S’mores Cheesecake Bars

So a strange thing has started happening.  My former student’s prom pictures are popping up in my facebook news feed and…it makes me feel so old.  Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing.  It’s nice to be mature and independent, and I get to put on a big, poofy dress in a few months anyway, so I don’t really miss prom or high school life.

Going to Luke’s reunion was a reminder of our age as well.  I didn’t post yesterday because we decided to come home Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon so Luke had a day to relax before work.  We didn’t get back until really late, and well, I was tired.

But the reunion was nice.  We had a good time, and reconnected, or in my case just connected, with some awesome people.  Luke even got told what a lucky man he is (to have me) by a former classmate 🙂  I knew I was armcandy!

Before my ego swells uncontrollably, let’s move on to the foods.  S’mores are a traditional summer snack, but with no campfire in sight (although I’m contemplating using that baking spices scented candle.) I’m finding other ways of working the summer staple into our dessert rotation.

Enter the s’mores cheesecake bar.  A crumbly graham cracker crust and toasted marshmallows sandwiching a creamy chocolately cheesecake layer.  Let’s call them fancy s’mores.  Let’s call them super amazing s’mores.  I just hope they can power me through my first GRE practice test.

S’more Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from Sugar Plum

Makes one 8X8” pan

For the crust:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 6-7 graham crackers)
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 ounces semi sweet or dark chocolate, melted

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

melted chocolate for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until well combined.  Pat into the bottom of baking dish. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and set on wire rack to cool.

In another medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and marshmallow cream until fluffy – about 1 minute. Beat in cocoa powder, vanilla and eggs until combined.  Stir in melted chocolate until combined. Pour filling over crust, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set, and no longer wobbly. Remove from oven.

Preheat oven broiler. Evenly top cheesecake with mini marshmallows and broil for about 10-20 seconds until marshmallows start to brown. Cool on a wire rack and drizzle with additional melted chocolate, if desired. Place in the refrigerator or freezer until well chilled, about an hour or two, and enjoy.

Advertisements

Nutella Cheesecake Pumpkin Muffins

It’s been kind of hot in MA the last few days.  And I am not a summer person.  Especially not in an apartment without air conditioning.

The only up side is I get to see a lot of this.

Izzy is lying down on her side and belly more often to cool off.  There’s nothing to make me forget that my bare legs are sticking together than a little black bunny flopping over and spreading out on her little paws.

Luckily, or not so luckily, the heat streak is ending today.  I’m happy about it.  As cute as Izzy is, I’d rather not start sweating while kneading bagel dough or checking on roasted potatoes.

Or making muffins.  I loooooove muffins.  I love them even more when they have a secret filling.

And if that secret filling involves nutella, I’ll eat so many I won’t care about that huge blister on my big toe I got from walking too far in flip flops.  Damn hot weather shoes.

But muffins make it all better.  I know it’s not pumpkin season, but these guys are delicious any time of year.

Nutella Cheesecake Filled Pumpkin Muffins

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Makes about 20 muffins

For the muffins:

4 large eggs

1-½ cup sugar

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree

1-½ cup vegetable oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

For the cheesecake filling:

8 oz cream cheese, softened

½ cup Nutella

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs slightly. Add in sugar, pumpkin and oil and beat thoroughly. Add in remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, Nutella and egg until smooth.

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin, or place lines in the cups. Place about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin batter into each liner, then 1 tablespoon of Nutella batter, then top with 2 more tablespoons of pumpkin batter. Bake for 18-22 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Remove from muffin tin and enjoy!


Peanut Butter Cheesecake Semifreddo

No one wants to slave over a hot oven when the weather’s lovely and the birds are chirping.  I mean, sometimes it’s unavoidable and luckily for me our apartment doesn’t get much sunlight so it tends to be cooler than hotter.  Still, no bake desserts are great and can really come in handy.

This dessert is one hell of a doozy, and I don’t say that lightly.  I had never made a semifreddo before, which means “half frozen,” so the dessert is kind of like an ice cream cake.

An ice cream cake with a sweet oat crust and peanut crust, peanut butter cheesecake layer and swirled with hot fudge sauce.

Yeah.  You can wipe the drool off your keyboard now.  This is a pretty involved recipe, so make sure you have the time it requires, including time in the freezer to set.

But trust me, the result is incredibly worthwhile and will impress anyone you serve it to.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Semifreddo

Adapted from Scientifically Sweet

Makes one 8X8” pan

For the crust:

1 cup old fashioned oats (not instant)

¼ cup unsalted peanuts

2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter

For the filling:

2 large eggs

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar

8oz cream cheese, softened

¼ cup smooth peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

¾ cup heavy cream

1 recipe Hot Fudge Sauce (recipe to follow)

To make the crust, spread oats in an even layer in a large deep frying pan over medium low heat and toast until very lightly golden and smells nutty, about 5 minutes.  Shake the pan frequently to prevent burning.  Transfer oats to the bowl of a food processor and set aside.

Place peanuts in the same frying pan and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, shaking the pan frequently, about 5 minutes.  Transfer peanuts to the bowl of the food processor with the oats and pulse several times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Pour the mixture into a small bowl and stir in the brown sugar.  In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt together butter and peanut butter until smooth.  Pour this over the oat mixture and stir it in until evenly combined.  Use your fingertips to blend it together so that the oats are evenly coated with the butter mixture.  Pour it into an 8×8” glass baking dish and press it evenly into the bottom.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together eggs and two-thirds of the sugar until blended.  Place the bowl over a pot with ½ inch of simmering water and whisk vigorously non-stop until thickened and frothy.  The mixture should register at least 162 degrees F on an instant read thermometer to safely cook the eggs.  Remove bowl from over the simmering water.  Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture until cool, thick and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with remaining sugar until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in peanut butter, vanilla, and salt until well incorporated.  Gradually add the chilled egg mixture in two parts until smooth.  Beat until light and fluffy.  It should resemble softly whipped cream.  Refrigerate this mixture for 20 minutes.

When ready, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks using a hand mixer on medium speed.  Add the cream all at once to the bowl with the cream cheese mixture and fold it in very gently using a wide rubber spatula until evenly combined.  Pour it over the crust in the glass dish and spread it out evenly.  Spoon room temperature hot fudge sauce randomly over the surface (you will only need about half the recipe) and use a butter knife to swirl it in.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 4 hours or overnight.  Transfer to the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving and cut with a hot dry knife.  Store leftovers in the freezer.

Hot Fudge Sauce

 Makes about 1 cup

 ½ cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp water

3 Tbsp corn syrup

2 Tbsp packed brown sugar

1/8 tsp salt

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

½ tsp vanilla extract

In a 1-quart heavy bottomed saucepan, combine cream, water, corn syrup, brown sugar and salt over medium low heat.  Bring it to a simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved.  Remove pan from heat and add chopped chocolate.  Let the mixture stand, undisturbed, for 2 minutes and then stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

Return pan to the stove and bring the chocolate sauce to a gentle boil over medium low heat, stirring constantly.  When it reduces to a boil, continue to cook for 3 minutes.  Make sure to stir constantly and get to the bottom edges of the pan as the chocolate can burn easily.  The mixture will be thick and luscious.

Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Let cool about 15 minutes.  Store leftovers in a mason jar in the refrigerator.  Reheat gently in a hot water bath for reuse.  I stirred the leftover sauce into an ice cream recipe.


Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I am feeling good.  Yesterday I brought up my running score with pudding, making to a 2-2 tie, my competitor being pudding itself. It wins whenever I fail to create a successful pudding.  But I won again (and will post about it soon).  Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of it.

I also unclogged our bathroom sink using vinegar and baking soda.  It was very middle-school-science-experiment-esque.  Nothing like beating clogged sinks to raise the old self-esteem.

So I thought I deserved an awesome treat to round out an awesome day.  Pssssh, yeah, because I totally need an excuse to bake something.

Not.  Anyway, I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a while, and thought this occasion was worthy of such greatness.

And I mean greatness.  Cookie dough + cheesecake filling = an incredibly happy mouth.  I could kiss the person who developed this recipe…or maybe just give them a really emphatic high five.

Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Adapted from Heat Oven to 350

Makes a 9X13” pan (I halved this recipe)

For the chocolate chip cookie layer:

 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 large egg

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For the cheesecake layer:

 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, room temp

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, vanilla, salt and vinegar. Beat in the egg, then the baking soda and flour. Stir in the chocolate chips. Divide the dough into two equal portions and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl cream the cream cheese with the sugar until thoroughly combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a greased 9×13 pan (or 8X8 if you’re halving), spread 1/2 of the cookie dough mixture evenly across the bottom.  I found this easiest to do with my bare hands, as long as I wetted them first.  Spread the cream cheese mixture on the top of the cookie dough. With the remaining cookie dough, flatten chunks of dough between your hands into discs, and then place on top of the cream cheese mixture to make a patchwork of cookie dough.  It’s ok if the cheesecake part isn’t completely covered.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is brown and cooked through. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator.

 

 

 


Red Velvet Cheesecake Cookies

According to Luke, he has never been without a date on Valentine’s Day.  We first met in January a few year back, and even though I didn’t know about his streak at the time, I guess I was destined to be his next Valentine.  It was our second date actually, the first being one he tricked me into going on.

I’ll tell that story later.  We went to one of my favorite restaurants, a wonderful Thai joint called Typhoon (if you ever find yourself in central CT and need a bite to eat, I’d highly recommend them) and ate delicious noodles while listening to live harp music.

He also got me flowers.  We easily established that Luke is the hopeless romantic in our relationship, which works well, as I think two would make it a bit crowded.  We haven’t decided whether we’ll be eating in or out this V-Day, but lucky me, I got a present early.

They’re just like the kind I bought in Paris, amazingly smooth and buttery.  Needless to say, I’m thrilled.

There are many red/pink velvet recipes floating around the Internet at the moment, and I wanted to get in on the fun.  When I first saw these cookies, the recipe called for boxed cake mix.  I avoid mixes if at all possible, so I went searching for a from scratch recipe.

And oh. my. goodness.  Definitely one of the best batches of cookies I’ve ever made.  The cookies are soft, but slightly crisp around the edges, and the cheesecake filling adds just the right amount of creaminess to the middle of your big cookie bite.

Luke had these all to himself while I visited my grandma, lucky him.  I’d whip up another batch on V-Day, but there’s another type of cookie that has Luke enamored more, which of course I’ll share in a bit.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cookies

Adapted from Babble

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon natural red food coloring
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the cheesecake filling, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Scoop out teaspoons of the filling onto a plate lined with wax paper and put it in the freezer for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease/line two baking sheets. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add in egg and beat well. Beat in vanilla and red food coloring. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet.

Take a golf ball sized piece of dough and flatten it in your palm.  Place one of the cream cheese balls in the middle, then fold the cookie dough around it, making sure it is covered completely.  Place on prepared cookie sheet.  Repeat until all the cookie dough is gone.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes until centers appear set. Allow to cool slightly on baking sheet. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

Our meeting with the catering rep went extremely well.  We discussed our vision for the food at our wedding, as it’s obviously very important to me that our guests are fully sated with happy memories and happy bellies at the end of the night.  The next step of the process is setting up a taste testing.  You can imagine how excited I am for that!

So about these awesome bars.  If you’re going to make the dulce de leche from scratch (which is what I do since I have yet to find some at a supermarket near me), you’re going to want to make it well in advance, as it takes about 8 hours to cook and cool.  I would recommend making it the day before and letting it chill in the fridge overnight.

Cooking my dulce de leche.

Sweet!

Once that’s done, you’re ready to make these beauties.  I love cheesecake but have yet to have an occasion large enough, or a large enough self-justification to make one, so I go the next best thing.  Cheesecake bars: cheesecake’s awesome little brother.

You get the taste and texture of cheesecake without the worry of what to do with the other 3 pounds of baked cream cheese.  I am so making cheesecake for my birthday this year.  That’s a large piece of justification, right?

Anyway, these bars start with a baked graham cracker crust layer, next comes the dulce de leche kissed cheesecake layer, and finally, a topping layer of dulce de leche and sea salt.

Sea salt?  Yes, sea salt.  This dessert is rich and sweet, and the sea salt helps balance those flavors so it’s not so overwhelming.  Sea salt is also great on chocolate chip cookies by the way.

Luke thought these guys were a little too sweet for his liking, so I got them all to myself.  I decided to send some to work with him, you know, share the wealth.  Maybe you’ll share yours too.  But don’t worry, I won’t judge you if you don’t.  They are pretty darn tasty after all.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from The Merlin Menu

(I halved the recipe and put it in an 8X8 pan)

Crust

2 1/4 cups graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 tablespoons melted butter

Filling
3 packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup dulce de leche (see recipe below)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Glaze
2/3 cup dulce de leche
3 tablespoons heavy cream
sea salt or fleur de sel

Combine the crust ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Press into lightly greased (spray Pam is fine) 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool.

In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese and sugar until fully blended. Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add dulce de leche and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Pour and scrape over crust and spread evenly all the way to the edges of the pan. Bake at 350 for 38 to 42 minutes until filling is puffed, browning, and starting to crack. Remove and let cool.

Heat glaze, combine and spread over baked cream cheese and sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate for an hour.

Make sure not to overdo the salt.  Just a little sprinkling will do.

Dulce de Leche

1-2 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk

Fill a medium size saucepan water until when the can(s) are inserted, they are mostly covered.  Remove labeling from the can.

Bring the water to a rapid boil, then lower the heat until the water is at a gentle boil.  Insert the can(s) into the water.  Make sure to replenish water that is evaporating off every ½ hour or so.  Adding another cup each time should be good.  After 3 -3½ hours turn off the heat and let the water cool.  Do not remove the cans until the water is just warm.

Remove the can(s) from the water and let sit for 30 mins.  Open with a can opener and behold the sweet glory.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  Extra dulce de leche will stay good for a few weeks and tastes good on practically everything.


Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars

Today marks my first annual Christmas cookie-baking marathon!  (hopefully)  Well, technically I’ll be baking both tomorrow and Saturday…can’t make everything Saturday morning.  I asked Luke’s family if I could bring dessert to their Christmas Eve party, and my offering of a cookie platter was accepted.  I’m so excited!  I’ve had the cookie recipes picked out for a week and am chomping at the bit to make them.  I get that way whenever I plan to bake something, or do things in general.  I’m always anxious to get started.

Especially to get started on a new holiday tradition.  This one though, will have a logical origin.  Unlike those of my past.  I asked my mother about where the pickle tradition came from…and she didn’t know either.  I guess it’ll just remain a mystery.  Baking Christmas cookies is always a logical tradition.  Heck, you don’t need a reason to make cookies ever.  Cookies in themselves are reason enough to make more cookies.  But making four different kinds might need a tiny bit of justification…just a smidgeon.  Which is that I get to keep all the cookies that don’t fit on the platter.  Score!

These bars need no justification at all.  Do you like apples?  Do you like cheesecake?  Is making an actual cheesecake a little excessive to justify at the moment? If you answered yes to these questions, you might be me, or at least, a very awesome person who would very much enjoy these bars.  A layer of shortbread combined with a layer of cheesecake filling topped with cinnamon apples and a buttery crumb topping, how could you resist?  Well, I couldn’t, and I was very glad to have done so.

Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars

Adpated from Zoom Yummy

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

8oz cream cheese (1 package) , softened

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 large apple

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ cup old fashioned oats

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup (half a stick) of butter, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a small bowl, combine the first two ingredients, then cut in butter with a fork, or your fingers, until the mixture is crumbly.  Press the dough evenly into the bottom of a greased square 8” baking dish.  Bake for 15 mins, or until lightly browned.  Let cool when finished.

While the dough is baking, make the cheesecake layer.  In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add the egg, then stir to combine. Finally, add the vanilla and stir to combine.  To not overmix the batter, as that could lead to excess air incorporation, which could cause cracking.

Pour the mixture over the warm crust.  Peel and dice the apple.  (I did this step first.)  Mix with cinnamon and sugar, then covered the cream cheese layer with the apple chunks.

In another small bowl, combine the oats, sugar and flour.  Cut in butter with fork or fingers until the mixture is crumbly.  Spoon over the apples.  Bakes for 30 minutes, turning the temperature down to 300 for the last five minutes.  Cool on wire rack, then cut into bars.  Store bars in the refrigerator.