Pecan Pie Kahlúa Cheesecake

We decided not to make a traditional pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Instead, Michelle made her wonderful Greek yogurt cheesecake with some Kahlúa coffee liqueur. While that was absolutely delicious, we topped it with a pecan pie topping (that I’ve used before on brownies) which also had Kahlua in it.

We reduced the sugar (none in the crust and down in both the cheesecake and topping and eliminated the corn syrup) so I’m hoping my diabetic sister and pre-diabetic brother-in-law will have eaten enough protein to be able to have a generous slice. Otherwise, more for me!

Pretty and so very good!

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Crust:

10 tablespoons melted butter
3 cups graham cracker crumbs

Filling:

4 packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur

Topping:

2 ¼ cups whole pecans
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or Kahlua Coffee Liqueur)

In a food processor, mix together butter and graham cracker crumbs for the crust. Press into a 10 inch springform pan, coming a little up the sides. Bake 10 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Lower oven temperature to 200 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and whip together until fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the Greek yogurt, vanilla extract and Kahlua Coffee 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. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with door cracked open for fifteen 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 to an hour. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight before topping.

Make the pecan pie topping:

Coarsely chop about 1 cup of the toasted pecans. Leave the remaining ½ cup whole.

Place butter, brown sugar and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is completely smooth and bubbling all over, about 10 minutes. Whisk in ½ cup heavy cream until completely combined and bubbling again.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped and whole pecans and vanilla extract (or liqueur, if using). Set aside to cool to room temperature, 30 to 45 minutes.

Unmold the cheesecake from the springform pan and pour over the pecan pie topping. Refrigerate until ready to slice and serve.

It was so beautiful and tasted so good plain, I had to post a picture of that, too.

Yummy!

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Apple Pie Cocktail

What is a more American way to celebrate the 4th of July than with an Apple Pie cocktail?

I had planned to use apple schnapps but decided to go a different route after talking to the very friendly folks at Martin Wine Cellar about different options (who knew there is apple bourbon?) and exchanging recipes.

Make the apple pie spice sugar by mixing ¼ cup white sugar with 1 tablespoon apple pie spice. If you don’t have apple pie spice, mix 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice and use 1 tablespoon of the resulting mix.

I made up a pitcher ahead of time and kept it cool in the fridge, so I could enjoy the time with my guests instead of playing bartender.

It is strong, so I wouldn’t recommend more than a couple drinks a person but it sure is tasty with the apples, cinnamon spice and everything nice.

Apple Pie Cocktail

2 parts chilled vodka
1 ½ part apple cider
½ part Fireball cinnamon whiskey
3 drops Old Forester Smoked Cinnamon Bitters

apple pie spiced sugar

Cut an apple into thin wedges. Run a slice around the glass rims and then lightly coat the edges in the apple pie spiced sugar. Drop the apple wedge into the glass.

Stir the vodka, apple cider and Fireball together. Mix in the bitters and pour into the apple pie spiced sugar rimmed glasses.

Saint Lucy’s Saffron Buns

I watched Paul Hollywood make St Lucia Buns on the Great British Baking Show and I immediately thought about making them with Creole Cream Cheese in place of the Quark cheese in the recipe. Of course, in craziness of the months since the episode aired, I nearly forgot about doing this recipe.

If you want these for breakfast on December 13th, consider making the dough the night before. When you get the stage of putting it in a buttered bowl to proof, instead place the covered bowl in the fridge overnight. Pull it out and set on the counter to let it warm to room temperature for 90 minutes before continuing the recipe by punching down and dividing the dough into about 12 equal sized pieces.

My raisins were a little old and hard, so I put them in a steamer basket over a small amount of boiling water for a few minutes and to soften and plump them up.

The end result are buns that are as beautiful as they are tasty.

Saint Lucy's Saffron Buns

1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup warm milk
½ stick unsalted butter
5 cups (500g) bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
1 cup Creole Cream cheese
butter for greasing
1 egg yolk
24 to 30 raisins

Scald the milk by pouring it into a small pan and warm over a low heat until almost to a boil and it is gently steaming. Remove from the heat, add the saffron threads and butter and leave to stand for 10 minutes or until lukewarm.

Place flour into the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other and begin to stir. Add in the sugar and continue to stir. Add the saffron-milk-butter mixture and creole cheese and mix until all the flour from the sides of the bowl has been incorporated.

Knead for about 5 or 6 minutes either in the mixer or by hand on the counter. The finished dough will form a soft, smooth skin.

When the dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 1½-2 hours until doubled in size. Grease 2 baking sheets with butter.

Punch down the dough and divide into about 12 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into a long strand about a foot long. Starting at each end, roll in opposite directions into an S-shape, as tight as possible.

Starting the roll

Place on the prepared baking sheets and cover loosely with a plastic. Leave for 30-45 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the rolls with the egg yolk, then place one raisin in the center of each spiral (two raisins per roll). Bake the rolls for 15 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

Alabama Hot Brown

From the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky comes their 1920’s creation of an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon, tomato slices and a cheese sauce (their recipe here) called a Kentucky Hot Brown.

My version is a little different. I’m using Thanksgiving leftovers so we’re ladling on gravy instead of cheese sauce because gravy goes well on everything. As tomatoes are out of season, we are using some tomato jam.

Mom had me spread leftover cranberry sauce on hers instead of the tomato jam and it paired really well, especially with the Muenster cheese I put on hers and which shows the versatility of this sandwiches’ construction.

The sandwich is a delicious change from the usual leftover, post-Turkey day fare and will fill up those Black Friday shoppers’ bellies.

This recipe is for 4 people but it scales up if you’re serving a larger crowd.

Alabama Hot Brown

4 slices of thick sandwich bread
1 cup gravy
½ cup of tomato jam or one large, vine ripened tomato, sliced thinly
8 thick slices roast turkey breast
8 slices bacon, cooked to crispy
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Lightly toast the sandwich bread and set on a rimmed baking sheet.

Warm the gravy in a double boiler so it doesn’t thicken too much.

Set the broiler on low and put the rack in the middle of the oven.

Spread a layer of tomato jam on the toast or place thin slices of tomato on it. Place 2 slices of turkey (or more to cover) on each piece of bread. Place bacon on top. Generously cover with spoonfuls of gravy and sprinkle with cheese.

Place the baking sheet into the broiler and roast until cheese is melty. Serve immediately.

Olive Egg Salad

There is just something about an egg salad sandwich for Easter. Especially with briny olives.

Start with 2 eggs per person and adjust below recipe to your taste.

6 eggs
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup Spanish/Manzanilla olives, chopped plus 1 teaspoon brine from jar.

Stir to combine, taste for seasoning. If you want extra crunch, add a stalk of celery, diced.

Serve on toasted bread.

 

Meringue Bones

I’ve always loved Halloween. Part of the joy of living in cities like San Francisco and New Orleans is they are the perfect places for adults to costume and party and enjoy All Hallows Eve.

One of my favorites is making meringues in the shape of bones. These are pretty easy and very tasty.

Meringue Bones

2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat eggs on medium until frothy. Sprinkle on the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Increase the speed and add in the sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites are glossy and stiff peaks form. Add in vanilla and mix until just combined.

Pipe the meringues onto the prepared baking sheet. To form bones, place two dots connected by a long line and two additional dots.

Bake for 2 hours or until you can easily peel the meringues off the parchment paper. Turn off the oven and let cool completely inside for a couple of hours or overnight if your house isn’t too humid.

Store in an airtight container or they will become soggy.

Grilled Turkey Breast

I confess that I’m not much of a turkey fan, except in sandwiches. For that reason, I don’t cook a whole bird for Thanksgiving but rather get just the breast – either bone in or boneless. I also grill it, so that the oven is free for all the treats and trimmings that go with the meal.

Boneless turkey breast cooks faster than bone-in

My recipe is very simple:

3 lb turkey breast
3 tablespoons butter, melted
salt

About an hour before you’re ready to start cooking, pull the turkey from the refrigerator. Soak a few wood chips before building your fire.

Rub the melted butter all over the turkey. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Set the coals for indirect cooking. I usually do a set up on two sides of the grill. Place a drip pan below where you are going to set the bird. Put on the upper grill and clean it with a wire brush before oiling the grate. Set your turkey down and let cook for 1 hour.

Go in and remove the drip pan if you’re making gravy. Take the turkey’s temperature – done is when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Baste with butter. Continue to cook until it reaches that safe temperature, checking every 15 minutes and basting with butter. Bone in will take longer to cook than boneless.

Remove from grill when done. Let rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Remembrance Cookies

It is All Hallows Day. While we remember loved ones who have transitioned, we might as well enjoy a cookie or three, too. Even though we made them in the shape of skulls, the recipe below isn’t for the traditional Mexican sugar skull cookies for Day of the Dead.

Instead, we made Rosemary Remembrance Cookies. Rosemary is an herb that has long been associated with memory and fidelity and is a symbol for both weddings and funerals. As Ophelia recites:

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5

The original recipe is by Callie Watts with the addition of more rosemary as regular readers know I’m mad about the rosemary!

We had fun finger painting them after they cooled

Remembrance Cookies

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, almond extract, and rosemary until creamy. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.

Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture, a 1/2 cup at a time until combined.

Beat until dough forms, refrigerate for an hour. After the rest, remove from the fridge and divide in three pieces.

Roll out one portion to 3/16 of an inch on a floured surface. Use biscuit or cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting until all the dough is used.

Bake for 7 minutes. Cool on wire racks before eating as is or using decorator icing to make designs. Store in an airtight container.

 

Brains! Milk Jelly Brains!!

Michelle’s nephew had a Plants vs Zombies themed birthday party at her house and they left behind the brain mold. I gave it a thorough scrubbing and then tossed a can of evaporated milk in the refrigerator so the next day I could make Milk Jelly Brains! Using the milk turns the gelatin wonderfully creamy and, when you use a flavor like blackberry, it becomes a thick pinkish and very brain-like!

2 boxes of flavored gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk, refrigerated overnight

Place gelatin into a large mixing bowl. Stir boiling water into the gelatin. Let stand on the counter to cool down a bit. You don’t want it to cool to setting; just until the water is close to room temperature. Shake the can of evaporated milk well and then pour into the gelatin. Whisk until totally combined. Pour into a lightly oiled mold. Let set for at least 4 hours or overnight.

To unmold, loosen top edge with a knife. Set the mold in warm water up to the rim for about 10 seconds. Cover with a serving plate and then invert the mold. Give it a jiggle and it should come right out.