By Request: Caramelized Apple New York Cheesecake

Savoring Every Bite has become more than just the saying I’ve used to express how passionately I enjoy every moment of my life.  Its become the haven that stores my memories; where I can browse and revisit special moments, places and events I’ve shared with family and friends.

As my path has been taking a few unexpected turns lately, its been comforting to return to my special little place in SEB.  Equally comforting is seeing familiar faces or Gravatars leaving me a note or comment 🙂

Continue reading “By Request: Caramelized Apple New York Cheesecake”

Strawberry Basil Cheesecake

If you want to squeeze in just one more strawberry dessert before the summer ends, this is the one to make!  Or if you want to save a bit of summer for when the winter blues hit, then this one will be your creamy, sweet sunshine as cheesecakes freeze and defrost easily without harm to taste or texture.  Even the strawberry basil sauce will freeze perfectly.

Pretty much everything I make starts with an inspiration, a desire, a dream (yes, I dream about food, don’t you?) or, as in this case, someone dropping by with 2 quarts of strawberries.  I’ve already made strawberry biscotti  and starting thinking about all of you canners out there, but I’m just not there yet, except for small batches that I can use up during the week. Continue reading “Strawberry Basil Cheesecake”

Chestnut Caramel Cheesecake

Sugar plums are nice but visions of cold winter nights, a roaring fireplace, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts dance in my head.  Especially during the holidays, chestnuts are a traditional holiday treat I always look forward to.  They become first available in the fall but I normally wait to purchase them until the holidays and through the winter months. Continue reading “Chestnut Caramel Cheesecake”

White Chocolate Hazelnut Cranberry Cheesecake

There will always be a cheesecake on my holiday menu.  I’ve made so many over the years I believe they are in direct competition for my love of biscotti!!  The true beauty of cheesecakes is that they can be frozen!  Preparing a cheesecake a few weeks ahead of your planned party is truly a time saver while your guests think you are an incredible hostess…..  “wow…she works full time, raises two kids and throws together fabulous dinner parties with homemade cheesecake!  how does she do it all??…”  Yes, just smile, we are in on the secret together and I never kiss…oops, bake and tell! Continue reading “White Chocolate Hazelnut Cranberry Cheesecake”

Peanut Butter Lovers Cheesecake

There are times when the oven must be turned on.  Birthdays are one of those times.  Birthdays don’t care that it’s 98 degrees outside; the celebration must go on.  And I hear you all, buy a cake!  Well, no…I simply can’t.  When you’re known to cook and bake, it’s almost expected that when I throw a party or bring a dish, it’s going to be homemade.  And frankly, whether it’s my stubbornness or passion for perfection, buying store bought is out of the question.  And in the end, cooking for family and friends is my gift of sharing my love.

This birthday cake is for my boss.  Deciding on a cake for someone who is extremely fitness conscious and rarely eats desserts was not easy.   In fact, I know this because I am very similar, however, I do eat a bite or two of desserts and when it’s MY birthday, I will eat cake!  In fact, I have this yearly, only on my birthday, treat for myself of giant blueberry pancakes…but that’s another story.  

Everyone has to celebrate their birthday with a little sweet; it makes for a sweeter year ahead.  Other than knowing he likes apple pie, this boss of mine eats a lot of peanut butter….thus, peanut butter cheesecake!  This cheesecake is rich, dense but not overly sweet.  The combination of chocolate and peanut is like a chocolate peanut butter cup.  Truly an occassional treat and a great way to also celebrate National Cheesecake Day on July 30!!

Peanut Butter Lovers Cheesecake

Adapted from Cheesecake Extraordinaire

For the crust:

1 cup finely crushed chocolate wafers

1 cup finely crushed crispy peanut butter cookies

¼ cup finely chopped peanuts

½ cup melted butter

For the filling:

24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

¾ cup natural, creamy peanut butter

5 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup chopped peanuts

For the topping:

8 oz white chocolate

2 tablespoons natural, creamy peanut butter

1 ounce semisweet chocolate

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Prepare oven by placing a casserole pan on the bottom rack filled halfway with water.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust:  Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir together until well combined.  Press mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan.  Refrigerate until ready to fill.

For the filling:  In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, brown sugar and cornstarch until smooth.  Beat in melted chocolate and peanut butter.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Beat in vanilla extract.  Stir in chopped peanuts.  Pour cream cheese mixture over crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Lower the temperature to225 degrees and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the center no longer looks wet or shiny.  Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the edge of the pan.  Turn the oven off and return the cake to the oven for another 30 minutes.  Remove and chill uncovered overnight in the refrigerator.

For the topping:  Gently melt the white chocolate and peanut butter together and set aside.  Melt the semisweet chocolate and set aside.   Pour the white chocolate peanut butter over the cake and then drizzle on the melted semisweet chocolate.  Using a knife, gently swirl the chocolate into the peanut butter layer. Sprinkle on chopped peanuts. Refrigerate until serving time.

Ricotta Pineapple Pie

I have so many sweet memories from my mother’s kitchen.  At times her vaguely written recipes make it difficult to easily recreate but once I get started, memories begin to take over and the dishes come together almost magically.  I can work my way around my kitchen by the aromas I remember, the sights of how a dish simmered, the feel of a ripe vegetable from my father’s garden or by the taste I recall of a perfectly cooked dish.    

As I made this pie the other day, I caught myself remembering how I use to watch the pineapple sauce bubble and thicken in the saucepan.  And as the aroma filled my kitchen it brought back even more memories.  As a little girl, I thought of this pie more for an adult palate.  What child wouldn’t grab for the cookie tray before a slice of fruit pie?  I guess one good thing about growing older is developing wider interests in foods and flavors. 

Ricotta is used in many Italian desserts; as in cannoli, one of my all time favorite desserts.  The pie is light and just sweet enough with the pineapple topping.  It is best made ahead like a cheesecake to allow time to chill and firm up nicely. Being that I have no children around, I added a shot of Liquor 43 to both the pie filling and topping.  I may be grown up but I still like to have fun!

Ricotta Pineapple Pie

For the crust:

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

½ cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs

For the filling:

1 15 oz ricotta cheese, I used part skim

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons cornstarch

½ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon Liquor 43

For the topping:

1 20 oz can crushed pineapple in its own juice – drain well and reserve ½ cup liquid

2-3 tablespoons agave (add to taste)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Liquor 43, optional – if using reduce pineapple juice by 1 tablespoon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush butter over the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan or pie plate.  Sprinkle the crumbs over the bottom and sides to coat well. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients and beat until smooth.  Pour the filling into the prepared pan.  Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until pie is set but center is still slightly jiggly.  Cool on rack.

To make the topping:  In a medium saucepan, add the well drained pineapple and remaining ingredients, except Liquor 43.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and gently cook stirring about 2 minutes until thicken.  Remove from heat and stir in Liquor 43 if using.  Allow to cool.

Spread topping over the pie.  Chill several hours or overnight.  Serves 8.

Triple Berry Cheesecake…My 100th Post!

My 100th Post!!  My little blog has certainly become a significant part of my life; sharing my favorite recipes and little stories of my life.  I’m surprised to think I had 100 recipes to post and yet I can think of so many, many more I’d like to share!  What once started as a way to give my daughter Gina recipes from home has grown into sharing with friends and relatives and new found friends I’ve met over the internet. 

This 100th post simply fell into place perfectly.  With Mother’s Day approaching, spring weather and fresh berries becoming more seasonally available, my Triple Berry Cheesecake is just the right dessert to celebrate with.  Cheesecakes have always been my specialty.  In fact, a separate page on my blog was necessary just to list out all the cheesecakes I have made!  Recently I have been creating these cheesecakes to be gluten-free by preparing the crust with gluten-free ingredients. 

Cheesecakes are creamy, dreamy and delicious!  They can be baked and served year round having so many seasonal varieties and flavors.  Some recipes produce heavier, dense elaborate cakes; others are lighter, slightly sweetened elegant cakes.  Savory cheesecakes make a beautiful presentation as an appetizer served with crackers.  Cheesecakes can be made ahead of time, up to 2 days before serving or frozen for up to 2 months without the toppings.  Normally my cheesecakes take two days to prepare as I will bake the cheesecake the first day and on the second day release the cake from the pan and prepare the topping. 

After twenty plus! years of baking cheesecakes, I have a few key points I follow.  Always have room temperature cream cheese.  And by room temperature, that would mean having the cream cheese out of the refrigerator and out of its packaging no less than 1 – 2 hours.  The eggs should also be room temperature, as well as, any dairy, though I do not leave my liquid dairy out for more than 15-20 minutes.  I use full fat cream cheese or split the quantity of cream cheese by using half full fat and half reduced fat.  I have never used no fat in cheesecakes or anything else!!

Many recipes call for baking a cheesecake in a water bath or bain-marie which involves wrapping the spring form pan in foil and placing it in a larger pan with water.  I do not do this.  Never have, probably never will.  I place a baking pan filled with water on the bottom rack in the oven, heat the oven to the desired temperature and then bake the cheesecake on the rack above.  No cracks on my cheesecakes!  Plus, the batter should not be over mixed, baking should be at a low temperature and not over baked.  The cheesecake is ready when the middle is slightly jiggly. It will set up firm overnight in the refrigerator as it cools.  And speaking of cooling, within 10 minutes from removing the cheesecake from the oven, run a smooth knife around the edges of the cheesecake.  The cheesecake will begin to shrink as it cools and if it is stuck to the pan sides, cracking will occur.  I do not release the sides of the spring form pan until completely cooled or the next day, unless specified in my recipe.  If a crack does appear, toppings will cover it up!

Triple Berry Cheesecake

Adapted from William Sonoma Cakes, Cupcakes and Cheesecakes

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 ¼ cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons

½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 lb. cream cheese, room temperature

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoonsChambord

4 eggs, room temperature

1 ½ cups sour cream

1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves

1 cups strawberries, sliced

½ cup raspberries

½ cup blueberries or blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a baking pan filled with water on the bottom rack.

For the crust:  Combine crumbs, ¼ cup of sugar and melted butter.  Press firmly onto the bottom and sides (about 2 inches up) of a 9” springform pan.  Bake crust for 10 minutes and allow to cool.

For the filling:  In a large stand up mixer, combine the cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice and Chambord.  Beat until well blended.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Pour into cooled crust.  Bake until edges are set, but still jiggly in the center, about one hour and 10 minutes. 

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and 3 tablespoons sugar.  Spoon over top of baked cheesecake.  Return to oven for another 5 minutes.  Transfer to rack to cool.  After 10 minutes, gently use a smooth knife to run along the inside of the pan to loosen the cheesecake from the sides.  Allow to cool completely and refrigerate overnight, uncovered. 

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, stir preserves until melted.  Remove from heat, add berries and toss to coat.  Mound berries atop cake.  Refrigerate 30 minutes.  Remove from springform pan.  Serves 12.

Decadent Layered Cheesecake and Kahlua Chocolate Pudding Cake

 

If you are looking for the ultimate, decadent dessert, look no further, as this is the one.  If you have time to devote to making each layer of love, this will be well worth it.  I wanted to make a special birthday cake, not the run of the mill chocolate cake with white icing.  No, something powerfully tempting!

It took me three days to pull it together, tho if you have more available time than I do, two days should work.  The end result was awesome!  Creamy dense texture, Kahlua chocolate pudding layered on a thin cheesecake layer on a Frangelico crust; a multi-layered sensory experience!  Cut a piece and grab two forks!

Decadent Layered Cheesecake & Kahlua Chocolate Pudding Cake

Adapted from Guilty Kitchen

For the Crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 oz Frangelico Liquor

For the Cheesecake Layer:

1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon gelatin powder
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon Frangelico Liquor

For the Kahlua Chocolate Pudding Layer:

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
3 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon gelatin
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz Kahlua

For the Topping:

1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Frangelico
1 oz dark chocolate shavings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and Frangelico.  Press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.  Bake for 8 minutes and remove from oven to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, pour 1/4 cup whole milk, sprinkle gelatin over and let rest 5-10 minutes.  In a separate bowl, cream together cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and eggs.  Add in salt, baking powder, baking soda,vanilla, Frangelico and cornstarch.  Mix in gelatin/milk mix.  Beat over medium speed until well combined.  Pour cheesecake mixture over baked crust in an even layer.  Bake cheesecake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned but still wiggly in the center.  Remove from oven and cool completely before placing in the refrigerator.  Refrigerate overnight before adding the next layer.

Kahlua Chocolate Pudding Layer:

Pour 1/2 cup of the milk in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.

Combine cornstarch, sugar, salt and cocoa powder in top of a double boiler.  Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure to use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom to fully incorporate all ingredients.  Maintain slow simmering water in the bottom of the double boiler as you whisk occasionally for about 15-20 minutes till the pudding thickens.  Add in the chopped chocolate and gelatin/milk mixture and whisk for another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and Kahlua.  Pour over cooled cheesecake layer and allow to cool and firm up uncovered in the refrigerator, at least 3 hours.

For the topping:

In a chilled bowl, beat with a mixer the cream.  As it begins to thicken, add in the sugar and Frangelico.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.  Spread over firm pudding layer and grate chocolate for garnish.

Mojito Cheesecake

Awhile back I made a Margarita Cheesecake for a co-worker’s daughter.  She doesn’t like fruit or nuts on her cheesecake, but alcohol is good!  So when I was asked to bake again for her I thought about different fun drink possibilities and decided on the Mojito.  No fruit, just rum, lime, mint and plenty of sugar!  I do love a Mojito, especially in the hot, summer months. The mint makes it a refreshing drink, while the rum, and plenty of it, can really hit you, especially when you’re a light weight as I am! 

To turn this drink into a cheesecake, I decided to use a shortbread cookie crust for the sweetness and added in dried mint leaves.  In the filling, I easily incorporated the necessary rum and lime juice.   Not wanting to put mint leaves in my filling but needing the mint flavor (mint extract could work) though I chose to add in a white Creme de Menthe .  This recipe will make one 9 inch cheesecake; however, I baked her a 6 inch cheesecake and used the remaining for two 4 inch cheesecakes for testing. 

My very happy co-workers got to taste the mini cheesecakes the next day and all agreed – delicious!!  The cheesecake is New York style heavy but creamy and light tasting.  The mint definitely flavors the crust.   I felt the flavor of lime and mint in the filling was on the light side; therefore, I have tweaked the recipe further to intensify the flavor. 

Mojito Cheesecake

2 cups crushed shortbread cookies
3 tablespoons dried mint leaves
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 lbs. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tb. cornstarch
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup lime juice
2 oz rum
2 oz white creme de menthe
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon white creme de menthe

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine shortbread crumbs, dried mint and butter and press into a 9 inch springform pan.  Bake 8 minutes and cool.  Reduce oven to 325 degrees.

For the filling:

Beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat  in.  Add the cornstarch and eggs one at a time incorporating well.  Add the sour cream, lime juice, rum and creme de menthe and mix until smooth.  Pour into pan.  Bake for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes, depending on your oven.  Cool 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges and leave out to cool completely.  Refrigerate overnight.

For the topping:

In a chilled bowl, beat the heavy cream and add the sugar.  As it begins to thicken add in the creme de menthe.  Spread on top of the cheesecake or decorate as shown.  Serves 8-10.

Forever Young Avocado Pie

I always get excited when someone presents me with a new, unique recipe to try.  Family, friends and co-workers know my love of cooking, baking and experimenting.  This recipe was given to me by a co-worker, tho I’d like to classify him as my friend, Randy, and proudly rename this pie to him.

If you Google nutritional information on the avocado, you will find many articles written on the health benefits of this fruit.  From protecting cholesterol related heart diseases to preventing and treating prostate and breast cancers to healing digestive, circulatory and sexual problems!  Avocados contain many essential nutrients including potassium, calcium, vitamin C and dietary fibers and is known as one of the good fats!

Okay, so I hear you… a healthy for you avocado mixed with cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk and liquor…isn’t that just wrong?  Maybe..but it tastes so right!   In other words – delicious!  Creamy cheesecake-like texture, tart and lightly sweetened, you will barely taste the avocado.   So, if you’re going to splurge, at least you know you’re getting some good antioxidants! 

Avocado Pie

Adapted from the Food Network Magazine, April 2010

For the crust:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
zest from 2 limes

For the filling:

2 medium hass avocados
1 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Licor 43 * (or lemon juice)
Pinch of salt

Whipped cream or confectioner’s sugar, for garnish (optional)

Make the crust:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush an 8 inch springform pan with some of the melted butter.  Mix the remaining butter with the graham cracker crumbs, chopped macadamia nuts, sugar, zest and salt in a bowl.  Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan.  Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Cool completely on a rack.

Make the filling:  Halve and pit the avocados,then scoop out the flesh and chop.  Transfer to a bowl, add the cream cheese and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth.  Add the condensed milk, lime juice, Licor 43 (or lemon juice), and  the salt and beat until fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed.  Pour the filling into the crust, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and chill at least 4 hours.

Remove the springform ring and slice the pie.  Garnish with whipped cream or confectioners’ sugar, if desired, and serve immediately (the top will start to brown as the pie sits).

* Licor 43 is a composition of deliciously ripe citrus fruits, spicy mediterranean herbs, and a hint of vanilla. 

Note:  Because the pie is not baked the alcohol remains at full strength.  If you prefer non-alcoholic use lemon juice as the original recipe calls for.  Now, if you are truly with party people who like a more tipsy dessert as I did when my friend Ayesha and Ken were visiting….she poured 1/2 shot of Licor 43 on each slice upon serving!!