Summer Sweets: Churro Bites with Chocolate Sauce

Good Morning and TGIF, everyone! We made it to the weekend!

With sunny skies predicted in the forecast this weekend, I have a feeling I’ll be making a trip to one of my favorite local beaches to soak up a little sand and saltwater before I swing by my scheduled plans with friends over the next couple of days. I’m just so excited that my cold/flu is gone and I can spend more time outdoors again! I hate being cooped up inside during the Summertime- especially after the brutal Winter we had here in New England!

But before I wrap up some things at work and head off to enjoy some much-needed girl time (and whiskey) this evening, I wanted to share a fun recipe I tried out a little earlier this week- a bite-sized version of one of my favorite boardwalk snacks- and one I’m sure I’ll be eating when I hit the coast tomorrow.

I’m talking about churros, of course! The fried dough and cinnamon treat is so simple to make- but I am loving these mini versions (served with warm chocolate sauce!) It’s like bringing the boardwalk right into your kitchen- without having to fight off seagulls, of course.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

FOR THE CHURROS:

  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

FOR THE CHOCOLATE SAUCE: 

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. MAKE THE CHURROS: In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt and ½ cup water over medium heat. When the mixture comes to a simmer, add the flour and stir until well combined, about 2 minutes.
  2. Transfer the mixture from the saucepan to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed to combine. Transfer the batter to a piping bag (or a gallon-size resealable plastic bag) fitted with a large star tip.
  4. In a medium saucepot fitted with a thermometer, heat 2 inches of oil to about 350°F. While it heats, mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow bowl.
  5. Working in batches and being careful not to overcrowd the saucepot, pipe 2-inch strips of churro batter directly into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
  6. With a slotted spoon, transfer the churros to a paper-towel-lined plate. While the churros are still warm, toss them in the cinnamon sugar to coat.
  7. MAKE THE SAUCE: Place the chocolate in a medium-size heat-safe bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.
  8. Let the mixture sit for 30 seconds, then stir until smooth.
  9. Serve the churros immediately with the chocolate sauce on the side for dipping.

Keeping up with the boardwalk theme- I served these churros with ice cold and refreshing lemonade. The only thing that was missing was some saltwater taffy and a bottle of SPF50.

But really, these were so good and a lot of fun to make- particularly because they didn’t come out perfectly shaped. That didn’t take away from the taste, though! They were just as good as the ones you can buy at the beach!

Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful weekend filled with fun and sunshine. I’ll see you all again on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –

Savory Sweets: Japanese Cheesecake

Good morning and Happy Friday, everyone! We made it through the week (relatively) unscathed!

This weekend is shaping up to be a busy one for me- with a friend’s birthday party and another friend’s Wrestlemania party keeping me occupied most of my Saturday and Sunday nights- but I’ve got some things planned for the early morning hours and afternoons, too! This certainly won’t be a weekend where I sleep in late- that’s for sure.

Before I get started on the last of my tasks at my office for this week and try to get a jump start on my weekend plans, I wanted to share a recently discovered recipe that I think I perfected a couple of nights ago while playing around in my kitchen. Japanese Cheesecake, which is sort of a combination of cheesecake and souffle in both taste and texture (it jiggles!) takes a couple of hours to prep and bake- but once it’s done- you have a light, airy, but still delicious dessert to serve with a piping hot cup of coffee or tea!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Nonstick cooking spray, for spraying the pan
  • 10 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 7 large eggs, separated
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for decorating

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment. Place a 3 1/2-inch-wide strip of parchment around the inside of the pan so that it comes up about 1 inch higher than the edge; set aside.
  2. Heat the cream cheese, milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk together the vanilla, egg yolks and lemon juice in a large bowl until smooth. Pour the cooled milk mixture into the yolk mixture and whisk until smooth and combined. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch until combined; set aside.
  4. Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue beating on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes longer.
  5. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture in 3 batches, making sure not to overmix (you want the whites to stay as fluffy as possible). As soon as the white streaks disappear from the batter, pour it into the prepared pan.
  6. Place the cake pan inside of a larger pan and pour enough hot water into the larger pan so that it comes 1 inch up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven to 250 degrees F and continue baking until the cake is doubled in size, golden brown on top and around the edges and jiggly in the center but set, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  7. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cake onto your dominant hand (right onto your palm–this is the most gentle way to handle it), then invert it back onto a cake stand or plate so that the top is facing up. Sprinkle the entire top with confectioners’ sugar and serve while still warm.

If I hadn’t finished baking this fabulous concoction so late at night, I probably would have indulged in more than just one serving. I really enjoyed this cake/custard dish- which I can only describe as tasting like the right amount of cheesecake and yellow cake all at once and with every bite.

I think next time, I’ll be topping it with some strawberries or kiwi slices to give it an extra kick of sweet/sour flavor (plus, fruit balances out the sugar and eggs, right?)– but even eating it as it was didn’t make me that feel guilty at all! This dessert wasn’t “heavy” and didn’t weigh me down after I’d tasted it the way regular cheesecakes tend to do.

But, this deliciousness aside- I’m off to get things done!

Here’s hoping you all have an amazing weekend. I’ll see you all next week!

xx

– Ashley –

Sweet(heart) Treats: Chocolate-Filled Puff Pastry Hearts

Happy Hump Day- and Valentine’s Day (and belated Gal-entine’s Day), everyone! For those of you who are partnered up- I hope you have special, romantic, and fun-filled plans with your significant other- and for those of you who are single- live it up! Enjoy your own company or the company of friends who are also on the prowl for a good time. That’s what I plan on doing tonight with some of my girlfriends after I leave the office. There’s a glass of wine with my name on it somewhere!

Whatever your relationship status- we can all agree that tomorrow is the REAL holiday when all the Valentine’s Day candy gets marked down, right?

Speaking of candy. I thought I’d share a quick, easy, chocolate-y and festive dessert for those of you who might be looking to whip something up for your own Valentine today/tonight. It only takes a handful of ingredients and about 40 minutes of your time!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Four 9-inch refrigerated pie crusts (not in a shell)
  • 16 DOVE Dark and/or Milk Chocolate PROMISES Squares, unwrapped
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one pie crust until it is about 10 inches in diameter.
  3. Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut 8 hearts out of the pie crust. Repeat with the remaining pie crusts.
  4. Transfer half of the heart pieces to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them evenly. Place a piece of Dove chocolate in the center of each heart.
  5. Brush around the edges of each heart with cool water. Top with one of the remaining hearts and use a fork to press and seal the edges all the way around. Repeat until you’ve topped every heart.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon water to combine. Lightly brush the egg wash over the top of each heart and then sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Cut a small line into the top crust of each piece to create a vent.
  7. Bake until the crust is golden brown, 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

I served these to a recent date with some strawberry puree and whipped cream to mix up the flavors a bit. The pie crust was crispy and lightly sweetened- and the chocolate was a warm, melty bit of heaven. Needless to say- these went over really well!

I’m off to my final meeting of the afternoon at work before I can break free and go have myself some single girl shenanigans- and I hope you all have a great holiday!

xx

– Ashley –

Tipsy Treats: Champagne Doughnuts

The past few days have been filled with a lot of champagne. January is a pretty big month for birthdays (including my own)– so between New Year’s Eve and today- there’s been nearly a handful of celebrations that have involved toasting with some bubbly!

Of course, there’s usually some left over by the time my friends and I are done partying- and I hate to see any of it go to waste- so I found a really fun, super tasty- and rather sparkly-looking breakfast treat to whip up that requires just a small amount of some of that flat champagne so you can take your brunch to the next level and wow everyone!

Best of all? These doughnuts are baked- not fried- so enjoying one or two on your cheat day shouldn’t make you feel too guilty.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

FOR THE DOUGHNUTS:

  • Nonstick spray
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ⅔ cup whole milk
  • ⅓ cup Champagne (Yes, I used canned champagne. I am NOT stepping out in the frigid temperatures to pop the cork on a new bottle!)

FOR THE GLAZE:

  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup Champagne, or more as needed
  • Shimmery gold sprinkles, for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Make the Doughnuts: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease two 6-cavity doughnut pans with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, butter and oil. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk well to combine. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
  3. Whisk in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and Champagne and mix until the batter is smooth.
  4. Divide the batter between the doughnut pans, filling each about halfway full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a doughnut comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
  5. Let the doughnuts cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert the pan onto a cooling rack to cool completely, 45 minutes more.
  6. Make the Glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and Champagne (add more Champagne as needed to achieve a pourable glaze).
  7. Spoon the glaze over the doughnuts and decorate them with sprinkles.
  8. Relish in your title as the BOSS of brunch!

These were so, so good- and the champagne gave the doughnuts an unexpected and pleasantly delightful flavor that paired really well with the sugary glaze! Also- I am all about edible glitter. It just makes dining much more festive and fun!

I have another brunch scheduled for this weekend with some friends before I leave for California next week- and you best believe I’ll be whipping up a second batch of these to bring to the table with me!

xx

– Ashley –

Festive Foodie: Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies

When I was a kid, my mother used to have a handful of recipes she’d fall back on around the holidays to serve guests or bring with us when we attended family Christmas parties. One of those recipes were thumbprint cookies. My mom would typically make a couple dozen of them at a time and then proceed to fill in the center indentation with melted chocolate or lemon custard. They were always popular and were always one of the first snacks/desserts to disappear once our actual dinner was finished.

And now, years later- I’ve found an updated version of the recipe that incorporates two popular desserts into one bite-sized treat: sugar cookies and cheesecake. With 30 minutes of prep/cook time total- this recipe makes 24 cookies in all- which means you’ll have plenty of them to feed everybody and not have to worry about spending all day in your kitchen!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 crackers)
  • 1¾ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

FILLING:

  • 5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup jam

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. MAKE THE COOKIES: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and mix to combine, 1 to 2 minutes more.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir the flour with the graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt to combine. Add to the mixer and mix just until fully incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball; repeat with the remaining dough. Transfer the balls to the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each one slightly, then use your thumb to make a deepimpression in the center of each cookie.
  5. MAKE THE FILLING: In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese with the sugar, egg white and vanilla extract to combine.
  6. Spoon 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each cookie. Top each cookie with 1 teaspoon jam and then use the tip of a knife or a toothpick to swirl the jam into the cream cheese filling.
  7. Bake until the cookies are lightly golden brown at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely before serving.
  8. Enjoy!

Not only were these cookies really pretty when they were done, but they tasted incredible, too- and definitely took me back to my childhood while I was eating them. I’m really looking forward to surprising my mother with a batch of these for her birthday this coming Christmas Eve. I know she’ll appreciate the tradition being passed down!

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –