The Black Pig

Suggesting that we try a restaurant in Alabang to celebrate a few occasions was really born out of this feeling I had at the time to just wind-down and escape. Yes, it’s a watered-down concept I know. The three of us (Yedy, Euge and I) are car-less and from the north, so it was going to be a challenge. At least going there on a Sunday isn’t as much of a pain as a weekday trek. The Black Pig was waiting, and we were hungry.
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It’s a bar and restaurant that serves a slew of things, from charcuterie to Holgate beers. It has impressive industrial interiors. But we chose to dine al fresco. The light was so good and it was pretty windy. It was a golden day.

Breaking bread to signal the start of the meal is never a bad thing. And they have good bread.
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The charcuterie board arrives. We order it because it would be such a shame if we didn’t. Across the board (pun intended), the cured meats are all flavorful but the larger lomo, without the waxiness of the smaller cuts, stands out.
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Being a bar, they offer a selection of beers. They have a good sampler, aptly called Beer Flight. If that’s not poetic enough, let me just say that the Road Trip is my hands down favorite. At that point I was tempted to order more beer, but we had meals to devour.
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Pork, beef and fish were in attendance at the table. The pork belly came with marrow. Writing this, it’s hard to be impartial if fat’s the subject. The same goes for the rib-eye. And although pork belly and marrow is a killer combo (literally), it’s the medium-rare rib-eye that steals the show. The gindara is a close second though, because it just crumbles in your mouth. It’s so delicate. Delicate.
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The desserts are a sight to behold. It does my heart good to see playfulness and whimsy in their plated desserts.
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“Which one should we start with?”, I asked one of the owners who stepped in and explained the desserts. She reasoned that we should start with the lighter fare and work our way down to the heavier options. I pursed my lips. So, we were starting with the calamansi crème brulee. Close friends know my extreme, unreasonable aversion to calamansi (and now you do too!) so my excitement was barely a simmer. I let my curiosity override my hesitation though. I was a man on a mission.

It seemed haute enough (also unusual) – complete with sorbet, foam and a tuile peppered with fennel. I use the little spoon to mix everything together, cutting through the custard and into the curd.
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I sample a spoonful and nod my head. It takes a few seconds for me to process that it’s actually pretty good. Very impressive, even. The fennel seeds add pops of depth to a tangy, but refreshing custard. Calamansi never looked this sexy.

Trying the coconut panna cotta after the crème brulee was a disservice to the panna cotta, because it felt as if it paled in comparison. It’s still refreshing, with the mandatory addition of pineapple granite, but I should have eaten this first.
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The rum baba was a slap of alcohol neatly tucked into a yeast cake. As it should be. It wasn’t my cup of tea though. I’d assume that the chocolate praline, a geometric love song to chocolate from the wafer to the ganache, is their flagship dessert. And it’s chocolate, and its execution is in a way faultless. But the nuances of the calamansi crème brulee stole my heart and made me smile.

All things considered, the people behind The Black Pig do their job well. It’s a great place. Nothing mind-blowingly ground-breaking (kids, this isn’t a proper adjective) but the food is good, and in the case of the steak, gindara and the desserts, very delicious.

There might be some leeway for comparison to other similar restaurants. In some ways, you might be partial to the fare elsewhere. But with The Black Pig, Alabang has it good.

Matcha truffles

“I don’t like green tea, it tastes like grass”
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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that from people when I talk about matcha or green tea. I love the flavour, but apparently it’s an acquired taste. To each his own, and that’s coming from someone who hates liver. I get it.

But to be with friends who appreciate just how special the clean, earthy flavor of matcha can be, conversations are just great. It’s that moment when the face instantly lights up, and you could go on and on about how good this matcha latte is or how in-your-face the ice cream can be. The magic also happens at first taste, when you take it all in. Glorious seconds of uninterrupted silence, and it’s all you need to speak volumes.
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I need to have my matcha fix at least once a week, and that’s usually in the company of Yedy and Eugene. Eugene enjoys chocolate more than green ambrosia, while Yedy shares my insane enthusiasm. There was this one time at a food bazaar where this really nice ice cream purveyor told us that she had a tub of matcha ice cream reserved for someone else, and that the flavor was still being developed. The moment she mentioned “matcha”, we jumped like the energizer bunny. Or maybe we looked like rabid dogs. Anyway, our enthusiasm compelled her to give us a free scoop. We were impressed.
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Ever since I made the truffles, it was only natural for me to create a batch with matcha. It just made sense. It follows the same recipe for white chocolate truffles, but a generous helping of matcha powder makes all the difference.

It doesn’t make sense for me to just add a pinch of powder. Matcha is basically powdered green tea leaves, so I wanted the truffles to taste like green tea and then some.  And pistachios could do no wrong in my eyes, and I’ll always find a way to use it. It becomes a great foil. But the star is the full-bodied matcha.
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What I have right now is just a note, a lyric, a hymn to the collective anthem we all share. But just the same, this goes out to you and to all of us kindred spirits who gather in the name of all things matcha. We are great people, and we can make it through anything.

Matcha truffles

makes around 30 pieces

  • 115 grams whipping cream
  • 350 grams good quality or couverture white chocolate, chopped + around 150-200 grams more for tempering and dipping
  • 2 vanilla bean pods, seeds scraped
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons good quality matcha powder, or more to taste
  • chopped pistachio (roasted and peeled), as needed

In separate bowls, scale each kind of chocolate. Set aside. In a pot, combine vanilla seeds and cream. When it is hot, add the matcha powder and combine well. Bring to a boil. Add the cream to the chocolate and stir with a heat-proof spatula until it has melted. You can also place the bowl over a water bath to hasten the melting. Taste the mixture, and you may add more pwder at this point to taste. When it’s smooth, allow it to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour, or until the ganache has thickened, but is still malleable.

Portion around 8-10 grams of chocolate and with clean/gloved hands, shape each piece into a rough ball. When it starts to melt too fast and you’re not yet done shaping, it’s best to pop the mixture back into the fridge to chill and harden a bit. It’s  best to work in a cool room.

Prepare all the ingredients for coating: the coating chocolate and the chopped nuts. Here is a tutorial on how to temper white chocolate. Create an organised assembly line starting with the chocolate balls, the tempered chocolate and lastly, the nuts. Place a tray or plate at the end of the line to place all the finished pieces.

Picking up the balls with a fork (don’t stab it!), dip it into the melted chocolate and allow the excess to drip. Coat it next with the nuts. What I do it I just plop it into the bowl of nuts and agitate the bowl so the nuts swirl around the truffle. Chill the finished products in the fridge.

Dark and White Chocolate Truffles

For as long as I could remember, dark chocolate has always been my poison of choice. It has a rich, complex and versatile flavour that makes me a very happy child. I’ve learned to develop my sweet tooth since I started baking. Now more than ever, I need dessert to cap off a meal, or probably even start it. Or it could be a meal in itself, who am I to complain? And a dessert with dark chocolate will always be a runaway favourite. Hands down.
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But with truffles, let’s make an exception. I’m a truffle pig that way. Bite-sized spheres of bliss, truffles are. Right now there’s a little container of truffles on my desk, calling out to me. People who know me, know that I have this weird mannerism of eating/nibbling impulsively, throwing caution to the wind. Whether it’s that singular chicken leg bone, a bag of Cheetos, or that measly petri dish filled with gravy, consider them done and devoured when I’m at the table.
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So the dilemma is how to avoid the truffles calling out to me right now. Okay, there’s no need to be overly dramatic, Gio. There’s no problem. Just eat the damn truffles already. /End internal conversation

My knees go weak for truffles. And erring on the side of danger here, but I see no reason why I can’t finish a plate of white chocolate truffles all by my lonesome. Yes, truffles make me do strange and dangerous things. The darks will always be there, and they’ll always be awesome. I coated them with toasted hazelnuts and pistachios, and it makes a great contrast in texture.
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But the whites are something else. Maybe it’s the pistachios. Maybe I attack them with the same gusto as I devour pork fat. Or maybe they’re just so good, there’s no need to beat around the bush.

Hello there, gorgeous.
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Simple Dark and White Chocolate Truffles

makes around 30 pieces of each kind

  • 115 grams whipping cream (115 grams for each kind of chocolate)
  • 300 grams good quality or couverture bittersweet chocolate, chopped + around 150-200 grams more for tempering and dipping
  • 350 grams good quality or couverture white chocolate, chopped + around 150-200 grams more for tempering and dipping
  • 2 vanilla bean pods, seeds scraped
  • chopped pistachio and hazelnuts (roasted and peeled), as needed

In separate bowls, scale each kind of chocolate. Set aside. In a pot, combine vanilla seeds and cream, and bring to a boil. Add the cream to the chocolate and stir with a heat-proof spatula until it has melted. You can also place the bowl over a water bath to hasten the melting. When it’s smooth, allow it to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour, or until the ganache has thickened, but is still malleable.

Portion around 8-10 grams of chocolate and with clean/gloved hands, shape each piece into a rough ball. When it starts to melt too fast and you’re not yet done shaping, it’s best to pop the mixture back into the fridge to chill and harden a bit. It’s  best to work in a cool room.

Prepare all the ingredients for coating: the coating chocolate and the chopped nuts. Here are tutorials on how to temper dark and white chocolate. Create an organised assembly line starting with the chocolate balls, the tempered chocolate and lastly, the nuts. Place a tray or plate at the end of the line to place all the finished pieces.

Picking up the balls with a fork (don’t stab it!), dip it into the melted chocolate and allow the excess to drip. Coat it next with the nuts. What I do it I just plop it into the bowl of nuts and agitate the bowl so the nuts swirl around the truffle. Chill the finished products in the fridge.

Macaron Days (Part 1)

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It’s a blazing hot Saturday here in Manila. It’s the kind of heat that precludes all intentions of going outside to where it’s scorching. Ah, the problems of living in a country with four seasons (hot, very hot, rainy, oh look there’s a typhoon). So here I am doing myself a favor and after a long while, updating! I’m not going to whine about the weather because even if it feels like I’ve been living under a rock, I’ve had a pretty stellar week.

We had a week off from school to give way to the Easter holidays, and I was in a quandary whether I should go home or not. By “go home” I mean visit my family in Zamboanga. I told myself that I should go home less often, just to sensitize myself. But I caved in after being prodded by my parents. Honestly, I can’t really say no to home, can I?

And I’m glad I caved in because the chance to use an oven and bake again sent me in a frenzy. It was no vacation by all means. Every day I was in the kitchen, mixing, whisking, piping, rolling and baking. I didn’t really give myself a lot of room to breathe. I’m not complaining though, because I was amazed at how productive I was. Amazed.

I began my vacation with a few achievable goals in mind: macarons, meringue, pate a choux, puff pastry.

First, I just had to make macarons because when we made it in school I was really happy with the results and it wasn’t “that” hard as long as I observed a few pressure points. I’ll be talking about macarons for here on out.

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I’m not an authority on the matter, though! Simply think of this as an account of somebody who tried his hardest, in the most obsessive way possible, to make a macaron – failures and all.

There are a lot of macaron recipes online, with varying techniques and nuances in ingredients. There’s really no “right” or “wrong” method. Just choose one and go from there. If it didn’t yield the results you wanted, modify, adapt and try again. There’s no shame in that.

This recipe is a bit lengthy but it’s hard not to be descriptive when you’re talking about making a macaron.

French Macarons with Chocolate Ganache and Marmalade

  • 60g powdered almonds
  • 120g powdered sugar
  • 60g egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • food coloring of your choice

All I had to do was to blitz the sliced almonds in a food processor/blender until it has become fine powder. To make sure the consistency is good, I passed it through a fine strainer and I processed the big pieces that were left. I didn’t toast the almonds in the oven before I processed it. (My chef instructor told me I shouldn’t have skipped that step so I could have removed the excess moisture in the almonds)

I then mixed the almond meal with the powdered sugar, and then passed it through a strainer again. It’s not so much obsessive as it is necessary to remove the large lumps of sugar. My instructor also told me I could go the extra mile and process the sugar-almond mixture again, which I didn’t do. Is this part necessary? If I would get the chance to make more macarons, I would have done this.

Whisking the egg whites is also another crucial step. Whisking incorporates air into the whites causing it to become white and stiff. Two things can go wrong: either it won’t rise to medium-stiff peaks OR it will be overdone and resemble shampoo foam which is kind of gross. In any case, it is crucial that the egg whites are clean, free from fat in the form of traces of yolk.

I didn’t have a stand mixer so I had to use muscle power and elbow grease to manually whip the whites. This part is physically taxing but it gets the job done. I whisked the egg whites until medium peak. Then I added the sugar and whisked until stiff. Medium peaks is the stage when the whites are whisked until they form peaks whose tips droop. The peaks when stiff are sharp, pointy and well, stiff.

Now that you have your meringue and almond-sugar mixture ready, it’s now time to fold the two together. Folding is more gentle than mixing, and I used my rubber scraper to do this. Folding requires a “lifting” action that gently covers the meringue over the almonds and so on. When it’s folded together, add a drop of food coloring, and fold to distribute. Add more until the desired color is achieved. When you lift the mixture using the rubber scraper, it has to fall in a thick stream, not in clumps. If it’s still clumpy, add a little bit (a drop or two) of egg white and fold again.

I then transferred the mixture to a pastry bag with a round tip (#12), piped it as big as a 5 peso coin and left 2 inches of space in between mounds because it will still spread. It’s important that you allow the macaron to dry and form a skin. This is incredibly temperamental because it depends of the humidity and temperature of the area, which affects the drying time. What worked best for me was to leave the tray in an air conditioned room for two – three hours, or until a skin is felt on the surface when “lightly” felt/poked by the finger.  I had one tray dry at room temperature, roughly the same time length of time received by the ones in the air conditioned room. They also cracked.

The cracked macarons weren’t pretty at all. I probably set the oven temperature too high. They cracked at 180 C. When I set the next batch to bake at around 140 – 150C, then came out just fine, feet and all! I baked them for about 12 – 15 minutes, until they look dry.

The piped a ring of chocolate ganache and filled the center with orange marmalade because the flavor pairing just works so well.
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Tune in for more macaron madness soon. I promise thing will get better, and cuter if I do say so myself.

Having my cake and eating it too

Like a good dessert, FOOD Magazine’s annual Presents Perfect Food Bazaar impressed without being monotonous, cloying and too overwhelming. Considering that FOOD usually devotes a few pages in their November issue to feature the best pastries and  desserts around the Metro, there was a lot to take in (and buy).

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I’ve been reading Food Magazine since I was a fat(ter) child, and it would be such a shame to miss an event like this considering that I’m already here (Manila). The perfect picture would be me buying something from every single stand that day, but that didn’t happen but I’m pretty happy with the things that I did buy. But before that, here are more than a few photos to overload your senses.
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And now with much ado…(and I think some of you might have seen this photo on my facebook page a few days ago)…my haul:
Photobucket Some of you might think I went overboard…but no. In the name of good desserts, it’s my duty, nay, right to be merry. All of these, I would recommend in a heartbeat. I’d like to believe these spell something special when the holidays are upon us. Place your orders before the rush starts, if it hasn’t started yet.
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Dulce de Leche Cheesecake
Delicious from the cream down to the biscuit base.
Forget Me Not Specialty Cakes
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Cassava Egg Tarts
YOU SERIOUSLY NEED TO TRY THIS ONE. PLEASE. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.
Joan and Jane Cake Bites
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White Chocolate Macadamia Brittle Cheesecake
Cheesecake – smooth as silk, the brittle – the perfect topping. Side note: they should sell the brittle separately as well.
Kitchen’s Best
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Red Velvet Cupcakes, blurred in the background: Chocotella
Both moist and rich. I prefer the Red Velvet over the Chocotella but the latter is more indulgent with its chocolate (or was it nutella?) center.
Cupcakes by Klar Joseph
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Assorted French Macarons
Who doesn’t love macarons? Come on.
Forget Me Not Specialty Cakes

Also in the photo: Bailey’s Cream Cheese Bites
A brownie made even better!
Secret Passion (can’t seem to find their facebook page)
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Dark Chocolate with Siling Labuyo (Finger Chili) and Regular Dark Chocolate
Yes, chocolate with chili. It just makes sense. I’ll always be a fan of dark chocolate, enough said.
Theo and Philo Artisan Chocolates

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Polvoron Cupcakes
It’s the classic Filipino polvoron in cupcake form, topped with what I’ll assume is white chocolate, decked out in holiday designs. Fact: my mom is in love with this.
Double Delights Food Products

So there you have it, a sampling of what’s good to taste, give and receive this Christmas. Congratulations to FOOD magazine for bringing together a great assortment of treats!

Absolute Best Brownies

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I was a bit skeptical. When people pin the words “absolute”, “best”, “ultimate”, “the best you’ll ever have. Ever(!!!!)” to the names of certain recipes, it piques your interest. You wonder if these recipe testers and bloggers are so ecstatic about this recipe that they just need to call their recipe “the best ever”. Or maybe it’s all just BS, because the benchmark isn’t at all clear-cut and objective. But it’s worth a shot. There’s that shred of genuine hope, that what you have before you is in fact, the best recipe out there.

I’m talking about these brownies, which could have been prettier had I baked the batter in the right pan. I got this recipe from Joey of 80breakfasts, a food blog that I’ve been following for a while now. I’ve never made brownies before and I thought it made sense that I begin with a recipe that probably has solid credibility (she got it from David Lebovitz after all).
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I’ve always been on the fence with brownies. I thought I’ve tasted it all: from the mercilessly rock hard to the uncharacteristically cake-y. I was wrong. I haven’t tasted this one. Now my benchmark for a good brownie has definitely been raised: it should be amazingly fudge-y (uh,duh). This recipe ticks all the right boxes. It deserves to have a superlative in its name.

The only copout was that I didn’t use premium ingredients (hey, I’m broke!). But at least I have something to look forward to when I do get my hands on real butter and fancy chocolate!
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Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies

(recipe taken with slight modifications from 80breakfasts; original recipe by David Lebovitz from his book Ready For Dessert)

  • 3 ounces (around 3/4 of a stick) unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 8 ounces/226 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (I wanted to add walnuts but I didn’t have any on hand)
  1. Line the inside of an 8-inch square pan with 2 lengths of parchment, allowing for excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan (this is how you will pull the brownies out later). Lightly butter the parchment. I used an 8×12 inch baking pan, which probably makes a thinner spread, and consequently, baking time is varied. 
  2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the chocolate and stir by hand until it is melted and smooth.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs by hand, one at a time.
  4. Add the flour and stir energetically for one full minute. (Accordingly “…this is important so time yourself. The batter is supposed to lose its graininess in this time, becoming smooth and glossy, and pull away a bit from the sides of the saucepan.”) After that, stir in the chopped nuts.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in a pre-heated 350F/180C oven until the center feels almost set, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake. IMPORTANT: Since I used a different sized pan (8×12), mine baked for about 20 – 25 minutes  
  6. Let the brownie cool completely in the pan (be patient!) before lifting the parchment and the brownie out of the pan. I give it an extra window of time to cool out of the pan as well. Cut the brownie into squares.

Nutella and Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

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For as long as I can remember, my mom and I were avid readers of Food Magazine. I’m not sure if it was the first of its kind in the country, but one thing was certain: it was the best. I was particularly glued to a column by its then editor-in-chief, called “Kiddie Cuisine” which showcases simple recipes designed for little hands in the kitchen. But most of the time when I was younger, I may or may not have let my mom do it and passed it off as my own.
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Food Magazine has grown over the years, with around two editorial board changes, but I’m glad that its first editor-in-chief, Norma Chikiamco, is still pretty much active in print, with her column appearing in the Lifestyle section of Philippine Daily Inquirer.

In one of her columns she shares a recipe for bread pudding which, according to her, is one of the best she has ever tried. It digresses from my usual take on bread pudding. For one, this recipe is more traditional in the sense that she doesn’t toast the bread. Toasting the bread gives it more texture and bite, which I like, but my mom doesn’t. And I was apprehensive at the amount of sugar the original recipe called for, because I’m always scared of making desserts too sweet.
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I tweaked this recipe a bit with the additional of NUTELLA, which has been my recent go-to, “out of the jar” snack when I’m craving for just one spoonful. Don’t judge. I essentially made nutella sandwiches using stale bread, sliced and shredded the bread into smaller chunks and allowed it to sit in the custard mixture.
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The result: a little too sweet for my taste, that’s why for this recipe I’ll put in the amount of sugar that I wish I could have used. But she was right – when allowed to cool for a while, but still very warm and toasty, it melts in your mouth like a custard, dripping with melted chocolate. Well, I’m not really a fan of chocolate if it’s not dark, so if you have a bar of your favorite dark chocolate on hand, use that instead of chocolate chips.
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I can imagine a better version of this that’s a notch lower in sweetness, peppered with melted dark chocolate. Nutella or no nutella, this is something special. Wait, I take that back, nutella makes everything more special.
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Nutella and Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding (Makes 12-16 servings; adapted from PDI Lifestyle)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 6 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 1/2 cups fresh milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips/chunks
  • 16 – 18 slices day-old loaf bread
  • a jar of Nutella
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9” x 13” baking pan. Or, spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Spread nutella all over one sandwich slice and top with another slice. Repeat the process with all the slices. You will end up with 8 – 9 sandwichesPhotobucket
  3. Slice the sandwiches into smaller chunks, around 4 – 6 chunks per sandwich.Photobucket
  4. Using the whisk attachment of your electric mixer/hand mixer, “whisk” or “cream” the butter in a bowl. Add sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla extract and nutmeg.PhotobucketPhotobucket
  5. Arrange the sandwich chunks and the chocolate chips on the prepared pan.Photobucket
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  7. Bake for one hour or until it turns solid and the top is golden brown and crusty.
  8. Let stand a few minutes before serving. Best served warm.

This is completely unrelated but important nonetheless. Let me just put it out there that The Hungry Giant is rooting for Jessica Sanchez to win it all on American Idol! I’m rooting for her not just because she’s Filipino as well, but really because she’s the best. She deserves to win!

If you’re American, and you love The Hungry Giant, then please, do me this really big favor and vote for Jessica Sanchez. You’ll love her too, well, if you haven’t already. It’ll be a total shame, not to mention an upset, if she doesn’t win. I know, I know, win or lose she has a bright career ahead of her but seeing her take the crown this year  would be a victory on so many levels. Please?

Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta

It wasn’t until I was about to step into the threshold of high school that I understood the meaning of clarity. Literal clarity.
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I didn’t have any epiphany that defined and changed the course of my life. What I did have was extremely poor vision. Looking back, I had no idea how I survived grade school with eyes that didn’t work properly. The earliest memory that I had where I began to experience problems was in first grade. Meaning, I went through my whole school-aged life with inconvenience. I was ashamed to tell anybody that there was something wrong because I thought it was inconceivable that a kid has to wear glasses. Glasses are for old people, I told myself.

But after years of struggle, when my parents, among other people, noticed my “squinting” (what I did to see clearer), I finally sought medical attention. It was there in the doctor’s clinic that my mom and I finally knew the real state of my vision. I was 12 years old, and my eyes had a grade of 600 – 700. My mom was in shock.
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Flash forward nine years later, and here I am, (a patron of contact lenses) fresh from my optometrist appointment. Apparently my eyesight isn’t getting any better, seeing as it’s now 850. But I learned to live with it. I actually enjoy watching people’s reactions when I tell them the grade of my shoddy eyesight. That I’ve found a way around my problem, found humor in it and moved on is something of an accomplishment.
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There’s also always a way to serve up a really simple and delicious dessert. After making panna cotta for a while now, I’ve realized that because of its simplicity, it has become my go-to dish to serve after a filling meal. Even more impressive is its simple presentation – I used little glass tea cups as the mold. Pretty darn fancy.

The name sounds fancy, but it’s just a mixture of egg and cream, held together by unflavored gelatin. There’s nothing complicated about that at all.
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Sure, it takes a while for the cream to set, but the end result is really worth it. Spoonful after spoonful of smooth, rich velvety custard hits the spot.

The aftermath of Valentines day left me with one last cup of panna cotta, which only differs from the first recipe I posted in that this one has chocolate in it. I really like the taste of dark chocolate, so this dish left me wanting more. But I know better, so a cup of moderate happiness works for me.
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Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta (serves 3 – 4)

  • 1 cup all-purpose cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons dark chocolate powder (I used Hershey’s)
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons hot milk (I just zapped mine in the microwave for a minute and ten seconds)
  1. In a saucepan, combine all-purpose cream, milk, chocolate and white sugar. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved and there are little to no more clumps of chocolate.
  2. Increase heat slightly and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Whisk gelatin powder in hot milk until dissolved. (Some recipes say to let the gelatin ‘bloom’ in the liquid by leaving it for a few minutes. I didn’t do this but I might as well next time)
  4. Stir in gelatin mixture to cream mixture; blend well. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer/sieve and into a bowl to remove the large of clumps of chocolate and gelatin.
  5. Divide mixture into 3 ramekins/4 little tea cups. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  6. To serve, either invert molds onto serving plates or serve as is. Serve cold. Enjoy!

9 mornings: Peaches and Chocolate Tablea Cupcakes

It just had to happen. My disease just had to come back. I have this strange affliction that I know is pervasive worldwide. I thought I had it under control for a while now, but apparently not. And it just had to come back at a time that I desperately need it to leave. My disease: I constantly hit the snooze button on my phone alarm. Yes, I have that kind of sickness. And I am one of millions with this bad habit.

Am I being overly dramatic here? Not really (humor me). It’s just that because of that bad habit, I missed Misa de Gallo today. Well, I could always put a spin to my situation and say that missing Misa de Gallo is also part of my tradition, but I’m really disappointed. This year was supposed to be the year I complete the 9 mornings because I have the luxury of time.

Next year will be totally different because I have plans brewing in my head that might be so pivotal that my life as we know it will do a complete 180. But I’m holding on. Even if I think every day is like I’m living in borrowed time, I’d like to relish whatever golden days of peace I have.

Growing up my holidays would never be complete without three things: ham, Cartoon Network Christmas marathons and instant cocoa mix or better yet, tablea for hot chocolate. I’ve outgrown the Christmas marathons (Plus cartoon shows today have lost their luster. Do you agree?), ham is still there albeit in controlled proportions and I’ve realized that Christmas goes on without hot chocolate. Still, when I get the chance to relish quiet time with cocoa, the memories when life was simpler come rushing back.

Between instant cocoa mix and tablea, I’m partial to the latter because I love dark chocolate. Tablea is essentially a dark chocolate tablet that dissolves in boiling water. Sure, the preparation isn’t as “instant”, but sipping it is magic. It’s hot and toasty, smooth, punched with milk and sugar but still slightly bitter. Nothing compares.

No I won’t blog about how to make hot chocolate. Since I’ve already broken my novena streak, I might as well make up for it by going the extra mile today.
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Here in Zamboanga, the iconic Myrna’s bakeshop churns out a mean Black Forest cake. It’s not punched with rum and it’s not studded with cherries. Instead, their Black Forest is a simple chocolate cake filled with nuts and peaches. It’s simple, unpretentious and just delicious.

I decided to make something quite similar, using a basic chocolate cake recipe but with the addition of tablea. Since I was craving for Myrna’s Black Forest, I decided to fill it with crushed peaches!
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This chocolate cake/cupcake recipe is a keeper because it’s moist and not overly sweet. It holds its shape well and isn’t crumby. Filling cupcakes takes this dessert to the next level because it’s the perfect way to introduce something refreshing to an otherwise plain chocolate cupcake. To pair chocolate and fruits together is just genius.
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Chocolate Tablea Cupcakes (makes 20 – 23 cupcakes)

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • ¾ cup tablea chocolate, chopped (I used 10 pieces)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup shortening/butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (in a pinch: 1 cup milk plus ½ – 1 tablespoon vinegar)
  • Filling: 1 can peach halves (I used an 825 g can because I tripled the recipe for this so you can adjust as needed) chopped into very small pieces
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Line two 12 cup muffin pans with cupcake liners. In a bowl, mix cocoa powder, coffee and tablea with boiling water; stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. Using a hand blender/electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter/shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  5. Gradually add cocoa mixture, beating well.
  6. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  7. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk.
  8. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

To fill the cupcakes (the Cone method) – more insight here and here 

  1. Using a small paring knife with a narrow blade, carefully slice halfway between the center and the edge to create a space that you will use for filling. Do not completely slice through the cupcake.
  2. Gently coax out the sliced portion (or cone) using the knife, making sure that the rest of the cupcake is not damaged.PhotobucketPhotobucket
  3. This is optional: Slice the pointed/inner side of the “cone”, leaving only the top portion. When you are done filling, pop the top back into place to act as the “seal” or “plug”.

This takes patience and practice but if you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless.

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Tomorrow is another day for Misa de Gallo, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully aside from hearing mass, I’d churn out something easy and simple to blog about tomorrow, for a change (haha)
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All is not lost for CDO and Iligan. PLEASE HELP THE PEOPLE IN ANY WAY YOU CAN. PURIFIED WATER AND CLOTHES ARE ESSENTIAL.

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A Cup of Comfort (Hot Chocolate)

It was raining a few hours ago, and I was being romantic to myself by making hot chocolate. In my old blog, I did give a recipe for hot chocolate that involved melting a block of dark chocolate over a pot of simmering water and adding milk. Looking back I realized that I just posted something my readers will never do, simply because it’s such a hassle to go through that process. I”m lazy by nature and I’ll always look for the easy way out.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love going through the motions of preparing something from scratch just to make breakfast, lunch or dinner special, as if to imply that I’m a cook that breathes for the high road. But after a few months of formally jumping into the world of cooking and food blogging, I’ve also learned that there are just some things that are meant to be so simple, without bells and whistles and still turn out special…amazing even.

Like a mug of rich, hot chocolate. OR two. It’s that simple.

Hot Chocolate (1 mug)

  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • a dash of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot water (or enough to fill a mug halfway)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk (I used evaporated milk but you can use whole milk)

1. Mix the cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a mug.
2. Add the hot water until halfway full. Stir and mix well.
3. Add the milk until almost full, around 3/4ths. Mix well.
4. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.

Since I like my hot chocolate rich and not too sweet, feel free to adjust to your liking. And a fun fact: after a few hours of letting it sit in the fridge, it tastes even better!