Banana Truffles

Chocolate, Sweets

This week I decided I wanted to try my hand at truffles again. Specifically banana truffles. Specifically banana truffles, because I bought banana extract a month ago, and had yet to use it in anything.

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The justification for my impulsive purchase ended up wonderful, though it was some trial-and-error to get them looking halfway decent. The first batch I mis-read the instructions, and thought you were supposed to let the ganache set completely prior to scooping and rolling the balls – an error that became apparent quite quickly. Not just that, but I’m used to rolling dough in-between my palms, which led to a frustrating, though delicious, mess all over my hands.

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The second batch I kept a closer eye on while it was setting, and spooned round-ish lumps into a bowl of cocoa powder. Once coated, I spun it in the bowl try to get it slightly spherical (though many places online suggested against perfectly round truffles, as they’re supposed to look similar to the truffles found in the wild), and let them chill in the fridge.

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Future truffles will be left to rest on the cooling rack to try and keep them from developing feet, but other than that, they came out nicely. Originally I’d intended on brushing gold dust over the cop for a splash of color, but when I went to JoAnne’s, I couldn’t help but get the stars for two reasons: one, my wife loves stars, and two, we are both fans of the Lords of Waterdeep board game, in which her favorite faction is the Silver Stars.

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Once completed and cooled, they were quite good – a slight crunch, followed by a decadent, creamy center.

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Key Lime Cheesecake

Cake, Sweets

After Christmas I went out to spend some gift cards, and ended up grabbing a large spring-form pan (I have a set of smaller ones, but I’d been aching for a regular one for some time).  Of course, the first thing I wanted to bake was cheesecake, but after finding out how well whipped cream takes to flavoring, I decided why not make key lime cheesecake, and whipped cream with dark rum?

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Also, I like key lime, and my wife had bought dark rum for one of her own culinary projects, and cheesecake is rarely, if ever, a bad idea.

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It came out wonderfully, though I suspect I over-baked it just slightly, given the edges were a tad yellowed. However, the taste was wonderful, and being able to simply unlock the cheesecake was much nicer than in the past, where I tended to serve (or just eat) it out of the pan.

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The whipped cream had a distinct bitter flavor, which I think worked well with the sweet and tart of the cheesecake, but I think that in the future, I might try to add gelatin (or something similar) to add stability.

Icewine Macarons

Cookies, Sweets

I know I’ve made macarons in the past, but this was somewhat inspired by a dream (and also the fact that my wife adores icewine truffles). The dream itself was strange, and dreams tend to be, but the more important thing is that these are the best shells I’ve made to date (usually I didn’t get such a nice dome).

I used a French meringue, as with my previous macarons, and I chose blue and purple because I wanted to try and have a “frostberry” theme with the finished product.

Honestly, the most difficult part was the truffle filling, in that it was, at first, underwhelming in taste. The ice wine flavor wasn’t truly noticeable until the next day.

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.

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream

Cake

So, I know it’s corny, but the reason I made this was because  – I kid you not – it came to me in a dream. Which, as far as dreams go, hanging out with a buddy in a bakery, and just remembering there was a blackberry cake with lemon buttercream isn’t that bad.

 

Admittedly, all I did as fold blackberries into a white cake mix (most recipes were calling for coffee cakes, or simply putting the berries on top, or – in one case – instructing me to add blackberry gelatin mix to the batter), but it came out alright. In the future, I think I’ll cut them in half. They simply sank to the bottom of the pans, and only turned out so nicely because it was a two-layer cake, and thus gave the berries some spacing throughout each piece.

The icing was simply a buttercream with lemon juice added, but it gave a nice, tart burst to the cake. Unfortunately, the berries were a tad overshadowed by it, and the cake’s base flavor. I may add either flavoring to the icing, or to the cake, next time. Also, this is tentatively the last time I’m going to do this particular type of flower for a while. While it’s certainly nice, I tend to default to them for decoration (fall colors, this time), and one purpose of this blog is to push myself to do something I’m not already OK at.

And yes, the flowers are two different sizes, if only because I recently bought a larger icing nail, and wanted to see how it would do. The answer is, better when I relaxed, and let the petals flare open more, as with the top-center flower.

Still, I had to make this. The dream angle made it too good to pass up.

Almond Biscotti

Cookies

This week I made an almond biscotti , something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time now. Of course, the first thing I had to do was cut the recipe in half, as there’s only so much that’ll be eaten, between me, my friends, and the neighborhood raccoons that hide in the dumpsters. In doing so, it made me realize another reason why many recipes call for grams or ounces, rather than cups – it’s far easier to cut grams in half than 1 and 3/4 cups.

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It was easy enough to mix together, though I was frustrated once I reached the kneading section. Rather than a firm dough, it was akin to a cookie dough, and my wife ended up suggesting adding a bit of gluten to the mix. It firmed up quickly after that, but I still switched to a dough hook on the mixer, rather than my hands.

The biscotti puffed up in the middle nicely during the back. I’d been worried when I was shaping the loaves that it’d end up more of a rectangle. After letting it cool for about 20 minutes, it was simple enough to slice up, and let toast in the oven for a bit longer. It was particularly nice the next morning with coffee, as I’m rather indecisive during breakfast. Being able to simply open a bag was far preferable to the usual “coffee with coffee” I have on my days off.

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.

Bee-Sting Cake

Uncategorized

I was quite pleased with how all this came out (following the instructions here) , as I’ve never made brioche dough before, or custard. It was nice to take a break from decorating (which requires a level of finesse I’m still working on).

The dough itself was rich and buttery, and that alone would be good for rolls, and the sweetness was more mild than most desserts. Really, I wouldn’t mind making this again, but leaving the custard out. I suspect it would make for a wonderful breakfast.

Swirled Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Cake

Recently, I discovered that one could purchase decorating dips individually at the JoAnne’s nearby. I was…unprepared for this discovery, to say the least – and by that, I mean I found myself dancing back and forth through the isles when I saw exactly how many very specific decorating tools they had. I’d been resigned to buying a set of tips that I didn’t really need that had the jumbo tips I actually wanted, and was thrilled beyond belief when I saw I didn’t have to.

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Even before this miraculous discovery, however, I’d decided I wanted to give another go at decorating cupcakes. Nothing fancy, but the last time they hadn’t come out as nicely as I’d hoped (mostly because A, the tips were too small, and B, the icing had bits of cookie in it, which made for uneven piping). I’d also noticed that much of the time my flowers and swirls would fall flat (though it being summertime in a small kitchen, I’d just been chalking it up to the temperature), and hoped that a different recipe would help.

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Actually, my wife and I’d just celebrated our two-year anniversary a few weeks ago, and as part of that, I bought some cupcakes from the Fairy Cakes Cupcakery, who’d provided the “cake” (about 200 cupcakes decorated with our wedding colors) for our wedding. I asked one of the bakers how their frosting always stayed so stiff and beautiful, and while they admitted it was partially because they kept the store rather cool, their frosting had more powdered sugar than normal.

With this as my guide, rather than my usual, I made a batch of icing to use with the newly-purchased jumbo tips. First off, the vanilla extract gave it an ivory/cream color, rather than pure white. It didn’t affect my plans at all, but I simply kept that in mind, should I ever purposefully want it. Also, I was worried that the added sugar (an extra cup from what I was used to, bringing it to 4 for the batch) would make it too sweet, and leave it with a distinctly “powdered sugar” taste.

Instead, I found the vanilla was strong enough to counter the extra sweetness. It was still quite sweet, but it didn’t taste any different from the icing you’d get if you had buttercream on a store-bought cupcake. After a few hours in the fridge, though, was when I could tell very clearly that it was going to be a much stiffer icing.

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The design was just a swirl, nothing fancy, with sprinkles on top. Still, the real test came when I left a plate of them out at room temperature when I had some friends over. By the end of the night, they barely showed any signs of wilting, and those I’d left in the fridge were – to my joy – as firm as the one’s I’d bought from Fairy Cakes.