Death by Chocolate Cheesecake

I admit it. I have been obsessed with chocolate lately. I’ve made bourbon brownies, 2 toned chocolate and choco chip cookies, in addition to the usual, standard stuff I make. And I’m not yet done. Still on my list are Kladdkaka, Tableya Cupcakes, Creme de Cacao… and this Chocolate Cheesecake, which has been dubbed Death by Chocolate Cheesecake.

For this one I delved deep into my cookbooks. Both hubby and the kid are chocoholics, and both are very particular when it comes to chocolate – they have discerning tastes! They prefer a deep, complex, nuanced chocolate flavor. I finally hit the jackpot when I found this recipe in a special edition “magazine” of Fine Cooking.

I started with a ready-made, off-the-grocery-shelf Oreo cookie crust. I know I could have made my own chocolate cookie crust but having a ready-made one DOES give me more time to concentrate on the filling, which I believed was more important! The downside though is that the ready made crust could not contain the full recipe for the filling. So I had to polish my math skills and scaled the recipe to about 2/3 – even then I was afraid that the batter would spill over in the oven. But all is well that ends well, the batter puffed up during baking but settled in nicely upon cooling…

The recipe did not specify a topping but I had in my mind a chocolate masterpiece with 6 layers of chocolate! I imagined (1) chocolate cookie crust, (2) double chocolate cheesecake filling, (3) silky ganache topping, (4) dark chocolate curls, (5) chocolate syrup drizzle, and (6) chocolate ice cream on the side!

For the silky ganache topping, I wanted a “softer” consistency, so instead of a 50-50 mix of chocolate and whipping cream, I used a 40-60 proportion, using a bit more cream than chocolate.

For the chocolate curls, I finally used the gourmet dark chocolate bar that my brother-in-law gave as a present.

While I had envisioned the 6 layers, I ended up with just 4 because hubby decided that it was overkill (pun intended!) to go beyond the chocolate curls. (The kid happily doused her slice in chocolate syrup though, but skipped the ice cream so at least for her it was 5 layers!)

The verdict? HEAVENLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, just like that, I am the kid’s hero again! I just love hearing her proclaim – Mommy you are the best cooker and baker ever, ever! (Her exact words)

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Date Walnut Cake

This is a version that I specifically made for a special order five or six years ago.  Someone asked me if I could make a healthier version for her mom who loves dates and walnuts but has issues with fat/cholesterol, sugar… the usual culprits that make the lives of the elderly difficult.  After several experiments, this was the winner!

So, this cake – no egg, no butter or oil!  NO CHOLESTEROL!  Low is sugar, except for the inherent sugar in dates… AND, AND…  IT HAS A BEAUTIFUL TEXTURE (very moist!) AND GREAT TASTE!

Check out the (estimated) nutritional analysis –

date walnut cake nutr 1

6 years ago, I made about 60 of these (in addition to some others) in ONE day!  To be honest, the baking was not the part I found tedious.  It was the packing and washing.  You see, I DO NOT have 60 or so pans to bake in.  At most I have 8 or so (maybe 10 max) so the waiting time is tedious and then I have to wash up (and dry!) before I could use the pans again.  THEN!  I had to fold boxes (although the kid and hubby helped a lot) and tie ribbons, etc. etc.

These days, I am so relieved to find a baking pan and gift package in one!  The base is made of thick cardboard and is coated with some sort of film.  The cake is baked in it (the store said it was a direct-bake package) and cooled in it.  The cover is a clear plastic that fits perfectly.  It saves time, effort and money (the whole package costs less than a cake box and cake board)!  I love it!!!

 

 

Orange-Blueberry Baby Bundt Cake with Blueberry-Vanilla Rum Sauce

I recently found a “baby” bundt cake pan. It was perfect for my little electric oven. By ‘little’ I mean my oven is only slightly bigger than a toaster oven, and this means I have some difficulty finding pans that fit!

Anyway, the pan was about 6 inches across and could fit a recipe for a medium (8×4) loaf pan. I thought of using the orange loaf recipe and spiking it with rum instead of triple sec. Then, because I had some leftover blueberry filling, I decided to ‘make’ a tunnel of blueberry in the ‘baby’ bundt cake.

It baked up quite beautifully!

Then I thought it looked a bit plain.  It was fine by itself already but I wanted to gussy it up even more… so…

Since I still had some blueberry filling left over, I decided to make Blueberry-Vanilla Sauce that was spiked with rum to pour over the cake.  Of course to make the slice ever prettier for the picture so I laid the vanilla pod I used on top!

The recipe for the Blueberry-Vanilla-Rum Sauce –

Place about 1/3 cup of blueberry filling, 3 tablespoons water, 3 tablespoons butter, and a vanilla pod (split and scrape the “caviar”) in a small, thick saucepan. Heat over a low flame until butter is melted and the mixture is barely simmering; remove from flame and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of rum.

 

Almond Butter Choco Chip Loaf

I have a list (several lists, actually) of goodies that I want to bake.  The list, or lists, just keep getting longer because it seems like I just want to make everything!!!  And it seems like I don’t have enough time…

But with the crazy weather these days, I got “stuck” at the house a few times when it rained rather heavily.  I decided to shorten my list, at least by one.

I found a recipe for Peanut Butter Quickbread interesting (I am sorry though, because I must have forgotten to write the source of the recipe) but silly me, I discover too late that we had no peanut butter and no buttermilk!!!

What I did have is almond butter (the natural kind) and regular whole milk… so I made substitutions and crossed my fingers that it would work…

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup natural, unsweetened almond butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup milk

It kinda worked… The problem was the taste was not appealing to the family or the rest of the household.

I guess next time I will stick to peanut butter!

🙂

Two Toned Cookies

As they say, why mess up a good thing?

Well…

If it is to make it better, then, sure, why not?

My go-to recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies is the good ‘ole Nestle TollHouse recipe, although I always use half a recipe…

Anyway, I had visions in my head of a two-toned cookie – a hybrid of a chocolate chip cookie and a chocolate cookie studded with peanut butter chips!

I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it… the chocolate chip cookie part was not the problem… the chocolate cookie was the question – and I am actually quite lazy, I mean I love baking so I will bake any chance I get, but I don’t particularly like washing dishes!

Anyway, to solve my issue, I halved the batter (without chocolate chips yet) by placing approximately half in another bowl.  I added half a cup of chocolate chips to one bowl and 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa and half a cup of peanut butter chips to the other bowl.

Drop half a teaspoon of each batter side by side (or top and bottom) then bake.

The little girl saw me baking and requested that the cookies be dipped in chocolate and sprinkles.  I thought it was a bit overkill but then, what they hey, why not?

We ended up with cookie pops that she brought to a playdate… it turned out that one of her playmates was having her birthday celebration that day!

Fruitcake Truffles

So, I have been experimenting with fruitcakes. Now, I know I already have good fruitcake recipes but I just cannot stop trying out new recipes, or tweaking old recipes!!!

The problem with experimenting, though, is that there is always that chance that the experiment won’t be successful.  This is one of those times.  I had thought that this would be THE HG recipe, but it fell way, way short.

The taste was not so bad.  But the texture was wayyyy off.  It crumbled at the slightest wobble!  For a couple of weeks, I debated what to do – I had hoped it could be salvaged but no such luck.  I had to figure out how to repurpose it!!!!

The most obvious solution?  make it into a cakepop – crumble the cake, add ready-made or homemade frosting, then form into balls then dip into chocolate…

Except that I did not want a seriously sweet thing that was covered in (still sweet) chocolate!

So, what could I use to bind the crumbs together?  And what would I coat them in?

It had to be something sticky like frosting… I got an idea from some Rum Balls recipe I found – condensed milk!  I just eye-balled it… pouring a bit from the can and mixing until I felt it was the right consistency.  I got about 2 dozen pieces from an 8×4-inch loaf of fruitcake.

My next problem?  The coating…  I had originally thought of rolling the balls in toasted diced cashew nuts… but was feeling rather lazy… then I thought of cocoa, but felt it was inconsistent with fruitcake… when my sight landed on a bag of graham cracker crumbs!!!

Tada!

But I didn’t want to call them fruitcake pops or fruitcake balls…

Fruitcake Truffles sounded better – more elegant!

 

Bourbon Brownie Birthday Cake

Hubby’s request was for a dark chocolate cake.

I had visions of a grand 2 or 3 layer cake, surrounded by bars of chocolate and sprinkled with chocolate shavings.  The vision would not become a reality.  An accidental fall (not too serious, but serious enough that my ankle and elbow are stiff) prevented me from baking and frosting an elaborate cake.  So what to do?  Hubby cannot miss out on his birthday wish??!!!!!!

Enter these deep, dark, bitter chocolate brownies laced with bourbon!  Instead of baking the brownies in an 8-in square pan, I baked them in a 7-in round, which gave them a bit of height.  The brownie could not be plain ‘ole brownies so in went a quarter cup of bourbon.

(This particular bourbon is sentimental to me – it was one of the few bottles I took from my late father’s liquor cabinet before it went up in smoke)

The ganache used to garnish the cake was also laced with bourbon, but only about half a tablespoon.

Hubby loved it!

It was especially divine with a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream.

 

Date Walnut Bars

a.k.a. Food for the Gods… at least in our part of the world…  why are they called Food for the Gods?  Well, it is said that these treats are so delicious that they are for (greek? roman?) gods.

These treats are available all year round, but they are most popular as Christmas giveaways.  They are usually sliced into small squares or rectangles and wrapped in foil paper or cellophane.  Trust me, a small portion goes a long way for these super-rich treats.

When I was younger (and single, and living with my mom), my mom would bake her fruitcakes, lasagna, and apple pies, while I would make food for the gods and brownies.  We even had a kitchen schedule fixed ahead of time so we would not quarrel over oven time!

I used her recipe to make these treats, but made a couple of adjustments – I used way less sugar that her recipe specified.  I remember these treats being ultra-rich and sweet and I wanted to reduce the sweetness if I could, without compromising its nature  – the dates are sweet enough on their own!!!  And, instead of walnuts, I used our local kasuy (cashews)!  This is a personal preference because in my book, cashews are way better than walnuts! 🙂

My first try was not so successful, but it was entirely my fault.  I halved the recipe but forgot to halve the flour!  The result was a utterly dry and stiff bar that was no good!  My second attempt was great, although I discovered that the treats had better texture after being left alone overnight!  They were good straight out of the oven, truth be told, but they were even better the day after!

 

Mommy’s Fruitcake

My mom, for Christmas, is famous for 3 things – her lasagna, her apple pie, and her fruitcake!

I have succeeded with the lasagna, and am still struggling with the apple pie… but with her fruitcake?  Hmmmm, I know I botched up her recipe!

Why do I say this?

Well, first of all, she has 3 recipes for fruitcake in her recipe collection.  I have no idea which one she used!

Then, I thought I had all the ingredients – I checked a week before to see if I had everything… and I did, except for some dried and glazed fruit, and brandy.  I got hubby to drive me to various baking supply stores and the wine shop to get what I needed.  Then I started soaking my fruit.  When  baking day arrived, I gathered my ingredients together and discovered, to my dismay (!) that my molasses had gone bad!!!  Too late to go out and find molasses so I used dark corn syrup instead…

Then I committed the ultimate “sin”… I failed to check the oven temperature, and I baked the fruitcakes a tad longer than I was supposed to!  After 4 decades of baking, I forget the most basic of rules!  (totally my fault because I decided to substitute pans – made the fruitcakes into cupcakes and a small loaf, instead of 2 medium loaves).

So, it really isn’t any wonder that my (mom’s) fruitcake did not resemble the original!

Don’t worry, I will try again.  In fact, I have 1.5 kilograms of fruit soaking in brandy right now!!!  (And yes, I got the molasses too!)  Now all I have to do is find the time to bake!

(Hubby says that the fruitcake is delicious, although it is a bit dry inside…)

 

 

Saging at Yema

I recently made cupcakes with caramel and frosted with caramel buttercream. It is superb combination that is universally liked. But an idea popped into my head after baking a yema-topped cake (joining the bandwagon of yema cakes that have sprouted in many malls!) for a friend…

I wondered what would happen if I frosted my banana cupcakes with yema? Hmmmm…

Yema, after all, is a close relative of caramel… Yema, in the traditional sense is a candy made from egg yolks, milk and sugar (and the “secret” ingredient that is dayap!).

So, what is yema anyway?  According to pepper.ph –

Yema is Spanish for “egg yolk,” and is most likely a reference either to its golden-yellow appearance or to its composition (traditionally a batter of egg yolks, lime peel, and sugar). Intensely rich and similar in texture to the French crème brûlée, it is sometimes made more decadent by the addition of a thin, crisp coating of caramelized sugar. Wrapped in squares of colorful cellophane, yema can be purchased everywhere, from sari-sari stores, roadside stalls, to street vendors outside churches, as well as a few select groceries and bakeries.

Anyway, I experimented with using yema as base for the frosting.  As a safety net, I also frosted some with caramel buttercream and truffle frosting… and was quite amazed at the result! Everybody preferred the yema-banana combination over everything else!

Wow!