Dark Chocolate Vanilla Liqueur

A couple of years ago, someone gave me Cacao Liqueur as a Christmas gift.  It was so delicious that I wanted to learn to make it.

Fast forward to the present and I think I have the liqueur that I adoringly love!  I’d been experimenting and, in fact, last Christmas, I made a batch and gave them away as gifts.  The liqueur was made with cocoa powder and they were delicious (as the recipients attest) but it was not (yet) perfect for me.

I wanted a rich, dark, deep chocolate-y flavor and a thick, creamy texture.

This time I think I got it after a few experiments.

My secret?  No cocoa, but bittersweet chocolate, thinned with milk!

(I re-used the nice decorative bottle of the Cacao Liqueur.)

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Lucille’s Apple Pie Spice

Where I live, there is no apple pie spice to be found in the supermarket, not even in specialty stores.  My mom used to ask relatives who lived abroad to buy for her, specifically the McCormick brand.

But in our corner of the world, there is NONE.  So what to do? What to do>  Make your own, of course!

The ingredient list in the McCormick spice bottle lists cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.  Meanwhile, there are numerous recipes online for apple pie spice, all them are largely cinnamon-based, always with nutmeg and allspice and a couple other spices, one or two strange sounding spices that are, yep, likewise unavailable locally. Sigh.

Still going by the ingredient list in the McCormick spice bottle, someone suggested recreating it using 4 parts cinnamon, 2 parts nutmeg and 1 part allspice.  Not bad, I suppose.  In any case you can’t go wrong.

But, I decided on this version, which suits my desire for added “drama” while maintaining the essence of the spice blend.  Sadly, I cannot share the recipe. But it is one that I have been using for roughly 7 years now and everyone says it is very good!

Now, I shall attempt (once again) my mother’s recipe for Apple Pie!

 

Super Fudgy 5 Chocolate Red Wine Brownies

I am discovering that I like red wine.  It started with a gift of Sangria (a particular brand which I will not mention for now) earlier this year.  I know friend T says bottled sangria is an abomination (her homemade one is simply fantastic) but not knowing how to make sangria (and not wishing to start anyway), this specific bottled one is good enough for me.

Anyway, hubby and I recently discovered moscato red wine!  How we got a taste of it?  Well, someone gave us a Christmas gift of moscato red wine… it was actually a regift (we know because the giver neglected to check the wine bottle and there was an inscription that was addressed to – NOT US! hahahaha)

Anyway, I was still experimenting with brownie recipes… and I figured, why not go for broke?  Use whatever chocolate I have ( 1-unsweetened baking chocolate, 2-bittersweet chocolate, 3-cocoa, 4-dark choco chips, and 5-semisweet choco chips) and why not the red wine too?

So here they are!  They are the fudgiest, most chocolatiest brownies I have ever made!  That it had a crinkly, cracked top was a delicious bonus!

Calamansi-Ricotta-Pistachio Cupcakes

We had a bumper crop of calamansi… and I was running out of ideas where to use them!

So… cupcakes…

I was planning to make plain calamansi muffins, but got carried away trying to find a recipe…

In the end, what I did was to use my (super-secret) vanilla cupcake recipe and swap out part of the liquid to ricotta and added 3 tablespoons of pure calamansi juice.  (the cupcake itself, though, I think is a bit lacking in calamansi flavor)

Then to amp up the (super mild) calamansi flavor, I added calamansi syrup and crushed pistachios on top.

The recipe made more than expected – 6 cupcakes, 12 mini cupcakes, and 1 mini loaf!

For the Boys…

Some of hubby’s friends come to the house regularly (we refer to them fondly as “the boys”) and I like feeding them!

The last time they were here, I served them “Make-your-own-pita” sandwiches.  I had originally planned on curried chicken as a filling but at the last minute, having discovered that *someone* used up my curry blend, I had to find something else… that’s when I saw the bottle of (faux) Caesar Dressing that I had made a couple of days ago.  So instead of curried chicken to be stuffed in the pita bread, it became Chicken Caesar!

It was a great hit!

Triple Choco Chip Cookies

My cousin D and I have been talking about chocolate chip cookies.  It made me experiment again.  But I already have a go-to recipe that I quite like (even if I experiment with other recipes still) but I’ve always baked in my big gas oven and this time I wanted to try it in my little electric oven…

The mixing part –

1. Creaming the butter and sugars.

2. Stirring in the flour mixture.

3. Folding in the chocolate chips and chunks.  I used 2 kinds of chips – semi-sweet chips and dark chips; plus I added chopped bittersweet chocolate (at least 72%)

I think that using different kinds of chocolate, as well as differently sized bits, in the cookie makes the resulting cookie so much better, with a different dimension to it.

See?  My oven is really small and it can only take 6 cookies at a time, and I had to use the 1-oz scoop at that!

The results –

top – 8 minutes baking time.  Result – soft and chewy cookies

middle – 10 minutes baking time.  Result – crispy edges, soft and chewy centers

bottom – 12 minutes baking.  Result – super crispy cookies.

The winner as per hubby – soft and chewy, 8-minute baked cookies

The little girl’s favorite?  The super crispy, 12-minute baked oookies

Me?  I added walnuts to the last batch of 6

and baked them for 9 minutes…

(before i forget, I always turn the baking sheet around midway!

Midnight B

When I meet people I know from my teenage days, they always tell me that they remember my brownies and how good they are.  And I was quite proud of those brownies – I can never forget how I stayed up night after night, making one batch of brownies after another.  My initial goal was a fast and easy recipe without sacrificing taste and quality.  I never did reach that goal because while the recipe was relatively simple, it was not fast… the process was rather delicate and a mis-step meant getting a different texture.

But these days, I have a slightly different goal for my baked goods.  While texture still ranks high up, what has become more important to me is producing a (slightly) healthier version.  Of course I cannot eliminate butter or sugar completely but at least I can try as much as possible to reduce them.

So, while I no longer stay up night after night, I still bake batch after batch (with long pauses in between) to experiment and tweak my brownie recipe to perfection!  Yesterday’s experiment turns out to be the best one so far…

00_black-brownies

Unoriginal as I am, I initially named this Black Brownies.  This morning, though, I thought it better to call it Midnight B.

It is essentially the same recipe from 30-odd years ago except that I no longer use granulated (highly processed) sugar, instead I use raw sugar or one that has minimal processing (as best as I could find, that is).  I also substituted part of the chocolate with black cocoa because I wanted a super dark brownie (and got a dark-as-midnight color!)… and (!) I added a secret ingredient (which hubby instantly recognized, but not quite on the mark (?????)

Overall, I just looooooooove these!

As for hubby, this is what he had to say…

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-7-23-11-am

(I still have one final experiment to do… if my theory is correct then I will have the ultimate, as well as perfect, brownies!

 

Butterscotch Dreams

Not being a big fan of chocolate, my bar of choice has always been butterscotch – specifically the one that my Ilonggo relatives would bring when they came for a visit.  It was difficult to describe, but it was buttery, sugary, and something else.  Over the years it has morphed into many variants, including my all-time favorite cashew and mango!

I never figured out how to bake those Pinoy (or Ilonggo) Butterscotch but I have tried to make butterscotch bars on and off throughout the years.  I was never quite satisfied… and eventually gave up.

You see, I did not want a butterscotch-chip bar, I wanted butterscotch bars!  I wanted the flavor of the butterscotch to permeate every bit of the bar cookie… and I wanted a butterscotch bar stuffed with dark chocolate chips… or cashew nut bits… or maybe even bits of dried Philippine mango…

The answer came to me in a dream – literally!  A couple of nights ago i woke up from a dream where I’d been mixing batter for butterscotch bars… I woke up to darkness (it wasn’t even close to dawn!) and scurried into the kitchen before my memory of the dream faded!

Thank goodness I had all the ingredients on hand!  And so, my experiment began… I had no guide except for my dream… and as I added ingredients, I noted it in the little girl’s whiteboard!

The resulting bars were even better that I imagined!

The recipe will have to wait though… because friend S expressed her desire to keep the goodies to ourselves for a while.  Besides, I think it just made the Christmas Giveaway List this year!

(Thank you friend T for naming this treat!)

 

 

Hubby’s New Favorite Rolls

Hubby likes chewy bread (unlike me, i like the soft one… the rich, soft bread…) and he has a favorite recipe of mine (after a year of experimenting!)  But the recipe, of course, required kneading!

So it was back to the drawing board for me, to try and convert his favorite bread recipe into a no-knead one.  After a couple of weeks of experimenting, I finally got it!

But in order to have freshly baked bread by 6:15am, I had to wake up at 5!  The rolls, after being shaped, still needed to rise for another 30 to 40 minutes.  So I wondered if there was still a way to shorten the “waiting” time.  I wanted to wake up, crank up the oven, shove the shaped dough in and eat in about 30 minutes!

And, here is the best part… there is a way!!!

I was intrigued by an item in the FAQ on their website – the refrigerator rise!  Basically form the dough into buns the night before and let it rest in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, overnight (8 to 14 hours).  The next morning, preheat the oven, take the formed dough out and pop in the oven as soon as the oven is hot enough!

So now I can wake up at 6 to have freshly baked rolls for breakfast by 6:30 am!

 

 

Halloween Spiders

I couldn’t let the little girl down.  Not when she was excited about Halloween… well, let’s just say, she is partially excited.  She doesn’t like the horror side of it, but she definitely loves the getting treats part!

But the truth was, I was not prepared for Halloween.  Because she had repeatedly said she did not like Halloween – too scary, she said.

Then, at the last minute, she wanted something for Halloween!  I suspect it had more to do with the treat part!

So for her Halloween treat this year… I made a short-cut.  I had seen a pack of gummy spiders – perfect I thought!

The little girl refused to eat them!!!  The spiders were too creepy…

So we took the gummy spiders off and after that she was fine with eating the cupcakes!

What is the recipe?  Easy (did a shortcut too!) buy regular cupcakes, “draw” a continuous circle and score with a toothpick to make a web design.  Then plop a gummy spider on top!