Chocolate Crunched Caramel Tart

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan’s book packed full of wonderful dessert recipes.  This is not a dessert I would typically make because it is a bit labor intensive and time consuming. There are three components to the recipe, the tart shell, caramel layer and the chocolate ganache. Each component comes together fairly quickly and if you have experience making caramel this recipe will be a breeze for you.

This dessert is great for those who love a good Snickers bar, basically this is a Snickers in a tart form (minus the nougat). The tart dough was so good and is reason enough to make this recipe! Slightly sweet, great texture, just wonderful!

If, however, you are like me and would rather have a root canal than use a candy thermometer, this recipe can be a bit intimidating and nerve wracking. All in all in turned out well. I did have trouble with the caramel layer even though Dorie gives very clear directions. It was definitely not the recipe’s fault but baker-error that caused the issues.  My caramel layer turned out a bit thicker than I would have liked because I let it cook too long for fear of  it being too runny (this has happened to me in the past when I have tried making caramels).

Because my caramel layer was a bit thick, once I added the nuts to it it kind of clumped up into clusters making it VERY hard to spread evenly over the tart shell.
Next time I will A) not cook as long, B) may double the caramel layer and C) spread the caramel over the tart shell and then sprinkle the nuts on top since I think it would be hard to spread even if it was thinner just because the nuts liked to cling to the back of my spatula and dug into the shell. You can tell in the pictures the caramel layer is quite thin.

Despite the error, this turned out very well. I was fearful we would break a tooth (and thus requiring a root canal, the irony in that would not be lost on me) after it set up and chilled. We were surprised when we took our first bite and while the caramel was firm (ok, it was hard) it was not tooth-breaking hard. Yeah! Minor success!

This tasted great and we really enjoyed it. It is not something I will be whipping up again soon, but will be using the tart shell for some Berry Tarts this spring!

I rate this recipe an 8

Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart
by Dorie Greenspan

For the tart shell:
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
For the caramel layer:
Scant 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 tbsp. salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
Pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
For the ganache:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 4 oz bittersweet and 4oz semi sweet chocolate)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
Directions:

To make the tart shell, in a small bowl stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas.  Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  When you are ready to roll out the dough, unwrap it and place it on a lightly floured work surface.
Roll out with a floured rolling pin, lifting and turning the dough occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the work surface.
Roll it out evenly until it is large enough to line a 9-inch tart pan and is about 1/8-inch thick.
Carefully transfer the dough to the tart pan, pressing it into the sides, and trim to remove the excess.  Cover the dough with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beads.  Bake for 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Remove the foil and baking beads and using a fork, gently poke holes in the bottom and sides of the crust.  Bake until the crust is golden, 15-20 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.Before making the caramel, make sure that you have all the ingredients measured out and ready to go because you have to work quickly once the sugar caramelizes.  Also have a medium heatproof bowl at hand to hold the hot caramel.

To make the caramel, bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, to medium heat and sprinkle in about 3 tablespoons of the sugar.
When it melts, stir it with a wooden spatula or a fork and sprinkle over another 3 tablespoons.  When that sugar is melted, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
The sugar in the pan may already have started to color and that is fine.  Stir in the corn syrup and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep caramel color – it will probably begin to smoke, and that is normal.

Bring the simmering cream to a full boil.  Stand back from the skillet and stir in the butter and salt, if you’re using it.  The caramel will bubble furiously and may spatter, so be careful.  When the butter is in, add the warm cream – the caramel will bubble furiously again.
Lower the temperature just a tad and let the caramel boil for just 2 minutes.  (If you check the temperature with a thermometer, the caramel should be at 226 degrees F.)  Pour the seething caramel into the heatproof bowl and set it aside while you make the ganache.

To make the ganache, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or rubber spatula at hand.  Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds.
Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at center of the bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles.  Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion.
When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don’t stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients – the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be.

Cover the ganache with a piece of plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the surface of the chocolate to create an airtight seal.  Set aside at room temperature for the moment.  To assemble the tart, stir the peanuts into the caramel using a rubber spatula.  If the caramel is too thick to stir or spread easily, gently warm it in the microwave in 3-second spurts.  (You can also hold the heatproof bowl about 10 inches above the burner on your range.  Check the consistency after a couple of seconds and repeat if necessary.)  Spread the caramel over the bottom of the tart shell in a thin layer.  Refrigerate the tart for 15 minutes to set the caramel.

Check the ganache.  If it has thickened and is no longer pourable, warm it in the same way as instructed for the caramel above.  Pour the ganache over the caramel and jiggle the tart pan to even it.  Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes but no longer, and then keep it at room temperature until serving time.

Peanut Butter Snack Cookies

I made this recipe up based on some snacks I had left over from a party and wanted to use up. This was quite a yummy experiment and I may make these again whenever I am craving something a little different than my typical stand-by Peanut Butter cookie recipe.

These cookies have a delicate peanut butter flavor, not overpowering at all. This subtle flavor is a nice backdrop for addition of the variety of snacks I used. In this case I had some pretzel sticks, M&M’s, peanut butter M&Ms and threw in some peanut butter and milk chocolate chips for good measure. I also added a few quick cooking oats which enhanced the chewiness of the cookie without being too detectable (for the oatmeal haters out there, gasp)

I chilled my dough for about 5 hours since I had a house to clean. Even if you don’t have chores to do, I would recommend letting the dough chill for at least an hour or two to allow the flavors to blend and the chilled dough will help the cookies keep their shape while baking.

Make sure not to over bake these, if you do they will be pretty firm out of the oven, I made this mistake with one pan. If you watch them and take them out when they just turn golden you will be very happy!

The end result of this little experiment is a chewy cookie packed with sweet and slightly salty flavors. The outside of these cookies baked up slightly crisp while the interior remained soft and chewy. Fresh out of the oven these were very hard to refuse! After a day or so these did harden up a bit more than I would have liked but I threw a slice of bread in the sealed container with them and they softened right back up. A 10 second jolt in the microwave before eating will produce the same results but also provide you with a warm and gooey treat as well!

I rate this recipe an 8

Peanut Butter Snack Cookies
1 stick (8 TBS butter) softened
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
½ TBS milk
2 cups flour
½ cup quick-oats
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ cup peanut butter chips
¼ cup chocolate chips
½ cup broken pretzel sticks
½ cup M&Ms
½ cup peanut butter M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350.

Line baking sheets with parchement paper.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and peanut butter. Once combined beat in the white sugar, and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla.

In a large bowl wisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gently add to creamed mixture and mix until almost combined.

Fold in the oatmeal and snack additions just until combined.

Chill dough at least 60 minutes.

With a tablespoon, place balls of dough on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are lightly browned.

Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 5-10 minutes until sturdy enough to be transfered to a wire rack to cool completely.

Smooth and Creamy Almond Cheesecake

July 008

I wanted to play around with my usual cheesecake recipe.  It is a recipe that I have made up after experimenting a bit and trying out a few different recipes (and tasting far too many cheesecakes baked by friends and family). While I like to try new recipes, I tend to fall back on this one time and time again. It has been a while since I have made it and was craving a cool and creamy dessert. I most recently made the Dorie Greenspan cheesecake recipe and while I was pleased with the results, it was just too creamy for my liking (as the name suggests it came out tall and creamy). If that is your thing then I recommend her recipe as the flavor was wonderful.

I prefer my cheesecake to be a little more dense and sturdy yet creamy and smooth. While I enjoy plain cheesecake, I wanted to play around with the flavor a bit this go around. After much consideration I decided to try my hand at an almond flavored cheesecake. I took my basic recipe and added chopped almonds to the crust along with almond extract and almond paste to the filling to intensify the flavor. To top it all off I drizzled warm caramel or chocolate over the slices and garnished with toasted Almonds.

Overall, I would say that this cheesecake was a success if for no other reason than it was gorgeous, not one crack! The crust  provided a nice balance of sweetness and nutiness and was the perfect base for the smooth filling. I had never worked with Almond Paste before and found that the best way to incorporate it into the batter was to great it fine and whirl it in the food processor with the sugar. This ensured the almond paste would get mixed thouroughly into the batter and no clumps of paste would threaten the creamy texture I was after. The flavor of the almond in the finished cake was noticible and pleasant without being overwhelming. I enjoyed it but I am not 100% satisfied so I plan on playing around some more with the flavor. I may cut back on the extract and add some Amaretto to deepen the flavor profile more and reduce some of the ‘artificial’ almond flavor I feel the extract provides.

Even though I was not completely sold on the flavor, the texture kept me coming back for more! The nutty crust and creamy cheesecake kept calling my name so, fork in hand, I would happily nosh away. This cheesecake is firm right out of the fridge but is not so solid that you can not cut through each slice with your fork, just smooth and silky goodness. After coming to room temperature it still holds its shape well even when topped with caramel and nuts. I must admit that I do prefer the cold cheesecake best, especially drizzled with warm caramel, fudge and topped with nuts. I highly recommend making this a day or two before serving and garnishing this cheesecake with toasted nuts!
Really, though, don’t be afraid to make this your own by mixing up the flavors.  For a plain cheesecake omit the almond extract and almond paste and add 1 TBS Vanilla extract with the addition of the 3rd egg.

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I rate this recipe an 8

Smooth and Creamy Almond Cheesecake
by bakingblonde

For the crust:
1  cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup chopped almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

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3 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz.)  Sweetened Condensed Milk  (fat free works fine)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup Almond Paste, grated
2 TBS flour
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

* Toasted Almonds for garnish (optional but totally recommended)July 009

Preheat oven to 300° F. Grease 9-inch springform pan.

Fill an oven safe cake pan (I use a 9×9 pan) 3/4 full with warm water. Set on bottom oven rack while oven is preheating.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, almonds and butter, stir to combine.  Press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and increase oven temperature to 350.

For the filling:
In the bowl of a food processor pulse the sugar and almond paste until it resembles a course meal. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese until creamy. Add sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, sugar/almond paste and flour. Beat to combine.  Add  eggs one at a time beating only to combine after each addition. When adding the third egg, also add the almond extract; beat until combined.July 007

Gently pour batter evenly into prebaked crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 40-60 minutes or until edge is set and center moves slightly. Watch carefully and do  not overbake.

Shut oven off and allow cheesecake to cool in oven for 1-4  hours. Run a warm knife around edge of cheesecake after 1 hour.

Place in fridge to cool completely. (Remove the pan of water)

Allow to chill at least 24 hours before serving for best flavor and texture.

For the crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melte*

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Brownies

July 009

This recipe caught my eye several weeks ago. I was searching for a dessert recipe to use up a can of Sweetened Condensed milk and was in the mood for somthing different than my usual Magic Cookie Bars. This reipce combines several of my favorite flavors: Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Marshmallows. Another great thing about this recipe is that it uses a boxed cake mix keeping the ingredient list small.

While these were a breeze to whip up, it was a little time consuming. First you need to make and par bake the chocolate base. Next you need to make the filling, pour over the partially baked crust and then bake again. From start to finish these took about an hour for me, which on a hot summer day can feel like torture.

I also had a difficult time evenly spreading the sticky marshmallow/peanut butter filling over the crust. The filling was thick and way to hard to spread even with a buttered knife/spoon/spatula (maybe I was just having an off day). I ended up plopping spoonfulls of filling all over the crust and then with a greased knife did the best I could at trying make sure the crust was covered entirely. This worked well as the filling did thin and spread while baking.

The flavor of these bars made up for my frustrations while preparing them. They came out of the oven smelling faintly of peanut butter with bubbling marshmallow peeking through the chocolate topping just begging to be enjoyed. I waited about 30 minutes and then ate one warm. Don’t overbake as they are supposed to be a bit gooey when you take them out, they will firm up a bit as they cool.

The crust was sturdy but not hard, the filling had a subtly noticable peanut butter flavor and very similar to cheesecake in texture but gooier. Overall these were really great brownies and were enjoyed by all, even the non-peanut butter lovers (yes they do exist). While these brownies were yummy, they don’t beat out my favorite!

I did adapt this recipe a bit (based on my preferences and reviews) as reflected below and would recomend you do the same. Next time I will add some chopped Reese’s PB cups over the top of the brownies the last 10 minutes of baking to marry together the two flavors more fully.

I rate these brownies an 8

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, divided
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1/4 cup milk
1 (18 1/4 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme (about 1-3/4 cups)
1/2 cup peanut butter chip
Directions
1Set oven to 350 degrees.
2Grease a 13″ x 9-inch baking pan.
3In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup condensed milk, butter, 1/4 cup milk, cake mix and the egg; mix to combine well (batter will be stiff).
4Press TWO-THIRDS of the batter into the bottom of the prepared baking pan (using floured hands); pat down evenly, the layer will be thin.
5Bake for 10 minutes.
6Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2 cup condensed milk and the marshmallow creme in a bowl; stir in the peanut butter chips/morsels.
7Remove the pan from the oven; spread the marshmallow mixture evenly over the brownie layer.
8Carefully drop the remaining batter by the spoonfuls over the marshmallow mixture.
9Bake for another 30 minutes.
10Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
Peanut Butter Marshallow Brownies
adapted from here

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, divided (I used 1 whole can)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1/4 cup milk
1 (18 1/4 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix (I used Triple Chocolate Cake Mix)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme
(1 1/4 cups Creamy Peanut Butter)
1/2 cup peanut butter chip (I HIGHLY recommend Reese’s brand chips)
(1/4 cup Milk Chocolate Chips)
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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9×13 baking pan with foil and lighlty spray with PAM.
In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup condensed milk, butter, 1/4 cup milk, cake mix and the egg; mix to combine well (batter will be very stiff).
Gently press about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared baking pan (using floured hands if needed); pat down evenly, the layer will be thin.July 011
Bake for 10 minutes.
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While crust bakes, combine the remaining  condensed milk, marshmallow creme and Peanut Butter in a bowl; gently fold in the peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.
Remove the crust from the oven; spread the peanut butter marshmallow mixture evenly over the brownie layer.
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Carefully drop the remaining batter by the spoonfuls evenly over the peanut butter marshmallow mixture. Press down slightly.
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Bake for another 25-30 minutes or until edges are set and center is slightly gooey but not raw. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Peanut Butter Cup Bars

June 010

I will keep this post simple and sweet, much like these bars. I had some Peanut Butter to use up and was craving a Peanut Butter/Chocolate combo sweet treat. With the summer heat teetering on being ‘oppresive’ I knew I did not want to use my oven. After a quick search on Allrecipes.com I found this recipe and it fit the bill: Peanut Butter (check), Chocolate (check), No Bake (check). I found the Trifecta!

These came together in less than 10 minutes and after a quick chill in the freezer (I was impatient to try one) they set up nicely. I did change up the recipe a bit based on some of the reviews and have noted those changes in parenthesis.

Overall these were quick, simple and delicious. I am not sure they would make these if I needed to impress guests with presentation, but they sure did satisfy my craving in a pinch. I would give these a try if you are a fan of Reese’s PB cups as these taste very similar. I can’t decide if I like them soft at room temperature or a little more firm right from the fridge. Either way, I ate way too many.

I am crumbling the remaining bars over chocolate ice cream for a cool summer treat!

I rate this recipe an 8

Peanut Butter Cup Bars
adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons peanut butter
In a medium bowl, mix together the butter or margarine, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners’ sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 inch pan.
In a metal bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.
1 cup butter or margarine, melted (I used 3/4 cup)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (I sifted after measuring)
1 cup peanut butter (I used 1 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used 1 cup Milk Chocolate and 1/2 cup Semi-Sweet chips)
4 tablespoons peanut butter (I used 1/3 cup)
In a medium bowl, mix together the butter or margarine, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners’ sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 inch pan.
In a metal bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust.June 007
Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.
*Allow to rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before cutting so the chocolate does not crack.

Cinnamon Buttermilk Muffins with Struesel Topping

May 016

I rarely bake breakfast treats, but after tasting these muffins I think I may be doing it more often. I adapted a recipe from Annie’s Eats (a great food blog for everything from appetizers to dessert) and found a recipe that caught my eye. These muffins were great for not only breakfast but they also made for a satisfying dessert with a scoop of icecream. While I found the recipe on Annie’s Eats, the muffin recipe originally comes from Williams Sonoma and was exactly what I was looking for in a muffin.

The recipe made about 10 muffins and the batter came together very quickly. After baking, the end result yeilded golden muffins with a crisp topping gently covering their  light and fluffy texture. The light and tender crumb is thanks to the use of buttermilk in the batter. As noted, I opted to use a basic crumb topping instead of dipping the muffins into melted butter and then into a  cinnamon sugar topping as called for in the original muffin recipe and I am more than pleased with the results. Besides, who needs a muffin dipped in melted butter? 

The muffin itself has a slightly sweet and subtle cinnamon flavor and bakes up with a moist, tender and fluffy crumb. I felt it was a nice contrast to the sweet brown sugar and cinnamon crumb streusel that gives the muffins a crisp top and gorgeous appearance, sure to impress company if needed. 

Next time I may add some chopped toasted walnuts to the batter or the topping for a little extra flavor punch. I would highly recommend these the next time you have some buttermilk to use up or are just looking for an easy and flavorful muffin recipe. 

I rate this recipe an 8

Cinnamon Buttermilk Muffins
Ingredients:
7 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the topping:
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Directions:
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease 9 standard muffin cups with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray; fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.
To make the muffins, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well until pale and smooth.
In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-fourths full. Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.
To make the topping, in a small, shallow bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Put the melted butter in another small bowl. Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly. Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tap it to remove excess sugar. Transfer the muffin, right side up, to the rack. Repeat with the remaining muffins. Let cool completely before serving. Makes 9 muffin
For the topping:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
Cinnamon Buttermilk Muffins
Williams Sonoma 
7 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (I used 3/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
 
For the Struesel
2 TBS flour 
1/3 cup brown sugar 
1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon
1 TBS  butter, softened
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease 9 standard muffin cups with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray; fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.
To make the muffins, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well until pale and smooth.
In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-fourths full. May 018
To make the topping, in a small bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or forks until mixture resembles cornmeal. Gently sprinkle topping evenly over batter in prepared muffin tin. Gently press down topping slightly. 
Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Alton Brown’s Chocolate Chip Cookie

may-126

Oh yes, the Chocolate Chip Cookie. I may have found my new Go-To recipe!!
Many bakers seem to be searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I too, have been searching for the ‘perfect chocolate chip cookie’ I do have a tried and true recipe that I fall back on that I know will not fail me but like many bakers, continue to seek out and try new versions of this classic. I have received almost a dozen emails from my blog readers requesting I try another chocolate chip cookie recipe and several have requested this recipe in particular. It comes from my beloved Alton Brown.

Several bloggers have already tried other versions of his chocolate chip cookie recipe so I decided to go with a recipe that I have had saved for over a months now. I was emailed the recipe by a friend and I do not own the book from which it originates, if my citing is wrong, please drop me a line and let me know.

I chose this recipe for a few reasons. It calls for no special ingredients,  it calls for an unusual method of mixing the ingredients and it implements the use of unconventional baking temperatures. Like my last cookie recipe, no mixer is needed to whip up this recipe, however, a little arm power is essential for adequatley mixing the chips into the dough. The dough came together in less than 15 minutes and after a short chilling in the fridge (the recipe does not require this but I feel it enhances the flavor of the baked cookie) these were ready to bake.  As stated before, unlike usual cookie recipes that call for one constant baking temperature, this one starts the cookies out at a higher temperature and then has you lower the temperature right after placing them into the oven to bake. I am asuming the higher initial temperature helps set the edges and the lowering of the temperature ensures consistent baking (no burnt bottoms and underbaked centers) producing a cookie with crisp edges and soft, chewy centers. What better combination in a cookie??

The texture of these cookies is great, everything I would look for in a cookie, phenomenal actually. They are slighlty crisp around the edges and soft and chewy in the middles.  They taste great out of the oven (after cooling for 10 minutes). I can’t wait to try them after they cool completly.
The depth of the flavor is also phenomenal, the perfect combination of brown sugar and butter. I was surprised that the cookies came out as chewy as they were and that thebrown sugar flavor was as pronounced as it was, given I used equal proportions of white and brown sugar. Once again I used a combination of milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips and found that proportion was just perfect in my opinion, sweet but not overly so.

I do have two complaints about this cookie. First, the finished cookies were too greasy in my opinion.  After realizing this with the first pan, I allowed the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet and then transferred to paper-towel lined cooling racks to cool completly. This seemed to help soak up a bit of the grease. Second, you really need to monitor the cookies closely while baking as you need to constantly increase and decrease the temperature of the oven. This was fine today as I was in the kitchen cleaning, however, these may not be ideal for those who are multi-tasking and want to bake up a batch of cookies quickly (it took my oven 5 minutes to reheat to 375 between baking the batches).

Overall I loved these cookies. So much so that I am going to make another batch tomorrow for a party. I will decrease the butter by a 1/2 stick to see if that helps with the greasiness of the baked cookies. If I can make these less greasy while maintaining the flavor these may be my new favorite cookie. If you try adapting this recipe with great results PLEASE leave me a comment and let me know!

One last thing, Alton also gives directions on how to bake the dough as one large pan cookie which would be perfect for birthdays, anniversaries and parties. I would love to try baking it this way and then decorating with a little buttercream frosting!

I rate these cookies an 8
Only because I thought they were too greasy in my opinion, these would be at least a 9 for flavor and texture alone

Chocolate Chip Cookie #10 
Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food Cookbook

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (I only used 1/2 tsp and felt that was enough)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup un salted butter, melted and slightly cooled (I used salted butter, like always) **
2 cups chocolate chips (1 used 1 cup semi-sweet and 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees*.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the melted and cooled butter, sugars, egg yolks and vanilla until may-128combined. 

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour in the butter mixture and  fold the ingredients together just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and fold to combine. Do not overmix.
I chilled my dough for 2 hours because I always do, but Alton does not call for this step.

For individual cookies, use a spoon or a disher and dish out your cookies, 2 inches apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. *

Bake for 12-15 minutes (Mine were done in 12).
Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack or paper towel-lined counter top.

*As soon as you put the cookies or cookie cake into the oven, turn the temperature down to 350 degrees. Alton Brown swears by this initial temperature boost.

Alternate Option:
For a cookie cake, dump the dough into an ungreased pizza pan or whatever kind of pan you have and gently press down until the dough is evenly distributed around the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or light golden brown.

**UPDATE: 5/4/09:
I made these again, only this time I used only 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 TBS) and found the baked cookies to be less greasy without sacrificing the flavor. I did chill the dough overnight so that may help keep and enhance the flavor of these cookies. I highly recommend chilling the dough at least a few hours before baking.
I also allowed the cookies to cool on paper-towel lined cooling racks for about 5 minutes and then transferred them to a regular cooling rack to cool completley. I found the paper towels to help absorb any grease from the warm cookies while the regular cooling rack allowed the bottoms of the cookies to firm up alowing the edges to become crisp upon cooling achieving the texture I  desire.
All in all I would recommend this recipe and suggest you play around with butter amounts and cooking/cooling methods that suit your tastes and preferences. I can’t wait to make them again!

Butterscotch Rice Krispies Cookies

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One of my favorite treats is the Scotcharoo.. You know, those addicting Rice Krispies treats that pack a mouthwatering butterscoth flavor that keeps you coming back. I didn’t have Peanut Butter or enough Rice Krispies on hand to make a batch of Scotcharoos so I decided to make some cookies that called for Rice Krispies and incorporated that same great butterscotch flavor.  I used this recipe but adapted it a bit. 

The end result is a flavorful cookie with a crisp exterior and a chewy yet crispy interior. The flavor enhanced as they cooled and the Rice Krispies made sure the texture of the cookies was light and crisp.. The texture of these cookies is chewy with crisp little pops of the Rice Krispies in each bite. The combination of butterscotch chips and Rice Krispies is a winner in my book.

If you are looking for a cookie that is a little different from your usualy chocolate chip cookie, give these a try.  Next time I will substitute Peanut Butter for some of the butter and add some chocolate chips in addition to the butterscotch chips. I can’t wait to make these again and feel that these changes will push these babies over the edge into greatness. 

 I rate these cookies an 8

Buterscotch Rice Krispies Cookies
AKA Scotcharoo Cookies

1 1/4  cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unslated butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons hot water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1  cups Butterscotch chips
 In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each. Mix in hot water and vanilla. Add flour mixture, in two batches, beating just until combined – be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a wooden spoon, fold in butterscotch chips and Rice Krispies. Cover and refrigerate for 30 min. or night-out-105longer. 

Preheat oven to 375. Scoop out tablespoons of the dough and roll into balls. Place all balls on one baking sheet, and chill at least 30 min. Remove from fridge and place 12 balls on cookie sheet at a time. Bake until the middle looks just set and the edges begin to turn a light golden – about 8-12 minutes. Remove and let sit on the sheet for a minute. Move cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.

 While these cookies took a bit to make (with all the chilling time), they were well worth the work. Their small size means you get a lot of cookies with one batch of dough. The Butterscotch Chip and Rice Krispie combo is a winner!

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

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Let me start by saying how much I missed you guys while taking the month of March off from blogging. I received so many emails with recipes while I was gone that it was hard to decide. So many people suggested I make another cheesecake and offered up several recipes. Being the lover of cheesecake that I am, I decided to take them up on their suggestion. After careful consideration and looking at several recipes sent to me, I decided to make Dorie’s Tall and Creamy Cheesecake. I have had my eye on this cheesecake for months, ever since the Tuesdays with Dorie bloggers made it.

I  already have a tried and true cheesecake recipe that I love but wanting to step out of my comfort zone, I was excited to try Dorie’s recipe.  The batter comes together in less than 10 minutes but it does require over two hours bake and cooling time, in addition to that, it is best to allow the cheesecake to chill overnight before serving. I feel the taste and texture of a cheesecake only improves over time.  I baked it in the afternoon and allowed to chill for a day and a half before trying a slice.

Wow, the name describes this cheesecake perfectly. With 2lbs of cream cheese, heavy cream, sour cream and sugar, this dessert is not for the calorie-conscious, but let me tell you, it is so worth the time on the treadmill and a little slice is more than satisfying. The texture is creamy, smooth and rich. It is just what you would want in a cheesecake. The flavor, oh my that flavor!  I love the addition of sour cream (which my stand-by recipe does not have) to add a suble tang that excites your tastebuds and pairs beautifully with the sweetness of the crust (and any toppings you may add).

I used a water bath and had no problems with cracks except for a few minor ones around the edges. The edges also got a little more brown than what I would have liked for a clean presentation of the plain cheesecake. I was serving this by the slice so I added the toppings before serving which eliminated the presentation problem.

I would make this again, however I don’t know if this will be my go-to recipe. I really do love my old stand-by  and have never had problems with overbrowning or cracking of the edges with that one. Overall, I enjoyed this recipe and encourage you to try it, or at the very least check out the Tuesdays with Dorie bloggers who made it and drool over their pictures and descriptions.

I rate this recipe an 8

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake
 Dorie Greenspan

For the crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two*
               *I used 1 cup heavy cream and 1/3 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.

Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.

Place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

To make the cheesecake:
Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.

Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.

Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the spapril-09-116ringform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.

After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.

Serving:
Remove the sides of the springform pan— I use a hairdryer to do this (use the dryer to warm the sides of the pan and ever so slightly melt the edges of the cake)—and set the cake, still on the pan’s base, on a serving platter. The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.

Storing:
Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It’s best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.

Honey Sugar Cookies

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I have had a jar of honey in my pantry for about three months now. I picked a couple of jars up at a little market along with some fresh herbs. I love honey and usually eat it on toast or a bagel along with some peanut butter or drizzled on top of my oatmeal. After three months I was itching to try something new with the last jar in my pantry. I came across this recipe (looks like a great blog, glad I found it) and decided to adapt it a bit because I wanted a cookie similar to drop sugar cookies with a mild honey flavor. I did this by excluding the chocolate, increasing the flour and rolling the dough balls in sugar before baking.  I am very happy with the  way these cookies turned out!!

The dough came together incredibly quick and easy. I warmed my honey for a few seconds in the microwave to make it easier to pour and measure (be sure to spray your measuring cup with PAM before measuring so the honey slides right out). I did allow it to cool a bit before adding to the mixing bowl though. Let me tell ya, this dough tastes phenomenal.

The cookies baked up nice and golden with a slighlty crisp exterior that gives way to a chewy interior. You can smell mild notes of honey which tempt your senses.   The flavor of the honey is noticeable yet not overpowering. It compliments the overal flavor and texture of the cookie nicely. If you want a chewy cookie, these are best eaten a bit warm as they do firm up a bit after cooling (but still remain chewy if stored in a sealed container because of the honey). Either way they are a great cookie for those looking for something a little different than your usual cookies when your sweet tooth calls.

Next time I will add toasted nuts to the dough, maybe pecans or almonds. I think they will compliment the flavors of the dough nicely and create a phenomenal cookie!  I also want to make them with some Honey Buttercream or Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting sandwiched between two of these cookies!

I rate this cookie an 8

Honey Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar (for rolling)

Preheat oven to 300. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. jan-25-037
In a mixing bowl combine flour, soda, and salt. 
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the honey and cream well.
Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just encorporated. Finish by hand if needed. Do not over mix the dough.

Chill dough for 10 minutes.

Drop dough by rounded spoonfulls into bowl of sugar and roll to coat. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes until edged are golden and set. 
Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transfering to rack to cool completely.  

*I chilled the dough a bit before baking so the cookies did not spread too much. If you chill too long though the honey will harden and make the dough hard to scoop out.