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Lemony Lemon Bars

19 Mar

Spring officially debuts on March 20, like right now.  If you’re living it up in a warm climate, you’re feelin’ the spring.  If you live where the snow is still knee-deep, well… we can surely pretend, right?  It stretches the imagination when I walk into a Target store and see the beach shorts and flip flops front and center.  Because just beyond the doors is a snow storm.  I’m all for letting the imagination fly.

Luscious Lemon Bars

Even though winter is citrus time in much of the country, fresh lemons seem to scream spring.  The pretty bright yellow just makes you happy.  These super lemony lemon bars are like spring’s mascot.  If it doesn’t feel springy, at least it will taste like it!

Luscious Lemon Bars 3

Both Hubby’s parents and my parents live in sunny So. Cal., and they are blessed with all sorts of lush fruit trees thriving in their backyard.  Whenever I get my hands on a bunch of fresh lemons, I think of my father in law’s lemon tree on steroids.  It produces lemons that resemble little grapefruits.  Wish I had a picture of those for you.

Luscious Lemon Bars 2

These lemon bars are ultra lemony.  Superbly lemonish.  The juice of three big lemons plus lotsa zest creates an amazingly tangy + sweet filling that is a burst of happiness in your mouth.  The smooth lemon filling rests atop a tender yet crisp butter crust that is a taste of perfection.  My family adores lemon bars.  My kids beg me not to give them all away when I make them.  Hubby used to buy them from a gourmet pastry shop for me when we were dating.  These are by far the most perfect lemon bars we’ve inhaled, and we think you’ll love ’em too.

Enjoy a little flavor of spring, wherever you happen to be!

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RECIPE (one 9×13 pan)

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
12 TB regular butter, chilled and cut into 1 inch pieces

For the Filling:
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup white sugar
3 TB all purpose flour
Juice of 3 large lemons (2/3 cup)
Zest of 2 lemons
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp table salt

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:  Preheat oven to 350F with oven rack at middle position.  Press a long piece of foil into 13×9 baking dish, so that the ends hang over the dish (helps with removal of bars.)  Grease the foil and set aside.

Blend flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Add butter and process to blend, about 10 seconds.  Then pulse until the mixture looks pale yellow, resembling a coarse meal.  (If you’re doing it by hand, mix the dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of a grater, into the bowl and toss pieces to coat with flour mixture.  Rub the bits with fingers until flour turns pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.)  Sprinkle crust mixture into prepared pan and firmly press into an even layer over bottom of pan.  Place pan in freezer for 10 minutes.  Then bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For the Filling:  Whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in large bowl.  Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, milk, and salt to incorporate.  Reduce oven temp to 325F.  Stir filling mixture well, and pour into warm crust.  Bake until filling feels firm upon a very light touch, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely to room temp.  Tightly cover and  chill in fridge before serving.  Once chilled, remove entire dessert with foil sling, and cut into squares.

Dust with powdered sugar upon serving, if desired.  Bars will keep well in fridge, covered.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies

10 Mar

We’re getting into that silly time of year.  Did anyone else miss that all-important hour of lost sleep for daylight savings like I did?  March equals rain and slush around here, with some days stuck in winter and other days hinting at the upcoming spring.  Warmer, cooler, sunshine, snowstorm… March cannot make up its mind, and it’s all wishy-washy this time of season.

Thank goodness we can depend on the yumminess of brownies when we need something consistently satisfying!

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies 3

These sweeties aren’t just any brownies, either.  They are Mint Chocolate Brownies, adapted from my all time favorite chewy brownie recipe.

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies

St. Patty’s Day is March 17, which is only a week away.  These deliciously chewy, rich Mint Chocolate Brownies are perfect if you’re looking for something with a little bit of green.

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies 2

These mint chocolate brownies are chewy, fudgy, and refreshingly minty.  I used a bit of peppermint extract to enhance the minty flavor, and it turned out nicely subtle, which I like.  If you want to up your minty-ness, just add more peppermint extract to your batter.

Enjoy!

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RECIPE (one 9×13 pan)

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup (1 oz) Dutch processed cocoa, unsweetened
1/2 cup + 2 TB boiling water
2 oz unsweetened, good quality solid chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup + 2 TB olive oil
4 TB regular butter, melted
2 large eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose, sifted flour
3/4 tsp table salt
1 1o-oz bag mint-chocolate morsels, or dark chocolate/mint chocolate combo

DIRECTIONS

Bring kettle of water to boil.  Adjust oven rack to second-to-lowest position and preheat to 350F.

Insert 2 long sheets of foil perpendicular to one another in baking pan, long enough to hang over edges.  Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil against pan.  Grease foil sling and set aside.

Whisk cocoa and boiling water (measure out correct amount from kettle of boiling water) together in large bowl until smooth.  Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted.  Whisk in oil and melted butter.  Whisk in eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and peppermint extracts.  Continue to whisk until smooth.  Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated.  Sprinkle salt and sifted flour into batter and mix with rubber spatula until just combined.  Fold in 1 cup of the mint/chocolate morsels.

Transfer batter into prepared pan, spreading into corners and smoothing the surface.  Sprinkle with remaining chocolate/mint morsels.  Bake about 30-33 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  It’s done when toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached; should not come out completely clean.  It may seem underdone, but it will set upon cooling.  Do not over bake, or brownies will be dry.

Transfer pan to wire rack and cool for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove brownies from pan using foil sling.  Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely.  Cut brownies into squares and serve.  Can be stored in airtight container at room temp for a couple of days.

By:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by Cooks Illustrated

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

9 Feb

There are two camps of eaters.  Those who love cheesecake seem to be in the majority camp.  Then there are the handful of people who say they don’t like cheesecake.  I obviously adore cheesecake and would eat it every day if I could.   This white chocolate raspberry version is my favorite cheesecake in the whole wide world, and it has singlehandedly converted a few of those non-cheesecake fans over to our side 🙂

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake 2

The fact that I could eat cheesecake daily is what drives me to bake this dense, rich, indulgent New York style cheesecake every opportunity I get.  Birthdays:  it is the cheesecake lover’s dream cake.  Christmas:  the red and white swirls have that holiday covered.  Valentines Day:  this thick cheesecake with chocolate crust is the perfect sweetheart dessert.   In fact, February 14th  is coming up, and your loved ones would be so impressed.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

I’m bragging on the cheesecake (not myself) when I say this, but countless people have requested this  recipe, deeming it better than Cheesecake Factory’s.   I have to agree.  Years ago, I liked Cheesecake Factory’s white chocolate raspberry cheesecake for indulging my sweet tooth… but ever since this homemade one stole my tummy, I can’t order cheesecake at any restaurants anymore.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake 4

White chocolate raspberry cheesecake is surprisingly easy to make.  The best part about this plush cheesecake is that it is made at least a day ahead of time!  Score!  If you come here often, you know I’m always looking for recipes that can be done ahead of time.  I can’t really cook well and socialize with a bunch of people at the same time.  I try to have most of my cooking done, so I can be fully in the moment with my friends.  It helps to use stabilized whipped cream so you can decorate the entire cheesecake the day before and it stays perfect in the fridge.  No runny or watery-ness!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake 5

Next time you’re having dinner guests, try out this impressive cheesecake along with some good coffee.  Relish in the fact that it can be completely made up to 2 days beforehand.  You just might convert a non-cheesecake eater into a fan.

Bonus:  If you have leftovers and want to prevent yourself from eating it all, this cheesecake freezes beautifully.

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RECIPE (one 9 inch cheesecake)

INGREDIENTS
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter

For the raspberry sauce:
1 (10 oz) package frozen raspberries
2 TB sugar
3 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

For the cheesecake:
1 bag (12 oz) pure white chocolate chips
1/2 cup half and half
3 (8 oz) packages good cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 TB vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Make the crust:  In a large bowl, mix fine cookie crumbs with butter until well incorporated.  Press into bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan.  Set aside.

Make raspberry sauce:  In a heavy saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, and cornstarch/water mixture.  Mix well.  Bring to boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 215F.  Set rack to lower middle position.  Place a pan full of water in the lowest rack.    Using a small heavy saucepan, melt white chocolate chips with half and half, on low heat.  Stir often until completely melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In large bowl, mix together softened cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla and the melted white chocolate mixture.

Pour half of batter over the crust.  Spoon about a third of the raspberry sauce over batter in small chunks. Swirl with tip of butter knife.  Gently pour in the remaining cheesecake batter.  Spoon another third of the sauce over the top of batter.  Swirl with tip of butter knife to complete the desired marble effect.

Bake at 215F for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.  Filling will still jiggle in the center and seem undone.  Edges should feel firm upon light touch.  Turn heat off and let cheesecake cool in the oven, with door ajar.

Once cool, cover springform pan tightly with foil and cool cheesecake in fridge overnight.  Carefully remove cheesecake from springform, and garnish with whipped cream, white chocolate shavings, or fresh raspberries.  Remaining third of raspberry sauce can be used for topping as well.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by allrecipes

Note:  If you are freezing leftovers, simply wrap cheesecake well with cling wrap.  Defrost in fridge or counter.  It tastes just as yummy after being frozen!  

The slow-bake method at room temp allows you to bake a cheesecake without cracks on top.  It takes longer to cook, but will give you a smooth cake without unsightly cracks.

 

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

27 Jan

We’re in the final days of Back-to-Healthy month (aka January), and we are still quite oatmeal-happy here in our kitchen.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies 4

My new year’s non-resolution (no official resolutions here) was to eat a lot more oatmeal, a lot more often this year.  I haven’t exactly kept up with my one-bowl-a-day ambition, but healthful oats are finding their way into my everyday baking.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 3

True, true… these are cookies.  Cookies with chocolate, at that.  But, hey… they are also laden with robust old-fashioned oats.  Not the quick-cooking oats, but the good ol’ old-fashioned oats.  Heartier, chewier, and bigger oat-y taste senstation is the result.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 2

These are unbelievably scrumptious oatmeal cookies!  For one, they taste like chocolate.  Like a rich chocolate chip cookie with texture…soft in the center and lightly crisp at the edges.  For another, the use of old-fashioned oats give these cookies a satisfying chewiness that you can sink your happy sweet tooth into.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies boast a perfect balance of sweetness with a bit of saltiness, loads of semi-sweet chocolate, and chock-full of natural oats.  Can this combo be any better?!  Oh, yes, they can – because these fab cookies naturally bake up nice and full, without spreading too much.  You can count on a perfectly thick, dense cookie that stays soft and chewy.  Just the way you like ’em. 🙂

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RECIPE (40-50 medium sized cookies)

INGREDIENTS

1 cup regular butter, softened just to room temp (not too soft)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 TB vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups rolled old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)
1 (12oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels

DIRECTIONS

In the large bowl of stand mixer, cream together room-temp butter with the white and brown sugars, until fluffy.  Several minutes on medium-high should do it.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Mix in the oats.  Gently work in the chocolate morsels until incorporated.  Dough may be thick and heavy.

Preheat oven to 350F, adjusting rack to lower-middle.  Keep cookie dough in fridge while waiting for oven.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Drop rounded balls of cookie dough, about the size of a walnut, 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Flatten each rounded ball to a 1/2 inch thick cookie.

Bake 8 minutes in preheated oven.  Cookies will seem underdone, but remove them from oven.  If you’re making much larger cookies, remove at 9 minutes.  The key is not to overbake.  They will set upon cooling.  Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.  Enjoy!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from allrecipes

Note:  If you want less salt, reduce to 1/2 tsp salt.  Cookies stay soft and chewy for a couple of days in airtight container.  They are best on the day they’re baked, but nobody complains about leftovers!  Cookie dough can be wrapped up tightly and kept in fridge for up to a week.

Orange Chocolate Lace Cookies

18 Dec

‘Tis the season for cookies.   Cookie exchanges, cookies on the dessert table, cookies for gift-giving… and cookies in our own cookie jar.  We’ve already been giving away many of our favorite cookies this season.  What to bake up next?

Orange Chocolate Lace Cookies

Orange Chocolate Lace Cookies!  I’ve always admired pretty lace cookies, but they look like they’d be way more work than the usual drop cookies.  In a sudden spirit of adventure, I talked my preschooler out of Word World so we could create  crunchy cookies together.

Orange Chocolate Lace Cookies 2

Surprisingly, these orange lace cookies are unbelievably easy to pull off.   So easy and deliciously tasty.  These cookies boast a fabulous crispiness and depth of flavor that reminds me of toffee.  Only better, because they’re infused with lively orange and then drizzled with chocolate.

orange chocolate lace cookies

Because these orange chocolate lace cookies are super crisp, they keep extremely well.  No worries about the cookies drying out or getting stale.  These little pretties are probably one of the easiest treats for mailing or gifting because of how well they keep.

The kiddos will enjoy watching the bubbling lace pattern develop in the oven.  Science project-slash-dessert?   Yeah, maybe just dessert.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE (about 25-30 cookies)

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup tightly packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup regular butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 TB Cointreau
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/2 cup + 2 TB all-purpose flour
1 TB orange zest, finely chopped
4-6 oz semi sweet chocolate morsels, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F and place rack on lower middle position.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine sugar, butter, corn syrup, Cointreau, and orange extract in a small but heavy saucepan.  Stir over low heat, until butter melts.  Remove from heat and add flour and orange zest.  Stir to combine.

Drop heaping teaspoons of batter onto parchment lined baking sheet, 2 1/2 inches apart.  Wet hands for easy dough handling.  Place baking sheet in oven and bake until cookies are spread out, bubble up, and golden brown.  About 11-13 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool several minutes before transferring to wire rack.  Finish cooling on wire rack.  Continue baking batches, stirring batter occasionally.

When cookies are completely cool, it’s drizzle time.  Melt chocolate morsels in microwave safe bowl (20 second intervals, stirring in between.)  Scrape melted chocolate into ziploc bag.  Cut a tiny hole in corner of bag, and drizzle on as much warm chocolate as you want.  Cool completely.  Enjoy!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Notes:  You can also dip the cookies halfway in melted chocolate in lieu of drizzling.  If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can make cookie-curls.  Cool cookies just 1-2 minutes, or until they are warm and pliable.  Curl around handle of wooden spoon.  When firm, slide cookie off.

Best Apple Pie with Flaky Butter Crust

16 Dec

I have a little confession.  Despite my affection for all things sweet, I don’t like cooked apples.  Wait a minute.  I do love fresh, crispy apples.  Just don’t love them cooked, is all.  That puts me in the little category of people who regularly pass up the apple pies on the dessert buffet.  But here is a glimmer of hope.  I gave this Best Apple Pie a chance, and new door has opened up.  There’s no turning back.

Perfect Apple Pie with Flaky Butter Crust

Hubby would never have imagined I’d eat, let alone bake, an apple pie.  I’m good with every kind of fruit pie, but he’s never seen me dart for the apple one.  For reasons still mysterious, I began searching high and low for apple pie recipes.  After digging through countless variations, I settled on this tried and true version.  And now I’m done digging.  This here is the only apple pie I’ve ever really liked!

Perfect Apple Pie with Flaky Butter Crust 3

What makes this apple pie extra memorable is the fabulous flaky butter crust.  We always prefer using butter rather than shortening  whenever possible.  This is our go-to recipe for a flaky butter crust; perfect for any sweet or savory pies.  Technically, one could use store bought pie dough.  But it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say this out loud:  store-bought pie dough won’t produce the buttery deliciousness of a homemade crust.

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The pie dough needs a bit of time to chill.  If you plan ahead for that, you’re good.  Try to stick with Granny Smith apples for best texture and balance of tart vs. sweet.

You’ll love that this apple pie can be totally prepared ahead of time.  In fact, it’s best that way.  Bake it and let it set overnight or at least several hours, so the filling has time to cool and thicken.  The pie reheats beautifully, especially if you’re going for a la mode.  Vanilla bean ice cream and warm pie…mmm.

Perfect Apple Pie with Flaky Butter Crust 6

Add this to your dessert list for the holidays… or really any day.  Apple pie lovers in your life will go nuts over this one.  That non-apple-pie eater just might experience a conversion to the other side.   Enjoy!

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RECIPE (about 8 servings)

INGREDIENTS

For the filling:
1/2 cup butter
3 TB all purpose flour
3 TB  water, with 2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in it
1 TB vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
8 Granny Smith apples – peeled and sliced (not too thin)

For the dough (double crust):
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp table salt
1 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/2 cup very cold ice water
1 egg white, beaten
coarse sugar for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Prepare the dough (make ahead): 
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, just until there remains small pea-sized butter chunks in the dough.  Gently stir in 1 TB of ice cold water at a time, until mixture starts to hold together.  It should be pliable enough to stick together when pinched, but not sticky.  Work the dough sparingly, using either pastry cutter or cold fingers.  The key is not to overwork the dough (avoid using food processor.)  The little chunks of butter should still be visible.

Gently form 2 dough balls (1 slightly larger than the other) and wrap well in plastic.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to overnight.)

To make the pie:
Preheat oven to 425F and place rack on lower middle position.

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Stir in flour to form a roux.  Add water with dissolved cornstarch, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to barely simmer.  Keep sauce warm while you roll out the crust.

Roll the larger dough ball out to fit bottom/sides of  9-inch pie pan, with bit extra for edges.  If dough is firm, you may need to roll it out twice.  Place crust in bottom of pie pan.  Press evenly into the bottom and up sides of the pan.  Press down the edges.  Roll the smaller dough ball to fit over top of 9-inch pie pan.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine apple slices with the warm sugar sauce, reserving about 1/4 cup (or enough for brushing over top crust.)  Brush bottom crust with beaten egg white.  Fill with apple mixture, mounding.  Place top crust over filling, crimping tightly at edges to ensure good seal.  Cut several slits in top crust.  Brush remaining warm sugar sauce over entire top crust.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar and light dusting of cinnamon, if desired.

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.  Reduce temp to 350F and bake another 35-45 minutes, until top crust is golden brown and apples are soft.  Use thin strips of foil to cover pie edges, if they start browning too quickly.

Cool before serving.  Enjoy…it is totally worth your work!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie

Turtles: Chocolate, Caramel, ‘n Pretzels

12 Dec

I don’t know where these little guys have been all my life.  I’ve seen variations around, but I finally got the chance to throw a turtle-making party of my own.  Chocolate?  Yes.  Caramel?  Got it.  Salty, sweet, and crispy?  Check, check, and check.  The most dangerous part:  they are way too easy to make.  Way.

Pretzel Turtles

I mean, really.  It takes but minutes to assemble these delicious morsels.  I wrote assemble on purpose, because that’s all you’re really doing with these awesome treats.  The kiddos actually gave up play time so they could make their own pretzel turtles (not pictured, on purpose.)

Pretzel Turtles 3

These turtle treats are made up of salty pretzels, Rolos, and pecans.  If you can’t do nuts, use a candy like M&M’s for the topping.  I’ve made nut-free turtles using colored sprinkles on top, which are super cute too.  They are fantastic for a quick snack.  You can technically make just one or two, very technically speaking.  If you put a bunch of these out at a party, they’ll be a huge hit on that snack or dessert table.  Don’t expect leftovers.

Pretzel Turtles 4

A drizzle of white chocolate makes these pretzel turtles pretty and ready for gift-giving.  These goodies are the perfect no-fuss treat to give to all those peeps you appreciate so much.  You know…teachers, friends, volunteers, neighbors, bus driver, mail carrier…

Pretzel Turtles 5

Y-U-M.  Yum.  Want…need.  Grab a bag of pretzels, some Rolos, and toppings next time you’re at the store.  Keep it in your pantry for all those little emergencies in life. 🙂  Happy turtle eating!

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RECIPE (40 candies)

INGREDIENTS
40 salted butter pretzels, round
40 Rolo candies, regular (not mini)
2-3 oz chopped unsalted pecans, toasted
4-5 oz good quality white chocolate morsels

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 300F.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Arrange pretzels evenly on baking sheets in a single layer.  Place a Rolo on center of each pretzel (if not centered well, it can melt off the pretzel)

Bake 3 minutes on center rack.  Remove baking sheet from oven and immediately press on the toasted pecans. Cool.

Place white chocolate in a small bowl and microwave in 20 second increments, mixing in between, until smooth and melted.  Scrape melted white chocolate into a ziploc bag, cut a very tiny hole at bottom corner, and drizzle immediately onto pretzel turtles.  If chocolate hardens, just microwave for a few seconds and resume.

Source: Chew Out Loud, adapted from allrecipes

Note:  To toast pecans, I use my toaster oven and toast the nuts for 2-3 minutes.  If using your oven, you can lay chopped pecans in single layer on baking sheet at 325F.  Brush with a little melted butter, if desired.  Toast about 5 minutes, depending on oven.  Just until aromatic and browned, but watch that they don’t burn.

Honey Yogurt Fruit Dip

30 Nov

Despite the fact that fall leaves are long gone and bare branches lay in their stead, it’s technically still fall.  That’s hard to remember in these zones.  It’s been a rough year for apples, and apple pickings were sadly slim,  but our favorite Honeycrisp  variety remains plentiful at the stores.  Our fridge is happily stocked with those crisp apples with honey-like sweetness.

Honey Yogurt Fruit Dip

After the Thanksgiving holiday, where some of us (me) indulged in more rich desserts than we (I) care to reveal, it’s time to gift you with a healthier treat.

Honey Yogurt Fruit Dip

This fabulous honey yogurt fruit dip is bursting with fall flavors.  It’s a no-guilt cure for the sweet toothed – real honey, vanilla greek yogurt, and cinnamon makes up this lively fruit dip.

We love adding generous sprinkles of crunchy granola to give it that extra crisp texture.  Dip your favorite varieties of apples or other fruits into this dreamy dip, and you’re set.  My little ones lapped it up, begging for more apples so they could scrape up every last bit of their dip.  They enjoy plain old apple slices, but the honey yogurt dip brings any slice of fruit to a dessert-worthy level.

Greek Yogurt Spice Dip 4

Greek yogurt tends to be higher in protein, and is thicker than many other yogurts.  If you use a thinner variety of yogurt, it won’t set up as thickly, but it will probably still taste fab.  I use honey or vanilla yogurt so the honey and cinnamon can take center stage, but feel free to experiment with flavors.    This will make about 1 1/2 cups worth of yogurt goodness.  It keeps very nicely in an airtight container in your fridge.

Grab some fruit, granola, and get your yogurt on!  Enjoy 🙂

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RECIPE (1 1/2 cups)

INGREDIENTS
1 cup honey or vanilla Greek yogurt
3 tsp honey (more or less, depending on sweetness of yogurt brand)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
*1/2 cup whipped cream
apple slices or other fruit slices
granola

DIRECTIONS
Gently mix together all ingredients except whipped cream.  Fold in whipped cream and chill.  Serve with slices of fruit and granola.

* To make awesome whipped cream:
Place beaters and medium bowl in freezer or fridge to chill.  Measure out 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup powder sugar.  Put cold ingredients into cold bowl and beat on medium/high until still peaks form.
(If you want a firmer, stabilized whipped cream, see recipe.)

By:  Chewoutloud

Best Buttery Pound Cake

23 Nov Buttery Pound Cake

Ever tried making pound cake from scratch?  I have tried a few times.  Sometimes the flavor was on, but the texture was just a bit off.  Other times the texture worked but the flavor didn’t so much.  Who knew producing a really good classic pound cake could be so tricky?

Buttery Pound Cake

When I was a kid, my mom used to just buy pound cake.  We all loved the stuff, whether for breakfast or dessert.  I eventually felt compelled to try homemade recipes that would rival those bakery ones.  After several “decent” results, I moved on and forgot about pound cake.

Buttery Pound Cake

But then one day Hubby tells me that his sweet mom made the best ever homemade pound cake from scratch.  My gentle mother in law is no longer with us and nobody knows where her recipe is.  Hmm.  Of course that is when my obsession with finding the best homemade pound cake recipe became stirred.

Buttery Pound Cake

This pound cake is a classically rich, dense cake.  It is the best tasting pound cake we’ve had, full of melt-in-your mouth buttery goodness and real vanilla.  Pound cakes are not meant to be fluffy like birthday cakes or layer cakes.   This pound cake is tender and plush inside, with a golden and slightly crumbly exterior,  just as it should be.  The wonderful buttery-ness is what brings this cake over the edge… so, so good.

Buttery Pound Cake

You’re just 6 ingredients away from this delightful breakfast-slash-dessert.  It’s a yummy hostess gift, anyone gift, or self gift – Enjoy!

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RECIPE (one 9×5 loaf)

INGREDIENTS

16 TB unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, chilled
3 large eggs + 3 large yolks, room temp
1 TB vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (7 oz) cake flour
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 oz) white sugar

DIRECTIONS

Place chilled butter pieces in bowl of stand mixer; let stand at room temp for 20-30 minutes to just slightly soften the butter.  Butter should not get warmer than 60 degrees (if butter is too warm, cake will be too flat and dense.)

In a separate bowl, use a fork to beat room-temp eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla.  Set aside at room temp.

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat to 325F.  Grease and flour a 9×5 loaf pan.

Using the paddle of stand mixer, beat butter and salt at medium high speed until it’s shiny, smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes.  Reduce speed to medium and very gradually pour in sugar, about 1 min.  Once all sugar is added, increase speed to medium high and beat until mixture is light and fully, 5-8 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.  Reduce speed to medium and gradually add egg mixture in a slow steady stream, about 1 min.  Scrape down bowl and beat at medium high until light and fluffy, 3-4 min.  Remove bowl from mixer and scrape down.

Sift cake flour over the butter-egg mixture in 3 separate additions.  Fold gently with rubber spatula until combined after each addition.  Be sure to scrape bottom of bowl to ensure all batter is combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top.  Bake cake until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.  Start checking at 1 hour.  Let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes, invert onto rack and let cake cool completely before serving.  Keeps well in airtight container.

By chewoutloud, adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Pumpkin Bars with Biscoff Crumble

13 Nov Biscoff Pumpkin Bars

There’s no denying it … ‘Tis the season for pumpkins galore.  Gone with the carving variety, in with the baking ones.  Actually, you won’t find my baking pumpkin inside these particular pumpkin bars, since my cute little orange gourd is awaiting its transformation into our Thanksgiving pie.  But, back to the bars.

Biscoff Pumpkin Bars

If you’re looking for something scrumptiously pumpkin, that’s not followed by the word “pie,” and that’s a fool proof crowd-pleaser, search no further.

Biscoff Pumpkin Bars

“YUM!!”  That’s exactly what I scribbled on my recipe notes after taking a bite into these.  I am fond of baking dessert bars, as they are pretty fuss free and generally turn out well.  I’ve wanted to make pumpkin bars for awhile, and decided to try out these Biscoff ones because they sounded exceptionally delish.

Biscoff Pumpkin Bars

Can you capture the delightfully tempting aroma and taste of these little squares, just a little teensy bit?  Imagine something in between a pumpkin pie and a pumpkin bread.  Sink your sweet tooth into a chewy, moist, flavorful filling – sandwiched between a crisp bottom crust and a crunchy cookie topping.

Biscoff Pumpkin Bars

The bottom crust stays nicely crisp with the inclusion of oats and pecans.  The crumb topping is heavenly, with lots of Biscoff cookie goodness.

I must credit my father-in-law for his hand in my Biscoff cookie addiction, as he has a knack for bringing us packages of it when he visits.  After I realized they aren’t studded with artificial anything, I started looking for them at stores, and noticed how quickly they flew off shelves.  Now I keep some in my pantry just in case someone needs a natural pick-me-up 🙂

Bake a batch and watch them disappear.

RECIPE (one 9×13 pan)

INGREDIENTS

Bottom Crust
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup softened butter
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/2 cup pecans, diced

Crumb Topping
1 cup of the above crust mixture
1 cup crushed Biscoff cookies
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Filling
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1/8 cup olive oil
2 cups pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F.

Crust:  In a large bowl, combine both flours, oats, sugar, butter, baking soda, and salt.  Beat at low speed until mixture is crumbly.  Stir in nuts.  Reserve 1 cup for crumb topping.  Press remaining mixture on bottom of a greased and floured 13×9 baking pan.  Bake 15 minutes on middle rack.  Set aside to cool a bit while you make the filling.

Filling:  In a large bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, butter, oil, and pumpkin until well mixed.  In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and ginger.  Fold dry and wet ingredients together until well incorporated.  Pour filling onto pre-baked crust.

Topping:  Mix together 1 cup of reserved crust mixture, 1 cup Biscoff cookies, and cinnamon.  Sprinkle on top of pumpkin filling.  Bake 30-33 minutes on middle-lower rack.  It’s done when toothpick comes out mostly clean.  (A few tender crumbs attached is perfect.)

Cool and chill before cutting.  Once that first piece is out, the rest should be easy.  Cut into bars and store in fridge until ready to serve.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

By chewoutloud, adapted from Biscoff Recipes

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