For the Love of Pumpkin, Cheesecake, Whipped Cream, and Gingersnaps.

Last week, my husband sent me an email. There was no personal message, no story; there was only this link:

http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/pumpkin-cheesecake-tart-with-gingersnap-crust

I read over the recipe and thought to myself, “hmmm…this sounds pretty good…maybe I should try and make that….in fact, I think I will make it!”

My husband knew exactly what he was doing. His diabolical pumpkin-cheesecake-tart-with-a-gingersnap-crust-making plan had worked out exactly as he had envisioned.

I bought the ingredients that evening, and got down to business the very next day. It baked up real nice.

Pretty in pumpkin.

Pretty in pumpkin.

The gingersnap crust was the ringer though. I never would have thought to use gingersnaps, but they made all the difference. We went to dinner at my mom’s house that next night, and brought the tart. It was the perfect compliment to my mom’s beanless chili.

A good compliment goes a long way.

A good compliment goes a long way.

We sliced it up, and topped each piece upon serving with a hefty dollop of my homemade cinnamon whipped cream. The only thing missing was my dad. He wasn’t a dessert guy, but this one he would have liked – he loved gingersnaps. I wish he could have enjoyed it with us.

For you, Dad.

For you, Dad.

As I took my first bite, I raised my fork to my Dad – a man who’s taste in desserts was as unique as he was.

And it was delicious.

————————————————————————————————————-

Cinnamon Whipped Cream.

What you’ll need:

1 cup heavy cream

1 tblsp confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

What you’ll do:

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and cinnamon. Whip until stiff peaks form. Chill, and serve.

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Recipe: Cookies and Cream Coffee Cheesecake.

DSC_0345

July 30th was National Cheesecake Day. I happened to be off from work, and I was browsing the internet, like ya do, and I came across this bit of wonderful news. I wanted to bake something I hadn’t made in a while, and a cheesecake was one such thing. It was clearly a sign from the universe that I had to make a cheesecake that very day.

I wasn’t sure which kind I wanted to make. My first thought was peanut butter or maybe almond butter….but then I started thinking my fiance really likes coffee and coffee-flavored stuff…and I have all these leftover faux-reos from the Cookies and Cream Cupcakes I just made…so I found a pretty simple recipe for a coffee cheesecake, made a few of my own tweaks and additions, and the Cookies and Cream Coffee Cheesecake with Coffee Whipped Cream and Dark Chocolate Drizzle was born. Pretty long name for a cheesecake, but it earned it.

longest. name. ever.

longest. name. ever.

My fiance loved it, and so did my co-workers (it was too good not to share!). So now, I’ll share the recipe with you, so you can share it with your family and friends. It’s the circle of life (or cheesecake).

Cookies and Cream Coffee Cheesecake.

What you’ll need for the crust:

16 Oreos or faux-reos

2 tblsp butter

What you’ll do for the crust:

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the cookies and butter in a food processor until finely crumbled. Press on the bottom and up the sides of a 9 in disposable pie pan, like so:

DSC_0313

the crust of it.

Bake for 10 minutes Let cool completely. Leave the oven on at 350 for the cheesecake.

What you’ll need for the cheesecake:

2  8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup of sugar

2 eggs

1/3 cup of very strong freshly brewed coffee at room temperature (I used Gevalia Crème Brulee  flavored)

What you’ll do for the cheesecake:

In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar until well mixed. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, and add them, along with the coffee to the cream cheese and sugar. Mix until smooth (this should be less than a minute). Pour into cooled crust and bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until set. You can tell it’s set by lightly touching the center and it not sticking to your finger. It should look something like this:

all set.

all set.

Let it cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

What you’ll need for the coffee whipped cream:

1 cup chilled heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 tblsp very strong coffee at room temperature (I used the same coffee as in the cheesecake)

What you’ll do for the coffee whipped cream:

In a chilled bowl (cream whips best when the bowl is cold), whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and the coffee, and continue to whip until stiff peaks are formed. Using a star tip, pipe a shell border of  whipped cream around the edge of the chilled cheesecake, and a single rosette in the center, like so:

pipe it good.

pipe it good.

Finally, in a small saucepan, combine 2 ounces of GOOD dark chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Fine Artisan Dark Chocolate) and a tablespoon of butter over low heat, stirring continuously until completely melted. Pour chocolate into a plastic decorating bag BEFORE cutting the tip off. Hold the bag directly over the chilled cheesecake, then snip the tip, and drizzle the chocolate back and forth until you’ve reached drizzling nirvana.

enlightenment.

enlightenment.

Chill it again for about 30 minutes, then cut, serve, and devour….err…I mean, enjoy. 🙂

gone in 60 seconds.

gone in 60 seconds.

The Cupcakes of Summer.

I love summer. I always have. It’s my favorite season. Knowing this, I’m not sure why I remain in the Northeast, where there’s that season-that-shall-not-be-named, full of snow, ice and misery. I believe my love of summer stems from my love of being outdoors. So for the majority of summer, I’m out there more than in here. Thus the reason I have posted anything in over a month.

biker chic.

biker chic.

I have, however been doing a lot of baking recently. so I figured the time has come to share it with the universe. Last week, I made two different kinds of cupcakes for a post-wedding celebration. The first of the two was Cookies and Cream. I made up the batter and mixed in crushed fake oreos (faux-reos).

batter up.

batter up.

Next, I baked them (obviously).

coolin'.

coolin’.

Then, I decorated them with cookies and cream frosting, and half a faux-reo on top.

topped off.

topped off.

The other type of cupcake was Chocolate with Cream Cheese Frosting.

I baked those as well (duh). They rose rather nicely.

on the rise.

on the rise.

Next, I topped them with a large dollop of cream cheese frosting.

like snow capped cupcake mountains.

like snow capped cupcake mountains.

Finally, I sprinkled them with shaved chocolate.

after shave.

after shave.

I took super close up shots of them both, because I’m obsessed with super close up shots of food.

cookies and cream super close up.

cookies and cream super close up.

and…

Chocolate and Cream Cheese super close up.

chocolate and cream cheese super close up.

It was fun making these. It made me want to make more cupcakes again. So I think I just might. But first, an oreo coffee cheesecake for National Cheesecake Day. It’s cooling RIGHT NOW!  Stay tuned for more details…. 🙂

 

The Day After.

gingerbread cake

When I was a little kid, I saw this made-for-TV-movie called “The Day After,” and was scarred for life. It was about an atomic bomb going off, and basically everyone was getting zapped instantly into skeletons. It was horrifying. I cried for days and couldn’t sleep for many nights. However, that’s not The Day After I’m referring to here. I’m talking about the day after Christmas.

It’s always such an odd day. Suddenly, everyone shifts into “time to change the sheets and clean the house and lose weight and take charge of my life” mode. And of course, there’s food everywhere you look. Particularly desserts. And nothing pains me more than to see a perfectly good dessert go to waste. It’s a crime, I tell ya. This year, however, I came much closer to my goal of “no dessert left behind,” at least as far as the ones I baked go. I’m down to the last few cookies, there’s only two slices of gingerbread cake left, and a couple of mini cheesecakes. Well played, self.

Anyway, just for the heck of it, here are a few pics of the aforementioned almost-gone Christmas Day desserts. Feast your eyes on these seasonal sweets:

Christmas Cookie Platter.

pretty maids all in a row.

pretty maids all in a row.

from left to right: chocolate chip, oatmeal cinnamon chip, honey whiskey balls, breakfast cookies, cottage cheese cookies, and good old sugar cookies shaped like Christmas trees.

Mini Cheesecakes.

the "original" small indulgence.

the “original” small indulgence.

These were a last-minute addition, but well worth it.

Gingerbread Cake with Cinnamon Sugar Glaze.

DSC_0750

my masterpiece.

One of my specialties – I look forward to making it every year, and like a fine wine, it just keeps getting better.

Put them all together, and you have a lovely Christmas dessert table, sure to put a smile on the face of even the grumpiest Scrooge.

all together now.

all together now.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and may your lives be filled with sweets, love, and harmony not just on Christmas day, but every day.

Recipe Monday Morning: Aunt Cetta’s Famous Cheesecake.

So Christmas is over…and what have you done? Or more importantly, what have you baked? I felt a lot of pressure this year to bake desserts that were fabulous – I mean, everyone in my family knew I just finished pastry school, and assumed that I would be making dessert and that it would be not just good, but great. On top of this, I was hosting Christmas for the first time this year, so the pressure was really on to be fabulous. Now we all know that even a seasoned baker burns cookies every now and then. By some Christmas miracle, all my desserts turned out exactly as I had envisioned (minus the 6 slighty burned cottage cheese cookies, which my friend ate anyway because apparently he likes his cookies burned). My biggest sweet achievement this Christmas however was the flawless execution of my Aunt Cetta’s Cheesecake.

I know I’ve mentioned Aunt Cetta before – my elderly Aunt who was a fantastic baker (better than me) and has been giving me all her old baking tools and pans (see “on the lamb”). Anyway, I really wanted to make her proud and put her tools to some good use, so I asked my mom to give me Aunt Cetta’s Cheesecake recipe, and I’d make it for Christmas, as a surprise.

Well, this may sound hard to believe, but I had never before baked a full-sized cheesecake in my own kitchen. Sure, I’d done it at school, and I’d made the “no-bake” kind at home before I was in school…but I had yet to try a full-size cheesecake. So I was doubly nervous – not only was this my first attempt at a full-sized cheesecake, but it was my aunt the awesome baker’s recipe! There was a precedent set here that I had to meet, or else I’d just tell everyone I didn’t have time to make the cheesecake and secretly throw it in the trash to avoid presenting them with a sub-par attempt at this illustrious dessert and have them leave wondering what I actually did while I was in school.

That did not happen. What did happen was the cheesecake turned out great, and everyone ate it, and I forgot to take any pictures of it until it was almost gone! Thankfully, I was able to capture some in time, and will now share them with you, along with the recipe that has won my family over for decades. 🙂

the amazing vanishing cheesecake!

 Aunt Cetta’s Famous Cheesecake.

Crust:

What you’ll need:

1 package graham crackers (I used the cinnamon variety)

1 stick melted butter

1/2 tsp cinnamon

What you’ll do:

In a food processor, combine the graham crackers, butter and cinnamon until well combined. Press into the bottom of an aluminum pie pan, or springform pan (I opted for the pie pan – 9″).

Cheesecake:

What you’ll need:

3, 8 oz packages of cream cheese (I used the low fat)

1 cup sour cream (I used the low fat here too)

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and salt. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until well-blended and smooth. Pour into crust, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on what type of pan you used – the springform will take longer) until set. Let cool completely, and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Whip up a batch of whipped cream, and serve!! 🙂

all good things.

I’m very excited about a few baking-related happenings on the horizon, and I wanted to give you, my loyal readers, a sneak preview of the good stuff (along with some gratuitous tempting dessert photos).

Gratuitous dessert #1: Baked Alaska.

Anyway, first and foremost, I’ll be graduating pastry school this December!! December 16th, to be exact. I can’t believe the day is almost here. A wise man told me when I started that it would be over before I knew, it, and so it is. I’m happy and sad at the same time. I’ll miss school. Although it was stressful, and I had to make some sacrifices, it’s been so much fun. I’ve met some great people, learned sooooo much about baking and desserts, and have some very entertaining stories to share. I would encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to just do it. It’s never too late to pursue your dreams. 🙂

Gratuitous dessert #2: Crêpe Suzette complete with Flambé.

Secondly, a new book is in the works!!! It’s still in the very preliminary stages, but is being worked on as I type. Hey if there are any desserts you’d like to see in the new book, tell me! I’m all about suggestions. 🙂

Gratuitous dessert #3: pumpkin cheesecake.

Finally, there are some exciting developments and upcoming events for Small Indulgences overall, including three Holiday Fairs, among other things. I can’t speak much on it yet, but let’s suffice it to say that it’s all that and then some. (I’m intentionally be mysterious to pique your curiousity and make you come back.)

Thank you all for your continued readership, support, feedback and dessert-eating. Without you, I wouldn’t be here. And here is always the best place to be. :),

In closing, some words to live by:

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.” – Swedish Proverb

A fine line between love and cheesecake.

So it’s no secret that cheesecake is fattening. It’s also no secret that cheese makes everything better, including dessert. Cake is great as it is, but make it with cheese…..yeah baby, that’s right, we’re talking cheesecake: the dessert you love to hate.

So, what’s a health-conscious dessert-loving girl to do?? Why, make them mini, of course.

many mini cheesecakes.

Not only does this cut down on the calories (without cutting down on the lusciousness), it also cuts down on the cooking time (big cheesecakes take so long to bake (often over an hour!). But these delightful little devils bake in 30 minutes (or less!). Plus, you can make many flavors, and bake them all at the same time, like we did in class.

We had a NY Style Cheesecake, which was pumpkin:

complete with autumn accoutrements.

A French style, which was coffee:

let them drink cheesecake.

And an Italian bad-boy, which was citrus:

delizioso!

What’s the difference between NY, French, and Italian Cheesecake, you might ask? The cheese, of course! NY is made with cream cheese, French is made with Mascarpone cheese, and Italian is made with Ricotta. At least, that’s how we made them – and they were all wonderfully cheese-alicious. Like I said, cheese makes everything better. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll even post one of the recipes for this coming Recipe Sunday….

Don’t hate me because i’m dessert-iful.

a little bit of cheesecake.

Yesterday, i made a cheesecake. It was from a recipe on the back of the gelatin box, and it sounded pretty good, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I prepared my usual homemade graham cracker crust (I have very strong feelings about using only homemade crusts). After it cooled, I made the cheesecake, which was more like a cream cheese pie, but there’s really nothing wrong with that. I poured the cheesecake/cream cheese pie mix into the crust, only to discover that there was a ridiculous amount still left in the bowl. I did not need two cheesecakes – there were only going to be 4 guests (including myself) partaking in this dessert to begin with, and even one cheesecake was probably too much. The stuff was too good to just throw out (and I would never do that anyway – re: my philosophy on no cake left behind).

The wheels starting turning, and thoughts of Small Indulgences filled my head. And out came: Cheesecake Bites.

I took a mini cupcake pan. Filled the bottom of each cup with Oreo cookie crumbs.

that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Poured the cheesecake on top.

bite me.

Chilled and served.

this is what they serve at parties in heaven.

Ok, I haven’t actually served them yet. Like I said, there were only 4 guests at the party last night. So I’ll just bring these to work, and win some friends and influence people. Who knew it was so easy.

strawberry cakes forever.

 

Today I was in Wegmans (my favorite supermarket in the universe), and they had the most luscious and fresh strawberries I’ve seen in quite some time. Last time I bought strawberries, it was mid-winter and they were…. a disappointment, to say the least – shriveled, moldy, and bitter, like that crotchety old coot who lived next door to your parents and gave you the hairy eyeball every time your ball went into his yard.  

darn kids and their rock and roll music!

Anyway, these strawberries I purchased today were the exact opposite of that: supple, juicy, delovely and delicious. I couldn’t ask for another.

groove is in the heart...or berry.

Those are the actual strawberries I purchased, too – this ain’t no stock photography. As you can see, I was not exaggerating. 

There is, however, one small problem – or large problem: the container was giant and there was no smaller option. I am only one person, and a rather small one at that. So this begs the question – what does one rather small person do with so many strawberries?!

The answer is easy, if you take it logically, my friends. Bake stuff with them. So I went through my top secret baking photo arsenal (aka – thumb drive), and searched through some of my previously made desserts that included strawberries. So here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Strawberry Vanilla Cupcakes

berrylicious.

The icing is a strawberry buttercream, the cake a light vanilla sponge. That still leaves a bunch of berries though for….

2.  Cheesecake with fruit topping.

everything's better with cheese.

You can’t go wrong with a cheesecake topped with fresh fruit. Even after this however, there will still be some berries leftover, which leads me to one final berry sweet project:

3. Classic Strawberry Shortcake.

berry bliss.

The cake is again vanilla sponge, the icing is whipped cream, and there’s many, many more berries on the inside.

So, it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. Sigh…it’s getting hard to be someone….but it all works out. 🙂

if you like pina colada….cake.

I was co-hosting a bridal shower for a good friend this weekend and one of my assignments was (surprise!) desserts. The theme was “The Golden Girls” so we were trying to go with foods and decor that women who were 80 in the 80’s in Miami would approve of. There was the obvious choice – Cheesecake.

the belle of the ball.

It went so fast, it practically lauched off the serving tray itself.

But every bride needs a shower cake with her name on it. So, a friend stumbled across a pina colada cake, and suggested it for the occasion. I loved the idea so much, I wanted to punch myself in the neck for not coming up with it. Especially since about 3 years ago, I had this big idea (one of many, many, many “big” ideas I’ve had over the years) to open up a joint where every cupcake was modeled after a popular cocktail. I even had a name for said joint – “Let Them Drink Cake.” Clever, right? well, I never did anything with this idea, and sure enough, someone else did, and then I really did punch myself in the neck.

Anyway, the point is not how many ideas I’ve had that I never acted on; but, instead to celebrate the ones I did.

I give you “Pina Colada Bridal Shower Cake” (insert theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” here):

have your cake and drink it too.

 Thank YOU for being a friend.