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Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Cake

double stack peanut butter frosted brownies complete closeup….aka what you call your chocolate cake when your midnight musings on how to change a recipe turn into not quite what you imagined!

So our buddy Amy is back.  She had been on extended assignment in the far far away, and we missed her terribly.  To welcome her back, we planned a potluck at work.  Now, anytime we do that, it is SO busy that we barely get to eat what we bring, but for Amy we decided it tempt fate.

Amy is a chocolate and peanut butter freak.  There, it’s out there.  No shame, that one.  So I decided to remake the Reese’s Peanut Butter Overload cake that I’ve done for her before.  I do a tweak here and there, but basically it’s dark chocolate cake, with a peanut butter buttercream, chocolate ganache, and liberal sprinklings of PB cups.  I was contemplating this last night, and knew I had some dark chocolate ganache that I really wanted to incorporate.  So, I added it to the cake in place of the cup of coffee, added about 2 Tbsp instant coffee granules, and in addition to 1/2 cup of cocoa instead of 3/4.  What a beautiful batter this was!  Wish I had taken a picture, it was so lovely.  I proceeded to load my pans, totally forgetting that I make this in 3 layers, not 2.  This, folks, is what happened:

double stack peanut butter frosted brownies

Like a military haircut, high on the sides and tight on top!  Those little holes?  No, that’s not a speck on your screen.  Those are the testers.  And you know when you test brownies, and there is that little ‘crunch’ texture when you break through the surface into the goodness below?  Yeah, that happened.

So, I preserved, made the frosting (2 sticks butter, 2 cups peanut butter, 4 cups 10X, and about 1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream because I had no milk), and went to assembling.  The ganache is 2 cups of milk chocolate chips and 1 cup of heavy cream, 30 seconds at a time in the microwave until it comes together with gentle but persistent stirring.  This is going to be a super rich, won’t-take-much-to-sugarcoma-someone desert.  I hope my friend Amy enjoys it, as much as we will love having her back.

double stack peanut butter frosted brownies complete

Toll House Cheesecake

Who doesn’t love Toll House cookies?  Anyone?  No one I know.  And we already know we all love cheesecake, so wouldn’t you think….yeah!  Toll House Cheesecake!  A chocolate chip cookie bottom, filled with that wonderful New York Cheesecake batter with a few chips thrown in.  Maybe a ganache top?  Let’s do it!

First of all, pan prep.  Parchment paper line the bottom of your 9″ springform pan.  If you leave the little tabs on 2 sides, its easier to slide the finished cheesecake off the bottom of the pan, so you don’t accidentally scratch the surface trying to get up under there with a spatula.

Next, make your cookies.  I used the recipe on the back of the Nestle bag for regular Toll House cookies, but I’m sure any cookie recipe will do.  Save about 1/2 cup of the chips for later.  Press about 1.5 cups of the batter down in the pan for your crust.  Tip:  use the empty butter wrappers to help you press it out without getting sticky dough all over your hands, the counter, the sink, your shirt, your pants, etc.

Bake the crust at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, get your cookie pans loaded with the rest of the cookie dough, and go ahead and bake those off too, or refrigerate for later.

thc-cheesecake-cookies

Take a break, get a glass of milk, eat 1-3 cookies.  Doctor’s orders.  Or someone’s.  Doesn’t matter, just do it.

thc-cheesecake-batter-prebake

Start your pot of water to boil for the water bath.  Decrease your oven temp to 325, mix the batter according to recipe directions (New York Cheesecake with Strawberries) and stir any leftover chocolate chips you may have.  This is an optional, but very nice addition.  Pour into the prepared pan.  Now, you will have about 1.5 cups of extra batter because of the rise of the crust.  That’s ok – put it in a covered container and refrigerate.  Later on you can pull it out, allow it to come to room temp, and bake it off in muffin tins.  Notice instead of wrapping the pan in foil x 2, I’m using a slightly larger, 2″ tall pan to protect my cheesecake from the water bath.  Go ahead and bake according to the recipe link – my oven is slow, so I’m baking it for the entire hour and 45 minutes.  If your oven is a non-geriatric non-hypothyroid oven, start checking at 1 hour 30 minutes.  When its done (very little jiggle in the middle – sounds like a good idea in lots of life areas…but I digress), turn off the oven, crack the door just a little, and leave it for another 30 minutes to an hour.  After this you’ll want to refrigerate for several hours.

Now you need some chocolate ganache and some candied pecans.  For the pecans, melt 1/2 stick butter with 1/2 cup of brown sugar and a dash of salt, stirring constantly.  Allow to come to a simmer, and cook for one minute.  Stir in 2 cups of chopped pecans until coated, turn out onto wax paper and cool completely.

For the ganache, bring one cup of heavy cream to a simmer.  Pour over 1-1/3 cup of semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips – I used dark chocolate here, since there is so much sweetness elsewhere.  Cover and let stand for 5 minutes of NO MESSIN WITH.  After 5 minutes, stir gently until the ganache comes together.  Don’t panic – at first it will look like lumpy chocolate milk.  Keep stirring, and all of a sudden it will come together and be glossy and smooth.  Spoon the desired amount over the finished cheesecake – I used about 1/2 cup or so, and put the rest in the fridge for ice cream or whatever.  Now, top with those candied pecans, and chill for another 30 minutes to an hour.

This is a super, super rich cheesecake, but with the fun twist of a cookie bottom.  You can call it so-fist-icated since it has the candied pecans on it, if you like!  Pour up a cup of coffee and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who doesn’t love yeast rolls?

I mean really, who?  Warm, soft, buttery, yeasty…

One of the best things about going to the buffet restaurants isn’t the food – I mean, its okay, but it’s buffet, you know?  But there is one thing they do really, really well and that’s yeast rolls.  There is just nothing like it.  I love a good biscuit, but sometimes you just want that extra something that a yeast roll provides.

And slathered with butter while still hot inside?  Yes, please!

Dinner Rolls

This recipe uses a stand mixer with a dough hook.  You could just as easily use a large capacity bread machine, but check first – this takes 6 cups of flour.  I would suggest warming the milk, and letting the butter soften to room temp before starting, just to kick start the process.

yeast-rolls-pre-riseI let this dough rise in the oven because that’s the least drafty place in my kitchen.  What with the doors open shut open shut open etc all day long, you get the point.  I start a preheat for just about 2 minutes, just long enough for the gas to kick on good.  Cut it off, and place the pan in the oven to rise.  And by the way – that bowl?  Not big enough.  I happened to glance in the oven window about an hour into the rise and saw the dough creeping over the side!  Use a BIG bowl.

Once the first rise is done, punch down the dough, split it in half.  Split each of those halves in half.  Now take each of the half halves and pinch into 6 rolls.  Just pinch it off – don’t roll it or work it if you can help it.  Make an ‘OK’ sign and use that circle of your thumb and forefinger to pinch off your individual rolls.  Place them on a large baking sheet for the second rise.

yeast-rolls-second-rise

As these are baking, your kitchen will fill with the most buttery, yeasty aroma.  You’ll be dreaming of more butter and honey, or dippin’ gravy… The link says you can freeze these, but I don’t really think they will last that long here.  I can eat several, and I know the spouse can polish off 3-4 at a sitting.  Brush them with butter the minute the come out of the oven, and then try not to burn your fingers as you pull them apart.

yeast-rolls-baked

This is a great dough recipe to try if you are new to the bread game.  Enjoy!

New York Cheesecake with Strawberries

So, yesterday’s Banana Pudding / Bananas Foster Cheesecake was good.  Really, really, bananatastic good.  But, alas, the spouse doesn’t eat bananas.  Not even a little bit.  Not disguised, not naked, not no bananas no how no way.

But, he DOES eat strawberries.  Loves them.  Will sit and eat a small fortune’s worth in one sitting.  So, I searched around for a cheesecake with strawberries inside.  There are some options, one of which ole Martha does with oven roasted strawberries…but since I work tonight I didn’t have time for all that jazz.  So, I decided on a simple cheesecake with macerated strawberries for topping.

strawberries

‘Simple’ and cheesecake.  Do those belong in the same sentence?  Not that they are difficult, but there are steps.  Steps you must take.  And when you want a sour cream layer topping to add a little interest against the strawberries, well, then you’ve got basically one option.  New York Style Cheesecake.  Here is the link I used for the filling:

New York Cheesecake

Now you know I never seem to make a recipe just as its written, and I didn’t this time, either.  Instead of the graham cracker crust, I did the Nilla crust (see yesterday’s post for instructions).  I also added 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts.  While that was baking, I whipped together the filling mixture.  The addition of sour cream AND heavy cream makes for a silky, thick, rich, (insert other adjectives that equate to luxury here) batter.  I did double foil the pan this time, since I had a little seepage yesterday.  Picked up a great idea from the link – have to get a 10″ x 2″ tall pan that I can just pop my springform pan in to guarantee no seepage.  Why didn’t I think of that!

new-york-cheesecake-whole-naked

For the strawberries, I purchased 2 pints of fresh whole berries, hulled and sliced them thin, and put in a covered container with a bit of sugar to macerate.  Every time I passed by the fridge and thought about it, I turned the container to redistribute the sugar syrup so that all the berry slices would remain moist and sweet.

new-york-cheesecake-complete-top

I followed the option of mixing the sour cream topping and spreading it on the cheesecake about 3 hours into the cooling process.  I wanted it to be nice and firm by the time it was cuttin’ time tonight before work.  I can’t very well take this thing off to work and not save at least one slice for the spouse!

new-york-cheesecake-complete-side

Give this recipe a try.  The sour cream layer really does add something and is worth the tiny bit of extra effort.  Bon berry’petit!

Banana Pudding Cheesecake

There is a little restaurant here in town, that makes the best desserts.  One of my favorites is their Bananas Foster Cheesecake.  I’m not a super fan of banana pudding, but the combination of the cheesecake and the bananas and the caramel….well, I decided I needed to try and find a way to make this at home.  Here it is – and here’s the link that the cheesecake filling is made from:

Banana Pudding Cheesecake

Start with that great Nilla Wafer crust that we’ve used on here before.  One and one half cups crushed Nillas, 4 Tbsp sugar, 5 Tbsp melted butter, and this time add in half a cup of finely chopped nuts – I used walnuts.  Mix all that well, press it into a lined springform pan (9″) and bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.  Take it out to rest while you make the filling.  Go ahead and increase the oven temp to 350 degrees now.banana-pudding-cheesecake-crust

For the filling, start with the banana mixture. Mash one medium, and dice 2 medium bananas and add to a saucepan.  Add one Tbsp of lemon juice, and 2-3 Tbsp of brown sugar depending on how ripe your bananas are.  Heat on medium just until the brown sugar melts, stirring constantly.  Turn off heat and set aside.banana-pudding-cheesecake-bananas

On medium speed, cream 3-8oz blocks of softened cream cheese with 1 cup of regular sugar.  Add in 3 eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each.  Blend in 2 tsp of vanilla flavoring.  Now, add in that banana mixture – fold it in by hand, don’t used the mixer for this.  Pour this all into the pan with the crust.  Place in a water bath, and bake 45 to 55 minutes until most of the jiggle is gone.  Turn off the heat, crack the door just a little, and let is rest another hour.banana-pudding-cheesecake-water-bath

After all that, refrigerate it until well cooled, about 6 hours.  Now, you can stop here, plop a little whipped cream on top and call it a day.  Or, if you want to go more Foster than Pudding, make the old faithful caramel sauce we’ve used here before.  On medium low in a heavy pan (this is important), melt 1 cup of sugar stirring constantly.  I mean, constantly.  That stuff will burn if you blink.  Once fully melted, add 6 Tbsp of softened butter, and let it cook (keep stirring!) for 2-3 minutes.  Now, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream, still well, and let it cook for 1 minute.  Stir it a few times but mostly let it be – oh and stir in about 1/2 tsp of salt.  Pour it up and let it cool; it will thicken as it cools.  Drizzle this over the top, and over the slices of your cheesecake.caramel

I hope you enjoy this recipe – it makes up quite pretty and tastes fantastic!

Peppermint and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

A candy cane dipped in dark chocolate and whipped into a cheesecake?  Yes, please!  This recipe is inspired by my very good friend Samantha, who keeps me supplied with ideas for baking tasty treats.  It’s Christmas in a bite, and I think you will find it’s worth every bit of effort!

This recipe starts with the same basic cheesecake recipe we’ve been experimenting with for the last month; 3 large cream cheese, a cup of sugar, 3 Tbsp flour, 4 eggs, 2 tsp of vanilla and a cup of sour cream.   Once these are gently beaten together, add in about a cup each of those teeny tiny semi-sweet chocolate chips, and crushed hard candy peppermints.  Don’t worry if in the process of beating your peppermints to smithereens, you get a bit of peppermint powder.  Mix that in too!  You can also boost the peppermint flavor by substituting one teaspoon of peppermint extract for one of your vanilla teaspoons.  Our local store didn’t have any peppermint (WTH???), so I just omitted that part.  The flavor is more subtle, but still pepperminty enough.

peppermint-dark-chocolate-cheesecakeBut of course, before the filling is the crust!  Instead of using Nilla Wafers, I used chocolate graham crackers.  You know how in the box there are 3 wrapped blocks of cookie cards?  Well, one of those blocks is the right amount, once crushed, to add 4 tsp of sugar and 5 Tbsp of softened butter to for that wonderful base.  Mix well, press into the springform pan (I prefer a layer of parchment; helps make the cake easier to get out later) and bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.  While it’s baking, make your filling.  Once you have the crust baked, wrap the pan in foil, fill it, decrease your oven temperature to 300 degrees, and bake for 80 to 90 minutes.  My oven takes 90 minutes; you should have a little jiggle but VERY little.  Oh, don’t forget your water bath!  I usually start a large pot of water boiling when I’m assembling the crust; by the time I’m ready to go in the oven with the actual cheesecake, the water is at a low boil and perfect for the water bath.

At the end of the 80-90 minutes, turn the oven off.  DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!  Leave it alone for 30 minutes, then remove it, remove the tinfoil, and place it on a few paper towels and right into the fridge to cool for several hours.

Now for the topping…ganache!  Take a 12 oz bag of semi-sweet chips, and a cup of heavy whipping cream.  Combine in a microwave safe bowl, and heat for 15-30 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, just until the chips melt and the ganache comes together in a shiny river of chocolate heaven.  Stir, stir, stir.  I only heated this for a total of one minute, but probably stirred for 2 minutes.  You will think it’s just chocolate milk, and then suddenly you’ll see a ribbon of rich dark brown in the middle – stir stir stir some more!  You don’t have to get this super hot to bring it together.  This makes enough to top 2 cheesecakes.  If you didn’t make 2 cheesecakes, you can always refrigerate the rest of the ganache for ice cream topping, or strawberry dipping, or pretzel dunking…..you get the idea!  Sprinkle on a few more crushed peppermints, or some peppermint and white chocolate truffles….whatever you want to make your cheesecake shine.

peppermint-dark-chocolate-cheesecake-finishedMake this for the people you love.  It’s a decadent, sweet and chocolatey way to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays!

 

Christmas Crab Mac-n-cheese

I don’t do crab.  As far as seafood goes, for me it’s shrimp, scallops, or fried fish. That’s it.  But the Spousal Unit loves crab, so while I was cruising around the Interwebs this morning I saw a fantastic looking mac-n-cheese recipe that looked like it would handle some lump crab nicely.  Here is that link, and I highly recommend that you poke around this website – some great recipes on here!

Million Dollar Macaroni and Cheese

So, off to the local grocery, in search of crab.  We found it alright, at $28 for a small container.  Um, NOPE.  So, we settled for the imitation stuff.  He’s eaten it a lot, likes it, says it’s fine, so at 1/3 the price, we checked out and headed home.

Now, this recipe comes together beautifully.  I did substitute on the seasonings – I know, you’re shocked.  But I felt like Old Bay seasoning would be better for this application, so that’s what we used.  I also did 1/2 mozz and 1/2 sharp cheddar, with provolone slices in the middle.

For the topping, I used Ritz crackers.  We Love Ritz Crackers.  Just sayin’.

This bakes up very pretty, and even with the dreaded crab element, I have to say it smelled fantastic.  I halved it between 2 smaller pans so that we could share it with his parents for a Christmas Eve lunch.  Try this recipe if you like seafood.  I’m thinking you’ll like it!

Oh Caramel, oh caramel, how fickle is your temperature…

Caramel.  Never tried making it before.  I found a recipe that said Easy! so I decided that was just about my speed.  Now, as usual, I’m making due with the equipment I have instead of getting in the car, driving an hour, braving the holiday mob scene at Hellmart and getting a heavy bottom pan.  I’m using my old faithful non-stick pot that I use for every darn thing else.

So Batch 1.  Cooked the sugar, got it nice and browned…added the butter – oh man did it smell good in there!  Lovingly stirred in the cream, dashed it with salt and set it aside to come down from Surface of The Sun temperature.  Took a taste out to my taster who was waging the hopeless battle against the neighbors rogue leaves that love our yard so.

“Tastes fine!”.

“Are you sure?” ask I.  “Seems a little scorched to me.”

“Well, there is that burned aftertaste….”

Dumped out Batch 1.

Batch 2:  lowered the cooking temp by a skosh, cooked the sugar until it was Just Barely Melted and added in the butter.  Now this is more like it, I thought – a light buttery brown instead of a mahogany.  Added the cream, let it do it’s thing for a minute, took it off….

caramel-carrot-cake-caramelVoila!  Perfect caramel sauce.  Now I can recommend this link!  Salted Caramel Sauce

I paired this with the Carrot Cake portion of this link:  Carrot Cake with Orange Curd (I highly recommend this recipe.  Make it as written just once and you’ll use it forever.)

caramel-carrot-cake-finishedFor the frosting, I used my old faithful recipe of 3/4 cup sugar, large block of cream cheese, and 1.5 cups of heavy whipping cream.  Frost the bottom layer, drizzle with 1/2 the caramel sauce (once cooled to room temp), repeat with second layer.  You can do decorative sides, or leave your contraption naked – either way eats great!  I think next time I will try it as a poke style cake.

caramel-carrot-cake-pieceThis recipe satisfies those cravings for sweet, buttery rich…and you get your veggies in too!  Enjoy!

 

Recipe Makeover Day – Pecan Praline Cheesecake

Yesterday I tried Life Love and Sugar’s recipe for Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake.  It was great!  What I liked the most about it was how the cinnamon and brown sugar filling caramelized, almost into little cinnamon pralines.  So this morning, I decided, why not?  I’ve got brown sugar, I’ve got pecans…let’s do a makeover!

I used the same basic crust and cheesecake recipe as before (Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake), but omitted all cinnamon.  I added 1-1/4 cups (because that’s the amount that was in the bag) of chopped pecans, that I chopped further.  Instead of melting the butter for the crumble, I just softened it, and that made it easier to work with.  Instead of plain vanilla, I used vanilla nut flavoring (it’s right there with the other flavorings – McCormick makes it.  It’s really good.  Makes a killer butter pecan cake).  So:

pecan-praline-cheesecake-crustFor the crust:

  • 1-1/2 cups crushed Nilla Wafers
  • 4 Tbsp regular sugar
  • 5 Tbsp softened butter
  • mix by hand, press into bottom and a little ways up the side of a 9″ springform pan (I put parchment paper in mine) and bake at 325 for 10 minutes.  Take out to rest, and wrap pan in foil.  DECREASE THE OVEN TEMP NOW to 300 degrees.

For the filling:

  • 3 large blocks of cream cheese
  • 1 cup of regular sugar
  • 3 Tbsp plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla or vanilla nut
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • mix the sugar and cream cheese on low.  Add in the flour and continue.  Add eggs one at a time, scraping down bowl after each.  Add vanilla/vanilla nut and sour cream to complete – mix on low just until combined.  Don’t overmix or mix on high – you’ll add air that you don’t want.

For the crumble:

  • 1-1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (or whatever comes in a small bag.  Make it easy on y’self).
  • 2  cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • stop here – mix all that by hand.  Now add
  • 12 Tbsp softened butter
  • Now, get your hands in there and mix that up.  When you get it combined STOP.  Don’t keep handling it – the warmth of your hands will melt the butter and make it harder to crumble.

To combine, separate the crumble into 1/4’s.  Crumble 1 quarter around on the crust.  Pour and spread on 1/3 of the filling batter.  Repeat, ending with crumble on the top.  So, your layers from the bottom will be crust, crumble, filling, crumble, filling, crumble, filling, crumble.

pecan-praline-cheesecake-in-water-bathSame water bath, same baking method, same everything, but I did omit the topping.  It just didn’t seem necessary, and I didn’t want the extra sweetness to take away from the body and fatty nutty goodness the pecans added.  TIP:  use the long sized aluminum foil to wrap your pan.  That way, you don’t have to worry about water seeping into seams that you have to make if you use the shorter size.

Now, when you take this out of the water bath, set it on the counter for a few minutes.  Then, remove the foil.  DON’T PANIC.  That stuff in the foil?  That’s butter.  Yep, butter that has slipped through the cracks and escaped.  It’s okay.  Just put a few paper towels on a piece of foil to rest your cheesecake on in the fridge while it cools.

Share this praline goodness with your family and friends (or don’t, but hide so they can’t find you).  Some coffee or milk and you’re all set.  I hope you enjoy!

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake

So after the success of the Cinnamon Roll Cake the other day (one of my friends said its his brand new best favorite so far!), I decided to keep the ball rolling.  Haven’t made a cheesecake in a little while, so when I saw this Pin I decided this was the one to try.

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake

Now, everything I have ever tried from this site has been really great, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.  And let me tell you, when I first read the recipe, I thought that we would either go down in a fiery cinnamon overload crash, or be extremely happy with the cinnamon brown sugar goodness.  I’m gonna go with the latter!

cinnamon-roll-cheesecake-crustThe crust is the first great thing about this recipe – not graham crackers, folks. Not a single one.  Nilla Wafers!  Yep, Nilla Wafers, butter, a bit of cinnamon and sugar.  This crust alone was worth the trouble of setting it all up.  Smelling it bake was a treat.

I will say that I could probably either cut down on the butter in the filling, or have it a little more firm.  My mix was a glue-like consistency.  I kept looking back at the recipe and thinking, crumble?  How the heck do you crumble this??? but I persevered and got it all in the right places.  I did cut the cinnamon in the actual filling in half – one brother is not a huge cinnamon fan, so I’m trying to please different palates.  (that’s what that blonder topping area is all about too – I omitted the cinnamon completely in that little section of filling.  The bit in the crust and the bit in the cheesecake itself is plenty for him)

cinnamon-roll-cheesecake-in-water-bathThe water bath came together great.  Younger son gifted me with a Kitchenaide roasting pan just for this purpose, and it works beautifully.  Water baths were the reason I avoided cheesecakes for a long, long time – but the right equipment makes it an easy task.

cinnamon-roll-cheesecake-unpannedI’m not sure how the crust will be after the cooking.  The amount of butter in this rig is outrageous – but hey, doesn’t that mean that even if the crust isn’t crispy, it will be buttery, so no harm no foul? I think so!

Really enjoying this holiday baking.  Give this recipe a try if you want a cinnamony buttery fantasticlyrich! dessert.  You won’t be sorry!