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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Spiced Pear-Oat Bars

pear-oat-bars

So it’s definitely fall, and to me that means desserts full of spices, oatmeal, and fruit. These bars have all of those things– the finely-diced pears form little pockets of sweetness, the walnuts give some crunch, and the oats and cinnamon provide a nice, warm background for everything. They’re more breakfast-y than dessert-y, in my opinion, mostly due to the oatmeal, but that doesn’t make them bad. I’d classify them as a good fall snack, though they fall apart a little too easily for just carrying around and munching. They’d be fabulous with a nice cup of hot apple cider… I may try that myself tonight!

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Apple Pie Blondies

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It’s fall! And fall means apple picking. And apple picking means a huge bag of apples that looks manageable at first but rapidly starts seeming insurmountable. What is one to do? Well, you can always make these!

These apple pie blondies are perfect for fall– they’re rich and sweet, with added texture and tartness from the apples and a crunchy cinnamon-sugar top that crackles with every bite. Less fruity than cobbler but chewier than cake, they’re perfect eaten out of hand but would also be amazing served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And they stay moist for days, which makes them great for lunchboxes or just having around the house to snack on.

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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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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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Easy Peach Tart

peach-tart-done

It’s peach season, and as much as I enjoy eating them straight out of hand, I do on occasion like to use them in desserts. Tarts are a particularly good way to show off gorgeous produce, so it only makes sense that I would end up making a peach tart someday.

I was initially inspired by this recipe from Food52, which was intriguing in that the crust used oil (vegetable and olive oil) rather than butter, and that the fruit itself was topped with a sugar/flour mixture rather than being mixed in with it before baking. The finished tart wasn’t bad, but the crust had a sandy, crumbly texture that didn’t hold together all that well. I thought I could do better.

I made it again, substituting in a crust that uses melted butter but keeping the remaining parts of the recipe, which were pretty darned good. The crust recipe is similar to one I’ve used before, but it includes extra water and oil along with the butter, which seems to work pretty well! Best of all, I made it in one bowl and pressed it directly into the tart pan– no rolling or chilling!

The finished tart is beautiful (but rustic– this is not a pristinely perfect French-style tart), with the crumbly topping melting into a gorgeous bubbly glaze. I like it best served warm with vanilla ice cream, but I’ve been known to eat it with vanilla yogurt so I can call it breakfast.

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Nectarine Swirl Ice Cream

nectarine-ice-cream

Another contribution to the annual ice cream social– nectarine ice cream!

I admit, I’d intended to make peach ice cream, but in browsing the internet I was informed that nectarines can be pureed into the cream without bothering to remove the skins, which I was all in favor of, since peeling peaches is a pain. Since the flavor is very similar, I decided to go with nectarines and also reap the benefit of the rosy hue imparted to the ice cream by the red-orange skins.

This recipe is pretty straightforward– fruit, cream, some honey to round things out and some sour cream for tang. What’s not to like? The finished ice cream is smooth and creamy, and I’ve been told that it tastes like summer. What more could you ask for as a recommendation?

I also decided at the last minute to add an extra swirl of a really basic nectarine (or in this case peach because I didn’t have any more nectarines) sauce to amp up the flavor even more. It’s optional, though, so you decide!

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