Tag Archives: Skyfall

Sunday Smiles: Skyfall. That is all. Well, ok, not quite… (but it rhymes)

This hasn’t been the best of weeks – I feel like I’ve spent most of it running into a brick wall.  Actually that more or less covers the last few months, but this week feels like I’ve been sprinting into said brick wall.  Happy days.  Anyway, I don’t really want to go into details – this isn’t meant to be a wallow-in-pity post.

So let’s move right along to this week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • To be honest, this week was more or less single-handedly saved by Skyfall, which was finally released in NZ on Thursday.  I’ve already mentioned how amazing it was, but I just feel the need to re-iterate that.  It’s a serious contender for my favourite Bond film ever.  I could almost stop my Sunday Smiles here – finally seeing Skyfall actually made me week.
  • But I’ll carry on with these adorable photos of baby hedgehogs, or hedgehoglets.  Hedgehogs are actually covered in fleas, which is a little disgusting, but they’re so cute (from a distance further than a flea can jump).  And I’m guessing these adorable little ones haven’t been infested yet, so we can just revel in their cuteness: everybody saw awwwwww!  (Photo source)

  • One of the main purposes of the internet is to provide us with cute baby animals (right?) and it came up trumps twice this week, because there’s also a hilarious baby red panda that is even cuter when it gets taken by surprise.
  • Ok, enough cute baby animals, let’s move onto some killer whales that made an appearance in Mathesons Bay near Leigh.  One of them came right up close to the beach and seemed to be seriously considering snacking on the dog that was paddling around in the shallows.  By the way, this isn’t in Sunday Smiles because of the poor dog (which displays a fabulous doggy version of the “oh shit! face), but rather because it’s rather awesome to see them so close to the beach, and the free-diver’s not-so-elegant clamber onto the rocks.  I did actually think the whale was going to beach itself to try and catch the dog.  A couple of my labmates went free-diving in the same area a week or so later but didn’t see the whales.
  • Mt Tongariro had a little eruption this week (this is the same volcano that erupted back in August).  It seems that it wasn’t really that big of a deal, just venting off some steam – kind of like the volcanic version of a burp from what I can gather.  Rather awkwardly, apparently the scientists thought that Mt Ruapehu was likely to go off in the next two weeks, rather than Tongariro (lucky we’re not in Italy then…).  Anyway, since nobody died or anything, we’re allowed to laugh and what with The Hobbit premiere next week, the NZ Herald’s cartoon made me laugh. (Cartoon source)

  • Time for some low-brow now, courtesy of Susan Boyle’s PR company.  Apparently she’s releasing/has released a new album, so they decided to come up with a hashtag for it and settled on… #susanalbumparty.  Uhm, woops?  How unfortunate, but it did keep me amused for a whole day (it’s been a bad week… and my immaturity always wins out).
  • Public safety videos are usually either all school-marmy or overly graphic and shocking.  Here’s one that’s fun, clever and animated (so it won’t put you off your lunch): Dumb ways to die.  My favourite one is “use your private parts as piranha bait” just because it’s such an idiotic idea.
  • And finally, apparently Christmas is officially here because today was the Farmers’ Santa Parade, an Auckland institution which consists of lots of floats on a parade around the centre of town.  (Farmers is a department store here by the way, not farmers as in agriculture.)  I’m usually a total scrooge about Christmas until the 1st of December, but I made an exception today.  Anyway, it was slightly surreal to see children dressed as snowmen when it’s 20°C outside, but my favourite surreal part was the floats that were shooting out fake snow.  A lot of it wasn’t particularly Christmas-themed (a haunted house float (?), Chinese dragons, cheerleading squads, etc.) which was somewhat perplexing but it was still fun to watch.  And of course, there was Santa, and all the kids in the crowd got totally excited, which was lovely to see.  I was minorly disappointed that Santa’s sleigh isn’t pulled by kiwis here – how amazing would that be?  But no, he has reindeer here, too.  Oh well.

What made you smile this week?

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A Bond-themed Cocktail in a Macaron: Leiter Fluid

Super-duper exciting news: Skyfall was finally released in New Zealand yesterday!!  I’ve been vastly unimpressed at having to wait a month after its release in the UK to see it, particularly since I’ve been hearing how good it is.  Miraculously, I’ve managed to avoid hearing about or seeing any spoilers, which, over the course of an entire month spent on facebook and Twitter, is a rather impressive feat, though I’m assuming that I’ve managed this mostly through sheer luck.  And I suspect that perhaps some of my closest friends who share my Bond love have carefully avoided posting spoilers since they knew I wouldn’t be able to watch it yet.  If so, I’m incredibly grateful.  Anyway, the suspense has been killing me.  Not helped by having to walk past a giant Skyfall billboard every day…

I was finally able to watch Skyfall yesterday evening with some of my labmates.  Wow.  Fantastic.  I can’t really say much more without giving away any spoilers, but I loved it.  Whilst Kat, Craig and I were watching our way through all the Bond films during the summer between our third and fourth years of undergrad, Craig made us a particular cocktail one evening.  I believe it’s mentioned in one of the books (possibly Casino Royale), so we didn’t really invent it, but I think he slightly adapted it and then we re-named it.  It consists of equal parts of gin, red vermouth and Campari and then topped off with tonic to fill the glass.  So basically a Negroni with tonic.

But we wanted a Bond-themed name for the cocktail, and we eventually settled on Leiter Fluid (that’s Leiter as in Felix Leiter).  By “we” I really mean Kat and Craig – I’m not particularly inventive, so I was probably more focussed on sampling the drink itself.  Anyway, in honour of Skyfall’s release and also of this month’s Baking with Spirit theme of “gin,” I decided to take the Leiter Fluid and turn it into a macaron.  Leiter Fluid macarons – oh yes.  I decided that the flavours of the drink (particularly the Campari) would pair well with a dark chocolate ganache, and indeed they did, although they ended up coming through rather more subtly than I expected.  Which is no bad thing.  And the sweet shells balance the bitter ganache perfectly.  My only gripe is that the shells didn’t come out quite as swirly as I wanted, but luckily that doesn’t affect the taste!

Leiter Fluid macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe by me

I used Gordon’s gin in the ganache since I find that the Campari and red vermouth mask any real subtleties of good gins.  The ganache can be a little finnicky and is best if you can avoid cooling it in the fridge as it may cool too quickly and harden.  If you do need to cool it in the fridge, just make sure not to forget about it!  (Not that I’m speaking from experience…)  Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit.  They’re best stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
Red food colouring paste or gel (optional)
100g room temperature egg whites (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar

For the ganache filling:
50g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
20g Campari
20g gin
20g red vermouth
A small glug of tonic

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1.  Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain round piping tip.  If you want to make the macarons swirly, brush three or four lines of food colouring up the inside of the prepared piping bag (this might be a bit messy.  I did three stripes).

2.  Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!).  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

3.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.  If you want to make the shells a uniform colour, add a few drops of food colouring gel to the mixture just before the end and mix well.

4.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

5.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

6.  Sprinkle the shells with the raw sugar and leave the shells to set for about 30 mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

7.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

To make the ganache filling:
8.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the chocolate (broken into pieces), the Campari, gin, red vermouth and a glug of tonic and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to thicken on the countertop (or in the fridge if necessary – if it’s taking too long or not setting).

10.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair.  Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

11.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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Sunday Smiles: A truthful calendar & discovering an island

Uhm, somehow we’ve ended up in October.  Can time slow down a little please?  September seems to have whizzed by, and this week seems to have whizzed by, too.  Possibly because we seem to have spent most it eating cake.

My Sunday Smiles for this week are:

  • A new month means a new calendar page, and once again, my desk calendar speaks words of great wisdom: “Remember that everything looks better in the morning*  * except for your hair which, quite frankly, looks like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards”  The dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards look seems to be one of my particular specialities – how does it know?

  • All that cake that I mentioned?  It might be a little self-indulgent of me, but one of my highlights this week was the egg-free spiced date cake that thankfully worked wonderfully when I really though it had all the odds stacked against it.  Phew!
  • Ok, so, if you’re a regular reader, you may have figured out that I have a rather cheesy sense of humour…  No surprises then that this made me chuckle (cartoon source):

  • It was James Bond Day on Friday, marking 50 years since the release of Dr. No.  The theme song for Skyfall was released, and I don’t know what reviews it has had, but I really like it.  It reminds me of the old school Bond songs.  Have you listened to it?  What did you think?
  • Feeling a little down and want something to make you smile?  These photos of “happy” stingrays will sort you out – I stumbled across them this week and I couldn’t help but crack a smile at them.  (PS – Happy stingrays are a total anthropomorphism, but we’ll just ignore that for now.)
  • We took a day trip to Waiheke Island yesterday which was marvellous fun – discovering a beautiful island 40 mins from central Auckland by ferry is a fabulous way to spend the day.  Particularly when it’s full of vineyards…  Ahem.  The weather was rather blustery (didn’t help the messy hair situation) and couldn’t make up its mind between sunny and overcast, but it didn’t rain so it’s all good.  And the weather doesn’t particularly matter when you’re indoors for wine-tastings…  I can’t wait to go back and explore more wineries of the island – I’m not remotely surprised that people go visit it and then just end up setting up there.

  • And finally, on our way back from Waiheke we were treated to this dramatic view of Harbour Bridge.  I really like it (not so much the associated weather though…).

What made you smile this week?

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Bond… James Bond

Fun fact: Dr. No was released 50 years ago today.  That means that the James Bond film franchise is half a century old (holy shmoley).  That also means that today is James Bond Day.  How awesome is that?  (Correct answer: something along the lines of oh-my-gosh-so-awesome.)

I had intended to make James Bond-themed cupcakes for today.  In fact, I had a truly smashing idea for Bond-themed baked goods but had to put it aside because as much as I’d love to, I can’t really take an entire day off just to bake.  Even if it is for something as fabulous as James Bond Day.  In the end though, I didn’t even have time to make the cupcakes.  Gutted.  They’ll have to wait until the release of Skyfall, which apparently won’t be released in New Zealand until the 22nd of November.  Excuse me, what?  We have to wait a whole month after its release in the UK?!?!  Not on, chaps, not on.

So, no James Bond cupcakes today, but I’ll leave you with this utterly appropriate “James Pond” cartoon from one of my favourite websites, Shaaark!  James Bond and sharks.  Clearly a fantastic combination – what more can one ask for?

Have a marvellous James Pond Bond Day, wherever you are in the world!

Cartoon source

PS – I wanted to pepper this with awkward Bond quotes, but there were just too many to choose from.  I struggle to even pick a single favourite.  Do you have a favourite Bond quote?

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