Monday, December 31, 2007

Savannah Cheesecake Squares

Yup, another Paula Deen recipe. I know, I should be cut off, but she makes such yummy, easy desserts! It's hard to say no!

This is what I made for Christmas at my Grandma's House. It's always an issue to figure out what to make to take there. Obviously, I want to take pictures and blog about the dessert. And that's fairly easy to do when you're only making 4-5 people wait on you (like in my immediate family gatherings) to take 31 pictures of your dessert, but when you've got 25+ people gearing up to hit the dessert line, it's a little harder to snap so many photos. So, I got smart this time. I decided to make a bar cookie. That way, I could cut them out, take pictures of them at home and then transport them to grandma's. Perfect!

These are good. Not WOW good. But, good. I opted to eat other things on the dessert table... pecan pie, white chocolate covered peanut butter cracker sandwiches (mmmmm.. I gotta make those), brownies. But, I did eat one of these while I was cutting them and plating them and they are good, rich cheesecake bars. I think they need a little more pizazz. Like some chocolate chips or nuts or fruit or something. But good for times when you just need something basic and creamy.

I did get a few compliments on them though... and they were even competing against a whole other cheesecake on the buffet line!

Savannah Cheesecake Squares

(What makes these "savannah" cheesecake squares instead of just regular cheesecake squares, I have no idea. I guess Savannah just sounds better).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Jennifer at Bake or Break has never let me down. I've made quite a few of the recipes that I've seen on her site and they always turn out delicious!

When I saw this recipe on her site a few weeks ago for Pecan Pie Cheesecake, I knew I had to try it for my family's Christmas Dinner. My favorite pie (maybe even dessert) is a pecan pie. And so this cheesecake immediately spoke to me.

Every Christmas, my family has a cheesecake. It used to be a turtle cheesecake that my mom bought. But for the past couple of years, I've been making the cheesecake. This year, I wanted to try something a little different... A little more special than your typical cheesecake and this fit the bill.

This cheesecake is absolutely amazing. I think I overcooked the pecan pie filling on the stove, because it turned out REALLY hard to eat. It had an amazing flavor, but it was just soooo hard and chewy. Next time (and yes, there will definitely be a next time) I will cook that filling less. But the texture and flavor of the cheesecake was delicious. I am also going to try this cheesecake as just a plain cheesecake sometime, without the pecan pie part. The filling is just so rich and decadent, I think it's the brown sugar. I had never made a cheesecake with a vanilla wafer crust, either and found it to be awesome, also!

This cheesecake was so good, that even those non-sweet eaters in my family were raving over it. Oh my god. Go out and make this cheesecake immediately. You will not be sorry.

I can't even write a coherent post because just thinking about this cheesecake makes my head spin.

Thank you, Jennifer.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Especially Dark Chocolate Cake

My parents have taken a couple of european extravaganza trips the past couple of years and one of the places that they visited was Versailles. Now, they took about 13 thousand pictures on that trip, but the pictures of Versailles and the stories they had to go along with it was incredible. It is now at the top of my list. Definitely.
So, that started a little interest in Versailles and the French Revolution... now, I'm also a really big Sofia Coppola fan and after a recommendation from my friend April, I checked out the movie Marie Antoinette. And now, I want to read this book. I mean, I'm pretty sure I know just about everything about Marie Antoinette, cause I'm sure the movie is completely historically accurate, right? Of course!

Okay, so I know... who cares that I'm into this french history stuff, right? Well, when I think of cake, I always think of Marie Antoinette.... Let them eat cake! (Which according to the movie, she actually never said... which contradicts my 7th grade history book which emphatically said that she did say that). Regardless... I love the quotation, because I love cake. And I'm loving it more and more the more I make it.

Seriously. Cake has to be the easiest baked item to make. Easier than the box, even! As I've mentioned before, I dont get the opportunity to make cakes very often, as you kind of need a big crowd to bake a cake for(although, stay tuned, I'm working on changing this). And I had just such an occasion this week! Hooray!

I hosted an Ugly Christmas Sweater Dinner Party for my family! And I decided to bake a glorious chocolate cake!

First of all, let me just say, that I'm probably going to get killed for posting this picture, but I can't resist, we just all looked so damn snazzy in our Christmas Sweaters...
So, for the cake, I decided to just make the recipe on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa Special Dark box.

It is delicious! So moist! So chocolatey! So rich! Yum. And, it's pretty forgiving, too. I left out a full cup of sugar and didn't realize it until I had already poured it into my two baking pans. I happened to taste the batter before I put it in the oven and I thought... hmmm.. that isnt very sweet at all. So, I referred back to the recipe and realized... I only measured one cup! Yikes! So, I put a half cup in each pan and stirred it around in the pan. I was a little nervous that it wouldn't dissolve very well, since it hadn't been mixed with the mixer. But, you couldn't tell!

Now, that's my kind of recipe.

The only change I made was I used buttermilk in the cake instead of regular milk.

Hershey's Especially Dark Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water (I think some people use hot coffee)
Especially Dark Chocolate Frosting (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 inch baking pans.
Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes.
Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared Pans.
Bake 30-35 minutes (I think I only baked mine for about 25 minutes, so start watching it at 25) or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely and frost. Serves 10-12

Especially Dark Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup Special Dark Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (might need more)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to a spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups of frosting.

Thanks Jason for the photos!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Homemade Oreos

So, I totally love baking, right? (obviously, or I wouldn't dedicate a whole freaking blog to it!). But that whole... baking a whole bunch of the same things (booooring) and then that wrecking a bunch of recipes (frightening) will dishearten a girl a bit.

I mean, I loved making the cookies and the brownies, but when you have recipe after recipe not turn out the way you wanted... you get a little depressed and then you realize you don't have time to be depressed, because you've got to make another kind of cookie for the party and ASAP.

Enter Homemade Oreos.

Screw the fruit cookie, let's make something kitchy instead. Right?

Luckily, my friend Steph came over the night that I finally gave up on the Rugelach Pinwheels and I think she probably just had the intention of letting me borrow some of her cookie sheets, sitting down at my bar and cracking up at me covered in flour, lamenting about the woes of baking. Little did she know... she was going to help me make Homemade Oreos. And by "help" I mean, measure all the ingredients, mix them and put them on the baking sheet while I supervised.
Fellow bakers shouldn't be so slim and cute and have cute victoria beckham haircuts, right? Right.

So, she really helped me out that night. I was at my wits end and I just finished putting a whole batch of those pinwheel cookies down the disposal when she got there. It was nice, because she helped me just kind of have a "who cares?" attitude and not worry about wasting all that money and time on those damn cookies that I screwed up.

We had fun. She's one of my oldest and dearest friends and it's nice to get to spend a tuesday night baking with your best friend.

So, back to the cookies. These are exactly like oreos, y'all!!!!! They are crunchy and the icing in the middle is dry-ish and they are perfect! Although, I must admit, I kind of liked them a little softer (I put some white bread in the ziploc back with them to soften them up a bit). YUM YUM YUM.

And thanks to Steph and Homemade Oreos.... Christmas was officially saved (or at least my parents christmas party).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Party 2007

So, for the past... 4-5 years my parents have thrown a big christmas party at their house. It's become an annual thing and every year my parents bust their asses to throw this really fabulous party. One of these years, they are going to realize that it's not really worth all the hardwork. But the rest of us are glad they do it, because it's a lot of fun.

I volunteered to make the baked sweets and made, Homemade Oreos (post on those to come later), Rich and Dark Brownies, Hidden Kiss Cookies, and I also put out the leftover Razmatazz Bars (which, incidentally, were a big hit) and a few of the Raspberry Lemon Thumbprint Cookies.

The rest of the menu included:
Pulled Pork BBQ
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Stuffed Mushrooms
Cheese Tray
Veggie Tray
Shrimp Cocktail
Mini Quiche
Cheese Ring

There were probably other foods but I can't really remember.

All-in-all, it was a big hit. Even with the rain and the threat of snow, they still had about 70 people there.

My dad looks a little frazzled here, but it was a long day... Pictures of the table...
More food...
The Sweets Table...
And yes, even more food...
And last but not least... the fully stocked bar.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hidden Kiss Cookies

There's comfort in those recipes that are tried and true. They're kind of like that one pair of broken in jeans that you always want to wear, even if they're a little bit dirty. (Oh come on, you know you wear them sometimes when they are dirty... don't give me that look). This is one of those recipes, I've made it a bunch of different times and it always turns out perfect. Okay... well, not always... I did accidently mess a batch up a couple weeks ago. I was making multiple recipes some of which I was halving and so I accidently halved the flour amount in the cookies and they turned out.... well.. super greasy and unedible. But that was my fault, not the cookies fault. Don't you hate it when you do something stupid like that and waste all those ingredients and the time! Ohhhhh the time wasted!

This is a recipe that I saw Paula Deen make awhile back on her show. It's basically a buttery meltaway cookie with a hershey's kiss snuck inside. The first time I made them was to test them out for my friend April's Shower and they turned out really well and were really easy to make. My mom loves these cookies (I think it's her favorite cookie recipe), and so when I asked her what she wanted me to make for her Christmas Party, she requested these specifically.

I have made them with all different kinds of hershey kisses... the regular ones, ones with peanut butter inside and caramel and I've found that using the regular hershey kisses doesn't make the best cookie. The kiss stays VERY hard inside the cookie, whereas if you use a kiss that is filled with something else, the kiss gets softer and melts a little into the cookie, making it easier to eat.

The only adjustment to the recipe I make is that instead of chilling the dough before you actually make the cookie balls, I go ahead and form the dough around the kisses while the dough is still pliable and then refrigerate the balls of dough for an hour before baking. It's too hard to form the cookies when the dough is hard and cold.

So, if you like mexican wedding cookies, italian wedding cookies, danish wedding cookies, butter meltaways, russian tea cakes, etc... and you love hershey kisses, you will definitely like this recipe.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rugelach Pinwheels

So, I've had my fair share of baking disasters. But, usually, it's because I did something wrong. Like, halved part of the recipe and not the other part of the recipe or made alterations to the recipe.

But, this recipe... this recipe is just one of those recipes that I just couldn't get right.

It all started with my parents christmas party (which is this weekend), I offered to make all the sweets for the party. Along with brownies and hidden kisses cookies, I felt like we needed a fruity, festive cookie. This decision has haunted me for weeks.

I tried Lemon Thumbprints, I tried Razmatazz Bars, and finally I decided that this rugelach pinwheels recipe with cherry preserves and dried cherries would be perfect.

And they would have been.... had they turned out.

I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. Don't they look so pretty on her site? Perfectly rounded, perfectly filled, perfectly photographed....

Wanna see how mine turned out?

This was the best looking batch. Seriously. I tried about 5 batches of these cookies. I tried them thin, I tried them thick and they always came out spread way all over the pan and looking like a mess. I still have one log and one batch of the dough still chilling in my fridge. I dont know what to do with it. I attempted to make two batches of these, because of all the chilling time, etc, I didn't want to run out of time to make them. Oh, and I had one batch completely stick to my greased non-stick pan and had to dispose of them down the garbage disposal... so, there's that, too.

Now, they taste REALLY good. But seriously... if you saw these sitting out on a platter at a party... you'd run far, far, far away.

So, I bagged them up all in a ziploc and I thought they'd make a good ice cream topping.

So, this christmas party will be without a fruity, festive cookie and after all these bad cookies I've made... i'm done with fruity and festive. Well, at least till next Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The specific goals of a tailgate party are to:

Socialize. Three people does in fact constitute a tailgate party, in case you were wondering. (two, definitely not, but three is acceptable).

Discuss the possible outcomes of the game. i.e. compare and contrast team players from each position. (Actually, we didn’t do this… we tried to come up with new catch phrases and ways to use them).

Drink. (Even if you are lame and only drink one beer, it counts dude, it totally counts).

People Watch. This includes making fun of the following types of people: those who listen to REM at a tailgate (buzz kill) and fans of the visiting team.

Eat yourself into a coma.

Sunday, April and Greg and I went to the Titans v. Chargers game. All our games are noon starts, so the tailgating must start early. Very early considering you didn’t get to bed until 3:30 (I’m too old for that crap, dude).

We had some good grub… including cheese dip, breakfast casserole and about 6 different bags of chips.

And I also decided to make some new chocolate chip cookies. These are a recipe from Cooks Illustrated that I snagged from Recipezaar. They were pretty good. Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Drinking my one beer... Officially a tailgate.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

German Chocolate Pie

This is April at her wedding reception... notice the look of quiet calm in Greg's eyes as he thinks... oh wow, I just married this girl and she's yelling out "wooo cheap trick."

April is my oldest friend. We met way back in 3rd grade in Mrs. Pomeroy’s class. She and I were pretty good friends off and on throughout elementary school and then I don’t think we really had any classes together from middle school until about Junior year of high school. Our Junior year, we had a few classes together and that's when the friendship really took off...

Let me just tell you the kind of relationship we have… in high school English, we would sit beside each other and everyday, I’d look at her at some point and I’d say… “April, I feel like I might have a fever… do I feel hot to you?” and she’d put her hand on my forehead and reply with whatever EVERYONE wants to hear in response to that question (and which incidentally, our moms never replied back to us)… “Wow, you do feel hot, I think you do have a fever!” And she’d say to me… “I’m not feeling too well either… how do I feel to you?” And I’d put my hand on her forehead and immediately say… “Oh yeah, you’ve definitely got a fever.” And then we’d crack up. It’s silly, but it kind of tells you something about our friendship. We trust each other and we always know what to say to make the other feel good.

I have so many great April stories, I couldn’t even begin to go through all of them… from going to see the midnight showing of the Exorcist (re-released) with winter scarves on (it was like 60 degrees outside), to making up ridiculous drinking games to sporting events… “ok, everytime they show Lou Holtz: Amy drinks and everytime they show Philip Fulmer: April drinks!” to riding around West End with finger puppets. Oh and the drinking…. Ohhhhhh the drinking we’ve done together.

And now, as adults we are closer than we were even in high school. She is my running partner (check out our running blog! 26point2ers), one of my very best friends and just a really good person. She’s someone that everyone likes. I mean, seriously, I’ve never met someone that knew her that didn’t like her.

Her birthday was November 17, but I didnt get to celebrate it with her until this past weekend. Finding a dessert to make her was a pretty easy decision. She, like me, basically likes anything and everything sweet and chocolatey. But, I knew that German Chocolate Cake was one of her absolute favorites. Now, it’s not easy to travel 200 miles with a big ole cake and with her husband not liking coconut, it wasn’t really practical to leave her with a whole cake to herself, but my mom had this recipe clipped from a magazine from forever ago for a German Chocolate Pie, so I decided to make it!

Honestly, I was less than thrilled. I envisioned a more fudge-y like pie and it turned into a more pudding-y type of pie. Which sucks, because with a great friend like April, you want it to be perfect… but I’m pretty sure she forgives me…. She’s cool like that.

April, lover of german chocolate, coconut, and pink ponies.

Happy Birthday, Ape!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Mint Chocolate Chip Pie

Remember when I first moved into my condo and there was a week there that I didn’t have a refrigerator? Yeah, I know, I’ve been trying to block it out, too. Well, one of those nights my best friends Steph and Justyn came over and brought me dinner from PF Changs (is there anything better than their steamed shrimp dumplings, mmmmmm).

Well, I wanted to repay them for their kindness (remember they also bought me Betty the kitchenaid mixer and mixing bowls, too!!) so I decided to invite them over for dinner last Thursday night. The menu was basic (I mean, no need to get crazy on a Thursday night, right?), but I wanted to make a dessert, too.

So, I found this pie recipe.

It’s very simple to make and apparently pretty forgiving, since the grocery store was out of regular vanilla pudding and I had to use French vanilla. One note though, it makes enough filling for 2 pies. I mean, seriously. You can easily cut this recipe in half to make one pie. I had a ton of filling left over.

I ended up putting the leftovers in the freezer and am anxious to try it frozen. I think it will be more like an ice cream pie. But, it’s very good. The only changes I made was that I used an oreo cookie pre-made crust, the French vanilla pudding, and I also added andes mints on top.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Whopper Cookies

Whoppers are that candy bar that I only eat at halloween. I would never buy a package of whoppers, but at halloween I always loved eating the little funsize packages. The truth is, I love malt. Like, I really love it. Malted milk, malted milkshakes, etc... It's all great for me. The thing about the whopper that keeps me from buying a whole package is... it's a little too hard for me and sometimes you get that super stale one that makes you feel like you are eating an acorn. Yeah, there's that.

So, since I love malt... i've had this recipe printed out for awhile now. It's originally from Dorie Greenspan and I've seen it made on a couple of my favorite blogs (cookie madness and foodbeam) And I've had whoppers since halloween... but I hadn't been able to find the malted milk powder at my grocery store. I knew that Harris Teeter would have it, but the last time I went to harris teeter, I had a flustering encounter and totally forgot to pick up the malt powder. So, I made a special trip the other week, because I was craving chocolate-y, malt-y goodness.

Turns out... these cookies aren't that great. They could be more chocolate-y and more malt-y.

I was really disappointed with this recipe.. especially after all the build up. But, oh well... there are plenty more recipes to be made!