Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

My brother is very much a chocoholic like me - it runs in the family. So when he gets on a plane to fly 3,000 miles to spend his hard-earned spring break with me, what do I do?

I feed him, of course!

I teased him lots beforehand though. Every recipe I saw that looked even slightly tempting to me, I emailed to him with "Should I make you this?" ... "Or how about this?" ... "Ooh, we might be able to make this too!" I think he didn't eat at all the week before in preparation.

Out of the flood of goodies though, this one caught his eye. It's a chocolate-crusted cheesecake with a semi-sweet mousse layer topped with bittersweet ganache. It's rich enough that a single slice will satisfy. And after two days, it's now half gone.

Well, ok, I cheat: we took part of it to a party. But it is tasty.

Recipe is compliments of Mangio da Sola - the only adjustments I made were to omit the coffee and alcohol. I won't reiterate it here as you really should visit her site, if just for the pictures. Nom nom nom.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blueberry-Almond Bars

Whew. Just a little time has passed! I'd like to claim lots has happened, but mostly it's just been work work work. Good stuff, but we're here for the food, and we all know it. ;)

Food then! I present Blueberry Curd and Almond Cream bars. They take some work, but oh goodness, they're addicting. There's just one other recipe I've had more requests for - this one even passed the One-Bowl Brownies! I can't say I'm surprised though, for a non-chocolate dessert these are stunning. They start out with a layer of almond shortbread, flavored with cinnamon and lemon. A layer of almond cream, flavored with liquor, makes up the middle. The crowning glory is a layer of homemade blueberry curd. Just... yum.

The recipe is an adaptation, but after a year I'm afraid the link has vanished from my records. Once again recipe gods, please give my thanks to your acolyte!

Blueberry Almond Bars

* 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/4 cup ground toasted almonds
* 1/4 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon salt

Almond cream:
* 1/4 cup pure almond paste (2 ounces)
* 1/4 cup granulated sugar
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
* 1 egg
* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Blueberry curd:
* 1 pint blueberries
* 2 eggs
* 3/4 cup granulated sugar
* Pinch of salt
* 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly butter an 8x8" baking dish.

Crust: To make the shortbread, combine the butter, flour, almonds, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt until small lumps form. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom. Bake until the shortbread is golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Almond cream: Purée almond paste, granulated sugar, butter, and a pinch of salt in a food processor until smooth. Add 1 egg, vanilla, and almond extract and purée until incorporated. Add flour and pulse until incorporated.

Blueberry curd: In a food processor or blender, puree the blueberries until smooth. Pass the puree through a chinois set over a bowl, using a pestle to press on the solids and extract as much juice as possible; discard the solids. You should have about 1/2 cup juice.

In the top pan of a double boiler or in a nonreactive saucepan, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until blended. Then whisk in the blueberry juice, salt, and lemon juice. Set the top pan over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan, or set the saucepan over medium-low heat. (If using a saucepan, take care not to heat the mixture too quickly.) Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or spoon, until the mixture is warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Begin adding the butter a little at a time, stirring each addition until blended before adding more. Continue cooking, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until a finger drawn across the back of the spatula leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes more. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Pass the curd through the chinois set over a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk to blend.

Assembly: Pour the almond cream over the cooled crust and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven then pour the curd on top, spreading it evenly to the edges. There may be some blending of the almond cream and the blueberry - no worries.

Bake until the curd is set, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into individual bars, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Dust the bars with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Christmas Goodies

I am a bad person - I wholeheartedly admit it. I didn't meant to leave you all hanging, but the moving kicked in along with the aftermath of the other news, and, well, it was overwhelming. So let me jump straight to the biggest news.

I got married.

Boyo and I finally tied the knot and couldn't be happier. It was a small wedding, about as small as it gets in fact - a judge, two last-minute witnesses, and ourselves - but even the planning involved for that level was scary. From deciding to do the deed to doing it took a week, and I honestly cannot remember anything about that week leading up to the ceremony. I'm sure I worked (right up to 2 hours before the wedding - rar!) but I'm just going to have to hope I was productive because I don't remember a lick of what I did. My family is thrilled as they love him to pieces and I can completely relate.

The other news was that it was my birthday, but that's old news now and a bit blown out of the water by the wedding anyway. We timed it perfectly so we could have one celebration for both (I was born, and I got married - yay!). Of course, if he forgets our anniversary, he's doubly screwed ;)

So we got married, moved during one of the worst snowstorms this century in Seattle (yay snow!), fully unpacked, and cleaned everything. And just in time, as I now have a gorgeous kitchen and a serious itch to bake!

For this round: I'm a fan of chocolate and mint - I think I've mentioned this before, although it may have been drowned out in the "NOMnomnomnom"-ing. I got invited to a Christmas cookie party which was sadly cancelled due to the snow and the ice and the hills and the 20+ mph winds and the fact that no-one in the state of Washington knows how to drive in poor weather (me neither!)... but after I'd made the cookies. I should be complaining - these are by far the tastiest cookies I've ever had (evar!!) and having them around for Christmas break has, er, not helped my waistline. But, what can I say except NOMnomnomnomnom.

Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies (adapted from
* 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup sugar
* 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 large egg

* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
* 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
* 2 drops (or more) red food coloring/gel


For cookies:
Whisk flour, cocoa, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients; beat until blended. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4-1/8" thickness. Use your cookie cutter to cut out the shapes you want, transfer to a cookie sheet, and refrigerate another 10 minutes. Bake for 8-10 minutes (do not overcook or they will be crispy). If making sandwich cookies, make sure to bake half the cookies backwards! Cool on sheet 5 minutes. Transfer chocolate cookies to racks and cool completely.

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl until well blended. Streak the opposite sides of your piping bag with the food coloring/gel and add the frosting (you may want to only use 1/2 the frosting so the color shows up for all cookies. Make sure the coloring goes all the way to the piping tip, otherwise your first few cookies won't have any coloring.).

Pipe the frosting short-ways back and forth on one cookie. Place backwards cookie on top and press down gently. These are best cold. Makes 18-20 cookies (depending on size)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Maple-Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies (and a tall glass of good news)

Gentle readers, it has been over a month since I last posted, and I do apologize. My excuses are good ones though, as I think you will agree. They number three (to be presented in three posts):

First: my boyo and I are moving! We got tired of the loud music and people throwing eggs at our door (no, this wasn't a Halloween thing, sadly), so we went looking. Folks, this is the market for renters - we found a beautiful condo with a waterfront view, for several hundred dollars less a month than we're paying now. The best part is the kitchen - I'll post pictures once we've fully moved in.

To celebrate our move to a better place (and one significantly closer to work, thankfully!) I give you Maple-Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yes, I finally jumped on the bacon-bandwagon and I cry to think of how long I resisted. I should have instead reasoned: "Bacon = good. Chocolate = good. Maple syrup on anything = good. Maple-Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies must logically then = AWESOME!"

The recipe is from Never Bashful with Butter, who is one of the funniest individuals I have yet to meet - seriously folks, I'm not going to bother reiterating the recipe here, because you'll enjoy her version that much more.

Stick around; news items 2 and 3 are coming up, and they're doozies!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cheesecake Topping

Oh sad! Autumn is nearly here and I'm already missing my summer fruit. Luckily, there are plenty of winter goodies to substitute - apple turnovers, pecan pie, .... pumpkin cupcakes? Now, see, I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin anything, but you wouldn't have guessed it from my cupboard. I had six cans of the stuff sitting around with no plans to use them and no memory of how I had acquired them. They're breeding I tellsya!

It seemed fortuitous then that I stumbled across this recipe by Peabody. Don't let the title (or her story) fool you - she's a right sweetie, and a hell of a good cook!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cheesecake Topping (adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody):
Maple Cheesecake Layer:
* 9 oz cream cheese, room temperature
* 1/4 c granulated sugar
* 1/4 c brown sugar
* 6 tbsp real maple syrup
* 1 tsp maple extract
* 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
* 1 large egg

Pumpkin Spice Bread:
* 2 c all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1/4 tsp ground ginger
* 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
* 1/4 tsp ground gloves
* 1 c pumpkin puree (plain, not the already made pumpkin pie kind)
* 1/2 c canola oil
* 2 large eggs
* 1 1/2 c granulated sugar
* 1 c chopped pecans, plus extra for garnish

Preheat oven to 325F.
Line the holes of a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the maple cheesecake ingredients; beat until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices; set aside.
Place pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat for about 1 minute, until fully combined

Add flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and mix just until combined. Fold in the pecans. Spoon ~1/4 cups of the pumpkin batter into the liners, and indent so the batter is shaped like a cup. Spoon cream cheese mixture into the cupcake hole until one cm from the top of the liner. Garnish with chopped pecans, if desired.

Bake in preheated 325° oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Variants on Old Favorites

These were fun - I got invited to a party (Rock Band parties ROCK!) and was asked if I wouldn't mind bringing a dessert. Hee. Me? Mind? Good grief no. I wanted to spend more time decorating though, so I took a couple of favorites from the past (my blondies and brownies) and dressed them up for the occasion. Raspberries for the white chocolate, boyo's favorite, and I'd been dying to try out the chocolate-apricot combo I'd had on the cruise.

Because I was more decoration-oriented this time, I bought a couple jars of raspberry and apricot jam and strained out the seeds from the raspberry. After the blondies and brownies and cooled, I injected the jams into the middle, then covered the hole with a base of chocolate and bits of fruit, almonds, and chocolate designs. The overall appearance was nifty, and very, very tasty. My only objection is, at the time of making these I didn't have my mini cheesecake pan yet, so I had to use a muffin pan. The bulk of each goodie rather set off-balance the delicate decoration, but now I have my wonderful cheesecake pan I can fix this next time around. On the other hand, who's going to complain of too much brownie?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mini Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecakes

You'd think I liked cheesecake or something. Actually, I had a container of mascarpone that needed to be used, some extra lemon curd, and a love for my new mini cheesecake pan. Those three ingredients led to this tasty tidbit - a lighter than usual morsel with a refreshing lemon tang.

This will probably be my last cheesecake for a while - I've made other (boring, standard) cheesecakes that I haven't bothered to post here, and frankly, I'm cheesecaked out. I still have plans for that pan though; my birthday is coming up (ed: yea, in two months!) and I am plotting a big ole birthday feast. I have two companies and myself to feed, after all! If anyone has any suggestions or cravings, let me know in the comments and I'll add to my feeding extravaganza menu. I bet you can't wait (I know I can't!).

I used Trader Joe's lemon curd, but lemon curd is one of those recipes that's easy to make and gorgeous to taste.

Mini Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake (minorly adapted from Diana's Desserts)
* 2 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
* 1/3 c sugar
* 8 tbsp butter, melted
* 1 c blanched almonds, coursely chopped
* 12 oz cream cheese
* 1/4 c plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
* 1 tbsp lemon zest*
* 1/3 c mascarpone Cheese**
* 5 tbsp heavy cream
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 tsp lemon juice*
* 2 large eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350F. Set mini cheesecake pan on a cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, butter, and almonds. Put a heaping spoonful in each cup and pat down with a shot glass.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, cream cheese and lemon zest. Mix until smooth. Add the mascarpone cheese and mix until just combined. Add cream, vanilla extract and lemon juice and mix until smooth. Stir in the yolks then transfer to a medium sized mixing bowl.

Wash and dry the electric mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture. Add batter to each cup leaving about 1 cm from the top. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 20-25 minutes. Let cool, then dollop a teaspoon of lemon curd on top. Refrigerate until ready to eat.