Sweet and tangy, these cute little mini-cheesecakes are perfect for a summer party. Serve them frozen on a hot day and watch them disappear!
Huckleberries are ripe right now, and I’m in heaven. There’s just nothing to compare to these flavorful berries. There is, however, an almost-as-good option if you don’t have access to huckleberries. Wild Maine blueberries are very similar. I bought frozen wild blueberries at the grocery store and they were delicious and reasonable. With fresh huckleberries going for $50-60 a gallon here, if I couldn’t pick them myself, I’d go for the frozen option!
Loaded with cream cheese, sour cream, and whipped topping, you’d think these little cheesecakes would be crazy-rich, but they truly aren’t. The combination of textures and the addition of lemon to the berry topping helps to confuse you into thinking you can eat twenty of these. I should know.
This may look sweet and innocent, but it will actually lure you into “just one more”.
And speaking of whipped topping, I really don’t like to use it. I much prefer real whipped cream. But I tried this with whipping cream, and the little bites were softer . . . pretty messy if you didn’t eat them the second they came out of the freezer. So I caved. I have one more cream cheese recipe coming up soon (it’s a doozy!) and I promise to use the real stuff in that one.
Have you ever used agar-agar? The berry topping can be thickened using cornstarch or agar-agar. I tried both and liked the agar-agar version slightly better. The topping reminded me a little bit of cranberry sauce (kind of gelatinous) while the cornstarch topping was more jam-like, but both were very tasty. The recipe below will call for cornstarch because it’s what most people have in their cupboard, but if you’d like to use agar-agar powder, simply add the lemon juice and water to the cooked berries and then whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoons of agar-agar powder. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Top the cheesecakes while the mixture is still warm because it will set up quickly once it cools. If it gets too thick at any point, gently reheat it.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 7 double crackers) finely crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2½ cups fresh huckleberries (or use fresh or frozen wild Maine blueberries)
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
⅓ cup white chocolate chips
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup sour cream
1 8-oz tub thawed whipped topping, divided
Heat oven to 325 F. Prepare the mini tart pans by placing a small paper liner in each cavity. (48 liners in all.)
Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Divide between the 48 liners - about 1 teaspoon in each. Tamp down well with a shot glass or tart tamper. Bake for 9 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.
In a small cup, whisk together the water, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Set aside.
In a medium pot, stir together the berries and sugar. Heat on medium-low until mixture comes to a boil. Continue to cook and stir for 3 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon (letting the liquid drip back into the pan) scoop 2 tablespoons of berries into a small dish and set aside.
Slowly whisk cornstarch mixture into bubbling berry mixture and continue to cook at a low boil until thick - about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a small pan on low heat (or in the microwave), gently heat 1 tablespoon heavy cream and white chocolate until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese well. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
Add sour cream, melted white chocolate, and 2 tablespoons reserved cooked berries. Mix until combined.
Fold in 2 cups of whipped topping, reserving the remaining cup for decorating.
Fill each liner about ¾ full, leaving a little room for the berry topping. You can spoon the filling into the liners or use a pastry bag or heavy plastic bag with the tip cut off to squeeze it in.
Check the berry topping to make sure it isn't hot. Warm is fine. Spoon over the filling in each liner.
Freeze until ready to serve. Top with whipped topping and a berry, if desired.
Tamp down the crust and bake. If you don’t have a tart tamper, use a shot glass!
I use a pastry bag to fill them. Leave room for topping!
Add the berry topping and freeze
So if you live on the east or west coast, get a can of bear spray and head for the hills to harvest huckleberries or wild blueberries. If you’re stuck elsewhere, look in the freezer section of any large grocery store. Our health food section has a separate freezer section, and they have organic wild Maine blueberries. Score!
Before I post my last (for now) cheesecake recipe, I’ve actually been working on a healthy treat. Yes, yes, you heard that right. Check back in soon . . . or better yet, subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss this rare occurrence!
Each summer when our grandkids are visiting, we make a festive dessert. Oh, there’s always lots of chopping, cooking, and baking going on during that week, but we like to create one special sweet treat. This year we made a no-bake raspberry cheesecake for the 4th of July. Well . . . we baked the crust, but that’s all. We intended to add some blueberries to make it red, white, and blue, but we forgot. (It gets a little crazy around here with so many people in the kitchen.)
There are three steps to this dessert: topping, crust, and filling. It really won’t take that long, and if my grandkids can make this without whining, you can too!
Of course, I winged it and didn’t write down exact measurements. We were in a hurry (great-grandma was coming to visit) and slam-dunked it. You probably wouldn’t appreciate it if I just guessed my way through the recipe, so now that the kids have gone back to California (sob) it was carefully re-created and documented . . . and it turned out beautifully. I added lemon zest to the cheesecake the second time around and loved the subtle flavor.
And I even cleaned up as I went! Mark that down on your calendar, because it will probably never happen again. Who knows what possessed me – but it’s awfully nice to sit here working on this blog without seeing a mess out of the corner of my eye. I understand that some people actually do this regularly. Huh. Go figure.
Do you know what I really, really miss? Raspberry ripple ice cream. Just can’t find it anywhere. This immediately reminded me of that childhood treat . . . sweet nostalgia!
If you don’t have a springform pan, you can always make a couple of deep dish pies instead, using the same steps.
You will need a 9-inch springform pan for this recipe. (It could also be made in two deep-dish pie pans.) Plan ahead; this cheesecake is best if it's refrigerated overnight.
18 ounces fresh raspberries (about 3 cups, plus a few for decorating)
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs (about 1½ sleeves)
¼ cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 ounces white chocolate (chips or candy melts are fine)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
zest from 2 lemons
1 8-ounce tub of whipped topping, thawed
Heat oven to 325 F. Lightly butter the sides of a 9-inch springform pan and place a round of parchment on the bottom.
In a small dish, combine the cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir well and set aside.
If desired, remove and refrigerate 9 of the nicest berries to use later for decorating. In a medium pan on medium heat, bring the remaining berries, sugar, and salt to a boil. Cook at a low boil for 3 minutes, stirring often.
Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the pan. Cook and stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press into the prepared pan evenly, going halfway up the sides of the pan. (A straight-sided measuring cup works well for pressing crust up the sides.)
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.
In a small pan on very low heat (or in a microwave at 15-second intervals) combine the cream and white chocolate, stirring until chocolate is melted. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth and creamy.
Add the powdered sugar and beat well.
Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, lemon zest, and white chocolate mixture. Beat well.
By hand, stir in the whipped topping, just until incorporated.
Put half of the filling in the pie crust, spreading it to the sides. Don't smooth it; hills and valleys will make the raspberry swirl look prettier.
Check the raspberry mixture. Warm is fine, but if it's still hot, place the pan in a larger pan of cold water and stir. Drizzle ⅓ cup of the raspberry mixture over the filling in the pan. Cover with remaining filling and swirl gently, avoiding the crust.
Smooth the top, making it as level as possible. Pour the remaining raspberry topping over the cheesecake, cover with foil, and chill overnight.
If desired, decorate with whipped cream rosettes and the reserved raspberries.
Add sugar and a pinch of salt to rinsed raspberries and boil gently for 3 minutes
Combine cornstarch, lemon juice, and water
Add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling berries. Stir until thickened.
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter.
Press into prepared pan and bake
Melt together the cream and white chocolate. Let it cool a little.
Add powdered sugar to whipped cream cheese
Add lemon and melted chocolate to the mixture
Stir in the whipped topping
Add half of the filling (don’t level it . . . leave it “gloppy”) and drizzle with 1/3 cup berry mixture
Cover with remaining filling
Swirl gently. (You don’t want to disturb that crust!)
Level the top (a small offset spatula works well) all the way to the edge. Add remaining berry mixture and smooth with a clean spatula.
Decorate with whipped cream and raspberries, or let it go au naturel.
It doesn’t really NEED adornment. I like mine straight.
In case you’re wondering, this is delicious when frozen, too! Trust me, I know. And it’s easier to cut and serve. Just take it from the freezer and let it sit out at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting.
Oh, heavens! This cherry tart has a rich chocolate crust that lies somewhere between a cookie and a pie crust, and filling that’s spiked with cherry brandy. (Totally optional.) Oh, and did I mention that I used canned cherry pie filling? I know that’s not my usual modus operandi, but I’m afraid my cherry tree is buried under a few feet of snow, and besides…I’m making you create the crust from scratch, which is probably enough of a challenge, right?
I had to do some experimenting to come up with a crust that didn’t turn soggy on the bottom, but I’m happy to say that if you follow my baking instructions, your tart will be tender (but definitely not gummy) on the bottom, and crunchy on the sides. Yum yum yum!
If you don’t want booze in yours (eyeroll), you can skip the whole “cook the filling, lime juice, and cornstarch” step and just dump the cans of filling into the chilled tart crust. I wouldn’t even bother with the lime, (though it does add a nice flavor) because that would mean you’d have to dump the filling into a bowl, and…well…one more bowl to wash!
If you do use the brandy, be sure the cooked mixture is cool before putting it in the crust.
It’s critical to keep your dough chilled, and that egg white wash is a must! This will help keep the cherry mixture from seeping into your bottom crust.
Use whatever method works best for you when you move the crust to your tart pan. It’s thicker than a pie crust, but you can still roll it gently onto a rolling pin to transfer it. I like to roll mine out on parchment, center the tart pan upside down on the dough, slide one cookie sheet under the parchment and lay one gently on top of the dough, then flip. Whatever works best for you!
After you’ve eased your dough into the pan, turn the excess inward and press firmly against the inside edge. Trim off any dough that sticks over the edge of the pan.
Put a baking sheet in the oven while it preheats, then slide the chilled tart onto the hot sheet. This blast of heat from below will also help your crust to cook through. Be careful when you do this; you don’t want it to slide right into the back of the oven!
FILLING: (If not using alcohol, just use canned filling and skip the other ingredients)
2 cans cherry pie filling
1 tablespoon fresh lime (or lemon)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup cherry brandy
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup cold butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 egg white, whisked
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
In a large pot on medium heat, combine two cans of cherry pie filling, lime, and cornstarch. Cook and stir until mixture bubbles and turns clear (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the cherry brandy. Set aside to cool.
In a medium pot over medium heat, bring water, sugar, and salt to a boil.
Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips, whisking until smooth. Allow mixture to cool completely before moving to the next step!
In a medium bowl, grate the butter using a grater with large holes. Add flour and stir until all of the butter is coated.
Add the cool chocolate mixture and stir until mostly combined, then dump out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently just until it comes together into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. (No longer - the chocolate will harden and make it difficult to roll out.)
Lightly spray an 11-inch tart pan with cooking spray. I like to use a flour and oil mixture, like Baker's Joy.
Roll out dough to make a circle about an inch bigger than your tart pan, all the way around. (Your pan should be 11 inches, so the circle would measure approximately 13 inches in all directions.)
Gently ease the dough into the pan. Roll any excess at the top towards the inside of the pan, pressing firmly against the sides. If any dough sticks up past the edge, trim it off.
With a pastry brush, cover the bottom of the crust with egg white. Freeze for 15 minutes (or refrigerate for 30).
Preheat oven to 400 F. Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack while preheating.
Place tart pan onto a flat baking sheet or cutting board. Spoon filling into crust and slide it from the flat sheet onto the hot baking sheet in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the heat to 350 F and bake an additional 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. When tart is barely warm, slide onto your hand, letting the ring fall down your arm. You may either leave the tart on the metal bottom or use a thin spatula to slide it from the base to a serving platter.
Decorate with whipped cream if desired, or serve with ice cream.
Add lime (or lemon) juice and cornstarch. It will look cloudy – that’s okay.
Cook it until it’s bubbly and fairly clear.
Add flour to grated butter and stir to coat.
Stir chocolate mixture into butter and flour. Make sure the chocolate isn’t warm!
Knead gently until it forms a ball, flatten into disk, wrap and chill. (You should see little bits of butter throughout.)
My favorite method to transfer dough to pan. Center pan upside down on dough, slide baking sheet under parchment, one on toop of dough, and flip.
Brush bottom of crust with egg white and chill. Add filling and bake!
I used stabilized whipped cream on this tart. To stabilize cream, I beat 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form, add 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and beat until combined. Then I heat about 1/2 teaspoon Knox gelatin in 1/2 teaspoon water until it’s melted and drizzle a little in the cream while mixing on high. I don’t use it all…maybe half, but it’s too hard to melt a smaller amount!
For the tart at the beginning of the post, I beat 4 ounces of room temperature cream cheese, added 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 cup of heavy cream and beat until it was thick and fluffy. I think I like the piped hearts better because the cherries still show.
Or…you could just eat it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Disclaimer: My husband preferred the tart without alcohol; he didn’t like the smell of cherry brandy. It MAY be because I had already spent a fortune at the liquor store picking up other booze for Valentine’s Day baking and went cheap on the brandy, but I liked it. A lot. I’ve never tried Kirsch, but that might be a good alternative if you have some.
Ready, set, GO!
So…onward. There are lots of ideas swirling around in my head; as soon as I corral them into something resembling recipes, you’ll be seeing lots of chocolate, cherries, raspberries, and sprinkles.
With grandchildren here for their summer visit, all thoughts have turned to s’mores. Cheesecake was our plan for their mom’s birthday, so you can guess what flavor we chose!
We made a large cheesecake with a graham cracker crust, a layer of chocolate cheesecake, a layer of chocolate ganache, and a layer of marshmallow cheesecake…and then decorated around the top with whipped cream and ganache rosettes.
I totally stole this photo collage from my daughter. Thank you, Brenna!
When I say “we”, I really mean it. The girls are getting old enough to not only help, but practically take over. It’s gotten past the grit my teeth and try not to meddle stage; now I feel more like a conductor with a very talented and capable orchestra. Oh, and the beautiful blue nails in the picture? Those are 12-year old Sophie’s, not mine! (They’d be a little impractical for me in the garden.)
My daughter loved the dessert, and so did we. I especially liked the fluffy marshmallow layer, and would probably double that part of the recipe next time. There was enough room to fit it into the pan, and it deserved equal billing with the chocolate layer in my opinion.
I used a 10-inch springform pan. Use a 9-inch pan, if you prefer. There’s room for all of the layers, but your decorations will just be on top instead of nestled into the crumb sides.
If you love marshmallows, you could add another handful to the melted marshmallow mixture before combining with the cream cheese.
3 layers of goodness - chocolate cheesecake, ganache, and marshmallow cheesecake - make this a luscious (yet not too rich or heavy) dessert that will easily serve 10-12.
2 cups finely-ground graham cracker crumbs
½ cup melted butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1½ cups chocolate chips
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups non-dairy whipped topping
1 cup heavy cream
10 ounces good quality dark chocolate
6 ounces mini-marshmallows
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, divided
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 cup non-dairy whipped topping
CRUST - baked or no-baked options given.
Baked (my favorite method): Heat oven to 325 F. Lightly spray 10-inch springform pan with an oil/flour spray like Baker's Joy. Place pan on baking sheet.
Combine 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, ½ cup melted butter, and ¼ cup brown sugar. Press very firmly into pan, using fingers or straight sided measuring cup. Bake for 10 minutes. Move to rack to cool.
No-bake crust: Prepare crust as described, but instead of baking, place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before adding filling.
CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE LAYER:
Melt chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl, stirring every 15 seconds until completely melted, or in small pan over lowest heat possible, stirring often. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine 12 ounces cream cheese, ½ cup sugar, and ¼ cup softened butter. Beat well.
Add ¼ cup cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until combined.
Gradually add melted chocolate, beating until incorporated.
Gently fold in 2 cups whipped topping. Spread evenly over prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
While the cheesecake is chilling, prepare the ganache.
Chop the 10 ounces of dark chocolate finely and place in a small bowl.
In a small pan, heat 1 cup cream until it bubbles around the edges...almost to a boil. Remove from heat.
Pour half of the hot cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit without stirring for a few minutes - this will begin melting the chocolate..Stir gently.
Re-heat the remaining cream and pour over chocolate mixture. Allow to sit a few minutes more, then stir gently until smooth.
Pour half of the ganache over the chocolate layer in the pan and return the cheesecake to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Put a piece of plastic wrap over the remaining ganache and set aside, stirring occasionally.
MARSHMALLOW CHEESECAKE LAYER:
In a small pan on low heat, stir together 6 ounces of marshmallows and ⅓ cup cream, Remove from heat before the marshmallows are completely melted, to leave little bites of marshmallows in the cheesecake. (If you prefer a smooth layer, stir until completely melted.) Allow to cool slightly.
In medium bowl, beat together 8 ounces cream cheese, ¼ cup powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon cream. Add the marshmallow mixture and stir until combined.
Fold in 1 cup of whipped topping and spread the mixture over the ganache layer in the pan.
Chill for several hours - overnight is even better! At any point during this chilling time, you can decorate your cheesecake:
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip and pipe simple rosettes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Freeze for at least 1 hour.
Decorate cheesecake with whipped cream, ganache rosettes, graham crackers, or cracker crumbs.
Deep, dark fudge brownies with a crumbly graham crust and chewy marshmallow topping are a dream come true for s’mores fans. They’re great for a crowd, because once the brownies have cooled down, the marshmallow turns from gooey to chewy, and won’t stick to a cover, so you can transport them easily to a picnic, potluck, or party.
I didn’t allow myself to Google s’mores brownies until I was writing this blog; sometimes it’s discouraging to see how many people have had the same exact idea! And yes…this has been done and done and done. Sigh. But…it hasn’t been done by me before, and the idea of a brownie with a graham cracker crust really called to me. Guess I’m just jumping on the bandwagon with this one!
They’re easy to make and are hand stirred in one pot, so even I didn’t manage to make much of a mess – which was a very important criterion right now, since my kitchen is torn apart (getting a much-needed update) and I needed something to take to book club.
Trust me, when you’re washing dishes bent over the bathtub, you weigh the importance of using each bowl and utensil!
Makes 24 large brownies. You may notice that these probably won’t be on the “approved” list of most diets. Suck it up – they’re worth every calorie!
1¼ cups finely crushed graham crackers (9 double crackers) ...more for decorating if desired
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter (or 2¼ sticks)
3 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ cup special dark unsweetened cocoa
1½ cups mini chocolate chips (divided)
1½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups mini marshmallows
Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan and line with parchment. (The grease will hold the parchment in place.) Spray parchment with a flour/oil baking spray like Baker's Joy.
Combine graham cracker crumbs with ¼ cup melted butter and brown sugar. Press evenly into prepared pan.
In a large pot, melt the butter. Remove from heat and add the sugar. Stir until well combined.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat the eggs and vanilla until frothy. Add to pot and stir well.
Add both kinds of cocoa, ½ cup of mini chocolate chips, flour, soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir JUST until combined. (A few streaks of flour showing is fine.)
Drop spoonfuls of dough evenly over crust and smooth gently with an offset spatula, being careful not to disturb the crust. Spread close to edges of the pan.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the brownies comes out clean.
Remove from oven and place on rack. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of mini chocolate chips. Let the pan sit undisturbed for 5 minutes (chips will be melted - you don't need to spread them) and then top with a single layer of mini marshmallows.
Broil just until the marshmallows are golden brown. DON'T walk away - this goes fast, and you don't want black marshmallows! (They're pretty tasty at a campfire, but not so much on a baked treat.)
Sprinkle with additional crushed graham crackers if desired, and allow brownies to cool in the pan on a rack for at least 30 minutes. Lift out by the parchment and cut into squares. Hint: the longer you wait, the easier they are to cut. If they're sticky and gooey, run a very sharp knife in butter before cutting each row.
Undecided whether to give readers a recipe that made a whopping 6 dozen tea cakes, or cut the recipe in half and end up with leftover coconut-lime mixture, I came up with the following options:
Make a ton of tea cakes. (Hey, they’re small. And light. And irresistible.)
Make a half batch and use the leftover coconut and lime mixture on a salad or vegetables.
Make a half batch and use the leftover mixture to make a kick-ass cocktail!
I’m pretty sure you know which route I took.
Waste not, want not, right?
So…the recipe will give you approximately 3 dozen dainty, soft, refreshing tea cakes. (Definitely more cake than cookie.) You can double it easily if you’d like, but then you won’t be able to make yourself a Tempting Tropical Fizz. Your call!
Making these cookies will require a couple of special ingredients and a little advance preparation. You will need to thoroughly chill a can of coconut milk so that you can pour out the separated liquid and keep the solids. Try to find coconut milk that is high in fat. If it doesn’t say so on the front, compare the nutritional information on all of your options to pick the one that has a higher fat content. Here’s what you’re looking for:
I used lavender sugar in this recipe. I keep a jar of sugar mixed with culinary lavender in my pantry at all times, so my sugar was very flavorful and I just sifted out the lavender buds. (I mix sugar and lavender buds in a mason jar – 1 heaping tablespoon of buds per cup of sugar – and let it sit at least one week.) If you don’t happen to have lavender sugar sitting around, you can blend together one cup of sugar (if you’re doubling the recipe) and two teaspoons of culinary lavender in a blender until the lavender pieces are very fine.
(If you’d like more information about where to buy lavender and how to use it, please visit Sweet Lavender, a column I wrote for Yummy Northwest.)
You’ll find that the subtle flavor of lavender and lime isn’t overwhelming at all; it’s a wonderful combination.
Makes 3 dozen tea cakes. This recipe will actually only use half of the coconut milk and lime mixture. (See instructions.) Double the rest of the recipe to avoid leftover mixture, or refrigerate it for another use.
1 can (13.5 oz) CHILLED coconut milk...preferably a brand with a higher fat content.
zest and juice from 2 small limes (approximately 2 tablespoons juice).
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup lavender sugar *see instructions
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla ( I used clear vanilla for this, but that's optional)
2½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
* To make lavender sugar, either start a week ahead of time and combine ½ cup sugar with 2 teaspoons culinary lavender in an airtight container (sift out the lavender buds before using) OR for immediate use, combine ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon culinary lavender in a blender and blend until the lavender is ground into small particles.
Heat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
Drain liquid from thoroughly chilled, canned coconut milk, and reserve for another use if desired. Place coconut solids in a small bowl.
Add lime zest and juice to coconut solids and stir well. Place in refrigerator.
In a large bowl, cream butter and lavender sugar together well.
Add egg, egg white, and vanilla. Mix well.
Remove coconut mixture from the refrigerator and give it a stir. Measure out ½ cup of the mixture and put the rest away for another use.
Add ½ cup of coconut mixture to the bowl, stirring until combined.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low just until incorporated. Batter will be thick and sticky.
Dough can be scooped using a small cookie scoop or level tablespoon, or you can pipe it with a pastry bag and rosette tip. (The cakes won't hold the shape well, but you will still see design on the top of the baked cakes if you pipe them.)
Bake for 10 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies is turning a golden brown. The top will not brown.
Remove to a cooling rack, and when the cakes are just barely warm, shake them gently in powdered sugar.
Somewhere between batter and dough. It’s soft and sticky!
You can scoop…
Or pipe. Don’t expect them to hold the rosette shape, but there will be design on the top of the baked cakes.
Only the bottoms should turn golden brown.
Dust with powdered sugar. (See the shape? These were piped.)
Sooooo, ready for that cocktail yet?
TEMPTING TROPICAL FIZZ
Drop a heaping spoonful of the coconut milk and lime mixture into a glass. Add 1 pineapple slice and about 1/4 cup of pineapple juice (or more to taste). Add clear rum to taste, and top with sparkling mineral water. Give it a quick stir – it should be quite frothy!
I used approximately equal amounts of all 4 ingredients, which made a tart, refreshing drink. If you’d like it to be sweeter, add more pineapple juice or a little simple syrup.
While traditional strudel is fun and challenging to make (all that stretching), by far my favorite strudel to eat is kind of a cross between pie and strudel. The dough is made from “rough puff pastry”, (which is a quick and easy version of the much more complicated puff pastry dough) instead of classic strudel dough.
Compared to store bought puff pastry, rough puff pastry doesn’t puff quite as high, nor does it shatter as easily when you cut or bite into it. I rolled my dough out very thin, which also reduced the puffiness, so it was the perfect dough to use for this recipe.
I wanted flaky, I wanted delicate, and I wanted just the right crust-to-filling ratio. Easy was a very nice bonus!
If you’re feeling motivated and want to play with stretchy dough, try my companion post, Classic Apple Strudel.
I’ve never been crazy about hot apples, especially when they’re in a sticky sauce like a traditional apple pie. I will, however, fight you for the last slice of Sour Cream Apple Pie, because it’s so mellow and creamy – especially when it’s warm, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
That was the flavor and texture I was shooting for, and was exactly what I got…on my very first try! I added some boozy, rum-soaked raisins and finely chopped pecans, and was thrilled with the results. The normally unflappable Mr. Rowdy was enthused – extremely enthused. He may have even thrown a “WOW WOW WOW!” in there as he inhaled half of the finished product.
If you want to serve this for breakfast, go ahead and make the dough the night before. Wrapped snugly in plastic, it will be waiting for you to roll it out, fill, and bake. (Let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or it will be a real bear to roll out!)
If you’d like to go for the glory and have even more layers, you can make 4-layer folds by folding each short end into the middle and the folding them together.
For more layers, you can fold ends to meet in the middle…
This strudel is made with a quick and easy homemade puff pastry. Filled with apples, sour cream, rum-soaked raisins, and toasted pecans, it will become a family favorite! Serves 8-10.
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter
⅔ cup very cold water
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup rum (or use apple juice, if desired)
3 large Granny Smith apples
⅔ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons flour
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon (more to taste) cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup toasted pecans (or walnuts), finely chopped
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
Cut 1 cup cold butter into pieces approximately 1-inch square.
Place flour on work surface, stir in the salt, and drop the butter onto the flour.
With a bench scraper or metal spatula, chop the butter and flour together until combined. Don't overwork the mixture - you want to see chunks of butter larger than peas.
Begin drizzling the water over the mixture with one hand, while flipping and tossing it with the other. Again, don't over do it! It should be a crumbly mess at this point.Use your metal utensil to form the dough into a rough rectangle about 5"x 8".
Roll out dough to approximately 6"x10", using the metal scraper to form straight edges. Keeping the short edge facing you, Flip the bottom edge up to the middle (it will be crumbly...just do the best you can) and the the top edge down to the bottom. This will create three equal sized layers. Give the dough a turn to the left, lightly flouring the surface if necessary to keep it from sticking, and repeat. Repeat 3 more times. Wrap snugly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Make filling while the dough chills.
Place raisins in small pan with rum over medium heat. When rum is just beginning to bubble, Remove from heat and let sit uncovered.
Peel and core apples. Cut into eighths and slice thinly crosswise, making small thin pieces. You should have approximately 4 cups.
In a large bowl, combine apples, raisins (including the excess rum) and remaining filling ingredients. Stir until apples are coated.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Using the previous instructions, roll and fold two more times.
On a floured surface, roll dough as thinly as possible. Aim for 14"x20", with the long side facing you. Don't worry if your measurements aren't exact, but do make sure there's enough flour under the dough to keep it movable.
Brush the surface lightly with melted butter, using a paper towel or pastry brush.
Beginning 2 inches inside the long edge facing you, distribute the bread crumbs in a thick line all the way across, leaving an inch of plain dough on each side.
Pile the apple mixture evenly over the bread crumbs. (The crumbs will help soak up extra moisture.) If your apples were really juicy, you may need to use your judgment and remove a little of the juice from the bowl.
With your scraper or spatula, lift the long edge to cover as much of the apples as possible. Roll the strudel, using the scraper to lift under the dough and inch it along.
Pinch the ends well. Roll the strudel onto a piece of parchment paper, and use the paper to lift the strudel onto a baking sheet. Curve into a half-circle if needed to fit into the pan.
Brush with melted butter and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 F.
Bake strudel for approximately 40 minutes, or until rich golden brown.
Remove to a rack and mark the pieces with a serrated knife, just through the top. This will allow a little of the steam to escape and keep it crisp. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Roughly chop together. Don’t blend in the butter – chunks are what make it flaky!
First fold is pretty rough. If it’s pretty, you overworked it. It WILL come together!
Second fold is a little better
After five folds and a cold nap, fold a couple more times and then roll it out nice and thin
Use a scraper or spatula to help roll the dough
Pinch the ends and shape it to fit the pan
Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting
Oh, man. You are going to love, love, love this! Eat it while it’s warm, or soon thereafter; it gets a little soft by the second day. Since there is sour cream in the filling, make sure any leftover strudel gets wrapped and put in the fridge.
I’ll leave you with a quote from S.J. Perelman:
“I have no truck with lettuce, cabbage, and similar chlorophyll. Any dietitian will tell you that a running foot of apple strudel contains four times the vitamins of a bushel of beans.” I’ll buy that!
Are you ready to do this? There will be no frozen puff pastry for this recipe – no sir! We’re going to pull our hair back, put our big white voluminous aprons on, and do it the old-fashioned way today!
I’m warning you, though…I’m going to get pretty wordy, because I learned a lot, failed a lot, and have some ‘splainin’ to do.
The other day, my husband came into the kitchen while I was running the mixer and asked me what I was making. I looked him right in the eye but didn’t say a word. He just whispered: “noooooo”. Poor man. Uh huh – another strudel. Obsessive, stubborn, tenacious – whatever you want to call me, I simply refuse to let a blob of dough get the best of me.
After being inspired by an apple strudel video on Facebook, I immediately began looking at recipes and videos. I had never made strudel before; in fact, I’m not sure I had even eaten a piece of strudel. But…I had to do this. I was compelled to do this…because it just looked like so much fun.
(Cue the creepy music that always starts when the girl heads down to the basement because she heard a noise, and even though everyone in the room is screaming: “Don’t do it!”, she does anyhow because she just has to. Yeah, that.)
Seriously, I had a blast stretching the dough and fully expected the beautiful, fragrant, finished pastry to melt in my mouth, but it was…well…kind of tough on the bottom and more like a shell on the top.
I assumed a strudel would be light and flaky, like those frozen toaster strudels. Mine? Not so much.
So I tried:
nuts instead of breadcrumbs when rolling it up.
more butter brushed onto the dough.
butter instead of oil in the dough.
throwing the dough against the counter 100 times as suggested to activate the gluten strands.
chilling the rolled strudel before baking.
A richer dough, using milk and eggs
I tried higher temps, lower temps, letting the dough rest longer before stretching. I finally achieved a modest amount of flakiness (whew) and an enthusiastic response from my guinea pigs book club with the version I’m going to post, but I’ve come to a conclusion: the problem wasn’t with the dough, it was with my expectations. After asking around, I think I highly overestimated how light and delicate strudel should be. I mean, this dough has been mixed, pounded on the counter, and stretched within an inch of its life. It’s gotta be pretty tough to withstand that, right?
Don’t get me wrong, it really is good – very good. If you want to have the fun of stretching out this dough and making a traditional dish, and can promise me you aren’t expecting puff pastry, this recipe is for you!
(Oh, and if you have your heart set on a very light pastry, check out my companion post, Sour Cream Apple Strudel . The dough has a lot more butter in it, and is made with a “rough puff pastry” dough, similar to puff pastry but a little more restrained. You will just miss out on the dough stretching fun.)
A random hint:
You know that moment when you sniff the air and say to yourself: “what am I smelling?” and then you remember you left raisins and rum on the burner and forgot about them? NO?? Well…I do. I suggest you watch the raisins until you see the liquid begin to bubble – then remove the pan and set it aside until completely cool. Because you don’t want to see (or smell) this:
Burnt raisins and wasted rum.
Since I have a nice, sturdy Bosch mixer that can really work the dough, I skipped the recommendations for hand kneading and throwing the dough onto the counter to activate the gluten strands. I figured it got enough of a workout. If you are doing this by hand though, or just want to get your aggression out by manhandling the dough, knock yourself out! It’s kind of fun.
I can’t really credit one recipe – my version is a conglomeration of many that I found. In fact, I tried so many variations that my recipe notes look like THIS!! And this is just the first page. My final conclusion was that the simpler recipes (no egg, no milk) worked better for me, and melted butter in place of the oil gave me the nicest pastry.
Clear as mud
To make an old fashioned strudel, you’ll need a table or kitchen island that you can maneuver around (at least 2’x3′) and a large piece of clean cotton fabric. A sheet works well. You are going to be stretching a tiny ball of dough into a surprisingly large, paper-thin sheet of dough, and the best way to do this is on fabric. When you’re ready to roll it, the fabric will be your best friend. Trust me.
I also tried a different filling just for fun, combining blueberries, lemon, and apples. I’ll share that recipe at the bottom of the post if you’re interested. That’s the strudel the gals at my book club tested and liked. Here’s a mouthwatering photo of it:
The most important thing I learned during my immersion into all things strudel was this: don’t make a strudel when you’re in a hurry or feeling pressured. Fast, jerky movements create holes in the dough, and while a few holes aren’t a big deal (they won’t show when the strudel is rolled up) it’s better to go to your happy place and take your sweet time. The act of stretching the dough should be a pleasurable experience, not something to be rushed through.
This classic strudel is filled with tender apples, rum-soaked raisins, and nuts. Serves 10.
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vinegar
⅔ cup room temperature water
oil to coat dough
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup rum (or apple juice)
5 cups of peeled, cored, and chopped Granny Smith Apples
1 small lemon (juice and zest)
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup sugar
1½ cup breadcrumbs* (See Instructions)
6 tablespoons melted butter
½ cup finely chopped or ground walnuts (optional)
In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, butter, and vinegar. Slowly pour in while stirring, until well mixed.
Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand for 8 minutes. Dough should be soft and elastic, and slightly tacky. Repeatedly throw the dough against a hard surface for a minute or so to help the gluten develop. Form into a ball, generously coat with oil, and cover with plastic. Allow dough to rest (very important) for 1 hour.
Once dough has rested, combine the chopped apples with lemon in a large bowl and set aside. Cover a table with a clean cotton sheet or tablecloth, and sprinkle with flour. Rub the flour into the fabric. Place dough on cloth and form into a rectangle. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out as thinly as you can.
Using your hands, begin stretching the dough. Work slowly, lifting edges and pulling. Slide your hands under the dough and coax it thinner and thinner. Two people can make this go a lot easier, with both reaching into the middle from opposite sides and easing the dough outwards. The goal is to get a paper thin dough, approximately 24"x30", but I stop when the dough seems consistently thin and small holes are beginning to develop.
Trim the thick edges away with a pizza cutter or scissors, and brush the top of the dough with melted butter. The easiest way I've found is to use a paper towel to lightly spread the butter.
Sprinkle with 1 cup of fine breadcrumbs and ½ cup finely chopped nuts. (Nuts are optional.)
With one of the short sides facing you, pour the remaining bread crumbs from one side to the other, leaving about 2 inches of plain dough closest to you (to help begin the rolling process) and about 1 inch of plain dough on either side .
Add remaining filling ingredients to the apples and spoon evenly over the breadcrumbs.
Using the cloth, lift the plain dough edge over the apples and roll to the end. Roll the strudel onto a piece of parchment, and use this to lift it onto a baking sheet. You may need to give it a curved shape to fit the pan.
Pinch the ends firmly and tuck under the strudel. Brush generously with butter, and put in the refrigerator to chill for 45 minutes. This will let the butter firm up, helping to create flaky layers.
Heat oven to 400 F. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the pastry is a rich golden brown.
Score the top where the strudel will be cut, to allow some of the steam to escape, and sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. Cool until just warm, and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
*Breadcrumbs: You can use commercial crumbs, but for more taste, crumble 2 cups of stale bread and toss with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Bake at 375 F for 10 minutes. Crush into fine crumbs.
The dough is so soft and stretchy after its little nap!
Dough, ready to roll and stretch!
Use a rolling pin to get it as thin as you can before you start stretching. Make sure to rub flour into the cotton fabric on the table.
Roll dough out on floured fabric.
Start stretching. Move slowly but don’t be afraid of the dough! I like to use the palms of my hands and sort of “tickle” the dough from the center outwards. You’ll find what works for you. Two people, one on each side of the dough, can really get the job done.
Stretch it very thin!
Regardless of the size, I stop when I start seeing little holes. Just trim to remove thick edges and get ready to roll!
Ready to fill and roll.
Butter the dough gently. A pastry brush is too rough, so I use a piece of paper towel. You can just sprinkle it on too, if you’d like. It’s not critical to cover every inch of the dough – just do the best you can.
I use a paper towel to spread the butter. You can just sprinkle it on if you prefer.
Now mix together the filling. I chop or slice my apples before rolling, and toss them with the lemon to keep them from browning, but don’t add the sugar until the last minute or you’ll end up with a whole lot of juice.
Mix together the filling ingredients just before rolling.
The butter and the crumbs help define the layers. I tried doing without this step, and it was definitely not as flaky.
Buttered dough, sprinkled with breadcrumbs & nuts. Apple filling is arranged on bed of breadcrumbs.
The cloth will help you roll the strudel. this part’s so easy; once you get it started, it just rolls itself!
Use the cloth to lift and roll the strudel.
Coat it with melted butter and put it back in the fridge for 45 minutes. You can skip this step, but chilling the butter between the layers really helps the texture.
Brush the strudel with melted butter
Once baked, score through the top with a serrated blade to release extra steam. Don’t cut the strudel until it has cooled a bit. It will soften slightly, which is what you want.
Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting
And now, as if this post wasn’t long enough, I’ll give you instructions for making the blueberry apple filling.
For a thickening agent I used Agar (or agar-agar). If you’ve never used it before, I think you’ll be surprised by how easy and dependable it is.. It produces a slightly gelatin-like result, with no taste or funny texture. Agar is available through most health-food stores and Asian markets, or can be purchased online.
BLUEBERRY APPLE FILLING
4 cups frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agar powder (not flakes)
2 cups finely chopped apples
1 cup chopped walnuts
*In a large pan over medium-low heat, stir together the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Heat, stirring often, until berries begin to release juice. Raise heat to medium and bring to a low boil. Sprinkle with agar powder and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
*Remove from heat and stir in apples.
*Once mixture has cooled, stir in the walnuts. Place in the refrigerator until thickened and use as you would apple filling.
NOTE: Don’t be alarmed if it gets very thick and gelatin-like. It will soften and melt once it’s baked in your streudel dough!
Remember that baking should be an adventure. New ideas, new techniques, and new experiences – that’s what it’s all about!
Mother’s Day is next month, and I was trying to come up with a motherly theme for a pie crust. If my daughter was making this for me, she’d probably put a wine glass on the crust…but I went with a more traditional garden theme. Figured it was a little more classy.
Playing with dough is my favorite thing to do. The pie crust recipe I use is SO forgiving. You can re-roll it, form little shapes with your fingers, let it stand at room temperature (within reason), and abuse it thoroughly….and it stays flaky. Good stuff!
I will admit that the details on the crust took me a while, so the crust got a little too warm. If I’d thought to chill the pie for a little bit before baking it, the pretty fluted edges would probably have stayed perky, instead of bailing on me. Meh.
If you’d like a similar idea that is less work, here’s a pie I made with just a trellis on it. I made little flowers using gum paste cutters, but you could create them with a sharp knife too.
Use whatever combination of berries you have, fresh or frozen. (Don’t use frozen berries packed in juice or sauce, though!) I had lots of frozen raspberries, maybe a cup of sliced strawberries, and a two cups of frozen blueberries. The combination of flavors is amazing!
I like to use instant tapioca as a thickener. It’s clear, tasteless, and never fails me. I grind mine in a clean coffee grinder to avoid chewy spots in the pie. The recipe below has enough dough for a normal two-crust pie. If you plan on adding decorations, double the recipe. (Any extra can be baked and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar…mmmmmm.) I often double the recipe anyhow, since I like a fairly thick crust and find it a lot more manageable than paper-thin pastry. I’m also fairly casual about discarding decorations that don’t please me, so a generous amount of dough is a good thing in my kitchen.
Ready to make some pie? I’ll show you how to make a Triple Berry Pie, then add photos of the decorations, if you’re interested.
This recipe is for a two-crust deep dish pie. If you plan to create pie art, you'll need to double the crust recipe for a generous amount of dough. (You can always freeze some if you don't use it all.)
5 cups mixed berries - fresh or frozen (I used raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries)
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup instant tapioca, ground finely if possible
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chilled shortening
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon vodka (or you may use vinegar)
Heat oven to 400 F
In a large bowl, combine the berries, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and tapioca. Stir well and allow mixture to sit while you work on the crust. This will give the tapioca time to soften.
In large bowl, combine flour and salt. Work in shortening with fingers or a pastry blender until there are no large lumps. (Anything the size of a pea or smaller is fine.)
Combine milk and vodka and pour into flour mixture all at once.
Toss the mixture with fork or fingers until it holds together.
Divide into two pieces, with one piece a little bit larger than the other.
Put the larger ball of dough on a floured piece of parchment and flatten into a disk. Dust with flour and lay a second piece of parchment over the dough. Roll out until large enough to cut a circle that is at least 1 inch larger than your pie pan. Remove top parchment and cut dough into circle.
Slide a flat baking sheet under the bottom parchment. Put your pie pan upside down in the center of the dough circle. With one hand under the baking sheet and one hand on the pie pan, flip both over. Remove baking sheet and carefully peel back parchment. Ease dough into the pan.
Fill the pie crust with filling.
Roll out the smaller piece and cut a circle a little bigger than the pie pan. Gently roll onto a rolling pin and lay over the filling. Press the edges together, fold them under, and flute the edges.
Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, then - without opening the oven door - turn the temperature down to 350 F. Bake for additional 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
Move pie to a rack and allow it to cool. If served warm, it will be a little runny. If cooled (or chilled) it will hold its shape when cut.
Roll between parchment. See how smooth it is when you pull the paper back?
Cut first crust at least 1 inch larger than the pie pan
Slide a flat baking sheet under parchment. Center upside down pie pan on dough.
With one hand under baking sheet and one on the pie pan (don’t press too hard)…flip!
Without stretching, ease dough into pan.
Cut top crust a little bigger than the pie pan. Lift with rolling pin and place over filling. Crimp edges and bake.
If you’re in the mood to play with pie crust, here are a few photos of the construction of the garden crust. Press each piece of dough down lightly as you work. You don’t need liquid – they’ll pretty much stay put. Well, except for the fence rails. I kept bumping the darn things.
Also, don’t get too close to the edge. In retrospect, I should have given myself a little more space for fluting the edge of the pie.
Set your top crust on a generously floured baking sheet or piece of parchment. You will need to slide it off onto the pie when it’s finished. If it gets too soft and warm and won’t slide, pop it in the freezer for a couple of minutes and try again, or if you’re coordinated, slip your hands underneath the crust and move it quickly.
Make the fence. Cut a strip, divide it into “slats”, and trim each to a point.
Birdbath: I cut a shapely pedestal, then two identical ovals.
Lay one oval down, cut center out of second oval, and lay the “rim” over the oval to give it depth.
I added a bird, made by pressing and shaping the dough like clay. Mine may look more like a small turkey…hopefully you have more artistic skills!
I added an arbor, then some thin pieces of dough for vines, and little leaves.
A toothpick is your friend. It will make a nice crease in the leaves, and help place them.
At this point, I stopped taking photos while I struggled with the teeny tiny roses. I finally just took narrow strips of thin dough about an inch long and rolled them up. Good enough!
Add details. A tree on the right, a birdhouse, then I added some clouds in the upper left (use your thumb to press all over so they aren’t flat)
Use a thin spatula or knife to chop up some grass. It looks best if you place it in little “bunches”.
Make little balls of dough and then press down with fingers to flatten them.
Lay top crust on filling. Pinch layers together and flute the edges.
Ready for the oven
I know it will hurt to actually take a knife and STAB your masterpiece, but remember: there’s no crying in pie art! It’s just a beginning – there will be many more dough canvases in your future. Think of all the scenic pies you can make for holidays throughout the year.
Sweet little jelly bean bees usher in Spring with this honey and lemon cheesecake. Honey adds a mellow sweetness, and sour cream gives it a light tang – a perfect combination!
The cheesecake is easy; making the bees takes a bit of patience and fine motor skills. If you’re not up for that, they sell cute little pre-made bees and flowers too, and no one will judge you!
I’ve made gum paste bees before, and the wings stuck on them easily. With jelly beans? Not so much. I tried royal icing and candy melts, and those pesky wings just kept sliding off. Finally I found that the slices of jelly beans I used for wings would stick to the bean body as long as there was a sticky surface exposed. (So, cut a thin slice of jelly bean and then trim a little bit off one end so it STICKS!)
I made small bees using a yellow jelly bean, two slices for wings, and a small piece cut off one end of a jelly bean for the head. A black food color pen works really well for the stripes and eyes. I tried making a stinger out of dark chocolate, but frankly…it looked like the bee was pooping. Had a good laugh over that one. Tiny slices of black jelly beans kind of worked, but I wasn’t very happy with them. Next time I’ll buy some black licorice.
Just for grins, I also made some larger bees, using yellow peanut M&Ms. They looked more like big fat bumblebees…very cute. Those are around the base of the cake.
I found that toothpicks really helped hold the bees in place while I fussed with them and while they dried. (This obviously doesn’t work for the M&M bees – they just have to chill on the plate.) A piece of styrofoam is nice to stick the toothpicks into, but use your imagination. A small box or even a potato would work well, too!
I made the little violet flowers and the bee hive out of royal icing. (Make sure the icing is very stiff when you pipe the bee hive. or maybe you could make one out of half of a lemon?) I forgot to add leaves. Grrrr. The green icing was sitting on the counter in a pastry bag with a leaf tip, and I forgot to use it! I think it would have looked a lot prettier with that touch of green.
The honey comb was made from melted white chocolate, with a little milk chocolate and a tiny bit of yellow candy coloring (a yellow candy melt would work too) to achieve a honey color. Spread it over bubble wrap and place in the freezer until hard, then just peel off and break into pieces.
Prepare 9-inch springform pan by lightly buttering sides of ring. Place a 10-inch round of parchment over the bottom of the pan and set the ring over it. Hold the ring down firmly and close the clasp, trapping the parchment. You should be able to see a small "ruffle" from the outside. This gives your crust a smooth appearance all the way to the plate. It will ooze butter in the oven, so make sure you have a baking sheet or foil under it.
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and melted butter.
Using a straight sided measuring cup, press crust firmly and evenly in pan. Using one hand to support the side of the pan, press firmly all the way around. Mixture doesn't have to go all the way to the top.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and white sugar until smooth. Add the honey, lemon juice and zest, flour, vanilla, and food coloring. Beat on medium until combined.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low just until incorporated. Do not over beat!
Fold in sour cream and pour over crust, smoothing with a knife.
Place pan on baking sheet and bake for 70 minutes. Without opening oven door, turn oven off and let the cheesecake remain in the oven for 30 minutes.
Test by shaking pan gently. The inside should jiggle a bit. This is exactly what you want. If the whole thing wobbles, close the door and leave it in there for another 30 minutes before removing.
If your cheesecake extends over the top of the crust, run a knife gently around the edge, right down to the crust, to avoid cracks as it cools.
Once completely cool, refrigerate until ready to decorate and serve.