Mocan & Green Grout

mocan outside

It’s not easy to find good brunch places in Canberra. To be a truly decent brunch place, a cafe has to be worth getting out of bed for.

Mocan and Green Grout is one such place, although their serving staff could probably do with a bit less attitude. The menu has some solid staples with a twist – rose scented granola with rhubarb yoghurt, spicy baked beans with labneh and tripoli baked eggs with hummus, to name a few.

mocan collage

Set in a corner of an apartment building, the decor is vintage industrial and would have no trouble fitting in any Melbourne back alley or Sydney side street. French strawberry picking baskets are scattered in amongst the plants and the cafe even has it’s own little garden boasting tomatoes and a variety of other herbs. In their spare time, just because – they hand make bicycle frames. But be warned, they’ll set you back around the $1750 mark.

mocan naked man

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the naked man’s butt in the background, it’s a sculpture by award-winning artist Tim Kyle.

mocan kitchen

But perhaps the coolest thing about Mocan & Green Grout is that the kitchen is the centrepiece of the restaurant – a giant bench is set in the middle of the serving space and staff prepare meals surrounded by customers.

mocan coffee

It boasts a takeaway espresso bar too, and the coffee ain’t half bad. – N puts it on par with Hideout and Harvest. His short mac looked a perfect 30ml and was just stained with foam – just how it should be.

chorizo eggs

We ordered grilled chorizo, fried free range eggs, corn and avocado ($16). I must admit I was disappointed by the portion size – there was only half a chorizo, two dollops of avocado puree and a smattering of corn – but the eggs were well-cooked and perfectly oozy in the middle, and it’s worth noting that the chorizo wasn’t your average supermarket variety. It was a small serve and satisfying, but not quite filling. My friend who ordered it had to have a follow on second breakfast.

mocan beans

This was followed by spicy baked beans with labneh ($14) which was served on sourdough. The baked beans were well seasoned and had a good kick of spice, and were undoubtedly some of the best homemade baked beans I’ve had out.

mocan baked eggs

Lastly we had Tripoli baked eggs with hummus, spiced radish and yoghurt ($15). It’s a good twist on traditional baked eggs, and the eggs were lovely and oozy in the middle.

All things considered, Mocan & Green Grout is a cool new dining venue with a interesting menu of twists on brunch favourites.

The verdict
Is it good, or good for Canberra? It’s good, and you’d be happy with this in any major city. Prices are reasonable; all menu items were under $20 – with the trade off being that portions were a bit small for my liking. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re up for contending with the sullen faces of staff who seem very inconvenienced by your choice of dining at their cafe. 

Mocan & Green Grout
19 Marcus Clarke Street, New Acton
+614 0652 5229

http://www.mocanandgreengrout.com/

Monday to Saturday 7am to 6pm, Sunday 8am to 4pm

Mocan & Green Grout on Urbanspoon

The Macaron Diaries Part 1 (Italian Meringue): Coffee and Crystallised Ginger Macarons

There’s just so much to learn about making macarons. Let’s start with the fact they’re called macarons, not macaroons. I cringe a little every time someone calls a macaron a macaroon.

When I make these, people often ask me how I do it. I’m often into the third minute of detailed explanation before I realise that their eyes have glazed over a little and they’re just being polite.

A good macaron will have proper structure. Macaron shells must have feet. They should also be round, smooth with a little sheen to it and a slight dome shape. And if we’re being nitpicky, and we are, because this is a subject worth being nitpicky about, there shouldn’t be an air pocket under the top layer of the macaron shell. It sounds fussy, but I’ve seen lots of good cafes sell very average macarons that are lumpy, cracked, not even round and it just makes me wonder why people bother to pay so much for something that’s not quite right.

There are a few different ways to make macarons, but the Italian meringue method detailed below is most favoured by pastry chefs. Pierre Herme and Adriano Zumbo use these in their kitchens because it is more stable and easier to control in big quantities. I’ll talk about the much easier French meringue method in another post.

There’s a lot of technique to making macarons. There’s a reason that it’s one of the most feared challenges on Masterchef. It’s taken me about a year to get to the stage where I am happy with the ones that come out of my kitchen. I’ve binned hundreds of these.

The only reason I kept making them is because I refuse to be beaten by a recipe. I’m giving you a lot of detail below because I want you to be able to get this on your first try. The Italian meringue method is the easiest way to start making macarons – as long as you have the proper equipment.

Pierre Herme make the best macarons, by a mile. His flavours are bolder – believe me, I took my macaron research very seriously when I visited Paris last year. I know Laduree has many passionate followers but Pierre Herme does much more exciting, slightly left of centre flavour combinations. Olive oil, wasabi, jasmine – even ketchup, which I passed on. Even his traditional flavours are better than Laduree because he layers his fillings, so blackcurrant might have blackcurrant ganache and also tiny jellied currants inside.

Which is why I got really excited when his highly acclaimed book, Macarons, finally got translated into English late last year. It is the go to book on the subject. Even if you only use it as a coffee table book, it’s worth it. It does make for a lot of rumbly tummies and mouth watering conversations though.

I must confess that when I first got the book, I was disappointed. While I love obsessively over-attentive to detail chefs and their recipes, this guy took it several steps further. There are eleven pages detailing the ‘thirty-two steps to successful macaron shells’, three pages detailing ‘nine steps to a successful chocolate ganache’ and get this, three pages telling you the ‘eight steps to assembling the macarons’. And a further two pages of utensils needed to make macarons. I know I’m on the obsessive side of normal, but I don’t need nine whole steps to make ganache or three pages of pictures showing me to assemble macarons – one step being ‘position yourself about 2cm above the baking tray.’ But then, I realised that Monsieur Herme is a fourth generation pastry chef from Alsace and so he was entitled to be as attentive to detail as he liked. Surely more detail is better than less detail when it came to macarons.

And then I started reading the recipes. He uses Valencian Spanish almonds and grinds them himself to obtain the right consistency. He orders a specially sourced, La Viette sweet butter from southwestern France. He uses mineral water to make sugar syrup. And he has access to ingredients that only pastry chefs can realistically access, like 100% cacao pate (only $90 from an online store). So, I’ve adapted his recipes to make it achievable for people like us. Normal people, whose parents weren’t pastry chefs. And I’ve scaled them down to reasonable quantities.

Before you even contemplate making macarons, you should ask yourself if you can bothered. And if you are, do you have a reasonable oven. For this recipe, you should also have a digital thermometer and digital weighing scale. You will probably also need a stand mixer, blender, piping bags, round metal piping nozzle and a ton of patience.

Pierre Herme recommends weighing out your egg whites into bowls the week before, then covering them in cling wrap and piercing holes in the wrap. Leave in the fridge for a few days, preferably a week. Or, if you’re like me, and not one who can ever prepare a week in advance, just buy liquid egg whites from the refridgerated section of your supermarket.

Coffee and Crystallised Ginger Macarons
makes about 60 x 4cm macarons

For the macaron shells
200g ground almonds
200g icing sugar

73g liquefied egg whites
(colouring or flavouring of your choice – here I used 20g coffee extract, or substitute melted dark chocolate)

+

200g caster sugar
50g mineral water
73g liquefied egg whites

For the coffee ganache
300g thickened or whipping cream
300 white chocolate
20g coarsely ground coffee

100g crystallised ginger, cut into .5cm dice

For the coffee paint
1 tsp instant coffee, or red gel colour
few drops of water to make a paste

  1. Line your trays with baking paper and get them ready. You will need about three cookie pans. If your piping skills aren’t great, trace 3.5cm circles about 2cm apart.
  2. Mix icing sugar and ground almonds into a bowl, then blend for about 10-15 seconds. This helps to remove the chunky bits of almonds. Sieve the mixture into a bowl – do not skip this step or you risk ending up with lumpy, not perfectly smooth macaron shells. See rant above – seriously, they make for ugly macarons.
  3. Stir the coffee extract into the first portion of egg whites. If you don’t have coffee extract, just use melted dark chocolate to help give the shells some colour. Pour this mixture over the icing sugar and ground almonds, but do not stir.
  4. Place second portion of egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  5. Bring water and sugar to the boil in a small saucepan. When the syrup reaches 115C, turn your stand mixer on to full speed.
  6. When the sugar syrup reached 118C, immediately pour it into the stand mixer bowl. At this point, the egg whites in the bowl will still be just foamy, but when you pour in the syrup, it will whisk to a meringue very quickly. Allow the mixer to whisk the meringue on high speed for one minute.
  7. Turn the speed of the mixer down to medium and continue whisking for another two minutes. Don’t worry if the meringue is not very stiff.
  8. Fold meringue into almond-sugar mixture, making sure all the almonds and sugar are incorporated. Take care not to overmix or you will beat the air out of the macaron batter.
  9. Spoon the batter into a pipiing bag fitted with a plain round nozzle. To stop batter from leaking out of the nozzle, twist the part of the piping bag above the nozzle several times, then fill – the batter will only fall to the twisted part. Untwist is when you are ready to pipe.
  10. Pipe a test round of batter onto a saucer and note how much it spreads in about 30 seconds. Using that as a guide, pipe rounds onto a baking sheet leaving room for them to expand. You want your macarons to be about 4cm in diameter and about 2cm away from the next one.
  11. Rap the tray on the counter to remove large air bubbles. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes until the skin forms on the shells. This is essential to the forming of macaron feet. To test if they are ready to be baked, touch a shell with your finger. No batter should stick to your finger.
  12. Preheat oven to 180C fan forced. Bake for 12 minutes, opening and shutting the door in between to help let out the steam.
  13. Look under the baking paper to see if your shells are cooked. If they are, remove from the oven and slide your shells onto the work surface. I find the easiest way to remove cooked macaron shells are to turn the whole sheet over and slowly peel back the paper.
  14. Make the coffee paint (or red gel) and paint a stripe onto the outside surface of each macaron. Leave to dry.

-look under the baking sheet, these macaron shells are not cooked, they’ll need a couple more minutes

– these macaron shells are cooked

To make the coffee ganache

  1. Chop up the white chocolate and melt it in a double boiler.
  2. Bring the cream to the boil, then add the ground coffee. Remove from the heat and cover. Allow to infuse for a few minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve.
  3. Pour the cream over the melted chocolate and stir to obtain a smooth ganache.
  4. Place ganache into a bowl. Use clingwrap to cover the surface of the ganache so that a skin does not form. Refridgerate until set.

To assemble the macarons

  1. Pipe a generous amount of ganache on half on the macaron shells. Top with a few cubes of ginger – how much you want to use depends on personal taste.
  2. Top with remaining shells.
  3. Store in a closed container in the fridge for 24 hours to allow the flavours to meld. Do not skip this step – trust me.
  4. Remove from the fridge two hours before you want to serve them.

The most important thing that people miss are allowing the macarons to rest for 24 hours before serving, and removing them from the fridge two hours before serving.

I’m here to answer your questions, so drop me a line if you need help!

Tiramisu

Don’t laugh, but I have always been a big fan of tiramisu for breakfast. It has all the necessary breakfast components – coffee, eggs, dairy, biscuits and token fruit – and if you make it the night before, it’s at optimal-eating-stage and ready to go so that you’re not wasting time making boring things like toast. Wouldn’t you rather have tiramisu than toast? Mmmhmm, I can see that you’re coming around to my way of thinking.

There are a dozen different ways to make tiramisu (check out Heston Blumenthal’s below), but my sister tells me that my recipes are too complicated so I’ve simplified it into a 20-minute process for you.

You don’t need to bother separating the yolks from the whites, whisking them together provides the same result, albeit in a more convenient less-foolproof form. Whisking the whites separately just creates the potential to over-whip, and can make the whites dry and difficult to fold into the cream mixture.



Tiramisu
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
From:
Serves: 8 mini tiramisu
Ingredients
Coffee sponge base
  • Approx 16 sponge fingers
  • Approx 180-200 ml espresso (or 150ml ground coffee brewed in 400ml water)
  • 60ml Marsala (or 30ml brandy)
Marsala cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 70g sugar
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 150ml cream (min 35% fat)
  • 60ml Marsala (or brandy)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
For the topping
  • 50 g grated dark chocolate
Instructions
For the Marsala cream
  1. Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs with the sugar until fluffy and doubled in volume.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the mascarpone and whipping cream until soft peaks form. It doesn’t take long; you can do it by hand.
  3. Add Marsala and vanilla extract and stir to combine.Fold the cream mixture into the sugar and eggs in three additions.
Assembling the tiramisu
  1. Mix coffee with Marsala and stir to combine. Dip sponge fingers into coffee mixture for a couple of seconds.
  2. Place a layer of coffee sponge biscuits into the bottom of serving glasses and fill the glass to just under halfway with the mascarpone mixture. Repeat so that you have a second layer.
  3. Cling wrap each glass and refrigerate for at least three hours.
  4. Just before serving, cover with a layer of grated dark chocolate and top with a strawberry to make sure that you’re getting that essential fruit component into your diet.
Tash's Top Tips
Use fresh eggs, and be careful of cross-contamination as the eggs aren’t cooked at all in this recipe. Check the use by date on the eggs to be sure.
Do not store for more than three days.
Unacceptable cheats for this are using cream cheese as a substitute - mascarpone costs about $5 at the supermarket.
Don’t skip the Marsala or your tiramisu will lack flavour. Entry-level Marsala costs about $6 and is perfectly acceptable for making tiramisu with (and you'll have enough for at least 7 batches). There’s really not much of a saving to be made and you’ll end up with a substandard tiramisu.