S’mores Bars

S’mores Bars

It’s hard to let go of summer, but these rich, gooey, great-tasting s’mores will ease the pain of sweet campfire memories with no fire or sticks needed. All you need are tasty layers of graham crust, gooey dark chocolate brownie center, and a toasted homemade marshmallow topping. To add that toasty flavor, use a kitchen torch or broiler to “toast” the marshmallow.

Graham Cracker Crust
¾ cup melted unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
4 cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Line a 9×9” pan with foil allowing extra foil to hang over the sides for easy removal. Butter the foil.

In a large bowl, Stir together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt until well-combined. Press into the bottom of the pan then bake for 8 minutes, remove, and cool slightly while you make the chocolate center. Drop the oven temperature down to 300˚F.

Chocolate Center
¾ cup unsalted butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
¾ cups dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour

Place the butter with the semi-sweet chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl. In a large saucepan, bring water to a simmer and place the bowl of chocolate and butter over the hot water, being careful not let the bowl touch the water. Stir every few minutes until melted; remove and set aside to slightly cool.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs, egg yolks, brown sugar, confectioners sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add the chocolate to the egg mixture in small amounts to temper the chocolate into the eggs. When thoroughly mixed, whisk in the flour. Pour the batter over the graham cracker crust and smooth the top. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour or when small bits still stick to a cake tester when you check for doneness. Remove and cool completely.

Marshmallow Topping
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3 cups granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Soften gelatin in ¾ cup water, set aside. In a small saucepan combine ¾ cup water with sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and cook to 238˚F on candy thermometer to make a hot syrup. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the gelatin mixture on high while slowly streaming in the hot syrup into the bowl with the gelatin. Then add the salt and extract and beat until stiff peaks form about 15 minutes. Using a greased spatula, spread the marshmallow over the cooled brownies. Cool completely then refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. Remove using the foil and then, using an oiled knife, cut into 36 pieces.

Optional: When ready to serve, place the cut s’mores on a cookie sheet. Use a kitchen torch or place under the broiler to brown the marshmallow top. Makes 16.

Banana Pudding Cheesecake With Banana Meringue cookies

Banana Pudding Cheesecake With Banana Meringue cookies

We can’t imagine summer without banana pudding. So, we took this favorite southern dessert and turned it into a cheesecake topped with banana meringue cookies and crushed vanilla wafers. Creamy, delicious, and loaded with banana flavor, it mimics that perfect southern treat.

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan
3 cups vanilla wafers
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ¼ cups ripe bananas
24 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch salt
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons banana extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

½ cup crushed vanilla wafers
banana meringue cookies (recipe below)

Heat the oven to 375˚F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan on the bottom and sides. Add a parchment circle to the bottom of the pan; butter the parchment.

Melt the stick of butter and set aside. Place the vanilla wafers in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the melted butter and sugar; pulse until incorporated. Using a flat-sided measuring cup, press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared springform pan. Place the pan on a sheet tray then into the oven and bake for 9-12 minutes. Remove and cool completely. Place the spring-form pan in the center of 3 large pieces of aluminum foil and wrap the foil up the sides of the pan to make a water-tight seal. The cake will be baked in a water bath, so the idea is to use the foil to keep the water out of the cheesecake. Reduce the oven to 300˚F.

In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse the bananas to a smooth purée. Measure out 1 ¼ cups of the banana.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, flour, salt, and banana purée together for 5 minutes. Make sure the mixture is very smooth and fluffy with no lumps. Add the sugar and continue beating until very smooth. Add the extracts and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stop when the final egg is just incorporated. Be careful not to overbeat the eggs into the mixture.

Place the springform pan inside a large roasting pan. Transfer the banana mixture to the springform pan and tap on the counter gently to release any excess air. Fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan and place in the oven. Bake for 75 minutes. The cheesecake should be only slightly jiggly in the center when done. Turn off oven, open the door for a few minutes to release some heat then allow the cheesecake to cool for 1 hour in the oven. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. When cooled, cover tightly, and transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator. Chill for at least an hour or until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, remove the springform, top with banana meringue cookies and more crushed vanilla wafers. Makes 16 servings.

Banana Meringue Cookies
2 egg whites
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ½ teaspoons banana extract
¾ cup white sugar

Preheat oven to 315˚F. Add pieces of parchment paper to cover two cookie sheets. Beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and banana extract until very firm. Gradually add sugar and beat into the egg white mixture.

Drop or pipe by teaspoonfuls onto the parchment lined sheet trays. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven overnight to cool and dry. Makes 20 cookies.

Summer Fruit Tart

Summer Fruit Tart

A summer fruit tart recipe is the best way to use the season’s ripest yield. Topped with a combination of fruits to bring out summer’s sweetness, we like our shortbread crust filled to the brim with Grand Marnier and Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream.

Shortbread Pastry Crust
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
¼ cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg

Pastry Cream
1 ¼ cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier, optional

½ cup apricot jam or preserves
3 cups of summer fruit such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, plums, pineapple, peaches

To make the shortbread crust: In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Place the butter in a mixer bowl, add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Lightly whisk the egg then add to the butter mixture, beating until just incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until the dough forms into a ball. Dump out on a floured surface and flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, or place in a zip-top bag. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or just until firm.

Lightly butter an 8” or 9” tart pan with a removable bottom or an 8” or 9” tart ring. Roll the dough into an 8” or 9” circle then add to the pan or ring and evenly pat the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the container or pastry ring. Cover with plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for a least one hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Lightly prick bottom and sides of the pastry crust with the tines of a fork and place the tart pan on a baking sheet. Bake the crust for 5 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F and continue baking the crust for about 15 minutes more or until dry and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the pastry cream: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together. Sift the flour and cornstarch together into the egg mixture and mix into a smooth paste.

In a saucepan, add the milk and heat until the liquid starts to foam up. Remove from heat and slowly temper small amounts at a time into the egg mixture, constantly whisking to keep a smooth mixture. Pour the egg mixture into a clean medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until just boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, remove from heat and immediately whisk in the vanilla bean paste and Grand Marnier. Pour into a clean bowl and quickly cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a layer from forming. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until very cold. When ready to use, whisk to remove any lumps that may have formed.

Topping: Heat the apricot jam with one tablespoon of water in a small saucepan over medium heat until liquid. Remove from heat and strain the jam through a fine strainer to remove any fruit lumps.

To Assemble Tart: Be sure to assemble the tart on the day it will be eaten. Remove the tart from the sides of the pan and remove the bottom of the pan, then slide the tart shell on to a platter.

Spread a thin layer of apricot glaze over the bottom and up the sides of the baked tart shell to help prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry for 20 minutes. Spread the pastry cream onto the bottom of the tart shell over the glaze. Arrange the fruit on top and carefully brush a very light coating of fruit glaze on the fruit. Refrigerate until ready, serves 6.

4th of July Hand Pie

4th of July Hand Pie

We love our country, and we love our hand pies. Portable and delicious, these little pies will be the hit of your 4th of July event. Keeping with our festive theme, fill your tasty delights with either blueberries or cherries and top with white icing. If you want both flavors, as we did, just simply split the fruit ingredients in half and prepare in two separate saucepans.

3 cups fresh or frozen cherries or blueberries, stemmed and pitted, fresh cherries cut in half
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoons cornstarch
Pie dough for two piecrusts – recipe follows
1 egg white
2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

The day prior, combine the fresh fruit with the sugar and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook over medium heat, occasionally stirring, until the juices are released, and the fruit collapses, about 20 minutes. Whisk the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon cold water in a small bowl to blend thoroughly. Add cornstarch mixture, continuing to simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Working with one disk at a time, roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a sharp knife, dough cutter, or pizza cutter, cut and reroll the scraps of dough for both disks until you have eight 10×3″ rectangles. Whisk the egg white and 1 teaspoon water in another small bowl to make an egg wash.

Working with one 10×3” shape at a time, place on a work surface and brush edges with egg wash. Cut a star shape out of one side. Scoop 2-3 tablespoons fruit mixture on the other side then fold the star side of the dough over filling to form a 5×3″ packet. Crimp all edges with a fork to seal. Place on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Brush tops with egg wash, then sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Place back in the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake the hand pies until tops and bottoms are golden browns, about 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Whisk the confectioner’s sugar with vanilla and 1 tablespoon water. Add more water or sugar to reach the desired consistency for icing. Drizzle over the hand pies and let the icing set for 15-20 minutes before serving. Make 8 hand pies.

Pie Crust
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
8-10 tablespoons cold water

Add the flour, salt, and sugar in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mix thoroughly. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the food processor running, add the water then pulse until the dough comes together.

Dump out onto a floured surface and using your hands gather together to form a large disk. Cut in half and place each half in two floured plastic bags. Form and flatten into a disk in the bag. Refrigerate over-night.

Basil Gelato With Iced Lemon Cookies And Blueberry Sauce

Basil Gelato With Iced Lemon Cookies And Blueberry Sauce

Cool down after a hot day with this irresistible seasonal dessert. This refreshing and creamy herbaceous gelato pairs exceptionally well with a sweet Blueberry & Spearmint Sauce and Iced Lemon Cookies. Made with basil, it’s a delicious alternative flavor with an incredibly refreshing taste. Our easy blueberry sauce is made with Perfect Purée of Napa Valley’s Spearmint & Lime which can be ordered online or you can substitute with simple syrup.

Blueberry Sauce
1 quart blueberries
½ cup Perfect Purée of Napa Valley’s Spearmint & Lime or mint simple syrup (recipe below)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, mix the blueberries with the syrup. Cook over moderate heat until the blueberries begin to burst and collapse about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Transfer to a blender and puree; strain through a fine mesh strainer. Stir in the lemon juice, cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

Basil Gelato
2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
2 cups packed basil leaves
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 egg yolks

Place the milk, cream, and basil in a blender. Blend until completely smooth. Add to a saucepan over medium heat and cook until just starting to simmer. In a large bowl whisk the sugar, salt, and egg yolks together until pale yellow. Temper the warm cream/milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Transfer the mix to back to a saucepan and over medium heat cook, continually stirring, until the eggs thicken and the sauce thickly coats the back of a spoon. Set a smaller bowl inside a larger bowl that is filled with ice. Remove the custard from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into the smaller cold bowl. Set the bowl in an ice water bath to rapidly chill. Chill, occasionally stirring, until cold, then refrigerate overnight or for 8 hours.

Churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until ready to use.

Lemon Butter Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Finely grated lemon zest, for garnish
1 tablespoon sugar crystals

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8”x8” baking pan, line the bottom and up two sides with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and then flour the pan, tapping out any extra flour.

Whisk together the flour and salt in a bowl; set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with a bowl beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Add the lemon zest and juice, then reduce the speed and add in the flour and salt mixture until just incorporated. Pour the dough into the pan, smooth the top and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pan 10 minutes. Carefully remove from the pan using the excess parchment and set on a rack to cool completely. Remove the parchment and cut into long thin bar-shaped pieces.

When the cookies are cooling, make the frosting. In a bowl, whisk 1 cup confectioners’ sugar with the lemon juice until smooth. Use the remaining sugar by adding small amounts to thicken the icing – only if needed. In another small bowl, combine the lemon zest with the sugar crystals. Spread the lemon icing over the cooled cookies and sprinkle with lemon zest mixture. Let stand until the frosting is set, about 30 minutes.

Mint Simple Syrup
½ cup sugar
½ cup fresh mint leaves

In a saucepan over medium heat add the sugar with ½ cup water. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar melts into the water. Remove from the heat and add the mint leaves; set aside to cool about 30 minutes. When the syrup has cooled, strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container to remove the mint. Set aside.

Fresh Basil Leaves

Add the sauce to a bowl. Top with the gelato, cookies, and a basil leaf; makes 6-8 servings.

Ginger Citrus Cake With Compressed Strawberries

Ginger Citrus Cake With Compressed Strawberries

Celebrate Memorial Day with summer’s perfect dessert – strawberries, fresh cake, and whipped cream.  We added spicy ginger to this sweet little pound cake and served it with strawberries we compressed with fruit juice and ginger using a vacuum sealer. If you don’t own a vacuum sealer, we have also included instructions to make this dessert with macerated berries, which are just as delicious! This recipe uses Perfect Purée of Napa Valley Ginger Sour, which can be ordered online, or you can substitute with simple syrup.

Ginger Citrus Cake
2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 ⅔ cups flour, plus more for the pans
2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger
Pinch of salt
2 ⅓ cups sugar
Zest of two lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 large egg yolks, 4 large eggs at room temperature
⅔ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons Perfect Purée of Napa Valley Ginger Sour, or simple syrup, recipe below
Compressed strawberries or macerated strawberries, recipes below
Fresh whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Using 1 tablespoon of the softened butter, butter two 8 1/4- x – 4 1/2 – x 2 1/2 – inch loaf pans. Line with a long piece of parchment paper that extends over the sides of the pan. Butter the parchment and dust the inside with flour tapping out to remove any excess.

Sift the flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt together.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in the work bowl of a stand mixer and work them together with your fingers or a wooden spoon until the sugar and lemon zest is thoroughly combined. Add the butter to the sugar and using a stand mixer combine until the mixture is light in color and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and eggs, one at a time, combining them each into the mixture until thoroughly incorporated.

Add the vanilla extract, cream, and Perfect Purée Ginger Sour into the mixer bowl and combine thoroughly.

Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, add the dry ingredients in 3 to 4 additions until the batter is smooth and thick. Pour into the pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool 10 minutes. Then using the excess parchment, remove the cakes from the pans. Remove the parchment and place the cakes back on the rack to cool to room temperature. Slice and serve with the compressed berries and fresh whipped cream.

Compressed Strawberries
1 quart fresh strawberries
1/2 cup Perfect Purée of Napa Valley Ginger Sour or simple syrup

Remove the stems and cut the berries in half. Remove one cup of strawberries; set the others aside.

Chop the one cup of berries and add to a blender with the Perfect Purée Ginger Sour or simple syrup. Process until very smooth. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve; discard solids.

Add the strawberry halves to a chamber vacuum bag. Pour the liquid over the berries and seal with the vacuum to compress the berries. Refrigerate overnight.

Macerated Strawberries
1 quart fresh strawberries
1/2 cup Perfect Purée Ginger Sour or simple syrup, recipe below

Remove the stems and cut the berries in half. Add the strawberry halves to a bowl. Pour the liquid over the berries and leave at room temperature for 3-4 hours. Refrigerate overnight.

Simple Syrup
½ cup sugar
½ cup water

In a saucepan over medium heat add the sugar with ½ cup water. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar melts into the water. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.