Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nutella Cheesecake Brownies

Exactly 1 year ago today my life changed. On March 31, 2011 I walked into the bank to apply for a Visa card and unexpectedly met my future husband. He was the personal banker helping me with my Visa application. I knew right away - sitting across from him at the desk - that there was something special between us. That day I got so much more than I ever could have imagined. He is now my fiancé and I am the happiest girl in the world.

This triple-threat dessert is just the thing to celebrate with. He loves Nutella, I love Cheesecake. Who doesn't love brownies!? Happy 1 year to Banker Boy and Canada Girl!

Nutella Cheesecake Brownies
9" square pan

Brownie Layer
1/2 cup melted butter, allow to cool
1/2 cup Nutella
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa

Cheesecake Layer
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup hazelnuts skinned, chopped (optional)
3/4 cup Nutella

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line a 9" square pan. Mix together the wet ingredients for the brownie until well combined. You can just used a wooden spoon.

2. Mix in the dry ingredients until well incorporated. Spread brownie mixture evenly in prepared tin. Using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until smooth, light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually until well incorporated and the mixture is smooth and fluffy again.

3. Gently mix in the flour until well combined, but don't over beat at this point. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the brownie mixture and spread evenly on top. Drop spoonfuls of Nutella over the cheesecake layer then marble gently by drawing a knife through the top layer. Sprinkle hazelnuts on top.

4. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until cooked through.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lemon Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting

So lemony and so tangy. You could serve this loaf without any frosting and it would still be delicious, but take my word for it - it is to die for when topped with cream cheese frosting.

The frosting recipe below is the best cream cheese frosting recipe I have ever tried. It has the perfect ratio of cream cheese to sugar and complements the tartness of the loaf. There is definitely no skimping on cream cheese here! If you're like my mom, you will eat this with extra frosting so it's pretty much equal parts cake and frosting :)

Lemon Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 lemon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 pkg (4 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5" loaf pan.

2. Whisk the flour, salt, sugar, lemon peel and baking powder together in a large bowl; set aside.

3. In a medium bowl beat eggs with milk, butter, lemon juice and vanilla. Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

4. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.

5. Frosting: Combine the butter and cream cheese with an electric beater until smooth. Add vanilla then add the powdered sugar to reach desired consistency. Frost the cake with the cream cheese frosting once cooled fully.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

March 6, 2012 was OREO's 100th Birthday!!! I actually made these for that day but forgot to post until now. Oops!

Did you know that when Oreos were first launched in New York in 1912 there were 2 flavors: Original and Lemon Cream. They are made by Kraft Foods (USA) and the Christie Brand (Canada). Over the past 100 years they have experimented with many other flavors including Strawberry Milkshake (Canada), Green Tea (China/Japan), Blueberry Ice Cream (Indonesia/Malaysia), Cool Mint, Banana Split (2008), Sugar Free, Reduced Fat and Cakesters (2007) just to name a few.

Personally, I prefer the chocolate cookies sans filling or the Vanilla Oreo variety. Since I don't like the filling, I twist mine open and scrape out the filling and save it for use in another recipe. When melted, it makes a great drizzle for brownies!

According to Kraft, women are more likely to twist open their Oreos than men! Check out the Oreo Timeline for more interesting facts!

To celebrate, I made mini Oreo Cheesecakes from Martha Stewart's "Cupcakes" book. Instead of crushed cookie crumbs, these feature a whole Oreo cookie placed in the bottom of each cupcake liner, topped with cream cheese filling and baked.

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes
Makes 30

42 Oreo sandwich cookies, 30 left whole and 12 coarsely chopped
3 1/2 (8oz each) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 30 standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole Oreo cookie in the bottom of each lined muffin cup.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in the vanilla.

3. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating to combine and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add in sour cream and salt, beat to combine. Using a large spatula, fold in the chopped Oreo cookies. Divide batter evenly among the cookie-filled muffin cups, fill each cup almost to the top.

4. Bake, rotating muffin tins halfway through, until the filling is set, about 22 to 28 minutes. Transfer the muffins tins to a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove from tins just before serving.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Awesome Apple Cake

I wasn't surprised when I was asked by several people for the recipe for this cake after I brought it to work. This is one of my favorite apple cakes! The recipe uses a generous amount of apples, making this cake incredibly moist and a good keeper. I love the slightly chewy, dark golden brown crust. Baked in a tube pan, it stands statuesque and proud.

Do not substitute a Bundt pan! This is not a cake you want to invert after baking. If you don't have a tube pan (with removable bottom), you could use a spring form 10" pan or bake it as a 9" x 13" cake, however, they will not be as tall. If you don't have pineapple juice, you can substitute orange juice.

Awesome Apple Cake
Makes 1 tube pan | adapted from Smitten Kitchen

5-6 tart apples (I like granny smiths)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange or pineapple juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional - I didn't use them)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

2. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

3. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Starbucks Copycat Vanilla Scones

You might be able to see from the photo that these scones were very flaky with many many layers. They seemed like a cross between a scone and a croissant. I skipped the glaze on these and they were still fantastic. However, for the real Starbucks experience, go for the glaze.

Starbucks also sells a mini version of these. If you want to make those, divide the dough into thirds before rolling out and cutting, then cut each round into smaller triangles and bake, keeping an eye on baking time. They will probably require a few minutes less than the full-sized scones.

Starbucks Copycat Vanilla Scones
Makes 8

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
5 tbsp very cold butter (frozen is best)

1 cup regular sour cream
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
water as needed to achieve desired consistency

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Use the “Grating Method” to add the butter: Grate a block of cold butter against the large holes of a box grater. Toss the butter ribbons with the flour mixture, and then use two knives to cut the flour-coated ribbons into 1/4-inch pieces.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg yolk and vanilla extract until blended. Add this to the flour-butter mixture and stir with a fork until dough forms a cohesive ball. Use a spatula to get the dry bits fully incorporated. It may not seem to have enough liquid at first, but the dough will eventually come together.

3. Place the sticky dough onto an ungreased baking sheet and pat into a disk about 1-inch in height. Cut the dough into wedges and place on the baking sheet.

4. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.

5. Prepare glaze while scones are baking. Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl, and add water one teaspoon at a time, mixing vigorously until smooth and runny. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of glaze over the hot scones. Tip: Brushing rather than drizzling gives a smoother appearance and requires less glaze. Store cooled scones in an airtight container.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pretzel Kisses

These pretty little pretzel kisses are so easy to make and so yummy. The pretzels have just enough salt in them to make these pop. I especially like the ones made with the white chocolate "Hugs". I think they look so adorable with their stark stripes.

What I like best about this recipe is that it can be customized for any occasion with the color of M&M's you use. Pink, red and white for Valentine's day. Pastels for Easter, etc. I got a whole bunch of Hershey's Kisses for valentine's day so this was a great way to use them up.

Pretzel Kisses
Makes 24

24 square pretzels
24 milk chocolate candy kisses
1 (1.69 oz) pkg. M & M's

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place pretzels on baking sheets. Unwrap candy kisses and place one in the center of each pretzel.

3. Place in preheated oven 1 to 2 minutes, until kisses melt. Remove from oven and place one candy-coated chocolate in the center of each pretzel. Chill in refrigerator until set.