Tag Archives: desserts

Individual Tiramisu

In keeping with last week’s “mini” theme I thought I would post a great individual dessert you can serve to a crowd.  These were the perfect sweet ending to an engagement party I threw that I will post about next week.  The best part is that they have to be made in advance, so while there are a lot of layers, they are easy to do and can all be made a day before.  I used 8 ounce glasses from Ikea but any small vessel will do, even plastic.  Grab a bunch of these mini spoons and you are good to go.  If you don’t want to do individual tiramisus then just follow the instructions without breaking up the lady fingers and layer in one large pan.  The special couple had a sentimental attachment to this dish but it turned out to be a real crowd pleaser – almost like coffee and dessert in one!

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Individual Tiramisu (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  elegant mini desserts
Special Equipment:  24 small glasses and spoons, hand mixer

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 24 ounces room temperature mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups of espresso (or 2 cups hot water with 6 tablespoons of espresso powder)
  • 1/2 cup coffee liqueur (like Kahula)
  • 36 lady fingers (found in the Italian section of your grocery store or in the cookie aisle)
  • cocoa for disting

Place the egg yolks, marsala wine and sugar in a heatproof bowl.  In a saucepan add several inches of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the bowl over the water (make sure its not touching) – this is called a double boiler.  Using a handheld mixer beat the egg mixture for 5 to 8 minutes, until the eggs have tripled in volume.  The mixture will be light in color and thickened.

Take the bowl off the heat (carefully) and fold in the mascarpone cheese, trying not to deflate the mixture (room temp is very important here so it incorporates easily).

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Set aside.  In a shallow baking dish combine the espresso and the coffee liqueur.  Break the ladyfingers into a couple of pieces (I broke them into quarters).  Spoon a small amount of the mascarpone mixture into the bottom of the glass.  Dunk two ladyfinger pieces into the espresso mixture, quickly so they don’t fall apart, and pile them into the glass.

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Repeat for 2 more layers and then dust with cocoa powder.  Repeat with the rest of the glasses (I did it in assembly line style which worked well).  Chill overnight and serve.

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Individual Tiramisu

  • Servings: 24
  • Time: 40 minutes, overnight chilling
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Special Equipment:  24 small glasses and spoons, hand mixer

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 24 ounces room temperature mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups of espresso (or 2 cups hot water with 6 tablespoons of espresso powder)
  • 1/2 cup coffee liqueur (like Kahula)
  • 36 lady fingers (found in the Italian section of your grocery store or in the cookie aisle)
  • cocoa for disting

Place the egg yolks, marsala wine and sugar in a heatproof bowl.  In a saucepan add several inches of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the bowl over the water (make sure its not touching) – this is called a double boiler.  Using a handheld mixer beat the egg mixture for 5 to 8 minutes, until the eggs have tripled in volume.  The mixture will be light in color and thickened.  Take the bowl off the heat (carefully) and fold in the mascarpone cheese, trying not to deflate the mixture (room temp is very important here so it incorporates easily).  Set aside.

In a shallow baking dish combine the espresso and the coffee liqueur.  Break the ladyfingers into a couple of pieces (I broke them into quarters).  Spoon a small amount of the mascarpone mixture into the bottom of the glass.  Dunk two ladyfinger pieces into the espresso mixture, quickly so they don’t fall apart, and pile them into the glass.  Repeat for 2 more layers and then dust with cocoa powder.  Repeat with the rest of the glasses (I did it in assembly line style which worked well).  Chill overnight and serve.

Classic Cheesecake

A couple weeks ago Patrick and I were having his boss over for dinner on a Friday night and I was trying to figure out a delicious yet special meal that I could serve after a full day of work.  Make ahead was a given, and since she is from New York it hit me – have cheesecake for dessert!  Somehow in the years we have been together I have never made my cheesecake for Patrick and now I have a feeling it will be requested often.  It is the perfect holiday item – the ingredients are super simple, it’s pretty hands off, it actually needs to be made in advance, lasts for days and is almost universally loved!  It is also a great dessert to bring to a family holiday meal or an office party, as transporting it in a springform pan means that it can’t really get crushed.

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What a springform pan looks like in case you don’t have one

This is a pretty simple version with just a few twists thrown in to amp up the flavor.  I put orange zest and juice in the cheese mixture as I think the citrus helps keep the filling from being one note.  Also I like to add bourbon to the sour cream topping but since it’s not cooked off if you want you can just use vanilla extract.  While this cheesecake takes a little while to make and then you have to chill it, the actual hands on time is so minimal you could easily do it when you get home one night and then serve it the upcoming weekend.  Thursday I will post a stuffed shells recipe that can also be make in advance – pair the two and you can feed a huge crowd this season with zero hassle!

Classic Cheesecake (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  everyone’s favorite made easy
Special Equipment:  9 inch springform pan

  • 6 ounces or 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup, a 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 16 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Spray your springform pan with cooking spray or grease with vegetable oil.  In a medium bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, a 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the melted butter.  The consistency should be like wet sand.

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Using your fingers press the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan, trying to keep it as consistent as possible.  Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or a hand held mixer, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar until smooth.  Add the orange juice and zest along with one of the eggs and mix to combine.  Add the last two eggs, and a pinch of salt and combine, making sure to scrape down the sides.  Pour into the pan over the crust and put in the oven (I put the springform pan on a baking sheet to make it easier to take out of the oven.)

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Bake for 1 hour.  When the hour is up turn off the oven but do not remove the cake, instead open the oven door and leave it ajar for 30 more minutes.

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In a small bowl combine the sour cream, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the bourbon.  Spread evenly on top of the cheesecake and return it to the cooling down oven for another 30 minutes with the door ajar.

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Take the cheesecake out of the oven and allow to completely cool.  Then cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

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Classic Cheesecake

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 5 1/2 hours with chilling time
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Special Equipment:  9 inch springform pan

  • 6 ounces or 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup, a 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 16 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Spray your springform pan with cooking spray or grease with vegetable oil.  In a medium bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, a 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the melted butter.  The consistency should be like wet sand.  Using your fingers press the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan, trying to keep it as consistent as possible.  Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or a hand held mixer, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar until smooth.  Add the orange juice and zest along with one of the eggs and mix to combine.  Add the last two eggs, and a pinch of salt and combine, making sure to scrape down the sides.  Pour into the pan over the crust and put in the oven (I put the springform pan on a baking sheet to make it easier to take out of the oven.  Bake for 1 hour.  When the hour is up turn off the oven but do not remove the cake, instead open the oven door and leave it ajar for 30 more minutes.  In a small bowl combine the sour cream, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the bourbon.  Spread evenly on top of the cheesecake and return it to the cooling down oven for another 30 minutes with the door ajar.  Take the cheesecake out of the oven and allow to completely cool.  Then cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

Ice Cream Pie with Blueberry Sauce

You never know what will inspire a new dish – this time it was realizing that I had bought way too many graham crackers for smores, forgetting that its 1000 degrees in DC in the summer.  Last thing I have wanted to do it post up in front of our fire pit.  So I decided to turn these babies into a crust.  Usually I do this for cheesecake but that also meant more work and more time in the oven so I went even more low tech and filled it with ice cream.  And so was the creation of the ice cream pie.

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I used vanilla ice cream because we had some in our freezer but you could really use any flavor of ice cream you fancy.  The blueberry sauce is also really adaptable, use any kind of berries you would like, frozen or fresh.  Basically what I am saying is you have zero excuse not to run out and make this immediately!

Ice Cream Pie with Blueberry Sauce (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  graham crackers plus ice cream = pantry cleanout dessert
Special Equipment:  food processor, 8 to 9 inch pie pan

  • 1 1/2 graham cracker crumbs (pulse the graham crackers in the food processor to make the crumbs – it will be approximately 12 crackers five or take)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 pints of vanilla ice cream
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs with the butter, sugar and punch of salt.  It will have the texture of wet sand.  Press the mixture into your pie pan.  I like to use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust in evenly – you want to make sure the whole pan is covered and that the thickness is pretty even.

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Bake for 10 minutes and then cool.  While the crust is cooling, take out the ice cream and let soften.  Once the crust is completely cool, spread the softened ice cream into the crust, filling the “pie.”  It’s ok if the ice cream is pretty soft, it’s going right back in the freezer.

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Once the pie is filled, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours, or up to two days.  To make the sauce, combine the blueberries, sugar, water and cornstarch in a saucepan over medium high.

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Bring to a boil and then decrease the heat to medium.  Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the berries have broken down and the sauce has thickened.  Off the heat stir in the lemon juice.  Let the sauce cool and then serve with the pie (or you can store the sauce in the fridge for several days).  Take the pie out of the freezer 5 minutes before you want to serve it so it’s easier to cut.

Ice Cream Pie with Blueberry Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 2 1/2 hours (with freezing time)
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Special Equipment:  food processor, 8 to 9 inch pie pan

  • 1 1/2 graham cracker crumbs (pulse the graham crackers in the food processor to make the crumbs – it will be approximately 12 crackers five or take)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 pints of vanilla ice cream
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs with the butter, sugar and punch of salt.  It will have the texture of wet sand.  Press the mixture into your pie pan.  I like to use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust in evenly – you want to make sure the whole pan is covered and that the thickness is pretty even.  Bake for 10 minutes and then cool.  While the crust is cooling, take out the ice cream and let soften.  Once the crust is completely cool, spread the softened ice cream into the crust, filling the “pie.”  It’s ok if the ice cream is pretty soft, it’s going right back in the freezer.  Once the pie is filled, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours, or up to two days.  To make the sauce, combine the blueberries, sugar, water and cornstarch in a saucepan over medium high.  Bring to a boil and then decrease the heat to medium.  Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the berries have broken down and the sauce has thickened.  Off the heat stir in the lemon juice.  Let the sauce cool and then serve with the pie (or you can store the sauce in the fridge for several days).  Take the pie out of the freezer 5 minutes before you want to serve it so it’s easier to cut.

Individual Peach Crumbles

Years ago when Patrick and I were registering for our wedding at one of our favorite local shops, Hill’s Kitchen, I spotted these precious mini cast iron skillets.  What does a girl who already has everything register for??  Ridiculously cute and not very sensible baby sized pans.  Leah, the owner, convinced us both of their utility (she is a genius like that) and on the registry they went.  I will admit I don’t use them daily but when I do they put a smile on my face.  This peach crumble would of course work in ramekins or in one large pan (I would think a 8 by 8 inch baking dish) but just like how cupcakes are more fun than a cake, these individual crumbles will really wow your guests.  If you aren’t near Hill’s Kitchen you can also find them online.  They are also great to use as serving dishes for nuts, olives and the like or doing mini frittatas.  Buy them first and find more uses for them later!

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This crumble recipe is super easy and could be adapted for whatever you have on hand – berries, apples etc.  Just keep on eye on how much liquid your fruit is giving off.  Since I used frozen peaches they were wetter than say fresh ones – another splash of bourbon or a knob of butter should fix that problem.  Basically you want the fruit to have a nice glaze on it but not be sitting in liquid before you add them to the pan.  Also sharing another good hint here – grating butter.  For a simple topping like this where you want the butter to distribute evenly through the dry ingredients you can use a food processor and pulse them together or just pull out the handy box grater and grate in super cold butter.  Do it quickly and you will get small pieces of butter that works perfectly in this topping.  Make them up to two days in advance, keep them in the fridge and then just pop them in the oven (don’t forget the ice cream!).

Individual Peach Crumbles (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Southern peach abundance
Special Equipment:  mini cast iron skillets, box grater

  • 1 pound frozen peaches thawed and drained
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup quick cooking oats
  • vanilla ice cream

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high.  Add the peaches and 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook for 7 minutes until the peaches take on a little color and the butter and sugar melt into a syrup.

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Carefully add the bourbon and cook for another 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and equally divide the peaches among the 4 mini skillets on the baking sheet.

DSC03693In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Take the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter cold butter and grate the butter into the bowl.  DSC03689Add the oats and stir to combine.  Equally pile the crumble topping on top of the peaches, making sure to cover all exposed peach.  Some will fall off on the baking sheet which is fine (that’s what the foil is for!).

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At this point you can place the skillets in the fridge for several hours before baking them off if you want to make them in advance.  Bake for  30 minutes at 350 degrees until the crumble is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes then top with ice cream and serve.

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Individual Peach Crumbles

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 minutes
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Special Equipment:  mini cast iron skillets, food processor

  • 1 pound frozen peaches thawed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons butter plus 4 tablespoons butter, cold and diced
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup quick cooking oats
  • vanilla ice cream

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high.  Add the peaches and 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook for 7 minutes until the peaches take on a little color and the butter and sugar melt into a syrup.  Carefully add the bourbon and cook for another 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and equally divide the peaches among the 4 mini skillets on the baking sheet.

In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Take the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter cold butter and grate the butter into the bowl.  Add the oats and stir to combine.  Equally pile the crumble topping on top of the peaches, making sure to cover all exposed peach.  Some will fall off on the baking sheet which is fine (that’s what the foil is for!).  At this point you can place the skillets in the fridge for several hours before baking them off if you want to make them in advance.  Bake for  30 minutes at 350 degrees until the crumble is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes then top with ice cream and serve.

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am a confessed saltaholic.  Have been since I was a kid – sweets just didn’t have the same allure as a nice salty snack.  So a couple of years ago when everyone started putting sea salt on desserts I knew I was going to have to add more spin classes to my schedule!  Salted caramel ice cream, yes please.  Crunchy Himalayan salt on your brownie?  Of course!  These cookies are incredible but it’s not just because of the addition of the sea salt.  A pretty exacting and somewhat complicated cookie (at least compared to the Toll House version) somehow all of the elements come together to create a nice chewy on the inside, crispy on the edges, decadent chocolate chip cookie.  A former colleague shared the recipe with me and as first I was off put by the different kinds of flour, the 24 hour chilling and the milk powder (???) but they are seriously worth it.  If you are a baker you probably have cake flour and bread flour on hand already – if not you can store flours in the freezer in plastic baggies to keep them fresh if you don’t use them often.  I went online and found this milk powder which supposedly lasts for years.

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I guess you could bring it camping if you are into that kind of thing – my guess is once you make these for your friends and family they will request them so often you will work your way through these ingredients pretty fast.  The amounts here are very specific so I am going to recommend again you go out and get yourself a kitchen scale (reminder I like this one).  Even with a baking recipe that isn’t this specific you will always get a better result if you weigh your ingredients.  A cup of flour can vary a lot depending on how much you pack it down, if you fluffed it before you measured or if it’s not exactly level.  This small investment will pay real dividends.  This recipe makes pretty big cookies but don’t cut down on the size or you won’t get the right texture.  It’s actually better that they are so big as it can help you from eating multiple cookies in one sitting (I am not promising anything).  So bake up a batch, leave some for Santa and you will be assured everything on your list!  I will be taking Christmas day off but will be back in action next week with ideas for New Years.  Happy holidays!

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Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  salt makes everything better
Special Equipment: food scale and stand mixer (both make life easier but not necessary)

  • 8 1/2 ounces cake flour
  • 8 1/2 ounces bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried milk powder
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces light brown sugar
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 20 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Sea salt

In a medium bowl combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, milk powder and salt with a whisk.  Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes (or use a hand mixer).DSC00030

Add the eggs, one at a time, then add in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low so you don’t cover yourself with flour and add the dry ingredients.  Don’t overmix here – do it just until combined, then add in the chocolate chips and mix for another couple of seconds until they are mixed in.  Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.  When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.  Make the cookies about the size of golf balls and space them apart with at least an inch in between.

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Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes, then use a spaulta to transfer them to a baking rack to cool a bit more.

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Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 20-24 cookies
  • Time: 20 minutes plus 24 hours chilling time
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Special Equipment: food scale and stand mixer (both make life easier but not necessary)

  • 8 1/2 ounces cake flour
  • 8 1/2 ounces bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried milk powder
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces light brown sugar
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 20 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Sea salt

In a medium bowl combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, milk powder and salt with a whisk.  Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes (or use a hand mixer). Add the eggs, one at a time, then add in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low so you don’t cover yourself with flour and add the dry ingredients.  Don’t overmix here – do it just until combined, then add in the chocolate chips and mix for another couple of seconds until they are mixed in.  Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.  Make the cookies about the size of golf balls and space them apart with at least an inch in between.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes, then use a spaulta to transfer them to a baking rack to cool a bit more.

Pound Cake Perfection

As many of you know I love things that can be made ahead, especially if they can go into the freezer.  I also have a love of edible gifts – let’s face it, most people would rather not have more chotchkies filling up their home, but almost everyone wants sweets!  Pound cake is the perfect marriage of the two.  You can make it days in advance or freeze it, it gifts really well, and it can be used in both breakfast preparations or for dessert.  It’s also incredibly forgiving so perfect for the novice baker.  It’s called a pound cake because it has a pound of butter (yikes), flour and sugar in it.  When dealing with this kind of volume I find it’s easier (and means less math) to use a scale to measure out my ingredients.  Baking is where you want to be pretty precise and I don’t want to DSC00026have to figure out how many cups are in a pound or lose track and add too much.  They are pretty cheap and small so won’t take up too much cabinet real estate.  I have had this version from Escali for years and love it, but there are a ton on the market.  You just want to make sure whatever one you buy has a “tare” function so you can put a bowl on the scale and then zero it out before weighing the ingredient.  Ok then, if everything is a pound then why does one need a recipe?  Well trust me there are a lot of different versions out there and not all of them are good.  I did you all a favor by trying them out and I have to say the winner comes from Martha – her “best” pound cake really is the best.  She offers up two versions even in this one recipe but I prefer the old school version to the lightened one.  Why do you want a light cake named pound??  If you wanted to mess with this at all I would recommend switching out the vanilla extract for almond or lemon to give it a different flavor.  Other than that it’s pretty perfect.  Serve it with whipped cream and berries, peaches and bourbon sauce, cut up and layered in a trifle, toasted with jam…the list goes on and on.  Best of all this recipe makes enough for two loaves so make one and freeze the other.  I made one regular 9 by 5 loaf and two small loaves to gift to neighbors.  Stay tuned for what I do with the cake from the freezer.

Pound Cake Perfection (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration: Martha’s Best Pound Cake 
Special Equipment:  a stand mixer (preferable), loaf pans, electronic scale

  • 1 pound all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon for pans
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 9 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and prepare the pans.  Either use two 9 by 5 (standard) loaf pans or you can use 4 small loaf pans or what I did which is 1 regular and two small.  A good tip for buttering and flouring pans is to use the wrappers of the butter stick on the pans.  Enough usually is stuck to them and you don’t have to use up more butter.  After you have buttered the pans toss in the flour and knock it around till it covers all the sides, then knock the excess out over the sink.  In a small bowl combine the flour with the salt.  I really like bendy bowls for this as it’s much easier to get the dry ingredients into the stand mixer while it’s running (I got mine at Hills Kitchen but have seen them in large stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond).

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In a stand mixer beat the butter and sugar together until almost white and fluff-like on medium to high speed.  This takes a while, up to 10 minutes to get the right consistency (also where having the stand mixer comes in handy).  This is also why it’s really important that the butter be at room temperature.  The best way to ensure that your butter and eggs are at room temp is to take them out the night before and leave them out on the counter.  Don’t worry you will be just fine and your ingredients will incorporate beautifully.

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Reduce the speed to medium and add in the vanilla.  Then add the room temp eggs one at a time.  Once you have added all of the eggs turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything gets mixed in.  Start up the mixer again on low and slowly add in the flour.  Once you have started adding flour, that is the time when you can over mix so be careful here to mix just enough until all traces of the flour are gone.  If you over-mix flour the glutens develop, and the cake will be heavy and tough.  Now divide the batter to put in the pans.  I find it easiest to smooth the top of the batter with a spatula and then use it to draw lines dividing up the batter that you can then scoop into the pans.  If you wanted to get real precise then use your kitchen scale I just talked you into buying.

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Place the pans into the oven.  If you are making small loaves mine took about 50 minutes but start checking with a cake taster to see if it comes out clean at about 40 minutes.  The standard loaves take approximately an hour and 10 minutes.  Once the cake tester comes out clean let them cool on a wire rack.  You can wrap them to freeze in aluminum foil or serve right away.

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Pound Cake Perfection

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
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Special Equipment:  best to have a stand mixer, loaf pans, electronic scale

  • 1 pound all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon for pans
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 9 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and prepare the pans.  Butter the pans and then toss in the flour and knock it around till it covers all the sides, then knock the excess out over the sink.  In a small bowl combine the flour with the salt.  In a stand mixer beat the butter and sugar together until almost white and fluff-like on medium high speed.  This takes a while, up to 10 minutes to get the right consistency.

Reduce the speed to medium and add in the vanilla.  Then add the room temp eggs one at a time.  Once you have added all of the eggs turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything gets mixed in.  Start up the mixer again on low and slowly add in the flour.  Mix until all traces of the flour are gone.  Divide the batter into the prepared pans and place the pans into the oven.  If you are making small loaves mine took about 50 minutes but start checking with a cake taster to see if it comes out clean at about 40 minutes.  The standard loaves take approximately and hour and 10 minutes.  Once the cake tester comes out clean let them cool on a wire rack.  You can wrap them to freeze in aluminum foil or serve right away.

Smores Bars

I don’t do camping.  I am what you call a city girl – too many trees and fresh air I say.  One previous misguided attempt at camping was derailed by a leaf falling on the tent which sent me running.  So I was a little late in the game on the whole smores thing. but I am catching up quickly.  I mean who wouldn’t like gooey melted marshmallow partnered with luscious chocolate and that snap of graham cracker??  Thanks to the proliferation of fire pits one doesn’t need to venture into the forest to enjoy a good smore.  I like to enjoy them on our back patio with a nice glass of red wine.

or this!

But what if it’s too hot or buggy out?  What if the thought of your children holding sticks over open fire makes you nervous (or your husband for that matter)?  Then these bars are for you.  My BFF and I thought about wpid-20150524_195514.jpgways to make these even easier by using brownie mix and fluff or marshmallows – I am proud to say she even experimented with it herself (Kar – share in the comments section!).  However, the base recipe is actually pretty easy, especially if you have a stand mixer.  Meringue can take some getting used to if you havent made it before but hopefully the pictures help  Just be careful to not set your broiler to high like it did – 5 more seconds and the whole thing would have been up in flames!  Also make sure to have some milk on hand, as these bars are super rich.  They can sit for a couple of days too so make them today and enjoy tomorrow.  Best way to test a new recipe?  Find a willing taste tester – as you can see these were a hit with the younger crowd.  Since its a holiday I am going to take a break from the menu calendar but never fear the shopping list and menu suggestions will be back next friday.  Happy 4th everyone!

Smores Bars (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   S’mores Bars with Marshmallow Meringue by Food and Wine Magazine
Special Equipment:  stand mixer (unless you have Michelle Obama arms and can hold a hand mixer for 10 minutes straight)

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (almost an entire box – the rest are perfect for snacking)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the sides.  This is an awesome way of baking things, especially sticky things, as you can just pull the whole thing out using the tabs and not have to worry about the sad odd-shaped brownie.

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In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix the crumbs, butter, sugar and salt until everything is combined. Press the crumbs evenly into 
the bottom of the prepared pan.  Dont worry if it’s not perfectly even, just make sure the crumbs cover the entire bottom.

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Bake for 8 minutes and then take it out and let cool completely but leave the oven on.   Create a double boiler – that is a fancy way of saying placing a bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Fill the pot with water but not so much it touches the bottom of the bowl.  This is the best way to melt chocolate – it can scorch pretty easily so you want to use indirect heat.

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Put the butter and the chocolate in the bowl and melt them together over medium heat, for about 5 minutes.  It will go much faster if you chop the butter and the chocolate into small pieces and stir it a lot.

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Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Then whisk in the eggs until smooth, then stir in the flour until just incorporated. Pour the batter over the crust and use your spoon to even it out. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges look fully baked. Turn off the oven and let the bars cool, meanwhile preheat your broiler to medium or the lower setting.  Recreate the double boiler with a clean bowl and add the egg whites and sugar.  Whisk them together until the sugar has dissolved, a couple of minutes.

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A good way of figuring out if the sugar is dissolved is to dip your fingers into the mixture and rub them together.  If you can still feel the grit of the sugar, keep it on the heat.  Once the sugar has dissolved transfer the wpid-20150524_151635.jpgmixture to your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add the vanilla and cream of tartar and then start beating the mixture.  Start slowly and then increase the speed to medium for a couple of minutes until the mixture starts to firm up (almost like whipped cream).  Continue to beat at a high-speed until super glossy and pretty, about 6 or 7 minutes.  It should be able to form “stiff peaks” meaning when you pull the beater out of the mixture and turn it upside down the egg whites should be able to stand on their own.  Mound the meringue on top of the bars and smooth with a spatula (it doesnt need to be perfect, in fact the more texture the better the browning).  Put it in the broiler for 1 minute.  Check and see if it’s got enough color for you – do not walk away or these will burn!  Take it out of the broiler and let cool.  Use the tabs to pull out the bars and then cut and serve (it’s a little messy to cut so use a really sharp knife).  If serving later put them in an airtight container.

Smores Bars

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Print

Special Equipment: stand mixer (unless you have Michelle Obama arms and can hold a hand mixer for 10 minutes straight)

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (almost an entire box – the rest are perfect for snacking)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the sides. In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix the crumbs, butter, sugar and salt until everything is combined. Press the crumbs evenly into 
the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 8 minutes and then take it out and let cool completely but leave the oven on.   Create a double boiler.  Put the butter and the chocolate in the bowl and melt them together over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Then whisk in the eggs until smooth, then stir in the flour until just incorporated. Pour the batter over the crust and use your spoon to even it out. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges look fully baked. Turn off the oven and let the bars cool, meanwhile preheat your broiler to medium or the lower setting.  Recreate the double boiler with a clean bowl and add the egg whites and sugar.  Whisk them together until the sugar has dissolved, a couple of minutes.

Once the sugar has dissolved transfer the mixture to your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add the vanilla and cream of tartar and then start beating the mixture.  Start slowly and then increase the speed to medium for a couple of minutes until the mixture starts to firm up (almost like whipped cream).  Continue to beat at a high-speed until super glossy and pretty, about 6 or 7 minutes.  Mound the meringue on top of the bars and smooth with a spatula (it doesnt need to be perfect, in fact the more texture the better the browning).  Put it in the broiler for 1 minute.  Check and see if its got enough color for you – do not walk away or these will burn!  Take it out of the broiler and let cool.  Use the tabs to pull out the bars and then cut and serve (it’s a little messy to cut so use a really sharp knife).  If serving later put them in an airtight container.

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