Amaretto Cheesecake

Michelle has once again outdone herself with making a cheesecake for my birthday. I happened upon a package of Amaretto cookies and thought they would make a terrific crust. I brought the idea to her and she did the rest.

So good! Rich and creamy and very flavorful. I couldn’t get my parent’s to stop eating on it, until I shoved it in the freezer!

Amaretto Cheesecake

2 ½ cups ground amaretto cookies (about 1 and half 7.5 ounce packages)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
4 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 ¼ cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt (we used 2 % Fage plain)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup amaretto liqueur (we used di Amore Amaretto)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

In a food processor, mix together butter and ground cookies for the crust. Press into a 10 inch springform pan, coming a little up the sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together cream cheese and sugar. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the Greek yogurt, vanilla extract and liqueur.

Pour into pan and tap against the counter to bring up any bubbles.

Bake for 2 ½ hours. If it still jiggles, cook for 30 minutes more.

Remove from oven and bring oven temperature up to 500 degrees F. Brown top, about 10-15 minutes.

Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with door cracked open for thirty minutes. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edge, about an inch deep to loosen. Leave on the counter to cool for thirty minutes. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before slicing.

Apple Hand Pies for Pi Day

This year for Pi Day I decided to go for apple pie. But not just one – no, I wanted lots of pie so I went for individual ones using my handy, dandy empanada maker to cut and mold them.

I’ve made Apple Jacks before I didn’t want fried pies this time so I went with baking them instead. With a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on the top, these are perfect little snacks and are crispy not heavy.

Flakey and overflowing with apple goodness, these allow me to have my pie and eat it anywhere. I ate several hot out of the oven, still more after they cooled and some cold out of the fridge.

Apple Hand Pies

1 recipe of sourdough pie crusts or a package of Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts

1 (6 ounce) packages dried, sliced Granny Smith apples
2 cups water
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
¼ teaspoon salt

Cover dried apple slices with water and cook on top of the stove over medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes until water is almost all absorbed by the apples. Add the sugars, butter and spices. Continue cooking another fifteen minutes. Mash the apples until they look like pie filling. Remove and set aside to cool.

Turn out the dough rounds onto a floured surface and roll to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into circles about 5 inches across. Chill dough until filling is room temperature. Fill each circle with about 2 tablespoons of the apple filling. Moisten the edges of the circle with some water on your fingers. Fold over and crimp the edges of the pies together. Place on parchment covered baking sheets.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

While the oven is preheating, freeze the pies (at least 10 minutes) or put in the fridge (at least 30 minutes) before baking. The colder the pies are going into the oven, the better they’ll hold their shape.

Scramble an egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the top of each pie with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut a slit in the top for venting.

Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. They’re done when the pies are golden brown on top and around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool until ready to handle.

Serve warm or at room temperature or even cold out of the refrigerator. Baked pies can be frozen. Allow to thaw in the fridge before serving.

Vanilla Cookies with Chocolate

Some lovely friends of mine gave me a bottle of homemade vanilla for the holidays and it smells so good I want to use it as perfume. I restrained myself and just made cookies that highlight the wonderful vanilla flavor.

These are super basic vanilla cookies into which I chopped some bittersweet chocolate very fine because, why not? Use a baking bar as it will shave a little as you chop so that there are small bits of chocolate distributed throughout.

Crispy outside but still chewy and just enough chocolate to satisfy. The vanilla flavor comes through to make one delicious cookie.

Vanilla Cookies with Grated Chocolate

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate baking bar, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate just until combined.

Roll tablespoonfuls into balls and place 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Satsuma Creole Cream Cheese Cheesecake

Michelle picked up a whole crate of satsuma’s for me and so I took her some Creole cream cheese I picked up from Dorignac’s for her to make me a cheesecake. I’m super helpful like that!

I had this cheesecake several years ago at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House but they added a bunch of other fruit to the compote topping and it was super distracting. I figured doing it with only satsumas would be better and it was. Segment the satsuma’s over a bowl to catch all the juice as you need a ½ cup for the glaze. I plan on using the delicious compote over other things, so I doubled the recipe.

If you don’t have satsumas where you live, you could move or, easier still, use mandarin oranges or tangerines.

If you don’t have the Creole cream cheese you can make your own or substitute sour cream.

The cheesecake is super silky with crunchy crust and a hint of orange. The addition of the compote really takes it to the next level.

Satsuma Creole Cream Cheese Cheesecake

Crust
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup pecans, chopped fine
½ cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Filling
5 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1¼ cups sugar
1 cup Creole cream cheese
2 teaspoons satsuma zest
1/4 cup satsuma juice
3 medium eggs

Make the crust

In a mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, pecans, sugar and melted butter. Press into a 9 x 13-inch spring-form pan. Refrigerate until ready to fill.

Make the filling

Preheat oven to 250˚F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer whip the cream cheese. Add the sugar and mix until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides with a spatula. Add the Creole cream cheese, zest and juice and mix until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add one egg at a time and mix well after each egg. Pour the batter into the prepared crust and tap the pan several times on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for 2 hours, until the center of the cake is firm to the touch. Let cool at room temperature for fifteen minutes before running a knife around the outside edge to help keep the top from cracking. Let it continue to cool before refrigerating until ready to serve.

Optional Topping of Satsuma Compote
8 satsumas
½ cup satsuma juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 ounce Grand Marnier liqueur

Peel and segment satsumas to remove the membrane. Heat the juice, sugar and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the liquid becomes syrupy, approximately 20 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and fold in the satsuma segments. Add Grand Marnier and pour over the cheesecake slices.

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Michelle hasn’t been using as many bananas in making smoothies lately so she had a surfeit of ripe bananas in her freezer. I suggested a banana bread recipe I’d seen where the chef chopped a chocolate bar instead of using chocolate chips so there are small bits of shavings and larger, gooey chunks. She agreed and this is the converted recipe she made.

Recipe without nuts

She made one double batch without pecans and one with as some of her holiday visitors have nut allergies. I’m taking one with nuts to my sister and keeping one for myself.

Slice with nuts

This is definitely a recipe you’ll want to double as there is chocolate banana goodness in every bite and it will disappear very fast.

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
4 bananas (ripe and mashed)
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Mix the butter, sugar, banana, eggs, vanilla extract, chocolate chunks and chopped pecans in a separate bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine, being careful not to over mix.

Pour the batter into a lightly greased and floured, 8×5 loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. The bread is cooked when tested with a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Makes 8 to 10 slices.

Cinnamon Chocolate Stars

I was in a cookie making mood on Sunday. I started by baking some Toll House chocolate chip cookies (thank you, Ruth Wakefield!). I only baked half the batch and proceeded to eat the other half of dough raw, ’cause the Saints playing against the Titans drove me to it!

I then went on to make some very chocolate cookies with just a hint of heat and a punch of cinnamon. I used my Mexican vanilla to add even more cinnamon flavor.

These are crisp and light cookies with a lot of chocolate flavor. The tiny bit of cayenne just enhances the chocolate. Perfect for the chocoholics in your life!

Cinnamon Chocolate Stars

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together the flour, coca, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cayenne (if using). Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugars. Add in egg and vanilla, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Dived the dough in half and place on plastic wrap. Shape into a disc and then refrigerate for an hour.

Place the cooled dough between sheets of parchment paper and roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Use cookie cutter to cut into desired shape – I like stars. Place cut shapes on baking trays and reroll scraps until all the dough has been cut into cookies.

Place back in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Cover if you aren’t going to bake them right away.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, rotating the pans midway through cooking. Let cool for 10 minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies before baking:

Stars fell on New Orleans last night

Boozy Brain for Halloween

I like making what my English friend called milk jelly. as the addition of evaporated milk to Jell-o cuts the sweet and makes a pretty color, too. The past couple of weeks have been a little crazy, so I decided to adultify this batch with some alcohol and put it in my brain mold for the Halloween celebrations.

While jello-shots are typically made with vodka, I am using blackberry flavored gelatin mix so I decided to go with my bottle of cassis – its a black currant liquor. I could have also used one of my flavored rums and I just might when I make it again as it was so delicious. When using a less strongly flavored alcohol, you can up the amount to 3/4 cup, depending on how hard you’ve been adulting.

Pretty cool Halloween treat!

Boozy Brain for Halloween

2 cups boiling water
2 1.4 ounce packs of Royal blackberry flavored gelatin
2 5 ounce cans evaporated milk
½ cup Cassis

Refrigerate the evaporated milk cans overnight.

Mix boiling water and gelatin. Stir until dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes and then add in the cold evaporated milk and the liquor. Stir well and pour into mold.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, better yet, overnight. Dip mold in warm water for a few seconds to help ease the dessert out of the mold.

The tasty fake blood is just corn syrup, corn starch and a five to one ratio of red to blue food coloring.

Elderflower Lemon Sponge Cake

I was browsing some British cooking/recipe sites and came across several recipes for Victoria Sponge Cake that looked really good and were lighter than my go-to pound cakes (here, here, here). I wanted something with elderflower and, since lemon goes so well with it, I used a recipe with tonic instead of cordial.

I used a bundt pan but a 9×5 loaf pan or another cool shaped cake pan would make a nice presentation.

So good with a nice cup of tea! Floral and lemony and delicate in texture. Please note that after a day or two, the elderflower scent disappears but the lemon is still deliciously strong.

Elderflower Lemon Sponge Cake

For the cake:

1 stick (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup sugar 
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 

For the syrup:

¼ cup elderflower tonic (I’m using Jack Rudy Cocktail Company Elderflower tonic)
Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly butter and flour a bundt pan or 9×5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

Sift together the flour baking powder and salt and set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Gradually add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture (about 1 tablespoon at a time), beating well after each addition. Take up to 5 minutes to slowly and completely incorporate the eggs.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture into the rest of the batter. Mix just until all the flour is incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven until a tester comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.

While the cake cools slightly, combine elderflower tonic and lemon juice.

After 10 minutes of cooling, prick the still-warm cake all over with a skewer. Drizzle 3/4’s of the elderflower and lemon syrup over the cake so that it seeps into the holes.

Cool cake completely, then remove from the pan. Pour remaining syrup over the top.

Wrap leftover cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Small Batch Elderflower Ice Creams

I recently bought some elderflower tonic for cocktails and, whilst sipping, thought the flavor would go really well in ice cream. I do so love being right!

While using syrup would make for a more intense and sweeter ice cream – the tonic from Jack Rudy Cocktail Company is light and adds a delicious floral scent and taste to ice cream.

Elderflower Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean pod
1 tablespoon elderflower tonic (I used Jack Rudy’s)

Mix together cream, milk and sugar and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Whisk in the seeds and then toss in the vanilla pod. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the vanilla pod and whisk lightly to ensure everything is well mixed. Place in your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place in an airtight container and freeze until firm.

The cocktail I first made with the elderflower tonic used muddled strawberries, so I decided to try it as ice cream. Winner!

Elderflower Strawberry Ice Cream

2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Elderflower Tonic (I used Jack Rudy’)

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until cold and then process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze until firm.

Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake

I wanted a quick and easy dessert for dinner. I had a box of Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake mix and a large jar of cherry pie filling. Perfect, especially with me adding in a half cup of dried cherries to increase the umph!

I’ve done this before with blueberries and a box of yellow cake mix (Khaki’s Blueberry Crunch). The final result from today’s is a delicious cross between a cherry cobbler and a black forrest cake.

This style of dump cake is pretty darn versatile – anything that can be made into pie filling can be the base and nearly every kind of cake mix will work. The only limitation is your imagination!

Just pour the pie filling (if using canned, two cans) into the bottom of a buttered 9X13 baking dish. Spread the contents of a box of cake mix evenly over the top and then pour a stick of melted butter on the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until it is dry on top and bubbly around the edges. Serve with ice cream.

Yum!