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Strawberry Icebox Cake (No Bake!)

10 Jun

I must have been hiding under a rock all these years, because I’ve only become familiar with icebox cakes this year.  I may be a late bloomer to this cool no-bake cake, but I’ve totally been making up for lost time.

Strawberry Icebox Cake 4

Yes, this yummy cake is absolutely bake-free.  The kitchen gets to stay cool for those warm summer days.  The time is ripe for sweet strawberries, and we are loving them right now.  We just had this delish Fresh Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, and now this. This Strawberry Icebox Cake comes together beautifully, making for an impressive looking dessert for get-togethers.

Strawberry Icebox Cake

I love how easy this cake is to pull off!  Some assembly required.  Six ingredients.  That’s all it takes to wow your family and friends with this light, refreshing cake that has just the right amount of sweetness to it.  Not too sweet nor heavy.  Which means you can eat more of it.

Strawberry Icebox Cake 2

Yes.  You will totally eat more than just once slice.  This Strawberry Icebox Cake boasts two pounds of fresh strawberries, freshly whipped cream, and graham crackers that soften into an airy, cake-like texture as it rests overnight in the fridge.

Strawberry Icebox Cake 3

That’s another thing.  I’m the biggest fan of make-ahead food.  If I can make it ahead of time, it’s a done deal.  Less fuss on the day of the party is always, always a very good thing.  I’m already planning my next icebox cake flavor.

Enjoy this while fresh strawberries abound.

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STRAWBERRY ICEBOX CAKE (NO BAKE) 
Serves 8-12

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs fresh, sweet strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
20 oz graham crackers (about 24-28 whole crackers or 4 sleeves)

Simple ganache:
2 oz semi sweet chocolate morsels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

DIRECTIONS

In a large metal bowl, combine 3 cups heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.  Place entire bowl, plus beaters of electric mixer, into fridge for 10 minutes to chill.  On medium-high, beat heavy cream mixture until stiff peaks appear.

Spread a thin layer of the whipped cream on bottom of a 9×13″ baking pan.  Lay six graham crackers down evenly.  Spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the graham crackers, followed by a single layer of closely-placed strawberries.  Repeat layers (graham crackers, whipped cream, strawberries) 3 more times.  You will have 4 layers total of graham crackers when finished.  Spread the remaining whipped cream over the top of entire dessert, and add rest of strawberries for garnish.

Heat 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.  Once it bubbles, turn off the heat.  Add chocolate and let stand for 3 minutes.  Whisk mixture until it’s thick and glossy.  Let it cool to lukewarm and drizzle ganache over dessert (I use a plastic baggie with tiny bit of tip cut off.)

Cover loosely with tented foil and chill in fridge overnight, for crackers to soften.  Keep cold until ready to serve.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from theKitchn

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Stabilized Whipped Cream

7 Jun

Whipped cream is arguably the best dessert accompaniment ever.  In fact, I had plans to write a different post tonight, but that game plan was derailed by the realization that my favorite whipped cream still doesn’t have its own post.  It’s finally time to set things right.  Stabilized whipped cream is awesome stuff, and it couldn’t be easier to make or more adaptable to use.

Stabilized Whipped Cream 4

If you make your own whipped cream, you know there is absolutely no equal in store-bought tubs or cans.  No packaged whipped cream holds a candle to the real deal.

Since it only takes a few ingredients and a few minutes to whip together, there’s no reason not to whip out that whisk.  I always “stabilize” my whipped cream, which creates whipped cream that is more resilient and won’t get runny as it sits.   Stabilized whipped cream holds together beautifully and keeps its shape for many days.  I love using stabilized whipped cream in lieu of heavy  frostings whenever possible.

Stabilized Whipped Cream 5

When you’re in the mood for a light, fluffy frosting, use stabilized whipped cream to frost cakes or pipe long-lasting swirls onto almost any dessert.  You’ll love the fact that you can make stabilized whipped cream ahead of time, keep it in the fridge without worries of it melting away, and use it when you’re ready to go.  You can frost or pipe onto desserts and safely keep it in the fridge until ready to serve.

Stabilized Whipped Cream 2

Just whip together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla (or other flavored extract) until those pretty soft peaks show up.

Stabilized Whipped Cream

Steadily pour in the gelatin/water mixture, while continuing to whip all the way to stiff peaks.

Stabilized Whipped Cream 3

Viola!  The whipped cream takes on a sturdier texture, while remaining light and airy when you taste it.  I’ve done various flavors, with Kahlua whipped cream being my fave.  I used Kahlua whipped cream for this unbelievable Double Chocolate Cake, which was seriously over-the-top-of-the-entire-moon.  Deeelicious.

Stabilized Whipped Cream 6

Such a long post for such an easy little recipe.  It was long overdue, so I’m overcompensating 🙂

Happy whisking!

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STABILIZED WHIPPED CREAM (about 4 cups)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups heavy whipping cream, very cold
4 TB powdered sugar
2 TB vanilla extract (or Kahlua or other flavored extract)
2 tsp unflavored gelatin powder (Knox)
2 TB water

DIRECTIONS

Pour cold heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract in a large metal bowl.  Place bowl and whisks of electric mixer in fridge for 5-10 minutes to make everything cold.

Meanwhile, combine gelatin powder and 2 TB water in a small glass bowl.  Once water has been fully soaked up by the gelatin, microwave the mixture for 15-20 seconds.  It should become a thick, hot liquid.  Stir well and let sit at room temp.

Remove the bowl from fridge.  Beat on medium-high until soft peaks just start to form.  Set whipped cream aside and check the gelatin mixture.  (If it has re-coagulated, microwave a few seconds at a time until it turns liquid again.)  If it’s hot, stir until it cools down to lukewarm.  It should be a slightly warm liquid, but not hot.  Resume beating whipped cream, while steadily pouring liquid gelatin right where the whisks are beating, to ensure it is being fully incorporated.

Beat whipped cream to stiff peaks.  Try to stop beating right at stiff peaks, but if you accidentally over-beat it a little bit, don’t worry.  It will still frost and pipe fine.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Homemade Nutter Butters – Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

3 Jun

Our family keeps peanut butter in business.  The first time I heard peanut butter was banned in preschool years ago, I panicked.  Stood there and racked my brain for alternative lunch box ideas my then-three-year-old would eat without cajoling.  Since then, we’ve settled into many nut-free lunch options.  But at home, we do peanut butter.  Lots of it.

Homemade Nutter Butters

From Peanut Butter Muffins for breakfast to Peanut Butter Brownie Cups for dessert, we’ve got it covered.  Peanut butter cookies are a hands-down winner around here.  Especially if they resemble the nostalgic Nutter Butters my mom used to bring home, back in the day.

Homemade Nutter Butters 2

These Homemade Nutter Butters are unquestionably the ace of sandwich cookies.  They are the boss of all peanut butter cookies.  The cookie part is addictive all on its own, but when that famous nutter butter filling gets slathered on, these become out of this world.

Homemade Nutter Butters 3

Homemade Nutter Butters taste just like the packaged ones, except these are softer, with an deliciously toothsome bite.  The peanutty filling is fluffy, soft, and reminds me exactly of the store-bought cookie filling.  Without any tongue-twisting ingredients.  You just have to make these cookies yourself to grasp how tasty they are.

Homemade Nutter Butters 4

The cookie shape is all up to you.  Make it a nut, make it round, make them big, make ’em small.  My later batches went towards bite-size sandwich cookies, and they were my favorite.  Sorry, my camera was out of the picture by then 😉  The bite-size cookies were super cute, easier to fill, and less likely to break apart when smashing the little sandwich together.

Any shape or size, these Homemade Nutter Butters are a hit.  Enjoy!

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HOMEMADE NUTTER BUTTERS (PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH COOKIES)
(makes roughly 30 larger cookies or 60 smaller ones)

INGREDIENTS
For the Cookies:
1 cup salted butter, room temp (just slightly soft, not melty at all)
1 cup creamy peanut butter, room temp
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Granulated sugar for sprinkling

For the Filling:
1 cup salted butter, room temp
1 cup creamy peanut butter, room temp
3 and 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 TB whole milk

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter, and both sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes on medium-high.  At medium-low speed, add eggs one at a time and vanilla, mixing until well incorporated.  At low speed, slowly mix in the dry flour mixture.  When dough is combined, wrap tightly in cling wrap, and place in fridge to chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375F.  To make peanut shape, form cookie dough into 1 inch balls and flatten into a long oval shape (1″ x 2″) about 2 inches apart.   Use a fork to make criss cross pattern, and pinch center gently to create peanut shape.  Keep rest of dough cold while you make one batch at a time.  (To make round cookies, flatten 1 inch dough balls into circles about 1/2 inch thick, and use a fork to press pattern on them.)

Bake 8-9 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.  Pinch cookie centers again, if needed, to keep peanut shape.  Sprinkle hot cookies with granulated sugar.  Cool a few minutes on baking sheet and finish cooling on wire rack.  Once cookies are completely cooled, they can be filled.

To make the filling:  In a large bowl, beat together the butter and peanut butter until smooth and fluffy.  Gradually add in powdered sugar and beat until filling is smooth.  Add 1 TB milk at a time, until desired consistency.  Fill to your heart’s content!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from cookiesandcups.com

Very Berry Pie Bars

24 May

Memorial weekend signals the unofficial start of summer, and what better way to celebrate the sunshine than picnics, BBQ’s, and lots of ripe berries?

Very Berry Pie Bars 5

Can’t decide if you crave pies vs. dessert bars?  No problem.  We can go hybrid and do it BOGO style.  Two in one.  Bargain hunters, this one’s for you.

It’s a win-win combination.  Think of it:  a buttery and toothsome crust, plus crumbly topping with hints of zesty lemon strewn throughout.  Creamy, thick filling bursting with sweet, juicy berries.

Very Berry Pie Bars

These fresh berry pie bars are the best of both worlds, with tasty pie crust, crumble topping, and plummy filling.   Minus the fuss of actually making a pie.  This “pie” comes in the form of  an easygoing, happy-go-lucky pie bar that’s easily made ahead of time and even easier to dig into.

Very Berry Pie Bars 3

These berry pie bars can happily be made the night before, chilled in fridge, and sliced when ready to devour.  I sliced mine into smaller squares to feed a crowd, and there was plenty to go around.  For easy serving plus cute factor, just house the individual squares in pretty cupcake liners.  These are best served chilled, so keep ’em cold until dessert time.  They won’t sit around long once you bring them out.

Enjoy, and happy Memorial weekend!

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VERRY BERRY PIE BARS (makes one 9×13)

For the crust and topping:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup white sugar
Zest of one large lemon
1 1/2 cups salted butter, cold

For the filling:
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups white sugar
1 cup greek yogurt
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
Juice of one large lemon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
30 oz any mixture of fresh blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F.  Generously grease a 9×13 pan along bottom and sides.  Set aside.

In bowl of a food processor, lightly pulse together the flour, sugar, and lemon zest just until blended.  Cut cold butter into slices and add to bowl.  With a few short pulses, cut the butter into flour mixture just until mixture is crumbly.  Small bits of butter remaining is fine.  (Alternatively, you can use a pastry cutter if you don’t have a food processor.)

Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the flour/butter mixture for the topping.  Pour the rest of the mixture into bottom of prepared baking pan.  Press firmly for an even layer of crust on bottom of pan.  (It’s easy to press evenly with the flat bottom of a water glass or ramekin.)  Bake crust about 15 minutes or until golden.  Remove baked crust from oven, but keep oven on.

Combine eggs, sugar, Greek yogurt, flour, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.  Carefully fold in the berries with rubber spatula.  Gently spread filling over the baked crust.  Sprinkle reserved topping over the filling, to make an even layer of crumble topping.

Bake about 75 min to 90 min or until topping turns golden and bars are set.  Cool completely at room temp before putting in fridge to chill.  Chill several hours or overnight.  Cut and serve cold.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Annie’s Eats, via the Pastry Queen

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars

15 May

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars.  This post needs no words, really.  A picture is worth a thousand, right?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars 1

But I do have a small back-story.  It went like this:

Hubby:  I have a Dessert Challenge Day at work coming up.  Do you have an idea for what I can make?

Me:  Awesome!  I’ve totally got ideas.  What’s the date of the Dessert Challenge?

Hubby:  Tomorrow.

Me:  (Silence. Blink. Blink.)

After I recovered from the mini shock, my excitement to bake something yummy kicked in.  I’d been hankering for Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars for quite some time.  No better excuse than a Dessert Challenge to break out these decadent treats.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake bars 2

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  This was so, so worth it.  So worth the late-night baking and kitchen blunders that occur as a result of late-night baking.  Hubby was making an entire pan for work, and I was making another pan for me.  A little chaos in the kitchen.  Note to Self:  Make this during normal hours and pay attention =  it’s a cinch!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars 3

There’s something here for everyone.  Flavorful graham cracker crumb crust for all the crust-lovers.  Thick, rich cheesecake for cheesecake fans like myself.  Chocolate chip cookie dough full of gooey chocolate for cookie buffs.  Decadent and rich.  Smooth and creamy.  Textured and chewy.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars

You can taste the crust, cheesecake, and cookie all separately yet it all marries together like a match made in heaven.

You have to try this.  Your taste buds will thank you.  And your family and friends will look at you with speechless awe.  Enjoy!

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CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE CHEESECAKE BARS (12 servings)
* serve cold for best taste and texture

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
7 TB melted, salted butter

Cheesecake Filling:
12 oz cream cheese, room temp (indents when lightly pressed, but not melty at all)
1/3 cup sugar
1 extra large egg, room temp
1 TB pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:
5 TB salted butter, room temp (indents when lightly pressed, but not melty)
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 TB granulated sugar
1 TB pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips (mini chips turn out more gooey)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325F with rack on lower middle.  Line 8×8 square baking pan with parchment paper, with enough hanging over handles to make a “sling.”  Oil the parchment paper.

Make Crust:  Mix melted butter and cracker crumbs together until resembles wet sand.  Press mixture firmly and evenly into bottom of pan.  Bake for 7-8 minutes.  Remove pan to rack, but keep oven on.

Make Cheesecake Filling:  In bowl in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy and smooth.  Mix in egg and vanilla on low until incorporated, taking care not to overmix.  Pour cheesecake batter into prepared crust.  Set aside.

Make Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:  In bowl on stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and mix just until combined.  Slowly mix in the flour on low speed just until combined, taking care not to over mix.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Drop clumps of slightly-flattened dough evenly on top of cheesecake batter.  Continue until all cookie dough is evenly distributed across top of cheesecake.

Bake 30-40 minutes, until top of dough feels mostly dry and entire pan looks mostly set if given a gentle shake.  It will continue to set up as it chills.  Move bars to cooking rack to cool completely.  Chill several hours or overnight.  Lift bars out by sling and cut.  Keep cut bars in fridge until ready to serve.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from mybakingaddiction

Note:  Leftover bars can be wrapped and stored in freezer.

Fresh Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

10 May

For Mother’s Day weekend, I knew immediately what I’d want to bake up.  A great strawberry cake.  Mommies and berries and pink.  They were all three meant to be.  My lovely Mom is almost clear across the country, but I dedicate this pretty pink cake to her.

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I love that this cake is made with back-to-basics ingredients.  No artificial coloring and no boxes of Jello or pudding.  Just lots of strawberries.  I ended up changing much of the original recipe instructions.  For reasons still a mystery, the first bake attempt didn’t work.  The second time, it turned out beautifully.  The cake is light, fluffy, and tender.   It naturally won’t bake up as pink as artificially-colored cakes, but you’re welcome to add a drop or two of red food coloring if you really, really want to 🙂

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 2

This strawberry-cream cheese frosting is really what steals the show.  I’m not a huge buttercream frosting girl (gasp!), but I do adore cream cheese frostings.  Cream cheese takes treats over-the-top.  Have you met the cheesecake ?  This rich frosting has the decadent flavor of strawberry cheesecake, with a smooth and creamy texture that’s perfectly spreadable.

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 3

Frosting that’s a treat in itself.  Spoon-licking worthy.  Finger-licking yum.  You get the idea.  I am already brainstorming ways to incorporate this dreamy frosting into future desserts.

How would you use this frosting?

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FRESH STRAWBERRY CAKE (about 8 servings)
*Fresh strawberries need to macerate overnight

For the Cake:

16 oz very, very ripe, red fresh strawberries (with not much white on them.  If a lot of white needs to be cut off, you’ll need more strawberries.  The riper the better.)
3 tsp sugar
12 Tb unsalted butter, room temp (lightly indents when tapped, not melty at all)
1 3/4 cup white sugar
4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated – room temp
1/4 cup whole milk, room temp
1 TB vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup cake flour, sifted after measuring
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

For the Frosting:

4 TB strawberry puree (use leftover puree from cake)
8 TB regular butter, firm
8 oz cream cheese, slightly cold
16 oz (1 lb) confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Cake:

Hull and slice fresh strawbrries.  Toss with 3 tsp sugar and cover.  Let sit in fridge overnight, until they become macerated and juicy.  Blend strawberries with short pulses, just until pureed.  Do not over blend.

Preheat oven to 350F with rack on lower middle.  Line bottom of two 8 or 9 inch round pans with parchment paper.  Grease and flour the paper and sides of pans.

Beat butter and sugar in stand mixer with paddle attachment on medium high, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add milk, yolks, vanilla, and 3/4 cup of strawberry puree (save remaining puree for frosting, filling, or other use.)  Blend just until combined.

In separate bowl, whisk together:  sifted cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Fold in the butter mixture with rubber spatula, just until wet/dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Do not over mix.

In a clean bowl, using electric mixer, beat egg whites just until still peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into the cake batter with rubber spatula, softly folding until combined.

Divide batter evenly among the two pans.  Give the pans a gentle shake to level out the tops.  Bake 20-25 minutes just until toothpick inserted in center has a few tender crumbs attached.  Watch carefully so it does not over bake and become dry.  Let cakes rest at room temp for 10 minutes and turn out onto wire racks.  Let cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:

In stand mixer using paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until it is light, pale yellow, and fluffy.  Add cream cheese and beat until combined.  Reduce speed to low and add confectioner’s sugar and beat until combined.  Add the strawberry puree and mix just until combined.  Place frosting in fridge about an hour before use.  Frosted dessert should be kept in fridge until ready to serve.  This frosting is best suited for spreading rather than piping, as it is smooth and creamy soft.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by foodiebride (cake only)

Russian Tea Cakes (Mexican Wedding Cookies)

2 May

It’s about time I posted these Russian Tea Cakes.  These cookies are fabulously popular during the winter holidays, and though Christmas was five months ago, these cookies know no boundaries in time.  Russian Tea Cakes are otherwise known as Mexican Wedding Cakes and Snowballs.  My personal favorite moniker for these cuties are Southern Pecan Butterballs.  Ultimately, they are simply one thing:  melt-in-your-mouth-amazing.

Russian Tea Cakes 4

The simplicity of Russian Tea Cakes is quite deceiving.  Like, don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover deceiving.  They are far more than meets the eye.  These cookies are perfect morsels of nutty sweetness.  They are tenderly crisp and melt into a buttery bliss bite after bite.  After bite.

Russian Tea Cakes 2

Russian Tea Cakes are made with just six ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.  I love the flavor that pecans impart, so I stick with pecans for my nuttiness 🙂  Grinding the pecans allows the texture of the cookies to remain light and airy, and the flavors to infuse seamlessly.

Russian Tea Cakes 3

I think these are Hubby’s new favorite cookie.  The kids inhale them, of course, because what kid doesn’t love plenty of magical powder sugar?  I personally had to share them with friends so I wouldn’t pop all of them into my mouth in one afternoon.

These cookies are known to keep superbly well for many days (even weeks!) in an airtight container.  But seriously, let’s be real – nobody can keep them around that long.  Sounds good in theory.   Enjoy!

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RECIPE for Russian Tea Cakes (40-50 cookies)

INGREDIENTS

1 cup salted butter, room temp
2 cups powdered sugar
1 TB vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, toasted, cooled, and finely ground (not to the point of it becoming a paste)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon, depending on taste

DIRECTIONS

Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 5-8 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until well blended.  Add flour and nuts, beating until incorporated.  Remove dough and divide roughly in half.  Wrap each half in plastic and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F, rack on lower middle position.  Whisk together remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon in a pie dish.

Take out first half of chilled dough.  Make 1-inch cookie balls and arrange balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies just until bottoms are light golden brown, 16-17 minutes.  Cool for 5-10 minutes on sheet.  Carefully toss warm cookies in the cinnamon sugar mix, coating completely.  Place cookies on wire rack to finish cooling.  Once fully cooled, re-coat each cookie in cinnamon sugar mix and serve.  Repeat with other half of dough.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Luscious Key Lime Bars

22 Apr

Spring envy is sooo rampant around here as everyone awaits completion of our final (please, let it be the last one) dump of snow.  In case you didn’t see the post date, it’s April 22.  Our ridiculously late spring is supposed to make an entrance this weekend, and the entire state will suddenly bust out walking, biking, playing, and dancing.  Or just standing.  Outdoors.

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I recently posted one of my favorite spring treats here.  It’s time to break out my other favorite spring treat.  Key lime bars.  Luscious, because they are unbelievably and unforgettably amazing.

Luscious Lime Bars 6

Limes tempt your senses with their freshness and springy-ness.  You already know of their cocktail virtues, but did you know the Lime stars in its own to-die-for dessert?

Luscious Lime Bars Cooks Illustrated

I was truly surprised at how fabulous these Lime Bars are.  The batch I brought to a gathering left me nothing but crumbs to bring home.  My kiddos and hubby inhaled every small bit they could get their hands on.

Luscious Lime Bars 5

These Lime Bars are sweet and lightly tangy, rich and creamy, light and smooth… all at the same time.  That decadent filling sits on top of a crisp textured, perfectly sweetened crust.

You will l-o-v-e this.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE: KEY LIME BARS (one 13×9 pan)

INGREDIENTS

For the Filling:
4 oz cream cheese, room temp
2 TB grated lime zest
1 cup fresh lime juice, from 6-8 limes
1/8 tsp salt
2 (14 oz each) cans sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
powdered sugar, for dusting

For the Crust:
10 oz animal crackers (i.e., Stauffer’s Original)
6 TB packed brown sugar
8 TB salted butter, melted and slightly cooled

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325F, with rack on middle position.  Press a long sheet of heavy-duty foil into the corners and up sides of 13×9 pan, with enough foil hanging over edges of pan, for super easy removal later.  Grease foil.

Pulse animal crackers in food processor until evenly fine.  Add brown sugar and salt and process to combine.  Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are moistened with butter evenly.  Press crumbs firmly and evenly into bottom of prepared pan.  Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes.  Cool while making the filling.  Leave oven on.

In medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zest, and salt with a rubber spatula until soft and creamy and fully incorporated.  Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until combined and no lumps of cream cheese remain.  Whisk in egg yolk.  Add lime juice and gently whisk until fully combined.  Mixture will thicken slightly.

Pour filing into crust.  Spread to corners and smooth the surface.  Bake until set and edges begin to pull slightly away from sides, 23-25 minutes.  Center will still be a bit jiggly.  Cool on wire rack to room temp.  Cover with foil and refrigerate until fully chilled.  Remove bars from pan using foil.  Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar right before serving.  Keeps for days in fridge.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Cooks Illustrated cookbook

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce

6 Apr

If  the “Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce” label wasn’t tempting enough, perhaps a little illustration will help…

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce 5

I’m not typically a sauce-and-sprinkles kind of gal; I’m more of a plain-jane when it comes to ice cream.  One of my favorite indulgences is purely a great vanilla bean ice cream.  I like it simple .   But it’s my sweet boy’s 9th birthday this weekend, and I wanted to make an extra special ice-cream cake in honor of his precious 9 years in our lives. (More to come on how that cake turned out.)  For now, we’ll focus on this decadent hot chocolate fudge sauce.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce

In search of the “best” hot fudge sauce, we padded around the kitchen and tinkered with variations of popular recipes, culminating in the gruesome task of taste-testing each chocolatey creation.  Many recipes for hot fudge sauce include corn syrup, but the hands-down favorite ended up being a recipe with no added corn syrup.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce 2

This super chocolatey hot fudge sauce is well balanced with just the right amount of sweetness, buttery-ness, and fudge-y goodness.  It’s smooth and rich, and thickens nicely as it cools.  Lukewarm sauce is perfect for drizzling over ice cream, allowing the fudge to gain that soft chewy texture – the sure sign of a successful hot fudge sauce.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce 4

This hot chocolate fudge sauce keeps well and reheats beautifully.  It is delish over fresh fruit, over pancakes or waffles, over cake… let those creative juices flow.  You can’t go wrong with this.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce 3

My boys will probably beg to make their own chocolate milk with this.  Let the fun begin!

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RECIPE: HOT CHOCOLATE FUDGE SAUCE (approx. 1 cup)

INGREDIENTS

3 oz semi sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 TB brown sugar
2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TB regular salted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
small pinch kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in small, heavy saucepan set over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.  Once it reaches a boil, immediately reduce to simmer.  Simmer and whisk for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool to warm or lukewarm before serving.  Keeps well in sealed container in fridge.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from iowagirleats

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

28 Mar

Whoever thought to make a dessert out of carrots was sort of genius.  Who would have thought that shredded carrots would be yummy in birthday cakes or cupcakes?  Carrot cake is one of the most beloved flavors today, and for good reason.  Armed with a great recipe, anyone can bake up a superbly moist, tender, and addictive carrot cake.

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My kids know this yummy treat is called carrot cake, but I doubt they realize there is an abundance of freshly shredded carrots in their dessert.  Lots of good-for-you carrots.  Plenty of plump raisins.  Walnuts, if you like them.  Extra raisins if you don’t.

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Over the years, I have made carrot cake in the form of bundts, loaves, and cupcakes.  This time, I opted for a simple sheet cake.  Easy and fail-proof deliciousness.  This fabulous carrot cake recipe is one I’ve loved ever since an old friend shared it with me ages ago.  It’s one of those well-loved recipes that has years’ worth of chicken scratch written all over the margins and is fraying along the edges.

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

This carrot cake is perfect for Easter, birthdays, or just whenever.  With or without cream cheese frosting, it’s delish for dessert or even breakfast.   It can double up as a morning coffee cake, right?  After all, carrots and raisins are totally good for you.  Enjoy 🙂

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RECIPE (one 13×9 pan)
Easy one-bowl method for simple cleanup

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cup olive oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups grated raw, peeled carrots
1 can (8-10 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cups softened butter
16 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 350F with rack on lower middle position.  Press a long sheet of foil into a 9×13 pan, with extra foil hanging over edges for easy cake removal.  Grease the foil.

2.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, mixing well.  Form a well in the center.  Add sugar, oil, and eggs into the well and mix wet ingredients by hand.  Fold into dry ingredients until fully incorporated.

3.  Fold in carrots, pineapple, raisins, and optional walnuts.

4.  Bake in greased, foil-lined pan about 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out almost clean.  Cool and remove with foil sling.  Frost as desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Combine butter, cream cheese, and vanilla.  Beat well.  Add sugar gradually and beat well.  If too thick, add small amount of milk.  If too thin, add small amounts of sugar until desired consistency is reached.  Frosting naturally thickens and firms up as it sits.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from my old friend Naomi

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