dessert

Mom’s Lemon Bars

These really are my mom’s lemon bars.  I’m not sure exactly where the recipe came from, but I think I remember her saying she cut it out of a magazine years ago, like before I was born years ago.

Lemon bars are one of my favorite bar cookies.  The zesty lemon, the buttery crust, the gooey center with the crunchy top covered in powdered sugar.  I love them, and I’m wishing right now I hadn’t sent so many of them up to Ben’s office!

I didn’t grease my pan because I figured there is so much butter in there, they won’t stick.  The crust didn’t, but some of the filling clung a bit to the sides of the pan.  You could spray the pan with cooking spray or grease it, but it wasn’t a disaster without doing so.  Do it if you’re worried about them sticking.

Mom’s Lemon Bars

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Filling
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 5-6 teaspoons lemon juice, from about 1 large lemon
Instructions
  1. Sift together flour, powdered sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender until fine crumbs form and there are no huge chunks of butter.  Pat the crust mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.
  2. About 5 minutes before the crust is done baking, in the same bowl whisk all the filling ingredients together until combined and foamy.
  3. Pour filling mixture over warm crust, then continue to bake for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Dust with powdered sugar while bars are warm from the oven, then let cool completely before cutting.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

In my quest for a patriotic dessert to make in honor of the Fourth of July, I came across many that utilize summer’s bounty of red and blue berries.  It just wasn’t the Fourth as a kid without a flag cake!  This red, white and blue dessert is a bit fancier than flag cake, and is really much easier.  No fruity stars and stripes here.  Just classically beautiful and incredibly good.

Panna cotta is Italian for cooked cream.  It has always seemed a little daunting to me, but this is truly one of the easiest desserts I have ever made.  The ability to make this days in advance is appealing to me…as someone who tends to stress before having guests.  Make these early and that’s one less thing to worry about the day of your party.

You can probably tell by the ingredient list that this is not a dessert you would enjoy every night of the week.  It is so very rich, so wonderfully creamy and perfectly smooth.  If you don’t have vanilla beans, then you can use a teaspoon of vanilla extract or ,better yet, vanilla bean paste which would give you the nice specks in this otherwise pure white dessert.  Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

From Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split
  • pinch of salt
  • Assorted fresh berries

Directions

  1. Place the milk in a heavy, small saucepan.  Sprinkle gelatin over the top and let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir over medium heat until gelatin dissolves, but milk does not boil, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cream, honey, sugar, vanilla beans and salt.  Stir over heat until sugar dissolves.  Remove vanilla beans and scrape out seeds into the mixture.  Stir to distribute.
  4. Remove from the heat and divide the cream mixture into 6-8 cups (wine glasses are pretty, but dessert cups or ramekins are fine).
  5. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.
  6. Garnish with berries and a sprig of mint.

Cold Oven Pound Cake

Another recipe from America’s Best Lost Recipes that I received for my birthday and where I got the recipe for the peach puzzle.

The only unexpected thing about this pound cake is the baking process.  The pan goes into a cold, as in DO NOT PREHEAT, oven.  It then cooks for an hour and a half.  I’m not sure if the time the cake is sitting in the heating oven is what creates such a nice crusty exterior, but that crust is lovely.  Encased within the crust is the soft, sweet, buttery cake that just melts in your mouth.

I absolutely love plain pound cake.  It’s for the same reason I would rather have a plain slice of cheesecake than one with caramel, chocolate or fruit sauce.  Simple is just the only way to go sometimes, and with pound cake you can focus on the textures and delicate sweet vanilla flavors instead of whatever extras are interfering.  I know even while I type this that sometime very soon I will probably have to eat my words and fall in love with some fancy pants pound cake.  But, for today at least, I am a plain pound cake lover.

The only complaint I have with this cake is that it gave me some trouble coming out of the pan.  I can grease and flour a pan with the best of them, but it still stuck…not terribly, but it wasn’t exactly picture perfect.  Despite this minor imperfection in appearance, the cake is delicious and definitely worth trying.

Cold Oven Pound Cake

America’s Best Lost Recipes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup skim milk (or 1%)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups sugar

Directions

  1. Grease and flour a 12-cup tube pan.
  2. Whisk flour and salt in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk milk, vanilla and egg yolks.  In a separate bowl beat egg whites to soft peaks.
  3. In a separate bowl beat butter, shortening and sugar on medium high until fluffy.
  4. Reduce speed to low and flour mixture and milk mixture alternately, in 4 batches, beating after each addition until just combined.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the egg whites.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and place in a COLD oven.
  6. Heat the oven to 300 F and bake for 45 minutes.  Increase the temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 45 minutes.
  7. Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes, run a knife around the edge, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Serve plain or with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Creamy Blueberry Crumble Pie

Blueberries were on sale at my grocery store for $0.99 a pint!  I bought 4 pints.  While I am more than happy to eat them plain as a snack or as a garnish for my yogurt, I wanted to do something a little more exciting with these sweet little berries.  I chose this luscious blueberry pie.  I think it’s a perfect summer dessert.

This is not, however, just blueberry pie.  The filling is made of sour cream, eggs, sugar, flour and blueberries.  And the fun doesn’t end there.  On top of this pie is a streusel type topping made of butter, sugar and flour.  This pie has no other option than to be delicious.

On allrecipes.com, this pie is called Creamy Blueberry Pie.  Here is the link.  It calls for a 9 inch deep dish pie crust, but I decided to make my own crust.  This is not something I do very often.  I like the convenience of a store bought crust, and they usually taste great.  The Pillsbury kind that you roll out on your own are the best.  I’ve found that the frozen kind already in the pan have a tendency to crack, and the edge of the crust looks like it came out of a machine…because it did.  So, if you do use a store crust, go with the one that at least looks like it’s homemade!

Most pie crust recipes are quite similar.  All use flour, sugar, salt, some kind of fat, and some kind of liquid.  Having your ingredients chilled is considered to be a must in pie crust making.  It is also important not to overwork the dough.  You can mix the dough by hand, or in a food processor.  When you mix the dough, make sure that you can still see bits of the fat in the finished product.  This ensures a tender, flaky crust.

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake Toffee Brownies

A few weeks ago I caught the end of Oprah while on the treadmill at the gym.  Her guests were the contestants of the 2010 Pillsbury Bake-Off, and at the end of the show they revealed the winner of the $1,000,000 grand prize.  This was the winning recipe, Mini Ice Cream Cookie Cups.

These little treats look delicious!  And I know they must taste good as well.  How could they not?  The ingredients have no option but to create perfect sugary wonder!  Sugar cookie dough made into cups, dipped in chocolate and nuts, a spoonful of fruit jam in the bottom, topped with ice cream and fresh raspberries on top.  My problem with this is that it won $1,000,000 dollars.  They are somewhat creative I guess, but very little of this recipe is homemade or imaginative.

Were there no better recipes than this in the contest?  Seriously?  Who judges this contest?  A 10 year old who just LOVES ice cream sundaes?  Am I being harsh?

I got on the Pillsbury website and decided to go on a mission to look at other recipes that were contenders in the 2010 Bake Off. These brownies were among the finalists, and while they do use a brownie mix, there is more to these brownies than just a dressed up mix topped with ice cream.  On top of the brownie layer is spread a layer of sweet cream cheese and peanut butter goodness.  To finish things off, a layer of melted chocolate  is spread over the brownies and then sprinkled with toffee pieces.

Without having made the cookie cups, I can’t say for sure that these are better or more worthy of the prize, but they are very tasty.  Enjoy in small portions with a glass of milk because they are rich and quite chocolate-y.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Toffee Brownies

Courtesy of Pamela Shank

Ingredients

  • 1 box (19.5 oz) Brownie Mix
  • ½ cup Vegetable Oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can (14 oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • ½ cup Peanut Butter
  • 1 bag (8 oz) toffee bits
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray.

2. In medium bowl, stir brownie mix, oil, water and eggs 50 strokes with spoon until smooth. Spread batter in pan; set aside.

3. In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add milk and peanut butter; beat until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the toffee bits. Spoon mixture over batter; spread evenly.

4. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until cheesecake layer is set and edges are light golden brown. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate 40 minutes.

5. In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and cream uncovered on High 40 to 60 seconds or until chips are melted; stir until smooth. Spread over cheesecake layer. Sprinkle with remaining toffee bits. Cool completely, about 1 hour. For brownies, cut into 6 rows by 6 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

Lemon Squares

This afternoon I made these lemon squares from Eatingwell.com.  My mom makes the most incredible lemon bars.  I could probably eat an entire pan if no one stopped me and if I wouldn’t go into a sugar and butter coma afterward.  When I came across this recipe I had to see how it compared to my mom’s butter laden bars with tart and luscious filling.

Lemon bars must have a buttery, crunchy base, a smooth, lemony filling and a crunchy, sugary top.  I was hopeful that these bars would measure up.  There is a bit of butter in the crust to provide the richness, and the use of lemon juice and zest in the filling makes these bars incredibly flavorful.  The recipe calls for white whole wheat flour, but since all I had was regular whole wheat I opted for plain old all purpose flour.  I probably could have done half all purpose and half whole wheat, and will probably try that next time.

The verdict:  Yum.  Crunchy, sweet, buttery goodness topped with incredibly tart, sweet gooey lemon and a crunchy topping sprinkled with powdered sugar.  I will definitely be making these again.  Next time I will try to get some white whole wheat flour or use a mixture of all purpose and whole wheat.

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Pistachio Pavlovas with Lemon Curd and Raspberries

These lovely desserts were the finale to our Easter meal this past weekend.  I did not make them and cannot take any credit for their deliciousness.  My friend Jackie found the recipe in Cooking Light and offered to bring them.  They were the perfect end to the meal. 

The meringues were light and crunchy, the lemon curd and raspberries were perfect partners; tart and sweet, and the pistachios added such a wonderful richness to the whole dessert.  To top it all off, they were beautiful.  This is an impressive looking dessert, and Jackie said that it wasn’t all that complicated or tedious.  She even let the meringues sit in the oven overnight and they were still perfect.

Making individual dessert can sometimes me a pain, but these are incredibly easy to assemble.  I will definitely be putting this recipe away to make another time.  Thanks, Jackie!

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Daring Bakers: Orange Tian

This orange tian was not one of the prettiest desserts to ever come out of my kitchen, but it was one of the most refreshing and tastiest.

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

I had not heard of an orange tian before.  I hadn’t heard of any kind of tian before, actually.  My lack of knowledge demanded a Google search.  A search of “tian” will give you some interesting results.  According to wiki, tian (Chinese: 天; literally “Sky or heaven, heavens; god, gods”) is one of the oldest Chinese terms for the cosmos and a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophy, and religion.

In the culinary world, however, tian is a French term “describing a type of cooking vessel used in the Alpes-Maritimes area of France. It is traditionally made from red clay and can be either glazed or unglazed. A modern tian can come lidded or not and sometimes has a looped handle on one side.

The vessel is used to cook a traditional braised vegetable stew also called tian. The unglazed vessels, filled with root and winter vegetables along with wine or rinds of cheese, were placed in the hot ashes of a fire and left to stew all day in gentle heat, somewhat like a Dutch oven.”  You can read more here on wiki.

In this case, a tian is a dish composed of layers of ingredients.  Many that I have found in my searches are vegetable tians and can be either hot or cold.

No vegetables or rinds of cheese are found this in this dish.  This tian is a layer of orange segments, whipped cream, and orange maramlade with a base of rich pate sablee.  The layers create not only a lovely presentation, but a great combination of flavors and textures.  It tasted incredible.

This challenge, not unlike other challenges, was not without its share of hiccups.

  1. I over baked the pate sablee resulting in a large cookie that cracked upon removal from the baking sheet.
  2. I am no pro when it comes to segmenting oranges, so there were a few stray pieces of membrane in there.  Check out this video on you tube for some tips.
  3. The whipped cream with the gelatin was super confusing, and I’m not sure if I did it right.  I think it should have set up more?  I just had to kind of go with it.  It turned out OK…I think.
  4. I used a sheet pan to form the tian that I was sure would fit in the freezer.  I was wrong.  So, I had to transfer the dessert to another pan by sliding the silpat from the big pan to a smaller one.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, both pans had lips and so in this moving process some of the juices escaped and my cookie got a few more cracks.  At least the cookie would end up at the bottom.

After that, I let the tian set for about an hour.  When I flipped it out onto a platter it was beautiful!  Not perfect, but not falling apart either.  So, while this orange tian was not a complete success, it was not a failure.

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Chocoflan Cake

My mom sent this recipe to me.  I discovered in talking with her today that the reason she sent it to me is because she was too scared to try it out herself.  I have become the recipe guinea pig, and I am totally OK with that.

There’s always a little bit of uncertainty when trying a new recipe and it helps to know that someone else has tried it with good results.  It really helps to know that someone you know and trust has tried it.  I am often skeptical of some online reviews because I don’t know if the people writing the reviews are clueless in the kitchen and totally botched a perfectly good recipe, OR if the person likes anything they eat because they lack good taste and taste buds.  So, send me your iffy recipes and I will try them and give you my honest opinion…if that means anything.

This cake is half chocolate cake and half flan.  Well, more like 60% chocolate cake and 40% flan.  Regardless, chocolate cake + flan = crazy delicious.  A bundt pan is filled with a thin layer of cajeta, topped with a chocolate cake batter and finished off with a flan type mixture that makes it way down to the bottom of the pan during the baking process.  This creates the layer of creamy flan on top of the cake which when inverted is topped with the sweet and decadent cajeta.

I topped the finished cake with toasted pecans.  It could be served with some sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  This cake was a hit at the small group we had at our house last night.  It was such a hit that we had a mere slice left over. (more…)

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

Glad to report that I made it to Austin this weekend and got to see my pregnant sister and feel lil Kim kick, punch and hiccup a few times.  Babies are amazing.  I don’t think there will come a time in my life that I am not completely and totally in awe of a pregnant woman.  That little kid has fingers, toes, and eyelashes!  Incredible.  I cannot wait to see my little niece in just a few months…

I also got to see my nephew, my parents, aunt, uncle, cousin, and many relatives and family friends at my Grandpa’s 90th birthday celebration on Sunday.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with those people.  I am so blessed to have such incredible family and friends!

Back in Amarillo tonight and remembered that I had some of this cake leftover in the fridge.  The piece I ate today wasn’t as good as it was 5 days ago, but it was still tasty.  It was crazy gooey and delicious freshly made!

In my search for the origin of gooey butter cake, I discovered that the cake’s roots are in St. Louis.  I know next to nothing about St. Louis.  I do know that this is the home of the well known Gateway arch, which is the tallest man-made monument in our country standing at 630 feet at its highest point.  It is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and it located near the starting point of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  I had no idea there was so much historical significance to the arch!  Maybe I will plan a vacation to see some historical sights in the USA someday.  Someday…

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