Please sir may I have S’more Bars?

What is the quintessential summer food for you? Watermelon wedges? ice cream cones? BBQ grilled corn?

Well for me it’s s’mores.

Rich melted chocolate with fluffy, ooey-gooey marshmallows sandwiched between two squares of crunchy, slightly sweet graham crackers. I never made my first s’more by a bonfire until I was in college, and now it always brings back memories of carefree, warm summer nights by the Pacific Ocean. IMG_2165I wanted to bring dessert to a casual potluck/board game night and I thought this S’more Bar recipe from Averie Cooks would be perfect: transportable, sweet and simple, and doesn’t take itself too seriously!

You will need:

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • handmixer or standmixer
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • foil and cooking spray or parchment paper
  • 8 x 8 inch square pan
  • 1 stick or 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 packed cup of light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 full sheets of graham crackers, chopped (makes about 2 cups)
  • 1 full cup of mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

IMG_2143Start by pre-heating the oven to 350°F. I love that this is one of those throw-everything-in-1-bowl recipes, by the time the oven is done pre-heating, your batter will be ready to bake.

Best part: you don’t even need to soften the butter (which I always forget to do!).

Cut up the stick of butter into 4-5 slices and microwave in a small bowl for about 1-2 minutes. Pour into your mixing bowl and add in 1 cup of light brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Make sure the butter mixture is still not too hot, because you don’t want it to cook your egg.

Add in the egg and beat until well blended. IMG_2145Add in 3/4 cup of flour gradually and mix until smooth. The batter smells heavenly like caramel! IMG_2146Chopping up the graham crackers was not as bad as I expected. I thought cracker bits would be flying all over the kitchen.IMG_2147I left the crackers in fairly large chunks and saved the crumbs and added it into the batter. Now pour in 1 big cup of marshmallows + 1 big cup of chocolate chips. IMG_2149YYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSS.IMG_2151Fold gently until all the ingredients are well mixed and spread evenly on to a 8×8 in. pan lined with foil or parchment paper for easy clean up. IMG_2152It’s ready to go into the oven! The original recipe said “20-22 minutes or until bars have firmed up in the center and edges have set”. All ovens are different and you may have to use some visual judgement on this. For my oven it was not thoroughly baked until 26-29 minutes and the edges had just started to firm up. IMG_2154Let it cool for about 30 minutes. To make it easier to cut into squares, about 15 minutes in, place it in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes.

OR…serve it warm with vanilla ice cream – crazy idea…. I think so! IMG_2156Cut it up into bars for serving. IMG_2160The chunks of crunchy graham cracker, pillowy marshmallows and creamy chocolate give these bars great texture and taste. IMG_2158They will satisfy any sugar junky’s sweet tooth! IMG_2166These bars will make you understand why they are called “S’mores”! IMG_2161Oliver Twist wasn’t talking about gruel when he asked for more….he was taking about these S’more Bars!

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Vanilla Custard Cream Puffs

I whipped up these decadent little cream puffs for a fancy champagne birthday party a while ago, I love how impressive cream puffs look but how insanely easy they are to make! The whole process does take some time so to prevent me rushing around the kitchen before the party, I made the shells the day before and filled them with the sweet, rich “custard” filling right before the party.

I reused the Choux a la creme recipe from the first time I made cream puffs. To make the shells more uniform and neat, I actually filled a large ziplock bag with the batter and piped them in about 2.5 inches diameter filled circles.

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I’ll admit, I used the cheat-version of this because this cream puff filling calls for instant pudding mix. I couldn’t resist the short cut and the surprisingly delicious results. I followed this Cream Puffs recipe from All Recipes.

You will need:

  • a piping bag/ large zip lock bag
  • large mixing bowl
  • whisk
  • spoon
  • measuring cup for liquids
  • 2 (3.5 oz) boxes of instant vanilla pudding  (I got the French Vanilla flavor!)
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 cup 1% milk

Add the 2 boxes of pudding to the large mixing bowl, slowly pour in the cream while whisking. Then add in the milk. You should already start feeling the pudding thicken. Leave in the fridge for 1-2 hours, it will have a thick, custard-like texture.

When you are ready to fill the shells, spoon the filling into a piping bag or large zip lock bag. Squeeze out all the air and make sure there’s no air bubbles and the filling has fallen all toward one corner of the bag.

You can slice off the tops of the shells completely and give them little “hats” or I actually like to only cut a slit near the top and fill it in that way. When you are ready to start filling, cut a small tip of the filling bag and start piping in the custard.

Dust lightly with powdered sugar if you’d like.

Voila!

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Cranberries & White Chocolate Cookie Bars (“Ruby & Pearls Bars”)

Hello! It’s Christmas Eve (how did that happen?!) and I’m whipping up some last minute edible gifts for family and friends…because quite honestly I’m a broke grad student with no time to shop or money to do so.

I just realized exactly a year ago I made Cranberry White Chocolate Walnut Cookies, I guess the tradition continues! The tart cranberry + sweet white chocolate pairing is perfection and this time it comes in bar form. 23952780785_caa95401fa_zI followed the White Chocolate Cranberry Cookie Bars recipe from WonkyWonderful. Like a cross between a brownie and a cookie, these are soft and chewy, bursting with flavorful sweetness!23870283231_ed5b04cbbc_zI could have just made last year’s recipe again, but I really wanted to try something different and I’ve never made cookie bars before! I love the idea of not having to roll dough or scoop cookie balls over and over again. What can I say- I’m a lazy baker!  23926582236_c9540e3ed8_zI’m finally on holiday break after a super-stressful Autumn quarter, so I was really looking forward to taking the time to just enjoy baking and being in the kitchen with some Pandora music. Also, since these were going to be gifts, I wanted to make sure I did not rush it and took my time to do everything carefully. I even remembered to leave the butter out to soften hours before!

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

What you need for the bars:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I roughly chopped them)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

What you need for the glaze (optional):

  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

In one large bowl, mix sugar, butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth and well blended.

In another smaller bowl mix: flour, baking powder, and salt together. Slowly add the dry mixture into the wet mixture, and it should start getting pretty thick with a cookie dough texture. 23325904713_013bcfa6d4_z

Add in the cranberries and white chocolate chips. 23324433624_9c16a39499_z

Spread the dough into a greased 8X8 inch square pan with a spatula. Yes, I know you see a circle cake pan…I threw away my old 8×8 pan because it was rusting and I didn’t buy a new one yet. Clearly, I’m not the most prepared baker, but at least I’m a creative problem solver! Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Mine came out perfectly with slightly crispy edges at 27 minutes. After letting it cool completely – since it’s really cold in Seattle right now, took about 1 hour. I flipped it over on wax paper and decided to pre-cut the bars BEFORE the glaze. 23324482834_552d632090_kMy boyfriend taste tested the bars and said they tasted great and didn’t see the need for the glaze. I think the glaze completes the look and doesn’t necessarily add anything in terms of taste. 23326016623_3a084e8af3_z23324562884_0ba6d7fb81_zI microwaved and stirred the chocolate with 10 second intervals until it was completely melted and smooth.

I spread out the bar pieces so the glaze would drizzle down the sides of the bars too.

23870286771_5dea68a4e8_zWith a spoon, steady hands, and no hesitation I started “drawing” diagonal lines back and forth over the bars and wax paper. 23326014463_1a73d14e6c_zAnd voila! You have lovely glazed cookie bars! 23952784295_39077ac1b0_zThey will disappear faster than Santa up the chimney I promise. 23324551214_5dfb181339_zPack these in a pastry box or throw a few in clear gift bags, tie it off with festive ribbon and there you have a cute, homemade gift. 23952779045_3509047991_zAfter this posting this blog entry, I may have to go and make a second batch…might have done a little bit too much “taste- testing”! 23326001243_b6826eab4a_z

Hope you all have warm, safe, happy holidays…

sharing good eats with good people! 

 

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Vanilla Wafter Crust

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Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of laughs and delicious food. I stayed in Seattle again this year and went to a Friendsgiving on Friday. Of course, while I was studying and writing papers, my breaks were recipe hunting for a good dessert to bring to the table. While I could have brought a healthy quinoa salad, I decided to go with a pumpkin dessert (again). This is my first time making flavored cheesecake! I decided to adapt this Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with a cookie crust recipe from Love From the Oven blog. Easy enough to make but just decadent enough to impress.

This recipe comes in 3 “phases” – the crust, the cheesecake, and the topping! Definitely recommend making the crust and base a day before so you don’t have to rush around the kitchen the day of. NOTE: I doubled the recipe to make about 18 muffin tin-sized cheesecakes. The original recipe was a little different due to different mold sizes.

First up: the crust! 

You will need:

  • one box of vanilla wafers or 48 gingersnap cookies (my grocery store didn’t have gingersnap cookies!)
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter (should be Unsalted but I grabbed the wrong one in the pre-TG supermarket frenzy)

23330523595_12e8d78637_oI don’t have a food processor, but have no fear, you can do it the good old fashion way: a large ziplock bag and a rolling pin. An awesome arm workout. I did have to separate the crumbs a few times to make sure I did not have big pieces left.

23330521065_95dfb89672_oMelt the butter is a small saucepan on low heat just long enough that it’s all melted, you don’t want it to bubble. Let it cool for 5 mins. Slowly mix the butter into the wafer crumbs until there’s no dry crumb spots.
23311351986_b81221b51c_oScoop about 1 heaping tablespoon of crumbs into muffin tins (either slightly greased or with paper liners). I love more crust for more texture to balance out the richness of cheesecake but feel free to put in more or less. I loved this shot glass trick from Love From the Oven to make flat, even, tightly packed crusts. Put your crusts into the fridge for about 1 hour. 22969548589_242d5d1642_o

Phase 2: the pumpkin cheesecake! 

You will need:

  • 2 (8 oz each) packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs

23101607800_a822b756c7_oPut the cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice into a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.
Preheat the oven for 350ºF.

Scoop the batter on top of the firm crusts, up to you how big you want the cakes to be, they don’t expand very much so however much batter you scoop in is how the big cakes will be. Bake for 25 mins. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 1 hour and place them in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight!

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Phase 3: the topping(s)! 

Okay this part is totally optional, those cheesecakes are ready for palette pleasure, but for presentation’s sake – I wanted to go all out with the cream (it’s Thanksgiving after all!). Whipped cream from a spray bottle melts after awhile and knowing these cakes were going to sit out on a potluck table, I wanted something that would hold shape but still be light and fluffy. I bagged some whipped topping and just pipped them right on, took less than 5 mins! 23371272136_8e5fdeb269_oI did not want to overwhelm the presentation or make it too messy to eat so I used Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar mix grinder and gave 1-2 twists over each cake for a pretty crystal sugar sparkle.
Of course, go crazy creative with the toppings as you want. Use chocolate shavings, cocoa powder, toffee bits, leftover vanilla wafer crumbles, or Fall-themed sprinkles!

The results are perfect layers of sweet and crunchy, rich and smooth, and light and fluffy! 23101290180_cceba05a21_o

Greetings from Seattle! and Pumpkin Cream Puffs

I’m blogging to you from my new home in rainy Seattle, I’ve got a bigger brand new kitchen yet no time to bake in it! Update: In September, my boyfriend, cat and I packed up my little Honda and drove 800+ miles from San Francisco so I could fulfill my dream of attending University of Washington for graduate school. Sadly I had to leave behind a lot of my cake decorating and baking tools at my parents’ place – trading my tools for textbooks. I’ve survived my first quarter so now hopefully I can do a little bit of catching up during my Winter Break.

Let me kick off this new chapter with Pumpkin Cream Puffs a.k.a. Profiterole a.k.a. Choux a la creme (if you want to get more fancy pants with it). I made these a few weeks ago and brought them to my first Friendsgiving!

Note: while a pretty simple recipe, the whole thing from start to finish will take you a good 5-6 hours so plan accordingly! I ended up rushing late to my dinner.

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These little guys are incredibly easy to make and I didn’t believe it until I made them. I applaud the French for keeping it simple.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup butter (cold is okay)
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs

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Preheat the over to 400F. In saucepan combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Once it starts boiling, turn off the heat and immediately add the flour and stir stir stir!

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The mixture will quickly turn into a doughy ball that pulls away from the pan’s side. 2014-11-26 22.37.27

Remove the pan from heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes. I transferred the dough to my stand mixer next, but if you don’t have one-consider the next step a good arm work out! Add the 3 eggs, one at a time, and beat well. The mixture will become considerably more “goop-y”.
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The next step is optional. I am a little OCD so I wanted my cream puffs to be smaller and uniform in shape, so I poured all the dough into a makeshift piping bag. You can also just drop tablespoons of dough on to your baking sheet.

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Here’s a great little trick I learned awhile ago. If you are not good at estimating how much to pipe like me, then take a small glass or cup and dip the rim of it into some flour and “stamp” rings onto your baking sheet.

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Okay okay, I know they do not look particularly appealing right now….

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To get rid of those little peaks and to give the puffs a rounded top, dip your finger in water and tap on the peaks.

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30-35 minutes later, when they are light golden brown and firm- you’ve got cream puffs!

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Transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Now it’s time for Part 2: the filling!

You will need:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin (Although personally I would have used about 1/2 cup- yes, there is a thing as too much pumpkin!) 

In a chilled metal mixing bowl beat the whipping cream, sugar and pumpkin spice with an electronic mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.

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Fold in canned pumpkin gently. Cover and chill for up to 4 hours.

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While you are waiting, you can start slicing up your puffs horizontally with a serrated knife. The puffs are airy and pretty much hollow, but the shell should also be strong enough to not crumble or break in your hands while cutting them.

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While the cream filling is ready to go, fill up a piping bag with a wide tip OR a large ziplock bag with about 1/2 inch corner cut off.

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This was my favorite part: pipe the cream in as much as you want- some people like to be able to seal the cream in, some people like lots of filling and to have the top shell sit on top of the cream.

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The original recipe actually has maple-caramel sauce too, but since I needed to transport these I thought it’d be way too messy and I also think the cream puffs are light and sweet- prefect for a post-fest dessert.

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Just for fun, I plated one with warmed Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Caramel Sauce(!) and toasted pecans.

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Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for friends, food, living in an awesome city like Seattle and my Sweet Therapy readers!

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Brown Butter Blueberry Cobbler

This recipe is absolutely magical! Four-that’s right four– ingredients that suddenly become the most mouthwatering, sweetest cobbler I’ve ever tasted ! I was searching around online for a recipe where I could use my fresh blueberries (yay for summer season fruits!) and my extra box of yellow cake mix, after much searching I found kevin’s and amanda’s Brown Butter Blueberry Cobbler!

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This is another result of me trying to clear out my baking cabinet as I pack and prepare for a big move. (Plus I just wanted an excuse to buy vanilla ice cream.)

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9×11 pan (I definitely prefer a small pan for a thicker cobbler).

Like the original recipe says you’ll need:

  • 3 cups of fruit (blueberry, strawberry, peach, blackberry, etc.) imagine the possibilities! Fresh or frozen works!
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup sugar – I definitely feel like this is optional, or less sugar would be good since the cake mix and ice cream will be very sweet already.

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The key to this particular cobbler is the first step: browning the butter (definitely check out the easy guide from kevin and amanda’s blog for an easy guide). This process gives the butter a rich, caramel-y flavor. Place the stick of butter in shallow, heavy bottom pan on medium-high heat. Stir, stir, stir until the liquid starts turning darker and you may start seeing brown bits start to form at the bottom.

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Pour the whole bag of yellow cake mix into a heatproof  mixing bowl (don’t want your plastic mixing bowl to melt). Then slowly add the brown butter to the mix, whisk until you have a dry, crumbly mixture. This is your cobbler topping.

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Take your fruit and stir in the sugar if you want it extra sweet. Otherwise spread the fruit evenly at the bottom of the baking pan, spread the butter/cake crumble mixture on top. Pop it in the oven for 40 minutes!!

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The cobbler is ready when the top is a toasty light brown and the fruit is bubbling. I know it’s tempting to just eat some right away after being teased by the smell for 40 minutes, but let it cool for about 5-10 minutes.

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Serve with ice cream!

The cake crumble mixture is sweet and crunchy- the perfect texture combination with the creaminess of the ice cream and warm sweetness of the fruit! Sit out on your porch and enjoy some seconds!

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2 (okay more like 4) Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

I’ve been wanting to try these “mug recipes” that pop up on my Facebook newsfeed- amazing meals and treats that you cook and eat in your friggin’ mug!! Good news for those college students in dorms! No excuses- all you have to do is mix and let your chef microwave do the work!

Plus- keeps the clean up to a minimum.

I borrowed this super-easy recipe from I Am a Food Blog: 2 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake Recipe. Doubling the recipe because I have a feeling I won’t be sharing!

2014-06-16 21.18.37First find a slightly larger microwavable mug (you want a bigger mug because the batter does rise and could spill over a little.)

Stir together 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of milk, 3 tablespoons of oil (coconut, vegetable, canola, etc.)

2014-06-16 21.28.39Mix in 3 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 cup sugar (I know it’s a LOT of sugar proportionally- so I’d say you can use less), 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Stir until well mixed. Lastly, add a splash of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips. Give it a few good stirs.

2014-06-16 21.28.49Depending on your microwave’s power-you’ll “bake” it in there for 2-4 minutes. I had to do 4 minutes because I have a dinky cheap microwave (that I need to clean…..I know I know.) At 2 minutes it still looked really softed, so I left it in longer. It was pretty firm, so maybe next time 3- 3 1/2 minutes would have been good too. Place a plate underneath to ensure no messy spillage in the microwave.

2014-06-16 21.36.31There it is, my first mug cake! It’s hot, definitely use mitts and let it cool for 5 minutes.

2014-06-16 21.52.48Enjoy it any way you like, this is a very basic chocolate cake you can eat straight from the mug with a spoon. Or you can jazz it up in all sorts of ways. Consider adding:

  • sprinkles (can’t go wrong with sprinkles)
  • whip cream
  • a scoop of ice cream
  • caramel sauce
  • banana slices/ fruit
  • nutella
  • walnuts
  • bacon bits
  • sea salt
  • All of the above.

2014-06-16 21.51.49It falls out pretty easily from the mug if you want to put it on a plate. It’s almost like an upside-down cake with the melted chocolate chips that fell to the bottom giving the top an extra creamy sweetness. The cake is very dense and fudgy. I’m so intrigued by the idea baking with oven-alternatives!

2014-06-16 21.53.11-1All good things come to those who wait, but no need to wait long for chocolate cake!