Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fun Things To Do With Cream Cheese

Happy belated fourth of July! To my American readers, at least. And I hope that all of the days since I last posted have been happy, if not necessarily festive, for the rest of you.
Since the last time I posted, I've made several drafts of posts, had family over, baked a red velvet cake for A's birthday party, decorated said cake while preparing food for said party, and had more people over for a barbeque on the fourth of july (for which I made a dessert). 

I'm terribly sorry that I didn't take any pictures of the red velvet cake we made while we were making it. You'll just have to trust that your instructions have you do the right sorts of things, like we did. "We" here refers to me and my lovely, adventurous housemate S, who is especially lovely for reading my blog somewhat faithfully and thinking it's good.
We used "Savannah's Perfectly Ravishing Red Velvet Cake" recipe from allrecipes.com. In retrospect, I should've checked the flour requirements, because this recipe makes a very dense cake. Not that this is a bad thing, it's just that we weren't really expecting it, and also our cake was very, very dense and rich.
The main thing was that we were making it in a two-piece form shaped like a cupcake. One part was the bottom, with crinkles for the wrapper, and the other part was the top, with a swirl for the frosting. It was cool, but mostly just a thing we wanted to try.
It ended up looking pretty. We frosted it with cream cheese frosting based on "Cream Cheese Frosting II" (again from allrecipes.com), but ended up adding the whole 2 lb bag of powdered sugar because it's too hot for really soft, creamy frosting. We're also bad at guessing how much frosting will cover a given area of cake. Hint: less than we made.
Here's a picture. Like the rest of the party except the gritty fondue that still tasted pretty good, everything just kind of fell into place.

The sprinkles are huge ones that we found in a cupboard and were perfect.
I failed at leveling the two pieces, so there was a gap about an inch high all around where they didn't meet. I filled it with frosting. The bottom layer of sprinkles is on that section. Still, no one complains about too much frosting. 
That's a lie. I do that all the time. But not about cream cheese frosting.
 Cream cheese count: 16 oz, or two packages.

At the birthday girl's house the next day, we played games with water balloons, went swimming, made s'mores, and ate tons of food. Including a cheesecake. 
Cream cheese count: At least 8 oz --> 24 oz for the week so far.

The day after the second party, I realized that if I wanted to recreate a childhood fourth of july dessert, I'd better get going, as the fourth was about two days away. 
I knew it had a crunchy crust, a raspberry filling, and a creamy topping with crunchy bits on top. It was a thin, flat bar sort of dessert. The problem is that the only recipes I could find had the raspberry on top. So, I improvised. 
I present to you my somewhat final draft of the recipe, at least until I make it again next year and change it. 

Fourth of July Raspberry Bars


Pretzel crust

  • 2 1/2 c crushed pretzels
  • 3/4 c melted butter
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
Raspberry filling
  • 24 oz frozen raspberries
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin
Creamy topping
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c whipped topping
Crunchy bits
  • 1/4 c chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar


Pretzel crust

I used a big, heavy mug with a flat bottom in lieu of a hammer or mallet. Be aware that your bag will get lots of small punctures from the pretzels.
  • Crush pretzels. You don't really want them bigger than your pinky nail.
  • Melt butter and sugar in a large bowl in the microwave
  • Stir in pretzels until coated with butter and sugar
  • Press pretzels into a 9x13 pan
  • Bake 10 min at 350 F
  • Cool completely before using
Crunchy bits, part 1
  • Mix sugar and walnuts 
  • Give the sugar enough time to kind of stick to the walnuts; they should be ready by the time the creamy topping is set
Raspberry filling
  • When crust is cool, put raspberries in a saucepan
  • Sprinkle with sugar while heating
  • Mush raspberries as much as possible
  • When raspberry mush is bubbling, add two packets gelatin and stir well until dissolved
  • Remove from heat and let cool until raspberries are almost firm. Don't be impatient here.
  • Spread over crust and refrigerate for about 8 hours
Creamy topping
  • After the raspberry mush has had 8 hours to set, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy
  • Add cool whip; beat until fluffy again
  • Spread over raspberry filling
  • Return to fridge until it's time to serve
Crunchy buts, part 2
  • Distribute walnuts over the creamy topping evenly
  • Press in gently
Remember: Let the gelatin set! Crush the pretzels small! Use lots of cream cheese!

Cream cheese count: 8 oz --> 32 oz for the whole weekend.

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