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Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

I was away last week on a yoga retreat in the beautiful Berkshires.  That meant eating vegetarian and super healthy the whole time.  For meals and snacks, thats fine with me on the overall.  But no dessert.  No butter, no fat, no chocolate.  I finally escaped at one point and found myself a buttery, nut-filled, chocolate chip cookie.  Maybe I’m not the best yogi, but I’m realistic about my need for a tasty dessert every once in a while.  Come on, honesty, what is life of peace and centeredness without chocolate and butter?

These bars are pure indulgence.  Just the name alone – Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars.  It’s a combination of two amazing desserts – cheesecake and chocolate chip cookie dough.  A special thank you to Bake or Break for this over-the-top recipe.  It begins with a graham cracker crust, a layer of cheesecake topped with dollops of chocolate chip cookie dough and completed with drizzles of melted chocolate.  I had an embarassing semi-homemade moment in making these bars and used store-bought refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough.  If you don’t want to dirty another bowl, just buy the log of chocolate chip cookie dough and go for it.  I had enough dough leftover for a dozen big cookies that I dunked in the remaining melted chocolate.

You need to cool these bars completely before digging in.  I made mine the night before having people over and stashed them in the back of the fridge so I couldn’t pull them out as a late night snack.  After cooled for at least an hour in the fridge, I recommend cutting the squares small, these are rich and sweet.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

from Bake or Break

Crust

  • 1 & 1/2 cups grahamcracker crumbs
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
 

1.  Preheat oven to 325°. Butter a 9″-square baking pan. Line pan with parchment paper, leaving enough to extend over the sides. Butter the parchment paper.

2.  Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter until crumbs are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips.

3.  Press crust mixture into bottom of pan and 1 inch up sides. Bake for 6 minutes. Set pan on wire rack to cool

Cookie Dough (if you’re not using the store-bought dough)

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chip
1.  Using an electric mixer , mix butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract at medium speed until smooth. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.
Cheesecake Filling
  • 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar just until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating just until blended.

2.  Pour batter into baked crust. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls over the top of the filling.

3.  Bake about 30 minutes, or until set. Transfer to wire rack.

**For chocolate topping, melt 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave. Add about 1/2 tablespoon of butter if necessary to make chocolate smooth. Drizzle over top of bars. Cool bars in pan completely, about an hour.

Using the edges of the parchment paper, remove bars from pan. Cut into bars and serve.

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Summer Fruit Tart

Finally, it is feeling like summer here.  We have actually had a  week in the 70’s with some sun here in the Northeast.  Some times I think I’m crazy for enduring this crazy weather.  I went to a Red Sox game two weeks ago wearing a winter coat and hat.  And I was still cold.  But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the sun is warming up these cold New England bones. 

 

To celebrate the warmth, I’ve been buying strawberries and blackberries even though they have to get shipped here from hundreds of miles away.  I had some in my fridge and I really wanted to make a tart or cobbler.  The berries looked too beautiful to not put them on display, so I decided to throw a few ingredients together for a tart. I made a press-in-the-pan shortbread crust, which was super simple and came together quickly in the food processor.  Then I made a sweet cream-cheese filling, spread it on the baked crust, and decorated it with some berries.  I can imagine most summer fruits looking beautiful and on display with this tart.  Use whatever is fresh and available in your area and get as creative as you’d like with cutting and placing the fruit on the tart.  In order to get a nice shimmer and some added flavor, I brushed warm apricot jam all over the fruit. 

 

Pat-in-the-Pan Shortbread Crust

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 1 stick of butter
  • optional: egg yolk
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together. Using your hands, a food processor, a pastry cutter, or two knives, work/cut the butter into the dry ingredients. The mixture should look like cornmeal with a few larger lumps of butter.
  3. If the mixture is too dry and crumbly, you can add an egg yolk to bring it together.
  4. Pat the crust into a 9″ or 10″ pie or tart plate. Prick all over with a fork and chill for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.

  5. Bake the crust for 15 – 18 minutes, or until it starts to become golden brown.

 

Cream-Cheese Filling

  • 1 package of cream cheese (use full fat or 1/3 fat), softened
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • optional:  lemon zest or vanilla extract
  1. Beat cream cheese and sugar together in mixer or food processor.  Once it is creamy and the sugar is fully incorporated, then refrigerate until the crust has fully cooled.
  2. Once the crust has cooled, spread the cream cheese mixture over the crust and then decorate with fruit.

Fruit Topping:

  • Whatever combination of berries you wish – strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.
  • Apricot jam
  1. Use enough fruit to cover the tart.  In the summer, berries are the best and easiest to work with – blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.  Use whatever combination works best for you.  Decorate and arrange however you wish. 
  2. Warm 2 tablespoons of apricot jam in the microwave.  Brush jam on the berries and the edges of the tart crust.
  3. Keep tart in refrigerator until ready to serve.

 

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Are these not adorable?  My best friend gave me this cute flower silicone pan for making cupcakes.  I love how there are three different shapes.   Even though, the cakes lose some of the pan’s details, I still think they are really cute and fun.  I made a lemon pound cake, which was lighter than other pound cakes and had a great consistency and lovely taste.  I made these for my sister’s graduation and I’m planning on making them again for her grad party.  I frosted them with a lemon glaze and some simple sprinkles.  Let me know if you have any suggestions about how to decorate or frost cakes from decorative pans such as this one.  It was my first experience and as you can see, I just dripped some glaze over the top and sprinkled them.

 

Powdered Sugar Pound Cakes

Adapted from the Pampered Chef

If you are looking to making more  a lemon cake, you can feel free to add some from fresh squeezed lemon to the batter.  You can also add mix powdered sugar with lemon juice for a lemony glaze.

 

  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¾ tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly spray cupcake or loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Combine butter and powdered sugar.  Beat on high speed of electic mixer until mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes.  On medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Fold in sour cream and vanilla. 
  3. In small bowl, combine four, baking soda, and salt.  Stir flour mixture into sour cream mixture just until incorporated.
  4. Place one level scoop of batter into each cupcake mold or fill a loaf pan until ¾ full.  Bake 18-22 mins or until light golden brown for the cupcakes.  Remove from the oven, cool 5 mins in the pan.  Then cool completely on a cooling rack.  Glaze cakes, if desired, with a mixture of lemon juice and powdered sugar. 

 

 

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The Best Blondies Ever


I have a sweet tooth.  Big time.  Some might say it’s a problem or possibly even an addiction.  But I just think that I’m passionate about sweets, especially good sweets (I don’t want to be wasting those calories on just any sugar-filled baked good!)  So when I get a sugar/chocolate craving, I need something that I can make quickly and easily that will be rich, delicious, and full of flavor.  And these blondies do the trick. 

They are really moist (just don’t over-bake them) and you can vary the recipe according to what’s in the pantry or what your mood dictates.  My favorite combination is chock full of milk chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, toasted pecans, coconut, and toffee chips.  Ridiculous overload? I think not.  But if it is for you, instead try white chocolate and cashews, dried cranberries with dark chocolate, milk chocolate and walnuts or any number of possibilities!  This is a great go-to recipe for satisfying a sweet tooth or as a quick dessert for last minute guests.  Once cooked, cooled, and sliced, they even travel well. I brought a bunch with me last weekend to Richmond to give to a bunch of newly graduated college kids! 

 Blondies (the best ever)

  • ½ cup of butter, melted
  • 1 cup of tightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of flour
  • ½ cup to 1 cup of chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or any other combination

The possibilities are endless…

  • ½ cup to 1 cup of milk chocolate, white chocolate, or dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup to 1 cup of toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds, or any other nut toasted
  • ½ cup of dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, etc)
  • ½ teaspoon of mint extract or almond extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Butter and flour an  8×8 pan.  Mix the melted butter with the brown sugar – beat until smooth.  Beat in egg and then vanilla.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.  Add the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture and mix until all the flour is incorporated.  Mix in any additional ingredients (choco chips, nuts, etc). 
  3. Pour into pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until set in the middle.  Cool on a rack and then cut into squares and serve.

 

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I’ve never baked with rhubarb.  But I spotted some at the grocery store and I felt inspired.  Why not try something new?  And what better way to eat rhubarb as accompanied by ripe strawberries and baked with a delicious crumbly topping?  Trust me, there is no better way.  This dessert was amazing.  I embarrassed myself by eating several servings and then digging into the leftovers the next morning. 

I tasted a piece of rhubarb as I chopped it up.  It’s pretty sour and tangy before it’s cooked, which makes sense because it is a vegetable even though we often think of it as a fruit.  But as it cooks, it breaks down and becomes much sweeter.  That’s probably why it got the nickname “pie plant”.  This pie plant has inspired more fruit crumbles….why should crumb toppings be restricted to apples?  This strawberry rhubarb crumble has proven that crumb topping makes everything more amazing.

 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the topping:


  • 1 1/3 cup flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 3 tablespoons Demerara sugar (or turbinado sugar, or Sugar in the Raw)

  • Zest of one lemon

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 1 ½ cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 quart strawberries plus a few extras, hulled, quartered

  • Juice of one lemon

  • ½ cup sugar

  • ½ cup flour

  • Pinch of salt
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare topping: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.

  3. Prepare filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, flour and pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.
  4. 
Remove topping from refrigerator and cover fruit thickly and evenly with topping. Place pie plate on a (foil-lined, if you really want to think ahead) baking sheet, and bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbling beneath, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

 

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We were having dinner guests and I wanted to celebrate the first beautiful sun-filled weekends we’ve had around here.  That meant some kind of dessert with strawberries.  I saw this Strawberry Panzanella recipe on 101 Cookbooks this week and was intrigued.  I’ve made traditional panzanella, a bread salad, with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and onions but never had I thought of a sweet, fruity version.

 

The result was a twist on strawberry shortcake.  The bread was caramelized and crunchy and the soft, mushy strawberries were a good complement.  In hindsight, I would have cut my bread cubes even smaller because they get so crunchy that smaller is better for eating.  I also think I overcooked the brown sugar so it became lumpy as you can see from the spotty coverage of the bread in the pictures.  It was still really tasty but it would have been better if I removed it from the heat once the brown sugar dissolved.  Regardless of my several shortcomings, I really enjoyed my first strawberry panzanella and so did my guests!

 Strawberry Panzanella (Crunchy, Caramelized, Strawberry Shortcake)

Adapted from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 
couple pinches of fine grain salt

  • 1 pound loaf of hearty, substantial day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1+ pint basket of ripe strawberries, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
  • a 7 or 8 ounce container of plain (Greek) yogurt

  • poppy seeds for garnish

1.     Preheat oven to 350F degrees. In a large pot melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves and remove from the heat. Add bread cubes and toss, coating the bread cubes. Toss for a minute or so to get decent coverage.

2.    Pour the bread out onto a baking sheet and arrange them in a single layer. Toast for about 15 minutes or until bread is well toasted, tossing every 5 minutes to make sure all bread surface areas get golden and crunchy.

3.     In the meantime, place half the chopped strawberries in a small bowl and mash them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. I found a potato masher works well for this. Keep mashing until berries are super juicy and appetizingly chunky – this is your dressing.

4.     When the bread cubes are done toasting (and have had a few minutes to cool and crisp up), toss them in a big bowl with the mashed berries. Add the remaining chopped strawberries and toss a bit more. Give the yogurt a good stir, and serve on the side garnished with poppy seeds (feel free to sweeten it a bit to your liking).

 

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I first thought of this idea for homemade pop-tarts when I was putting together a bunch of care packages for college kids.  I wanted to do something homemade and special but brownies and cookies seemed so ordinary.  Pop-tarts feel vintage and funky to me, especially ones that are made from scratch.  

These are so easy – they are made with piecrusts.  You can buy your pie crusts from the grocery store make your own pie dough.  But either way you roll out the pie dough very thin, cut into rectangles, put your favorite jam or jelly in between two pieces, crimp the edges and bake!  It would be a really fun project with kids.  Once the pop-tarts have completely cooled, top with the glaze, add some sprinkles, and they are ready to eat.

 

Raspberry Lemon Pop-Tarts

  • Pie Crust (packaged or homemade)
  • Jam (your choice –  I used a mix of raspberry jam and lemon curd)
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp of milk
  • Sprinkles
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Roll dough out into a large square/rectangle; about 1/8 inch thickness.
  3. Cut rectangle strips 2 inches wide and 3 inches long.  Repeat until dough runs out.
  4. Take one rectangle strip and put 1 tsp of jam in the center, cover with another piece of pie crust and then crimp the edges with a fork.  Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  5. Place pop-tarts on a greased baking sheet and bake for 7-8 mins.
  6. While pop-tarts are baking, make the glaze.  Slowly add small drops of milk to the powdered sugar while stirring with a spoon.  Desired consistency should be thick like paste.
  7. Once pop-tarts have cooled completely, top with glaze.  Decorate with sprinkles, as you’d like.

 

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