Chocolate Baklava Bites

20170325_105856Ζητω Η Ελλαδα!!! Χρονια πολλα Ελλαδα!  Long live Greece and Happy Greek Independence Day to all the Greeks around the world! Today is a national holiday in Greece as it marks the start of the Greek war for Independence (March 25, 1821) from the Ottoman Empire (Turks). As a tribute to this important day in Greek history it is only natural I had to make one of if not the most famous Greek dessert around the world…baklava.

20170325_105650As with everything I bake I try to put my own creative spin on it and these mini baklava bites are no exception. I know my version of baklava will probably drive all the yiayia’s (Greek for grandmother) crazy because it does not resemble anything to the traditional baklava they are used to making. However, I feel that given a taste of these bites even my harshest critics would find it hard to resist admitting how great these came out.

20170325_110032-(1)Traditional baklava is a blend of toasted nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, or walnuts depending on the baker) layered between buttery sheets of fillo then soaked in honey syrup. For my version, I decided to add a hint of chocolate because who doesn’t love chocolate. In order to incorporate the traditional flavor provided by ground hazelnuts, I used some leftover Greek Merenda spread, which is the Greek equivalent of Nutella, to provide a rich hazelnut chocolate flavor.

20170325_105905For such a small dessert these bites do not lack any of the flavor or richness found in traditional recipes. They are great to serve at large gatherings because one recipe makes 30 and their bite size cuts down on the messiness of cutting into and eating the original. I recommend trying this modern version of the classic Greek dessert! Kali Orexi!

Chocolate Baklava Bites

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup Walnuts
  • ¾ cup Almonds
  • ½ cup Honey (preferably Greek)
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 3 tbsp. Sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter; melted
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • ¼ cup Hazlenut-Chocolate Spread (such as Merenda or Nutella)
  • 2 boxes Mini Fillo Shells; 15 shells each

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange walnuts & almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden & fragrant, about 5 to 8 minutes. Allow nuts to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, add the honey, water, and cinnamon stick to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until honey dissolves. Continue to cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches 230°, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm. Discard cinnamon stick.
  3. Add the slightly cooled nuts to the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Pulse to combine.
  4. Place hazelnut-chocolate spread in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds or until melted. Place mini fillo shells into wells of 2 mini cupcake tins. Working quickly place 1 tsp. of melted hazelnut spread into the bottom of each fillo shell. Next, top each fillo shell with 1 tsp. of the nut mixture. Bake in oven until filling is hot and fillo is golden, about 10 minutes.
  5. Pour 1 tsp. of honey syrup into each fillo cup while warm. Allow syrup to soak in and then add another 1 tsp. to each cup. Refrigerate at least 5 hours but preferably overnight for flavors to develop.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2017

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Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

20170227_000907Cheesecake is a delightful dessert rich in flavor and smooth on the palate. As much as I enjoy a slice of cheesecake I absolutely despise making it on my own. Cheesecake is up there on my list with Creme Brulee & Souffles when it comes to a severe inclination to avoid said recipes. It is not that I can’t make them it is just more tedious and I don’t enjoy making them like I do cakes and cookies. Baking is an outlet for me to reduce stress. Cheesecakes tend to create stress by wondering if the darn thing is going to crack despite doing everything correctly. There is only so many times you can get scalded by the hot water bath before you throw even cooking out the window. However, after taking a look at what I have prepared lately I was starting to see too much repetition. I decided I needed to venture out of my comfort zone and give myself a challenge like I had when in culinary school. The first item that came to my mind was the dreaded cheesecake.

20170227_001556My favorite flavor of cheesecake is cherry and I have made it a thousand times. My love of cherry cheesecake in particular stems from my childhood when I would make the No-Bake Jello brand Cherry Cheesecake box mix. Although it was a heck of a lot easier cheesecake to make, it wasn’t necessarily a real cheesecake (probably why I enjoyed baking it growing up). Besides the taste the cherries lend cheesecake, I also love the appearance. The red is a great contrast to the light cheesecake base and makes for a stunning dessert every time. I wanted to replicate this stunning look but with something other than cherries. That is where cranberries come into play.

20170226_172628I had some leftover cranberries frozen at their peak and needed to use them up so it seemed like a perfect fit. I made this for Valentine’s Day but it can be made for many other events such as anniversaries, Christmas, Independence Day, or even Go Red for Women parties which bring awareness to heart health. Although this is a skinnier recipe than traditional cheesecakes, I highly doubt the American Heart Association would define it as a heart healthy recipe. On average, cheesecakes similar to this one run about 575 calories and 22 grams of saturated fat while this cheesecake is 321 calories and 6 grams saturated fat (saving over 250 calories and 15 grams saturated fat per slice).

Although I enjoyed this lightened up version of a traditional cheesecake I would make a few changes next time to appeal more to my own taste. I think I would prefer a regular graham cracker crust to the chocolate, despite my love of the stunning color contrasts the chocolate crust provides. If you follow the recipe as is you will witness how much a simple swirl of tart cranberries provides an elegant touch to rich filling encased in a chocolate graham crust. Enjoy!

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. Chocolate Graham Crackers
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ cups Fresh or Frozen Cranberries (thaw if frozen)
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • ¼ cup Raspberry Liqueur (Chambord or Smirnoff Raspberry Vodka)
  • 3 tbsp. Water
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 12 oz.(2 ½ pkg.) Block Style 1/3-less-fat Cream Cheese; softened
  • 1 cup Plain Fat-Free Greek Yogurt
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • 3 large Eggs
  • 2 large Egg Whites

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Wrap outside and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan tightly with a double layer of heavy-duty foil (or place in a turkey size oven bag and seal at top). Grease pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place crackers in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Drizzle with oil and pulse until moistened. Press mixture into bottom and ½ inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325°. Place cranberries, sugar, liqueur, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook 8 minutes or until cranberries have softened and mixture is syrupy. Cool for 20 minutes. Puree mixture until smooth with an immersion blender or pour contents into a food processor and pulse 1 minute.
  4. Combine 1 cup sugar and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Beat with stand or hand mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in yogurt, vanilla, and salt. Add the whole eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the 2 egg whites at high-speed until soft peaks form. Fold beaten egg whites into cream cheese mixture. Pour filling over crust. Spoon cranberry mixture over filling & swirl together using the tip of a knife. Place springform pan into a metal baking pan larger than the springform pan. Add hot water to the pan to create a depth of about 2 inches. Bake for 55 minutes or until the center of the cheesecake barely jiggles when pan is touched.
  6. Turn off oven. Cool cheesecake in closed oven for 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven and run knife around the outside edge. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: ANN TAYLOR PITTMAN
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2017

Summer Stone Fruit Crisp

20160703_153619Stone fruits are one of summer’s best seasonal produce options. When I spotted some fresh Georgia Peaches on sale along with a red variety of plumcots, I had to bring them both home (plus a few plums that happened to hop on in). Unfortunately, these tasty gems go from remarkable to rotten extremely quick, like overnight quick. I probably should mention that it didn’t help matters that one of my cats decided to taste test one, bruising it pretty good. Of course once one peach gets bruised any near it also get bruised and soft.

20160703_153805Upon first glance, the fruit looked like it deserved a trip to the trash. However, the great thing about stone fruits are they can easily be salvaged. Crisps are a simple, rustic way to save any stone fruits that seem past their prime. My golden rule is if the fruit still smells sweet and you don’t see any mold it can be thrown in a crisp. A crisp is a simple way to showcase the abundance of summer’s stone fruits. All you need is a small baking dish, the fruit, and a few other ingredients that are typical pantry staples. No extravagant shopping trips necessary.

20160703_153738The stone fruits used in this crisp are peaches, plums, and plumcots. I specifically used black plums and red plumcots but you are welcome to use whatever combination you have on hand. I prefer this combination as it provides a mixture of tart and sweet fruits that complement one another. The goal is to add a hint of sweetness from the peaches but keep the flavor remaining tart overall so that it does not become too sweet when paired with the ice cream. The addition of cinnamon and nutmeg warms up the flavor of the stone fruits while the crispy oat topping provides a crunchy textural contrast to the soft fruit base.

I find this crisp to be the perfect end to any summertime meal. This year it will be served at our Independence Day BBQ. It is best served warm with some low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. Enjoy & Happy 4th of July to America!!!!!!!

Note:

  • If you are preparing the crisp ahead of time and would like to serve it warm to guests, you can place it in single serving bowls then microwave each bowl for approximately 30 seconds. If you would like to heat up the entire crisp at once you can place it in a 350° oven for approximately 5 minutes or until it reaches your desired degree of warmth.
  • This crisp yields about 6 servings, however it can easily be doubled. When doubling the recipe make sure you use a 13 x 9 inch baking pan to accommodate the larger amount of ingredients.
  • The nutritional information is based upon a serving that includes ½ cup of crisp and 1/3 cup low-fat vanilla ice cream.

Summer Stone Fruit Crisp

Fruit Base Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups Sliced Peaches
  • 1 cup Sliced Plums
  • 1 cup Sliced Plumcots
  • 3/8 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 ½ tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Nutmeg

Oat Topping Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • ¼ cup Light Brown Sugar; packed
  • 1.7 ounces All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter; melted
  • 2 cups Low-Fat Vanilla Ice Cream

Preparation:

  1. Combine all of the fruit base ingredients in a large bowl. Let mixture stand for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°. Grease an 8 x 8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the fruit mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Drizzle mixture with the butter. Stir mixture with a fork until crumbly.
  4. Once the fruit base has finished baking, sprinkle the oat mixture over the baked fruit. Continue baking another 10 to 15 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm with low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

(½ cup crisp & 1/3 cup low-fat vanilla ice cream)

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Weight Watchers: 14 Smart Points, 8 Points Plus, or 6 Traditional Points

 

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: JEANNE KELLEY
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

 

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2016

Easy Fireworks Cookies

6Happy Independence Day to America!!! In all honesty this one kind of snuck up on me. I was planning to make an easy tutorial for 4th of July and I kept thinking in my head that I have more time and I shouldn’t start yet and then “boom” it is three days before and I haven’t even baked the cookies yet. Then when I do bake them my cookie monster toddler kept stealing them all off the table and instead of having 3 dozen I am left with 2. I want to scold her but seeing her nibbling cookie after cookie in the corner trying to hide from my sight is just too cute. I guess I will let her win this one and be a kid.

Since I had procrastinated badly I thought I could squeeze in the quick decorating while the cookie monster was nibbling away without getting bothered too much. Boy was I wrong! The second she saw my frosting containers she knew its time to decorate and she wanted to make a mess…I mean help. Of course I made a spot for her at the table and let her hold the bottle as I piped the icing into the lines and dots I needed to make the cookie look like a firework explosion. Some came out great, others were a bit messy but that is perfect because not all fireworks are the same when they explode and this gave the cookies character. It also made me realize that these cookies should not just be marketed for adults that don’t want to spend too long decorating cookies but it is also a great way to spend time with your kids on the holiday making a patriotic treat. These are easy enough that adults won’t get stressed and kids can have fun making them with you.

2As I was sitting with my daughter watching the joy on her face as she squeezed a blob of frosting onto a cookie I was no longer frustrated that she wanted to help but rather I embraced the moment and didn’t want to finish the last cookie that seemed to creep up on us way too fast. Far too often I am in a rush to get things done thinking the faster I get it done the faster I can focus on my daughter but I end up missing out on opportunities to do just that. Luckily I didn’t miss this one and it meant a lot to me since I know this fall I will be returning to work and I won’t be able to spend all day with her. It has been weighing heavily on my mind lately as I have pretty much been a stay at home mom almost the entire time since she was born and I feel really guilty leaving her at home. I guess I will have to set up more mommy-daughter baking and decorating dates.

5What I like most about these cookies is they are completely customizable. They can be made with any color scheme and you can use any patterns you like that you feel represents what an exploding firework looks like. I used a sand dollar cookie cutter to give a unique shape that would help support the look of an explosion and falling particles but you can use any cutter you like. If you have a regular star you can use that or if you only have a circle you can also use that too. As far as colors go I used tulip red, white, and baby blue for Independence Day but you can pick any colors, especially if you want to recreate them for another holiday such as New Years you could do gold and black. As always I use my favorite sugar cookie recipe and decorate with royal icing tinted with gel dye but you are welcome to use your own approach. The sky is the limit with these. They are designed to be easy and fun for all the family. So go enjoy the holiday and celebrate your freedom if you are an American and if not just celebrate your family by spending time together making a batch of cookies and promoting your children’s creative expression.

PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2015

*PLEASE DO NOT REPLICATE AND DISTRIBUTE THIS DESIGN FOR PROFIT WITHOUT WRITTEN CONSENT*

Red, White, & Blue Mini Independence Day Cakes

20140703_192909Happy Birthday America. Today is the 4th of July, 2014 and the day America celebrates its Independence. Today across America we will be having barbecues serving traditional American fare and watching firework shows bursting with the colors of red, white, and blue. Here in America we usually like to spread the traditional themes into everything we do, including dessert. With that said, I present to you the red, white, and blue mini cakes.

IMG_20140703_200603I really must say this is the perfect Independence-themed dessert and I am not just referring to the colorful layers. The reason I adore these little cakes so much is a lot to do with their ease of transport to any festivity you may be attending. Also one single batch yields so many little cakes that you don’t have to worry about doubling or tripling a recipe just so that everyone in the family has a chance to try at least one. With this recipe you can let everyone have seconds or depending on the size of the party, possibly even thirds. Needless to say you will have plenty of little cakes for the abundance of fingers ready to snatch one after the other.

In case you are wondering what makes up each colorful layer, let’s break it down. To begin this holiday treat, I turned to Red Velvet cake to deliver a rich red color and sturdy foundation for the other layers. The white layer is a light & fluffy whipped cream to balance the rich density of the red velvet cake. To make sure the whipped cream held up to summer heat I made sure to stabilize it with some gelatin. This not only keeps it from melting as quickly but also creates a smoother and creamier topping. For the final touch, the quintessential blue is found with the garnish of a little blueberry. If you wanted to get creative and mix up the color scheme, you could make blue velvet cake, use the same white whipped cream and top with a fresh raspberry or cherry. Really any fruit that could give a pop of red. I prefer red velvet cake over blue and I also feel the blueberry does not add too much weight to the whipped cream making it simple for new bakers or rushed bakers needing a quick dessert to bake and take.

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These mini cakes serve about 60 people. You can use any recipe you have for red velvet cake or use a box mix.

 

Red, White, & Blue Mini Independence Day Cakes

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Red Velvet Cake Mix or your favorite Red Velvet Cake recipe
  • 1 tsp. Powdered Gelatin; unflavored
  • 2 tbsp. Water
  • 2 ¼ cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • ¼ cup Confectioners’ Sugar; sifted
  • Blueberries; for garnish

 

Formula:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. Prepare red velvet cake according to box mix directions or if using your own recipe follow directions to make batter. Once batter is prepared, pour evenly into the prepared mini muffin tin, filling each muffin cup just above halfway. Bake for approximately 16 minutes. Remove from oven and place cakes on a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat steps with remaining batter.
  2. Once cakes have cooled completely prepare the whipped cream topping. Combine the gelatin and water in a medium bowl. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes for the gelatin to soften. Meanwhile, bring ¼ cup of Heavy Whipping Cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once simmering, whisk in the gelatin mixture until no clumps remain. Remove from heat and allow to cool about 3 to 5 minutes. With an electric hand mixer set to medium-high speed, beat the cooled gelatin mixture, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining cream to stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.
  3. To assemble the mini cakes, place the whipped cream in a piping bag fitted with a small star tip. Pipe a rosette onto each each mini cake, making sure to build up enough cream on each cake to hold the weight of the blueberry. Once all cakes have been iced with the whipped cream topping, garnish each rosette center with a blueberry. Refrigerate mini cakes until set, about 2 hours. Cakes can be stored up to 24 hours ahead of time before serving.

 

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

 

PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

 

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2014