The summer baking spree

It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of baking this summer for a number of reasons.  We get together with my cousins for a Ravinia outing every year, and this year, while the musical group was nothing to write about, the night was very pleasant and the company was great.  I tried a new recipe for dutch apple pie bars, and I’ve tweaked it since then to make it even better.  For my cousin’s 6oth birthday, I made pecan bars (a decadent recipe from Ina Garten), plus the winning double chocolate chip cookies.  For David’s birthday, he requested the Inside Out German Chocolate cake.  And as an end of the summer treat, I made my recipe for cheesecake, with a strawberry sauce as a topping.  So, I thought I would share the recipes with you, as they are all true winners.

Dutch Apple Pie Bars

  • Servings: 24-30 bars
  • Difficulty: medium
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Author Notes
SDR: I don’t like using commercial products if I can make it myself. America’s Test Kitchen used animal crackers instead of graham crackers to get a different flavor profile. However, the mild character of the animal crackers is not as good as a modified cookie crust. Therefore, I didn’t use Michelle’s animal cracker crust, but used the crust from the King Arthur Dutch Apple Pie Bars.

The first time I made the streusel, it was too dry.  I now use 8 tbs of butter instead of 6 to help the streusel brown and taste better, with much better results..

Author: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies by Michelle Norris, the “Brown Eyed Baker”, and further modified by me, with my choice of cookie crust.

an apple pie in your hand 

Recipe Type: American Classics, Cookies, Desserts, From The Internet, American

For the Crust:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1 stick
1 large egg, beaten
2 Tbs ice water, more or less as needed
For the Streusel:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs cornmeal
8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
For the Filling:
2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick
2 Tbs butter, melted see note
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 375º F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over pan edges. If using foil, grease or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 425º F. Lightly grease 9X13 inch baking pan. Whisk together the flour and salt; using a pastry blender, cut in the butter. Drizzle the beaten egg over the mixture; toss lightly to combine. Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time, stirring until the dough clumps together. Roll into a rectangle and fit into the pan (or just use your fingers to evenly layer the dough on the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork, bake it for 10 to 12 minutes (12 is probably too long), until set and barely starting to harden.  It is important to not cook the crust too long, as it bakes again with the filling and the streusel on top.  Remove from oven, cool on a rack. Reduce oven heat to 375º.

3. Make the Streusel: Whisk together the flour, sugars and cornmeal in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and toss with a fork until the dry ingredients are all evenly moistened. Set aside.

4. Make the Filling: Combine the apples, melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and the liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Assemble: Spread the apples over the crust in an even layer and sprinkle with the streusel. Bake until the streusel is brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Using the foil or parchment overhangs, lift the bars from the pan and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or at room temperature.  The bars also freeze well.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Author Notes
Grand Prize winner of the Orchards’ 1987 cookie contents (best of 2600 recipes)

Author: Junior League of Las Vegas

Recipe Type: American Classics, Chocolate, Cookies, Desserts, American

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 Tbs milk
1 cup chopped pecans, or walnuts
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips, (1cup)

1. Combine flour and baking soda, set aside. Cream butter with mixer, add vanilla and sugars and beat until fluffy. Beat in the egg. At low speed beat in cocoa, then milk. With a wooden spoon mix in dry ingredients just until blended. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.

2. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto nonstick cookie sheet. Bake at 350° F. for 12 to 13 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before removing from baking sheets.

Yield: 3 dozen

Oven Temperature: 350°F

Pecan Squares

  • Servings: a whole bunch 'o bars
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Author Notes
These can be made all year long and when we want to go “over the top” we dip half of each square in warm chocolate.

SDR note:  when made with a 18X12X2 inch pan, the shortbread needed more time to cook.  Be sure to press the shortbread layer thinner to get a less thick cookie, and even try to divide the shortbread in two pans.  If you use the 1 inch side pan, don’t use all of the pecan filling, as it will overflow even if you raise the edge of the shortbread.

Instead of dipping in chocolate, make a chocolate ganache and streak it on the top of the cookies before cutting.

Author: Ina Garten
Source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Copyright: 1999

Recipe Type: Cookies, Desserts, Food TV

1 1/4 lbs unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb unsalted butter
1 cup good honey
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 lbs pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

3. For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.

4. Optional: Dip one end of the bars in melted semi-sweet chocolate, let set on parchment paper.

Inside-out German Chocolate Cake

  • Servings: 12-16
  • Difficulty: hard
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SDR notes:

This is not an easy cake to make, and it is very time consuming.  However, the results are well worth the effort.  To enhance the assembly of the cake, make the 3 layers in advance and refrigerate them.  The spreading of the warm coconut/pecan mixture between layers is easier, and you are less likely to tear up the cake layers while spreading the filling.  The frosting is very thick, and dense.  An alternative might be a chocolate ganache, or even a ganache made with crème fraiche.Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake

Notes from Gourmet:
“I had the pleasure of spending a few days in the quaint town of Waitsfield, Vermont, where I stopped at the Bridge Street Bakery,” says Morella Dewey of Ramsey, New Jersey. “Owner and chef Mary Laulis was delightful, and her “inside-out” German chocolate cake was absolutely fantastic. I would love to prepare this dessert for family and friends, so I hope you can obtain the recipe.”
The chef uses Valrhona cocoa powder in her cake, but other Dutch-process cocoa powders work equally well. The filling is made from sweetened condensed milk that is cooked in a water bath in the oven until it caramelizes. While the milk is baking, you can prepare your glaze.
Special equipment: 3 (9-inch) round cake pans

Author: Gourmet
Source: March 2000

Mary Laulis, Bridge St. Bakery, Waitsfield, VT

Recipe Type: Cakes, Chocolate, Desserts, Gourmet Magazine, untested, American

For cake layers
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole milk
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup boiling-hot water
For filling
7 oz sweetened flaked coconut
4 oz coarsely chopped pecans (1 cup)
1 can sweetened condensed milk, (14 oz)
1 Tbs vanilla
For glaze
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
10 oz fine-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 Tbs light corn syrup
For larger quantity of glaze use these proportions instead
3 sticks unsalted butter
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3.6 tablespoons light corn syrup

1. Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350°F and oil cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk, butter, whole egg, yolk, vanilla, and almond extract in another large bowl until just combined. Beat egg mixture into flour mixture with an electric mixer on low speed, then beat on high speed 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in water until just combined (batter will be thin). Divide batter among cake pans (about 1 1/2 cups per pan) and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans and rotating them 180 degrees halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes total. Cool layers in pans on racks 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment or wax paper and cool layers completely.

2. Make filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.
Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more. Remove pie plate from water bath.
Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep warm, covered with foil.  It is important to have the filling warm to be able to spread on the cake layers.

3. Make glaze while milk is baking:
Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer 1 cup glaze to a bowl, reserving remaining glaze at room temperature in pan. Chill glaze in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour.  SDR NOTE: :the amount of glaze in the recipe is barely enough to cover the cake.  To make a little more glaze, use 12 ounces of chocolate, 3 sticks of butter and 3 tbs+ 2 tsp of corn syrup in the same manner.

4. Assemble cake:
Put 1 cake layer on a rack set over a baking pan (to catch excess glaze). Drop half of coconut filling by spoonfuls evenly over layer and gently spread with a wet spatula. Top with another cake layer and spread with remaining filling in same manner. Top with remaining cake layer and spread chilled glaze evenly over top and side of cake. Heat reserved glaze in pan over low heat, stirring, until glossy and pourable, about 1 minute. Pour glaze evenly over top of cake, making sure it coats sides. Shake rack gently to smooth glaze.
Chill cake until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer cake to a plate.

5. Cooks’ notes:
Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

6. For easier handling when assembling cake, place bottom layer on a cardboard round or the removable bottom of a tart or cake pan.

Servings: 12 to 16

The Best Cheesecake

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Author Notes
This recipe is one of my own, and is an amalgam of several New York style cheesecakes, but better. It has some of the density of “Broadway” or “Lindy’s” cheesecakes with a good stand alone structure, but the mixture of cream and cottage cheeses allows it to be lighter. Any fruit topping like strawberries or raspberries (created with puréed fruit thickened with pectin and arrowroot or cornstarch plus sugar, with whole berries added to the purée, could be used as well. It can be made with a graham cracker crust, but the sweet dough crust is much better.

Author: Steve Rheinstrom

Recipe Type: American Classics, Cakes, Desserts, American

2 pounds cream cheese
1 pound small curd cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, (zest)
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy cream
Sweet dough crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons whole milk

1. Blend together both cheeses and sugar until smooth with the metal blade of the food processor. Add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add salt, lemon zest, and vanilla, blend well. Add the cream and blend until smooth.

2. Preheat oven to 350 °F. For the cookie dough crust, combine the flour and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (if done in a food processor, chill the butter to very cold or frozen after cutting into ¼ inch cubes, then pulse the butter into the flour and salt mixture). Work in the milk until dough is soft and forms a ball. Chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes. Roll out to 12 inches, then press into the bottom and up the sides of a 10 inch springform pan. Alternatively, just take the dough ball, and press it into an even layer for the bottom and sides of the springform pan. It is a good idea (but not imperative) to grease the sides and bottom of the pan with butter prior to placing the dough in the pan.

3. Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared springform pan. Bake on a cookie sheet for 1 ½ hours or until a cake tester comes out cleanly. Turn off the oven and let it sit in the cooling oven for 1 hour. Remove and refrigerate. Serve with optional fruit topping.

4. Alternative:
Graham Cracker Crust:
3/4 cup graham cracker crumb (use metal blade of food processor)
2 tbs sugar
4 tbs butter (melted)
Mix crackers and sugar. Add the melted butter. Mix well, and then press onto the bottom and sides of greased springform pan. Amounts might need to be doubled for the 10 inch pan.

Servings: 16

A simple strawberry topping or side “splash” is to take a pound of strawberries (fresh or frozen), and cut them coarsely.  Put them in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and let them “melt” over medium heat.  Use a half box of sugar free pectin, or some arrowroot, or cornstarch to thicken the mixture.  Then add sugar to taste (or agave nectar or honey, your choice).  I like to make the strawberries a little on the tart side to be a more effective counterpoint to the cheesecake.  I mixed the sweetened strawberries with some creme fraiche, and I thought it was a much more interesting and complex taste against the cheesecake.

Happy baking!


About trustforce

A well trained amateur chef, I have learned by taking some master classes and doing a lot of reading and experimentation. I cook and enjoy many different cuisines. The fun is getting it right, with great taste and presentation. The smells and appearance add to the pleasure of eating well. I can enjoy a great Chicago style hot dog or an Italian beef sandwich, or have equal pleasure from haut cuisine. All my recipe postings are extensively tested by me unless I state otherwise. I will sometimes post a recipe that sounds like it should be good before I actually make it myself, but I will always come back and revise the "untested" recipe after I've made it, with valid comments to keep old posts accurate and current. If I am not the originator of a recipe I will always correctly attribute the source author, even if I have modified the recipe. I will occasionally post reviews of local restaurants on the site. The big problem that I have with eating out is that I know too much about restaurants and I find it hard to ignore or forgive sloppy technique or bad ingredients. I pull no punches in my restaurant reviews!
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