Friday, March 16, 2012

Baking Basics: How To Properly Measure Flour

Some of my friends ask me why the results they get from my recipes are not the same as mine. So I try to go through each step with them to figure it out. Sometimes results vary because we have different ovens. Other times it is caused by different egg sizes. But more often than not, it differs in the way we measure flour.

Of course I would say that for the purpose of accuracy it is recommended that you weigh the flour you are going to use. But not everyone has a kitchen scale at home. So knowing how to measure is the next logical thing. And I'm going to teach you how.

Here are some tips on properly measuring flour:

  1. If your flour is in a bag or big tub, try to loosen it up a little before measuring.
  2. Never dip your measuring cup into the bag.
  3. And never tap the measuring cup as you fill it with flour.
  4. With a big spoon, slowly fill your cup with flour (Remember, no tapping!). Try to make it overflow.
  5. Then, with a spatula or the back of a knife, run the blade across the cup to make it level.
Now you know how to properly measure flour.

Watch out for other posts about baking basics. Happy Baking!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Churros con Chocolate

I saw an episode of To Spain With Love where the host Annie Sibonney went on a night out in swinging Madrid. I found out that Madrilenos like to have a travelling feast. To start off the evening, they go for tapas and drinks in a bar in Market Square where the stalls open at dusk much like our local Banchetto or Mercato Centrale. Then they make their way around the city to go dancing and get a bite here and there. Dinner doesn't normally start until midnight. There's no such thing as eating too late.

And guess what? They eat churros con chocolate as a "one for the road" at 5am! Something to warm the stomach as one heads home to sleep. Now that's what I call a complete night out.

Here in Manila, you can have your fill of close-to-authentic churros con chocolate at Dulcinea. Not at dawn, though, but just as good. I remember sharing these crunchy treats dipped in hot chocolate with my Mom as a break from shopping at the mall. I've been missing her lately so I decided to make churros con chocolate at home. It's not the same ordering it at Dulcinea without her.

This recipe was adapted from the Food Network.

Churros con Chocolate

1/2 cup butter
pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
4 cups oil for frying
1/4 cup refined sugar
ground cinnamon (optional)

Hot chocolate
4 pieces tablea chocolate
2 cups fresh milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup refined sugar


To make the churro dough, heat the water, margarine, and salt to a rolling boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the flour and stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball, approximately 1 minute and remove from heat. Beat eggs until smooth and add to the saucepan while stirring the mixture.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a star tip. Squeeze 4-inch strips of dough into the hot oil. Fry 3 or 4 strips at a time until golden brown, turning once, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and roll the churros in the sugar mixture. Set aside until ready to serve.

To prepare the hot chocolate for dipping, place the chocolate and half the milk in a saucepan over very low heat and cook, stirring, until the chocolate has melted. Dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining milk and whisk into the chocolate with the sugar. Cook on low heat, whisking constantly until the chocolate thickens, approximately 5 minutes. Remove and whisk until smooth. Pour chocolate into cups and serve with churros.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Nutella® Chocolate Mug Cake

There are days (a lot of them lately) when I simply don't want to bake because of the summer heat and the crazy price of LPG. So when the kids and I saw a post from Casa Veneracion about microwave chocolate cupcakes, we decided to try it for our Sunday dinner dessert. The kids had so many ideas. They wanted to put M & M's, gum, cookies and cream chocolate, etc. It was hilarious. Finally, we all agreed on Nutella and a few M &M's for the little ones' cups.

I made a few changes to the original recipe to put a personal spin to it. It's a pretty simple procedure even the kids can do it. Supervised, of course.

Nutella® Chocolate Mug Cake

7 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup refined sugar
1 tablespoon coffee granules
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup fresh milk
2 to 3 teaspoons Nutella® chocolate hazelnut spread
dusting of confectioner's powdered sugar

  1. Combine all ingredients except Nutella in a bowl mixing until smooth.
  2. Divide between two mugs or 3 tea cups (Make sure the mugs you use are microwave-safe!).
  3. Drop a teaspoon of Nutella in the mug. Push down with a teaspoon.
  4. Microwave on High for 1.5 to 2 minutes.
  5. Cool 10 minutes. (They are way too hot served immediately.)
  6. Dust tops with powdered sugar before serving.
This is also yummy when served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. The hot and cold combination is just superb. A word to the wise, a mug cake is meant to be shared. One serving is huge!

Monday, February 27, 2012

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

How many of you like Mrs. Fields cookies? Of all their products, this is my favorite. This cookie is the object of my late-night cravings. Back when we didn't have Mrs. Fields in Manila, I used to buy a tin of freshly-baked cookies when we go on holiday to Hong Kong. When they opened shop in Manila, my shopping excursion would not be complete without buying one.

But times are hard and mall visits are limited. So I must make these cookies myself at home. They're very simple to make and the dough can be made ahead of time and frozen till needed.
It is best to underbake these cookies a bit. Or eat them warm from the oven for the best experience.

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup refined sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup white chocolate chunks
1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream butter and sugars till fluffy about 5 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
4. At lowest mixer speed, add dry ingredients a tablespoon at a time.
5. Fold in white chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts by hand.
6. Scoop dough and place on ungreased cookie sheets 2 inches apart.
7. Bake for 12 minutes.
8. Cool on wire racks.
9. Keep in airtight container unrefrigerated for three (3) days.

Makes 36 to 40 medium-sized cookies.

photo courtesy of

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Best Thing I Ever Ate!® Manila Edition

I don't know if I can officially call myself a foodie but I do like to eat. I think of food 24/7 that I am now convinced that thinking about food makes you fat. But there's just no escaping food. It's everywhere! On billboards, in print, at the supermarket, at the mall and on tv.

Television, you will be the death of me. If you made me come up with a list of favourite television shows, 7 out of 10 will be food and/or cooking shows. Ambient noise of choice is always any Asian Food Channel or Food Network show. So as a nod to the Food Network's segment Best Thing I Ever Ate!®, I thought of listing the best things I ever ate.

Guilty Pleasures - Caramel Praline Cheesecake from T.G.I. Friday's

Crazy Good - Claw Daddy's Crab Maritess

The Classics - Oysters Rockefeller at Mario's Restaurant

Spicy - Champion Buffalo Wings from Buffalo's Wings and Things

In a Bowl - Red Mango's frozen yoghurt

Fast and Easy - Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Healthy and Light - Roka Salata from Cyma

Meaty Goodness - Wagyu Steak from Melo's

Grilled - Flame grilled burgers from Brothers Burgers

Breakfast - Breakfast buffet from EDSA Shangri-La Hotel

Bang for a Buck - Dilly bar from Dairy Queen, an absolute steal at PHP28 and low fat to boot

Salty - without a doubt still Doritos® Nacho Cheesier

Fried Bites - Ebi Tempura from Kimpura and Saisaki

Ice Creamy - a toss up between Selecta Hershey's Heath and Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia

Crispy- Baklava from the Middle East

Sweet- Oreo cheesecake from Starbucks and jumbo pastillas from Iya Guingona

Chocolate- Ferrero Rocher chocolates and dulce de leche chocolate fudge cake from Mom and Tina's

There you have it, my top 15 list of the best things I ever ate. Care to share yours?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jungle Safari Birthday Cake and Cupcakes

Ah, children's parties. How I used to adore them. I can still remember when I used to throw children's parties for Mr. M (my son) and my nieces and nephews. The amount of prep work will really break your back; not to mention the expense and sleepless nights!

Since most of the kids are grown, I've since graduated to making cakes for my friends' kids. This was a cake and cupcake tower and cookie pops I did for Diego's 1st birthday. It was made with two layers of cake -- one layer chocolate, one layer carrot walnut with a cookie #1 on top. The cupcakes were a combination of chocolate and red velvet.

I love this theme. It's fun choosing which animals to do in royal icing and what colors to use. Even if it took days to make the decors it was worth it. Since then, I've made this design three times. Clearly it's quite a popular theme for first birthday parties.

The first time I made a jungle safari birthday cake was for my nephew Kyle's 1st birthday back in 2004. I got the inspiration from the book The Whimsical Bakehouse by Kaye and Liv Hansen. Kyle's turning 9 in a few months (how time flies). I hope to make a small cake for him then (fingers crossed). Lord, give me the will to make birthday cakes again (more on that in another post).

Happy baking!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cranberry Orange Scones

Breakfast or tea time, I just think it's very elegant to eat scones that are warm and fresh from the oven. Just indulgent with a smear of jam or creme fraiche.

Cranberry Orange Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup refined sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup fresh milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Grease and flour a cookie sheet. Set aside.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Grate butter using box grater and add to flour mixture.
  4. Mix lightly by hand until you get coarse crumbs.
  5. Stir in the orange zest and dried cranberries.
  6. Whisk together the egg and milk.
  7. Using a fork, combine egg-milk mixture to flour-butter mixture. Take care not to mix too much.
  8. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead very lightly and form into a ball.
  9. Roll out dough to an 8-inch round about 1-inch thick. Cut into 8 triangles.
  10. Place on cookie sheet one inch apart.
  11. Brush with milk and sprinkle with a little sugar.
  12. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes. Cool 5 minutes then serve warm.
*Photo courtesy of

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Welcome Back Entry: No-Bake White Chocolate Cheesecake

Once again, kitchen diva in me summons (kidding!). For the nth time, I think I'll try to get back to blogging. Now that the extensive house renovation is over, my schedule these days permits me to bake new and old standby recipes and hopefully take decent photos of them.

I've been reading a lot of baking blogs lately and it amazes me how they find the time. Apart from having kids and holding down a full-time job, these women (and men) still find the time to shop, travel, and churn out at least a couple of entries in a week. Do they even sleep I wanted to ask? Apparently they do and still manage to go on date nights with their partners.

Most would say time management is key. And surviving on less hours of sleep and caffeine. I guess I should be working on my time management skills because I have the caffeine bit down pat. So here goes. No guarantees, though, on the frequency of my entries but I will certainly try and see this through.

To get the ball rolling, let me start off with a simple no-bake cheesecake recipe. I used to sell lots of these back in the day when I still had my shop. I like the light, smooth consistency of the filling combined with the dark chocolaty goodness of the Oreo crust. This simple recipe is a good jump-off point for beginners as this requires no baking whatsoever.

No- Bake White Chocolate Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups crushed Oreo cookies
1/3 cup melted butter, unsalted

1 bar (225 grams) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup refined sugar
1 250 ml all-purpose cream, chilled
1 teaspoon Knox gelatin dissolved in3 tablespoons cold fresh milk
1/2 cup (125 grams) white chocolate, melted
shaved white chocolate
  1. Mix together Oreo crumbs and melted butter. Press onto bottom of a 9-inch removable bottom pan. Set aside in the freezer.
  2. Whip all-purpose cream until doubled in volume. Set aside.
  3. Heat gelatin dissolved in milk in a water bath until you get a smooth liquid consistency. Cool a bit.
  4. In a mixer at medium speed, cream together cream cheese and refined sugar for about a minute or till smooth.
  5. With the mixer running on low speed, pour gelatin mixture into the cream cheese mixture.
  6. Fold in melted white chocolate
  7. Gently fold in whipped cream.
  8. Pour cheesecake filling into pan with prepared crust.
  9. Chill for about 4 hours or till set.
  10. Decorate the top with shaved white chocolate.