So a strange thing has started happening. My former student’s prom pictures are popping up in my facebook news feed and…it makes me feel so old. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s nice to be mature and independent, and I get to put on a big, poofy dress in a few months anyway, so I don’t really miss prom or high school life.
Going to Luke’s reunion was a reminder of our age as well. I didn’t post yesterday because we decided to come home Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon so Luke had a day to relax before work. We didn’t get back until really late, and well, I was tired.
But the reunion was nice. We had a good time, and reconnected, or in my case just connected, with some awesome people. Luke even got told what a lucky man he is (to have me) by a former classmate 🙂 I knew I was armcandy!
Before my ego swells uncontrollably, let’s move on to the foods. S’mores are a traditional summer snack, but with no campfire in sight (although I’m contemplating using that baking spices scented candle.) I’m finding other ways of working the summer staple into our dessert rotation.
Enter the s’mores cheesecake bar. A crumbly graham cracker crust and toasted marshmallows sandwiching a creamy chocolately cheesecake layer. Let’s call them fancy s’mores. Let’s call them super amazing s’mores. I just hope they can power me through my first GRE practice test.
S’more Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from Sugar Plum
Makes one 8X8” pan
For the crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 6-7 graham crackers)
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 ounces semi sweet or dark chocolate, melted
For the topping:
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
melted chocolate for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish and set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until well combined. Pat into the bottom of baking dish. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and set on wire rack to cool.
In another medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and marshmallow cream until fluffy – about 1 minute. Beat in cocoa powder, vanilla and eggs until combined. Stir in melted chocolate until combined. Pour filling over crust, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set, and no longer wobbly. Remove from oven.
Preheat oven broiler. Evenly top cheesecake with mini marshmallows and broil for about 10-20 seconds until marshmallows start to brown. Cool on a wire rack and drizzle with additional melted chocolate, if desired. Place in the refrigerator or freezer until well chilled, about an hour or two, and enjoy.
It’s been kind of hot in MA the last few days. And I am not a summer person. Especially not in an apartment without air conditioning.
The only up side is I get to see a lot of this.
Izzy is lying down on her side and belly more often to cool off. There’s nothing to make me forget that my bare legs are sticking together than a little black bunny flopping over and spreading out on her little paws.
Luckily, or not so luckily, the heat streak is ending today. I’m happy about it. As cute as Izzy is, I’d rather not start sweating while kneading bagel dough or checking on roasted potatoes.
Or making muffins. I loooooove muffins. I love them even more when they have a secret filling.
And if that secret filling involves nutella, I’ll eat so many I won’t care about that huge blister on my big toe I got from walking too far in flip flops. Damn hot weather shoes.
But muffins make it all better. I know it’s not pumpkin season, but these guys are delicious any time of year.
Nutella Cheesecake Filled Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Makes about 20 muffins
For the muffins:
4 large eggs
1-½ cup sugar
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
1-½ cup vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
For the cheesecake filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup Nutella
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs slightly. Add in sugar, pumpkin and oil and beat thoroughly. Add in remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, Nutella and egg until smooth.
Grease a 12 cup muffin tin, or place lines in the cups. Place about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin batter into each liner, then 1 tablespoon of Nutella batter, then top with 2 more tablespoons of pumpkin batter. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Remove from muffin tin and enjoy!
No one wants to slave over a hot oven when the weather’s lovely and the birds are chirping. I mean, sometimes it’s unavoidable and luckily for me our apartment doesn’t get much sunlight so it tends to be cooler than hotter. Still, no bake desserts are great and can really come in handy.
This dessert is one hell of a doozy, and I don’t say that lightly. I had never made a semifreddo before, which means “half frozen,” so the dessert is kind of like an ice cream cake.
An ice cream cake with a sweet oat crust and peanut crust, peanut butter cheesecake layer and swirled with hot fudge sauce.
Yeah. You can wipe the drool off your keyboard now. This is a pretty involved recipe, so make sure you have the time it requires, including time in the freezer to set.
But trust me, the result is incredibly worthwhile and will impress anyone you serve it to.
Peanut Butter Cheesecake Semifreddo
Adapted from Scientifically Sweet
Makes one 8X8” pan
For the crust:
1 cup old fashioned oats (not instant)
¼ cup unsalted peanuts
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
For the filling:
2 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
8oz cream cheese, softened
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
¾ cup heavy cream
1 recipe Hot Fudge Sauce (recipe to follow)
To make the crust, spread oats in an even layer in a large deep frying pan over medium low heat and toast until very lightly golden and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Shake the pan frequently to prevent burning. Transfer oats to the bowl of a food processor and set aside.
Place peanuts in the same frying pan and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, shaking the pan frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer peanuts to the bowl of the food processor with the oats and pulse several times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and stir in the brown sugar. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt together butter and peanut butter until smooth. Pour this over the oat mixture and stir it in until evenly combined. Use your fingertips to blend it together so that the oats are evenly coated with the butter mixture. Pour it into an 8×8” glass baking dish and press it evenly into the bottom. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.
In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together eggs and two-thirds of the sugar until blended. Place the bowl over a pot with ½ inch of simmering water and whisk vigorously non-stop until thickened and frothy. The mixture should register at least 162 degrees F on an instant read thermometer to safely cook the eggs. Remove bowl from over the simmering water. Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture until cool, thick and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with remaining sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, vanilla, and salt until well incorporated. Gradually add the chilled egg mixture in two parts until smooth. Beat until light and fluffy. It should resemble softly whipped cream. Refrigerate this mixture for 20 minutes.
When ready, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks using a hand mixer on medium speed. Add the cream all at once to the bowl with the cream cheese mixture and fold it in very gently using a wide rubber spatula until evenly combined. Pour it over the crust in the glass dish and spread it out evenly. Spoon room temperature hot fudge sauce randomly over the surface (you will only need about half the recipe) and use a butter knife to swirl it in. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 4 hours or overnight. Transfer to the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving and cut with a hot dry knife. Store leftovers in the freezer.
Hot Fudge Sauce
Makes about 1 cup
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp corn syrup
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ tsp vanilla extract
In a 1-quart heavy bottomed saucepan, combine cream, water, corn syrup, brown sugar and salt over medium low heat. Bring it to a simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chopped chocolate. Let the mixture stand, undisturbed, for 2 minutes and then stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
Return pan to the stove and bring the chocolate sauce to a gentle boil over medium low heat, stirring constantly. When it reduces to a boil, continue to cook for 3 minutes. Make sure to stir constantly and get to the bottom edges of the pan as the chocolate can burn easily. The mixture will be thick and luscious.
Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Let cool about 15 minutes. Store leftovers in a mason jar in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in a hot water bath for reuse. I stirred the leftover sauce into an ice cream recipe.
Our meeting with the catering rep went extremely well. We discussed our vision for the food at our wedding, as it’s obviously very important to me that our guests are fully sated with happy memories and happy bellies at the end of the night. The next step of the process is setting up a taste testing. You can imagine how excited I am for that!
So about these awesome bars. If you’re going to make the dulce de leche from scratch (which is what I do since I have yet to find some at a supermarket near me), you’re going to want to make it well in advance, as it takes about 8 hours to cook and cool. I would recommend making it the day before and letting it chill in the fridge overnight.
Cooking my dulce de leche.
Once that’s done, you’re ready to make these beauties. I love cheesecake but have yet to have an occasion large enough, or a large enough self-justification to make one, so I go the next best thing. Cheesecake bars: cheesecake’s awesome little brother.
You get the taste and texture of cheesecake without the worry of what to do with the other 3 pounds of baked cream cheese. I am so making cheesecake for my birthday this year. That’s a large piece of justification, right?
Anyway, these bars start with a baked graham cracker crust layer, next comes the dulce de leche kissed cheesecake layer, and finally, a topping layer of dulce de leche and sea salt.
Sea salt? Yes, sea salt. This dessert is rich and sweet, and the sea salt helps balance those flavors so it’s not so overwhelming. Sea salt is also great on chocolate chip cookies by the way.
Luke thought these guys were a little too sweet for his liking, so I got them all to myself. I decided to send some to work with him, you know, share the wealth. Maybe you’ll share yours too. But don’t worry, I won’t judge you if you don’t. They are pretty darn tasty after all.
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from The Merlin Menu
(I halved the recipe and put it in an 8X8 pan)
2 1/4 cups graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 tablespoons melted butter
3 packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup dulce de leche (see recipe below)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup dulce de leche
3 tablespoons heavy cream
sea salt or fleur de sel
Combine the crust ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Press into lightly greased (spray Pam is fine) 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool.
In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese and sugar until fully blended. Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add dulce de leche and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Pour and scrape over crust and spread evenly all the way to the edges of the pan. Bake at 350 for 38 to 42 minutes until filling is puffed, browning, and starting to crack. Remove and let cool.
Heat glaze, combine and spread over baked cream cheese and sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate for an hour.
Make sure not to overdo the salt. Just a little sprinkling will do.
Dulce de Leche
1-2 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk
Fill a medium size saucepan water until when the can(s) are inserted, they are mostly covered. Remove labeling from the can.
Bring the water to a rapid boil, then lower the heat until the water is at a gentle boil. Insert the can(s) into the water. Make sure to replenish water that is evaporating off every ½ hour or so. Adding another cup each time should be good. After 3 -3½ hours turn off the heat and let the water cool. Do not remove the cans until the water is just warm.
Remove the can(s) from the water and let sit for 30 mins. Open with a can opener and behold the sweet glory. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Extra dulce de leche will stay good for a few weeks and tastes good on practically everything.
Today marks my first annual Christmas cookie-baking marathon! (hopefully) Well, technically I’ll be baking both tomorrow and Saturday…can’t make everything Saturday morning. I asked Luke’s family if I could bring dessert to their Christmas Eve party, and my offering of a cookie platter was accepted. I’m so excited! I’ve had the cookie recipes picked out for a week and am chomping at the bit to make them. I get that way whenever I plan to bake something, or do things in general. I’m always anxious to get started.
Especially to get started on a new holiday tradition. This one though, will have a logical origin. Unlike those of my past. I asked my mother about where the pickle tradition came from…and she didn’t know either. I guess it’ll just remain a mystery. Baking Christmas cookies is always a logical tradition. Heck, you don’t need a reason to make cookies ever. Cookies in themselves are reason enough to make more cookies. But making four different kinds might need a tiny bit of justification…just a smidgeon. Which is that I get to keep all the cookies that don’t fit on the platter. Score!
These bars need no justification at all. Do you like apples? Do you like cheesecake? Is making an actual cheesecake a little excessive to justify at the moment? If you answered yes to these questions, you might be me, or at least, a very awesome person who would very much enjoy these bars. A layer of shortbread combined with a layer of cheesecake filling topped with cinnamon apples and a buttery crumb topping, how could you resist? Well, I couldn’t, and I was very glad to have done so.
Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars
Adpated from Zoom Yummy
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
8oz cream cheese (1 package) , softened
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large apple
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup old fashioned oats
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup (half a stick) of butter, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine the first two ingredients, then cut in butter with a fork, or your fingers, until the mixture is crumbly. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of a greased square 8” baking dish. Bake for 15 mins, or until lightly browned. Let cool when finished.
While the dough is baking, make the cheesecake layer. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the egg, then stir to combine. Finally, add the vanilla and stir to combine. To not overmix the batter, as that could lead to excess air incorporation, which could cause cracking.
Pour the mixture over the warm crust. Peel and dice the apple. (I did this step first.) Mix with cinnamon and sugar, then covered the cream cheese layer with the apple chunks.
In another small bowl, combine the oats, sugar and flour. Cut in butter with fork or fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Spoon over the apples. Bakes for 30 minutes, turning the temperature down to 300 for the last five minutes. Cool on wire rack, then cut into bars. Store bars in the refrigerator.