Nov 19, 2013

Arabic Sweets (aka Baklava) Magic Bars

Do you ever end up with too many sweets in the house?  You start to shake knowing your willpower has no chance of survival and diabetes will eventually kick in if you don't do a massive sweep of the pantry?  This typically happens to me at the holidays...or any time I open up my freezer.  See I'm baking so often that my husband cannot keep up.  He tries, bless him.  But for the most part everything ends up in the freezer safely kept for guests or anyone willing to take it home.

So after scoring on Halloween, having both our mother's here visiting to see the new baby (coming armed with treats from back home) and my non-stop baking parade...we officially over-dosed on sugar.  My MIL brought us a giant box of Arabic Sweets from Lebanon this past week and I just thought oh God please no.  Arabic Sweets (aka Baklava) are the supreme sweet: crunchy, flakey, gooey, and oh-so-nutty...the ultimate temptation on top of the Willy Wonka sugar-fest I've got happening in the house I knew something had to give.


So what the hell did I do?  I took something so amazingly sweet and amped it up, oh a million.

I guess I figured if I incorporated these sweets into another type of dessert at least they'd be off my counter...and eventually into the freezer.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Magic Bars (also known as Seven Layer Bars) are an American classic.  The recipe is pretty standard but can be easily changed up depending on the season or what you have in the pantry.

The original recipe uses graham cracker crumbs and melted butter for the crust.  In my recipe I swapped out the graham crackers for chopped up Arabic sweets.  Let me tell you it killed me to chop up all those sugar-syrup-sinfuls but it had to be done.  And trust me it was oh-so worth it.  Next up is a layer of sweetened condensed milk that's topped with chocolate chips, walnuts (I used pistachios since they were also used in the Arabic sweets), and coconut.  Bake it off and let the milk do it's magic and what you're left with is heavenly gooey goodness.  They turn out perfect every single time, it's definitely a foolproof recipe.
Seriously you gotta try these.  Revolutionary if you ask me.  I like to think of this recipe as the perfect example of my multi-cultural family.  Half American, half Lebanese...but 100% awesome. 
Arabic Sweets (aka Baklava) Magic Bars
makes about 15 bars
printable version

3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped Arabic sweets (baklava)
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 1/3 cup coconut flakes
1 cup pistachios, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (325 if using a glass dish).  Spray dish with non-stick spray.

Coarsely chop up Arabic sweets (don't use a food processor, by hand is fine.  The crust should be somewhat chunky) and transfer to a medium sized bowl.  Add the melted butter and sugar.  Mix to combine.

Firmly press crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared dish. 

Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crust.  Use a spatula to ensure it reaches the corners and sides of the dish.

Evenly layer the white chocolate chips, coconut, and pistachios over the milk.

Using the back of a fork press down firmly to compact.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  I find these are much easier to cut when cool.  Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.


recipe adapted from Eagle Brand

Nov 17, 2013

Speculoos Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Speculoos Frosting

I haven't been posting as frequently you can see I've been a bit busy...
You know having a baby and all.  Children, small ones with teeny-tiny yet boisterous voices to be exact, seem to have this inherent inkling as to when exactly you want to do something seemingly routine such as, cook, shower, have a cup of coffee...or just plain sleep for that matter.  They are amazing little creatures.  I've been trying to post this recipe for days now yet every time I sit at the computer it's as if I've turned on this internal alarm in his brain that mommy want to do something other than feed him....oooooh no we can't have that.
Miraculously today I finally had 5 minutes of peace, so here we are.  Welcome to the world of Speculoos.  God's gift to bakers.  Peanut butter is officially soooooo last season.  And if you're not familiar with Speculoos (similar to Biscoff spread) don't worry I hadn't heard of it either until recently.  It's becoming ├╝ber trendy flying off shelves and landing smack dab on our thighs.  No matter, with the holidays just around the corner, tis the season to be jolly (and jiggly).
Back to Speculoos cookie butter.  Imagine the texture, consistency, and color of peanut butter, but instead of crushed-up peanuts, cookie butter is made from a Belgian crunchy cookie (the Speculoos) which has a gingerbread/cinnamon/caramel flavor...horribly addictive unfortunately.
The possibilities are endless. Whatever you can do with peanut butter or Nutella, you can do the same with cookie butter.  Better add yourself a new page on Pinterest called 'cookie butter madness' because this stuff has no limits.  Also best to buy two jars.  One to bake with and one to eat straight from the jar...when no one else is home of course. 
I made this sheet cake to 'celebrate' my son Anthony's two week birthday.  And of course to celebrate the awesomeness that is cookie butter.  My two new loves.
Speculoos Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Speculoos Frosting
makes one 10x15 sheet cake
For the cake:
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs (or 3 medium)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup Speculoos cookie butter
8 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
For the frosting:
2/3 cup Speculoos cookie butter
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.  Grease a 10x15 sheet cake pan and set aside.  I use a sandwich baggie as a glove to make this step easier.
Sift flour into a medium sized bowl.  
Add both sugars, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir to combine.

In another large bowl, combine the eggs, baking soda, sour cream, and vanilla. 

Whisk to combine well and set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the Speculoos, butter, and milk. 

Melt and bring to a simmer until mixture thickens.
Add Speculoos mixture to the dry ingredients and mix to combine.

Using a spatula, fold in the sour cream mixture to the batter.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. 

Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare the frosting, combine the cream cheese, Speculoos, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand up mixer (hand mixer ok) and beat on medium until light and fluffy. 
Sift in half the powdered sugar and cinnamon. 
Turn mixer on low and beat for one 30 seconds.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and sift in remaining powdered cream.  Beat on medium for another 30 seconds or until frosting is smooth and creamy.  *if the frosting is too runny, add an additional 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
Using an offset spatula, evenly spread frosting over cake.
cake recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe