Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

I called this a cheesecake, but it’s not exactly true, because there’s no baking in this recipe. This turns out to be brilliant: it comes together quickly, can be made ahead, and is the kind of thing you can imagine making in the non-oven months, like July.

(Thanks to my friend Tim Pierce for this photo.)

I’ve made this cake as pictured, and also in paper-lined muffin tins for individual servings, and both worked well. The filling is ultra-creamy and not too sweet, and the tang of the marscapone does a nice job of setting off the heat from the ginger.


Ginger marscapone cheesecake
Adapted from Dozen Flours

1 box crunchy gingersnaps (12-16 oz)
4 T. unsalted butter
1 c. cream cheese (or one 8-oz. package)
1/2 c. plain yogurt
2/3 c. sugar plus extra for the pan (I liked this with turbinado sugar; white granulated sugar also works)
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. crystallized ginger
2 c. marscapone cheese
1/3 c. heavy cream

Grease a springform pan, and then dust it with sugar the same way you’d normally dust with flour. Tap out any excess.

Crush the gingersnap cookies. It’s easiest to do this by whizzing them in a blender or food processor, but I’ve also done it by putting them in a bag, closing it carefully, and then smashing the heck out of them. Ideally, you’ll get uniform, fine crumbs, but it doesn’t matter too much.

Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stove top, and then add it to the gingersnaps. If you used a really big box, you might need a bit more butter to evenly mix with the crumbs without dry spots. Press a third of the mix into the bottom of the springform.

Put the cream cheese in a bowl. You’ll probably want to do this with a mixer — I’ve used both stand and hand mixers successfully — but you could also do it with strong biceps! If you choose the latter option, make sure your ingredients are softened before use.

Whip the cream cheese until smooth, and then add the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Add the marscapone and mix, then the cream.

Chop the crystallized ginger as finely as you reasonably can, and stir it in to the filling mixture.

Carefully spread half of the filling over the bottom crust. Be careful not to make holes in your crust when you do this; using your fingers or a silicone spatula is probably easiest. Sprinkle half of the remaining cookie mix over it, as evenly as you can, then top with the remaining filling and finally the last of the cookies.

Refrigerate this, covered with plastic wrap, for at least a few hours; overnight or even 24 hours is fine. After this, you should be able to remove the outside of the springform and carefully slice.

Serves about 16.


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My springform pan went on walkabout when I moved last fall. I was in denial about this for a long time, but I finally surrendered and bought a new springform, and therefore, the season of cheesecake has begun! Chocolate cheesecake, to be specific. Actually, chocolate caramel cheesecake. I know.

chocolate cheesecake

Once you’ve gotten through the caramel-making step (of which it turns out to be utterly impossible to take a picture, because of the need to give not-burning-the-caramel your full attention), this recipe is dead simple. There’s not even a water bath, just chocolate caramel goodness.

chocolate for cheesecake

By the way, a word about springform pans: they come in two types. Both have a groove where the bottom and the part with the latch connect. In one type, this groove runs around the bottom of the latch part. It’s easier to remove the outside with this type, but trickier to assemble, and, if you’re me, more likely to leak. In the other type, the groove is in the bottom, like so:

good springform

I find these easier to manage, despite the fact that you have to remove the outside by lifting it. For this recipe, a nine- or ten-inch springform should work.

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 c. (~10 oz.) chocolate wafers
10 T. butter
1 2/3 c. sugar
pinch salt
3/4 c. heavy cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I often use Ghiradelli chips to avoid chopping; if you do too, it’s about 1 1/3 c.)
1/2 c. sour cream
3 c. cream cheese (that’s 3 8-oz. packages)
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla

Crush the cookies. You can do this by whirring them in the food processor, or you can put them in a big plastic bag and beat them up with a rolling pin. Get the crumbs as uniform in size as you can.

Melt the butter in a large, microwave-proof bowl and then add the cookie crumbs, 2/3 c. sugar, and the pinch of salt. Mix to combine.

Assemble your springform and grease it. Then press the cookie crust into the bottom. You can do this by dumping the mixture in the middle and patting it down, then pressing starting in the center out towards the edges until it climbs up them. Aim for a crust as thin as you can manage on the bottom (but without holes!) and sides at least three inches tall. (If you’re thinking “it doesn’t look three inches tall in the photo,” you’re right. That’s because I am a smarty pants and forgot to double the crust recipe and could only use half the filling. We shall not discuss what I did with the other half.) You can leave the crust on the counter or put it in the fridge while you make the filling.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Put the remaining cup of sugar into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Make sure it’s completely dry when you start! Turn a burner to medium-low and cook the sugar, stirring gently with a silicone spatula, until it melts. Then stop stirring — that part is important — and keep cooking, swirling the pan to mix, until it caramelizes, turning a deep golden brown.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream, watching out for the steam and bubbling. The caramel will harden. Then return to the heat and cook until the caramel dissolves to liquid again. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate with a fork or whisk, mixing until smooth. Then add the sour cream.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese (which you should soften first, either by leaving it out or using the microwave) with an electric or stand mixer until it’s fluffy. Turn the mixer to low and beat in the chocolate/caramel/sour cream mixture. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla. Make sure to scrape down the bowl!

If you’re the kind of person who is prone to getting cheesecake all over your oven (read: me), you want to do one of two things at this stage: either put the springform with the crust on a baking sheet or tightly wrap the bottom of the pan, where the two pieces join, in aluminium foil. Then pour the filling in and bake for about 55 minutes. It should be set about halfway from the edges to the center, leaving the center slightly wiggly when you tap the edge of the pan.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan on the counter, then chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours — and ideally all day or overnight — before removing the outside of the pan (run a butter knife around the outside of the crust to help) and slicing. Serve chilled or at room temperature as you prefer. Keeps about a week, covered and chilled.

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Bran muffins

I have breakfast issues. I’m allergic to bread and the texture of eggs makes my tongue want to cry. And then it’s winter a lot here, which makes it hard to think about lovely summer breakfasts like melon or smoothies or yogurt.

bran muffins

Thank goodness for muffins! The genius thing about muffins is that you can freeze them. So that means you can make an enormous batch and then defrost them as you want them. You can do this by thinking ahead and laying them out on the counter overnight, or you can pop them into the microwave. Or, if you are as toaster-oven-happy as I am, you can just split them before freezing and then pop them into the toaster oven straight from the freezer, which makes them even warmer!

These are not very sweet — you could add some granulated sugar if you preferred them sweeter — but are a flexible base that’s open to a lot of additions. I’ve listed some of my favorites at the bottom, but I also love them plain, split and toasted and buttered.

Bran muffins
Adapted from Farmgirl Fare

2 eggs
2/3 c. milk (I use whatever’s in my fridge; low-fat and whole both work fine)
2/3 c. plain yogurt or sour cream (again, low-fat works fine)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. molasses*
1/3 c. honey*
1 t. vanilla
2 c. wheat bran**
1 c. oat bran
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
generous pinch of salt
Additions as desired (see below!)

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Grease or line your muffin tins.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, yogurt or sour cream, oil, molasses, honey, and vanilla until they are combined. Add the dry ingredients — wheat bran, oat bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt — all at once. Mix just until combined. If you’re adding any extras, stir them in after the dry ingredients.

Fill muffin cups three-quarters full and bake for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. I usually bake two pans at a time; if you do this, rotate them halfway.

When they come out, allow them to cool slightly before removing from the pan. They’ll keep for a few days on the countertop or for months in the freezer.

Additions I like:
*half a cup of shredded coconut
*1 cup of chocolate chips
*half a cup of chopped crystallized ginger

I hear the kind of people who like fruit in their muffins especially like blueberries in these.

*It’s actually possible to use a wide variety of sweeteners here, including cane syrup, agave, or all honey. All molasses is a bit strong for my tastes, but works. I haven’t yet tried maple syrup; if you do, tell me how it goes!
**I found Quaker-brand wheat bran in my regular grocery store, labeled as “unprocessed bran” on the front but clearly identified as wheat bran in the ingredients. If you have access to a store with bulk bins, you’ll almost certainly save some money by buying the bran that way.

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I would’ve sworn that I posted this recipe back in the fall, but I can find no evidence that I actually did so. That means I owe you an apology, because I’ve been depriving you of these delicious little bites of melty chocolatey goodness, probably for months.

chocolate cookie-cups

(I kind of love that picture.)

These little guys bake up as quickly as cookies, but have the whole mini-cupcake cute factor on their side when it comes to convincing people to pick them up. And once you pick one up, they speak for themselves. The espresso flavor is not pronounced: as is often the case, it comes through as depth and a touch of bitterness that balance the chocolate rather than a distinct taste of its own.

chocolate cookie-cups - unbaked

chocolate cookie cups - baked

Chocolate Espresso Cookie Cups
Adapted from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts via Baking Bites

2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
3/4 c. plus 2 T. brown sugar
1/2 c. plus 1 T. white sugar
2 t. instant espresso powder
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
Pinch salt
2 c. of mixed chocolate chips (white, semi-sweet, and milk)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease or line a mini-muffin tin.

Cream the butter and sugars until well-mixed, then add the espresso powder, egg, and vanilla.

Mix in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (Sift any of these ingredients that have big lumps.) Then add the chocolate chips.

Dollop into the mini-muffin pan and bake for about ten minutes, until the tops no longer appear wet. Remove from the oven. If you’re using liners, you can turn them out of the pan after about ten minutes; if not, give them a few more minutes so they don’t disintegrate on the rack.

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These are some very serious cupcakes. You’re almost certainly going to have to go to the store before you can make them. They require you to make your own caramel. You’re going to have to wash a small mountain of dishes. But they are mighty. I used them to bribe people to help me move (it worked); I gave a couple of leftovers to my new mama friend, the one whose baby brought you those tasty, tasty cookies.

chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting.jpg

The mightiness of these cupcakes comes in many forms. First, there’s the one-two punch of melted chocolate plus cocoa powder. There’s the knock-you-upside-the-head richness created by over a pound of butter and the better part of a dozen eggs. But the richness somehow manages to mesh perfectly with a lightly-textured cake, and if you can stop eating the caramel with your fingers…well, you’re a better person than I am.

By the way, this recipe is being posted just a few days after I cooked it (not my usual MO) because my Dad specifically wrote to me to ask where it was. And also so that after you eat six of them, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting
Adapted from Cupcake Blog. The original is well worth checking out: it has a sneaky method for making a batch that’s half regular and half gluten-free cupcakes, as well as much snappier styling than what I’ve got.

For the cupcakes:
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3 sticks butter (that’s 1 1/2 c.)
2 1/4 c. sugar
8 eggs
1 1/4 c. flour
4 T. cocoa powder
1 1/2 t. baking powder
pinch salt

For the salted caramel
4 T. water
1 c. sugar*
2 T. Lyle’s Golden Syrup**
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 T. butter
1/2 t. lemon juice***
1/2 t. fine-grain sea salt

For the frosting:
2 sticks butter (1 c.)
8 oz. cream cheese (regular or reduced-fat; not fat-free!)
3-4 c. powdered sugar

Before you start:
Put the butter and cream cheese for the frosting on the counter to soften.

Make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Break the chocolate into pieces, either by hand or with a knife if necessary.

chopped chocolate.jpg

Put it and the butter in a large bowl and microwave in thirty-second increments, stirring in between, until nearly smooth. Then remove and stir until completely smooth. Stir in the sugar.

Check with a fingertip to make sure the mixture is not still hot. If it is, let it cool for a few minutes. When it’s not too hot to touch, stir in the eggs. I recommend doing this one or two at a time (eight is a lot of eggs) and stirring vigorously until they’re thoroughly incorporated.

Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the cocoa powder as well, sifting if there are any lumps. Mix until combined.

Scoop into lined or greased cupcake tins. Fill the cups only about 2/3 full so they don’t overflow. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pans (at least back-to-front; switch racks if you have them on two) and bake for about ten more minutes, until the tops appear just dry and a toothpick comes out clean. You can make the caramel while they bake!

baked cupcakes.jpg

[Note: for me, this made 26 cupcakes. For the extra two, you can use foil or silicone baking cups, both of which are strong enough to stand up on a cookie sheet. Put one of your pans of cupcakes on the sheet too and just tuck the extras in at the edge to save space.]

Make the caramel:
[A word to the wise: this would be a good time to make sure chaos-prone members of your household are not underfoot. Sugar syrup burns aren’t so fun, and you’re going to want to give this part your undivided attention.]

Combine water, sugar, and syrup in a deep saucepan and stir to combine. (I like to use a nonstick pan for easy cleanup, but it does make it a bit harder to judge when the caramel is done because of the dark interior. The “deep” part is the most important one, though!) Put the saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook for two minutes.

Then remove the cover and turn the heat up to medium-high. If the mixture isn’t already boiling, it will start. Cook it without stirring from now on. (This helps keep the sugar from crystallizing.) Instead, you can shake or swirl the pan.

You’re just going to cook it until it turns a nice, dark amber. The syrup is already a bit dark, so it can be tricky to tell exactly how this is going. It will boil for some minutes — I’d guess three to five — and then start darkening in color. (What’s happening is that the water is boiling off before the sugar starts to caramelize.) So look for the color to start changing towards darker. But also, don’t worry too much: I under-caramelized mine slightly, and it’s still excellent.

When it’s dark amber, remove it from the heat and wait a few seconds, then carefully pour in the cream and stir to combine. The mixture will bubble and steam, so keep your face away from the pot.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, lemon juice, and salt.

Measure out one cup using a metal cup or by pouring it into a Pyrex measure.

You’ll probably have a few tablespoons left over; you can pour these on to foil to cool. I just ate mine, but you could use yours for cupcake decoration, too. You’ll need to throw it in the freezer if you want to do this in some way other than drizzling!

salted caramel

Make the frosting:
You’ll need to wait until your caramel goes from burning hot to merely warm for this part.

If your butter and cream cheese aren’t soft, soften them with a brief stint in the microwave on 50% power. (Use fifteen-second increments; you don’t want them melty.)

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together until they’re uniform in texture.

Sift in 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix to combine. (Start on a low speed if you don’t like your kitchen covered in sugar, yes? You can also throw a towel over the top of a stand mixer.)

Beat in the reserved cup of caramel. Then sift in more powdered sugar until you reach the desired taste and texture. The frosting will get stiffer as you add more sugar, but I found that three cups was about enough for me. It made for a relaxed kind of frosting — it’s spreadable even straight from the fridge — but it was as much sweet as I could take, even balanced with the cream cheese.

And Bob’s your uncle!****
Frost the cupcakes and try not to eat them all.

*This is a time when regular old granulated white sugar, or the closest thing you use to it, is your friend.
**Ok, so you could actually use corn syrup here — go for the light stuff — in a pinch. It gives me a belly ache though. Lyle’s is cane syrup and can often be found in the international foods aisle (along with other imports from the strange lands of England or Ireland). If not, there’s always the internet
***I wildly prefer Santa Cruz Organics lemon juice, which I can also get at my local natural food store, to regular bottled lemon juice.
****I learned this phrase when I was in Britain and I have an unreasonable love for it.

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This recipe has made it up here solely by popular acclaim. When I first made it, I was pretty surprised: the cookies are thick but crunchy, very sweet and very buttery all at once. I was ready to file the whole thing away as an interesting experiment when I brought them to a baby shower — which, possibly predictably, turned out to be full of people who love thick, crunchy, sweet, buttery cookies. So if you make these and love them, you have my friend’s baby to thank for it.

oatmeal white chocolate cookies

When I bake cookies, I put one rack in the top third of my oven and one in the bottom third. I put in two sheets of cookies at a time, and halfway through, I rotate them, switching racks and turning the back to the front. I have never, as far as I can remember had cookies fail because of this brief exposure to room-temperature air, so I recommend it as a way to get twice as many done in one batch!

White chocolate oatmeal cookies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated via Smitten Kitchen (where Deb salts them)

1 3/4 sticks of butter (that’s 14 tablespoons, if you’re counting)
1 c. white sugar
1/4 c. light brown sugar*
1 c. flour
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch salt
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. oats**
6 oz. white chocolate (chips or chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Soften the butter (either by organizedly leaving it out overnight or in the microwave) and cream it with the brown and white sugars. Add the egg and vanilla.

Then mix in the flour, leavening, and salt and mix to combine. Finally, add the oats and white chocolate and stir until they’re evenly distributed.

Form fairly big cookies — the balls of dough should be close to two inches in diameter — and place them on the cookie sheets, smushing them slightly with your hands or a spoon.

oatmeal white chocolate ready to bake

Bake 14-18 minutes until golden brown, rotating the sheets halfway through. Let cool for a minute before removing them to a cooling rack. Exercise caution when transporting these cookies, as they are prone to crumbling if not handled gently.

*Normally I don’t respect light brown sugar and dark brown sugar as different entities, but in this case, the cookies themselves are very light in color, so the light brown sugar preserves both that and the crispiness.

**Old-fashioned oats are your best bet, but quick-cooking work too.

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Granola muffins

I post a lot of breakfast recipes because I have breakfast problems. I like to eat it, but I’m a pickypants about traditional breakfast foods: I don’t like eggs, I only eat oatmeal under select circumstances, and the yeast in bread gives me bellyaches. In the winter, it seems too cold for yogurt, my usual breakfast staple, so I do a lot of breakfast baking.

granola muffin with butter

These muffins are made with granola right in the batter. The granola is softened by soaking it in milk before adding it to the muffin batter, and the resulting muffins are very moist and only slightly sweet. Like many muffins, I like these best split and buttered; I often put mine in the toaster oven in the morning to help get them to a butter-melting temperature.

Granola Muffins
Adapted from the New York Times

1 c. granola*
1/2 c. milk (whatever you have is fine)
2 eggs
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. plain yogurt or sour cream
1/4 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease or line twelve muffin cups. Put the granola in a bowl, pour the milk over it, and let soak for at least 20 minutes.

soaking granola

Mix together the eggs, honey, yogurt or sour cream, canola oil, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and stir just to combine, then fold in the granola.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake the muffins for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Because they are so moist, it’s a good idea to let them cool for ten or fifteen minutes before removing them from the pan, especially if you’re not using liners.

granola muffin

*I think any granola would work here. I used the stuff I make myself, which starts off pretty chewy. If you use a really crunchy store granola, you might want to soak it a little longer.

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