Archive for category Baking

Recipe Review: Peanut, Caramel and Chocolate Tart

The Verdict? This recipe needs to go on a diet and chill out!

The October 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living features several recipes for adult desserts that mimic childhood favorites so you don’t go dipping into your kids candy bowl.  There is a Malted Milk Creme Brulee, a 100 Grand inspired cake, and the Peanut, Caramel and Chocolate Tart made to taste like a Snickers that I decided to make.

Normally I read cookbooks and recipes like a story – in full before deciding whether I’ll make them. But Martha couldn’t lead me wrong, right? I’m a sucker for Snickers and the picture, complete with oozy caramel, won me over.  It doesn’t help that a lot of magazines have started showing the eye candy early and then making you flip to the very end of the magazine to actually see the recipes. (Does that annoy anyone else?)

I heard a new-to-me saying the other day on a cooking show that made me laugh out loud:

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you fatter.”

That is certainly fitting for this recipe!   This sucker has, count them, *3* cups of heavy cream. Not to mention creme fraiche, a whole stick of butter, cream cheese, and a honkin’ gob of peanut butter. I think Paula Deen just fainted! In all seriousness, a king-size Snicker’s bar has 537 calories and 27 grams of fat.  Martha suggests this baby serves 10.  I actually calculated it all in a handy Excel spreadsheet and at a whopping 943 calories/slice (68 g of fat, 31 sat. fat) you’d be better off eating 13 fun size snickers bars!!!!

I tried, really hard, not to modify the recipe the first time around so I would know what it SHOULD taste like. Martha’s recipe, even after refrigeration was loose and almost savory because of all the salt and peanut butter.To get it to look like the picture, I had to freeze it! It actually tasted a thousand times better after that because it made the peanut butter flavor more subtle.  At almost 1000 calories a slice, I felt betrayed having to doctor (no pun intended) this thing up.

One of my other favorite magazines is Cooking Light and they take our favorite fattening recipes and figure out substitutions to make them more nutritious.  Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will makeover this ungodly recipe into something delicious that you and I can actually eat. For now, check out Martha’s recipe complete with my sarcasm commentary in blue, but read quickly so you don’t absorb the calories!


Active time :35 min
Total Time: 2 hrs 30 min
Makes 1 9-in tart
Serves 10

For the Chocolate Crust

1 box (9oz) chocolate wafer cookies, finely ground  (Amazon had to tell me what this was…)
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
Salt ( much?)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (yowza!)

For the Caramel Sauce

1¼ c. granulated sugar
¼ c. water
1 c. heavy cream (cup #1)
1/3 c. crème fraiche (because a vat of heavy cream wasn’t enough?)
1 c. roasted salted peanuts

For the Peanut Butter Mousse

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
½ c. confectioners’ sugar
1¼ c. smooth peanut butter (aka creamy)
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. heavy cream (cup #2)

For the Chocolate Ganache

7 oz. semisweet chocolate (preferably 56% cacao), chopped
1 c. heavy cream (yep, cup #3)

1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Make the chocolate crust: Combine cookie crumbs, granulated sugar and 1/4 tsp. salt in a bowl (why not include the measurement in the recipe? weird).  Stir in butter. Press mixture into bottom and 2 1/2 in. up sides of a 9 in spring form pan. Bake until dry and firm, 8-10 min.  Let cool.

2. Make the caramel sauce: Heat granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming., until medium amber, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, and carefully add heavy cream (mixture will bubble and steam).  Return to heat and bring to a boil, making sure caramel that seized up when cream was added melts. (sounds violent.. and it is!) Transfer to a bowl, and stir in creme fraiche. Refrigerate until cool but still pourable, about 45 minutes. Fold in peanuts. (This is the most dangerous  recipe for caramel I’ve ever made. It pops and splatters molten caramel lava all over the place.)

3. Meanwhile, make the peanut butter mousse: Beat cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in 1/2 tsp. salt. Add peanut butter and vanilla, and beat until combined. Whisk heavy cream in a separate bowl until medium-stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into peanut butter mixture. Fold in remaining whipped cream in 2 additions.  (REALLY? Why do we need this many steps!)

4. Assemble the tart: Pour caramel sauce into cooled chocolate crust. Gently spread peanut butter mouse over caramel in an even layer, making sure they don’t blend together. Refrigerate 30 minutes. (or 24 hours if you want it to turn out right)

5. Make the chocolate ganache: Place chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour cream over chocolate and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk to combine. (Use immediately) (as opposed to letting it re-harden?)

6. Remove tart from refrigerator, and pour in ganache to cover surface. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (and by that I mean a lifetime)

Make ahead: Caramel sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water before folding in peanuts.

Storage assembled tart can be refrigerated overnight. (In fact, you have to do this or you’ll just end up with a pile of goo. Better yet, put that baby in the deep freezer.)

Made For You With Love

Remember the caramel apple cheesecake I made yesterday?  Well, I had some extra batter because my springform pan was too short to hold it all.  Not a problem – I quickly whipped up some extra crust and baked a baby version too.  We were getting together with good friends today, so I decided to wrap it up as a little present for them to enjoy.

Jason designed these adorable stickers for me a few months ago and we had them printed by Stickermule.  Just $9 for a batch of 100 2″ stickers after a coupon code. I also have a stash of fun treat boxes and bags from Christmas thanks to Jason’s mom. Who knew you could gift-wrap a mini cheesecake!

The ribbon and label came with one set of treat boxes and I thought they matched really well with the sticker and my blog.  Despite what you might think, I’m not a huge fan of pink.  But my favorite color is chocolate brown (is that weird?) and the two go so well together. I will say that in transport some of the caramel stuck to the window of the box which of course drove me crazy briefly, but overall I was really happy with how it turned out.

Along with the idea of owning a B&B, you can add professional baking to my list of dreams.  I love that I can whip up something in my kitchen to make other people smile!

Fall Caramel Apple Cheesecake Recipe

Cooking with seasonal ingredients is both festive and good on the wallet.  I grabbed 3 lbs of gorgeous Gala apples for $1.99 at the grocery store and contemplated how to best use them.  Just so happened that I also got 10 tubs of cream cheese for free with this coupon and that we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Perfect storm for the birth of this cheesecake!

I’ve seen recipes for Caramel Apple Cheesecakes before, but after hunting and reading reviews, none of them looked like the one I wanted to eat.  So, I combined this recipe for NY cheesecake, with this recipe for caramel, made up the crust and the apple mixture as I went.

The cake literally came out exactly how I envisioned in my head – THAT NEVER HAPPENS! In case you have some apples and cream cheese on hand, here is my collective recipe:


16 Cinnamon Graham Cracker Sheets (tip: if you can’t find the cinnamon ones, use regular + ½ tsp. cinnamon + ½ tsp. sugar)
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Toss the graham crackers in the food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs.  Add the melted butter and pulse again until incorporated.  Coat a 9″ Springform pan with cooking spray and press the crust into the bottom and up the sides as far as it will go. Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Apple Filling:

8 Gala Apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp. butter
¼ c. water
½ c. brown sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon  (tip: add a sprinkle of any fall spices you like – ginger, all-spice, cloves etc. would all be yummy)
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. honey

Heat the butter in a pan over medium high heat. Add the diced apples and cook until the apples are soft but still hold their shape and start to brown on all sides.  De-glaze the pan with water. Immediately add the remaining ingredients and cook until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce thickens on the apples.

Cheesecake Filling:

(tip: this makes a VERY tall cheesecake)
4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
1 ½ c. sugar
¾ c. milk
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ c. all-purpose flour

Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Blend in milk, and mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Add in sour cream, vanilla and flour. Beat until smooth. Pour a cup of the  filling into prepared crust. Sprinkle apples and sauce evenly over the filling.  Top with the remaining filling, completely covering the apples. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off, and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 3 hours to prevent cracking. (tip: this is a must! it works beautifully)

Caramel Topping:

1 c.+ 2 tbsp. sugar
¾ c.+ 2 tbsp. heavy cream
2 tbsp. honey
tsp. light corn syrup
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir together the sugar, cream, honey and corn syrup and slowly bring to a boil. Cook over medium high, stirring occasionally until golden brown and bubbly (temp reaches 230F measured by a candy thermometer). Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Let cool for 10 minutes.  Carefully pour onto the center of your cooled cheesecake and allow to spread out uniformly. Continue to cool for 1 hour to let the caramel set.

Store the cheesecake in the fridge and drizzle the slices with any extra caramel sauce.

If your cheesecake pan is short or you just like a more-apple-than-cheesecake ratio, you could easily half the cheesecake filling and it still would be delicious!


Asparagus Swiss Quiche Recipe

UPDATE: This is a tried and true recipe!  I added some action photos and tweaked the instructions a bit to make it easier to understand.

I was going to wait to post this until I had time to make it this weekend and share a picture with you. But if I share it now, you could have it on your plate this weekend instead of in your browser, so here goes!

I’m not a big breakfast eater. Usually I stick to a bowl of cereal – nothing too heavy.  But on weekends, I like taking the time to whip up a batch of scones, an omelet or a BLT once in a while.   There’s just something relaxing about making a mess in the kitchen on Saturday morning and then sharing a delicious meal with the people you love.

Quiche is one of those things that many people order out, but are intimidated to make at home.  My favorite recipe is both easy and it tastes so heavenly you will look forward to Saturdays from now on!  There are a few shortcuts you can take to make it faster, or if you are en experienced cook or want to experiment you can opt for the all homemade method. Look for little tips throughout my recipes that you can apply in your kitchen too!


¼ c. Parmesan, grated
1 tsp. dried basil
1 ⅔ c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into ¼ in. pieces
2 tbsp. solid vegetable shortening
3 tbsp. ice water

Pulse the first 6 ingredients in a food processor several times until small uniform granules form.  (What, you don’t have a food processor?  OK fine, mix with a fork or pastry cutter forever and you’ll get the same result).  Add water and pulse until just incorporated. Form into a ball, cover and chill for 30 minutes before rolling out. (time saver: use a refrigerated store-bought crust and add in the Parmesan and basil as you roll it out instead)

Spray a pie pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 425F. Roll out your pie crust to a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. (tip: to transfer from work surface to pan, roll the dough up around the rolling pin, move it and then unroll right where you need it. This will prevent stretching or holes from forming during transport.) Place the pie crust in your pie pan and form it up the sides. Line the crust with heavy duty foil and bake for 8 minutes, remove the foil and bake another 5 min.


3-4 slices of bacon, cooked & crumbled (tip: I cook a whole pack of bacon in advance on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper.  10-15 min in the oven at 375F, drain on paper towels and you have perfectly crisp bacon without the splatter!  Use the leftovers on salads or in other recipes. It will keep for 5 days in the fridge )
¼ c. Parmesan, grated
2 tsp. dried basil
½ c. onion, chopped
5 eggs (or 1 ¼ c. of egg substitute)
½ c. milk
Pinch of nutmeg (tip: buy dried Nutmeg whole and then grate it right when you need it – stays fresh!)
⅛ tsp. salt
1 ½ c. Swiss cheese, grated
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
12 spears of Asparagus trimmed to 5 inch spears. Chop remaining ends into ¼ in. thick medallions.

While the crust is baking, cook onions, asparagus medallions and tips on medium heat until tender. Separate the tips and reserve for later. Toss the Swiss cheese and flour together and then combine with all the filling ingredients, including the onions and asparagus medallions. Pour the mixture into your half-baked pie crust and then lay the asparagus tips on top in a wheel pattern from the center of the quiche. Reduce the oven temp to 350F. Bake for 35 minutes and allow to cool for 10 more if you can wait that long!