Archive for the ‘Bars’ Category

One of my favorite and easiest dump cake recipes is this one, a coconut mochi cake recipe.  But it is a bit heavy, with two cans of coconut milk and a stick of butter.  This recipe is far lighter, but just as addicting for the mochi-lovers in our family.  At room temperature, the cake takes on its characteristic chewiness.  When it’s warm, it’s softer and slightly gooey.  While it will keep a few days, it is best eaten within a couple of days as the mochi will become harder.  To reheat, simply toast in the oven for a few minutes.

Note: We happened to have some red bean paste in the fridge (also long overdue), but I’m beginning to wonder if a similar-textured substitute could be used.  Peanut butter anyone?

Red Bean Mochi Cake


1 lb sweet/glutinous rice flour (Mochiko)
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups milk (or water)
1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 – 1 cup red bean paste (storebought or homemade)


  1. Mix together all the ingredients except the red bean paste.  Stir in the red bean paste.  Bak at 350 degrees in a 9 x 13 pan or 2 loaf pans for 45 min – 1 hour.  Cake is done when you can insert a knife cleanly

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I do love a bar cookie.  Almost always baked up with a buttery rich crust and decadent, sugary toppings, there are few bars I would deny.  This is a lightened version of a fruit favorite. Caramel optional.

Lightened Apple Cheesecake Bars, adapted from Closet Cooking


For the crust:
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the cheesecake:
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 8 ounces reduced fat, neufatchel cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the apples:
    • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into bite sized pieces
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
For the streusel topping:
    • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • Pinch ground nutmeg
For the crust:
    1. Cut the butter into the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon until combined and crumbly. Add oil.
    2. Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish lined with foil.
    3. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until lightly golden brown, about 8-12 minutes, set aside and let cool.
For the cheesecake:
    1. Beat the sugar into the cream cheese until smooth.
    2. Beat in the egg followed by the vanilla extract.
    3. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
For the apples:
    1. Mix the apples, cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg.
    2. Sprinkle the apples on top of the cream cheese layer.
For the streusel topping:
  1. Mix oil and butter into the flour, sugar, cinnamon and rolled oats until combined and crumbly.
  2. Sprinkle the crumbs on top of the apples.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the cheesecake has set, about 25-35 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting.  (Otherwise it will fall apart.)

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Homemade pop tarts are everywhere these days.  I haven’t had one since college, but I remember Pop Tarts as one of those treats Mom rarely allowed me to indulge in.  In college, my sorority stocked the goodies in the 24/7 kitchen.  My favorite?  Brown sugar cinnamon.  I loved to toast it, nibble off the pastry edges first, then delight in bite after bite of the gooey, numbingly-sweet center. 

While many love Pop-Tarts, let’s face it, they’re not exactly good for you with neon-colored frostings, heaps of refined sugar, and unknown preservatives.  Enter the homemade version.  Here, the pastry crust is flaky and buttery with whole grain goodness and stuffed with natural fillings.  (Fresh strawberry filling and cinnamon brown sugar recipes below).  This is the perfect portable breakfast or lunchbox snack.  I think even my Mom would have approved.

What would you stuff into a homemade Pop-Tart?

Pop Tarts, from Cheeky Kitchen


Whole wheat pie crust, recipe here
Filling of your choosing: peanut butter, jam, nutella, chocolate chips, or something savory?
Glaze (I thought they were perfect without a glaze, but you could fancy these up with a drizzle of powdered sugar and milk or powdered sugar and a fruit puree, for more color and flavor)

Peanut butter and jelly


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. On a lightly-floured cutting board, roll pie crust ¼” thick. 
  3. Use a pizza cutter to cut pie dough into same-sized rectangles (size of your choosing). 
  4. Spoon a 2-3 tbsp of filling on top of one of the rectangles. 
  5. Gently place a second rectangle of pie dough atop. 
  6. Secure edges together by pressing them gently with the tines of a fork.
  7. Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges of the tart begin to brown slightly. Remove and cool.

Fresh Strawberry Filling

1 tbsp butter, sliced
1 cup strawberries, pureed
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
1 tbsp cornstarch

If using the strawberry filling, prepare by whisking together the cornstarch and water, and then combine with the jam in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Cinnamon Filling

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Whisk ingredients together.

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Several large storms sidelined our trip to Lake Tahoe this past weekend.  We were planning to go with friends who, earlier in the week, had stocked up on groceries in anticipation of the the trip.  (Four boys and two sets of parents.  Plenty of mouths to feed.)  With the trip cancelled and the skies fully opened and dumping rain in the Bay Area, we decided to have pajama day and a potluck.  I threw open the pantry and knew this would be the perfect rainy day dessert.

Mochi is sweet glutinous rice flour.  Someone probably intended to call it “gluttonous” rice flour but mispelled it.  It is the key ingredient and it cannot be substituted.  Really, no substitutions.  I used Koda Farms Mochiko, which is a Japanese American family-owned farm in California.  You can find it in most grocery and health food stores (it’s gluten free), including Safeway and Whole Foods.  It’s great for savory or sweet dishes and is often used as a thickening agent. 

The preparation of this cake is as simple as it gets – dump, whisk, and bake.  It does take significantly longer than a standard cake in the oven, however, clocking in at one and a half hours.  Place it in the oven, walk away, and enjoy the sweet custard smell permeate the house. 

The result is delicious in taste and texture.  The coconut milk and eggs add a rich, creamy flavor and the texture is delicately chewy with a crunchy edge.  FHE suggested a topping or filling and my neighbors concurred.  (FHE topped his share with pistachio gelato tonight.)  To stay with the Asian profile, next time I’ll add a middle layer of red bean paste and a green tea frosting.  But even in pure form, good luck practicing self-restraint when faced with a pan of these chewy bars.  It’s not easy.  What is easy is whipping up a batch.  Which I encourage you to do. 

Sweet Rice-Flour and Coconut Cake, adapted from Gourmet Magazine, May 2005


3 cups mochiko (sweet glutinous rice flour; 1 lb)
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 (14-oz) cans unsweetened coconut milk (I used low-fat; the original recipe calls for full-fat)
4 large eggs (original recipe uses 5, but I found it a bit too eggy)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk together mochiko, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Whisk together coconut milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla in another bowl.  Add coconut mixture to flour mixture, whisking until batter is combined.
  3. Pour batter into an ungreased 13- by 9-inch baking pan, smoothing top, and bake until top is golden and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.  Cut mochi into 24 squares before serving.  Leftovers will keep, covered and chilled, 3 days.

Matcha Green Tea Frosting, adapted from Cupcake Bakeshop


2 sticks butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip butter until fluffy.
  2. In a small bowl, mix cream and matcha until well combined.
  3. To the electric mixer, add 1 cup sugar and beat until combined. Scrape down bowl, then add 1/3 of the cream-matcha mixture. Beat to combine, scrape down bowl, then add another cup of sugar. Continue alternating until you have used up all of the remaining ingredients. Turn the mixer to high, and whip until frosting is light and fluffy.
  4. Top on fully cooled cake.


Red Bean Filling

1 jar Red Bean Paste (found at Asian supermarkets)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp heavy whipping cream


  1. Whip ingredients together until a frosting-like consistency is reached.  Add additional sugar if necessary.
  2. After preparing the cake batter, spoon 2/3 of the batter in the pan.  Then carefully add the red bean filling.  Top with remaining 1/3 of the batter.  Bake as directed.

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Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Sometimes you don’t want chocolate for dessert.  Who am I kidding.  It’s rare I pass up chocolate… unless it has dried fruit in it.  I don’t do dried fruit.  So I eat the chocolate that surrounds the shriveled fruit and spit out the remainder.  Sorry for the image.  And for wasting.  But I love chocolate.  Unfortunately for me, my guests (and husband and family) do not always share my enthusiasm.  I could feign ignorance, whip up some chocolate delight and say, “Oh no.  You’re not in the mood for chocolate?  Sorry, I’ll know better next time.”  But that would set a poor example for Rice Kernel, right? 

Well, there’s no need to tell a whopper with these lemon cheesecake bars.  They are creamy, cool, and deliciously, refreshingly tart – with the bonus of a buttery sweet cookie to offer some substance and crunch.  I promise you’ll be asking, “Chocolate, who?”

Lemon Cheesecake Bars



    1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    2 cups flour
    1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Cream cheese layer

    8 oz package of cream cheese
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 egg

Lemon Layer

    4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    1 2/3 cups granulated sugar (I’ve heard an equal amount of honey adds a different sweetness.  Have you tried?)
    2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
    2/3 cup flour



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 13 baking sheet.
  2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl.  Add flour and salt until just mixed.  Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until very lightly browned.  Leave the oven on.
  3. For the cream cheese layer, whisk together the ingredients.  Pour into hot crust.
  4. For the lemon layer, whisk together the ingredients.  Gently pour over the cream cheese layer.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes.  The filling should be just set in the center. 
  6. Cool at room temperature and then refrigerate. 
  7. To serve, cut into squares or triangles.  Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

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