Monday, June 15, 2009

The desserts!!!!

Becky asked me a couple months ago if I would cater the desserts for the reception. At first, I was a bit scared, not sure what she (well, her step-mom really) wanted. So she had me throw out some ideas. One of the ideas (choco-chip cookie cheesecake bars) didn't pan out so well, and I was going to make a couple of other things, but I was trying to figure out what would hold up the best and taste good, but not be too weird or kitschy. So the dessert menu became:
Cake balls (were supposed to be cake pops, but I'll get into that later)
Red velvet cheesecake bars (WAY better than I thought they would be!)
Palmiers, cinnamon-sugar and raspberry
Puff pastry shells filled w/ vanilla pudding and topped w/ fresh strawberries
Pie crust raviolis filled w/ raspberry jam
Chocolate-covered strawberries

Where to start, where to start... Let's start with the easy stuff, shall we???

The Palmiers
I used the same recipe as I did when I made these in baking and pastry class. They came out darker this time. Probably b/c when we made them in class, I only added a wee bit cinnamon to the sugar and this time I think I had about a 60-40 ratio b/w the sugar and cinnamon, respectively.Since I had tons of leftover puff pastry (btw, the store bought kind. I don't have the muscle to be rolling out my own homemade puff pastry, sorry!) so I made the palmiers the same way as the cinnamon-sugar ones, except I rolled seedless raspberry jam instead of cinnamon-sugar. Hmmm... kinda bloody looking right?But they were pretty good, only had a hint of berry taste, not overwhelimg and they weren't sticky, which was a plus!
Next, the pie crust raviolis. My first thought for these were to make them w/ wontons. I made a duck ravioli w/ wonton wrappers once, and they were great. But I couldn't find them anywhere! They were sold out like crazy!
So one of my first ideas w/ pie crust was to make super mini chocolate chip cookie pies, but I was a bit annoyed w/ chocolate chop cookie dough, so I nixed that. I still had the pie dough made so I could make them, but now needed a new idea... Thus pie crust raviolis were born.
I called them raviolis b/c honestly I couldn't figure out another name for them. I rolled out the pie crust to my desired thickness, about 1/4 inch thick. I then used a fondant cutter to cut out the hearts and flowers. I lined them up and covered one side of each w/ egg wash. I then dropped a little raspberry jam onto half of the shapes. I took the other half and pressed them onto the half that had raspberry jam. I pressed them shut and tried to seal all the cracks. I then placed them on the cookie sheet, crushed them w/ more egg wash and sprinkled colored sugar on top. I baked them for 15 mins at 350 degrees. They weren't perfectly closed, but not so bad either. The eclairs were actually also the same ones as I made in class on the same day as the palmiers. I used all water, not a milk and water combo b/c I knew I would be freezing them since I made them a week before. I figured that if I started out w/ a crisper shell, they wouldn't be too soggy. I also used melted chocolate instead of ganache b/c the ganache was so bitter and thick. I just melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips. They were perfect.
The red velvet cheesecake bars were tricky. I'd never made them before and there were sooooo many bad reviews. But I was soooo desperate to try them!!! My recipe went as follows:

The cake bar layer:
1 box of Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake mix
1 stick of butter, softened
1 egg
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

The cream cheese layer:
2 (8 oz each) pkgs of cream cheese, softended
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9X13 inch baking pan w/ Pam. Cover the pan w/ parchment paper so that the paper sticks to the pan and hangs off the sides. Spray the parchment paper w/ Pam.

In a large bowl, beat the cake mix, butter, and egg until combined. It will look like a dark red clay. Press the mixture into the pan, evenly. I recommend taking a sheet of plastic wrap and covering the mixtures so when you press it into the pan, your hands don't stain. After you've pressed the mixture into the pan, take a fork and stab holes into the dough.

In another bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat to combine. Spread the cream cheese mix over the cake mixture.

Place in the over and bake for 30 mins. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Refridgerate overnight. To remove from the pan to cut, lift the sides of the parchment paper carefully from the pan and place on a flat surface. Eat.

I got the idea of the puff pastry cups from the grocery store. There is a brand that makes these shells frozen and they are awesome. Since I had puff pastry, I thought I would try to cut them out like the premade ones. Ugh, just buy the shells. These came out great, but there was a lot of work w. the knife and cutting them while still frozen. Never again.
After I baked the cups for 20 min at 400 degrees F, I let them cool and piped vanilla pudding into the holes. I just made Jell-o brand vanilla pudding, simple and easy. Then I diced strawberries for the top. Easy, right? Yummy too. :)

The strawberries... Mmm... I loved me some chocolate covered strawberries. I realize I am horribly picky saying this, but I hate semi-sweet chocolate. And I used semi-sweet and milk chocolate mixed for these and will never do so again. I should have just used the wonderful Wilton cocoa candy melts for them like I did for the cake balls, but hey, you live and you learn. My beautiful huge, fat organic strawberries from Whole Foods.

I just melted the semi-sweet chocolate over a double broiler and added the milk chocolate slowly to blend in evenly. After the chocolate was a bit cooled off, I dipped all of the strawberries. These were the plain ones...
Then I decorated a few... I had white chocolate too and 6 of the biggest strawberries got dipped into those then the regular chocolate to make tuxedos. I also drizzles some w/ white chocolate ad topped some others w/ sprinkles. Just something to make them more fun.
Only problem was that they started to sweat a bit... Not good, but they were stil good and the chocolate did not ooze off them thank God!

Ah the cake balls! They were supposed to be cake pops, but they wouldn't stay on the stick when I dipped them, even as frozed as they were, so I pulled all the sticks out and re-rolled them. I think they needed to be a bit smaller and perhaps frozen solid? Anyways, I was told to dip the sticks in chocolate then push them thru the balls so that it sticks better. Which I did.

And when they didn't work, I pulled them all out. Basically, you make a cake, whatever flavor, in a 9X13 inch pan. Let the cake dry out. Unfortunately, unless you make a horrible box mix, that can be hard. But don't cover it and essentially, let it sit out, uncovered, overnight. The next day, take the cake and mashed it up w/ a jar of frosting. Maybe not a whole jar. More like 2/3 of the jar to a whole cake. You don't want the cake to be too moist or else you are gonna have a heck of a time rolling them out.
Take a portion scoop and scoop out a small ball of cake. Roll it into a ball and place on a cookie sheet w/ parchment paper. Freeze them overnight.
Right when you are ready to dip them (with or w/out the stick), pull them from the freezer and roll them again w/ your hands to make sure they are the perfect ball shape. Drop them into the melted Wilton cocoa candy melts (easy to melt in the microwave or double broiler). Scoop them out w/ a spoon and carefully drop back onto the parchment. Decorate w/ sprinkles while they are still wet, or let dry and decorate w/ various colored melts. Stick them in the fridge to harden completely. Eat and love them!!!!

I also made a few cheesecake pops, but those didn't work out so well. Well, they didn't look pretty, but every still scarfed them down when they found out there were some hiding that I didn't want them to see.
I scooped those while the cheesecake was partially thawed, then rolled them and dropped them into cocoa powder to roll into better shaped balls. I froze those and dipped the same way as the cake balls.
Freshly rolled
Right out of the freezer and before they were dipped. They pretty much looked like the cake balls after I decorated them. But even yummier. My friends inhaled them!


Ivy said...

Wow Niki, everything looks delicious. I know I would try all of them. Your palmiers draw my attention as I made something similar last year without even knowing that there is such a dessert. I filled mine with cinnamon, sugar and almonds and after baking them I just wet them with some spoon sweet syrup. I just call them sfoliata (puff pastry) with cinnamon!!

Maria said...

Wow, that's quite a spread! Everything looks absolutely delicious ... and I would love to try them all!

Jamie said...

Hi! I happened upon your comments for the Red Velvet Bars when I found the recipe on the Food Network site, and followed your link to your blog. I am so glad I took your advice on how to alter the recipe, because the bars came out simply delicious! The only change I made other than yours, was that I added a blueberry cheesecake topping. Thanks so much for your advice on these!