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Archive for February, 2011

I’m kind of obsessed with caramel lately, especially when there is salt involved.

frosted cupcake 3

Ever since I made these bars a few months ago, caramel has been on the top of my list for delicious dessert ingredients.  There is something about the rich flavor and silkiness that keeps you going back for more.  After seeing this Caramel Sauce at Trader Joes so many times, I finally gave in and bought a jar.  In order to keep myself from eating the entire thing with a spoon, I figured I should use it in a recipe.

caramel sauce

What better way to use the sauce than in buttercream?  It creates a delicious icing that has the perfect hint of salt and caramel flavors, but not in an overwhelming way.  To keep the buttercream from being too sweet, I used cream cheese as a thickening agent.  That way, I didn’t have to use too much extra sugar.

frosted cupcake 12

This Salted Caramel Buttercream would go well on top chocolate or vanilla cake, maybe with some sort of peanut butter filling.  I used it to ice some low fat vegan chocolate cupcakes.  It’s all about balance;-)

Start with room temperature butter and cream cheese

butter and cream chs

Beat them in a mixer on high for a few minutes, until light and fluffybutter cream cheese creamed

Add confectioners’ sugar carefully, when mixed in turn mixer back to high speed

add sugar

Beat in vanilla

add vanilla

Then add the caramel sauce add caramel

Beat on high speed until all ingredients are well combined; if frosting is too liquidly, add extra sugar

caramel buttercream

Use to top cake, cupcakes or eat with a spoon

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Salted Caramel Buttercream

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup salted caramel sauce

Directions:

Beat butter and cream cheese in a mixer on high for a few minutes, until light and fluffy

Add confectioners’ sugar carefully, when mixed in turn mixer back to high speed

Beat in vanilla

Then add the caramel sauce; beat on high speed until all ingredients are well combined

*If frosting is not firm enough at this point, add more confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time

frosted cupcake 6

Have you found any new products for baking recently?

frosted cupcake 13

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My sister’s 23rd birthday is coming up, and she is having a cocktail party* to celebrate.  The color scheme for the evening is black and white so I am helping out by baking desserts with those colors.  The first thing that came to my mind was black and white cheesecake bars.  That is slightly ironic given that Jessica doesn’t like cheesecake.  However, she doesn’t eat gluten either, so most of the desserts are not even for her.

*way for twenty-somethings to get drunk and feel classy

cheesecake 6

I started by adapting this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars.  I swapped gingersnap crust with Oreo and got rid of the pumpkin.  But then I thought, how could make it even more special?  Instead of using just a plain cheesecake layer for the “white”, I made it vanilla bean.  Wow, this took the dessert to a whole new level.  I’d never baked with vanilla bean before and I think I might be hooked!  When you take a bite of the Chocolate and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars, you get a sweet creamy layer and then that chocolate crunch from the crust.  The rich chocolate cheesecake layer comes through next, but then when you think you are done, the vanilla bean kicks in.  Layers of flavors are what make desserts stand out.  Make these.

vanilla bean 1

To make the crust, grind up about 17 Oreos in a food processororeos in food processor

Set cookie crumbs aside

oreo crumbs

Melt butter; add melted butter and sugar to cookie crumbsmixing crust

Press mixture into a 9×13 pan lined with tin foil and cooking spray; spread evenly using fingers to push down crust mixture and set aside

crust in pan

To make your cheesecake filling, beat cream cheese in mixer until light, creamy and lumps are gone (about 5 minutes)

cream cheese cream cheese creamed

Add granulated sugar and combine on medium-high speed well until light and creamy

sugar and cream chs creamed

Beat in eggs, one at a time, on medium speed

add egg

Mix in flour on medium speed

add flour

Add your vanilla extract and salt and beat until your mixture is thick and creamy add vanilla extract

Now, separate 1/2 of the cheesecake filling and set aside in a separate bowl

Split the vanilla bean open with a sharp knife

vanilla bean 2

Scrape out the awesomeness of the vanilla bean with the back of the knife

vanilla bean 3

Add vanilla bean to the batter and stir

vanilla bean batter

Melt chocolate chips and butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave; mixture will get very thick chocolate and sugarmelted butter and sugar

Add chocolate to the filling still in the mixer and combine thoroughly

chocolate added

Pour chocolate batter over crust and bake for 15 minutes

chocolate layer

 chocolate layer baked

Remove from oven and pour remaining cheesecake filling on top vanilla bean batter

Bake for 33-38 minutes or until edges begin to separate from foil and middle bounces slightly when touched vanilla layer baked

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight

Remove cheesecake from pan and cut into small bars

cheesecake 8

Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from this recipe which was adapted from The Curvy Carrot

Makes 36 small bars

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 1/4 cups of Oreo cookie crumbs (about 17 cookies); I used reduced fat Oreos

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Filling:

2 8-ounce packages light cream cheese softened at room temperature

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean (if leaving this out, replace with 1 tablespoon of additional vanilla extract)

Pinch of salt

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Line a 13×9 pan with tin foil and spray with cooking spray, set aside

To make the crust, grind up about 17 Oreos in a food processor until fine; set cookie crumbs aside

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and pour over cookie crumbs

Add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and mix until well combined

Press mixture into a 9×13 pan lined with tin foil and cooking spray; spread evenly using fingers to push down crust mixture and set aside

To make your cheesecake filling, beat cream cheese in mixer until light, creamy and lumps are gone (about 5 minutes)

Add granulated sugar and combine on medium-high speed well until light and creamy

Beat in eggs, one at a time, on medium speed

Mix in flour on medium speed

Add vanilla extract and salt and beat until mixture is thick and creamy

Now, separate 1/2 of the cheesecake filling and set aside in a separate bowl; add vanilla bean and stir

Melt chocolate chips and butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave; mixture will get very thick

Add chocolate to the filling still in the mixer and combine thoroughly

Pour chocolate batter over crust and bake for 15 minutes

Remove from oven and pour remaining cheesecake filling on top

Bake for 33-38 minutes or until edges begin to separate from foil and middle bounces slightly when touched

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight

Remove cheesecake from pan and cut into small bars

 Notes:

I used light cream cheese because I wanted a final product that wasn’t overly rich, but regular cream cheese would work as well

When cutting the bars, I recommend cleaning your knife with a paper towel between slices to keep from contaminating the layers with one another

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Do you have any expensive ingredients that you can’t live without?

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My First FAQ

It was fun seeing all of the questions you had!  I love that I write a blog that is primarily about dessert and I got several questions about my exercise;-)  Your questions are answered below and will be incorporated into the FAQ page when the blog “makeover” is complete!

What’s your favorite kind (brand) of chocolate to bake with?

I’d LOVE to name some really fancy chocolate, but right now I work with what is convenient or less expensive.  For the most part I use Nestle (I bought a massive bag at Costco), Baker’s (it is the most common baking chocolate I find) and sometimes Trader Joe’s brand.  I compared Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips to saco’s here, but still use Nestle since it is easier to find.

If I were to bake something for a really special occasion or if the results were highly dependent on the quality of chocolate, I’d probably splurge on a better quality (more expensive) chocolate.  If anyone wants to send me some fancy chocolate, I’d gladly accept it and let you know what I think:-)

Chocolate or vanilla?

Not even a question, it will always be chocolate.

OK, the million dollar question… tell me about your photography equipment and techniques. This is the question I ask every food blogger. Trying to improve my food photos this year and looking for all the tips I can get! Safe travels!

I am almost embarrassed to answer this since I am a long way away from having any photography skills.  That said, I currently use this point-and-shoot (hopefully getting ready to splurge on a DSLR).  I bought it for our honeymoon last year and it was perfect for that trip.

The best tips I have incorporated into my photography is 1) no flash and 2) as much natural light as possible.

What is your favorite meal thus far – or favorite pieces put together to make one meal?

This is the hardest question!  I am really indecisive and would probably give you a different answer tomorrow.  To make it a little easier, I think I’ll choose a “best day of eats” provided I had an incredible metabolism (P.S. this question made me so hungry):

Breakfast – New York bagel toasted with cream cheese (a LOT of cream cheese) with a cup of coffee (preferably eaten outside on a summer day)

Lunch– Greek salad with fresh feta cheese, fresh bread and hummus, grilled calamari

Snack– Peanut butter with berries and Greek yogurt, maybe a sprinkle of granola

Dinner– A salad with mixed greens, goat cheese, chopped dates and candied nuts with vinaigrette; fresh pasta, ideally in Italy, with clam sauce, oh and some really good wine

Dessert: Warm brownie sundae with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and peanut butter sauce topped with whipped cream, maybe some crunchy candy topping and caramelized bananas too

How do you have the will power not to eat everything you make????

I have to give things away or have them designated for something.  Otherwise, the baked goods haunt me and call my name at night.

I was really impressed with your healthy choices during your vegan challenge, and how often you work out. I was just wondering if you exercise every day and what kind. Since this blog is dedicated to desserts, you probably have as big a sweet tooth as me and I wonder if you binge on them as much as I do. They are my kryptonite and I find it very difficult to maintain or lose weight because of it.

Thank you!  I have to say that posting food what I ate for one week was a little scary, I don’t know how people do that all the time.  If you saw a bigger snapshot of my eats, it would probably be a bit embarrassing.  I am constantly struggling with limiting my dessert intake.  One of my goals is to be able to eat a cookie and move on lol.  Unfortunately, I get easily addicted to sugar and as a result, TRY to limit the more indulgent desserts to once a week.  Usually on a weeknight I’ll have something like a chocolate Vitatop or Skinny Cow ice cream cup to appease my sweet tooth.

I aim to workout 4-6 days a week.  It doesn’t always happen, but for the most part I’m consistent with that rate.  I go in cardio phases between the elliptical and running, right now I’m trying to get back into running.  I also like to do a circuit workout with resistance training twice a week.

What does your workout regimen consist of? It seems like you workout every morning…and with that in mind, what time do you wake up every day?

See the specifics above.  On week days, I get up around 5:45/6am to workout.  I hate getting up so early, but I could never workout at night.

I want to know if you taste the batter as you are making these most delicious treats? I know I could not resist.

It depends.  I usually taste the batter at least for quality control.  There are definitely days where go a little bit overboard with that quality control.

When and why did you go Vegan?

You can see the details of my Vegan Challenge here.  It was a week-long challenge and a great learning experience.  I definitely don’t plan on going Vegan, but I may try doing it intermittently to keep an eye on what I am putting into my body.

What is your favorite way to spend time?

I love nights just relaxing at home with my husband and sometimes friends drinking wine and hanging out, maybe playing fun board games. 

Obviously I love to bake whenever I have time and love baking with my mom. 

Oh, and in the summer, my ideal morning would be spent outside reading a book and drinking iced coffee.

Wondering where that photo was taken of you and the lobster? I have a very similar one at Jasper White’s Summer Shack in Boston. We always eat there when we’re in Boston visiting our son.

That picture was from our friends’ rehearsal dinner in Boston.  They had a Lobster Bake and brought in everything from clam chowder, to mussels to corn-on-the-cob.

What would be your ideal meal? Do you have a hard time answering that question too?

Regular blogging will be back soon with this:-)

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