Monday, December 31, 2012

New York Cheesecake

I honestly can't believe that 2012 is coming to an end. Wasn't it just Summer?

But as with anything, I'm ready for the possibility of new beginnings. I have to think that 2013 will offer some kind of surprises, let's just hope they're good.

What I miss the MOST about New Years Eve tho? Getting all dressed up in sparkly attire and drinking 1 too many glasses of champagne (OK, more like 5 too many). This year I'm making Mexican Pizzas, snuggling with my boys and gluing my eyes open in hopes I'll see midnight.

It's probably too late to make this Cheesecake for your party tonight but trust me, make it anyways. I had planned to make a strawberry sauce to top it, but half of the cheesecake was gone before I even pulled them out of the fridge (it's THAT good).

Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2013...

(Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the Crust:
15 Original flavored graham crackers, made into crumbs using your food processor
1 stick salted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar

 Cheesecake Filling:
5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
Zest of a small orange
Zest of a small lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

Preheat oven to 500 degrees and grease a 9-inch spring-form pan (a smaller spring-form is fine here if you are looking for a taller cheesecake).

In a large bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar. Stirring until the crumbs are moist. Press into the bottom and up the sides of your pan (I used a cup to help evenly press).

Place in your preheated oven for 2-3 minutes, just to set up. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla until smooth. Make sure to scrape down the sides when needed. Add in the vanilla and mix to incorporate. Add in the eggs, one at a time and continue scraping down the sides. Then add in the egg yolks and mix until smooth.

Place the spring form pan on a large cookie sheet and pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake in the 500 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, carefully watching so the top does not get too brown. As soon as it is lightly browned, lower the oven temp to 200 degrees and bake until the edges are set yet the middle is still slightly jiggly, this takes about an hour more.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack, remove the sides of the spring-form pan, cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and cool in the fridge until set, a minimum of 6 hours.

Serve plain or enjoy with a berry sauce.

I love the way the lemon and orange zest come through in the cheesecake!

Happy New Years Eve everyone... Get in those Midnight kisses! (The champagne masks the cheesecake breath) :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Homemade Bear Claws with Honey Glaze (100th blog post!)

Merry Christmas Everyone! I'm going to chalk it up and say this is probably one of THE best Christmases I've had!

My boys are going through the Spider-Man phase, which makes shopping a lot easier for Santa, but watching how THANKFUL they were for all of their presents was the best gift I could ask for!

The second best gift? These Bear claws... Oh. Em. Gee.

I really don't think I imagined just how delicious they would be... They have a croissant-like dough, with almond paste filling and a honey glaze... are you sold yet? Good, because I don't know what else I could do to change your mind.

There will be lots of pictures in this blog so you can see the steps. I actually made the dough on Sunday, Monday I formed the Bear Claws and today just popped them in the oven. Taking a couple of days for each stepped really helped me NOT feel overwhelmed, but if you have a lot of time in the day, try these all at wont regret it!

For the Pastry Dough:
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
3 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar

  1. Add flour to the bowl of your food processor. Cut the butter into 1/4 inch slices and add to the flour. Pulse until the butter is about the size of kidney beans. 
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve your yeast in the warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes (or until bubbly). Stir in the cream, salt, eggs and sugar. Turn your butter/flour mixture into the large bowl that holds the cream mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Using your hands, form a ball out of the dough and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or up to 4 days. 
  3. Turn the dough ball out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust the top with flour. Pound dough with a rolling pin.

Roll out the dough to form a 16x20-inch rectangle. Fold the rectangle into thirds.

(Can you see the large pieces of butter?)

Turn your folded dough and roll out, again, to a 16x20-inch rectangle. Fold again into thirds. Place your folded dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you get started on the filling. 

Cinnamon Filling:
1 egg white
1-8 oz can of Almond Paste (I used Solo brand)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. In a small bowl, beat all of the ingredients with an electric mixer until very smooth. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

1 egg, beaten
Sliced Almonds
Turbinado Sugar

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to this time make a 16x18-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips.

Remove filling from the fridge and spread 3 Tablespoons of filling down the center of each strip.

Roll each strip from the long side, jelly-roll style, and place seam side down. Roll lightly to seal the edges.

The rolls will take on a more rectangular shape. Cut each strip into 4-6" pieces, depending on how large you want your Claws to be, mine were 6-inches. Cut 3-5 slits for the "toes" and place the pieces on to a baking sheet covered with parchment, curving them slightly. By cutting them into 6-inch pieces, I got exactly 12 Bear Claws. Smaller ones will of course produce more.

Allow claws to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes or until puffy. At this point you can cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed (if you decide to refrigerate them, let them stand at room temp until puffy).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the bear claws with the beaten egg, place a sliced almond on each bear "toe" and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. 

If making 4-inch claws, bake for 5-8 minutes and for the 6-inch claws bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden in color. Let cool slightly on wire racks.

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons Honey
2 Tablespoons milk

  1. Stir together the ingredients until smooth, add more or less                                                                                                                                                            milk/sugar to your desired consistency (you want a slightly runny glaze).
  2. Drizzle over slightly cooled pastries.

These pastries are best enjoyed warm but oh my WORD are they amazing any time! Oh, and by the way, this is my 100th blog post! I can't believe it, I am so thankful for the love and support my little blog has received! Thank you everyone :)

Recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes... Check out her blog AND book, not only is she an amazing bake-tress but her pictures are to die for!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Banana Coffee Cake

In light of Friday's events, I am going to keep this short and sweet. Also, because I can't seem to break away from holding my boys for longer than 3 minutes...

Only 9 days left until Christmas now! And just in case you still haven't decided what to make for breakfast for the little ones (and Santa!) here is a great idea.

Everything comes together fairly quickly and you could even throw everything together and toss it in the fridge Christmas Eve and simply bake it in the morning. Whatever your floats your boat.

Oh and also... Would you take a second and follow my blog on Instagram? I'm just starting out, so there are only a few pictures up, but I will add more... promise. Here is the link:

Happy Sunday everyone. Make sure to hold your kids close this week (and every week). Love you all!

For the Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed banana (about 2 large)
1/2 cup whole milk

For the Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons cold butter in chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9" round cake pan.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs in, one at a time. Mix in the vanilla and mashed bananas until well blended.
Add the flour mixture into the butter-banana mixture, alternating with the milk. Make sure you end with the flour mixture. Beat until smooth and pour into the prepared pan.

For the topping, combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut in the butter until crumbly (I like larger pieces of butter here). Sprinkle the topping over your cake batter and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy! (Is it bad that I turn into Gwen Stefani every-time I spell bananas!?)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Blackberry Macaroons


Ginger this, peppermint that, ugh... I needed a break....

I honestly haven't made macaroons since I was 10 years old. 

And I bet even then they were amazing (because I like to toot my own horn!). 

But these? These cookies right here...They take the cake. Or cookie. 

The chewy coconut with dark chocolate top and tart berry in the middle.... Amazing!

Make these for your cookie exchange and for yourself... Trust me!

For the Macaroon:
(makes 12 cookies)
4 large egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 blackberries

Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large, heat proof bowl, combine the macaroon ingredients and stir. Place a pot of water, 2 inches high, over medium low heat and bring to a low simmer. Place your bowl over the water and stir until the Macaroon ingredients are thickened and hot to the touch. Around 7-9 minutes. You want the mixture to stand up on its own when placed on a cookie sheet without pooling. 

Take a tablespoon of the macaroon dough and make a well in the middle. Place the blackberry in the well and cover with another tablespoon of dough . Place cookie mound on a prepared baking sheet. Continue doing this until all the dough is used.

Bake cookies for 13-15 minutes or until set and golden around the edges and tops.

Let cool completely on wire rack.

In a microwave safe bowl combine the chocolate chips and butter for the ganache. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir then another 15 seconds until completely melted. Slowly add in the heavy cream, stirring until glossy and smooth (this is about a tablespoon of cream). 

Dunk the tops of the cooled macaroons into your chocolate and cool until hardened.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Peppermint Truffles

It's peppermint season!

But I have to admit... I think mint is gross. I can't stand super minty toothpaste or breath-mints. The point where you feel like your mouth is frozen, I'll pass.

But it's that touch of mint that I absolutely love. I'll shovel those little butter mints in my mouth like there's no tomorrow. It's that little kiss that cools your throat and tickles your taste buds.

These truffles provide just that. There is no peppermint extract just the delicious crunch of peppermint Andes. YUM.

I should have made them smaller, as I only got about 16 truffles, but I obviously have size issues...

You will need:
12 ounces chocolate (I used semi-sweet but you can vary these from bittersweet to white chocolate if you prefer)
8 Tablespoons heavy cream
Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips

Melt your chocolate and heavy cream either in a double broiler, or in the microwave. If you choose the microwave method then heat, on high, for 1 minute. Stir, and continue cooking in 15 second intervals until all of the chocolate is melted and heavy cream is completely incorporated.

Pour your chocolate mixture into a lightly greased loaf pan or baking dish and cover the top with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours.

Let the truffle mixture come to room temperature for 5 minutes. During this time, slightly chop up your Andes Peppermint Crunch and place in a small bowl.

Now, using a melon baller or tablespoon, scoop the chocolate mixture and roll into a ball with your hands. The warmth from your hands should melt the chocolate slightly, making it easy to roll. Drop the truffles into your Peppermint Crunch and roll around, then roll again in your hand gently to push the chips into the truffle.

Place on to a baking sheet. Continue this process until all of your truffles are complete.

Let chill until ready to serve.

The pretty gold wrappers are from Wilton and make the perfect addition to give as gifts.

Seasons Greetings everyone!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ornament Wreath

Christmas is in 24 days people...TWENTY-FOUR.

Is anyone finished with their Christmas shopping yet? Oh you are? Please don't tell me then, you do-gooder-shop-in-September types freak me out.

Just kidding, I'm just jealous.

This wreath though, would make a great host/hostess gift and can be made with any color ornaments. This one though, comes straight from the Dollar Tree.

Grand total you ask? 11 whopping dollars! And only because I had to buy all of the ornaments. Oh how I love a steal...

You Will Need:
-You need about 80 various sized Ornaments in total (I bought 4 packages of 12 piece ornaments and 6 packs of 5 piece)
-A Wire Hanger ("NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!")
-2 inch wide decorative ribbon
-Your handy dandy glue gun

And patience...

I should have photographed the process more so bear with me.

Unhook your wire hanger by untwisting directly under the hook and shape the hanger into a circle form. I bent and shaped mine for a little while to get it even.

Glue the top hooks on the ornament to the ball, when necessary, as you don't want them to come loose.

Now start stringing each ornament, varying the direction until your wreath is full. Don't stress at first if the ornaments just hang there, the more you place the tighter it will get (make sure the ornaments are as close together as possible)! Also, it is important to change the size to fill in the gaps. Once your wreath is full, re-twist the top of the hanger together and please, bust out your pliers if you need to. 

To hide the hanger hook (uhh right?) tie a pretty bow around it that is about 2 inches wide.

Hope this tutorial was easy enough, trust me if I can do it... So can you! And please link up your wreaths in the comments section... I'm kind of obsessed!

Happy Holidays!!!