French Chocolate Macarons

For the past few months, this is the recipe that I'm trying to perfect - French macarons.

The first time I tried a French macaron was from Bizu Patisserie from the Philippines. Then we went to Paris and tried some macarons from Ladurée and Fauchon... oooh they were melt-in-your-mouth heaven!

Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of the ones from  Ladurée.

Anyway, after that yummy vacay, I wanted to try and make some. I hesitated at first because had this feeling that this is not an easy recipe. Luckily, I found a very easy to follow recipe for chocolate macarons from David Lebovitz.

Other than the fillings in the recipe, I followed the recipe to the T. I just had a hard time knowing when to stop folding the macaron batter... when do I stop folding?!

When I felt that enough folding has been done (even though from recent experiences, the folding was not enough on my first try), I piped them on my baking pans. Based on my research, some recommends using parchment paper instead of silicone mats, and some otherwise. So I decided to pipe them in both parchment paper and silicone mat.

As you can see from the photos below, they have pointed tops. Even when I rapped then to death, they won't go away. So it only means I didn't fold the batter enough. And the ones piped on the parchment paper were too crowded. C'est la vie! 

Here they are, all baked and ready to be eaten. Seriously, I ate a few pieces already even before I made and put the filling! :D You'll notice from the photos that they're cracked. C'est la vie!

Here's a comparison of the bottom of the macarons - parchment paper vs. silicone mat. The only difference I noticed was the shiny bottom when baked on silicone mat.

Now that the macarons are done, let's talk about filling. You can use any filling you like - buttercream, ganache, or even Nutella!

I didn't make the chocolate filling from David's recipe because I didn't have (and can't find!) corn syrup. So I decided to make chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, something that I've got the hang of making. I used the recipe from My Butter Fingers, which she adapted from Smitten Kitchen (proud to say I'm a big fan of Smitten Kitchen) and Use Real Butter.

In my opinion, Swiss meringue buttercream needs a little getting used to. Actually, anything meringue or anything that involves beating egg whites still scares me. Overbeating/underbeating destroys the food you're making, which is totally annoying.

Anyway, here are the finished product complete with fillings.

I made these the 2nd, 3rd, (nth!) time and it never fails to disappoint me. Here are other photos of the nth (don't know when I made them!) time I made macarons. See the less pointed, shiny tops? And no cracks! perfect!

Do try this out. It's worth the stress hihi! Here are the links to the recipes I used:
David Lebovitz's Chocolate Macarons
My Butter Fingers' Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

By the way, I finally got a bottle of light corn syrup and made the chocolate filling from David's recipe. Fudgy yummy!


Flourless Brownies

I was in search of a chewy brownies recipe for two days. I love my usual brownies recipe because it's soft and dense and perfectly rich. But I find it too sweet sometimes.

Yesterday I checked some of my usual sources of recipes, and found the perfect one from David Lebovitz, his gluten-free brownies. The recipe has no flour in it, instead it uses a bit (as in super-bit) of cornstarch. So instead of using the title gluten-free brownies, I decided to use the word "flourless", because the brownies are flourless.

So what's gluten? Here is the definition from

Gluten (from Latin gluten, "glue") is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often gives the final product a chewy texture.
Apparently, some people are allergic (or their body reacts badly) to gluten. From
Gluten sensitivity (also gluten intolerance) is a spectrum of disorders, including celiac disease and wheat allergy, in which gluten has an adverse effect on the body. It can be defined as a non-allergic and non-autoimmune condition in which the consumption of gluten can lead to symptoms similar to those observed in celiac disease or wheat allergy (other conditions which fall under the gluten-related disorders spectrum).
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity may include bloating, abdominal discomfort, pain, or diarrhea; or it may present with a variety of extraintestinal symptoms including headaches and migraines, lethargy and tiredness, attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity, muscular disturbances as well as bone and joint pain.
I don't think I react badly to gluten, so it really doesn't matter if I cook gluten-full or gluten-free food. :) But the brownies recipe from David Lebovitz seemed so rich and dark and everything nice! So I gave it a go, and here's the finish product

Seriously, the picture's not doing justice to how good these brownies are! It's as dark, rich, soft and dense as I want them to be... in other words perfect! And it's gluten-free!

I followed the instructions to the T. The mixing/beating part was torture! I decided not to use the mixer and just use my handy-dandy whisk. I beat the batter for more than a minute (I think it was even more than two minutes) until the batter was smooth. My arm felt like it was about to fell off! But better safe than sorry for not beating it too well. :) 

I didn't add nuts to the brownies... my husband and I do not like nuts in brownies. Instead I added a few drops of chocolate chips on top before baking. 

If you want to try out this recipe, visit David Lebovitz's site and check out his Gluten-Free Brownies.


Chewy Choc Chunk Brownies


The cheater's way to heaven. :)


Insalata Caprese (Tomato Mozzarella Salad)

I've been seeing the tomato mozzarella salad on TV and online and I had been curious on how it tastes. So I tried making some.

Tomato mozzarella salad, or Insalata Caprese, is a very simple Italian salad. All you need are slices of tomatoes, slices of mozzarella cheese and some basil leaves.

In the salad I made, I decided to use cherry tomatoes and bocconcini (mini mozzarella cheese). I bought these lovely Piccolo cherry tomatoes (still with stems) and a tub of bocconcini.

I usually am not a fan of tomatoes in salads, I always pass them to hubby. But these tomatoes are so sweet and delicious and juicy, I love them!
I sliced them in half instead of putting them whole

My tub of mini mozzarella


The salad should also have basil leaves, but I forgot to buy some. :D

After slicing the tomatoes in half and adding the bocconcini, I seasoned it with freshly ground sea salt and some pepper, plus a drizzle of olive oil. Presto! Insalata Caprese!

Try making them with large tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and slice them. This would also be perfect on toast! :)


Chocolate Crinkles 2 Way

It's that time of the year again when I usually bake chocolate crinkles.

I have been doing this recipe from Allrecipes for years and it has never failed me yet. But, last year a friend sent me another chocolate crinkles recipe using a chocolate cake mix... interesting, right? Oh, and that recipe is by Paula Deen. :D

The Allrecipes cookies are so easy to make that I don't have to use a mixer. Paula Deen's recipe is called Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies. It is also very easy (it uses a cake mix!) but I needed to use a mixer for this because I needed to cream the butter and cream cheese (yes, it has cream cheese!) together. The only thing that takes time for both recipes is the rolling of the cookies and covering them with the powdered sugar.

I made the cookies from Allrecipes first. I mixed the ingredients the night before, and baked two batches the next morning. It's also the perfect time to use my new cookie scoop. :D Here's what my cookies looked like:
Don't they look perfect?

After baking the cookies, I prepared the ingredients for Paula Deen's recipe. I still need to put the cream cheese and butter to room temperature. When everything's ready, I made the dough and placed them in the freezer so the dough will harden quicker.

When the last batch of the Allrecipes cookies were done, I baked one batch of Paula Deen's cookies (using the same cookie scoop of course!). Here's what Paula Deen's cookies looked like:

Aesthetics-wise, the original recipe were perfectly-domed and the powdered sugar coated the cookies perfectly too. :D Paula Deen's recipe were a bit flatter than I expected, and the powdered sugar stuck to the cookies (even before I baked them... and I even coated some twice).

Here they are side by side (L: Paula Deen's recipe; R: AllRecipe's recipe):

Texture-wise, they're both soft. Allrecipes' cookies were a bit cakey (bot not too much cake-like cakey). Paula Deen's cookies really are soft and gooey! I guess the Allrecipes' cookies were like that because of the baking powder. If I remember it right, I usually replace the baking powder with baking soda... or maybe ADD baking soda because I have a note in my recipe 1 tsp baking soda... and I have no idea why I forgot that! I usually made them soft and gooey and comes out a bit thinner than that. So this time I liked Paula Deen's texture.

UPDATE 19-Dec 2011 12:55PM: After posting this blog entry, I baked the remaining dough from the Paula Deen batch. Output: cakey too! And they're the same batch! Did I set the oven's temperature too high? Did I bake it too long? Or maybe because I left it in the fridge overnight, just like the Allrecipes batch! I don't know... but the main thing here is... they have the same texture now.

Allrecipes' cookies

Paula Deen's cookies

Taste-wise, I like them both. :D Although I think Paula Deen's cookies were a bit saltier. I also asked my #1 critic and my guinea pig... my husband. He liked the Allrecipes' cookies better. The chocolatey-ness will definitely depend on the cocoa powder (for the Allrecipes) and the chocolate cake mix (for Paula Deen) you use. I used Green and Blacks Cocoa - Organic Fair Trade 100% cocoa powder and Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix).

FYI, I used the same cookie scoop so they're all uniform in size (I think it's 1 tablespoon), used the same baking tray, baked at the same temperature (175ºC/350ºF) at the same period of time (10-12 minutes).

I only used half of the recipe in Allrecipes and I made a total of 20 cookies.

For Paula Deen's recipe, I made a total of 32 cookies.

I think you'll just have to make them to try them out yourselves. :D

Here are the links for the recipes:
Chocolate Crinkles from Allrecipes
Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies by Paula Deen

Happy baking and happy holidays!


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