Sunday, September 28, 2008

Holiday Candy Shop - Classes at Shermay's Cooking School

I'll be teaching Holiday Candy Shop, a demo class, at Shermay's Cooking School on 18 October 2008 (Saturday) and 19 October 2008 (Sunday) - the October schedule has all the necessary details. For all inquiries, please call the school at +65 6479 8442 or email

I think the awesome thing about candy and confections is that they really lend themselves well to gifting. Many recipes keep nicely and can be prepared in advance, giving one ample time to have a little think about packaging, making them a joy both to present and to receive. The other awesome thing, of course, is their old-time charm - it is likely many recipients of your handcrafted candies will be utterly amazed; it's simply not something most folks think of as do-able at home!

But the truth is, candy recipes can be beautifully simple. One road leads to many; mastering one particular technique or recipe very often opens up other possibilities. It was with this in mind that the following line-up was designed. In addition to a comprehensive recipe pack detailing the key recipes demonstrated at class, I've included a bonus section with extra recipes, ideas and serving suggestions.

Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Marshmallows are not only delicious, but are terrific in everything from a luxurious cup of hot chocolate to S'mores to Rocky Road fudge. Because the mixture is set in a large sheet, there's nothing to stop you from cutting out stars or any other shape instead of standard cubes.

My favourite variations flavour-wise are Peppermint Marshmallows, and Rosewater Strawberry Marshmallows. The latter, in particular, are stunning presented as laniards, inspired by the guimauve that's a ubiquitous fixture on the candy trolley of many a chic Parisian fine dining establishment and purveyed by the very best confiseries, lifted out of heavy apothecary jars with silver tongs and cut to order with a flourish.

Adore the crunchy centres of a certain famous candy bar? Here’s how you can make Honeycomb Crunch. Apart from enjoying alone, these candies can also be dipped in a dark chocolate glaze, or treated like nougatine and crushed over scoops of ice cream or sorbet. I especially adore it with darkly seductive chocolate sorbet, brought over the top with rich butterscotch sauce.
Conventional recipes for fudge tend to be complex operations – a candy thermometer is a must so that the mixture does not overcook. Unless a certain amount of care is taken, the mixture can turn out overly grainy – not a desirable trait. And after cooking, the mixture needs to be beaten very well. This Mocha Walnut Fudge with Valrhona Jivara Lactée 40% Milk Chocolate is an unconventional “instant fudge” recipe that's extremely simple and fast to prepare yet turns out exquisitely creamy fudge – no need for a candy thermometer, and certainly no need for elbow grease! It's also a great template for experimenting with different milk or dark chocolates, extracts, nuts and dried fruits; a wonderful variation on the theme is Rocky Road fudge.

Spiced Fig, Pistachio & Valrhona Manjari 64% Dark Chocolate Logs are loosely based on an Italian number known as lonza di fichi. It tickles me to no end to think of these as “fig salami” – the fruit, nut and chocolate mixture is shaped into logs before being sliced, and the slices really do look like salami! Subtly spiced, intriguingly fruity and studded with pistachios, this not-too-sweet little bite is an elegant accompaniment to a postprandial digestif or espresso.

I'll have more details up in a separate post on the bonus section. Recipes, ideas and serving suggestions include:

S’mores – Toasted Homemade Graham Crackers topped with Valrhona Equatoriale Noire 55% Dark Chocolate and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Rocky Road Fudge – Valrhona Equatoriale Noire 55% Dark Chocolate Fudge studded with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Marshmallows & Pecans

Hot Chocolate – The ultimate hot chocolate with Valrhona Araguani 72% Dark Chocolate, topped with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Honeycomb Crunch Sundaes – Valrhona Araguani 72% Dark Chocolate Sorbet topped with Honeycomb Crunch & Butterscotch Sauce

Chocolate Honeycomb Crunch – Honeycomb Crunch dipped in Valrhona Equatoriale Noire 55% Dark Chocolate Glaze

Chocolate Graham Crackers - Homemade Graham Crackers dipped in Valrhona Equatoriale Noire 55% Dark Chocolate Glaze

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Decorated Christmas Cookies 2008 - Classes at Shermay's Cooking School

How time flies! It's been a whole year since the warm spicy aroma of festive baking last permeated my kitchen, ahead of schedule too...This class is back!

I'll be teaching Decorated Christmas Cookies, a demo class, at Shermay's Cooking School on 4 October 2008 (Saturday) and 5 October 2008 (Sunday) - the October schedule has all the necessary details. There will only be 2 sessions of this class. For all inquiries, please call the school at +65 6479 8442 or email

Exactly the same recipes and techniques will be covered as last year's class - the only difference being the selection of cookie shapes. Shermay, who has impeccable taste in such matters, has very thoughtfully managed to source a collection of highly covetable cookie cutters, and I wanted to feature these fabulous new shapes - once the core decorating techniques have been grasped, they can be practically applied to any cookie shape.

The type of cookies known as rolled cookies is the decorator's preferred choice of canvas. Unlike say drop cookies or bar cookies, however, they do take a bit of care to get right. Quite aside from sleights of hand to facilitate the procedure, there's the recipe itself - it needs to be a dough that's sturdy enough to withstand repeated handling, yet not bake up so dense and hard as to result in mediocre eating. The Luscious Lemon Cookies (butter cookies with a hint of zest and real lemony depth) and Classic Gingerbread (given just a touch of molasses and judiciously spiced) are both favourite recipes - while I find them a real joy to handle, what's more important is that taste is not compromised for looks.

Once you have your canvas, you'll need to choose your medium. To that end, there's Rolled Fondant (the ready made product is extremely convenient and useful for large batch baking, but homemade has a flavour that you may find worth the extra effort), and Meringue Powder Royal Icing. The latter is a cookie decorating essential, and distinguishing between stiff, soft peak and runny consistencies and knowing the different decorating functions they serve form the foundation of cookie decorating.

An understanding of just a handful of Core Decorating Techniques - such as outlining, flooding, drop-in flooding, overpiping, flocking and gilding - opens up limitless design possibilities. The class will cover the practical application of these techniques as can be seen in the decoration of:


Christmas Tree Ornaments


Christmas Trees

The 3-D Christmas Tree

Much simpler (and faster) to construct than a gingerbread house, but certainly no less stunning as the perfect holiday table centrepiece.
You've home-baked them. You've hand-iced them. Don't let them down with anything less than stylish packaging to create the ultimate heartfelt and one-of-a-kind holiday gifts. If you're so inclined, hopefully one or two of the various ideas that round out the class may prove useful.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Eat My Handbag

I'd decorated these bag and shoe shaped cookies some months back for a women's fashion glossy - the fash ed had wanted something a bit more whimsical than a straightforward product spread. So these "cookie illustrations" came about, based on tears from the FW08 lookbooks. I had enormous fun doing them.

In the mix: YSL Muse Two; Bottega Veneta multistone knot clutch; Nina Ricci statement necklace; Manolo Blahnik lace up ankle boots; Chanel maryjane pumps; Prada ankle boots; John Galliano earrings; Valentino Petale tote; Alexander McQueen Empire egg-shaped minaudiere; Christian Louboutin patchwork kneehighs...

I think of the process of decorating cookies as not too unlike that of mucking about with a paintbox - coloured royal icings, piping tips and dough stand in for paints, brushes and a canvas. And in this particular instance, even more so than usual, as some of the details are literally painted on using food dyes or luster dusts mixed with drops of vodka. The best tools for the job are fine sable brushes - either the variety intended for watercolours or for applying makeup - as they pick up and deposit colour with the greatest precision. Just be sure they're saved solely and specifically for this purpose - neither reincarnated from a previous life nor leading a double life applying colours of a non-edible nature!