29 December 2012

My Obsession with Teddy Bear Making

If you've read any of my other posts, you'll know that this year I became (just a little) obsessed with baking macarons. I just love watching my mixture turn into beautiful shiny puffy blobs with perfect little feet. It has been such a challenge to get them consistently right, and even better to eat them!

Now I'd like to tell you about one of my other creative obsessions.

Teddy Bear making 

I first started making teddy bears about 10 years ago, after looking through my sister's bear and doll making magazines. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I chose a 10cm miniature to start and made him from upholstery fabric. He turned out rather well, so I did another, and another.

My love of the miniature bear has remained, and when looking through bear magazines I tend to pick out the ones that I would like to make, (usually the ones that are a little different) and then go to the photocopier to shrink them until they're somewhere between 8 and 11cm tall. Most of the time this works fairly well, and I have only had one real issue with one that hasn't. Stay tuned for a later post on that.

The majority of the bears that I have made I have kept. There are a few that I have made and given away (mainly to family) for various occasions, and a few that I have sold to friends or given away to be sold for fundraisers.

27 December 2012

Christmas Macarons

I've been a bit quiet on here for a while, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been creative. I had a few hectic months work-wise, and in the lead up to Christmas, time just seems to disappear without a trace.

I was also busy making macarons for family and friends for Christmas. I have been experimenting with flavours for a while, and came up with 3 that go hand in hand with Christmas.

Crushed Candy Canes sprinkled on macarons fresh out of the oven
  1. Candy Cane
  2. Eggnog
  3. Chocolate Orange and spices

20 August 2012

Salted Caramel Macarons

I just learned a few things about my oven. I have been having issues with the timing of cooking my macarons, even after 5 pretty good looking batches. For my latest batch, I thought it was time to put the oven thermometer in and find out what was really happening.

Batch 6: Salted caramel

I hung the thermometer just above the shelf that I use, at the front right of the oven. I was aiming for 160 degrees celsius, which my oven reached when the oven dial was just below 150. This was the hottest that I had to set the oven for all 3 trays. I discovered that the longer the oven is on, the hotter it gets, even when you keep turning the temperature down!

I finished with the oven dial at around 120 - 130 degrees, which kind of explains why my later trays are usually way overcooked and going hollow in the middle, whilst at the same time being cooked for a shorter amount of time (to make up for putting them in on a hot tray). This time however, I found that the macaron shells on the long edges of the trays had lopsided feet. Methinks that my oven has a hot zone around the edges, and that the centre of the oven is a little cooler. I probably should have guessed that, since we paid about $500 for it when our old oven suddenly stopped working a few years ago. Not really top of the line.

Lopsided feet on the left row

11 August 2012

Lemon Macarons

Batch 5: Lemon Macarons

I love all things lemon, don't you? Lemon delicious with it's lovely lemon sauce and delicious sponge like cake; lemon pie; lemon meringue pie. I'm tempted to go whip myself up something lemony right now. But I won't, as I'm about to tell you about my latest batch of macarons, with a beautiful lemon filling.

Yellow colouring added to sugar syrup
I've decided stick to the same basic recipe that I have used so far. Why fix something that isn't broken, I say? For these macarons my only diversion from this recipe was the addition of a few squeezes of yellow gel food colouring (not that you can really tell from the finished product). I've actually had the filling made for about a week, and put it in the freezer til the day of the macaron making, which had the added benefit of stopping me from eating it all.

The filling is a buttercream with lemon curd mixed through it. I did a lot of research before I came up with the lemon curd that I wanted. I knew I didn't want one with water added (why dilute the flavour?) and knew from various recipes that there is no need for any kind of flour or cornflour to help it thicken. It was also a must that it use only egg yolks and not whole eggs. I'm keen to make more things that will use up my yolks so there are more egg whites available for more macarons!

10 August 2012

Hazelnut Macarons

To continue on my macaron journey, let me tell you about the ones that I made last weekend. Finally, a batch that I am really proud of.

Batch 4: Hazelnut - half with hazelnut praline buttercream, and half with chocolate ganache

Fresh from the oven and oh so tempting
For this batch I replaced 20% of the almond meal with hazelnut meal, and added 3 drops (well, squirts actually) of brown gel food colouring (Not that you can tell, can you?) I think I managed to get the sizes a bit more uniform too, even though they turned out a little smaller than the last ones.

9 August 2012

My macaron journey so far

Since my first experiment with making macarons about a month ago, I have been making a batch every Saturday afternoon. I'd make more than one batch a week if there were more hours in the day, or maybe more room in my freezer, but since there isn't, I'll just stick to once a week.

After doing some internet research on the making of macarons, trying to work out where I had gone wrong, I decided to try the Italian method of macaron making, which features a cooked sugar syrup poured into whipped egg whites. All the recipes that I have found utilising this method are far more exacting, with ingredients all weighed out. I decided to try a salted caramel macaron recipe that I found on Not Quite Nigella's blog. A little ambitious perhaps, but it sounded great!

Here's how I went with my first 3 batches.

5 August 2012

Welcome to my new blog

Inspired by my sister's blog Spend Less, Craft More I decided to take the plunge and document my own craftiness, creativity, and just plain obsessiveness.
Ready for the oven

Right now I am obsessed by baking macarons. It started about a month ago when a friend came over and we made some macarons together. They were a bit of a flop (but tasted oh, so good), so I made it my mission to keep trying until I could perfect them. It's 4 batches later now, and they're working much better, but more on that at a later time.

The only ones that made it off the tray