Sunday, 3 March 2013

Macarons at the Agrarian Kitchen

A few weeks ago I went the Agrarian Kitchen for the macaron class.  I was especially looking forward to this, as I have a few of my friends coming to the class with me.  It was going to be a super-fun, sugar-filled day.  The class was taken by Alistair Wise from Sweet Envy.  You know those beautiful macarons sitting in the immaculate display in his shop?  We were taught that very recipe.  The one that took Alistair two years to perfect. YES!

The day began with a forage in the garden for herbs.  I wasn't able to make it because of work, so no photos of the gorgeous garden, I'm afraid...  But I did get there in the nick of time before the cooking began though.  Phew!

The recipe begins with sieving (a lot of) almond meal and icing sugar (hands kindly modelled by my friend Liz, and colleague Natalia!)

At first, I thought Alistair had a pet name for this sieve, calling it "Tammy".  But after some googling, it turns out this is a Tamis.  While you don't need to have a special gadget like this one, it does make life a lot easier.  

Once the dry ingredients are ready, we got started on the meringue.  Alistair has chosen to use the Italian meringue, as it's a bit more lenient with time.  It's pretty important when you're making thousands of shells in one go!  Eggwhites were separated while the sugar was melted over the stove.

At just the right time, eggwhites were whisked, and hot sugar was carefully poured into the now whipped eggwhites.  The mixture cooks and became glossy and stiff.

Then comes to the most difficult to explain part of the entire process, mixing the meringue with the dry ingredients.  I was amazed how vigorously Alistair was working the mixture and takes a bit of elbow grease to mix it properly.  The idea (although, I didn't do this in class) is to get to a consistency that drops back into the bowl when you lift a little of the mixture up.  Sounds easier said than done though :/

Once the mixture's made, it's time for pipping them out.  It's amazing watching Alistair pipe these out, so quickly and perfectly.  The tray is then tapped rather violently to remove any bubbles and flatten the mixture out. 

The shells were decorated with a bit of nifty toothbrush work, and they were ready to rest until dry.  We've decorated other shells we added coloured sugar crystals, while others we've added nuts.  We even got to play with awesome gold dust!  These were baked off and we slowly build a mountain of macaron shells.

While we waited, we also made some of the fillings, like raspberry jam and lime and mint marmalade.  I love the herb selection at the Agrarian Kitchen, and find Rodney has planted something new everytime I go there.  He has inspired me to grow my own and I've made a herb patch in my garden, using secondhand bricks.  It's small, but useful, and I don't think I can live without one now.

We also made a dessert called "Gabba Gabba Hey", which uses the macaron mixture, but stencilled rather than pipped.  Most of the air has been knocked out of it, and because it's so thin, it's baked into a crispy biscuit.  We've made two lots of ice creams to go into it: basic vanilla ice cream, and a morello cherry sorbet.  Ripped raspberry with the crunchy biscuit and cold ice cream.  It was  the highlight of the day for me.

We took a break from the cooking from the very warm kitchen and Rodney cooked us a lunch of grilled baby goat cutlets, with potatoes and salads (and no cucumbers in sight!)  I haven't had goat many time before, and none as simply cooked as this, and yet, this was by far my most delicious goat I've ever eaten.  Mmm... I think I will seek out more goats from now on. 

After our rest, it was back in the kitchen to assemble the final macarons.  The secret is to build a sturdy wall of buttercream to trap the jam.  The one below was my favourite macaron for the day, I think it had a cherry jam. 

Stacking on the second shell and the macaron is done!

I just have to include this for Liz.  Here are your anatomically correct macarons ;)

I had such a great day at this class, and have came away with so many tips about making macarons that are impossible to convey from reading a recipe.  I feel like I can attempt to make these at home again. 

Thank you for another great class, Alistair, Rodney and Severine! 


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

I Scream for Ice-cream!

This is what I saw when I drove up the driveway to the Agrarian Kitchen.  Isn't she just beauuuuutiful?  Say hello to Big Bessie, the ice cream truck of your dreams, from the brilliant Alistair Wise of Sweet Envy.  See the chook in the photo?  I love that so much :)  Ice cream truck on the farm!  Could it get any better than this?   (Yes, and boy did it get better!)

This is the first ice cream class at the Agrarian Kitchen, and I suspect will become a bit of a tradition.  The day was spent making ice creams, granite, sorbet, parfait.  It featured some of Sweet Envy's ice creams, including the burnt honey ice cream, and strawberry and szechwan sorbet.  Summer is definitely here, and we cooked with the garden's bounty: lemon verbena, basil of all kinds, mint, rosemary, strawberries and peaches, just to name a few,  and we used fresh milk from the growing herd of goats in the front paddock. 

What's a sundae without condiments?  We made jellies (with Pimms!), honeycomb and crazy 2-minute sponge cake.  This honeycomb is definitely worth the effort, and made extra special by using honey harvested from the honey bees at the Agrarian Kitchen.  It crunches and crumbles with every bite.  It's really wonderful, and I'll definitely give this a try at home.

In the middle of ice cream making Rodney and Alistair put on some rather attractive safety gear for some experimentation.  Because gadgets are fun, we made ice cream with liquid nitrogen, courtesy of Garagistes.  The liquid nitrogen poured in the bowl with the raspberry sorbet mixture, then hand whisked.  It took a bit of work though, but how cool does this look?  It's like magic.

Then we took it outside.  Because, why not?  Free range ice cream on a farm, using liquid nitrogen, in the open air!  Ooooh, Yeeeeeah! :)

With all the various iced desserts chilling and churning away, we settled back into the kitchen for lunch.  We were so spoilt!  Rodney cooked us grilled Robins Island Wagyu steaks, along with an endless array of salads and veg: grilled zucchini & eggplant, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce.  I never knew potatoes could taste so good with shisho (unpronounceable herb, but it's so delicious).  All the vegetables were grown at the Agrarian Kitchen, of course.

After lunch the beautiful lunch, it was time for Alistair to fire up the ice cream truck.  As if we haven't had enough to eat, we all got a Joy's Prickly Box soft serve for dessert.  With the 2.4 metre ice cream sundae looming, was it a good idea to have another ice cream?  Probably not.  But, well, could I say no to this...?

We then went for a tour around the farm, to errr, make room for the sundae.  Look at the new life on the farm!  Baby piglets!  Two litters have just arrived.  It's the first time the farm had excess pigs and they may be featured in coming classes.  Suckling pigs?  Baby back ribs?  Oh the possibilities...

The rest of the garden is in full bloom, and summer on the farm is amazing.  The edible garden is overtaking whatever available space there is for growing.   What used to be flower beds have turned into food producing areas.  There's all kinds of heirloom vegetables growing.  I love the names of them too, like Lacy Lady peas.  What I wasn't quite prepared for was the polytunnels.  Oh.  My.  God.  You can grow anything in them.  Honeydew melon and rockmelon?  No problems!  I would include photos, but this post is getting way too long already, and we haven't even gotten to the sundae!

After the stroll through the garden, it was back in the kitchen to finish off the condiments and ensemble the sundae.  My (other) highlight for the day was watching Tristan and the fairy floss machine.  The first few moments after the machine had started up was priceless!  Really, words couldn't really express how ridiculously cute he was:

Finally, it was time to construct the 2.4 metre sundae.  Here's a before shot.  Yes, that clear plastic "trough" is almost as long as the table.

At first we meandered from the kitchen to the dinning room, but Alistair spurred us into action. "Quickly, before it melts!".  Then it was all go, go, go!  Everyone took a frozen dessert of choice and ran from the kitchen to the dinning room.  They worked quickly, and soon scoops of ice cream filled the vessel.  This was followed by toppings of sponges, honeycomb, milk crumb and chocolate brownies, all were scattered on feverishly.  Then came lashings of salty caramel.  Finally, fairy floss were strategically placed along the sundae.  It all came together so quickly, I hardly had enough time to take any photos!

(Apologies for the blurry photo, I was standing unsteadily on top of a ladder!)

And the finished sundae.  Ta daaaa!

With a few more seconds to take a photo of the final sundae, it was time to dig in!  We eagerly took our bowls, engaged our second ice cream stomach, and ate without abandon. 

It was such a crazy and over the top day!  This class is definitely one for the ice cream lover, or anyone who wants to feel like a kid again, let loose and have some fun. 

Thank you Alistair, Rodney and Severine for making this ridiculously fun class :)  I don't think I will experience anything quite like this again.  What a privilege it was to attend the inaugural ice cream class!


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Macaron class preview

Just some quick photos from today's Macaron class at the Agrarian Kitchen.  More to come (after the full ice cream class post).

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

I Scream For Ice Cream preview!

Just a sneak peek of the I Scream For Ice Cream class at the Agrarian Kitchen.