Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I can’t believe it has been more than two weeks since my last post!  I have missed my little blog but have been trying to bake less in the New Year since everyone in my household overindulged during the Holiday season.  I figure it is about time to break those Resolutions and get back to eating the good stuff though.

I think you might want to start with this cheesecake, it is amazing!  The filling is very dense and studded with mini chocolate chips.  The crust is made from gluten free chocolate cookies and instant coffee.  I think this might be the best egg-less cheesecake I have ever made and I will definitely be making it again soon.  Make this a day ahead of serving since it needs to chill overnight for the best texture.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Adapted from The Food Network Magazine

Crust:

10oz gluten free chocolate cookies (I used Nana’s Fudge Cookie Bites, but you can use your favorite)

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp instant coffee

6 Tbsp melted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 350*F.  Grind cookies and sugar in food processor.  Add the instant coffee to the melted butter and mix until the coffee is dissolved.  Add the butter to the food processor and mix until all the crumbs are moist.  Pour into 10″ spring form pan and pat evenly along the bottom (don’t try to press crumbs up the sides or they will fall and you will have a really thick edge.)  Bake for 8-10 minutes and then let cool while you make the filling.

Filling:

1 pkg aseptic firm silken tofu

1 1/2 lbs cream cheese (3 8oz pkgs)

1 cup sugar

1 cup mascarpone

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup mini chocolate chips plus 1/2 cup for decoration

In a food processor or with your mixer, blend the tofu until smooth.  Add the cream cheese, sugar and mascarpone and blend until smooth and well incorporated, make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.  Add the vanilla and salt and blend again briefly until well mixed.  Fold in the chocolate chips and pour into your prepared crust.  Bake at 350*F for 65-70 minutes, the center will still be very jiggly but the top will have just started to darken when it is done.   Let cool overnight in the refrigerator.   Before you serve the cheesecake, melt the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave for 30 seconds and then stir until smooth, pour into a plastic sandwich bag and snip off one corner.  Use this to drizzle the chocolate over the cake in a decorative pattern.   Serves 8-10.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

We had a wonderful Christmas this year, it was especially nice to have a baby in the house.  She was more interested in the wrapping paper and boxes that the presents but I am sure that won’t last too long!

Our Christmas dinner was a very local affair, my parents and grandparents ate chicken from a local farmer, we had potatoes, beets, carrots and cranberries from our land and squash, onions, and apples from other local farms.  I even picked the lemons we used on our recent trip to Arizona!  It was a wonderful meal and this cake was the perfect way to finish it off.  It is a pretty dense cake, I got the recipe from my husbands grandmother, and it pairs really well with the cranberry.  It is lightly lemon flavored and just sweet enough.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Adapted from a recipe by Mary Bates

2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

1 1/2 cups agave, divided

2 cups flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 aseptic container of silken firm tofu

1 tsp lemon extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

In a medium saucepan combined the cranberries and 3/4 cups agave.  Cook over medium heat until the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens.  Pour in to greased 9 inch springform pan, spread evenly over the bottom and let cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 350*F.  Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and place on the middle shelf of the oven.  In a medium bowl combined the flour, baking powder and salt.  In a blender or food processor, blend the remaining 3/4 cup agave, tofu, extracts and lemon zest.  Blend until smooth.  Gently combined the wet and dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix.  The batter will be thick so spoon it over the cool cranberry sauce and spread out gently with a spatula.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for 15 minutes and then remove the ring of the springform pan and turn the cake out on to a platter to cool completely.  Serves 8 generously.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Gingerbread House

I was so excited to find that this months Daring Bakers’ Challenge was to make Gingerbread houses, how fun!

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

This was actually much more fun and relaxing than I thought it would be.  I was prepared to spend a whole day being frustrated and crying over broken gingerbread.  I used Y’s recipe, it was more of a spice dough than a gingerbread, as there was no molasses in it.  It was a little dry, I might add a touch more water next time, but it was enough for two small houses and two dozen cookies.  I used the Gingerbread House 1 template that I found online here.  I forgot to trim it after it came out of the oven but it ended up fine.

I think the thing that made this whole thing easy was using the sugar syrup to hold the houses together.  There was way too much of it, I would make a half or quarter batch next time but it was so helpful.  I didn’t have to worry about the icing drying before I could move on to the next part.

David was excited to help me with this project and we started in the morning by decorating the sides of the houses I had baked the night before.  We decorated them flat and then when they were dry after a couple of hours, I used the sugar syrup to put them together.

My gingerbread house

David's gingerbread house

After the sugar had hardened, only a couple of minutes, I added the roofs using icing.  The regular Royal icing that is used is made with egg whites so I found a vegan recipe online.  Making the icing was the most frustrating part of the whole day.  I don’t know if I measured wrong or if the recipe is wrong but I added too much sugar to begin with and had to add more water but once it was the right consistency it worked great.  This was so much fun I think we are going to make it a tradition to make houses on Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas!

My Gingerbread House

David's Gingerbread House

Anna’s Recipe:
Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipefinder/spicy-gingerbread-dough-157…

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger

Directions

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Y’s Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas http://astore.amazon.com/thedarkit-20/detail/0816634963

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375’F (190’C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.

Gingerbread Cake

I made this for my grandfather’s 89th birthday this month.  We had a wonderful party and this cake was a big hit.  My uncle even said it was the best gingerbread he had ever had!  I think the best part is the little pieces of candied ginger spread throughout the cake, it is very nice to bite into one and get a burst of ginger.  I wish I had gotten some better pictures, the cake looked very pretty sprinkled with powdered sugar before we cut into it.

Gingerbread Cake

Adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

2 1/2 cups flour

2 Tbsp ginger

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1 cup oil

2/3 cup molasses

1 cup agave

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup yogurt

zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Grease and flour a bundt pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the crystallized ginger.  In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, molasses, agave, milk, yogurt and zest.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring after each addition.  Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for ten minutes and then flip out on to a cooling rack and cool completely.  Top with powdered sugar if desired.  Serves 12-14.

Pumpkin Pie

My husband David LOVES pumpkin pie and only his mother’s pumpkin pie.  Our biggest food related fight was about pumpkin pie and how I couldn’t make it as good as his mother.  Luckily, Cathy was willing to share the recipe with me (THANK YOU!) and after making it for the last eight years or so I have managed to satisfy David with a pie as good as his mothers.  This is a great pumpkin pie, it firms up wonderfully and you don’t miss the eggs at all.  The key is not to skimp on the pumpkin, one can has a cup and three-quarters but you need a full two cups.  I usually double this recipe to get two pies, then David can have one and the rest of us can share.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

2 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 Tbsp butter or margarine

1 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 1/2 cups milk

1 Tbsp white flour

1 unbaked 9″ pie shell

Preheat the oven to 450*F.  In a saucepan mix together the pumpkin, spices, salt, butter, sugar and vanilla.  In a small bowl mix the cornstarch with the milk.  Heat the pumpkin mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until hot.  Add the cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Sprinkle in the flour and cook for two more minutes, stirring contantly.  Cool slightly and pour into pie shell.  Bake at 450*F for 15 minutes and then lower the heat to 350*F and continue baking for another 30 minutes.  The center will be set but slightly jiggly and the pie will have puffed up.  Let cool completely before cutting.  Make one 9″ pie.

Orange Cranberry Pecans

Make this…really, you need to make this.  I can’t send it to all of you and you need to taste these pecans, they are wonderful, amazing and very addictive.  I don’t know why you are still sitting there, go out and buy the ingredients…right now…go!

Orange Cranberry Pecans

Juice and zest of one orange

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

4 cups toasted pecans (toast at 350*F for six minutes)

1 pkg Craisins

In a medium saucepan combined the orange juice, zest, sugars, salt and pepper.  Bring to a rolling boil and add the pecans a handful at a time.  When all the nuts are added continue to cook until the liquid is absorbed.  Take the pan off the heat and add the Craisins and then stir until the nuts are dry.  Spread on wax paper and let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Note:  I have made this a few more time now and I think there are too many cranberries…so I would advise cutting the amount of cranberries called for in the recipe in half.

Chococococans…are you intrigued?

I have been working on a new cookie recipe for a while.  I started out wanting something that reminded me of Samoas, the Girl Scout cookies, with chocolate, coconut, and caramel.  My first attempt was okay, kind of brownie like but not chocolaty or coconuty enough.  Surprisingly the caramel was a distraction so was quickly dropped from the recipe.  I ended up adding some toasted pecans because how can you go wrong with toasted pecans?  This is now a pretty perfect chocolate cookie, nicely flavored with coconut and the pecans add a great toasted crunch.  After much thought my husband has declared them his new favorite cookie, a decision that he did not take lightly!

Now, you are probably wondering about the name.  I was trying to think of something to call them when my husband helpfully suggested Chococococans.  I immediately rejected such a silly suggestion, how would anyone remember that? Or know how to pronounce it?  So David started a marketing campaign for his name, the slogan is “like sex with an Aztec God” and he even designed a logo.

In the meantime my Dad suggested Gilligans as a name, which I liked but by that time everyone was calling them Chococococans and so I have been out voted.   So here is the world premiere of Chococococans…

Chococococans

1 ¾ cups white wheat flour

½ cup cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2/3 cup canola oil

¼ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

2 oz. melted bittersweet chocolate

½ cup milk

1 Tbsp ground flax seed

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp coconut extract

1 cup coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  On one baking sheet spread out the pecan pieces and toast in the oven for five minutes.  Let cool.  In a medium mixing bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a large mixing bowl combined the sugars and oil then add the melted chocolate and milk and mix well.  Add the flax seed and extracts and mix to combined.  Stir in half the dry ingredients until just moistened.  Add the coconut and pecans with the rest of the dry ingredients and stir until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Drop by rounded tablespoon on baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheet for five minutes and then move to cooling rack to cool completely.  Makes 2 dozen cookies.

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