Archive | October, 2012


31 Oct

Fall is one of my favorite seasons. (Well, truth be told, I can find something to love in just about all our seasons.)  But part of what makes fall special is the colors and flavors I associate with this season. Bold, earthy colors like oranges, burnt reds, deep browns and olive greens. And these colors are reflected in our cooking as Americans during the holidays: rich stews, winter squash, cranberry relish, cinnamon spice… 

Yesterday, I made these adorable Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Minis (3 X 3 square) for a local fundraiser at my husband’s work. All proceeds went to the American Cancer Society. His colleagues raised almost $300 in the fight to cure cancer. Way to go, guys!

This recipe is so much fun! It produces a cheesecake with fresh pumpkin spice flavor, a crunchy cinnamon-ginger crust and a sinful dollop of bourbon cream.

I had recently purchased a Fat Daddio’s 12-Cup Square Muffin Pan (I know, ridiculous name).  Let me tell you though, it’s absolutely perfect for making mini-cheesecakes. The pan can also be used for brownies, tarts, or quiches as well.

I began this recipe by lining my square muffin pan with parchment paper.  I found that cutting a 5″ by 3″ wide strip of parchment made for the easiest cheesecake removal later. You’ll want to be able to pull that little sucker out of there by the ends of the parchment strips. I used a cutting mat, ruler and razor blade but you could use a ruler and scissors, too.

Heheh, anyone recognize the tool I used above to tamp the crust into the molds? I hope you don’t think I’m a complete lush.

My recipe is heavily adapted from this Betty Crocker Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe I found online.  It makes 24 mini-cheesecakes or 1 large 9″ cheesecake.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Minis

For the Crust:
4 cups Cinnamon Sugar cookies / Ginger Snaps / or Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 tsp Ginger, powdered
1 cup Butter, melted

For the Cheesecake Filling:
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Allspice
1 (15 oz) can Pumpkin
3 tbsp Bourbon or Brandy
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
32 oz Cream Cheese, room-temperature
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
2/3 cup White Sugar
5 Eggs, room-temperature

For the Bourbon Whipped Cream:
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 tbsp Bourbon
1/4 Powdered Sugar, sifted
Garnish with ground Cinnamon and Ginger

Begin by pre-heating your oven to 325 degrees. Grease your pans with butter, line with cut parchment paper and grease again.

Using a food processor, grind up your cookies until finely ground and no large chunks remain. Mix the ground cookies with ginger and the melted butter until combined.

Press the cookie mixture into the bottoms of your molds. Bake crust for 8 – 10 minutes or until set (butter mixture should be absorbed).

In a small bowl, mix flour, spices, canned pumpkin and brandy together.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. (If you see lumps, your cream cheese may be too cold.) Slowly add sugar and then beat the mixture for 3 minutes.  You’re looking for a whipped texture, here.

Return to low speed, beat in 1 egg at a time until just blended.  Gradually beat in pumpkin mixture until smooth.

Pour filling into your crusts until 2/3 full.  Bake 12-18 minutes, checking often.  Cheesecake is done when the center still jiggles slightly when moved but edges are set.  Turn the oven off, open the oven door a few inches.  Let cheesecakes sit in oven to cool gradually (and avoid cracking).

After 30 minutes, remove cheesecakes from the oven and cool on wire racks. When cheesecakes are cool, run a knife around the edges and pull out of pan gently using the ends of your parchment paper.  Refrigerate 4-6 hours or overnight before serving.

Just prior to serving — Whip your heavy whipping cream until soft peaks begin to form.  Add bourbon and powdered sugar and whip until slightly thickened and stiff peaks are just about to form.  Spoon or pipe dollops onto your cheesecake.  Garnish with cinnamon and ginger.

Happy Fall, everyone!


29 Oct

Rainbow cupcake no wrapper

Rainbow Cupcakes are back this week. The photo above is my Cream Cheese Buttercream Cocoa Cupcake.

I had the honor of baking these cupcakes for a very special birthday girl. She was celebrating her birthday with a scary movie party. Exciting!

I’m by no means the inventor of the rainbow cupcake but I am proud of my technique. There are multiple paths to the rainbow-frosted cupcake, which I’ve outlined below.

Decadent Dragon’s Technique 
I riffed on Option #3 below.  First, I made a large batch of butter cream frosting, then separated it into five (5) bowls.  Next, I colored each bowl of icing with gel food coloring.

Once all bowls were colored to my liking, I prepared a single pastry bag fitted with a 1M Wilton tip.  Instead of layering the frosting colors one on top of the other, I layered them side by side into the pastry bag.  This created more separation between the colors when swirled than the layered technique, which I prefer.

Here is my super-official diagram on filling your pastry bag – viewing the bag from above.  (And yes, this was created in Microsoft Paint.)

But note that this technique can be challenging.  It may be difficult to get all colors equally situated in the bag.  I found it easiest to hold the bag at an angle to the ground (nearly perpendicular) and then spoon the colors in, rotating the bag between colors.  You may need to use your spoon to force some colors of icing down into the bottom of the bag.  Ideally, all colors will meet near the bottom of the bag.  And luckily, rainbow icing is forgiving!

Here are some of the other Rainbow frosting techniques floating around online -

Bag & Re-bag Technique
This technique yields clean lines and looks great for a multi-colored icing.  With this technique, you individually color your icings, place them separately in pastry bags and then place those filled pastry bags in a larger empty bag fitted with your tip.  For a rainbow icing, my personal belief is that it’s too wasteful of bags.  However, I’m sure it looks great.

Paint the Bag Technique” A simplified version.  Paint the inside of a large pastry bag with your  food coloring.  Then, fill the bag with white icing and pipe.  Very straightforward.  But it does produce a different icing effect.  Up to you whether you like it.

Individually Color & Layer Technique” With this, you divide your white frosting into multiple bowls and color them separately with food dye.  Then, you take one large pastry bag and individually layer the icing on top in layers (like geological strata??).  This yields a beautiful true rainbow result.

Whether you choose any of the listed techniques, or create your own, just remember to have fun!  And send me photos – I’d love to see what you create.

Orange Blossom Madeleine

22 Oct

Grumpiness is trending on Facebook. Northern California just got its first rain of the season.

To combat this fall malaise, I decided to throw a mini-tea party. The British are experts on bad weather, after all.  As they are not, in my opinion, experts on the tea cookie, I chose a French madeleine to pair with my cuppa. Unfortunately, my kitchen did not possess a fresh lemon to zest, and I had to get inventive to replace this vital ingredient. So I dug around for inspiring substitutes and came up with Orange Blossom water and lemon vodka. That’ll do!



So, here’s my recipe, adapted from French Butter Cakes (Madeleines). I hope they banish the weather grump for you, too!

Orange Blossom Madeleine
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Orange Blossom Water
1 tsp Lemon Vodka
1/8 tsp Salt, Kosher
1/3 cup White Sugar
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Butter
1/3 cup White Sugar (to sprinkle on finished cookies)

Start by heating the oven to 375°F. Liberally butter and flour your madeleine tin. If you don’t have this specialty tin, you can get probably get away with a muffin tin and muffin liners (no need to butter those).

Next, melt the butter and cool to room temperature as you assemble your other ingredients.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine eggs, vanilla, orange blossom water, lemon vodka and salt. Beat on high speed for 5-10 minutes. Stop once the mixture has thickened, lightened in color and the batter forms a ribbon as it falls from the beater when lifted. The mixture will look substantially different.

Sift half of your flour into the thickened egg mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold the flour into the egg mixture, taking care not to over-mix (you want to keep all the light, fluffiness you’ve just mixed into the batter). Sift the other half of the flour and fold in gently.

Pour the melted and cooled butter around the edges of the batter. Gently fold the butter into the batter.  Using a spoon, mound batter into the molds. The batter should just mound above the top of the tin.

Bake 10-14 minutes. The top of the cookies should be golden and springy. Once you remove the cookies from the oven, gently use a knife to loosen them. Dump them onto a wire rack. Sprinkle the cookies liberally with sugar as soon as they are out of the pan.

Serve these with your favorite cup of tea. I chose my favorite: African Green Rooibos. Enjoy!

Elegant Rose Cake

18 Oct

I promised myself I’d put in some practice time baking cakes, since this is a weak area for me. I don’t know about you but something deep within me me rebels at baking a cake when I can make their quicker, cuter cousin – Mr. Cupcake.

But I’d promised myself I’d give it a go, so I did.

And I’m glad I took the time!!

A few weeks back, I found a Rose Cake Tutorial. What a beautiful, elegant and simple creation. [Note: I did NOT do the vertical interior since I'm focused on icing practice. Next time.]

Sometimes the simplest creations are the most beautiful.

The cake is a simple yellow cake recipe infused with a lot of apricot liqueur.  Booze makes baking much easier, I’ll tell you that.

I dyed the cake a rather ridiculous shade of pink in honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Don’t forget to do self-checks and get screened, if necessary!

Overall, I give my icing job a ‘C.’  Lots of practicing to do. But if a cake novice like myself can turn out a decent result, be heartened!

And I’ll tell you what: learn how to do your first breast self-check or get a mammogram and I’ll bake you a cake.  Because staying healthy is just that important.

…And then we’ll go walk off the calories together.  Because staying healthy is just that important.