Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Bars

We had some cherries that we needed to do something with, so Michelle made a pie filling base with them by pitting and boiling them with some water, lemon juice, and sugar. She did this the night before so it would be chilled before adding to the top of the warm cheesecake.

We then used as a stepping off point the basic no-bake recipe from the Punta Clara Kitchen Cookbook on Cherry Cream Cheese Delights. If you’re ever in Point Clear, Alabama stop by for some of their delicious candy.

As Michelle doesn’t really care for sweetened condensed milk (I think she’s actually from another planet), we went with a more traditional baked cheesecake with Greek yogurt. We added two hits of chocolate with some semi-sweet morsels and some sweet ground chocolate.

While I’m not usually a fan of combining (adulterating) chocolate and fruit, these are a perfect match of deep chocolate flavor with creamy cheesecake and sweet-tart cherries!

Cherry Pie Filling

4 cups fresh pitted cherries, about 2 1/2 pounds
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.

Cool slightly before using as a topping.

We used a little more than half the recipe of cherry filling in the bars. The rest we are putting in the Chocolate Pound Cake!

Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Bars

1  cups graham crackers
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
1/4 cup Greek yogurt, plain
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 recipe (or can) of cherry pie filling

Melt the butter in an 8×8 dish as the oven warms to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs evenly over the melted butter and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter the chocolate morsels over the warm crust to begin melting.

Beat together the cream cheese and ground chocolate. Mix in the Greek yogurt, egg, vanilla and salt. Beat in flour. Pour over graham cracker crust and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before covering the top with the cherry pie filling. Cool in the fridge before cutting and serving.

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Peach Pops

Michelle’s parents have some very fruitful peach trees and after she had sliced and frozen 20 quart bags and 24 pint bags and dehydrated another 6 pint bags of peaches, there were still plenty left. She gave two 5 gallon buckets worth to a cousin and I decided to use some of the very ripe ones to make a frozen treat.

These pops taste like peaches and cream but are made with milk and Greek yogurt. This recipe can be made with 2 cups frozen peaches, just thaw them out to chop some and dice the others.

Adjust the agave nectar up or down depending on the tartness of the peaches and how sweet you like your pops.

Peach Pops

1 cup of peaches, roughly chopped
½ cup peaches, diced
6 tablespoons milk
2/3 cups Greek yogurt
 – I used plain but vanilla is good, too
2 tablespoons agave nectar

In a blender, puree the 1 cup of chopped peaches. Add milk, yogurt and agave nectar and blend until smooth.
 Stir in diced peaches. Fill your pops molds.

Freeze at least 4 hours.

Peach Bars

Michelle has been talking about picking peaches, so I went through my freezer and found a pint bag from last year that I needed to use up. We slice them and put on a little sugar and put them up for a taste of summer anytime.

I decided to make cookie bars with them. These sandwich the peaches between two layers of sweet crust. I used sliced peaches but I recommend you put chopped in the recipe as the slices were a little big for the bites I cut the bars into.

If using frozen peaches, let them come to room temperature and drain off excess juice (I just drank it!).

Peach Bars

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cups sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick cold butter, cut into 24 pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups peaches, chopped
Juice and zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly butter an 8X8 baking pan.

In a food processor, pulse together flour, 3/4 cups sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Once mixed, cut in butter until crumbly. In a small bowl, whisk egg and vanilla until blended; add to flour mixture, pulsing until crumbly.

Press 2 cups of the crumb mixture onto bottom of a greased pan. Reserve the rest for the topping.

Toss peaches with lemon juice and zest. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and remaining 1/4  cup of sugar. Add sugar mix to peaches and toss to coat. Spread over crust and sprinkle with reserved topping. Press down lightly.

Bake until lightly browned and filling is bubbly, 40-45 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

 

Black Forest Birthday Cake

Michelle requested a black forest cake for her birthday as she loves both cherries and chocolate. I’m not a kirschwasser fan, so instead of the liquor, I made my own simple syrup with some frozen cherries to make a paint for the cake layers. You can use any good chocolate cake recipe as the base. I used my favorite sour cream chocolate cake. The cake is moist and decadently rich and goes beautifully with the cherries. Be sure the coffee is hot when adding as it jump starts the cooking process.

If you want more layers, add another cup of whipping cream when making the frosting (for 3 cups total) and increase the simple syrup to 1 cup each of sugar and water when making the cherry syrup. Cut each cake in half and just repeat the assembly directions until cake is covered with cherry syrup and smothered in whipped cream.

If you like kirsch, use it to replace the vanilla in the cake and whipped cream.

Black Forest Birthday Cake

Chocolate Cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and returned to room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup full fat sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup strong coffee, hot

For the Cherry Syrup:
1 lb frozen pitted cherries, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

For the Frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

For Decorating:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
reserved cherries

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees F. Butter two round 9 inch cake pans and, instead of flour, use cocoa to coat the pans to ease removal. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the oil, butter, eggs, sour cream, buttermilk, and vanilla together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix. Add the hot coffee and whisk or beat it all until the batter is completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once during mixing.

Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans midway through cooking. Baking times may vary and the cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool 45 minutes in the pan before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

For the syrup:

Set aside one cup frozen cherries. In a small saucepan, add sugar, water and the rest of the bag of cherries. Heat on medium-low, stirring constantly, for approximately 5 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Boil another 5 to 10 minutes to thicken syrup. Set aside to cool completely. For the frosting: Whip the heavy cream, slowly adding the sugar, and then the vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form.

Assembly:

Generously brush cherry syrup over the top of the first layer of the chocolate cake. Add a whipped cream on top and spread out into an even layer. Scatter some of the simple sugar cherries over before putting dollops of whipped cream on top, to enfold the cherries in cream. Place the next chocolate cake layer on top. Paint the top and sides with the remaining syrup.

Once all layers are in place and coated, spread a generous layer of whipped cream all over the top and sides of the cake. Drizzle with some of the cherry simple syrup. Place the reserved cherries on top. Scatter the grated chocolate over the top and sides.

Happy birthday, Michelle!

Strawberry Cream Dream

We made gelato (see recipe here) and had a bit of heavy whipping cream, a tad of evaporated milk and smidgen of sweetened condensed milk left over. After pondering and googling, we decided to puree it all with some strawberries. It works as a drink and, after some time in the freezer, as a sorbet like dessert.

Strawberry Cream Dream

1 cup hulled and diced strawberries
1 cup cream (we used half cream and half evaporated milk)
1/4 cups sweetened condensed milk

Place everything in a blender and puree until it is frothy and well mixed. Pour into glasses.

For a pleasant kick to your cocktail add in some banana rum.

Speedy Apple Sauce in the Multi-Cooker

Michelle has a Crock Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker (like an Instant Pot). It is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and also steams, browns, sautés and tutors high school students in calculus. We used it most recently to speed up the process of making applesauce.

As anyone knows who has stood over a skillet, stirring and mashing apples, this handy little device saved a lot of time and effort and we had great tasting applesauce to show for it. Use any combination of apples – I prefer the tartness of Granny Smith but adding red apples to the mix means less added sugar later.

Speedy Apple Sauce

4 Granny Smith apples or tart green apples
2 Gala/Honeycrisp or other sweet, crisp red apples
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Peel, core and cut the apples into 8-12 slices. Place in the electric pressure cooker. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and toss to coat. Mix together the water and lemon juice and pour over the apples. Stir to combine.

Put on the lid and cook on high for 8 minutes. Release the pressure safely. Mash the mixture together and, if it is too watery, use the browning function to cook a bit of the liquid off. Add seasoning and taste. Depending on the tartness of the apples, you may need to add more cinnamon in addition to the brown sugar and pinch of salt. Stir well to combine.

Serve hot or cold. Store any uneaten portion in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Raisin Bread

I had an urge for raisin bread on Sunday morning and searched through my recipes to find one that looked good. I flipped through my James Beard and Father Dominic cookbooks and ended up combining the best of both worlds.

I set everything up before the New Orleans Saints kickoff so it was ready to be put it together during halftime. The dough rose during the second half and I divided the dough before overtime started. Once we won the game, I preheated the oven and began to bake.

A couple of notes:

I make my own cinnamon sugar by combining 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon. For this recipe, you’ll need about 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar, so store the rest in an air tight container for another use.

If you don’t want to cook both loaves at once, after the first rise and once you’ve divided the dough, press the bubbles out of one half and wrap it in plastic and put in an airtight bag. You can now freeze the dough. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before baking as described below.

 

Raisin Bread

2 packages of instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar, divided
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, beaten
5-6 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a bowl and stir gently to mix. Let proof for 10 minutes.

Soften raisins by putting them in a steamer basket over boiling water while yeast proofs. Set aside once plump.

Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat until butter is almost entirely melted. Pour into a bowl of an electric mixture and let cool to lukewarm. Add yeast mixture, sugar, salt and eggs. Mix until well blended. Add five cups of flour, one cup at a time and stirring after each addition. Mix until dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Stir in raisins.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Add additional flour in half cup measures, as necessary, until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in a large, oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and place in a warm place (I put mine in the oven with the light on) for one hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough and form into two loaves. Place in lightly greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until nearly doubled. Brush the top of each loaf with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

After the loaves have been rising for 30 minutes, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake loaves for 10 minutes. Loosely cover the loaves with foil and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more. Loaves should sound hollow with tapped on the bottom. Remove from the pans and let cool on wire racks.