Category Archives: dessert

Hot Fudge Sauce

So, let’s say it’s a Monday night. It’s 9 o’clock. You’re tired. You just left your amusing, but still mentally draining, three-hour course on the abysmal state of public education in this country.

You attempt to open your car door and are cruelly rebuffed. That’s when you realize that someone has hit it, while parked, at just the right angle to effectively prevent you from entering your car through the driver’s side door. A fender bender, to be sure.

You’re charmed. You slide into your seat through the passenger side, drive to campus police, file a report.

If you have dinner plans the next night, hot fudge sauce should be very deliberately added to the menu.

While photographing the hot fudge sauce in its pretty Bell jar the following day, you realize you’ve taken a self-portrait in its reflective glass surface. How appropriate.

You might also make and eat this hot fudge sauce if you’ve decided to spend February re-toxing. It’s chocolate month, anyway. Might as well make it count.

You might also eat this hot fudge sauce if you’ve been very, very good lately and have consumed 3+ green lentil “burgers” in a two-day span.

Recipe from the Italian momma of pizza and pesto fame. I’ll be sure to thank her for you.

Hot Fudge Sauce:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 squares/ounces of unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup (6 ounces) evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1) Melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan. When butter has melted, add chocolate and combine thoroughly until chocolate is melted.
2) Add sugar and milk, alternating while stirring. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and add vanilla.
3) Serve over ice cream. Store in refrigerator and reheat to serve.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake

Forget banana bread. From now on when I have bananas lying on my counter on the verge of disgusting, they’re going into cheesecake.

I’ve never been impassioned by plain cheesecake, preferring to drown mine in cherry topping or fresh strawberries. The fruit makes the dessert healthy, right? I also enjoy throwing fruit into the cheesecake itself and opting to drown the cheesecake in caramel sauce, apparently.

This recipe is especially wonderful because the cheesecakes are in individual containers–no fighting over who gets the bigger slice.

This recipe comes from Tasting Table. When it arrived in my inbox, I swooned. Audibly.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 and 1/4 cups banana purée (made from 3 very ripe bananas)
1 teaspoon gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or, in a pinch, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Graham cracker, for garnish

1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dark rum

1. In a large, heatproof bowl, combine the cream cheese with the banana purée and place the bowl above a saucepan of simmering water. Stir the mixture until the cheese melts. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it bloom for 1 minute.
2. While the cream cheese and banana mixture melts, use another bowl to combine the cream with the sour cream, sugar and vanilla seeds. Whip until medium peaks form, about 3 minutes. (You could do this by hand, but using a mixer helps a LOT.)
3. Whisk the gelatin into the banana mixture until well-combined. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the salt. Whisk in half of the cream mixture, then, using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining cream mixture.
4. Divide the batter among six glass cups. Gently tap the glasses to settle the filling and whip any excess from the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
5. To make the sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with the water and cook over medium-high heat, without stirring, until dark amber, about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully whisk in the cream. Whisk in the butter, then the rum. Transfer the caramel to a heatproof container, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
6. To serve, drizzle the cheesecakes with the caramel sauce and garnish with graham cracker.

By the way, there will be leftover caramel sauce. It tastes good on a spoon or on ice cream. How versatile.

Peanut Butter Pie with Rosemary Graham Cracker Crust

Many of you are peanut butter partnership purists. There are those of you who love PB&J on white bread, no crust. Those of you who have been peanut butter and chocolate devotees since you first encountered the Reese’s peanut butter cup.

I know you. I hear you. But I’m also prepared to tell you that it’s time to accept peanut butter and rosemary pie into your life. Sure, it’s not as simple as spreading the combination on a slice of bread or unwrapping that iconic orange, yellow and brown wrapper. There’s more than a 5 minute time commitment involved.

Still, it’s simple. I’ve spent months dreaming up how this pairing could work without provoking a national uproar, and this recipe not only fits the bill, but also takes less than 30 minutes to make. (Exempting refrigerator time.)

The idea came from a UNC alumna I met in D.C., who loves peanut butter on rosemary crackers. She requested a dessert interpretation of her favorite afternoon snack, and I’ve been thinking about the recipe ever since.

With exams being over, I lack a sense of purpose. Until I enter the kitchen. My identity crisis is your peanut butter pie.

I adapted this filling and this crust for my recipe.

Also, you could, technically, not include the rosemary in this recipe. I’ll just tell you, however, that throwing herbs into a sweet pie is a fun party trick. You’ll see.

Rosemary graham cracker crust:
1 1/2 cups (about 12 crackers) graham crackers
1/3 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

Peanut butter pie filling:
1 3/4 cups whipping cream, divided
1 cup peanut butter (I used one with no sugar added)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1) To prepare the graham cracker crust, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Break up the graham crackers and place in a food processor. (In a pinch, use a gallon size plastic bag and take out your anger on it.) Process until finely ground. Add sprigs of rosemary and process, then pour in butter, sugar and salt. Stir to ensure that all ingredients are incorporated.
2) Press the graham cracker mixture evenly into a tart or pie pan (about 9 inches in diameter). Bake for 7 minutes, let cool briefly, then place in the freezer to finish cooling.
3) Once the crust is cooling in the freezer, whip 3/4 cup of the cream until it forms soft peaks. Set aside. Combine peanut butter, cream cheese and condensed milk until just combined. Fold in whipped cream.
4) Pour the peanut butter filling into the graham cracker crust. Whip up the remaining cup of cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until it forms stiff peaks. Spread on top of the pie.
5) Refrigerate the pie for as long as patience allows, preferably at least 2 hours. Garnish with leftover rosemary sprigs.

What’s your favorite unusual flavor combination?

Oatmeal Jumble Cookies

For years now, I’ve maintained several beliefs to which I devote myself wholeheartedly:

1) My cat possesses healing qualities. His snuggles are therapeutic.
2) Completing craft projects is a reasonable and productive alternative to studying.
3) One should always have all the ingredients on hand to make simple, buttery cookies.

The last one is particularly important. It’s the reason I buy butter on basically every grocery shopping trip. What if I run out right before a cookie dough craving? What if Paula Deen buys all the butter on the Eastern Seaboard? What if cows go on strike?

Yesterday, my belief gained affirmation in the form of a snow storm. In early December. In North Carolina. Maybe “storm” is too generous, but once I saw that dismal fluffy stuff assaulting the lawn outside of our apartment, I knew I was having a snow day. As in a no-way-am-I-going-out-in-that-stuff day.

Fortunately, I had all the ingredients I needed to make jumble cookies–just what I wanted on a cold day. (I also had all the ingredients I needed to make veggie lasagna, but that’s for another day.)

Truly one of the best things you can do in winter is bake something with a lot of spices. The smell is more pervasive than a Yankee Candle, and the result definitely tastes better.

I used this recipe as my base, then found inspiration in my taste buds’ reminiscences of Whole Foods’ jumble cookie. They throw all kinds of fun edibles in those buttery delights.

Jumble Cookies, or Oatmeal Raisin/Cranberry/Cherry/Chocolate Chip Cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (or pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar and white sugar for several minutes. Add the eggs one by one, then add the vanilla and almond extracts.
2) Slowly stir in the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.
3) Pour in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts. You’ll want to taste-test the dough repeatedly to verify appropriate raisin/cranberry/cherry/chocolate chip/walnut dispersion.
4) Drop teaspoon-sized rounds of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Let set for another few minutes on the baking sheet before removing. Or eat them straight out of the oven. I won’t judge.

Black Forest Cake

Today is my momma’s birthday. She wanted a chocolate cake with cherries. I delivered.

It’s nice to be able to cook and bake for her after all the years she’s spent in the kitchen keeping my family well-fed. Especially now that I can produce food that is surprisingly palatable.

Out of all my options, it’s appropriate that I made a Black Forest cake. Our family is mostly German, after all. And I like to think that I’m paying homage to not only my mother, but also my grandmother and her mother and all of those women, all of my ancestors, who baked up love in their kitchens.

I love being a part of that legacy.

The recipe is based on this one.

Black Forest Cake:
2 cups and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cherry filling
2 (20 ounce) cans pitted sour cherries
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream frosting
2 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Bittersweet chocolate for topping (optional)
1/2 cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur, also optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with canola oil, then coat the oil with a thin sprinkle of cocoa.
2) In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 cups of sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla; beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.
3) Bake for 35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.
4) Meanwhile, drain cherries, reserving 1/2 cup of juice. Combine cherry juice, cherries, 1 cup of sugar and cornstarch in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring often. Then add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Let cherry mixture cool.
5) Remove cakes from oven and cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove cake from pans and let cool completely.
6) Combine whipping cream and confectioner’s sugar in a chilled bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.
7) With long serrated knife or a long piece of thread (I used thread), split each cake layer horizontally in half. Tear one of the four split layers into crumbs. (At this point, you can pour the 1/2 cup of Kirsch on the other three layers and let soak briefly, if desired.)
8 ) Take one layer and place on a serving plate. Spread about two cups of frosting on the cake, then top with cherry filling. Cover with another layer of cake and repeat the frosting/filling process. Cover with the remaining layer of cake.
9) Frost around the sides of the cake and the outer part of the top layer of cake. Take cake crumbs and pat onto the sides of the cake to cover.
10) Spoon remaining frosting into a pastry bag or sandwich bag and pipe out decorations along the perimeter of the cake. Add remaining cherry filling to the top of the cake. Grate bittersweet chocolate on the top to decorate.

Be sure to store this baby in the fridge. Make it ahead of time so the flavors get nice and cozy in the cake.

Chocolate Pudding and a Dirt Dessert

There are few food images more nostalgic than layers of sandwich cookie, whipped cream and pudding. Topped with a gummy worm.

Every time my mom made this chocolate pudding, a familial battle would ensue. We all wanted the skin that forms as the pudding cools. Mom always won with the compelling argument that she made the pudding, so she should get the skin.

Today, I got the chocolate pudding skin. As far as I can tell, that’s one of the primary benefits of being a grown-up.

Chocolate Pudding:
1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
three tablespoons cornstarch

1) Heat a pot on medium-low heat. Melt chocolate, add sugar gradually, then add 1 and 1/2 cups of the milk.
2) Mix the remaining 1/2 cup milk with cornstarch. Stir often until thick and pudding coats the back of a spoon.

To make dirt, layer pudding with crushed sandwich cookies and whipped cream. Gummy worms are (not) optional.

Tonight is my last undergraduate Halloween in Chapel Hill. I’m dressing up as a “Deviled” Egg. What about you?

Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches

I just went over a week without baking.

My mixer sat neglected on my counter, collecting dust while I gallivanted around DC.

My best opportunity for apology was in the form of a peanut butter sacrifice to the KitchenAid gods.

I used up a whole container of the stuff to make this recipe.

Order has been restored to my world. Whew.

I went to Martha for this recipe. Who else? That woman is legit. I leave you with this proof:

Apple Dumplings

It’s fall here, allegedly. You know, time for scarves and down comforters. At least, that’s what I keep trying to tell North Carolina weather every time the thermometer hits 80 degrees.

I thought I’d use reverse psychology and make an utterly fall dessert that would force temperatures to concede defeat and admit that 65 degrees would feel sublime. So far, no deal. But I think I’m on to something with these dumplings…

Warm, soft apples encased in pastry dough. Baked in a sugary gravy. At least somebody around here gets to snuggle up.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Apple Dumplings:
6 Granny Smith apples peeled & diced
Whipped cream

For pastry
2 C. flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 TB butter, diced + extra for the filling
3/4 C. milk

1) Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Work in butter and add milk. Mix until a dough forms.
2) Turn out onto a floured counter and knead until smooth. Roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into squares, as large or as small as desired.
3) Put a few apple pieces onto each square along with a dash of sugar and a pat of butter. Fold the corners inward to make a square, making the corners overlap in the center. Place into a baking dish.

For sauce
2 C. white sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 TB flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 C. boiling water
1/2 C. (one stick) butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

1) Stir sugars, salt and flour together in a pot. Stir in boiling water, add butter, vanilla and cinnamon and place over low heat until the sauce begins to thicken a bit.
2) Pour 3/4 of the sauce over the dumplings and bake at 400 degrees covered for about 30 minutes.
3) Pour the rest of the sauce in and sprinkle with crushed almonds. Bake uncovered for another 15 minutes until brown. Serve heated with whipped cream.

What’s your favorite fall recipe?

Walnut Brownies

My London landlady introduced me to her friends as follows: “This is Meghan. She makes the world’s best brownies.”

I’ll only add that this recipe is my mother’s. So, technically, she makes the world’s best brownies. Like mother, like daughter indeed.

Walnut Brownies:

3 1-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate or 9 tablespoons of unsweetened chocolate and 3 additional tablespoons of butter
1/2 C. butter, softened
3 eggs
1 1/2 C. of granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla
1 1/2 C. chopped walnuts/pecans
1 C. flour

1) Whip butter and add eggs.
2) Stir in dry ingredients.
3) Coat a brownie pan (mine is 7×7 or so) with butter, then lightly dust the pan with cocoa. Pour in batter and bake at 325 degrees for about 35 minutes.
4) A toothpick test isn’t necessary, since these come out quite fudgey and they’ll continue baking once removed from the oven.

Plum Almond Tart

The plums grinned at me under the promising-but-intimidating sign that read “on sale.” They screamed to be purchased and ripened and baked until, finally, their demands would subside.

Some people eat plums raw, allowing juice to wantonly drip down their chins. I, on the other hand, cooked those suckers into sugary submission.

Still, this tart popped out of my oven begging to be topped with whipped cream. I had no choice but to concede. John Edwards and Tiger Woods agree–tarts are difficult to ignore. When topped with whipped cream? Well, you know what’s next.

Consume, regret, repeat.

Plum-Almond Tart:

For crust
1 C. all-purpose flour
1 TB sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 TB ice water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine first three ingredients in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal.
2) Mix 2 tablespoons ice water and vanilla in small bowl. Pour water mixture over dough. Process until moist clumps form.
3) Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Roll out on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in and press, forming double-thick sides. Using fork, pierce dough all over. Freeze 15 minutes.
4) Bake crust until pale golden, about 30 minutes (crust may shrink slightly). Cool on rack. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling
1/3 C. whole almonds (I bought them pre-roasted)
1/3 C. sugar
1 egg
3 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tsp lemon juice (you could also add some lemon rind)
about 6 ripe red-skinned plums, pitted, cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
1/4 C. red currant jelly

1) Finely grind almonds with sugar in processor. Add egg, butter and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Process until batter forms.
2) Pour filling into crust. Arrange plums atop filling. Bake until plums are tender and filling is golden and set, about 50 minutes.
3) Melt jelly with remaining 2 teaspoons framboise in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat. Brush jelly mixture over plums.
4) Cool tart. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.