Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

Do not leave your husband home alone with these peanut butter crispy bars. I first made these bars from the recipe posted by Smitten Kitchen. And then I immediately amazon primed the book via 2-day. This is a fabulous book and you should purchase it immediately. My previous go-to, impromptu, dessert for parties was cheesecake marbled brownies by Smitten Kitchen. But these are my new obsession. I use Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate chips for this recipe to make it simple and I find the taste to be indistinguishable from using chocolate bars. The Lindt 70% smooth dark chocolate bar is great for the chocolate icing.

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Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

Crispy crust:
1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Milk chocolate peanut butter layer:
2.5 oz milk chocolate
2.5 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup creamy peanut butter

Chocolate icing:
3 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72 percent cocoa), coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) salted butter

Make the crispy crust:
Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8 square pan with nonstick aluminum foil. Grease the foil with butter. Measure the cereal into a large bowl.

Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the pan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F.

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and pour the mixture into the cereal. Mix quickly until the cereal is thoroughly coated, transfer into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Let the crust cool to room temperature while you prepare the next layer.

Make the milk chocolate peanut butter layer:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and melt together, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool. Pour the chocolate peanut butter mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the refrigerator until the top layer hardens, approximately 1 hour.

Make the chocolate icing:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the dark chocolate, corn syrup, and butter.

Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and melt, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the hardened milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer (just pick the pan up and move it around into an even layer). Put the pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the dark chocolate layer hardens.

Cut into 9 squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.

Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito published by Abrams Books via Smitten Kitchen.

Blueberry Buttermilk Tart

I am not sure what is going on with me and the blueberries this summer but it is getting intense. Intense like this tart. This is the fabulous blue half of two desserts for the Fourth of July. The other red half is obviously the Mascarpone Tart with strawberries. This dessert does not disappoint and once you get the great unshrinkable sweet tart shell down, you will create these beautiful desserts as fast as your guests will eat them. I used a 9 inch tart pan for this and had a little extra filling. I would definitely serve this with something bubbly. Domaine Chandon, Napa Valley, Brut Classic American Summer Limited Edition. I mean, look at that little bottle, its perfect!

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Blueberry Buttermilk Tart
Makes one 10 inch tart

Sweet tart shell
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

Filling
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 pint (2 cups) blueberries
Lightly sweetened whipped cream for topping

To make the tart shell:
Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Add the egg and process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough forms clumps. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Form into a disk, wrap the dough in plastic, and chill for two hours.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (I rolled mine out between saran wrap.) Turn the dough into your prepared 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in to create double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 5 minutes longer.

Allow the tart shell to cool completely while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling:
Whisk together sugar and cornstarch to remove any lumps. Whisk in egg, yolks, melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla bean paste, lemon juice, salt and nutmeg, and pour into tart shell. Sprinkle surface evenly with 1 1/2 cups blueberries.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the tart until surface is barely golden and still wobbly in the center, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove and allow the tart to cool to room temperature. Serve lightly chilled, with whipped cream.

Adapted from The New York Times.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

The first time I made this cake was for a dinner party. The edges of the cake browned too much and I thought it was ruined. My husband is often annoyed with me because I say the food I make is ruined all the time. He finds this too dramatic. But the edge of this cake was not suitable to me. So instead of letting it be ruined, I just cut the entire middle of the cake out and divided it into bars. when I came home from work that day, there was nothing left of the overbaked edges in the pan. Andrew had eaten all of it, stolen bite by stolen bite, throughout the day. Luckily for him, teaching me a lesson means eating large amounts of cake. If you use a metal pan you may brown the edges too much, a glass pan is probably best. There are many versions of this cake out there and this one from Smitten Kitchen is really the best. I am not a fan of using a boxed cake for this dessert. Serve this dessert with Mumm Napa Brut Prestige. If you want to boggle your mind, buy a bottle of Mumm Napa Cuvée M and drink a glass after you taste this cake. I don’t know that they would pair well together, but it is shocking how similar they taste.

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St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

For the cake
3 tbsp milk at room temperature
1 ¾ tsp active dry yeast
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

For the topping
3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tbsp all-purpose flour

Make the cake dough: In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tbsp warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.

Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Switch to a dough hook at this point to beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.

Stretch dough into a buttered 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 ½ to 3 hours.

Make the gooey topping: Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, whisk corn syrup with 2 tbsp water and the vanilla. Using a hand mixer, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.

Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use an offset spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes (baking times will vary depending upon your pan). The cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Allow to cool before serving.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Mascarpone Tart

It is summer time and the strawberries in North Carolina are intoxicating. And it’s not just when you purée them and add champagne to sip by the pool. This tart was inspired by some extra mascarpone that was nearing expiration. Deb at Smitten Kitchen takes the credit for her perfect tart shell . I prefer to make my tart dough ahead of time and keep it in the fridge (it should stay for up to five days) or you can freeze the dough until you are ready to use it.

MascarponeTart

This dessert is absolutely perfect with freshly picked North Carolina strawberries. It would be fabulous with a number of other fresh fruits.  Roederer Estate Brut from the Anderson Valley in California is a fabulous complement to this Strawberry Mascarpone Tart. Out of the sparkling wines from California this is one of the closest to the French champagne style. It has very fine bubbles and floral notes.

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Mascarpone Tart
Serves 8-10

Sweet tart shell:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

Filling:
8 oz mascarpone (at room temperature)
8 oz cream cheese (at room temperature)
1/8th cup to 1/4th cup confectioner’s sugar (depending on how sweet you like the filling)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Topping:
1 lb strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
1 tbsp sugar

Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Add the egg and process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough forms clumps. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Form into a disk, wrap the dough in plastic, and chill for two hours.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (I rolled mine out between saran wrap.) Turn the dough into your prepared 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in to create double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown.

Allow the tart shell to cool completely while you prepare the filling. Using a hand mixer (or stand mixer) combine the mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla extract. Whip for at least 2 minutes until fluffy and well incorporated.

Spoon the filling into the cooled tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Allow this to cool in the fridge for approximately two hours, or until the filling is set.

Mix your sliced strawberries with the sugar and allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving.

Tart shell adapted from Smitten Kitchen. The filling is a Bubbly Kitchen original recipe.