~ Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars ~
This summer break has been very enjoyable so far. I spent most of May at home having fun with family and friends before packing again to come back on campus for research opportunities and workshops. While I was packing, my parents were already shocked at how many things I was bringing with me (I just can’t pack light even if I try …) that I made up my mind to leave my baking supplies at home. I thought I could just brainstorm recipes while I was away just like I did when I was out of the country for Spring Break.
Surprisingly though, I was lucky enough to run into my friend Bailey, whom I had the pleasure to meet during my freshman year. Coincidentally we live just a few doors away from each other in the same building! While we were talking and catching up, the subject of baking soon came up in the conversation. She mentioned that she brought some pans and kitchen supplies with her and that she even has essential baking ingredients such as flour and sugar. Since we both love to bake, we ended up setting a date and time to meet up ASAP and prepare a homemade dessert together!
Last Friday, my friends and I had a movie night and watched Step Up and Bride and Prejudice, which is a twist on Jane Austen’s famous Pride and Prejudice (they are both awesome movies that I highly recommend by the way!!). I was really eager to prepare something but I was out of essential ingredients (namely chocolate). Luckily, one of my friends was driving to Target earlier that day and gave me a ride and even helped me bake later that afternoon as well!
I wanted to make sure that everyone would be able to enjoy this dessert and tried to eliminate some common allergens. Earlier that week, I read several blog posts about gluten free and nut-free chocolate treats and in the end, I decided to make a flourless chocolate cake.
The absence of flour makes it more fudge-like in texture and results in a more intense chocolate flavor which I think pairs really well with ice cream/gelato of any flavor on the side. The cake itself is quick and simple to make and requires very few ingredients. However, I also tried to display some creativity and took the time to whip up some cream to frost the top and arrange pieces of dark chocolate and slices of fresh strawberries into a flower shape over the whipped cream layer.
~ Flourless Chocolate & Strawberry Cake ~
12 oz semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Whipped Cream Frosting
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz. dark/bittersweet chocolate
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and butter a square pan.
2. Melt the butter and semisweet chocolate together (either in a saucepan placed over a bowl of water on medium heat or using the microwave).
3. Stir in the sugar and salt.
4. Add in the eggs and the vanilla extract.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes and let it cool completely before spreading on the whipped cream.
6. While the cake is baking, whip up the heavy cream either by hand or using a handmixer or standmixer.
7. When it becomes slightly thicker, stir in the sugar and vanilla extract and keep whisking until you reach stiff peaks. (when you hold the whisk up, the cream should stay on the whisk and form peaks instead of sinking back into the bowl).
8. Wash and slice the fresh strawberries and break a dark chocolate bar into pieces.
9. Spread the whipped cream over the cake evenly and arrange the chocolate and strawberries as desired over the top.
If you do not eat gluten or if you want a change from usual chocolate cake recipes, give this one a shot, you will not regret it! In addition, strawberries are very sweet and delicious around this time of the year. They are perfect to use in desserts. Otherwise, you can also substitute strawberries with other fruits such as berries, mangoes, oranges, or peaches. If you do not like dark chocolate, you can also replace the semisweet/bittersweet chocolate with milk chocolate. This is probably going to be my last post this month but I am looking forward to baking more in May. I’ve already been brainstorming!
I am finally putting an end to my long hiatus! April has been a pretty crazy month for me and it’s not over just yet but I thought I should seriously take the time to post the two dessert recipes I made at the beginning of the month! In my last post, I mentioned that I had baked for a Valentine’s Day Benefit Concert hosted by an organization named UAID but the event got cancelled due to a snow storm. On April 1st, we were finally able to have the concert and changed the theme to make it a Spring Fling Benefit Concert.
Since flowers were beginning to bloom on campus, I decided to make my desserts more suitable for the change of season by including some fresh berries and making the textures a little lighter.
The first dessert I made was mini fruit tarts!
In order to make the crusts, I was originally thinking of purchasing premade pie crusts to save time but then I realized they would taste 10 times better if I made a sugar cookie crust. While it does take more time, it’s definitely worth the effort! The delicious taste of freshly baked sugar cookies is perfect with the homemade custard-like pastry cream and garnishing berries.
~ Mini Sugar Cookie Fruit Tarts ~
Sugar Cookie Crust –
1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pastry Cream –
1 1/4 cups 2% milk
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 tbsp All Purpose Flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Raspberries/ Blackberries (or any fruits desired!)
1. For the crust, in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar and add in the egg and vanilla extract.
2. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Incorporate the flour into the butter mixture and refrigerate for 35 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter 1-2 muffin tins so that nothing sticks.
5. Using a 2 tbsp ice cream scoop (or a tbsp measuring spoon), scoop up the sugar cookie dough and shape it to fit the muffin tin molds and form mini tart crusts.
6. Bake the crusts for 15 minutes. You will notice the base will rise a little. Gently flatten the base of the crusts with a small spoon as soon as they come out of the oven to give them the right shape.
7. To make the cream, combine the egg yolks with the sugar in a large heatproof bowl and sift in the flour and cornstarch.
8. Bring the milk just to a boil in a saucepan and immediately pour it into the heatproof bowl. Make sure to whisk constantly while pouring so that the eggs do not curdle.
9. Transfer the custard (pastry cream) back into the saucepan and keep whisking constantly over medium-high heat until the cornstarch causes the cream to thicken.
10. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
11. To assemble the mini fruit tarts, first lift the sugar cookie crusts gently out of the muffin tin. Then divide the pastry cream as equally as possible among the crusts and top with the fruits of your choice!
My second dessert is a delicious crowd-pleasing brownie recipe. The quantities below are for one batch only. I doubled the recipe when I baked for the concert. 🙂
~ Chocolate Ganache Cocoa Brownies ~
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sour cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, butter a square pan and line with a piece of parchment paper to make it easier to lift out the brownie.
2. Melt the butter and mix in the sugar and cocoa powder.
3. Let the mixture cool enough to add the eggs and vanilla extract.
4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and incorporate the flour mixture into the butter-cocoa mixture.
5. Finally, fold in the sour cream, pour the batter into the square pan, and bake for 30 minutes in the oven.
6. To make the chocolate ganache, put the 4 oz. of bittersweet chocolate (broken into small pieces) into a heatproof bowl.
7. Pour heavy cream into a saucepan and add in the butter, cut into small cubes.
8. Let the butter melt and the heavy cream come to a boil and immediately pour the hot mixture over the chocolate pieces. Make sure they are almost completely submerged by the milk. Do NOT stir, let the mixture sit for 2 minutes.
9. After 2 minutes, stir everything together.
10. With a knife, make a few slits into the brownie, then pour the chocolate ganache on top. The ganache will coat the top of the brownie and some will slip down into the slits.
11. Refrigerate for 45 minutes and then cut into squares and top with raspberries.
These recipes are perfect for any occasion: concerts, picnics, movie nights, afternoon treats, you name it! Since they have so many components to them, they’re even more fun to make as a group. If you need more incentive, remember that no artistic skills are required to make them look good. Just top them with some berries and they’ll look even more appetizing right away!
Now that the semester’s progressing, each week is getting busier and my to-do lists are longer than ever. I’ve realized that I am the most productive in the morning and I’ve subconsciously established a daily routine of waking up early, getting breakfast followed by a cup of coffee, and going to the library until it’s time for my first class.
One of the things I look forward to the most during days filled with classes, homework, appointments, and clubs is having one or two (sometimes more…) cups of coffee. I don’t really drink coffee just to stay awake (I could actually drink coffee right before bed and still fall asleep afterwards) but it just motivates me whenever I’m super stressed.
At the beginning of last week, especially on Tuesday, it was freezing outside and I tried to avoid being outdoors as much as possible because I was just starting to recover from a cold and refused to get sick yet again. After I came back from my sociology class, I went back to my dorm and decided to stay in and bake something.