Grand apologies for the delay in action!  However, this dessert is nothing less than perfection and the rave review are pouring in!

“That food is good.” says Boyfriend.

“Really really good!” says Dad.

“Oh Leighann, the torte is fabulous!” says Mom.

While in the oven, the apple juices and the cinnamon work together with the vanilla to bake deliciously into the cream cheese creating a beautiful middle layer between the fruit and nuts on top and the amazing crust.

And the crust!!  This is better than any cheesecake crust I have come across ever!  Instead of bumbling crumbs loosely held together, you get to enjoy the this wonderful fruit and almond covered cheesecake on top of a cookie!  Lightly sweet and chewy, the crust is reminiscent of a sugar cookie or a soft shortbread and still holds everything in place.

The only downside of this dish (and I’m using “downside” incredibly loosely) was that the slices of apple were a little large and caused a bit of smooshing while plating each slice.  Next time I would try cutting the apples into chunks instead because I will definitely be using this recipe again.

Verdict: Sweet, creamy,  and lightly spiced with a cookie crust – this is a great dessert for the holiday season and all cold-weather months!

This is the time of year when we feel the necessity for all things to be nostalgic, familiar and steeped in tradition, but with the beginning of this holiday season,  I couldn’t help thinking of a friend who once told me that her favorite family Thanksgiving tradition was to never have the same meal twice.  Of course it can be risky to attempt a new recipe under the spotlight of the Big Thanksgiving Dinner, but the bigger the risk the bigger the rewards, right?

I found this recipe in a fashion magazine.  The instructions were weird, but the accompanying photograph looked divine.  So, I’m giving it a shot.  A shot in the dark.

Bavarian Cranberry Apple Torte

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups apples (4-6 medium apples)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 450°.

Peel, core and slice apples.  For me, four apples were more than enough to make four cups sliced.

In a medium bowl, cream butter, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla.

Blend in flour.

Form a ball and press dough onto bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of a 9″ springform pan.

Cover crust in the raspberry jam and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

In another medium bowl, combine cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar.

Add eggs and 1 tsp of vanilla and mix well.

Pour over jam-covered crust.

In yet another bowl, toss your peeled, cored and sliced apples with the cranberries, cinnamon, and remaining sugar.  A spatula works well to ensure all apples and cranberries are equally coated in cinnamon sugar, but eat a few of these to be certain.

Spoon the delicious cinnamon sugar fruit over the cream cheese and sprinkle the top with almonds.

Bake torte at 450° for 10 minutes.  (Smart move: place the springform pan inside of a larger pan or on a cookie sheet.  The sugar makes the apples quite juicy, and unless you want to learn what your smoke detector sounds like, dirtying an additional pan is well worth it to catch these drippings.)

With the torte still in the oven, lower heat to 400° and bake for an additional 40 minutes.

Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up filling.

I’m keeping mine in the fridge overnight – Do Not Open Until Thanksgiving!!  Stay tuned for part two tomorrow where I’ll see if the results of this new recipe was worth the risk!

Halloween candy used to confuse me as a kid.  “How can it be called ‘Fun Size’ when its smaller? With a name like that, shouldn’t it be HUGE?”  As an adult, I’ve learned that bigger isn’t always better, and some times a small taste can be a big treat.

I had originally made a full-size pumpkin pie cheesecake from a Cheesecake Factory cookbook for Thanksgiving a few years ago, but after a massive feast, no one wanted a full slice of anything, let alone cheesecake.  This is an awesome recipe and a fun twist on the traditional pumpkin pie, so I want to make sure everyone gets a taste!  After trying out some Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes from the Martha Stewart Cupcake book this summer, I think I have successfully reimagined the delectable Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake in a very Fun Size.

Yum yum yum! Let’s get sharing!

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3-8oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 15 oz canned pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Preheat oven to 275°.

Combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and 1 tablespoon sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir well enough to coast all crumbs with butter, but not so much as to turn it into a paste.  Keep it crumbly, yo, it is a crust after all.  A fork works well.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of the lined muffin cups so the bottoms are covered, this is generally a couple fork-fulls, but less than a tablespoon.

Bake for 10 minutes, until the crumbs become crusty (in a good way.)

While the crust is baking, mix the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.

Add pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.  Continue to beat until smooth and creamy.

Fill ‘er up!

Bake for 22 minutes, rotating the tins at halftime.

Counter cool for 15 minutes, then refrigerate for several hours.  Like at least four.  But it make more sense to just come back to this tomorrow and allow everything to set overnight.

Remove the liner, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with nutmeg for a teeny creamy sweet and spicy delight!  You’ll probably need a fork, and a trip back for seconds.

This recipe made 24 perfect little cupcakes, so one cupcake is less than half the size of an average cheesecake slice. This Fun Size version of the cheesecake allows more plate space to ensure that everyone has room for dessert!

cinnamon pecan pie

November 2, 2011

Happy November!  It seems like so many retailers are under the belief that this month is a pesky interlude between those big money makers, Halloween and Christmas.  Not this girl!  I couldn’t possibly fathom forgetting the joy that is the Thanksgiving feast!  As the month rolls on, I will be sharing more recipes as I try to narrow down the favorites for the big day.  Yay!  It’s an entire month of Thanksgiving practice!

Two things about me: I love pie and I LOVE cinnamon.  I usually celebrate these amours in the joyous union of apple pie, but I found this recipe on a bottle of corn syrup I bought to make stage blood last Halloween and had been waiting for the right time to utilize it for an entire year.  My dad’s birthday was finally the perfect opportunity to try this recipe, and I made the pie at my parents house so they would win all the tasty leftovers.

the goods

Cinnamon Pecan Pie Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 pie crust for a 9″ pie

temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°.

beat eggs

In a medium bowl, beat eggs slightly with a fork.

more ingredients

Add brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, cinnamon and vanilla and stir until blended.  No need for an electric mixer, a wooden spoon will do just fine.

pecan party

Stir in pecans.

flour pie crust

You’ll want to flour both sides of the store-bought pie crust so that it doesn’t become soggy with the pie goo and fail to live up to its pie crust duties.

pour

Pour filling into pie crust.

almost there

Yummmm.  Bake for 50-55 minutes or until you can stab the pie halfway between the edge and the center and the blade comes out clean.

toasty

Allow to cool before serving.  It won’t be easy, but you have to eat dinner before you can have dessert.

dollop on top

With a dollop on creamy whipped cream on top, this pie is a sweet treat to ring in the autumn season!  Don’t forget to check back for more tasty recipes this month as I narrow down the winners for a decadent Thanksgiving dinner (and dessert)!

welcome back, blog

October 2, 2011

Sorry.  I have been missing in action for the past couple of months.  It simply became too hot in my studio kitchen to warrant any additional heat.  I had to move the chocolate from the cupboard into my fridge because everything was melting.

i'm melting

Including myself.  And so I went out, where I enjoyed things that I can finally share because I can now comfortably concentrate at a heat-emitting device in my own home.

mocha sundae

I ate a lot of ice cream this summer.  Like this amazing mocha sundae, cappuccino ice cream with chocolate sauce and topped with chocolate covered espresso beans.  It was a good way to keep my internal temperature down, or so I told myself.

bloody mary friend

I made sure to stay hydrated.  I met friends for drinks and made friends in drinks, like this friend I found at the bottom of my Bloody Mary.

mason jar mojito

And this mason jar Mojito at Moonshine.

gin and tonic

And this gin and tonic at Archies.

raspberry crown

After late nights out, there is nothing so wonderful as a big brunch by the light of day featuring seasonal fruit.  Peach and raspberry pancakes with almonds and house made amaretto churned butter at Nookies Too.

burger

There was plenty of room for backyard barbeques, including the amazing discovery that basil becomes a fantastic lettuce replacement on a burger when the herb is so rich and leafy in the summertime.

blueberries

I could not get enough blueberries this summer.

handy helpers

I even went on an adventure to Michigan and enlisted the help of my three-year-old twin niece and nephew to pick wild blueberries that are infinity times better than anything I’ve ever found in a grocery store.  While my nephew found the bucket an interfering step from branch to mouth, my niece successfully picked a half pound of the good “purple” blueberries and none of the yucky pink or green blueberries.

blueberry margarita

And that very evening, with a couple of fine ladies, we turned a couple pounds of those teeny blueberries into totally healthful margaritas.  Cheers!

Thanks for sticking around in my absence!  I am back from this break with my kitchen and excited to get to work baking, shooting and writing about the fun and delicious things I come across!

Nothing is more than the harmonious coupling of two contrasts.  In this edition, we’re going with spicy and cool.

I know there are wimps out there when it comes to the really hot stuff, but  jalapeño peppers rate comparatively low on the Scoville scale (a fraction of a percent of law enforcement grade pepper spray!), and who doesn’t need to keep themselves hydrated anyways?

For some reason, I’ve had a heart on for cucumbers this year.  Have you ever craved a cucumber?  It’s a delightful alternative to a potato chip when you’re yearning for something crunchy.  Also, cucumber slices are fantastic drink garnishes for your vodka lemonades and gin & tonics.

Add a Ritz cracker and a schmear of whipped cream cheese and you’ve got a crunchy, creamy, spicy, cool treat!

(And for the wimps, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple blanks on hand for those jalapeño slices with a few too many seeds!)

After a gray week in Chicago that got off on the wrong foot Monday morning with an inch of snow on the ground, I needed anything bright and would remind me that summer was on her way.  A combination of sweet and sour has always been a favorite of mine, so a couple years ago – in the perpetual pre-spring the midwest is able to produce – I came to the conclusion that I wanted to somehow eat a strawberry lemonade and found a way to do just that.  I adapted one easy cake recipe from several and came up with a deliciously tart and toothsome treat!

Strawberry Cake 

  • 1 (18 1/4 oz) box white cake mix
  • 1 (3 oz) box strawberry flavored instant gelatin (weird, I know, but if you don’t use it, you’ll just have hot pudding and no cake – SCIENCE!)
  • 1 (10 oz) package frozen strawberries in juice, thawed and pureed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • fresh strawberries (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Beat in wet ingredients until smooth.  Pour batter into two lightly greased 9″ pans (for a two-layer round cake) or into about two lined muffin tins (for cupcakes).  For layer cake, bake for 30 minutes; for cupcakes, bake for 17-25 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, cool completely on wire racks.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 tsp grated fresh lemon rind
  • 6 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • juice of one whole lemon
  • 3 tbsp water
  • dash of salt
  • 3 drops yellow food coloring (add more for a neon effect, but apparently people don’t know something tastes like a lemon if it isn’t a screaming yellow shade)
  • Lemon Note: I roll the lemon on the counter for a minute so it becomes juicier, and cut it in half.  I grate the rind of each half lemon and use it all because it’s kind of hard to measure all the tiny lemon bits.  It’s much easier to grate the rind while the juice is still in the lemon.  When squeezing, mind the seeds before you beat the frosting!

Combine lemon rind to butter, cream well.  Add sugar gradually (one cup at a time is good), blending well after each addition.  Add lemon juice and water, blend well with remaining sugar to a spreadable consistency.  Add salt and blend until smooth.

Here’s the final result as a cake from a couple years ago!  I included fresh strawberry slices with the lemon frosting between the cake layers.  This was a welcomed alternative to the yellow-cake-and-plain-buttercream lamb cake at Easter that year.

And here we are as a cupcake!  I shared these with my family again this Easter to rave reviews from my twin almost-three-year-old niece and nephew.  Mikaela was thrilled by the bright pink cake and Ayden stuck a fingertip into the frosting and instantly declared “Yummy!” and requested cupcakes all afternoon.

irish car bomb cupcakes

March 13, 2011

A sweet treat pairs nicely with a mixed drink, which is why I enjoy baking with alcohol (there’s also a “one for the recipe and one for me” drinking/cooking game which is quite fun to play).  The amount of alcohol used is negligible and most of it gets baked out, but it lends itself for this perfect seasonal after hours delight.

This week is St. Patrick’s Day.  As my days of drinking an entire bottle of Bailey’s for the holiday are long gone and my desire to Crock-Pot a batch of corned beef and cabbage is nill, I’ve landed upon this fantastic cupcake recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  Wonderfully, now you can align the flavors of an Irish Car Bomb with a delicate chocolate cupcake – minus the chugging, and subsequent bodily rejection of a pint of stout with dropshots of whiskey and Irish Cream.

Let’s get started!

This recipe yields 18-24 cupcakes (depending on how you fill the cups).  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line your muffin tin.  Gather your soldiers.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all purpose powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.

Add Guinness and bring to a simmer.

Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth.  Lower heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Whisk until they’re all good friends.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sour cream.

With an electric mixer, beat together until smooth.

Add the Guinness mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine.

Add flour mixture and beat briefly until just combined.  Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

Divide the batter into cups, about 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Bake for about 17 minutes in a 35o degree oven, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, rotating once front to back if your oven cooks unevenly.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.  (Which is a great time to get started on the next step!)

Whiskey Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons whiskey (optional)

Break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl.

Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate.

Let it sit for a minute so it can steam up your lens.

Stir until smooth.  Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined smoothly.

Using an apple corer, remove the centers of the cooled cupcakes.  You don’t want to pop through the bottom, so aim for coring about 2/3 of the way.

Fill the cupcakes.  You could get this goop all up in a piping bag and be fancy about it, but I find two teaspoons are much easier to work with.  (Plus you don’t have that awkward licking-out-the-bag to deal with when you’re cleaning up.)

Look at you, cupcake!

Bailey’s Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3-4 tablespoons Bailey’s (or milk or heavy cream, if opting for a non-alcoholic version)

Place butter in a medium bowl.

With an electric mixer, whip the butter for several minutes until it is very light and fluffy.

Add the powdered sugar in very small amounts.  (I like to shake it into the bowl in tablespoon amounts.)  The longer you draw out the sugar/mixer process, the lighter and fluffier your frosting will be.  When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, add the Bailey’s (or milk) and whip it in until combined.  If the frosting looks too thin, just add powdered sugar.

Frost the cupcakes to your liking and enjoy until the last bite!