Black Forest Cheesecake Parfaits

I remember parfait desserts being very popular when I was a child. We had this section in our cupboard for dessert glasses. My Mom always had cute little dessert glasses or parfait glasses for such things. It is true when they say you eat with your eyes first. For some reason there is something very inticing about a dessert with visual layers of differing textures and color. I love when you dip and drag your spoon down into the glass as you lift it up to take that first bite of all the different layers. These little desserts are perfect for a party when you don’t want to be fussing with cutting and serving. All you have to do is assemble them ahead of time and keep them chilled. If you use disposable plastic cups they are even better because you can throw them in the recycle bin when you are done and no washing!

 

I used my new Russian ball piping tip (#271) to pipe the stabilized whipped cream on top.

 

Black Forest Cheesecake Parfaits

 

Double Cherry Compote

3 Cups fresh sweet cherries, pitted

1/2 Cup tart dried cherries (such as Montmorency)

1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

cornstarch slurry: 1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp. cold water

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Cheesecake Filling

12 oz. cream cheese, room temp

1/2 C confectioners sugar

1  1/2 C heavy whipping cream, cold

1 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder

 

*Miscellaneous: you will need Famous brand chocolate wafer cookies for assembly

Fresh sweetened whipped cream  (for garnish)

1 Cup cold heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

1 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer whip the cream cheese with the paddle attachment until cheese is soft. Remove cheese with a rubber spatula into a separate bowl and set aside at room temp.

In the same bowl (no need to wash) place the heavy cream and chill the bowl with the cream for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes place the bowl on the mixer and add in the vanilla and the nonfat dry milk powder and whip with the whisk attachment until thickened. Add in the softened cream cheese and stir gently with the whisk attachment until incorporated. Spoon filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. (I used an Ateco 809).

For assembly:

• Take about 1/2 package of Famous chocolate wafers and place in a large ziplock bag. Using your hands crush the cookies from the outside of the bag until they are coarsely broken (you don’t want fine crumbs).

• Place about 2 Tbsp. of the chocolate wafer crumbs into the bottom of each parfait glasses. I used 14 oz. “crystal cut” chinet brand plastic cups for my parfaits.

• On top of each chocolate crumbs layer,  pipe a layer of cream cheese filling, then top with a spoonful of cherry compote. Repeat another layer of chocolate cookie crumbs, followed by cheese cake filling and then end with a spoonful of cherry compote. Top with a small amount of chocolate crumbs and then  fresh sweetened whipped cream, followed by a fresh cherry with stem.

Note: For a nice decorative touch you can use a Russian ball tip # 271 to pipe your whipped cream.


Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Cherry Filling, Cherry Buttercream

Vanilla and cherries are BFF’s when it comes to flavor parings. I cannot resist cherry season, although you can make these cupcakes year round with quality cherry preserves-both used in the filling and the buttercream. Trader Joes has a great preserves they sell that is chock full of whole cherries. Make sure to pick a preserves that is mostly on the tart side- you don’t want one that is too sweet. I have been in the kitchen lately experimenting with cherry recipes. I’m working on a no bake cheesecake parfait recipe that is coming soon that uses both dark sweet and tart dried cherries.

Also, I’ve included a picture of some of the same cuppies with a vanilla buttercream decorated for the Fourth of July, if you want to use an American style buttercream- see the “Bonus” recipe below. Happy Independence Day!

   I used an Ateco 829 tip for the piping on both cupcakes you see here

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Cherry Filling

yield: 24 cupcakes

2  1/2 Cups cake flour

2  1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/2  Cup unsalted butter, room temp

1  3/4 Cups sugar

2 lg. eggs, room temp

1  1/4 Cups whole milk, room temp

2 tsp. vanilla bean paste

Filling: Sour Cherry Preserves (I like Trader Joes brand) it is chock full of whole cherries

 

Preheat oven to 350° F. Drop cupcake liners into two trays of a standard size cupcake/muffin tin.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated, stopping in between to scrape bottom of mixer bowl. In a pyrex glass measuring cup mix the vanilla bean paste and milk well. Mix the dry ingredients well with a whisk.

Add in one third of the dry mixture and mix until incorporated, then add in half of the milk mixture and mix until incorporated. Repeat with another third of the dry and alternate with the wet, ending with the last third of the dry mixture until batter is homogenous.

Scoop batter into lined tins filling 2/3 way full. Bake for 16 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let cool on wire racks.

Remove a small portion of the cake from the middle of each cupcake to allow for the cherry filling. An apple corer works well for this or (do as I do and use the tip end of an 808 Ateco piping tip). Fill each cupcake with cherry preserves making sure to try and include a whole cherry or two. Hint: a baby spoon works well for this! I’ve kept a couple over the years for this very job.

Decorate with the cherry buttercream and top with a fresh cherry. * Note: If you aren’t serving right away-wait to top with the cherry as the stems will turn brown while being chilled. You’ll notice in my pictures the stems are brown-it’s because I topped them and took pictures the next day.

Swiss Meringue Cherry Buttercream

4 egg whites

1 Cup sugar

3 sticks of unsalted butter, room temp

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 Cup cherry preserves

optional: 1-2 drops of deep pink gel food coloring

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla,  then beat until smooth. Mix in the cherry preserves until incorporated. Note: If you like a deeper pink color you can stir in a drop or two of deep pink gel color.

Vanilla American Style Buttercream

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp

1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted

2 tsp. vanilla or vanilla bean paste

Beat the butter and add in a little at a time until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. For decorating- stripe the inside of a decorating bag with red and blue gel paste food coloring and use a open star tip for a swirled effect.

 

 

 


Tiramisu

It was 120 degrees in my part of Arizona here the other day. I actually don’t mind when it’s this hot (I’m one of the very few) because it heats our pool up to a nice soaking bed of liquid nirvana. One of my favorite things is to swim late at night when the moon is shining and the palm trees are swaying. I close my eyes and just float mindlessly, shutting out the world. We have three palm trees that line the back edge of our pool, and with the right amount of wind they lend a soft gentle breeze. I love this time of year. The only downside is that when it’s this hot the last thing you want is to turn on the oven. Enter one of the classic no bake desserts-Tiramisu. It’s super easy and comes together quickly. There is only one caution and that is you have to be careful and not over whip the mascarpone once you add it to the custard portion. I’ve actually made this twice; the first time with flatter softer lady fingers and it turned out too soggy for my liking. The second time I used hard, crunchy type savoiardi biscuits and I much prefer this version. This tiramisu is not 100 percent classic as I used whole eggs versus only egg yolks, and I also did a sifting of cocoa powder over the custard to help combat sogginess. There are two layers of biscuits, but it’s hard to see in the picture above as when I scooped out the piece for the picture I ended up leaving the bottom layer behind a bit, but rest assured there are two. If you don’t like the mouth feel of cocoa powder on the top you can use grated chocolate shavings, or chocolate curls instead.

                          I used cookie cutters to decorate the top of the cocoa powder

Tiramisu

Soaking Syrup

2/3 Cup strong (hot) coffee or espresso

1/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp. Kahlua

1/4 Cup Crème de Cacao liqueur

1  1/2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1/4 Cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (I like Valrhona) + more for assembly

Savoiardi biscuits (cookies) for assembly (Look for them in the cookie aisle)

Filling

5 whole eggs

1/2 Cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt or a pinch of salt if regular salt

24 oz. mascarpone cream cheese

 

Prepare filling:

Assemble a double boiler using the bowl of a stand mixer to fit over a 3 quart saucepan. Place eggs, sugar and salt in bowl and continually whisk over simmering water until mixture measures 160° F on a candy thermometer. Place mixer bowl on stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment and whisk egg mixture on medium high speed until you reach ribbon stage. Ribbon stage  means when you stop the mixer and lift the whisk up out of the whipped eggs it should fall into ribbons that fall back and disappear into the foam.  The entire mixture will resemble loose shaving cream and will have quadrupled in size. Place the entire mixer bowl in the fridge and chill for 30 minutes.

Remove the mixer bowl from the fridge and use the same whisk (no need to wash) and turn mixer on medium speed. Take the mascarpone out of the fridge and add a serving spoon size (about 1/4 Cup) at a time while the mixer is running, stopping frequently to scrape the bottom of the bowl. DO NOT TURN THE MIXER TO HIGH. If you over whip the mascarpone with the egg mixture it can separate and your mixture will “break” and resemble cottage cheese. THIS CAN HAPPEN VERY EASILY. Continue to keep adding in the cheese and mix on medium speed until smooth. Note: I prefer to mix the filling until it appears almost smooth and then finish by inserting an immersion blender in and out several times until mixture is smooth-this prevents the filling from being over whipped, and the filling comes out super smooth.

Prepare soaking syrup:

Whisk ingredients together (except the biscuits) in a small bowl that is wide enough to allow dunking of biscuits.

Assembly:

Use a baking pan for assembling the dessert. I used a 7 x 11 inch baking pan but a 9 x 9 pan has the same volume, so either one will work. With the 7 x 11 inch pan I ended up using 12 biscuits for each layer which ended up being one whole package of biscuits.  Dunk (submerge) each biscuit into the soaking syrup for a couple seconds and place in an even layer to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Measure out 2 cups of the custard and smooth out into an even layer over the biscuits. Sift a layer of cocoa powder over the custard using a fine mesh strainer. Repeat with a second (final) layer of dunked biscuits and the final layer of custard, followed by a sifting of cocoa powder. I used a varied size of cookie cutters to dip and lift into the cocoa powder for a designed effect. Chill the dessert (uncovered) in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up. Serve chilled.

 

 

 


Summer Peach and Prosciutto Flatbread

 

Do you like flatbread? My son and I will quite often share one while dining out.  It’s a nice appetizer to share with friends or if you’re not super hungry. Peaches are in season now and they pair nicely with prosciutto. It’s a nice light alternative when you don’t want to eat something too heavy.  Now I know it might sound weird to be firing up the oven to 425 on a hot Summer day, but they bake rather quickly once you’ve assembled them. Alternatively you could throw them on the grill as well and enlist some friends to help assemble. Cut into wedges and serve with a nice crisp white wine while lazing around the pool.

Summer Peach and Prosciutto Flatbread

yield: serves four

4 store bought naan flatbreads (such as Stonefire brand)

apricot preserves

6-8 slices prosciutto ham, sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons

7 oz. white cheddar cheese, sliced into thin slices (I used Kerrygold aged white cheddar)

fresh thyme leaves

2 fresh peaches, washed and dried and cut into thin slices

fresh ground pepper to taste

red onion sliced thin (optional)

approx. 2 Cups fresh baby spinach, sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons

 

Preheat oven to 425° F. Place flatbreads on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool for a few minutes, then spread a thin smear of apricot preserves over each flatbread. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, 5 slices of white cheddar broken into pieces, ribbons of prosciutto, and 5 slices of peaches. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. If you like, you could add some thin slices of red onion (I did not have any in the house, but I think it would be nice). Bake for 10 minutes until flatbreads are crisp and golden brown. Top with the lemon-olive oil dressed ribbons of spinach. Cut into wedges and enjoy.

 

Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing

1 T fresh lemon juice

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard

pinch of each salt and pepper

In a medium bowl whisk together the ingredients and then toss the spinach gently to combine.

 

 

 

 


Blackberry Lavender and Lemon Pound Cake

Are you as happy as I am that blackberries are in season? I’m seeing them left and right on sale now in the markets and it’s making me oh so happy. My latest greatest find was 3 for a dollar, so I had to strike! Brought these beauties home and made this scrumptious pound cake. It is super duper moist. That’s right- I said super duper. The lemon glaze that adorns the top takes it to the next level. The recipe calls for quite a bit of lavender- but don’t be scared, the flavor does not overpower the cake at all-just make sure you are buying culinary dried lavender. It can be a bit hard to find, but higher end stores like Whole Foods carries it in their spice aisle. The original recipe comes from Miche Bacher from her cookbook “Cooking with Flowers” which now that I took a sneak peak on Amazon, I might have to purchase the book! The recipe is posted on fancy flours website.

Blackberry Lavender & Lemon Pound Cake

recipe: from fancyflours.com (reprinted from original recipe by Miche Bacher) from cookbook “Cooking with Flowers”

2 Tbsp. dried (culinary) lavender buds

3/4 Cup buttermilk (or 3/4 Cup milk + scant Tbsp. lemon juice-see notes in step one).

2  1/2 Cups all purpose flour

1  1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

zest of one lemon

1 pint blackberries (2 small 6 oz. containers)

1 Cup unsalted butter, softened

2 Cups sugar

4 eggs + 2 egg yolks

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

 

1.  Stir lavender buds into the buttermilk and let steep for 30-45 minutes, or if you don’t have buttermilk stir the buds into 3/4 cup of milk and 10 minutes before preparing the batter stir in a scant tablespoon of lemon juice.

2. Preheat oven to 325° F.  Prepare a loaf pan (9x5x3) with nonstick baking spray and line with a parchment sling, leaving parchment so it hangs over the long sides of the pan with at least 3 inches, then spray again. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Gently stir in the (washed & dried) blackberries.

3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time on medium speed until incorporated. Note: the mixture may appear curdled, but don’t worry-it will come together once you add the dry ingredients.  Stir in the lemon juice.

4. Gently fold in BY HAND (not with an electric mixer), one third of the flour/berry mixture, then add in 1/2 of the milk/lavender mixture, adding in another third of flour mixture, then the last half of milk mixture, ending with last 1/3 of flour mixture. Gently pour the batter into the pan (Note: only fill the pan 3/4 of the way full- you may have some batter left over), and bake for ~ 40 minutes or a wooden skewer when inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove using the parchment sling. Allow the cake to cook completely on a wire rack, then glaze with lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze

2 Cups confectioners sugar

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl whisk together sugar and juice until glaze is smooth and free of any lumps.


Creamsicle Macarons (Orange-Vanilla Macarons)


Does your childhood Summer evoke memories of you and your friends sitting on the porch eating a creamsicle popsicle? That sound of the dude with the push cart full of popsicles with the distinct unmistakable sound of bells clang al-ang- ing against each other. You could spot that sound 3 blocks away I swear. Just enough time for you to run in the house and yell, “Mom!!!!!!” “The ice cream man is coming, can I have a popsicle?” “Pleassssse?” The tang of the orange encapsulating that sweet vanilla flavor. There is nothing like it. It’s still one of my favorite flavors.

These macarons will transport you back to the 70’s (if you’re in your 50’s like me) when times were simpler. No WiFi, no reality Tv, no silly internet stories clouding your brain, just the nice weather forcing you to play outside. One bite will have you day dreaming of peaceful summers….

Creamsicle Macarons

75 g aged egg whites, room temp

pinch of cream of tartar

1 tsp. egg white powder

50 g superfine granulated sugar

90 g almond flour

135 g confectioners sugar

1 tsp. vanilla powder

orange gel food coloring

clean small brush for “painting piping bag” (cheap @ the craft store) or use the blunt end of a wooden skewer

* A note about superfine sugar- please do NOT buy it-it’s priced higher. Simply make up a batch by pulsing some in a food processor and store away in an airtight container.

1. In a food processor pulse the almond meal, and confectioners sugar, stopping to push contents down into the bowl and process until fine. Sift contents into a bowl and discard any hard lumps. Stir in the vanilla powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites, cream of tartar, egg white powder, and superfine granulated sugar, and hand whisk until foamy. Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on low speed (Kitchen aide stop 4) for 2 minutes, then medium speed (stop 6) for 2 minutes, then on high speed (stop 8) for 2 minutes, then increase to highest speed (stop 10) for one minute, or until whites are stiff. Hint: if you remove the bowl and turn it upside down and the whites do not slide out they are ready! (Just be careful when checking!)

2. Gradually add the almond flour mixture to the meringue and mix/fold with a rubber spatula until mixture when lifted is able to form a figure 8 ribbon. About every 5th fold lift the spatula up and let the batter fall gently back into the bowl. Once you can form a figure 8 ribbon without the mixture breaking, the mixture is ready. Prepare the piping bag with a round tip and swipe three stripes of orange gel coloring inside the piping bag. Fill gently with the mac batter.

3. Prepare a sheet pan with either Silpat or parchment paper and preheat the oven to 300° F. Pipe the macarons onto the prepared sheet pan about a quarter size with 1 1/2 inches space between. Note; if after piping there are visible peaks then the batter is too thick and could cause problems such as cracking or not rising correctly. Squeeze out all the batter back into the bowl (with firm pressure) and refill the batter back into the piping bag and re pipe.  Usually the act of doing this will thin the batter enough (without having to mix more) to get a more ideal thickness. Once you have piped the batter take the sheet pan and rap it on the counter a few times (3-6)  to release any air bubbles. If you still see any visible air bubbles pop them gently with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Allow the sheet pan to sit for 30-60 minute to form a “skin” so when touched the batter is no longer tacky feeling.

4. Bake the macs for about 13-15 minutes until when touching the top of a macaron, the top does not wiggle or slide but is firmly set. If they look like they are getting too browned then cover with tinfoil for the last few minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Do not attempt to remove until they are completely cool. Once cooled fill as described below.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

3 large egg whites, room temp

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 tsp. vanilla

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla,  then beat until smooth.

To assemble macarons- Pipe a ring of vanilla buttercream onto one half of the underside of a cookie, then pipe the orange curd inside the vanilla ring, cover with another half of mac cookie. (see photo)

Orange Curd

1/2 Cup fresh orange juice

zest of two oranges

3/4 Cup superfine granulated sugar

6 large egg yolks

pinch of salt

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Combine yolks, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, salt, and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick, 8 to 10 minutes. Let mixture come to a boil and cook, continually scraping sides of pan, for 2 minutes. If desired, strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and very firm, about 2 hours.

Any leftovers will last in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. You may also freeze leftover curd.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Blackberry-Mint Vodka Fizz

I always wanted a house with a big wrap around porch. You know the kind you see on those fancy home renovation shows. It would have dual porch swings facing each other and trees in the front yard lending soft breezes. My friends would stop by and I would whip up some boozy fruit flavored drink and we would sit for hours talking about nothing. I have a backyard pool with palm trees that give off a nice breeze, so don’t feel too sorry for me, but this is the kind of drink that evokes porch sippin’. If you have a nice covered front porch I demand you to make this drink and invite over a friend or two….

 

 

Blackberry-Mint Vodka Fizz

1.5 oz. blackberry mint syrup (recipe below)

crushed ice (this is key)

lime (or plain) flavored sparkling water (I used La Croix lime)

1.0 oz. vodka (optional)

4-5 fresh blackberries

sprig of fresh mint

 

In a short glass tumbler place crushed ice and blackberry mint syrup. Add in sparkling water or plain soda and optional vodka. Stir. Top with berries and fresh mint.

Blackberry mint syrup

makes a generous 1 Cup

1 Cup water

1 Cup sugar

2 Cups fresh or frozen blackberries

1/4 Cup fresh (clean) mint (about 20 leaves)

Bring everything to a boil except the mint. While mixture is coming to a boil crush the blackberries softly (they don’t have to be totally crushed). Let mixture boil for about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and then add the fresh mint. Let mint steep for 20 minutes, then strain out solids and store syrup in refrigerator.