Salty Peanut Ice Cream

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I don’t recall exactly when my love for sweets began.  I do know however that I come from a long line of “sweet-crazed beings” and often try to place blame on genetics for my uncontrollable need for sweets.  I have many wonderful memories of growing up in a very small town in the South, however, I remember one of the most anticipated family events was our once a week trip to the local Dairy Queen or “DQ”.  It was a tiny ice cream shop then with a walk-up service counter.  My Mom loved to take us there because it made us kids so happy, but the truth is…it made her happy.  She’d splurge on frozen treats by the dozen to stash in our freezer for later consumption.  A great convenience since the DQ was an entire mile away…maybe.  I remember fondly and still today, my Mom’s favorite was the peanut buster parfait.  Soft serve vanilla ice cream blanketed with warm fudge sauce and topped with crunchy salted peanuts.  The combination of sweet and salty made it an irresistible treat.

I recently ordered dessert at a restaurant that included peanut ice cream as it was the waiter’s favored choice.  I ordered it without much thought, not really expecting anything too memorable.  To my surprise, upon first bite, I was instantly transported back to my childhood.  It was absolutely divine and incredibly nostalgic.  Slightly sweet yet salty, deliciously creamy yet crunchy and entirely mine.  I haven’t been able to stop obsessing about it since.  I’ve spent much time these past few weeks searching persistently for the perfect recipe for peanut ice cream but have mostly only uncovered peanut butter ice cream recipes, which seemed too sweet for my now unnaturally obsessive vision.  After much research, I decided to alter a peanut butter ice cream recipe to create a more salty peanut treat.  Wow.  What I created was unbelievable!

The ice cream is custard based which means that the milk is heated and then tempered into the egg and sugar mixture, similar to a pudding or custard.  In my opinion, this method is far superior resulting in an incredibly creamy and rich ice cream.  This process takes more time but is fully worth the effort.  The base of the ice cream is so creamy exuding subtle hints of peanut butter while the peanuts balance the sweet with an incredible saltiness and crunch.

Go ahead Mom and drizzle it with warm fudge sauce if you must, but this ice cream creates memories standing simply on its own.

This one is for you Mom…I love you and your sweet tooth!

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Salty Peanut Ice Cream          {Print Recipe}

Makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk

¾ cup sugar

3 eggs

½ cup crunchy peanut butter (preferably the low-sugar variety).  You can also use smooth peanut butter.

1 ½ cups heavy whipped cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup lightly salted, roasted shelled peanuts, chopped

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just hot (not boiling).  In a separate medium bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with a mixer until thick and pale yellow.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture in bowl (whisking constantly so you don’t scramble the eggs).  Once incorporated, pour the milk-egg mixture back into the saucepan.  Return the saucepan to medium-low heat and cook custard, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the peanut butter.  If using smooth peanut butter, strain the custard into a large bowl.  Let the mixture cool slightly, stirring often, then stir in the cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold, 6-8 hours or overnight.

Process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions (for about 20 minutes), adding the cup of peanuts about 5 minutes before it has finished churning.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and freeze until hard.  Break out the spoon and dig in!

Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine

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Italian Cream Layer Cake

You might be surprised to hear that of all the desserts in my baking obsessed world, cake isn’t my first pick when it comes to sweets.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love a slice of cake from time to time, but of all the delicious desserts, I’d pass it by for a decadent bowl of pudding or a light crispy cookie any day.

Now…with that said, there’s Italian Cream Cake.   Oh my goodness.  Here is an exception to my former rule.  One bite of this cake and I’m transported to a happy, happy place.  Most cakes, while much enjoyed, are pretty easy to part with and share with friends.  This cake however, was much harder to separate from.  I literally could have consumed the entire cake without much regard.  The combination of tangy cream cheese, sweet coconut and toasted walnuts is so irresistible and completely self-indulgent…I’m hopelessly in love.

I urge you to give this cake a try…but please try to share.  Can I please have a slice??

For the Cake:          {Print Recipe}

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

5 whole eggs (separated)

3 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

2 cups all-purpose flour (+1 Tbsp for high altitude)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup buttermilk (+2 Tbsp for high altitude)

For the Frosting:

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped + more for garnish

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Making the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour (3) 9” round cake pans (and add parchment, if desired) and set aside.  In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on medium high speed until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, combine the butter, oil & sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Lower the speed and add the egg yolks, vanilla and coconut.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and baking powder.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix well after each addition.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.  Divide the batter evenly into the pans and sprinkle the top of each batter filled pan with 1 Tbsp. sugar.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool the cakes in the pan(s) on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.  Remove the cakes from the pan by sliding a knife around the perimeter of the pan.  Allow the cakes to cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.

Making the frosting:

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Stir the coconut and toasted, chopped walnuts into the frosting mixture or set aside to decorate the outside of the cake (I stirred the coconut into the frosting and used the walnuts for garnish).  Spread the frosting between the layers of cake, the top and all sides.  If using the walnuts for garnish, lightly press the walnuts around the perimeter of the cake.

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Storage:  This cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.  Remove the cake from the refrigerator 2-3 hours before serving as it is best served at room temperature for the most perfect texture and consistency.

Enjoy! xoxo

Banana Cakelettes with a Double Identity

I have such high hopes weekly in the produce department of our neighborhood grocery store as I admire the display of bananas.  Habitually, Ami and I stand by the bananas and ponder our interest for the week ahead.  Ami continually pleads for them stating, “I promise to eat them Momma”.  Even though I know better, I find myself selecting the perfect bunch and lowering them into the cart.  At home as the week progresses, inevitably so do the bananas.  Transforming from bright yellow in color to dull yellow to speckled to completely brown.  Now, most people might think that brown bananas have met their fate and should simply be discarded.  I know however (and I think that most of you do too) that overripe bananas create incredibly moist and delicious breads and cakes. With only one or two consumed off of the bunch, these lingering lovelies are destined for sweet greatness.  I chose to roast the bananas before adding them to the batter in an effort to enhance their flavor…success!   I’ve also learned from my baking practice that brushing the baked cakes with a simple sugar syrup (flavored with liqueur in this case) not only adds a wonderful amount of moisture to the cake, but superior flavor as well.

Now, for the frosting:  You might be wondering why the frosting has a double identity?  My usual pairing with banana cake is chocolate buttercream (which is absolutely delicious by the way).  Breaking tradition, this time I wanted to try something different.  I experimented with two different frostings for these cakes.  I wanted to try a cream cheese frosting as well as a white chocolate buttercream.  While my favorite was the Italian Cream Cheese (pictured below); light and fluffy with a delicately sweet and slightly tangy flavor, the White Chocolate buttercream had a wonderfully creamy consistency and a little extra sweetness.  Both combinations were quite scrumptious and I’d love to know which one is your favorite!!

Banana Cakelettes          {Print Recipe}              

Yields: (9) 3” diameter cakes or (1) 9-inch cake

 2 large  ripe bananas

½ cup  sour cream, room temperature

2 large  eggs, room temperature

2 tsp  grated lemon zest

1 ½ tsp  vanilla extract

2 cups  sifted cake flour

¼ cup + 2 Tbsp   sugar

1 tsp  baking soda

¾ tsp  baking powder

½ tsp  salt

8 Tbsp  butter, room temperature

2 Tbsp  canola oil

Simple Syrup

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup water

1  Tbsp  dark rum

1  Tbsp  Crème de Banana (banana liqueur)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter/grease and flour pan(s) and use parchment paper, if desired.  I use parchment paper even on the 3” pans.  It helps the cakes to come out much more easily.

Cut a slit in the banana peel lengthwise and place on a foil covered baking sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until the peels turn black and juices begin to caramelize.  Remove from oven, remove peel (& discard) and let the bananas cool to room temperature.

In a food processor, process the cooled roasted bananas and sour cream until smooth.  Add the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla and process until just blended.

In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds to blend.  Add the butter and ½ of the banana mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase to medium speed and beat for 1-2 minutes to aerate and strengthen the cake’s structure.  Scrape down the sides as necessary.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and if using 3” diam. pans, place on baking sheet.  Bake for 20-22 minutes (3” cakes) and 25-30 minutes (9” cake) or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pan(s) on a rack for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, run a knife between the cake and pan sides to release the cakes and let the cakes cool completely.

Making the simple syrup:

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a slight boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add the rum and banana liqueur.  Brush the warm syrup over the cooled cakes.  Fill and frost the cake(s) as desired.

Recipe adapted from The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Italian Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield:   approx. 3 cups

2 ¼ cups  mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup  superfine sugar

4-6 Tbsp  heavy whipping cream

1 tsp  clear vanilla extract

1 cup  heavy whipping cream

Mix the mascarpone cheese and the sugar together with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.  Add 4-6 Tbsp heavy whipping cream and the vanilla extract until just blended.  Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Clean mixing bowl and switch to the whisk attachment.  Beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form and the cream holds its shape on the beater.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until it is incorporated.

Place frosting in a pastry bag fitted with desired tip, or simply spread the frosting on the cake with a spatula.   This frosting and cake can be stored covered in the refrigerator for about 3 days.

 

White Chocolate Buttercream

Yield: 2 ¾ cups

2 sticks  unsalted butter, room temperature

12 ounces  good quality white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup  confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 tsp  vanilla extract

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy and light in color.  Beat in the melted and cooled white chocolate.  Decrease the speed to low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.  Mix until light and fluffy.  This frosting and cake can be stored covered at room temperature for about 3 days.

Recipe from Food & Wine

Enjoy! xoxo

 

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

…Ok…Halloween is not one of my favored holidays.  Call me a “scaredy- cat” if you will but I’ve always felt slightly uneasy about this ghost honored tradition.  The ever so slight viewing of a horror film preview (yes, I said preview) can disturb me for weeks and FORGET about haunted houses…the casual thought of them sends chills down my spine and frightens me to the core.  Now just because I don’t adore ghosts and goblins, does not mean that I don’t consume my share (or more) of candy and sweets during this sugar crazed celebration.  It holds true as the one occasion where I can somehow justify mass consumption of candy, of any kind, merely because of its presence in the large bowl nearby.

All fear aside, Fall is absolutely my favorite season of all and I would never pass up the opportunity to bake something special for this festive time of year.  For instance, I happen to have quite a lot of adoration for pumpkins, particularly when combined with a little sugar and spice.  As the air outdoors becomes crisp and cool and the landscape begins its transformation into winter, I can’t help but imagine snuggling up next to a warm cozy fire while enjoying some spiced pumpkin cupcakes.  The spice in these cupcakes seems to embody everything that I love about this breathtaking season.  While the cupcakes are incredible on their own, I thought that a garnish could add a little something extra to the presentation…perhaps some Pumpkin Seed Brittle…oh my.  What was intended as a simple embellishment, battled to steal the spotlight!  This brittle is amazingly good with a wonderful caramelized-buttery-cinnamon flavor and if you’re a fan of brittle, you won’t be able to resist it…trust me.

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting                                                                                                                                               {Print Recipe}

Yield: 24-27 standard sized cupcakes

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder (-1/8 tsp for high altitude)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp cloves

½ tsp salt

1 ¼ cups canned pumpkin (15 oz. can, not pie filling)

¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, until well incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and pumpkin alternately, beginning and ending with the flour, and mix until the batter is just combined.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners about ½ full and bake about 18-20 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool the cupcakes on a rack completely prior to frosting.

Recipe adapted from The Best of Gourmet

 

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Yield: Frosts 24-30 cupcakes

2-8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp heavy whipping cream

Beat the cream cheese and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium high speed until light and fluffy.  Decrease the speed to low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla and the heavy whipping cream and mix until smooth.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle:

Yield: 1 ¾ lbs or (28) 1 oz. servings

¼  cup butter, cut into chunks

1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

2 ½ cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1 ½ cups toasted hulled pumpkin seeds

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly butter and set aside.  Place pumpkin seeds in a large sauté pan and heat over medium-low heat to toast, about 5-8 minutes.  Make sure to shake or stir the seeds occasionally to ensure even toasting.  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, stir the baking soda in the vanilla to dissolve and also set aside.  In another bowl, mix together the cinnamon and salt.  This will help the cinnamon to distribute evenly when stirred into the sugar mixture.  Have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go as once the sugar reaches it’s temperature, things move quickly!

In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to stir together the sugar, ½ cup water, corn syrup and the butter (1/4 cup).  Heat the mixture until the butter is completely melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Increase the heat to medium and boil the sugar mixture, stirring occasionally, until it turns a deep amber and registers 335 to 340 degrees F on a candy thermometer.  This step takes anywhere from 5-12 minutes.  Keep a close eye on it to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla and cinnamon mixtures (they will bubble up).  Immediately stir in the toasted pumpkin seeds and pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a spatula or wooden spoon to spread evenly.  Let the brittle cool at room temperature for about 30-40 minutes.

Gently break the brittle into chunks and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Trust me though; it won’t last that long.

Recipe from Sunset Magazine

Triple Lemon Cake

In honor of my sweet husband’s birthday this year, I presented him with the “baking bible” as I like to call it; an enormous collection of my most cherished cake recipes to choose from.  It’s a treasured family tradition to select your favorite birthday dessert on your special day (even though we all get to indulge in it) and it’s actually quite an overwhelming task as I’ve made many delicious sweets over the past number of years.  I think he changed his mind 4 times before finally committing to his most beloved birthday cake…Triple Lemon Cake…couldn’t have chosen better myself!

There really is nothing better than lemon cake; so light and refreshing.  You forget for a moment that you’re actually consuming a pound or so of butter (but who’s counting?).  The lemon mousse filling is so irresistible, it’s tempting to eat it simply on its own…I just can’t imagine the cake without it.  For a lighter result, you can substitute the Swiss Buttercream for Whipped Cream, but for the love of all things sweet, PLEASE don’t substitute the lemon mousse!

I’ve made many variations of this lemon cake and it’s the most requested cake (next to chocolate) that I make.  I seem to modify a component of the cake every time that I make it and this combination is definitely THE ONE!  Actually, the truth is…in the mind of a baker, particularly a fanatical one, I don’t think a recipe is ever absolute.  Part of the challenge and enjoyment of baking comes with the gradual evolution of a simple recipe into something unforgettable.  Next time I make this cake I might try it with a traditional meringue (perhaps toasted) or a whipped cream frosting…we’ll see…

Triple Lemon Cake          {Print Recipe}

Making the lemon curd (for the lemon mousse):

Makes 2 ½ cups

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 cup minus 1 Tbsp sugar

¾ cup freshly squeezed/strained lemon juice

6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

Fill a large bowl approximately halfway with ice and water and set aside.  Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water at least 2 inches, but not full enough to touch the underside of the top double boiler and bring to a boil.

Place the eggs, egg yolks and sugar into the top of the double boiler (off of the heat) and whisk until blended.  Add the lemon juice and mix well.  Reduce the heat to medium low until the water comes to a gentle boil.  Place the egg mixture over the water and heat, whisking constantly and scraping the edges frequently with a spatula (so that the eggs don’t scramble) until the curd is very thick, about 7 minutes.  The curd should coat the back of a spoon when ready or hold a distinct shape on the surface when the curd is lifted and falls back into the bowl.

Push the curd through a fine strainer with a spatula into a medium sized bowl.  Add the cold pieces of butter, letting it sit for a minute and then mixing until combined.  Once all of the butter is melted and incorporated, place the medium sized bowl over the large bowl filled with ice water and let sit until the curd is completely cool.  Once cooled, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight before preparing the mousse.

This recipe makes a little extra lemon curd, but I assure you it won’t go to waste!  Lemon curd is amazing with scones, fruit or simply enjoyed with a spoon.

Making the cake:

Yield: (3) 9” layers

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

4 eggs, room temperature

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder (-1/8 tsp for high altitude)

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 cups granulated sugar

2 Tbsp grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed/strained lemon juice

1 cup buttermilk (+2 Tbsp for high altitude)

Grease and lightly flour (3) 9” cake pans.  After greasing the pans, I like to place a piece of parchment paper cut to size in each pan.  Then I grease the parchment and lightly flour the pan.  This really aids in the easy removal of the cake.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds.  Add the sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice and beat until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the flour and buttermilk, alternately, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Make sure to beat on low speed (unless you want to wear the flourJ) and beat until each addition is well combined.  Pour evenly into the prepared pans.  I use a scale for this step so that I can assure evenly sized cake layers.

Bake at 350 degrees F (325 degrees at high altitude) for about 25-27 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean) making sure to rotate the pans during baking for even browning.  As anxious as you may get, please don’t open the oven door before 20 minutes have passed.  I have been cursed with many a sinking cake out of pure impatience!  Remove from oven and let the cakes cool on a rack, in their pans for about 10 minutes.  Run a knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove from pan.  Let cool completely and refrigerate before filling and frosting.  Prior to refrigerating you can also brush the cakes with a simple syrup.  This step adds moisture to the cake and greatly enhances the flavor.

Making the simple syrup:

½ cup water

½ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup freshly squeezed/strained lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and vanilla.  Brush the warm mixture over the cooled cakes before filling.

Cake recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Making the lemon mousse:

Yield: 4 ½ cups mousse

1 ½ cups lemon curd  (see recipe above)

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream, cold

2 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Whip the heavy whipping cream and sugar on high speed with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream until just combined.  Try not to eat the entire bowl of lemon mousse before filling the cake…it will take an immense amount of willpower…good luck.

Making the Lemon Swiss Buttercream:

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

5 egg whites (pasteurized)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed/strained lemon juice

Combine the egg whites and sugar together in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer.  Set mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.  Whisk mixture until sugar dissolves and a candy thermometer reads 160 degrees F.  Sources say that 160 degrees is a recommended temperature for egg safety.  Even so, I still like to use pasteurized eggs in buttercream just to be safe.  Once the egg mixture reaches temperature, remove the bowl from the heat and attach to the stand mixer and mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the bowl is cool to the touch.  Add the butter a little at a time (about 8-10 additions) and then add in the vanilla and lemon juice.  The buttercream will be beautifully smooth and shiny.

Assembling the Cake:

Place one of the cake layers on a cake plate.  Spread half (or as much as desired) of the lemon mousse onto the cake.  Place the second cake layer on top of the mousse and repeat with the third cake.  Frost the entire cake with the Swiss Buttercream.  Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoy for up to a week.  Before serving, remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 30-45 minutes.  You’ll want the buttercream to soften to room temperature.

This cake is quite a labor of love and definitely a special occasion cake as it has many steps.  Fortunately you can make it over several days before assembling…AND…what better way to express your love to someone close to your heart??  Enjoy!