Flourless Chocolate Cake

Happy Independence Day!

I made this cake to celebrate some good ol’ fashioned Red, White and Blue and it turned out really well.  It was my first time making a flourless chocolate cake and I’m hooked.  It’s great for gluten-free and gluten-loving chocolate lovers! You can “accessorize” it however you want, which makes it a great recipe to keep handy all year ’round.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients
Cake
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process cocoa preferred

Glaze
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

What To Do
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan; cut a piece of parchment or waxed paper to fit, grease it, and lay it in the bottom of the pan.

To make the cake: Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the butter is melted and the chips are soft. Stir until the chips melt, reheating briefly if necessary. You can also do this over a burner set at very low heat. Transfer the melted chocolate/butter to a mixing bowl.

Stir in the sugar, salt, espresso powder, and vanilla. Espresso enhances chocolate’s flavor much as vanilla does; using 1 teaspoon will simply enhance the flavor, while 2 teaspoons will lend a hint of mocha to the cake.

Add the eggs, beating briefly until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, and mix just to combine.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 25 minutes; the top will have formed a thin crust, and it should register at least 200°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into its center.

Remove it from the oven, and cool it in the pan for 5 minutes.

Loosen the edges of the pan with a table knife or nylon spreader, and turn it out onto a serving plate. The top will now be on the bottom; that’s fine. Also, the edges will crumble a bit, which is also fine. Allow the cake to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze: Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is very hot, but not simmering. Remove from the microwave, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is completely smooth.

Spoon the glaze over the cake, spreading it to drip over the sides a bit. Allow the glaze to set for several hours before serving the cake.

My Comments
For chocolate, I used semisweet chocolate chips and dutch processed cocoa.

I did include vanilla but not espresso powder.

I used an 8″ x 8″ pan, baked it for the same amount of time.

I made the glaze (chocolate ganache) while the cake was baking. I always make ganache in a pan on the stove.  Combine the heavy cream and chocolate chips and stir together on low heat.  I don’t trust the microwave.

After the cake had cooled and the ganache had cooled into a nice spreadable consistency, I frosted the cake and put it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning it was nice and firm and easy to slice.  I did rinse and dry my knife after each slice.  I sliced the cake into 16 squares.

I decided to whip some leftover heavy cream with a spoonful of powdered sugar and put little dollops on each piece, topped with fresh strawberry slices and blueberries, which I thought looked very nice for Independence Day.

 

This cake turned out super yummy and everyone loved it.  I think you’ll love it too and hope you try it out soon.  Have a wonderful day today celebrating our freedom!

S’mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats

Happy fall, y’all! I know it hasn’t really felt like fall, at least here in central Illinois, but technically it is and that means bonfires and making s’mores and drinking hot cocoa! Sometimes having a bonfire isn’t feasible but thankfully there are about as many variations as there are leaves to rake.  Take these S’mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats, for example.  They have all the ingredients of a traditional s’more without the requirement of fire.  This recipe makes a lot of treats so it’s perfect for taking to festive fall gatherings.

S'mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats

S’mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats
slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction

Ingredients
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 10.5-ounce packages mini marshmallows, divided use
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
7 cups crisped rice cereal
9 full graham cracker sheets, chopped into small pieces
1 cup milk chocolate chips
optional: about 1.5 – 2 cups of mini marshmallows and about 1/2-cup of milk chocolate chips (sorry, I didn’t measure, just sprinkled them on)

What To Do
Spray with non-stick spray and/or spread some softened butter along the sides and bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and set aside.

In a large pan, melt butter over low heat.

Set aside 2 cups marshmallows.  Add the rest of the marshmallows to the pan and stir until completely melted.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Gradually add crisped rice cereal and graham cracker crumbs; stirring until well coated.  Fold in the reserved 2 cups of marshmallows and chocolate chips until thoroughly incorporated.

Using a buttered spatula, or clean hands, firmly press the mixture into the prepared pan.

If desired, top with additional mini marshmallows and place on the center rack of the oven.  Turn the broiler on low and broil for about 5 minutes, watching carefully, until the marshmallows have browned to your liking.  Remove from oven and sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top.

Cool completely before cutting and serving.

My Comments
The bags of mini marshmallows I bought were 10 oz each.

9 full sheets of graham crackers is one full sleeve of crackers that come 3 sleeves in a box – I think this is pretty standard.

I both sprayed my pan and spread butter in it and it was super easy to get the bars out.

I think next time I will also sprinkle some chopped graham crackers on top.  I couldn’t really taste them in the bars and I think extra on top would look nice and give an extra graham cracker flavor boost.

Some Photos Along the Way
Butter and mini marshmallows melting together
S'mores Marshmallow Rice Crispy Treats

Stirring in cereal and graham crackers
S'mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats

Adding mini marshmallows and chocolate chips
S'mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats

The mixture pressed into the pan
S'mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats

Extra mini marshmallows on top
S'mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats

Turning the broiler on
S'mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats

Extra chocolate chips sprinkled on top
S'mores Marshmallow Crispy Treats

 

All I can say is YUMMY! I recently took these to a family function (where there was no bonfire) and they were a big hit.  So if you can’t have a real s’more, try this twist and I think you’ll be happy!

Homemade Marshmallows

Woo Hoo! Homemade marshmallows! I’ve wanted to try this for quite some time now and I finally got to it last weekend.  They are so good! And they’re not hard to make at all.  You just need a little time and maybe a little patience…and being okay with making a bit of a mess…I had powdered sugar everywhere! But it all cleaned up pretty easily.  It was worth it to have marshmallowy goodness that I made all by myself!

Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallows
from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles

Ingredients
2/3 c. water, divided
3 (1/4 oz.) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
pinch of kosher salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar, for dusting

What To Do
Lightly spray the inside of an 8”x8” pan with vegetable cooking spray. Generously coat with powdered sugar and set aside.

Pour 1/3 cup of the water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and stir briefly to incorporate. Let stand for about 10 minutes, or until the gelatin has softened.

In a saucepan, off the heat, combine the remaining 1/3 cup of water and the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer on the inside of the pan, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom. Cook the mixture without stirring until reaches 240°F. Brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush, dipped in water, to gently wipe away any sugar crystals.

With your mixer on low speed, very carefully add the hot syrup to the softened gelatin. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high. The mixture will start out clear, but quickly turns very white. Beat for about 8 minutes, or until the marshmallow gets very thick and sticky, and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, in string-like pieces.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan using a lightly oiled spatula. With wet hands, press the batter evenly into the corners of the pan. Keep rewetting your hands to help with the stickiness. Set aside for at least 1 hour, or until the mixture is firm and cool.

Sift the powdered sugar into a shallow bowl. Run a wet knife around the edge of the cooled pan to loosen the marshmallow. Remove the marshmallow from the pan, onto a cutting board. Cut into squares, using a pizza cutter. Toss each marshmallow in the powdered sugar until completely coated.

My Comments
I used a larger tray to put my marshmallow batter in.  It’s about 9″ x 13″ and I used it because I wanted them to be thinner so I could use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes.

I kept a bowl of water on the counter so I could dip my hands in it as needed when spreading the batter into the pan.

I didn’t use a pizza cutter, just a cookie cutter and a butter knife.

You can store these in an airtight container for a couple weeks at a moderate temperature.

Some Photos Along the Way
The gelatin and water
Homemade Marshmallows

The water, sugar, corn syrup and salt boiling
Homemade Marshmallows

Mixing the hot syrup and vanilla with the softened gelatin
Homemade Marshmallows

Mixing complete – it’s white now!
Homemade Marshmallows

The marshmallow batter spread out into my pan
Homemade Marshmallows

Cutting out Christmas tree shapes!
Homemade Marshmallows

Square-shaped marshmallows in some hot cocoa
Homemade Marshmallows

From the top – I put too many in, these melt differently than store-bought, so be careful!
Homemade Marshmallows

Tree-shaped marshmallows dipped in chocolate and covered with sprinkles!
Homemade Marshmallows

I don’t know that I’m going to stop buying marshmallows from the store but this certainly was super fun to try and I would do it again for a special occasion.  The possibilities are endless, or at least there are as many possibilities as there are cookie cutters.  Next time I’d like to incorporate some flavors, like maybe some juice from raspberries or something like that.  I think it’d be pretty and tasty, especially dipped in chocolate!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Oh, everything is so cute when it’s miniature! When I saw these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes, I knew I just had to try them.  I love cheesecake and I love pumpkin, so why not combine the two?

And really, can I just take a minute to say how awesome pumpkin, and squash in general,  is? I mean, you can use it in so many ways:  breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts! Sweet and savory!

These cheesecakes are obviously as sweet as can be.  They took a little work, but they are worth the effort.  Plus, you can make them ahead of time, which is great if you are planning a big meal.  Getting as much done ahead of time means less stress!

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes
from My Baking Addiction

Ingredients
Crust
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
pinch of salt
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Filling
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (I used homemade)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I used homemade)
3 large eggs

Topping
1/2 cup whipping cream or heavy cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

What To Do
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a pan with 12 muffin liners. Note that this crust recipe does not work in regular pie pans and only as mini cheesecakes.

Crust
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Beat in the butter at low speed until thoroughly combined and a dough forms. If you have trouble incorporating it, use your hands. It’ll be sticky.

Divide the dough between the muffin liners. Press the dough down with the bottom of a shot glass.  Bake for 11-13 minutes or until the surface of the crust no longer appears wet.

After baking, the crust will still be soft but will firm slightly as it cools. Let cool for 10 minutes while you prepare the cheesecake.

Cheesecake Filling
Turn the oven down to to 325°F.

Beat the cream cheese at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, molasses, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, salt and pumpkin pie spice and beat on low until well combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating on low after every addition until thoroughly incorporated. Do not over mix!

Fill each muffin liner to the top with cheesecake batter and bake for 20 minutes or until the middles of the cheesecakes are set and don’t jiggle when the pan is tapped.

Remove from the oven and let the cheesecakes cool in the pan.

Once completely cool (about 1 hour), remove the cheesecakes from the pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The wrappers come off neatly before and after refrigeration.

Refrigerate the cheesecakes in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Topping
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the cream just until hot, steamy and on the verge of simmering. Remove from the heat.

Pour this over the chocolate chips and stir until all the chocolate chips are completely melted.

Let cool for about 20-30 minutes or until room temperature before pouring over the chilled cheesecakes.

My Comments
Crust:  It took mine several minutes in the mixer to become dough and I did have to stop a couple of times to scrape around the bottom of the bowl.  Don’t panic if yours looks like crumbs for a while.  I also used a small cookie scoop to distribute the dough and then used a wooden tamper to pack it in (see photo below).  I think next time, I will try using a regular graham cracker crust.

Cheesecake Filling:  I used a larger cookie scoop to distribute the filling.  This reduces spills and batter going where it doesn’t belong.  I did have a little leftover batter, which I just put into a small ramekin and baked it without a crust.

Topping:  I love ganache but I actually didn’t have enough cream to make enough (oops!), so I decided to follow the directions on the bag of chocolate chips to melt chocolate for dipping.  I made half the recipe, which is 1/2 a cup of chips melted with 1/2 a tablespoon of shortening.  I did this on the stove, which always works better for me than the microwave.  Then I topped it with mini chocolate chips…because they’re so darn cute!

Some Photos Along the Way
Crust ingredients before adding butter
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

The crust dough after adding butter
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Dividing crust dough between muffin liners
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

The baked crust
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Cheesecake filling ingredients before adding eggs
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Cheesecake filling with an egg
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

The baked mini cheesecakes, cooling
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Mini cheesecakes with topping
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

All twelve mini pumpkin cheesecakes
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

 

Whew! Really, these aren’t hard, just a bit time consuming.  And wow, once you take a bite, you’ll forget all about all your troubles! Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but these are quite tasty…and maybe for a few minutes you’ll bask in the pumpkin-y cheesecake-y goodness of these adorable little treats.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

AHHH! It’s the last day of August! Time to prepare for fall, even though this week is to be very hot and humid here.  We’ve been enjoying some very fall-like weather, which has been great (except for my garden deciding to pretty much be done for the season) and I was recently given a bag of apples from my friend’s tree.  I wasn’t really anticipating anything apple-related for another couple of weeks but whatcha gonna do? I was actually kinda sad because my counter wasn’t full of some kind of produce so I welcomed the apples and got busy.

And boy am I glad.  These Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars are wonderful!!! When it really is fall, I think I’ll make these every day.  Well, maybe not every day….but I sure would like to eat one every day.  These bars scream fall goodness.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Yup, see those layers? A wonderful crust, topped with cheesecake, topped with spiced apples, topped with streusel, topped with caramel? It doesn’t get much better than this! I just made a half recipe but next time I’m making the whole thing!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
from Our Best Bites (the bars) and the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion (the caramel)

Ingredients
Bars – Crust
2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup cold butter (12 tablespoons), cubed

Bars – Filling
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 medium tart apples, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Bars – Streusel
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup butter (5 1/3 tablespoons), cubed

1/3 c caramel sauce

Caramel Sauce
You can buy caramel sauce to drizzle on top but I chose to make some.  There are several recipes out there, but I chose to make one from my King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.  In fact, it’s the same as the Caramel Frosting recipe I posted a while back – just don’t do the last step of adding powdered sugar.

What To Do
Preheat oven to 350ºF.  In a small bowl, combine flour and brown sugar; cut in butter until crumbly.  Press into a well-greased 13×9 baking pan.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined.  Spread over crust.

In a small bowl, toss apples with cinnamon, nutmeg and remaining sugar; spoon over cream cheese layer.  In another bowl, mix flour, brown sugar and oats; cut in butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over apple layer.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until filling is set.  Drizzle with caramel topping; cool in pan on a wire rack 1 hour.  (OR reserve caramel for later.  They can be served without caramel sauce, or sauce can be drizzled on before serving. ) Refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Cut into bars.

My Comments
I lined my pan with foil and sprayed the foil with non-stick cooking spray.  That way it’s so easy to just lift out of the pan and makes it super easy to cut into bars.

In the streusel, I used old-fashioned oats.

I made half the caramel recipe and chose to reserve it to drizzle on as needed.  It does thicken up after cooling so just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds and it will be drizzle-ready.

Some Photos Along the Way
Crust Ingredients
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Dicing the Apples
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Adding the Cheesecake Layer
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

The Apple Layer
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

The Streusel Layer
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Caramel Sauce
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Drizzle Time
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

 

I am always sad to see summer go but I do enjoy fall produce like apples.  My counter won’t be empty for long.  More apples and pears and squash are all coming soon.  I think I’ll sit back and enjoy this time between summer and fall produce with another Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bar and a good book.

Have a great week!