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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD: Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

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Remember last week when I told you that I was a cupcake girl? Well, I still am, and this week's Tuesdays with Dorie project was right up my alley! Clara from I Heart Food 4 Thought chose Dorie's Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes for us to bake and I couldn't have been happier about it.

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Dorie's cupcakes are deeply chocolatey little cakes with a light and tender crumb that are topped with an intensely rich, bittersweet chocolate glaze. They're made with all of the regular cupcake ingredients plus buttermilk and both cocoa powder and melted bittersweet chocolate for some extra chocolate "oomph". Some of my TWD colleagues commented that they found their cupcakes to be a little dry. After having that same issue with my Pumpkin Muffins last week, I made sure to slightly undercook these cupcakes, removing them from the oven after about 20 minutes. Letting them sit on the counter in the cupcake pan for a few minutes finished them off and they turned out perfectly.

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As per Clara's request, I decided to go "seasonal" with these cupcakes and decorated them with a Halloween theme. I used orange sprinkles on some and little sugar pumpkins and tombstones on others. I also topped a few with some vanilla buttercream that I tinted orange. Variety is the spice of life, after all!

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One of Dorie's suggestions in the book for "playing around" with these cupcakes is to fill them with jam, Nutella, ganache or marshmallow cream. Marshmallow cream!?!? Oooh! I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite childhood treats - Hostess Snowballs. You remember them, don't you? They're little domes of chocolate cake, filled with cream and enrobed in gooey, coconut-coated marshmallow. Mmmm! Love. Them. So, I broke out a jar of marshmallow cream, tinted it orange too and stuffed those cupcakes with it. They were damn good!

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If you're in the mood for some fabulous chocolate cupcakes, I can heartily recommend these devilishly delicious little guys. Gussy them up with something orange and they're a perfect Halloween treat for your nearest and dearest. Of course, you could just hide them in the garage fridge and hoard them all for yourself. Not that I would ever do something like that. I'm just sayin'.

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If you'd like to try these on your own, you can find the recipe in Dorie's Baking: From My Home to Yours and also on Clara's site. It's also worth a visit to the TWD blogroll to see what the rest of the gang has come up with.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Serendipity: Pumpkin Cheese Pie with Toffee and Caramel Swirl

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Have you ever noticed that the most exciting inventions and breakthrough discoveries are sometimes stumbled upon purely by accident? From medical research, to science and technology right on down to recipes, some of our biggest boo boos can be and have been turned into "Eureka!" moments. For example, the discoveries of penicillin, quinine, the smallpox vaccine and even x-rays were all the happened upon by accident. Indispensable innovations like the microwave, the pacemaker, the computer mouse and even Post-Its were invented by chance.

So then, what about serendipity in the kitchen? Many of you may be familiar with the story of Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the original chocolate chip cookie. In the 1930s, Ruth and her husband owned the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts. One evening in 1937, she was making butter cookies for her guests and thought she would make them all chocolate instead. She cut a bar of chocolate into tiny pieces and added them to the cookie dough, thinking that the chocolate would melt completely, giving her chocolate butter cookies. When the cookies came out of the oven, the chocolate hadn't melted at all! Instead, the "chocolate chips" had kept their form. Thus, the Toll House chocolate chip cookie was born and went on to become the most popular and well-known cookie of all time!

I've certainly had my share of culinary flops that I was able to transform into some pretty terrific recipes. This decadent and devastatingly delicious Pumpkin Cheese Pie with Toffee and Caramel Swirl is a perfect example. Let me tell you how it came to be.

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It all started with some very disappointing sugar cookies that I made last week. They were the refrigerator kind that come ready to bake (not Pillsbury). Mini SGCC sneaked them into my cart at the supermarket and I never even noticed them until I got home. Since I had them, I decided to pop them in the oven for a quick snack. They were awful! The cookies spread into flat, sugary pancakes that all ran into each other. They also had a very artificial vanilla taste. Not good at all. I hated to just throw them away, so I stuck them in a zip lock bag, figuring that I might be able to use them for something later.

A few days later, I made pumpkin muffins for my Tuesdays with Dorie assignment. I ended up with some leftover pumpkin puree, which I also saved for another use.

Still later, I was twirling some ideas around in my head for what to make for October's edition of Sugar High Friday. The very appropriate theme for this month is "Spices", and is being hosted by the very talented and creative Anita from Dessert First.

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I decided to mix my leftover pumpkin with cream cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to make a pie. I already had the ingredients needed for the filling, so all I needed to do was figure out what to use for my crust. That was when I had my "Eureka!" moment. The sugar cookies! It was brilliant!

I tossed those cookies into the food processor with a touch more cinnamon and pulverized them into crumbs. Then, I mixed in some melted butter and voila! Pie crust!

To take the pie up a notch, I mixed some toffee bits that were hanging around into the filling and swirled globs of dulce de leche all through it. To make it a little prettier, I also spread a layer of dulce de leche on top of the pie and piped little dulce de leche blobs all around the perimeter.

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Let me tell you, this pie was To. Die. For! Really, it was amazing! The filling was oh, so rich and creamy, with gorgeous, thick caramel ribbons running through it. The toffee bits added a just a little bit of crunch. And the crust? Well, the crust worked out beautifully. It tasted great, yet it didn't interfere with the other flavors in the pie. You could certainly use any kind of cookie crumbs you like. If I hadn't had the sugar cookies, I probably would have tried this with ginger snaps.

As I contemplated my accidental triumph, I was reminded of the old adage, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Well, when life give you crappy sugar cookies, make pie crust!

Serendipity!

Pumpkin Cheese Pie with Toffee and Caramel Swirl (aka Serendipity Pie) (Printable Recipe)

For the crust:

2 cups sugar cookie crumbs (pulverize 6-8 large sugar cookies in the food processor)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a medium bowl, mix cookie crumbs, cinnamon and melted butter until well blended. Press mixture into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Cool.

For the filling:

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened

2/3 cup sugar ( Use more or less according to your taste)

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup toffee bits

2 cups dulce de leche or caramel sauce of your choice, divided. (You may have to soften the dulce de leche to make it "swirlable". I microwaved mine on 50% power for about 10-15 seconds.)

Beat cream cheese and sugar together on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and beat until completely combined.

Mix in the toffee bits and swirl in 1 cup of the dulce de leche or caramel sauce.

Pour the filling into the pie plate and smooth it out. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.

Spread the second cup of dulce de leche or caramel sauce evenly over the top of the pie.

If desired, use another 1/2 cup of dulce de leche to pipe rosettes or other design on top of the pie.

Chill until the topping is firm.

Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins

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There are two kinds of people in this world: cupcake people and muffin people. I happen to be a cupcake girl. It's not that I don't like muffins, because I do. I just like cupcakes more. Some might say cupcakes.....muffins....., they're pretty much the same thing, except that you can get away with eating muffins for breakfast. Not true. Just ask my friend Cakespy, who wrote a very informative and (ahem) scientific treatise on the subject a while back. I won't go into the details of her findings, but suffice it to say, there are significant differences between the two.

With this in mind, let's move on to this week's Tuesdays with Dorie assignment: Pumpkin Muffins. When I first learned of this recipe choice, I was kind of excited. Fresh, hot muffins laced with pumpkin, raisins, nuts and cinnamon sounded like the perfect thing to have with my coffee on a crisp, cool Autumn morning. Oh.....Wait.....I live in Florida. We don't have crisp, cool Autumn mornings here. Oh, well. I was still up for it, so I gathered my ingredients and made muffins.

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Just to prove what a good sport I am, I even ended up making two batches of pumpkin muffins, so that I would have plenty to share. For the first batch, I stuck to the original recipe, using golden raisins and chopped pecans. For moist, plump and juicy raisins, I soaked them in some apple cider for a few hours.

For the second batch, I mixed it up a little and used dried apples and cranberries with chopped walnuts. Also, since some of my nearest and dearest cannot have cinnamon, I left it out and instead, added a few tablespoons of pure maple syrup to the batter.

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The recipe was fairly easy and I didn't run into any problems along the way. As I baked the muffins for the instructed length of time, my house smelled heavenly - just like pumpkin pie! When I removed them from the oven, they looked nice and golden on top too. Unfortunately, when I broke into one and tasted it, it was a little dry and spongy. Not bad, but a little "meh". Certainly, not what I was expecting! I'm not sure what I did wrong. I was very careful not to overwork the batter, but perhaps I did. In any case, while the muffins were tasty, they were just okay for me. Luckily, most of them will be going to work with me today. (Those people will eat anything!)

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My thanks go out to Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Culp for choosing this week's recipe. If you'd like to try these pumpkin muffins for yourself, you can find the recipe in Dorie's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, or here on Kelly's site. If you'd like to see what the rest of the TWD gang has done with this recipe, visit our blogroll.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Short Fairy Tale and a Tall Cake

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Princess-Susan1

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Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a lovely little princess. She loved to laugh and play and dance and sing. She was the apple of everyone's eye and all of her subjects adored her!

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Meanwhile, in a neighboring kingdom, there lived a handsome, young prince. He also loved to laugh and play, but instead of dancing and singing, he liked to play baseball and dig in the dirt.

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One day, a long time later, the handsome prince spied the lovely princess in a strange new land called College. He was struck by her beauty, charm and grace and endeavored to win her over. Alas, the princess was already betrothed to a no-account knave someone else and this was not to be, but she never forgot him.

After a few years, at a fancy fete called Happy Hour, the prince and the princess met again. By this time, the princess had gotten wise to her fiancee's rapscallion ways and bid good riddance to bad rubbish. The two young monarchs-in-training fell in love and were soon inseparable.

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Eventually, they wed......

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and had a lovely little princess of their own......

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And they all lived happily ever after.

On the twenty-second anniversary of their royal marriage, the princess decided to commemorate the occasion by baking this beautiful and extremely delicious cake. It was a three layer vanilla buttermilk cake with chocolate fudge frosting from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. The prince was so touched by this selfless gesture, that he bought her this gorgeous Marc Jacobs black patent leather carry-all as token of his affection.

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The End!

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Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting (Printable Recipe)
from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes

For the cake:

4 whole large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups of buttermilk
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of three 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper and grease the paper.

Place the eggs and the yolks in a medium bowl. Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup of buttermilk. Whisk to blend well.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl and whisk to blend. Add the remaining buttermilk and butter to the dry ingredients and with the mixer on low speed, blend together. Raise the mixer to medium speed and beat until light fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the egg mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix only until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the batter among the prepared pans.

Bake the cake layers for 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out the cakes onto a wire rack and peel off the paper liners. Cool completely before frosting.


For the frosting:


6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
12 ounces of unsalted butter at room temperature
6 tablespoons of half and half
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate. Then, process until frosting is smooth.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nutella-Pistachio Brioche for World Bread Day

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It's no secret that I am a huge fan of the fabulous baking book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. In fact, I think I would suffer actual physical pain if I were to be without it! It's a rare occasion when I don't have a big hunk of my favorite brioche dough at my beck and call, lurking in my fridge.

A few weeks ago, I broke off a lump of that dough to make one of my absolute favorite things - Almond Brioche or Bostock. I was really craving it! As I gathered the rest of my ingredients, the unthinkable happened. I was out of almond paste. Ack! After a few "sh*ts and "dammits", (which nobody heard anyway since I was all alone), I tried to think of something else to make with my lovely brioche dough. I was running low on bittersweet chocolate too, so a chocolate-filled brioche was out. Then, I spied a brand new, unopened jar of Nutella in my pantry. I don't even remember buying it, (must have been Mini SGCC), but there it was, sweetly singing my name. I raided my Mr. SGCC's secret stash of pistachio nuts (he thinks I don't know about it), and decided to use some of them too. Thus, this Nutella-Pistachio Brioche was born.

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Actually, there was nothing really groundbreaking about my little invention. I used the recipe in the book for Brioche Filled With Chocolate Ganache. All I did was swap out the chocolate for the Nutella and add some chopped pistachios and turbinado sugar on top. Still, I felt pretty damn proud of myself for my resourcefulness in the face of adversity!

My end result was all I'd hoped for and more! The brioche was golden and buttery. The Nutella filling was oozey, rich and chocolatey. The whole package was devastatingly delicious! It was sticky, gooey, creamy and chewy at its best! Trust me. The pictures don't do it justice.

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World Bread Day 2008

Since today is World Bread Day 2008, I'm sending this over to Zorra from Kochtopf, the host for the event. The original World Bread Day was created by the International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners (UIB). According to their web site, the impetus behind this event is:

"All over the world bread bears a highly symbolic power: It stands for solidarity as well as the ability to share. As a universal product, found in every civilisation, made out of various types of grain, characterised by the manifold fermentation processes and the different ways of baking, bread - even now in the third millennium - accompanies every meal.

Staple food for some, luxury or modern dietary food for others - bread in itself means so much that it deserves a World Day in its honour! The World Bread Day wants to provide an opportunity to talk about bread and bakers, to find out about their history, their importance as well as their future."

Sounds good to me!

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I also want to mention that I've recently had the opportunity to meet Zoe Francois through Twitter. She is a charming woman and an incredibly talented baker. If you get a chance, go visit her at her terrific blog, Zoe Bakes and let her know how much you love her book too!

Nutella-Pistachio Brioche (Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds brioche dough (recipe here)
1 jar of Nutella
1 tablespoon butter for greasing the pan
1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts mixed with 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top

Method:

Dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off a cantaloupe-sized piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Roll the dough into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Use just enough flour to prevent it from sticking.

Spread the Nutella evenly all over the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Roll up the dough, jellyroll-style starting at the long end, and being sure to seal the bare edges. Chill the roll in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Generously grease an 8-inch round cake pan with butter. Sprinkle the pan with a dusting of granulated sugar.

Cut the chilled dough into 8 equal pieces. Place them in the prepared pan with the swirled edge facing up. Let the dough rest for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes.

Lightly brush the top of the brioche with the egg white mixture. Mix the turbinado sugar and pistachio nuts together and sprinkle over the brioche. Bake without steam until golden brown and set in the center, about 45 minutes, until golden brown.

Run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the brioche and place it into a serving dish.

Slice, eat warm and enjoy!

Here are a few other delicious recipes I've made from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

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.

No Knead Doughnuts

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Easy Almond Brioche

.

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No Knead Easter Bread

And, let's not forget the original No Knead Bread (the second post I ever wrote)

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TWD: Lenox Almond Biscotti

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I have to admit that I was a bit underwhelmed when I first saw that this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was for an almond biscotti. I've never been a big fan of biscotti, as every one I've ever tried was hard, dry and dusty. But then, I'd never had homemade biscotti before. What a difference!

The original recipe for these biscotti comes from Lenox Restaurant in New York City, and it produces a delightfully crunchy, almond flavored cookie. The dough is made with flour and cornmeal and which, I found, gave the biscotti a little rougher texture with a bit of chewiness, which I liked.

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I ended up making two different kinds of biscotti from this recipe. I kept half the batch as is with sliced almonds and almond flavoring. The rest became a vanilla flavored biscotti with chopped pistachio nuts and dried brandied cherries mixed in. The almond half got dipped in in some melted bittersweet chocolate and the pistachio half got a drizzle of melted white chocolate over them. They were very different, but both were very delicious!

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This recipe was not difficult to put together, but I did have to almost double the first baking time. Even then, the almond ones were very hard to cut cleanly. I don't know why, but I didn't have that problem with the pistachio ones.

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If you've never made homemade biscotti from scratch before, I urge you to try it. These have made a convert out of me. My thanks go out to Gretchen from Canela & Comino for selecting this recipe for us. It was a great choice! You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, or visit Gretchen's site. If you'd like to see what the rest of the TWD gang have done with biscotti, check out the blogroll here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Super Simple Cherry Cheese Danish Braid

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Are you getting sick of my Pillsbury products recipes yet? I hope not, because I have one more to share with you. Yesterday morning, I made this super simple and incredibly delicious Cherry Cheese Danish Braid, and let me tell you - you have got to try it!

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This recipe is so easy, I'm almost embarrassed to give it to you. But, it just isn't fair for me to keep it to myself. To make it, I used Pillsbury's Crescent Recipe Creations. You may recall that last week I made a killer Creamy Gorgonzola, Fennel & Pear Tart with this product. This time, I wanted to make something sweet. I put on my thinking cap and came up with this pastry. The whole process took about forty-five minutes from refrigerator to table, and oh, was it good!

The next time you want to impress your family on a Saturday morning with fresh, hot, cheesy, fruity pastry, try this. They'll think you went to a lot of time and trouble, but we'll know better!

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Cherry Cheese Danish Braid (Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup cherry pie filling

1 tube Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations

3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Method:

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray a baking sheet with a little non-stick cooking spray.

In small bowl, beat cream cheese and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla extract and set aside.

Unroll dough onto baking sheet and press into 13x7-inch rectangle.

Spoon cream cheese mixture lengthwise down center third of the dough. Then, carefully spoon pie filling on top of the cream cheese.

On each long side of dough rectangle, make cuts about 1 inch apart from the outer edge up to the edge of the filling. Fold opposite strips of dough over filling and cross in center to form a braided appearance. Seal the ends so that the filling doesn't leak out. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over the top.

Bake 22-24 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool for about 15-20 minutes and dive in!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake for Mom

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I know that most of you are here looking for Dorie’s Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake. I'm sorry to disappoint, but this week I had a more pressing obligation. Sunday was my mother's birthday. It was one of those milestone birthdays to boot. I can't tell you which milestone, for fear of getting cut out of the will, but trust me, it was a biggie. Mom doesn't care for chocolate cake or peanuts, so this week's TWD cake was pretty much out. What she does love, however, is cheesecake. So, that's what I made for her - a raspberry swirl cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust to be exact.

I used Dorie's Tall and Creamy Cheesecake recipe as the inspiration for my cheesecake, so I did at least try to stay within the spirit of the assignment.

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For my cheesecake, I substituted mascarpone cheese for one quarter of the cream cheese called for in the recipe. I also used creme fraiche in place of the sour cream. For the swirl, I used a product called Red Raspberry Ecstasy from Maury Island Farm. It is a dessert topping made with only red raspberries and sugar. It really lives up to its name! Before serving, I drizzled the cake with a little melted bittersweet chocolate and used that as my "glue" for securing some fresh berries on top.

As you would expect, this cheesecake was pure heaven! It was rich and impossibly creamy, yet still had some lightness of texture. Mom loved it and so did everyone else!

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If you'd like to see some great interpretations of Dorie's Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake, click on over to the Tuesdays with Dorie Blogroll.

Tall and Creamy Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

For the crust:

2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup creme fraiche

1/2 cup raspberry dessert topping

Method:

To make the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Butter a 9-inch springform pan and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil.

Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides.

Place the springform on a baking sheet and bake on a center rack in the oven for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool while you make the cheesecake.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

To make the cheesecake:

Put a kettle of water on to boil.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone at medium speed until it is soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese mixture is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the creme fraiche.

Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large roasting pan.

Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, and scrape it into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan.

Spoon the raspberry topping over the top of the batter and give it a few swirls around with a knife. Be careful not to swirl too much.

Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to sit in its water bath for another hour.

After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven and lift the springform pan out of the roaster. Carefully remove the aluminum foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.

To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and set the cake, still on the pan's base, on a serving platter. Cut the cheesecake using a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 6, 2008

More Pillsbury Products and Some Fabulous Pizza

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Remember when I told you about my product score from Pillsbury the other day? Well, they also sent me some of their new Refrigerated Thin-style Pizza Crust to try. So, last night was pizza night at Chez SGCC.

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Since I had two tubes of crust to use, and since one pizza is never enough at our house, I made two pizzas for dinner. The first one was a classic and simple variation on a Pizza Margherita, using fresh plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, garlic and oregano. The second was a Caramelized Onion, Duck Breast and Brie Pizza.

There really is no hard and fast recipe for the Pizza Margherita. You simply slice your tomatoes and toss them with a little extra-virgin olive oil and minced garlic. Next, slice your mozzarella and roll out the dough. I used an 11x15 baking sheet instead of my pizza stone, because that's what the instructions said. Next time, I would probably use the stone to make the crust a little crispier in the middle. After that, top your pizza first with the tomatoes and then with the cheese. Then, sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried oregano and bake. It doesn't get any easier than this, unless you call Pizza Hut!

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Of course, the success of a simple, no-frills pie like this one really depends on using the freshest, quality ingredients you can get your hands on. When you do that, there is no delivery pizza that can compare!

The Caramelized Onion, Duck Breast and Brie Pizza was a little more involved. I started by sautéing thinly sliced red onions over medium-low heat until soft and translucent. Then I added some balsamic vinegar and continued cooking until the onions were very soft, sweet and caramelized. I took precooked duck breasts from Maple Leaf Farms and browned them up a little in a skillet and cut them into thin slices. You certainly could start with raw duck breasts and cook them yourself, (which I have done before), but honestly, the precooked ones are so moist and delicious, I can't justify the extra time for a weeknight meal.

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To assemble the pizza, just unroll the crust and top with a layer of the onions, the duck breast and slices of your favorite brie. Bake, and drool over the results!

Both of these pizzas turned out beautifully using Pillsbury's thin pizza crust. I had never tried a refrigerator crust before this and I have to say I would use it again. The crust bakes up really nice and crispy and has a light texture, without that doughy, chewiness that you can sometimes get. I also thought that the crust had a lovely flavor - almost like there was a touch of honey in the dough. I definitely recommend giving this product a try for a quick weeknight meal.

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Caramelized Onion, Duck Breast and Brie Pizza (Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large red onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

4-5 fresh sage leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

2 precooked duck breasts (I used Maple Leaf Farms brand.)

1 medium wheel of brie, (about 8 ounces), chilled and sliced

1 Pillsbury Refrigerated Thin-style Pizza Crust (or any pizza crust of your choice)

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add balsamic vinegar, thyme and sage, reduce heat to medium low and continue to saute until onions are very soft and caramelized and balsamic has been almost totally absorbed, about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Heat pan over medium high heat and sear duck breasts for a few minutes on each to heat them and crisp the skin up a little. Remove from heat, slice and set aside.

Roll out pizza crust on a baking sheet or a pizza stone. Spread the onion mixture on the crust, followed by the duck breast and ending with the brie. Leave about a one inch perimeter of crust un-topped.

Bake until crust is golden brown and toppings are hot and bubbly.

Enjoy!

Here are a few more great pizza recipes from around the blogs:

Picadillo Pizza

Mostly Wild Mushroom Pizza from Blue Kitchen

Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza by Dragon's Kitchen

Pizza alla Bismark from the White on Rice Couple

Shrimp Scampi Pizza from No Special Effects

Fruit Pizza from Foodstuff

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Don't Let This Happen To You!!!

brokencake

or.........make sure that you thoroughly cool your cake before you attempt to remove it from the pan.

Sheesh!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Good Things Come in Large Packages Too!

FJgorgonzola-pear1SGCC

One of the nicest perks of being a food blogger is getting free stuff to try from various companies. Several weeks ago, I received an email from a very nice lady named Katie, asking me if I would be interested in testing some new Pillsbury products. Woohoo! Who doesn't love this little guy?

doughboy

Of course, I said that I'd be delighted! Within a week, a rather large box arrived on my doorstep. I gleefully opened it up to find some of these nesting inside:

PB_RecipeCreations_482x193

They're the same thing as crescent rolls, except that they come in one solid sheet with no perforations. They are perfect for creating new recipes. I was psyched! We love crescent rolls at Chez SGCC, and I was going to enjoy experimenting with these. I had two tubes of the Crescent Recipe Creations, so I decided to use one for a savory dish and the other for a sweet one.

icon-foodie-joust-90 Since it was also time for the October installment of Royal Foodie Joust created by Jenn, The Leftover Queen, founder of The Foodie Blogroll. I tried to kill two birds with one stone and combined the two projects. This month's selected ingredients for the joust are fennel, dairy and parsley. After some playing around, I came up with a Creamy Gorgonzola, Fennel & Pear Tart. Using my crescent dough as the tart shell made this recipe a snap to put together!

First, I unrolled the dough into a rectangular tart pan, gently pressing it up the sides of the pan, and trimming any overhang around the edges. Then, I made my fillings, which consisted of three layers: a gorgonzola and mascarpone cream, sauteed fresh fennel, herbs and onions, and sliced fresh pears. Finally, I baked the tart until it was all browned and bubbly.

FJgorgonzola-pear3SGCC

The result was a smooth, rich and creamy center, enveloped by a crisp and flaky pastry. The subtle sweetness of the pears were the perfect foil for the tangy bite of the gorgonzola. The sauteed fennel added crunch and a hint of anise flavor. It was a wonderful combination of tastes and textures.

Pillsbury's Crescent Recipe Creations are in stores now and can be found in the refrigerator section of most supermarkets. You can use them for lots of different things. The Pillsbury web site has tons of recipes as well. If you see them, consider giving them a try.

Oh, and by the way, I would really, really, really appreciate your vote for my recipe in this month's Royal Foodie Joust. All you have to do is go here and VOTE FOR ME!!!

FJgorgonzola-pear2SGCC

Creamy Gorgonzola, Fennel & Pear Tart (Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

8 ounces mascarpone cheese
8 ounces Gorgonzola dolce at room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 fennel bulbs, white part only, thinly sliced (fronds reserved)
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 fresh pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (any kind of pears will do.)
1 tube Pillsbury Crescent Dough
2 tbsp fennel fronds, chopped for garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine mascarpone and Gorgonzola in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel, onion, parsley and tarragon and saute until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Roll out crescent dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing together any perforations. Trim any edges that hang over the edges. I used a rectangular pan, but you can use any tart pan you like.

Spread the cheese mixture into the tart pan in an even layer.

Spread fennel mixture evenly over the cheese layer, and top with sliced pears.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly.

Cool for about 10 minutes and remove tart from the pan. Sprinkle fennel fronds on top.

Slice and serve.

Enjoy!