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.
The other day, my husband (by way of gloating) mentioned an amazing treat he’d had at a lunch out that he had– so sad– failed to save any of for me. It was apparently a fresh croissant, split and filled with Nutella and chocolate pastry cream. He gleefully described how he’d tried to save half, but then couldn’t resist eating just one more bite, and then another, and then another… until it was gone. I think he enjoys torturing me like this.
Not one to admit defeat, I promptly decided that I would make my own– so there! Croissants, of course, are easy to come by, and our pantry always has Nutella in it, but pastry cream isn’t something I generally just whip up. It’s so fussy, what with using only egg yolks, whisking constantly, etc., that I rarely make it.
Then it occurred to me that I had already solved this problem with regard to lemon curd– and my whole-egg microwaved lemon curd recipe is one of my favorites. Why not try the same thing with pastry cream? I found a basic whole-egg recipe online and used the same technique I’d applied to the lemon curd (though going to a higher heat due to ingredients), stirring in melted semisweet chocolate at the end. And what do you know? It was reasonably good. The texture was just a bit grainy– I think I overcooked the eggs just a tiny bit– and it wasn’t quite as rich as I’d hoped. Next time I might add an extra yolk to the eggs, or use half-and-half instead of milk. Or I guess I could just cook it on the stovetop where I’d have more control over the heat distribution.
But in any case, it’s a perfectly serviceable chocolate pastry cream if you’re short on time and want to make a point about sharing desserts. 😉
Did you know that heavy cream lasts basically forever in the refrigerator? I know there’s an expiration date on there, but in my experience it almost never actually goes bad– rather, it just thickens up. And if you’re like me and accidentally leave a pint of cream in the back of the fridge for *way* too long, it keeps thickening and basically turns into clotted cream. Really. It does. At least, that’s what I discovered last night when I got out the cream to make Penne with Vodka Sauce and found lush billows of thick, decadent cream instead of my expected liquid.
I promise I’ll do a post on how to make clotted cream intentionally at some point, but for now let’s stick to the story of what I did with the unexpected bounty in my refrigerator. What goes best with clotted cream? Scones, of course.
Since my husband is a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate, I always try to make him a peanut butter and chocolate cake for his birthday. So when I saw this one on Smitten Kitchen, especially once I realized it used my favorite chocolate cookie recipe as a base, I had to make it.
I really followed Deb’s recipe almost exactly (I increased the peanut butter cream recipe to use a whole pint of cream instead of 1 1/2 cups), so I’m not going to bother reproducing it here– just follow this link! But here are some photos of the process so you can see how it works!
The finished cake is wonderful– light and creamy, yet still rich and decadent. And there’s something particularly indulgent about sliding your fork down through each distinct layer and feeling just the slightest resistance before the softened wafers give way, one by one. The peanut butter works nicely with the dark chocolate, though I still think this would be amazing using whipped cream spiked with Kahlua. I’ll have to give it a try sometime.
Yet another use for the candied lemon peel— lemon ice cream! I decided to make this a no-churn recipe, since it’s easier and I don’t have to stress over whether or not my ice cream canister has frozen enough. The result is creamy, delicious, with plenty of zing from the lemon juice and some nice grown-up undertones from the slightly bitter candied peel. Best of all, it takes about ten minutes to mix up and put into the freezer, so for ten minutes of work and a few hours of freeze time, you can enjoy this amazing ice cream!
Hey, everyone! I can hardly believe it, but this is my 200th post on this blog! It’s been just over a year and a half since I started, and you’ve all been a great audience. Thanks for all the support! So, without further ado, my 200th post! (hope it lives up to your expectations)
Mmmm, cannolis… there’s nothing quite like a fresh cannoli when you’re in the mood for something rich, creamy, and decadent. Unless, of course, it’s cannoli ice cream. What’s that, you say? Cannoli ice cream? Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? It totally is. Rich, creamy ricotta ice cream, flecked with orange zest and studded with chocolate chips and pistachios. It really is delicious, and when served in a sugar cone or with a pizzelle cookie, really does taste like a frozen cannoli. I will note, however, that it freezes pretty hard– harder than many homemade ice creams– so you may want to remove the container from the freezer about 10 minutes before serving to make it more scoopable. Totally worth the wait. (the scoop pictured above is a bit small because people ate it all before I got my camera out, not because it was hard to scoop!)
Ready to make some?
I definitely inherited my love of chocolate from my dad– he’s a huge fan of chocolate, the darker the better, and back when the extra-dark chocolates weren’t widely available I remember him melting semisweet and unsweetened together to make his own bittersweet chocolate blocks, which he kept in the freezer and which I totally never pilfered for snacks… (whistles innocently)
In any case, when his birthday comes around, that’s my excuse to come up with rich, dark, decadent chocolate cake, the blacker the better. Having gone through the standard flourless chocolate cake recipes, a recipe involving layers of whipped and melted ganache, and an extremely dark chocolate ice cream (caused by my inadvertently doubling the amount of cocoa I was supposed to use… it was fabulous), this year I wanted to try something a little different.
This creation isn’t exactly a cake– or rather, it’s not just a cake. It’s really a combination/adaptation of three recipes I’ve had on the blog before– the basic chocolate cake, the nutella crunchies, and the easiest chocolate mousse ever. But they combine to make a fabulous amalgamation of flavors and textures that is a one-of-a-kind chocolate experience.