Day Five: Mini Bacon Cheesecake

This one’s a keeper. Ohh yeah. 

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While yesterday’s brownies were definitely good, these single serving bacon cheesecakes are amazing. I never expected these to be gross before making them, but I certainly never expected the flavors to meld together so well together. The almond crust, the cheese, and the candied bacon are all perfect complements and they balance each other out perfectly. The saltiness of the bacon goes well with the sweet, creaminess of the cheese and the almond crust gives everything a nice nutty finish. I might even prefer this cheesecake to a normally flavored one, like a blueberry cheesecake. For those of you who still have doubts about this, I urge you to give it a try. It’s impossibly easy to make, and it tastes ridiculously good. The fact that they’re in small servings makes these perfect for a party or to just help control yourself (because I tend to control myself better after telling myself i’ve already eaten five cheesecakes). My mom absolutely agrees with me, so come on, what more convincing do you need. Go makes these now! 

Rating: 11/10 (I’m even throwing an incomplete fraction out there – I’m breaking all the rules today!)

Bacon Cheesecake (Adapted from the Food Network)

Makes 10 muffin sized cheesecakes

1/2 cup almonds (this does not have to be blanched, nor does it have to be fine)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1 large egg, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 strips bacon

brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F

2. In a food processor, grind the almonds, sugar, and salt together. Once the almonds are ground into a powder, pour in the butter and mix well.

3. Scoop around a tablespoon of the almond mixture into the muffin cups, and using the back of a spoon, pack it tight.

4. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the crust has hardened (keep in mind that it will harden as it cools), and let it cool at room temperature. Turn the oven down to 325 F.

5. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and the cream cheese together using the paddle attachment until smooth. Add the egg, lemon juice, and heavy cream and mix until everything is incorporated, while scraping down the sides with a spatula.

6. Pour batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes. If the center of the cheesecakes no longer jiggles when you move the pan, they are done.

7. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for 4 hours before adding the bacon.

8. In a saucepan, cook the bacon 3/4 way through. When it’s almost done, sprinkle brown sugar and let it caramelize. Remove from the pan, and let it cool without touching each other. 

9. Cut the bacon up into segments, and place on top of the cheesecakes. Serve with gusto.

 

Giving Macarons as Gifts

Whoever said senior year was awesome completely lied. I’ve been unfortunately forced to neglect updating, thanks to the plethora of work. However, since it’s Thanksgiving and I owe my teachers some gifts for writing my letters of recommendation, I decided to make macarons with my newly found time. Macarons look and taste great, are expensive to buy, and stand out from the sea of brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Since I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with macarons, these were just excuses to dedicating an entire long weekend to making batches upon batches of macarons.

I decided to make four different flavors: dark chocolate, rose, lemon, and pumpkin. I tried to choose a variety of flavors that would satisfy most people, and from the reactions they received, I think I succeeded. Generally, chocolate and lemon are safe flavors to go with, while rose and pumpkin are slightly more risky. With it being Thanksgiving, I thought it appropriate to go with pumpkin; and I went with rose just for fun.

Packaging the macarons was tricky. I went to Michael’s thinking they would have a huge selection of gift boxes, but I ended up finding tons of the patterned take-out containers and not much else. No, giving macarons in a faux take-out box would not do. However, I did end up finding a section with numerous white food containers of various sizes. I had no idea whether the boxes would be the perfect size, because if the macarons were too loose, they would just roll around in the box, effectively ruining the presentation, and if they were squeezed too tightly together, the macarons would just crack and break – not good either. Luckily, the macarons fit perfectly in 4 rows of six. I finished packaging these at around midnight, and did not get an actual picture of the final product (below is a re-creation from miscellaneous macarons I had left over). After placing the macarons into the box (with a side of chocolate truffles), I tied it up with 2 differently colored ribbons with a bow on top. In the card, I glued a gift label on the blank side describing the flavors and fillings of the macarons. Placing all this in a white gift bag, I glued another gift label to the front, indicating to whom the the gift is for. The stuffing, ribbon, and gift label gives color to the otherwise plain white box and bag.

 

Here is the basic recipe for how to make macarons. The different flavor/filling variations are posted below.

Dark Chocolate Macarons

– 95 g of almond/powdered sugar mixture

– 5 g cocoa powder

– 40 g room-temperature egg whites (from 1 large egg)

– 40 g sugar

Follow instructions from previous link, adding the cocoa powder to the almond/powdered sugar mixture.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

1/4 pound bittersweet chocolate (I used Valrhona 61%)

1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Chop chocolate and place into a bowl. (Every time I used a certain stainless steel mixing bowl, the chocolate would seize, but would never do so in a glass bowl.)

2. In a saucepan, heat the heavy cream until it’s almost boiling (80 C). Pour the heavy cream into the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds.

3. Using a whisk, stir (not beat) until the chocolate mixture is smooth and shiny.

4. Place plastic wrap directly onto the surface so that no skin forms, and let chocolate cool at room temperature (or in the fridge) until the consistency is thick enough to pipe.

When piping the ganache onto the macarons, pipe the outer edge first before filling in the middle. That way, the filling looks round and smooth. Chill macarons over night before eating.

Lemon Macarons

For the macaron shells, follow the basic macaron recipe, except add three drops of yellow food coloring into the meringue. I add it after all the sugar has been added and the meringue is at the soft peak stage.

Lemon Cream Filling (Adapted from Pierre Herme’s Macarons)

50 g lemon juice

60 g sugar

1 egg yolk

30 g room temperature butter, cut into chunks

2 g gelatin

1. Cream the egg yolk and sugar together until pale and thick.

2. Mix lemon juice and mixture in a saucepan, and on low heat, stir until it bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat.

2. Dissolve the gelatin in a little bit of water. Add it to the lemon mixture.

3. Once mixture falls to around 45 C, stir in the butter, until it disappears.

4. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface, and cool 2-3 hours in a fridge.

5. Once it’s consistency is thick enough, pipe onto the macaron shells in the same manner as the chocolate ganache (edge then center).

6. Refrigerate this immediately (otherwise, the macaron shells will absorb all the moisture and soften them). Eat the day after.

Pumpkin Macarons

Follow the basic macaron recipe, but add 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice powder into the almond/sugar mixture. Add orange coloring to the meringue.

Pumpkin Buttercream

4 tablespoons very soft butter

1/4 cup powdered sugar (more if you prefer your buttercream to be sweeter)

2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon heavy cream

1. In a mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth.

2. Mix the pumpkin puree, spice, and heavy cream together.

3. Slowly beat in the pumpkin puree mixture into the butter. Once incorporated, beat on high until smooth.

This can be used immediately. Fill macaron shells and refrigerate overnight before eating.

Rose Macarons

Follow basic macaron recipe, adding pink coloring to the meringue.

Rose Buttercream (Adapted from Pierre Herme’s Macarons)

6 tablespoons very soft butter

1 egg

1 egg yolk

50 g caster sugar (around 4 tablespoons)

15 g water (around 1 tablespoon)

1 tablespoon rose syrup

1. In a mixer, beat the egg and egg yolk together until pale and frothy.

2. In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water until 118C.

3. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the sugar by the side of the bowl. Bring the speed up for a little to completely mix.

4. Cream the butter in another bowl (or remove the egg mixture first then, then cream butter in the same bowl). Beat in the egg mixture little by little.

5. Once the egg is fully incorporated into the butter, mix in the rose syrup at the end. Pipe immediately. Yep, you know the drill – refrigerate  overnight before eating!

Feel free to double any of these amounts.