Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake

Another flavor combination that I’ve been dying to try. Of course apples and cinnamon were made for each other but knowing me, I have to add cheesecake. How can you go wrong with cheesecake? This dessert is just right for this time of year. Your kitchen will be filled with a sweet, spicy aroma.

The three components of this cake are all superb. The crust was a new concept to me but it’s a wonderful idea. It’s the perfect cross between a classic graham cracker crust and a pie shell. It goes perfectly with the apples. Consider using it for any fruit topped/filled cheesecake- especially pear. The cheesecake filling surprised me. It is much more luscious and creamy than expected and reminds me of the cheesecake factory’s cheesecake texture. The flavor is more on the vanilla side- I really couldn’t taste the apple juice concentrate. However, the spiced apple topping made up for that and was divine.         

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake

Your sister will come home with a new cookbook-Taste of Home's “Cheesecakes and more” magazine. At first, you’ll be offended because everyone knows you don't need a cookbook for cheesecake. What are you trying to say? But you’ll change your mind as you flip through the pages with the sight of new flavor combinations, a photo with every recipe, and other desserts including this one.

When you make this recipe, it’ll be on Christmas day. You don't celebrate the holiday, but the family is home and its cold outside- so you want something that’ll warm the house with an aroma that just hugs you. So you’ll narrow it down to three options- Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake, Eggnog cheesecake, and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake. You’ll decide on the eggnog cheesecake and you’ll go to HEB, Walgreens, and Walmart only to find that everyone is sold out of eggnog. Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake it is.

For me, cakes are hard to make just right. This one comes out awesome: moist and only gets better the next day. The denseness is perfect- not too light and airy but not too heavy either. It’s the pumpkin.

But the flavor doesn’t scream pumpkin at all. In fact, it’s more of a spice cake with a slight chocolate undertone that’s only intensified when your taste buds are surprised by a chocolate chip.   

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gigi's Cupcakes

So this might be a bit of a problem. A new cupcake shop has just opened- and it’s conveniently located on the way home from work. And they have a lot of flavor combinations to try. Uh oh.

Wedding Cake, Midnight Magic Chocolate Chip, and Peanut Butter Cup are shown below.

These are fabulous for the first three bites but then the frosting becomes sickeningly sweet and will leave you buzzed for about 15 minutes. But the texture of the frosting makes me wish I had the recipe! It still tastes gourmet, aside from the feeling that you just added a pound of sugar into your blood.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lemon Raspberry Cream Cheesecake

One of the best cheesecakes at the cheesecake factory. I had been meaning to recreate it for quite sometime, hoping to stumble across an exact recipe from online. With Yousra’s upcoming party and no luck from google- had to improvise.

Vanilla cake topped with raspberry sauce, light lemon cheesecake, lemon mousse, and whipped cream. Tart, Sweet, Creamy, Luscious, Silky, Smooth, and Dreamy. Pretty much sums it up.

On a test run, I used a french vanilla cake mix but added 1 cup of sour cream to the batter. I’ve heard this makes the batter more moist and dense. I don’t know why it came out soggy- especially the next day - so don’t do that. Also, there is no crust on the cheesecake, but don’t worry, the batter does not leak out of the springform nor does it stick to the pan after its baked. You don’t need to grease the sides of a springform pan because it can detach- and if you do, the grease will just burn and give your cake an awful flavor on the sides.
Lemon Raspberry Cream Cheesecake

1 french vanilla boxed cake mix (plus ingredients to make the cake)
4  (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened 
2  (14-ounce) cans EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk) 
4  eggs 
1  cup lemon juice

Lemon mousse recipe

Raspberry sauce recipe
Whipped Cream recipe

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom only of a 10 inch springform pan. 
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in EAGLE BRAND® until smooth. Add eggs; beat until just blended. Beat in lemon juice. Pour into springform pan.
Bake about 40 minutes or until center of the cheesecake is dry but still jiggles like jello. Cool on wire rack 1 hour. Chill in refrigerator until ready for assembly.  

Next, make the lemon mousse recipe.

Next, bake the boxed cake mix in a 10 inch round pan. You only need to use half of the batter in order to make a thinner cake. You can make cupcakes with the other half! Cool the cake and set aside until ready for assembly.

Next, make the raspberry sauce and whipped cream recipes.

If your vanilla cake is not flat, cut off the rounded top with a serrated knife. Keep the cut top facing up so it will absorb the sauce better. Pour 2/3 cup of the raspberry sauce on top of the vanilla cake. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and place it on top of the vanilla raspberry cake. Finally, top it with the lemon mousse and garnish with piped whipped cream. 

Lemon Mousse

I made this mousse to top off my lemon raspberry cream cheesecake. The first try I followed the recipe exactly- and it was very good. When making mousse, you have to hope it’s going to set up, keep its shape, but still be smooth and soft. It was. The lemon was perfect too- not too tart, great balance of sweetness and flavor. The second try, I wanted to omit the whipped egg whites. Because they are raw and I was sharing this with guests so I didn’t want anyone to get a tummy ache. So I replaced the whipped egg whites with sweetened whipped cream. I have to say it made it even better. The texture went from smooth to velvet. Absolutely luscious. Thanks Ina!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gingerbread Men Cookies

It's winter time which means I have to make those aromatic, warm desserts that I only make once a year. I look forward to this season to take advantage of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, pumpkin, eggnog, pears, and of course hot chocolate.

Biting into these gingerbread cookies wouldn't be the same if you didn't use a gingerbread man cookie cutter and you have to pipe at least one with a smile and buttons.

I have tried this recipe and its very good as well. I love the balance of spices. The following recipe is courtesy of Gourmet Magazine and is just a bit easier to roll out and tastes great too. I make just a simple powdered sugar icing with milk and vanilla extract just to avoid using egg whites whenever possible.

Gingerbread Men

5 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground cloves
½ teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 cup dark molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Sugar Icing

2 egg whites
2 teaspoons water
1 pinch cream of tartar
1 pinch salt
3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Sift and combine together the first 6 dry ingredients listed above. You can do this by adding them all to the bowl of an electric mixer and combine with the whisk attachment. Transfer to another bowl.

Now place softened butter in the bowl of the electric mixer with the beater attachment and cream the butter. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in the egg, molasses, and vinegar. Slowly add the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. The dough will be soft.

Divide the dough into fourths, and wrap in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough slightly. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out the dough to 1/4″ thick and cut with 3 or 4 inch cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until no imprint remains when touched. Cool, then frost.

Icing: beat egg whites with water, cream of tartar and salt until frothy. Add the sugar slowly and then beat until it holds stiff peaks. Add food coloring if desired.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart - Fail

Apparently Ina Garten is either hit or miss. This is not my first failed recipe from her. Google featured this recipe on Thanksgiving in their logo so I was like wow! It has to be good! Just look at the picture! Just read that flavor combo! Pumpkin banana! Yum!

What I didn’t think through was the orange zest. This is a Pumpkin Banana Orange Tart. Actually, this is an ORANGE Pumpkin slightly banana tart. Which doesn’t sound too bad, right? It could work. It could be the ultimate flavor combination! Starring pumpkin, costarring banana and a hint of orange freshness.

It tasted weird. The orange was BITTER and overwhelmed everything. The tart never really firmed up either. It wasn’t goopy but I would have liked it to be set up more.  Even after a day of chilling, it did not- so it still tasted like a raw batter to me.

I could try it again without the orange, but I think that flavor will just haunt me. I’ll still taste it. Let’s just move on.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Junior’s Carrot Cake with a Cheesecake center and Junior’s Cream Cheese Frosting

Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook calls these Skyscraper Cheesecakes. This cake generously fed about 16 of my lovely friends at my graduation party, and I had about 4-5 large servings left over.

This carrot cake was a joy to make- and eat! It does not taste boxed at all. It’s not overly spicy or sweet, and has great texture and moistness. I don’t like Junior’s cheesecake flavor and texture so I used
this recipe for the cheesecake with a regular graham cracker crust in a 10-inch springform pan. You don't really need a crust though. However, Junior’s Cream Cheese Frosting is to die for. 

For the carrot cake, I used two 10-inch pans and one 9-inch pan to place a little cake batter in for crumbling on top of the cake. Junior’s suggest to freeze the cheesecake and chill the carrot cake for assembly. I did not. I chilled my cheesecake and left the carrot cake out at room temperature and assembled the cake- it came out perfectly fine. It was easy to handle. Despite the warning, I did not use parchment paper for the carrot cake and it came out fine. I’ve made carrot cake before, so I knew to pay attention to “finely grated” because you don’t want chunks of carrot in your cake. The recipe does not specify what kind of apples, so I used Granny Smith (2 medium sized) and it came out wonderful. Don’t be afraid- it is still a carrot cake, but the green apple just adds a great depth of flavor. Since I used bigger pans, I baked my carrot cake at 300 degrees F for 38 minutes. I will give you Junior’s original recipe for the carrot cake.

Junior’s Carrot Cake

2 cups all purpse flour
2 tsp baking pwder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup dark raisins
Boiling water
4 extra large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup heavy or whipping cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and finely grated carrots
¾ cup peeled, cored, and minced apples
¾ cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of three 9-inch round layer cake pans (you’ll need three layers, two for the cake and one to break into crumbs for the top). Very important: Line the bottom of all three pans with parchment or waved paper (don’t let the paper come up the sides).

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda together in a medium sized bowl and set aside. Place the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with boiling water, cover the pan, an dlet soak until nice and plump, about 15-20 minutes. Drain well and let stand on paper towels.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high until light yellow, about 5 minutes. With the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar, then slowly drizzle in the oil, then the cream and vanilla. When the batter is light golden and airy, it’s ready (this usually takes a total of 15-20 minutes of beating). Stir in the flour mixture, then stir in the carrots, apples, walnuts, and raisins.

Divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans and bake until the centers spring back when lightly touches and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out with moist crumbs, about 45 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn the m out onto the rack and peel off the paper liners. Let the cakes cool completely, about 2 hours, then wrap each layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Junior’s Cream Cheese Frosting
Three 8 ounce packages of cream cheese (use only full fat), at room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar  (1  and 1/2 pounds)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream

Beat the cream cheese and butter together in a medium sized bowl with the mixer on high speed.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, then the vanilla, beating until smooth.  With the mixer running, gradually add the cream and beat until the frosting looks whipped and creamy. Add a little more cream if necessary until it’s easy to spread. Set out the carrot cake layers and break the least attractive one into coarse crumbs. Assemble cake with frosting between each layer and frost on top. Decorate with crumbs.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lime Cupcakes at Whole Foods

I have discovered some of the best cupcakes I have EVER had at Whole Foods Market. Lightly flavored lime cake that is moist and fluffy with the right sweet and tart combination, filled with tangy lime custard, and frosted with a sweet, cold lime icing. They were perfect.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake - Two ways

In October, you need two things- pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake. This is a classic recipe that I first made back in high school. The chocolate crumb crust and mini chocolate chips are a sweet, satisfying combination with the pumpkin cheesecake. 

this recipe is just to serve as a warning. When I first saw it I thought it was such a great idea because it uses brown sugar. What a great way to enhance the seasonal flavors of a pumpkin cheesecake. Wrong. Apparently, brown sugar in a cheesecake is impossible to dissolve/incorporate so my cheesecake ended up gritty. The flavor was great but the texture was like eating cheesecake on the beach.

The following recipe is excellent- an adapted version of Hershey’s with no chocolate, seen in the picture below.

Pumpkin Cheesecake:

¾ cup graham cracker crumbs

½ teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons melted butter

4 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1-½  cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1-1/3 cup canned pumpkin  
4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup heavy cream
Make the crust by combining ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter until combined. Press into the bottom of a 10 inch spring form pan and place in fridge until ready to fill. 

Turn oven temperature to 400°F.
Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and pumpkin pie spice in large bowl until just blended. Add pumpkin and eggs; beat until just blended. Beat in vanilla and heavy cream until just blended; pour batter into prepared crust. Bake 10 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 250°F; continue baking 50 minutes or until almost set. The cheesecake should appear dry but not firm. Remove from oven and cool completely. Refrigerate about 5 hours before serving. With knife, loosen cake from side of pan. Top with whipped cream.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lemon and Honey Cupcakes

One of your sweetest and dearest friends will email you this recipe. The way they pipe the frosting makes these look irresistible. What a wonderful flavor combination they turned out to be! Next time, use a fruitier honey. Burleson’s Clover Honey or the one shaped like a bear is not fruity enough. Try to use the best honey you can find. There is no sugar in this recipe but the frosting makes up for that.

The cake is what you’ll call a “mature cupcake” because it’s not too sweet, and could use a little improvement in the texture. It was crumbly and not as moist as I would like. But the frosting was amazing and brought the cake that needed sweetness. Double the cream cheese and use 2 ½ cups powdered sugar. And even after you use a microplane to zest the lemon for your frosting, please chop the zest so that it’s even finer because it’ll get stuck in your piping tip and cause you to cuss. You’ll spread some of that leftover frosting on a vanilla oreo and will find yourself in heaven.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

October: official pumpkin pie month. You have to wait until the air starts to get slightly chilly outside and the leaves turn yellow. Only then can the pumpkin pie craving be fully satisfied. And only pumpkin pie. None of that sweet potato stuff. Can't forget about the best way to top it. Cool whip with alittle vanilla extract stirred in is an easy cheat but this recipe is already simple so make your own sweetened whipped cream! It's much more luscious and homey.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layered Cupcakes

You’ll print this recipe out because it’s the million dollar winner of a Pillsbury bake-off. But you won’t get around to making it until that chocolate peanut butter craving hits. And when it does you’ll wonder why you didn’t make these sooner! Like a lot of cakes, these are even better the next day. They just get moister and more delicious. They even become addictive. You don’t even want a cupcake but you’ll just want to taste it to see how their texture improves every few hours. Don’t be scared of putting the chips on top- they don’t burn and stay amazingly soft. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Six Layer White Dobos Torte

You’ll think you’re ready to attempt a dobos torte when your favorite baking blogs motivate you to. You won’t be suicidal enough to try this recipe with 12 layers but instead, use the same exact recipe and just make six layers (one layer will be double the thickness of one of theirs). You’ll be torn between making a classic dobos with a chocolate buttercream but very intrigued by this white dobos with a white chocolate cream cheese buttercream and peach jam. “Cream cheese” will win you over.

The peach puree tasted very natural and organic. No need to cook the peaches to loosen the skin. Just peel them. Btw, leftover puree is great on vanilla ice cream.

You will initially follow the recipe and cut perfect circles of parchment paper to bake your sponge layers. But you will realize that spooning and spreading the batter evenly and consistently on top of these little circles will cause the infamous dobos torte frustration. Time to improvise. Get an empty cool whip container and slice off the bottom. Roll out a sheet of parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Place the bottomless cool whip container on top of the parchment and spoon ½ cup of batter into it. Spread it out evenly. Lift the cool whip container and make two more on the same baking sheet. Viola! All three layers will be EVEN and bake perfectly at the same time. I baked them at 350 degrees F in the center rack for 4.5-5 minutes. Cool them for a few minutes and remove them from the parchment paper while they are still warm. They tend to stick when cooled. Also: remember to sift the powdered sugar.

How to make cake flour: put 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a measuring up and then add enough all-purpose flour to equal one cup. Thoroughly mix together and then sift about five times because that cornstarch needs to be scattered throughout.

The white chocolate cream cheese buttercream is amazing. And does not need any other description other than amazing. Just be careful not to seize the chocolate. White chocolate melts much faster than semi-sweet.

By now, you’re going to be exhausted and will give up on doing that caramel topped sponge layer. But please persevere and perhaps make it even before you do the peach puree and frosting. Because you will kick yourself for not completing it in the end. It won’t have that showstopper look without it. You might even deem it a failure without it. And you will doubt the authenticity of your dobos without that caramel topped sponge layer. So deep breath, and attempt it. Even though I didn’t.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Raspberry-Laced Vanilla Cake

Your brother will come home and accuse you of doing nothing all day and call you an unemployed lazy bum. But that’s okay, when dinner is over, he will be sorry. You’ll tell him he doesn’t deserve a piece of this raspberry laced vanilla cake and he’ll apologize.

Warning: you will confuse the baking powder and baking soda portions by interchanging them. Fortunately, you’ll catch yourself and start over. The broken flour will stay on the counter for a week before you decide there’s nothing you can do with it and end up throwing it out. Despite the saved failure, the cake will still come out a bit dry. So be careful not to over bake. This cake comes out with quite a yellow taste so next time I'd like to make it with a very white recipe. I just think that flavor combo would dance on the taste buds.

As is tradition, you won’t be able to find seedless raspberry jam, so you’ll go through the trouble of straining it. It's worth it. We all know crunchy raspberry seeds ruin everything.

Apparently raspberry syrup is hard to find too, so you’ll end up making a batch of your own raspberry sauce: combine 12 ounces of frozen raspberries, 1/3 cup sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until all the raspberries are broken up and the sugar is dissolved- about 5 minutes. Strain the seeds.

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