Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Figs and Honey, and three late Summer Salads...

Figs are something new to me - I've never eaten them or cooked with them much, so my knowledge of figs consists mostly of Fig Newtons, and the commercial that deemed them as "not a cookie, but fruit and cake!"

But I recently bought some figs at the grocery store because I wanted to use them in a salad, both whole, and in a vinaigrette.  I started by making a paste of figs, honey, ground cloves and water, which became something truly wonderful - I might even call it Fig Honey Butter, since the flavor and consistency was very similar to apple butter.  

You might think it was apple butter if you didn't know better, except for the tiny little fig seeds flecked throughout.  Fig Honey Butter sounds more appealing than fig honey paste, although maybe misleading since there's no butter in it at all.  But either way, it was delicious, and I currently have a jar of it in my fridge that we've enjoyed on bread this week.

The Fig Honey Butter is the foundation for the vinaigrette.  After making the butter, you'll reserve just a small amount, which will then get diluted further with more water and a little red wine vinegar, to create a really lovely salad dressing.  The vinaigrette perfectly complemented the greens, goat cheese, chopped figs and candied walnuts we ate with our dinner with my parents last Saturday night.

For a light snack on Sunday, I made a quick salad of a few leftover ingredients - cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and grilled corn, all drizzled with a dash of olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with lemon zest, salt and pepper.  If I had any cucumber in the fridge, that would have gone great with this as well.  

This was really refreshing and not at all heavy, when you just need something simple to tide you over until dinner.

Another favorite is zucchini "pasta" which is not pasta at all, but a salad.  Very simply, this is zucchini sliced into very thin julienned strips, preferably with a julienne peeler, but you could use a knife, and tossed with olive oil and lemon, salt and pepper, and maybe a little fresh tomato and/or sliced almonds.  Add a piece of salmon and you have a nice light warm-weather dinner.  I posted this recipe a few months ago, but I have a nicer photo now.  :)

Fig Honey Butter
(makes 2 cups)
  • 1 cup figs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • pinch cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups water
Place figs, honey, cloves and 1 cup of water in a container, and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.  Gradually add more water until desired consistency is reached.  Spread on muffins, toast, etc, as you would apple butter.

Fig Honey Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup Fig Honey Butter (recipe above)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Puree ingredients using an immersion blender until smooth.  Use as a dressing on salads.

Candied Walnuts
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch cloves
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts (or substitute pecans)
Preheat the oven to 300 F and cover a baking sheet with foil.  In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for the walnuts, until well incorporated.  Add the walnuts and stir to coat them completely.  Spread evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once.  Remove from the oven, stir again, and cool completely before storing.

(Salads for Two)
Fig, Goat Cheese and Candied Walnut Salad with Fig Honey Vinaigrette
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 3-4 tablespoons fig honey vinaigrette (recipe above)
  • 6 figs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup candied walnuts
  • salt and pepper
Toss the greens with the vinaigrette until coated.  Divide between two serving dishes.  Top with the figs, goat cheese and walnuts, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella and Grilled Corn Salad
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup small, fresh mozzarella balls, halved
  • 1 ear of grilled corn, cold, sliced off the cob
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • cucumber, zucchini, onion, etc, if available, diced
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients.  Eat! :)

For the Zucchini "Pasta", click here for a previously posted recipe.  :)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Black and White Strawberry Tart

I think everyone remembers the first time they tasted a chocolate-covered strawberry, whether it was the real thing or just sliced strawberries and chocolate syrup on an ice cream brownie sundae.  As I kid I thought they were the epitome of elegance and romance, and as an adult, I still feel there is something intrinsically elegant and romantic about the pairing of chocolate and strawberries.

When my sister got married, following the intimate ceremony of family and just a couple friends, she and my brother-in-law held the reception at their house.  The cake was catered, of course, but she and I made everything else.  Shortbread cookies and a few other treats wrapped up in pretty Chinese take-out boxes from a craft store as favors for the guests.  And strawberries dipped in white and milk chocolate.  Unfortunately, we used the wrong kind of chocolate which didn't stick very well to the strawberries, so when we picked them up, the chocolate slipped off the strawberries in a big glob.  But they still tasted great!

When I was dreaming up this tart, I pondered over a few names to describe the bittersweet chocolate crust, the creamy white chocolate vanilla filling and fresh strawberries such as "Strawberries on a Cloud", "Sunny and Stormy Strawberry Tart" and "Double Chocolate Strawberry Tart".  But in the end, I liked Black and White Strawberry Tart the best.  What do you think?

My parents came over for dinner last night, and I knew that this was the dessert I wanted to make.  Strawberries and chocolate are such a a wonderful combination, and this pretty tart showcases all the flavors in a beautiful presentation.

I only needed a recipe for the crust, and researched lots of chocolate tart dough recipes, not finding one that was quite what I wanted.  So finally, I just adapted Dorie Greenspan's recipe for sweet tart dough, substituting cocoa powder for some of the flour, and hoped that it still worked as well as the original.  The crust turned out beautifully - rich with bittersweet chocolate, only slightly sweetened from a little powdered sugar and a buttery cookie texture.  

Baked in a tart pan, the dark chocolate fluted edge makes a lovely shell for the creamy white chocolate cream filling that was speckled with vanilla bean seeds from the addition of vanilla bean paste.

Sliced strawberries and a sprinkling of grated chocolate finishes the tart and makes it impossible to resist a slice.

Black and White Strawberry Tart

Chocolate Shortbread Crust (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold butter, cut into small pieces (freeze butter for 10 minutes for optimal temperature)
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom
White Chocolate Vanilla Cream Filling
  • 6 ounces white baking chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
Strawberry Topping
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 1/2 ounce semi-sweet chocolate

1.  Prepare the Crust:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, powdered sugar and salt.  Add the butter, and using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until you have coarse crumbs.  

Add the egg yolk, a little at a time, and incorporate into the mixture with your fingers.  Continue to use your fingers to work the dough until it starts to moisten and hold together (this will take 1-2 minutes).  Gather the dough into a ball.

Thoroughly spray the sides and bottom of the tart shell with non-stick baking spray (or butter well).  Press half the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Press the other half of the dough around the sides, making sure the dough comes all the way up to the top of the pan.

Freeze for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Take the tart pan from the freezer and spray the shiny side of a piece of foil with non-stick baking spray.  Fit the foil inside the pan against the dough, sprayed side down.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Carefully remove the foil, pressing down any parts of the dough that have puffed up with the back of a spoon, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack on the counter for 10 minutes, then cool in the refrigerator while you prepare the white chocolate filling.

2.  Prepare the Filling:

Melt the white chocolate according to the instructions on the package, then cool to room temperature for about 30 minutes.

With an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste until smooth and creamy.  Gradually add the melted chocolate and beat well.

In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form.  Add the whipped cream to the white chocolate cream cheese mixture, a spoonful at a time, beating on low until mixture is smooth.

Spread white chocolate filling in the cooled crust.  Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.

3.  The Final Flourish:

Wipe the strawberries clean with a damp paper towel and cut the leafy tops off.  Place one whole strawberry upside down in the center of the tart.  

Slice the remaining strawberries, and arrange the strawberry slices, starting at the center, in a circular pattern.  Repeat with a second layer, if desired.  Top with grated semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate curls.

To serve, take the tart out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Carefully, press the bottom of the pan up to loosen it from the side.  Remove the side, and set the tart, still on its metal base, on a serving dish.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Caprese Salad Appetizers

Last night Jamie and I had every intention of going out to a wine and tapas bar we've been meaning to check out.  We don't go out to eat all that often since we like to cook at home so much, but an evening of wine and cute, tiny food sounded very relaxing after a long and busy week of work.

But, by the time I got home from work, I'd talked myself out of going anywhere.  There was shopping to be done for dinner with my parents tonight, as well as making the strawberry tart so it could chill overnight...  and I knew my mind would be on all these things if I put them off.  But just because we weren't going out, didn't mean we couldn't have wine and our own "tapas" at home.

I'm in love with caprese salad - the flavors, the ingredients, the way the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil are such a perfect combination.  So I had the idea to make some little bite-sized salads that could be served on toothpicks.  (I was also looking for an excuse to use these appetizer spoons I found at World Market...)

How pretty are these?

It's so simple, but so delicious, and doesn't require anything more than a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  And they are pretty enough to serve at a party, too!

We warmed our under the broiler for a minute or two, but they could also be served completely cold.  Your preference.  Have a wonderful and relaxing Saturday! :)

Caprese Salad Appetizers
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 8 small, fresh mozzarella balls
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 8 toothpicks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • coarse salt and pepper
Slide 1 cherry tomato, 1 basil leaf and 1 mozzarella ball onto each toothpick.  Brush with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Serve just like that, or place on a baking sheet under the broiler for 1-2 minutes to warm slightly. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

a Summer BBQ Dinner Party

Before the sweet ending to our dinner party Saturday night (remember the ice cream cake?) there was BBQ.  And a LOT of it. Three days later, Jamie and I are still trying to finish the beans and pulled pork.  It seemed fitting to end the last month of the summer paying our respects to BBQ, though, and I don't think our friends minded having us test out new recipes on them!

Jamie made the ribs.  And when Jamie makes meat, he always comes through with something amazing.  I wasn't actually going to add ribs to the menu, because I've attempted them twice before and both times they were nothing to brag about - tough and sinewy doesn't win any BBQ prizes.  I was so disappointed in my previous attempts that I didn't want to be responsible for such an important part of the meal!  So in addition to the pulled pork, I was going to just make some BBQ bacon-wrapped chicken skewers.  Easy and safe, right?  

Well, Jamie was determined we could do ribs and do them well, and I shouldn't have doubted him.  He made some of the most tender, fall-off-the-bone, flavorful ribs I've ever tasted.  And without a smoker, he just cooked them on low in the oven for about 6 hours then finished them by charring them on the grill for a few minutes.  Absolutely delicious!  Although, I have to keep reminding him that even though he made the ribs, I made the dry rub, the BBQ sauce, the beans, the slaw, the bacon sage butter (hang on, we'll get to that!) the pulled pork, the ice cream cake...  :)

So let's talk about my contributions to the meal, and let's face it - isn't the BBQ sauce the most important part?  For inspiration, I read my June/July issue of Saveur cover to cover, which featured all things BBQ.  I knew I wanted to make their recipe for BBQ beans, although as I usually do, I made a few changes.  But when it came to the sauce, none of the recipes I saw really grabbed me in their entirety, so it became a sort of personal challenge to create my own recipe.  

Now, I know my friends are a little biased, but they thought this sauce was just about the best ever.  Rich with molasses and brown sugar, with a hint of Coke, and a nice kick from cayenne and jalapenos, it had just the right balance of sweetness and spicyness.  Just like Jamie and me.  :)  Who is sweet and who is spicy, you ask?  Well, now, that would be telling...  And so Heather's Coca Cola Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce was happily born.

The dry rub needed to have a nice kick, too, since this was slathered all over the pork butt and ribs while they slow cooked all day, so the red pepper flakes and dry mustard added a really nice balance to the brown sugar.

Then there were sweet and savory beans, slowly simmered in our dutch oven with apple wood bacon and lots of spices.  Saveur recommended canned navy beans, which I couldn't find (I've never seen them sold other than dry), so I used a variety of white beans, left out the pork and reduced the liquid, but basically used their recipe since it was pretty perfect already.  Technically, they can't be called baked beans, since I simmered them on the stove in the dutch oven - which couldn't be helped, though, since the oven was occupied with the ribs.  But a dutch oven is an amazing thing, and the beans were fantastic on the stove.

There was slaw with a hint of vinegar and lime for the pulled pork sandwiches along with the Good and Evil pickles which we bought last month at a farmer's market - they are sweet pickles with jalapenos, and if you don't know what you're about to eat, they definitely take you by surprise!  And then after coughing for a minute or two, you reach for another.  You just can't help it.

Oh, the pulled pork...  Have you ever noticed how happy people are when they are eating pork?  All of life's troubles seem to fade away for a few minutes while savoring that rich, fattening meat.  And when you have pulled pork, baby back ribs and apple wood smoked bacon all in the same meal?  Well, that's a recipe for a very happy (and full) group.  If you don't have a smoker (which we don't) then slow-cooking pork in your crock pot (which I did) is the absolute best way to make moist and tender pulled pork.  Not to mention easy, since you can walk away from it all day and not do a thing to it!  Just try to ignore the rumblings in your stomach as you smell it cooking in your kitchen for 8 hours, though... 

And I don't think BBQ would be complete without grilled corn on the cob ... served with bacon sage butter.  Bacon?  in BUTTER??  That's right!  Kind of seemed like the natural thing to do since I had leftover bacon from the beans, and corn and butter are a match made in heaven.  Brush a little bit of that goodness on your corn and you'll fall in love with corn on the cob all over again.  And bacon.  And butter.

Just for fun, we had a signature cocktail, which, not surprisingly, the guys had no interest in drinking.  I've never heard of a Kir before, but Jamie found it in our "Cocktail Bible" of mixed drinks.  Simple and refreshing, it's a combination of Creme de Cassis and White Wine, garnished with a pretty slice of lemon.  And for a virgin option, try Grenadine with White Grape Juice.  I'm a new fan of this drink, which is good, since we now have a whole bottle of the blackberry-flavored liqueur in our cupboard.

Last, but not least, there was the Chocolate Caramel Toffee Trifle Ice Cream Cake, which I already shared with you all.  But in case you missed it, I urge you to take a look at that post.  It was a beautiful and delicious creation.

So, finally...  for the recipes.  Enjoy.

Heather's Coca Cola Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce
(makes 7 cups)
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapenos, minced (seeds removed)
  • 3 cups ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 12-ounce can (1 1/2 cups) Coke
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat.  Add the onion and salt and cook until onion is softened, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook for two minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients.  

Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until completely smooth (there should not be any chunks of onion, garlic or jalapeno).  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer.  

Simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours until sauce is rich and thick and the flavors have deepened.

Dry Rub
(makes 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Bacon Sage Butter and Grilled Corn
(makes 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 8 slices apple wood smoked bacon
  • 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 ears corn, in the husk
Cook the bacon in a skillet until browned and crispy and the fat is completely rendered.  Place on a paper towel to drain and cool completely.

Chop the bacon into small bits, then add the chopped bacon and the chopped sage to a bowl with the butter.  Using a hand mixer, whip the butter until well incorporated.

Grill the corn, in the husk (which keeps it from drying out) for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally.  Spread the butter on the grilled corn.

Baby Back Ribs
  • 1 rack baby back ribs
  • 1/4 cup dry rub (recipe above)
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, cut into large chunks
  • 4 cups apple cider (approximate)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce (recipe above)
Preheat the oven to 200 F.  Rub the rack of ribs on both sides with the garlic, then with the dry rub, and season well with salt and pepper.  In a baking pan, large enough to hold the rack of ribs, add the onion, garlic, apple cider and apple cider vinegar.  Place the ribs in the pan and cover with foil.  Cook for 5-6 hours, or until meat pulls away from the bone and is very tender.

To finish, heat the grill to medium high.  Brush the ribs generously with BBQ sauce, then grill for 5-10 minutes on each side for a nice char.

BBQ Pulled Pork
  • 5 pound pork butt/shoulder  (I bought an 8-pound pork butt which was actually too big for our crock pot, so I cut a portion off to freeze for another time)
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, cut into large chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed with the side of a knife
  • 1/2 cup dry rub (recipe above)
  • 2 cups BBQ sauce (recipe above)
 Place the onion and garlic in the bottom of your crock pot.  Rub the pork butt on all sides with the dry rub.  Set on top of the onion and garlic in the crock pot.  Set the crock pot to low and cook, covered, for 8-10 hours until fat is rendered and pork is very tender.  (You don't need any liquid!  As the pork cooks, the fat will render, creating its own "broth" in the crock pot.  You may even need to remove some of the liquid fat as it cooks, if the crock pot gets too full of liquid.)

Just before serving, remove the pork from the crock pot.  Separate the meat from the fat.  Pull the meat with two forks, place meat in a large bowl and add the BBQ sauce.  Add as little or as much as you like!

Serve on buns with extra sauce on the side, pickles and slaw.

Cabbage Slaw with Lime
  • 1 head cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/4 sweet yellow onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • splash of white distilled vinegar
  • pinch of celery salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to a large bowl, then use your hands to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

BBQ Beans
(adapted from Saveur)
  • 10 slices apple wood smoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 cans white beans (I used 2 cans Great Northern, 1 can white kidney and 1 can pinto), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomatoes
In a dutch oven or stock pot placed over medium heat, cook the bacon about 10 minutes, until fat is rendered.  

Add the onion and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  

Add remaining ingredients.  Add remaining ingredients, stir, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours, until thick and savory.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Toffee Trifle Ice Cream Cake

Most of my recipes have a story behind them, and this one is no different.  

My mom's chocolate trifle is a dessert like no other.  

Looking so beautiful in a glass trifle dish, the layers of coffee-soaked chocolate cake, whipped cream, chocolate pudding and heath bar bits were almost too pretty to sink a spoon into.   


But then desire for the moist cake, the creamy pudding and whipped cream and the crunchy toffee overcomes you.  

You breathe in its sweet and sticky aroma.

You can't stop thinking about what it would taste like.  

You dip a finger into the whipped cream and lick it off.  

You steal a piece of toffee and savor the sweetness on your tongue. 

And then you can't stand the anticipation any longer.

You take a spoon and dip it in, all the way down through all the layers.  

If mom wasn't around, you'd probably eat it straight out of the trifle dish.

But you politely scoop it into a bowl, gaze at it in awe and respect for a few seconds and then take a bite.

And it's everything you imagined it would be...

When I was planning the menu for our BBQ dinner party last night with a few friends, I had originally planned to make the trifle exactly as my mom used to make it.  But then I started thinking about ice cream.  It's summer, after all, and I missed the boat on posting any ice cream recipes during the national ice cream month of July.  And now with the cooler nights and shorter days, it will soon be fall.  So I decided there was no better way to end the summer than with a truly spectacular ice cream cake.  After all, we still have plenty of hot weather ahead before the leaves start to fall.

Before you ask, I did not make the ice cream.  Perhaps that would be more blog-worthy, but I don't have an ice cream maker, and honestly, with the time it took simply to build the ice cream cake, I can't imagine adding the hours needed to make homemade ice cream as well.  

I'll tell you a little secret.  My mom didn't actually use coffee to soak the cake, but she's made me promise not to divulge her secret ingredient.  I didn't use coffee either, although you certainly could.  While shopping for ingredients, I found a bottle of caramel syrup, the kind you might add to a latte, and used that to soak the cake.  Yummy!  I could have eaten that caramel-soaked cake straight out of the cake pan with a spoon.  And after it's pressed into the layers and frozen, it takes on a delicious brownie-like texture.

Making this ice cream cake takes a little patience, since you'll need to stop and freeze each level as you go, and once all the layers are built, it will need to freeze overnight.  But believe me.  It's worth it.

Now if only a few more people would stop by today and help us eat it!  Jamie and I were trying to decide what to call the cake, and among a few other ideas were "don't-skip-the-gym-this-week ice cream cake" and "the-50-thousand-calorie ice cream cake".  But in the end, I just want to name it after the flavors, the dessert and the memories which inspired me.

And the best thing about having half an ice cream cake left in your freezer?  Sharing a piece for breakfast.  :)

Who wants to stop by for some dessert tonight?

Chocolate Caramel Toffee Trifle Ice Cream Cake
  • Devils Food chocolate cake mix
  • 1 16-ounce container Cool Whip, thawed
  • 2 half gallons ice cream, different flavors (we used Heath Bar ice cream and Chocolate Cheesecake ice cream)
  • 1 bag heath bar bits
  • 8 tablespoons caramel syrup (or coffee)
  • 6 tablespoons caramel topping
  • 6 tablespoons chocolate syrup (I didn't use this, but wish I had!)
  • 10-inch spring form pan
  • 7-inch spring form pan
 Bake the cake in a 9x13 pan according to the directions on the box and cool completely in the pan.  Take a fork and crumble the cake into crumbs.  Drizzle with the 8 tablespoons of caramel syrup or coffee and toss with a fork to moisten.

Thaw the heath bar ice cream for about 15-20 minutes, or until it's spreadable but not too runny.  It may be helpful to transfer the ice cream to a large bowl and stir to smooth it out for spreading.

While the ice cream is thawing, spray the sides only of the spring form pans with non-stick spray, then cut pieces of parchment or wax paper and press against the sides of the pan.  Trim to fit.

It's time to build your first layer.  Scoop two cups of the cake crumbs into the 10-inch pan and 1 cup of cake crumbs into the 7-inch pan.  Press down firmly with the back of a spoon to cover the bottom of the pans.  (If the cake sticks to the spoon, spray the back of the spoon with non-stick spray.)

Scoop 2 cups of ice cream into the 10-inch pan and 1 cup of ice cream into the 7 inch pan.  Spread evenly.

Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of caramel topping (and chocolate syrup if you're using it) and a generous sprinkling of heath bits.  I got a big glob of caramel topping in one spot, but no worries!  It doesn't have to be perfect.  The beauty of this recipe is how the imperfection of the layers still look completely amazing.

Scoop 1 cup of cool whip into the 10-inch pan and 1/2 cup of cool whip into the 7-inch pan.  Spread evenly.

Freeze both pans for 1 hour.

Now build your second layer.  Thaw the chocolate ice cream to a spreadable consistency.  I built the second layer a little different from the first, since I used all of the chocolate ice cream for this layer. Start with the cake, 2 cups for the 10-inch pan and 1 cup for the 7-inch pan.

Now spread 2/3 of the carton of chocolate ice cream in the 10-inch pan and 1/3 of the chocolate ice cream in the 7-inch pan.  Finish with the caramel topping, heath bits and cool whip, as you did for the first layer.  After completing the second layer, freeze pans for 1 hour.

For the third and last layer, I filled the 10-inch pan to the top with two cups of cake crumbs and the rest of the heath bar ice cream.  Then I filled the 7-inch pan to the top with 1 cup of cake crumbs and just topped with cool whip.  Spread both layers so that they are smooth and even.  For the final layer, I only sprinkled the 7-inch cake with heath bits.  

(After both pans are filled, you should still have about 1 1/2 cups of cool whip and a few heath bar bits left for garnish.)

Cover the pans with plastic wrap and freeze overnight, at least 8 hours.

When you're ready to assemble the cake, press down gently on each cake to make sure they are very firm.  Set the 10-inch pan on a plate or cake pedestal.  Carefully, remove the sides of the pan and peel the wax paper off the cake.  (The 10-inch cake will remain on the base of the spring-form pan.)

Take the 7-inch cake and carefully remove the sides of the pan and peel the wax paper off the cake.  Take a sharp knife and gently slide it under the cake, between the cake and the base, to loosen it from the base.  The whole cake should lift off the base pretty easily.  Once you've removed the 7-inch cake from its base, center it on top of the 10-inch cake.

Take the remaining cool whip and using a pastry bag or piping gun, pipe the cool whip around the base of the top cake in a pretty pattern.  I used a star tip on a piping gun to achieve this look.  Sprinkle with the remaining heath bits and you're done!

Freeze until ready to eat, and if desired, drizzle with more caramel topping before serving.