Monday, November 28, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Thanksgiving. The best day of the year for food. Everyone eats and eats a lot. What isn't to love about that? Here is a small sampling of the goodness that composed our Thanksgiving dinner this year:

My contribution: Pumpkin Cheesecake. 

I am a baker at heart and I absolutely love cheesecake in nearly every form. Combine that with pumpkin? You definitely can't go wrong there. 

This is a pretty intensive recipe with a lot of steps, but I assure you that it is worth every minute of your time. This is the second time I made this and it was just as good as the last one. My family quickly requested that this be my contribution to Christmas dinner as well. 

Make this and all your cheesecake and pumpkin dreams will come true.

Side note: I experienced Williams Sonoma for the first time ever this last weekend. I was like a little kid at Christmas. I would buy the whole store if I could. Hopefully I will have a cookbook or two from Williams Sonoma in a little less than a month...(hint hint, Hunter, haha).

Yield: however many pieces you decide to cut it into

For the crust:
5 oz graham crackers (1 package), broken up
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 tbsp butter, melted

For the filling:
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 (15 oz) can pumkpin puree
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon juice
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place an oven rack in the lower-middle position. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan tightly with two pieces of foil (I used 4 and it still leaked - more on that later). Spray the inside of the pan with cooking spray. To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and spices in a bowl. Stir until well mixed. Add the melted butter and stir until evenly coated. Transfer the crumbs to the prepared springform pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake until fragrant and browned at the edges, about 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.

Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil; maintain at a simmer. To make the filling, combine the sugar, spices and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend and set aside. Line a work surface with a triple layer of towels. Spread the pumpkin on the towels and cover with a second triple layer of towels. Press firmly until the towls are saturated with excess liquid.

Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and softened. Add about 1/3 of the sugar spice mixture to the bowl and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed and repeat, adding the remaining sugar mixture in two additions. Add the pumpkin puree, vanilla, and lemon juice; beat at medium speed until blended. Add 3 of the eggs and mix on medium-low until incorporated, repeat with the remaining 2 eggs. Add the heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined. Use a rubber spatula to give the mixture a final stir by hand.

Pour the filling into the prepared pan, over the crust. Smooth the top. Pour enough simmering water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan (I only put in enough to go up as high as the aluminum foil because my pan leaks, even with 4 layers of foil. Don't worry, I learned this the hard way. Check it halfway through the baking process and add more water if needed.) Bake until the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken, about 90 minutes. Transfer the roasting pan to a wire rack and cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Cool until barely warm, about 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.

To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Note: I have a $6.00 hand mixer that has about 1 speed. It works great through this whole process, just make sure you reach the consistency mentioned in the recipe.

Source: Slightly adapted from Annies Eats, originally from Williams Sonoma

Turkey Cups

Confession: I was quickly getting over all the Thanksgiving food posts on the blogosphere. I wasn't cooking Thanksgiving Dinner, so why does that mean I have to dig through old recipes to find something for dinner? Geesh. Don't worry, I have repented of my flawed ways. One day I will be cooking Thanksgiving Dinner and will appreciate all the help cooks far better than me can give. I found this recipe on the Novice Chef blog and instantly thought it was a genius idea. In fact, I cooked a whole turkey (the smallest one I could find of course) just so I could make these. Hunter always loves the idea of pot pies, so these seemed like a perfect option.

This was my first time ever using a puffed pastry and they are the coolest thing! I was a little worried at first about being able to fit anything in to the frozen half inch dough thing that I pulled out of the box, but much to my surprise and delight they puffed right up, just as their name implies. haha. This turned out to be a wonderful dinner and I might just cook another whole turkey in the future to make them again.

Yield: 12 cups

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
18 oz evaporated milk (I think I only used 17 because that was what the cans added up to and I wasn't going to open another can for only 1 oz)
2 cups cooked, chopped turkey
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 onion
Small can of chopped olives
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper (I didn't know this even existed until this recipe)
2 boxes of Pepperidge Farm Pastry Cups

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the pastry cups about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined in parchment paper. Cook on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. 

While the pastry cups are baking, melt butter over a medium flame. Sift in flour and whisk together to make a paste. Slowly stir in condensed milk, whisking the entire time to avoid lumps. Once a gravy-like consistency has been reached, gently stir in the turkey, celery, onion, olives, salt, pepper, and white pepper. Keep the mixture on low until the pastry cups are done.

Once pastry cups are golden brown, remove from the oven and carefully pop out the centers and fill them with the turkey mixture. Put the tops back on top and enjoy!

Source: slightly adapted from The Novice Chef

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

My goal is to not have every recipe chocolate related. Lets hope I follow through with that goal on another day because today's recipe is all about chocolate. In fact, Hunter's name for these cupcakes is 'Death by Chocolate'. It's probably appropriate considering the chocolate cupcake base, ganache filling, and amazing chocolate cream cheese frosting.

I'm not even exaggerating on the awesomeness of the frosting. I don't like frosting. Most of the time I scrape the frosting off so I can get to the goods underneath. Not so with this frosting. It is every bit as good as the rest of the cupcake. Yuuuum. The original recipe, from Annie's Eats, has beautiful swirls and chocolate shavings as garnish. I'm not quite that talented yet, don't have all the right tools, too lazy to shave chocolate, and I have yet to find any pre-shaved chocolate I can buy in a store (much to Hunter's dismay). I did see a Martha Stewart cookbook the other day that had cupcakes frosted very similar to mine pictured here. That totally validates my frosting job in my mind.

Beware, your first bite might be overwhelm you with chocolate awesomeness. However; the more you eat of these cupcakes, the more you will love them!

Yield: about 30-32 cupcakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tbsp heavy cream
4 tbsp butter, at room temperature

14 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
9 tbsp butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sour cream

To make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and the sugar over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally to combine, until the butter is melted. Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to a bowl, beat on medium until the mixture is cooled. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, beating until just combined.

Fill the cupcake cups about 3/4 of the way full. Bake 18-20 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely.

To make the ganache:
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let stand about 1 minute. With a whisk, gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles. When the ganache has become smooth, whisk in the butter 1 piece at a time until incorporated. Put the bowl in the freezer or refrigerator to chill and thicken the ganache a bit. Whisk every 5-10 minutes to help it cool evenly. Once the mixture is slightly thickened and no longer runny, you are ready to fill the cupcakes.

To assemble the cupcakes, cut a cone out of the center of each cupcake with a small paring knife. Cut off the pointed end of the cone and discard (or eat...but don't let your dog eat!) so you are left with a cap of cake to cover the filling. Drop a spoonful of ganache into the center of each cupcake and re-cover the hole with the cap.

To make the frosting:
Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool until just barely warm. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Beat in the melted and cooled chocolate and then the sour cream. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Frost the cupcakes immediately.

Source: very slightly adapted from Annie's Eats

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

My inaugural blog post...I feel as if I should give a little introduction, but I will refrain and continue on as if I had been posting on this blog for months. 

The other day I took Hunter shopping with me - I'm not sure if that was a good or a bad idea. While I like having him there with me, I think secretly he would rather die (maybe that's a little over dramatic...). This time around I'm pretty sure his goal was to insist upon buying so many extra things that I would spend WAAAAY more money than I was planning on and result in a long hiatus of me making him go to the store with me. If you were wondering, he succeeded. 

One thing that we ended up buying that wasn't on the list was Reese's Peanut Butter Chips. We bought them for the recipe on the bag because it looked oooh so delightful and we were both hungry with an upcoming road trip that required goodies. This definitely ended up as a happy purchase. 

These cookies were delightfully chewy and soft. I am not a fan of crunchy cookies at all, really. Truth be told I normally bake any cookies I make for at least a minute less than the time the recipe gives (I reflected that in my directions below so if you like 'em a little crispier, cook them for longer!). That generally gives them the texture I like. This recipe was no exception, however, I did bake some for the recommended time and they also turned out lovely. 

If you are looking for some chewy, chocolaty goodness these are your cookies. 


Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup (10 oz bag) peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Gradually add in flour mixture. Stir in peanut butter chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Cool slightly, remove from pan.

Source: Adapted slightly from Hershey's Kitchens