Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Two-Bite Peanut Butter S'mores

Can you improve a classic s'more? The simple delicious combination of graham crackers, chocolate and toasted marshmallows, what could be better? How about crushing the graham crackers, combining them with peanut butter, making them into little cups filled with rich chocolate ganache, topped with toasted marshmallows? Oh yeah. It's are like having a Reese cup and s'more all in one delicious bite. Or make that two-bites... truth be told, although I called these Two-Bite Smore's, I can totally eat these little smore's in one delicious bite.

Two Bite Peanut Butter S'mores

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or about 7 graham crackers, crushed)
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons peanut butter, softened in the microwave for 10-15 seconds
1tablespoon butter, melted

1 recipe of ganache, recipe below
12 large marshmallows

In a bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, softened peanut butter, and melted butter. 
Place about 1 tablespoon of crumb mixture in each cup of mini muffin pan. Press crumbs to form shallow cups with your fingers or a mini tart press, in you have one. Bake 4-5 minutes until slightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool, in the pan.

Chocolate Ganache Filling
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely (or use chips)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Pour chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips) into a mixing bowl.
Heat whipping cream and butter in the microwave in 30 second intervals until it's almost to a boil but don’t let it actually come to a boil. You should see bubbles forming around the edges. If you’re using a thermometer, heat it to about 180 degrees. Stir in vanilla.
Immediately pour hot cream mixture over chocolate and use a small whisk to mix until completely smooth. Allow ganache to cool and thicken somewhat. I put in into the fridge for about 20 minutes. When cool, stir the ganache a few times. It should be a scoop-able consistency. If it seems too firm, microwave it in 10 second intervals until you get the right consistency. Fill the peanut butter graham cracker cups with the ganache. I used about 2 teaspoons of ganache for each cup, give or take.

Cut marshmallows in half horizontally with kitchen shears or a sharp knife, dipped in cold water. Place one marshmallow half, cut-side down, into each cup. Return to oven with the broiler turned on. Broil on high for 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows start to get a little color. Do not walk away from the oven the s'mores burn quickly. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Carefully remove cups from pan.

* Note: I found that a small off-set spatula worked great for getting the s'mores out of the mini muffin pans. If the bottoms of the s'mores are sticking to the pan, dip the bottom of the pan into warm water. This will warm the graham cracker crust slightly making it easier to remove them from the pan.

Who needs two bites?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Caramel Cheesecake Apple Dip

Is anyone else starting to crave the flavors of Fall?
I know there's a good bit of summer still left but I'm already looking forward to a change of season and all the flavors of Fall. Caramel apples always bring Fall-ish thoughts to mind. Growing up, my mom would buy those caramel apple kits from the grocery store. The kits came with those flat sheets of caramel that we had to stretch and wrap around an apple with a popsicle stick stuck in it. Then we'd heat them in the oven, while waiting in anticipation for them to be ready to bite into. As a kid I thought those apples were the best thing ever, even though the caramel really stuck to my teeth. I haven't had one of those apples in years but I still love the caramel and apple combo. This dip is caramel apples for grown-ups. It has all the things you like about a caramel apple layered between sweet cream cheese. It's creamy, caramely, goodness with a little chocolate and toffee thrown in for good measure. It's seriously good stuff.  This cheesecake dip looks pretty on a serving plate, which makes it a great to serve at parties. Plus unlike those caramel apples we'd make as kids, you won't have any caramel stuck to your teeth! 
As pretty as it is delicious!
Caramel Cheesecake Apple Dip
(Printable Recipe)

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Caramel sauce (recipe below) or store bought
Heath milk chocolate pieces
mini chocolate chips
2-4 Granny Smith or other crisp tart apples, sliced and soaking in lemon juice/water until ready to serve

This is the method is to make a layered dip, for a quick method see note below.
Line a six inch cake pan or springform pan with plastic wrap. Use enough plastic wrap to hang over the sides of the pan about 2 inches.
Place softened cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Scrap down the sides of the bowl. Add the heavy cream and powdered sugar, mix well, until smooth. Place half of the cream cheese mixture in the lined pan and smooth with the back of a spoon. (If you dip the spoon into warm water before you start to smooth the cream cheese, it will be much easier to spread.) Spoon on a layer of caramel. Sprinkle with a layer of chocolate chips and the Health pieces. How much you use is up to you but don't go to overboard or you may have trouble spreading the top layer of cream cheese.

Oh yeah, that's the stuff!
Place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. This will let the caramel set up a bit and make topping it with the remaining cream cheese much easier. Scoop the remaining cream cheese on top and smooth out using the back of a dampened spoon, like you did for the first layer. Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the top and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to overnight. Pull back the plastic wrap so that the top of the cheesecake is exposed. Place a serving plate on top of the pan and invert. Remove the pan and the plastic wrap. Spoon caramel sauce over the top of you cheese cake and top with more of the Heath pieces and chocolate chips. Place the sliced apples around the dip and serve.
*Note: If you want to throw this together super fast, just spread all the cream cheese on a serving platter and top with the caramel, Heath bits, and the mini chocolate chips.

Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla (or 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 teaspoons bourbon)
pinch of sea salt

Place sugar in a small heavy sauce pan. Pour water evenly over the top. Turn stove top to medium-high heat. Hold sauce pan by the handle and swirl occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Turn heat to high, and boil until syrup turns brown around the edges of the pan, about 6-8 minutes. Swirl the syrup occasionally until it turns a deep amber and just begins to smoke.
Remove pan from heat. Add butter and whisk, until all butter is mixed in. Stir in cream. Take care adding the butter and cream as the caramel will boil up and sputter quite a bit.
If sauce has any lumps, set pan over low heat and stir until smooth then turn off heat again.
Stir in vanilla and salt.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Zucchini Cornbread

By mid-August, if you're anything like me, you've probably eaten zucchini in almost every incarnation possible! It's so plentiful and I love it, but we've eaten it grilled, fried, roasted, sauteed...I have even baked it into cupcakes. So I was looking for some new way to use up what was left of my two pounds of zucchini I had purchased at the farmers market. I had bookmarked this recipe for zucchini cornbread from last month's Bon Appetit. Zucchini bread is one of my favorite summertime treats but was looking for something I could serve with dinner. I liked the idea of a savory zucchini bread and corn muffins are one of my favorite things. So this was the perfect combo!

The recipe was for one large loaf, but I decided to make one mini loaf and the rest I made into muffins. I really liked how the muffins turned out. They were the perfect size for serving with dinner. The best part is I have another great use for that never ending summer zucchini!

Zucchini Cornbread
source: Bon Appetit, July 2011, Recipe by Sara Dickerman
Yields: 1loaf, or 2 mini loaves, or about 12 muffins
(Printable Recipe)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large zucchini (about 10 ounces)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar *
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal


Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Spray with cooking spray or butter a 9 x 5 x 3" loaf pan, mini loaf pans or a muffin tin, depending on which you choose to use.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until butter solids at bottom of pan turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Scrape butter into a medium bowl. Set aside and let cool. Whisk in eggs and buttermilk.

Trim zucchini ends. Thinly slice five 1/8" rounds from 1 end of zucchini, if making the large loaf, and reserve for garnish. (You will need more zucchini slices if making the mini loaves or muffins. I used one small zucchini sliced in 1/8 inch slices.) Coarsely grate remaining zucchini. Add to bowl with butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Sift both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk in cornmeal. Add zucchini mixture; fold just to blend (mixture will be very thick). Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. Place reserved zucchini slices atop batter down center in a single layer.

Bake bread until golden and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. *The mini loaves take about 35 minutes and the muffins take about 25 minutes to cook. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack.  Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
*The bread is delicious as is but next time I think I'll cut back on the sugar just a bit, for a slightly more savory bread.
Sorry for the bad lighting in this photo, but this muffin kinda reminded me of Alfalfa from The Little Rascals!
is it just me or can you see it too??!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life is just a . . .

bowl of cherries

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don't take it serious,
Life's too mysterious
You work,
You save,
You worry so
But you can't take your dough
When you go, go, go

So keep repeating "It's the berries."
The strongest oak must fall
The sweet things in life
To you were just loaned
So how can you lose
What you've never owned

Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh,
Laugh and love
Live and laugh at it all!
Judy Garland
When life seems like it's the pits, celebrate the little things like these gorgeous Rainer cherries.  They're even better baked up in this cake because the pits have been removed!
This cake is so quick and simple, you could whip it up at a moments notice and everyone will think you're a domestic goddess. This recipe is adapted from a recipe from Gourmet for a raspberry buttermilk cake. The cake itself is perfect for almost any soft fruit. It's a moist cake that can be changed slightly for a variety of different variations. I added almond extract and slivered almonds because I thought those flavors would compliment the sweet cherries. I used Rainer cherries but any sweet cherry would work as well.

Buttermilk Cake with Sweet Cherries
Source: Gourmet, June 2009,by Melissa Roberts(adapted)
(Printable Recipe)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or regular sugar)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1-2 Tablespoons of slivered almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes,add the almond extract. Add egg and beat well.
At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.
Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter cherries and almond slivers evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar.
Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

That's just got to put a smile on your face!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Watermelon Lemonade Slushy

Do you know what day today is?? Yes it's Martha Stewart's birthday, but do you know what else today is? National Watermelon Day! What perfect timing, 110+ degree heat advisories this week have left me with little desire to cook or eat much of anything. A watermelon lemonade slushy on the other hand, sounds like just the thing to beat the summer heatwave. So pull out your blenders and whip up a batch of slushies!

Watermelon Lemonade Slushy
Serves about 6
4 cups watermelon, pureed and strained
4 cups  ice cubes
 2/3cup frozen lemonade concentrate
1 cup cold water

For an adult version: leave out the water and add 4oz. each of vodka and limoncello.  

Puree watermelon in a blender. Strain through a mesh strainer. (You can skip this step if you want, but it will be harder to sip through a straw if it's not strained.)
In blender on medium speed, blend together watermelon, ice, lemonade concentrate, and water until ice breaks down. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

Cheers Martha, but I'm celebrating watermelon today!