Friday, April 30, 2010

Gooey Heath Bar Cake (A.K.A.- Better Than Sex Cake)

I received this recipe from a coworker when I was working in Southern Illinois. She called it "Better Than Sex Cake" and it really is amazing. I have decided to call it "Gooey Heath Bar Cake" because there have been times when I have brought it to a party (like my Grandmother's 70th birthday party) and "Gooey Heath Bar Cake" just seems better! Now, this cake truly is amazing. It's rich and delicious, but really easy to put together. It's great for a potluck or summer party, too. Just remember, it's really rich!! Just like Paula Dean says, "I'm you're cook, not your doctor!" So, consider yourself warned!!

Gooey Heath Bar Cake (or B.T.S. Cake)

1 Box Devils food cake mix (and all the ingredients needed to make it - typically egg, water, and oil)
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 small jar hot fudge topping
1 canister Cool Whip
5 lg Heath Bars, crushed (I have also gotten the mini Heath bars and just used a few handfuls and saved the rest for later!)

Make the Devil's food cake mix according to the box directions. While warm, poke holes all over the cake - lots and lots of holes!! Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake and set aside. Let the cake cool completely.

Once cooled, spread the hot fudge topping all over the cake. Place in the refrigerator and allow to chill completely, or overnight. When chilled, top with Cool Whip. Sprinkle Heath pieces all over the top. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve!


Berry Tart with Honey Mascarpone Filling

F0r Easter, I wanted to make something different and decided on this Berry Tart. The filling is a great combination of mascarpone cheese and honey. When the cheese and honey combine, there is almost a creamy, white chocolate taste. The crust is crisp and flaky - just like my favorite sugar cookie! This dessert was super simple and you can use any berry you like. I ended up using a mixture of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, but you can definitely use any one or a combination of your favorite fruit!

Berry Tart with Honey Mascarpone Filling

For the crust:
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
For the filling:
2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch ground nutmeg
For the topping: Fresh berries (I used about 12 oz.)

Directions: To make the crust, in a small bowl stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When you are ready to roll out the dough, unwrap it and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out with a floured rolling pin, lifting and turning the dough occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. Roll it out evenly until it is large enough to line a 9-inch tart pan and is about 1/8-inch thick. Carefully transfer the dough to the tart pan, pressing it into the sides, and trim to remove the excess.

Cover the dough with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beads. Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the foil and baking beads and using a fork, gently poke holes in the bottom and sides of the crust. Bake until the crust is golden, 15-20 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the filling, combine the mascarpone, sour cream, and honey in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract and nutmeg. Spread the filling into the cooled tart shell and smooth the top with a spatula. Top with fresh berries. Transfer to a serving platter. Store in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Last Christmas my brother and sister-in-law got me a butane blowtorch for my kitchen. I immediately knew I had to make Creme Brulee. I have always loved the crunchy topped, creamy custard of Creme Brulee but have been too scared to make it! So, I decided to start with a recipe that was simple. The vanilla bean in this recipe really shines through and although there are few ingredients, it was amazing. Since there are so few ingredients, it is important to get high quality ingredients - it really will make a difference!

Part of the fun of making Creme Brulee is using the blowtorch at the end! The crunchy topping is my favorite part of the dessert and it's really impressive if you caramelize the tops in front of your guests!!

Now that I have overcome my fear of Creme Brulee, I am excited to try different flavor combinations next time!

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
1 vanilla bean
2.5 Cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/4 Cup superfine sugar
3 T confectioner's sugar (regular sugar can be used if you don't have confectioner's sugar on hand)
Berries for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and put it in a saucepan. Pour the cream into the pan, then bring almost to a boil. Take off the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes for the vanilla flavor to intensify.

Lift the vanilla bean our of the cream and scrape the seeds into the cream using a sharp knife. Discard the bean casing.

Use a fork to mix together the eggs and superfine sugar in a bowl. Reheat the cream, then gradually mix it into the eggs and sugar. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan (this removes any bits of cooked egg that may have gotten into your mixture - it will make for an even creamier dessert!).

Place 6 ovenproof ramekins or custard cups in a roasting pan. Divide the custard between them. Pour warm water around the dishes to come halfway up the sides. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the custards are just set with a slight softness in the center.

Leave the dishes to cool in the roasting pan, then lift them out and chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

For the crunchy topping: Up to 25 minutes before serving, sprinkle the tops with confectioner's sugar. Caramelize using the blowtorch, then leave at room temperature. Top with berries and serve!

Brussel Sprouts

This is another recipe from my brother Nick. He's a great cook and is really good at finding delicious ways to make healthy foods. When he said he wanted to make brussel sprouts as a side to our Pork Wellington dinner, I was skeptical. I had never had brussel sprouts and was a little wary.

Well, I've decided that brussel sprouts get a bad wrap. These were so good! Not only were they a healthy side dish, but they were tender and delicious! I will definitely make them again...especially since they were so easy to make!

Brussle Sprouts

1 package brussel sprouts, raw (about 4 cups)
Olive oil

Remove brussel sprouts and rinse. Cut each brussel sprout in half, lengthwise. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Boil the brussel sprouts for about 3 minutes until slightly tender (but still crunchy). Drain.

lightly dress the brussel sprouts with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through and tender. Serve and eat while hot!

Pork Wellington

All winter, my brother Nick has been wanting to try out a recipe he found for Pork Wellington. After months and months, we finally decided to get together and cook! The pork was much easier than I thought it would be and incredibly tastey. The puff pastry outside is tender and flakey and the pork was juicy and perfectly cooked. This was easy enough for a quick weeknight dinner, but fancy enough to impress guests.

Pork Wellington

1 egg
1 T. water
1-ounce dried apple rings
1 whole pork tenderloin, approximately 1 pound
4 1/2 ounces thinly slice prosciutto ham
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed completely
1 T spicy brown mustard
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 400 degrees F.
Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl and set aside. Place the apple rings into the bowl of a mini food processor and process for 30 to 45 seconds or until they are the size of a medium dice. Set aside. (*Note* if you do not have a mini food processor, or do not want to get it out, just chop the apple rings finely)

Trim the pork tenderloin of any excess fat and silver skin. Slice the tenderloin down the middle lengthwise, creating 2 separate pieces. Lay the tenderloin pieces next to each other head to tail, so when laid back together they are the same size at the ends.

Lay out a 12 by 16-inch piece of parchment paper on the counter and arrange the pieces of prosciutto in the center, overlapping them enough to create solid layer that is as long as the tenderloin. Top with a second piece of parchment, and using a rolling pin, roll over the prosciutto to help adhere the pieces to each other. Remove the parchment paper and sprinkle the prosciutto with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Set the tenderloin down the middle of the prosciutto. Spread the dried apples in between the 2 pieces of tenderloin and push back together so the apples are held between them. Using the parchment paper to assist, wrap the prosciutto around the tenderloin to completely enclose in a package.
Sprinkle the counter with flour and roll out the pastry to 12 by 14 inches. Spread the mustard thinly in the center of pastry and lay the prosciutto wrapped tenderloin in the center of the pastry on the mustard. Fold the puff pastry up and over the top of the tenderloin, then roll to completely enclose, brushing the edges of the pastry with the egg wash in order to seal. Turn the tenderloin over so the side of the tenderloin with the double thickness of pastry is underneath. Pinch the ends of the pastry to seal.
Brush the entire pastry with the egg wash. Place the tenderloin on a parchment lined half sheet pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of at least 140 degrees F.
Remove the tenderloin from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown
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