Caramel Crumb Bars with nuts

I haven’t made bars in what seems forever. I enjoy baking bars during the warm months because they can be baked in a shorter amount of time than a batch of cookies so my oven is not heating up my house for over an hour! I do freeze a good portion of cookie dough so I don’t typically bake a whole batch at once.

I found this recipe on several blogs,  it comes from Nick Malgieri, who has said that he would choose this cookie above all others in the recipe’s intro. With a declaration like that, I had to give these a go.
Imagine, if you will, a crust that is  buttery and a bit crumbly, much like a delicate shortbread cookie. On top is a sweet and gooey caramel filling.  To top them off you crumble more of that delicate crust over the caramel.

Overall, I was not overly impressed with the final result. Each component was OK, but together they weren’t “WOW”, ya know? I added toasted walnuts to the topping and to be honest, that was my favorite part of this recipe. These are good, don’t get me wrong, but I think I had too high of expectations going in and found myself feeling let down. My taste tester liked them, but too, enjoyed these bars much better.   The crust on these bars was a bit too delicate to hold the next 2 layers and the edge peices really crumbled making transport and presentation difficult.

If I make them again I think instead of making my own caramel sauce I will use Dulce de Leche or something else, for the extra work it required it really didn’t ‘wow’ me, I have had far better caramel sauces.

I rate these a 7

Caramel Crumb Bars
from The Modern Baker

2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Caramel Filling
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Spray a 13×9 pan with cooking spray, then line the  pan with aluminum foil or parchment (leaving an overhang so you can lift the bars out) and spray again with cooking spray.

To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until soft and light, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add 2 1/4 cups of the flour, beating just until the dough is smooth and the flour has been absorbed, and stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle as necessary.

Transfer 3/4 of the dough into the prepared baking pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan to form the bottom layer. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator while you make the filling and top layer.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour to the remaining dough in the mixer bowl and work it in with your fingertips until 1/8 – 1/4-inch crumbs form. Set aside.

To make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and condensed milk. Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally. When the mixture begins to boil, whisk frequently until it begins to thicken and darkens in color slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling over the bottom crust. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly then distribute the crumb topping over the filling.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling is gently bubbling and a dark caramel color. Cool the bars in the pan on a wire rack until lukewarm, about 15-20 minutes. Use the foil (or parchment) to lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Once completely cool, cut into 2-inch squares.

Granola Bars


I had about 3/4 cup of Rice Krispies cereal sitting in my cupboard (does this happen to anyone else? Having small random amounts of foods left over?). I was not in the cereal eating mood so turned to my online BFF Google.

About 30 seconds later my BFF  introduced me to this recipe. It calls for 1/2 cup Rice Krispies…perfect! I can finish this box up and use the newfound pantry space for a big bag of Cheetos, double win!

These bars were a cinch to make, you basically just dump a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, press in a greased pan and bake. Easy Peasy. I did adapt the recipe just a bit based on what I had on hand. The end result was great. Mine did not turn out quite as chewy as the original claimed (thus my removing ‘chewy’ from the title of these bars). There were still great. The flavor of the peanut butter, chocolate and butterscotch was a winning combination and I found it rather addicting.
I easily ate 3-4 of these bars over about an hour by simply breaking peices off every time I went into the kitchen.  Next time I may not bake them quite as long to see if they will turn out a bit chewier, but I really did enjoy them crunchy. My only complaint was that they crumbled a bit when removing the edge peices. now worries, just  easier to shovel in my mouth.

These bars taste hearty yet sweet. I think these will be perfect to take on hikes, boating, sporting games. Pretty much anytime you need a sweet treat on the go this Spring and Summer. Don’t be afraid to mix and match ingredients to suit your family taste preferences. These would be great with almonds, cranberries and white chocolate or mini M&Ms and peanuts. Really, use your imagination!

I rate these an 8

Granola Bars
original recipe here

2 1/2 cups quick rolled Oats
1/2 cup Rice Krispies cereal (I used about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter (my addition)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup  butter, softened  (I used 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup butter)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 pan with PAM.
In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients and stir until combined well. Press into pan.
Bake for 16–20 minutes or until golden.

Cool for at least 15-20 minutes. Cut into bars.

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

My dad visited us a week ago and while he is not a huge sweet lover he does have a special place in his heart for chewy chocolate chip cookies. Not the cakey type, but just a nice soft cookie that you can sink your teeth into and that will hold up well after a quick dunk in some cold milk. Determined to please my father’s craving, I whipped a batch of cookies that I knew would fit the ‘soft and chewy’ bill.

I have had this recipe for what seems like a decade. I rarely make these, not because they are not good, but because I never seem to have their ‘special’ ingredient in my pantry. These cookies use vanilla pudding mix as their secret weapon  that allows them to remain soft and chewy long after cooling. It is the cornstarch in the pudding (or so I hear) that holds the magical power. You can use other flavors, I like butterscotch and vanilla the best. 

Just as I knew these would, they baked up gorgeous (slightly lighter in color that other cookies) and had the perfect texture my dad was looking for. How was the flavor? Well, for a non-sweet  eater, the proof in the taste was that he ate 6 of them right after he finished off steak and potatoes for dinner.

Like I said, these are not cakey but do bake up a bit fuller than other cookies. They remail soft and chewy after cooling and have great taste. If you have the ingredients, take some time and whip these up!

I am unsure where I received this recipe or where it originated from since it is on a random piece of paper in my cookbook but will give credit to the blog that most recently made these in my google.reader account.

I rate these cookies an 8.5
My dad rates these a 9.5

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
as seen here

2 1/4 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup  brown sugar
1/4 cup  granulated sugar
1 small (3.4oz) pkg vanilla instant pudding mix (or other flavor)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips (i used milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate)

Preheat your oven to 350. Line yourbaking sheet with parchment.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large mixing  bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the pudding mix and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition eggs. Add vanilla.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the batter and mix just to combine.
Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop rounded spoonfulls of cookie dough onto prepared pan.
Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, until slightly golden and set.
Let  cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool fully.


Double Fudge Pie


If you are a reader of my blog you know that I am not a ‘pie’ person, you can tell this by the lack of pie recipes on this blog. The only pie I have ever really enjoyed is pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, not sure if it is the holiday spirit or the high from overeating turkey, stuffing and taters, but that pie just hits the spot!

I decided I wanted to give pie a chance and thought the best bet at finding a recipe I would like is if it involved peanut butter and/or chocolate. I have had this recipes forever, I really have no idea where it comes from so email me if it is yours and want credit. This recipe has been on a piece of scratch paper taped in my recipe binder just begging to get made, in fact, it has so many stains on it it looks like a casualty of war.  Poor thing, I felt sorry for neglecting it and whipped it up.

Boy am I glad I did. It was so super simple to make and I had it whipped up and in the oven in 15 minutes! A quick 25 minutes later and this baby was ready. I used a pre-made pie crust this time for a couple reasons. 1. I was lazy. 2. I had one to use up. 3. I don’t like pie crust so don’t feel passionately about slaving over making one from scratch. I am bad, I know. Now you know my dirty little little shame. I hate pie crust. But, i couldn’t wait to dig into this fudgey  little temptation. I allowed it to cool slightly before slicing up a piece.

The flavor is rich and fudgy (but not too gooey) thanks to the cocoa powder and brown sugar.  It tastes like a fudgey brownie baked in a pie shell (which is basically what it is). I must admit, however, that I may bake this without the pie shell next time (will it still be a pie then? if I use a pie plate?) I am just not a lover of pie crust and while I really liked this pie, I just felt the crust did not add anything. Maybe if I used a crushed Oreo crust I would feel differently. I loved the chocolate chips and walnuts throughout the pie, they provided a nice flavor boost as well. I must say that the best way to enjoy this is warm with a scoop of vanilla icecream and some hot fudge.

If you like pie crust and brownies than this pie is for you. If you don’t like pie crusts than give this filling a try on its own or with a different crust like I might. Either way, this was a great pie for me to wet my feet with. It is my goal to try more pies this summer……we will see.

I rate this recipe a 7 (but has potential)

Double Fudge Pie
6 TBS butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 large eggs
2 TBS cocoa powder
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

1 pie shell, unbaked

Preheat oven to 375
Melt butter, brown sugar, sugar and chocolate chips in double boiler over hot water. Stirring until smooth.
Cool and add the eggs.
Mix the flour, cocoa powder, chocolate chips and walnuts in a bowl. Add tot he chocolate mixture and stir until blended. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

Pour into pie crust and bake for 25 minutes. Cool and serve.

* I par-baked my crust for 10 minutes so it would not get too soggy in baking.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate, Toffee, Peanut Butter and Almonds

After polishing off an entire carton of Ben and Jerry’s “Everything but the Kitchen Sink” ice cream, I was craving more………….must be the weather.  Instead of buying and eating another entire carton of ice cream I decided to make a cookie that encompassed the same flavors as my Ben and Jerry’s because it is harder to eat an entire batch of cookies than it is to inhale that tub of ice cream (or maybe not, as I found out).

I started with this recipe that I have used a number of times when I craved chocolate but didn’t feel like a brownie but modified it a bit.

The recipe produces a soft, chewy cookie that lends itself to being the perfect backdrop for a number of add-in possibilities. Don’t get me wrong, the cookie itself still shines, it just does so in a ‘not-in-your-face’ sort of way. I have to say that this recipe more than hit the spot. I found myself grabbing one every time I entered the kitchen which I made sure was quite frequent. Like many chocolate cookies, I find the flavor only improves as they cool and seems to intensify a bit.  After cooling a bit the cookie remains soft and chewy with a bit of creaminess from the white chocolate, a bit of saltiness from the peanut butter cups and a bit of sweetness from the toffee and a bit of crunch from the nuts. All in all, these cookies have something for everyone.

These were so dangerous for me, I ended up taking them to a work event just to get them out of my house. Needless to say these were polished off in no time flat by the gentlemen and several commented “these are so much better than anything my mom every made”. The best compliment one can get in my book.

I have amounts for the ‘add-ins’ listed below but feel free to add more or less of an ingredient, I just eye-balled it and when by what I had on hand.

I rate this cookie a 9

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate, Toffee, Peanut Butter and Almonds
inspired by Ben and Jerry’s Everything But…. ice cream 

2 cups flour
½  cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½  teaspoon salt
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
4 oz. good quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Ghirardelli)
½ cup chopped chocolate covered Almonds (or regular almonds)
¾  cup toffee pieces
1  heaping and overflowing of cup chopped peanut butter cups (I used Reese’s)

*again, add more ‘add-ins’ if you want, i just didnt’ have any more on hand or i might have upped the amount of white chocolate and almonds for sure!

In a small bowl wisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

Melt the semi-sweet and bittersweet chopped chocolate in medium heatproof bowl. Be careful not to scorch or burn chocolate. Set aside to cool.
In a small bowl wisk the eggs, vanilla and Espresso powder until combined.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and beat another minute. Add the egg mixture until well mixed. Gently add the melted and cooled chocolate and beat until combined

Slowly add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Do not overbeat. Gently fold in your ‘add-in’ options.
Cover with dough with lid or plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until consistency is scoopable and fudge like, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough onto sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are set but centers are soft.

Allow cookies to cool on sheets about 10 minutes before transferring to racks to cool completely.

Donut Muffins

Who is not in need of a quick, yummy and oh so easy muffin recipe? You can have these on  your table in  under 35 minutes (from start to finish, once your oven has preheated). Heck, I can’t even get my hair dry in that time!  I used this recipe, but there are a ton similar floating around, not sure who is the ‘originator’ of this recipe.

Now, if you are looking for a light-as-air textured muffin, these are not for you. I feel these are only called ‘muffins’ because they are baked in a muffin tin. Don’t get me wrong, these are great, but definitely have the texture that more dense like a donut hole. Now, I have yet to meet a donut hole that I don’t like, so, really, their texture is fine with me. Even my taste tester (aka, the hubs) loved these and he usually enjoys his muffins topped with struesal and nuts.

This recipe is so straight forward and easy to follow that even my taste-tester can pull these off. I would watch the bake time closely as mine were finished in about    minutes. I did add a teaspoon vanilla to the batter as indicated below and did not use nutmeg at all (we are not huge nutmeg in muffin lovers).  I let them cool for about, oh, 30 seconds before I dipped them in melted butter and then a mixture of cinnamon, sugar. I do think these would be  equally good with some sort of powdered sugar or chocolate glaze (however, they would be more work and dirty dishes).

These muffins are best eaten warm and fresh but do hold up for a day or so if kept sealed in tupperware. I would nuke for about 10-15 seconds before eating however because they do tend to get a little tough (much like day old donuts) room temp.

I did make a few small changes to the recipe as indicated below.

While these will not be my ‘go-to’ muffin recipe, they will be my ‘i-have-45-minutes-and-need-a-breakfast-or-brunch-muffin’.

I rate this recipe an 8

Donut Muffins
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (I used 1/2 tsp cinnamon instead)
1/2 c. milk

Topping:
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, stir together the  oil, sugar, and egg.  In another bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg or cinnamon.

Add the flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk.

Fill greased muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Remove immediately from pan.  Roll in melted butter, then cinnamon sugar mixture.  Serve warm.

Makes 6 full-size muffins. (I got 12 muffins)

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

It seems as though I am on a chocolate and peanut butter kick lately, must be the stress and anxiety of waiting for Spring to finally arrive!

I am sure many of you have already made these cookies or have at least eaten one. This is a quick and easy recipe that whips up in no time and does NOT require an oven or any baking making them perfect when the warm weather comes around and you are not wanting to heat up the oven but still desire a sweet treat. This recipe is one my family has been using for years so I am unsure of its origin, if you know, drop me a line and I will include it in my blog.

While this recipe includes common ingredients and whips up in no time, I do find these cookies can be a bit  temperamental. Ideally, you will end up with a cookie that holds its shape but is still fudgelike upon cooling. Many people either have problems with their cookies not setting up and remaining too gooey or being too dry and crumbly after cooling. These problems can both be avoided with the proper boil time. You could use a candy thermometer I suppose but why dirty another item and frankly, I don’t like them. I prefer to be more diligent and careful when boiling the mixture.

If you don’t boil the mixture long enough the final cookies will not firm and set up nicely (Though will still taste marvelous). If you boil too long, the final cookie will be dry and fall apart easily (and not too marvelous).

I find that timing 60-90 seconds once the mixture comes to a ROLLING boil (not just a simmer) work out well for me every time.

Now, on to the final cookie. If you are not familiar with these cookies their texture and flavor is like eating a piece of chocolate fudge with a slight peanut butter flavorlingering in the background. The oatmeal gives these structure and helps them keep their shape and texture.   Be sure to work quickly as they tend to begin to set up in about 3-5 minutes making scooping out difficult.

I like to tell myself because oatmeal is included these are ahealthy snack and can and should be consumed at breakfast. Want more reasons to make these? Ok, you can eat the ‘dough’ and lick the spoon (shouldn’t do this until done with scooping out all of the dough. No one wants slobber on their cookies) since there are no raw eggs, you can make these all different sizes since they don’t need to cook (just keep in mind if they are too big they will need more time to set up) and lastly, well, anything with peanut butter and chocolate has to be great right?

Give these cookies a try, they are great to make when you don’t have a ton of time as it does not take long for them to set up, if you are transporting them, however, I would wait for them to set up at least an hour at room temperature or 30 minutes in the fridge or they may still together. Also, I would keep them stored in a single layer or with multiple layers separated by waxed paper.  Keep these stored in a covered container so they don’t dry out (not that they will last that long).

I rate these cookies an 8.5

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
1 ¾ cup sugar
½ cup milk (I use 1%)
1 stick butter cut into chunks
4 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup cream peanut butter (could use crunchy)
3 cups quick cooking oats (I use a mixture of quick cooking and old fashioined as that is what I had on hand)
1 teasppon vanilla

Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper.

Measure out 3 cups oatmeal in a bowl. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa.
Bring to a boil. One boiling time for about  1 1/2 minutes.

Remove from heat. Immediately stir in peanut butter until smooth. Add oats, and vanilla.  Stir to combine:

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper until set, store in sealed container at room temp.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

These cookies have been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. Many of my Christmas’s were spent hanging out by the treat tray gobbling these up without being too obvious. I ate way more than my fair share and often had a stomach ache by dinner.

Were these worth it? Yep.There is something about the combination of peanut butter and chocolate that makes me go weak in the knees. While these have been a favorite of mine for years, this is actually the first time that I have made them! Usually I wait all year long for Christmas and gorge myself on the ones my relatives make.

However, an urge, a strong urge, called me to make these now and not wait. Maybe it is the changing weather, maybe it was the stressful week at work, whatever reason I gave in to my craving and just like Christmas, enjoyed too many to count. I am sure many of you are familiar with the recipe or at least the concept of the cookie.

Basically it is a peanut butter cookie baked in a mini muffin pan and then a miniature Reese’s peanut butter cup is smooched into it before they cool. What you end up with is a sweet and slightly salty peanut butter and chocolate treat. The size makes them perfect for enjoying more than 1 or 2 or 5 in one setting.These are a breeze to whip up but without a couple of tips can be frustrating to make.

First whip up the dough. I rolled them into balls, lightly rolled in sugar and then placed them into the lightly greased muffin tin. I used the back of my ½ Tablespoon to make an indentation into the balls so placing the peanut butter cup would be easier and less messy. (I have found if you press the dough using your fingers up the side of the cups that the edges do not turn out smooth and even but rather look jagged and less ‘cute’). Second, make sure your peanut butter cups are cool (I chill mine while the cookies bake). This makes them easier to push into the hot cookies. Last, I pop them back in the oven for about 2-3 minutes after I push down the peanut butter cup, this makes them melty and more cohesive.

Since I lightly grease the pan before baking these are usually a breeze to come out after cooling down. Overall, these have a special place in my heart not only for their taste but for the memories they bring back to me everytime I bite into one.

Go ahead, make some memories for yourself and bake some up today! Maybe these can be your Spring-is-coming cookie!

I rate this recipe a 9

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Adapted from allrecipes.com
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
30-40 miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped (depending how many cookies you make), chilled
Sugar for rolling dough balls (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly spray mini muffin pan with cookie spray

In a large bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, vanilla and milk. Continue mixing until incorporated. Slowly add the flour, salt and baking soda. Mix until combined.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop out about 1 TBS of dough, shape into a ball.
Lightly roll in sugar. Place into mini muffin pan.

Bake for about 8 minutes.Remove from oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball. Cool and carefully remove from pan.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

I know the title alone makes you want one of these. I don’t blame you. This dessert takes two of my favorite sweets and combines them perfectly. This is an easy recipe to whip up but does create quite a few dishes and is multi-stepped. You need to make the crust, cheesecake filling and the cookie dough. You could use store bought cookie dough to save some time if you are in a pinch but really, if your making a crust and filling why not just whip up some dough as well (plus you can eat it raw since there are no eggs in it! BONUS!!).

I suggest using mini chocolate chips for the dough as it makes these bars easier to cut and eat, plus you get a little more chocolate in every bite! Yeah!

I whipped each component up  by hand but you could use a mixer if you want. I found with melted  butter and room temperature ingredients there was no need to lug out my stand mixer.

If you do make these I suggest making them a day before you need them. Like cheesecakes these get better with a day of rest. I highly recommend eating these chilled (as I do a cheesecake). They will be creamy and crumbly and just so satisfying that a small piece will do. Everyone at work loves these and these were the first to sell out at our bake sale. I think the name draws people in but the flavor kept them coming back for another!

I can’t wait to make these for easter using some pretty colored sprinkles and Holiday colored M&M’s on top. How irresistible will that be??

Before easter, I may make these again with some peanut butter cheesecake filling and peanut butter cookie dough. To top it off I think some chopped Reese’s PB cups on top would be phenomenal! If you try it, let me know!

I rate this recipe an 9

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
adapted from here

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 TBS butter, melted
1 TBS sugar
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

5 TBS butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 TBS sugar
1/8 tsp  salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325.
Grease a 8×8 pan with butter, line pan with parchment paper and butter the paper, leaving enough to extend over the sides.
Crush graham crackers into crumbs to make 1 & 1/2 cups. Add sugar and mix. Stir in butter and mix until crumbs are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips.
Press crust mixture into bottom of pan. Bake for 6 minutes. Set pan on wire rack to cool.

In a medium bowl stir together the butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract at medium  until smooth. Gently fold in flour. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a small bowl stir cream cheese until soft. Add sugar and stir until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract, stir just until blended.

Pour batter into cooled, baked crust. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls over the top of the filling. Sprinkle a few more mini chips over the top and gently press down (this makes it look pretty)

Bake about 30 minutes, or until set. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Place in the refrigerator to chill several hours.

Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Curd topping

Wow.
That is the only description you need for this cheesecake. I originally saw this recipe on this blog and put off making it for months since I don’t like lemon. I know, why save a recipe for a flavor you don’t like? It just called my name, that is all I can say. I finally answered (my loving husband had suggested I bake something with lemon for him) and baked this up a few months back and was BLOWN away! It really is one of the best cheesecakes I have ever made or eaten.  Let me rephrase, I do not like lemon but I LOVED this cheesecake. I have made it 3 times in the past few months and this was the birthday ‘cake’ of choice my sweet husband chose for me to make for him on his special day  last month. He just can’t get enough of it.

Don’t be intimidated by the recipe. There are 3 components to this recipe but each is very simple: the crust, the filling and the lemon curd topping. All three come together nicely to create a little slice of heaven.The filling of this cheesecake did require just a bit more prep than my usual cheesecake since I had to zest a few lemons but the extra 5 minutes I put in was well rewarded in the end. Like usual this cheesecake is whipped up in a flash (about 10 minutes if everything is room temp) and in the oven in no time.

The only down side to baking cheesecakes is that while they are a cinch to whip up and bake; you have to wait at least 10 hours (I prefer 24 hours at least) to eat a slice as it must be chilled after it comes to room temperature. Since I was in the kitchen already and making dishes for the husband to wash, i chose to make the lemon curd while the cheesecake baked and then stored it and the cooled cheesecake in the fridge for 24 hours before topping it with the lemon curd and serving.

You could wait and make it the day you want to serve it if you don’t have time to whip it up the same day you bake the cheesecake. I almost didn’t want to cover the top of the cheesecake since after was baked and cooled there were NO cracks at all, just a perfectly smooth top. But, how could I say ‘no’ to that bright and sunny lemon curd? After topping the cooled cheesecake I then chilled it for a few more hours before we cut into this beauty.  I find this cheesecake to taste its best 2-3 days after baking it. Something magical happens to cheesecake as it chills in the fridge. The texture of this cheesecake itself is creamy but not too light and not too dense, rich with subtle hints of lemon shining through. The real lemon star is the lemon curd. It is slightly sweet, slightly tangy and just pairs so well with the coolness and creaminess of the cheesecake. These two were made for each other!

I chose to use a graham cracker crust because that is all we had and I wouldn’t change a thing.   If you are scared of cheesecakes, don’t be. If you don’t like lemon, try this you may surprise yourself. If you need no reason to make this recipe, find one. AFterall Spring is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate than with this!

A tip: be sure to use a NON reactive pan for the lemon curd. If you do not it may have a ‘metallic’ taste. I have had luck using a glass bowl setting snugly over simmering water (similar to a double boiler, or how some people melt chocolate)

I rate this recipe a 9.5
Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Curd
The New Best Recipe

CRUST
5 ounces Nabisco’s Barnum’s Animal Crackers (I used graham cracker crumbs)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and kept warm

FILLING
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon grated zest
1/4 cup juice from 1-2 lemons
24 oz cream cheese, cut into 1 inch chunks, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
(I used 1/4 tsp lemon extract)
LEMON CURD
1/3 cup juice (from about 2 lemons) (I used a bit more)
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon heavy cream (I used 2 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

FOR THE CRUST
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 325F. In a food processor, process the animal crackers until you have fine crumbs. You should have about 1 cup. Add in the sugar and pulse. In a steady stream, add the butter while pulsing, about 10 1-second pulses. Transfer the crumb mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly into the bottom. Bake until fragrant and golden brown. The instructions say 15 to 18 minutes, but mine was done at about 12 minutes, so keep an eye on it. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. When cool, wrap the pan with 2 18-inch square pieces of foil. Set the pan in a roasting pan.

FOR THE FILLING
Process 1/4 cup of the sugar and the lemon zest in a food processor until the zest is broken down and the sugar turns yellow. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in the rest of the sugar.
In a bow of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese to break it up and soften it slightly, about 5 seconds. With the machine is running, add the sugar mixture in a slow stream; increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, creamy and smooth – about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to medium low and add the eggs, 2 at a time. Beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl before each addition. Add the lemon juice, vanilla and salt and mix to combine. Add the cream and mix until incorporated, about another 5 seconds. Give the bowl a final scrape and pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough water to make it about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake until the center jiggles slightly, the sides start to puff, and the surface is no longer shiny, about 55 to 60 minutes. The center should read about 150 degrees F. Turn off the oven and prop the door of the oven open with a potholder or wooden spoon. Allow the cake to cool in the water bath in the oven for about an hour. Transfer the springform pan to a wire rack and run a small paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Let it sit to room temperature for 2 hours.

FOR THE CURD
While the cheesecake is baking, heat the lemon juice in a small non-reactive pan on medium heat until hot, but not boiling. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, then gradually whisk in the sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot lemon juice into the egg/sugar mixture, then return the mixture to the saucepan and continue to heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 170 F and is thick enough to cling to the spoon, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add in the cold butter and mix until incorporated. Stir in the cream, vanilla and salt, then pour through a strainer into a small nonreactive bowl. Cover the surface of the curd directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

TO ASSEMBLE
When the cheesecake is cook, top it with the lemon curd while still in the springform pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, but 24 hours is better. To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and cut into wedges