Cake Batter Cheesecake with Blondie Crust

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So I browned butter before it was even a thing. Not to brag. It was an amazing, life-changing experience. I would wear perfume that smelled like browned butter.

How do you take a browned butter blondie and make it even better? Add cheesecake on top. And add some cake batter to that cheesecake. Oh yes. I have learned that trying new baking and cooking projects on the weekend helps to de-stress me after a week of work. So, yes this is a little bit involved, but sometimes some time spent in the kitchen, away from the computer and work, is just what we all need. Or if you are not a baker, just find a friend who is and suggest this cheesecake in passing in a conversation.

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CAKE BATTER CHEESECAKE WITH BLONDIE CRUST
Adapted from Teenage Taste & Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

For the Blondie Crust:
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk

For the Cake Batter Cheesecake:
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
1/2 cup & 2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup yellow cake mix
1/4 cup sprinkles

DIRECTIONS

For the Blondie Crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until butter is golden brown. Pour into bowl and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Whisk egg and egg yolk into brown butter. Pour on top of flour mixture. Stir together until just combined. Press into greased baking sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Cool completely.

For the Cake Batter Cheesecake:

In a large bowl whip cream cheese until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in sugar until incorporated. Beat in eggs, milk vanilla extract, and salt. Stir in yellow cake mix. Stir in sprinkles. Pour on to of cooled crust.

Place baking sheet in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Pour warm tap water about 3/4 inch deep into the larger baking pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. Chill at least 3 hours, preferably over night. Cut into bars and serve.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

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There are only a few recipe sources that I always trust. 1) My mom, 2) Cook’s Illustrated, and finally Ina Garten.

When I was first learning to really cook, I was cooking dinners with friends once a week, and our meals typically featured Ina’s recipes. And they never turned out bad. As the years went on, I started cooking and realized that her recipes have a higher success rate than just the typical recipe you see.

I have enjoyed watching her new shows recently and am planning to check out her new cookbook as soon as I can get it from the library (#poorgradstudent). This treat can hold me over until then with her transformation of the classic PBJ to a dessert. PBJ has been my go to lunch at work for the past few months- would I loose any professional standing at work by eating these bars for lunch instead?

 

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY BARS
Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces peanut butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4-1 cup jelly
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with aluminum foil and grease it.

Cream together butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Beat in egg, vanilla, and peanut butter until just combined.  Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder until just combined.

Press approximately 2/3 of the peanut butter dough in the bottom of the baking dish.  Spread jelly evenly over top.  Dollop the remaining peanut butter dough on top.  Sprinkle peanuts on top.  Bake for 25-32 minutes, until done.  Cool completely and cut into bars.

Butterscotch Meringue Bars

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You know those people who can take a few bites of a dessert and then have to stop because it was too sweet? I am not one of those people. I am the type of person who can eat for dessert for lunch and dinner and be perfectly fine (I speak from experience here). I can handle my dessert but not my liquor.

And I am perfectly fine with that. I feel sad for those people who can’t eat more than a few bites. They would be missing out, especially when it comes to these butterscotch meringue bars. These bars are a buttery blondie base studded with your filling of choice (Snickers was my chosen poison here), and then they are topped with a sweetened meringue. They are then baked, cooled, cut into bars and become little bites of heaven. It’s gooey-ness like you can’t believe. Yum. These are wonderfully sweet but not overly so. Some people may be satisfied with just one bar, but I always want at least three.

BUTTERSCOTCH MERINGUE BARS Slightly Adapted from Cooks Illustrated via The Church Cook

INGREDIENTS

For the Butterscotch Base: 2 cups all purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 teaspoon salt 2 cups butter, softened 1 cup light brown sugar 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 egg yolks 1 tablespoon water 2 cups chopped Snickers* For the Meringue Topping: 2 egg whites 1 cup light brown sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Butterscotch Base: Preheat the oven to 350°F.. Line a 9 inch by 13 inch pan with aluminium foil. Grease with butter. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until creamy. Beat in vanilla extract, egg yolk, and water. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Press butterscotch base into pan. Press chopped snickers on top. For the Meringue Topping: In a large bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Pour in light brown sugar and beat until uniform in color and glossy. Spread on top of butterscotch base. Bake for 32-40 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 2-3 hours before removing from pan. Cut into bars. *The original recipe used chocolate chips. Use any mix in you feel like!

Blackberry White Chocolate Lime Cheesecake Bars

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My brain is currently undergoing Christmas-scramble.  My thoughts are about gifts, decorations, and crafting.  But of course I also have saved some brain power to think about food.  Holidays bring some of the best food (and an excuse to eat it- only a Scrooge won’t eat that Christmas cookie or eat another piece of bread).

For this month’s Improv Challenge, we had to make something with white chocolate and lime- two of my absolute favorite dessert flavors.  I considered making something akin to a key lime pie but ended up taking some cheesecake bars and adding some deliciously smooth, melted white chocolate and citrus-y lime zest.  Then to top it all off, I swirled in some blackberry preserves- or if you want to be more festive, swirl in some cranberry sauce or raspberry preserves.

Don’t be a Scrooge- make and share these bars!

BLACKBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE LIME CHEESECAKE BARS
Adapted from Handle the Heat

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cut in 1 inch cubes

For the Cheesecake:
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
Zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces white chocolate, melted
3/4 cup blackberry jam

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9 baking pan with foil and grease.

In a food processor combine flour, salt, and brown sugar. Pulse until combined. Sprinkle cold butter cubes on top. Pulse until pea sized crumbs form. Press evenly into prepared baking pan.

In a large bowl combined granulated sugar and lime zest. Rub together. Add cream cheese and beat until combined. While continuing to beat, add eggs, vanilla extract, flour, and salt until combined. Beat in white chocolate until combined. Pour cheesecake batter on top of crust.

Warm blackberry jam on the stove or in the microwave until slightly thinner.  Dollop on top of cheesecake and swirl with a butter knife.

Place 9×9 pan inside a 9×13 pan. Fill the larger pan with hot water to create a water bath. Place in oven and bake for 35-45 minutes. The center should jiggle slightly when shaken, but the edges should be stiffer looking. Cool completely. Store in refrigerator.

Thanks for Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting.  Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Pecan Pie Brownies

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As you read this, I am probably currently around 10,000 feet- cruising my way back home for the holidays.  I am also probably tightly gripping my armrest because I am a somewhat nervous flyer.

I am so ready for some big holiday fun.  It has definitely been a stressful semester, and I am ready to take a break. I love all the holiday prep and planning that will be taking place the next few weeks- especially all the holiday food we get to make and eat.

I made these pecan pie brownies for our Thanksgiving dessert since some people in our family aren’t a huge fan of traditional pecan pie.  Guys, there were absolutely amazing.  I loved them so much that I would have almost been happy just eating a big batch of these brownies for my Thanksgiving dinner.  You got a fudgey brownie sprinkled with chocolate chips and then a gooey pecan pie filling on top.  Yum.  These are so good- I think everyone should make them for their family, for a holiday party, or just for themselves.

The only way I could be happier about coming home is if a huge plate of these pecan pie brownies were brought to me immediately as I de-boarded the airplane.

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PECAN PIE BROWNIES
Barely Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

INGREDIENTS

For the Brownies:
1/3 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips

For the Pecan Pie Topping:
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup brown Karo syrup
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons rum
4 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

For the Brownies:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil. Grease the foil.

In a large bowl, whisk together canola oil and butter. Whisk in cocoa powder, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir in flour until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spread batter into prepared baking pan. This will be a very thin layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

For the Pecan Pie Filling:

In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, Karo syrup, eggs, vanilla extract, and butter. Stir in rum, pecans, and chocolate chips. Pour mixture on top of brownies. Bake for 30-35 minutes until filling is set. The filling should still jiggle a little bit.

Cool brownies completely and chill. Cut and serve (do not attempt to cut before brownies are cold- they will not cut easily).

Cupcake Pie Bars: Improv Challenge

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Oh my gahhh…

This dessert takes the cake- and the pie, and the bars.  Given that I have combined 3 types of desserts (bars, pie filling custard, and cupcakes), scientifically this dessert must be 3 time superior than all other normal desserts.

For this month’s Improv Challenge, we were given the task to make a dish with cake a frosting.  While I am perfectly happy with any cake or cupcake combo, I decided to try something a little bit different with these triple threat dessert.

First you have a graham cracker pie crust packed into bar form.  Good  Then you have a chess-pie butter filling.  Wonderful.  Then you pour the pie filling over cupcakes on top of your crust.  Magical.

All together, these three factors combine together to form a wonderful, sweet dessert.  All aboard the cupcake pie bar train.  First stop: sugar coma.

A fair warning: these babies are sweet.  I have a pretty high sweet tolerance, and my sugar craving was fully satisfied after one small bar (versus my typical 3-5).  The first time I made these, I (stupidly) forgot to add the eggs, which made them ultra sweet, but I have adapted the recipe a little bit to take out some of the sugar toothache-factor.

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CUPCAKE PIE BARS
Adapted from The Domestic Rebel

INGREDIENTS

For the Brown Sugar Crust:
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into pieces

For the Cupcake Filling
18 mini cupcakes, sliced in half
1 stick butter, melted
3 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles, optional

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9 baking pan with foil and grease.

In a food processor combine flour, salt, and brown sugar.  Pulse until combined.  Sprinkle cold butter cubes on top.  Pulse until pea sized crumbs form.  Press evenly into prepared baking pan.  Place sliced cupcakes in single layer on top.

In a large bowl combine butter, eggs, sugar, vinegar, and vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Pour over top of cupcakes.  Top with sprinkles, if desired.  Bake for 30-37 minutes.  Cool completely and cut into bars.  Store in refrigerator.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting the challenge!  Make sure the check out what everyone else made!

No Bake Nutella Fruit & Nut Bars

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Are you ready for a snack, or are you ready for a snack?

Today we are going to get real serious about our snacking choices.  And by getting serious, I mean we are going to be using some Nutella. Nutella is amazing, and it is partially responsible for why I went all the way up to French IV in high school.  French culture day always meant eating lots of Nutella.  For educational purposes, of course.

I am currently working on my thesis (masters degree, I see you!), looking at issues with depression & alcohol, but what I would really like to write it on is the power of Nutella.  I am pretty sure just eating Nutella will be associated with lower levels of sadness.  New therapy treatment: instead of actually having to show up to work, I will just leave an open jar of Nutella and a spoon on my chair. Chocolate hazelnut therapy.

But if you really need some happiness, I suggest taking some Nutella and using it to make some no-bake bars.  I love lots and lots of stuff in my bars, so I packed these bars to the brim.  Filled with lots of chewy, sweet fruit and crunchy nuts, these bars make a great snack.  I used dried cherries and cashews, but the sky is the limit here.  I upped the Nutella & honey in this too, so they get nice a gooey. Mmmm.

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NO BAKE NUTELLA FRUIT AND NUT BARS
Adapted from White on Rice Couple

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup Nutella
Large pinch of salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 cups dried fruit
1 1/2 cups nuts
1 cup chocolate chips, optional

DIRECTIONS

Line an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with foil and grease.

In a saucepan combine butter, honey, Nutella, salt, and brown sugar.  Whisk together over medium heat until combined.  Remove from heat.  Stir in dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips.  Spread mixture into pan.  Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Homemade Fig Newtons

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There is a theory out there (meaning I heard it in one place) that combines my two loves: food and movies.  Apparently, those who are powerful in movies are those who eat other people’s food.  They are more likely to survive the movie.

My favorite movie and food combo: I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE.  I have never seen There Will be Blood, but I can watch Daniel Day Lewis scream about milkshakes for hours.  #productivity

So what you should do is make up a batch of these homemade fig newtons, serve them to friends and family, then take their fig newtons and eat them.  Then shout  “I EAT YOUR FIG NEWTONS”.

Yes, you want to eat fig newtons and shout about them.  Even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of the store bought packaged “cookies” (let’s get real, I love fig newtons but they really aren’t a cookie).  Instead eat this soft, chewy dough and the sweet fig filling with the occasional crunch of seeds- homemade here really is better.  I loved these little snacks, and the possibilities are endless with different fruit fillings.

I’M KING OF THE WORLD. FREEDOOOOOOM.  I WANT THE TRUTH- YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. WHAT’S IN THE BOXXXXXXX.

Yeah, now  am just listing shouted movie quotes. I should just stuff a bunch of fig newtons in my mouth and shut up.

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HOMEMADE FIG NEWTONS
Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
3 ounces butter, softened
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking power
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 tablespoons cold water

For the Fig Filling:
2 cups figs, stems cut off
2 cups orange juice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Dough:

In a large bowl, cream together butter and light brown sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.  In a separate bowl whisk all purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt . Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a soft dough forms.  Stir in water if needed, starting with 1 tablespoon.  Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill for 2-4 hours.

For the Fig Filling:

Meanwhile, place figs, orange juice, and water in a saucepan.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  Stir in sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Transfer to a food processer or blender and processes until smooth.  Let cool.

For the Fig Newtons:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into two pieces.  Roll out dough into a rectangle until dough his about 1/4 inch thick.*  Spread half of the fig filling down the middle, leaving a 3/4-1 inch border.  Fold dough over and pinch closed.  Repeat with remaining dough and fig filling.  Bake for 18-21 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool and cut into bars.

Makes 30-40 fig newtons.

*I found the dough difficult to roll out, so I divided it into 4 pieces and using my finger to push it out.