Archive for category Carrie’s Confections

Carrie’s Confections: Apple Cheesecake Bars

Monthly Feature
Carrie’s got you covered in the dessert department.

Growing up in Vermont, September marked not only the beginning of the school year, but the beginning of the greatest season to be in New England. There’s nothing like those beautiful leaves, the crisp, fall air, or eating an apple you’ve just picked from the tree. Although it’s still hotter than the blazes of Hades here in Houston, I’m going to pretend it’s autumn and enjoy yummy fall-ish treats, like these Apple Cheesecake Bars. Maybe it will help…

The taste: It’s like a threesome of shortbread cookie, cheesecake and apple crisp. How can that be bad? The buttery crust is thick enough to hold the divine layers of cheesecake, cinnamony apples and crunchy streusel. I omit the caramel sauce. I find that these are plenty sweet enough without it. Trust me…these are delish.

The ease: Honestly, the worst part about making these is peeling and chopping the apples, although you can see how finely I chop them…not very. If you have your butter and cream cheese at room temperature, the other layers are made in about five minutes. Use the 15 minutes that the crust is in the oven to chop those apples and the whole process takes about 45 minutes.

The fat-assness: Don’t ask. Three sticks of butter in one 9×13 pan does not make for a slim waistline. But, these are pretty sweet and you really only need one to curb your sugar craving. Please note that if we’re using the “yield” amount written on the recipe, I think the 2 dozen is more accurate. 4-6 servings? Good Lord! If that’s the case, go ahead and make a call to the paramedics while you’re baking this bad boy.

The cleanup: 3 bowls, measuring cups and spoons and the 9×13 pan. The recipe calls for aluminum foil to be used in the pan, but I used parchment paper (I’ve had trouble with foil sticking). Either way, this makes cleaning the pan a breeze.

The verdict: Yummy fall goodness.

The variation: Adding nuts to the apple mixture or to the streusel would likely add a nice nutty crunch. I haven’t tried it yet, but that gives me a good excuse to make these again!

The tip: If you try to remove these from the pan when they are even a little warm, you’ll end up with a crumbly mess. After letting them cool at room temperature, I store them in the refrigerator overnight before cutting the next day. It allows the cheesecake to firm up and the flavors to meld.



Carrie’s Confections: Raspberry Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

Monthly Feature
Looking to make a dynamite dessert? Carrie has you covered!

First, a family confession. My mom has a bit of a lemon addiction. Anytime she sees a recipe for something with lemon she feels compelled to add it to her recipe collection. Last time I helped her organize her recipes there were hundreds of recipes for lemony creations…chicken, curd, dessert bars, cakes…you name it, it was there. So when she sent this recipe to me after making it for a Christmas cookie exchange in 2005, I figured it was just another tart treat, but nothing extraordinary. Boy, was I wrong. She found a winner with this one. Thanks, Mom! (You’ll be thanking her, too!)

½ C raspberry jam or jelly
1 Tbsp Chambord, Kirsch, or other raspberry liquor
2¼ C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
2/3 C sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 C confectioner’s sugar
1½ tsp almond extract
2 tsp water

Preheat oven to 350˚. In a small bowl, combine jam and raspberry liquor. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt, whisking to blend.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until light and creamy. Beat in egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather dough into a ball.

Using a 1” scoop (or you can eyeball it), form dough into balls. Place 1” apart on baking sheets. Use finger or back of a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon to create depressions in the center of each ball. Fill indentation with nearly ½ teaspoon for jam mixture. Bake 13-14 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar, almond extract and water. After cookies have cooled, drizzle back and forth across cookies.

Yields 2½ – 3 dozen cookies

The taste: The cookie is a flaky, shortbread base with a hint of lemon. Pair this with the touch of raspberry in the center and the hint of almond in the glaze and you’ve got a winning cookie! Yum, yum!

The ease: Although these look difficult to make, they are simple. The most difficult part is rolling the dough into balls and pressing divots to hold the raspberry filling.

The fat-assness: With two sticks of butter for 36ish cookies means approximately ½ tablespoon of butter per cookie. You may have a fat ass after eating these, but it will be worth it!

The cleanup: 4 bowls, the mixer and utensils. And, 2 cookie sheets. Or, you can take my favorite easy route and line the sheets with parchment paper. Easy schmeasy.

The verdict: They look beautiful (this batch doesn’t look so hot, as the Texas heat got to them), taste delicious and are simple. What’s not to like about that?

The variation: Although I haven’t done it, I imagine that using orange zest and juice for the lemon (sorry, Mom) and strawberry jam for the raspberry would be a delicious alternative.

The tip: When making cookies, always beat the butter and sugar more than you think you should. It should lighten in color and look fluffy. Then, once the flour is added, beat minimally, just enough to combine the ingredients. You’ll get tender, flaky cookies every time!


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Carrie’s Confections: Fresh Fruit Tart

Monthly Feature
Gotta sweet tooth? Carrie has you covered!

This recipe is one of my favorites. It’s tasty and has a great presentation. Like all desserts, it’s great after dinner, but because it is light and fruity, it also makes a great dessert for brunches.

The taste: This is a great dessert to impress guests, as it looks as beautiful as it tastes. The crust is similar to a shortbread cookie. Buttery, flaky yumminess. Layer that with sweet cream cheese and fresh fruit and voila! The recipe calls for a limeade-based glaze which offers a nice hint of tartness.

The ease: The glaze is the only part of this recipe that seems troublesome. So, if you want to substitute a quick glaze to make your fruit shine, melt some apple or apricot jelly and brush it on top. You won’t get the little tang from the acidic lime, but it may be worth it for ease of preparation.

The fat-assness: It’s a Paula Deen recipe, people. There’s a fair amount of butter in the crust which probably more than offsets any of the semi-justifiable health benefits of the fruit. And, the danger with this desert is that it’s so light and delicious that it’s hard to eat just one piece. In fact, I guarantee that if you manage to have some left over, you’ll end up eating it for breakfast the next day.

The cleanup: 2 bowls, the tart pan and the pot for the glaze. The pot is a bit of a pain to clean up because of the stickiness factor, but other than that, it’s a breeze.

The verdict: This is straight-up delicious. It’s simple and elegant, perfect for parties, dinner guests, or just the fam. Trust me…make this once and it will become one of your go-to recipes too!

The variation: While this isn’t the wildest variation, changing out the fruit keeps this recipe interesting and customizable. In addition to the berries that I used this time, you could also use kiwi, mango, or even mandarin oranges. Also, this recipe can be used to make beautiful individual tarts. This takes a little more time and care, but it’s worth it when each guest gets their own dessert.

The tip: Don’t bother with the food processor to make the crust…just get in there with your hands. You may get a little messier, but washing your hands sure beats washing the food processor!



Carrie’s Confections: Faux Trifle

Monthly Feature
Got a sweet tooth? Carrie has you covered!

After all of the buzz surrounding the nuptials of William & Kate, I was inspired to whip up my quick and easy adaptation of an English trifle to take to Easter dinner. Now, I’m sure anyone of English descent would quickly take aim at me for even daring to compare this to their beloved sweet treat. Traditionally, a trifle is made of layers of jam filled sponge cake, custard, cream (all homemade, of course) and fruit. But, hey, we’re here in America…land of convenience and gluttony, so this version uses white cake, fruit, vanilla pudding and whipped cream (or, if you prefer chocolate, see the variation). How can that be bad?

1 boxed white cake
1 large (5.1 oz) package of instant vanilla pudding
3 cups fresh fruit (use any combo you like; I’m partial to strawberries, raspberries & blueberries), chopped
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Prepare cake according to directions on box; however, bake in a 9×17” jelly roll pan. Bake approximately 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool. **If you don’t have a jelly roll pan, you can make in a regular 9×13 pan, but you will need to cut this like a layer cake and then in bite sized pieces so that the pieces are not too thick.

Prepare pudding according to directions. Leave in refrigerator until ready to assemble trifle.

Mix whipping cream, vanilla, and confectioner’s sugar until firm peaks form.

Cut cake into bite-sized pieces. Place pieces in bottom of a trifle bowl or other deep glass bowl to form a solid cake layer. Top with 1/3 of the pudding, 1/3 of the fruit and 1/3 of the whipped cream. Repeat to make 3 full layers. Decorate top with fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve!

The taste: This is a surprisingly light treat that is especially great in the hot summer months. It’s cool and refreshing with great vanilla flavor from the cake and pudding that is complimented by the fresh fruit. If summer had a taste, this might be it!

The ease: Super simple! And, although I’m violently opposed, if you want to use Cool Whip instead of making your own whipped cream, it would save you some time. This is a great recipe to throw together when you don’t have a lot of time, but it tastes even better when it has had some time to sit in the fridge.

The fat-assness: At least it includes fruit! And maybe, if you eat enough of it, your daily dose of dairy!

The cleanup: Not bad. 4 bowls, a couple of measuring spoons and cups, a jelly roll pan, and the serving bowl.

The verdict: This really is a great go-to dessert. It is super simple, delicious and beautiful, too! This makes a great Memorial Day or 4th of July dessert when you use the trio of berries.

The variation: For the chocolate lovers – use chocolate cake and pudding instead of vanilla, and replace fruit with crushed Heath bars or Oreos. Trust me, it’s divine, but this version is a little more of a guilty pleasure!

The tip: When separating eggs for the white cake, crack the egg and place into your hand (which is over the bowl!). Gently transfer the yolk back and forth between your hands until all of the white is in the bowl. Although this is a little messy, it doesn’t require any gadgets and it’s easier than using the shell to separate, as this can puncture the yolk.