Holiday Raspberry Walnut Bars…

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. The holidays have been crazy and I haven’t had my usual time to experiment in the kitchen. But to keep in the tradition of trying to post at least once a week, I am going to share a cookie recipe from back in the day.

This is a reprint of a blog I did a couple of years ago. It is such a great holiday recipe that I wanted to give it some prime time, especially now that I have more readers and subscribers. I guarantee you, you cannot go wrong with this recipe. It will be a hit in your holiday cookie baking arsenal!

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars

There’s a lot of reasons for this recipe being so popular. First, and probably foremost, it looks so darn delicious. Second, and not known by those requesting the recipe, it is sinfully easy to make. And third, the recipe turns out perfect first time, every time. I can’t take credit for the recipe, it was one I found a few years ago, I simply can’t remember where I found it. So up front I apologize to whomever I am not giving credit to for the actual recipe.

Lesson Learned 1: The hardest thing about this recipe is preparing the pan. The recipe calls for lining a 8 inch square pan with parchment paper allowing some overhang on both sides. Trying to keep parchment paper from popping back out of the pan when you allow for overhang can be tricky. I found the easiest way to make the parchment paper behave is to take two heavy cans of anything and weigh down the paper in the pan while making the dough. That way when it’s time to spread the dough out on the bottom the paper has been somewhat trained and doesn’t jump around as much.

Lesson Learned 2: It is important to follow the directions of using the parchment paper, having the overhang and spraying the parchment paper with cooking spray. I can’t image what you would wind up with if you didn’t. But if you take the time to do it, it comes out of the pan easily and absolutely nothing sticks to the parchment paper.

Lesson Learned 3: This recipe gives you plenty of dough so don’t worry about using it to fill up the bottom. It says to use two thirds of the dough for the crust and one third to dot the top. I found that gave me way too much dough for the top. You need a lot less dough to dot the top then you think, so don’t be afraid to use more than two thirds of the dough for the crust.

Lesson Learned 4: Avoid the temptation to use too much raspberry jam. A nice even thin coat is all you need. Stick to the amount called for in the recipe.

Lesson Learned 5: Depending on how many bars you want to give out, you may have to make this recipe a couple of times. You can make the bars big or small, but the most you’ll probably get out of this recipe is 24 small bars.

I guarantee these bars will be a hit with your family and friends. You simply must try them!

Raspberry Walnut Bars…

  • Servings: 24 Small Bars
  • Difficulty: Easy-Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Non stick baking spray

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup raspberry jam

1 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang on both sides. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. (I do this right before I am ready to put the dough into the pan).

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. (This does take a little time, most people do not do this thoroughly enough so make sure to take the time to make the mixture fluffy). Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined. Do not over mix. Transfer two thirds of the dough into the prepared pan and press down evenly. Spread the jam on top. Crumble the remaining dough and dot it over the jam. Sprinkle the top with the walnuts. Bake until golden 35-45 minutes. Cool completely in the pan. (this is very important).

Holding both sides of the parchment paper, lift out of the pan, transfer to a cutting board and cut into rectangles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake Bars…

If you want a truly delicious and decadent sweet treat, this one’s for you. I haven’t made anything like a cheesecake for a long time, and I didn’t want to do the full blown thing, so I decided to make cheesecake bars and and am I ever glad I did. Plain and simple, this recipe is divine! There are few recipes I have on this blog that I think outshine the rest. For example, my recipe for Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza, or my Best Ever Meatballs, or my Iced Cinnamon Chip Cookies… (actually there are many more, but I don’t want to bore you with a long list). But this one goes straight to the top!

Not only is this insanely delicious, it is gorgeous to look at and simple to make. You can’t beat that. And so, without further adieu, here are a few lessons learned and the recipe.

IMG_5396Lesson Learned 1: Tips about the raspberry swirl: It couldn’t be easier to make the swirl. Just pop the raspberries and sugar in a food processor and voila, you have it. Be aware that you don’t need a lot for the top of the cheesecake. Less is more in creating a beautiful design. You can easily get away with only a 1/3 cup raspberries to create the design on top. I used 1/2 cup so I would have some extra to drizzle on the plate when I served the cheesecake.

IMG_5418Since you only need a small amount, don’t use a blender for this. If you have a mini blender or food processor, use that. Also you will want to strain the raspberry sauce.  There are tons of seeds that you will not want to have in your cheese cake. Use a spatula and press the juice through the strainer. It is a little bit of work but you get an incredibly smooth glistening sauce that you can use not only for the top of the bars but for serving as well.

Once you’ve made the cheesecake filling, all you have to do is dot the top with a little of the raspberry sauce as shown in the picture below. Take a sharp knife and gently swirl the sauce into the cheesecake mixture. It’s that simple. You can easily create a gorgeous design with no effort at all.

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Lesson Learned 2 – Line your pan with parchment paper: I am not a big fan of using cooking spray on my good pans. I find it leaves a residue that bakes on the pan and after a while can ruin the finish. I prefer greasing and flouring pans or using parchment paper. This time I chose parchment paper. I lined the bottom and left some hanging over the side. Doing that gave me handles to pull out the cheesecake once it set. (I had to use a knife on the sides that did not have parchment paper to loosen them slightly before I lifted the cheesecake out of the pan).

IMG_5380Lesson Learned 3 – Graham Cracker Crusts: They couldn’t be easier to make. The consistency of the crust should look like wet sand as seen in the picture. Spread it evenly on the bottom of the pan and press it down flat. Also, after it is baked, make sure it’s cooled completely before pouring the cheesecake mixture on top of it.

Lesson Learned 4 – The cream cheese must be at room temperature and beat it longer than you think: You will get a lumpy cheesecake if the cream cheese is not room temperature when you beat it. And beat it for a long time. I beat the cream cheese for at least five minutes. And after that as I added each individual ingredient I beat it some more. That’s the only way you’ll get a smooth consistency to the batter.

That’s it! The hardest part of making this is the clean up. I used both my small and large food processors as well as my stand mixer so that wound up being most of the work. But was the work ever worth it. I still can’t get over how good this one is. My husband says this recipe is insanely good. Enjoy!

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars…

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

IMG_5449INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

9 graham cracker sheets (1 – 1 1/4 cups)

4 Tbs. butter, melted

2 Tbs. sugar

The Filling:

2 eight ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 small lemons, juiced and zested

Raspberry Swirl

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1 Tbs. sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper, using enough paper so it can hang over the sides. (You can also use baking spray). Set aside.

Put graham crackers into a food processor. Process until you have fine crumbs. Add the sugar to the cracker crumbs. Melt the butter and add it to the mixture, stirring until the mixture resembles coarse wet sand. Take the crumbs and spread them out evenly across the bottom of the pan. Press firmly. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Place the raspberries and sugar into a small processor and beat until smooth. Put mixture into a strainer and strain until the raspberry seeds are removed from the juice. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth, at least 5 minutes. Add in the sugar and beat until combined. Add in one egg at a time and beat until completely incorporated. Add the lemon juice and zest and continue to beat until completely incorporated.

Pour the cheesecake filling on top of the cooled graham cracker crust. Using a spatula, make sure it is spread evenly over the crust. (You might even want to take the pan and, raising it up slightly, drop it back down on a hard surface to ensure the batter is evenly distributed). Spoon the raspberry mixture in dots over the top of the cheesecake mixture. Use a sharp knife to make swirls all over the top of the batter.

Bake for 35 minutes. Let the cake cool completely and refrigerate for at least three hours or over night. Cut into squares and serve.

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The Desired Texture Of The Cheesecake…

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Lemon Raspberry Loaf Cake

August was quite a busy month with a lot of traveling and so I wasn’t able to make my goal of one new recipe a week last month. Now things have settled down a bit and I’m back in the saddle. This recipe I found on (you guessed it) Pinterest and it intrigued me especially since our local grocery store had quite the deal on fresh raspberries. The combination of lemon and raspberries is killer in my estimation and that made the choice even easier. So here is my recipe rating for a lemon raspberry loaf cake and lessons I learned while making it.

IMG_0135Recipe Rating – I’m conflicted so I will give it a range of B+ to A+. I know it’s a strange rating but I had to make this twice in order to get it right. The reason for the range is that I am just not sure whether the issue is how the recipe was written or the the challenges related to baking in high altitude. I will explain in my lessons learned.

Lesson Learned 1 – The flavor of this cake is awesome! The loaf fell in on me the first time I made it but I was determined to perfect the recipe because of the flavor. The cake is super delicious and I’m not kidding. If you love the flavors of raspberries and lemon you have to try this one. It is to die for!

The first try produced a caved in cake...

The first try produced a caved in cake…

Lesson Learned 2 – Cooking with raspberries (and blueberries for that matter) is tricky: I’m not sure whether this is a high altitude or a berry thing but with this recipe (and also with my lemon blueberry pound cake recipe), when I used the amount of berries called for in the recipe my cake either became a mushy mess or sunk in in the middle. Both times I had to reduce the amount of berries in order for the cake to turn out perfectly. Both types of berries tend to get wetter and mushier when you bake them so I am thinking that the proportion of berry to batter is really important in order for the cake to hold its shape and not cave in. If any of my readers have any insights on this, I would certainly appreciate it. The first time I made this cake I used one cup of raspberries as called for in the recipe and the cake fell apart in the middle. The second time I used 3/4 cup and the cake did not cave in. Hmmm……

Lesson Learned 3 – Adding some additional flour: When I use box mixes (which has become less and less these days) I always add two tablespoons of flour to adjust the mixture for high altitude. I did the same for this recipe and I think that along with adding slightly less raspberries prevented the cake from falling in.

Lightly flour the raspberries to prevent them from all falling to the bottom

Lightly flour the raspberries to prevent them from all falling to the bottom

Lesson Learned 4 – Flouring the raspberries: Shame on the original recipe. It did not tell you that you have to slightly flour fresh raspberries in order for them to evenly distribute themselves in a batter. If you don’t they’ll all sink to the bottom. If you use frozen raspberries you don’t need to flour them, but it is a must with fresh berries. This was the only flaw in this recipe but the flavor of the cake more than made up for it.

Lesson Learned 5 – Adjusting batter for the size of the loaf pan: Maybe part of my problem was that I used my 8×4 loaf pan when the original recipe called for using a 9×5 pan. I googled the adjustments and it was suggested that the 8×4 pan only have 4 cups of batter put into it a opposed to 6 cups of batter for a 9×5 pan. This recipe makes 4 cups of batter so I’m not sure the amount of the batter was an issue in this case. I definitely had to bake the loaf longer, an additional 15 minutes to be exact. The additional baking time did not hurt it and produced a nicely browned top.

IMG_0153Lesson Learned 6 – The wonder of lemon zest: Zest is one of the best ways to add flavor to a recipe. Lemon zest happens to be my favorite. Not only does it produce a rich lemony flavor but also a great lemony smell. Just make sure you are careful not to zest the lemon down to the white part, the pith, as that will give you a sour zest. To avoid that just move your zester two or three times over an area of the rind and then move on to another yellow part of the rind. Continue until you zest the entire lemon. In this recipe lemon zest provides flavor not only to the cake but to the glaze as well.

Lesson Learned 7 – The technique of folding: This recipe calls for folding in the greek yogurt and then gently folding in the raspberries. Folding is a technique whereby you use a large spoon (I use a wooden spoon) and gently turn over the batter from the bottom to the top, continuing that process in a circular motion until you’ve combined the ingredient(s) you need to fold into the batter. The purpose of folding is to gently combine ingredients and in some cases not to deflate the air out of an ingredient (such as a whipped cream or meringue). If you are not gentle with the raspberries they will break apart and you will wind up having a pink cake versus a white cake dotted with raspberries. Be careful at this point not to break up the raspberries but make sure they are evenly distributed throughout the batter before pouring the batter into the baking pan.

Even though this recipe took me two tries I would highly recommend it. The combination of lemons and raspberries produces a fabulous flavor and the use of lemon zest in the glaze punctuates it. Just beware it may not turn out right the first time and be comfortable with that.  I guarantee you, the flavor is worth getting it right. Let me know how yours turned out and any adjustments you needed to make to get it right. Enjoy!

Lemon Raspberry Loaf Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

IMG_0225Loaf Cake:

1 1/2 cup flour (plus two heaping TBS. for high altitude)

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (reduce to 1 tsp for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cup sugar (reduce by 1/8 cup for high altitude)

1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened

2 eggs, room temperature

3 TBS. lemon juice (you will need 2-3 lemons for this recipe depending on size)

1 heaping TBS. lemon rind

1/2 cup greek yogurt

3/4 cup fresh raspberries

Glaze:

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

3 TBS. lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon rind

A splash of heavy cream (you can use milk as a substitute)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8×4 loaf pan and set aside.

In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar for at least 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until fully incorporated. Mix in lemon rind and lemon juice.

By hand, mix in the dry ingredients (do not use the electric mixer for this). Once combined, fold in the greek yogurt. After that, gently fold in the raspberries.

Bake in the oven for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cake stand in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Combine powdered sugar, lemon rind, lemon juice, and heavy cream to make the glaze. Drizzle on top of cooled cake.

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Lemon Raspberry Loaf Cake

Lemon Raspberry Loaf Cake

 

Raspberry Walnut Bars…

I made three holiday cookies recipes yesterday and posted pictures of the final results on Facebook. Without a doubt two of the three were big hits with my friends. (The third, chocolate chip cookies, are such a traditional favorite that they did not get much attention). The biggest hit as determined by the number of recipe requests I received were the Raspberry Walnut Bars followed by the Triple Chocolate Brownie Cookies. The latter will be the subject of an ensuing blog, but today we’re focusing on the media favorite.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars

There’s a lot of reasons for this recipe being so popular. First, and probably foremost, it looks so darn delicious. Second, and not known by those requesting the recipe, it is sinfully easy to make. And third, the recipe turns out perfect first time, every time. I can’t take credit for the recipe, it was one I found a few years ago, I simply can’t remember where I found it. So up front I apologize to whomever I am not giving credit to for the actual recipe. And, as with all the recipes I make these days, I will give it may rating and share my lessons learned making it.

Recipe Rating: A++++++++++ (get the message)? I just can’t say enough about this recipe. I remember the first time I saw a picture of it. It looked so good but I thought it would be hard to make. Was I ever wrong. This recipe couldn’t be simpler and it has turned out perfectly every time I’ve made it, including the first time. And it’s not all that often that a recipe turns out picture perfect the first time you make it. So you definitely have to try this one. You will love it.

Lesson Learned 1: Perhaps the hardest thing about this recipe is preparing the pan. The recipe calls for lining a 8 inch square pan with parchment paper allowing some overhang on both sides. Trying to keep parchment paper from popping back out of the pan when you allow for overhang can be tricky. I found the easiest way to make the parchment paper behave is to take two heavy cans of anything and weigh down the paper in the pan while making the dough. That way when it’s time to spread the dough out on the bottom the paper has been somewhat trained and doesn’t jump around as much.

Lesson Learned 2: It is important to follow the directions of using the parchment paper, having the overhang and spraying the parchment paper with cooking spray. I can’t image what you would wind up with if you didn’t. But if you take the time to do it, it comes out of the pan easily and absolutely nothing sticks to the parchment paper.

Lesson Learned 3: This recipe gives you plenty of dough so don’t worry about using it to fill up the bottom. It says to use two thirds of the dough for the crust and one third to dot the top. I found that gave me way too much dough for the top. You need a lot less dough to dot the top then you think, so don’t be afraid to use more than two thirds of the dough for the crust.

Lesson Learned 4: Avoid the temptation to use too much raspberry jam. A nice even thin coat is all you need. Stick to the amount called for in the recipe.

Lesson Learned 5: Depending on how many bars you want to give out, you may have to make this recipe a couple of times. You can make the bars big or small, but the most you’ll probably get out of this recipe is 24 small bars.

I guarantee these bars will be a hit with your family and friends. You simply must try them!

Raspberry Walnut Bars

  • Servings: 2 dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Non stick baking spray

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup raspberry jam

1 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang on both sides. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. (I do this right before I am ready to put the dough into the pan).

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. (This does take a little time, most people do not do this thoroughly enough so make sure to take the time to make the mixture fluffy). Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined. Do not over mix. Transfer two thirds of the dough into the prepared pan and press down evenly. Spread the jam on top. Crumble the remaining dough and dot it over the jam. Sprinkle the top with the walnuts. Bake until golden 35-45 minutes. Cool completely in the pan. (this is very important).

Holding both sides of the parchment paper, lift out of the pan, transfer to a cutting board and cut into rectangles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars