Category Archives: baking

Madeleines: Simple Food Gift

Planning your French Trip with Food in Mind

If you’re planning to visit France, you should prep your itinerary well in advance as there are so many things to see, do and of course eat! This wonderful place is known for its couture fashion houses, classical art museums, and of course – the world-renowned Eifel Tower. But France is also famous for its sophisticated cuisines and very creative pastries and desserts. So be sure to have plenty of time visiting the local patisseries in Paris or France and explore the authentic French pastry! It’s here that you’ll find the perfect food gift for yourself or your foodie friends and family.

Image Courtesy of Karen Booth on Flickr.

Image Courtesy of Karen Booth on Flickr.

Ah but reality strikes and no plan to travel to France just now? Then just Speaking of French pastry will need to be enough for both of us.

Madeleines Fit for a King

In Paris and all across France, there are plenty of cakes and confections that you must never forget to try. One of them is a Madeleine. Described as a cookie by non-French people, this small, spongy, lovely traditional goodie is actually a cake and uses what is known as a genoise batter.

Madeleine is a traditional cake from Commercy and Liverdun, in Northeastern France. This humble  little treat has a place etched in every foodies’ mind as it’s the appetising focus of attention in arguably one of the most beautiful and powerful pieces of food prose ever.

“..little shell of cake, so generously sensual beneath the piety of its stern pleating.” MARCEL PROUST

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Baking Pies & Tarts for the Home Baker

Desserts, pies and tarts are a popular choice for entertaining or just to enjoy after dinner. They are always a great idea for a food gift  or for a fast dessert when entertaining. I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t resist the crispy, flaky crust of a perfectly baked pie and its creamy, sweet and heavenly filling. Same thing with tarts. These two classic desserts are really timeless and always make such a great dessert when family or friends are visiting or you’re looking for that special food gift that just says enjoy!

The timeless beauty is evident our  Dello Mano Brownie Pies and Tarts. See how gorgeous it is? Wait until you taste it. And of course if you have no time to make one, then just pop in to the Dello Mano store or buy dessert cake online.

If you have the time though, handmade pies and tarts are simple pleasures. We make them here at Dello Mano with both a brownie base and the more traditional pastry base.

Baking Pies & Tarts

citrus pie

Dello Mano Handmade Citrus Pie

A good pie always starts with a good crust. So what makes a good crust? The answer is simple: butter. Even better, good butter. Sure, shortening or lard is a good fit for pie crusts and is likely to produce a tender and flaky crust, but the flavour is never the same as with butter. Quality butter offers a creamy, rich and yes – buttery – taste that you won’t get from shortening.

So how do you go about making your butter crust texture light and flaky? No, you don’t need pastry blender, mixer or food processor. An old-school technique, which really works, involves running cold chunks of butter between your fingertips, and incorporating them into the flour (you want your flour-butter mixture to turn into pea-sized crumbs). Such technique allows you to monitor the size of the butter pieces, so it would create flakes, not lumps as you roll it.

Why use cold butter? As your crust bakes in the oven, the cold butter melts, creating steam pockets that produce a beautiful flaky texture.

From there, the next step is simply a matter of choosing the filling for your pie. Well, maybe not so simple because they range from the most popular apple and pear, to dried fruit and cranberry, coffee-toffee, spiced pumpkin, pecans, and of course – the irresistible – chocolate filling. If in doubt we say, the best food gift is always chocolate!

Another good strategy is to chill the dough at least 30 minutes (up to two days) before you roll it and bake it. Once assembled in the pan, chill it again before you finally put it in the oven. This ensures that the butter pieces will not melt until they are heated. Most pastry chefs would blind-bake crust or pastry shell first before pouring in the filling and baking the entire pie. Doing so keeps the size and form of the crust. To prevent the dough from rising, line the crust with parchment paper and fill with dried beans, rice or pie beads (which you can buy from a kitchen supply store).

Brushing the top of the pasty with egg wash will give it that beautiful golden shine. Not only that. It will also make your pie cover crispier.

Fruits as Filling

Fresh fruit on tarts makes simply a work of art! And of course the fruit does provide healthy antioxidants. 🙂

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The natural sweetness and distinct flavour of fresh berries blend perfectly with the creaminess, flakiness and sweetness of the pastry shell.

If you’re using fruits as filling, it is important that you are aware of their baking/cooking properties. For instance, apples are normally used as pie filling not just because they are so common, but mostly because apples have natural pectin content (which acts as a binder), so your filling won’t be runny. Meanwhile, blackberries have high levels of acid on the skin, which does not go well with starch, so you want to add the starch and sugar from the start. Cherries need to be pitted if using fresh, and peaches must be peeled first.

Baking delicious pies and tarts may take some effort and practice, but as you get used to it, and as you discover more techniques (which you will as you slowly become addicted to baking), you’ll find it a very rewarding task. And after a day of baking, when you finally present your food gift, you’ll be showered with compliments!.

And of course you can be experimental. Our love of brownies and our clients wanting to buy brownies in all different forms, led us to invent the Luxury Brownie pie. Our Dello Mano Brownie Pies were recently noted in the SBS Food Trends for 2016 as something yummy and new for this year.  We handmake our delicious brownie pies in a number of different flavours from Dulce de Leche through to Crunchy Walnut and  a beautiful Belgian Chocolate Ganache.  There are so many alternatives that suit a chocolate brownie base.

Cheers to the pie and tart lovers around the world! These wonderful pastry creations are too good to resist and make a huge splash as a food gift or just as simply a great share treat for family and friends.

Baking 101: Working With Sugars

Brownie & Caramel Tarts

Mini Brownie Tarts made perfect with great sugar!

Sugar is a staple in baking. For many recipes, besides a sugar replacer, you won’t be able to bake without some sugar at hand. We often think of this very common ingredient only as a sweetener. But actually, it does more than sweeten up our baked good.

Sugar has diverse roles in the world of baking. This is why too often, recipes would call for a specific type of sugar, and sometimes, a combination of two or three.

More than a Sweetener

While the primary purpose of adding sugar, in most cases, is to add sweetness in the food, in baking, sugar has a more complex role. More than boosting the taste and flavour of the baked good, sugar also adds volume, colour, texture and tenderness, and acts as a preservative.

Sugar is used to incorporate as much air in the batter (like when making sponge cakes). When a recipe calls for creaming the sugar and fat, you don’t simply mix the two ingredients together, but incorporate air into the mixture by whisking hard to produce a light and fluffy mixture. During the creaming process, the sugar molecules rub against the fat, producing air bubbles.

Sugar also has a role in making your baked good tender and lighter. That is because sugar absorbs moisture in the batter, thus reducing the amount of gluten formed in the flour. This results to a batter which has a tender crumb. And since less gluten is formed, the batter will rise more and a lighter and thicker baked good is produced.

The ability of sugar to hold moisture makes it a great preservative. Liquid sugars have better ability to absorb moisture, like brown sugar.

The sweet stuff also has an effect on the colour of the batter when baked. The browning of the baked good is the result of sugar reacting with the protein present in other ingredients like milk and egg. The more sugar the recipe calls for, the darker the baked good becomes.

Pina Colada Cake

Dello Mano hand made cake- Pina Colada

Sugar also adds ‘crunch’ in baked products. In the oven, moisture evaporates from the surface of the batter, allowing the dissolved sugar to re-crystalize. This, in turn, creates a crunchy, sweet crust that you have probably enjoyed in brownies, muffins, cakes and more.

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How to Make Truffles Like a Pro

Belgian Chocolate Truffles

Dello Mano Belgian Chocolate Truffles

So you love truffles? Here at Dello Mano, we do too! Next to brownies, our truffles are all-time best-sellers. Well, everyone loves truffles. These wonderful and luxurious rounded chocolate-coated chocolate treats are really addictive, and are often given as gifts.

What are truffles?

Truffles are very rich and luscious chocolate balls made from  ac chocolate ganache. They’re  are often rolled in cocoa powder, and are named after a precious and very expensive truffle fungus because of their physical resemblance. Now, there are many versions of chocolate truffles, and aside from the traditional cocoa powder, they are also rolled in confectioner’s sugar or finely chopped nuts, and even spices like paprika.

Dello Mano’s hand rolled velvety dark chocolate truffles come in Classic Belgian Chocolate, Madison Mint and Strawberry flavours.

Of course, you can always order from our online store to experience handmade chocolate truffle at its best, but it is also enjoyable to make your own sometimes.

And in this article, we’ll make that part easier for you.

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Making Truffles like a Pro

Making supremely rich truffles from scratch can be really fun. You can even make variations to a traditional recipe. But first, you’ve got to know how they are made. Basically, truffles are made from chocolate ganache. You will find several ganache recipes online and the main ingredients are too few to forget: heavy cream, chocolate and a bit of butter. Since there are only three, it is important that you choose quality ingredients, especially when it comes to chocolates. Here at Dello Mano, we only use the finest quality Belgian chocolate not just in truffles and brownies but in our cakes and other chocolate gifts as well. Dark chocolate is a popular choice for truffles because it offers an intense and really addictive chocolate flavour.

Once the ganache has cooled and has a pudding-like consistency, it is now ready to be moulded into small yummy balls. Do you think the work is done? Well, actually, you’re just starting. Below are some great tips to make homemade truffles that really stand out.

Belgian Chocolate Truffles

Dello Mano Truffles

  • Finely chop the chocolate. You want to take time chopping the chocolate. This would ensure that it melts evenly and completely in the cream. Also, make sure that your butter is in room temperature, so again, it melts properly and evenly in the mixture.
  • Take off the whisk. When making the ganache, do not use a whisk. Stir the milk and chocolate mixture using a rubber spatula. Whisking causes more air to incorporate into the mixture, which would result to crumbly, instead of smooth truffles.
  • Work quickly. Work quickly with the ganache when shaping or dipping them. When your ganache gets a little warmer, it may lose it shape. If rolling in crushed nuts, cocoa powder, or chocolate sprinkles, do it immediately after dipping the truffle in the melted chocolate. This allows the coating to stick firmly to the truffle. You can try other coatings like desiccated coconut, coloured sugar crystal, chopped dried fruit, and many more.
  • Let them sit. Leave your truffles to set after you dipped them into the melted chocolate and rolled in the coating. Place parchment paper in your tray to keep the truffles from sticking.
  • Keep it airtight. Place your truffles in an airtight container, and store in the fridge. You can keep them for up to two weeks.

Truffles are really irresistible, especially if they are homemade. So the next time you make your own, do not forget these tips. You will absolutely love the result!

 

6 Pro Tips For a Flawless Chocolate Cake

Well besides brownies , chocolate cakes are one of our all-time favorites. Come on, chocolate plus cake? Who wouldn’t fall in love with this perfect combination?

They’re so irresistible. We handmake several chocolate cakes here at Dello Mano like our best selling Divine Belgian Chocolate Mousse Cake.  Dark Belgian chocolate  – the taste of perfection!

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Baking Chocolate Cake at Home

Like these delicious chocolate cakes from Dello Mano, you can also make your own handmade cake at home. Remember though, it’s one thing to have a great chocolate cake recipe but there’s more to creating a wonderful chocolate creation than just the recipe.  So, here are 6 great tips to help you create the perfect chocolate cake.

Ready? Let’s get started.

1. Weigh! Don’t measure.

Don’t have a kitchen scale? It’s time to buy one. Weighing ingredients, from the dry ingredients like flour, cocoa powder and sugar, down to the wet ones like milk and melted chocolate will provide a more accurate and consistent result than simply using measuring cups and spoons ( sorry – mum!)

2. Use the right flour.

While all-purpose flour may work for many situations, it isn’t right for every cake. Always remember that the lower the protein content of the flour, the more tender the cake. The key is to match the type of flour to use with the cake you are baking. Cake flour is best for making cakes with a fine, tender crumbs, like pound cake and sponge cake. It is always best to sift flour before adding it to the batter to prevent clumps.

3. Chemistry counts.

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Take it from the Food Scientist, yes, baking really is chemistry. The correct chemistry in relation to the key ingredients serves as the foundation for a perfectly baked chocolate cake. It is important therefore, that you understand what each ingredient does to the cake. For instance, flour thickens the batter and releases gluten which gives the cake its structure. If you over-mix the batter, your cake becomes tough. Meanwhile, fats like butter, shortening or oil, impedes gluten formation while also providing moisture for the cake.  Aside from sweetening your cake, sugar also helps break up gluten to keep the cake tender, enrich its flavour, and help the cake brown. Egg yolks acts as an emulsifier which allows fats and water to mix well, producing an even texture. So real chemistry!

4. Keep everything at room temperature.

You probably are used to bringing butter to room temperature before you start creaming it, but it’s just as important for the eggs. If the eggs are cold, they won’t emulsify properly, which has a great effect on the texture of your cake. If you’re short on time, place the eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes, or crack them into a bowl and leave sitting on the counter.

5.  Never compromise quality.

The quality of ingredients you use is very important if you want your cake to have the perfect taste, moisture content, and texture. They may be a little pricey but the investment is worth the price. At Dello Mano, we use superior quality ingredients to ensure the richness and luxurious flavour of our cakes and brownies. In particular, we use real butter, eggs directly sourced from the farm, and high quality Belgian chocolate.

6. Frost like a pro.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

It really helps to have the right tools on hand so you can frost the cake with ease. Remember however, that frosting does take a little more time. Put a small dollop of icing in the centre of your platter. This will serve as a glue so your cake doesn’t move as you frost it. Use an offset spatula to frost the top of each layer, and coat the entire cake. Be generous with the frosting! Everybody loves frosting. Icing a cake is an artful process. So just enjoy the moment. Let yourself achieve a state of flow. You will love this part!

Making the perfect chocolate cake with a dense flavour and rich texture is fun and easy with these tips. Hope you enjoyed them. Happy baking!

10 Brownie Baking Hacks You Wish You Knew

We all have days when the only thing we want to do is eat brownies – well at least we do here at Dello Mano🙂 -lots and lots of brownies. The dense flavour of chocolate, plus the creamy texture of the brownie seems to burst in your mouth and is indeed a delightful experience… a very nostalgic one. Like a childhood memory of an afternoon snack like this: brownie plus a glass of warm milk. Yum.

Dello Mano Classic Belgian Chocolate Brownie with Milk

Dello Mano Classic Belgian Chocolate Brownie with Milk

And on those days, a packet of commercial brownie mix seems to be life-saving.

But no. You just don’t want to fulfil your cravings. You also want to satisfy your taste buds.

You want something special and really delightful. Not just sweet and chocolate-like.

You want something luxurious and rich. And you can only get these from a handmade brownie. Like ours here at Dello Mano 🙂

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Why settle for just a good brownie when you can have the best? Handmade brownies are very special because you know you are making something from the real thing. Real eggs. Real butter. Real and premium chocolate- just like we use here at Dello Mano. Not just a hefty amount of flavourings. What’s more, you can tailor the recipe to create something that perfectly fits your taste.

Baking is fun too. I don’t know about you, but for me, it has a therapeutic effect. Baking engages all your senses, turning your mind and body into a mindfulness state. It’s really healing.

But of course, just like baking cakes, pies and cookies, baking brownies can sometimes be messy and time-consuming.

But worry not, we’ve got some baking hacks that will surely make the brownie-making process much easier and a sure-fire success. So you’d have less time stressing and more time enjoying your handmade brownie, up to the last crumb!

Alright. Here we go.

  • Keep everything in room temperature. It’s really tempting to start baking right away as you think of it, but if your eggs and butter are still cold, you may not get the result you want. As they say, ‘good things come to those who wait’. So let all the cold stuff sit on the counter for an hour or two until they are in room temperature. Can’t wait? Fine. There’s a hack. Crack the egg into a bowl, and then slice your butter into small cubes. From more than an hour, you would only have to wait for 15 minutes.
  • Don’t over mix the flour. You don’t want to stir your batter too much as you add the flour. Make sure your flour measurement is correct. Doing so will overdevelop the gluten in the flour, which will make your brownies too dense and chewy. You know you’re done folding the flour in the batter when there are a few white streaks left on the surface.
Dello Mano Kitchen

Dello Mano Kitchen

  • Use an oven thermometer. Most ovens are off, temperature-wise. Whether it’s warmer by just 25%, it still makes a big difference. So it really pays to have an oven thermometer around. It’s very cheap but very helpful. Your brownies will thank you.
  • Use parchment paper. Make your life easier by placing parchment paper in your baking pan. Make sure to make it an inch or two longer in the sides, so you can easily pull your brownie once it’s done.
  • Add one more egg for denser, fudgier brownies. If you’ve been baking for quite a while now, you probably have noticed that egg yolks add richness to the batter and the egg whites produce a more-cake like texture.
  • Let it cool before you cut. Cutting the brownie into small squares while it’s still warm can cause crumbling. Sure, you don’t want that. So let it cool before you slice them. Patience is a virtue.

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  • Use a timer. Yes, you know why.
  • Don’t leave out the melted chocolate. Combine melted chocolate and cocoa powder for balance of flavour and texture. If you just use cocoa powder, your brownies are likely to be dry and crumbly. Adding melted chocolate adds moisture and richness to your brownies.
  • Understand your bakeware. Make sure you are using the right pan with the right size for your brownie. If you’re using a metal pan, expect your brownie to cook faster. If you’re using a glass pan, it may take a little longer. There’s one thing you need to remember though: every minute counts. 
  • Check for doneness ahead of time. Make it a habit to check if your brownie is done at least five minutes before the time stated on the recipe. Just one or two minutes longer in the oven can turn a great brownie to an ‘eh’ brownie.

 Have fun baking!

Chocolate Blooming & What to Do About It

Dark Tempered Chocolate

Chocolate properly tempered is glossy and shiny

We’ve talked before about tempering chocolates so, a process necessary in order to achieve a smooth, glossy finish for your chocolates and chocolate dips. But even when chocolate is in temper, blooming can still occur. Bloom is that greyish or white coating on the chocolate that usually occurs when chocolate is not stored correctly.

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