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Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

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

cheesecake 11

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

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Last weekend, the Husband and I went to Boston for a short trip to visit our foodie friends/newlyweds, Jon and Ali.  Given that they love food as much as we do, most of the weekend’s itinerary revolved around eating!  We had brunch at The Friendly Toast, tasted beers at Harpoon Brewery, dinner at B&G Oysters,  and another brunch at Buttery.  Our friends treated us well!  Last but not least, we were able to pick up lunch for the bus ride home at Flour.

I’ve been hearing about Flour throughout the blog world forever.  The bakery was made famous nationally by the wonderful pastry chef, Joanne Chang(Sidenote: I didn’t know until just now that Joanne was an Applied/Math and Econ major at Harvard.  Incredible!) Anyway, I’m so glad we got a chance to check it out.  Matt picked up a sandwich and jelly-filled donut that looked delicious.  You could see the high quality of jelly when he bit into it.  I got a salad that was really only a way for me to justify dessert;-) cupcake 6

There were so many delicious looking desserts to choose from, especially the cookies and brownies.  However, when I spotted the giant Low Fat Vegan Chocolate Cupcake, I was really curious.  I was no longer on my Vegan Challenge, but I figured if they were selling a vegan cupcake, it had to be good.  The cupcake wasn’t good.  It was delicious.  It was moist and chocolaty and it was all I could do not devour it in 3 seconds flat.  I’m not saying it was good for a vegan cupcake, it was good for any cupcake.  Moist chocolate cupcakes are hard to come by and this one had me at first bite.

Okay, so in my excitement over the cupcake, I forgot to take a picture.  Luckily, I had fallen so in love with it that I immediately went on a hunt to find the recipe.  Much to my delight it exists here.  As soon as I got a chance to pick up all of the necessary ingredients, the cupcakes were in the oven.  That is barely an exaggeration because this is one of the easiest recipes I’ve made in a while!  No fancy equipment needed.

key ingredients

I was excited for my first time using the VALRHONA cocoa my parents brought back from Belgium.   The good quality cocoa powder has a richness to it that you can’t get from your average cocoa.  Additionally, I picked up molasses, which I’ve actually never used before.  It smelled a little funny (I expected a syrup aroma) but it seemed to work out okay! Espresso powder is also often used in chocolate baked goods to add a richness to the flavor.  I picked up some of that as well.

To get started, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and line 18 regular sized muffin tins with cupcake liners.  How cute are these Valentine’s Day liners?

cupcake holders

Whisk together your dry ingredients: flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda and salt

dry ingred 1

Add the chocolate chips and whisk them into the mixture

dry ingred 2

Set aside

dry ingred 3

Whisk together all wet ingredients: water, oil, molasses, and vanilla

wet ingred 1

The mix will look a little like balsamic vinaigrette, don’t be alarmed

wet ingred 2

Then stir the wet ingredients into the dry, do not overmix

scooping batter

Use an ice cream scoop to fill cupcake liners about halfway (about 1/3 cup of batter per cup)

batter in cups

Bake cupcakes for 8-12 minutes or until a knife comes out clean; allow to cool on a cooling rack

baked

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving

cupcake 7

Low Fat Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Recipe from V02, created by Joanne Chang

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder (I used about a tablespoon less since the VALRHONA is so rich)

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (finely ground espresso beans)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dairy-free for vegan)

1 cup cold water

1/4 cup oil canola

2 tablespoons molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line 18 regular sized muffin tins with cupcake liners

Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda and salt

Add the chocolate chips and whisk them into the mixture; set aside

Whisk together all wet ingredients: water, oil, molasses, and vanilla

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, do not overmix

Use an ice cream scoop to fill cupcake liners about halfway (about 1/3 cup of batter per cup)

Bake cupcakes for 8-12 minutes or until a knife comes out clean (do not overbake); allow to cool on a cooling rack

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving

Notes:

Do not leave out the chocolate chips, they add a lot in terms of texture and flavor

While these weren’t quite as delicious as the bakery’s cupcakes, they were still very tasty.  I overbaked mine probably by a minute or two (12 minutes total) and I think that made a big difference

Each cupcake comes out to 4 Weight Watchers Points+

cupcake 2

Have you eaten your way through a city lately?

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*Check out the ask me anything post, good questions coming in so far

**Check out the discussion on my Vegan Challenge in the Comments section

After the successful Lemon Pound Cake, I figured I should try a few other desserts with different flavor profiles.  Don’t worry, I’ll always come back to my true love peanut butter and chocolate, but in the mean time, I’ll entertain the idea that other combinations can taste good too!

Recently I was in search for something that would be easy enough to make on a weeknight and freeze well so that I wouldn’t eat waste all of the leftovers.  I found a recipe in this cookbook and adapted it to make Chocolate Cherry Maple Cookies.  I used semi-sweet chocolate chunks to get a big blast of flavor, but not too much chocolate because I didn’t want to overpower the cookie.  The dried cherries add a slightly tart contrast to the cookie as well.

cookies done 4

The cookie dough isn’t overly sweet but it has a nice hint of maple flavor.  Their texture is in-between shortbread and butter cookies and they are a little bit addicting as a result.  These cookies would make a great addition any dessert platter.

To begin, combine butter, sugar and syrup in a mixer

butter sugar syrup

Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes

butter sugar syrup mixed

Then, add the egg and vanilla; beat well

add egg and vanilla

Once well-combined, slowly add the flour while mixer is on low speed

adding flour

Then stir in chocolate and cherries

adding chocolate and cherries

cookie dough

Once dough is mixed, split dough into two sections and roll each up in saran wrap

dough rolled up

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight

log in half 2

Slice logs of dough into cookies about 1/4 inch thick log sliced 3

Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 10-12 minutescookies on sheet

Cookies will be just slightly darker and firm to the touch when done

cookies done 8

Chocolate Cherry Maple Cookies

Makes ~30 cookies

Adapted from the Lindt Chocolate Passion Recipe Book

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 heaping tablespoons maple syrup

1 large egg at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks

1/3 cup dried cherries

Directions:

Combine butter, sugar and syrup in a mixer; beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes

Add the egg and vanilla; beat well

Once well-combined, slowly add the flour while mixer is on low speed

Stir in chocolate and cherries

Once dough is mixed, split it into two sections and form logs with diameters of about 2 1/2 inches; wrap each tightly with saran wrap

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight

Once ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Slice logs of dough into cookies about 1/4 inch thick

Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 10-12 minutes

Cookies will be just slightly darker than dough and firm to the touch when done

Notes:

I made the dough one night and baked the cookies the next.  You could easily freeze the dough for several weeks prior to baking if needed.

You may want to consider chopping the cherries into smaller pieces to get them more spread-out through the dough. That would work well if you want cherry in every bite.

cookies done 3

What new flavors have you tried lately?

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