Sunday, June 30, 2013

Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

Wow, the summer has arrived in Florida and it is h-o-t.  Or as Clint Eastwood would say,  "It's not the heat, it's the humidity".  (I typed that while using my best Clint accent, squinty eye'd and all :) Yes indeed, probably not the best time of the year to have the oven on for an hour baking cheesecake.  Both the cheesecake and I even melted a bit while trying to get a photograph!

This is my take on the famous Cheesecake Factory version.  I have tried making this a couple of different ways and found that adding the chocolate chips right into the batter is the best.  Doing so does take away some of that cheesecakey tartness but the tart raspberry jam balances out the sweetness.
It's very yum.  I'll revisit this one in the fall when it is cooler, perhaps changing out the raspberry jam to something cranberry for the holiday season?  Hmmmmm, we shall see....
Yield:  12 servings
1 1/2C chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4C sugar
1/3C butter, melted
1.  Combine all and press into a greased spring form pan.  I find that using a glass to press the crumbs into the bottom and sides helps with uniformity.
2.  Wrap bottom and sides of pan with foil.
3.  Set aside.
3 pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
3/4C sugar
1/3C sour cream
3tbl flour
2tsp vanilla
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2C white chocolate chips
3/4C raspberry jam, seedless
1.  Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in sour cream, flour and vanilla. Be sure to scrape down the sides. Any lumps left in the batter will not disappear during the baking process.
2.  Add eggs, beat on low speed until combined.
3.  Fold in chocolate chips.
4.  Pour half the filling into the crust.
5.  In microwave, melt raspberry jam and stir until smooth.  Drop by teaspoonfuls over the batter (reserving some of the jam for the swirls on the top); cut through the batter with a knife to swirl. 
6.  Add remaining batter and repeat jam swirling process across the top.
7.  Place cheesecake in a larger baking pan and add about an inch of  hot water to the larger baking pan.  This is called a water bath.  It is a nice gentle way to bake cheesecake so it (hopefully) doesn't crack.
8.  Bake at 325 for 70-80 minutes.  It should still jiggle a bit at this stage. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. 
9.  Cool for at least an hour at room temperature,  then cover with foil and refrigerate over night. Do not remove the sides of the spring form pan until you are ready to cut and serve.

Stay cool and enjoy!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

I know I know...everyone says their chocolate chip cookie recipe is the best.  But, believe me when I say that mine really is!!  Over the years I have worked my way through many versions of the classic Toll House recipe, from plain to fancy and overly complicated.   I think what it comes down to is how do you prefer your cookies?  Crispy? Chewy? Cakey?
I have discovered I like my chocolate chip cookies chewy and soft in the center with a crispy edge. The crispy edge makes a nice handle when dunking :)
Making the cookies a little bigger than normal and chilling the dough first so it doesn't spread so much during baking both help create that soft chewy center.  I have found that the cornstarch keeps them soft and adding the shortening promotes that crispy edge without losing that great butter taste.

It's all personal preference.  The Bellman compares all others back to this version and has finally deemed them "perfect".  Of course, as I type this and as if on cue, he asks if maybe a drizzle wouldn't hurt?  Oh Bellman...........

Yield: 24 cookies
3/4C butter
1/4C shortening
3/4C brown sugar
3/4C sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 C flour
2tbl cornstarch
1tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
2tsp vanilla
2C chocolate chips, semi sweet
1C chocolate chips, 60% (bitter sweet--I use Ghirardelli)
1.  In a separate bowl combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt.
2.  In mixer bowl, cream together butter, shortening and sugars.
3.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Be sure to scrape down the bowl occasionally.
4.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
5.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
6.  Scoop dough into large golf ball sized balls.  I use a medium sized ice cream scoop for uniformity.
7.  Place the dough balls in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.  Sometimes I freeze half the batch for a later use.
8.  Place the dough balls on a lined or greased baking sheet and bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes.
9.  After two minutes carefully move the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Peanut Butter and Banana Cupcakes

What do you do with two brown mushy bananas?  Feed them to The Bellman (he likes them that way I swear) or.......make banana cupcakes!  This is one of those recipes I have made so many times I have it memorized.  I especially love it because it is really easy and fast to put together and doesn't mess up my kitchen too much in the process.  The end result is an incredibly moist and fragrant cakey-muffiny treat. 

While these cupcakes are great on their own, they are even better with a dollop of peanut butter on top--but then isn't most everything?!  This time around I happened to have bag of mini peanut butter cups (the tiny pop in your mouth kind) in the house and just to be truly decadent I folded them right into the batter and baked them up. Whoa!  Chocolate, peanut butter and banana.  I must be channeling Elvis.

Any which way, plain or peanut buttered, you'll love them!

Yield:  16 cupcakes

1/2C butter
1C sugar
2 eggs
1/2C sour cream
1tsp baking soda
2C flour
1tsp vanilla
2 bananas, mashed
6oz Reese's mini peanut butter cups (I used the balance of an 8oz bag after first counting out 16 for a garnish and then sampling a couple :)

1.  Cream together butter and sugar.
2.  Add eggs.
3.  Add sour cream, flour and baking soda.
4.  Add vanilla and mashed bananas.
5.  Fold in the mini peanut butter cups.
6.  Line muffin tin with cupcake liners and fill three quarters full with the batter.
7.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Yield: 2 Cups

1C powdered sugar
1C peanut butter, creamy
5tbl butter, room temperature
1tsp vanilla
1/4tsp kosher salt
1/3C heavy cream

1.  Whip it....whip it good.

When cupcakes have cooled, pipe the frosting on top and garnish with one mini peanut butter cup each.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Creme Brulee

One word....RumChata.  And then as George Takei would say, oh myyyy!

On the label RumChata is described as rum with dairy cream but oh, it is so much more.  Honestly, it tastes like the milk from a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch cereal.  I am in love.  When I bought this bottle I had one taste and couldn't wait to get started baking with it. My first adventure is this RumChata infused crème brulee.

Crème brulee is a baked custard with a crunchy burnt sugar top.  It sounds scary and complicated but it really isn't.  It's one of those fancy pants desserts I reserve for company.  I make it in advance and burn the sugar top with a small kitchen torch just before serving. Guests are always overly impressed by the torch. Go figure.

Yield = 6 servings

2C heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1/3C sugar plus extra for dusting
1tsp vanilla paste
1/4C RumChata

1.  Mix cream, RumChata and vanilla paste in saucepan.  Heat the mixture until hot but not yet boiling.

2.  In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar.

3.  Slowly whisk warm cream mixture into the egg mixture.  This is called tempering.  If you mix too fast the eggs will curdle and we don't want that. Slow and steady.

4.  Place the ramekins in a shallow roasting pan. 

5.  Strain the mixture and evenly distribute it between the six ramekins.

6.  Add hot water in roasting pan being careful not to splash into the custard.  Fill the pan with enough water so that the water level reaches about half way up the ramekins.

7.  Bake at 300 for about 35-45 minutes.  The custard is ready when it jiggles like jello in the center.

8.  Let the custard cool for a few hours.  I prefer to serve my crème brulee at room temperature.

8.  Right before serving sprinkle extra sugar on top evenly, dusting off excess, and using a kitchen torch caramelize the sugar.  It should be nice brown and bubbly.  When cooled it will harden up to produce a nice crackle when you dig into it! 


Monday, June 3, 2013

Coconut Macaroons

I've been on a quest.  A coconut quest.  I have a couple of friends who are totally in love with coconut and to be honest, I've never really explored it much until now.  I think that is mainly due to the fact that I grew up in a "chocolate only" household.  Almond Joys didn't even dare cross our threshold. 

So, in an effort to fulfill those pleas for coconut treats I've been testing and tweaking recipes. The Bellman, my official taste tester, and I have finally agreed that this tweak produces the ultimate coconut macaroon.  It's very coconutty, has a nice crispy edge and the flour gives this cookie enough structure so that the center isn't so gooey and chewy.  I think the coconut nutz will be pleased :)

Yield = 12 cookies

2 egg whites
1/2C sugar
1/8tsp salt
1/2tsp vanilla
1/4tsp coconut extract
1/4C cake flour
1 1/2C coconut, shredded

1.  In a heatproof bowl placed over a simmering pan of water, whisk egg whites, sugar and salt.

2.  When the mixture is warmed and the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and add the vanilla and coconut extracts, cake flour and coconut.

3.  Chill for two hours.

4.  Place tablespoon sized mounds on lined baking sheet.  Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes.

**I prefer them plain but the Bellman likes them best, as usual, with a little chocolate drizzle.