Mocha Macarons

mocha-macarons

I had a bunch of egg whites left over from my almond cake adventures, so rather than let them go to waste I decided to make a batch of macarons. After considering a few flavor options based on my pantry contents, I settled on coffee– partly because I had instant espresso powder on hand, and partly because I also had all the ingredients for a basic buttercream filling, which would lend itself well to the flavor profile (as opposed to needing specialty fruit preserves or making a caramel sauce from scratch).

Luckily for me, my local Target recently started carrying King Arthur Flour almond meal at a very reasonable price, so I didn’t have to settle for the Trader Joe’s stuff (which isn’t blanched and so has tiny bits of almond skin in it) or go searching for sliced blanched almonds to pulverize on my own. Despite the rainy weather, my tried-and-true macaron recipe didn’t fail me and I didn’t get cracked tops or misshapen macarons– I love this recipe.

While the shells were cooling I whipped up a coffee-flavored buttercream, but decided at the last minute to beat in some melted semisweet chocolate, both for flavor and for a slightly firmer texture. To finish off the macarons in style, I dusted cocoa over the tops, covering half of the macaron with a sheet of paper to get a nice sharp line. The cocoa mostly stayed put, though I had to be careful not to stack the macarons and mess up the design. They looked very impressive when I was done.

The result was delicious, and this recipe will definitely go into my “save” box at home!

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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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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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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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Mocha Chocoflan (With Cake Mix)

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I’ve always wanted to try making “The Amazing Chocoflan” that I keep seeing online, but the time never seemed right. Recently, however, I was invited to a last-minute potluck and it seemed like as good an occasion as any to give it a try!

That being said, I was kind of in a hurry and was actually (gasp!) short on flour, of all things, so I pulled out a chocolate cake mix to use as the base and never looked back. Besides, I figured that using an oil-based cake recipe was better for a cake that would be chilled before serving, since butter-based cakes tend to go a little stiff in the refrigerator.

Anyway, I doctored up the cake mix with a little sour cream for richness and some coffee for flavor, and in the end it turned out pretty well. The flan itself was absolutely amazing– the insulation from the water bath and the cake batter made it incredibly creamy, and it was perfectly sweet without being too sugary. It was definitely my favorite part of the dessert, and if I didn’t think that the cake batter played a major role in preventing curdling I’d try making it on its own… maybe I’ll try anyway, it was that good.

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Tahini Crunch Ice Cream

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Taking a break from sewing for the moment (wow, I’ve been doing a LOT of that)…

My family recently hosted our annual ice cream social, which of course meant that I had to come up with some original flavors of homemade ice cream to serve! You’d think that it would get harder and harder every year to find something interesting and new to make, but there are just so many flavor combinations that I’ve never lacked for inspiration.

I really wanted to use chocolate-covered cornflakes as a mix-in this year, and was trying to decide on an ice cream base when I spied a jar of tahini in the fridge. Just like that, a new flavor was born!

This tahini ice cream is faintly reminiscent of peanut butter but with an added savory element, set off nicely by the dark chocolate-covered cornflakes and a swirl of caramel sauce. It churns up relatively quickly, perhaps aided by the added fat content of the tahini– like many homemade ice creams it freezes up pretty hard, but once it softens enough to scoop it doesn’t collapse into a melty puddle, so it has that going for it. As an added bonus, it pairs wonderfully with dark beer.

*By the way, did you notice my awesome skull-shaped spoons?

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Chocolate-Strawberry Pocky Cake

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So remember when I made the three-tiered Pawprint Cake for my daughter’s birthday? At the time I wasn’t sure quite how much cake I would need in each color, so I ended up with extra layers– one 6″ layer and one loaf pan’s worth of pink cake, to be exact. I wrapped them in foil, froze them, and figured I’d find some other use for them eventually. That “eventually” arrived this weekend, when after buying several multi-packs of Pocky in various flavors to use for Valentine’s Day gifts for the kindergarten class, the teacher emailed everyone asking that we not give edible items for the occasion. (sigh)

Great, what was I supposed to do with 20+ packs of Pocky? Other than eat them, of course? But then it occurred to me that I had Pocky, I had cake, and I had Valentine’s Day coming up– of course I could put them all together to make a fabulous dessert!

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