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It’s been a while! (Double feature)

Hello, there!  If you have come here recently hoping to see something new, I apologize for disappointing you.  But hey!  There’s something new now, in fact, you’re reading it!

Let’s flash back to about a month ago.  My parents were coming to town on Memorial Day, and Tiffany was planning to cook up some ribs, so I wanted to have an equally tasty dessert to follow that up.  A cheesecake was in order.  Not a cheesecake with one of those hard, crumbly graham cracker crusts, though.  No, this one wanted a softer place to rest, perhaps a bed made of brownies?

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Yes, delightful.  The brownies are pretty-straightforward, home-made, no box recipe here.  The cheesecake is no-bake, very creamy, and jazzed up with some orange.  And, if you do like I did, and forget to cut back on the brownie recipe, you have a bonus pan of brownies to snack on as well!  I’ve got recipes for both the brownies and the cheesecake below.  They’re separate, so you can make these individually, or combine them into one glorious dessert masterpiece.  A note if you are combining them, don’t worry about the foil for the brownies, just butter up the spring form pan really well, and bake the brownies right in there.  Once they’ve baked, I use a skewer to perforate the top of the brownies, which lets the cheesecake adhere better to the brownie base (I don’t know how much this helps, but it seemed to improve it this past time).

Keep scrolling to get to the recipes.  Thanks again for coming back after we’ve been gone so long!

Super Awesome Brownies (consumable)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped up
  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I suggest moving a rack nearer to the top of the oven, the brownies seem to bake more evenly that way.  Depending on your oven, you could get away with doing this later, so your oven isn’t on for longer than it needs to be.
  2. Acquire a piece of aluminum foil that will be large enough to line a 9×13 cake pan. Butter the aluminum foil. I find it works best to lay the sheet of foil on the counter, and just rub a stick of butter on it. Not the whole stick! Just rub the butter until there’s a nice coat of butter all over the foil, then place the foil into the pan, buttered side up.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside for a bit.
  4. Grab a medium-sized bowl, glass works best, and put the cubed butter and the chopped chocolate in there. Now rest that over a pot of boiling water, be sure the bowl isn’t actually touching the water, as that could scorch the chocolate. Let the steam heat the bowl, thereby melting the chocolate and butter together, and stir it up so it’s all smooth. Then remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside to cool. Be sure to use pot holders or something when moving the hot bowl.
  5. A stand mixer works best for this next part. But a hand mixer will do just as well, or, if you’re feeling especially funky, you can just grab a whisk and do it yourself. The eggs, sugar, and vanilla need to get whisked together. Whisk them until the mixture is a pale yellow-ish color, and it’s a thick consistency.
  6. Now grab that chocolate/butter mixture from before, and pour it into the egg mixture. Be sure the chocolate is cool, as you don’t want the chocolate to start cooking the eggs. Unless you’d rather have sweetened chocolate scrambled eggs, rather than brownies, then, you know, do whatever. But that sounds gross. Once everything is completely mixed together, you’re good to stop whisking.
  7. Find the dry ingredients you mixed together way back when. Pour that into the eggy-chocolate mixture, and whisk that up until it’s all incorporated together. Transfer the batter into the foiled pan from earlier.
  8. Bake the brownies in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when a toothpick or skewer inserted into the middle comes back out clean. Be careful, it’s easy to over-bake them, and then they aren’t nearly as gooey as they should be.
  9. Now eat all the brownies. Don’t share them. Tell others to make their own brownies.  Making your own food is a valuable skill,  so they should be thankful you’re giving them this opportunity.(Or, be nice to your friends and family and share the brownies).
  10. NOTE! If you don’t want plain chocolate brownies, grab some of the fancy chocolate bars that have fruit added (I’ve used orange, blueberry, cranberry almond, and a few others) for a fancier treat with no extra work on your part. You could even use fruit juice in place of the vanilla to kick it up that extra notch.

 

Equally as Awesome Orange Cheesecake

Ingredients:

  • 1 package chocolate graham crackers (crushed up into crumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 1 package unflavored gelatin
  • 24 ounces of cream cheese (softened, just leave it sit out for about an hour)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (whipped up to have stiff peaks)
  • The zest of one orange
  • Chocolate shavings (use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate off a chocolate bar) or mini chocolate chips

Recipe:

  1. Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter until it is all an even consistency.  Press that into the bottom of an 9-inch spring form pan (you don’t need to grease or butter the pan for this crust).  Bake that at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then remove it from the oven and let it cool.
  2. Find yourself a little saucepan, and put the orange juice in it.  Sprinkle the packet of gelatin into the orange juice, and let them get to know each other for five minutes.  Then cook it over low heat until the gelatin is all dissolved into the orange juice.  Remove it from the heat and let it cool down for 10 minutes.
  3. While that’s coolin’ off, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until it’s nice and floofy.  Once you’ve got that well mixed, grab the orange juice/gelatin combo (provided it’s cool now (temperature wise, not like, ‘hip’ or ‘with-it’)), and gradually add that into the sugary cream cheese.  Let that chill for about 3 minutes, this seems like it might not actually do anything, I mean, it’s only 3 minutes.  But it lets the gelatin start to set up and get things firmed up.
  4. Now, gently fold in the whipped cream and orange zest.
  5. Transfer all that jazz into the pan with the crust we made earlier.  You’ll more than likely have to spoon it from one to the other, as it doesn’t pour very easily.
  6. Top it with the chocolate shavings or chocolate chips.
  7. Stick it in the fridge!  I normally make this a day ahead so it can chill overnight, and it gives the orange flavor from the zest a chance to really get in there and mingle among the rest of the cheesecake mixture.
  8. Once you’re ready to cut it up, you’ll want to use a knife to loosen the cheesecake from the edge of the pan.
  9. Slice it up and eat it!
  10. NOTE!  Don’t want orange, that’s fine, well a little weird, but workable.  I’ve made this with lime in place of the orange, you’ll just want 2 or 3 limes for zest, and if you top it with coconut, it is quite delicious.  Raspberry is also a good choice, use raspberry puree in place of the orange juice, and you don’t really have to worry about replacing the zest.
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Jalapeno Bizness

Ahhh, work potlucks.   You can take the easy way out, buy a couple bags of chips, grab some pre-packaged cupcakes from the grocery store’s bakery.  Or, you could spend most of your evening the night prior to the event making something to share.  This time we aren’t having a full-on potluck, just a nacho bar.  You typically don’t get sweets with nachos, though.  So I decided to bring an on-theme sweet snack for the day.

Enter:  Chocolate-covered, sweetened-cream cheese-filled jalapeno slices.  In two varieties, some flavored with honey, and some with pineapple.

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This is the type of thing I should have started the night before I wanted to make them.  Once you get the cream cheese into the jalapenos, you want to freeze it, so it’s easier to slice.  So if you can make get them in the freezer a day early, you’re a step ahead, and not waiting up late into the night for them to be ready to slice and dip.  Overall, it’s a pretty straight-forward recipe.

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Grab some jalapenos, some cream cheese (softened for a bit at room temperature works best), powdered sugar, and  dipping chocolate.  If you want to add flavor to the filling, you’ll need whatever you want for that.  In my case, I used about 3 oz of pineapple juice, and about 1/2 tbsp of honey.  My worry with the pineapple, juice, however, was that it would make the filling too runny, which causes problems when the dipping process begins.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Jalapenos
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar, depending on desired sweetness
  • Optional: Extra flavor for the filing
  • Chocolate for dipping

Makes about 4 dozen.

Instructions:

  1. Cut the tops off the peppers, and core them.  I just slice down the insides of the pepper to free the middle part with all the seeds, and that seems to do the trick well enough.  IMG_5566
  2. Mix up your filings.  I use about equal parts cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Ultimately, it goes by taste, if you want it sweeter, add more powdered sugar.  If you like the cream cheeese flavor, then use less, or none.  Personally, for this, I want it to be sweet.  This is when you’d add whatever additional flavor you’d want as well.  IMG_5574
  3. Fill ’em up!  Since my pineapple filling was on the runny side, I transferred it to a measuring cup with a pour spout on it, and just poured it into the peppers.  The honey filling, since it was thicker, I used a baggy, cut the corner off, and piped it in.  Once they’re full, pop ’em in the freezer until they’re frozen.
  4. Once frozen, remove the peppers, and slice them.  You’ll want to be sure you have a nice, sharp knife for this, as the peppers are pretty solid when frozen.  I slice them into about 1/4 inch thick slices, and lay them onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and put them back in the freezer while I prepare the chocolate.  (Note:  This is where I noticed that, yes, the pineapple juice did cause some issues.  Even after being in the freezer for about 3.5 hours, the filling was still on the runny side.  Luckily, it had thickened up enough that I could make it work, it was just a bit of a sloppy mess.  Had they been in the freezer overnight, I think the juice actually would have improved things, as it would have turned more into a solid.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  Moving on!)IMG_5600
  5. Melt the chocolate according to the instructions for whatever chocolate you have.  I like to use the Ghiradelli dipping chocolate, it’s simple and tastes great.
  6. This is the part of the recipe I’m still working out.  Dipping/coating these things.  Dipping doesn’t work well, as the filling doesn’t adhere to the pepper well, so it has a tendency to fall out and just get mixed into the chocolate.  So far, what’s worked best for me, is to use the back of a spoon to ‘paint’ a layer of chocolate over the top of the slices.  Then refreeze that for a few minutes.  Once that’s done, I dip each slice halfway into the chocolate, let that set, then go back and dip the other half.  They don’t come out as the prettiest things on the planet, but it works.  If you have a better idea, I’m all ears, leave a comment down below!
  7. Once that’s done, I keep them frozen or refrigerated until they are ready to be consumed.

There’s a lot of bugs still to be worked out in this recipe, but this is only the second time I’ve made these, and the first was two years ago.  If you have ideas about what could improve any of this, let us know in the comments.

I know this isn’t a snack for everyone.  Quite a few people wouldn’t even consider eating jalapenos and chocolate at the same time.  But that’s fine, it leaves more for the rest of us!

Thanks for reading!

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Cake or Cheesecake?

Why not both?

Most Sundays we get together with a few friends to play have some fun in our imaginations with a good ol’ tabletop RPG (we’re being pirates in 7th Sea right now).  Typically, this involves us making some sort of food.  If we’re hosting, it’ll be a main dish, but when we make the arduous journey to their place (it’s, maybe, 1.5 miles), we like to bring a snack, or side dish, or dessert.

Not long ago, we picked up a new bundt pan for 50% off.  What a deal!  I thought it was time to break it in, and am I glad I did.  While I can’t take credit for the recipe, I’ll take credit for googling it.  I knew I wanted to try a stuffed bundt cake, and this didn’t let me down.

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Not content with leaving the recipe alone, though, I wanted to kick up the cheesecake part a little bit.  My first instinct was to make a strawberry jam to swirl into it, and I was going to stick with that plan until we hit up the local farmer’s market.  There was a booth with a very friendly gal that let us taste a few samples, and after doing so, it was pretty clear some cherry preserves needed to go into this cake, not what would have been a lame attempt at strawberry jam by yours truly.

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My only regret is I should have used more.  The bites of cake when you get the cherry, it’s a delightful tartness to offset the richness of the dense chocolatey cake.  Those bites just didn’t happen enough.  Next time, they will.  Not that the bites without the cherry weren’t great, because they were.  It’s one of those instances where something awesome gets taken up another notch from one little addition.

As far as other modifications to the recipe, I omitted the espresso powder, simply because we didn’t have any, and I had to bake it for about 75 minutes.  I think adding a little cherry liqueur to the glaze would have been a welcome addition as well, but I thought of that too late to incorporate here.

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Part of what makes creating things fun and worthwhile is when you get to share those things with other people.  I don’t think I’d make nearly as many things as I do if I just kept them to myself (though I was tempted to do that with this cake, at the risk of suffering Tiffany’s wrath).  Luckily, when you bake something, it’s much easier to share the results with others.  They appreciate eating cake much more than they do anything I’ve ever tried to feed them that I’ve made from wood.