Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Mango Bravo Challenge: Part 3 (of 3) - the Whipped Cream frosting and Final Assembly

I don't think a lot of people realize that it is not even mango season at this time in Australia.  In a couple of months, mangoes will start appearing in the supermarkets but they will still be extremely expensive.  Prices do not go lower until around December and January.

I couldn't wait to get this Mango Bravo experiment over and done with, so I settled for the next best thing.


These frozen mangoes are actually surprisingly good.  The cake was going to be frozen anyway so I figured, using frozen mangoes won't really be an issue here.  Besides, they are already cubed which makes it all the more convenient for me.

Okey, so now we have to make the whipped cream frosting.  I had a few choices for this - whipped cream and sugar only, whipped cream and sugar stabilized with gelatin, non-dairy whipped cream OR the whipped cream/cream cheese combination I always make.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe most commercial bakeries probably use the first three options, especially the non-dairy which is more stable in warm weather.  For me, if it were only for a topping or filling, these options would have been fine but since the whole cake will be covered with it, there was really no question as to which I would rather eat.

Of course, it's the whipped cream/cream cheese frosting!  I use this frosting in a lot of my cakes - examples here, here, and here.  Apart from being the most yummy, I find it really stable and stiff enough for piping. 

I did not take step by step photos anymore but here is the recipe.

STABLE WHIPPED CREAM (more than enough to fill and cover the cake)

Ingredients:

3 cups whipping or thickened cream, very cold
1 1/2 bars (375g) of cream cheese, cold
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Procedure:

Cut up the cream cheese into small cubes.  In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Set aside.

In your chilled bowl and using clean beaters, beat the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla until the mixture is quite stiff. Gently fold in the cream cheese then beat again at high speed for about a minute or until everything is well combined.  Be careful not to overbeat.

To fill the cake:

Dab some whipped cream onto your cake board then center the bottom meringue layer (with the chocolate mousse) on top.

Place a meringue wafer on top of the chocolate mousse.

Fit a large piping bag with a coupler then fill it with the whipped cream.  Pipe a dam around the cake edge then spread some whipped cream inside the dam.


Fill the center generously with mango cubes.


Spread more whipped cream until the mangoes are fully covered.


Top with the last meringue wafer.


Cover the whole cake with a thin layer of whipped cream.  Chill this for a bit if you think your whipped cream is getting softer.


Use a 6" round cake pan or a bowl to create a mark at the cake top.  This is just to serve as a guide when you start piping the ridges on the cake sides.


Fit the same piping bag you used earlier with a star tip.  I used a tip #21 which is small.  Just remember that the bigger your piping tip is (like if you use say, a 1M or a 2D), the more frosting you will use and the thicker it will be.

Starting from the bottom, pipe a straight vertical line going up the cake top edge and finishing off where the marked guide is.  Do the ridges side by side, with no gap in between.  Refill piping bag with more whipped cream as needed.


Go all the way around until you cover the entire cake side.


Pipe a shell border around the top, again using the circle mark as a guide.


Fill the space in the center with more mangoes!  Yay, we're nearly done...


To make the chocolate drizzle:

In a mug or any microwaveable container, melt 100g of dark chocolate with about 2 teaspoons of vegetable shortening.  Microwave this for 1 minute first, then stir.  


After that, microwave for 15 second intervals only until the chocolate is fully melted.  Stir after each interval.


Let the chocolate cool slightly then transfer to a small piping bag.  Snip a little bit off the end, then drizzle away!  First at the top, where the mangoes are....


Then around the sides.

I must admit that my drizzles are horrible!  I wished I had done it differently :((.

My cake ended up to be about 5 1/2" tall only.  I really didn't mind that it didn't reach the targetted 7" height because it was still pretty big as it was.

You want to see what it looked like inside?


What do you think?  Does it resemble a Mango Bravo slice?


The cake was really delicious but I couldn't finish this slice in one sitting as it was big.  I don't think there is anything on this cake that one can actually dislike.  The meringue was really crispy so I was happy with that.  The chocolate mousse was firm and held up really nicely even though it was at the bottom of the cake. After it was frozen, the cake was a breeze to cut.  Serving this cake frozen is really essential and also, using a sharp, serrated knife to slice it (in a sewing motion).

Impressive as this cake may seem, there is a downside too.  Meringue's enemy is moisture and so the more it is exposed, the softer it becomes.  To enjoy this cake the way it should be, it is best consumed immediately after it is taken out of the freezer and sliced.  The longer it is exposed, the harder it will also be to slice properly.

Although I would say this first attempt was a huge success, there are still a few things I would like to do differently if I were to do this cake again:

1. I will try grinding my cashews into a fine meal, leaving only about 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped pieces.  I think this will make the meringue less tight and give it a finer texture.  

2. I will use fresh mangoes!

3. I will make a different chocolate sauce.  I would have liked it more if the drizzle remained soft.  Maybe a thinned ganache would do or even a store-bought chocolate sauce or chocolate shell topping.

Other than that, I believe all you Mango Bravo lovers out there will be happy with this copycat!  Give it a go sometime.  If you have any suggestions or ideas on how to improve this cake further, please let us know in the comments section below.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Mango Bravo Challenge: Part 2 (of 3) - the Chocolate Mousse

There are different types of chocolate mousse.  Some have eggs.  Some have gelatin.  Some use a combination of both. When I make chocolate mousse, I prefer the easiest option, that is, one with just chocolate and cream.

The chocolate mousse filling sits at the bottom of the Mango Bravo cake, between the middle and bottom meringue layers.  I used an adjustable cake ring to help set my mousse properly on top of the bottom meringue.  You will see how I used this later, towards the end of this post.


If you don't own a cake ring, don't worry.  You can also use an 8" springform pan.  If you don't have that either, you can simply use the 8" cake tin you baked the meringue in (provided it is deep enough) by lining the inside with clingfilm, making sure that the film hangs over the edges of the tin so you can lift the cake out once the mousse has set. 

If you have your own tried and tested recipe for chocolate mousse, then by all means, use that for the Mango Bravo cake filling.  But if you want, you can try this simple version too.  This is very light but firm enough (even without the addition of gelatin) to able to withstand the weight of the other cake layers.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (enough filling for one Mango Bravo cake)

Ingredients:

4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch-processed but natural is fine too.)
3 tablespoons hot water
132 grams dark chocolate (melts or chips or whatever you want!)
1 cup cold thickened (heavy, whipping) cream
2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Procedure:

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and the hot water. Whisk until cocoa powder is dissolved.


Place the dark chocolate pieces in a large heatproof bowl,  Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  (Do not let the bowl touch the water.) Stir occasionally until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.


Whisk cocoa mixture into the melted chocolate until smooth.


Using chilled bowl and beaters, whip the cream, sugar and salt, starting from a low speed gradually increasing to high.  Beat until the cream forms soft peaks.


Whisk one-third of the cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten.  Then using a spatula, fold in the rest of the whipped cream until no streaks remain.



To set your chocolate mousse over the meringue:

Place a meringue wafer** on top of a cake board (or if you are using a tin, position it inside).

**Note: If your meringue wafer is not level, you might want to trim it a little with a serrated knife until the surface and also the sides become straight.

Secure the cake ring tightly, pour mousse in, then level off.


Cover top with foil or clingfilm then chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight until chocolate mousse is firm.

Remove cake ring (or lift cake out from tin) before proceeding with the rest of the Mango Bravo assembly.

I've taken the cake ring out just to show you what it looks like but you must keep it chilled until you have made your whipped cream frosting.

Next post: The Mango Bravo Challenge: Part 3 (of 3) - Whipped Cream frosting and Final Assembly

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Mango Bravo Challenge: Part 1 (of 3) - the Meringue Wafers

I know a lot of you have been waiting for this.

I finally challenged myself into creating a copycat of the Mango Bravo cake of Conti's Bakeshop and Restaurant.

I am not going to show a photo of my cake just yet.  I've decided to divide this post into three parts so I will reveal that when we reach Part 3. My cake is definitely not an exact copy. It is imperfect in many ways.  There are a lot of things that can be improved or changed. However, just the same, I am happy to share what I did to anyone who would care to know!  In all three parts, I will be detailing everything I did.  Please read them all thoroughly before attempting to bake your own cake as I will also be mentioning in the end the things I would want to do to get even better results.

What is this cake exactly? The Mango Bravo is a frozen cake described to be layers of cashew meringue wafers, chocolate mousse, cream and mango cubes, drizzled with chocolate syrup.  It is distinctively a very tall cake, the regular 8" size being about 7" high (or perhaps, even more!).

Image credit: Food Spotting
I have had the chance to taste this cake twice, on two separate visits (3 years apart) to the Philippines. Well, to be honest, I can hardly remember what the cake was really like because I got to eat just bits and pieces, not whole slices. It is supposed to be served frozen and when it sits at room temperature for a while, it becomes all soggy and melted and you cannot possibly get a decent slice. I can imagine, though, why people like this cake so much - it's crunchy and nutty, it's fruity, it's chocolatey, it's creamy. 

Just by looking at photos of this cake, I already knew that the hardest element to recreate was the meringue wafer.  Meringue, in general, isn't difficult to make.  However, the ones on this cake were ridiculously thick. They looked rather different too, like toasted cake or huge lady finger biscuits.

Recently, I posted here a recipe of sans rival. Although similar to the cashew meringue wafers of sans rival, the Mango Bravo wafers do not appear to be loaded with cashews.  I could be wrong but purely based on the many photos that I've seen, I could only spot few chopped cashew pieces popping out here and there. The sans rival wafers are also way thinner. Those wafers I made took me two hours to bake. So how long would these thicker ones take to dry out and brown? Three, four, five, six hours in the oven???

This try was a shot in the dark.  Didn't really know what I was doing, no kidding.  However, I think in the end, it all worked out just fine.

MERINGUE WAFERS (makes three 8" round, 1" - 1 1/4" thick pieces)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups eggwhites (from 9-10 large eggs), room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup granulated white sugar **
1 cup sifted icing (powdered, confectioner's) sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped unsalted roasted cashews
3 tablespoons cornstarch

**I actually used 1 cup of sugar but found the meringue just a tiny bit sweet for me so I am lessening it to 3/4 cup.

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 150 deg C.  Grease three 8" round pans and line the bottoms with baking paper.

In a bowl, combine icing sugar, cashews, and cornstarch thoroughly.



In a mixing bowl, starting from a low speed gradually increasing to medium, beat eggwhites and cream of tartar until frothy.  Gradually add in granulated sugar then increase speed to high and beat until eggwhites reach stiff peaks.


Gently fold in cashew mixture into the eggwhites.


Fold just until no specks of icing sugar/cornstarch can be visibly seen.


Divide meringue evenly into the three prepared pans.  Level off with an angled spatula.


Bake in the oven until meringue is golden brown inside and out (but not burned!), crispy and dry.  How long you say?

I really didn't have a clue on how long to bake these for! I first checked 2 hours in.


I poked a hole on one of the meringues and saw that the inside was still wet and very white.  I put it back in the oven and waited for another hour.


After 3 hours, the top seemed ready but when I turned it over, the bottom was still soft to the touch and as you can see, the inside was still white.


I wanted to give up at this point because I was concerned about how much gas I was consuming from having the oven on for that long! After thinking about it, I didn't want everything to go to waste, so I put the wafers back into the oven and left them there till I was sure that they were all dry and brown inside and out.

It took nearly 6 hours.



So there they are, my three thick wafers, finally all dry and brown and hopefully, crispy.  I let them cool completely, wrapped two of them in cling film and kept them in freezer bags.  I left one out so I could top it with chocolate mousse.  I planned to let the mousse set overnight.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Custaroons ™

Below is an email sent to me by Ms. Gigi Gaerlan, inventor of the Custaroons and owner of the Custaroonery in Manila.  Please read carefully and understand its content, especially if you are one of those selling or intending to sell a copycat product.

Dear Corrine,

Hi! I hope this letter finds you well.  I am writing because I was recently informed of the copycat Custaroon/s recipe you posted on your website (Please don't take me wrong with the word COPYCAT.  I don't mean this as a derogatory term - it's just a term used for an imitation recipe).  I don't mind you creating your very own Custaroon/s recipe provided that you inform your readers that "Custaroon/s" is actually a BRAND NAME trademarked to me, Gigi Gaerlan.  I invented the recipe and coined the word "Custaroon/s" back in 1999 (this was the reason I applied for and was granted the trademark in several countries, including Australia).  Because of this, it is illegal to commercially use/call the copycat product/s Custaroon/s.  

If you should decide to include your recipe in your cookbook, kindly indicate clearly that it is a copycat recipe of the Custaroon brand dessert otherwise it will be grounds for trademark infringement, which we want to avoid.

Lately, people have been innocently using the term "Custaroon/s" as a generic name for their product/s and whenever it comes to our attention, we inform them of our trademark to avoid any legal issues.

Hope you understand :)

Best regards,
Gigi Gaerlan

To add to that, I just want to say a few more things which I also expressed to Ms. Gaerlan in my reply email. Please know that in posting a "copycat" recipe of the custaroons here, I had no intention of giving myself credit for the brand name.  I also had not been encouraging anyone to use the same to sell their own products. I neither have any plans of publishing the recipe in a cookbook nor even considered selling an imitation product myself.

People write to me constantly to ask me to make versions of whatever is popular in Manila. It's crazy because I'm in Australia and have never even seen or tasted a lot of them, including the custaroons.  Apart from this blog, I am not in other social media like Facebook, so I am really unaware if the recipe I posted is even popular. I also don't know if it is being used to sell copycat products.

Having said all that, please do take this thing seriously. Thank you to Ms. Gaerlan for writing so people will be informed and don't get themselves into trouble! :) Be creative and come up with your very own brand name or better yet, your own unique product!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chocolate crinkles

The other day, I received a request to "imitate" what is touted to be the best chocolate crinkles in Metro Manila.  Oddly enough, this crinkle can be found, not in a bakeshop, but in a bank cafeteria! It apparently has received a cult following but the only way to get them is through someone who actually works in the bank.  Not knowing what made this particular cookie extra special, I did a google search.

Image credit: from top left going clockwise - My Dessert Diet, Desperate Measures,
Lakas ng Trip Travel Blog via FlickrInteraksyon

Funny isn't it, how somehow there is a perception that I can make up something by just looking at photos over the internet? :) I am flattered that people see me as that, but unfortunately, things do not happen magically like that for me. I had no hesitation, however, about experimenting because my family loves chocolate crinkles and would welcome them anytime, anyday.

What do I consider the perfect chocolate crinkle?  In terms of appearance, a perfect chocolate crinkle should have the cracked top.  Some crinkles look as if they have just been coated in powdered sugar, with little or no cracks at all.  Another thing is that it should not be flat like a normal cookie but should have a slight rounded top.  Lastly, it should be a deep, dark brown colour.  The colour does give one a sense of how chocolately something is.  A light brown crinkle, to me, isn't as enticing to eat.

In terms of taste and texture, on the other hand, a perfect chocolate crinkle should have a slight crunch on the outside but have a soft, moist, fudgy texture on the inside.  And of course, it should be as chocolatey as it looks!

Having said all of the above, I set my sights on making the perfect chocolate crinkle. As always, I didn't just want to find a recipe on the internet then copy it onto here.  I looked at several recipes, took different elements from them, combined what I thought would work and experimented.  Bingo!  I seriously believe I hit the jackpot on the first try...It must be magic after all!



I was so happy with my success, I wanted to share the recipe with all of you right away. But before I move on to that, here are just a few tips to ensure your success as well:

1.  Use a good-quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder.  Natural cocoa such as the popular Hershey's brand (although having a deeper chocolate flavour) is lighter in colour.  Just for comparison, have a look at the photo below.


I have two kinds of Dutch-processed cocoa powder on hand - Van Houten (made in Belgium) and Droste (made in the Netherlands).  Notice the different shades.  I used the darkest one (Droste) for my crinkles.

2.  The size of eggs you use will have an effect on how firm or how soft your cookie dough will be.  Use eggs that weigh around 60g (in the shell), give or take 2-3 grams.  Normally, eggs of this size would be labelled as LARGE but that varies from country to country.

3.  If you absolutely cannot find chocolate extract, just omit it and use 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in total instead.  But if you know where to buy it, I suggest you get one!  It will make a difference.

4.  As soon as you have rolled the dough and coated them in icing sugar, bake them immediately.  The colder and firmer the dough is as it goes into the oven, the less it will spread and the more defined the cracks will be.  Also, if you let the dough sit out for long, the icing sugar will begin to absorb into it and you don't really want that.

Are you excited now?  Let's bake the perfect chocolate crinkles, shall we?

CHOCOLATE CRINKLES (makes about 36 cookies)

Ingredients:

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup vegetable/canola oil
4 large eggs (~60g @)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp chocolate extract
Around 1 cup sifted icing sugar (confectioner's/powdered sugar)

Procedure:

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk to combine thoroughly.

In another bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, coffee, sugars, and vegetable oil.

Beat in the eggs one at a time. (I just used a wooden spoon for this.  No need for a mixer.)


Stir in the extracts.

Mix in the flour mixture just until well incorporated.

Cover the bowl, and chill for 30-45 minutes in the freezer or until firm enough to handle easily.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silicone mat.

Roll dough into 1 1/2" balls. (I used my cookie dough scoop to measure out my dough but you can just use a spoon and you can also form smaller or bigger balls, it's up to you.)

Coat each ball in icing sugar then place onto prepared baking tray.

Return covered bowl of dough to the freezer.


Bake IMMEDIATELY in preheated oven for about 12-13 minutes. (For 1" balls, bake for about 10-12 minutes.  For a 2" ball, bake for about 14-15 minutes.)  Do not overbake the cookies.  Once the bottom edges start to firm up even if the tops still look underdone, take them out of the oven.  If you overbake them, they will become crunchy and dry instead of chewy and moist.

Let stand on the baking tray for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Repeat process of rolling dough for the next batch only when the first batch is done baking.  This is important as I have already explained earlier why it is better to bake the cookies while the dough is cold and firm.

Keep cooled cookies in an airtight container or better yet, pack them in individual cello bags so you can control yourself from eating too much!


As always, your feedback is very valuable to me.  Please try the recipe then let me know if you agree with me (or don't) that these are the best chocolate crinkles ever!



PS. I read that the bank crinkle was bigger than usual (like palm size) so I also tried making one large cookie.



Yum, yum, yum! One piece is definitely enough for this big size.