Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Caramel apple pie cheesecake

If you know me, you know I'm a cupcake kind of gal.  Perhaps the biggest testament to this is from the mouths of babes.

My little nephew had the hardest time saying my name when he was learning to talk.  So, instead of struggling with the 3-syllable, Angela, I was dubbed "Auntie Cupcake".  I was so sad when he actually learned to say my name correctly.

But I digress.  I want to step out of my comfort zone.  I've made dozens of different flavors of cupcakes.  Many different cakes.  Lots of cookies.  But I want to expand my horizons to include pies, cheesecakes, candy, etc.   And in walks this pie...

Cinnamon graham cracker crust, homemade caramel,  brown sugar & cinnamon apples, a cheesecake layer(I actually subbed mascarpone for the cream cheese), whipped cream frosting & more caramel.

Oh yeah, baby.  I got this!  Lots of elements, but they all came together with ease.  Each portion took less than 20 minutes.  The only hard thing was waiting for it to cool in the fridge.

I took this to our early Thanksgiving celebration last night & I really think it was the star of the meal.  My only regret was that I only made one.  After a big fat meal we all went down for a late night jacuz session.  There were two slices when we left, but not so much as a crumb on our return.  Bummers!

The cream cheese layer is thin on this.  I stuck with the original recipe, but if you were inclined to double that layer, I think that would work, too.

Hope you all have a wonderful, fun, family, and food-filled Thanksgiving!

For the crust:
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
½-¾ cup caramel
1 cup chopped pecans
For the apple filling:
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
5-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
For the cheesecake:
8 oz. cream cheese (I subbed mascarpone)
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the topping:
¾ cup heavy cream
3-4 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
¼-½ cup caramel
Chopped pecans
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 375° F.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter.  Toss with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened and the ingredients are evenly mixed.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and press the crumbs in an even layer over the pan bottom and about half to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan.  Bake for 6-8 minutes, until golden in color.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.  Pour a layer of caramel into the bottom of the crust and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pecans.  Refrigerate the crust while you prepare the filling.
To make the apple filling, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Mix in the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute, until bubbling.  Mix in the apple slices and toss well to coat.  Cook over medium to medium-high heat until tender and most of the liquid has been reduced, about 15-20 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes and pour into the prepared pie shell.  Set aside.
Reduce the heat of the oven to 350° F.  To make the cheesecake layer, combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.   Mix in the vanilla, egg and lemon juice until fully incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Spread the cheesecake filling into an even layer over the top of the cooked apples in the crust.  Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
To serve, carefully remove the sides of the springform pan.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form (being careful not to overbeat.)  Spread gently over the top of the chilled cheesecake layer.  Top with dollops of caramel sauce and swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.  Sprinkle with a handful of chopped pecans if desired.  Slice with a long, thin knife to serve.
Source: adapted from Ezra Pound Cake, originally from Mimi Hodges, the winner of Good Morning, America’s “Pie of Emeril’s Eye” Contest, 2000

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough filling & toasted marshmallow frosting

Is that title a mouthful or what?  If you think it's name is great, just wait til you taste these babies.

My treats are always well-received(not because I don't cooke duds.  I do.  They just end up in the rubbish).  However, different people have different taste.  What is someone's favorite, might rate lower on the scale for someone else.  My husband prefers his treats "so sweet that it hurts my mouth".  My sister-in-law, Kawai, loves anything with cream cheese.  Our cousin Vanessa loves the peanut butter & chocolate combination.  I have also found that a lot of locals on Oahu prefer their sweets a little less sweet than, say, my Texas peeps.

That being said, this was a clear winner for all, regardless of their preference.

It literally has it all.  Moist cake with a great crumb.  Faux cookie dough with that salty-sweet combo.  And the best of all, super-duper, ooey-gooey marshmallow.

Look at how that marshmallow just cradles that lovely sphere of cookie dough.

I gave these to my 3 & 5 year old nephew & niece.  Someone said, "oh they are just going to lick the frosting off & leave the cake".  Not even close.  Every last crumb was licked off the wrapper before they promptly asked, "may I have another cupcake please".

So next time you want to be the superstar, Martha Stewart, Queen Cupcake of your bake sale, Christmas party, family potluck, etc., make these stash you some & be prepared to have your ego stroked!

For the Cupcakes:  Adapted from Joy the Baker

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

2 cups cold water

For the Cookie Dough Balls:

1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (i know we’re not baking them, it’s for flavor)

3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons natural peanut butter (if you have a nut allergy, 2 tablespoons of yogurt will work as a binder as well)

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips-

For the Meringue:

4 large egg whites

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

large pinch of salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, water, vanilla extract and vinegar.

Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to overmix.  The mixture will be quite wet, but that’s ok.

Pour the batter until the cups are two thirds full and place in the oven for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cup comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack until completely cool before topping with cookie dough ball.

For the Cookie Dough Balls:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment (or with a large bowl and a wooden spoon) cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about three minutes in the machine.  Beat in peanut butter (or yogurt if using) along with the vanilla extract and stir to combine.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add all at once to the butter and sugar mixture and stir until incorporated.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon a scant tablespoons size amount of dough in your hand.  Roll into a ball and place on a cookie sheet.  Make 24 little cookie dough balls, and refrigerate until ready to top the cupcakes.

For the Meringue:

In a large pot, bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer.

In a large, heat-proof bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, corn syrup and salt.  The mixture will be grainy, because of the sugar.

Place bowl over simmering water and whisk as it heats.  The sugar will dissolve after about 5 minutes.  Keep and eye on the mixture, it shouldn’t get warm enough to cook the eggs.  Yucky.

Transfer the egg white and sugar mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  With a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, on high, until stiff peaks form (about 5 minutes)  The mixture will be fluffy and glossy and look like melted marshmallows.  It’ll be sticky too.  Beat in the vanilla extract last.   Cover, and set aside until ready to frost cupcakes.

To Assemble Cupcakes:

Use a small paring knife to cut a 3/4-inch whole out of the top/center of the cupcakes.  Don’t cut the whole center of the cupcake out… just make a little hole for the dough ball to rest without rolling off.

Place dough balls on top of cupcakes.

Place meringue frosting in a pastry bag (or large Ziplock bag) fitted with a medium-large tip.  Use your instincts for the size of the tip.  Any size (star or round) medium tip will do for frosting these cupcakes.  Pipe frosting around the edges of the cupcake and over the dough ball in a circular motion.  Frost all cupcakes.

At this point you can toast your marshmallow frosting with a kitchen torch.

If you don't then turn on your oven's broiler.

Place 12 cupcakes on a baking sheet.  Place cupcakes under the broiler for about 1 minute.  Don’t even close the broiler door.  Keep an eye on them as they toast.  You may need to remove the cupcakes and rotate the pan to ensure that they cook evenly.  Once toasted, remove cupcakes, and toast the remaining 12 in the same fashion.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chocolate cherry cupcakes

So my mom is visiting the islands this week all the way from Texas.   The thing she stressed that she wanted more than anything was my baking.  Yay, the perfect excuse reason to bake.

Now came the hard part.  What to bake?  She had seen my many different creations here.  However, I didn't want to repeat past cuppies.  I think my favorite thing about baking is the opportunity to try new things.  To create.

She loves chocolate & cherries.  I love chocolate & cherries.  I had never baked these before.  So we had a winner!  Plus, I can't help but think of her when I think of chocolate and cherries.

You see there is a diet that she does.  On occasion you have to do a "steak & apple" day.  Well, my mom needed to have a steak and apple day, but she had a little problem.  She had no apples.  So instead of just eating the steak or say, steak and an orange, she ate steak & chocolate covered cherries.  And guess what?  When she weighed in the next day, she had lost over 2 lbs.  What a brat, right?

The base is a moist yet sturdy chocolate cake.  Call me lazy but I used cherry pie filling for the center.  The top is my trusty homemade whipped cream which you can find the recipe to here.  I used a fine grater to grate semisweet chocolate and dusted the cream with them.  Then I topped it with a sweet, shiny red maraschino cherry.  Winning combination!!!  Loved by all who tried them.

I also made another variation that I will post later, but my mom & Duke both preferred these jewels.

Unfortunately, I can almost guarantee you that she lost no weight the day after eating these.  That's okay though.  The weather has been pretty rainy & we're not planning on breaking out the bikinis just yet!

Chocolate & cherry cupcakes-yields approx 18 cupcakes


1 1/2 cups (180 g/6 oz) all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cups (275 g/10 oz) sugar

1/2 cup (60 g/2 oz) dark cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark)

1 1/4 teaspoons (6 g) baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons (5 g) baking powder

1 teaspoon (5 g) salt

75 mL (2.5 liquid oz) vegetable oil

140 mL (5 liquid oz) buttermilk

130 mL (4.5 liquid oz) espresso or strong, hot brewed coffee

2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

Approx 1/2 can a cherry pie filling.  I had plenty left over.


1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Line cupcake pans with 18 liners.

2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and with paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer) and pour into prepared pans. If possible, use digital kitchen scale and weigh pans for even layers. Batter will be liquidy.

3. Bake for 18-20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes clean–approximately 30 minutes. Try not to over bake.

4. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.

5.  After cupcakes are cooled cone out the center and spoon cherry pie filling in the center.  (I found 3-4 cherries fit well).  You can replace the topper that you cut out or just omit the topper all together.  It makes for good munching.

6.  Top with whipped cream and dust with chocolate shavings & top with the cherry.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin spice white hot chocolate

Yup, I know we are well into November & the pumpkin posts are probably getting old, quick.  It's really not my fault though.  I bought into the pumpkin scare and purchased more pumpkin than I could probably use in the next 5 years.

It's okay though because I've been using pumpkin in everything, including things other than baking.  Like this hot chocolate.

This is a yummy, creamy, thick hot chocolate.  The flavors are complementary and it is a delicate, out of the box, hot drink.

Extra points for how easy it is to make.

So break out all that extra pumpkin that I know you have and make this!

 Pumpkin Spice White Hot Chocolate

1.5 cups whole milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch sea salt
2 ounces white chocolate (roughly chopped)
In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine milk, pumpkin and spices. Cook string constantly until just simmering.
Remove from heat and add chocolate ( reserve some for garnish)
Just before serving, top each mug with a generous mound of whipped cream, a few shavings of white chocolate, and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon. Serve immediately.
quick notes
To store, let cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat to serve. Recipe can easily be doubled.

Source:  Tidy Mom.  Originally from  Closet Cooking
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin cream cheese cakes & food & fall in Canada

Oh my!  It's been forever since I've posted.  Please forgive me.  I took a short, much-needed, amazing vacation.

Seven days split between Vancouver & Victoria.  Although Duke & I have travelled far & wide, I must say that this is one of my top vacations, if not the best.  Autumn was in full swing when we arrived.  I couldn't have imagined better, more vibrant colors.  We managed to pack in loads of sight-seeing, but also had nice evenings lounging by the fireplace.  And hours of sleep!  Yay for vacations.

I was excited for time off, but honestly, I wasn't expecting exciting cuisine.  Boy was I wrong!

World-class sushi at Tojo's prepared by Tojo himself.    To die for.

And a four course dinner at Sooke Harbour House.  The seafood was fresh and purchased at local markets the morning of.  For breakfast was continental breakfast(in bed)like I've never seen before.  All freshly baked to order!

Not to mention the open market at Granville Island.  The scents of spices at one end & fresh-baked pies at the other end, the bustling banter between customer and seller, the vibrant colors.  Duke & I were both in heaven.

Naturally, the first thing I wanted to do when I came home was hit the kitchen.  I went to my kitchen & found no milk, eggs, whipping cream.  Bummer.  But then I remembered these little pumpkin cuties that I had book-marked from one of my favorite food bloggers, Kelly from Eat Yourself Skinny.  Bingo.  I had all the ingredients.

These are a no-bake, light, decadent treat.  And when I say no-bake, I mean it.  I tried to bake the crust for a few minutes and smoked the house out.  Ooops.

Happy to be home!

Stay tuned for more fun recipes.

7 graham cracker sheets (I used 4 ounces of graham crumbs)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Cheesecake Mixture
8 oz. Cool Whip Free
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar (or 6 Splenda packets)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pumpkin Mixture
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. allspice
In a food processor, grind up the graham cracker sheets into fine crumbs.  {If you don’t have a food processor or blender, place the graham crackers into a bag and crush them with a rolling pan or a cup.}  Place the graham cracker crumbs into a bowl and add in the ground cinnamon and sugar.  Melt the butter and add it to the graham cracker crumbs.
Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners and put one tablespoon of the graham cracker crumb mixture in the bottom of each liner.  Press down the crumbs with your hand.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese, vanilla extract and sugar (or Splenda) for a few minutes until fluffy.  Add the Cool Whip and whip until smooth.  To make the pumpkin mixture, combine the pumpkin puree, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground ginger and allspice.  Add 2/3 cup of the cheesecake mixture to the pumpkin mixture.  Stir with a spatula until the two batters are completely combined and there are no lumps.
Using a cookie dough scooper (or spoon), fill each cupcake liner with 1 1/2 scoop fulls of the cheesecake mixture.  Each liner should be filled almost to the top.  Now place three dots of pumpkin batter onto the cheesecake batter in the liner.  I used a 1/4 teaspoon to scoop the pumpkin batter.  Use a toothpick to swirl the two batters.
Once each cheesecake cup is swirled, placed the cupcake pans into the fridge to chill for a few hours (I chose to keep mine in overnight) until firm.  Serve and enjoy!