April 30, 2011

It was a glorious day in the heartland. Cool breeze, sunny and the smell of the garden soil and fresh mowed grass. But, the kitchen beckoned, since I needed to throw together a chocolate marble cheesecake for next weeks festivities. I am convinced that cheesecakes really are an easy accomplishment as long as you don't overcook them. This one turned out to be not very marbled though because I took too long setting up for the photographs. The chocolate dollops cooled too much to be pulled into ribbons when I cut the knife through the batter. But, the chocolate sour cream frosting covered all imperfections. Another bonus in making cheesecakes for special occasions is that you can just pop them back into the springform pan, cover with foil and refrigerate...they will hold perfectly for at least a week. I will be making two more later this week since we are expecting ~ 100 people. Will serve with a tart cherry sauce on the side.

Sun-Sational Cheesecake

I decided that since it has been ages since I have had a chance to bake, and not much was planned for the weekend, I just had to bake a cheesecake. I decided on the more traditional Sun-Sational Cheesecake. The recipe was easy to follow, though I had to find an Australian substitute for Graham Crackers: I used Arnotts Marie Biscuits - they are a plain sweet biscuit, often used for tart/cake bases.

I confess that I added more lemon rind than suggested - I find with citrus recipes that more of the rind/juice makes it taste even better!

I was a bit concerned when I was making the topping, as it seemed flavourless and glutinous as I was preparing it. I was also worried that I had overcooked the cake as the edges were a bit brown when I removed the springform, but then the centre was still quite a bit softer than the edges, so may be not!

Instead of the thin slices of lemon on top as in the recipe, I just put some lemon zest on top: it looked good!

Anyway, the cheesecake was delicious! And my partner loved it too!

April 11, 2011

Chocolate Cookies: a variation on a theme

Last month, I chose to make the homemade oreo cookies, because, well, as stated earlier in this month's recipe post, I love making cookies! In fact, I've had an "oreo" cookie recipe bookmarked in my phone for several months, but I just hadn't had the time to bake them. Ironically, making these cookies aren't nearly as time consuming as I thought they'd be.

Long story short, the cookies were a success, but I overflattened and overbaked the first batch, resulting in big, thin, crispy cookies. The second batch turned out much better; I didn't really flatten the balls of dough and then baked them for only 8 minutes. Perfect.

Next time, I might try minting the cream filling...

Speaking of mint... (nice segue, eh?)

This month, I submitted the Mint Chocolate Cookie recipe. I did so because I had all of the necessary ingredients on hand. At least, I did until my husband decided to make the oreo cookies again last night for a bake sale at work today. So, I was left with a paltry 1/4 c of cocoa. So I went ahead and made a 1/4 recipe. And I'm glad that I did. These were pretty yummy. Here are my 1/4 recipe measurements with alterations:

4T butter
7/8 c sugar
1/2 egg
1 t peppermint extract
1/2 c flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1/4 t b soda
1/4 t b powder
1/8 t salt
1/4 c dark chocolate chips, chopped

I used my AWESOME (new) cookie scoop that makes 1 1/4 t balls of dough--love this gadget-- and didn't flatten said balls (mostly because I forgot to do so). And I baked them on a silpatted cookie sheet for 10 minutes, cooled them on the sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to the cooling rack. They were bitty cookies that could be eaten in two quick bites. And that's all you need. The flavor is pretty big and sticks with you. They really do taste like the cookie form of an Andes Candy. I think next time I would do one or some of the following:
  • increase the amount of chocolate chips (a 1/4 cup was all I had on hand)
  • dip them in chocolate
  • sub brown sugar for the white sugar to make a chewier cookie

April 10, 2011

April Recipes!

For your baking enjoyment this month, Dana picked Cheesecakes (two of her favorites) and Emily picked Mint Chocolate Cookies. Check out their recipes and descriptions below. As always, try to post by the end of the month and share a picture if you can! 
Happy Baking!
The Lovely Lady Baker

Cheesecakes from Dana: Here is what she had to say, "For some reason cheesecake evokes oooos and ahhhs  that seem out of proportion to the time spent making them. They also seem to confer “advanced cook” status to the baker without mastery of some technique other than mixing, and baking without peeking.  They do require a “springform pan”.  They do require that you don’t overbake them as they are a custard mixture.

They are gorgeous and when placed on a pedestaled cake server, are elegant and worthy fare for any special event.  Two of my favorites follow.  If you offered these two and a classic cheesecake with fresh berries you would have variety for any taste.  I plan to bake these for an upcoming pre-wedding celebration for a special couple."

Sun-Sational Cheesecake 
(from the Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese Cookbook)  
Translucent, lemon-sauced  
1 ½ C graham cracker crumbs
4 T sugar
4 ½ T melted butter

Combine; press onto bottom of 9” springform pan. Bake 325˚F for 10 min.

(3) 8-oz. packages Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
1 C sugar
3 T flour
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T grated lemon rind
½ tsp vanilla
4 eggs (1 separated; make sure there is no white in the yolk)

Combined softened cream cheese, sugar, flour, lemon juice, rind and vanilla until well blended.  Blend in 3 eggs and 1 egg white; reserve yolk. Pour over crust.  Bake 450˚F, 10 min. Reduce to 250˚F, continue baking 30min. Loosen cake from rim on pan. Cool; remove rim.

¾ C sugar
2 T cornstarch
½ C water
¼ C lemon juice

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Gradually add water and lemon juice.  Cook, stirring constantly, until clear and thickened. Stir a small amount of hot mixture into reserved egg yolk; return to hot mixture.  Cook 1 min. stirring constantly.  Spoon over cheesecake; chill. Garnish with thin lemon slices.

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake
(from an old friend; one I have made often)
Rich, chocolate taste but not overwhelming

1 ½ C graham cracker crumbs
2 T sugar
1 T cocoa
¼ C melted butter
Combine; press onto bottom of 9-in springform pan.

(3) 8-oz. pkgs Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
1 C sugar
1 ½ t vanilla
5 eggs
2 squares semisweet chocolate

Combined softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.  Set aside 1 C of the mixture.  Pour remaining over unbaked crust.  Folded melted chocolate into the 1 C mixture.  Spoon in dollops on top of regular mixture in pan.  Cut through batter in a spiral motion and then again after turning the pan ¼.  Bake 1 hr. at 300 or until just set.  Cool. Refridgerate.  Frost.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
½ C sour cream
Dash of salt.
Melt chocolate pieces.  Add sour cream and salt.  Beat with a wooden spoon until creamy and of spreading consistency.  Frost top only of cheesecake.

Mint Chocolate Cookies from Emily: Here is what she had to say, "Common knowledge to anyone who knows me: I have a love affair with cookies. More specifically, I love making them; eating them is a secondary pleasure. Cookies are like little rounds of love. A secret little dream of mine is to bake and sell cookies for a living. To that end, I have amassed a pretty good collection of cookie recipes; there are definitely some favorites that I've developed over the years. So for the blog, cookies were a no-brainer. After all, we hadn't really had a lot of them in the last year.

So what kind of cookie? Sitting at home on a Thursday evening, baby asleep for the night, I took stock of what was in my kitchen. Butter, check; eggs, check; sugars, flour, and baking soda, check, check, and check. The basics were covered. So what else did I have to make a cookie with personality? I have a soft spot for chocolate... and I had cocoa in my pantry. I had mint extract. Bingo: Mint Chocolate Cookies."

Mint Chocolate Cookies 
from Epicurious
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs and peppermint extract. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt and beat until well blended. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten balls slightly to 1 1/2-inch rounds.
Bake cookies until edges begin to firm but center still appears soft, about 13 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. (Cookies can be prepared up to 5 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

I read the reviews, and it was suggested:
  • to cut the flour back to 1 1/2 c.
  • to up the mint extract to 2 t.
  • to add semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  • to reduce baking time to as little as 8 minutes.
I think everyone should make alterations that they feel are necessary. I mean, what else are we going to talk about? Right?