Blueberry Almond Crisp in a Skillet.

I was up in the suburbs for some errands and visiting my family on Saturday, and it was the year’s first really gorgeous day of spring in Chicago. My mom and I did yoga outside while our nearly-two-year-old black lab did her best to interrupt us. It’s hard to be graceful in an inversion or a balancing pose when a 70-pound dog is sitting under you. Later, I decided I needed to make a blueberry crisp for dessert, since we had a huge bag of them in the freezer. Blueberries are definitely not my favorite fruit, and recipes like this are really the only ways I enjoy them. And how could you not? The blueberries bubble into a tart and juicy sauce and the topping is golden and buttery and good. Compared to your average fruit crisp, I’ve reduced the added sugars a wee bit, but feel free to add more. And if you like a lot of topping on your fruit crisps–as in, you want the fruit to be fully, thoroughly covered in the good stuff–you could add another 1/2 cup or so of almonds and another tablespoon or two of butter. I was trying to be well-behaved here, but my usual approach to topping a fruit crisp is the more, the merrier. Same goes for all that sun today – bring on the warm weather!

Blueberry Almond Crisp | KellyintheKitchen

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup almonds
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold butter, cubed
splash of vanilla
4 cups frozen blueberries
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp corn starch

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a food processor, blitz almonds, brown sugar, and salt until the almonds are ground to about the size of small pebbles, crumbly but not powdery. Add the butter and vanilla and blitz again, until the butter is broken up into the almonds and no big hunks of butter remain. Set aside (or, if it’s gonna be a while, keep it in the fridge so the butter doesn’t melt).

Grease a cast iron skillet (or pie dish) and pour in the blueberries. Squeeze over the lemon juice and then toss with the sugar and corn starch.

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Sprinkle the topping over the blueberries, starting at the edges and working your way inward. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the top is golden brown. If your topping starts to brown too quickly (mine did), just lay a sheet of tinfoil over the pan. Don’t tuck the foil over the pan, but just lightly tent it.

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When the crisp is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool until it’s out of the “molten” stage. I love to eat blueberry crisp hot with a scoop of ice cream, but it’s good at room temperature, too. Whatever floats your boat. Yum.

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Mini Cheesecake Cupcakes.

I’ve been doing some experimentation with healthier crusts for the desserts in my life. My main criteria are that the recipe must taste amazing, be low in carbs and sugars, and be free of any processed ingredients. Ground almonds really fit the bill; when combined with butter, they hold the crust together very well, can be flavored however you like, and don’t need much in the way of sweetening. And while nobody loves a good graham cracker crust more than I do, I’ve found that this buttery almond crust rocks in its own right. Filled with creamy, tangy cheesecake awesomeness that has just a hint of coffee flavor, I think I need to start stockpiling cream cheese so I can make these whenever I want. Score another one for the low-impact dessert category!

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INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup almonds, ground to powder in the food processor (or use a scant cup of almond meal)
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
1-2 tsp honey, to taste
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature (if it’s cold, it won’t mix smoothly)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp coffee (this is a very subtle flavor here. But if coffee’s not your thing, you could substitute with Kahlua, Bailey’s, or any other peppy flavoring you like… or a little bit more vanilla)
2-3 tbsp honey, to taste
2 eggs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together ground almonds, butter, and honey. Spoon mixture into bottom of cupcake liners and bake for about 8 minutes. You may see little bubbles in the crust as some of the liquid evaporates – this is fine. When the crust smells nutty and good and is starting to brown and set, remove the pan from the oven and set aside while you make the filling.

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To make the filling, use a fork to break up the cream cheese and make sure it’s totally smooth and creamy. Stir in the vanilla, coffee, & honey, and taste. Add more honey if you want it sweeter. Then add one egg and stir until combined before repeating with the second egg.

Spoon filling into cups, and fill as high as you like – these don’t rise as they cook, so need to worry about expansion or overflow. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until the tops are just barely set and starting to take on a golden color.

Let the baked cheesecakes cool in their pan for 2 minutes before taking them out. Then move them to the fridge for at least 2 hours (overnight is best, but that’s asking a lot of your self-control!). They taste good at any temperature, but if not given their proper cooling time, the crust won’t hold together as well and the cheesecake filling won’t be as satisfyingly creamy.

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I considered melting a bit of chocolate or topping with a raspberry or in some way dressing ’em up, but they really can stand on their own as a yummy dessert you can feel good about eating.

Creamy Chocolate-Coffee Tart with an Almond Crust.

Yogurt is good. Chocolate is good. Coffee is good. Almonds are good. Chocolate is really good. So naturally, this recipe is good. The buttery almond crust is like the delicious nutty cousin of your standard graham cracker crust, but it’s much easier on us carb-avoiders and any gluten-free peeps among us. And the creamy chocolate-coffee filling is just sweet and decadent enough, without going sugar-overboard. It’s a quick and easy road to creamy nutty goodness. I like to give it a sprinkling of chocolate chips, but it would be pretty groovy to drizzle some melted chocolate over the top and really up that glamor factor.

NOTE: This isn’t a good dessert to make far in advance. It will last in the fridge about 36 hours before the yogurt starts to dry out from air exposure. The good news is, it doesn’t take long to make, but if you need to do some prep ahead of time, make and bake the crust and keep it in the fridge. Then, a few hours before you’ll need it, mix up the filling and assemble the tart.

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INGREDIENTS

for crust:
4 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

for filling:
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt (I use Fage because it’s SUBLIME)
2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee granules (not coffee grounds!)
2 tbsp hot water (the point of the hot water plus instant coffee granules is to get 2 tbsp coffee, so if you want, skip the granules and hot water step and just use 2 tbsp coffee)
2 tbsp brown sugar
chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Stir honey into melted butter. In a mixing bowl, combine butter and honey with almonds, salt, and cinnamon. Press into a tart shell or pie dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until it’s a medium brown color. I would tell you to wait for it to be “golden brown,” but it’s pretty much golden brown before it even starts cooking. If it starts to brown too quickly (mine did), tent the crust with tinfoil to protect it from burning. When the crust is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool at least half an hour.

While the crust cools, prepare the filling. Dissolve the coffee granules in the hot water. Stir together the Greek yogurt, coffee, cocoa powder, and brown sugar. Keep it in the fridge until the crust has cooled.

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Once the crust is cooled, spread the yogurt filling evenly over it. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and dig in!

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Sweet Coconut Milk Bars.

“Healthy desserts.” Let’s be honest for a second: I’ve tried making a lot of healthy and healthy-esque dessert recipes at this point, and I’m convinced that they’ll just never be as good as the really decadent stuff they’re supposed to replace. Because, surprise! other fats don’t taste as good as butter, other sweeteners don’t cut it when compared to sugar, etc. Since I do have a sweet tooth, but don’t want to “splurge” every time I crave something sweet, I try to work with what I’ve got by making something that hits the spot without sabotaging my otherwise healthy day. So if you’re looking for a recipe that rivals key lime pie or chocolate chip cookies in its delectable sweet treat power, I’ll level with you—this is probably not gonna be it. But if you’re looking for a really good low-sugar, low-carb dessert option, then I highly highly recommend these Sweet Coconut Milk Bars! Inspired by a recipe from a great blog called Living Healthy with Chocolate, these are creamy and rich and just sweet enough to do the trick, with a bunch of nuts and very little added sugars. Good stuff. I’m looking at you, New Years Resolution-Makers!

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INGREDIENTS

1 can full-fat coconut milk (this is a different type of coconut milk than the stuff you get in a carton – do not substitute)
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted in a pan and ground to a fine meal in a food processor
3/4 cup ground almond meal
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, melted (or use coconut oil)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Just the Recipe link: Sweet Coconut Milk Bars

DIRECTIONS

First, get the sweetened condensed coconut milk going. Empty the can of coconut milk into a sauce pan and stir in the honey. Bring to a boil, stirring pretty consistently, and then reduce to a mellow simmer. Stir occasionally and cook for about an hour and 15 minutes, until the mixture has reduced by half and has darkened slightly in color. It should coat a spoon thickly and be the consistency of gently whipped cream.

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To prepare the crust, first preheat oven to 350 F. Mix together ground walnuts, almond meal, vanilla extract, butter, and cocoa powder. Line a small baking dish with parchment paper and transfer the crust mixture to the dish. Use your fingers to press the crust into a thin layer that covers the bottom of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes.

To assemble the filling, mix together the almonds, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips. Spread the condensed coconut milk over the crust and sprinkle the chocolate chip mixture over the top. Bake for 15 minutes.

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Take the bars out of the oven and carefully lift the parchment paper up and out of the pan and set it on a wire rack to cool for one hour. Then transfer to the refrigerator. Let them set in the fridge for at least an hour before cutting into squares. To make sure the squares hold their shape and don’t fall apart, keep them refrigerated.

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Glazed Apple Bundt Cake.

First, let me mention that you don’t need a bundt pan to make this cake. That said, bundt cakes are adorable. I’ve admired them from afar for years, but I never owned a bundt pan myself…until now. This year, I asked my maternal Santa for one, and when I woke up on Christmas morning, there was a beautiful ornate bundt pan under the tree with my name on it! Here is the link to my bundt pan. Isn’t it a glory?! It’s like something out of Beauty and the Beast. I think there will be a lot of bundt-baking in my future. And if this first foray is any indication, beauty and taste definitely go together, because it tastes as good as it looks. Inspired by a recipe from The Bite Sized Baker, the addition of shredded apples and Greek yogurt keep this cake moist and almost creamy, and a sweet maple glaze is both figuratively and literally the icing on the cake. Please come to my apartment for tea and take this cake off my hands before I eat it all. Thank you.

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INGREDIENTS

for cake: (makes about 6 cups of batter)
8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
about 2 cups apples, peeled, then shredded in a food processor or grated by hand (I used 3 Granny Smith apples)

for glaze:
2 tbsp butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
about 1-2 tbsp water

Just the Recipe link: Glazed Apple Bundt Cake

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar, until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition until incorporated. Then stir in the vanilla extract and yogurt.

In a second bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until just incorporated. Then add the second half of the flour mixture and stir, again just until it comes together. Don’t overmix. Finally, stir in the shredded apple until it’s distributed throughout the batter. It should smell pretty amazing at this point.

Pour the apple-y batter into a greased bundt pan (if you don’t have one, a loaf pan or even a springform cake pan will work too). Don’t over-fill the pan, as the cake will rise as it bakes. Two-thirds filled is a good rule of thumb for bundt pans, and for my pan, that means about 6 cups. Which is how much batter this makes!

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Put the pan in the oven and bake 35-45 minutes, until the center of the cake is set but still moist and tender. You know the toothpick test? The one where you poke a toothpick into the center of your cake to see if it comes out clean, thereby showing that your cake is done? Well, bundt pans are very deep…too deep for a tiny little toothpick. So instead, I use a wooden chopstick as my tester, and when it comes out clean from the center of the cake, I know it’s ready.

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Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. You have two options for cooling: if you want your glaze to soak into the cake, let the cake cool for 15 minutes, or if you want the glaze to harden and look more like icing, let the cake cool completely. I opted for the quick-cool soaking option, mostly because I was impatient to dig in.

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As the cake cools, make the glaze. In a saucepan, melt the butter and use a fork to stir in the powdered sugar and maple syrup until smooth. Then slowly add water until it reaches the consistency you want – a slightly runny syrup. When your cake is cooled, drizzle the glaze along the top and allow it to spill over the sides, inside and out. Messy is good!

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Oh baby. Look at the glaze drip happening here. That’s what this cake is all about. It’s soft and tender and not too sweet, and this beautiful glaze just pushes it right over the edge. Amazing with a hot cup of tea on a winter day!

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Irish Coffee Toffee.

Merry Christmas Eve! This is the fifth time I’ve made toffee in the past 2 weeks, and each time I make it I’m amazed at how simple it is. It takes just three steps: whisk the ingredients over heat, spread the hot sugar mixture over a pan, and top it with whatever you want. A breeze. But the reason I say “simple” and not “easy” is because there is a bit of technique and elbow grease required: stirring non-stop for 10 minutes might give you unhappy risotto flashbacks, and the cold water candy test (detailed below) probably means this shouldn’t be a beginner’s first recipe. That said, once you have your toffee-legs, which are the toffee version of when a sailor gets his sea-legs, you’ll find this recipe really is a breeze. I use the same exact process here that I used in my Butter Rum Toffee recipe–the only difference is I’ve Irish-ed up the ingredients with coffee and whiskey. The amount of coffee crystals I used here keeps the coffee flavor on the mellow side, but if you want to punch it up, use a whole teaspoon. Just go to town on this thing.

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INGREDIENTS

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp instant coffee crystals
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp whiskey
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
almonds, toasted and chopped (hazelnuts would rock here, too)

Just the Recipe link: Irish Coffee Toffee

DIRECTIONS

Line a sheet pan with a silicon mat or parchment paper. Set aside; youʼll need it ready, because the caramelizing process moves pretty quickly.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Then whisk in the sugar, coffee crystals, salt, and whiskey, and continue to stir with the whisk while the mixture comes to a bubble. Be very careful not to touch the mixture at any point in this process; itʼll give you an incredibly nasty burn. Cook over medium flame, stirring constantly, for 7-10 minutes, until the mixture is almond-colored and passes this consistency test: take a glass of cold water and drizzle in a few drops of the mixture. If it turns into brittle strings and crystallizes at the bottom of the glass (reach in and test the piece with your fingers), it’s ready to go. If it’s still soft and malleable, continue to cook and stir, and test again in a minute or two. Be careful not to let it burn.

When itʼs ready, immediately pour onto the sheet thatʼs lining your sheet pan. Use a spatula to spread the mixture pretty thinly, and let cool for 2 minutes.

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*Clean-up tip: After you’ve spread the toffee onto the pan to start cooling, fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil. This will dissolve the hard, sticky caramel and make it WAY easier to clean. You can also stir the whisk around in the boiling water, to break down any sugar stuck on its wires.*

Next, sprinkle over the chocolate chips. Give them a few minutes to melt, and then use a spatula to gently spread the melted chocolate over the top of the toffee, covering the whole surface. If you find that the chocolate chips arenʼt melting completely, pop the pan into a hot oven for 20 seconds, and the chocolate will be easily spreadable.

While the chocolate is still melty, sprinkle with almonds. Let the whole thing set completely, for at least two hours.

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When it’s completely set, break it up into chunky, uneven pieces. Store in a cool place where the chocolate won’t melt. Give as gifts or keep for yourself – and try not to eat it all in one day!

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