White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Every now and then I come across a recipe that is good.  Like, really good.  And people inevitably ask me for the recipe to which I reply “Yes!  Of course I’ll give it to you!”  And then I, ummm…conveniently “forget”.  I guess it’s not very nice.  It’s just that when something is so good and people are so impressed, you hate to let them in on the fact that your famous cookie/cake/brownie/whatever you make is really not that difficult and complicated.  They might not see you as the culinary genius they think you are anymore!

But lately I’ve been rethinking my selfish ways and decided that I should start sharing some of my more coveted recipes with others.  There’s no better place to start than with this cheesecake recipe that has been my go-to for whatever–birthdays, weddings, bridal/baby showers, etc.  It is seriously fail-proof and so delicious.  Oh, and did I mention simple?  It is, I swear!

I initially got this recipe out of a Better Homes and Gardens special baking edition and it was originally Maple Pecan, I believe.  But since then, I’ve morphed it into many things…chai cheesecake, chocolate chip cheesecake, Oreo, etc.  It is that versatile.  So this time I did a white chocolate raspberry version and it turned out quite fabulous.  Super creamy with a little extra sweetness from the white chocolate and tart from the raspberries.  So go ahead, make it…and enjoy all the many compliments you will get!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

2 c. Graham Cracker, processed in food processor

9 T. Unsalted Butter, melted

3, 8 oz. Packages Cream Cheese, softened

1 c. Granulated Sugar

2 T. AP Flour

3 Eggs

1/2 c. Half-and-Half

2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

1 c. Raspberry Preserves, slightly warmed in a bowl

1 c. White Chocolate Chips, melted and slightly cooled

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 9×13″ pan.  Line with foil, letting foil hang over ends for “handles”.  Grease foil

Mix together the processed graham crackers and butter in a bowl.  With your hands, pat down firmly into the bottom of the pan.

In mixer, combine cream cheese, granulated sugar and the 2 T. flour.  Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined.  Add eggs all at once.  Beat on low speed just until combined.  Stir in half-and-half, vanilla and melted white chocolate chips.  Pour half of the filling into the crust-lined pan, spreading evenly.   Spoon half of the raspberry preserves over the filling and gently swirl with a knife, being careful not to cut into the crust.  Pour the other half of the filling into the pan and spoon remaining preserves onto the filling.  Swirl gently with knife.

Bake for 40 minutes or just until center is set.  Cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour.  Cover and chill for at least 4-24 hours.  Use foil to carefully lift cheesecake from pan. (If the foil “handle” happens to rip, lift up one side as much as you can without bending the cheesecake too much, slide your hand underneath the cheesecake and lift out.)  Cut into 1-inch squares or however big you’d like them to be.

Makes about 65, 1-inch pieces.

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Pecan Sandies

Lately I’ve been trying to challenge myself when it comes to baking by doing non-chocolate desserts.  I really can’t believe how many things I bake have chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, chocolate glaze, chocolate frosting, are dipped in chocolate, etc, etc, etc.  You get the point.  I suppose chocolate is just easy and guaranteed to be yummy, but there really is a wonderful world of baking outside of it.

And part of that wonderful world is a simple but delicious little cookie known by many as a Pecan Sandie.  If you never had those delicious Keebler Pecan Sandies growing up, you were deprived!  And even though I didn’t have the originals on hand to do a side by side comparison, I’d say this homemade version is pretty darn close…crisp on the edges, buttery, with a shortbread texture and wonderful pecan flavor.

I adapted this recipe from the one here on allrecipes.com.  Just made a few minor changes to my liking.  Hope you enjoy them!

Pecan Sandies

1/2 c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened

1/2 c. Vegetable Oil

1/4 c. Granulated Sugar

1/4 c. Packed Brown Sugar

1/2 c. Powdered Sugar, sifted

1 Egg

1 1/2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

2 c. AP Flour

1/2 t. Baking Soda

1/2 t. Cream of Tartar

1 t. Salt

1 c. Toasted Pecans, chopped

32 Pecan Halves, for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two pans with parchment paper.

In a mixer, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar and powdered sugar until smooth.  Beat in the egg and then the vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a separate bowl.  Add to the butter/sugar mixture and combine.  Gently fold in pecans, cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for 10 minutes.  Scoop dough onto pans with a 2-inch cookie scoop and slightly flatten with the palm of your hand but leave them thick, because they will spread a little.  Press a pecan half into each cookie and bake for 10 minutes, rotating pans and switching racks halfway through.  Let cool on pan for 2 minutes and then cool completely on a cookie rack.

Makes 32 cookies.

 

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Cookie Dough Truffles-5 Ways

I’ve got a super, duper easy recipe to share with you.  That okay?  Good.  Because you’ll thank me the next time you have to come up with something sweet and delicious (not to mention cute) for a bridal shower or baby shower or last-minute company or work party or…well, you get the picture.

All I did was take the basic (egg-free) chocolate chip cookie dough truffle recipe below and made it five different ways by changing only a couple of ingredients and dipping the truffles in white or dark chocolate.  Of course, you can just stick with the basic recipe but I wanted to give you some ideas to get your creative juices flowing!  It’s a very versatile recipe so really you could make it into whichever cookie recipe happens to be your favorite.  Have fun!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles-Basic Recipe

1/2 c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened

3/4 c. Packed Brown Sugar

2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

1/8 t. Salt

2 1/4 c. AP Flour

14. oz. Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 c. Semi-Sweet Mini Chocolate Chips

2 c. Dark Chocolate Candy Melts (such as Wilton or the brand I highly recommend, Chocoley)

In a mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until creamy.  Add vanilla and salt.  Gradually beat in flour and add milk.  (Mixture will seem sticky but it stiffens up nicely, don’t worry.)  Add chocolate chips.  Chill dough in fridge for a few minutes.

While dough is chilling, melt chocolate wafers in microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring each time.  When chocolate is completely melted, get dough out of fridge, shape into 1-inch balls and dip in chocolate.  Having something like this, helps alot. Place on foil to harden.  Drizzle with chocolate or decorate with sprinkles, sugar, etc.

Makes 50 Truffles.

Variations

1. Cherry Pecan Cookie–Replace chocolate chips with 1/2 c. chopped dried cherries and 1/2 c. toasted pecans

2. Oatmeal Raisin Cookie–Replace chocolate chips with 1/2 c. raisins and 1/2 c. oats

3.  Sugar Cookie–Replace the brown sugar with white sugar and omit chocolate chips

4. White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie–Replace brown sugar with white sugar and replace chocolate chips with 1/2 c. chopped macadamia nuts and 1/2 c. white chocolate chips

 

 

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Peanut Butter Potato Chip Cookies

Salty and sweet.  Seriously, could there be a better combination?  I think not.  And when that combination consists of peanut butter, butterscotch chips, chocolate and crushed potato chips, you pretty much have a recipe for amazingness.  Yes, that’s a word.  At least in my vocabulary.

I started with a recipe I found online for the “World’s Best Peanut Butter Cookie”, made some tweaks, dipped it in chocolate and finished with crushed potato chips.  The cookie itself is soft and slightly chewy and the end product reminds me of a Butterfinger in a weird (but extremely delicious) way.

I think you’ll love these.  Oh, and be sure and have a glass of milk nearby.

Peanut Butter Potato Chip Cookies

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, softened

1 c. Brown Sugar

1 c. Granulated Sugar

2 c. Peanut Butter (I prefer Peter Pan)

2 Large Eggs

1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

2 c. AP Flour

1 t. Baking Soda

1/2 t. Salt

12 oz. (2 c.)  Butterscotch Chips

12 oz. (2 c.)  Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli)

2 1/2 c. Crushed Wavy Potato Chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix butter, sugars and peanut butter on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time and then vanilla.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to butter mixture and thoroughly incorporate.  Mix in butterscotch chips.

Using a 1-inch scoop, place cookie dough on baking sheets two inches apart and bake for 10 minutes, rotating pans and switching racks halfway through.  Allow to cool on pans for two minutes and then transfer to wire rack.  Cool completely.

When cookies are cooled, place semi-sweet chocolate chips in bowl and microwave at 20-second intervals, stirring between each time, until chips are melted.  Dip bottom of a cookie into chocolate and scrape off excess with the back of a spoon.  Press the cookie, chocolate side down, into the crushed potato chips and place on foil to cool and harden.

Makes 50 cookies.

 

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Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Chip Scones

Earlier this evening I whipped up some “test” scones for a baby shower tomorrow.  The reason they were “test” scones is because it was the second time I had EVER made scones.  I knew that I LOVED the recipe I had made just a few weeks earlier, but it was for a savory Jalapeno Pepper Jack Scone so I determined to adapt it and make it work.  And it did!  Much to my relief.

In my opinion, these are the best scones and so easy!  They are soft, buttery and flaky with a perfectly crisp outside and the combination of raspberry and dark chocolate is divine.  I always thought scones were hard to make but they definitely are not.  I think it just comes down to having a good recipe.  Enjoy!

Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Chip Scones

2 c. AP Flour

1 T. Baking Powder

1 t. Salt

1/4 c. Granulated Sugar

1 Stick Unsalted Butter, cold

2 Large Eggs

3/4 c. Heavy Whipping Cream (plus more for brushing tops of scones)

1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

1 c. Frozen Raspberries

1 c. Dark Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Bittersweet)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Dice butter into small cubes and work into the flour mixture with your hands until it resembles a coarse meal.  The flour should be nice and crumbly.

Whisk together the eggs, heavy cream and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and fold together with a fork until almost fully incorporated.  Gently fold in chocolate chips and then lightly flour the surface of the counter where you will turn out the dough.

Divide dough into two portions.  Working quickly, toss 1/2 cup of the frozen raspberries in flour and then gently, but quickly, incorporate them into the dough.  It will be quite sticky.  Flour your hands and turn the dough onto the floured counter, and quickly but gently form the dough into a rectangle about 14 inches long and 2 inches thick.  Press against sides with a large knife to get straighter edges.  Cut dough in half and then cut the halves diagonally.  Repeat with remaining half of dough.  Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with heavy cream.  Bake for 20 minutes, rotating pans once, until scones are golden brown.  Let cool completely and drizzle with vanilla glaze (optional).

Makes 8 scones.

Vanilla Glaze

1/2 c. Powdered Sugar, plus 2 T.

5 t. Milk

2 t. Pure vanilla extract

Directions

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth.

 

 

 

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Blueberry Cookie Bars and Spicy Chickpea Salad

What is this!?  Fruits and vegetables on a dessert blog?!?  That’s right!  As long as it tastes good, I don’t discriminate.  These blueberry cookie bars are the result of needing something fairly quick and non-chocolate.   And despite having some technical difficulties (umm, spilling multiple ingredients EVERYWHERE) these turned out absolutely fabulous and addictive.   So deliciously chewy but still a little soft, with a deep, brown sugar buttery taste and pockets of juicy blueberry. (Just fyi, these were amazing the first day and had a definite cookie texture.  However, after sitting overnight the blueberries turned the whole thing into a wonderfully moist cake.  I’m not complaining either way.)

As for the chickpea salad, I made it tonight for dinner and just had to share.  Believe it or not, I LOVE healthy food and if you’re a fan of jalapeno, avocado, roasted almonds or spinach, you will love this recipe from Joy the Baker.

Ok, now for the cookie recipe…

Blueberry Cookie Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened

1 c. Brown Sugar, firmly packed

1/2 c. Granulated Sugar

2 Large Eggs

1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

2 c. AP Flour

1 t. Salt

1 t. Baking Soda

1/4 t. Ground Cinnamon

2 c. Fresh or Frozen Blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously grease a 9×13 pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on high until fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda and set aside.

Add the eggs, one at a time to the butter/sugar mixture until each is incorporated.  Add the vanilla.

Add half the flour mixture and mix until incorporated.  Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.

Using a spatula, carefully fold in the blueberries.

Pour into pan and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan once during cooking time, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool completely.  Frost.

Note:  I think next time I will 1.5x the recipe just to get a thicker bar and up the cook time for 5 minutes or so.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened

1/4 c. Crisco

8 oz. Cream Cheese, cold

5 c. Powdered Sugar, sifted

1/2 t. Salt

2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

Cream butter, shortening and cream cheese on high until smooth.  Gradually add in powdered sugar and mix thoroughly for about 3 minutes, until smooth.  Add vanilla and salt and thoroughly incorporate.

 

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Shamrock Sugar Cookies

I racked my brain trying to think of something green to bake for St. Patrick’s day. All I could come up with was something with mint (original, I know) or pistachio and neither of those options appealed to me so I settled on sugar cookies.

And what could be more St. Patrick’s Day-ish than Lucky Charms? How about Lucky Charm marshmallows all over your shamrock sugar cookie?!? You can actually buy containers of these sweet little dehydrated sugar shapes at the Amish store in Branson. And you don’t need many…one, 1/3 lb. container for a mere $1.75 will be more than enough for your cookies. As I found out after buying THREE. Anyone need some extra sugar in their Lucky Charms cereal??? Let me know.

Thick Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

3 Egg Yolks

2 Eggs

1 c. Unsalted Butter, Softened

1 c. plus 1 T. Granulated Sugar

3 1/2 c. AP Flour

1 T. Baking Powder

1/4 t. Salt

1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

Directions

In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix in the vanilla.  Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Cover dough and chill for at least one hour (or speed chill in freezer for 30 minutes…which is what I did).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. On a floured surface roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thick and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutter. (I used a 4-inch cookie cutter and got 30 cookies.) Place 2-inches apart on the baking sheets.

Bake for 8 minutes in the oven, rotating pans and switching racks halfway through. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with buttercream and decorate(recipe below).

Buttercream Frosting

2/3 c. (10 T.) Unsalted Butter, softened

4 c. Powdered Sugar, sifted

6 T. Milk (I use heavy whipping cream)

1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

1 t. Pure Almond Extract (optional)

Beat butter, sugar and milk about 5 minutes. Beat in extracts. Decorate with sprinkles, marshmallows etc. (Allow cookies to set out for a while and the frosting will eventually stiffen up.)

P.S. These cookies work very well on a stick. Just insert lollipop stick into the dough once they are on the cookie sheet and voila! Cookies on a stick!

P.S.S. The marshmallows will get soft once they have set on the cookies a day or so. Just fyi.

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Whole Orange Bundt Cake with Chocolate Glaze

I love the combination of orange and chocolate so when I saw this recipe on a blog, I knew immediately I had to try it.  It turned out quite yummy although the chocolate was a little overwhelming on the cake.  The cake by itself was delicious so I think next go around I’d just put an orange glaze on it.  Try it if you love orange and chocolate–you won’t be disappointed.

Whole Orange Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Ingredients
2 Whole Oranges (preferably seedless navel), scrubbed and washed well
3 Sticks of Unsalted Butter (3/4 pound), softened
2 c. Granulated White Sugar
3 Large Eggs, room temperature
1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
3 c. AP Flour
3 t. Baking Powder
1 t. salt

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour a Bundt pan and set aside.

Quarter the oranges, remove any seeds if not using navel, and put in food processor to puree. Set aside.

While the oranges are pureeing, cream the butter and sugar together in the base of an electric mixer for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until each is fully combined.  Add the orange puree and vanilla extract and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix into the wet ingredients gently, just until fully combined.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan, spreading so that it is evenly distributed. Bake at 350 for about 60 minutes (mine took 70) or until a tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, pour on the chocolate ganache glaze (below) and let set for at least 1 hour before serving. Will keep for 3-5 days under a cake dome or plastic wrap.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Ingredients
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)

Heat the heavy cream over medium heat just until small bubbles begin to form. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and whisk gently until fully melted and combined. Let cool for 10 minutes before glazing cake. May be prepared in advance and gently reheated in a moderate microwave.

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White Chocolate Chip Espresso Cookies

Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve done this whole blog thing (umm, like a YEAR) but I think I’m ready to give it another go. Life finally settled down and I managed to make some yummy cookies. But not just cookies…cookie-wiches. Oh yeah.

I’ve been a little obsessed with putting frosting between cookies lately. I mean if you’re going to have a little sugar, why not have a LOT of sugar, right? Add in a little caffeine and you pretty much have the makings of a totally legal, mood-enhancing drug. Mmmmm, legal drugs.

White Chocolate Chip Espresso Cookies with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

1 c. Granulated Sugar

1 c. Brown Sugar

3/4 c. Shortening

1/2 Stick Unsalted Butter

2 Eggs

2 t. Pure Vanilla

1 1/2 t. Soda

1/2 t. Salt

2 1/4 c. AP Flour

3 T. Instant Coffee

11 oz. White Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream sugars, butter and shortening.  Add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla.  Whisk dry ingredients in seperate bowl and then add to the wet ingredients.  Mix in chips.

Drop dough onto parchment lined baking pans and bake for 8-10 minutes (shorter if you have dark pans, longer if you have light pans).  Half way through, rotate pans and switch racks to ensure even baking.  Let stand for 2 minutes before transferring to wire rack.

Makes 25 cookie-wiches or 50 cookies.

Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

I used Bakerella’s recipe found here.


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Sweet Endings

This post is a little late but I wanted to be able to devote enough time to writing and adequately expound upon a near life changing dessert encounter I had recently.  I know, I know it seems slightly dramatic but I am not exaggerating one bit (well, ok, maybe a teeny tiny bit).  Let me explain…

The weekend before we moved to Missouri, we headed into Chicago one last time for some sightseeing and of course, food.  Initially I wanted to do a Chicago bakery mini marathon, but after coming to my senses I realized this would not only cost me waaaayyyy too much in dollars but most likely in pounds too so I decided to narrow it down from six to two.  I had done my research and was ready; I had high hopes for one and not-so-high for the other but the place sounded fun and kitschy so I had to try it.

We started the day with a little French pastry shop called Vanille Patisserie, owned by husband and wife team Dimitri and Kell Payard. Dimitri is originally from France where he received his culinary traning and Kell is Chicagoland native who attended the Culinary Institute of America.  Between the two of them they’ve won numerous awards and after indulging in their beautiful creations, I can see why!  Their French macarons are absolutely delicious.  When you bite into one of these colorful, delicate cookies it is crisp on the outside but airy and chewy on the inside.  The ganache and fruit fillings are spread thin but bursting with flavor.  The girl at the counter let me try a Coffee macaron.  So good!  Jeremy decided on a Red Velvet and Vanilla and I got Pistachio and Raspberry–we loved them all!  We also chose Chocolate, Nutella and Coconut Papaya macarons to-go.

Macarons All

Macarons Close

After much deliberating–mainly by me–we also chose an entremet, or mousse cake, to share.  I honestly couldn’t decide.  Everything looked so delicious so we went with what the girl behind the counter suggested, the Entremet Vanille, and it was definitely the perfect recommendation.  It consisted of a layered mousse cake with a sable (think thin shortbread type cookie) on the bottom, covered in a mango glaze.  The mousse was light and creamy, not at all heavy and the flavors of vanilla, mango and coconut were balanced perfectly.   It was small but to be honest, it was so flavorful that it was really the right amount to share.  Not that I wouldn’t have eaten another one.  Because I really, really wanted to.

1Display Case Close2

2Decisions

3 Rasp and Bars

4Rasp Entremets

5Van Choc Close

6Vanille Closeup

7Our Entremet

8Eating

We also took home some chocolate, raspberry and vanilla marshmallows.  They were a tad too chewy for me which is not something I’m used to since the ones I make are always soft.  They were ok but definitely not something I’d buy again.

Mallows VP Bag

So the day started off wonderful!  We drove around a bit, ate a late lunch/early dinner at a place called Gino’s East (apparently famous for their deep dish–we got thin crust, hah!) and then headed off to find the next and final stop, Angel Food Bakery.  The place really intrigued me because it was retro themed and the desserts seemed fun and different.  With offerings like homemade Twinkies, S’mores, Boston Cream cupcakes and Whoopie Pies, how could you go wrong, seriously?!  But oh my, you can go wrong.  Very, very wrong.

Here’s a pic of the inside. So deceptively cute and inviting.  The walls are lined with every make and model of Easy-Bake Oven.

Angel Food

I chose the Coconut Cupcake.  It was huge and looked soooo good but was extremely disappointing.  The only thing “coconut” about this cupcake were the flakes that had been sprinkled on top.  The cupcake and frosting were both vanilla and the cake actually tasted like they had gotten a little crazy with butter flavored oil.  Very weird.  And the worst part of all–it was dry.  As in desert.  Ick.

Jeremy got somewhat lucky with his pick, a Boston Cream Cupcake.  Again, huge and screamed “eat me!” but it wasn’t anything to write home about.  The chocolate goo on top and the custard filling helped mask another otherwise dry and tasteless vanilla cupcake. (I think the red fondant hearts on top were the best part.  Yikes.)

Faux Coconut Boston Creme

We also split a made from scratch, chocolate dipped S’more.  Horrible.  Didn’t even deserve a picture. We both left feeling a little sugary sick to our stomachs.   Such a sad way to end the day when it started so well with this:

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All in all it really was a great day and a bittersweet farewell to Chicago.  I was finally introduced to some real French pastry and I can now understand why they might be a tad snobbish about those sweet little creations they craft.  The focus on taste, flavor, texture and color is so unlike the heavy, sugary desserts that Americans are so accustomed to. The French know how to make something so small taste so delicious that you are satisfied with just a few bites and don’t feel the need for gigantic portions or seconds.  Or thirds.  Or fourths.

It really is amazing.  To me, at least!

But I still love me some Red Velvet cake and cream cheese frosting.  🙂

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Black Forest Cake

A couple of weeks ago the sun was shining, birds were singing and people were cruising around with their windows down and hair blowing in the wind.  Naturally, this kind of weather called for grilling!  So we headed over to my in-laws house to chow down on some grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.  Our contribution to the meal was a cake and not just any cake but a Black Forest Cake!  My aunt Tammy used to make this cake years ago and someone mentioned it the other day which sparked the memory of cakes past and got my mouth watering.  So since I had never made one I decided it was time.  Here are a few pics of it all coming together.

Cherries

Chopped chocolate

Cherries and chocolate…these are a few of my most favorite things.

Cakes coming out of oven

All the yummy layers.

2 Layers

More 2 layers

4 layers

Attempting to frost with the whipped cream–quite the challenge.

Frosting

More frosting

And the finished product!

Finished close up

Finished

So, a few things I learned.

1. This cake requires a great deal of patience.  While not difficult, it is time consuming to make all of the components and put it all  together.

2.  Whipped cream doesn’t make the best frosting.  Don’t get me wrong it looks pretty and tastes amazing but what a pain in the butt to put on!  I will probably frost the sides with a dark chocolate frosting next time and leave the whipped cream for the layers and the top of the cake.

3.  Never throw an almost completed cake in the trash no matter how badly you want to!  I had just a few issues with the cake (little lopsided, some “juicing” out the bottom, difficulty frosting, etc) and I really thought it was just no good but thankfully my husband talked me off the ledge and boy am I glad he did!  The cake was soooo good!

I haven’t made a lot of cakes in my time (this was probably the third?) but it’s always a learning experience and the finished product is definitely worth the effort!

Black Forest Cake

Ingredients

2 1/8 c All-Purpose Flour
2 c White Sugar
3/4 c Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 t Baking Powder
3/4 t Baking Soda
3/4 t Salt
3 Eggs
1 c Milk
1/2 c Vegetable Oil
1 T Pure Vanilla Extract
3, 14.5 oz Cans Pitted Sour Cherries, drained with juice reserved
1 c White Sugar
1/4 c. Cornstarch
1/4-1/2 c Kirsch

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two, 9 in. round cake pans and line with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat until well blended.  Divide batter evenly into two pans and bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Loosen edges and remove to racks to cool completely.

Combine 1/2 c. reserved juice, cherries, 1 c sugar and cornstarch in a 2 quart saucepan.  Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently.  (Be patient, it will take awhile)  Stir in vanilla and cool.  Move to fridge to speed up cooling.  Stir in kirsch.

(While cake and cherries are cooling, make simple syrup, ganache and whipped cream.  See recipes below.)

Split each cake layer horizontally.  Place one cake layer on cake plate/stand.  Brush on simple syrup with a pastry brush.  Spread on thin layer of ganache.  Cover with layer of whipped cream and then cherries.  Repeat with next three layers, but instead of spreading cherries on top layer, first frost the whole cake with the whipped cream and let firm up in freezer.  Apply final frosting of whipped cream and then spread the cherries into center of the top of cake and pipe whipped cream around the edges.  Decorate sides with chopped chocolate.  Or frost sides with chocolate buttercream instead of whipped cream.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Simple Syrup

1/2 c Juice (from drained cherries)
1/2 c White Sugar
1/4 c. Kirsch

Simmer juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Add kirsch after syrup has cooled.

Ganache

12 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 c Heavy Whipping Cream

Place chocolate in a medium bowl.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring just to a boil.  Pour over the chopped chocolate.  Let sit for one minute and then whisk until smooth.  Let cool completely.

Whipped Cream

5 c Heavy Whipping Cream
1 c Powder Sugar
3 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

Chill mixing bowl and whisk in freezer for 30 minutes.  Remove and place heavy whipping cream in mixing bowl.  Whip on high speed until cream thickens.  Add powder sugar and vanilla extract.

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ChoccyWoccyDooDah

cakeThis is the wedding cake I should have had.  I am in love with it.  Not that I could have afforded it, but one can dream.

This masterpiece was done by a little chocolate shop called ChoccyWoccyDooDah that describe themselves as an “art and design focused chocolaterie” and wow, is that the truth!  Their cakes are unique and fun and maybe even a tad bit odd, but beautiful nonetheless!  It looks like they focus a lot on cakes but also offer truffles, popcorn and marshmallow “lollies” and in fact have a “bar du chocolate” where one can indulge in almost every form of chocolate known to man, all served by a chocolista, of course!

Unfortunately, I won’t be dropping by anytime soon to give an unofficial review of the place since they’re located in the UK but I can drool from afar.

Check out all their amazing creations here!

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Soft, Chewy, Peanutbutter-y

Lately I have been dying for a good peanut butter cookie but, of course, it had to be homemade.   I feel like the perfect peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie are elusive to me for some weird reason…they’re always too flat or crisp or cakey.  I’ve done plenty of research and tried tons of recipes and never found the one that is the perfect combination of  mostly chewy and a little soft.  I mean, I know baking is a science but c’mon!  How hard can it be?!?  So for Superbowl Sunday I thought I’d try yet again to make the perfect cookie and I might have got pretty darn close.

I think those peanut butter chips deserve a close-up.

Batter and PB Chips

On PansIn Oven

These cookies turned out soft and chewy and just all around delicious.  Of course the true test was if they were the same way the next day as they were pretty much right out of the oven and miracle of all miracles, they were!  Quite frankly, I’m suprised any of them even made it to the Superbowl party–I couldn’t keep Jeremy out of them!

Oh, and… I guess I might have had a couple too.

Cooling

Now I couldn’t just stop at plain ‘ole peanut butter cookies (although with these you definitely could).  I wanted a peanut butter cookie sandwich!  I used a peanut butter and chocolate filling.  Both were good and I personally liked the peanut butter filling but everyone seemed to prefer the chocolate a little more.

Filling

If you make these, be sure you have milk on hand.  You will need it!

Finished Cookies

Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/4 c. All-Purpose Flour
3/4 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Baking Powder
1/4 t. Salt
1/2 c. Unsalted Butter, softened
1 c. Smooth Peanut Butter
3/4 c. White Sugar
1/2 c. Light Brown Sugar, lightly packed
1 Large Egg at room temperature
1 T. Milk
1 t. Vanilla Extract
1 c. Peanut Butter Chips

Directions

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter and butter together until fluffy.  Add the sugars and continue beating until fully combined.  Add the egg, milk and vanilla extract and beat well.  Add half the flour mixture fold in, then the rest of the flour and beat until no white pockets remain.  By hand, fold in the peanut butter chips.

Using a small ice cream scoop, drop dough a couple inches apart, onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Dip a fork in oil (I used peanut oil), tap off excess and gently indent cookie with a criss-cross pattern, being careful not to smash the cookie flat.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

Makes 40 small cookies.

Peanut Butter Filling

3 T. Unsalted Butter, softened
1 c. Powdered Sugar, sifted
1/2 c. Smooth Peanut Butter
2 1/2 T. Heavy Whipping Cream or Milk
1 t. Vanilla Extract

Cream the butter with the powdered sugar, peanut butter, milk and vanilla until smooth.  Spread filling onto half of the cooled cookies, then top with the other half to form sandwiches. Makes enough to fill 25 cookies.

For the chocolate, I used the Satiny Chocolate Glaze recipe which you can find in an earlier post here.

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Pink and Red

Since Valentine’s Day is only four short days away, I thought I’d throw out a few more ideas just in case you’re still stumped on what to make, bake or buy for that special someone.  And even if you loathe Valentine’s Day with a passion, these can still be inspiration for another celebration!  So, to start things off right, I’d like to begin with more from Amy Atlas.  She’s just put up an awesome v-day spread on her blog and I urge you to go check it out IMMEDIATELY.  Part I and Part II.  It will make you happy.

You might even start liking Valentine’s Day.  She’s that good.

Valentines Day Table 1

Next, I absolutely LOVE these cards by MadeByGirl.  You’ll find a lot of unique, fun stuff that is relatively inexpensive and earth friendly. She also has prints and posters that are definitely worth checking out.

Deeply Madly LOVE Roses iheartu

Finally, I came across this adorable Sweetheart Cupcake on allrecipes.com and had to share the recipe!  It’s so simple and fun!  And feel free to go a bit more gourmet if you’d like and make a cake from scratch.

Sweetheart Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 egg whites
  • 8 drops red food coloring

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a standard muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.
  2. Beat the cake mix, water, vegetable oil, and egg whites together until smooth. Fill cupcake liners 1/3 full with white batter; set aside.
  3. Stir 4 drops of red food coloring into the remaining bowl of batter to make the batter pink. Pour 1/3 of pink batter into a resealable plastic bag and set aside.
  4. Mix more food coloring into the remaining bowl of pink batter until it is an orange/red color and pour the batter into a resealable plastic bag. Cut a corner off the bag, stick the open tip into the center of each cup of white batter and squeeze in about two tablespoons of red batter.
  5. Cut the corner off the bag with the pink batter, stick the open tip into the center of the red batter and squeeze about 1 tablespoon pink batter into each cup.
  6. Bake the layered cupcakes in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.]
Ok, now you have no excuses!  Ditch the red roses and  box of chocolates and go for something a little more creative this Sunday!
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Godiva Chocolate Rewards

Choc 1

Chocolate is good. Certain chocolate (ahem, dark) can even be divine. But sometimes it tastes even better when it’s FREE. Which is why the Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club is so sweet! (Lame, I know.) If you’ve never heard of the program, I am here to bring a little extra joy to your life once a month.

All you need to do is head into your local Godiva boutique, hand over some non-intrusive personal info (name, address, email) and you’re in! It’s fairly quick and painless to sign up and definitely worth it. So, once a month you can go in, flash your Godiva Chocolate Rewards card and snag a piece of free chocolate bliss. It’s a nice little no-cost pick me up after you’ve spent all your money shopping at the mall and are having a slight case of buyer’s remorse. Not that I would know anything about that.

There are also lots of other perks that you can check out here. The only downside of the club that I’ve found thus far is that you are limited to one piece of chocolate. I end up standing in front of the display case for at least five minutes, drooling over the selection and agonizing over which one I want while the salesperson looks at me like I’m crazy. This typically results in me cracking under the pressure and purchasing at least one chocolate in addition to my free piece. Sigh.

I’m sure it’s all part of Godiva’s evilly delicious plan and I’m playing right into their hands.

Choc 2

Oh and in case you are wondering, the chocolates above (from back left to right) are the Almond Marzipan, Macadamia Mosaic, Strawberry White Chocolate Truffle, Praline Crescent and Dark Ganache Heart.

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Doughnut Hearts

I’m sure you’ve noticed Valentine’s Day is everywhere right now so I thought I’d get an early start with a fun v-day idea. Forget heart-shaped pancakes and waffles–homemade doughnuts are where it’s at! Well, semi-homemade doughnuts. I actually thought my idea was fairly original until I discovered Krispy Kreme had already beat me to the punch–in 2007! That didn’t deter me however and I got down to deep frying!

Cookie Cutting

 

I was a tad skeptical since these are made with buttermilk biscuits. And I was definitely disgusted as I poured a whole BOTTLE of vegetable oil into my electric skillet! But I quickly got over that after I tasted one of these babies hot out of the oil, dipped in glaze/powdered sugar/cinnamon sugar–warm, melt-in-your-mouth goodness!

Basic

And naturally I had to make some filled ones. Raspberry, of course. That was always my favorite doughnut. Back when I was allowed to eat doughnuts, before I was conscious of what calories and trans fat were. Sniff.

Filled

These were just for kicks and giggles.

Conversation2

Conversation1

I think they’re quite cute. I just want to eat them up. Wait….I did.

Pink with Red Sprinkles

5 Hearts in Circle

Lastly, what to do with all the little cut out hearts? Doughnut hole hearts! YUM.

Minis

I’m not much of a doughnut connoisseur but Jeremy and I LOVED these. I was almost just as happy to discover the yummy glaze recipes that I used for them too. Needless to say, I think my doughnut drought has come to an end and I’ll be spending a little extra time at the gym to atone for my sins.

Homemade Doughnuts

2 quarts vegetable oil
1 can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (I actually used reduced fat–couldn’t tell a difference)
-Powdered Sugar, Cinnamon Sugar, Glaze (see recipes below) for dipping
-Raspberry/Strawberry Preserves, etc for filling

Directions

1. Heat oil in a deep fryer or electric skillet to 325 degrees (mine never got to that temp so I started frying at 290).

2. Spray a piece of foil with non-stick cooking spray. Using this as your surface, separate the biscuits and cut out holes with a cookie cutter for the doughnut shape you desire.

3. Gently place doughnuts in hot oil. Fry until golden brown, 1.5 to 2 minutes on each side.

4. Drain on plate covered with paper towels. Dip in coating of your choice.

5. If using a filling, cut a small hole in the corner of a pastry or plastic bag, insert a very small tip and fill the bag with the preserves. Push the tip through the side of the doughnut and fill.

Basic Glaze

1/3 c Butter, melted
2 c Powdered Sugar, sifted
2 t. Vanilla
3-4 T. Warm Milk

Combine butter, sugar and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Stir in milk until somewhat thin, but not watery. Dip.

Satiny Chocolate Glaze

3/4 c Semi-Sweet or White Chocolate Chips
3 T. Butter, melted
1 T. Light Corn Syrup
1/2 t. Vanilla

Melt chocolate in microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring after each time. Stir butter, corn syrup and vanilla into melted chocolate until combined.

Dip.

Eat.

Mmmmmmmm.

Note: When coloring white chocolate, use a GEL based dye, as opposed to water or oil based. They will ruin the chocolate and cause it to seize. Not pretty.

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White Chocolate Cherry Pound Cake

Pound cake isn’t something I crave regularly if ever, but I had a recipe a co-worker gave me that I knew was absolutely fabulous and I had a LOT of sour cream that needed to be used ASAP so I decided to give it a try. The original recipe my co-worker had made was chock full of lemon juice, lemon peel, lemon extract…basically, it had a TON of lemon flavor. Even a lemon glaze! And while I adore lemon, I wasn’t too sure the crowd I’d be baking for would share my sentiments for citrus so I decided to alter the recipe just a tad. Plus, I had a ton of maraschino cherries I needed to put to good use!

In Oven

I won’t lie, I licked the batter off the spoon. And the mixing bowl. And the beater. It was good…very good. At this point, I became EXTREMELY excited for the finished product.

My excitement died down a bit however when the cake still wasn’t done after the alloted time called for in the recipe, 45 minutes. In fact it took a whole hour and 10 minutes and my toothpick never came out completely clean!  But I couldn’t wait any longer so I decided it was time to cool.

Cooling resized

Despite the edges being dry and just slightly overdone, the cake turned out great. I didn’t have time to do the glaze but the top of the cake formed a nice, sugary crust that I loved. I think I could have just eaten the tops off both cakes! The cake itself was very moist and had great almond and cherry flavor, although it wasn’t as dense and thick as I thought it would be. But that didn’t seem to be a problem for anyone–it got gobbled up!

Sliced

Mmmmmmm, wish I had a nice, thick hunk right now to dunk into some ice cold milk. If you try it, definitely have milk or ice cream on hand to go with. It just makes it that much yummier.

This is the original recipe with my changes noted at the end.

Lemon Lover’s Pound Cake

Cake Ingredients

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
3 c. sugar
6 eggs
5 T. lemon juice
1 T. grated lemon peel
1 t. lemon extract
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. sour cream

Glaze Ingredients

1/4 c. sour cream
2 T. unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 T. lemon juice
2 t. grated lemon peel

Directions

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Stir in lemon juice, peel and extract. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Beat just until combined (very important to NOT overbeat otherwise you will incorporate too much air into the batter and cake will have a lighter, airier texture).

2. Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack to cool completely.

3. For glaze, in a small mixing bowl, beat the sour cream and butter until blended. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar. Beat in lemon juice and peel. Drizzle over the cake. Store in the refrigerator.

Notes

-I added 1 t. vanilla, 3-4 t. almond extract and one cup of melted white chocolate to the batter immediately after the eggs. I folded in 2 cups of halved maraschino cherries (drained and patted dry) and 1 cup of white chocolate chips right before pouring the batter into the pans.

-I baked the cake in 2, 8×4 in. loaf pans for 1 hour, 10 minutes and cooled completely on a wire rack.

-For the glaze, substitute maraschino cherry juice for the lemon juice and add vanilla and/or almond extract.

DP Bite-Pound cake was a British creation in the early 1700’s. The aptly named cake contained one pound each of eggs, butter, sugar and flour. No leaveners were used other than the air whipped into the batter. Fascinating, right?!? Well, I think so. 🙂

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Red Velvet Cheesecake

Red Velvet Cheesecake

A few weeks ago I learned a very important lesson all over again: be careful what you ask for. In my newly wedded blissful ignorance I asked my husband of four months what he’d like me to make for his birthday dinner on December 11. Everything from scratch, of course. He laid out the menu in no time and then to top it all off requested the Red Velvet Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory (which we had tried for the first time a couple months beforehand). Umm, ok, no problem.

The next day I formed a plan of attack. First step: find picture of the cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. From there I determined the order of layers, what went between them and the cosmetic enhancements needed. Second step: the recipes. I recalled seeing a recent episode of “Throw Down with Bobby Flay” on the Food Network Channel in which he competed in a red velvet cake contest and although I can’t remember if he won, I knew his recipe had to be good. So, I had my Red Velvet recipe. I didn’t change a thing except I used a whole bottle (1 oz.) of red food coloring for that really deep, brilliant red color and I baked it in two, 9-in. pans greased and lined with parchment paper.

For the cheesecake I went to allrecipes.com and found one that had great reviews. It turned out amazing! I honestly can’t wait to make it again the next time I want a good cherry cheesecake. Third step: assembly. This made me fairly nervous because I really haven’t made a ton of cakes and I don’t ever remember making a layered cake, so I was a bit concerned. But I gave myself a little pep talk, whipped up a simple cream cheese frosting and began construction. To my utter amazement everything sliced up and transferred fairly easily.

RV Layers resize

Each layer got a slather of frosting and when all stacked, received a crumb coat and then into the freezer it went to firm up. Final step: cream cheese frosting and a layer of shaved white chocolate applied to the sides of the cake to beautify it. End result–a very pretty cake/cheesecake that tasted even better than it looked! Oh, and in Jeremy’s words it was “better than the one from the cheesecake factory”. I think he was under the influence of a very rich birthday dinner and a large amount of sugar at this point. Hah. But it was darn good.

RV Sliced resize

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New Year’s Eve Dessert Bar

This past Thursday night I had the opportunity to donate my baking skills to a New Year’s Eve benefit for a very good cause (more on that in a bit). Since I had about two and a half days to pull everything together, I basically went into super-adrenaline mode and baked like a mad woman from sun-up till waayyyy after sundown ignoring any and all distractions including my computer, my phone (hopefully I still have friends) and my very, very sick husband. Poor husband. Lucky for me he didn’t mind passing out on the sofa every night while I was up to my elbows in sugar and flour. By the time Thursday rolled around, I thought I might not get everything done and was literally frosting things up to the minute I had to go set-up. But I triumphed! And I must say, I think it turned out quite lovely and tasty. I even managed to color coordinate with the event–black and white!

Dessert BarCupcakes

The menu was vast and varied and included these delicious selections (Oh, and did I mention everything made was “mini”? That adds time exponentially!): Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, Soft Sugar Cookies, White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies, Fudge Brownies, Chocolate Chip and White Chocolate Chai Cheesecakes, Chocolate Dipped Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Pops, White Chocolate Dipped Pretzels, White Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream, Chocolate Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate and Oreo Buttercream, Raspberry Fudge Tassies with Almond Buttercream, Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow “Stars”, Chocolate Covered Cherries and Cappuccino Truffles. Whew!

Sugar Cookies

Overall, the dessert buffet and the benefit was a success! All proceeds from the night when to a great organization, Pearl Alliance, dedicated to freeing young women and children that are enslaved in the human trafficking industry. It’s hard to believe that a horrible injustice such as this one even exists in the world we live in today–it not only exists, but is thriving. Check out their website for more information and see what you can do to help!

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