Macarons

Cookies, Sweets

I’ve done several kinds of macarons, which I’ll be consolidating into this one page. Originally, I was interested by the Dungeons & Dragons Podcast The Adventure Zone, and specifically, the wizard Taako. Part of his backstory is that he used to run a cooking show, and at several points in the podcast, he’s either made, or been eating macarons. After about 40 episodes, I was curious enough to actually look up how to make them, and was fairly delighted to see how versatile they can be.

The first time I made them I had issues with keeping the size consistent, which led to some of the larger shells ending up hollow. It was an easy enough fix, though; I began using my wedding ring to trace rings on the opposite side of the parchment paper, so I had a guideline.

These are filled with chocolate ganache, though I dyed half the shell batter to make Pokeball macarons. They came out nicely, and were quickly devoured, though in the future I think I would add a candy button to the front to make the representation a bit more accurate.

These were my lemon curd macarons. I’ll admit, I simply bought the curd, rather than making it. The sprinkles, however, were from the large containers I had collecting dust in the pantry. I’d seen plenty of macarons that’d been dyed, and while they were beautiful, I was curious as to how the batter would take to various sprinkles. When added to the top prior to baking, they came out as I’d hoped, and added a nice crunch to the treat.

These…were a chore.

A friend had given me a hand one day, and, remembering him talking about how much he loved pistachio macarons, set about making him a thank-you gift. The first batch didn’t have as strong a pistachio flavor as I’d hoped, so I ended up eating them myself, and making the macarons in the photos above. For the second batch, I figured I’d use pistachio flour, rather than almond flour with pistachio buttercream filling.

Unfortunately, there was no pistachio flour in the city I live in, so I decided “Hey, how hard would it be to just make it from scratch?” Skip forward about an hour and a half after painstakingly food-processing it in bursts so the oil wouldn’t turn it to mush, then sifting it onto a sheet, and baking it, only to have just enough for what I wanted, despite buying nearly a pound of pistachios.

Thankfully they came out better the second time. A fun, unintentional piece of the baking was that I didn’t have any clean, plain, medium-sized tips to add the pistachio buttercream, so I ended up with one that had some ridges to it. In the end, it ended up giving the filling a nice flair, as opposed to the usual smoothness.

Cookie Dough Icing

Cake, Sweets

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This was just a chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday – with cookie dough frosting, rather than the usual, with semi-sweet chips all over. The big thing I learned from this, was to weigh my flour, rather than simply measure it. Before that, the icing had come out far too thick (which was used for the filling, in the end). In the future, I’ll stick to mini-chips as well. Though it was well-loved, my wife pointed out that the larger chips would be more likely to simply fall off the cake when cut, and not everyone would be OK with gulping handfuls of chocolate chips after a slice of cake.

Hummingbird Cake

Cake, Sweets

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This is a hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting I ended up making after trying a hummingbird cupcake at the Fairy Cakes Cupcakery here in town. It was topped with toasted coconut in the end, though I’d originally intended to garnish with macadamia nuts. Unfortunately, the package of Diamond brand nuts I bought were quite foul – they tasted spoiled, and had  a nasty, chemical/attic-dust taste to them, and smelled bad to boot. Thankfully I found that out before tossing them on the cake, and substituted coconut my wife had toasted.

Twix Cheesecake Bars

Sweets

I’ve loved Twix bars for my entire life, and was wondering what I wanted to do for my next baking experiment, when I remembered a set of mini-loaf pans my parents had given me a while back. I used this cheesecake recipe, and shortbread cookies for the crust.

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The crust turned out well, though I’d forgotten that the caramel I was using is very buttery. In the future, I’d definitely use a different caramel, most likely either a caramel sauce, or pre-wrapped caramels from a grocery store’s bulk food section.

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I’d left the caramel at room temperature for several hours to make sure it was nice and gooey. With a toothpick, I stirred a tablespoon or so into the batter, resulting in the above mini-cheesecakes.

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I’ll be honest – the pans, though a nice idea, didn’t work out how I’d hoped. It took some gentle prying to get them loose from the sides, and though they mostly kept their “bar” shape, the above photos are after cutting off the rough edges. The dark chocolate I’d melted and spread over them also didn’t turn out as smooth as I’d have liked.

This was certainly a learning experience. All in all, the taste was fine, if a little buttery. There was just the right amount of cheesecake, caramel, and chocolate that I could taste everything individually, without one thing overpowering the others. However, next time I’ll use a square pan, most likely lined with parchment paper, to help with getting it out of the pan. If I can’t start this in the morning, I’ll remember to make it a two-day project; I was excited to see how it’d turn out, so I did this in the space of an afternoon and evening, and had I let it cool overnight, it probably wouldn’t have broken so much when I was getting them out of the pans.

Chocolate Cherry Truffles

Sweets

This was the recipe I used for a Mother’s Day gift this year (2015). As it was the last time I made truffles, the biggest issue was more waiting for the chocolate to firm up to where I could roll it into balls. However, rather than the sprinkles I’d used last time, I melted dark, and milk chocolate to coat them. I drizzled it over the truffles with a spoon, though realized that I’d underestimated how much I would need; they didn’t get coated quite as uniformly as I’d been hoping for, but at least it’s a simple fix for the future.

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Homemade Caramel

Sweets

This is a caramel recipe I’ve been using for a while. In the end, it came out much softer than I’d hoped for (I’d been hoping for something I would be able to cut into pieces), but still wonderful. It made a nice addition to a brownie I made for company, drizzled over the top right as it came out of the oven.