Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake

Sunday, January 1, 2012
File this one into the category of, "I can't believe I actually made something this amazing".



I am not a baker, or a professional chef. If I can make this, anyone can!!  Sure, it's time consuming but if you want to make something impressive and over-the-top tasty good, try this recipe!  Oh also make it one day ahead to let the flavors mix n mingle and settle in together.  

Special Tools Needed:  food processor, coffee grinder, 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides (a.k.a: a "cheesecake pan") , electric or stand mixer, pastry bag (or use a Ziploc bag), and a small star tip.  You'll also need some patience and some time. Prep + chilling time is over 3 hours. Final Chill is at least 6 hours - so don't go making this a few hours before you need to arrive at Aunt Margaret's pot luck supper!

Ingredients 
Crust
1 9-ounce box chocolate wafer cookies
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7-8 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Chocolate Ganache
1 1/2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream
20 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips / or bars, chopped
1/4 cup coffee-flavored liqueur (I used Starbucks but you can use  KahlĂșa  or any other type) 

Filling
4  8-ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature ( I like Philly the best but use whatever kind you like)
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp dark rum (I used Myers but you can use any dark rum...take a sip while you're at it. Makes cooking more fun!)
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp ground whole espresso coffee beans (medium-coarse grind)
1 tbsp vanilla
2 teaspoons light molasses
4 large eggs, room temperature

Topping
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla 

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Instructions

Crust
Finely grind up the cookies, chocolate, brown sugar, and nutmeg in a food processor. Add the melted butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down bowl occasionally. This will be about a minute.  

Transfer the crumb mixture to your springform pan. Press crumb mixture firmly up sides to within 1/2 inch of top edge, then over bottom of pan. ( Wrap your fingers with plastic wrap to make it easier... or just dip them in more melted butter... ) 

Ganache
Bring whipping cream to a simmer in large saucepan. Remove from heat; add in the chocolate and coffee liqueur. Whisk until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth. Resist the urge to dip your fingers in and eat it. 
Pour 2 cups ganache over bottom of crust. Freeze until ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. 

Reserve remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature to use later for creating lattice pattern.

Filling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Using an electric or stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended.  Beat in flour. 

Stir rum, espresso powder, ground coffee, vanilla, and molasses in small bowl until instant coffee dissolves; beat into cream cheese mixture. 

Beat in eggs 1 at a time, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.

Pour filling over cold ganache.  Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until top is brown, puffed and cracked at edges, and center 2 inches moves only slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 5 minutes.  You don't need a water bath for this cheesecake because we're covering the top, so the cracks don't matter. 

Transfer cheesecake to rack. Cool 15-20 minutes while preparing topping (note that the top of cheesecake will fall slightly,this is normal).  Leave the oven on, still at 350. 


Topping
Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Pour topping over hot cheesecake, spreading to cover filling completely. Bake until topping is set, about 10 minutes. (You can turn the oven off now) 

Transfer cheesecake to rack and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. 

Run small sharp knife between crust and pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides.  I just leave the bottom part of the pan attached to the cheesecake. I am WAY to afraid of taking the cheesecake off of the metal disk. If you want to try it, you can feel free but it's perfectly OK to leave it on the bottom of the pan. 

Spoon reserved ganache into pastry bag fitted with small star tip.

Pipe 6 diagonal lines atop cheesecake, spacing 1 inch apart. Repeat in opposite direction, making lattice. Pipe rosettes of ganache around top edge of cake.  Chill until lattice is firm, at least 6 hours. Wrap loosely in foil, forming dome over lattice; keep refrigerated) 




Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

Rustic Meatballs


I love meatballs. My grandmother, who wasn't Italian, used to make some really great meatballs. Unfortunately she passed away and I never got the recipe. I have attempted to duplicate her recipe and I think they came out pretty close.   I'm calling them "rustic" meatballs because of the rough chops of the garlic and onions, and also because they're not perfectly uniform and round.  I set out to make them this way  - so they not only match the texture and flavor of the meatballs she used to make .. but they match in appearance as well.   Full recipe posted below.


The meatballs are surprisingly easy to prepare -- basically just throw everything into a bowl and mix with your hands - sometimes it can be kind of fun to get your hands dirty.

The cast of characters includes ground beef, pork, and veal. To that I added some seasonings (salt, pepper, parsley, and Italian seasoning), some bread crumbs, and a rough chop of garlic.   I used eggs and a bit of milk as the liquid ingredients.



Note, I didn't forget the onions - they're a key ingredient in these meatballs!  I was afraid the onions would not get soft enough if I added them raw, so I rough chopped them and I sauteed them for a bit to soften them up.  Once they were softened up, I let them cool for a bit in the fridge before I added them to the meatball mixture.



Once the onions are cooled, add them to the meatball mixture and get your hands in there and mix, mix, mix!
Work all the ingredients together until it resembles this:

You'll note that the onions don't seem to be mixed that well and, well, you're right. I may have used a bit too many onions but I wanted to ensure that each meatball had some onion-y goodness in it. It's okay if not all the onions get incorporated into the mixture.

Next -- get out a pan and heat it up to medium (I used the same pan that I sauteed the onions in).   Start rolling the meatballs and adding them to the pan. Note: do not over fill the pan, you'll need room to maneuver and flip the meatballs to get them browned on all sides.

I average about 12-13 meatballs in the frying pan and I have a decently big frying pan.   Turn each meatball around so that each side gets browned.

Take them out when they are done and repeat until all the remaining meatballs are browned.

Now your options are to either throw them into a crock pot filled with sauce and cook until they are done, or you can bake them in the oven for about 30 minutes.  If you really want to go nuts, make your own sauce and let the meatballs cook and simmer in there.



Ingredients - Yield 40 "medium" sized meatballs

1.5 pounds ground beef (85% fat)
.75 pound ground pork
.75 pound ground veal
3 large eggs
6-8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups bread crumbs (I used Italian seasoned crumbs)
1/4 cup milk

Crock pot method - you'll need 3 jars of sauce. I use a mixture of tomato/basil and marinara.

*****
Instructions


If baking the meatballs, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
If using a crock pot, add 3 jars of sauce to a crock pot and turn it on high.

Saute the onions until soft, cool and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the meat, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic, milk, salt, and pepper.  Mix it all together with your hands. Get dirty!    Add in the cooled onions and mix some more.

Form into balls 1.5-2" in diameter and add to a frying pan.  Brown on all sides, and then remove from pan.  Repeat until all meat mixture is used up and you have browned all the meatballs.

If using a crock pot, simply place the meatballs into the sauce and keep in on high until the meatballs are cooked through - approximately 3 hours.

If baking, add to preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. (less time if you're making smaller meatballs, longer if you are making larger meatballs).

That's it, Enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Easy Cornbread Mini Muffins

Saturday, September 3, 2011

So we're having this big Labor Day BBQ tomorrow (50+ people, yikes!) and I am making a ton of BBQ chicken and pulled pork .... I needed something to go with it. I decided to make cornbread mini muffins. Good idea, right? Well to be honest the only cornbread I'd ever attempted was Jiffy mix cornbread and , well, I'm sure you can guess the outcome of that.

Blech.

So I wanted an easy, homemade cornbread recipe -- made into mini muffins so I wouldn't have a gigantic mess from people cutting pieces out of a cornbread loaf. Plus I thought they'd look cute in baskets lined with red/white checked napkins.

Easy Buttermilk Cornbread Mini Muffins
Makes 48 mini muffins


2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups buttermilk

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Next, get our your mini muffin pans. You'll need two pans (24 mini-muffins each). I used one light colored, and 1 dark colored and they both came out the same. Well, maybe the dark colored one came out slightly more browned on the bottom but the taste was nonetheless the same. Use whatever pans you have, don't stress!

OK spray the muffin tins pretty well with cooking spray. I used olive oil spray but you could use any type you have on hand. If you don't have any cooking spray, use a pastry brush with some melted butter in each tin. If you don't have butter, put some canola oil on a paper towel and rub it in the tins. If you don't have any oil, well, then you probably need to head to the grocery store.

OK pans all lubed up. Now, in a decent size mixing bowl, add in the dry ingredients + the sugar. Stir it all up or sift it so it's nicely combined.  In another (smaller) bowl, add in the buttermilk, beaten eggs, and oil. Mix that up a bit. Pour it into the dry ingredient bowl and mix it good. No need for an electric mixer here, a wooden spoon works best.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tins until it's just under "full". If you have a cookie scoop, your life will be much easier. If you don't have a cookie scoop, don't fret, it'll just be a bit messier for you.  Ok once the muffin tins are full, give them a shake against your counter to settle the batter.

Pop them in the 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.  They're done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the mini muffin comes out clean.

If you want to make regular muffins, you can do that too. Bake for 16-18 minutes depending on muffin size. Rely on the toothpick check to tell when they are done.

That's it. Now, take them out of the oven and let them sit for a few minutes so you don't burn your hands (we all know what that's like). After a few minutes have gone by, take them out of the muffin tins and put them on a cooling rack. Resist the urge to eat them (actually grab some butter, slather it on and enjoy one... nobody will know).

Serve warm or room temperature.

If storing, cool them completely put in an airtight container or wrap tightly with plastic wrap.

Enjoy!









Monday, October 18, 2010

Smores Bars

Monday, October 18, 2010
Not quite a brownie, not quite a cake, these smores bars are just plain yummy! They're chewy, chocolatey, and delicious!

The ingredients: 


You'll note that there's a carton of whole milk in that picture - but I actually forgot to add it to the recipe. They came out just fine! I think though, if you add the milk, the bars will come out less dense and chewy. I will post the full recipe below. 

When making these, it's best to line the pan with aluminum foil, and then butter it. I had no problem removing them from the pan with the butter/foil method. 

Then you mix the wet ingredients, add in the dry, and press into the buttered, foil lined pan
The mixture is very thick when you forget to add the milk, but it works!



Throw the pan into the oven and bake halfway. Take the pan out and then arrange marshmallows in rows. Put the pan back in the oven and bake a while longer.  The marshmallows get big, puffy, and golden brown :





Once you take them out of the oven, they "calm down" and flatten. Let them cool in the pan, then cut and enjoy. 


They look a bit  like fried eggs, but let me assure you they taste really good :)

Serve warm - They can be stored for a few days - I recommend popping them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to heat them back up. 

Ingredients
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (make them yourself in a food processor, or get the Keebler ready made graham cracker crumbs) 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter  (room temp)  + butter to line the bottom of the pan 
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup whole milk (optional - use it if you want more cake like bars.. don't use it if you want chewy brownie like bars) 
12-16 ounces semi sweet chocolate chunks (either buy the chunks or cut up some chocolate bars) 
15 marshmallows

Kitchen Tools
13 x 9 baking pan
aluminum foil 
Stand mixer or hand mixer

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  

Line bottom and sides of baking pan with aluminum foil and then coat it liberally with butter. 

Put the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and stir to combine. 

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar (with hand mixer or stand mixer) until the mixture looks creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla. 
Add in half the crumb mixture and mix until blended. 
Here is where you would add the milk if you are using it.
Mix in the remaining crumb mixture, and then stir in the chocolate pieces.  Scoop batter into pan and spread it evenly. 
Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven and arrange the marshmallows on top of the cake - three rows of 5 marshmallows. 
Continue baking until the marshmallows are golden brown and puffed up - about 15 minutes. 

Take the cake out of the oven and immediately loosen it from the sides using a small knife. Cool the cake, in the pan, on a wire rack. When ready to serve, just lift the foil out of the pan and cut it into slices. 

Serve warm or microwave to reheat. 


Enjoy!





Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have to say I have never really been a fan of peanut butter.  I hated how it stuck to the roof of my mouth, how it was too gritty, too chunky, or just plan something I just wasn't ever in the mood for. I never craved peanut butter anything.   I didn't even really enjoy Reese's peanut butter cups - I just felt that there were better candy / dessert options out there.  Well, you know how people's tastes change every so often? Mine has - big time.  I now literally cannot get enough peanut butter!  I think I may even have had a dream about peanut butter the other day.

I got a new Kitchen Aid mixer for a wedding present and so I decided to whip up a batch of cookies (peanut butter, of course).  I couldn't just do plain peanut butter - I had to add chocolate chips :)

OK so on to the cookies! Here are the cast of characters:  (I'll post the full recipe below)


Basic cookie ingredients - nothing too fancy - flour, sugar, vanilla, butter, an egg, salt, brown sugar, baking soda, oh, and peanut butter.  I use natural peanut butter because I don't like the idea of hydrogenated oils in my cookies. There's something not quite right about it.  Anyway,  I found some of the natural peanut butters can get a bit gritty - so for these cookies  I used Skippy Natural, which is as creamy as the peanut butter with the hydrogenated oils (so tell me again why we need these silly trans fats??)

I have to say my Kitchenaid mixer is THE BOMB. I love how easy it all was!


Once they were all mixed up, I rolled them into balls and placed them on a cookie sheet.  Then take a fork and smoosh the cookie down till it's flat and has a nice criss cross pattern on it. 


Bake them and enjoy the aroma of cookies. There's nothing like the smell of fresh baked cookies!


Take them out of the oven and try to let them cool off a bit before you eat them.  I couldn't wait that long and burned the roof of my mouth. Some day I will learn about restraint. 



Serve with a big glass of cold milk !

Here's the recipe: 

Ingredients
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Kitchen Tools Needed:
Mixer (either a stand mixer or hand mixer) 
Cookie Sheet (s) 
Spatula
Wire racks for cooling 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Cream butter and peanut butter in mixing bowl. Beat until smooth - about 1 minute. 
Add sugar, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla - beat until combined. 

Mix flour, baking soda, and salt together, and gradually add into the wet mixture. Mix until well combined. 

Add in chocolate chips and stir gently. 

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, or a sheet lined with parchment paper.  Press flat with a fork in a criss-cross pattern. 

Bake until golden brown - 10-12 minutes.  Be careful not to over cook, these can get a bit dry.. 
Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. 


Variations 
  • Skip the chocolate chips
  • Add butterscotch chips
  • Add peanut butter chips 
  • Combine peanut butter and chocolate chips together
  • Add in some chopped nuts 
The options are pretty much endless :)

Enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nigella Lawson's Nutella Cake

Monday, January 25, 2010
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My sister loves Nutella. But honestly I have never met anyone that didn't love Nutella. So for her birthday she wanted a Nutella cake. I found Nigella's cake and decided it looked really amazing and I had to make it for her.

The cake is flourless, making it gluten free as well. It's surprisingly simple to make, too!

Besides a springform pan, you will need the following cast of characters: (Note: I'll list the amounts and exact directions below)

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First step is to grind up the hazelnuts into a powder. I used a blender. If you use a blender, be sure to only pulse it so that the heat of the blades doesn't liquify the nuts. They should look like this when done:
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Next, melt the chocolate and set it aside so it can cool. I had to try not to "accidentally" stick my fingers in there to taste it.
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Now, whip up those egg whites!
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Then make the rest of the cake batter (which only contains Nutella, egg yolks, butter, rum, and melted chocolate.) Yum.
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After the batter is done, fold in all the egg whites and pour it into a buttered pan and put it in the 350 degree oven.

Now, toast up some hazelnuts in a frying pan (don't use oil or anything). Use med/high heat and mix them CONSTANTLY. They will burn and get ruined and you will be sad, and have to throw them away.
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Once they are heated through and starting to brown (some of the shells will fall off in the frying pan), transfer them to a towel and rub them, and most of the rest of the skins will come off as well.
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OK.. Then make the ganache.

By now the cake is out of the oven. Let it cool! Top with ganache and toasted hazelnuts, and voila!
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Complete Recipe

Ingredients
Cake:
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 13-ounce container Nutella
1 tablespoon rum or Frangelico (I used aged rum)
4 ounces semi-sweet/bittersweet chocolate, melted and
cooled (I used 72% and it came out great. Use what you like!)
pinch of salt (approx 1/8 tsp)

Ganache:
4 ounces whole hazelnuts
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
4 ounces semi-sweet/bittersweet chocolate (I used 72%)
1 tablespoon rum or frangelico

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Don't skimp, make sure the butter gets into all the crevices of the pan. We don't want this lovely beauty to stick!

Next, In a large bowl (metal works best, but I used glass and it was fine),
whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. I used a hand mixer. Start first on low, then once it starts to get thicker you can gradually increase the speed. Start out too fast and there will be egg whites all over your walls.

In another bowl, with a mixer, cream the butter and Nutella, then add
the rum/frangelico, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts.

Fold in the melted chocolate gently.

Add a scoop of beaten egg whites to the chocolate batter, and mix gently until well-combined. Best to use a rubber spatula and be very gentle so as not to break the egg whites.

Fold in the remaining whites a scoop at a time, mix very gently but thoroughly.

Pour into the buttered springform and bake for 40 minutes.
Test for doneness by inserting tester, which should come out mostly clean; lightly pressing finger into top to check for a slight bouncing-back; and observing edges beginning to separate from pan.
Let cool completely, in pan, on a rack.

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet shaking them around frequently.
Do this until they are lightly browned. If the hazelnuts came with the skins on, simply put them in a kitchen towel after toasting and rub around. This will remove most of the skins from them easily. Cool them completely before using them.

For the Ganache, break or chop up the chocolate, and add to a sauce pan with the heavy cream and the rum or frangelico. Heat over medium to low heat until mixed. Whisk it until it is silky and gorgeous.
Important - let it cool!

Assembly-
Take cooled cake pan out of springform pan. Top with cooled ganache. I like to let it drip over the edges. You can be neat about it too if you like :)
Sprinkle or arrange the hazelnuts on top.

Enjoy!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps - pretty AND delicious

Monday, January 11, 2010

I went to a cookie exchange party in December and made these. They came out so pretty and everyone really loved them. They almost taste like a cookie/brownie. I got the recipe from Martha Stewart's website and wanted to share with you all. They are really, really good.


Ingredients

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant espresso
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon milk
Confectioners' sugar, for coating, about 1/2 cup to maybe 3/4 cup.

Directions
First step, be sure to melt the chocolate so it has time to cool.

Next, In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt.

Then cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy (use an electric mixer). Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat in milk until just combined. The dough is going to be tough.. but it will all mix together!
Lay out some plastic wrap and plop the dough on it. Flatten it into a disk and then wrap in plastic.
Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. (Your hands WILL get dirty. Embrace it.).
Pour confectioners' sugar (about 1/2 cup) into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.

Place on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Try not to eat them all at once :)

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The recipe indicated that it made 18 cookies. I must've made them a bit smaller because I got about 28 cookies out of each recipe.
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