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Mountain Easter – Coconut Strawberry Cheesecake

5 Apr

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This afternoon, I returned home from a long, fun filled and chilly weekend in the North Carolina mountains. Between a lot of gossiping, dog walks and a (singular) hike, we spent our time enjoying a good amount of food and drink. Friday night cocktail hour was entertained by grilled shrimp in serrano ham and a grilled crostini with pea puree. After a trip into Boone to Appalachian Mountain Brewery on Saturday night, we enjoyed an afternoon board game with a display of pastel deviled eggs — followed by a late night dinner of grilled rack of lamb, domino potatoes, grilled asparagus and tomato salad and this stunning Coconut Strawberry Cheesecake. Life is far from hard on these escapes with great friends, comfortable living, breathtaking views and an awesome kitchen to cook in.

I made this cake on Friday morning before headed off to the mountains. This dessert is awesome because it can be prepared in advanced, then decorated prior to serving. I recommend a white chocolate bunny once your friends devour your decorative malted milk eggs the night before…

This cake is light, delicious and perfect for spring. The creme of coconut is a totally new ingredient to me — you can find it in The Fresh Market cocktail section next to the margarita mix!

I’ll post more recipes from the weekend over the next several days!

Crust

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Filling

  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (The Fresh Market sells “Coco Real” in a squeeze bottle)
  • 1/4 cup coconut rum (I used a guava rum because it was already in the house!)

Topping

  • 3 1-pint containers strawberries, stemmed, sliced

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush spring form cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Blend crumbs, coconut, sugar, and remaining butter in medium bowl. Press mixture over bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until lightly browned at edges, about 10 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

For filling:
Using electric mixer, beat first 4 ingredients in large bowl until blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and rum. Pour batter over crust. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough water to roasting pan to come 1 inch up sides of cake pan. Cover roasting pan with foil.

Bake cake 1 hour. Remove foil. Bake until cake is pale brown, puffed, and just set in center, about 40 minutes. Cool cake in water bath 2 hours. Remove from water; run knife around cake to loosen. Chill cake in pan 3 hours before removing from the pan. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)

Decorate with strawberries!

 

Birthday Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins

16 Feb

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This weekend we celebrated my friend Masha’s birthday in full gym style with a Sunday morning workout and post-party. It was the first time I’ve done an hour at the gym with a purple party hat on but we all made the most of the challenge. Post workout, we had blood orange mimosas and Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins in tiny “muffin-top” cups. Fitting for the gym, right??

I made these Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins for Masha because of her love of sour cream. They were a great birthday treat and the “muffin tops” were totally worth the laugh. I highly recommend surprising people with an unexpected picnic party. They make life that much more.

Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins, Food & Wine Magazine

topping

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 rounded cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 rounded cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon. Rub with your fingers to form coarse crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Butter a 12-cup muffin pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg at medium speed until frothy. Add the sugar and melted butter and beat until pale yellow, 1 minute. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until almost blended. In a bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour. Using a rubber spatula, fold the blueberries into the batter.

Fill the muffin cups three-fourths full of batter and sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan and let cool on a rack.

Chocolate Truffle Tart

11 Jan

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At 11:55pm on December 31, 2014, we sliced into this Chocolate Truffle Tart and poured flutes of champagne. I’m not sure anything else is more fitting for the last bite of 2014. Although, I’m sure I could come up with a very long list of foods.

This chocolate tart is surprisingly simple. A quick dough creates a rich, oreo-like crust plus a simple super sweet no-bake filling. This dessert takes some time because of various steps but is a good starter recipe if you are looking to get into baking. Enjoy!

 

Chocolate Truffle Tart, Cooks Illustrated

For the tart shell:
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp. heavy cream
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
¼ cup (¾ oz.) Dutch-process cocoa powder
2/3 cup (2 2/3 oz.) confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

For the filling:
12 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. liqueur, such as Kahlua, brandy, or dark rum (optional)

  • To make the tart shell, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside.  Place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a food processor.  Process briefly to combine.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses.  With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds.  Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch dish.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)  Unwrap and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round.  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan.  Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to middle position.  Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights.  Continue to bake until just set, 5-8 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • To make the tart filling, place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan (or in the microwave).  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes to melt.  Whisk together until smooth, then whisk in the liqueur.  Pour the filling into the tart shell and chill in the refrigerator, uncovered, until the filling is firm.  To serve, transfer the tart to a serving plate or platter.  Slice with a clean, sharp knife, wiping the blade between slices.

 

 

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

10 Dec

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There is something very special about making homemade sweet rolls from scratch. I love finding a new recipe to prepare every year for Christmas morning. I’ve made a variety of orange sweet rolls, cranberry sweet rolls and the traditional cinnamon rolls over the past years. They don’t compare to the tube you’ll find in the grocery store. I’m not sure exactly why – maybe the butter and sugar content or the labor of love that take to make them.

I love a sweet roll because you can make them the day before. Wake up early for a final rise while enjoying a cup of coffee and then bake off right before guests arrive (or wake up). I made these homemade cinnamon rolls for my Winter Walk friends this past Sunday. They were a huge hit and renamed “homemade cinnibon’ during the party. I baked them in a large casserole dish but you can use two cake pans easily. Save these for Christmas or New Year’s morning – it’s worth the wait.

Our Favorite Cinnamon Rolls, Epicurious  | September 2014

For the dough:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons bread-machine yeast or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray

For the filling:

  • 1 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups chopped, lightly toasted pecans

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch kosher salt

Special equipment:

  • 2 9-inch round cake pans

preparation

Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add flour, yeast, and sugar. Mix on low speed until well combined. Add eggs and mix on low to combine. In a small pot, heat milk, butter, and cinnamon over medium-low heat until butter is melted and mixture is between 120 and 130°F (use a thermometer).

Add warm milk mixture and salt to stand mixer. Beat on low speed 2 to 3 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, 2 to 3 minutes. Dough will be very sticky.

Lightly oil a large bowl with cooking spray. Form dough into ball and transfer to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

While dough rises, cut 2 pieces of parchment to fit 2 9-inch round cake pans. Butter pans, line with parchment, and butter parchment.

Make the filling:
Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in medium bowl.

Make the glaze:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt.

Assemble and bake:
Preheat to 375°F and position rack in center of oven. Punch down dough and transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border on the long sides. Sprinkle filling mixture evenly over butter, then add pecans. Starting at a long edge, roll dough toward you into a log, pinching gently to keep it rolled tightly. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with a thin sharp knife into 16 equal slices.

Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up; rolls will be touching. Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Bake rolls until tops are golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up. Drizzle glaze over rolls and serve immediately.

cooks’ note:Rolls can be assembled, arranged in pans, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated for several hours or overnight. If refrigerated, allow to come to room temperature for about 2 hours, watch for second rise (rolls should almost double in volume), and then bake.

 
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My Favorite Holiday Desserts

4 Dec

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Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to take a photo of my mother’s Chocolate Bonet before it was devoured at the Thanksgiving table. Instead, I’ll share the sweetest photo of my dog, Winston.  The Bonet was something that I had never heard of – a mixture of cookies pulverized and mixed with dairy to make a rich chocolate flan like dessert. It was a huge hit – so much that my mother wants to duplicate it this year in instead of Chocolate Mousse. There will, undoubtably, be a protest.

In honor of the holidays coming, here are several of my favorite holiday desserts. And, the incredible bonet recipe.

 

Grilled Poundcake with Balsamic Peaches and Whipped Cream

19 Sep

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As a child, my mother would allow me to eat toasted pound cake for breakfast as a treat. Nothing beats it. I used the same concept in the mountains and grilled store-bought pound cake from The Fresh Market and topped it with fresh peaches in balsamic and fresh whipped cream. I promise it takes so much better than you would expect and it couldn’t be easier. Use any seasonal fruit you’d like and even consider grilling the fruit!

Honey Glazed Peach Tart

18 Aug

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Growing up, my grandfather made fresh peach ice cream in the garage every summer. It was always the most exciting treat. And we loved watching the churning of cream and peaches while adding more rock salt to the ice. These days, an activity of that nature seems more time consuming than relaxing but the memories are easily consumed by purchasing fresh peaches. This weekend I tested a recipe for a honey-glazed peach tart with sliced almonds. It came out pretty delectable and I happily shared it with some very fit friends at a Saturday night cookout. It was worth the calories and is practically health food as peaches are so perfect this time of year.

I suggest watching the tart carefully. Mine took much longer than the recipe called for but was worth the extra twenty minutes of drooling while the peaches tendered in the oven.

Honey Glazed Peach Tart, Bon Appetit

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons (about) ice water

Filling

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 6 ripe medium peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons peach preserves or other jelly, melted

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in butter until pea-size pieces form. With machine running, add enough ice water by tablespoonfuls to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 1 hour.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim overhang to 1 inch. Fold overhang in and press to form double-thick sides. Press inside edge of crust to push it 1/8 to 1/4 inch above top edge of pan. Pierce bottom of crust with fork. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake tart crust until golden, piercing with fork if bubbles form, about 25 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool; wrap in plastic and store at room temperature.)
Mix sugar, flour, and lemon peel in large bowl to blend. Add peaches and toss to coat. Pour into baked crust. Drizzle honey over peach mixture; dot with butter and sprinkle with almonds. Bake until peaches are tender and almonds are toasted, about 35 minutes  or until the fruit is tender (mine took much longer). Brush fruit and almonds with peach preserves. Cool 15 minutes before serving. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Store tart at room temperature.)

Blueberry Hand Pies

21 Jul

 

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It’s berry season and I’m having fun experimenting with new desserts. This recipe is inspired by Bon Appetit. In actually, I made their dough by hand and it wasn’t sweet enough. I recommend saving time and buy store bought pie dough or canned biscuits (a tip from my mother’s friends). Simply stuff with a blueberry mixture, crimp and bake. These are playful and fun to eat by hand at a dinner party.

Blueberry Hand Pies

  • store bought pie crust or canned biscuits
  • 2 cups blueberries (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix together the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Roll out the dough into 6ish small circles or squares. Stuff with filling. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes or until browned. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

4th of July Flag Cake

7 Jul

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South Carolina rockets flew over every neighborhood in Greensboro this weekend. Small gatherings, water balloon fights, parades full of kids and lots of hot dogs. There’s nothing like celebrating the 4th of July in your hometown. It’s Americana at its best.

In full spirit, I made Ina Garten’s signature flag cake. Almost two pounds of buttery goodness was spread through a large gathering of Greenborians at my friends Jamey and Phil’s party in Sunset Hills. The sloping raspberry stripe was it’s only fault – it was delicious and devoured by kids and children at heart. If you’re looking for a show stopper at your next patriotic party, make sure to shoot for these buttercream stars.

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Blackberry Cheesecake

30 May

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The last couple of weeks, I’ve had some serious challenges with baking. I tend not to have the necessary patience for measuring. I’m always cutting a few corners or rushing the baking process. It works with some things in life but certainly not all! Cheesecakes tend to have a little more room for error, so I chose the Pioneer Woman’s Blackberry Cheesecake for my party dessert this past weekend. It’s berry season, so you could just whatever your favorite is.

This is an easy, carefree recipe and it’s so darn good. Happy weekend!

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