Category Archives: Other

Salted Caramel Banana Macarons

Salted.

Caramel.

Banana.

Macarons.

Can you say “yum?”

In all seriousness, these are yum.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning. The very beginning.

A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of going on a trip to London and France (Paris and Arles in the south). And let me tell you…all those things you’ve heard about French pastries being the best things in the world…those aren’t lies. Those of you who have gone to France, am I right? *Insert everyone nodding their heads yes!*

(photo taken by me)

Breakfast every morning was divine (I even became a local at this one cafe!)…freshly baked bread and a croissant, with the choice of spreading on jellies and/or butter. There is literally no way to describe how good this was. And if you thought butter was good in America, you’d be wildly impressed with French butter – it’s that much better!

Besides indulging in breakfast (and lunch, and dinner), I also made many stops to little patisseries. Of course, I had to go to Ladurée, famous in particular for their macarons. Being the dessert-lover I am, I not only indulged in many macarons, but also a heavenly pastry with rose water and raspberries. Yep, be jealous. This was a food lover’s dream!

Yep, that's the rose water and raspberry dessert. (photo taken by me)

And on a complete side note, some of you may be wondering how much weight I gained after all of this eating. Well, prepare to get even more jealous: the answer? None. Yep, I gained no weight. I think it had to do with how walkable a city Paris is…I mean, you just want to walk everywhere.

But back to the main story: So, I guess you could say I became officially in love with macarons during this trip. But really…how could you not? Macarons are adorable and tasty, and I was in Paris – the place where undoubtedly you’ll get the world’s best macarons.

Ever since returning from that trip, I wanted to make my own macarons. But then I heard all those horror stories about them, which I’m sure you’ve heard:

“Macarons are impossible!”

“Macarons are so finicky!”

“Macarons never turn out!”

“Don’t try making macarons – you’ll never get them right!”

Naturally, I was scared away from the task, although the curiosity and obsession with macarons never left me.

And then, over a year later, one fateful day (dramatic!), there I was: watching Anne Thornton’s Dessert First on the Food Network. And what was she making?! Macarons!

I thought to myself, “If a TV show geared at the home baker is encouraging you to make macarons, you make macarons!” Right? Right!

That very next day I got the few ingredients I was missing that I needed to make them. And then, I made them.

And guess what?! They turned out perfectly!

They were not impossible.

They were not finicky.

They did turn out.

And, boy, did they turn out well!

I don’t know if it was a good recipe, luck, or what it was, but they turned out. And I loved them.

Moral of the story? Don’t let myths keep you from trying something you really want to make.

Or, maybe you just need to find a really good recipe.

Or, maybe you just need pure luck.

But try these for me.

You won’t regret it.

(I should note that the recipe does not make a ton….but that’s fine, as long as that’s what you expect.)

Salted Caramel Banana Macarons

adapted from Anne Thornton’s Dessert First

1 ¼ cup almond meal

1 ¾ cup powdered sugar

3 large older egg whites* (i.e. not freshly bought – preferably older than 4 days)

3 tablespoons meringue powder

fleur de sel, enough to sprinkle

½ cup granulated sugar

¾ tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 teaspoons heavy cream

¾ teaspoons fleur de sel

1 ripe (not overripe) banana

*Preparation: Separate the egg whites when the eggs are cold – just out of the refrigerator. However, before moving on, allow to come to room temperature.

Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper

Sift together the almond meal and powdered sugar. Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy. Begin sprinkling in the meringue powder as you beat. Increase the speed to medium speed and beat until soft peaks form. From here, keep beating cautiously until you have firm glossy peaks – do not beat until you have stiff peaks (i.e. meringue should not stand up straight when a whisk is lifted from the mixture).

Gently fold in about 1/3 of the almond meal mixture. Once combined, add the remaining almond meal mixture in 2 more batches. Being gentle is key. Incorporate the ingredients fully, but do not over-fold.

Put a pastry bag with about a ½ inch tip (or plastic bag with a tip cut off) in a glass or cup. Fold the top of the bag over the lip of the glass/cup. Fill the pastry bag with the mixture.

Pipe 1-inch circular mounds of batter onto the prepared pans. If the mounds do not smooth out on their own, using a wet fingertip, tap the mounds gently to create a smooth top. Another option would be to tap the pan on the counter…but I’d recommend the finger-tip option. Let the cookies sit for about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle each cookie with fleur de sel. Allow the cookies to rest 30-60 minutes more, depending on the humidity.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, 1 sheet at a time. They should not be browned, but they shouldn’t look too underdone either. Let the cookies cool.

Make the filling:

In a saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Let the sugar melt and turn into a caramel – but do not stir the mixture, and do not rush this process. Carefully, as steam will be released, add the butter and heavy cream. Stir until incorporated, and then add the fleur de sel. Let cool.

In a small bowl, mash the ripe banana with a fork (don’t worry about the texture seeming strange…it’ll work in the end!). Add the cooled caramel to the mashed banana.

Spread the filling on the flat side of a cookie. Make a sandwich by sandwiching the flat side of another cookie against the filling. Continue this process for the rest of the sandwiches.

Place in the refrigerator and allow to mature for at least 24 hours…but honestly, you’ll want one before, and I found that there wasn’t a huge difference in taste between the more freshly finished and 24-hour matured versions. So, go ahead. Enjoy them now! (And think of Paris….*sigh*).

Advertisements

Bumbleberry Fool Parfaits

Understandably, you’re probably quite confused by the name of this treat? Yes, it’s called a Bumbleberry Fool Parfait. Any guesses as to what it is? Honestly, I would love to hear (and I promise I won’t make fun of you!). Want a hint? Here ya go:

Mmmm…looks good, huh?! Well, a Bumbleberry Fool is just a fancy way to say what this is….essentially, it’s a berry infused whipped cream, mixed fresh berries, and berry puree layered as a parfait (“fool,” I’m told, is an English term in this context). And guess what that means? For those who are Jewish, this is Passover friendly! And for those of you who aren’t Jewish, this is an equally spring season worthy dessert to make!

Not too sweet, this was a great dessert on its own. After a seder though, the berry infused whipped cream itself was a lovely accompaniment to a slice of flourless chocolate cake….really, this was quite a nice pairing (if you want, try this flourless chocolate cake from this recipe!). Another serving idea would be to top off the parfaits with some shaved chocolate. Yum!

And wanna know the other great feature of this dessert? It’s super simple. But don’t let that deceive you….it’s also pretty darn impressive looking too. Yay…a win-win situation!

Bumbleberry Fool Parfaits

from Anne Thornton’s TV show Dessert First

2 cups mixed berries, plus more for serving

¾ cups sugar (you may add more or less, depending on how sweet you want it; with this amount, it’s not too, too sweet at all)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

3 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender, blending until smooth. Run through a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl to get rid of the seeds. You’ll probably need a spoon to help push the thick mixture through (not the seeds though!). Set aside about ½ cup of the puree in a small bowl.

Whip the cream and vanilla together in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Then, gently fold the berry puree into the whipped cream (not the reserved ½ cup though!). Fill a pastry bag – or, as I did – a large plastic bag with an approximately 1 ¼ in hole cut on an angle with the whipped cream. To easily do this, put the bag in a large pitcher/bowl, folding the tops of the bag over the edge. Then, you have both hands free to use a large spatula to fill the bag!

Squeeze a layer of whipped cream out of the pastry bag and into each parfait glass. Top with assorted fresh fruit, and spoon on some of the reserved berry puree. Squeeze another layer of whipped cream on, then put the fresh fruit, and finish with a spoonful of reserved berry puree (you may choose to do more layers if you wish). Enjoy!

Note: While originally this recipe, when doubled what it is now, claimed to serve six, I found that this more than served three! You should safely get at least four healthy (I mean in size, not nutritional value!) servings out of the recipe as is.

Nutella Scones

I gave you a sneak peak of these babies the other day. Now have a longer look. You’ll want to.

 And guess what?! These are breakfast food! Yes, that’s right, you can eat them for breakfast without guilt! They really are not too sweet at all either…rather, they’re perfect. Yum. I’m craving them now.

Make these, please. You won’t regret it. And if you haven’t given in to me yet, please buy at least one of the Baked cookbooks!

Nutella Scones

from Baked: Explorations

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)

1 tablespoon baking powder (yes, one tablespoon!)

½ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 large egg

 ½ cup heavy cream

¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

½ cup Nutella (divided in recipe)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt until combined (you really want a large bowl because you’ll be adding the wet ingredients to it later).

Add the butter to the dry ingredients. Use your fingertips to work it into the flour until the butter is pea size and the mixture is coarse. You want the butter to stay cold for the best possible texture of the scones once baked.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and cream together. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring until the dough just comes together. Gently and briefly knead the dough with your hands. Please do not over-knead! Please!

Add the hazelnuts and knead gently to incorporate.

Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 6 by 12 inches (don’t worry about being precise). Spread ¼ cup of the Nutella on top in a crisscross pattern (try to cover most of the surface). Roll the dough up to make a cylinder about 6 inches long (the Nutella will be in the inside). Then, turn it on its end (so it’s standing tall), and gently flatten it into a disk about 1 ¾ inches high. Again, please don’t overwork the dough!

Cut the dough into 6 or more evenly sized wedges and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake them for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Do not overbake!

Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.

Heat the remaining ¼ cup Nutella in a microwave until pourable, about 10 seconds or so. *Drizzle the warm Nutella over the cooled scones in a zigzag pattern. Then, transfer the scones to the fridge for about 5 minutes to set. Serve immediately.

Scones are usually best on their first day, but these will taste good the next day as well. Just be sure to wrap them tightly and store them at room temperature if you intend to do so!

*You may use a fork to pierce the top of the scones a few times before drizzling. This is designed to let some of the Nutella to seep into the scone. I didn’t do this…it’s up to you whether you want to try this. I don’t know if it’ll work, and it will make the scones a tad less pretty, but the end results might be worth it?!

Sneak Peak: Nutella Scones

Wanna see something? Something delectably wonderful? Here ya go:

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That’s a nutella scone, complete with hazelnuts and actual nutella (nutella baked in, and drizzled on top). Best part about it is that it’s not too sweet at all, like you might think. Rather, it’s pretty much perfection.

Keep drooling….and stay tuned for the recipe and more details coming soon!

Grilled Nutella Sandwiches

Do you see the title of this post?! Grilled Nutella Sandwiches? Nutella Sandwiches?! Yep, you read correctly.

The best part about this recipe, besides the taste of course, is the fact that there are no rules! Want to load up on the Nutella? Go ahead! Want to load up on the brown sugar butter coating? Go ahead! Want a HUGE sandwich? Go ahead!

With four measly ingredients, these are an absolute snap to whip up. And you’ll want to.

Please excuse my images – or lack there of. As I’m sure you can relate to, I could barely photograph this puppy before I downed it!

Grilled Nutella Sandwiches

Adapted from Bon Appetit

 

For one serving:

2 slices challah (or another white bread)

1 tablespoon (or so) nutella

1 tablespoon (or so) butter

1/2-1 teaspoon (or so) light brown sugar

Spread the nutella on one slice of bread. Use as much or as little as you like! Put the other slice of bread on top to make a sandwich.

Melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and stir. Using a pastry brush, coat both sides of the sandwich in the brown sugar butter mixture. You may decide to increase (or decrease) the amount of butter and/or the brown sugar…it’s up to you!

Coat a skillet with non-stick spray (or more butter, if you’re feeling indulgant). When it’s hot, put the sandwich in. Press down with a spatula to compress the sandwich. Switch the sides and continue press every once in a while. Cook until both sides are golden brown…or darker, if you wish. After all, there are no rules!

Enjoy!

Decadent Mosaic Brownie Cheesecake

Are you ready for this?

I don’t know if you are.

I mean, really.

It’s that good.

Seriously.

That good!

And the pictures do not do it justice…not even one bit. But hey, I’ll show you ’em anyway.

So what is this “Decadent Mosaic Brownie Cheesecake?” Well, let’s start with the base. It’s a super thick chocolate wafer crust, filled with cheesecake. But, in the cheesecake filling are 1-inch pieces of brownie. And really delicious brownie pieces, at that. Then, it’s topped with a super dark ganache. If your mouth isn’t watering, there’s something wrong with you.

Madison and Rob loved it. Needless to say, I did too. If you need a dessert to bring to an event this holiday season, look no further – this is the one. If you need a pick-me-up, look no further – this is the one. If you just want to bake, look no further – this is the one. Get the picture? This is a must-try dessert!

(As far as easiness goes, this isn’t a beginners’ recipe, but it’s not too, too difficult. It’s definitely on the more time-consuming side though. I somehow, in a way I’m not quite sure of, misread the amount of eggs in the brownies, and only put one in…when they came out of the oven, I realized my mistake and mixed in the other two and rebaked the brownies for 10 more minutes. They came out perfectly, luckily!)

Decadent Mosaic Brownie Cheesecake
Altered ever so slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Part One: One Bowl Brownies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 3/4cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on high for 2 minutes, or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix well. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minute or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Cool in pan on wire rack.

Refrigerate brownies, then cut them into 3/4- to 1-inch squares for use in the cheesecake. You will have extra brownies left over. Add cubes to cake batter as directed below.

Part Two: Crumb Crust

3 cups or 10 ounces chocolate wafers (you could use another chocolate cookie if you want)

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon teaspoon salt

In a food processor, blend the wafers until they are fine crumbs. Add the butter, sugar, and salt and mix well in the food processor. You may have to do the crust in two batches (if so, divide ingredients in half for each batch). Press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of a buttered 24-centimeter springform pan. Fill right away or chill up to 2 hours.

Part Three: Cheesecake

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 cups brownie cubs (from recipe above)

Make crumb crust as directed above for 24-centimeter cheesecake. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make filling and bake cake: Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy and add eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla and sugar, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.

Fold brownie cubes in very gently and pour mixture into prepared pan. Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken.

When completely cool, top with following glaze.

Part Four: Ganache Glaze

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken up, or 1/2 cup chocolate morsels
2 ounces butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Grind the chocolate into powder in the food processor, scald the butter and cream in a saucepan. With the machine running, pour the hot cream/butter mixture slowly through the feed tube onto the chocolate. Blend until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down sides once or twice. Add the extract and sugar and process until smooth. Spread over cheesecake while ganache is still warm. Chill until ready to serve.

Chocolate Pizza

Chocolate pizza. ‘Nuf said.

Seriously, I’m not joking.

Chocolate pizza!

The proof?

Psh…I am so NOT taking a piece right here!

 

You see, you start out with pizza dough. Then, nutella acts as your tomato sauce, and three different kinds of chocolate chips and marshmallows act as the cheese (the three different kinds of chips add great dimensions of flavor!).

The Details:

The Process: This is pretty simple, but it does take a bit of time because the dough must rise. However, the rest is pretty speedy.

Notes on Ingredients Used: I used average quality chocolate chips, but to really make this decadent, you could use some high quality ingredients. Either way though, it’s going to be fabulous!

The Verdict: Yuuuum! Madison and Rob loved it, as did I! It was good warm as well as room temperature, but the ooey-gooey-ness you get from the warm version definitely might be the way to go!

Chocolate Pizza

Adapted from Sweet and Crumby

½ cup warm water (about 120 degrees F)

1 envelope active dry yeast

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, melted

½ tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup Nutella
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows

 

Mix yeast and water together in bowl. Let the yeast dissolve. Add flour, sugar, and salt, and stir. Stir in melted butter. If more liquid is needed to bring the dough together, add 1 teaspoon of water. If that’s not enough, add another teaspoon. Knead the dough on a floured surface, and then place back in greased bowl. Place bowl in warm area to roughly double in size (in about an hour; if it doesn’t double, don’t sweat it).

Position the oven rack on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450° F.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
Roll the dough onto a floured pastry board into about a 9-inch round.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Make a few scattered indentations with a fork to try to prevent air bubbles. Brush with the melted butter.  Bake until the crust is slightly crisp and pale golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.
 Immediately spread the Nutella over the pizza, then sprinkle with the chocolate chips and marshmallows.  Bake until the chocolate just begins to melt, about 2 minutes.  Broil for 30 seconds to one minute until marshmallows toast evenly.  It’s absolutely crucial to watch this process super, super carefully, because the marshmallows can burn! You may need to rotate the sheet for even toasting.

Cut the pizza into wedges. Enjoy!

This such a crowd pleasing dessert that doesn’t take a lot to make it impressive…I mean, it’s a chocolate pizza, for goodness sake! I would say you could definitely play with your toppings a bit…maybe chopped up Andes Mints could be a great touch, for example. But please, make this pizza!