Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats

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Hey there! I hope you had a great weekend. Mine was wonderful, just too short. I could always use one more day. If someone ran a presidential campaign on the platform of a nationwide 3 day weekend they would have my vote. Sadly I think all hope is lost on that front for this election. At least homemade treats make a pretty good consolation prize. I did have time  this weekend to make this fun, seasonal update on the classic Rice Krispie Treat. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because they are delicious. Bad because…they are delicious and I keep eating them. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios and white chocolate chips turn this childhood classic into a delightful autumn treat. These Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats would be a great fall baking project to make with young kiddos for Halloween. No complicated measuring or prolonged baking time. Just melt, stir, pour and slice. Easy peasy.

I’m sure you don’t need too much in the way of directions for these treats, since they follow the tried and true Rice Krispie Treat method. However, I will offer a couple of tips. First, learn from my mistakes and mix the cereal with the melted marshmallows in the pan you use to melt the marshmallows. I did the opposite- I poured the melted marshmallows into a bowl with the cereal/chocolate chip mixture and it almost cooled before I had thoroughly mixed everything. If you mix in the pan, the residual heat will keep the marshmallow warm enough to evenly coat the cereal. Next, these are most easily sliced if  you spray your knife with some nonstick cooking spray. That way you’re sure to get clean edges. Finally, if you can’t find Pumpkin Spice Cheerios (I bought the last box at my store. Sorry, neighbors!), you could also use Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. Or use plain Cheerios or Rice Krispies and add 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice to the butter/marshmallow mixture.

I decorated individual squares with mellowcreme pumpkins, since I’m a sucker for those little things. If you put them on while the treats are still warm they’ll stick. Sliced up and put in individual cellophane treat bags, these would be great for a fall bake sale or class party. One last thing- this recipe uses a bag and half of marshmallows, which means you’ll have half a bag leftover. If you’re wondering what to do with the extra, take a peek at my recipe for S’mores Tarts. Enjoy!

pumpkin-spice-crispy-treatsPumpkin Spice Crispy Treats

Ingredients:

  • 9 cups (1 box) Pumpkin Spice Cheerios*
  • 2 cups (1 bag) white chocolate chips
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 15 oz (1 1/2 bags) marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

In large bowl, toss cheerios and white chocolate chips.

Prepare 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In large stockpot, melt butter over medium low heat. Once butter is melted, add marshmallows and stir continuously until marshmallows are completely melted. Add vanilla extract and stir to incorporate. Take stockpot off heat. Add cheerios and white chocolate chips and stir until cereal mixture is well coated in marshmallow. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and  press into even layer. (Spray cooking spray on your hands or spatula to make this task less messy.)

Allow treats to cool, then cut into squares. To cut cleanly, spray nonstick cooing spray on knife.

Makes about 24 treats, more or less depending on how sliced.

*If you cannot find Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, you can use Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. Alternatively, use either regular Cheerios or Rice Krispies and add 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice to marshmallow mixture before adding cereal.

Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats

 

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

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Hey there! How was your weekend? Mine was perfectly autumn-y. It was a wonderful combination of blustery, rainy weather and radiant, colorful sunshine. Plus, hubby and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary on Saturday, which was fun. Hard to believe it’s been 5 years already! I’m sure we’ll say the same thing at 50, God willing. In honor of our anniversary, I let Justin pick which recipe I would post first this week. He totally surprised me by choosing this pumpkin coffee cake with maple glaze. Justin proclaims himself to be pumpkin-ambivalent. He reckons that he is above the pumpkin-spice-everything craze that runs rampant this time of year. But. One bite of this pumpkin coffee cake…. Actually, one taste of the spiced maple glaze that I offered while finishing the cake, and all that went out the window. I offered to send the leftovers with him to work, because this recipe makes a very generous 9×13 pan of decadent coffee cake, and he declined. Which means he plans to eat the entire 9×13 pan of pumpkin coffee cake over the upcoming week. Don’t worry, he’s training for the Philly marathon in November, he’ll burn it off. #wifebrag.

This pumpkin coffee cake fits perfectly into the autumn of my dreams. The one where I host a lovely outdoor brunch for friends and family on picnic tables under vibrantly colored trees with an expertly selected menu of cozy, seasonal fare. The centerpiece, of course, would be this coffee cake. Surprisingly light and incredibly tasty, this cake is decadent and wholesome. Sweet enough for dessert but totally acceptable for a weekend breakfast. Hey, pumpkin is a vegetable, right? While I may fall short of my fall brunch goals this season (the days are flying by! we just finally bought our mums this weekend!), this coffee cake will not disappoint. Don’t hate me for suggesting that this would be a fantastic breakfast while the whole gang is in the house come Thanksgiving.

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I hope it goes without saying that this pumpkin coffee cake with maple glaze is delicious. But in addition to being delicious, it’s also fairly simple to make. There are a few steps, between making the cake batter, mixing the streusel and preparing the glaze, but nothing is very complicated and it all comes together pretty quickly. The result is so worth it. The cake itself is warmly spiced and tender. Not at all heavy or dense, as pumpkin confections can sometimes be. The classic streusel topping is what makes it coffee cake, which means you’re well within your rights to pick sweet, buttery pieces from the top of the cake as it cools. And the maple glaze… Well, that’s what makes this recipe truly worthy of a special occasion. Powdered sugar, pure maple syrup and heavy cream combine to make a divine topping for an already heavenly cake. The glaze recipe makes a generous amount, so drizzle about half over the cake once cooled and reserve the rest to drizzle (or,  um, douse) individual servings. I might give Justin a run for his money this week. I’m already planning to have a piece of this coffee cake with a cappuccino after work tomorrow.

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Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

Ingredients:

For Cake:

  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp salt

For Streusel:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter,cut into small cubes, at room temperature

For Maple Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream, plus more as necessary
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In bowl of stand mixer, add eggs, oil, sugars, pumpkin and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until combined, about 3 minutes. In medium bow, whisk together dry ingredients. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients to wet in 3 batches, allowing each to incorporate into wet ingredients before proceeding. Pour batter into prepared pan.

In medium bowl whisk together the following streusel ingredients: flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Add butter to bowl and incorporate into dry ingredients, using either pastry blender or fingertips. Mix until mixture resembles coarse sand and holds together when pressed but will still easily crumble. Sprinkle streusel over top of cake batter. Bake cake for 30-35 minutes, or until skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely before adding glaze.

To prepare maple glaze, add all ingredients to medium bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined and glaze drizzles easily from whisk. Add additional cream if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Drizzle about half of the glaze over the coffee cake and reserve the rest to drizzle over individual servings. Or just go for it and put entire glaze recipe over cake.

Serves 12-16, depending on size of pieces.

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Pumpkin Bread with Sweet Cream Cheese Butter

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Between us, I was all about pumpkin way before the current pumpkin-spice craze. An early adopter, if  you will. For starters, I was obsessed with those little mellowcreme pumpkins as a little girl (not really pumpkin, but still.) I’ve always been a pumpkin pie enthusiast and would beg my grandma to let me help her bake Thanksgiving pies…or at least lick the bowl. I live for pumpkin pie for breakfast. Pumpkin pancakes, too. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is my second favorite Peanuts special (A Charlie Brown Christmas is number one, obvs.) I put Pumpkin Pie Spice in my coffee all year round. If pumpkin ravioli are on the menu, that’s what I’ll order. When the horrific pumpkin shortage threatened fall baking, I hoarded as much as my pantry could hold. My point is, I really, really love pumpkin and have for a long time. Also, for the record, Hocus Pocus was my favorite fall movie WAY before it was cool.

Pumpkin bread can be overshadowed by its’ more glamorous and fancy compadres, like cupcakes and pies. But when done well, it’s a real treat. There’s nothing like a warm slice of pumpkin bread and hot cup of coffee on a quiet autumn morning before the rest of the house is awake. A few moments of delicious solace before the craziness begins. Of course, those moments are ruined by dense, bland, overly sweet pumpkin bread. My beloved pumpkin deserves better. Unfortunately, since pumpkin is by nature so moist and thick, many recipes result in a heavy pumpkin brick, rather than a little slice of heaven.

Luckily, I happened upon this recipe and now rest assured that wet, heavy and bland pumpkin bricks are a thing of the past. This bread is substantial but not dense. The earthy, sweet flavor of pumpkin shines through, complemented by the traditional spices. I’ve used pumpkin pie spice to simplify things, but of course you can create your own mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. The pumpkin and spices are cooked on the stovetop to evaporate moisture and concentrate pumpkin flavor. Cream cheese is added to the batter to add richness and a little edge to cut through the sweetness. The topping is cinnamony, brown sugary goodness. And, while completely optional, I added a cream cheese butter that flirts dangerously with the idea of being frosting. But if we call it butter, then it’s appropriate to put it on bread which means it is a perfectly acceptable breakfast. Right? Right. You can always count on me for a good rationale 😉

This recipe makes two loaves, which means there’s plenty to share. Keep one for yourself and give another to a neighbor or co-worker. Or eat one now and keep one in the freezer, in case of a pumpkin emergency. Happy fall baking!

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Pumpkin Bread with Sweet Cream Cheese Butter

Ingredients:

Topping

  • 5 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp softened butter
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Bread

  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk, mixed with 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice and allowed to sit 5 min (or buttermilk)

Sweet Cream Cheese Butter

  • 4 Tbsp softened butter
  • 8 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Combine ingredients for topping in a small bowl with either fingers or a spoon until the butter is incorporated into dry ingredients. Set aside.

Prepare loaf pans. Spray two 9 by 5 (or 8 1/2 by 4 1/2) inch loaf pans with baking spray. Place loaf pans on a rimmed cookie sheet and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a medium saucepan, cook pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice over medium heat about 6-8 minutes, until thickened and slightly dark. Turn off the heat and add both sugars and vegetable oil. Using your fingers, break cream cheese into small pieces over pumpkin mixture until all cream cheese has been added. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to warm the cream cheese, then whisk until no lumps of cream cheese remain.

Whisk eggs and milk/acid mixture (or buttermilk) together, then whisk into pumpkin. Add flour to pan and gently fold into pumpkin mixture until combined. Divide batter evenly between pans and sprinkle topping over the pans.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Remove from oven and allow to sit in loaf pans for 15-20 minutes. Then carefully remove loaves from pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make sweet cream cheese butter: whisk all ingredients together until smooth. You can also mix ingredients with hand or stand mixer.

Makes 2 loaves and enough sweet cream cheese butter for each loaf.

Bread recipe slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies

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We’re friends, right? Good, because I need to share a secret. My famous brownies, the ones friends go wild for, the ones that are requested at parties, the ones that cause eyes to roll back in peoples’ heads…are from a mix. Can we still be friends? They’re just so perfect. I use a very specific mix- Ghiradelli Double Chocolate- and they are impeccable every. single. time. I just can’t see the point in spending the extra time and energy to make brownies from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried many scratch-made brownie recipes and while some are really, really good, they’re still being measured against my (brownie) gold standard. And frankly, who among us can’t use a reliable shortcut?

The only shortcoming to my tried-and-true brownie solution is that there is not a whole lot of variation. And, for someone who loves to cook and bake, it can feel like kind of a cop-out to serve box-mix brownies with no further embellishment. At the same time, if I’m making box-mix brownies instead of a complicated dessert, I do not want to get out the mixer and I do NOT want to wash a thousand dishes. This recipe strikes a perfect balance. I get to take credit for a spectacular dessert and a doctored up brownie mix does all the work. Two bowls and a baking dish are all it takes. Yes, please.

When I started testing this recipe, I made a traditional peanut butter cookie dough and pressed it into the top of the prepared brownie mix. But by the time the brownies were cooked through the peanut butter cookie part was dry and crumbly. Plus, in order to cream together peanut butter, butter, sugar, flour, etc., I really needed to use my stand mixer. And at that point I’d may as well make something way more high maintenance. I almost gave up on the idea. But then I remembered my Ohio roots and thought…buckeyes! Not OSU, not the tree nut, but the cookie! The center of a buckeye cookie is nothing more than powdered sugar and peanut butter. Crazy delicious and totally low maintenance. I warmed the peanut butter in the microwave for a quick 30 seconds to make sure the powdered sugar would incorporate with no problems. Bingo! The brownies are chocolaty, chewy and decadent and the peanut butter cookie portion is soft, sweet and peanut buttery. Keep a box of brownie mix and jar of peanut butter in the pantry and you’ve always got a show stopping dessert on hand. #winning!

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Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies 

Ingredients:

  • Brownie mix sufficient to make a 9×13 pan of brownies (I use Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, which requires 2 boxes to fill a 9×13 pan. Some other brands will make a 9×13 pan with one box.)
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Instructions:

Prepare a 9×13 baking dish by spraying with baking spray. Preheat oven to temperature specified by directions on box. Prepare brownies per directions on box and transfer batter to pan.

Heat peanut butter in medium bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar to peanut butter and mix until thoroughly combined. Using your hands, place dollops of peanut butter mixture throughout brownie batter, pressing slightly so that peanut butter sinks into brownie batter. Bake brownies per directions on box. Once done, allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Makes about 24 brownies

Cannoli Cheesecake

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For growing up Italian, I did not try cannoli until relatively late in life. But man, oh, man did my first encounter occur at the right place and time. During my sophomore year in college, I spent a semester in Rome. Over spring break, my friends and I traveled far and wide across Europe, eventually making our way to Sicily. It was on the streets of Palermo where I walked past a quaint bakery that has probably been there for a hundred years and zeroed in on the most beautiful dessert I’d ever laid eyes on. A delicate, flaky pastry shell filled with impossibly smooth and sweet ricotta cheese, rolled in chocolate and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. I strolled right in, managed to order this delicacy in my broken Italian, and took it to a bench overlooking the sea. O.M.G. I’m sure the Sicilian sun and sea breeze colored my opinion, but that cannoli lives in my memory as the most remarkable dessert I have ever enjoyed.

It’s a good thing, too, that the cannoli was spectacular, because our accommodations in Palermo were not. In typical college student fashion, we stayed in a hostel during our visit (pre hostel inspired horror movies.) This particular hostel had a large room with about 10 bunk beds to sleep a total of 20. My friends and I wound up sharing the room with another group of co-ed students from who knows where. As one might expect, a couple of these charming people were feeling a little frisky after one too many Limoncellos and stumbled into the sleeping quarters late that night to, well, not sleep. Thank god I had the memory of my cannoli to distract my attention from their um, extracurricular activities.

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While I clearly love a traditional cannoli, I’m not enamored with the idea of forming and baking the delicate pastry shells. I’ll leave that to the local bakery. A cannoli cheesecake, however, I can do. Ricotta cheese replaces the standard cream cheese, which renders this cheesecake lighter and fluffier than traditional cheesecake. A hit of rum, lemon zest and nutmeg add complexity and interest. Add a cloud of sweetened whipped cream and mini chocolate chips and this is an impressive and unique dessert worthy of your fanciest dinner party or holiday gathering.

Impressive yes, quick no. This cheesecake does require some planning and a few steps, but nothing is overly complicated. You’ll need to dust off both your food processor and stand mixer, but personally I think it’s fun to break out the kitchen toys. And the cheesecake is pretty forgiving. Since we’re covering the top with whipped cream, it doesn’t matter if the cheesecake cracks on top. If this is a concern for you, you can bake it in a water bath. The baking time reflected below does not account for a water bath, so if you decide to use one, keep in mind that you may need to allow the cheesecake to bake for a few more minutes.

Pick a weekend afternoon or special occasion and treat yourself to this delectable cheesecake.

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Cannoli Cheesecake 

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 4 full sheets graham crackers
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, divided

Cheesecake:

  • 32 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup light rum
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated, about 1 Tbsp
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Whipped Cream Topping:

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

At least 8 hours prior to making cheesecake, drain ricotta cheese as follows. Line a fine mesh strainer with 2 layers of paper towels and place strainer in large bowl. Put ricotta in strainer and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to drain 8 hours or overnight. Liquid will drain from ricotta into towels and bowl.

When ready to make cheesecake, prepare crust. Preheat oven to 350. Pulse graham crackers and sugar in food processor until reduced to fine crumbs. Add 5 Tbsp melted butter and pulse until combined. Use remaining tablespoon of butter to grease 9 inch springform pan, making sure to grease the sides. You can also spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray as added insurance. Put crumbs in bottom of springform pan and press until they are compact and uniformly cover the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 12-15 minutes, until edges begin to brown. Cool crust completely.

To prepare the filling, place drained ricotta in food processor and process until very smooth, about 1 minute. Add egg yolks, sugar, rum, lemon zest, vanilla, nutmeg, 1 Tbsp flour and salt. Process until ingredients are well mixed. Transfer ricotta mixture into large bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add egg whites and whip at medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture. In a small bowl, mix mini chocolate chips and remaining 1 Tbsp flour. Gently mix chocolate chips and flour into ricotta mixture.

Transfer ricotta mixture into springform pan. Bake 70-80 minutes, until outer edge of cheesecake is set but center is still slightly jiggly. Place pan on wire rack. After 5 minutes, run a paring knife between edge of cheesecake and pan. Cool at room temperature 2-3 hours, then cover with plastic wrap and cool completely in the refrigerator, at least 6 hours.

When ready to serve, prepare whipped cream topping. Place heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whip until soft peaks form. Remove cheesecake from springform mold, leaving it on the bottom piece. Place whipped cream (you do not need to use the full amount) on top of cheesecake, and spread evenly using offset spatula. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the top.

Serves 10-12

Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated‘s Ricotta Cheesecake

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S’Mores Tarts

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I’m not really what you would call an outdoorsy kinda gal. Camping has never been my thing. When I was in sixth grade, my class spent a week at Camp Fitch, a local youth camp. While my peers were hiking, riding and archery-ing (?), I was getting stuck in the middle of a pond in a canoe. For real. They had to send one of the counselors out to get me. I was also picked last in gym class, in case that isn’t clear.

My point is that I do not have significant camping experience, nor do I have many memories of making s’mores ’round the campfire. At beach bonfires, yes. In the living room fireplace, of course. In the microwave… let’s not talk about it. However, being an indoor girl can have some perks. Take, for example, these s’mores tarts. You couldn’t make these babies at a camp site.  Flaky, buttery puff pastry and sweet, smooth cookie spread act like a little blush and mascara to elevate the yummy, but predictable, s’more into something spectacular. These are s’mores all dolled up.

Store-bought puff pastry is cut into squares, scored around the edges and baked. Spread Biscoff or a similar cookie spread on pastry, then top with chocolate. Pop the tarts back into the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the chocolate, then top with marshmallows and stick under the broiler until sufficiently charred. The resulting tarts are just as gooey, sweet and delicious (and messy) as their campfire counterpart, but feel a bit more special and sophisticated. They’re fancy enough to serve at a dinner party but simple enough to make on a weeknight. Inside.

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S’Mores Tarts

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (half of one package)
  • 4 full size Hershey bars
  • 1/4 cup Biscoff spread (or similar cookie spread)
  • 20 marshmallows

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat, or spray with cooking spray.

Cut puff pastry into 4 even squares and place on baking sheet. With a paring knife, score each square about 1/2 inch from edge. Do not cut all the way through, just about half. With the tines of a fork, prick the inner square of the pastry. Do not prick outer edge. Bake pastry squares for about 10 minutes, until lightly brown. Remove from oven.

Spread about 1/2 tablespoon Biscoff on interior square of each piece of pastry, pressing down the center if it is overly puffy. Top Biscoff with 1/2 a Hershey bar. Place pastry squares back into the oven 1-2 minutes, until chocolate is softened. Remove from oven.

Turn on broiler. Place 5 marshmallows on top of each square. Once broiler is heated, place tarts back in oven and broil until the marshmallows are charred, about 2-4 minutes, depending on the strength and proximity of your broiler. Watch closely, as the marshmallows can burn quickly. Remove from oven when marshmallows are sufficiently charred. Allow to cool until tarts can be handled, then serve warm.

Makes 8 tarts. Recipe can easily be doubled.