Saturday, February 28, 2009

Almond Joy Cupcakes


In early February, my coworker Meredith celebrated her annual 29th birthday. Her absolute favorite candy is Almond Joy. I had to make her almond joy cupcakes. I just had to do it. I mean, I felt a little bad. She was really being so good, following her new healthy start for 2009, eating veggies and rice and cottage cheese. Then I showed up with these...and well, how can you resist? I know. It really is a toss up between steamed rice and a moist chocolaty cupcake topping in coconut cream cheese icing, chocolate ganache, toasted almonds and toasted coconut. I was really surprised that she picked the cupcake.

If you love coconut, you will love these. By the way, have you ever just toasted shredded sweetened coconut in the oven for kicks? Man, talk about TASTY! I think I could live off toasted shredded sweetened coconut. Num num num.

So for the recipe, I used the tried and true Dreamy Chocolate Mousse Cake Recipe by Paula Deen for the cake only. For the coconut cream cheese icing, I stopped over at I Heart Cuppycakes and borrowed Clara's recipe. I then whipped up a simple ganache, like this (except take my advice and use salted butter) and topped with the toasted nuts. So yummy.

I hope you are all doing very well in blog land. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Brownie Bottom Caramel Cheesecake- a Tiny Bit of Heaven


As I said in my previous post, there has been some serious cheesecake making "up in here, up in here". I think this may become a trend. Cheesecake offers endless possibilities. Just look at the differences in the last post and this one. Awesome, delectable, delightful differences.

I can't wait to play more with cheesecake and see what else I can do with it. I found this recipe on Allrecipes and it was awesome! One of the nice parts is you can choose to use a box brownie mix or a brownie mix from scratch- your choice. I wanted to save time so I used a box brownie mix. This recipe should come with a warning label. Be warned this cheesecake is sinful, decadent, rich, creamy, caramel-y and possibly the cure to all problems, maybe even diseases. One friend said, "It's like sweet angel babies. Oh jeez." I agree. Sinful angel cheesecake babies. With a brownie bottom, oozing caramel center and caramel ganache top...how can you go wrong?

Brownie Bottom Caramel Cheesecake (adapted from Jackie Meiborg's recipe on Allrecipe.com)
Ingredients:
1 box brownie mix- follow batter directions and divide (used Betty Crocker Chewy Recipe)
1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped (I used Kraft)
1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese,softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup chocolate fudge topping or chocolate ganache

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.
In a small bowl prepare brownie mix according to directions. Divide batter and pour half into prepared springform pan. Bake 15 minutes. (Use remaining batter for small brownie batch if desired.)
Melt the caramels with the evaporated milk over low heat in a heavy saucepan. Stir often, and heat until mixture has a smooth consistency. Reserve 1/3 cup of this caramel mixture, and pour the remainder over the warm, baked brownie crust. Allow caramel to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour cream cheese mixture over caramel mixture.
Bake cheesecake for 50 minutes. Chill in pan. When cake is thoroughly chilled, loosen by running a knife around the edge, and then remove the rim of the pan. Heat reserved caramel mixture, and pipe over cheesecake. Drizzle with the chocolate topping or ganache.

Obviously my work friends dug this cheesecake too. Check out Terri's face. This was the last piece.

Dutch Apple Cheesecake


It has been a regular cheesecake factory up in these parts. I say "factory" but the truth is I have only made two cheesecakes in the last 7 days. That's a start to a factory, right?

This is the dutch apple variety. There is something splendorific about this concoction. It's like an apple pie, apple crumble and cinnamon spiked New York Cheesecake all in one. The best part, it's pretty simple to make. To me, that makes it fantastic! February marks an exceptionally busy birthday month at work and in the last 23 days I have made Almond Joy Cupcakes, Bourbon Bread Pudding, Brownie Bottom Caramel Cheesecake and now this. Whoa. Okay, I'm rambling. Here's the recipe.

Dutch Apple Cheesecake Recipe
Preheat oven to 350.


Crust:
1-1/2 cups crushed cinnamon graham crackers

1/3 cup sugar (or a little less)

1/3 cup melted butter

Mix together and press into bottom of 9” spring form pan


Apple Layer:

3 apples
¼ cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Peel and core apples, cut into wedges.
Mix apples with remaining ingredients. Lay on top of crust in spring form pan so that entire crust is covered in at least 1 layer of seasoned apples.

Cheesecake layer:

Two 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese, softened
One 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

2 Tbsp. vanilla

3 eggs

Blend all ingredients together until mixed well. Pour over apple layer. Tap pan on counter to release air bubbles.

Streusel topping:

¼ cup flour
½ cup crushed cinnamon graham crackers
¼ cup crushed pecans
¼ cup melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together. Set aside. Wrap bottom of spring form pan with foil and place spring form pan in larger pan with ½ inch water. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove pan from oven and crumble streusel top over cheesecake layer. Return to oven and bake addition 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack and refrigerate for 1 hour (at least) before serving. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Snickerdoodley Doo


After posting about Valentine's Day, I started to think about how much I love hearts. I have heart shaped cookie cutters, heart shaped rings, necklaces with hearts, many bracelets with hearts, stationary with hearts, heart stickers, a few articles of clothing have hearts or heart polka dots. I might be addicted. Is this something for which I should seek the help of a professional? I don't think so either...

This Superbowl Sunday, we are laying low. The past three weekends have been filled with travel and visits from friends and family. We love that we had so much fun, but all three of us (Boomer included) were looking forward to lazing around just being together. You know, one of those days when you don't take your yoga pants off...sigh.


It was an absolutely gorgeous day here. About 65, sunny. We took Boomer for a walk, had a late lunch at a local spot and walked around downtown for a bit. On the way home, Derrick asked for snickerdoodles and since I grant all wishes that sweet handsome man requests, snickerdoodles is what he got. I found these on recipezaar, posted by Juju Bee. They are soft and flavorful and ready in a snap. Using a simple trick, these cookies are also perfect for your favorite valentine.

Snickerdoodles (slightly adapted from Juju Bee's grandmother's recipe found on recipezaar)
Ingredients:
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.
In a small bowl, whisk together 3 Tbsp. sugar and 3 tsp. cinnamon, set aside.
In large bowl, mix together butter, sugar and eggs. Mix well.
Add vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture.
Using a cookie scoop (or teaspoon) spoon cookie dough into sugar mixture and coat dough.
Place cookie dough on prepared cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
Slightly flatten cookie dough using a spatula or bottom of a glass.
I then used a tiny heart cookie cutter to leave a heart indention in the cookie dough.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from pan immediately.

Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes


I love Valentine's Day. Not because of what we have made it into. I mean, I could really care less if Derrick buys be flowers or takes me to a nice dinner for Valentine's Day. That's what our anniversary is for, when we celebrate us. I love Valentine's Day for the colors, hearts, and an excuse to bake pretty little cutesy-pie cookies, cupcakes and cakes. I love the napkins, the cute cookie cutters, the heart sprinkles, the fun cupcake liners. It's just so happy. Okay, so it's not so happy for everyone but it's happy for me.

I think I also have really fond memories of what Valentine's Day meant as a child. To me is was a girlier Thanksgiving. You got to make pretty glitter covered Valentine's and give them to everyone you loved and were thankful for. Hmmm, I think I need to resurrect this tradition in my home. I can remember sitting on the hard wood floor of my parent's bedroom when I was in 2nd grade cutting out detailed little valentines from pink construction paper for all my friends. Each one was different so it would be special.

Since Valentine's is only a few weeks away, I thought I would post some love worthy treats. I made these for a co-worker's birthday last week, but as you can see...I was already in Valentine mode.

Let me warn you, these cupcakes are sinful. Really sinful. Rich chocolate cake is topped with a heaping scoop of chocolate mousse, the cupcake top and then a generous glaze of bittersweet chocolate ganache finishes them off and very well may finish you off too. It is rare that I say things are "the best", but these may be the very best cupcakes I have ever eaten. The mousse and ganache recipes are from Elinor Klivans fun book "cupcakes!" while the cup-cake part is Paula Dean's Chocolate Mousse Cake, cake. Delicious!