Raspberry-Almond Mooncakes

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As you may have noticed, I make mooncakes every year– just not in the usual flavors. While I really do like my chocolate-cherry mooncakes and my gingerbread mooncakes, I thought I’d try a new recipe this year and go with something almond-flavored.

For the centers I baked up an extremely moist almond cake. I actually tried two different recipes to see which one I liked better– the first is from Chez Panisse and is mixed in the food processor, and the second is from Amanda Hesser has a bit more flour in it and is made in the mixer. The first one turned out more cake-like, probably due to the fact that it incorporated whole eggs rather than just yolks, but the second turned out moister and squidgier, despite the fact that it had twice as much flour in it. I ended up using equal amounts of each cake, crumbled up together, to make my filling– it was the perfect mix!

I cut the sweetness of the almond cake with a tart raspberry jam center– Smuckers is my favorite raspberry jam, but not the seedless kind!– which I piped into the filling balls before molding the mooncakes.

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Our freezer always contains a stash of homemade muffins– it’s just the way things are. The vast majority are used for my daughter’s daily school snacks, but I admit to sneaking a few to nibble on now and then. I most often go with pumpkin or banana muffins, but this time my daughter asked for oatmeal muffins with cinnamon and chocolate. It sounded like a tasty combination to me, so off I went to the internet in search of a recipe.

I ended up modifying this recipe, adding cinnamon and omitting the pecans. Also halving the baking powder, per the recommendations of many reviewers. The finished muffins turned out quite well, extremely moist and almost reminiscent of a chocolate chip cookie in flavor.

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Berry Cheesecake Galette

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Yup, it’s another recipe borrowed from Smitten Kitchen… I can’t help it, it’s my go-to source for tasty recipes and this one turned out so delicious (and pretty) that I couldn’t help sharing!

This galette is easy to put together, looks impressive, and tastes great served cold or at room temperature. The creamy cheesecake filling contrasts nicely with the tart berries (whichever kind you want to put in, fresh or frozen!), and the sugar-studded crust brings it all together. It’s kind of like a three-way cross between a danish, a berry pie, and a cheesecake, and it’s definitely going to be served at my next brunch gathering.

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Peanut Butter Blondies

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Yup, it’s another peanut butter-chocolate recipe. And another Smitten Kitchen recipe, to boot. But these peanut butter blondies are easy to make, extremely tasty, and just as good frozen as they are fresh, so I’m not going to worry too much about repetitiveness or derivativeness (is that even a word?).

This recipe makes a full 9×13″ pan of ganache-topped peanut butter blondies, studded with chocolate chips and with just enough peanut butter flavor to hit your tastebuds without being overwhelming. They’re rich but addictive.

The texture is great, too, though I will note that many of the reviewers of the original recipe found the baking time to be too long, resulting in dry blondies. I baked mine just until a toothpick emerged with tons of moist crumbs, and also found the edges too dry for my taste– this may have been due to the fact that I used a glass pan, which retains heat better than metal pans and which will basically keep the cooking process going even after the pan is removed from the oven. If you’re using a glass pan, I would recommend taking the blondies out of the oven after 30-35 minutes. If you’re using a metal pan, 35-40 should be fine.

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Potato-Bacon Vareniki

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With cooler weather finally approaching, I thought I’d post about one of my favorite stick-to-your-ribs fall dishes: vareniki.

What are vareniki, you ask? They’re Russian potato dumplings, kind of like pierogi, and in this context they’re adorable!

I was introduced to the world of tiny Russian dumplings when I was throwing a Russian-themed 35th birthday party for a friend, and was immediately hooked. I’m all for carbohydrate-laden goodies, so potato dumplings served with butter and sour cream sounded amazing. Add in a neat gadget for making dozens of itty-bitty dumplings at once, and it was a given that I’d be making them ASAP!

To be fair, the plastic dumpling thingie is actually used to make pelmeni, meat-filled Russian dumplings that I don’t like as much because they’re not different enough from the meat-filled Chinese dumplings I get all the time, but the tool is still a ton of fun to use here!

I found a dough recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen (a very useful blog for anyone trying to get into Russian cooking), and basically threw together a filling based on my own personal tastes. Potatoes, of course, with cheese (whatever I had in the fridge) and browned onions because they’re more flavorful than raw onions. Plus bacon, because potatoes and onions just cry out for bacon, am I right? The finished dumplings are tender and delicious whether boiled or pan-fried, and when served with a little sour cream and dill they’re fantastic comfort food.

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Espresso Brownie Bites

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In case you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of baking pans. All different shapes and sizes. I have round pans and square pans, three different sizes of bundt pans, loaf pans, madeleine pans, and sheet pans galore. And I have muffin pans in jumbo, standard, and mini. So you’d think I’d be all set when it comes to baking pans. And I was. Until I encountered this:

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It’s a micro-mini muffin pan, and I was instantly smitten. See how tiny the wells are? So cute!!!

But what to bake in it? I’m fairly sure that a dense batter will always be necessary, because overly fluffy cakes would have no substance and might be too airy to release cleanly. For my inaugural bake, I decided to go straight to the densest type of recipe– a brownie from my favorite chocolate author, Alice Medrich. To give it an extra jolt of flavor (got to go intense for such tiny bites!) I added instant espresso powder to the mix. And then some chocolate ganache. And then coffee beans on top, because why not?

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Spinach Cheese Puffs

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I think I may have mentioned before that I love appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. Just love them. My favorite kind of work event is one where they serve drinks and “heavy appetizers” or “passed hors d’oeuvres,” because I know that there’ll be something involving cheese, bacon, or some kind of pastry… sometimes all three. So naturally I like to have a few recipes for similar items in my repertoire for when I want to host my own delicious event.

This particular recipe was born out of the need to come up with something that I could make ahead of time and that would be able to survive for several hours in a hot car before being served at a casual barbecue. That meant most cheese- or meat-based items were out, and any fresh vegetables were similarly not going to work. I decided that the best option was something with puff pastry, and once I noticed the half-empty package of fresh baby spinach slowly wilting in my refrigerator, the decision was made!

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