Sometimes you make something so simple that even you are surprised how tasty it is. This is the case of these little morsels. I made them for a party I catered which I made several mini desserts. It was a Fiesta themed party so I made these Pastelitas with sweetened cream cheese and guava paste. The flaky dough is something that comes together really quickly in a food processor or even in a large bowl if you don’t have one. They turn out flaky and the tang of the guava with the sweetened cream cheese pair really well together. I’m lucky that I live near some Hispanic markets and guava paste is readily available. If you have a Chinese grocery store too most often you can find the guava paste as well. I had some leftover dough so I also played around and made another version with fig jam and bleu cheese crumbles.
8 oz. unsalted butter, room temp
4 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1/4 Cup heavy cream
1 1/2 Cups + 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
In a food processor place the butter, cream cheese and cream and pulse to combine. Add in the flour and salter and process until it just comes together into a ball. Dump the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and cut into two equal pieces. Wrap each into a flat disc and chill for at least 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling; prepare the filling as below.
Working with one piece at a time, roll out to approx. 1/8 inch thick onto a lightly floured board. Cut into circles using a 3 1/2 inch fluted cutter. One one side place a small amount of cream cheese and top with a small amount of guava paste onto top; using a finger dipped in water to smush the paste down slightly into the cream cheese. Dip a finger into water run around the opposite edge of the pastry to help secure the edge when folded over. Fold over the pastry and crimp with a work dipped in flour. Pierce the top with a floured fork and brush with egg wash. Assemble a tray full then chill for 30 minutes before baking. Note: you can assemble these and freeze in a ziplock bag unbaked and bake off as desired.
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla
In a small bowl place the cream cheese and microwave a few seconds until soft. Mix in the sugar and vanilla and combine. Place in a pastry bag if desired for assembly.
7 oz. store bought Guava paste
2-3 tsp. water
Cut the guava paste into small cubes and place in a small bowl with the water and microwave about 10 seconds at a time and still until smooth. Let cool and place in a pastry bag for assembly.
one egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water.
Bake the pastries in a 375° F preheated oven until very light golden brown. Let cool and then dust with powdered sugar.
FYI- here’s a picture of my fig, chopped walnut, and bleu cheese version. Just combine a dark fig jam with some finely chopped walnuts and top with some blue cheese. Fold over and crimp in the same manner; brushing with egg wash and chill, then bake.
I might have a weakness for cheesecake; and might I note there is nothing easier than a good old 9×13 slap it in the pan, and pour it in, and bake dessert. Cheesecake in an oblong pan is like the kissing cousin of slab pie. but in my mind, even easier to pull off. Strawberries have been crazy cheap in my area lately. Last weekend I found 1 pound cartons for 50 cents. I grabbed two and threw them in the fridge not knowing what I had planned for them. A recipe popped up on my email for these squares from the New York Times. The original recipe calls for topping them with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. I decided instead to spread a classic sour cream topping in lieu of whipped cream. You could also make this in a standard springform pan as well. I tweaked it slightly by adding in some extra strawberry flavor (LorAnn Strawberry Bakery Emulsion) to punch up the strawberry-ness. You can skip that step if you cannot access the strawberry emulsion.
recipe adapted from New York Times
Strawberry Cheesecake Squares
11 oz. Shortbread Cookies (I used 2 packages of Pepperidge Farm brand)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 and grease or line with a parchment sling a 9×13 inch pan.
In a food processor grind the cookies and salt until you have fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined.
Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Cool completely while you prepare the filling.
24 oz. fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
3 (8 0z.) packages cream cheese, room temp
5 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp. strawberry emulsion (LorAnn brand)
Fresh quartered/halved strawberries for garnish (optional)
In a 3 quart or medium pot, mix the strawberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the berries soften and mixture becomes saucy; about 8 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then transfer a clean food processor bowl and puree until smooth and no longer chunky; tiny bits are fine. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.
To the food processor bowl, add in the cream cheese and 1 1/4 cups sugar and blend until smooth. Add in the eggs a couple at a time and blend until smooth. Add in the strawberry flavor emulsion and blend. Scrape down the sides of processor bowl and mix until all blended. Pour the cheese mixture into the strawberry mixture and fold until combined. Pour into the cooled crust and bake for 45-50 minutes until edges look set but the middle is very slightly jiggly. Note: I only baked mine for 45 minutes, but next time I will do a few mins. longer as I found the filling was still a little soft. While the cheesecake is baking stir together the sour cream topping. When the cheesecake is done, remove from the oven and gently dollop the topping on top and smooth evenly and to the edges with a small offset spatula. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 11-12 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan over a wire rack, then refrigerate over-night or for several hours until cutting into squares. Serve cold. Garnish with fresh strawberries as desired.
Sour Cream Topping
2 Cups sour cream, room temp
1/2 Cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla
In a medium bowl stir together all the ingredients with a whisk.
Do you know how therapeutic it is crushing candy into tiny pieces after a mind bending day at work? Yeah. Therapeutic, I’m here to tell ya. I normally don’t buy Cadbury during other times of the year; although their chocolate is amazing. There’s something about these tiny little eggs that dare you to stop after eating just a few. The hard crunchy outer shell while being smooth, is thick enough that cracking one open with a side back tooth- launches that file used just for methodical eating-corner of your brain. For me, that’s the same file used for eating macadamia nuts; but that’s a story for another time.
Cadbury egg crushing/bashing with a meat tenderizer caveman style while being encased safely inside a ziplock bag did just the trick for getting over a bad day at work.
I was unsure if I wanted to fold them inside of chocolate ganache or use them sprinkle fashion showing off their pretty little pastel like dress colors. Obviously, I went with the later. It says-look at me Mommy in my pretty little Easter dress. Yeah, I’m weird. My candy talks to me.
I chose to flavor the ganache with a malted milk chocolate flavor to envoke the same flavor as a malted milk egg. Spring is here folks!
Easter Malted Milk Chocolate Cadbury Macarons
140 g fine almond flour
125 g confectioners sugar
108 g egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
110 g granulated sugar
gel food coloring of your choice (I used a mixture of teal and navy blue)
In a food processor place the almond flour and confectioners sugar and run for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides so the mixture settles into the processor bowl. Repeat this 2 more times, then sift mixture through a strainer (it doesn’t have to be fine) over a large bowl (I use a 5 quart size stainless steel bowl). Preheat the oven to 300° F convection, 325° F for non convection setting.
In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk by hand (using the mixer whisk) until foamy for about 30 seconds. Prepare two baking sheets with either parchment paper or Silpat liners.
Set the mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment assembled to the mixer, and start the meringue by running mixer on power level 4 (Kitchen Aide) and start gradually adding in the granulated sugar- run/whisk for 2 minutes once all the sugar is in. Stop once to scrape the sides of the bowl to push down any sugar that appears on the sides.
Increase mixer then to power level 6 and run for 3 minutes.
Increase mixer to power level 8 and run for 3 minutes.
Stop mixer and with a bamboo skewer or toothpick add in your gel color.
Increase mixer to power level high (10) and run for 1 minute (Just to show it who’s boss!!) or until meringue is stiff peaks. A sign that meringue is ready is there will be a good amount collected within the whisk and if you turn the bowl upside down the meringue will not slip or move. If the color does not appear to be mixer to your liking at this point I add in any color and mix gently by hand; being careful not to overmix.
Add one half of the meringue to the almond flour/sugar mix and start folding with a rubber spatula until mixture starts to look cohesive. Add in the remaining half of meringue and continue to gently fold, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. The batter is perfect when you lift up the spatula and tip the spatula down and ~ 4 ribbons of batter fall smoothly back into the bowl and the edges of the ribbons fade into the rest of the batter in 10 seconds.
Fill your pastry bag by using a heavy tall cup or mason jar to hold your pastry bag with the top folded over the glass. When preparing your bag after you drop in your round tip (I use an Ateco 804), twist the bag right above the larger end of the tip and push it down into tip. Fold the top 4 inches of the bag over the jar or glass. Pipe quarter size of your batter and let sit for about 15-30 minute until they are no longer tacky feeling with touching with a finger.
Bake in a preheated oven for ~ 15-16 minutes at 300° F- 325° F (see above). Allow to cool completely on the tray and then remove and sandwich with the malted milk chocolate ganache and roll each macaron edge into the crushed Cadbury egg pieces.
Malted Milk Chocolate Ganache
1 Cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 Cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp. Carnation malted milk powder
Crushed Cadbury Easter mini egg candies (for dipping macs into)
In a small saucepan scald the heavy cream and stir in the malt powder, combining well. Pour over the chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl and let sit for one minute, then stir slowly to combine. Let ganache firm up in the fridge until ready to use. Use a piping bag to pipe dollops of ganache to sandwich each cookie, then roll in crushed Cadbury egg pieces. Chill in the fridge in a covered air tight container to allow the macarons to “mature” for 1-2 days ideally before serving.
I came across this black loose flavored tea while in the grocery store one day and it sounded so good, I bought it, but parked it in my pantry for the longest time. I finally decided it was time to put it to good use. I just love the flavor of tea infused into cake. It’s not the first time I have used this process for flavor. This particular combo pairs really well with the subtle flavor of the blackberry buttercream. The Husband is really picky when it comes to desserts; he will usually comment when he really likes something and this time he said this one was a “real winner”. I have to say I agree; the color of the cake is a bit strange because of the color it turns the milk when infused but don’t let that turn you off, it is sublime! The cake comes out super moist as well, so that’s always a plus. I went a bit strong I have to admit on the amount of the tea- but I really wanted the flavor to come through. If you want a more subtle flavor cake you can cut down to 3 tablespoons total if you prefer. Also- I added in a little bit of non infused tea to the cake so that it has those little bits of black flecks of the tea. (I know people will ask me why I did that, so that’s why I’m explaining it here). I get a lot of questions on why I do certain things and sometimes it’s just a whim that hits me when recipe developing, as in this case.
These would make adorable mini cupcakes as well for a party.
Earl Grey & Lavender Cake with Blackberry Buttercream
2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
2 Cups sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tea bag of earl grey (cut open and contents removed) (I used Stash brand)
1 Cup milk (I used whole)
1/4 Cup loose (earl grey with lavender black tea)
1 Cup warm water
1/2 Cup grapeseed oil
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
purchased blackberry seedless preserves (I like Dickensons brand)
fresh blackberries (optional for serving and decorating the top of the cake)
Preheat the oven to 340° F and prepare three 6 x3 inch cake pans (If you don’t have 6×3 inch pans you can use 6×2 and divide batter into 4 pans instead) with non-stick baking spray and line with parchment circles. You may also divide batter into 8×2 inch pans or 9×2 evenly but will have to adjust your baking times. I used a little over 2 cups of batter into each 6×3 inch pans.
Heat the milk to a scald, remove from heat and steep the 1/4 cup loose tea in the milk for 15 minutes. Strain the tea and throw away the tea and keep the milk.
In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together the first 5 ingredients.
In a large glass measuring cup or mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, water, eggs, and vanilla
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and beat on low to medium speed until combined; stopping the scrape down the sides to ensure you get everything combined well. Do not over beat.
Bake until tops of cakes are no longer wet looking and when touched lightly with a finger they spring back lightly, or a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes then remove to cool completely on the rack.
For my 6×3 inch pans, I baked at 340° F for 40 minutes, but all ovens are different so make sure to test cakes often so as not to overbake.
To assemble cake:
Pipe a dame of blackberry buttercream around the edge of a cake layer and spread a layer of blackberry preserves, then top with blackberry buttercream and gently spread the buttercream evenly over the preserves, then continue to layer in this manner until you reach the top layer and spread with just buttercream. Do a crumb coat of buttercream on top and sides and chill cake at least 30 minutes until you spread the remaining buttercream over sides and top and decorate as desired.
5 egg whites
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
4-5 Tbsp of seedless blackberry preserves
optional lavender, regal purple, or violet gel food colors (I used a combination of to boost purple color)
Heat the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until temperature reaches 160 degrees. Whip with a whisk on medium-high speed until you reach a billowy meringue and meringue is cool and bottom of the bowl does not feel warm. Add butter in by tablespoons at a time and continue to beat until smooth. Add in vanilla and blackberry preserves a tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Stop and taste after 3 tablespoons of preserves to adjust flavor. You may not need all of the preserves to achieve the desired taste. I added a few drops of different purple gel colors to boost the color of my finished buttercream.
Hey everyone. I’m sure a lot of you have heard of the Keto diet, or know someone personally who is following that way of eating. Myself, I have been on it for about 50 days now and loving how I’ve been able to incorporate it into my life rather easily and still lose weight. One of the things I enjoy most about being a baker is the creative process of recipe development; it’s one of the reasons why I went to pastry school so that I could learn the science behind what works in a recipe. There are so many options now for sugar substitutes than say ten years ago. Sure, I still love to make regular desserts-that has not changed and it will never change. This is just another role play in my arsenal of becoming a better baker and what I can offer people.
I was intrigued with the whole sugar substitute thing and ways I could incorporate it into a brownie recipe as the Keto diet has become all the rage. This is my first foray into recipe development with replacing both sugar and flour. I’m no stranger to almond flour as a replacement for wheat flour as I’ve used it many times before. I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this brownie recipe. They came out fudgy and full of flavor and no weird aftertaste.
If you’re following a Keto diet, I hope you give these a try. There is a baking company called (Lillys click here) that makes chocolate chips and bars (my fave is the milk chocolate salted almond) that use Stevia, and you would be amazed at how they taste! You cannot even tell a difference in the taste- there is no weird aftertaste at all!! They definitely cure a chocolate craving for sure!
Fudgy Keto Brownies
1 stick (1/2 Cup) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 Cup Lily’s brand chocolate chips
4 oz. softened cream cheese
3/4 Cup Lakanto “classic” monkfruit sugar substitute
2 large whole eggs, + 1 yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup almond flour
2 Tbsp. Hersheys (or another brand of natural) cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. black cocoa powder (I use King Arthur brand)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 bar Lily’s milk chocolate caramelized and salted, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Prepare an 8×8 inch pan by spraying with nonstick spray and lining one side with a parchment sling.
In a large bowl microwave the butter until melted. Toss in the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Add in the softened cream cheese and stir to combine. Add in the sugar substitute and whisk to combine-note it will not melt like regular sugar and appear grainy (this is normal). Add the eggs one at a time and mix to combine, then stir in the vanilla.
Place a sifter over the bowl and add in the dry ingredients, then whisk gently to combine. Fold in the chopped “milk chocolate caramelized and salted Lily’s bar”.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the batter with an offset spatula. Bake until a few moist crumbs appear once pierced with a toothpick, and the top no longer appears wet; about 25-27 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool completely over a wire rack in the pan, then pull out the entire slab using the sling and cut into squares.