DO NOT preheat your oven yet. You must do some preparation first.
One 17.5-ounce package frozen puff pastry dough (I used Pepperidge Farm with 2 sheets of pastry)
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon water
White (granulated) sugar to sprinkle on top
3/4 cup fresh raspberries (frozen is fine if thawed and patted dry)
2 Tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or cinnamon)
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup white (granulated) sugar
Cream Cheese Filling:
8-ounce package brick cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup white (granulated) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Thaw both sheets of puff pastry on a floured surface according to package directions.
In a medium-size saucepan, combine the raspberries with the water.
Combine cardamom, cornstarch, and sugar in a bowl. Stir until mixed. Add to the saucepan and stir in thoroughly.
Cook on MEDIUM HIGH, stirring constantly, until sauce reaches a full boil. Continue stirring for 2 minutes, then move to a cold burner to cool.
Combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. Beat until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F., rack in the middle position.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unfold a thawed sheet of pastry and roll it into a 12-inch square.
Use a sharp knife to make one horizontal cut through the middle and one vertical cut through the middle to make 4 pieces.
Whisk the egg with the water for egg wash.
Transfer one square of pastry to a prepared cookie sheet.
Use a pastry brush to paint a 1/2 inch wide border of egg wash around the outer edges of the pastry square.
Place 1/4 cup cream cheese filling in the center of the square and spread it out evenly to within 1/2 inch of the edges.
Spread up to 2 Tablespoons of the raspberry sauce over the cream cheese.
Pick up one corner of the square and pull it over the middle to cover just a bit more than half of the filling. Then pick up the opposite corner and pull it to overlap the first corner. Gently press on the overlapping corners to seal.
Repeat the above steps with both sheets of puff pastry.
Brush the tops of the pastries with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove the baking sheets to wire racks to cool.
Yield: 8 Raspberry Danish that are delicious served warm or cold. ENJOY!
Chocolate Flan with Caramel Whipped Cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F., rack in the middle position.
For the Chocolate Flan:
1 and 3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup (6-ounce by weight bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
4 large eggs
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk (I used Eagle Brand)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
chocolate curls for a topping are optional (Make them by scraping them from a dark chocolate bar the the blade of a sharp knife.)
For the Caramel Whipped Cream:
1 cup whipping cream
5 Tablespoons caramel ice cream topping (I used Smucker’s)
Select a round glass casserole that’s approximately 10 inches in diameter.
Locate a baking pan with 4-inch or taller sides that is large enough to hold your glass casserole with at least an inch and a half of space on all sides.
Set the casserole you’ve chosen inside the baking pan. Eventually, this baking pan will hold hot water to “bathe” the outside of your flan casserole. This water bath, or bain marie, will keep your flan from baking too rapidly and becoming hard around the edges.
Spray the inside of the glass casserole with Pam or another nonstick cooking spray.
Hannah’s 1st Note: Don’t use anything called “baking” spray on the inside of your casserole. It contains flour and you don’t want flour on the outside of your flan.
Put two potholders or oven mitts out on the counter where they will be handy.
Heat the cup and three-quarters of whole milk at MEDIUM heat on the stovetop in a medium-size saucepan until it almost comes to a boil. You’ll be able to tell this is going to happen when bubbles start to form around the edges of the saucepan and steam begins to escape from the milk.
Pull the saucepan with the milk over to a cold stovetop burner and stir in the cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Stir until the chips are melted and the mixture is a uniform color. If this doesn’t happen, your milk was too cold. Put it back on the burner and stir constantly for another minute to make sure the chips are melted. Then pull it off the heat and turn off the stovetop burner.
In a large bowl on the counter, whisk the 4 large eggs until they’re light-colored and fluffy.
Hannah’s 2nd Note: You can also do this in the bowl of an electric mixer.
Add the can of sweetened condensed milk, the vanilla extract, and the salt to the bowl with the eggs.
Whisk the contents until they’re well incorporated.
Carefully, feel the outside of the saucepan with the chocolate mixture. If it’s not so hot that it will cook the eggs, slowly, add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Whisk or beat until everything is well incorporated.
Pour the resulting mixture into your prepared casserole.
Set your casserole inside the larger baking pan.
Run water as hot as you can get from your tap, and fill a large measuring cup with a spout.
Pour hot water from the measuring cup inside the larger pan. Keep pouring until the water level reaches halfway up the sides of the casserole holding your flan.
Loosely cover your flan with foil and poke a few holes in the foil to let steam escape as it’s baking.
Carry both pans to the oven and put them inside to bake.
Bake your flan at 350 degrees F. for 50 to 70 minutes, or until the blade of a table knife inserted one inch from the center of the flan comes out clean.
Hannah’s 3rd Note: If your knife has liquid residue sticking to it when you remove it, your flan is not fully baked. Give it another 5 minutes in the oven, wash and dry your table knife in the meantime, and test it again.
When your table knife comes out clean, take both pans out of the oven together and set them on a cold stovetop burner.
Use potholders or oven mitts to lift out the inner casserole with your flan and place it on a second cold burner or on a wire rack.
Use potholders or oven mitts to dump out the water in the outer pan and set it aside to cool.
Set your timer for 20 minutes.
When your Chocolate Caramel Flan has cooled for 20 minutes, cover the top of the flan casserole with plastic wrap. Refrigerate your flan in the casserole for at least 4 hours, or until it’s time to serve dessert. Overnight is fine too, if you want to make it the day before you plan to serve it.
To serve, fun a table knife around the inside rim of your flan to loosen it slightly. Turn it out in a flat bowl or onto a plate with a deep lip. Then make the Caramel Whipped Cream.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the cup of whipping cream and the 5 Tablespoons of caramel ice cream topping together.
Gradually, increase the speed of the mixer to MEDIUM-HIGH and beat until the resulting mixture will hold a soft peak. (Test for soft peaks by shutting off the mixer and dipping the flat blade of a rubber spatula into the whipped cream and pulling it up quickly. If it forms a peak, but the tip droops slightly, you have achieved soft peaks.)
“Frost” your flan with the Caramel Whipped Cream. People will ooh and ahh when you cut slices, place them in dessert dishes and serve it.
Hannah’s 4th Note: If you want to make your dessert really fancy, garnish the slices with chocolate curls and extra caramel whipped cream.
Yield: This Chocolate Flan with Caramel Whipped Cream serves 6 to 8 people unless you invite Andrea’s husband, Bill. Bill is absolutely crazy for this dessert. He boasted to me that he could eat a whole flan all by himself, and I believe him.
Grilled Ham and Double Cheese Sandwiches
For each sandwich you will need:
2 slices of bread (Michelle used seedless rye. You could use any kind of bread you prefer.)
softened butter to spread on the outside of the bread and to put in the frying pan or grill if needed
Thousand Island dressing
1 slice of American cheese
1 fairly thick slice of fully cooked ham
1 slice of Swiss cheese
thin slices of sweet pickles, dill pickles, or sweet onion (optional)
Butter two slices of bread. Place one slice, buttered side down, on a piece of wax paper. Spread the bread with a thin layer of Thousand Island dressing. This layer of dressing should not be too thick or your sandwich will get too “gloppy” when you fry it. (Feel free to add “gloppy” to your list of cooking terms.)
Place the slice of American cheese on top of the Thousand Island dressing you just spread.
Cut a slice of ham to fit the size of your bread and lay it on top of the American cheese.
Place thin slices of pickle or sweet onion on top of the ham if you decided to use them.
Place the slice of Swiss cheese on top.
Spread the top slice of bread with a thin layer of Thousand Island dressing.
Place the second slice of bread on top of the Swiss cheese, dressing side down.
Spread softened butter on top of your sandwich.
Make as many Grilled Han and Double Cheese Sandwiches as you need for your guests.
Depending on how many sandwiches you made, put a helping or two of butter on your griddle or in your frying pan. Then preheat it at MEDIUM HIGH heat.
When the butter on the griddle or in the frying pan has melted and is preheated, fry your sandwiches, uncovered, until the bottom turns golden brown. (You can test this by lifting it with a spatula and peeking at the bottom.)
When one side is golden brown, flip the sandwich over, add more butter to the pan or griddle if needed, and fry the other side until it’s golden brown.
Remove the sandwiches from the frying pan or griddle, cut them into pieces with a sharp knife, arrange the pieces on a plate, and serve immediately.
This sandwich goes well with piping-hot mugs of soup or a generous helping of coleslaw.