Mar 24, 2013

Reese's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Egg Brownies with Peanut Butter Filling and Hershey's Chocolate Coating

Nothing quite screams Easter like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Especially in the 'egg' form.  The geniuses over at Hershey's release a seasonal version of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup candy at Easter time, the REESE'S Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs:

It's the exact same components of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Hershey's chocolate outside, sweetened peanut butter filling inside, but in a bite-sized-shove-in-your-mouth-much-faster except for the blasted foil wrapping, egg-form.

Growing up my mom always made home-made chocolate peanut butter eggs at Easter time.  It's such a loving memory for me thinking about her standing in the kitchen dipping all those sticky peanut butter eggs for me and my Dad.  It was always a once-a-year kind of treat that we adoringly looked forward to.  So this year I decided to attempt a brownie version of her peanut butter eggs, but Gina-style...totally over the top and somewhat ridiculous.  But in a fun, fatty way.

Wishing you all a wonderful-peanut-buttery Easter with your families.  God bless and thanks for always supporting my wicked creations. 

Reese's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Egg Brownies with Peanut Butter Filling and Hershey's Chocolate Coating
printable version


For the Brownies:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (10 ounce) bag Reese's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs, cut in half

For the Peanut Butter Filling:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar

For the Chocolate Topping:
9 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
9 ounces milk chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

To prepare the brownies, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (165C). Grease an 8 x 8 square pan. I use a sandwich baggie as a glove to make this step easier.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and water. 

Cook over medium heat until boiling.

Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted and smooth.

Add eggs and vanilla, whisk to combine.
In another bowl, combine flour, soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.

In two additions, add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture. Stir until just combined. 

Gently fold in the halved peanut butter eggs.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare the peanut butter filling, place the peanut butter, butter, and salt in a microwave safe bowl and heat for one minute until just soft, but not melted completely. 

Stir to combine.
Sift in powdered sugar. Be sure to sift otherwise you run the risk of adding lumps of sugar.

 Stir to combine. 

Spread filling evenly over the cooled brownies using an offset spatula.
To prepare the chocolate coating, melt the chocolate and shortening over a double broiler until smooth.


Pour melted chocolate evenly over the peanut butter filling. Chill until solid.

The smell of chocolate and peanut butter cause small children to flock with laser guns so be careful.

To serve, let the bars sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. If you try to cut them straight from the fridge the peanut butter and chocolate layer will separate from the brownie.

Happy Easter and enjoy!
peanut butter filling and chocolate coating recipe courtesy of Joy of Baking

Mar 13, 2013

White Chocolate & Cointreau Frozen Cheesecake with a Milano Cookie Crust

This is the first recipe, well boozily adapted recipe I'm sharing that I learned in culinary school.  The original didn't include the chocolate or alcohol, I mean really why bother!?  So I've dressed it up and got it ready to party.  My kind of cheesecake.
Although the term for this dessert is a frozen cheesecake, don't let that fool you.  This is not a baked cheesecake that is frozen and eaten.  In fact there is no baking required with this dessert, all the ingredients are whipped/mixed/frozen.  This is a creamier, lighter, and almost ice-creamy version of cheesecake.  The texture is extremely delicate and melts instantly in your mouth, really it's something amazing.
There is only one problem with this recipe.  The crust calls for 21 milano cookies, which is about 1 and a half bags.  That means you are left with half a bag of milanos in the house.  AND a cheesecake.  All aboard stretchy pants.   
White Chocolate & Cointreau Frozen Cheesecake with a Milano Cookie Crust
makes one 9-inch cheesecake
printable version
For the crust:
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder   
For the filling:
300 grams cream cheese
2 sheets gelatin (3.5 grams each, 7 grams total)
120 grams sugar
40 ml water
3 egg yolks
600 ml whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
200 grams white chocolate
3-4 tablespoons Cointreau 
Caramel sauce to drizzle
Pulse the cookies in a food processor until crumbs form (I broke them in half first).
Pour crumbs into a medium sized bowl, add espresso and melted butter.

Mix with a fork (or your fingers) until thoroughly incorporated.
Transfer mixture to a spring form pan and press evenly along the bottom and up the sides.  Use a measuring cup to help even out the crust, this works great especially along the sides.  Keep refrigerated until ready to fill.

Soak the gelatin in cold water and set aside.

Whisk the egg yolk until it becomes pale and frothy.  Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan to make a thick syrup.  Pour the syrup onto the whisked egg yolks while continuing to whisk. 

*If you are a bit wary of not directly heating the egg yolks (like me) use an instant thermometer to guarantee the temperature of the egg mixture reaches a safe 165 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature in which salmonella is killed instantly).  If you find your egg mixture has not reached this point after adding the syrup you can re-heat it over a double broiler until 165 degrees has been reached.

Squeeze out the excess water from the soaked gelatin and mix into the egg mixture.  If your mixture is lumpy the gelatin didn't dissolve completely.  Reheat the mixture over a double broiler, whisking until smooth.
Add the cream cheese and whisk until smooth and creamy.  If you have lumps, don't worry keep whisking, it'll get there.

Push the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any bits of cooked egg or undissolved gelatin.

Whisk in the Cointreau.

Melt the chocolate over a double broiler or in the microwave.  Stir until smooth.  *I accidentally bought white chocolate with almonds, but it still turned out great and either will work.
Stir the melted chocolate into the cream cheese mixture.
Whip the cream to almost a medium peak and add vanilla extract.  

 Continue to beat until until you've reached medium peaks.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture

Transfer the mixture on top of the cookie crust and spread evenly.  Freeze for 6-8 hours, or until firm.

Blow torch time!  To help release the cheesecake, run the torch around the edge of the pan.  Open lock to release (it will release I promise!)

Serve frozen.

Drizzle with caramel sauce if you wish (I used store bought...shhhh don't tell anyone, okay?) 
 cookie crust recipe from Epicurious
filling recipe adapted from ICCA 

Mar 6, 2013

Spiced Pineapple & Carrot Cake & Almond Infused Mascarpone & Berry Tart

My latest beauties were prepared for Aveem Foods for the 'Aveem Challenge,' a competition for food bloggers here in the UAE.  You may recall the Frozen Fudgy Caramel Extreme Trifle I also submitted for the competition.  Aveem was extremely generous and sent us over loads of goodies including white and brown sugar, their endless spice collection (including nutmeg that was the most intense in color and taste that I've ever baked with, a total dream) along with an assortment of House of Tudor teas, AND to top it off, a bottle of Jose Galan olive oil (ideal for dipping with crusty bread as it has a heavenly, fruity bite), all of which will soon be hitting the grocery shelves here in the UAE, will keep you updated!
Aveem asked if I could incorporate their logo somehow onto the desserts as they wanted to present them to Ahlan & Ahlan Gourmet as a introduction to the quality of their products.  This was a bit of a challenge in itself for me as cake decorating is not exactly my forte...up until now I've only been able to make things taste good, but looking good is still something I'm trying to conquer.
Nonetheless, my husband (and hero) helped to make a template using card stock printed with Aveem's logo for the top of the carrot cake.  We stood in the kitchen like two kids working on a science experiment trying to nail down the logo in sprinkles.  By the way I think I will be finding those little metallic balls EVERYWHERE throughout the house for months to come.  Fingers crossed the images will be showcased in Ahlan & Ahlan Gourmet shortly, will keep you posted. 
In the mean time, please trust me on this one.  If you want to taste the best carrot cake of your life, try this recipe.  I have a stained, ripped, and dripped on printed copy that dates back to 2004.  This is THE go-to carrot cake. I think what makes it so special is the addition of the pineapple.  It adds such fruity, unexpected texture.  And let's not forget the ridiculous amount of spices that go into this cake.  Each note adds another dimension of flavor, yet they blend together effortlessly.  And whatever you do, remember to toast your walnuts before adding.  Toasting nuts increases the intensity of their inherent flavor, a very important step for this recipe.
Now let me tell you about the mascarpone tart.  Talk about luxury in a 9 x 9 pan.  I was totally shocked after I whipped up the mascarpone and's smooth, creamy, thick, and melts like cotton candy on your tongue.  It's a foolproof filling that's literally a blank canvas.  I added almond extract and Frangelico, but really the sky is the limit here.  You could try adding a scrapped vanilla bean, diluted instant coffee, lemon extract, maple extract, literally any flavored liquor you have on hand, or simply stick to plain sugar for a hint of sweetness. 
Spiced Pineapple & Carrot Cake 
makes one 2-layer 8" round cake
For the Cake:
6 cups grated carrots (about 7-8 large carrots)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 tablespoon Cointreau (or Grand Marnier)
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup crushed or chopped canned  pineapple ***reserve juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups (16 ounces) powdered sugar
zest of 1 lemon
In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and brown sugar.  Set aside for 1 hour, stirring halfway through. 

After an hour, you will notice there is quite a bit of moisture in the bottom of your bowl.  Be sure to drain this out.  No need to strain, just push your spoon against the carrots and let the fluid flow into the sink.  A little bit left over in the bowl is okay.

Strain the canned pineapple, reserving the juice.  If the pineapple is quite chunky, give it a quick chop so you're left with bite-sized pieces.
Pour the strained juice into a measuring cup.  

Add water to the measuring cup until it's equal to 1 cup.  Add the rum and Cointreau, stir to combine.
Add the liquid and raisins to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat, strain juice (discard) and set raisins aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease two 8-inch round baking pans.  I use a plastic sandwich baggie as a glove to make this step easy.  Line bottom of pans with parchment circles and grease.

Dust with flour and knock out excess, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs until light.

Meanwhile, Mateo is busy building a spice castle with the boxes sent over from Aveem...

Gradually beat in the white sugar.

Beat in the oil, applesauce, and vanilla.


Stir in the pineapple.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

Add the lemon zest and whisk to combine.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet in 3 additions, just until absorbed.

Add the carrots, raisins, and toasted walnuts to the batter, mix to combine.

Pour evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and return to wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare the cream cheese frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Add the vanilla and lemon zest. Beat to combine.
Before adding the sugar, be sure to sift it first into a separate bowl:

Otherwise clumps like these can make your frosting lumpy, who likes that?

Add powdered sugar to the creamed mixture 1 cup at a time.

Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl before each addition.

To assemble the cake, place a disposable cake board on top of your serving platter (I'm using Wilton's Trim & Turn Cake Turntable, which makes frosting the cake a breeze).  The cake boards help to transfer the cake from serving platter to cake server.  

Frost the first layer with about 1 1/4 cups frosting using an offset spatula.

Top with second cake layer and apply an even crumb coat to the entire cake.  A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that seals in all the tiny crumbs so the final layer of frosting is smooth and cake-free.
Place the cake in the fridge for the crumb layer to firm up, about 30 minutes.

Finish the cake with the remaining frosting and decorate with sprinkles or chopped nuts.  
Slice up and enjoy!  Be sure to keep a look out for Aveem sugars and spice collection that will be hitting our stores soon.
cake recipe adapted from
frosting recipe courtesy of Philadelphia
Almond Infused Mascarpone & Berry Tart
makes two 8 or 9 inch tarts
For the Pate Sucree (sweet pastry): *note: this pastry dough recipe makes enough for 2 tarts
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) cold, unsalted butter cut into small cubes
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
2-4 tablespoons cold heavy cream or ice water
For the Mascarpone Filling:
1 cup (8 ounces) maascarpone cheese
1/3 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon Frangelico
zest of 1 lemon
For the Apricot Glaze:
1/2 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons Frangelico
3 cups mixed berries (strawberry, blackberry, blueberries, raspberries...really whatever is in season)

To prepare the pastry, combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.

Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, 10 to 20 seconds.

Add yolks and drizzle the 2 tablespoons of chilled cream or water evenly over the mixture; pulse until dough begins to come together, no more than 30 seconds. If dough is too dry, add remaining cream or water, 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse.


Divide dough in half, wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8" thick.

Wrap the dough around the rolling pin, lightly dusting the flour so it won't stick.  Make sure your tart pan is close by so you can gently transfer the dough.
Trim the dough flush with the pan.  Pierce the bottom of the pan all over with a fork.  Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Remove from fridge and line tart with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes.  Remove the beans and paper, continue baking until crust is golden brown all over, about 10 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.
To prepare the glaze, combine the apricot jam and Frangelico in a small saucepan.  Heat until the jam liquifies.  Stir to combine.
Pass the jam mixture through a fine sieve to remove the fruit pieces.

Using a pastry brush, apply a thin coat of the apricot mixture to the bottom of the baked tart shell.  This will help to keep the crust from not becoming soggy after adding the mascarpone.

To prepare the mascarpone filling, combine mascarpone, cream, sugar, almond extract, Frangelico, and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand up mixer.  Beat with whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.

Transfer the mascarpone mixture  to the tart shell and spread evenly.

Top with the assortment of berries.  I laid them flat as shown here, but feel free to also pile them up.

Using a pastry brush, gently coat the berries with the remaining glaze.  This will help keep them fresh and looking shiny and delicious.
pate sucree recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts
mascarpone filling recipe adapted from Epicurious
glaze recipe adapted from Joy of Baking