Category Archives: Desserts


This One is to Show You I’m Serious

A bonus recipe that is probably my second most requested recipe.  Make this Peanut Butter Cheesecake today.  Seriously.

 

Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 10 tablespoons Oreo crumbs
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1 1⁄4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 large eggs, at room temp
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 ounces melted milk chocolate (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Set a large tea kettle of water to boil.

Use a 9-inch springform pan. Tear off a rectangular piece of 18-inch aluminum foil, and wrap it underneath the springform bottom and fold up along sides of pan, creating a water-tight barrier. It’s a good idea to use a second piece of foil to ensure water tightness.

Inside the pan, brush bottom and sides with melted butter. Drop in crumbs, and tilt the pan around to coat bottom and sides with crumbs evenly.  Press crumbs into place.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar cheese and beat about 3 minutes on low speed.  Add peanut butter and beat until combined.

Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla extract, mix. Add heavy cream, mix. Add a pinch of salt. After ensuring all ingredients are mixed evenly and thoroughly, pour mixture into the prepared pan.

Place springform pan into a roasting pan.

Place roasting pan on middle rack in oven, securely, and pour enough boiling water to go half way up side of springform.

Bake for 55-60 minutes. Doing the jiggle test: gently shaking the springform pan, the outside of cake will appear firm but the center will jiggle like Jell-O, and the top will not look browned, thus giving the appearance that it is underdone. But this is what you want because the hot cheesecake will continue to cook.

Turn off oven. Use a wooden spoon to open keep the oven door ajar a couple inches in order to cool. Leave cheesecake in oven for an hour.

Remove springform pan from roasting pan, place on rack on counter to cool to room temperature for 2-4 hours.

Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.  Optionally, drizzle melted chocolate over the top.

My First Step

I love food.  You know I love food.  There are few things that can get me as fired up as food.  I could talk about it for hours.  I love technology too, but with technology, I don’t get the creative buzz that cooking gives me.  So recently, I’ve been trying to think of ways to connect more with that side of my brain and last night I actually took the first step.

I had the chance to make a three course meal for my brother and his wife for his birthday.  I think it turned out really well and I definitely had a lot of fun.  So much so that I’ve actually set up several more dates to do the same for some of my friends.  I’ll keep you posted. 

So here’s the menu from last night:

  • Roasted Shrimp Cocktail with Chili Cocktail Sauce
  • Pork Medallions with Mushroom Balsamic Reduction
  • Potato Gratin
  • Caramelized Corn with Thyme
  • Apple Cranberry Pastry with Cinnamon Cream

I’m an idiot for not taking any pictures, as it was a thing of beauty.  Anyway, here are the recipes, you’ll just have to use your imagination on how fantastic they looked.

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

I stole this from Ina Garten.  A lot of times, the shrimp is boiled and that leaches away the flavor of the shrimp.  Roasting, on the other hand, concentrates flavor.

  • 1 lb of large (16/20) shrimp, the freshest you can find
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Peel and devein the shrimp.  Toss them in a little olive oil and then spread them out on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast in a 400 degree oven for eight to ten minutes.  The great thing about shrimp is that it tells you when it’s done by turning pink. 

Remove from the oven and then put in a bowl of ice to chill.  Serve with lemon wedges and this fantastic cocktail sauce:

Chili Cocktail Sauce

  • 1/4 cup of chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup of ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper sauce (I like Frank’s)
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Mix it all up and serve.

Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushroom Balsamic Reduction

  • Pork Tenderloin (I usually figure 1 tenderloin for every 2 people.  You do the math.)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 cup of Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped fine
  • 1/2 pound of sliced mushrooms (any mushroom is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

First you want to put the vinegar into a small sauce pan over medium heat and cook it until it’s reduced by half.  When there’s about half a cup left and it’s syrupy, remove from heat and let it cool off.  Set it aside and we’ll come back to it at the end.

Next you want to trim the fat and silverskin from the tenderloin(s).  Then you want to slice across the tenderloin to make about two inch thick disks until you get to the “tail” end of the tenderloin.  Cut the tail almost in half long ways and then fold it along the cut.  It should be about the same thickness as your disks.

Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper, then get out your heavy skillet.  Heat the skillet over medium high heat, then add a couple of tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil.  When the oil shimmers, put the meat in the skillet, but be careful not to crowd the pan.  (If you need to, cook the meat in batches.)  It’s important to leave the meat alone while it cooks.  Don’t move it around because that will prevent the nice browning that we want.  After five or six minutes, take a pair of tongs and flip the meat and cook for another four or five minutes.  We’re looking for about 140 degree internal temperature.  Remove the meat to a plate and allow to rest while making the pan sauce.

In the same skillet, add a tablespoon of butter, the shallot, and the mushroom.  Cook until the mushrooms turn golden brown, about six or seven minutes.  Add the vinegar reduction, and scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Take the pan off the heat and then add the other tablespoon of butter and swirl around until melted.  Taste the sauce and adjust salt/pepper as desired.  Pour the pan sauce over the meat and serve.

Caramelized Corn with Fresh Thyme

  • 1 package of frozen corn, defrosted (My favorite is Birdseye White and Gold Sweet Corn)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add butter and when it stops foaming, add corn.  Without stirring, let corn cook until you start to see some color on the kernels, five or six minutes.  Stir the corn once, and let the color continue to develop for another couple of minutes.  Add thyme, then salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Apple Cranberry Pastry

  • 1 sheet of Puff Pastry, defrosted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little water

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a small saucepan, combine apples, sugar, cranberries, cinnamon, orange zest and juice.  Over medium heat, cook for 5 or 6 minutes, until the apples soften just a bit. 

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on the parchment, then lay out the puff pastry sheet on the sugar, pressing the dough a little to make the sugar stick.  Cut puff pastry into four equal squares.  Fill each square with a tablespoon or so of apple filling.  Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg, then fold diagonally and seal the edges with a fork.  Brush the tops of the pastry with beaten egg and then sprinkle a little more sugar on the tops of the pastry. 

Bake for eight or ten minutes, until the pastry is a deep golden brown.  Let cool and serve with cinnamon whipped cream.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium bowl, add cream and whip for a minute or so with a whisk or hand mixer.  Add sugar and cinnamon, and then resume whipping until the cream stiffens and holds its shape nicely. 

Who Needs Hawaii?!

No, No No.  I was JUST KIDDING, HONEY!  Remember you said they were awesome.  My son and I were debating about what to make for dessert and so I started listing all the things we had in the pantry to work with.  We had coconut, white and bittersweet chocolate, and coconut milk.  He won’t eat coconut, but he thought it was a good idea to make truffles.  I should listen to that kid more often.

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Macadamia Coconut Truffles

  • 1 cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes
  • 4 ounces White Chocolate (I like Ghiradelli bars, not chips)
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 8 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate (Milk is ok too.)
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Roasted Macadamia Nuts (If you want them)

Break up the white chocolate into small pieces and put into a medium sized microwave safe bowl.  Zap it for 30 seconds at a time, stirring until melted.  Add coconut, sugar, and coconut milk, stir until combined,  Put coconut mixture into the freezer for around 30 minutes. 

Break up the chocolate and melt in the microwave, once again for 30 seconds at a time.  Once it’s completely melted, let cool for 5 minutes or so (who has time to temper the chocolate?).  Take the coconut mixture out of the freezer and use a small ice cream scoop or melon baller to form the insides of the truffles.  Drop them one by one into the melted chocolate and roll them around until completely covered on all sides.  Put the truffles onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  If you’re going to use the macadamia nuts, sprinkle them over the tops.

Let truffles cool for at least 30 minutes (try your best) and the chocolate hardens and turns shiny.  Enjoy them!!

An Apple, a Wonton, and some Vanilla Ice Cream Walk into a Bar…

A few weeks ago I made egg rolls and I ended up with a bunch of extra wonton wrappers.  I decided to cut them into strips and fry them plain just to see what would happen.  They turned out great.  After just a couple of minutes, they were golden brown and crispy.  We drizzled honey on some of them and my wife tossed some others in cinnamon and sugar and they were a hit with everyone. 

The cinnamon and sugar one was the one that got us thinking about pairing up with apples and ice cream.  Let me know what you think of this one!

Caramel Apple Sundae

For the apples:

  • 4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced (sweet apples don’t work as well for this)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange oil (or 1/2 teaspoon orange zest)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Heat a heavy deep skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat.  Melt the butter, then add the apples and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then add the rest of the ingredients and stir until mixed well.  Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes more, until the apples are fork tender.  Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, then add to the apple mixture, stirring until it’s thick and smooth.

For the wontons, just take ordinary wonton wrappers and cut them into interesting shapes (go nuts) and fry them for 30 seconds or so on each side in hot oil.  Drain on paper towels.

For the caramel sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cream (heated in the microwave)

This is really easy to do, but BE CAREFUL.  The sugar will get “boiling lava” hot, and can be very dangerous if you come into contact with it.  (That’s a quote from my wife.)  As a matter of fact, go read David Lebovitz’s How to Make the Perfect Caramel before you start.  Go on, no cheating.  We’ll be here when you get back.

Get your heaviest skillet or pan out and make sure that it is very clean.  Then put the sugar in an even layer over the bottom and set it over high heat.  Get a wooden spoon out and when about 25% of the sugar has melted, gently start mixing the solid sugar bits together.  When the caramel starts smoking (it will, don’t panic) you want to wait just a minute or so past that, then add the cream slowly while stirring constantly.  Be careful as you add it because it will bubble up (remember that it’s lava) and if it hardens up in places, just keep stirring.  Take it off the heat when it gets to a nice even consistency.  If it’s too thick you can add another 1/4 cup of cream.

To bring it all together, get a nice scoop of good vanilla ice cream, surround it with the apples, then drizzle the caramel sauce over a couple of the wontons and garnish with them.  Everyone will love it, trust me.

More Fruitiness…

I love the transition between the seasons.  Spring to Summer (along with Fall to Winter) are my favorites, because that’s when the menus really change.  All of a sudden you see ramps (which are a kind of wild leek) in the farmers market and everyone is cooking with berries and making lighter dishes.

For me, that idea of lighter goes all the way to the dessert course.  Ordinarily I am a huge fan of ultra rich desserts in which chocolate (the darker the better) plays at least an ensemble role.  Summer comes around, though and all of a sudden I’m thinking about fruit salsa and strawberry trifle and one of my all time favorites, fruit pizza!

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I came up with this in one of my horrible moments of realization that I committed to bring something in for an office party and totally forgot about it until 10pm the night before.  As you can imagine, it’s VERY simple and quick.  The results were unanimously approved though!

Fruit Pizza

  • 1 tube of sugar cookie dough
  • 8 ounces of softened cream cheese
  • 8 ounces of marshmallow cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (ok, ok, go ahead and use the cheap stuff if you want…I give you permission)
  • 4 or 5 varieties of fresh fruit, cut into bite sized pieces (get the best quality and most ripe produce you can find)
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar

Roll out the sugar cookie dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick.  If needed, trim the dough down to fit in the bottom of  a greased 11”x13” pan.  Bake as (more or less) directed by the instructions on the package.  Start looking at it a couple minutes before it’s supposed to be done.  You don’t want to over bake this.  When the dough is a nice golden brown, remove to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Spread cut fruit out on a large cutting board or half sheet pan and sprinkle with sugar.  Let it set while the crust cools.  This will both draw out some of the moisture and add sweetness.

Mix cream cheese, marshmallow cream and vanilla until combined and smooth.  When crust is room temperature, spread the cream mixture evenly over the top.  Finally, arrange the cut fruit pieces artistically over the top of the cream.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.

All Desserts Shall Bow Before It

I love a good custard.  Creme Brulee is another one of those “must order” compulsions that I’ve mentioned before.  This is a simplified take on the classic French Pots de Creme that I got from a Cooks Illustrated magazine.  Judging from her reaction, this is a new favorite of Kitty’s.

I found this gorgeous image of someone else’s recipe for this, which is way more appealing than I could come up with.  Her recipe is the classic preparation of the dish where you bake the custard and so on.  I really don’t think the extra steps are justified…but you be the judge.

Chocolate Pots de Creme

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped fine (You can’t go wrong with Ghiradelli.  Lindt is good too)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Put chocolate pieces in a large heat proof bowl.  Put a fine mesh strainer over it.  Set aside.

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, salt, cream and half and half in a large sauce pan until combined.  Put over medium low heat and stir constantly – this is critical.  If you let the pan get too hot or don’t stir it enough, the eggs will scramble and you will not be happy. 

This is an exercise in patience as it will seem like nothing is happening for a good 8 or 9 minutes while you endlessly stir it.  You will be rewarded all of a sudden when it starts to thicken.  If you have an instant read thermometer, you’re shooting for between 175 and 180 degrees.  The consistency should be a little thick, enough to thinly coat a spoon and leave a clear line if you run your finger through it.  You also don’t want to overcook this (it will curdle), so take it off the heat as soon as you feel good about the consistency.

Pour the custard through the strainer, over the chocolate and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Gently whisk together the custard and chocolate until combined, then add the vanilla.  Pour into 8 ramekins or cups, then allow to cool to room temperature.  Chill completely, about 4 hours.  Serve with fresh whipped cream – don’t forget:  cool whip blows.

Blondies – Not Just a Great Source of Jokes

This post will probably leave you with the absolutely inaccurate idea that I prefer non-chocolate desserts.  This is heresy, plain and simple.  I like this recipe and I haven’t really found a scratch brownie recipe that gives as good results.

I have mentioned before that I am no photographer, and looking over the pictures I’ve posted so far, you already knew that.  I also forgot to take a picture of these before they were all eaten.  (Yeah, they’re that good).  Instead I’ll post a picture of my favorite Hollywood Blonde (pun intentionally not avoided), Ingrid Bergman.  I’m a huge old movie fan and I’ll watch any movie she was in…

File:Ingrid bergman.jpg

This recipe comes from Cook Illustrated Magazine, which is done by the same guys as The Best Recipe Cookbook.  I like the magazine a lot, but I really hate their whole web strategy of making you pay for content.  That’s a different post entirely.

Blondies

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9×13 pan with tin foil long ways, leaving  a couple of inches of foil to hang over the edge on either side.  Then do another piece of foil the same way across the width of the pan.  Spray the inside of the pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt together.  In a large bowl, mix brown sugar and butter.  Stir in the eggs and vanilla.  Then fold in the flour with a rubber spatula until just combined, don’t overmix it.  (Folding means running the spatula from the bottom of the bowl to the top and then circling the side.  It’s not that big of a deal if you just stir it…)  Now mix in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out with your spatula.  Bake for about 20-22 minutes.  Be careful not to leave this in too long.  It’s a little tricky to tell if it’s done, because the toothpick in the middle trick doesn’t work (if you leave it in until it’s clean, they will be hard bricks).  When they top is shiny and cracked and a golden brown color, it’s done.   Take them out and let them cool on a rack to about room temperature.  Slice them into whatever size you look and enjoy. 

Try them with chocolate ice cream for a kind of reverse brownie sundae (my brilliant wife’s idea), it’s really tasty.

Dessert’s Debut

I debated long and hard over which of my MANY favorite desserts to post first.  (Anyone who has seen me can clearly see that I wear my love of dessert on my midsection.)  I came home from work and noticed that we had some strawberries that needed to be used, so I thought, what about a fresh strawberry shortcake.  Ordinarily I am very much of the “If it’s not chocolate, don’t bother” mindset, but there’s something about fresh berries in spring time. 

The shortcake recipe comes directly from the Best Recipe Cookbook, which is one of my staples.  I just kind of threw the berry part together and it turned out pretty well.  The one thing I have to say is PLEASE don’t use Cool Whip with this.  Whipping the cream takes a little more effort, but it is SO much better, don’t cheat yourself.

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Strawberry Topping

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, tops removed and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Put the berries in a bowl, add the lemon juice and sugar.  Mix well and let sit at room temperature while making the shortcakes.

You can also do a mixture of berries or substitute some other fruit.  Go crazy.

Shortcakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick) chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon half and half or milk
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix flour, baking powder, salt and 3 tablespoons of sugar in the bowl of a food processor (or other large bowl, if doing by hand).  Scatter the butter pieces, then toss with flour to coat them.  Cut butter into flour with about 5 1 second pulses, or use a pastry blender to cut the butter until it looks like coarse cornmeal.  Turn mixture into medium bowl.

Mix beaten egg with half and half, then pour into bowl with flour mixture.  Combine with a rubber spatula until a large clump forms.  You don’t want to over mix this, so don’t worry if you have a bit of unincorporated flour at the bottom.  Turn out onto floured counter top and knead dough lightly until it comes together.  Pat dough out to about a 9” x 6” rectangle that’s about 3/4” thick.  Flour a 3” biscuit cutter (I’ve used glasses, ramekins, etc when I couldn’t find the biscuit cutter) and cut out 6 dough rounds.  Place the rounds about 1” apart on a heavy baking sheet.

Brush tops with egg white, then sprinkle on the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  This is going to give them a great golden color and a crunchy sweet top.  Bake them for 12-14 minutes, then take them out and cool them on a wire rack for about 10 minutes or so.

Homemade Whip Cream (Cool Whip Blows)

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (the good stuff like Nielsen Massey can be found at Williams Sonoma and this is one place you really can tell the difference)

Put cream, sugar and vanilla in large stainless steel bowl.  With a whisk (if you’re crazy) or a hand mixer beat at high speed for a few minutes until soft peaks form when you pull the beaters out.