Toffee Crunch Cheesecake

Toffee Crunch Cheesecake Slice

 

I’m wishing I would have typed this post up right after I made this cheesecake because it looks so good and I can’t for the life of me find the recipe that I used. Not only can I not find the recipe, but all of my saved recipes were lost when our hard drive crashed so I’m pretty much out of luck. I guess that just means I’ll be forced to experiment with other recipes until I find this one!

 

Toffee Crunch Cheesecake

Mini Fruit Pizza

Fruit Pizza

The last time I made a fruit pizza was many, many, many years ago. I took it to our Sunday School class on the day that I had signed up to bring treats and it was a hit! The only downfall was that it seemed like it was so much work to have the fruit all peeled and cut perfectly and right before the start of class so it doesn’t get brown and . . . you get the picture.

I have had it in my mind to make mini versions for some time now but no occasions came up at the right time of year. For the past few years when I have hosted book club it was in the winter and I wanted a more “homey” dessert (most likely chocolate and warm and rich). I definitely didn’t want to make it without an occasion because who needs the extra calories sitting around with our little family of three.

Finally! I hosted book club in early September when the weather was still nice and the fruit was still in season (although getting close to the end). I made mini pizzas and there was enough for one each for book club members and then an extra for my two guys so they weren’t left out. It was much more doable making them in a mini version. I didn’t have to cut up a bunch of fruit and the fruit I did cut was used between the few pizzas there were. While the presentation of the full size on was pretty WOW, the mini versions were pretty cute and they were much easier to make. Enjoy!

Mini Fruit Pizza
1 package (18 ounces) of refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
4 cups assorted fresh fruit (sliced strawberries, kiwi, bananas, or peaches; blueberries or raspberries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust, divide cookie dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Place ball on a lightly floured surface and flatten slightly with palm of hand. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough to a circle about 1/4 inch thick. Place dough on a baking sheet (preferably a baking stone) and bake 18-20 minutes or until light golden brown; cool 10 minutes. Carefully loosen cookies from baking stone, transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely.

For topping, combine cream cheese and sugar in a bowl; mix well. Spread mixture evenly over top of cookie. Slice fruit and arrange it over cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate.

Makes 8 mini fruit pizzas

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate Strawberries

The second time I’ve made chocolate covered strawberries and they are still just as yummy! I don’t have step by step directions for these. I usually just type in “chocolate covered strawberries” to google so I get the correct ratio of chocolate and shortening.

I also do a little research to remind myself how to store them. You don’t want your strawberries to sweat, do you?

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

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Yum! Yum! Yum! These were made for a baby shower and seemed to be a big hit. I was a little sweeted out by that time after having made three different desserts, so I had more than enough just eating the trimmings off the edges of the bars (and that was at breakfast time). They were so good!

They came together very easily and popped out of the pan no problem with the parchment paper. The unfortunate thing was that after cutting them all into pretty and equal size bars the parchment was cut to shreds and I had to try to fit them back in the carrying container. It was a bit of a challenge but I persevered and made it happen. Enjoy!

Oreo Cheesecake Bars
Source: Brown-Eyed Baker

Crust:
23 Oreos
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake:
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
6 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8×8 inch square pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing it to hang over two of the sides.

Make the crust: Crush the Oreo cookies in a bag. Melt butter in a bowl and mix with the cookie crumbs until the crumbs are moist. Dump the crumbs into the prepared baking dish and press into an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes (leave the oven on).

Make the cheesecake: Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until incorporated.

Slowly add the eggs, beating well after each addition, and mix until completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sour cream and vanilla, beating until incorporated.

Gently fold in the chopped Oreos, then pour the batter over the prepared crust, smoothing it into an even layer. Bake until the edges are set but the middle still jiggles slightly, about 40-50 minutes.

Place the pan on a cooling rack and let cool room temperature, about 2 hours, then cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the regrigerator for at least 3 hours (or up to 24 hours) before serving.

To serve, lift the cheesecake out of the pan using the parchment or foil handles. Slice into bars and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes 16-24 servings (depends on how big you want the slices)

Baked Ginger Apples

Baked apples are an interesting thing. So bright, colorful, and firm as they are being prepped for the oven. Then, something happens . . .

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. . . they become this! Wrinkly, dull, shriveled, soft. It’s a good thing they taste good because I don’t think they have great visual appeal at this point.

Baked Ginger Apple

This was the first time that I baked apples. I was looking for a dessert that was a bit lower in calories and sugar and still tasted yummy and home cooked. The dough on apple pie adds more calories than necessary so that was out. The dough on apple dumplings also added more points than I wanted so that was out too. I went with the apple dumpling in naked form.

It was really pretty tasty. Kind of like apple pie in a different form (and without the crust). I combined two recipes together to make a hodge podge ginger baked apple. It was fairly easy to make but there was a layer of uncertainty with the fact that I had never made it before. It also passed the taste test of the pickiest eater at our house, although he only ate half of one because he’s just not a big fan of sweets.

Baked Ginger Apple Inside

Daring Bakers – Gevulde Speculaas

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Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

Do you ever feel like Laurel and Hardy or the Three Stooges in the kitchen? Well, this was one of those times for me. I made a batch of sugar cookies earlier in the day and burned my fingers three different times. Three!

Let me start back a bit though since this is a Daring Bakers post. I was excited to see the challenge because 1) it seemed simple enough and it used ingredients I already had in my cupboard, 2) I love anything related to gingerbread and this sounds kind of like a gingerbread cake, and 3) I was born in Holland and even though I moved when I was two years old I still love things that connect me to that time and place.

I started out making the almond paste. It gave me a chance to use our Vitamix for something besides smoothies. It went well enough until I got to the part in the ingredients where I was supposed to use lemon zest but I couldn’t find it anywhere in the actual step by step directions. I frantically posted on the DB forum to see if anyone else was awake and baking but alas, no responses. I then did the next best thing. I asked google. I read over a few other recipes for Gevulde Speculaas and noticed there was no lemon zest mentioned so I just omitted it. The paste went into the fridge overnight.

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The next step was making the Speculaas dough. I enjoyed mixing the combination of spices that I used for my Speculaas spices. I put in the least amount necessary and didn’t even pay attention to the total amount of spices I had. I guess it’s a good thing I used the least amount because it wasn’t until I was mixing the dough that I thought, “Wasn’t I supposed to have leftover spices?” After a quick run over to the computer where I confirmed I should have only added 2 tablespoons I realized that my 6 teaspoons would be close enough. I got a pretty good chuckle though thinking about what would have happened if I had mixed a larger amount of spices. My cake may have been just a tad overspiced, if that’s possible.

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The dough seemed a bit dry to me and it wasn’t really mixing together so I did add some milk to it. It reminded me a bit of the consistency of pie crust once I was adding the milk to it. I still think it was a bit on the dry side which meant that I needed to roll the dough into two separate balls (taking out one of the steps of later splitting it into two). That went into the fridge overnight as well.

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I was a bit concerned that the dough wouldn’t roll out well since it seemed to be so dry the day before. I worked it for just a little bit to warm it up and once it rolled out it turned a beautiful smooth, dark brown color.

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The almond paste was somewhat distracting to me because I kept thinking about it being mashed bananas for banana bread. If you look at the picture above this one you can see that it looks somewhat like mashed up bananas.

I made one larger Speculaas (I used a deep dish 9 inch pan) and had some leftover dough. I decided to use as much of the dough as possible  so I made two smaller Speculaas. The only problem was that I didn’t have enough almond paste. I happened to have some commercially made almond paste in the cupboard so it was almost like a science experiment, see which version tastes better.

So back to Laurel and Hardy again. I read the directions so many times that you would think I would have had them memorized by this time but I missed the step of putting the egg wash between the first layer of dough and the layer of almond paste on the large Speculaas. I don’t think it was too critical since it seemed to go together well enough without it. But then I also decided to try to roll out the soft almond paste, all the while knowing that it would just stick to the cling wrap but not reading just one sentence further that you didn’t need to roll it out between cling wrap if it was soft almond paste. Nothing like trying to scrape sticky almond paste off of two sheets of cling wrap!

As far as the differing almond paste, there was a stronger almond flavor (more like almond extract) with the smaller Speculaas (the store bought paste). Both were very tasty though. Enjoy!

Speculaas Spices
1  teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
ground cinnamon

Measure out the cloves, mace, ginger, and nutmeg into a coffee filter or a paper towel.  Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now; add an equal amount of cinnamon.

Almond Paste
4½ oz raw almonds
4½ oz granulated sugar
1 large egg

If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows. Bring water to a boil, add the almonds, cook them for one minute, drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins.

Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor or high powered blender until you see nothing but very small pieces.

Add the sugar and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.

Add the egg and combine it with your fingers.

Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use (no more than a day or two).

Speculaas Dough
1¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons Speculaas spices
3/4 cup unsalted butter

Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Cut the butter in dices and add. Knead until smooth. Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry. Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.

The flavor of the dough is enhanced if you make it a few days in advance.

Assembling and Baking the Gevulde Speculaas
speculaas dough
almond paste
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg

Grease a 9 inch square or round pan. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F. Divide the dough into two portions. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan.

Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon of cold water. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.

If the almond paste is soft, smear it on the first layer of dough. If it is store bought or hard, roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it.

Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.

Decorate the pastry with the almonds. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.

** If you wrap the stuffed Speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh Speculaas tastes better. **

Sour Cream Cheesecake

Sour Cream Cheesecake

Cheesecake, yum! I’ve made many cheesecakes but this one is pretty high up on the list. It was rich and creamy and worth every minute spent on it.

This is the second cheesecake where I used a water bath. I thought for sure that the water leaked through. It looked like the cheesecake and crust were somewhat mushy when I took it out of the pan and got ready to serve it. I was very disappointed since it was a birthday gift, but what can you do. Everybody just scraped their cheesecake off the crust and proclaimed it to be delicious.

One brave fellow decided to try some of the crust sitting there on the pan with the last slice of cheesecake in his bowl. It happened to be during my lunchtime and I pleaded with him not to eat it because it was mushy and ruined by the water. He cut into it and lo and behold it was crisp! Not only that but it was delicious! I don’t know if it looked mushy because the cheesecake didn’t “adher” to the vanilla wafer crust like a graham cracker crust or what, but it was one of the best crusts I’ve eaten. I will most likely try to use this recipe again.

I’m not sure I’ll do a water bath though. After all that sweating and worrying the crust still cracked while it was cooling in the oven. With the sour cream topping you wouldn’t have even known. Enjoy!

Sour Cream Cheesecake
Source: Simply Recipes

Crust:
40 vanilla wafers, crushed
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Topping:
2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparing the Crust: Prepare the springform pan by placing a large 18-inch by 18-inch square of aluminum foil on a flat surface. Place the springform pan in the middle of the foil. Gently fold up the sides of the foil around the pan. Make sure to do this gently so that you don’t create any holes in the foil (if there are any holes, water will get into the pan and ruin the crust). Press the foil around the edges of the pan. Place a second large square of foil underneath the pan, and repeat, gently folding up the sides of the foil around the pan and pressing the foil against the pan. Gently crimp the top of the foil sheets around the top edge of the pan.

Preheat oven to 350°F, with rack in lower third of oven. Put crushed vanilla wafers in a large bowl and stir in the butter. Press all of the crumbs in the bottom of the springform pan. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Preparing the Filling: Cut the cream cheese into chunks and place in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes until smooth, soft and creamy. Add the sugar, beat for 4 minutes more. Add the salt and vanilla, beating after each addition. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Add the sour cream, beat until incorporated. Add the heavy cream, beat until incorporated. Remember to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, and scrape up any thicker bits of cream cheese that have stuck to the bottom of the mixer that paddle attachment has failed to incorporate.

Place the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large, high-sided roasting pan. Prepare 2 quarts of boiling water. Pour the cream cheese filling into the springform pan over the vanilla wafer bottom layer. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Place the roasting pan with the springform pan in it, in the oven, on the lower rack. Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan (without touching the hot oven), to create a water bath for the cheesecake, pouring until the water reaches halfway up the side of the springform pan, about 1 1/4 inches. (Alternatively you can add the water before putting the pan in the oven, whichever is easier for you.) Cook at 325°F for 1 1/2 hours.

Turn off the heat of the oven. Crack open the oven door 1-inch, and let the cake cool in the oven, as the oven cools, for another hour. This gentle cooling will help prevent the cheesecake surface from cracking.

Cover the top of the cheesecake with foil but make sure it doesn’t actually touch the cheesecake. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.

Preparing the Topping: Place sour cream in a medium sized bowl, stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Chill until you are ready to serve the cake.

** Note: This recipe produces enough sour cream topping for a thick topping and some extra to spoon over individual pieces of cheesecake, if desired. If you would like a thinner layer of topping and no extra, reduce the sour cream topping ingredients in half. **

Mocha Cheesecake

Mocha Cheesecake

We celebrate birthday pixies at my work. My pixie mentioned that she loves coffee and cheesecake amongst other things. I decided to combine the two and make my very first mocha cheesecake. The only bad thing about this plan was that I would not be able to taste it to see whether it turned out. I figured that there would be plenty of other people willing to taste it if I decided to make it.

I used a water bath for the first time ever. I was a little nervous because you never know if water is going to leak into the pan. It did the job it was supposed to do which was to keep the top from cracking, and no water leaked in. Woohoo!

After the cheesecake came out of the oven I was a little nervous again because it smelled like it may have been burned. I had to bake it a little longer than usual because it wouldn’t set completely and I was positive that I had baked it a bit too long. You can’t easily tell the difference though between a whiff of burnt chocolate crust and a whiff of chocolate coffee crust. I just had to trust that the next morning someone would be willing to try it for me.

My tasters determined that it was a success! No soggy or burnt crust, and it was yummy! In fact, even today, 4 weeks later someone was telling me how yummy it was. Enjoy!

Mocha Cheesecake
Source: Taste of Home

Crust:
1  1/2 cups (or 6 ounces) chocolate cookies, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted

Filling:
2 tablespoons plus 1-1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon hot water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 3/4 cups shredded peeled apples
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Glaze:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
chocolate covered coffee beans, optional

Place greased 9-inch springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Securely wrap foil around pan.

In a small bowl, mix cookie crumbs and butter; press onto the bottom of prepared pan. In another bowl, mix the coffee granules, hot water and cinnamon; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined.

Divide batter in half. Stir melted chocolate into one portion; pour over crust. Stir coffee mixture into the remaining batter; spoon over chocolate layer. Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 inch of hot water to larger pan.

Bake at 325° F for 60-65 minutes or until center is just set and top appears dull. Remove springform pan from water bath; remove foil. Cool cheesecake on a wire rack for 10 minutes; loosen sides from pan with a knife. Cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove rim from pan. For glaze, in a microwave, melt chocolate chips and butter; stir until smooth. Spread over cheesecake. Top with coffee beans if desired. 

Makes 16 servings

Salted Caramel Sauce

Salted Caramel Sauce

Pumpkin carving in our house is not complete without caramel apples! As we get older we are less inclined to bite into a gooey apple covered in caramel. If we come across a caramel apple we often times will cut it into wedges so that we can neatly eat it. A few years ago, instead of making actual caramel apples to go with our pumpkin carving I just started making caramel sauce to dip our apples into. Much neater and very yummy!

Of course, I’m probably the one that eats the most apples with caramel. Hubby would be the next most likely and will usually wait for me to eat my portion and then he will finish off the pan. The little guy would rather just have the apple wedges and forget about the caramel. Again, sometimes I would wonder what family he belongs to if I hadn’t given birth to this boy!

This sauce is very easy to make and tastes great! I haven’t made a low fat/low cal caramel sauce before so I’m not sure if the somewhat grainy texture is due to not using a full fat cream or just the fact that I didn’t wait long enough for the sugar to dissolve completely. Either way, texture aside the taste is amazing!

**One little side note: When you are waiting for the mixture to brown don’t let it go too long. By about 8 1/2 minutes I was getting a little nervous because my mixture was not turning a brown/gold color. I gave it a quick stir and realized that all the color was happening beneath the top layer. Thank goodness it didn’t burn while I was waiting for that top layer to turn color.**

Salted Caramel Sauce
Source: Weight Watchers

1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half
2 tablespoons light stick butter
1/4 teaspoon fine or coarse sea salt
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
4 apples (Gala work great), cut into wedges

Combine half-and-half, butter, and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is hot, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine sugar and water in a large heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to high and bring to boil, washing down sides of pan with pastry brush dipped in cool water to dissolve any sugar crystals. Boil, without stirring, until caramel turns dark amber, about 10 minutes.

Immediately remove saucepan from heat; let caramel cool 1 minute. Wearing long oven mitts to protect your arms and being careful to avoid any splatters, slowly whisk in half-and-half mixture, whisking until smooth. Transfer caramel to small bowl. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Serve warm with apple wedges.

Makes about 6 servings (1 serving = about 4 teaspoons of sauce)(1 serving = 4 weight watchers plus points)

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I have made many, many cheesecakes over the years. I have always shied away from any cheesecake recipe that uses low fat or fat free ingredients. I just always figured that if I’m eating cheesecake then I might as well en joy it. Right? I can’t believe how wrong I was.

I decided to make a low fat cheesecake a few weeks ago for a potluck at work. I found the recipe while perusing the Weight Watchers site. Yep. Weight Watchers. I decided that I needed to reset my normal so this was one way to do it. I still wanted to provide a dessert so I decided to find a recipe that I could enjoy that also got rave reviews. This recipe fit that description on both accounts.

I was a little hesitant when I started making the crust and it didn’t use any butter to bind the cookie crust. In all other cheesecake crusts I’ve made there is always a healthy dose of butter and sugar added to the cookie crumb mixture. I was afraid the crumb crust would move around when the batter was poured in, but I was pleasantly surprised when it stayed put in the pan.

The other thing I wasn’t sure about was the mixture of fat-free and low fat cream cheese. I wasn’t sure they were going to come together as well as they did. I’ve also never pureed cottage cheese but I was amazed at how smooth it became, almost like sour cream.

This recipe was easy to make and it tasted great! My husband and son ate it up even though at least one of them knew it was “diet” food. In fact, that one said that if this was healthier and tasted good I could make it any time. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
Source: Weight Watchers

10 cream filled chocolate sandwich cookies
8 1/2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese
8 ounces low fat cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg whites
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips, divided

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Crush cookies; spread evenly over bottom of pan.

Using a mixer, beat together the cream cheese on lowest speed until well blended.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and flour; add to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth.

In a food processor or blender, puree cottage cheese until smooth. Add cottage cheese and vanilla extract to cream cheese mixture; beat until smooth. Add egg whites; beat until well blended. Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips. Bake until cheesecake puffs and center is almost set, about 60 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Run a knife around sides of pan to loosen; release pan sides. Cover and chill overnight. Cut into 12 slices and serve.

Makes about 12 servings  (1 serving = 6 points on weight watchers points plus)