S’mores Blondies

I first made this crowd-pleasing dessert for our last summer beach day and sunset before the start of school. I’ve already made them again! Insanely delicious.

The bars are not overly sweet and they have an amazing texture. I weighed the dry ingredients to ensure perfection. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Erin Jeanne McDowell. I modified the method. Fabulous!!

Yield: 24 blondies
  • nonstick cooking oil spray
  • 9 whole graham crackers (about 135 grams), or store-bought graham cracker crumbs (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ¼ cups/160 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 packed cup/220 grams dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces/225 grams bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into chunks (I used 78% cacao Lindt)
  • 2 ½ cups/150 grams mini marshmallows
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, and arrange oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  2. Coat the inside of a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick spray and line it with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches of excess parchment on the long sides of the pan. (The excess will help you pull the blondies out later.)
  3. If using whole graham crackers, add them to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they form a fine powder. Alternately, you could put the crackers in a large resealable plastic bag and crush them using a rolling pin, then add them to the bowl. If using store-bought crumbs, add them directly to the food processor.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the crumbs, and pulse a few times to combine.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed until well incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  7. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  8. Turn the mixer to low and add the graham crumb mixture and mix just to combine.
  9. Add about ¾ of the chocolate to the mixer and mix to incorporate.
  10. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Use damp hands or a small offset spatula to press the dough into an even layer.
  11. Bake on the lower rack until the bars are golden at the edges and the surface has a crackly appearance, 25 minutes on convection or about 30 minutes in a standard oven.
  12. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the reserved chocolate on top of the marshmallows and return the pan to the top rack of the oven.
  13. Bake until the marshmallows have softened and are lightly toasted and the chocolate is melted and gooey, 10 to 14 minutes.
  14. Remove the pan from the oven. If any of the marshmallows have puffed up, use a toothpick or skewer to puncture them; they will deflate easily.
  15. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool, 45 minutes.
  16. Using a thin knife, slide the blade between the blondies and the pan on the short sides of the pan, then use the parchment sling to carefully remove the blondies.
  17. Let cool another 10 minutes, then slice into 24 even pieces and serve.

Key Lime Bars

I have a few bar desserts to share. Great for a crowd, party or pot luck event. I have made all of these desserts on more than one occasion! Quite an endorsement. 🙂

These tart, tangy, and sweet bars were fabulous- the crust was absolute perfection. I made them off-season and used bottled Key lime juice. They are a must try with fresh Key lime juice! Fresh Key lime slices would also be a lovely garnish.

This recipe was adapted from the Key lime pie from Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach, via Martha Stewart Living.

Yield: 16 bars

  • 1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground graham cracker crumbs (8 full cracker sheets)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • finely grated zest of 1 lime (about 1 1/2 tsp)
  • 2/3 cup fresh or bottled Key lime juice (about 23 Key limes total)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, for garnish, optional
  • 2 Key limes, thinly sliced into half-moons, for garnish, optional
  • confectioner’s sugar, for garnish, optional
  1. Make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line a 8-inch square, or equivalent, baking dish with parchment paper, letting it hang over 2 sides.
  2. Using a food processor, pulse graham crackers into fine crumbs.
  3. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a small bowl. Press evenly onto bottom of the prepared baking dish. (I used the bottom of a dry measuring cup.)
  4. Bake until dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. (Leave oven on.)
  5. Make filling: Put egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes.
  6. Reduce speed to medium. Add condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly. Raise speed to high; mix until thick, about 3 minutes.
  7. Reduce speed to low. Add lime juice; mix until just combined.
  8. Spread filling evenly over crust using a spatula.
  9. Bake, rotating dish halfway through, until filling is just set, about 10 minutes.
  10. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or overnight).
  11. Cut into 2-by-2-inch bars.
  12. Put cream in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Garnish bars with confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream, and/or a slice of lime, as desired.
Note: The bars will keep, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Skillet Graham Cake with Peaches & Blueberries

I have been looking for an excuse to make this skillet cake since last summer. Graham crackers… peaches and blueberries… streusel topping… and baked in a cast iron skillet? Irresistible. I finally had to make it after having too many ripe peaches on the counter. 😉 What an excuse!

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Chicago chef Stephanie Izard. (I have loved her since she won Top Chef.) The cake is baked on the grill in the original recipe. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 10 to 12

For the Streusel:

Make the Streusel:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat all of the ingredients together at medium speed until crumbs form.
  2. Press together to form a large mass.
  3. Transfer to 
a bowl and break into clumps.
  4. Refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes.
Prepare the Fruit:
  1. Preheat an oven to  300° F, preferably on convection.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the peaches with the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch.
  3. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat.
  4. Scrape the fruit and any juices into the skillet.
Make the Cake:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk both flours with the graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with both sugars and the honey at medium speed until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
  4. Scrape down the side of the bowl and beat in the dry ingredients until just smooth.
  5. Spread the batter in the skillet in an even layer.
  6. Scatter the streusel evenly on top.
  7. Place the skillet on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, until 
a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. (The cake is cooked off of the heat in a grill for the same amount of time in the original recipe.)
  8. Let the cake cool for 1 hour. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.

I’m bringing my special skillet cake to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #184, co-hosted by Jhuls @The Not so Creative Cook and Petra @ Food Eat Love. Enjoy!

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Mini-Cheesecakes

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I live in fear of overcooking my baked goods… and I usually shorten the baking time stated in a recipe, especially because I bake on convection. I made these mini-cheesecakes twice because the first time I made them they were undercooked! They were still edible (of course!) and tasty, but not perfect enough to give to my friend for her birthday. 🙂 (We have been eating a lot of cheesecake lately… so glad they are “mini” portion-sized!!) It was difficult to tell that they were undercooked until after they were chilled- I had baked them until they were puffed and set.

For the second batch, I increased the baking time and added two pinches of salt. Thank goodness (…for many reasons… could/should we eat another batch?) they were cooked perfectly. 🙂 They are pure and simple. Perfect to give to my cheesecake-purist friend for her birthday!! …and to bring to Fiesta Friday #11 at the Novice Gardener! This recipe was adapted from Carla Hall of The Chew. She baked them in mini-muffin pans (with 1 teaspoon of crust, baked for 10 minutes) with optional toppings which would be great for a party. A fun touch was to serve them inverted- mine with a fork, my husband’s with a spoon. To each his own! 🙂 Nice!

Yield: Makes 8 mini-cheesecakes

  • 4 honey graham crackers
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 T  granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 T milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 pinches of coarse salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (convection)(175 degrees C).
  2. Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to crush. Add melted butter and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed.
  3. Place liners (I used parchment paper liners) into muffin tins and press 1 1/2 tablespoons of the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each. Using the bottom of a glass, compact the crumbs to form a crust.
  4. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth.
  5. Blend in milk, and then mix in the egg, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth.
  6. Scoop or pour filling on top of crusts. (I use a cookie scoop.)
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 17 minutes, or until puffed, set, and slightly brown on the edges. Cool to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator until serving.
  8. Serve inverted. Can top with berries or chocolate sauce, if desired.

One Year Ago:

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Fancy S’more Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

IMG_5436

I am calling these cupcakes fancy s’mores. I have been wanting to make them for over a year and needed an excuse! When my family was invited to a party through my husband’s job over the weekend and everyone was asked to bring an appetizer or dessert, I knew exactly what to make…. finally the perfect opportunity. 🙂

These are chocolate cupcakes with a graham cracker crust (which has melted dark chocolate on top) and toasted “marshmallow” icing. The meringue “marshmallow” icing is incredible. It looks beautiful too, especially after it has been toasted. The graham cracker and chocolate crust gives the cake a surprising crunch; graham cracker crumbs and chocolate are sprinkled over the top as well. Pretty amazing. They were a big hit. This recipe was adapted from Jennifer Shea, owner of Trophy Cupcakes, via Martha Stewart Television. It is important to heat the meringue icing until it is warm and the sugar is completely dissolved in order to prevent it from breaking down after it is whipped.

Yield: 16 cupcakes with extra frosting

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 squares)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)

For the Frosting:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with 16 cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. Sift 1 cups plus 1 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix ingredients together on low speed.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.
  4. Put graham cracker crumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Reserve remaining graham cracker mixture for topping.
  6. Place 2 teaspoons chocolate in each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter. Sprinkle each with remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Return to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.
  7. Make Frosting: Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.
  9. Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or French tip (such as Ateco #867 or Ateco #809). Pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting, taking care not to burn the cupcake liners. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.

Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake

IMG_3532 - Version 2

My husband spends a lot of time planning his birthday dinner menu, but every year I make him a birthday cheesecake. I try a new recipe almost every year. I made this cheesecake last year for the first time and it was the best I’ve ever made. Super creamy with great vanilla flavor. Nothing beats vanilla bean in a cheesecake! 🙂 I have made cheesecakes in the past with various types of crust- we definitely prefer a graham-cracker crust; this one is great. This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. We enjoyed it after a meal of Mustard Chicken with roasted asparagus and baby red potatoes. DELISH.

  • Yield: Makes one 9-inch cake
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups graham-cracker crumbs (about 11 crackers)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a microwave safe dish, melt 5 tablespoons butter. In the bowl of a food processor, chop graham-crackers into crumbs. Then combine graham-cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup sugar. Pulse in melted butter until the crumbs are moist. Pour mixture into a 9-inch springform pan; using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press firmly, forming a 1/2-inch crust up sides of pan. Bake until set, 10 (convection) to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.
  2. Reduce temperature to 275 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add remaining cup sugar. Scrape in vanilla seeds; reserve pod for another use. Beat until well combined, about 3 minutes.
  3. Drizzle in eggs, one at a time, stopping occasionally to scrape down bowl. Beat in sour cream and salt. Pour batter into crust.
  4. Bake cheesecake until sides have set but center appears soft, about 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, on convection, 1 hour 45 minutes in a conventional oven. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. Run a paring knife around the outside of crust, loosening it from pan. When cool, cover tightly with plastic; let set at least 4 hours or overnight.

Cheesecakes with Raspberry Hearts

Mini Cheesecake

This is a cute and super tasty Valentine’s Day dessert. I made 1/4 of the recipe, and used warm raspberry jam to make the hearts. I poured the hot water into the baking pan after placing it in the oven- then I only had to worry about spilling it when I took it out! My husband could have easily eaten two. Delicious. This recipe is from Martha Stewart Living.

  • Yield: Makes 32 mini-cheesecakes
  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 12)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 container (6 ounces) fresh raspberries
  • 2 pounds (four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Stir together crackers, butter, and 3 tablespoons sugar; press 1 tablespoon into bottom of each cup. Bake until set and beginning to color at edges, about 7-10 minutes. Transfer tins to rack to cool.
  2. Puree raspberries in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Press through a fine sieve; discard solids. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar.
  3. With mixer on medium-high, beat cream cheese until fluffy. On low, add remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in a slow stream. Mix in salt and vanilla until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each (do not overmix) and scraping bowl.
  4. Spoon 3 tablespoons filling over crust in each cup. Drop two dots of raspberry puree about 1 inch apart in cupcake. Drag the tip of a toothpick or wooden skewer down through centers of dots to create a heart.
  5. To bake, set tins in oven in roasting pans filled halfway with hot water; bake until set, about 34 minutes (30 minutes on convection), rotating halfway through. Transfer tins to racks to cool completely. Refrigerate in tins, uncovered, at least 4 hours; remove from tins. Refrigerate in air-tight containers up to 5 days.

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