Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dessert for a Dinner Party

The other day my Dad had a few of his colleagues over for dinner, so I decided to try out something new for dessert! I settled on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for dulce de leche cheesecake squares since we had a bunch of neufchatel in our fridge! I changed it up a tiny bit, though since I was using a rectangular tart pan, and I also added my own embellishment to it to snaz it up a bit!

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares

yield: around 20 large squares

for the crust:
2 c. graham cracker crumbs
4 tbsp,. sugar
6 tbsp. butter, melted

for the dulce de leche filling:
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1/4 c. skim milk
8 oz. neufchatel (or cream cheese), softened
2 large eggs
a dash of salt
dulce de leche*

for the chocolate glaze:
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
4 tsp. Lyle's golden syrup
  1. First, make the crust: preheat the oven to 325F. In a food processor, process graham crumbs and sugar until finely ground, then pour in melted butter. Pour out into a rectangular tart pan and press evenly into the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes, then let pan cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Next, make the filling: pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over, and let stand for 2 minutes. In a mixer, beat together cream cheese, eggs, salt, and gelatin mixture until well-combined. Then, gently stir in the dulce de leche. Pour filling into crust and spread it out evenly. Bake it in a hot water bath in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until cheesecake is set. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 2 hours, then refrigerate for at least 6 hrs. (preferably overnight).
  3. 2 hours before serving, make the glaze: heat all glaze ingredients in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Pour over cheesecake, spread it out evenly, then refrigerate, uncovered for about 30 minutes.
  4. While chilling, make the brittle (recipe below).
* To make dulce de leche, pour a 14 oz. can of fat-free, sweetened condensed milk into a double boiler and cook, stirring every so often, for about an hour, or until light caramel-colored and thick.

Orange Hazelnut Brittle

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp. orange extract
1/2 c. roasted chopped hazelnuts
  1. Sprinkle roasted chopped hazelnuts onto a silpat, and spread out evenly.
  2. In a saucepan, combine first 3 ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture turns a light caramel color, and comes to a rolling boil (it will also thicken considerably).
  3. Pour sugar mixture over hazelnuts, and spread around to cover all of them.
  4. Let cool for about 15 minutes.
  5. When ready to serve cheesecake, cut into small pieces and put on top of each cheesecake square.
These were soooooo good and sooooo rich, and everyone seemed to love them (including me)! The brittle definitely was a nice accompaniment, and I loved how the graham, dulce de leche, and chocolate flavors combined so smoothly! Definitely an indulgence, but so worth it!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Super easy, spur-of-the-moment cookies!

I've managed to bake a bunch of things since my last post, but have been such a lazy bum recently and haven't gotten around to posting them yet! However, I did make these cookies today that I thought turned out really well, and were a quick way to satisfy my need for freshly-baked cookies!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

yield: around 15 small cookies

1 c. smooth peanut butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. dark brown sugar
dash of vanilla (probably around 1/2 tsp.)
1/3 c. quick-cooking oats
1 tbsp. honey
1/3 c. m&ms (or chocolate chunks/chips)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together all ingredients (except for m&ms) until well-mixed. Fold in m&ms.
  3. Drop in tablespoon-sized balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten them out to about 1/2" thick.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.
These cookies were really tasty, and perfect for an easy, yummy, after-work snack!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fresh Jam

The other day my family lucked out: our neighbors had gone peach-picking and brought over some of the literal fruits of their labor (I pun) for us! Since we had already bought some peaches the day before, I decided to use some of the grocery store peaches and a couple tahitian mangoes we had to make some fresh jam!

Fresh Peach-Mango Jam

yield: about 32oz. of jam

2 c. chopped peaches (about 4 small peaches)
1 c. diced tahitian mangoes (about 2 mangoes)
1/2 c. granulated suagr
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/8 c. water
  1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, and mash with a potato masher until it is the desired consistency.
  3. Cook for another 5 or so minutes, or until the mixture reaches a rolling boil for about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a heat-proof mason jar, screw on lid, and let sit for about 24 hours for jam to settle.
  5. After jam has settled, store it in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
I was too lazy to preserve the jam by boiling the jar (so it can be stored outside of the fridge), but it's a small enough amount of jam that I think we'll be able to eat it in 3 weeks. I also didn't have any pectin, which many jam recipes called for, hence my addition of extra light brown sugar. It definitely is not a very thick jam (it's fairly runny), but I think the consistency is pretty good...and it tastes pretty great too!

The only problem was that I woke up the morning after putting it into the fridge craving the jam on honey whole wheat bread...which we didn't have. So, being the frantic baker I am, I decided to bake some! I used the "lighter version" of this quick bread recipe from the NYT website...but changed slightly.

Honey Whole Wheat Quick Bread

1 2/3 c. skim milk
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
scant 1/2 c. honey
  1. Heat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9x5" loaf pan.
  2. Mix together the flours, salt, and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. In a glass measuring cup, stir together the milk, egg, and honey. Pour this into the dry mixture and stir until well-mixed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pan, smooth out, and bake for roughly 50 minutes.
  5. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
This bread was soooooo good, and went perfectly with the jam!

Side-note: the jam was also really good as a topping for Haagen Dazs' low fat tart frozen yogurt!


Monday, July 6, 2009

Using Up Summer Berries

Yesterday I noticed that we had soooooo many fresh berries that were on the verge of going bad, so I decided to make a simple berry crisp to use some up! It was a perfect easy summer dessert that involves almost no prep work!

Fresh Summer Berry Crisp

2 c. fresh summer berries (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.)
1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. instant oats
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 tbsp. butter, cut into about 9 pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Prep berries by rinsing them, and halving cherries/blackberries and quartering strawberries. For my crisp I used a combo of strawberries, blueberries, and cherries.
  3. Pour berries into an 8x8" glass baking dish or an 8" round (oven-safe) souffle dish (what I used).
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together flour, sugar, oats, and salt until ingredients are mixed thoroughly.
  5. Sprinkle the flour mixture evenly over berries, and top with pieces of butter .
  6. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the crisp topping is golden-brown.
It may not be beautiful, but it is so tasty and especially good eaten warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! The perfect summer treat - warm/cold, gooey/crispy, and tart/sweet! Yummy!

Buon Appetito Tutti!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Red White and Blue Treats

After spending this morning watching the men's Wimbledon final and seeing Roger Federer win his 15th Grand Slam and regain his #1 spot in the rankings, I figured I would post the desserts I made for yesterday's 4th of July BBQ my family went to! I wanted to try something new and, of course, make it red/white/ I decided to make red velvet sandwich cookies/whoopie pies with white and blue cream cheese frosting! I found a recipe for red velvet sandwich cookies that looked kind of cakey, so I decided to try them out! I filled the cookies from that recipe with a simple cream cheese frosting, and I think they worked out pretty well!

Patriotic Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies

yield: around 18 sandwich cookies

for the cookies:
1 1/3 c. flour
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp. skim milk
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 egg whites
red food coloring (the amount depends on how red you want them to be)

for the cream cheese filling:
1/4 c. butter
4 oz. neufchatel
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. confectioner's sugar (may need more)
food coloring (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with a silpat (or parchment paper).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar, then beat in the egg whites. Once combined, fold in the applesauce, milk, vanilla, and food coloring.
  4. Using teaspoons, drop the batter onto the lined baking sheet making sure that the cookies are about 2 inches away from one another. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool for a couple minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
  6. To make the frosting, cream the butter and cheese in a mixer, add vanilla and food coloring (if you want it), then slowly add the confectioner's sugar until it gets to the desired consistency. When I made these cookies, I divided the frosting into 2 batches and dyed half of it blue!
  7. Once the frosting is done and the cookies are cool, sandwich every 2 cookies together with cream cheese frosting.
I liked these cookies a lot, but expected them to be a bit more cakey...they still tasted great though and looked very festive! I also put them in a red/blue basket (thanks Aunt Mary!), which I lined with red and blue napkins...overkill? I think not...

I was also kind of worried that they would not appeal as much to the chocolate-lovers in the crowd (and the little kids), so I made a batch of my lower-cholesterol chocolate chip cookies as well. I upped their patriotic factor by omitting the chocolate chips and instead using red and blue M&M's! The only hard part about this was sorting through 2 enormous bags of M&M's to pick out all the red and blue we now have a huge jar in my house full of orange, yellow, green, and brown M&M's!

These were also served in a red/blue/star-covered basket (thanks again Aunt Mary!)...and yes, I realize I get way too into holidays...but I love 'em!

Happy belated 4th and congrats to Federer on his 6th Wimbledon victory!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Low Fat Fudgy Brownie Turtle thingies!

Earlier this week I decided to try out a recipe for fat free blueberry coffee cake to use up some blueberries in my fridge and was very disappointed! I'm going to experiment a bit with the recipe and hopefully figure out a better version! Yesterday, though, I made Hungry Girl's low fat fudge, and thought it turned out pretty well! I changed up the recipe a bit (as usual) here it is:

Low Fat Turtle Fudge-Brownies

1 box ghiradelli's double chocolate brownie mix
2 c. canned pure pumpkin puree
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. ghiradelli mocha hot chocolate mix
caramel sundae topping
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8x8" baking dish with cooking spray (or grease it).
  2. Mix together brownie mix, pumpkin puree, cocoa powder, and hot chocolate mix. Stir until well combined and pour into baking dish. Cook for 35 minutes.
  3. Take out of the oven and cool for about 30 minutes, then cover with aluminum foil and let chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
  4. Once it is cool, cover with a thin layer of caramel sundae topping, and sprinkle with chopped pecans.
These are kind of a cross between fudge and brownies, but I really like how they turned out! Later today I'm going to start preparing fourth of july desserts for tomorrow...I can't wait to see how they turn out!

I'm also really excited for the Williams sisters to play each other tomorrow in the Wimbledon women's final tomorrow and for Federer to play Roddick in the men's final on Sunday...I'll definitely be rooting for Venus and Roger!