With Sweet Dreams and Even Sweeter Days

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Milk Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

Good cheesecakes are like good relationships.  Comforting.  Just the right amount of sweetness.  Enough to let you leave the table happy and satisfied.

Bad cheesecakes are most definitely like bad relationships.  Overly dense.  Most often leaving you feeling more than a little regretful you even opened the fridge and grabbed a slice to begin with.  And maybe you're a little bit nauseous too.

There are plenty of cheesecakes (and relationships) in-between.  But the most striking comparison I can find is that there's always sometime to learn and take from them, regardless of the outcome.

I'd like to think I have cheesecake making somewhat down to a science.  Usually.

That was until life decided to throw me a curve ball and my ancient spring-form pan finally gave out on me and sprung a leak during the baking process while using a water bath.  

A water bath is a technique used in baking cheesecake in which you wrap the spring-form pan tightly with foil, set it in a large roasting pan, and fill it halfway with water before baking.  Usually the results are flawless with this technique and help with the cheesecake not having any cracks or browning on top.

But since my pan sprung a leak somewhere in the 2 hours it was in the oven, even though my cheesecake came out looking pretty stellar, in fact the bottom half was completely soggy from water leaking in.  I was definitely disappointed because after tasting the top half, I really think the recipe had potential.

I'm still going to include the recipe at the bottom for you if you'd like to try it, as it was only a unfortunate pan malfunction over here. I'm sure I will again someday.

But for now, I'll just head out, pick up a new spring-form pan and try not to let it dampen my day at all.

Let's be honest cheesecakes aren't the worst thing in the world to bounce back from.

Just learn from my mistake.  Tripe check your spring-form pan if using a water bath when baking a cheesecake.  We'll all just take it from there.

Milk Chocolate Cheesecake
Servings: 10-12

- 1 3/4 cups finely crushed shortbread cookies (or graham crackers)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup butter (melted)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped milk chocolate
- 4 oz milk chocolate chopped
- 3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 2 Tbsp milk

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Wrap the sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan tightly with at least 2 layers of aluminum foil on the sides.

To make crust in the bowl of a food processor pulse cookies and almonds until finally ground (or alternatively crushed with a rolling pin in a plastic bag but this takes some arm power!).  Pour in a medium bowl and mix together with sugar and melted burrer.  Press mixture into the bottom of the spring-form pan all along the bottom and approximately 1-inch up the sides.  Sprinkle crust with finely chopped milk chocolate and set aside.

To make filling melt chopped milk chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth.  In a large mixing bowl beat together cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, the 1/2 cup milk, and the vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined.  Beat in flour.  Beat in the cooled melted chocolate.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating at low speed until combined.  Set aside 1/2 cup of the filling.  Pour remaining filling in the crust-lined pan.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave on low heat, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth.  Combine with the 1/2 cup reserved filling and the 2 Tbsp milk.  Dot the bittersweet chocolate mixture around the cheesecake and swirl with a butter knife to combine.

Place pan in a shallow baking dish and fill 1/2 way up with water (if you have checked your spring-form pan for leaks and you dare).  Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a 2 1/2 inch area around the edges appears set when gently shaken.  

Cool pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Take cheesecake out of pan and place on wire wrack directly.  Run the tip of a sharp knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust and cheesecake.  Let cool for 30 minutes more.  Remove the sides of the pan.  Let cheesecake cool completely and cover and chill at least 4 hours (or more) in the refrigerator before serving.  

But really, if you want to use the water-bath technique (which is great and I've had much success with in the past) please check your pans before you start.


Recipe adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ultra Thin Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies

I have plenty of ideas of what a chocolate chip cookie should be.

My dream chocolate chip cookie includes the adjectives chewy, bread-y, melty, and soft.  To name a few.

And up until recently I was completely happy staying ignorant and blissful in this idea of the classic.

Then a nagging thought just kept tugging on my brain.

Expand. Expand. Expand.
Boredom. Boredom. Boredom.

Ok it was two thoughts, but you get the picture.

Therefore I found a recipe for ultra-thin chocolate chip cookies, and got to work.

At the last minute I threw in a bag of toffee bits on an impulsive and completely uncontrollable whim.  And this, I believe, made all the difference in the world.

As the cookies cook and spread, the toffee bits melt completely into them, giving them a caramel like quality.  That alongside the fact that they are ultra thin makes it exceedingly difficult to only eat one.

Trust me.

One should note that this batch for me made around 60-70 cookies and they really are best served within the first few days.  Yea.  Therefore I recommend freezing the dough after you've made it and scooped it out and then only making as many as you want on that particular day.

This way you can enjoy the experience that is these fresh cookies over and over again.  And after one bite, believe me you'll want to.

Be the hero of your own Valentine's Day this year.  Make these cookies.

Ultra Thin Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies
Servings: Approx 6-7 Dozen

- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 1 1/4 cups white sugar
- 3/4 packed light brown sugar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 (8oz) bag toffee bits (the kind without chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt, in a bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until well combined and creamy.  Reduce speed to low and add vanilla, eggs, and water, beating until combined.  Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and toffee bits until well distributed.

If you'd like to make the whole batch, scoop out 1 tablespoon dough-balls (giving at least 2 inches between each) on a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or silicon baking mats and bake for 9-12 minutes or until cookies are golden brown and bubbly.  (Really these cookies spread a bunch and need lots of room.)  Let cool on baking sheets completely not removing them until they have done so.

Continue with all cookie dough until you are finished.

If you'd only like to make a partial batch (which I highly recommend!) scoop 1 tablespoon dough-balls onto one lined baking sheet (not needing to give very much room between each one, and place into freezer for 30 minutes.  When cookie dough balls have frozen mostly solid (and are no longer sticky) transfer to a freezer bag that seals (ziplock is ok) and then take out as many as you need to bake.

When baking from freezer, take out as many as you'd like and line baking sheets as stated above and let thaw at least 10-15 minutes.  Then bake as directed above and enjoy!

The cookies are best kept airtight at room temperature and are best on the first few days after they are made.  The dough-balls stay good in the freezer for a least a few weeks. (Mine didn't last that long anyway!)

Recipe adapted from: Marth Stewart's Cookies

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Banana Mocha Frappes

I know what you're thinking.

"Um, Mare, haven't things seemed a little bit healthy around here lately?"

You don't think I can hear you, but really, I can.  

And the answer I have for you is in short, yes and no.

You see I'm not the average.  My health consciousness doesn't kick in on January 1st.  I can gladly wake up after my News Year's Eve and eat that donut or that hot chocolate or those pancakes just as easily as I did on December 31st.  It's cold out, it's still a holiday, and I'm still in a sweater... therefore my health consciousness goes, as a whole, unfazed.

February 1st, however, seems to be a whole different ball game.

February 1st is filled with the realizations of "In a month, I'll be on spring break in Florida.  In a month I'll be lounging on the beach."

"Wait..... In a month I'll be in a bikini."


I must admit, the store-bought counterparts of these drinks are not my favorite, although I have had them.  But when I saw a drink that resembled a healthy version of them, I knew I had to try it.  

And truthfully I was surprised at how spot on the comparison was.  Even though I'm pretty sure the chain that has made this type of drink famous doesn't have this particular flavor combination, texturally wise it was a pretty convincing replica.  

If you want to really go the extra mile, you could top it with whipped cream and some hot fudge and it would be an even better twin.

..... But that might defeat some of the healthy factor we have going on here.  But we know I'm not going to shoot you down on that idea.

I kept mine just as is though and it was absolutely perfect for me.  This makes enough for two frappes, or one if you're really hungry.

So save the $4+ dollars and x amount of calories and try this homemade version the next time you pass the famous coffee shop that just so happens to be present on every corner, at least in my area that is.

And as for me, you can expect a few more healthy posts with some decadent and awesome treats thrown in too.  Moderation. Balance. Florida.

We'll get there. 

Banana Mocha Frappes
Servings: 2

- 2 oz milk or dark chocolate (chopped)
- 1 chopped and frozen banana
- 1/2 cup brewed coffee (cooled)
- 4 Tbsp milk of your choice (I went nonfat)
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- handful of ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until ice is broken into very small bits but mixture is not completely smooth.  Pour into two tall glasses.  Garnish with whipped cream and hot fudge if desired. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from: A Cozy Kitchen