Tag Archives: dessert

Homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie

30 Jun

Homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie

Earlier this summer, I made my first trip to Momofuku Milk Bar.  This place is RIDICULOUSLY good.  Naturally, I had to try (almost) everything on the menu in case I never made the 12 block trek again.  Here’s a review of everything we tried:

  • Cereal Milk – The cereal milk was ice cold milk with crushed cereal powder mixed in.  The texture was really strange to me and it was a little too sweet.
  • Cookies – We tried a compost cookie, a cornflake marshmallow cookie and a corn cookie.  The compost cookie was hands down the best; made with pretzels, chocolate chips, coffee grounds (it works!) and potato chips, the compost cookie contained literally everything but the kitchen sink!  one word or warning though: the cookies are served in plastic wrap which tends to make them a little greasy over the course of the day.
  • Dill Bagel Bomb – A bagel roll with dill cream cheese inside.  Probably would have tasted better eaten immediately instead of waiting until the next morning.  Pretty carb-heavy and not enough cream cheese.
  • Pistachio Croissant – YUM.  We heated this up for breakfast and it was delicious.  It was the perfect pistachio flavor and not too heavy, although I did have a bit of a sugar high heading into work that morning.
  • Birthday Cake Truffles – This was like eating a ball of cookie dough.  Super rich – we shared three truffles between six people and we were all satisfied.
  • Crack Pie – I read an article about “crack” foods in NY Mag last month which initially sparked my interest in checking out Momofuku Milk Bar.  If I could eat a slice of this pie every day, I would.  Each bite melts in your mouth and it the perfect combination of salty and sweet (much like the compost cookie).  It reminds me of chess pie, a Southern dessert from my childhood.  However, at $5.25 a slice and $44 a pie, adding a slice a day wasn’t exactly in my budget.  I did some searching and found a recipe from Bon Appetit for Crack Pie that I used to make my own “crack” pie.  I was a little shocked at just how much butter and sugar goes into this recipe (and not much else!), but was pleasantly surprised to discover the crust is made of oatmeal cookies.  We can consider this a “healthy” food then, right? 😉
Homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie

Homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie
Recipe from Bon Appetit
Serves 12+ (this cake is very rich; you can make slices 1/2 the size of what you would normally do for pies)

Ingredients
For the Oatmeal Cookie Crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Directions
For the Oatmeal Cookie Crust
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray.
2. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl.
3. Using electric mixer (if you have one), beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.
4. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan.
5. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
6. Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together.
7. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

For the Filling
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
2. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended.
3. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble).
4. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20-25 minutes longer.
5. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.
6. Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.  (NOTE: Don’t add the powdered sugar until the pie is completely cool and right before serving.  I got excited and added mine pretty soon after taking the pie from the oven and it absorbed into the pie.  Whoops!)

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Chocolate Caramel Oatmeal Bars

3 May

Chocolate caramel oatmeal bars are one of my favorite desserts to make for a party or to bring when visiting friends.  They are very easy to make and are super rich, gooey and decadent.  The best part is, because they contain oatmeal, you can claim they are healthy! 🙂  You can find my recipe below.  Be careful with this dessert – they are so addictive that my friend Marc who runs a fitness company and has the best diet and self-restraint on the planet can’t even resist them!

Chocolate Caramel Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups milk chocolate candies with soft caramel centers*
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

* I prefer to go the decadent route and use Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate & Caramel Squares cut into quarters, but mini Rolos or Rolos cut in half also work.  If you are going to use full size Rolos or Ghiradelli squares, refrigerate the candy before trying to cut each piece.  This way will be significantly less messy.

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9″x13″ banking pan with parchment paper.
2. In a small size bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In a medium size bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy.
4.  Add flour mixture to medium size bowl.  When mixed, add oatmeal and mix until incorporated.
5. Using floured hands, press about 2/3 of the mixture evenly into the baking pan.  Bake until deep golden brown around edges, about 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, add 1/2 the chocolate-caramel candies to the bowl with the remainder of the oatmeal mixture.  Mix well with floured hands.
7. When the bottom layer is finished, remove from oven.  Evenly drizzle condensed milk over hot base.  Sprinkle chocolate chips and remaining chocolate-caramel candies over condensed milk.  Finally, add oatmeal mixture containing the chocolate-caramel over this.  Note: This top layer will not fully cover the pan.
8. Bake until topping is deep golden brown and edges are bubbling, about 25-27 minutes.
9. Cool in a pan on a wire rack.  When cooled, cut into small bars.
10. Serve warm with ice cream or alone at room temperature.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nanaimo Bars

20 Apr

Nanaimo Bars

Earlier this year, I attended a Pacific Northwest cooking class at The Institute of Culinary Eduation in NYC.  D is from Seattle so I wanted to learn how to make some of the foods he loved growing up.  We learned how to make cedar-planked salmon, venison, butternut squash soup and fire-roasted oysters, among other things.  Nanaimo Bars were one of my favorite dishes we learned how to make, and, interestingly, D had never heard of them before!  Nanaimo Bars are a no-bake three-layer cookie bar with origins in Vancouver.  You can learn more about Nanaimo Bars on its very on Wikipedia page.  This dessert is extremely rich, so even though the yield is a small 8″x8″ pan, you can easily make 60+ bars from one pan because a serving size is so small.  Below is my recipe adapted from the ICE Pacific Northwest Cooking Class.  Enjoy!

Nanaimo Bars
Adapted from ICE Recipe

Bottom Layer:
Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 cup graham crackers, crumbled (measured after crumbling)
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut

Directions
1. Melt butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a double boiler.
2. Add beaten egg and stir to cook and thicken.  When mixed, remove pan from heat.
3. Stir in graham cracker crumbs, almonds and coconut.
4. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″x8″ pan.

Middle Layer:
Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp heavy cream
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder (such as Birds, or substitute instant vanilla pudding powder)
2 cups powdered sugar

Directions
1. Cream butter, heavy cream, custard powder and powdered sugar together well.  Beat until light.
2. Spread over bottom layer.

Top Layer:
Ingredients
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions
1. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat in a double boiler.
2. COOL.  (Don’t skip this step or the top layer will melt into the bottom layers.)
3. When cool, but still liquid, pour over middle layer.
4. Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.  Serve cold or slightly cooler than room temperature.

Nanaimo Bars

Caramel Cake

5 Feb

Caramel Cake

Caramel cake is a Southern dessert that is traditionally made with white cake and caramel frosting.  Lots of variations exist (i.e., caramel cake and caramel icing, yellow cake with buttercream icing drizzled with caramel), but in my opinion, the original is the best.  When I am home, my mom always picks up Cindy Lou’s caramel cakes from the Cashiers (NC) Farmers Market (visit their website).  While I’ve tried to replicate her recipe at least a dozen times, I can never quite perfect it.  Usually, my icing is too thin (and seeps into the cake) or too hard (and nearly impossible to spread onto the cake).  While the icing in today’s attempt is darker than Cindy Lou’s version, I think I finally figured this cake out!  At the least this recipe will tide me over until I am back in North Carolina and can get a slice of the real thing!  A few important lessons I have learned during my caramel cake attempts:

1. Buy a candy thermometer.  It’s the best $5 I spent and really helps to know when the icing is done.
2. When making the caramel icing, use LOW heat.  It takes forever (or nearly an hour in my case), but you won’t burn the caramel and make a huge mess of your kitchen.
3. Wait for the cake and the icing to be fully cooled before you try and ice the cake.  If either is still warm, the icing won’t stay on the cake.
4. Sometimes, you can’t recreate a recipe to a tee and that’s OK.  However, Cindy Lou – if you’re reading this and want to give me your recipe, I would be forever grateful!!!

Cindy Lou's Old Fashioned Cakes - Caramel Cake

The Original - Cindy Lou's Caramel Cake

Caramel Cake
(Inspired by Cindy Lou’s Old Fashioned Cakes 828-526-9310)
Cake adapted from Gourmet, January 2008; icing adapted from here, source unknown  

Ingredients
For the Cake:
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For the Icing:
3 cups (light) brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons half and half
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
For the Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled – see photo below). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Caramel Cake Batter
4. Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
5. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

For the Icing:
1. Mix sugar and half and half in a heavy saucepan and cook, stirring over low heat until syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. If lacking a thermometer, check doneness by dropping a tiny bit of syrup into a cup of cold water. When the syrup can be gathered up in fingers and will almost hold its shape, it has reached the soft-ball stage.
2. Remove pan from heat. Stir in butter, then let syrup cool. Add vanilla and beat until frosting reaches spreading consistency (note: the icing will thicken as it cools). A little cream (or half-and-half) may be added is mixture is too thick.

Caramel Cake Icing

Good icing consistency

3. Spread icing on cooled cake.  Don’t skimp on the icing!  The photo below contains only the first 1/3 of the icing that I ultimately used to frost the cake.  (Note: This is a really messy, sticky cake.  In order to make cleanup easier, I put the cake inside a disposable roasting pan to frost it and transport it to my friend’s apartment.  Not the prettiest way to serve it, but caramel would have been everywhere otherwise!)

Caramel Cake

Icing the cake

Christmas Dinner

26 Dec

Christmas Hearth

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you had a happy holiday and Santa was good to you and your families!  My family decided to do something different from turkey this Christmas and make a standing rib roast instead.  Serving red meat versus poultry required a total overhaul of our menu from Thanksgiving.  Listed below are the dishes that we made today for Christmas dinner.  Over the course of the next two weeks, I will post each of these recipes.

Hot Toddies
Christmas Crostini
Dad’s Cream of Chestnut Soup
Mom’s Standing Rib Roast
Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon
Potato & Celery Root Mash
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise

To round out our meal, we served Sister Shubert’s Wheat Dinner Yeast Rolls and a bottle of Illumination Sauvignon Blanc from Quintessa Winery (see Napa Travelogue post for more info on CA wineries!).  Red wine probably would have gone better with this meal, but my mom generally only drinks white and I had just given my parents a case of this wine for Christmas so we had to try it!

Christmas Dinner Plate

Christmas Treat: Peppermint White Chocolate French Macarons

24 Dec How to Make French Macarons

How to Make French MacaronsIn 2007, I visited my good friend Kristen who was living in Paris at the time (lucky girl!).  One of my favorite parts of the visit was spending afternoons recharging at La Duree, a tea and pastry shop, after spending the mornings sightseeing, shopping and walking around Paris.  La Duree is most well known for their delectable macarons (not to be confused with coconut macaroons).  “Le macaron” is a French sweet consisting of two cookies that are hard on the outside but soft when you bite into them that are sandwiched between a layer of ganache or fruit preserves.  If you are interested in learning more about the history of “le macaron,” check out this website.  Until a few months ago, La Duree only had stores in Europe (Paris, London, etc.) and the Middle East (Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, etc.), so to get my macaron fix, I had to stock up when I visited Kristen or when I am in London for work.  However, La Duree recently opened up a NYC-branch of their famous Parisian tea shop at 864 Madison Ave. on the Upper East Side so now I can get macarons whenever the craving strikes (which is quite often!).  I always wondered how to make macarons until a few weeks ago I found a recipe for macarons from Allison Eats blog on the Word Press dashboard.  You can find my adaptation of her recipe below.  While I won’t be giving up La Duree macarons anytime soon, I can’t wait to serve these at Christmas dinner tomorrow with coffee or hot chocolate after dessert!  If you are new to making macarons like I was, the following sites provide a useful primer on preparing macarons and how to beat egg whites.  It took me two tries to get the egg  white perfect.  I would not recommend using an electric mixer; a copper bowl and whisk worked MUCH better.  Also, as a warning, this took me the better part of a day to create these treats.  Be sure you have set aside at least 3-4 hours when you tackle this recipe.  For more information on French Cooking and Culture, check out this great blog – A Woman’s Paris.  The watercolor iPhone cases are to die for!

Peppermint White Chocolate French Macarons
(Makes 30-40)

Ingredients (for the macarons)
1 1/3 cup almond flour (fine meal)
3 cups powdered sugar
6 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
Red food coloring (optional)

Directions (for the macarons)
1. Get out 5 baking sheets and line each with parchment paper.  Using a pencil, draw 1.5″ circles approximately 1″ apart on the papers.  I felt silly doing this, but it really helped me get the hang of things for my first tray, so maybe only do this for a couple of trays if you are short on time.  In the picture below, the right tray has 1″ circles and the left tray has 1.5″ circles.  I found that the larger 1.5″ macarons cooked better and were simliar to La Duree’s mini macarons in size.
How to Make French Macarons

2.  In a food processor, blend the almond flour and powdered sugar until well incorporated and no lumps remain.
3. In a copper bowl, beat egg whites using a whisk until they are foamy.  When they are foamy, add a pinch of cream of tartar and continue beating.  Gradually add in the granulated sugar about a tablespoon at a time.  Once the egg whites have formed “soft peaks,” add the peppermint extract and 30 drops of red food coloring.  (I added 20 drops of food coloring to my mix and I think it could have used a little more.)  Note: It is important that the egg whites are room temperature as this helps the “peaks” form in the egg whites.  The cream of tartar also helps this so don’t forget this step!

Egg White Foam

Egg Whites @ "Foamy" Stage (Photo Courtesy of bakingbites.com)

Egg White Peaks

Egg Whites @ "Peak" Stage (Photo Courtesy of bakingbites.com)

4. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the flour/sugar mixture into the egg white mixture in a few additions.  Blend each time until well incorporated.
5. Fill pastry bag (or big ziploc bag with approximately 1/2″ cut off on a diagonal) with the batter and carefully dispense into your drawn circles.  Once the tray is filled, rap the baking sheet on the counter to help settle the batter.  Let trays sit out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes so that a slight crust forms on each shell.  Note: Letting the shells sit at room temperature before baking is a crucial step.  This is how you obtain the crunchy on the outside/chewy on the inside French macaron texture.
How to Make French Macarons
6. While the shells are sitting, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Bake ONE tray at a time for 9-12 minutes, until the shells are slightly crisp on top.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing from trays.  (To me, they look the the image from the Scrubbing Bubbles ads when they are finished.)  Repeat process one tray at a time until all trays are cooked.
How to Make French Macarons
7.  Once the macarons have cooled, pair each shell with one of similar size and shape.  For each pair, flip one over so they are ready to be filled with the ganache.
How to Make French Macarons
Ingredients (for the ganache)
2/3 cup heavy cream
10 oz. good quality white chocolate, finely chopped (I used two 4-oz. Ghiradelli white chocolate bars and 2 oz. Tollhouse white chocolate chips)
1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 3 pieces

Directions (for the ganache)
1. Put the white chocolate in a heat proof mixing bowl.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Immediately remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
3. Using a whisk or rubber spatula, stir ingredients together until smooth.  Then stir in the butter.
4. Place the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice water, stirring constantly until ganache is thick and won’t run.
5. Place ganache into pastry bag (or Ziploc bag with 1/2″ opening cut on diagonal at one end).  Work quickly so the ganache doesn’t harden.  Carefully pipe filling onto flat side of one shell, leaving space around the edges.  Pick up the filled shell’s empty pair and place it on top of the filled shell, gently twisting as you press them together.  Once all macarons have been filled, store in the refrigerator.  They are best enjoyed the following day when brought to room temperature.

Merry Christmas everyone!  Best wishes for a happy holiday and a blessed new year!

Banana Pudding Parfait

5 Nov

A few weeks ago, I purchased Whitney Miller’s new cookbook called Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm.  I can’t wait to try out so many recipes (fresh fruit and granola tarts, bacon stuffed brusselsprouts, jalapeno cornbread, the list goes on!)  One recipe that immediately caught my eye was Banana Mousse Trifles.  It looked so light and fresh; the perfect end to a meal of hamburgers cooked on the grill with sides of scalloped potatoes and cucumber & tomato salad.  Since we were entertaining and I don’t necessarily have the patience to make pudding from scratch like Whitney’s recipe called for so I improvised and used store-bought instant pudding.  No one could tell in the final taste test and the dessert was a smash success!  Here’s my adapted recipe below.  Enjoy!

Banana Pudding Parfait
Serves 8

Ingredients
2 packages instant pudding mix (one vanilla, one banana)
2% or skim milk (likely 4 cups for two packages of pudding mix, but follow the amounts on whatever instant mix you buy)
4 bananas (2 very ripe, 2 yellow)
1 box vanilla wafers
1 large orange

Directions
1. Cook pudding in stovetop according to package instructions.
2. After pudding has cooked, cool for 5 minutes then pour into a bowl and store in fridge for 3-4 hours prior to serving.  In order to prevent the “skin” from appearing on the top of the pudding, cover the bowl with a lid or saran wrap if you don’t have a lid that fits it.
3. Right before you want to serve the parfaits, crush around 30 vanilla wafers until they are in chunky pieces.  (I put them in a plastic bag and then used the back of a spoon to break them up.)  Set the crushed wafers aside and take the two very ripe bananas and mash them with a fork until they are broken into small, mushy pieces.  Add the juice of half an orange to this mixture to prevent browning/discoloration.  Set aside this mixture and slice the remaining two yellow bananas into bite size pieces.
4. In serving glasses, spoon two layers of each ingredient in to a glass in the following order: 1) 2 heaping spoonfuls of pudding, 2) small layer of mashed banana/orange juice mixture, 3) small layer of crushed vanilla wafers, 4) a few slices of banana.  Top each parfait with one slice of banana and one whole vanilla wafer.
5. Serve immediately.  This will hold up in the fridge for a few hours if you want to prepare it in advance and serve ice cold.