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.

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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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Short and Sweet Recipe: Mini Strawberry Shortcake.

strawberry shortcake3

Last week, my fiance and I were invited to another couple’s place for a game night. Being that we never like to show up anywhere empty handed, I decided to make a little dessert to bring along with us. I wanted something relatively simple, relatively summery, and relatively small, since it was going to be a small gathering. After much contemplation, I settled on the queen of summer desserts herself: Strawberry Shortcake. I already had some really nice-looking strawberries that had I literally just purchased the day before, so it would appear that the stars had aligned just right. (Except for that one star that I’ll call “heavy cream” – I had to send my fiance out to get that at the last minute).

But otherwise, I had all the ingredients to make a tasty vanilla cake, whipped cream frosting, and fresh strawberry filling between layers and adornments for the top.

top that.

top that.

Again, since it was for small gathering, I decided to make it a 6″ cake, instead of the traditional 8″. Not only would it be a more appropriate amount of dessert, but it also looked so darn cute. Like the puppy version of a cake.

baby cake.

baby cake.

And even with making it smaller, there were leftovers. Not that I’m complaining.

Wanna make your own for that Labor Day gathering you were invited to this weekend? Here’s how!

Mini Strawberry Shortcake.

For the Cake:

What you’ll need:

1 cup water

1/4 cup + 2 tblsp canola oil

1 tblsp white vinegar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups sifted flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

(Plus 1 cup of chopped strawberries for filling and 5 additional whole strawberries for decorating)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the water, canola oil, vinegar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until smooth. Grease two 6″ round pans, and evenly divide the batter between the two. Bake for approx. 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:

What you’ll need:

2 cups heavy cream

3 tblsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla

What you’ll do:

In a pre-chilled mixing bowl, whip the cream with the whisk attachment until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Frost the top of one of the layers of the cake with the whipped cream, and using a decorating bag fitted with the star tip, pipe a border around the edge, Fill the center with the chopped strawberries, and place the second layer on top. Cover both layers entirely with a smooth coating of the whipped cream. Using the same star tip, pipe a shell border around the base of the cake, and 8 rosettes around the top. Cut the 5 large strawberries in half, and place one half on top of each of the rosettes. Pipe a dollop of whipped cream onto on of the remaining two halves, and make a little strawberry and cream sandwich for the center.

 

 

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.

Tres Leches Cake: Three Times the Awesome.

tres leches

Last month, my boyfriend took me to a Mexican restaurant for my birthday. It was absolutely fabulous – possibly the best Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been to, and I have been to many (too many). From the sangria to the dessert, it was to die for. Here’s a glimpse of the gloriousness:

heaven on a plate.

heaven on a plate.

Anyway, for dessert, we split a slice of Tres Leches Cake. Now, I’ve had this cake before, and always loved it, but this was one especially grand. It was so moist, perfectly sweetened, and wonderfully light all at the same time. It was at this moment I decided I needed to make this cake at home.

Having never made this cake before, I needed to find a good base recipe to start with. I began searching my books and the ‘net, and eventually settled on this one.

I knew going in that my first attempt at this mouth-watering food-coma-inducing dessert was not going to be anywhere near the perfection I had at the restaurant. But you know what? It really did turn out pretty darn good. I started by gathering up the three major players: the milks.

the three musketeers.

the three musketeers.

Next, I made the cake, pretty much exactly as the recipe dictated, except I added the dry mixture in larger amounts that two tablespoons at a time – I pretty much divided it into fourths and added 1/4 at a time. It worked just fine, as you can see.

the canvas.

the canvas.

Next, I poked holes in it, allowed it to cool, than doused it with the milks until it couldn’t take it anymore. (Tip- put a sheet pan below the cake to catch all the excess milk mix when you pour it over the top – it was the best idea EVER and there was literally no milky mess to clean up at all.)

drowning in milk.

drowning in milk.

Next, I whipped up some homemade whipped cream to use as the topping.

whip it good.

whip it good.

Once it was whipped to stiff peaks, I applied it to the cake.

top that.

top that.

For me, this just wasn’t enough. It needed something more. So, I mixed up some cinnamon sugar, and dusted the entire thing with it.

a dust of sweetness.

a dust of sweetness.

The result: a Tres Leches cake that won the hearts of many, and could definitely hang with the best of them.

one of the cool kids.

one of the cool kids.

Now that I have the cake down, my goal is work towards that unforgettable piece of awesome from the restaurant. You know what they say – practice makes perfect. So everyone I know may be enjoying practice cakes for a while. I do believe this is not such a bad thing. 😉

Pumpkin Rosemary Pie, 2.0

DSC_0076

Last year, I wanted to try something a little different for Thanksgiving, so I crafted a recipe for Pumpkin Rosemary Pie. It turned out quite good, so I thought I’d made it a tradition, and bake it again this year. However, this time, I made two small changes:

1. I used 2% milk

2. I made an entirely different kind of crust.

The first one was basically because I thought a milk with more fat would just give the pie a little boost, texturally speaking, which it did. As for the second, well about mid-year, I found a recipe for a cornbread crust in this book that I just loved and have been using as much as I possibly can ever since. I thought this pie would be the perfect opportunity.

pie crust perfection.

pie crust perfection.

I topped it with a homemade cinnamon whipped cream (which was enthusiastically taste-tested by my boyfriend, who’s always willing to help out in these situations). Once we were sure it passed the test (it took multiple tastes – we just HAD to be sure it was good), I piped it on the pie, packed the whole thing up, and brought it to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house, where it was devoured by all.

just before the carnage.

just before the carnage.

Stayed tuned ’til next year, for the release of version 3.0!

Recipe: Madeira Cake with Lemon Whipped Cream.

madeira42

Up until last week, I had no idea what a Madeira Cake even was. I was going through some old magazines, and happened to stumble across the recipe for it in an issue of Cake Craft and Decoration from February of 2012. If you are unfamiliar with this magazine, it’s based out of the UK, and as such the recipes are geared more towards someone doing their baking there. However, this recipe sounded pretty good, and after reading about what a Madeira Cake actually was (a dense sponge cake – close to a pound cake in consistency, usually eaten with tea or sometimes for breakfast), I decided this would be my next project. Truth be told, I think what really excited me was the fact that it called for caster sugar, and I had specifically purchased a bag when I was last in the UK just so I could experiment with it, and finally here was my big chance.

the travelling bag of sugar.

the travelling bag of sugar.

The recipe also called for either margarine or butter, stating that butter gives a better flavor but margarine gives more rise, so a combination of the two would be best.. Because I harbor a vehement hatred for margarine, I had none in the house. I did, however have shortening, so I decided I’d try a butter/shortening combo instead. The recipe also stated that the classic Madeira cake has two to three thin slices of citron peel on top. I really just didn’t want to decorate it that way, so I opted for sifted confectioners sugar.

sifted sugar coat.

sifted sugar coat.

Additionally, I whipped up a batch of lemon whipped cream, and served each slice with a generous dollop on top.

dessert is served.

breakfast dessert is served.

Keeping with the tradition, I just had a slice for breakfast, although I drink coffee, not tea. But either way, cake for breakfast is never a bad thing. Don’t knock it until you try it, my friends. 🙂

Just one last quick note before I get into the recipe – this cake DOES NOT bake at 350. DON”T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. It bakes much lower, for much longer. Don’t rush it. It will be worth it, I promise. Good things are always worth the wait.

Madeira Cake (adopted from Cake Craft Magazine).

What you’ll need:

8 oz caster sugar

4 oz butter

4 oz shortening

4 eggs

12 oz flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, butter, and shortening until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Mix in the dry ingredients, one third at a time. Do not over mix – once everything is combined, stop mixing, and pour the entire thing into a well-greased 8″ pan. Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Once cooled, sift confectioners sugar on top. Serve as is, or with the topping of your choice -. lemon whipped cream works really well.

 

A Double Shot of Lemon (with whipped cream).

This past weekend, I was having company over, and I realized I didn’t have much time to make dessert. Knowing that my reputation was at stake, I had to come up with something unique, delicious….and quick.

I had just recently made a batch of lemon whipped cream (to use as a topping for a cocktail – which is another post unto itself), and I had a lot of it leftover. Great – I had the topping, but now what do I put it on? I could make another Key Lime Pie… I had all the ingredients for it still on-hand…but I wanted something else. Something light and lovely. Lemon Sponge Cake. In cupcake form. Genius.

all lemon, all the time.

all lemon, all the time.

Now ultimately, I would have loved to dust the top with the zest of a real lemon, however I only had fresh limes. So in keeping with the them, I decided to use the next best thing – yellow sanding sugar.

just like lemon.

just like lemon.

Anyway, I have to say, the lemon whipped cream was really the superstar of this dessert. So, here’s the recipe – it’s the perfect addition to summer cakes and cocktails alike – it goes wonderfully atop an orange soda spiked with whipped cream vodka, in case you were wondering. 🙂

Lemon Whipped Cream.

What you need:

8 oz heavy cream (chilled)

1.25 oz confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp lemon extract

What you’ll do:

First of all, put the mixing bowl you are going to use in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Cream whips better in a cold bowl. Using the whip attachment, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and the lemon extract, and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Do NOT over-whip, or you’ll wind up with lemon butter. Which might actually not be that bad, but you certainly can’t top cupcakes with it.

Recipe Tuesday Afternoon: Pumpkin Rosemary Pie.

Serendipity has always been one of my favorite words – even before the movie with John Cusack (which is also one of my favorite movies). I love the idea of a fortunate accident – that every event happens for a reason and contributes to the making of something truly great. In this case, it’s a pumpkin pie – with rosemary.

Two simultaneous events lead to the serendipitous creation of this particular pie :

1. I was given a container of fresh rosemary yesterday morning. It smelled wonderful. I had no idea what to do with it, but i knew I  had to do something – it was much too good to just go untouched and its freshness wouldn’t last forever. I had to strike while the iron was hot.

the scent of the gods.

2. I got sick. Sometimes bad things happen for a good reason. In fact, they usually do. I was going to have my friend over on Monday night and I was originally going to make a pumpkin pie on Sunday night for it. I got sick, and did not make the pie on Sunday night. I told my friend yesterday morning that I should be ok by Tuesday night (tonight) so we could reschedule. Then I was given the rosemary. Then I wound up feeling worse, and stayed home from work today. However, this gave me plenty of time to focus on the pie, and as I began getting the ingredients together, I saw the rosemary on the counter. So I did what any adventurous baker would do – I added it in.

pumpkin, fate, rosemary and time.

The resulting pie was truly meant to be: I’ve never made a better pie in my life, and that’s the truth. And now you can make it too – because good things are always meant to be shared. And life’s too short to let your rosemary go bad – you never know when it might come your way again. 🙂

pie love.

Pumpkin Rosemary Pie.

The Crust:

What you’ll need:

10 whole cinnamon graham cracker sheets

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

6 tablespoons butter (melted)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 475. Combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a food processor. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9” pie pan. Bake for 7-8 minutes, until slightly brown and set.

The Filling:

What you’ll need:

1 cup fat-free milk

15 oz pumpkin puree

2 eggs

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons corn starch

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon fresh minced rosemary

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the milk, pumpkin, and eggs.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, corn starch, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and rosemary until well combined, then fold it into pumpkin mixture. Pour mixture into pre-baked crust, until it almost reaches the top (you will most likely have some extra filling – enough for a personal-sized pie!).  Bake for 50 – 55 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

The Topping:

What you’ll need:

1 lb heavy cream

2.5 oz confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Add the sugar and cinnamon mixture and the vanilla to the cream, and continue whipping until is forms stiff peaks. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

a little piece of heaven.

A nod to nog.

Today it snowed. I am not a fan – I’m definitely a summer person. I often wish I could organize a “mass move” and have everyone I know and love pack up and move to a milder climate. While I wait for that day to come, I use these snow days in the meantime to test out new recipes.

Today I made an egg nog pie. Granted, this was no “small indulgence.” It’s a grandiose gluttonous gorge-fest. But damn, is it worth it.

I made the crust from scratch, and I finally got to break in  my brand new (woo-hoo!) food processor.  I made the rest of the pie from scratch as well, right down to whipped cream.

Why, might you ask, am I writing about something that is the exact opposite of what I’ve been preaching? Well, it’s obvious, really. The beauty of the small indulgence is that if you opt for them enough times, you can enjoy a big ‘ole rich ginormous piece of heavenly egg nog pie,  without feeling like Fatty McBloaterson afterwards.  So go ahead, indulge. You deserve it.

eat me.