White Chocolate Cashew Dulce de Leche Bars

In honor of Memorial Day, I’m posting about a certain dessert that I cannot stop thinking about.  I know it might not be the same concept as Memorial Day, but I felt that if I didn’t post about a dessert that I’ll remember forever (or at least a long time) I’d have no other way of acknowledging the holiday.

Besides saying Happy Memorial Day to everyone, and to thank the men and women who have served our nation.

So what makes these bars so darn good?  Well, it’s the flavor combination.  Three things I can’t get enough of (white chocolate, dulce de leche, and cashews) all in one delicious package?  Umm, yes please.

Yes please times a billion.  These bars are essentially a dulce de leche flavored blondie studded with chopped cashews and white chocolate chips.  Their texture is denser than that of a traditional blondie, and therefore even more dear to me.

I am one of those people who likes the gooey center pieces of brownie, not the firm, crispy edges, so to me, the soft chewiness the dulce de leche adds to these bars is ethereal.  Please excuse me, I’ve made myself hungry.  Time to hit the bars, if you catch my drift.

White Chocolate Cashew Dulce de Leche Bars

Adapted from The Capitol Baker

Makes one 8X8” pan

1/2 cup (1 stick)unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1 cup Dulce de Leche (store-bought or homemade)
3/4 cup roasted salted cashews, roughly chopped

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8 x 8” pan and set aside.

Melt the butter over low heat in a medium saucepan.  Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Add the brown sugar to the saucepan and whisk until mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the egg then add the salt and flour and stir until fully combined.  Add the dulce de leche to the batter and stir until it is uniformly combined, then fold in the cashew pieces and white chocolate chips.

Spread the batter evenly in the greased pan and bake for 35 minutes or until set in the center and golden brown at the edges.  A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean.  Cool the bars completely in pan before cutting and serving.

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Dulce de Leche Brownies

I am a sucker for anything caramel-related.  I’d probably eat the foods I hate the most if they were drenched in caramel sauce…though I guess vegetables (because whose least favorite food isn’t a vegetable?) in caramel sauce would be kind of weird.

Ok, so that example got away from me.  Obviously, I am trying to convey my adoration for caramel, be it a sauce, in a candy bar, or swirled into another baked good. I love it all.  Luke does not.  How am I supposed to marry this person?!?!

Just kidding.  It means more caramel for me of course!  And to keep myself from sitting around eating dulce de leche from the jar with a spoon, I decided to put it to better use, wrapped up in chocolate, so that maybe, just maybe, the man who’s not so crazy about caramel will enjoy a great dessert with me.

Mission accomplished.  I was surprised that the dulce de leche on top baked into a hard crust, but a caramel crust is better than no crust.  Maybe it was because I used store-bought (I know, I know, but I was lazy and the jar was already open).  To make your own dulce de leche for this recipe, click here.  These brownies are sure to please the chocolate-caramel lover inside us all.

Dulce de Leche Brownies

Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Makes one 8X8” pan

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (or in morsel form)

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ cup sugar

3 large eggs

¼  tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup dulce de leche, store-bought or homemade

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and chocolate chips over medium heat until smooth. Stir in cocoa powder and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Add salt and vanilla. Fold in flour until just combined.

Pour half of the brownie batter into a greased 8×8″ baking dish.  Spoon 1/2 of the dulce de leche over the brownie batter in small clumps. Use a butter knife to swirl it into the brownie batter.

Pour the remaining half of the brownie batter into the pan and smooth. Scoop the remaining dulce de leche in small clumps over the surface of the brownie batter and swirl with a butter knife.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the center is just set or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before slicing.


Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

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.

Sweet!

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)

Crust

2 1/4 cups graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 tablespoons melted butter

Filling
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

Glaze
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.


Carrot Cake & Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Last Friday was the first office birthday of the new year.  This time around, we were celebrating three birthdays in one day, but the unanimous decision on the baked good was carrot cake.  Fine by me, I love everything about carrot cake.

Oh, except one thing.  The physical act of grating the carrots.  Every time, without fail, I end up grating off part of a finger.  It’s happened every single time I’ve made carrot cake.  Maybe I need to give up a little sooner towards the end of the carrot.  That’ll make Izzy happy, as she gets all the carrot scraps.

Quick rabbit side note: Izzy’s recovery is going well.  She’s moving around a little more, though grooming herself practically all the time.  She’s not pulling at her stitches thankfully, and has started eating vegetables and pellets again.

Anyway, I was talking about how much I love carrot cake.  I should admit though, that I love pretty much all kinds of cake.  Luke, however, has the guts to decide that carrot cake is his favorite.  I guess I’ll be making a lot more carrot cakes in the future.

After all, there’s no other cake I’d make for Izzy on her birthday!

Carrot Cake

Adapted from Cooking Classy

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup applesauce

2 cups granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3 cups finely grated carrots*

1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of 2 9″ round cake pans with parchment paper.  Grease with cooking spray or butter and flour the pans.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, combine vegetable oil, applesauce, eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla.  Slowly stir in dry ingredients and mix until well blended.  Stir in grated carrots.  Divide mixture evenly into 2 prepared cake pans.  Bake cakes in preheat oven for 37-39 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes in cake dishes before removing to a wire rack to cool.  Flip cakes out of pan and allow to cool on wire rack completely before frosting (once cool I cut about 1/4″ off the tops to even them out before frosting, you’ll notice the centers don’t rise as high as the rest).  Flip cakes upside down when frosting with Cream Cheese Frosting. Store cake in airtight container.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, whip together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy.  Stir in powdered sugar and mix until well combine.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes w/ Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Jun Blog & Live Love Pasta

2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 cups finely shredded carrots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standard mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the eggs, milk, vanilla, and both sugars until smooth. Beat in the oil. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix in the carrots.

Divide the batter equally among the lined cupcake cups. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 10 minutes, or until a cake tester or a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the tins and let cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.

For the Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioners’ sugar (more or less depending on consistency)

3 tablespoons dulce de leche

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is smooth. Beat in the dulce de leche.