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Category Archives: Dessert

Easy Dessert

Some desserts have a reputation for being difficult to make. No one bats an eye if you show up with a plate of chocolate chip cookies, but if you bring cheesecake to the office, people are wowed.

“I could never make cheesecake,” they say. “It’s so hard!”

I’m here to bust that myth. Cheesecake is waaaay easier than you may think. Cream the cream cheese with some sugar, beat in a few eggs and pour it over a graham cracker crust. Bake for an hour or so, and let it cool. So much less involved than scooping individual individual cookies onto tray after tray.

And that’s why I whipped up a pan of these Oreo cheesecake bars for dessert with friends a few weeks ago. They’re easy to put together, and cheesecake is always a hit with everyone in our social circle. Plus, I almost always have cream cheese in the fridge.

The recipe calls for Oreos, but I can confirm that they work just as well with the off-brand / Aldi version of everyone’s favorite sandwich cookie. And since the off-brand package apparently has fewer cookies, I can also confirm that the filling is just as good with 10 Oreos instead of 12.

The four of us managed to not eat the entire pan that night, so I told Andy to leave the leftovers alone until I could photograph them. And he did, mostly. I mean, there are still three squares on that plate. ūüôā

OreoCheesecakeSquares

Oreo Cheesecake Squares 

For the crust: 
23 Oreo cookies, crushed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling: 
12 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
12 Oreo cookies, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 325¬į and line a 8″ x 8″ baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on each end of the pan to use as a sling.

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and the melted butter. Stir until the mixture is evenly combined. Spread the cookie crumbs in the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and maintain the oven temperature.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until it is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar to the cream cheese and beat until well-combined. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla and salt. Beat in the egg and egg yolk until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chopped Oreo cookies. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake until the cheesecake is set around the edges but slightly jiggly in the center, about 40 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover the pan and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least three hours. (I left mine in the fridge overnight.) 

To cut the bars, use the foil as a sling and remove them from the pan. Place the bars on a cutting board and remove the foil. Use a large chef’s knife to slice the bars into equal-sized squares. Refrigerate cut bars until serving.

From Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from The Recipe Girl, originally from You Made That Dessert?¬†by Beth Lipton

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Cheesecake, Dessert

 

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Flamingo Fun

Last week, we celebrated a very special birthday. My awesome friend Karen turned 30, and we took it upon ourselves to surprise her with a “flamingle” get-together. We kept things fairly low-key (although we did get party hats and a giant flamingo balloon), but as we started planning the party, I knew one thing had to happen: an awesome cake.

FlamingoCake2

As you can see, we also had an inflatable flamingo because why not? ūüôā

Making the cake without talking to Karen about it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my kitchen. She’s number one on my speed dial whenever I’m baking a cake, and we talk about cake designs whenever one of us is baking. But I knew that she’d get suspicious if I told her about a giant cake covered in flamingos. (Plus, Karen kept the birthday cake AND party a secret when I turned 30, so she deserved it.) ūüėČ

I think three-layer cakes look more festive, so I made a batch and a half of the chocolate cake that I tested last April. Karen told me that she’s been really into all things cookie dough lately, so when this recipe for cookie dough frosting came through my Facebook feed, I knew that would be the perfect filling for the flamingo cake. I covered the rest of the cake with my regular go-to buttercream and decked it out with hot pink sprinkles and plastic flamingos.

Happy birthday, Karen! I’m so glad you’re part of my life!

FlamingoCake

Cookie Dough Frosting

1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (1 cup) milk
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, flour and salt, and mix until well-combined.

Slowly add the milk to the mixture until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. (I am Baker suggests adding it a tablespoon at a time.) 

Add the chocolate chips to the frosting and stir until well combined. Spread between cake layers or on top of cupcakes.

From I am Baker, who adapted it from AllRecipes.com

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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Beer Cookies and Cream

Remember when I first made beer cookies? I was convinced that they’d be perfect for ice cream sandwiches. It may have taken me more than six months to test that theory, but good things come to those who wait, right?

That theory definitely held true in this case. The frozen cookies aren’t quite as soft and chewy straight as the fresh-from-the-oven cookies (no surprise there, right?), but the flavor goes perfectly with vanilla ice cream.

I used the same ice cream base from the rhubarb ice cream sandwiches, and it worked perfectly. I lined a 9″ x 13″ pan with waxed paper and spread the freshly-churned ice cream in the bottom of the pan before putting it in the freezer for a few hours. Once it was frozen solid, I used a round cookie cutter to cut out perfectly round circles of ice cream. (I have several round “biscuit cutters,” so I chose one that was closest in size to the cookies.)

I had stashed half a batch of cookie dough in the freezer, so all I had to do was mix up the ice cream base and bake a few cookies while the ice cream hung out in the freezer. Easy, and perfect for a football Saturday.

The only downside to my plan was the fact that we had been snacking on the frozen cookie  dough for a while, so when I went to bake the cookies, I discovered that there were only 16 balls of dough left in the bag. And, naturally, Andy and I each had to “sample” a plain cookie after they came out of the oven (for quality control purposes, of course), which left me with 14 cookies. Which means I only got 7 sandwiches. I’ll have to plan better next time.

beercookieicecreamsandwiches

Brown Sugar & Ale Ice Cream Sandwiches

Note: I am not sure how many sandwiches this will yield. It will depend on how many cookies you have and what size the cookies are. If you start with a full batch of cookie dough, it’s possible that you will need more than one batch of ice cream. 

For the cookies: 
1 batch (more or less… we had significantly less) of Brown Sugar & Ale Cookies

For the ice cream:
5 egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the ice cream, combine the milk, one cup of the cream, sugar, salt and the vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks together in a small bowl until smooth. Gradually add the warmed milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly, until the mixture is warm and well-combined. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

Place the remaining cup of cream in a large glass bowl and set a fine mesh strainer over the top of the bowl. Pour the cooked custard through the strainer and into the cream. Mix the custard and the cream together and add the vanilla extract.

Cover the bowl and cool the ice cream base in the refrigerator until it‚Äôs thoroughly chilled. 

Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer‚Äôs instructions. While the ice cream is churning, line a 9‚Ä≥ x 13‚Ä≥ pan with waxed paper, leaving an overhang on the edges. Spread the churned ice cream in an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the freezer until the ice cream is frozen solid.

While the ice cream is firming up, pair up the cookies by size and select a round cookie cutter to cut the ice cream.

To assemble, use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds of ice cream. Sandwich the ice cream rounds between two cookies. Continue until you run out of cookies or ice cream, whichever comes first. Place the sandwiches in an airtight, freezer-safe container and return them to the freezer so they can firm up before serving.

Cookies from Erin’s Food Files, originally adapted from the Beeroness. Ice cream base adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally adapted from “The Perfect Scoop” by David  Lebovitz.

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2016 in Dessert

 

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Our Raspberry Rendezvous

Last month, Andy and I¬†met some friends in¬†Michigan for the 4th of July. We made it our goal to find the best ice cream place near our campground, which led us to¬†Bud’s. Not only do they have an award-winning chocolate milkshake (made with chocolate and love, I’m told),¬†they also have¬†delicious ice cream. Three of us had the raspberry rendezvous, which is a raspberry ice cream with raspberry-filled chocolate cups. It was pretty great.

There were so many flavors that we had to go¬†back to Bud’s the a second¬†day, and we were surprised to find that we’d made an impression. (Apparently we had¬†a lot of questions. In our defense, how¬†do you¬†know what’s in “happy camper” ice cream unless you ask? Marshmallow and crushed graham cracker, in case you wondered.)¬†I ordered¬†the award-winning shake the second day, and, while it was good, I should have stuck with the raspberry rendezvous from the day before. Turns out the shake only won second place. ūüėČ

I meant¬†to share this with you last month. Not only is July national ice cream month, but Andy and I also found a place to pick raspberries and some of them found their way into my own version of this ice cream. Perfect timing, right? Well, just like every summer, things got busy, and before I knew it, July was over! Good thing I’m not limited by manufactured holidays. Any month is ice cream month around here. And since this recipe should work with both fresh and frozen berries, you won’t have to drive to Michigan to try it.

RaspberryRondevousIceCream

Raspberry Rendezvous Ice Cream

18 ounces (approximately 4 cups) raspberries
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup mini dark chocolate raspberry cups (I found these at my local bulk food store.)

Combine the berries and 1/4 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the berries soften and begin to release their juices, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook until the mixture thickens slightly, stirring often so it doesn’t stick or burn.

Remove the pan from the heat and reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce. Use an immersion blender to puree the remaining sauce until smooth. Strain the mixture into a glass bowl through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any stray seeds. (Save yourself a dish and use the same saucepan to cook the custard in the next step!) Let the sauce cool.

In a medium bowl (or glass measuring cup for easy pouring), whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar together. Pour 1 cup of cream into a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually pour the hot cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return the egg-sugar-cream mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large glass bowl (or my often-used Pyrex measuring cup) and pour the custard through the strainer. Add the berry puree (not the reserved 1/2 cup), lemon juice and remaining 1/2 cup of cream to the custard. Stir to combine, then cover and chill until cold.

Freeze the custard in a ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is done, add the chocolate raspberry cups, letting the machine distribute them through the ice cream. Ladle about one-third of your reserved raspberry sauce into the bottom of the airtight, freezer-safe container that you plan to store the ice cream in. Transfer about one-third of the ice cream to the container and use a butter knife to swirl the raspberry sauce through the ice cream. Layer some more of the raspberry sauce in the container and then top with more ice cream. Swirl the sauce through the ice cream again, then top with the remaining ice cream and any remaining sauce. Give the sauce one more swirl to distribute it through the ice cream. Cover the ice cream. Freeze until firm.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, inspired by the Raspberry Rendezvous at Bud’s in Interlochen, Mich.

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2016 in Dessert, Ice Cream

 

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Neighborly Love

As soon as Andy and I bought our house, we knew we’d won the neighbor lottery. We closed on the¬†house on a June afternoon, and, like any newly-minted homeowners, went right over to see our new place. Duane and Joyce came over¬†to¬†introduce themselves and gave us a quart of fresh-picked strawberries from their garden. Welcome to the neighborhood, indeed.

Since then, they’ve shared lots of fresh produce with us – everything from tomatoes and zucchini to butternut squash and the world’s largest cabbage. They spend lots of time cultivating their garden, and it shows. The veggies are in neat rows, without a weed in sight. The tomato plants are twice the size of ours. The lettuce plants don’t even have dirt on their leaves! (They put a ground cover over the dirt next to the lettuce, so the rain doesn’t splash mud on the plants. So smart.) It’s as close to perfect as a garden can get. Maybe someday ours will look half as good.

One day early on, Joyce asked us if we liked rhubarb. I told her that I thought we did, and she gave us a plate of rhubarb squares to try. If we liked them, she said we could have some rhubarb from their flourishing rhubarb plant. We ate the squares in record time, so I made sure to get the recipe along with some rhubarb from Joyce.

We now have our own rhubarb plants (which have started to take over the entire garden), and this is the first rhubarb dish I make each spring. You use the same mixture for both the crumb topping and the bottom crust, which saves time AND dishes. It’s a flexible recipe too, letting you swap rhubarb for strawberries or apples (or a combination if you choose), but, nine times out of 10, I’ll make the rhubarb version. And every time we eat it, I’m so glad we live where we do. ūüôā

rhubarb squares

Rhubarb Squares

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb

Preheat oven to 350¬į.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal and brown sugar. Pour the melted butter over the top of the flour mixture and mix until combined. (It will be crumblier and looser than a batter Рmore like a pie dough.)  Reserve one cup of the mixture for the topping.

Press the remaining mixture in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Whisk the sugar, water and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until mixture thickens and becomes clear. Stir in vanilla and then add chopped rhubarb. Pour filling over the crust in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over the top of the filling.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing.

From my neighbor, Joyce

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Dessert

 

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Frozen Treats, Upgraded

When I was a kid, popsicles were pretty much just sugar and food coloring in a plastic sleeve. You know, the kind where you cut off the top of the wrapper and suck the ice out of the wrapper, turning your tongue a crazy shade of purple or green? My mom would make us eat them outside because, inevitably, someone (my brother, I’m sure) would drop part of the popsicle all over the ground. Ahh, memories…

While our ice cream maker gets a workout regardless of the weather, I seem to forget about popsicles until summer rolls around. Which is a shame, especially when you consider how easy they¬†are to make and how fast they’re ready to eat. Let’s be honest, patience has never been my greatest asset.

I’ve also¬†discovered¬†that popsicles¬†can be so much more than frozen juice. You can use them as a vehicle for frozen versions of other desserts. I mean, key lime pie popsicles that mix up in minutes and are ready in just a few hours? That’s the perfect summer food, if you ask me.

I almost never have key limes on hand, so I used regular limes for the juice and zest, and things turned out just fine. I also didn’t measure the graham crackers, as three cups of crumbs sounded like a lot for 10 popsicles. Instead, I simply crushed a few crackers at a time, rolled the popsicles in the crumbs and crushed more as needed.

The¬†final result was cool and refreshing, with the perfect combination of tart and sweet. Of course, they didn’t last long at our house, which probably means we’re due for another batch. ūüôā

keylimepopsicles

Key Lime Pie Popsicles

3/4 cup of fresh lime juice, plus two teaspoons lime zest (I find that one lime yields enough zest, but it usually takes 4-5 limes for the juice, depending on how juicy they are.)
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of half-and-half
pinch of salt
crushed graham crackers for rolling (I used about 4 large crackers.)

In a large bowl (or a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup for easy pouring later), combine the lime juice and zest. Pour in the half-and-half and sweetened condensed milk. Add a pinch of salt and then whisk together until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

Evenly divide the mixture among your popsicle molds.* Insert sticks into the mixture and freeze until frozen solid. Place the graham cracker crumbs in a shallow dish.

To remove the popsicles, dip the mold in lukewarm water for a few seconds and then gently pull from the mold.

After removing from the popsicles from the mold, lay each one in the graham cracker crumbs, pressing each side down into the crumbs to make sure they stick to the popsicle. Place popsicles on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and return them to the freezer. When the popsicles are completely solid again, place them in a zip-top bag for storage.

As seen on Smitten Kitchen,  originally from Paletas by Fanny Gerson

*I own this popsicle mold, and this particular recipe fills the entire thing, yielding 10 popsicles.

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2016 in Dessert, Uncategorized

 

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Another Successful Experiment!

When I started thinking about this ice cream, I was pretty sure that it would either be really odd or really good. I¬†like the chai flavor, and I have yet to meet a chai latte that I didn’t enjoy, but still. I’d rather not waste perfectly good eggs and cream on sub-par ice cream. Especially when¬†I could make chocolate ice cream¬†instead.

But, like most of my crazy ideas, I couldn’t let it go. (I have no idea where my mind wanders to come up with this stuff. I was probably drinking chai at my desk one day.)¬†I started Googling, which made me doubt my idea even more. Some recipes had a mile-long list of ingredients, including things that have never entered my kitchen. Star anise? Cardamom pods? I’m sure that¬†creates a more authentic chai flavor, but I¬†was looking for something a little less involved.

This recipe looked promising, and I was intrigued by the use of honey instead of sugar. I decided to add a vanilla bean to the custard, since vanilla and chai just go together in my mind. Plus, then you get all those fun flecks of vanilla bean in the ice cream.

I¬†opted to steep the tea bags for much longer than the recipe said to. I figured a stronger flavor was better than a faint, barely-there hint of spice. It tasted just like a chai latte, which meant that, like most desserts at our house, it was short-lived. ūüôā

VanillaChaiIceCream

Vanilla Chai Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided
3/4 cup honey
pinch of salt
4 chai tea bags
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, one cup of cream, honey and salt. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Drop the vanilla bean pod into the pan and add the tea bags. (I tied them together for easy removal later.) Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Once the honey and salt have dissolved, turn the burner off and let the mixture steep for 15 minutes to a hour, depending on how strong you like your chai. (I tasted the milk / chai mixture after about 15 minutes and then decided to let it go the full hour.) Remove the tea bags, squeezing any extra cream mixture out into the saucepan. Rewarm the chai mixture over medium heat.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining cup of cream into a large bowl (or your favorite Pyrex measuring cup) and set a fine mesh strainer over the top of the bowl.

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the egg yolks together. Slowly pour about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of the warm chai mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.

Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

Pour the custard through the strainer and into the bowl of cream. Discard the vanilla bean pod. Add the vanilla extract and then stir the custard and cream together. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, or overnight.

Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove the ice cream from the ice cream maker and place in a freezer-safe container. Freeze until firm.

Barely adapted from Coffee and Quinoa, who adapted it from Cookie + Kate

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Dessert, Ice Cream

 

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