Sunday, July 12, 2009

The All Dessert Posting

Most of my postings involve a dessert or a baked good, I know. But today's post is about a day filled with desserts! How luscious is that?

First of all, it was a picture-perfect summer day here -- lovely blue sky, sun beaming, a light wind, 75 degrees, and no humidity - one of only about 10 or so days that we get like this in the New Jersey/New York area. We spent a good part of it visiting the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn. A special trip to Sweet Melissa Patisserie for brunch with our friends, Pete & Melissa. I've lived in this part of the country all my life but have never been to Brooklyn. But you know me, I'll go just about anywhere for the promise of outstanding bakery items. We sat in their garden and enjoyed a delicious brunch - potato and leek quiche, frittata of summer squash, a European-style breakfast, and good coffee. But the real enjoyment for me came when we went next door to the Sweet Melissa bakery and purchased the fabulous cupcakes and Madeline's you see in this photo. The cupcake is chocolate with a ganache frosting and the Madelines run from dark chocolate to pistachio, and everything was just delicious.

Also in the photo are sweets from The Chocolate Room, almost directly across the street from Sweet Melissa. A cafe and chocolate bar filled with the most exquisite chocolate confections, ranging from Knipschildt chocolates to homemade ice cream, to chocolate-centric desserts. We bought a small sampling of several of the chocolates to enjoy after dinner today. I just finished the rest of my Smoking Loon Zin with a Marzipan and Pistachio Truffle - what a way to end the weekend.

Not to be outdone, when dark clouds loomed overhead yesterday afternoon and squashed my plans of lazily floating around the pool, I scooted inside and whipped up a quick dessert for the weekend: Cherry Brown Butter Bars (thank you, Smitten Kitchen). This is an absolutely fabulous vehicle for the cherries in season right now. They are cut into little squares, and how convenient is that because believe me, you cannot eat just one. The brown butter gives these bars a delicious, toasty quality, almost like brown sugar. The sweetness of the cherries with the cookie crust and the butter-vanilla filling is heavenly. And it goes together very easily -- the most time consuming part is pitting the cherries (do yourself a favor and buy a cherry pitter before starting this dish). Enjoy!

Cherry Brown Butter Bars

Makes 16 2-inch square bars (pictured), or 32 2×1-inch bars


7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt


1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, which will yield 12 ounces of pitted cherries, which yielded some leftovers, perfect for snacking (alternately, you can use 12 ounces of the berry of your choice)

Make crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl, or in the bottom of the small saucepan you used to melt the butter. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (this took about 50 minutes in my oven - watch your bars carefully). Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife. The cherries, if they fall over your slicing lines, will want to give you trouble but if you saw a sharp knife into them slowly before pressing down, they’ll cut neatly and with minimum carnage.

Do ahead: Can be made at least a day ahead, and stored at room temperature. Any longer, keep them cool in the fridge.

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