star-spangled cheesecake bars + popcorn pops

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on with the themed b’nei mitzvot! this one was broadway-based. the centerpieces were displays of playbills and it was so classy/cute/something my thirteen-year-old self would have very much envied!

i tried to keep the desserts aligned with the color scheme (black, white, and red) and somewhat broadway related. popcorn pops – aka popcorn-balls-on-stick – for the ‘audience,’ cheesecake bars with ganache, rosettes, and cherries for the ‘star of the show,’ and cookie dough stuffed brownies because… they’re so effing tasty that they deserve a standing ovation? i dunno.

anyway, mazel tov to annie, and here are the recipes for the cheesecake and popcorn desserts (find the cookie dough stuffed brownies here)!

cheesecake bars

makes sixteen squares

crust

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 full crackers)
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar

filling (adapted from simply recipes)

  • 1 lb cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

ganache

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

stabilized whipped cream

  • 1/2 tsp gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream

assembly

preheat oven to 350º. butter an 8×8 inch pan, line with parchment, and butter again. stir all the crust ingredients together and press into the pan using a fork. bake for 10 minutes, then set aside.

reduce oven temperature to 325º. beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until creamy, about 3 minutes. add the sugar and salt and beat to combine. add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and sour cream. gradually add in the heavy cream, and beat until silky. pour the mixture into the pan and bake for about an hour (note: the top of mine started getting really dark halfway through, so i tented the pan with aluminum foil – don’t let the foil touch the cheesecake, though!). when the cheesecake is done baking (move the pan a bit and see if the middle is jiggly. if it is, it needs more time), turn the oven off, crack the door, and let it cool in there for an hour. then chill overnight in the refrigerator or freezer.

put the chocolate into a large heatproof bowl. heat the cream in a saucepan until it’s bubbling, not boiling, then pour it over the chocolate. let it sit for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.

for the stabilized whipped cream (i made mine stabilized so that it wouldn’t disintegrate after sitting out/coming in contact with the cherries), sprinkle the gelatin over a few tablespoons of cool water in a ramekin or small bowl. let sit for 5 minutes, then microwave for 15 seconds. let cool. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it has almost stiff peaks. beat in the gelatin mixture.

to assemble, invert the chilled cheesecake onto a cutting board, then flip onto another cutting board (the crust should be on the bottom). let the cheesecake come up to room temperature/thaw if frozen. if it’s still cold, the ganache will set immediately and you won’t be able to smoothly frost the top. spread the ganache over the top of the cheesecake, and let set. cut evenly into sixteen squares. using a piping bag with a closed star tip, pipe a rosette of the whipped cream onto each square. drain the maraschino cherries by taking them out of the juice and letting them sit on paper towels for a few minutes, to ensure that they don’t break down the cream. top each rosette with a cherry, and spangle with little gold stars!

popcorn pops

makes about 20

  • 10 cups popped popcorn (microwave is okay, but the flavor won’t be as good because of the additives/butter and salt flavorings. i popped my own)
  • 10 oz marshmallows
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • sprinkles, chocolate chips, m&ms, caramel sauce, other desired mix-ins
  • lollipop sticks
  • twine/ribbon (optional)

line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put the popcorn into a large bowl. melt the marshmallows and the butter together in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until smooth. stir in the salt and vanilla. pour the mixture over the popcorn, stirring until evenly coated. let cool for a minute (so the mix-ins don’t melt), then add in a few handfuls of sprinkles/chocolate chips/etc. spray your hands with nonstick spray, then form baseball sized balls. place on the baking sheet. stick a lollipop stick into each one, and adorn with a twine bow, if desired.

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