Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide–An Excerpt

Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide

by Lisa Maliga, copyright 2017

My second cookbook has just been released after months of testing various chocolate cupcake and brownie recipes. It was so much fun baking these sweet treats and learning more cupcake decorating techniques. For example, I tried the swirl method and was able to come up with this:

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Peppermint Swirl Cupcakes

I’ve also learned how to make my own sparkling sugar and the various ways to core cupcakes. So, if you love chocolate goodness, keep on reading!

Chapter 1 ~ About the Ingredients

Your cupcakes and brownies can look and taste better than any found in a bakery. What you put into your batch of cupcakes is up to you and your budget. Are fresh eggs and butter available to you? I’ve been able to use farm fresh eggs in many of my batches of cupcakes and brownies. Those hens are free ranging and while kept in a coop at night, during the day they amble around several acres of pasture and eat natural food from the ground as well as organic chicken feed.

Use whatever ingredients you have in your pantry, cupboards and refrigerator for your first batches of brownies and/or cupcakes. Don’t invest a lot of money in ingredients or equipment if you only plan to make the occasional dessert. But once you make brownies and cupcakes from scratch, get creative and try new brands of chocolate, butter, or any of the other ingredients to learn if you can taste a difference. Oftentimes you’ll find some sweet [I couldn’t resist that pun] deals on the ingredients at your grocery store so you’ll spend less money on finding out what you like to add to your chocolaty desserts. Baking isn’t just science–it’s also art.

As the recipes in this book are all about using the most natural ingredients, as well as the best tasting, virgin coconut oil is recommended. This tropical oil is easier to use in oil form rather than solid. Coconut oil is coconut butter at temperatures below 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the weather, I can let it sit in the sun to melt or if it’s hot enough then measuring it is always easier. Virgin coconut oil gives cupcakes natural moisture and you won’t taste the extra coconut.

Amazon Kindle: Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide

Amazon Kindle UK: Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide

Paperback edition: Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide

3DBakingcupcakes book&Phone

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chocolate raspberry macarons SILPAT mat

French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 16: Chocolate & Raspberry Macarons

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2017

chocolate raspberry macarons by the author of BAKING FRENCH MACARONS A BEGINNER'S GUIDE

I’m happy to post a new blog for another successful batch of macarons that taste as good as they look. It’s also the first time I’ve used the AmeriColor brand of gel food coloring, and to get the bright pink color I only used 3 drops of Super Red. So, color me a fan of this brand!

I decided to combine chocolate with a dollop of homemade raspberry jam in the center of each macaron. All I had to do in advance was make the jam and the chocolate ganache. Instead of taking pictures, I attempted to film all the steps to preparing French macarons. Even with a tripod, the results weren’t very good. Learning how to operate a camera and keep the lens from auto focusing every time I added a new ingredient was a challenge. Trying to keep my hands away from the lens wasn’t always successful. The first tripod I bought was so flimsy, the camera tipped over. I had to invest in an aluminum one. Then came the video editing which may look easy but when it comes to removing yawn-inducing stretches of watching the whisk attachment going round and round, or seeing someone pipe three trays’ worth of macarons – well that’s not highly entertaining.

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Ingredients for making chocolate raspberry macarons

Anyway, this batch of macarons turned out fine. I used my new Silpat mat for the third and smallest batch of shells. I was so proud of it that I took extra photos of the bright pink shells.

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Bright pink raspberry macaron shells baked on the new Silpat mat

This was the first time I made ganache with Scharffen Berger 62% cacao semisweet chocolate. I REALLY recommend this for a delicious ganache. Yes, I adore Valrhona, but I found this to be just as good. The ganache was so smooth. Even the video I took of it didn’t seem to be too difficult to film. Once it’s edited, I’ll post it on my YouTube channel and link back to this blog post. Below is a screenshot of filling the macarons.

As I made my own raspberry jam and didn’t strain the seeds, the result is natural and changes the texture. If you prefer to make this with a fruit spread, you can choose a seedless raspberry.

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Adding raspberry filling to the macarons
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Chocolate ganache filling surrounding homemade raspberry jam in the center.
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Chocolate raspberry French macarons

I’m going to be making another batch of macarons next week. They’re the perfect summer flavor. Watch for the blog and maybe even a video!

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baking french macarons a beginner's guide by lisa maligaWant to bake macarons? Read my book Baking French Macarons: A Beginner’s Guide. Available in eBook [free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription] and paperback formats.

Easy Fudgy Mint Walnut Brownie Recipe

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2017

Here it is, a scrumptious fudgy brownie recipe that’s loaded with minty flavor and LOADS of walnuts. It’s easy to make, you don’t need a mixer, and it’s a wonderful dessert.

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Fudgy Mint Walnut Brownies

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup [113 grams] unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 ounces [120 grams] mint chocolate, coarsely chopped

11/4 cups [250 grams] granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon  pure vanilla extract OR vanilla bean paste

2 large eggs, room temperature

½ cup cocoa powder [sift into flour]

1/2 cup [65 grams] all purpose flour [sift]

1/2 cup [65 grams] chopped raw walnuts

1 teaspoon peppermint extract OR approx. 20 drops of peppermint Essential Oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit [165 degrees Celsius] and place the rack in the center of the oven. The 8 or 9 inch square baking pan can be buttered [use the butter wrapper] or sprayed with a non stick cooking spray.

In a glass or stainless steel  bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and whisk in the bowl containing the sugar. Pour in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter will be smooth. Stir in the premixed and sifted cocoa powder and flour. Add the peppermint extract or essential oil. Lastly, add half the chopped walnuts. Pour the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan. Add the rest of the walnuts on top.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes. Rotate pan midway through baking. The brownies will be done when they start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies will come out with a few wet crumbs. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

TIPS:

I suggest sifting the flour and cocoa powder together first. Presifted flour also makes your brownies a bit smoother and easier to mix.

If using pure peppermint essential oil, make sure it only contains mentha piperita. That’s the Latin name for the plant. Genuine peppermint essential oil is very concentrated that’s why you measure by drops, not grams or teaspoons. The brand I used in this video is the real deal and I bought it on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00V5C97LK

To watch my video, just go here:

Buttery Chocolate Brownie Recipe + Video

By Lisa Maliga copyright 2014-2017

chocolatebutterbrownieschocbrowniesstack2From the book THE GREAT BROWNIE TASTE-OFF (THE YOLANDA’S YUMMERY SERIES, BOOK 1).

I haven’t made these brownies in a couple of years, so when I followed the recipe, I rediscovered the joy of a very rich and decadent buttery brownie. I took a lot of photos of the process and have turned them into a cool video that shows you the various steps.

Even if you’ve only made brownies from a mix, this is an easy recipe to make.

Here are some tips to make your buttery brownies taste even better!

♥ Your butter should be a good quality and unsalted is recommended. For the record, I used Plugra.

♥ Use eggs from chickens that are free to roam around, as they taste better.

♥ I used an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish. You can use a 9″ x 9″ glass or metal baking dish if you prefer but the brownies will be slightly flatter. Instead of using cooking spray, just use the butter wrapper to grease your baking dish.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup [1 stick] butter, melted and cooled

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs [room temperature]

1/4 cup [2 ounces] dark chocolate, melted, cooled slightly

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease your pan with either cooking spray or butter.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until combined.

Add an egg, mix in well, then add the second egg and mix well.

Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla.

Gently fold in flour, until combined.

Pour mixture into pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely. Cut into squares. Enjoy.

great brownie taste-off yolanda's yummery series book 1 free ebookYou can get a copy of THE GREAT BROWNIE TASTE-OFF (THE YOLANDA’S YUMMERY SERIES, BOOK 1). Best of all, the eBook version is FREE!

Book Links:

Paperback Edition: The Great Brownie Taste-off

Amazon: The Great Brownie Taste-off
Amazon UK: The Great Brownie Taste-off
B&N Nook: The Great Brownie Taste-off
iTunes: The Great Brownie Taste-off
Kobo: The Great Brownie Taste-off
Scribd: The Great Brownie Taste-off
Smashwords: The Great Brownie Taste-off

Video:

 

 

 

Chocolate Espresso Ganache Filling Recipe

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2017

I used to think that a ganache was something fancy that went on top of a cake or some type of fancy pastry. I knew it was made from chocolate, but that’s about all. If you’ve never made this lovely and decadent macaron filling, don’t worry, it’s very easy to make. You only need a few ingredients but you should get the best type of chocolate that you find appealing. For practice, use standard dark chocolate morsels that you may have in your pantry, but if you’re a chocoholic, add a 70% cacao content dark chocolate.

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Chocolate ganache just before going into a pastry bag

Chocolate Espresso Ganache Filling

Ingredients:

4 ounces heavy cream [120 grams]
4 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate [120 grams]
½ teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon instant espresso

Put cream in microwave for about one minute until hot — NOT boiling. Pour over chocolate chunks. When melted add instant coffee and vanilla and whisk well until smooth. Let sit at room temperature for at least four hours or overnight. Cover with plastic wrap. Just before getting ready to use a spatula to scoop the ganache into a piping bag with large round tip.

This is a simple recipe to make and it will really perk up your macaron shells. The touch of espresso gives the chocolate more zing! I used my favorite brand of chocolate: Valrhona.

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Adding instant espresso to chocolate chunks

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Pour in your cream and vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

chocolateganache
Whisk ingredients together until you have a shiny chocolate ganache!
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Orange & chocolate mint macarons

Baking French Macarons A Beginner’s Guide

This recipe can be found in my book Baking French Macarons: A Beginner’s Guide. Available in eBook [free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription] and paperback formats.

 

 

French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 9: Chocolate Mint Macarons

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2016

Before the release of my new eBook, I mentioned I’d be writing about a spring surprise. I was definitely surprised! I envisioned a beautiful spring green color macaron shell and a rich minty chocolate ganache filling. Well, I ended up learning more about gel colors, natural colors and essential oils.

At first, all was great with the meringue. It had the standard stiff peaks and to get that lovely minty color, I added 7 drops of gel food coloring. And that was followed with one drop of pure peppermint essential oil. So it looked and smelled like chocolate mint chip ice cream.

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Nice mint green color

Everything mixed up well; the piping was adequate, the shells dried within 30 minutes. Midway through the first batch, I switched on the oven light and saw nice little feet forming. I set about making the ganache and when it was time to remove the macarons I saw that all the shells had a golden brown crust! My goal was green not brown. After removing them, I lowered the oven rack [it was one below the center] and lowered the temperature from 320 to 300. But as seen below, it didn’t help…

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Too much gel colorant & wrong oven temperature 

I baked the other two trays at varying temperatures and oven rack positions. All of them were well done, even though twenty minutes was the longest time spent in the oven. Most were so hollow either the tops came off or you could easily see through the feet from one side to the other.

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The overbaked shell cracked in half!

The chocolate ganache tasted good but not great as I didn’t add enough heavy cream and discovered that the teaspoon of virgin coconut oil clogged the metal piping tip. I reversed the piping bag and adding the ganache that way! What a mess I was making. I also lost several of the shells due to the tops being so crisp they just flipped off. Maybe I could’ve added filling to the other layers, but I just decided to send them to the compost heap outside.

Later, I learned the reason my shells browned – too much gel food colorant and the oven temperature was too high. Okay, next batch I was changing the color to something all natural: matcha green tea.

chocolatemint1macs
Hollow macarons with brownish shells — but they tasted good!

Batch #13 was either going to be lucky or unlucky. Turned out it was a bit of both. My eggs sat on the counter overnight and I noticed they’d aged so well they whipped up to fill the 2-quart bowl up more than halfway. That was a first!

However, I’m going to pass along this tip: don’t mix the powdered sugar and almond flour together a week before you make macarons. I thought it’d save time but in reality I had to resift the remaining half because it got a little clumpy. That wasn’t much of a problem nor was having to move the batter into the five quart bowl because there wasn’t enough room.

Even though I only added 1.5 teaspoons of matcha green tea powder [which I sifted before adding to the sugar/almond flour combo] I found it more difficult to mix. However, it definitely turned the batter green and the resulting macarons look natural, tho’ not lime green or mint green. This was also the first time I used extra fine granulated sugar.

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Matcha green tea added to almond flour/powdered sugar mix

I added peppermint essential oil to the batter just before mixing it rather than to the meringue. There wasn’t a hint of the matcha green tea aroma.

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Cracked and deflated macaron shells

The first batch ended up cracking and went into the compost pile. The other two batches came out okay—there were feet, they puffed up but deflated a bit—and they were as hollow as heck but they resembled macaron shells. They’re on the rustic side. The chocolate ganache was made with dark chocolate with mint extract and I added a few drops of pure peppermint essential oil. This time the heavy cream was the right amount and I only added a teaspoon of real butter and no virgin coconut oil.

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Second batch of macaron shells

While the resulting macarons don’t look like they’re from Lauduree, they tasted good and I ended up with 20 of them.

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Natural green color

Next week I’m going to make a fruity combination to celebrate spring. Wish me luck!

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French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 5: More Chocolate Ganache Macarons

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2016

My quest for baking the perfect chocolate macaron continued. They needed to have feet but also be smooth and shiny. By adding less cocoa powder, my second bath was easier to mix. The egg whites “aged” overnight, about 12 hours. But I slightly underwhipped them, which was a first. After the macaronnage, I added the batter to the piping bag and closed the top with a rubber band to avoid spillage. It worked, although by the time I piped the last shell, the remaining batter was threatening to ooze out of the top. 

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Just piped chocolate macarons

The macarons didn’t set up right away – I had to wait about 30 minutes. Later, I realized that both trays should have rested for at least 45 minutes.

This time, the oven temperature was lower, 300 degrees. I’e since learned that chocolate needs to bake around 350 degrees. Also, the baking time should’ve been longer. One tray was in the oven for 19 minutes and the other 20. Afterwards, I realized they could’ve baked another two minutes longer in both cases because I wasn’t able to easily remove them from the parchment paper. However, using 20/20 hindsight, chocolate macarons should bake for about 12 – 14 minutes at 350 degrees.

While both trays showed macarons with feet, they were in the small side and the shells were hollow. At first, the macs looked like they’d have smooth, glossy tops, but after they emerged from the oven they deflated a bit and had irregular shaped tops.

chocolatemacs2shells
Out of the oven — a bit underbaked

Unlike the first batch of chocolate macarons, the texture was lighter and airier – not like brownies or biscotti.

The chocolate ganache filling was easy to make. I chopped up a Valrhona bar [71% cacao content] trying not to eat any of it. Note: next time I’ll try the Valrhona 46% feves! For 50 seconds, the heavy cream went into the microwave and when poured over the chunks the melting began. I whisked it for a few strokes and then added the room temperature butter and vanilla extract. Soon it was successfully mixed and sampled. Way better than the first batch. Nothing like using a high quality chocolate bar, heavy cream and imported butter! Yes, I could taste the difference between this and the previous batch made with chocolate chips. The richness was so apparent.

chocolatemacs2stack
Chocolate macarons with ganache filling

Due to being underbaked, the shells stuck to the parchment and I used a spatula to remove them. Some of them were really cracked and messy looking but I managed to salvage them into sloppy and unphotographable macs. They tasted good when consumed that day. However, the next day and the day after that the macarons tasted much better.

NEXT WEEK: More adventures as I bake scrumptious French Vanilla Bean Macarons.

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