Monday, February 11, 2013

XOXO...Cherry Valentine Bark

Have I told you how much I love the color pink? If you couldn't already tell by my blog background, or my continual use of the color in my baking, I absolutely adore pink. I just love the fun and feminine quality the color possesses. All of my baking utensils are pretty much pink. When you think about it from a psychological standpoint, it seems to really describe my life and personality. I have never been one to blend in. I have always preferred to stand out in my fashion choices, and lifestyle. I  have always followed the beat of my own drum. I guess you could call me a bit of a free-spirit. I tend to follow my passions and beliefs, rather than going along with what everyone else is doing. Instead of choosing the neutral colors of white and black, I tend to gravitate to bright pink.

When I was shopping for baking supplies the other day, I came across some hot pink baking chips. They were so bright and vivid, that I instantly grabbed them and put them in my basket. You cannot get much brighter than these pink baking chips, but that is why I love them. They stand out and are as girly as can be. I knew they would be perfect for Valentine's Day. I also, already had some neon pink disco dust, I had been saving for something special.

I have made chocolate bark on my blog before, and decided it was time to make a different kind. This is a double layer bark, that uses two types of chocolate. You can add pretty much any flavor, but since it is almost Valentine's Day, cherry seems only logical. This bark is very easy to make, and is pretty much fool-proof if you follow the necessary steps.

You will need: 12 oz. milk or dark chocolate, 12 oz white chocolate, cherry oil (don't use extract, it will seize the chocolate), sprinkles, disco or luster dust (optional) 
Melt chocolate in 30 second intervals, and spread
on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Put in
refrigerator until chocolate sets. 
Take out baking sheet, and allow it to get to room temperature.
Otherwise, the next layer will not adhere to the chocolate,
and will separate from the other layer when you try to break it.
Melt white chocolate/baking chips in 30 second intervals.
Be very careful not to burn it, since white chocolate is very touchy. 
Stir in 1/4-1/2tsp of cherry oil to melted baking chips.
Spread over the first chocolate layer. Work
quickly, because white chocolate dries much more quickly. 
Top with sprinkles and disco dust. Put back in the refrigerator to
allow the chocolate to set. Break into pieces and serve.

Recipe adapted from: Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Baklava Bars

What is it about traveling that just seems to awaken your taste buds? Everything you come across tastes a million times better than it would at home. I just returned from India and the Middle East. Both places have an avid love for spices. The complexity of their dishes is so much greater than anything found in Western counties. To the American palate, the abundance of flavor can be a little overwhelming at first.

I must say, I fell in absolute love with the different cuisines. The flavors were so intense and vibrant, and had a sense of warmth, that is hard to find anywhere else. One thing I frequently came across (especially in Dubai) was Baklava. I have always been fan of it, in all of its variations. I was lucky enough to have some authentic Baklava in Turkey, a few years back. It definitely topped the charts of the best things I have ever eaten.
Different types of Baklava for sale at a restaurant in Dubai, UAE. 
That's a lot of Baklava!

 I was hit by the same Baklava cravings, upon returning home. Since I have been severely jet-lagged, I knew I needed the easiest recipe I could find. I remembered an old recipe that had been filed as one of my all time favorites. I found this recipe several years ago, and I have been enjoying it ever since. These baklava bars are a much easier take on the Greek dessert. They have a sugar cookie base. Chopped nuts, sugar, and cinnamon are layered on top. Phyllo dough is crumbled and scattered on the second layer. Finally, a honey glazed is poured over the bars, which are then allowed to soak for a couple of hours. These bars unbelievable! They are super easy to make, and can be served at any occasion. You can use pretty much any type of nut, while I prefer pistachios for their floral quality. If you are looking for a great alternative to the time consuming dessert, then you have found it!

Recipe adapted from: Betty Crocker baklava-bars
You will need: 1 (15 oz) pouch of sugar cookie mix, About two sticks of butter (divided), 1 egg,
 lemon zest, 1/3 cup of granulated sugar, 1/3 cup of honey + 5 tbsp. (divided), 1 1/2 cup of pistachios
 (walnuts or any other nut) chopped 8 sheets of phyllo dough, 1 tsp + 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon(divided)
 , 1/8 tsp. salt, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1/2 tsp. lemon juice. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a 13x9in pan, with
cooking spray.Stir together sugar cookie mix, 1/2 cup softened butter, lemon zest
(or juice),  and egg
Press dough into the bottom the pan and bake for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine nuts, granulated sugar, salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 softened butter. 

Sprinkle nut mixture over the partially baked cookie layer. 

crumble phyllo dough over the bars. (It may help to let your dough
sit out for a few minutes to harden a little) Bake for 18-20 min, until golden.

Meanwhile combine 2 tbsp butter, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, brown sugar, 1/3 cup honey, and lemon juice.
Microwave on high for 1 minute, add vanilla. 

Drizzle glaze over freshly baked bars. Allow bars to soak, for at least two hours.
When serving drizzle additional honey over each bar.