Know Some Coco

HEYY. I just wanted to write something about cocoa powder. I don’t know but it interests me because I simply use them in baking. And for all of those who bake as well, ever wondered how it’s made? Hehe, i know! There’s your Cacao Pod or Fruit reaped from the Cacao Tree. The Cacao Fruit is similar to the the Papaya fruit in appearance. Well I haven’t seen one personally but I am hoping to see one! Anyway, inside these pods are where you can find the Cacao Beans and there are at least 30 to 50 beans inside. Like whoa right, oh so many! I wish I had a Cacao Tree right here at home but I’m not even sure if they can be grown in a tropical island where I live (Oh, I live in the Philippines by the way). In order to make cocoa powder, these beans are roasted and then ground into a thick paste. After which the paste is pressed into a disc (factories have this machine presser) and finally, this disc is grated into a fine powder. And this powder is now that same powder you use in baking your chocolate-flavored cake or cupcakes or in making hot chocolate! Can you imagine. I wanna try working in a chocolate factory and experience the joy in getting my hands and clothes dirty making cocoa powder and then take some home and use for baking cupcakes.

So we have now our cocoa powder. Do you know that cocoa powder has many variations? If you’re a baker, then you should know how to use a certain type of cocoa powder. Cocoa powder has basically 2 types. You have your natural cocoa powder and your dutch-processed cocoa powder (also known as alkalized cocoa powder). Natural cocoa powder is lighter in color. In baking, one must take note that natural cocoa powder must only be used for recipes which call for baking soda as the leavening agent. It’s because natural cocoa is acidic and baking soda is an alkali. So basically they’re a good pair and when combined in baking, they will give good balance in taste and results to your baked goods. On the other hand, there is your dutch-processed cocoa powder which is “alkalized” and which I personally prefer to USE in baking, just wanna share. Alkalized means it’s been soaked or washed with potassium solution giving it a change in its natural brown color, darker perhaps. More importantly when cocoa powder is alkalized, it also means a large percentage of acid has been taken away as you know, natural cocoa is acidic. So it becomes milder in taste and richer in flavor and a lot of bakers prefer using it. One thing to know when using it in baking, you should pair this up with baking powder as your leavener. Otherwise when paired with baking soda which is also an alkali, there’ll be too much alkali in your batter giving your product lack in rising and a soapy taste. So actually there it goes. Those little things are actually what you should take note when using cocoa powder and I hope that helps you when making a chocolate flavored-something baked! There are still lots of types of cocoa powder to use out there but so far, the recipes I have don’t require them. There is what they say “Bloomed Cocoa Powder” and this means that the powder is allowed to sit with hot water or liquid and this is done they say to intensify flavor. I must try this. Another interesting type of cocoa is the Black Cocoa Powder which is a heavily-dutched cocoa powder. I am pretty sure you have seen this kind of cocoa powder beacause the perfect example for this is your OREO cookie!

Some product of Cocoa Powder. Classic Red Velvet Cupcakes!

There’s a picture of where I had my cocoa powder going. Classic Red Velvet Cupcakes! I have learned all these Cocoa must-knows after I had gotten into this recipe that required Dutch-Processed Cocoa. So it made me wonder why not use ordinary cocoa powder instead and I saw comments why I shouldn’t. And so I’ve done some nerdy stuff research about Cocoa before making almost everyone’s favorite Red Velvet Cupcakes for my Dad’s birthday 🙂 As you may know, the flavor of red velvet is primarily chocolate. The only difference is the color and perhaps the icing used. So I guess it’s a must to know something about chocolate. In my Red Velvet recipe, I make sure to use dutch-processed cocoa powder as my chocolate base and baking powder. This combination made sure that I had a lovely Red Velvet to share on a very special day.

Have a great day! CIAO BELLA!




Nothing but Luscious Cream Puffs

Freshly baked Pastry Shells ready to get piped with Custard Cream!

CREAM PUFFS YA’LL! Craving? Does it create a hint of smile on your face whenever you’re offered one? What’s your choice of topping? Dark Choco, White Chocolate or both? or Hard Caramel? Topped over with Almonds! Sprinkles! Imagine those mix of flavors you’re having as you indulge on this rich, cream-filled pastry shell. Well, allow me to share with you guys some of my experiences in making this very simple sweet treat. Just so you know I am no expert but with enough time spent in the kitchen and with an enthusiasm and love for pastry and art, I can say that I can actually make good cream puffs (that’s adored by many – at least by my honest family and friends, haha). In order to make cream puffs, you need to know the puffin’ components. Cream Puff is basically a tiny dough or bread that has been baked and “puffed up” as a result and later on filled with cream. And in order to make one good recipe, you need to have a good Pate a Choux or Pastry Shell recipe and of course you must never miss out on a good Custard Cream filling (Guys, nothing beats homemade custard cream…). Some people prefer a different type of filling such as whipped cream folded with fruits or puree or just plain sweetened whipped cream. These two are the primary components in making Cream Puffs. You’ll have the best of it if you have a good recipe for your filling. And personally, I prefer the custard cream for the filling. You can have the best recipe for your shells but without filling that is rich, thick/custard-like and made with real vanilla (vanilla beans), you might not enjoy the best of the cream puff experience.

Did you know that Cream Puffs are very much related to the terms “Pate a Choux”/”Choux Pastry”, “Croquembouche” and “Profiteroles”? They’re actually all the same and are only variations of cream puffs. So don’t get confused. And when you hear such terms from wherever you’re buying, just think of cream puffs, the simple small bread with pudding? Haha. But to be a little more precise… and based on my culinary experience, here are how they are actually distinguished: Pate a Choux is the French A.K.A. for Pastry Shell as it is in France where it originated. Cream Puffs are Pastry Shells or Profiteroles (as others prefer calling it) that ‘s been piped in with cream. And so that’s it. If they are combined together using caramel and then coated or poured over with chocolate, that’s when it’s called Croquembouche. Imagine a pile of cream puffs. Other embellishments added or topped over the shell such as sprinkles, almonds, other kinds of chocolate are only variations. Croquembouche is mostly used to serve as a centerpiece and is usually made or done for Christmas or other special occasions in which the cream puffs are formed into a somewhat Chistmas Tree. Nowadays, using Croquembouche as a centerpiece is becoming a trend. Some even prefer to have it on big occasions rather than the traditional cake. Now imagine having a croquembouche instead of a Christmas Tree. Wouldn’t that be something.

I love selling cream puffs. I’m a little bitsy of an artist so I make sure that my products would look presentable for business. Now that I have my own brand and logo, it’s easy choosing a box that would complement my pastries. And then sell. ANYHOW, I have first made cream puffs in school. Having the recipe from which, I had turned my idea into reality of having a business that didn’t require permit, HAH! It was perfect because it was almost Christmas during that time. Relying on my own in making and selling cream puffs, it became difficult at first. It tested my patience. For first timers, (I hope somebody agrees) you’ll probably experience your puff shells suddenly deflating a few minutes after taking them out from the oven. When this happens, you’ll feel like everything you prepared for was nothing but trash. That’s how I felt, but later on I learned that it’s normal if ya don’t know da tricky. The trick is that when you pop them out the oven, you immediately prick the bottom of the bread for release of air. Use a toothpick or a cake tester if you have. I got the idea from a friend and from the videos I stream on the net. Otherwise, air will find way to come out making your bread suddenly deflate in turn. In short, do not sell puffs that look like they didn’t puff at all. More on, do not be deceived by your oven. There are times that you’ll think your pastry shells are done because of how brown it looks inside the oven but when you take them out, they actually need few more time. Something with the oven lighting. Or sometimes, it’s the other way around and they just become too brown or overcooked. I remember the time when my cousin thought I made chocolate! Gosh. I had so much trouble at first, even during my second or so on tries.. You might too. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying. All you have to do is take note of everything that went wrong. So one important thing is to have a notebook beside you when baking. With it you can list what works and what doesn’t. For the custard cream filling, there are lots of recipes out there. What’s important to know about your custard cream is that customers don’t like it runny. It should be thick enough in consistency. Holds its shape. Think pudding. One stressful thing for a first timer like me was having a runny consistency in my custard recipe. Imagine how it’s like to be piping liquid into your pastry shell. It works but eventually it will come running down at the bottom. And your end product, trashy. You’ll consider thinking twice before actually selling. If you think that the problem is in your recipe, then try another. My recipe then required custard powder and milk. Those two alone and I think with a little amount of sugar. This just wouldn’t work if you want to achieve a pudding-like custard cream. Actually, it’ doesn’t even sound authentic because custard powder is only a substitute for egg yolks. Bakers only use it for the sake of a long shelf life duration as you may know, anything that’s been made with eggs lasts for not more than 5 days. Plus it tastes bad, makes you think it’s poison. Above all, nothing beats the use of real EGG YOLKS when making cream puffs! YEY (Yey for Egg Yolks! HAHA.) However, you must be careful with the shelf life of your custard if you’re using egg yolks as an ingredient for your recipe. Usually, the custard cream lasts for 3 to 4 days the most. So there, egg yolks, along with sugar, milk and Vanilla Beans! I’ve tried making both recipes using vanilla extract and vanilla bean. Vanilla beans may cost a lot but trust me, it gives your custard cream a strong vanilla aroma and flavor and tastes so SO much better!
So hey! There ya go. These are some of my thoughts in making Cream Puffs. Hope ya had something filled in as helpful from this post. If I had anything more to add, I’ll keep this post updated. Have a puffin’ day!