Homemade Oreos

My mom got The Messy Baker for Christmas.

It looked interesting, so I decided to look through it. Inside there was a recipe for homemade Oreos, which is something I’ve wanted to make for a while. We got the whole family together, and the younger ones “helped” by sifting flour (and making a mess) and pouring ingredients in bowls. These cookies ended up being an all day project, as they had to chill in the fridge. We also didn’t have a big enough baking sheet and had to do it in three batches. I didn’t exactly do a great job filling them. They are kind of sloppy, as you can see below.

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2019 Christmas Cookie Smorgasbord

Every year we take one day to make just Christmas cookies. It’s crazy, it makes a huge mess, and sometime we end up with cookies that aren’t quite right, but it’s always fun and we enjoy eating the end results even if they aren’t perfect. And with eight of us in our family, they don’t last long! (We do share the cookies with neighbors, friends, and family if we can.) The imperfect cookies happened to us this year since every cookie we baked was a new recipe for us.

This year, we made Chocolate No Bakes, French-Style Lemon Bars, Blueberry Jammers, Jam Thumbprints, Christmas Spice Cookies, and Peppermint Bark (which is candy and not a cookie but I mention it because I actually messed up the peppermint bark). I will attempt to link a recipe to every cookie if possible, but sometimes they just aren’t up on the Internet. I will mention the cookbook that they came from though.

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Chocolate Chip Almost-Mandelbrot

Yesterday, Corran finished school early and asked me if he could bake something. I guess he knew that most of our sweets from Thanksgiving were gone, and he wanted to replace them! I told him to go ahead and look through my cookbooks and find something. Cookbooks will always be useful I think!

While I went to take care of the baby, Corran went to work in the kitchen. He picked Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot from Dorie’s Cookies.

Dorie’s Cookies is a chunky book that is like a wishlist of cookies. It’s full of good things. It is interesting that I’ve actually not made many cookies from here, though I do have a few recipes marked that I want to bake. So far, Corran has made more cookies from this book than I have!

If you would rather see a recipe online, this recipe at TheKitchn is close to what Corran made.

Since Corran was the one who baked these and he is a competent writer, I will let him finish the post off for me.

-Lynn

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You’re stuck with me for the rest of this post – Corran

The difference between these and normal mandelbrot is that these don’t use almond flour. They were pretty easy to make, although I did use a cup of expensive olive oil instead of canola oil like I was supposed to. It was entirely my fault though, as our jug was gone and I didn’t know where to find more. Near the end of their cooking time some of their bottoms looked burnt, but they still tasted alright.

On the right side you can see the almost burnt ones.

Overall it was a fairly easy recipe and the cookies it makes are pretty good. I want to make it again, this time with orange instead of chocolate chips and I’ll dip the ends in chocolate.

If you’re thinking these look a lot like biscotti, you’d be right. The difference is in their texture; biscotti is more snappy, while these have a cake-like texture.

Dual Macaron Fail

In mid-January, Josh bought me a new oven, and I LOVE it. A few weeks ago though, I tried to bake macarons in it for the first time, and they didn’t turn out! Needless to say, I was very disappointed and set out to figure out what I was doing wrong.

Originally, my posts about these two macarons were going to be recipe posts, but since the macarons did not turn out right, well, you will get some pictures of failed macarons instead!

Josh has been wanting me to make lavender macarons for a while, and I even bought lavender flavoring a long time ago in preparation for this. I was too scared to use a full teaspoon of flavoring so I reduced my lavender flavoring to 1/2 teaspoon.

I bought my lavender flavoring from Beanilla.com. You can find it here.

I also tried out two macaron mats from Williams-Sonoma. These saved me a lot of time, but I’m not quite sure if they are going to work for me. I will mention later what I think I need to do, but it will require more experimentation.

macaron mat with template

I did add food coloring to make the macaron shells purple, but as usual, the color “fades” out after baking.

overmixed macaron batter

My first mistake with the lavender macarons: I think I overmixed the batter. Usually, I can tell when I need to stop, but this time I mixed a lot longer than I usually do.  I didn’t end up with any hats this time after piping them out, but the texture was all wrong after the macarons baked.

piped out macaron batter

My second mistake: Baking on the wrong rack.  I baked my first batch on the top rack of my oven. Oops! That was a bad idea and I ended up with a small triangle of macarons that looked okay, but the macarons on the outer edges looked like mini-volcanoes!

lavender macarons volcanoed

My second tray of macarons turned out looking better, but they almost seemed overbaked after the recipe bake time of 12 minutes total. So that would be mistake number three. Their feet also weren’t quite level. On this second tray, I changed my oven setting to convection (we splurged and paid $100 extra for true convection, which means there is a heating element by the fan) and baked the tray on the middle rack.

lopsided feet lavender macarons

I had been wanting to make Italian meringue buttercream for a macaron filling for a while, so even though these macarons didn’t turn out right, I went ahead and made the Italian meringue buttercream anyway.

italian meringue buttercream

Sadly, my son Matthias is not a fan of marshmallow, and this is basically a homemade marshmallow cream. So he didn’t really like these macarons.

lavender volcano macarons filled with buttercream

It was a surprise to me that these “volcano” macarons tasted better than the traditionally-shaped macarons. In fact, these were all eaten up first. I think my kids saw these as a novelty. They had fun eating them!

lopsided lavender macarons filled with buttercream

These macarons almost looked pretty (and you can tell that the purple faded out of the shell), but they were a tad too crispy for me, even with a day or two in the fridge after being filled. The flavor was fine though, which was a relief. I didn’t want the lavender flavor to be overpowering. One picture I forgot to take was of the inside of the macaron. Even though it looks pink outside, it was purple inside!  If I have another chance to experiment with these, I will definitely need to add more food coloring and reduce my bake time by 2 minutes.

My second attempt was actually a few days after I made the lavender macarons. I wanted to make double chocolate macarons for the refreshment reception after my son Corran’s band concert, but after a frustrating afternoon of lopsided macaron shells, I had to give up and make chocolate chip cookies instead, along with a lemon drizzle traybake from one of Mary Berry’s books… which will hopefully be a post soon!

chocolate macaron shells piped out

This time, I mixed the batter until I felt it was enough (and did the V-test with my spatula) and ended up with my little hats again. I think I need to practice until I get no hats. But in the meantime, little hats are good because it means I didn’t overmix the batter.

chocolate macaron shells not lopsided but with hats

These are the only macaron shells I got that had level feet. These were baked on parchment paper in a quarter sheet pan. I wrote earlier that I need to experiment more with my new macaron mats.  All of my lopsided macarons were baked on those two mats, so I am wondering if I need to put the mats on a rimmed sheet pan like this one from Williams-Sonoma, instead of on a large cookie sheet.

lopsided chocolate macaron shells
Lopsided macaron shells that were baked on the new macaron mats on a large cookie sheet

I also reduced my bake time by 1 minute each rotation. So I baked these macarons at 325 degrees F using the convection setting, on the middle rack, for 5 minutes. Then, I would rotate the pan and bake for another 5 minutes.

This method produced macarons with a texture closer to what I was expecting. Once I gave up on making them for the reception, I decided to let my family have these lopsided ones. I filled them with a chocolate glaze (from a batch of eclairs I made last week… yet another thing I need to practice: choux pastry!) and also the Italian meringue buttercream that I used for the lavender macarons.

The chocolate-filled ones were more popular than the buttercream-filled ones, so I will have to remember that for next time!

We just finished eating the macarons today, so that means I can start prepping for another go at them soon. I’m not sure when that will be, but hopefully before the end of the month!

Thanks for reading!

Lynn

Almond Biscotti with Ghirardelli Cocoa Nib Chocolate

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Biscotti is something I have not made in years. I think they were okay the last time I made them (but I don’t really remember when that was!) but then I made these! I happened across a recipe for almond biscotti in Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. There was one ingredient in the recipe that caught my eye: cornmeal. I had never thought of cornmeal as something you would use in biscotti!

So I made one batch of Lenox Almond Biscotti and it disappeared so fast that my children were asking me to make it again!

Recipe: Lenox Almond Biscotti

This time, I decided to play around with the recipe a little bit and add in a chopped-up bar of Ghirardelli chocolate. But this bar was a little different. It had cocoa nibs in it. My kids are a little spoiled when it comes to chocolate, since I am always on the lookout for really good chocolate. My kids LOVE dark chocolate and they prefer that over milk chocolate. Once, I shelled raw cocoa nibs and had a hard time keeping my kids away from the bowl.

I think this was a 3.5 ounce bar. I chopped the bar up into the smallest pieces I could.

Update: It looks like this particular flavor has been discontinued or is very, very hard to find with Ghirardelli. I do know that Godiva carries chocolate bars with cocoa nibs. If you can find an outlet at a mall, you can buy them for $2.50 each.

We buy a lot of our food at Costco, just because there are so many of us. Dried fruit, flour, milk, eggs, and nuts are usually on our shopping list. So biscotti was a good use for the huge bag of sliced almonds I had bought from there.

The batter for the almond biscotti before adding flour is almost pretty. It becomes a soft yellow color and looks fluffy and light after beating.

Here is the batter after adding the dry ingredients. Next, the chopped chocolate and sliced almonds go in.

At this point, it was time to shape the dough into logs. I hate getting dough all over my hands (even when making bread… so I don’t work with sticky bread dough very often), so I cheated and just smoothed out the logs with a spatula and a bench knife.

When I first made these, 1½ inch wide logs seemed awfully narrow, but the logs bake up much larger than that. So I now always keep them skinny. Also, shorter biscotti are easier and shorter to “second bake.”

See how wide they are after the first bake? You want to bake these logs until they aren’t shiny in the centers. Once, I made the mistake of not baking them long enough for the first bake and then they didn’t bake long enough for the second bake. So the centers of some of my almond biscotti were soft instead of crispy. After they cooled for about half an hour, I sliced each log into 3/4-inch-thick pieces with a serrated knife and set them up for their second bake.

In the oven for their second bake!

These are the perfect size! Not too big and not too small. And a perfect combination of crunchy and chewy!

I’ve made this recipe about 3 times and here are just some quick notes about what I’ve discovered:

  1. Make sure you bake them long enough for that second bake to get them crunchy! I made the mistake of not baking long enough the second time and ended up with something more like mandelbrot (which I’ve never tasted but sounds like the texture I got) than biscotti. They still tasted good, but they just weren’t crunchy enough to be biscotti. 15 minutes won’t always be long enough. It depends on your oven or the rack position you are using.
  2. Sometimes the original is the best. If I make these again, I think I will go with no additions! The third time I made these I added mini milk chocolate chips… Honestly, they didn’t add much in the way of flavor. Maybe because they were milk chocolate?
  3. Don’t leave out the cornmeal. I think it’s what makes these so addicting!

-Lynn