Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Daring Bakers April '09 Challenge...

When I read that this month's challenge was going to be CHEESECAKE!! I was so excited that I had to make it within the week. Since my sisters had spring break during this month, I enlisted their help to make the cake. They really enjoyed helping me in the kitchen and this challenge became a truly family affair. My mom is a huge fan of tiramisu, thus for this challenge I decided to make a tiramisu version of Abby's Infamous Cheesecake... my alterations to the original recipe will be in red.

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Ladyfinger Layer:
1 box of ladyfingers
1 cup fresh espresso, cooled to room temperature

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream (1 cup mascarpone cheese)
1 tbsp. lemon juice (omitted)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean) (1 tbsp rum extract)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (2 tbsp kahlua)

1/4 cup cocoa powder
Chocolate swirls

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream (mascarpone), vanilla (rum extract), lemon juice (omitted), and alcohol (Kahlua) and blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

4. Prepare ladyfinger layer by placing cooled espresso in a shallow bowl. Working quickly, dip ladyfingers one at a time in the espresso for only about 7seconds. Then place the soaked ladyfinger in the pan (on top of the prepared crust layer). Continue with the remaining ladyfingers until the bottom of the pan is covered in an even layer of ladyfingers. Note: If you are using a circular cake pan, you may have to "cut"/break some of the ladyfingers to fit in the pan.

5. Pour cream cheese batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

6. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, decorate by dusting it with cocoa powder and arranging chocolate swirls on top. Now it is ready to slice and serve!

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

My sisters really enjoyed working with me on this challenge. It was a lot of fun, and it was great to see them so excited to eat something that they helped make! We all enjoyed licking the bowl/spoons/spatulas/fingers after putting the cheesecake in the oven... that is always one of the highlights about baking. And since we couldn't all finish the whole cake in one night, we froze some of it to eat the next day... OMG! Frozen cheesecake is simply divine! The only alteration I would make to my Tiramisu Cheesecake would be to possibly make a second layer of lady fingers (i.e. layer the cheesecake: crust, ladyfingers, cream cheese, ladyfingers, cream cheese). I found that while I really enjoyed the bottom ladyfinger-layer, there simply was not enough of it, and you could barely distinguish it from the crust layer (I guess the heavy cream cheese batter kind of squished it flat :P)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Butterscoth Cereal Bars

They're super easy and super tasty... I looooove these cereal bars. I don't quite know why, but for some reason I woke up this morning craving not cereal + milk but cereal bar sweets. I riffled through my pantry looking for some marshmallows, but to no avail. So I decided to try out this cereal-bar recipe that my friend gave to me, which didn't require marshmallows. The original recipe calls for peanut-chippers (the Reese's chips that look like chocolate chips), but since that would mean that my sister could enjoy the cereal bars I decided to use butterscotch chips instead. And now... on with the recipe!

Butterscotch Cereal Bars

- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup butterscotch chips
- 6 cups of your favorite cereal (I used half Cheerios and half Nesquik)
- Melted chocolate, to drizzle (optional)

1.Heat butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves.
2. Stir in the butterscotch chips until they are fully melted. Remove mixture from heat and add in the cereal, mixing well.
3. Press the cereal mixture into a prepared 9x13-inch pan. Let rest at room temperature and then slice, drizzle with melted chocolate and enjoy!

These bars were a wonderful breakfast treat... although I did end up enjoying them for a mid-morning snack as well. Apparently they are really sweet, but since my taste-buds are sort of adapted to anything super-sweet I couldn't really tell (that's not good is it??!! :P) My sisters really enjoyed eating the bars while they were still slightly warm and gooey, but I preferred them more crunchy. I may try making this recipe with peanut-butter chips, if I bring this recipe to a potluck or something... mmmm, I can just taste it now!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chocolate Pudding Cake

I just ran the Sun Run for the second year in a row... and I think my time was much better than last years. Last year I joined the "purple" group of runners expecting to finish the race in an hour and fifteen minutes, but this year I decided to join the "green" group, as I anticipated completing the race under an hour. I pleasantly surprised myself by finishing the 10k in 50minutes even!! Yay me :) This year was the 25th anniversary of the Sun Run, but strangely enough there were fewer runners at this years event than there were last year!? Go figure. But even though there were fewer than last year, there were still around 50,000 participants registered to run!

So, to treat myself and my dad (who decided that he'd join me on the Sun Run for a second time! Yay dad!) for a job well done, I decided to whip up something warm, comforting, chocolaty and gooey... chocolate pudding cake!

Chocolate Pudding Cake


1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
1. For Pudding: in a saucepan, heat the water with chocolate chips until the chocolate chips melt. In a bowl, stir the brown sugar and four tablespoons of cocoa together. Add brown sugar-cocoa mixture to the saucepan and stir until mixed. Remove from heat and add the vanilla
2. For the Cake: mix flour, granulated sugar, four tablespoons cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add milk and vegetable oil and mix until combined. Scrape batter into an un-greased 9x9 baking pan.

3. Pour hot pudding mixture over batter. Place pan in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack.

4. Serve pudding-cake hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

The cake was amazing, even the cooled down pieces (as pictured directly above) were still slightly "gooey" and chewy the next day. But of course, the best part was eating the cake while it was still piping hot, fresh from the oven... with a scoop of my favorite ice-cream (rainbow flavor!). This recipe is definitely a keeper and I will be making this recipe a staple in our house-hold... not only for a post-run snack, but for anytime I want chocolate cake... because it's just so simple to make!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Peach Cakes

I've had a couple of Dole ready-to-eat canned peaches hanging around my pantry, and nobody in my family is a huge fan of the syrup-drenched mushy fruits. Actually, I'm not even sure where these canned peaches came from... my sisters must have gotten it from school friends or something?!? Anyways, I was thinking of a way that I could use up these fruits so that everyone would eat them and I could clear up some space in my pantry for some more necessary baking ingredients (not quite sure what I'd consider most necessary in the kitchen?). So, I came up with this simple recipe for Peach Cakes... it's almost like a cobbler/slump-cake but with a tasty, moist, scone-like topping versus a crumbly biscuit.

Peach Cake

Ingredients for Peach Filling:
3 cans of the ready-to-eat, small peach cans (drained of half the liquid)
2 tsp corn starch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp brown sugar

1. In a small bowl, combine the peaches with the halved-liquid with the cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Evenly distribute this mixture into 4 ramekins until they are 1/2 to 2/3 full of fruit.
2. Make the topping.

Ingredients for Topping:
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1. In a separate bowl, mix butter, milk and egg.
2. Add in the sugar and stir.
3. Combine the dry ingredients, then add them to the wet ingredients. Stir until well combined.
4. Using an ice-cream scooper, scoop a portion of the mixture and place on top of the peach mixture in the ramekins. Cover the fruits fully with the topping.
Optional: Sprinkle 1 tbsp sugar on top of the topping, and before baking. This will give the top layer a nice crunch.
5. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the top is golden brown.

Well, my plan worked and the peaches were used up. My sisters came home from school and actually ate their fruits! Yeah! Hmmm... now all I have to do is find that "necessary ingredient" to fill my pantry??

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Mincemeat Bars

I know it's not the season for mincemeat, but hey... when they're in bar-form and super tasty, anyone will gobble them up even though it's not Christmas. But I have some very good reasons for making these mincemeat bars...

Reason #1: it was snowing today (I know!! April 1st does not equal snow in a logical world :P) so I thought I may as well take advantage of the frigid weather and make some piping hot baked goodies.
Reason #2: since it's not mincemeat season Save-on-Foods was clearing out all their mincemeat (yup, I can't resist a great deal)
Reason #3: I love, love, love mincemeat... it's so good by itself or spread on toast (I know, I'm strange)

Anyways, I'll stop trying to justify my baking escapades and give you the recipe!

Mincemeat Bars
Recipe Adapted from TheBakingPan.com
Yields 24 bars

- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
- 1/2 tsp cloves, ground
- 1/2 tsp allspice, ground
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 1/2 tsp rum extract
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup mincemeat
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup pine-nuts (pecans or walnuts can be substituted)
- powdered sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13x9-inch baking pan (Note: I lined the pan with aluminum foil, leaving some over-hang on the sides of the tray. This provides "handles" for easy removal of the bars when they're finished baking)
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside
3. In a separate bowl, combine egg, butter, brown sugar and molasses; mix well. Add in the rum and vanilla extract and mix; add in mincemeat, raisins and pine-nuts, continue mixing until well incorporated.
4. Pour the batter into the pan, and spread into an even layer. Bake in oven for 25-30 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
5. Allow the bars to cool until warm, at room temperature; then, use a sifter to dust the bars with powdered sugar. Allow them to cool fully and then slice into 2 inch squares.

When spreading the batter into the pan, I was a bit worried that I wouldn't have enough. It looked like the batter was spread-out fairly thin and that the bars wouldn't be thick enough, but thankfully they rose to almost triple their height in the oven. In the end these bars were great! They tasted just like gingerbread, with mincemeat and pine-nuts studded throughout! I was so impressed that the rest of my family enjoyed it, even though they're not fans of mincemeat... I guess it was that good.