Honey-Cardamom Pear Tartlets

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Recently, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring to a Lunar New Year party. More specifically, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring that was not red bean cream puffs, because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making the craquelin topping and I still needed something bite-sized and tasty. I was going through my old recipes when I came across my post about honey-cornflake crunchies and it occurred to me that they might make a neat base for a different kind of dessert combining honey with some other flavor components.

I decided to flavor my filling with cardamom, since it’s often paired with honey. I’d originally planned to make a simple stabilized whipped cream filling, but concluded that it would be too light in comparison to the crunchy base and opted instead to give it a richer mouthfeel by combining two concepts– stabilized whipped cream and cooked-flour frosting. Both involve beating a thickened pudding-like mixture into the dairy– it’s just that the frosting uses butter instead of liquid cream. My experimental recipe worked beautifully, and I’ll definitely be using it in the future.

Of course, once I’d settled on cream-filled tartlets, I felt that they needed something more, for texture, and flavor. After a false start (persimmons apparently just went out of season, boo!) I settled on pears and pistachios, both classic pairings with cardamom.

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Egg Yolk Sponge Cake with Lemon Filling

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After making a double batch of white cake for my daughter’s Rainbow Galaxy birthday cake, I had eight egg yolks left over, plus a bunch of zested lemons, a block of cream cheese, and most of a can of sweetened condensed milk left from other party treats. Always loath to waste things, I decided to use the leftovers to make a dessert the following weekend. Fortuitously, the ingredients all worked out reasonably well.

The tough part was the egg yolks– ordinarily I’d consider a creme brulĂ©e, but I wanted something more portable and shareable, so I managed to find a sponge cake recipe that calls for all yolks rather than all whites. I was skeptical, but it came out okay. A little dry, I thought, though I don’t believe it was overbaked– I think a little oil or butter would’ve helped it retain more moisture. However, it had a nice flavor, a lovely golden color due to all the yolks, and it split easily after cooling to make two layers.

To use up the lemons, cream cheese, and sweetened condensed milk, it was easy to find a recipe for lemon icebox pie using those ingredients. I figured that if I made the filling and let it thicken most of the way before spreading it between my cake layers, it would work out. Oddly enough, it stayed pretty loose– more like regular pudding than like a firmer pie filling– but it tasted good. Not very lemony (likely due to the lack of lemon zest) but good. More like a cheesecake with a hint of lemon.

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Marbled Cake Pops

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So after baking up the six layers of my galaxy rainbow cake (and seeing how short they were) I was unaccountably struck with the fear that there might not be enough cake for all of the guests. (Spoiler: there was tons of cake left over) I decided to make some extra treats for the party, just in case– cake pops. I hadn’t made them in a while, but a little internet research turned up some new techniques for making them look fantastic, so I thought I’d give them a shot, using an extra box of cake mix and some leftover buttercream, plus candy melts.

Step 1: making perfectly smooth, round balls for dipping.

In the past I’ve crumbled up my cake and mixed it with cream cheese or frosting by hand, just because it was easier. However, the results have been somewhat lumpy, probably because the crumbs weren’t quite fine enough and the mixing was uneven. I think I’ve been trying to avoid making the mixture too gooey from overmixing, but it really wasn’t a problem. Solution: use the stand mixer to completely mix the cake and frosting into a smooth, homogenous dough. Add frosting sparingly to avoid your mixture being too soft.

Once you’ve got the dough set, portion it into balls and hand-roll them to a generally round shape. If you want them to be even more perfectly round, you can do this:

 

(though 14 seconds is way longer than you need)

When they’re shaped, stick them in the freezer for a few minutes while you prep your candy melts.

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Galaxy-Glazed Rainbow Cake

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For my daughter’s seventh birthday she declared that she wanted a Parry Gripp-themed party. Who is Parry Gripp? Try typing it in as a search term on YouTube and go down the rabbit hole of playlists…

The short answer is that he writes weird songs, most of which appear to be aimed at kids, with accompanying bizarre animated music videos. Current favorites in this house include “Neon Pegasus,” “Space Unicorn,” and “Pancake Robot.” There are actually a ton of food-related songs, which we used as inspiration for our party menu, but one thing my kid was adamant about was that she wanted a galaxy-mirror-glazed cake, which would relate to both Neon Pegasus and Space Unicorn. I’m not sure where she even found out about mirror-glazed cakes, but hey, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Stuffed Cookies

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So the first time I made these, it was a snowy day. A very snowy day, as evidenced by the closing of schools and offices everywhere and the piles of snow accumulating on all windows, roofs, and visible scenery (not to mention blowing horizontally through the air). And what does one do on a snow day? Bake, of course!

I know that I often re-post Smitten Kitchen’s recipes, mostly only slightly revised, but this time I’m just going to refer you to her page directly for the recipe for these fabulous cookies. Why, you ask? Because I didn’t really change the recipe much, plus my photos turned out terribly and didn’t add anything to the explanatory process that wasn’t already clearly set out in her photos. It hardly seems worth it when the only thing I did to alter the recipe was use extra-crunchy peanut butter instead of creamy. To be fair, I had to use a bit *more* peanut butter and a splash of milk to make up for the lack of moisture caused by the inclusion of peanut chunks, but that was about it.

I got 24 cookies out of this recipe, using a level mini-cookie-scoop (just over a teaspoon) to scoop the peanut butter filling, and then dividing up the chocolate dough into 24 pieces of about 30g each. I baked them for exactly 10 minutes and they came out perfectly– don’t worry about underbaking!

Anyway, these are good. Very good. My peanut butter/chocolate loving husband proclaimed them to be excellent. They’re best slightly warm, but straight out of the freezer is a close second. Either way, you’ll want a tall glass of milk to go along with them.

Mocha Macarons

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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

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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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