Categories
Dessert

From-scratch salted caramel pretzel brownies ‘knot’ an easy task

Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies
Salted caramel pretzel brownies are extremely decadent, with each layer made from scratch and supplemented with just a bit of salt to offset the sweetness of chocolate and caramel.

Sometimes, I ironically bite off more than I can chew when it comes to trying new recipes.

This week was one of those times.

I was invited to donate something to a dessert auction, and I decided it was the perfect time to try a recipe for some decadent brownies I’ve been eyeballing for quite a long time.

I naively thought that making brownies would take up far less of my afternoon than if I made a pie or cake. I was so, so wrong—but only about the timeframe. The flavor was absolutely amazing. I highly recommend making these, as long as you have a few hours to burn.

This comes from the blog “Butter Baking.” You can find the original post at https://www.butterbaking.com/2015/04/21/salted-caramel-pretzel-brownies/. I doubled the vanilla in my version and made sure to convert everything to U.S. standard measurements.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies
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Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

Salted caramel pretzel brownies are extremely decadent, with each layer made from scratch and supplemented with just a bit of salt to offset the sweetness of chocolate and caramel.
Course Dessert
Keyword brownies, dark chocolate, decadent dessert, pretzels, salted caramel

Ingredients

Base Layer Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups pretzels roughly chopped

Brownie Layer Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 16 ounces dark chocolate roughly chopped
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

Salted Caramel Layer Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 heavy cream
  • coarse or flaked salt for topping

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Start by greasing and lining a nine-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and set it aside.
  • In a bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. Stir until it’s well combined, and then stir in the pretzels, making sure to coat them evenly.
  • Spread the pretzel mixture in an even, single layer in your prepared pan. (It won’t completely cover the bottom. Just spread it as evenly as you can.) Bake the pretzel mixture for six to eight minutes or until the layer is set. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside while you prepare the next layer.
  • Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  • Place water in the bottom of a double boiler or in a medium-sized saucepan with a glass bowl that will fit on top (be careful not to let the bowl touch the water); heat the water over medium heat to bring it to a low simmer. Add the butter and dark chocolate to the top, stirring constantly until everything is melted and well combined. Remove it from heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla on high speed until it is thick and a pale yellow—about three minutes. Fold in the chocolate until well combined, and then fold in the flour.
  • Pour the batter into the pan over top of the pretzel layer, smoothing it out evenly.
  • Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the top begins to crack slightly and the brownie layer is mostly firm. (Try wiggling the pan a little. If it’s really wobbly still, bake it a bit longer. These won’t feel completely set when they’re done. Just pay attention to the edges and the top.) Set the brownies aside to cool.
  • For the caramel, add the water and sugar into a medium-sized saucepan, place a candy thermometer in the mixture, and heat over high heat, stirring occasionally. In a second medium-sized saucepan, heat the butter and cream over low, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted.
  • When the caramel turns a deep brown color and the thermometer reads 350 degrees, immediately remove it from the heat. Whisk the butter mixture into the caramel (be careful; it will fizz up a bit).
  • Return the pan to high heat and cook for another five minutes, stirring continuously, until it thickens a little.
  • Pour the caramel over top of the brownie layer and spread it out evenly.
  • Refrigerate the brownies for about five hours or until the caramel layer is set. Sprinkle the entire top with your desired amount of coarse salt, and then cut into squares.
  • Keep the brownies refrigerated in an air-tight container until you’re ready to serve them.

Holy moly, guys. These were awesome. They were very rich, but the salt from the tops and the pretzels balanced everything out really well.

In the end, all my effort to make these was worth it, and they fetched a good amount on the auction. Plus, I got to try the ugly end pieces while I was cutting them up, so it was a win-win. Next time, I’ll need to remember that just because a dessert is smaller doesn’t mean it’s easier. Lesson learned.

This piece first appeared in print on May 12, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Reese’s cake nearly got the ‘butter’ of me this time

With a boxed cake mix and only a few frosting ingredients, this cake boasts the flavors of a Reese’s candy bar.

There are so many neat videos online that give an insider’s view of all kinds of professions.

For some reason, I can get absolutely lost watching someone power wash a driveway, paint fingernails or frost cakes and cookies.

And then I have it in my head that I could also easily accomplish any of these seemingly mundane tasks—especially if it deals with the kitchen.

I think that’s why I got especially frustrated this past weekend when I could not, for the life of me, properly frost the chocolate cake I was planning on taking for a family lunch. The thick peanut butter frosting only wanted to stick to my knife, my hands or itself, but it was completely immune to sticking to my soft cake.

It was one of those moments where Joey came in the kitchen, asked how things were going, and then slowly backed away and out of the room after seeing the frustration on my face.

So, the bad news is that I didn’t make a beautiful, video-worthy cake this week. It was definitely not winning any beauty contests. The good news, though, is it tasted pretty darn good, and despite being tough to frost, it actually came together really quickly.

The recipe I used came from the blog “Oh, Bite It!” You can find the original post at https://www.ohbiteit.com/2014/03/inside-out-reeses-peanut-butter-cake.html. I didn’t adjust any of the ingredients, because this was incredibly easy, but I will give you some ideas on how to better frost this cake in my version below.

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Reese’s Cake

With a boxed cake mix and only a few frosting ingredients, this cake boasts the flavors of a Reese's candy bar.
Course Dessert
Keyword cake mix, chocolate cake, creamy peanut butter, easy dessert, layered cake, peanut butter, powdered sugar, Reese’s

Ingredients

  • 1 chocolate cake mix and ingredients from package
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Prepare your cake mix in two eight-inch, round cake pans, according to the package directions. Set them aside to cool.
  • In a glass mixing bowl, beat the peanut butter, powdered sugar and salt until it is fluffy and well combined.
  • Pop the bowl into the microwave for a few seconds (start with 20) to thin the frosting out a bit before frosting your cake.
  • Place one of your cakes onto a plate and slather a thin layer of frosting on top. Top with the other cake and cover the whole layer cake to your liking with the rest of the frosting. If it’s still difficult to work with, microwave it just a bit more. Just be careful not to make it so runny that you have the opposite problem to thick frosting.
  • Serve your cake immediately or store in an airtight container.

This really was tasty. I used a devil’s food mix, but I also could have easily just used my from-scratch chocolate dump cake recipe that I love, if I wanted to.

At our family dinner, my four-year-old niece informed me that she only wanted to eat the frosting. Considering the amount of candy I watched her eat that afternoon, I don’t think leaving the cake on her plate was a bad decision.

But I must admit I was a little grumpy as I watched her scrape all of my hard-fought icing off of the cake. “If only she knew what I went through to get that on there,” I thought.

But then I remembered she’s four. You don’t get much sympathy from a four year old.

This piece first appeared in print on April 28, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Sorry, everyone: I must ‘confetti’ that I’ve done it again

Confetti blondies take a confetti cake mix, combined with sprinkles and a few other ingredients to make chewy, tasty bars.

Holiday-themed recipes are sometimes hard for me—specifically when it comes to this column.

As I see recipes start to pop up online for fun holiday treats, the responsible thing would be to make them weeks in advance to give everyone reading this the time to get the ingredients and make it for their holiday get-togethers.

But, of course, I rarely think about it in time, and I normally end up publishing a great holiday dish after the fact. For Easter this year, I decided I wasn’t going to make anything themed. My family get-together isn’t until next weekend, and I already have the ingredients for some pies that look fantastic. (Coming soon!)

Then we were graciously invited to spend Easter with some good friends’ family, so I quickly looked for a dessert to take.

The one I landed on ended up looking very Easter-y, with pastel sprinkles shaped like eggs strewn through it, but the good news is you can make these bars for any holiday theme—just customize your sprinkles (and maybe even your cake mix) to match. And if you have nothing in particular to celebrate, you can make these anyway with your favorite colors. Plus, they’re easy and quick, too.

This recipe comes from the blog “Crayons and Cravings” by Jaclyn Anne Shimmel. You can find the original post at https://crayonsandcravings.com/cake-batter-blondies/. I left this recipe alone, since it was so simple.

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Confetti Blondies

Confetti blondies take a confetti cake mix, combined with sprinkles and a few other ingredients to make chewy, tasty bars.
Course Dessert
Keyword blondies, cake mix, confetti cake, cookie bars, sprinkles, sweetened condensed milk, white chocolate chips

Ingredients

  • 2 15.25- ounce boxes confetti style cake mix
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter or margarine softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups sprinkles divided
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a nine-by-13-inch baking pan by lining it with parchment paper, and set it aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the cake mix, butter and eggs until the mixture is smooth. Stir in about half of the sprinkles.
  • Spread about two-thirds of the batter into your prepared cake pan. It will be thick, so it may be easiest to spread it out with your hands.
  • Sprinkle in the chocolate chips and the rest of the sprinkles.
  • Pour the sweetened condensed milk over top of the batter in the pan, leaving about an inch uncovered around the edges.
  • Drop the remaining batter evenly over the top by the spoonful, and gently press it down to kind of make a top crust (it doesn’t need to be perfect).
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Let the blondies cool completely, and then use the parchment to remove them from the pan for slicing. Store in an airtight container.

These were chewy and flavorful, and I came home with less than half of a pan, so I guess you could say they were a hit. Also, if you’re looking for a smaller dessert, you’ll notice this is super easy to cut in half.

And, truth be told, these blondies were a cute addition to the Easter dessert table, so I guess I have to admit that I once again gave you a great holiday recipe a bit too late.

Maybe someday I’ll finally get my calendar synced to my kitchen exploits—but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This piece first appeared in print on April 21, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Stop ‘pudding’ off sweets with a dessert for two

Bread pudding for two features chocolate and pecans surrounded by warm bread and a hint of vanilla.

When I first moved out on my own, I discovered that I had no idea how to cook for only one person. I was great at making portions for four, but cooking for one was a challenge.

So I generally still made my four-person meals and brought lots of leftovers to work for lunch throughout the week. It actually worked out great.

The problem, I found, was when I wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth. Making a nine-by-13-inch cake for one is a bit more over the top than a nine-by-13-inch casserole, I discovered.

Even today, since I mostly cook only for Joey and I, I find myself giving away tons of the desserts I make so that they don’t stay around the house, tempting us to keep nibbling on them. But every once in awhile, I also just seek out recipes that will make just enough for that one serving each and then be gone.

Needing a chocolate fix, I decided to try one of those recipes this week.

I found this one on the aptly named blog “Dessert for Two.” You can find the original post at https://www.dessertfortwo.com/bread-pudding-mugs/. I doubled the vanilla in my version and added pecans.

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Bread Pudding for Two

Bread pudding for two features chocolate and pecans surrounded by warm bread and a hint of vanilla.
Course Dessert
Keyword bread pudding, chocolate, pecans, quick dessert, vanilla

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons milk I used skim
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 slices bread cut into one-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 ounces chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1 ounce pecans chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two coffee mugs or other oven-safe vessels by spraying them with cooking spray, and set them aside.
  • In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla and whip with a fork until everything is well combined. Mix in the bread, making sure it is all evenly coated. Stir in the chocolate and pecans, and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and carefully serve while still warm—using a potholder or towel, since the handle and vessel will be hot.

This turned into almost a pantry clean up recipe for me. I just had a few pieces of wheat bread in the fridge that I used in this (including the heels), I had a partial bag of chocolate chips in the freezer, and I still had a few pecans leftover from holiday pies that I hadn’t managed to use up.

This might be a great recipe to keep on hand for after Easter if you have some chocolate eggs or bunnies floating around that you want to try to get rid of, too.

It turned out really yummy, and each serving was about the size of a large piece of cake. You could easily make both servings for yourself, too, and have one now and one for later.

As I learned way back when I made a gigantic cake that only I would end up eating, sometimes you have to get a little creative with dessert leftovers, but I always told myself: if you can eat a donut for breakfast, then why not a slice of cake instead?

This piece first appeared in print on April 7, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Breakfast Dessert

With new recipes, you ‘cinna’ some, you lose some

Cinnamon roll cake is made very simply, with refrigerated cinnamon rolls and a few extra ingredients.

I’d like to think I’m not easily swayed by pretty pictures, but I was totally taken in last week by a photo of these amazing-looking molten cinnamon rolls.

They promised a warm, inviting cinnamon roll with oozing, melty cream cheese in the center.

Of course, I immediately bought a couple tubes of cinnamon rolls to give it a try.

I followed the recipe very closely (which everyone who knows me realizes was a struggle for me), and after wrapping little scoops of a frozen cream cheese mixture with the pre-made dough, I couldn’t wait to see my delicious molten cinnamon rolls come out of the oven.

The timer dinged, and I couldn’t wait to let them cool even a few minutes before I scooped one out and cut it in half.

And…nothing.

The cream cheese mixture had simply melted into the dough. All I accomplished was making some cream-cheesier-tasting cinnamon rolls, and nothing else.

So then I had the problem of another tube of cinnamon rolls in my fridge to solve. I was so sure that my molten rolls were going to be a hit, I already bought a second tube in anticipation. Well, as always, the Internet provided, which is where this week’s very simple recipe comes into play.

This comes from the blog “Love Bakes Good Cakes.” You can find the original post at https://www.lovebakesgoodcakes.com/cinnamon-roll-crumb-cake/. I added extra cinnamon in my version.

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Cinnamon Roll Cake

Cinnamon roll cake is made very simply, with refrigerated cinnamon rolls and a few extra ingredients.
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Keyword brown sugar, canned cinnamon rolls, cinnamon, cinnamon roll, easy breakfast, easy dessert

Ingredients

  • 17.5- ounce tube refrigerated cinnamon rolls
  • 3 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 rounded teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an eight-inch cake or pie pan by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Pop open the tube of cinnamon rolls. Set aside the frosting, and start by placing one cinnamon roll in the center of your prepared pan. Unroll the next cinnamon roll and create one, giant cinnamon roll shape by wrapping it around the roll in the middle. Continue until all of the rolls are used.
  • In a bowl, mix the butter, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon until the mixture is well-combined and crumbly.
  • Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the cinnamon rolls, and bake for 25 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.
  • Drizzle or pour the frosting over the top of the cake, and serve immediately. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

This was very simple, but it had a wow factor, since it cuts into nice slices for serving. It looks a lot more complicated and impressive than it really is to make.

The addition of the extra crumble on top was really yummy, too, and this was great with a cup of coffee.

And I was glad I was able to find a use for my tube of cinnamon rolls after all. I always hate it when a recipe doesn’t work out, but in this case, at least it wasn’t terrible to have to eat my mistakes.

This piece first appeared in print on March 31, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Cookies Dessert

These cookies are sugar, spice and everything ‘mice’

Chocolate mouse cookies take a bit of effort to put together, but they are delicious and turn out super cute.

When my sister and I were kids, my mom would take us to the Rainbow Bread Outlet in Hutchinson on weekly grocery trips.

If we were especially good, we sometimes got a chance to pick out a bag of Sathers candy, which were two for $1 at the time. One of my favorites was black licorice laces. They were so fun to tie into knots and play with while you ate your treat.

I was reminded of that this week when I set out to make little mouse cookies, which called for licorice laces for the tails. I was disappointed when I couldn’t find them in my local grocery store, settling instead for some Pull ‘N’ Peel Twizzlers. I had no idea kids weren’t readily greeted with licorice laces in the candy aisle anymore.

Well, despite my licorice-based disappointment, it didn’t last long, as my cookies not only turned out adorably but really delicious, too. In fact, if you’re not in the mood to do all the work to form mice out of your cookie dough, I still recommend making this recipe just as plain cookies.

The recipe I used comes from the blog “Pampered Chicken Mama.” You can find the original at https://thefrugalchicken.com/childrens-book-read-and-bake-series-chocolate-cookie-mice-for-frederick-by-leo-lionni/. I added extra vanilla in my version.

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Chocolate Mouse Cookies

Chocolate mouse cookies take a bit of effort to put together, but they are delicious and turn out super cute.
Course Dessert
Keyword chocolate, cocoa powder, cookies, licorice, M&Ms, peanuts

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • mini M&Ms for noses
  • shelled peanuts for ears
  • lace licorice for tails

Instructions

  • Cream the butter, shortening and sugar together, beating for about two minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and egg.
  • Beat in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt until everything is well combined.
  • Form the dough into a disc shape and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate it for at least three hours or overnight.
  • For baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.
  • To form the mice, scoop out about one tablespoon of dough. Roll it into a ball and then shape it into a teardrop shape.
  • Add an M&M to the pointed end to create a nose for your mouse, and then stick two halves of a peanut into the top of the dough to form ears. (Make sure they’re stuck in about halfway so they’ll stay better.)
  • Place the cookies about one inch apart on the prepared sheets.
  • Bake for 10 minutes and then let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for about five minutes before carefully poking a piece of lace licorice into each cookie to create tails. (I used my meat thermometer to make a small hole to make it a little easier to get my licorice to stick into the cookie.) Let the cookies cool completely, and then store them in an airtight container.

These were adorable and a perfect, bite-sized treat. Plus, the recipe made almost 40 little mice, so if you’re looking for some cookies to share, this is a great recipe.

The only drawback was that the peanuts shifted a bit, and some of them popped out. I ended up either sticking them back into the warm cookies or deciding that they were good samples for me to try. You also really need to put these in a single layer in your container if you want to keep them intact.

Also, if you’re like me and can’t find black licorice laces, you’ll have to settle for red tails, too. In the end, it’s not so bad, though. Making a mouse-shaped cookie look too realistically might make them decidedly less appetizing.

This piece first appeared in print on March 17, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Pre’pear’ something different for dessert this week

A pear walnut cake with honey and cinnamon buttercream frosting is a tasty dessert that looks beautiful on any table.

The problem with writing this column every week is that sometimes I get a little too overzealous.

I assume I can conquer any recipe the first time, and there are definitely moments where I crash and burn.

That was the case recently when I tried to make poached pears to go along with the cake I’m sharing with you this week. The original recipe called for poaching fresh pears and using them to decorate the top of the cake. Although I gave it the ol’ college try, that step didn’t make it into my final recipe. I just couldn’t get my poaching liquid to behave the way it was supposed to.

The good news is that the cake I made still ended up being delicious, and there was never a need for poached pears in addition to the honey cinnamon buttercream I slathered on it. I’ll have to save pear poaching for another day, I guess.

This cake recipe came from the blog “Liv for Cake.” You can find the original at https://livforcake.com/pear-walnut-cake-honey-buttercream/. I added extra cinnamon and vanilla in my version. And then I opted to use Amy Johnson’s honey buttercream recipe from her site, “She Wears Many Hats.” You can find her post at https://shewearsmanyhats.com/cinnamon-honey-buttercream-frosting-recipe/. I added extra cinnamon in mine.

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Pear Walnut Honey Cake

A pear walnut cake with honey and cinnamon buttercream frosting is a tasty dessert that looks beautiful on any table.
Course Dessert
Keyword buttercream, cake, cinnamon, honey, layered cake, pears, vanilla, walnuts

Ingredients

Cake Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup buttermilk or milk with a touch of vinegar
  • 1 cup walnuts chopped
  • 2 cups fresh pears cored and shredded

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter softened
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare two eight-inch round cake pans by greasing and flouring them and lining the bottoms with parchment paper.
  • In a stand mixer or mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar for several minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  • Add in the flour, baking powder, salt cinnamon and buttermilk, beating until the mixture is well combined.
  • Fold in the walnuts and pears and distribute the batter evenly between your prepared pans.
  • Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of your cakes comes out clean.
  • Let the cakes cool until you can handle the pans, and then turn them out onto a cooling rack and let them cool completely before frosting them.
  • For the frosting, beat the butter in a stand mixer or mixing bowl until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the salt and cinnamon.
  • Beat in the powdered sugar a bit at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Finish out by beating in the honey, and then beat on high for another couple of minutes until the mixture is fluffy.
  • To assemble the cake, spread a healthy amount of frosting on the top of one of the cooled cakes, and stack the next one on top. Use the rest of the frosting to coat the entire outside. Decorate with more walnuts, if desired.

This cake was really tasty, with all the flavors melding nicely. I especially liked the honey addition.

The buttercream was also delicious, and if you’re looking for a good substitute for the cinnamon butter a lot of steakhouses serve, this actually reminded me of that quite a bit.

And no one even questioned whether my cake needed more decorations—especially after we quickly demolished every last slice. After all, the best compliment a baker can get isn’t oohs and ahs at the presentation—it’s the empty plates afterwards.

This piece first appeared in print on Feb. 3, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Whip up a fluffy cheesecake from Japan this week

Japanese cheesecake has a completely different texture than traditional cheesecakes. It’s a lighter, fluffier cake, best served with fruit or chocolate.

I spend a bit of time each week scrolling through my Pinterest feed, hunting down new recipes I might want to try.

It’s funny how certain recipes start trending suddenly. I’ve seen people get super excited about hot cocoa bombs, charcuterie boards and overnight oats. It starts as a trickle of posts, and pretty soon, there’s every variation of whatever hot, new idea is out there.

It was several years ago that a trend came and went for Japanese cheesecake. A 2016 article in “Delish” notes that these cheesecakes “[…] have a more fluffy, sponge-like texture than classic cheesecake […]” because the recipe calls for separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites before incorporating them into the batter.

When Japanese cheesecake was trending, I placed a few recipes for it on my Pinterest board, and then I never actually tried making one. But, in direct conflict with my grade school D.A.R.E. classes, I finally gave in to the peer pressure this week and gave it a try.

The recipe I tried came from the blog “Foxy Folksy.” You can find the original post at https://www.foxyfolksy.com/japanese-cheesecake/. I didn’t mess with the ingredients, but I did refine the directions below.

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Japanese Cheesecake

Japanese cheesecake has a completely different texture than traditional cheesecakes. It's a lighter, fluffier cake, best served with fruit or chocolate.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Japanese
Keyword cheesecake, cream cheese, Japanese

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar divided
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 eggs separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling
  • fruit or chocolate sauce for topping

Instructions

  • Line the bottom of an eight-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  • Wrap the outside with two layers of aluminum foil, making sure the pan is as water tight as possible.
  • In an oven-proof pan or pot large enough to fit your springform pan in, fill it halfway (or enough that it won’t splash over the top of your springform) with water and place it in the oven. Preheat to 390 degrees.
  • In a large, microwave-safe bowl, microwave the cream cheese, stirring every 30 seconds, until it’s melted and smooth. Stir in 1/4 cup of sugar. Whisk in the milk and lemon juice and then whisk in the egg yolks.
  • Sift the flour and cornstarch into the cream cheese mixture, continuing to stir until the batter is smooth.
  • In another mixing bowl or in a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on low for about two minutes. Add in the cream of tartar and beat on medium speed until the mixture starts to get foamy. Then add 1/4 cup sugar, while continuing to beat the mixture over medium or medium-high speed. Continue to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold the beaten egg whites until everything is well-combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and tap it on the counter to get any air bubbles out of the mixture.
  • Place the springform into the preheated water bath in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes.
  • Do not open the oven door, but just turn the heat off and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  • Finally, open the oven door a bit and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another 10 minutes.
  • Serve immediately while warm or refrigerate the cheesecake before slicing and serving.
  • Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and then top the slices with your favorite fruit or with chocolate sauce.

I chose to serve my cheesecake cold with some strawberries, and it turned out really well. It was a lightly sweet dessert with a very different texture than I’ve ever tried.

And now I understand why Japanese cheesecake became such a trend online. I might have to give a few other popular dishes a try. I still don’t understand the draw to kombucha or sushi burritos, but maybe you’ll see me experiment with those in a few years, too.

This recipe first appeared in print on Jan. 27.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

New recipe experiment keeps Georgia on my mind

Gozinaki is a traditional Christmas and New Year’s treat from the country of Georgia. It is made with only walnuts, honey and sugar, resulting in a unique, nutty flavor.

During its 2020 election coverage, ABC News accidentally used images of voters from the country of Georgia, misidentifying them as people from Atlanta.

This caused a lot of posts online, with some people mocking the news outlet and a few posting that they didn’t even know there was a Georgia outside of the U.S.

In our family, we actually discuss Georgia the country way more often than the state, mostly because my sister-in-law’s husband is a Georgian—as in the eastern European kind.

My brother-in-law is really just a full Texan with a bit of a different accent now, but he does like to wax poetic about the food and culture of his home country.

So, as I was preparing to make treats for our family Christmas this year, it occurred to me that Georgia must have some special Christmas treats. As I researched, I discovered quite a few traditional dishes that looked way too difficult for me to accomplish, but then I stumbled on something that looked do-able: a walnut candy called gozinaki (pronounced go-zin-AH-key).

The recipe is deceptively simple with just three ingredients. The process of actually making it turned out to be pretty difficult, but the end result was a salty, only slightly sweet goodie for our Christmas table.

I tried the a recipe from the website “Georgian Recipes.” You can find the original post at https://georgianrecipes.net/2014/01/04/gozinaki-with-walnuts/. I didn’t change the ingredients, but I did convert items to U.S. Standard measurements and added a bit to the instructions to try to help you avoid some of the problems I had.

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Gozinaki

Gozinaki is a traditional Christmas and New Year's treat from the country of Georgia. It is made with only walnuts, honey and sugar, resulting in a unique, nutty flavor.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Georgian
Keyword brown sugar, Christmas, honey, New Year’s, walnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds shelled walnuts
  • 12 heaping tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Instructions

  • In a large, dry skillet, roast the walnuts over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until they’re warm and fragrant.
  • Remove the walnuts from the pan and chop them roughly.
  • Add the honey to your skillet and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the sugar and keep stirring until the mixture thickens (this took quite awhile for me—maybe 15 more minutes).
  • Pour in the walnuts, and stir until they are coated evenly.
  • Set up an area of your counter with a large piece of waxed paper.
  • Wet a wooden cutting board with water (wipe off any excess), and transfer about one cup of the walnut mixture to the board. With your hands (wet them first) or a metal spoon, press the mixture together firmly while shaping it into a rectangle shape.
  • Once the mixture is well compacted and shaped, take a sharp knife and cut the mixture into pieces (I did mine about two-inches long). Traditionally, it’s cut into diamond shapes, but cut it however you want for serving. (It will very likely fall apart a bit. Don’t let it frustrate you.)
  • Carefully transfer the cut pieces with a spatula to your waxed paper so they can set up.
  • Toss any pieces that came apart back into the pan and repeat until you have all of the gozinaki formed and cut.
  • Leave the gozinaki on your countertop until it’s fully set, and you can pick it up without it falling apart. (I left mine over night.) Store in an airtight container.

At our Christmas get-together, I put my plate of gozinaki on the treat table in the basement. I was upstairs when my sister- and brother-in-law arrived and went down to put presents under the tree. Not two minutes later, my brother-in-law bounded up the stairs, mouth full, and gave me a huge hug.

So if you’re wondering, this is a pretty good recipe, and I did manage to nail the flavor of traditional gozinaki.

Roasting the walnuts releases some of their oils and makes them have a deep, nutty flavor, and the use of honey and only a little sugar means that this is not overly sweet. The texture remains chewy, too. It was unlike any kind of Christmas treat I’ve ever had, but it is definitely worth trying.

Georgians also eat gozinaki around New Year’s, too, so you might want to mix up a batch as 2022 comes around the corner. It’ll be a treat and a geography lesson, all in one.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 30, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

I could go ‘almond’ and on about this cherry pie

This cherry almond crumble pie uses canned pie filling, which makes it easy, tasty and beautiful.

Joey looked at me this afternoon and declared he’s officially done with turkey.

After taking home some leftovers from my parents’ house on Thanksgiving and having our own leftovers from hosting that weekend—and making both a roasted bird as well as one on the smoker—we have quite the collection of Tupperware boxes in our fridge.

The good news for Joey is most of the leftover meat will be combined with the broth we made from our turkey carcasses for some turkey noodle soup and go in our freezer for another day.

Just like the turkey inundation in our house, I know I’ve also been giving you a dessert inundation over the past several weeks. If you’re tired of tarts and pies, just hang in there—I’ll definitely think of something else for next week.

But if you’re like me and love all things sweet, this is another great dessert. Plus, it’s super easy to make, even if you’re not much of a baker.

This comes from the blog “Singing Through the Rain.” You can find the original post at https://singingthroughtherain.net/2013/12/easy-crumble-cherry-pie.html. I added extra almond extract and sliced almonds to my version.

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Cherry Almond Crumble Pie

This cherry almond crumble pie uses canned pie filling, which makes it easy, tasty and beautiful.
Course Dessert
Keyword almond extract, cherry pie, easy, pie filling, sliced almonds

Ingredients

  • 1 nine-inch pie crust
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cold butter cubed
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 21 ounces cherry pie filling
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Arrange your crust into a pie pan and crimp the edges.
  • In a bowl, combine the flour, extract, butter and sugar, cutting with a pastry cutter or fork until the ingredients are well-combined and in small crumbles.
  • Pour the cherry pie filling into the prepared crust and sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top. Top with the sliced almonds.
  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

This pie was delicious and was really pretty without any effort whatsoever. The almond flavor was a fantastic combination with the cherries, and the addition of the crunchy nuts on top were yummy, too.

Luckily, I ended up sending my in laws home with quite a bit of pie, since they had much of the family staying with them through the weekend after Thanksgiving to help them eat it, so I haven’t heard Joey declare that he’s done with pie quite yet.

Of course, if I decide to make yet another one for next week, I’m guessing I’ll hear about it. Sounds like it’s time for me to get creative while keeping my pie tins in the cabinet.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 2, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.