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)


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)


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.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sans rival


That probably sums up how I've been feeling in the last month or so.  I believe the cause is a combination of plain burnout as well as emotional stress from having to deal with some personal issues lately.  Or maybe, just maybe, I am just nursing a hole in my heart after having watched 9 seasons of "The Office" straight and seeing it end :(.

For quite a while now, I have been thinking of making a sequel to my Frosted Heaven book.  I have actually already listed the chiffon cake varieties that I wanted to include in it but just the thought of having to make the cakes one by one so I can test them and take photos as well is making me feel sick already.  Can you believe that? Me, getting sick of chiffon?  For the time being, I'm afraid it's true so I have put this project on hold for now.

Last month, two of my kids had their birthdays.  No chiffon cake for us!  For my daughter's birthday on the 28th, I made a cookies and cream cheesecake.  She prefers cheesecake over cake anyway so, more than anything, this was a welcome change.  For my son's birthday a few days later (on the 31st), I made sans rival.  Believe it or not, although this is a Filipino favourite, it was my first time ever to make this dessert.

Since our oven is small and can only accommodate 2 baking trays at a time, I only made two meringue wafers which I each cut in half to make four layers.  The finished cake was only about 8"x6" but it was more than enough for the six of us.  As a matter of fact, it lasted for three days.  Not that it was not delicious.  It definitely was. However, being a really rich type of dessert, you can only eat it in little portions at a time.

Next time you feel like having something different (other than chiffon cake!), hope you can give this a try. Enjoy!

SANS RIVAL (makes a four-layered 8"x6" cake)

For the meringue wafers:

1 cup eggwhites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped unsalted roasted cashews **

**Although cashews are traditionally used, you can substitute this with other nuts such as almonds, pistachios, macadamias or whatever nut you prefer.

Preheat oven to 150C (300F).

Cut two pieces of baking paper about the same size as the underside of a large baking tray.  In the center of each, draw an 8"x12" rectangle.

Lightly grease the underside of two baking trays.  Stick each baking paper to a greased tray, drawn side down.  Just to make sure it would be easier to take off the baking paper later on, you can also grease the tops.

In a mixing bowl, combine eggwhites and cream of tartar.  Starting from a low speed gradually increasing to medium, beat until frothy.  Slowly add in sugar, then increase mixer speed to high and beat until eggwhites are stiff but not dry.

Gently fold in the chopped cashew nuts.

Divide the meringue equally between the two lined trays.  With an offset spatula, spread the meringue out using the drawn rectangle as a guide but go slightly past the lines.  Make it as level as you possibly can.

Bake meringue in preheated oven for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meringue is dry, crisp and a light brown colour. (As I always say, since different ovens behave differently, baking time may vary.)  The important thing is that the wafers are crunchy - soft and soggy wafers are no good!

While still hot, use a long, sharp knife to carefully trim the sides of the meringue to make the edges straight (and aligned with the drawn rectangle on the baking paper). Cut each meringue in the center to make four 8"x6" pieces. Now that the pieces are smaller, they are easier to take off from the baking paper. Do this slowly. If you accidentally crack the meringue (like the lower right side of the meringue below), don't worry about it as you will be able to "repair" this with buttercream later.

For the French buttercream:

1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup water
2 eggyolks
1 whole egg **
1 cup soft butter

**Typically, other recipes use all eggyolks.  This is just how my aunties made their version.  The whole egg makes the buttercream a tad lighter, I suppose. If you want all eggyolks, you can use a total of 5-6 instead.

In a small saucepan, mix together the sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the saucepan.  Once the temperature reaches about 90C (200F), start beating your eggs.

When syrup reaches 115C (240F), take it off the heat.  With mixer at low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the eggs. Aim for the area in between the mixer and the beaters.  If your syrup hits your beaters, it will splatter to the sides of the mixing bowl instead of combining with the eggs.

Beat the egg/syrup mixture until thick and light in colour. Set this aside in the fridge to cool.

When cool, return bowl to the mixer, beat at medium speed while gradually adding in the soft butter.  Scrape down the sides to make sure all the butter is incorporated.

Once all the butter is in, increase mixer speed to high and beat until buttercream is light and fluffy.

To assemble Sans rival:

You will also need: 1 cup or more of coarsely chopped unsalted roasted cashew nuts (or whatever nut you used in the meringue).

On a cake board, alternate layers of meringue wafer and buttercream.  As the buttercream is very rich (and can become cloying if taken in large amounts), spread thinly only. If you have any cracked wafers, use a little buttercream to "glue" them together.  Cover the entire cake with the rest of the buttercream. 

As with the cake pictured at the very top of this page, you can finish your sans rival off by piping borders (if you still have leftover buttercream) and by covering the top generously with chopped cashew nuts.  

Or if you absolutely love nuts, you can cover even the sides with more cashews!

Keep the sans rival in the freezer in a box or in an airtight container until time to serve to keep the meringue crunchy.  Use a very sharp knife to slice.

Remember to cut into small pieces only! 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Vanilla Cupcakes Part 2 (with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Bacon)

To the bacon lover, this cupcake is just another way to enjoy bacon.  To the non-bacon lover, this is an opportunity and/or a dare to be a little more adventurous!

The maple syrup and bacon combination is really nothing new.  However, having them both in a cupcake is not something you see everyday and can even be a repulsive idea to some. Come to think of it, this cupcake ticks all the boxes of good food - a medley of sweet, tangy, and salty, as well as a mix of different textures. Although I would not dream of eating this on a regular basis, for me, it was something I wanted to try even once.

To make these cupcakes, bake a batch of vanilla cupcakes using the recipe in the previous post or using your own favourite recipe.

To make candied bacon, you will need about 10-12 strips of streaky bacon.

1. Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees C.  Line a baking tray with aluminium foil.
2. Place brown sugar on a plate.  Cover each bacon strip with brown sugar.

3.  Transfer bacon strips to your prepared baking tray.

4.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes on one side then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes.  (The baking process might take longer depending on your oven and also on the thickness of your bacon.  What you want is for the bacon to be fairly crispy and golden brown.)

5.  Transfer bacon strips to a tray lined with baking paper and let cool completely.

6.  Chop bacon into small pieces.

To make the maple cream cheese frosting, follow the recipe here, substituting the vanilla extract with one tablespoon maple syrup.  Use to frost your vanilla cupcakes.

I used a large plain round  tip to pipe the frosting.

Top frosted cupcakes with a generous amount of candied bacon.

Now don't be scared to taste...just enjoy it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vanilla Cupcakes Part 1

Vanilla cupcakes are probably my least favourite of all cupcakes. However, in as much as I avoid making them, I believe that as a baker, it is an absolute must for me to have a delicious and foolproof vanilla cupcake recipe in my repertoire.  That and chocolate cupcakes at least.  I have tried many different recipes over the years, mostly from famous bakers and bakeries, but never was I completely happy with any of them.  Mostly, the cupcakes were too buttery and/or oily and were no good for more than a day. And almost always, no matter what recipe I used, after beautifully rising in the oven, the cupcakes sank after baking. So frustrating! Really an enigma how something supposedly so basic can be so hard to perfect.

I don't know why I didn't think of trying this before.  Yesterday, using the red velvet cupcake recipe that always gave me perfect cupcakes, I made a few adjustments and came up with my own vanilla cupcake recipe.  And what do you know, I baked my best batch ever!

The cupcakes were very light and tender (owing to the use of buttermilk), had a fine crumb, with just the right sweetness and vanilla flavour. They rose to a good height and did not sink at all :)))).  Definitely much better than any other vanilla cupcake I have ever made.

Sure, as always, I am happy to share this recipe! Before that though, let me just give you a quick insight on how I came up with the amounts of baking powder and baking soda.  For leavening, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder or 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda is usually necessary for every cup of flour.  I did not use 100% baking powder as the recipe needed even a small amount of baking soda to neutralize the acid from the buttermilk.  With this in mind, I derived the proper amounts using simple math.  Clear enough?

On to the recipe.

VANILLA CUPCAKES (makes about 20)

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1.  Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.  Line muffin trays with baking cups.
2.  In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk to combine.  Set aside.
3.  Using an electric mixer,  starting from a low speed gradually increasing to high, cream butter and sugar together until very light in colour and fluffy.
4.  With mixer turned down to medium-low speed, beat in eggs one at a time.  Add in vanilla extract.
5.  In three additions, alternately add in flour mixture and buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Scrape bowl as needed to ensure that everything is incorporated well.  After the last addition,
beat at high speed for the last time for about 45-60 seconds.
6.  Using a 2" ice cream scoop, fill each baking cup with the cupcake batter.
7.  Bake for about 22-25 minutes.  Transfer each cupcake immediately to a wire rack to cool completely.

How did I finish off these cupcakes?

Looks interesting to you? Wait for Part 2.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Custaroon ** poppers

** IMPORTANT UPDATE (21/8/14): Please be aware that CUSTAROON/s is a trademarked brand name owned by its maker, Ms. Gigi Gaerlan.  Do not use the said name to market/sell copycat products whether using the recipe below or your own.  Use of this brand name is grounds for a trademark infringement.


1.  Bake custaroons using this recipe.  Let them cool completely.

2.  Remove the custaroons from their wrappers and in a bowl, mash them up!  Mix well so the coconut is distributed into the mixture.  Chill this briefly if it seems too soft to handle.

3.  Line a tray with baking paper, then drop teaspoonfuls of the mashed custaroons.  

4.  Place good quality (preferably Dutch-processed) cocoa powder into a shallow bowl.  Sift the cocoa powder if it is lumpy.

5.  With a spoon, transfer a mashed custaroon piece to the cocoa powder bowl.

6.  Gently cover with cocoa powder all over.  

7.  Place cocoa powder-covered custaroon in your palm and roll (gently again) until you form a nice ball.  You don't want to mix the cocoa powder into the custaroon.  You want it on the surface only.

8.  Repeat the process with the rest of the pieces.  (One custaroon recipe will make around 45-50 one-inch round poppers.) Keep everything in an airtight container and freeze until very firm, preferably overnight.

9.  Eat and enjoy!!!