Strawberry Graham Napoleon

berry-slice

As I expect will happen often this summer, last weekend I found myself with a barbecue to attend and no ideas as to what dessert to bring. And as I often do, I turned to Smitten Kitchen for inspiration. This time it was an icebox cake– but not just any icebox cake, a cheesecake-inspired, graham-layered, strawberry-studded icebox cake.

I was tempted to take a shortcut and use storebought graham crackers rather than making my own round cracker layers, but in the end I went with the recipe as written, and was really glad I did. The dough rolled out incredibly easily, and baked up into the most deliciously crisp, flavorful cookie ever– I found myself nibbling away at the scraps all afternoon.

The filling was simple and tasty– the cream cheese and lemon zest worked together nicely to make a tangy, creamy counterpoint to the sweet graham layers, and when I dipped some extra strawberry pieces into it and added a cookie scrap to the mix, the combination was fantastic.

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Rhubarb Crumb Cake

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I was going through my freezer the other day when I came across a small bag of chopped frozen rhubarb from last spring. Since it’s been a year and we are once again in the middle of rhubarb season, I figured I should finally use up my previous supply. As luck would have it, Smitten Kitchen recently posted a recipe for Rhubarb Crumb Cake, which sounded great and which (when doubled) conveniently called for just about as much rhubarb as I had on hand!

It also called for a whole bunch of butter, but that’s never been an issue for me…

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Raspberry Meringue Cream Cake

raspberry-cake

I can’t remember the first time I heard of the idea of baking meringue on top of a cake layer, but I do remember that it sounded amazing. I think I bookmarked a recipe and then promptly forgot about it. And although I already have an amazing recipe for Peach Cloud Cake that involves cake, meringue, fruit, and cream (and is incredible, you must try it!), peaches are not in season yet, which meant I had to find a different recipe to bring along to a barbecue this weekend.

Enter King Arthur Flour’s Berry Blitz Torte. Or as I (more descriptively) call it, Raspberry Meringue Cream Cake. It looked really incredible, and I couldn’t wait to try it– since I was taking it to feed a crowd, I doubled the recipe to make a 9×13″ cake. I admit, instead of making the pastry cream from scratch I used my own shortcut (which is actually the same one recommended by the website) and used instant pudding made with light cream instead of milk– it makes for a rich, creamy filling with none of the egg-tempering or tedious stirring over a stovetop.

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Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Curls

carrot-cake

This past Easter I was pondering what to bake– trying to decide between hot cross buns and cream-filled chocolate eggs– when I realized that I had a big bag of carrots languishing in the crisper drawer, leftovers from a delicious batch of bolognese sauce. I immediately discarded all other options in favor of carrot cake– a cake that I love, but rarely make for some reason. And I knew just the recipe– another Smitten Kitchen post that I’d bookmarked a while ago but never gotten around to trying, carrot cake with graham crackers.

That’s right, there are pulverized graham crackers in the batter, taking the place of some of the flour. Honestly, though, with all of the spices in the mix I couldn’t really taste the graham flavor, so I’m not sure how successful that element was in this case. But the rest of it was a very nice cake (a little heavy on the frosting, but some people like it that way), and since the top was looking a little plain once I assembled it, I made a batch of candied carrot curls to decorate!

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Black Pepper Sour Cream Rolls

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I was walking down the street around lunch time the other day and passed by a bakery/cafe– suddenly I was hit by the wonderful, buttery, unmistakable aroma of freshly-baked croissants. I had just eaten lunch so was able to resist buying one to devour right then and there, but the memory stayed with me and I was moved instead to bake something to satisfy the craving at dinner that night.

I decided to go with some soft, buttery dinner rolls– there was no time for croissants, but there were enough similarities between the overall flavor profiles (butter, yeast, golden outer crust) to make them a decent substitution. And when I found a recipe that promised to have pillowy rolls ready with zero kneading and minimal rising, I knew I had to try it. The added interest of black pepper just sealed the deal.

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Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

pb-cookie

I have to admit that peanut butter cookies are generally not my first choice when it comes to desserts. However, my husband is a HUGE fan of peanut butter in anything, so when I saw an old Smitten Kitchen post about these cookies– supposedly the ultimate peanut butter treat– I had to try my hand at them.

Interestingly, while they’ve been billed as soft and creamy and almost peanut-butter-cup-like in texture, with a domed shape that lends itself to soft centers and crisp outsides, I didn’t get that result at all. Instead, mine were flat and chewy– still very tasty and still devoured quickly by both my husband and daughter, but not what I was expecting.

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Cocoa Nib and Pecan Shortbread

shortbread-done

Slice and bake cookies are some of my favorites for gift-giving or other occasions that require large quantities of portable desserts. You can plan ahead, make a bunch of dough, shape it into cylinders (or in this case, squared-off logs), and freeze them until you’re ready– then just slice and bake!

I actually made these for last year’s holiday season, but never got around to posting about them until now. Never fear, though– these really are delicious, and they only improve with age! I got the recipe from the incomparable Alice Medrich, and her book (a must-read for any real chocolate lover) Bittersweet. It’s one of my very favorite chocolate recipe books, particularly as it gives specific instructions as to how to modify a recipe for use with different-percentage dark chocolates.

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