Chocolate Hazelnut Macarons

Cookies, Pastry, Sweets

I have some friends staying the night this weekend, as well as my parents, who both were interested in macarons. Per my buddy’s request, I made chocolate hazelnut ganache-filled macarons, as well as practicing some light decorating with a gel pen.


I made a double batch, which tested the limits of the handful of pans I had at my disposal. In the end, they went off without a hitch.

A few things I learned, however:

  • I forgot to attempt wet-on-wet with the gel, and tentatively attempted on unbaked shells, after the skin had developed. The results were comical, but a tad horrifying (you can see one in the bottom left of the photo above).
  • Gel will pretty much not dry, so the next time I decide to do this, I should really just bite the bullet and make royal icing.
  • While the ganache I used was quite delicious, I don’t believe it will harden in the fridge like a normal ganache.






Lemon Meringue Pie

Pastry, Sweets, Uncategorized

Last week I made a lemon meringue pie – the first I’d ever made! Rather than the classic meringue, however, I substituted Italian, which turned out quite nice.

The only issue I ran into was when I made a mistake with the meringue, and had to run to the store to grab more eggs. While the recipe said to keep the filling warm, I didn’t think anything of storing it in the fridge while I did so – and ran into the issue of the pie becoming watery as the days went on.

From what I read online, if the filling is kept warm, the heat will filter through the meringue easily, as opposed to re-heating it from cold.

On the plus side, the large star tip I used added a nice flair to the finished pie.


Beer Cheese Macarons

Cookies, Sweets

This was…not the greatest thing I’ve done, I’ll be up front on that.

These were based off a link a buddy of mine sent regarding Cheeto Macarons – something I balked at. At first.


However, my wife had bought me a pair of slipmats, and blue powder food dye (as opposed to the gel that I normally use) that I’d been dying to try out, so I figured this was as good an excuse as any.

The beer cheese was the easiest part, and the fact that we have a specialty beer store nearby helped. What probably would’ve helped more would’ve been had I checked with a German friend first as to the brand – apparently I’d, by sheer accident, bought a rather poor choice from the wall of German beer I’d been looking at.


The cheese spread tasted just fine regardless, which led to my second slip-up: egg whites from a carton are not great for this. I’d had some left over from when I last made royal icing, and thought it was clever to avoid having to crack open 4 eggs instead. Rather, I was left with a meringue that would absolutely not whip up, and rather than attempt to salvage it,  I baked off the shells as they were, and made a second batch with fresh eggs.


The difference was obvious, though I still suspect that I over-whipped the meringue by a tad, and/or didn’t bang them hard enough on the table (by this point it was about 10 p.m., and I really didn’t want to wake everyone around me). The other thought I had (afterwards, of course) was that I could’ve worked the tip of the icing bag a bit when piping the shells to try and get the nubs to go away.

In addition, I had the idea to add applewood rub to the shells, to give it a BBQ-cheddar flavor. As far as taste, it was exactly what I’d hoped for, and after a day of settling, the flavors blended together quite nicely.

As for the “mouth feel”, it was…less admirable. The miscellaneous bits and pieces of the rub made it for a rather gritty, awkward experience. While overall it was quite tasty, should I ever do this again, I think I’ll leave out the extra bits.

Umbrella Cheesecake

Cake, Sweets

This time I used the recipe from the Better Homes cookbook, and I suspect not using lime juice resulted in the cheesecake being much fluffier, like I’m used to. Of course, the experiment this week was more for decoration than flavor.


My intent was to replicate the look of the Umbrella Corporation logo from the Resident Evil series. Offhand I’d say it was a success – though I need to remember than when using the mini-springform pans, the cake will puff up a lot. Also, though I cut the time while baking (as the original recipe was meant for a 9″ pan), it was clear that the cakes were over-baked.


They still taste just fine, but I made a few extra notes in the cookbook, should I do this again. Also, to use a measured scoop when filling the pans, as it was clear that I wasn’t able to get an even height when eyeballing.


To be honest, I’d had to toss some of the remaining whipped cream the past couple times I’d made it, so I held off this time. What I figured I’d do in the future is arrange them as needed, and have the whipped cream and/or fruit in the middle to hide any gaps.

As a final note, I had the slices arranged on a plate prior to setting up, and I realized that the mini-slices would make for excellent, festive/celebratory desserts. It’d be simple enough to have a variety of colors, and to arrange them like dessert canape, essentially.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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?


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.