Saturday, December 29, 2012

Incredible Triple Chocolate Cheesecake



It's not often that I have time to make a recipe TWICE before posting it here on the blog, but folks, this cheesecake is so good that that's exactly what happened.  Now, this certainly won't help with any diet-related new years resolutions that you may be planning, but sometimes the calories are worth it!

My little niece requested a "chocolate cheesecake with whipped cream and cherries on top."  This beauty of a cake was the result.  I found it over on Joy of Baking, and it sounded incredible.  

You start by making a super-duper-easy chocolate crust with chocolate graham crackers and melted butter.  That's followed by an indulgent filling made with cream cheese, melted chocolate and sour cream.  It's all topped off with an easy yet heavenly ganache, made with - you guessed it - MORE chocolate.

The texture of this cake is what makes it so special.  Cheesecake is one of those things that can be tricky.  My first few experiences making cheesecake resulted in over-baked cake, because I didn't realize that the middle should still be a little wobbly when it comes out of the oven.  Also, be sure not to over-mix the filling...That can cause the top of the cake to crack.  However, the ganache topping will totally cover up any cracks in the cake, just in case that happens.

My variations:
Cake #1:  Triple Chocolate Cheesecake with Whipped Cream & Cherries
The only variations worth mentioning the first time I made this cake was the addition of whipped cream and cherries to the top as decoration.  If you're going to do this, wait to add the whipped cream until ready to serve.  We had a slight whipped cream melt-down.  :)

Cake #2:  Triple Chocolate Cheesecake with Coconut
For Christmas dessert, I made this cake a second time and substituted the vanilla extract with coconut extract.  I also sprinkled shredded coconut over the top of the ganache before it had a chance to firm up.  This version was actually my favorite!  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a photo of this cake, because it disappeared quickly into the happy tummies of my family.  :)

Bon Appetit, my friends! 



 

Incredible Triple Chocolate Cheesecake 
Adapted from:  Joy of Baking

Ingredients:
Chocolate Cheesecake Crust:
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) chocolate wafer crumbs
1/3 cup (75 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
12 ounces (340 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
24 ounces (680 grams) (3 - 8 ounces packages) full fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or coconut extract as noted above)
1 cup (240 ml) full fat or light sour cream, room temperature

Ganache:
4 ounces (115 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, room temperature

Chocolate Cheesecake Crust:

1 1/2 cups (150 grams) chocolate wafer crumbs
1/3 cup (75 grams) unsalted butter, melted
Filling:
12 ounces (340 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
24 ounces (680 grams) (3 - 8 ounces packages) full fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) full fat or light sour cream, room temperature
Ganache:
4 ounces (115 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, room temperature


Read more: http://www.joyofbaking.com/ChocolateCheesecake.html#ixzz2D9XIDcen

Directions:

Butter or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 10 inch (25 cm) spring form pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) with rack in center of oven.

Crust: In a medium sized bowl combine the chocolate wafer crumbs and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the spring form pan. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

For Filling: Melt the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese, on medium low speed, until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the melted chocolate and beat until fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and sour cream and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan on a larger baking pan and place in the oven.

Bake for about 50 - 55 minutes or until firm yet the center of the cheesecake will still look a little wet and wobbly. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools). Let cool and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours before covering with the ganache.

Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil.

Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for a few minutes. Stir until smooth. Cool slightly and then pour over cheesecake. With an offset spatula or back of a spoon, evenly spread the ganache over the top of the cheesecake. Cover and return to the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. This cheesecake tastes best after being refrigerated for at least a day. Serve in small slices.

Serves at 12 - 16 people.

To freeze:  Place the cooled cheesecake on a baking pan and freeze, uncovered, until firm. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil and place in a freezer bag. Seal and return to freezer. Can be frozen for several months. Thaw uncovered cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.




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Chocolate Cheesecake: Butter or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 10 inch (25 cm) spring form pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) with rack in center of oven.

Read more: http://www.joyofbaking.com/ChocolateCheesecake.html#ixzz2D9WdOQ8j
Chocolate Cheesecake: Butter or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 10 inch (25 cm) spring form pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) with rack in center of oven.
Crust: In a medium sized bowl combine the chocolate wafer crumbs and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the spring form pan. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.
For Filling: Melt the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese, on medium low speed, until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the melted chocolate and beat until fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and sour cream and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan on a larger baking pan and place in the oven.
Bake for about 50 - 55 minutes or until firm yet the center of the cheesecake will still look a little wet and wobbly. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools). Let cool and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours before covering with the ganache.
Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for a few minutes. Stir until smooth. Cool slightly and then pour over cheesecake. With an offset spatula or back of a spoon, evenly spread the ganache over the top of the cheesecake. Cover and return to the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. This cheesecake tastes best after being refrigerated for at least a day. Serve in small slices.
Serves at 12 - 16 people.
To freeze:  Place the cooled cheesecake on a baking pan and freeze, uncovered, until firm. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil and place in a freezer bag. Seal and return to freezer. Can be frozen for several months. Thaw uncovered cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.


Read more: http://www.joyofbaking.com/ChocolateCheesecake.html#ixzz2D9WOB4JU
Chocolate Cheesecake: Butter or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 10 inch (25 cm) spring form pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) with rack in center of oven.
Crust: In a medium sized bowl combine the chocolate wafer crumbs and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the spring form pan. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.
For Filling: Melt the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese, on medium low speed, until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the melted chocolate and beat until fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and sour cream and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan on a larger baking pan and place in the oven.
Bake for about 50 - 55 minutes or until firm yet the center of the cheesecake will still look a little wet and wobbly. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools). Let cool and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours before covering with the ganache.
Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for a few minutes. Stir until smooth. Cool slightly and then pour over cheesecake. With an offset spatula or back of a spoon, evenly spread the ganache over the top of the cheesecake. Cover and return to the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. This cheesecake tastes best after being refrigerated for at least a day. Serve in small slices.
Serves at 12 - 16 people.
To freeze:  Place the cooled cheesecake on a baking pan and freeze, uncovered, until firm. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil and place in a freezer bag. Seal and return to freezer. Can be frozen for several months. Thaw uncovered cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.


Read more: http://www.joyofbaking.com/ChocolateCheesecake.html#ixzz2D9WOB4JU

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Etta's Famous Cinnamon Rolls


Twas a week before Christmas
And in my blog's queue,
Awaited a deliciously special recipe just for you.
See, this recipe is unique and has been handed down,
And it in fact made Etta Reid famous around town!
What is it, you ask?  Well, come over here.
I'll tell you the secret to filling your taste-buds with cheer!
With a little cinnamon, sugar, butter and dough,
Upon first bite, your friends and family will say "Whoa!"
So, make these rolls at your very first chance.
You'll want to thank me with a little happy dance!!

In the spirit of Christmas, I'm SO very excited to share this incredibly special recipe with you.  My Great Uncle Mike recently shared his mom's recipe for Cinnamon Rolls with me and has given permission to share it with all of you lucky folks!  This is a treasured family recipe that his mom Etta only shared with a few people.  

Recipes with stories behind them can't be beat...There's just something so special about making your grandmother's chicken & dumplings from a handwritten recipe or making cornbread dressing that's been passed down through generations.  Those foods mean so much, because just one bite can bring back so many wonderful memories.  When I use my GrannyRene's recipes, it's almost like she's in the kitchen cooking with me. 

My uncle Mike graciously shared his mom's story about these cinnamon rolls, which follows below:

"When Mom and Dad finally quit farming in NE Louisiana and moved back to Arkansas in 1975, Mom became an Investment Officer with the First State Bank in Newport.  She began baking and bringing in to the bank her special cinnamon rolls to share with her co-workers.  Of course, some of the bank's customers were invited to have some rolls and coffee while doing their business with Miss Etta.  Gradually, Tuesdays became the main day of the "Blue Haired" customers, older widows, to do their banking business with Miss Etta.  Mom told me she even had customers from the competing bank across the street move their accounts to First State Bank and join the Tuesday Cinnamon Roll Crowd.  The bank president discovered this and tried to pay Mom extra for baking the cinnamon rolls.  Mom told him it was a labor of love and only agreed to the bank reimbursing her partially for the ingredients.

Mom would start preparing the dough on Friday night and then bake some trays of rolls on Saturday morning.  Six of her brothers and father farmed about 10k acres of rice and soybeans in Jackson County.  It was amazing how each of them would have to stop and see Etta Lee around noon on Saturday's just as the rolls were coming from the oven with the smell of hot cinnamon rolls drawing them in like bears to honey.  Mom loved them all and made sure everyone had all of the rolls they could eat or wrap in a napkin to eat on the tractor or combine that afternoon."

So, there you have it...my attempt at poetry, a story and some pretty amazing cinnamon rolls to top it all off.  :)
Merry Christmas, my friends!


Before going into the oven.



Etta's Famous Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from:  Etta Reid

Ingredients:
2 pkgs. yeast
1 tsp sugar 
2 cups whole milk, scalded
4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
8 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)
1/3 cup melted butter (or vegetable oil)

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Filling:
1 cup melted butter, divided
1 cup white granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup ground cinnamon, divided

Directions:
Soften the yeast in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water with 1 tsp sugar.  Set aside for 5 minutes.

Bring milk to boiling point, remove from heat and add 4 tsp. salt and 1/2 cup sugar, stirring to dissolve.  Set aside to cool to lukewarm.  

Combine beaten eggs, lukewarm milk mixture and softened yeast.  Add approximately 1/2 of the flour (4 cups).  Mix well (either with electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, or by beating with a wooden spoon about 4 minutes).

Add melted butter (which has been cooled) or vegetable oil, mixing well.  Stir in remaining flour, along with the baking powder and baking soda, to make stiff dough.  Turn out onto floured surface and knead dough until it is smooth and elastic but no longer sticky.  Place the dough inside of a large bowl, which has been well greased.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight (dough will double in size).  
NOTE:  For a quicker rising time, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot, away from drafts, instead of the refrigerator.  Let the dough rise for approximately 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

To make the cinnamon rolls, punch down the risen dough and turn out onto a floured work surface.  Divide the dough in half, returning one half to the bowl.  Using a rolling pin, roll half of the dough into a large rectangle, about 1/4" thick.  Pour 1/2 cup of the melted butter over the surface of the dough, spreading into an even layer.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar, followed by a very generous sprinkling of ground cinnamon.  Tightly roll up in a jellyroll style.  Next, pinch the seams to seal all edges.  Slice with sharp knife into 3/4" inch slices.   


Place on greased baking sheet, cut side down, being careful not to over-crowd the rolls.  Repeat steps with remaining half of dough.

Cover and let rise in a warm spot for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from heat and glaze with the icing (recipe below) while the rolls are still warm.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Icing for Cinnamon Rolls:
Ingredients: 
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb powdered sugar
1/4 cup hot water
1 tsp Mexican vanilla

Directions:
Pour the melted butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment.  Add the salt.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the powdered sugar until it has all been incorporated, adding the hot water halfway through.  Finally, add the vanilla.  Mix on medium speed, until it becomes a smooth, thin glaze, adding a tiny bit more hot water if needed.

The beautiful Etta Reid! :)

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Roasted Greek Shrimp with Orzo


Some of my best memories growing up revolved around vacations spent along the Gulf of Mexico.  Those vacations were filled with fun in the sun, time spent with family, and delicious meals made unforgettable by the amazingly fresh seafood right out of the Gulf near my home state of Alabama.

To this day, I still love a big plate of fresh shrimp, grouper, snapper, flounder or yes...even raw oysters (with hot sauce and a saltine cracker, of course!). 

The wonderful thing about seafood is that it cooks quickly, plus it's really healthy (as long as it's not fried).  That's always a combination worth smiling about!

This dish for Roasted Greek Shrimp with Orzo has become one of my recent favorites.  It's packed with vibrant flavors that will have your tastebuds singing.  I love Greek ingredients almost as much as fresh seafood, so I'm particularly proud to say this is an original recipe.  

And you know what?  It's SO Easy!

For this dish, fresh Alabama Gulf Shrimp are simply mixed with olives, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes and fresh parsley.  After a quick drizzle of olive oil and some seasonings, it makes a quick trip to the oven and is roasted for about 10-12 minutes.  A sprinkling of crumbled, feta cheese finishes things off, and the delicious mixture is served atop a bed of warm orzo pasta.  

So, now that you're hopefully craving a big plate of delicious seafood, why not hop on over and check out the Alabama Gulf Seafood website.  It's filled with pretty much anything and everything you ever wanted to know about Gulf seafood, including great recipes.




Bon Appetit, my friends!




Roasted Greek Shrimp with Orzo
by Celeste Ward

Ingredients:
1 lb Alabama Gulf Shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tails on
1  2.25 oz. can sliced olives, drained
6 oz. quartered & marinated artichoke hearts, drained
5 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp. garlic salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 - 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup cooked orzo pasta (directions below)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

Place the shrimp in a large mixing bowl.  Next, add the olives, grape tomatoes, and fresh parsley.  Squeeze all excess liquid out of the artichoke hearts and add those to the bowl with the other ingredients.  Drizzle the mixture with the extra virgin olive oil and season with the garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir well to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

Spread the mixture into a single layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. 

Roast in the pre-heated oven for approximately 10 - 12 minutes, or until the shrimp is cooked through.

Sprinkle with feta cheese and serve over the warm orzo.  Garnish with fresh parsley.

For the Orzo:
Ingredients:
1 cup orzo pasta
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. lemon zest
Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:
While the Greek shrimp mixture is roasting, cook orzo according to package directions.
Drain the cooked orzo and drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.  Add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.  Stir together and keep warm until ready to serve.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies



There's something just so marvelous about baking cookies in December while the Christmas tree lights cast a warm glow across the room.  This time of year certainly puts me in the baking mood.  In fact, cinnamon rolls, banana nut bread and perhaps another pecan pie are all in my very near future.

Baking simply makes my heart smile.  :)

Earlier today, my father-in-law mentioned that he had been craving peanut butter cookies.  Little did he know, that the little gears in my head quickly went to work, and a few hours later we were back at their house with a warm plate of these amazing cookies.  

And amazing they are...seriously.  I found a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine over on Epicurious that I tweaked here and there.  I added a little molasses and honey...and also substituted the vanilla extract with butter pecan extract instead. 

The results?  Pure fabulousness!

The molasses and honey made the cookies a little softer in the middle and perfectly crunchy around the edge (just how I like them!).  If you prefer a crunchier cookie altogether, leaving out the molasses and honey should do the trick.

This recipe makes about 3 - 4 dozen, depending on how large you make them.  If you don't need that many, you could easily halve the recipe or freeze the extra dough for later use.

Bon Appetit, my friends!! 


Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup chunky peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned style or freshly ground)
2 teaspoons butter pecan extract (or vanilla)
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

1/4 cup molasses
1 Tbsp honey

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, peanut butter and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Beat in both sugars. Add molasses and honey, mixing until well combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl. Stir half of dry ingredients into mixture. Add eggs 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition. Mix in remaining dry ingredients. 

For each cookie, roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough into 1 3/4-inch-diameter ball. Arrange dough balls 2 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using back of fork, flatten dough balls and form crosshatch design on tops. Bake cookies until dry on top and golden brown on bottom, about 14 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. (Can be prepared up to 3 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.) 


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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Superb Sweet Potato Souffle


When the holidays roll around, I adore a good Sweet Potato Souffle!  It's one of my very favorite sides this time of year.  Its brown sugary sweetness, perfectly buttery, and pecan-filled topping can't be beat, and then there's the light, airy goodness of the sweet potatoes below.  

Yum.

I found this recipe from Paula Deen and made some changes to the butter and sugar quantities.  One whole cup of sugar in the sweet potatoes seemed like an awful lot, so I cut that amount in half.  I also cut the butter down to 6 Tbsp.  For the topping, I left that alone and didn't really change anything except for a little extra pecans.

The results were wonderful, however, still pretty sweet.  My philosophy is...If it's the holidays, go ahead and indulge because this souffle is quite delicious!  If making this again throughout the rest of the year, I might decrease the sugar in the topping just a little bit, so as not to TOTALLY blow the diet.  ;-)

Bon Appetit, my friends!



Superb Sweet Potato Souffle
Adapted from:  Aunt Peggy's Sweet Potato Souffle - Paula Deen

Ingredients:
Souffle:
  • 3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes, from about 2 to 3 small baked potatoes
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Topping:
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, about 1/2 stick, cubed, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup self-rising cake flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Directions:
Souffle: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, vanilla, and salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Topping: Combine the brown sugar, butter, flour, and pecans in a separate bowl. Crumble the topping over the sweet potato mixture.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Serve hot. 

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