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Here is the final challenge* from Willow Bird Baking…Cheesecake!

I believe I have mentioned before that while I like making cheesecakes, they don’t seem to really like me! I almost always get cracks in mine. And while cracks don’t affect the taste of the cheesecake, they just don’t look as pretty as I would like (and I’m not crazy about covering them up with sour cream. Chocolate, yes. Sour cream, no.). However, I do like making mini cheesecakes. They don’t seem to crack! Yay!

For our final challenge, I made pumpkin gingersnap mini cheesecakes. (Sorry about all the pumpkin recipes lately.)  I used store-bought gingersnap cookies as the crust. No need to crush them- a whole cookie goes in the bottom of the cupcake liner! Then a simple pumpkin cheesecake batter gets spooned over each cookie. A quick bake, and you have a fun hand-held dessert that you can take to a Halloween party!

One Year Ago: Eye Balls (Cake Balls)

Pumpkin Gingersnap Mini Cheesecakes
Makes 24

24 gingersnap cookies (I used store-bought)
2- 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin/cupcake pans with 24 liners. Place one gingersnap cookie on the bottom of each liner. Set aside.

In a stand mixer (a hand-held mixer would also work), cream together the cream cheese and sugars. Add in the pumpkin puree and the eggs and mix well. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on and add in the spices and salt. Once everything has been combined, evenly distribute the batter over the gingersnap cookies. Bake in a preheated oven for 17-20 minutes, or just until the cheesecakes are set in the centers. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, refrigerate for 3 hours before serving. Enjoy!

* Willow Bird Baking had 5 weeks of challenges. Sadly I missed the first one. Below you will find links to the big revels and what I made for weeks 2-4.
Week 2 challenge: Breakfast BraidsNutella Breakfast Braid
Week 3 challenge: Stuffed CookiesSamoa Stuffed Sugar Cookies
Week 4 challenge: Filled cupcakesBoston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Made with love, not calories!

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July 30th is National Cheesecake Day!

Cheesecake is a dessert consisting of a topping made of soft, fresh cheese, usually on a crust or base made from biscuit (such as a graham cracker crust), pastry or sponge cake.[1] It may be baked or unbaked. In the United States, July 30 has been unofficially declared “National Cheesecake Day”. (Source)

I am a big fan of the combination of caramel and apples. I don’t do so well with the caramel apples you get at a fair, as they are too hard on my teeth, but the flavor combination is yummy!

I sometimes struggle with making cheesecakes that do not crack- sometimes they work, other times they don’t! However, I like to make cheesecake bites or cheesecake bars (no cracking!), so for National Cheesecake Day, I decided to make cheesecake bars using caramel and apples. I prefer to use Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples, but you can use whatever apple you like (pears would be good too!). I also made my own caramel sauce, but you could easily use a jar of caramel ice cream topping.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
Cheesecake bar recipe lightly adapted from Paula Deen
Caramel Sauce from Epicurious

Cheesecake:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup caramel sauce, divided
2 eggs
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and finely diced (I used Golden Delicious)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Streusel Topping:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Caramel Sauce:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature

To make the caramel sauce:
In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, and without stirring, boil it until it is a light amber color. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the heavy cream. Note: the cream may bubble up, so be very careful. Return the pan to low heat and stir until all the caramel has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature (or if using for ice cream, let cool until just warm enough to pour!).

To make the streusel:
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Add in the butter and using a fork or pastry cutter, work in the butter until the mixture is the size of peas. Set aside.

To make the cheesecake bars:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Add in the butter and using a fork or pastry cutter, work in the butter until the mixture is the size of coarse sand. Press into the bottom of a 13×9 baking pan that has been lined with aluminum foil, and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes (the crust will not be cooked all the way).

While the crust is baking, in the same mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the caramel sauce, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Mix these well, either with a spoon or with a hand mixer. Add in the eggs and mix well to combine.

Once the crust has come out of the oven, evenly spoon (or pour) on the cream cheese mixture.

In a small bowl, mix together the diced apples, remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the cinnamon. Mix well. Spread the apples evenly over the cheesecake layer. Top the apples with the streusel topping. Place back into the oven for 30 minutes or until the center is set. Remove from the oven and let cool for 1 hour. After 1 hour, serve with the remaining 1/2 cup caramel sauce, or place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Cheesecake layer…

apple layer…

streusel layer

Made with love, not calories!

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I am finding out that no-bake cookies are addicting!

When I was in the grocery store buying pistachio and butterscotch pudding (for previous batches of no-bake cookies), I saw cheesecake flavored pudding. I grabbed a box. I couldn’t help it! I knew I had some Oreo’s in the cupboard at home and the thought of Oreo cheesecake cookies sounded really good!

They are really good!! These might be my favorite flavor yet! That means I have to give most of them away so that I am not tempted to eat the entire batch of cookies!

Oreo Cheesecake No-Bake Cookies
Recipe lightly adapted from All Recipes
Prep time: 2 hours and 20 minutes (20 minutes active, 2 hours inactive)

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup half and half
1 package (3.4 oz.) instant cheesecake flavored pudding
3 1/2 to 4 cups quick cooking oats
10 Oreo’s, crushed

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, and half and half. Stir over medium heat and allow to come to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, continue to boil for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat and add in the instant pudding, stirring well to combine (you can use a whisk for this step also). After the pudding has been incorporated, add in the oats and crushed Oreo’s, stirring well.

Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop out the cookies and place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with wax paper. Let cool to room temperature. Enjoy!

Note: I am impatient, so I place my cookie sheet in the refrigerator to help the cookies set up faster! Once they are set, I remove them from the fridge and place them on the counter overnight. This dries them out a little (this step is completely optional- it happens to be the texture I prefer), then I put them in a zip-lock bag to store.

Made with love, not calories!

I’m linked to:
Cherrios and Lattes, Family Ever After

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Here is another “filled” cookie! Carrot cake cookies that are filled with cheesecake. So easy to make! And I’m going to say they are healthy for you because there are carrots in them! Ok, so maybe they aren’t really healthy, but I can dream can’t I?!!

These were inspired by this recipe. Maria makes awesome cookies, so I knew this would be a good one! I just made a few minor adjustments to work with the added moisture from the carrots. The hardest part is waiting until the cookies are completely cooled before eating one (that cheesecake filling is hot!)! :)

As a side note, these are a continuation on my obsession of filling cookies with something delicious!
Other recipes include: Brownie filled Chocolate Chip Cookies, Biscoff filled Snickerdoodles, and Coconut filled Brownie Cookies).

Cheesecake filled Carrot Cake Cookies
Makes: 20 cookies
Prep time: 2 hours and 15 minutes (15 active, 2 hours resting)     Bake time: 13 minutes

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 box spice cake mix (18.25oz- I used Duncan Hines)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup vegetable oil

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well. Note: You can do this with a hand mixer, but I just mixed it by hand with a fork. Once the mixture is creamy and smooth, use a small ice cream scoop to scoop the dough out onto wax paper. You will need 20 centers. Place in the freezer for 2 hours.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla, flour, shredded carrots, and vegetable oil. Stir until everything is well incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Once the 2 hours is up (and the cheesecake centers are pretty solid), preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a large ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough* and flatten with the palm of your hand. Place one cheesecake ball in the center and fold over the dough, sealing in the center. Place the dough ball onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie. *Note: I scooped out all my dough before adding the centers, just to make sure I had enough for 20 cookies.

Bake for 13 minutes or until the top of the cookies are set. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes move the cookies onto cooling racks and let cool completely. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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I like cheesecake, but it isn’t my favorite thing to bake. I haven’t been able to be consistent in not getting cracks in cheesecakes. A water bath works for one, but doesn’t work the next time (that sort of thing!). I’m not giving up though!

However, the other day when I was looking at some cream cheese, thinking that I should make a cheesecake with it, my heart just wasn’t in it. Cheesecake cookies though- that made me smile :)

And of course there is chocolate in them!!!!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookies
Adapted from this recipe
Makes: 1 1/2 dozen cookies
Prep time: 8 minutes     Bake time: 13-15 minutes

1/4 cup butter, softened
1- 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add in the sugar and the vanilla bean paste and stir until well incorporated. Stir in the flour until fully mixed (the dough will be stiff if mixing by hand). Add in the mini chocolate chips.

Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop the dough and place it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet (leaving about an inch between cookies). Flatten the cookies slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 13-15 minutes or until the cookies are set and the edges are lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, move the cookies onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Enjoy!

Note: The bottom of the cookies get lightly brown while baking. This gives the cookie a crunchy chew (if that makes sense!).

Made with love, not calories!

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