Thursday, March 31, 2011

Black Forest Cream Cheese Cake

Still eager to experiment from that Taste of Home magazine, I was very happy to try this recipe out for my friend's son's class and fortunately they came out decent enough. Of course I like how this dessert puts a spin on the classic black forest cake by adding cream cheese. After baking these up into swirled cupcakes they came out so pretty that I didn't want to hide them with cherry pie filling. I even made a cream cheese icing thinking that cupcakes just aren't complete without icing but couldn't bring myself to cover these up.

The only suggestion I would make for this recipe is to use melted chocolate chips instead of cocoa powder because that will add more flavor and let's face it- more fat. The chocolate cake lacked a deep chocolate flavor and an indulgent moist texture. If it wasn't for the cream cheese, these would have been just plain dry. Even if you just add chocolate chips, that would add much needed richness. I hope the kids liked them!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chunky Peanut Butter Squares

These taste better than Reeses. Because they are homemade! They’re thicker, chunkier, and you can cut yourself a bar and feel like you’re eating something special instead of just buying it off the shelf. I like to use all natural chunky peanut butter- no hydrogenated oils. It comes out tasting the same or better than Jif so might as well make it healthier for you!

These are not as salty as Reeses. The peanut butter taste doesn’t taste roasted, but more natural- though still sweetened. I love semisweet chocolate on these rather than milk chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate is pretty tasty too. The peanut butter is already sweet so a darker chocolate gives it balance. If you blend your graham crackers yourself, don't worry about those stray larger pieces that don’t break up- they’ll act like peanuts and give your taste buds a surprise. I’ve also tried it with creamy peanut butter if you want it smoother and with one cup less graham cracker crumbs and sugar if you want it even smoother. 

Peanut Butter Squares

1 cup butter
1 cup chunky peanut butter (go natural!)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening

Place butter and peanut butter in a 2-quart glass bowl. Cover with a paper towel, and microwave at HIGH 1 ½ minutes. Stir in graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar.

Press into an 11 x 7 x 1 ½ inch OR an 8 x 8 inch baking dish.

Place chocolate and shortening in a 1-cup or 2-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave at medium (50% power) for 2 minutes. Stir well- the chocolate will melt. Spread over peanut butter mixture. Cover and chill until firm, about 45-60 minutes. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

I had to save this recipe to my favorites list because of Break or Bake’s incredible photos. That’s what you call food porn!

I’m sure you’ve tried double or triple chocolate cheesecake but how about triple vanilla cheesecake? I made some adjustments to this recipe to get just that. The crust and cheesecake filling both use vanilla sugar (ingenious) but I also infused the heavy cream with Madagascar vanilla beans for extra indulgence.

These came out… well, with great vanilla flavor, of course, but what pulls it together is the crust too. It’s a butter cookie that adds alittle crunch and then melts in your mouth. I doubled the recipe to make into a springform pan but the original recipe makes these into bars.
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla Cream

1 ¼ cups sugar
2 vanilla beans
½ cup heavy cream


1/4 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 cup vanilla cream
4 (8-oz) packages plain cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Begin this recipe a few days or a few hours in advance, by making the vanilla sugar and vanilla cream, preferably a few days in advance as the flavor will deepen with time. Place the heavy cream into a sauce pan over low heat. Split open one vanilla bean and scrape out the black vanilla specks. Place the specks and both beans (the pitted one and whole one) into the cream. Heat until it slowly simmers, for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool and then refrigerate until ready to use. Take out the beans from the cream. Place the sugar in a plastic container. Scrape out the whole bean and place the specks into the sugar. Combine well. Place the pitted beans into the sugar, cover with a lid until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, cream together the vanilla sugar and butter, until smooth and fluffy. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is like a cookie. Press evenly into a springform pan and bake for 15 minutes.

While the crust bakes, combine vanilla sugar and cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in vanilla cream. Do not over mix. Add in vanilla extract and eggs one at a time, do not over mix.

Pour the filling over the hot crust when it has finished baking. Return pan to oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the filling is just set in the center.  

Cool completely before slicing (don’t be alarmed if the cheesecake appears to deflate somewhat as it cools). Refrigerate.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pear and Raspberry Crisp

The first time I made this with peaches and blackberries. The anise flavor went incredible with the peaches and I was sure that earthy flavor would go even better with pears. Turns out, I actually like it better with peaches! Maybe it just tasted better in good company- I really need to bake with my girlfriends more often.
None the less, this pear and raspberry crisp was still addictive- I can’t say no to fruit covered in flour and butter. So yes, the crisp was my favorite part. However, I have to say I cooked the pears perfectly so every bite of sweetness was like heaven in your mouth. The raspberries provided a great contrasting tartness.

Normally I would say don’t skimp around when it comes to ingredients. I even bought pears from Green Fields market that were outrageously good but waited too long to make this- those were gobbled up. When we tried this crisp the first time with star anise, it was very flavorful. So of course the day I want to make this our HEB, Walmart, Target, AND Sun Harvest have no star anise in sight. I bought the anise extract but to my relief found the star anise at another HEB. But again, I don’t know why I didn’t really taste it so maybe the extract would have been fine.  
Pear and Raspberry Crisp
6 large pears
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp cold water mixed with 1 tbsp cornstarch
3 star anise
1 cup raspberries
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats (one minute cooking oats)
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, cut in cubes
vanilla ice cream, to serve

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Peel, quarter, and core the pears. Then cut each piece in half lengthwise.
3. Combine pears, sugar, water, and star anise into a large saucepan. Cover and bring to boil.
4. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit is tender but still holds its shape.
5. Add cornstarch mixture and cook for a minute until it thickens.
6. Discard the star anise, and pour into a 8x8 inch baking dish.
7. Sprinkle the raspberries over the pears.
8. Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and butter in a bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
9. Sprinkle over the fruit, then bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
10. Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve with ice cream.
Blog Installation and Coding by Designs by Linds 2011