My first chocolate ganache was made with a name brand of chocolate chips, ahem morsels, and was nice but not great. Ganache is all about the chocolate and the better quality the chocolate, the tastier your macarons will be. I’ve also learned that some people are either lactose intolerant, or they want to sell their macarons but can’t use any dairy products in the ganache. So, here’s a solution to that – a recipe that contains vegan and non-dairy ingredients. Chocolate and coconut are very compatible flavors and this is one of my favorite ganache recipes.
This original recipe is from the book Baking Macarons: The Swiss Meringue Method.
10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped Theo Coconut 70% Dark Chocolate contains toasted coconut and is recommended
5.46 ounces unsweetened coconut milk [1 small can] 1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil 1-2 teaspoons coconut flavor or extract
Before opening the can of coconut milk, shake well. Place in a microwave-safe container. Heat until just starting to simmer, approximately one minute. Pour over chocolate. Add virgin coconut oil and let sit for a few minutes as the chocolate melts. Stir to combine.
Add coconut extract or flavor and whisk until fully incorporated. Let cool until thick but not hard.
For lovers of chocolate and coconut! The virgin coconut oil and organic coconut palm sugar make these cupcakes healthier and more delicious. This recipe is from the book Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide by Lisa Maliga.
CHOCOLATE COCONUT CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS: 1/3 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped [3 oz.] 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder 3/4 cup hot water 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup organic coconut palm sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 6 tablespoons virgin coconut oil [3 oz] 2 eggs, room temperature 2 teaspoons [fresh] lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract 1 teaspoon vanilla
Makes 12 cupcakes
Oven temperature: 350 Fahrenheit/177 Celsius
Place the chopped chocolate and sifted cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot water over the mixture and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes.
Add hot water to chocolate chunks and cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. The rack should be in the center. Line a standard-size muffin pan with liners.
Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly.
Whisk the virgin coconut oil, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract into the cooled chocolate. Add the flour mixture and mix until smooth. DON’T OVERMIX!
Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake until the cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17 – 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on the wire rack to cool completely.
FROSTING INGREDIENTS: 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
8 ounces butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
Shredded coconut for sprinkling [optional]
FROSTING DIRECTIONS: With an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter. Add coconut extract, vanilla and cream.
Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes.
Pipe onto cupcakes and top with a sprinkling of shredded coconut.
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:
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While the resulting macarons don’t look like they’re from Lauduree, they tasted good and I ended up with 20 of them.
Next week I’m going to make a fruity combination to celebrate spring. Wish me luck!
Sugar scrubs are great for exfoliating and leaving your skin smoother and a lot more moisturized–especially in cooler and drier weather. This recipe is so simple to make and the trio of ingredients can be found in your grocery store or natural food market. I’m a big believer in high quality ingredients so I’ve included links that lead to the main websites for each of the three ingredients. These are only suggested places to find them. You may prefer other brands or already have them in your pantry.
[Click photos to enlarge]
Don’t Eat the Sugar Scrub is good for facial use, on your body and feet, and it makes an awesome lip scrub. Please try not to eat too much of this as it’s very sweet! Ask me how I know this! 🙂
If using a sugar scrub in the bathtub or shower, be aware that it can become slippery after you rinse off the sugar scrub.
Pour the brown sugar into the measuring cup. Then add the virgin coconut oil. Mix well and add the shredded coconut. Once mixed, scoop into your container. Make sure the container is tightly closed.
The look and texture will resemble wet sand.
Some variations may include: half brown/half white sugar, coconut sugar, demerara sugar [which has larger sugar grains that may scratch very sensitive skin]. Please note that the shredded coconut may too rough for sensitive skin although the amount included is far less than the other ingredients. You can also add half the amount of shredded coconut.
While this can be used on your body, exercise caution when applying to the face as it might be too rough for some people. Do a patch test, if in doubt. Also, apply to clean, damp skin.
About the Shelf Life:
When I was running my former company, everythingshea.com, I didn’t sell sugar scrubs from my website, but I made them for a few wholesale accounts. One of the clients asked me about the shelf life. I was straightforward about it as I didn’t use preservatives back then and I still don’t! I can’t guarantee a scrub will have a one year shelf life, even though I have made some that have lasted longer than that because I made large quantities or else I didn’t use them that much.
If you don’t use this recipe right away, here are some ways to extend the shelf life. Between uses, make sure the lid is always tightly shut. Keep it away from water when using at the sink or in your shower or tub. Apply with dry fingers. If concerned about spoilage, apply with a spoon, wooden craft stick or cosmetic spatula, if possible. Store in a cool, dry place. If you don’t plan to use it a lot, you can refrigerate the sugar scrub.
Thank you for reading this and let me know if you make it and how you like it! Don’t hesitate to share this easy-to-make recipe and please Don’t Eat the Sugar Scrub! 🙂
Be the cleanest prepper around! Create your own lye-free soap or find the best type of soap to store in the coming years. Informative book shows the best ways to craft your own soap. You’ll receive original recipes and valuable storage tips to get the most out of your soap. Learn about natural melt and pour, hand-milled, African black soap and liquid soaps. Includes recommended reading and several supplier resources. The Prepper’s Guide to Soap Crafting and Soap Storage is written and photographed by the author of How to Make Handmade Shampoo Bars and The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting.
STORING YOUR SOAP BASE
Here are ways to get the most out of your soap base. First, some general use tips.
Your soap should be kept in a draining type of soap dish. Leaving any type of soap in a puddle of water in the shower, bathtub or next to the sink will drastically shorten its shelf life. The humidity will cause it to soften much faster. If you have a very small/humid enclosed type of bathroom, consider storing your soap in a separate room.
Melt and Pour Soap Base
Here are some things you should know about melt and pour soap base, sometimes known as glycerin melt and pour soap base. It contains approximately 20% plant-derived glycerin, which makes it softer than other types of soap. This also means that it’s a moisture magnet. It should always be wrapped and stored in a cool, dry location. You can wrap in the original packaging, usually plastic wrap/shrink wrap, or a clamshell container. Additionally, it can be stored in a heavy-duty opaque plastic storage container. When I was crafting this type of soap I bought it in 40-pound blocks, which I cut into large chunks and kept in an airtight opaque plastic container. This was kept in the back of a closet so it was away from any harsh lighting conditions.
Vitamins, minerals, herbs – the following will help your hair thrive. Hair care formulations, vitamin A, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, flaxseed oil, MSM [Methyl Sulfonyl Methane], silica, horsetail, biotin, B vitamin complex. Consult with your health care practitioner before taking supplements. Your hair is a reflection of your physical state Get plenty of rest. Drink enough water and exercise to suit your lifestyle. Eat fruits, vegetables, cereals, eggs, milk, and bread. Organic food is always a healthier option.
Scalp massage – An inexpensive method for helping hair growth/regrowth is to massage the scalp. Whether you buy a wood or rubber scalp massager, or opt for your ten fingers, you can invigorate and help cleanse your scalp either before shampooing, or whenever you shampoo. By stimulating your scalp you encourage the circulation, think of it as scalp aerobics, and this allows your scalp’s natural oils, sebum, to be distributed. When using your fingers, never use your nails, only your fingertips. Always massage gently, and start at the crown of your head and work your way lower.
Oils – In the book, “Aromatherapy Handbook for Beauty, Hair, and Skin Care,” author Erich Keller writes: “Since the hair is made of keratin cells, which consist almost exclusively of protein, it is particularly important to supply it with protein in the form of milk products, fish, soy products, nuts, seeds, and the essential fatty acids contained in cold-pressed vegetable oils.”
While eating healthy food is advisable, the author touches on the subject of how cold pressed vegetable oils are vital for the hair. Choosing the proper oil sometimes is a matter of experimentation. A light oil should be used for thin, fine hair, but there are those who can use a heavier oil like olive. There are various grades of vegetable oils available from unrefined to heavily refined. Unrefined oils retain their natural vitamins and minerals and are considered healthier, but their aromas can be somewhat pungent. For example, sesame seed oil, an excellent skin and hair loving oil that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, retains a darker color and nuttier aroma in its unrefined state. However, once it’s been refined, the color is lighter and there is no discernible odor.
There are many oils that are available whether in your kitchen cupboard, at your grocery store, health food store, or your favorite online shop. Experimenting with oils and their applications is necessary, sometimes you’ll discover what works for you within the first attempt, other times you may have to try out several different oils and application methods. You’ll find that organic jojoba and organic virgin coconut oil are suitable for most people with fine hair.
Oil Applications: Leave In – This involves a very small amount of oil and you can control whether it’s applied throughout your hair or only on the ends. Simply comb or brush through your dry hair.
Oiling Dry Hair – To use this method, you allow the oil to remain on your scalp and hair for approximately 20 minutes, and shampoo it out.
Oiling Damp Hair – Investing in a spray mister is a great way to easily add enough distilled or spring water so that you can dampen your hair easily. Apply the oil and comb through. Whether oiling dry or damp hair, make sure it’s free from tangles, so either combing or brushing before applying is necessary. You can choose to comb it through your hair or remain as is – it does depend upon what you’ve added. While some people feel that 20 minutes isn’t enough, others opt for an hour, and there are people who feel as though allowing the oil to remain on overnight is beneficial.
Other Applications: Clay, Dead Sea Mud, Powdered Herbs, Protein Powder, Eggs, Honey, Yogurt, Milk, Henna [neutral or colored], or Mashed Fruits – all the listed products can be used to create a hair mask which will increase its strength, encourage growth, enhance shine, and tame curls. Any of these ingredients, both singly or in combination, can be healthfully used. Read labels before purchase. If you have very fine hair, be careful about using eggs and make sure you rinse with cold water to avoid scrambled eggs!
Shampoos: To use a more natural and cost effective shampoo, consider a shampoo bar. They are simple to use, can clean your face and body, and they are easy to pack and don’t spill. All shampoo bars are formulated for fine hair. Additionally, they work in soft water and hard water areas. You can make your own, so check out the book How to Make Handmade Shampoo Bars.