Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes (Crack in a cup)

I first found this gem of a recipe over at Oh Sweet Basil this summer. She adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe, and I’ve gone on to tweak it further. Since then, I’ve made these little suckers a handful of times with my additions here and there.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

 

Given that this recipe has been an absolute hit with everyone who’s tasted it, I thought it was about time I shared the love. You’ll need the following items.

for the crust:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
for the filling:
  • 1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1 1/4 cups cream cheese, room temperature (I prefer the Philadelphia sticks, or Liberte brand)
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche (you can pre-purchase, or make your own)
  • touch of lemon or orange zest for added flavour
  • 2/3 cup  icing sugar
for the raspberry sauce:
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (or frozen, but I’m a purist)
  • fresh raspberries, for garnish

First up, the crust. Line a muffin tin with saran wrap, with a lot of slack to cover the cups themselves. In a small mixing bowl, stir the sugar, graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together until combined. When it’s fully combined, spread the crust mixture evenly among the cups, pressing the mix against the mould to form your “crust cup”. Once you’ve formed your moulds, put the tin in the freezer to set the forms.

For the filling, grab your electric mixer with whisk attachment and beat the daylights out of the cream until medium to firm peaks form, carefully place your whipped cream into another bowl, and then return your bowl to the mixer. Throw on your paddle attachment, and beat the cream cheese, creme fraîche, and icing sugar until fully combined. Now, fold in your whipping cream into your base mixture until smooth and combined. Scoop your filling into your now set moulds, and freeze until everything settles and firms up.

While these are in the freezer setting, get your raspberry sauce going. In a small saucepan, mix the cornstarch, sugar and water, and then add your 1.5 cups of raspberries and cook, stirring it steadily until everything comes to a boil. Once it boils, let it cook, while stirring for about another 2 minutes. Grab a medium or fine sieve and pour the sauce into a bowl to help separate the seeds. Let this all cool to room temperature.

Finally, gently remove your mini cheesecakes from the muffin tin, and drizzle with your raspberry sauce. Top them off with your left over fresh raspberries, and serve! You can prep this a day or two ahead of when you intend to serve, and I find that they preserve well in the freezer for a week or so.

I know this recipe sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Start to finish, I think I spend on average 40 minutes. It’s a sure fire hit, and you might find your diners reaching for a second without even noticing it!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Lemon-Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins

I first stumbled upon this recipe over at the Foodess blog, and immediately knew I had to make these muffins.

MUFFINS

Lemon and Blueberry are probably my favourite ingredients to bake with, chocolate of course is number one. So, the minute you combine the two in one recipe it’s like cat nip for me. These were made on an intense baking day. My niece had her first school outing, where contributing a baked good was required. Of course, my sister was all over this. She was already elbow-deep into making Martha’s Devil’s Food Cupcakes and Dark Chocolate Ganache frosted cupcakes when I decided to add to our baked goods pool with these scrumptious delights.

Pre-oven

Insanely easy to toss together, and more importantly, soooo good to eat multiples of after. These are now a staple in my arsenal.  No, really, I’ve baked them three times since. Three batches, and seven weeks later, I figure I may as well share them with the rest of the world.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup blueberries

Thankfully, the instructions are dummy-proof.

  1. First off, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together melted butter, sour cream, vanilla, egg, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add to dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden brown and tops spring back when lightly pressed.

Post-oven

 

Seriously, make a batch, or ten, and thank me later for sharing the goodness. Excuse me while I go stuff my face.

 

Let Them Eat Tiramisu Cupcakes, She Said

I try to visit my best friend in Toronto on the partial-regular (aka when my bank account permits, or another friend driving down takes pity on me).  This time round, the trip had a different feel and sentiment to it.  There were no deadlines, no commitments to social events, sports games or wedding-specific tasks to take care of.  For the first time in a while since she and her fiancé moved out of Ottawa, we have actually had time to enjoy each other’s company without the pressure of a deadline or departure.  This turn of events couldn’t have appeared at a better time, for me and for her I feel.  Both of us as of recently have been suffering from a case of the “lonely-s”.  The “lonely-s” are a side effect of being separated from most of our friends and families, going through the ebbs and flows of life.  In this specific case, the ebb.  The arrival of “spring” here in Canada brought with it a change of circumstance, in particular a lot of them for me.  A difference of opinion and need for personal space lead to my signing a lease, accepting my need to be selfish in a relationship lead to the dissolution of one that had potential, and lastly, a great opportunity career-wise turned out to not be the best fit.  And so, the spring of 2013 brought me back to a very familiar place: square one.  The only difference this time around is the location, Ottawa.

These reasons are more than likely why this venture to The Big Smoke ended up having more meaning and more necessity behind it than I initially thought.  Thankfully, this trip provided a respite to take a beat, step back from every thought racing through my mind and assess my next plan of attack.  In a way in which only she could, this process has been aided by delicious French food, champagne, macarons, sushi, and tonight, homemade pizza and tiramisu cupcakes.  There is something mind-clearing to cooking and baking for me.  Even if I am merely playing sous-chef, the act of focussing all of my energy into a tangible output calms me, focusses me, and gives me some brief peace of mind. (Double-edged life lesson right there, don’t you think?)

Alas, following a weekend of much needed family, friends, rest, and relaxation I head back to Ottawa with a heavy heart, and clear eyes.  I firmly believe the next few months will shape the next phase of my life, for better or worse.  It is only with this mindset that I can truly tackle the next steps in front of me these coming weeks.  With this realization, and new-found clarity, I have no choice but to end this post with a little baking therapy, in the form of the Tiramisu Cupcakes my best friend churned out last night.  I mean, you have to stop for the smallest pleasures in life.  There are no better.

Tiramisu Cupcake Recipe


photo

photo2

And so, it begins.

It’s been a while since my last post, but I swear, it’s with good reason! I’ve been in the kitchen. Quite literally, if I wasn’t running errands of sorts, this past week I’ve been getting re-acquainted with my stand mixer and oven. “Baking Season” as I refer to it, doesn’t actually start until I dust off my Love Actually DVD and watch it in the background while I start prepping my kitchen. Don’t ask my why that is, I just seriously have a love on for that movie, always have. Once it’s run it’s course, and I’m all prepped, I crank some of this and get going.

This past weekend has long been known as the holiday party weekend. For most, it’s the kick off to the season’s festivities. A fact that was not lost upon my sister and brother in law. They held (what I hope to be an annual thing *hint*) their Christmas party on Saturday night. And in an effort to pull my weight and lend a hand, I offered to pony up a few dozen cookies for the dessert table. My menu this time round included: Mocha Bites, Sugar Cookies, Checkerboard Shortbreads and Pepernoten (a request from one of my faithful followers). Starting my venture last Tuesday, my plan was to make one type of cookie per day heading into the weekend, decorating the Sugar Cookies the morning of the party. I didn’t really anticipate how adventurous an endeavour this was until I factored in other commitments I had as well. I pulled it off, obviously. I’m just stating that the old saying “no rest for the weary” is a true statement, considering how fast I KO’d on Saturday night, and the fact that I was out until mid-morning Sunday.

Let’s start with the first cookies I churned out: Mocha Bites. This recipe was 100% hi-jacked from my sister’s cookbooks. Mocha Bites are a sort of coffee-infused short bread, so here’s what you’ll need:

Starbucks Mocha Bites 
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup Christmas Blend coffee (available from Starbucks in the winter)
4 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cinnamon
raw sugar for coating

Equipment
Electric Mixer
Knife
Baking Sheets
Parchment paper/Silicone Baking Mat

So, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl or electric mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment), cream together your butter and icing sugar until smooth, then stir in the coffee and vanilla. Next, sift in the all purpose flour, cocoa, salt and ground cinnamon and mix until your dough starts to form. Turn the dough on to a board that is lightly dusted with icing sugar. Divide your dough in half, and shape into logs. Slice the logs on an angle, in about 1/2 inch slices, and place your “bites” upright on a parchment lined (or silicone mat lined) baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. While warm, toss your cookies in a bowl filled with raw sugar, and allow to cool. 

I packaged up a few of the finished Mocha Bites to hand out to friends and family, presentation is key.

Next up, I slaved over some totally delicious Checkerboard Shortbreads. I originally learned how to make these holiday favourites in 2005, watching a re-run of Martha Stewart (guilty!) These cookies not only look amazing, but have the taste to match. This is the third time I’ve made them in a large batch, and each year, it seems I cannot make enough to keep up with demand. They are worth all the effort, trust me. I made a triple batch this year, the dough can be refrigerated for about 3 days pre-baking, or frozen for several weeks, so no excuses people!

Checkerboard Shortbreads (yields about 4 dozen)
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp pure lemon extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 cups sifted, all purpose flour
3 tbsp Dutch process cocoa powder
1 large egg

Equipment:
Electric mixer
Ruler
Rolling Pin
Sharp Knife
Pastry Brush
Cling wrap
Parchment Paper/Silicone Baking mat
Baking Sheets

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with your paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together, until smooth. Add vanilla and lemon extracts, and salt. With your mixer on a low speed, gradually add your flour, not forgetting to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Turn your dough onto a clean work surface; at this should it should be a little crumbly and loose. Knead your dough by pushing small amounts away from you with the heel of your hand. Once your dough has formed, divide it in half. Sprinkle one half with cocoa powder, kneading it continuously until the cocoa is fully absorbed.

Now, place half of the kneaded dough between two sheets of cling wrap. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into two 7 inch squares, about 3/8 of an inch thick. Take your knife and ruler, and slice each squares into nine 3/4 inch wide strips.

Whisk together the egg, and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Grab another piece of plastic wrap, and place three strips of dough on the plastic, alternating between white and chocolate strips. Brush the tops and sides of the strips with egg wash, and gently press them together. Repeat, forming second and third layers, making sure to alternate colours to create your checkerboard effect. Once you’ve finished your third layer, wrap this log in plastic, and start your second, repeating the process. Refrigerate 30 minutes, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Take your logs out of the fridge and on to a cutting board. Slice each log into 1/4 inch thick slices, and place onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. When you take your cookies out of the oven, be sure to leave them on the tray for 2 minutes, to ensure they are settled, otherwise if you transfer them to a wire rack too soon they will disintegrate.

Enjoy!

This next cookie is a new, and fast becoming must-do recipe for Christmas. A certain reader, based in Amsterdam, asked that I make a traditional Dutch cookie for the holidays. So, we made a deal, I bake the cookies, blog about them, and he blogs about Christmas- Dutch style.

Pepernoten (yields about 50)
50g unsalted butter
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 white sugar
2 1/2 tbsp milk
1 cup sifted, all purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Speculaas spices:
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground anise

Preheat your oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl or electric mixer, cream together your butter and sugar, then add your Speculaas spices. Mix until well blended. Gradually add the flour and milk, until your dough begins to form. Roll small marble sized balls and place them on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden. Cool, and enjoy!

Once out of the oven, they will have flattened out slightly, and should have a crunchy exterior. The spices give you a totally different flavour in an otherwise totally sugar dominated cookie season.

This of course, is just 3 of the delights I made this time around. I’ll stop here, purely because I don’t want to bore some of you to sleep. Well, that and I should probably catch some shut eye as well.

Until the next, good eats!

Meera