variety. It covers the basics for all meals and most of the time, the recipes can be trusted. I found my cookbook in a bookstore in the Australian suburbs of Bendigo for $20 and literally jumped for joy because the only alternative to buying this book is going online and it is probably second-hand.

Lemon Madeleines

Anyway, I’m sure you would want to buy this cookbook from amazon once you try this recipe. It produces Madeleines so light and fluffy that you just can’t stop popping one into your mouth. I don’t like my madeleines browned with a harder outer covering but if you do, then just lengthen the baking time. Also, I got bored with plain old lemon madeleines, so I decided to make it prettier by adding a few drops of raspberry juice and swirling it around, just for fun 🙂

Lemon Madeleines

Ingredients
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
60g of all purpose flour, sifted
1.5 tsp of lemon juice
50g of melted butter

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2. Using electric whisk, whisk eggs, sugar and lemon zest until pale and thick.
3. Fold in flour.
4. Gradually fold in lemon juice and melted butter.
(*Remember not to over mix!)
5. Place in madeleine moulds and bake for 5 minutes.

Enjoy! 🙂

Maldives

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I visited the Maldives for a week-long break in May to enjoy the sun and sea with the family before going off for college. The cluster of islands in the Indian Ocean is a well known holiday spot, and for good reason too. It is the perfect place to unwind and disconnect from city-life – basically, do nothing. So if lazing around on the beach for a week is your kind of thing, the Maldives is a must-visit; but be warned, if your idea of a holiday is packing as much sight-seeing as possible in the daylight, I suggest you try somewhere else.

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Guests pretty much just spend the entire day suntanning.

{Pre-Trip}

A couple things to note before you head off, firstly, the Maldives is a Islamic country. So when packing, do keep in mind that all alcohol is prohibited, and bring along a sarong to cover up. If you intend to buy one there instead, USD is the accepted currency on most of the resort islands. Additionally, you might want to bring along snorkeling/diving equipment and swimsuits rather than rent them to save money. An underwater camera and sunblock would also come in most useful.

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View of the capital.

{Malé}

Singapore Airlines is one of the few flights that can get you to Malé, the capital of the Maldives. While slightly pricey  for a round-trip from and to Singapore, the 4.5 hour flight is a comfortable one, especially during off-peak seasons where you can get an entire row of seats to yourself.

The airport itself is on a separate island, Hulhulé . After alighting, we were met by representatives from Hotel Octave and boarded a ferry to Malé where we stayed a night. Maldivians are incredibly friendly and welcoming to tourists, but unfortunately we experienced rather poor service from Hotel Octave with the wrong room and late pick-up drivers. At USD300 per person for a night and breakfast the next day, I suggest you search for another hotel nearer the ferry jetties.

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Locals going about their daily business.

I would recommend you spend half a day on Malé to soak in the local atmosphere. Just take a stroll down the narrow streets, pop by the fish markets and mosques. Although keep in mind for both men and women to respect the local culture and dress modestly. Do grab a couple of bottles of water as well, as drinks on the resort islands often cost quite a bit.

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Hello paradise!

{Maafushivaru}

After a morning on Malé, we headed to our resort island, Maafushivaru, in the South Ari Atoll via a seaplane. The islands are up to 40 minutes away from the capital and not accessible by boat. So the ___ plane ride though expensive, is compulsory. Although, you do get 40 minutes of to-die-for scenery as the seaplane rides just among the clouds.

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Killer view from the seaplane.

We were greeted by incredibly friendly staff as stayed in the beach villa which opens out into your private patch of the beach. The entire island is only about half a kilometre long, and you can stroll around it in 20 minutes. Amenities wise, it has a water bar, a cuisine gallery for meals, a spa centre with a yoga pavilion, and a diving school.

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The first one to great us on upon arrival.

Maafushivaru is actually smaller the other resort islands, but no less gorgeous. Fine white sand to squish your toes in? Check. The clearest, bluest waters you’ve ever seen? Check. Idyllic and romantic? Check. Most of the other guests wake up at a leisurely 10 am, take a dip in the ocean in the morning, spend the afternoon sunbathing on the beach with a book, and hang out by the water bar for drinks in the evening. Like I said, people come just to relax, although there are a few activities you can take part in.

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The oncoming storm.

House Reef

Surrounding the island is Maafushivaru’s own coral reef where you can snorkel among the entire cast of Finding Nemo, and even a black tipped reef shark! There is a USD$10 introductory snorkeling course conducted by the resident marine biologist. I gave that a pass and snorkeled around on my own, but I highly suggest you go for the course if this is your first foray in the ocean.

Just some of the colourful marine life you can see.

Just some of the colourful marine life you can see.

Whale Shark Expedition

For USD$55, you can join a marine biologist and a boat crew out and snorkel with whale sharks. You will get to swim right next to the most gorgeous gentle giants you will find in the waters, but be ready to bump into snorkelers from other resort islands as well. Let your breath be taken away by the immensity of the ancient beast, admire the graceful sweeping of its fins, but do respect the whale shark and not touch it.

Whale Shark 2

Gentle giants.

Manta Ray Expedition

Like the Whale Shark Expedition, the boat will take you around the atolls and when a manta ray is spotted, you’ll be signaled to jump in and swim after them along with the instructors. Similarly, the whale sharks and manta rays all have distinguishing marks and if you can catch a good photo, the individuals can be identified by the researchers studying the marine life of the Maldives. If it’s a new individual, you even get to name it!

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Manta rays are badass.

The expeditions are a four hours each and you get to enjoy a boat ride out to the sea with your fellow resort guests. But if you get seasick easily, do take the seasick pills which the instructors will offer. With any luck, you may also get to see sea turtles and pods of dolphins along the way!

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Baby dolphins chaperoned by adults from the main pod.

Sunset Fishing

This was my first try at fishing, and I’m glad to say I was successful! Everyone is given a spool of fishing wire with a hook and weight, along with bait. You get to watch the sunset as you wait for that telltale tug on your line. I caught a 3o cm red snapper (biggest of the trip!), while others caught white snappers, yellowtails and parrotfish, which were all grilled for lunch the next day.

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Fishing yachts floating along.

Lonobu Island

Maafushivaru owns a much smaller island next to the main resort. There are daily trips to Lonobu Island or you can even book it for an entire day and get the whole place to yourself. This, along with a private dinner, is a popular choice for couples on a retreat.

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Nothing like a dramatic sunset.

There are more water sports and diving tours you can try. But we only stayed for five days, unlike other guests from the US/UK who normally stay for three weeks minimum. The benefit of the small size of Maafushivaru is that you get to interact with guests from all around the world. Through the expeditions and meal times, I befriended with most of them which contributed to the jovial atmosphere all around the island.

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Having a beer by the sea.

The Maldivian economy relies mostly on tourism, so tax rates are rather high. But as a once-in-a-lifetime trip, the money is well worth it, and it’s an experience you’ll definitely relish!

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This is a guest post by Suzanne Ou.

Beijing (I)

Beijing

It’s been a while since I posted because I’ve been away on holiday to Beijing to visit my aunt who stays there. Having an aunt who is an expatriate there means going to good restaurants and eating good food :)) Everyone has this perception that all food in China is greasy and unhealthy which is true to a certain extent if we are only talking about their local food but China has so much more to offer besides their local food. The food scene in Beijing is an exciting one, with many foreign chefs setting up shop to offer Beijingers all kinds of cuisine.

In the short span that I was there, here were the eateries that left an impression:

1. Temple Restaurant Beijing

600 year old temple

Named as Timeout Beijing’s top Restaurant of the Year 2014, I can see why. Service is impeccable once you sit down but note, only once you sit down. This restaurant has a terrible practice of overbooking which meant that even though we reserved a table for 1.30pm, we still had to wait 15 minutes for a table (even after complaining like a Singaporean). The manager blames the customers who take longer than expected but they should really figure out a way to solve this problem. Asking your customers to wait while handing out free champagne to pacify them is not the solution

Temple

Complaints aside, the ambience was top notched. The restaurant is situated in an old temple, hence its name. Weekend Brunch includes baskets of pastries and bread. You get to choose a 5 course or a 8 course meal, with or without wine pairing. The food was fantastic though the servings were tiny. Special mention goes to the sea bass which was so fresh and smooth and the cream of mussel soup which tasted like the sea, in a good way.

Dessert

嵩祝寺23号, Shatan N St, Dongcheng District
Beijing, China
+86 10 8400 2232

2. Flo Brasserie

Flo

flo

Beef Patty

Flo is Beijing’s oldest French restaurant and it is of no surprise to me that it is the longest surviving. Its set lunches are very reasonably priced, a deal that you cannot find in Singapore for this quality, 125 (S$25) RMB for 2 courses and 155 (S$31) RMB for 3 courses. The freshly baked mixed grain rolls were delicious and so was the rest of the food we ordered.

Crepe Suzette

Their menu offers Crepe Suzette for an extra $10, which my dad did not hesitate to order as its his favourite dessert. We got a flambé show and enjoyed the Grand Marnier soaked crepes. Yum!

18 Xiaoyun Rd, Chaoyang District
Beijing, China
+86 10 6595 5135

3. Duck de Chine

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duckdechine

Duck de Chine serves Peking duck in the modern way, with almost no fats under the skin. The pancake was a tad too thick for my liking but the sauce accompanying the duck was interesting, a mix of Hoison and Sesame sauce, if I’m not mistaken. Although this Peking duck was the most expensive one that I ate, it was also the best. The skin was crispy and the meat was flavourful, delicious enough to be eaten on its own or in a pancake. Other noteworthy dishes are the Wawa vegetable broth (simmered local cabbage) and the stir-fried lamb.

1949 Club
No.98 Jinbao Street, Dongcheng District
Beijing 100027, China (Tian’anmen / Wangfujing)

4. Lost Heaven

Jiaozi

I hope heaven has such delicious Yunnan food because I would die for their jiaozi, filled with pork and lemongrass, a unique combination that appeals to my Southeast Asian palette.

Mian Xian

Their mianxian (noodles) in soup was such a tasty dish that showed how sometimes, simplicity is simply the best. A must try is their grilled pork! Once dipped in their magical sauce, you’d feel in heaven.

No.23 Qian Men Dong Da Jie
Beijing, China

5. Haidilao

Haidilao

Haidilao is the most famous steamboat chain in Beijing, they even have a branch at Clarke Quay in Singapore. I went to the branch at Baijiazhuang and at 3pm, there were still people streaming in to eat this steamboat. There are 3 choices of soup, spicy and non-spicy. We chose the clear soup, called 三鲜汤 (san xian tang) and ordered a whole variety of meat and vegetables. I especially enjoyed the vegetables, prawn balls and beef slices. The beef was not very expensive and of good quality.

The best part of this local restaurant is their warm hospitality, very unusual of a restaurant in China. Trust me, most of the waiters and waitresses in China are grouchy. Haidilao has games and even nail painting services to keep customers busy while waiting for their seat.

Noodle dance

They also have noodle dances where a man dances around while stretching the noodles that you ordered. Eating here is full of fun!

Visit http://www.haidilao.com for locations of their branches

6. Central Perk Cafe

Central Perk

For everything that China imitates, this is the best replica ever. This cafe is modelled after the Central Perk Cafe in Friends. The furniture and the decor may not be the exact replica but they are similar enough to create that atmosphere which all fans of Friends always wanted to indulge in. The cafe even has a cat (because Rachel gave Gunther her cat in one episode)!

Central Perk

Central Perk

If you are a die hard fan of friends, spend your afternoon in this cafe watching reruns of Friends while sipping on a Cappuccino (they serve good coffee).

616, Bldg A, Chaowai SOHO | CBD, Chaoyang Distrtict
Beijing, China

7. Beijing International Youth Hostel Cafe

Beijing International Youth Hostel

Flowers

This cafe is easily the prettiest cafe I have ever been to in my entire life. That sounds like I am exaggerating but trust me, I am not. The doorway of the cafe is filled with pots of roses and hanging yellow flowers. The inside of the cafe is not lacking in flowers either, with a pot of flowers on each table. It’s a great place to chill and smell the flowers.

No.113-2 Nanluogu Alley, Dongcheng District
Beijing 100006, China (Tian’anmen / Wangfujing)

8. Rooftop drinking at Sanlitun

Nali Patio

Sanlitun is the hippest place in Beijing and you can’t get any hipper than drinking on a rooftop, perhaps Nali Patio?

Fluffy Pancakes

Pancakes

The search for a recipe for fluffy soft pancakes is over!!! After trying many different pancake recipes, including one from Nigella Lawson, and failing, I was convinced that I could not make pancakes. Until I found this. I am more than pleased with this recipe I found on La Fuji Mama because they have reached the standard of Mcdonalds’ hotcakes. The bar which I have set myself because I love Mcdonalds’ hotcakes even though the batter is probably chemical laden.

Pancakes

The best part is that this recipe does not need any butter (except the butter on top). Talk about healthy. The ingredients are also found in my pantry which makes these pancakes easy to whip up at the last minute for breakfast or brunch. The catch though is that you have to let the batter rest for at least an hour for the gluten to relax so that you don’t end up with chewy pancakes!

A tip to getting perfectly browned pancakes is not to grease your griddle. Also, never turn your pancake twice. Only turn the pancake when bubbles appear on the surface, approx. after 1 minute. Most importantly, ensure that your pan is not too hot because no one wants a burnt uncooked pancake.

So here’s the idiot proof recipe for soft, fluffy pancakes. There’s no way you can go wrong with this!!!

Even the duck loves it

Ingredients
200 ml milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
200g plain flour
40g sugar
8g baking powder

Directions
1. Whisk milk, eggs and vanilla essence with an electric beater for 3 minutes, until foamy.
2. Mix flour, baking powder and sugar together.
3. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Do not over mix. It is okay to have lumps.
4. Let the batter rest for at least an hour in the fridge.
5. Heat pan.
6. Ladle batter onto the pan according to how big you want your pancake to be.
7. Flip when bubbles appear on surface of pancake.
8. Stack pancakes up after frying to keep them warm.

Spain

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My family hates going on tours because it goes against everything a holiday should be. A holiday should be relaxing, full of good food and getting lost. Tours have the most hectic schedule, I remember sleeping at 12am and waking up at 2am in Cairo to catch a domestic flight when I went on an Egypt tour, and provide shitty chinese food when there’s amazing Italian food next door. After our bad experiences with tours, my family has sworn off tour groups and always goes free and easy on every single trip.

Free and easy in Spain was a bit of a challenge for us because my father had never driven on the right hand side before and we had to plan for all 15 days. So we took the easy way out. We copied the Chan Brother’s itinerary hahahahaha and tweaked it a bit.

Here’s how we traveled: Barcelona –> Alicante –> Granada –> Cordoba –> Sevilla –> Segovia –> Madrid –> Barcelona We drove in the end which was really fun because you get to see the different sides to Spain, like how some parts are near the ocean while other parts are dry and very Mediterranean like. A road trip is always fun. So here are the highlights of my trip and places you definitely should go to if you are visiting Spain!

Top 10 highlights

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia Exterior

Sagrada Familia Interior

1. Sagrada Familia {Barcelona}

Carrer de Mallorca, 401,
08013 Barcelona, Spain
+34 935 13 20 60
Nearest Metro: Sagrada Familia

When you visit Barcelona, you definitely have to visit this gothic church. When you see the construction scaffoldings, don’t freak out. The church is not undergoing renovations, it’s being built. This unfinished church was designed by Gaudi, an extremely talented Spanish architect, in the 1800s and everything is so intricately designed. If you think the exterior is stunning, wait till you see the interior.

Retiro Park

Retiro Park

2. Parks {Barcelona & Madrid}

Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona
Nearest Metro: Arc de Triomf

The Retiro Park in Madrid
Nearest Metro: Retiro

Maybe it’s because I come from Singapore where we do not have large parks to laze around in but I love European parks and always make it a point to visit them. They are fascinating, especially on Sundays when the locals gather for some fun under the sun.

Alhambra

Alhambra scenery

Alhambra

3. Alhambra {Granada}

Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n,
18009 Granada, Spain
+34 958 02 79 71

The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage site which has a limited number of tickets everyday, so it’s best if you could either reserve online or buy the tickets as early as possible. There’s a specific timing each person is allowed to enter the Nasrid Palaces so be sure to take note of yours. The grounds contain a mix of Muslim and Catholic influenced architecture, reflective of Spain’s past. All the intricate geometric designs representative of Muslim art and carved onto walls and ceilings were mind-blowing. The craftsmanship and splendour of the palaces kept me constantly intrigued the entire time I was there even though I was tired from all that walking.

Mezquita

Mezquita

Mezquita

Mezquita

Mezquita

4. Mezquita {Cordoba}

Calle del Cardenal Herrero, 1,
14003 Córdoba, Spain
+34 957 47 05 12
10:00 am – 6:00 pm

This is another place which captures Spain’s history. What is so special about this place is that a cathedral is built inside the mosque. Forgive me but it gets a tad boring seeing cathedral after cathedral so the Mezquita fascinated me.

5.  Attending mass in Sevilla Cathedral & Cordoba Cathedral

We didn’t have time to see both the Alhambra in Sevilla and the Cathedral so we did not have the chance to see the cathedral during normal opening hours. After dinner, we saw a bunch of people standing outside the cathedral holding candles and became curious of what they were doing. Turns out there was a mass for youth being held and haha we decided to join in the fun because we could also see the insides of the cathedral (for free). We sightsee in unconventional ways haha.

We were in Cordoba on a Sunday and being Roman Catholics, we can attend mass anywhere which meant that we could attend mass in the cathedral. The mass was held in a small chapel with only 10 people and we were the only tourists. You have to try attending mass in a foreign country because the feeling is totally different from mass here in Singapore, perhaps because of the murals. It really is an experience.

Aqueduct

6. Aqueduct {Segovia}
The massive scale and splendour of the aqueduct just blew my mind away. A Unesco World Heritage site, it is well preserved. It transports water from the mountains 17km away into the city and there are signs carved onto the ground for you to follow the route of the water.

7. Museo del Prado {Madrid}

Paseo del Prado, s/n,
28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 913 30 28 00
10:00 am – 8:00 pm

If you appreciate art, then Museo del Prada is your place. If you don’t appreciate art, you still have to visit the Museo del Prado simply because it boasts one of the finest collection of European art and is considered one of the greatest museums in the world. I spent hours wandering the galleries of del Prado and especially enjoyed the royal paintings of Velaquez; I can’t imagine the number of layers he painted for the skin to look so life-like.

8. Museu Picasso {Barcelona}

Carrer de Montcada, 15-23,
08003 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 56 30 00
10:00 am – 8:00 pm

I’m being biased because Picasso is one of my favourite artists. This small museum, located along the alleys, houses collections that provide great insight into the beginnings of Picasso as an artist. There were sketches and oil paintings Picasso did as a student and also clay work which we seldom associate Picasso to. The collections document the various phases Picasso went through, such as the Blue period where all his paintings were blue. A really fascinating museum for all Picasso lovers.

Casa Batllo

Mosaics

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9. Casa Batllo  {Barcelona}

Passeig de Gràcia, 43,
08007 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 16 03 06

It stands out from the regular buildings in Barcelona in a funky way. One of the most renowned masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi, it was designed to reflect nature, as seen from the roof arch resembling a dinosaur’s back. The audio guide was comprehensive and explained every feature of this unique piece of art.

10. La Ramblas {Barcelona}
Shopping!!! ZARA, Stradivarius, Bershka.  Need I say more?

Top 7 food highlights

Salad

Bamboo Clams

Grilled Cod

Collage

1. Tapas at Cerveceria Catalana {Barcelona}

Cerveceria Catalana
C/ Mallorca, 236,
08008 Barcelona, Spain

In my opinion, the best tapas in Barcelona. It was so good, we went there thrice. After trying other tapas restaurants along La Ramblas, we felt that Catalonia was the most value-for-money. This place is constantly crowded which means a high turnover rate and freshly prepared food. Most of the dishes were cooked on the spot and had just the right amount of seasoning, not too salty but not too bland. My favourite dishes were the grilled cod, the bamboo clams and the grilled cuttlefish. Just keep ordering their grilled seafood because it is reasonably priced and fresh. The cuttlefish was so tender and juicy.

Appetizers Main Course

2. La Catedral {Madrid}

Carrera de San Jerónimo, 16,
28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 915 23 35 56
http://www.la-catedral.es

Admittedly, the decor of this restaurant put my mother and I off. One look at the wooden furnishing and we branded this restaurant as ‘traditional’. That, to us, meant that it was probably a dirty place which should be shunned. But the menu drew us in. It charged 13 Euros for a 3 course set meal, inclusive of wine, a deal unheard of and the place was brimming with people (mostly locals), indicating its popularity. Each course was delicious and came in large portions, another plus point. Try their mixed fish platter and the seafood pasta! Also, choose their yogurt for dessert because it tasted so amazing that I wished they gave me a tub.

Yog & Bluffin
3.  Froyo {Alicante}

Yog & Bluffin
Calle San Ildefonso, 11
03001 Alicante, Spain
https://www.facebook.com/YogBluffin

This frozen yogurt may not be part of a chain but it has the right amount of creaminess and sourness that I love. It’s not icy at all. The best part is that it’s about S$2 for a small cup of yogurt, just enough for one person, with a free topping 🙂 How awesome is that!!! Cheap and good froyo makes me very happy.

Los Diamentes

4. Free tapas in Granada

Los Diamentes
Calle Navas, 26
Granada, Spain

Getting free tapas with drinks somehow only happens in Granada. You order a drink and you get a free plate of tapas. It’s that awesome. Los Diamentes is famous for its seafood and the place is always packed. Although you can’t choose what free tapas you get, everything’s probably delicious. It’s strange to be served red wine in a cup but fine dining isn’t what you’re looking for in Los Diamentes. It’s the experience that you’re going for when you come to this place- squeezing together with the locals just to drink and eat. Pray hard that you get the simmered clams in white wine, they were delicious.

Sardines

Grilled Squid

Grilled Sole

5. Seafood in Alicante

Miramar
Calle Juan Bautista Lafora, 9
03002 Alicante, Spain

The sardines here were so delicious that we ordered them twice. Spanish squid is amazingly tender when grilled. Top it up with that smoky smell, it’s one of the best and simplest seafood dish Spain offers. Once again, just keep ordering their seafood! If you want to enjoy the sea breeze and sunshine and people watch, you’ll love sitting outside.

Recommended Hotels 

1. Hotel Jazz {Barcelona}

Carrer de Pelai, 3,
08001 Barcelona, Spain
+34 935 52 96 96
http://www.hoteljazz.com/‎

It has a great location being situated in La Ramblas and being near the train station. The beds are comfortable and the rooms are clean. It’s a new modern hotel worth staying in for the few nights you spend in Barcelona.

2. Alhambra Palace {Granada}

Plaza Arquitecto García de Paredes, 1,
18009 Granada, Spain
+34 958 22 14 68
http://www.h-alhambrapalace.es

Alhambra Palace is within walking distance of the Alhambra, which is to your advantage if you would like to visit the Alhambra multiple times (day and night) or you would like to be early in the queue for tickets that are quickly snapped up, especially during Summer. The best part of staying in Alhambra Palace was definitely the view. It is situated on the hill and overlooks the entire town. It was really relaxing sitting at the cafe, waiting for the sun to set and for darkness to blanket the entire town.

3. AC Hotel Cordoba by Marriot {Cordoba}

Av de la Libertad, 24,
14006 Córdoba, Spain
+34 957 76 83 80
http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/odbco-ac-hotel-córdoba

I love how its just opposite the Jewish quarters which means free time is spent wandering around the Jewish quarters. Once past the Jewish quarters, you will arrive at the Cordoba Cathedral, another tourist attraction. The breakfast in Marriot was one of the best throughout my holiday, as expected of a 5 star hotel.

If you wish to maximise the money you paid for your airplane ticket, you could also travel to surrounding countries like Portugal and Morocco, a little something we learnt from other travellers. There’s still so much more to explore in Spain, especially Northern Spain. But I have enough of cathedrals for now (never enough of tapas though), so another holiday to Spain would probably happen later.

Macarons

Macarons

Everyone’s says macarons are really hard to make. For starters, there are so many different ways to make a macaron- the Italian meringue way or the normal meringue way. Then there is the fine line between over mixing and under mixing the batter. The most difficult part is definitely sieving the ground almond and icing sugar. I kid. But it is the most painful part of making macarons.

I decided to try the Pierre Herme recipe because I have friends who used it to great success and it’s Pierre Herme. I browsed through his macaron book while idling in Times one day and read through the tips he gave for making macarons. To make things easier for a first timer like myself, I chose to make chocolate macarons since the ingredients were the easiest to source.

Pierre Herme’s recipe uses an Italian meringue which means making a syrup while beating the egg whites. It was difficult to multitask but with practice, I’m sure it will be manageable. The exact temperatures in the recipe also make me break out in sweat but we all know baking is about precision, especially these delicate macarons. I got worried when my egg whites were whisked to a foamy state (which was correct) and started to produce water when I added in the syrup but I kept the faith and continued whisking till it formed a beautiful perfect Italian meringue. Nothing can compare to the smooth, glistening appearance of an Italian meringue.

Oh and important thing to take note is that you have to prepare the egg whites and let them rest for 1 week before using them. This is called ageing the egg whites.

Macaron Shell

Another vital step to making a good macaron (defined by one with feet) is letting it rest after piping it into small circles so that a skin can form. I let mine stand for an hour but next time I’ll let it stand longer. The bakery I once worked at let the macarons rest overnight, proving how important the skin is for the feet to form.

The only thing I found strange about this recipe is that melted chocolate is added to make the shell. I deduced that the melted chocolate gave my macaron shell a chewy texture with a soft outer covering instead of a crisp outer covering. Perhaps next time I would add cocoa instead? I shall search for another recipe for chocolate macarons but next up would be lemon macarons :))) I love lemons!!!

Have fun trying these macarons. You have a great sense of achievement if you get it right the first time but if you don’t, you could always try again! I’m sorry for the lack of photographs, I was more focused on getting the macarons right then documenting the entire process. I promise more photographs next time! 🙂

Adapted from Pierre Herme
Makes 72 macarons

Ingredients for Macaron Shell
300g icing sugar
300g ground almond
110g aged egg white
120g 100% cocoa solids chocolate

Another 110g aged egg whites
75g mineral water
300g granulated sugar

Directions for Macaron Shell
1. Line 2-3 baking sheets with baking parchment. Mark the parchment with circles 4cm wide.
2. Chop the 100% cocoa solids chocolate and put it in a bowl over a pan of just-simmering water, leaving it to melt and reach a temperature of 122F/50C.
3. Sift ground almond and icing sugar. Whisk to combine.
4. Add 110g of egg white to ground almond & icing sugar. Do not mix.
5. Put the mineral water in a small pan and add the granulated sugar. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then boil the syrup using a thermometer to track its temperature.
6. Put 110g of egg whites in a bowl and plug in the electric beaters. When the syrup reaches 240F/115C, begin to beat the second quantity of egg whites to soft peaks.
7. Once the syrup reaches 244F/118C, pour it slowly on to the whites, beating all the time. Keep beating until the mixture returns to a soft peak consistency and has cooled to 122F/50C.
8. Add the beaten egg whites to the bowl with the icing sugar and almonds.
9. Mix, then add the melted chocolate. Mix.
10. Pipe the mixture.
11. Tap the tray onto the kitchen counter a few times.
12. Let macaron shells rest for an hour until a skin forms.
13. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
14. Slide the baking sheets into the preheated oven. Bake for 12 minutes, quickly opening and shutting the oven door twice during the cooking time to let the steam escape.
15. Take the baking sheets out of the oven. Slide the sheets of parchment paper with shells onto a work surface and leave to cool.

Ingredients for Chocolate Ganache
140g butter at room temperature
360g best-quality plain chocolate (such as Valrhona Guanaja couverture chocolate), chopped
400g whipping cream
40g 100% cocoa solids chocolate

Directions for Chocolate Ganache
1. Cut the butter into pieces.
2. Put the chocolate into a bowl. Boil the cream and pour about a third at a time onto the chopped 3. chocolate, mixing each time. The mixture will separate and look grainy, but keep mixing and it will come together.
4. Allow the chocolate mixture to cool to 122F/50C.
5. Add the chopped butter and beat until smooth.
6. Pour into a wide dish. Press clingfilm onto the surface of the ganache and refrigerate until thick enough to pipe.

To assemble Macarons
1. Spoon the ganache into a pastry bag and pipe a generous mound onto a shell, then top with another shell, twisting lightly so that the filling spreads and bulges enticingly.
2. Store covered in the fridge for at least 24 hours to allow the inside of the macaron shells to soften.
3. Bring back to room temperature before eating.