Chocolate Eclair Dessert

This has got to be one of the easiest yet most divine desserts I’ve ever made.  It hits all the notes of sweet, creamy, crunchy and chocolate-y.  The best part about it is there’s no cooking involved.  It’s just really easy to assemble, but you certainly don’t have to tell your friends or family that.

Start by making the vanilla pudding from a box.  Whisk until thick and creamy.

Fold in the store-bought whipped topping.

Butter a pan and puzzle piece together some graham crackers.

Layer the pudding mixture and crackers, using an off set spatula to smooth everything out.  Lick fingers as needed.

Melt together bittersweet chocolate, heavy cream and butter.  What’s bad about that?

Nothing!

After three layers of graham crackers, pour on the chocolate ganache.  It should be thin enough to pour and cover the whole pan easily.

Here’s the beautiful layered shot.  Sprinkle some toffee bits for crunch and it’s ready for the fridge.

After a few hours or overnight in the fridge, what you’ll get is a decadent dessert that pleases adults and children alike.  The graham crackers turn soft and creamy.  The vanilla pudding mixture is just sweet enough to balance the bitterness of the chocolate.  And then the toffee chips on top give it just the right amount of crunchy texture.

This turned out to be one of my favorite new desserts of the summer.  Mostly because it did not require turning on the oven, but even more so because of the taste, yummers!

Chocolate Éclair Dessert

Cake:

1 (1-pound) box graham crackers

2 (3 1/4-ounce) boxes instant French vanilla pudding

3 1/2 cups milk

1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Toffee bits

 

Ganache:

1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

 

Butter the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan. Line the pan with whole graham crackers. In a bowl, mix pudding with milk; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping. Pour half the pudding mixture over graham crackers. Place another layer of whole graham crackers on top of pudding layer. Pour over remaining half of pudding mixture and cover with another layer of graham crackers.

For ganache, combine ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute and stir.  Continue in 30 second intervals and stir until melted and glossy.  Pour ganache over the cake  and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Strawberry Shortcake Skewers

When I saw these adorable skewers on Lady Behind the Curtain, they were just too cute to pass up.  I had to make these for my daughter’s tea party!  They are made with pre-made biscuit dough so it’s super easy too.

Roll out one piece of refrigerated biscuit dough to about a 5 inch circle and cut into 1 1/2 inch circles.  Each one should give you 7 circles.  Make sure you use your handy-dandy homemade circle cutter.

Yes, this circle cutter was made by my Dad.  First let me explain the type of guy my dad is.  He can make ANYTHING!!  Really, he’s a general contractor by trade, but a mad scientist in the workshop. He whipped up this little cutter and just soldered it together and voila, I have a cookie cutter!

Place the the biscuit circles on parchment paper and brush with an egg wash and sprinkle each one with sugar.

They are done when they’re a nice golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Now prepare the strawberries.  First wash and dry all the berries.  Cut the tops off.

Then the small end.

Then slice in half, giving you two strawberry circles.

I stacked them together and the kept each of the two pieces together, so it would look more uniform on one skewer.

I cut my skewers down in size to about 6 inches so they would look nicer.  You don’t have to do that.

Now just start layering with the biscuit, whipped cream and strawberries.

Start and end with a biscuit.  Easy peasy.  It was fun to make and even more fun to eat.  These were a hit at the tea party and they are fun to slide right off and pop into your mouth.

Strawberry Shortcake Skewers

Adapted from Lady Behind the Curtain

Biscuit Rounds:

1 can of grands biscuits

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

sugar for sprinkling

20 large strawberries, 2 slices per strawberry

Cream:

2 cups heavy cream

½ jar marshmallow fluff

3 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll a biscuit into a 5-inch circle.

Cut 7 – 1-1/2 inch circles and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with non stick cooking spray.

Whisk together the egg white and water.  Brush on each biscuit and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.

While the biscuits are baking prepare the strawberries.  Cut two 1/2 inch slices from each strawberry.  I also kept the two slices stacked on themselves, so I could use the same strawberry for one skewer.  This way they fit together better.  Once the biscuits are baked, transfer to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before constructing the skewers.  Then start layering; biscuit, strawberry, whipped cream.  Do this twice ending with a third biscuit on top.  One can of biscuits made 20 skewers.  That’s WITHOUT using the scraps.  If you use the scraps you’ll need to adjust the ingredients for extra.

Cream:

In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream and sugar and beat until firm peaks form.  Add half a jar of marshmallow fluff until just combined.

Pineapple Cream on Pound Cake

This is my favorite easy-to-make dessert when I’m in a pinch and want to serve something fast and refreshing.  All it takes is assembly, no baking involved.  I used a store-bought butter pound cake and the cream is three simple ingredients; crushed pineapple, vanilla instant pudding and whipped topping.

You can make this exact same dessert in the form of a trifle, which makes for a beautiful presentation.

Anyway you make it, the pineapple cream will stand out as being the star in this dessert.  It is creamy, but light.  It’s sweetness balances well with the tart berries and adds moisture to the heavier pound cake.  No one will go away unsatisfied with this dessert.  Enjoy!

Pineapple Cream on Pound Cake

1 can (20 oz.)  Crushed Pineapple, with juice

1 pkg.  (3.4 oz.) Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding

4 cups whipped topping

1 loaf store bought pound cake

fresh berries (sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)

Mix pineapple and dry pudding mix in medium bowl with whisk until well blended. Stir in whipped topping.  Slice pound cake and place on plate.  Spoon on pineapple cream and top with fresh berries.  Serves 6-8.

Fresh Fruit Tart

I can’t think of many other desserts that are as beautiful as a fresh fruit tart.  The combination of the vibrant fruit colors and the shiny glaze all nestled inside a crispy pastry crust is a thing of beauty.

When I first set out to make this desert, the recipe seemed really daunting, with many steps.  So, I decided to spread out the process over a two-day period.  The first day, I made the pastry dough and the pastry cream.  The second day I tackled the baking of the crust and adorning the tart with the cream and fruit.

On the first day, I was helping a friend babysit her 5-year old daughter and I thought it would be fun to have a baking buddy.  My kids are usually in school when I bake, so it was nice to have someone in the kitchen with me.  Janelle even brought her own little apron………so cute!  She sat up on a high stool against my black granite counter top, with her clean hands and sleeves pushed up, ready to work.

 This post made it to #5 on Foodbuzz’s Top 9 on April 9, 2011.  Check it out!

Add in the flour, salt and cold butter.

You will notice that this is the first time I’ve used a food processor in any of my baking or cooking.  That’s because I didn’t have one until this time.  I asked for a Cuisinart food processor for Christmas and my wish came true, thanks to my hubby!

Janelle, couldn’t help but notice that with every step of this process, I would stop and wash my hands and pick up my camera to take a picture.  She asked why I was doing this and I explained as generically as I could without having to explain to a 5-year old what a food blog was.

I told her that I wanted to keep the pictures so that I could remember how to make this in the future.

Janelle:  “Mrs. Freese, why don’t you just keep the recipe for next time?”

D-u-uh!  What a smart little girl.

Pulse, while drizzling in the egg yolk until it looks like corn meal.

Grab some dough and squeeze into a ball.  If it holds its shape, it’s ready to go!

Pour out the dough onto the counter top and form into a ball.

Wrap it up with plastic wrap and flatten into a disc.

After resting for about 30 minutes, roll out the crust in between the plastic wrap.  This is a great way to keep your counters and your clothes flour-free!  Clean up is so much easier this way.

Keeping one side of the crust attached to the plastic wrap, turn it onto your tart pan and gently press into the fluted edge.  Then run your rolling pin over the edge to cut the excess dough off.

Here’s the completed pastry crust.  Refrigerate again for about 30 minutes.

Here is the tart crust all baked off.  I totally forgot to take a picture of the blind-baking process where you lay foil or parchment paper over the crust and bake with dried beans .  The beans weigh the dough down during the baking process, so that the dough does not rise.

Melt strawberry jelly with some water for the glaze.

Apply a thin layer of the glaze to the crust to seal it in.  This also helps the crust with not becoming soggy when you spread the pastry cream in.

This step ends the pastry crust tutorial stage.

Start the pastry cream with three egg yolks and sugar.

Mix with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.

Janelle did a great job mixing this part.  Thanks Janelle!!

Sift in the flour and cornstarch until smooth.

Here’s everything all mixed well.

Boil milk and vanilla bean paste.

At this point, I had to take Janelle to her afternoon Kindergarten class, so “Zai jian, Janelle.”

I forgot to mention that while I was baking, I also taught Janelle some Chinese.  She already knew, “ni hao” or hello, so I taught her good-bye, “zai jian.”  When I dropped her off at school we said, “Zai jian” to each other and I came back home to finish the rest of the tart.

Whisk in the hot milk slowly into the egg mixture.  Pour everything back into the pot and put over low heat.

Keep whisking until the cream hardens and becomes thick.  Add in the half and half until nice and smooth.

Dump it out into a clean bowl.

Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap touching the top, so it does not create a dry film on top.

Once cooled, spread the pastry cream into the tart crust and go to town with your berries and fruit.

Don’t forget to brush on a final layer of glaze over the fruit.  The shiny finish really makes this fruit tart sing!

Janelle, I hope you’re very proud that you helped me make this beautiful fruit tart.  Thanks honey!!

P.S.  When I spoke with Janelle’s mom later that day, she told me that Janelle said that we were making a pop tart together!  So funny.  She probably would be more impressed with that.

Fresh Fruit Tart

Adapted from joyofbaking.com

Sweet Pastry Crust:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Pastry Cream:

1 ¼ cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

3 large egg yolks

¼ cup granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons  flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ cup half and half

Glaze: (optional)

1/2 cup strawberry  jelly

1 tablespoon water

Topping:

2 – 3 cups mixed fruit, such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, kiwifruit

Sweet Pastry Crust: In a food processor, pour in the flour and salt. Cut the cold butter into ½ inch pieces and add to flour. Pulse your food processor until the flour and butter resemble coarse corn meal.  Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated.  (Do not over mix or the pastry will be hard when baked.) Flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.

Have ready a 9- inch tart pan with removable bottom. Uncover the dough and center it in the middle of the plastic wrap, after folded in half. Roll out the dough and keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry. The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan.

When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly peel off one side of plastic wrap and place onto top of tart pan. Never pull pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan). Gently lay in pan and lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake crust for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove weights and bake 5 more minutes until the crust is completely cooked.  Cool crust on wire rack before filling.

Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. (Never let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.) Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine the milk and vanilla bean paste on medium heat until boiling. (The milk will foam up to the top of pan when done, so watch carefully.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.)

Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.

Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the half and half. Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Glaze: Heat the jelly and water in a bowl in the microwave until liquid.  Let cool until it is only slightly warm.

To Assemble Tart: To remove the tart from the fluted sides of the pan, place your hand under the pan, touching only the removable bottom not the sides. Gently push the tart straight up, away from the sides. The fluted tart ring will fall away and slide down your arm. If you want to remove the bottom of the pan, run a knife or thin metal spatula between the crust and metal bottom, then slide the tart onto a cardboard cake round.

Spread a thin layer of glaze or melted chocolate over the bottom and sides of the baked tart shell to prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry between 20 – 30 minutes. Spread the Pastry Cream onto the bottom of the baked tart shell, filling about 3/4 full.

To decorate the tart you will need 2 to 3 cups of mixed fresh fruit (such as berries, bananas, oranges, kiwifruit, plums, pineapple, and melon). Prepare the fruit by gently washing and drying. Peel and slice the bananas, plums and kiwifruit. The strawberries will need to be sliced also. Arranging the fruit on the tart can be done either randomly or in concentric overlapping circles, starting at the outside edge. Try to cover all the pastry cream with fruit so that no pastry cream is showing through.

After arranging the fruit, rewarm the glaze, if using, and gently brush a light coat on the fruit. Do not put it on too thick or it will look like Jell-O. Try not to get any glaze on the tart shell. The idea is to make the fruit look shiny.  If not serving immediately, refrigerate. Take out about 30 minutes before serving to give the fruit and cream a chance to warm to room temperature.

This fruit tart is best eaten the same day as it is assembled. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.

Serves about 8-10 people.

Caramel Apples for Your Valentine

Since it’s traditional for kids to give teachers apples, there’s no better way to do it than with a caramel and chocolate covered apple for Valentine’s Day.

What better way to tell a teacher you appreciate them than to let them indulge in some sugary sweetness.  After a long day of wrangling other people’s kids, they deserve it!

 

 

Melt the caramel according to package directions.  Make sure to keep the heat medium to low.

 

 

Roll that apple and coat it well.

 

 

Here’s a great way to have your apple-a-day!

I used the same recipe as my Halloween caramel apples, except with a different color of candy melts.

Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp

If I had an old-fashioned American grandmother, I imagine this apple crisp is something she would make for a comforting dessert.

But, since I don’t I had to make this myself!

This crisp is so easy to throw together.  It hits the right spot if you are craving something warm, gooey and crunchy all at the same time.  It would be even better with some vanilla ice cream on top!

The granny smith’s tartness and firm texture lends itself well to this dessert.  It really holds up to the one hour baking time.  The apples maintain a firm bite, which I was happy about.  The sweet and  crisp topping is also a great complement to the apples.

 

 

Start with peeling 8 granny smith apples.

 

 

I love my apple slicer.  It really makes this process a whole lot faster.

Look!  I’ve made my apple into a flower………so pretty, and edible!

 

 

Add in the citrus zest and spices.

 

 

Mix it all up and let the flavors get comfortable with each other.

I’m not sure why I did not take a picture of the topping on the apples, but I imagine it could be because I was too eager to get this in the oven.  After all, it has to bake for an hour.

Desserts like this make me want to plant an apple tree in my backyard.  That’s how good it is!!

 

 

Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp

Adapted from Ina Garten

 

5 pounds granny smith apples (about 8 apples)

Grated zest of 1 orange

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup oatmeal

1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13 by 2-inch baking dish.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges then cut each wedge in half. Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar, and spices. Pour into the dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place the crisp on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm.

ALIVE by Chocolate

I know the traditional name of this dessert is DEATH by Chocolate.  I would like to rename it, ALIVE by Chocolate!

This dessert gives your mouth a jolt and rush of sugar that awakens you to the pleasures of chocolate. The smooth pudding and creamy whipped topping not only look good in the bowl, they are a wonderful complement to the chunky rich brownie pieces.

Last night I took this dessert to a church Christmas potluck and brought home a nearly empty bowl.  I guess that says something, right?  It really is quite easy to make and almost too beautiful to eat.  Well………….not that beautiful!

 

Alive by Chocolate

1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix

2 (3.9 ounce) packages instant chocolate pudding mix

1 (16 ounce) package frozen whipped topping, thawed

3 (1.4 ounce) bars chocolate covered English toffee, optional

 

Prepare brownies according to package directions. Let cool. Cut into small cubes.

Mix pudding according to package directions.

In a trifle bowl (or other deep glass bowl), layer in the following order: 1/3 of the pudding, 1/3 of the brownies, 1/3 of the whipped topping.

Repeat layers in the same order.

Refrigerate.

 

Eclairs with Milk Chocolate Icing

I used to be really intimidated by pate a choux until I watched it being made and then I overcame my fear rather quickly.  I know you can too.  Come on, just try it once!

These are always a party favorite.  They’re light and fluffy and just take two bites, or one if you have a big mouth, but that’s between you and your eclair.

For these eclairs, I used my profiterole recipe and piped the choux pastry dough into strips, about 3 inches long.

 

Use a pastry bag and attach an open coupler to pipe the strips of choux pastry.

 

 

Make sure you leave about 2 inches all around each strip, so they don’t puff up and stick together.

 

 

Aren’t they cute?  Kinda like gigantic peanuts in the shell.

Cut a slit into the side of each and make sure all the eclairs are completely cooled before piping the whipped cream into them.  Then melt 1 cup of milk chocolate and spread it on each eclair with a butter knife.

Halloween Dessert Table

Let the sugar rush begin!

 

 

Caramel apples in orange spider webs were a hit at the party.

The Halloween favor bags in the background were a hit with the kids, of course!

 

 

Oreos dipped in orange melting candy made a sweet cookie even sweeter.

 

 

What’s a Halloween party without candy?

And yes, many people did dare eat it!

 

 

Halloween dipped marshmallows added color and fun to the table.

 

 

Even the water bottles got the Halloween treatment.

Caramel Apples in Orange Spider Webs

I had my friend Valeria come over, so I decided to put her to work.  Isn’t that what friends are for?  Neither of us have ever made caramel apples before, so today was as good a time as any to try.   They were easier than I expected.

I had to make some with nuts and some without because my son has a peanut allergy.

The no nut apples got the green spider rings and the rest got orange.

 

 

Dip the apples into the melted caramel and right into the nuts before it has a chance to harden.

 

 

If you have peanut allergies in your family too, make sure you brush the chocolate onto the apples with no nuts first. The nuts do end up falling off into your chocolate bowl or sticking to the brush.

 

 

The orange spider web is actually melting chips.  I got creative and melted pink and yellow together to get orange.  The drizzle reminded me of spider webs, so they are aptly named.

 

 

Caramel Apples

12 small granny smith apples

12 wooden sticks

2 packages traditional caramels (Kraft brand)

4 Tbsp water

2 cups melted milk chocolate (Hershey brand)

2 cups mixed nuts, chopped

30 pink melting chips

30 yellow melting chips

Wash and dry the apples and remove stems.  Stick the wooden stick through the top, making sure the stick is straight.  In a small pot, add the caramels and water and melt on medium heat.  Cover a sheet pan with wax paper and butter the paper well so the caramel apples do not stick to the wax paper.

Once caramel is melted, dip the apples in, making sure you shake it to get all the excess off.  Roll in chopped nuts. Place on buttered wax paper.  Once caramel is hardened, use a pastry brush to brush on the milk chocolate.  Let sit until chocolate is dry.

Combine the pink and yellow melting chips in the microwave and stir to get the orange color.  Spoon into a piping bag and drizzle onto the apples.