My Cake Decorating Gallery

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Brownie Berry Tart

I saw a neat idea for making a brownie fruit pizza (instead of the classic sugar cookie crust) and decided to give it a try for a Memorial Day BBQ with the family. Well, we just moved and I quickly realized that all the recipes for the brownie pizza crust required a quite large pizza pan - somewhere around 15" or so. I have a large circle cake pan, maybe 16" somewhere - but I don't know where. For all I know, it is still in storage. So.... I had all the ingredients but needed a plan B.

What pan I did find was a tart pan with the fluted edges and the bottom that pops out. I love this tart pan, it is nonstick and the tarts always look nice and pop out easy. The bottom circle stays with the tart but it fits on one of my white plates well and a damp paper towel folded up hidden underneath provides  enough grip to keep the slippery tart pan from sliding off the plate.

So, originally I was picturing a big flat brownie pizza but I quite like how the taller/thicker brownie tart turned out. I used a ghirardelli brownie box - a basic chocolate fudge. I followed the directions on the box and packed the brownie batter into the tart pan and baked for around 35 minutes at the temperature noted on the box.

I made the brownie bottom the night before and then the day of the party, I set out the cream cheese in the morning so that it had time to soften. I also washed the raspberries and took the time to tip them stem-size down on a paper towel so that they had time to dry, with another paper towel on top. I washed the other berries in a similar fashion well in advance so that the berries wouldn't be dripping onto the tart and would be pretty dry by the time I used them.

I mixed up the cream cheese with the other ingredients and spread it on top of the tart pan and then just leave it to your creative eye to arrange the fruit in a pleasing manner - there are lots of options! I put some apricot jam in the microwave for around 30 minutes and then used a pastry brush to put a gloss on top of the tart. It wasn't really anything you tasted in the final product but the glossy sheen was attractive. This was a delicious tart and I would definitely make it again - I'm thinking I would like it better than the original intent, you get more brownie at once with the tart than the pizza idea! Yummy!

Brownie Tart Topped with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Berries

1 brownie mix box or your favorite 8x8 or 9x9 brownie recipe

1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
~1/4cup powdered sugar, or more to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract

blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or any other fruit topping you'd like

1/4 cup apricot or apple jelly

Make the brownie mix as noted on the box and spread into the tart pan, bake for around 35 minutes or until just done - but not too long, because chewy brownies are the best! The brownie tart bottom can be made in advance and left out.

When you're ready to decorate the tart, mix up the cream cheese with the powdered sugar and vanilla. Adjust vanilla and sugar amounts so that it is sweet enough to your taste. Spread over the top of the tart, leaving an edge uncovered, if you like that look.

Spread washed (and dried - I washed my berries and let them dry a few hours earlier) berries and other fruits in a neat (or sloppy) design on top of the cream cheese mixture.

Pop the jelly in a microwave safe dish and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so, until it is more liquidy. Use a pastry brush to paint the jelly on top of the fruit until everything is glossed up.

This can set out a few hours but if it's going to be several hours before you eat it, it is better if you pop it in the fridge to keep the cream cheese safe.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chim, Chim, Chim-Chim-Churri

What's all this talk about chimichurri sauce these days? I see it on tons of cooking competitions and cooking shows - it seems to be becoming more mainstream. I first tried it at a Cuban restaurant in Royal Oak several years ago, and it's a delicious fresh herb green sauce for dipping all sorts of things, often sliced skirt or flank steak. I love the cilantro flavor with bright lime and zesty garlic.

I've read that the sauce was originally from Argentina and the main herb used was parsley but I much prefer the cilantro version which hails from Cuba, as described in this recipe I used from Three Guys From Miami. I have used other recipes from them, including mojo marinade and twice fried tostones, and they seem like a great resource for making your own Cuban food at home. I made a double batch last time and that was way too much but it ended up being a great cooking sauce to jazz up regular chicken breasts later in the week, so maybe it was a good idea afterall! One thing to note is that it calls for a lot of olive oil and when I cut down on that (didn't want to use up my whole jug on this recipe!), I should have cut down on some vinegar also, so it was a little vinegary to me. Just follow the ratios as noted in the recipe and then tweak to your own preferences, you will not be disappointed. It was great to dip our flank steak in and a delicious marinade/cooking sauce for chicken as well.

Chimichurri Sauce – Garlic Citrus Sauce for Meat

By Three Guys From Miami 

1 large bunch cilantro leaves
8 cloves garlic
1/4 cup vinegar
lime (Juice only)
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup onion
Dash or two red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Put everything except the olive oil in a blender and using the "chop" setting, pulse on and off until you have a thick mixture. Do not over process! This is the kind of dish you need to taste and adjust so that you get just the right flavor! So taste it! (The best way to taste it is with a piece of bread.) Whisk in the olive oil. (If you use the blender to incorporate the oil, the oil and liquids will emulsify, giving your chimichurri a white, paste-like texture.)
Add salt, pepper, more vinegar and lime juice as needed. The flavor should be very intense with garlic and cilantro. Don't be stingy with the salt either!

Another "Totally Worth It" Recipe - Homemade Ranch Dressing

Despite The Husband's claim that Ranch dressing is the root of all evil, I love Ranch. I love it on everything - my love for ranch doesn't stop with veggies and salads - oh no, that is just the beginning. Ranch lovers around the world know that Ranch is delicious in many more ways - french fries dipped in Ranch? Of course! Ranch on burgers - sure, why not? Bread sticks dipped in Ranch? Yes, please, and go ahead and dip the pizza in Ranch, too. Now, I don't dip everything in Ranch all the time but all of those things mentioned above have certainly happened at some point in time. Are there any other Ranch lovers out there?

Okay, Ranch lovers - listen up! Are you sick of being told that Ranch is the bottom rung of the salad dressing ladder? Do you agree that Ranch is the crème de la crème? Well then, try  this recipe from Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman). It's easy and you can even customize it the way you want it - do you like peppercorn ranch or garlic ranch or bacon ranch? Yum yum and yum. I bought a little carton of buttermilk and it was enough for 2 big batches and the first time, I totally forgot to add dill. I thought, hmm - something is missing. The second time I made this recipe, I saw dill and thought - oh that will be good! I didn't have any fresh dill but dried dill made a huge difference in this recipe. I bought one bunch of parsley and one package of chives and they both lasted for 2 batches, also. I used one clove of garlic and the only other thing I did was add more garlic powder on top of that plus some onion powder just to see what that would do. Yum, yum, and yum. The sour cream and mayo are things you would typically have on hand and anything that gets us to eat more vegetables is a good thing, right?

I hope you try Ree's recipe, as shown below, and enjoy your own homemade ranch!

Homemade Ranch Dressing
As posted by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, who really lives the life, doesn't she? Love her!!
Check out Ree's post because it has great photos and great commentary.

Basic Dressing Base:
1 cup mayonnaise (not miracle whip - yuck!!)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 finely chopped garlic clove
buttermilk to make the consistency you'd like
salt and pepper to taste

Feel free to add more parsley, chives, dill, pepper or add more ingredients to suit your taste. I typically add more garlic powder to add to the garlic flavor without being too pungent, some onion powder, but also cracked peppercorns or crumbled bacon or other fresh or dry herbs would be a great addition. Try and use fresh herbs if you have them but I think dry herbs will be great, too. I used dry dill, for instance, and I think it has lots of flavor. Dried parsley for me never really tastes like much, though.

I hope you enjoy this salad dressing of champions! Not every salad dressing has to be a vinaigrette!!