No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake – and an Anniversary!

Fun fact: exactly one year ago today, April 10, the posse and I packed up our bags (and Daisy), said goodbye to our friends in Vegas, loaded up Dad’s plane, and made our move to Austin.

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And quite frankly, my mother hasn’t forgiven me (or J) since…

However, to say we love it here would be a grave understatement. We really love it.  How can you not love a city that bills itself as the Music Capital of the World? And has food trucks on every corner? Suburbia when you want, and quiet country life as well?

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 Sunset in our slice of country life …

Although traffic here is epic (comparable, in my world, to SoCal traffic), it’s a small price to pay for what we consider home. And even though we’re still in the rental, and a bit cramped from what we’re used to, nothing can dampen our spirits.

I take that back….there is one thing. The only downside to the euphoria of this scenario is that I miss my family. We are that odd breed that truly enjoys each others’ company, and if you see us in public, we’re the ones that are laughing the loudest, having conversations that border Mensa-level, and living life to the fullest. I’ve come to realize I need to up the ante to persuade Mom and Dad to move here. I mean, really, everyone has a price….. I just need to find theirs.

Mom? That’s easy – find her the best high-rise condo, in a location not too far from the city, and not too far from the ranch (or the swamp, as she lovingly refers to it…) and she’s good to go.

Dad? Well….. he’s going to take a bit of work to leave Vegas. Note I said “a bit of work, not a piece of work..” His requirements are a tad more complex. After all, this is the man that was worried his daughter was going to become a hill-billy. Like that could ever happen – our neighbors at the ranch can hear my car approaching from a mile away. I’m that girl walking the property with the builder in my platform pumps, without worrying about the dirt and dust… And although I receive a fair amount of good natured teasing for my sometimes over-dressed attire, I know that you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.

Not that I have any intention of changing. And I’ll find his price….somehow...

Happy one year anniversary to us! Yay!
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I downsized the recipe (since it was just for the three of us) and skipped the crust completely. Although I did top Alexander’s glass with an Oreo…..

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake – adapted from serious eats

  • 10 ounces chocolate cookie wafers (such as Nabisco Famous wafers)
  • 2 tbs. granulated sugar
  • 8 tbs (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) plus 2 tbs. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I used greek yogurt)
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

    Pulse cookie crumbs and granulated sugar in food processor until fine. Place in a large bowl and toss with melted butter until moistened. Firmly press into the bottom and 1 1/2-inches up sides of an 8-inch springform pan.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and mix in vanilla, sour cream, and melted chocolate until smooth and homogenous.

Spoon mixture into crust and smooth top. Chill until set, about 4 hours. Dust with cocoa powder and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Hidden Berry Torte

I am so in need of baking something right now. I’m frustrated beyond words, and for me, baking is the ultimate stress reliever. Well, that and the daily 6.5 mile walks I’ve been taking.

My father will probably break my legs (more like throw out my running shoes) for admitting this, but last week I logged 27.5 miles. Truth. I actually broke out the calculator and added it all up. First I tried doing it in my head but we all know how THAT goes….

I really enjoy those walks, though – I can get so much organized in my head – and come home clear headed and ready for the day. I had every intention of going for a walk this morning, but since I tossed and turned thinking from 1:00 am until 4:00 am, there was no way I was getting up at 5:30 to be out the door at 6.

sigh.

So right now I’m debating between baking this bread or this cake.

And wishing I had a piece of this torte.

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Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte – adapted from Dorie Greenspan

For the Crust:
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 sticks (12 tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
1/3 cup thick berry  jam
16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

Getting Ready:
Butter a 9-inch springform pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

To Make the Crust:
Put the flour and sugar  in a food processor and pulse just to blend. Toss in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg yolks and vanilla together with a fork, and, still pulsing the machine, add them and continue to pulse until the dough comes together in clumps and curds – restrain yourself, and don’t allow the dough to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. If you want to roll the dough, gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes before rolling. Or simply press the dough into the pan. The dough should come about 1-1/2 inches up the sides of the spring form. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Fit a piece of buttered aluminum foil against the crust, covering it completely. Fill the crust lightly with rice, dried beans or pie weights and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 20 minutes or so – you don’t want the crust to get too brown. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

To Make the Filling:
Stir the jam, and spread it over the bottom of the crust – it’s okay to do this while the crust is still warm.

Put the cream cheese into the food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, for 2 minutes, until you’ve got a smooth, satiny mix. Add the sugar and spices and process for another 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the eggs and process, scraping the bowl as needed, for a final minute. Pour the filling over the jam.

Bake the cake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the filling is uniformly puffed and no longer jiggly. Gently transfer the springform pan to a cooling rack and allow the torte to cool to room temperature, during which time the filling will collapse into a thin, elegant layer.

Run a blunt knife between the crust and the sides of the pan, then open and remove the sides of the springform. If the sides of the crust extend above the filling and you don’t like this look, very gently saw off the excess crust using a serrated knife. Chill the torte slightly or thoroughly before serving and, if you’d like, dust the top with confectioner’s sugar.

 

Impossible Cheesecake Pie

I’ve made many, many cheesecakes in my lifetime – some that were really bad (an Atkins version, which still makes Alexander cringe from the memory of it), some that were mediocre a (no finger pointing), a slow cooker version (it was really good!), a no-bake version (perfect during the summer when you don’t want to turn on the oven), and all the way down to our personal favorite.

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But this version, which contains an ingredient I have never bought or used before (Bisquick), was surprisingly good. Due to my own error, I overbaked it by about 10 minutes, which made it a bit dry. I am determined to make it again (watching the baking time more closely, of course), and not skip the optional sour cream topping. Because in our world, sour cream in any form is never optional.

Which reminds me, I’d better check our sour cream supply… heaven forbid we run low…..

Impossible Cheesecake Pie – adapted from Cookie Madness

  • 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Bisquick baking mix
  • 2 (8 oz) packages of cheese, softened

Optional Topping: 1 cup sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a splash of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch pie plate generously with butter or spray with cooking spray.

In a blender, blend the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and Bisquick for 15 seconds. Cut the softened cream cheese into pieces and add it, then blend for about 2 minutes or until smooth.

Pour mixture into pie pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for about an hour, then chill thoroughly before serving.

Iced Lemon Cake

With Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon, 90% of my waking thoughts have turned to chocolate. Copious, gluttonous, obscene amounts of chocolate.

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And not just any form of chocolate, mind you – because while candy is dandy for some, my craving goes a bit (read: a LOT) deeper. Here’s my current mindset: a rich chocolate cake, filled with deep, dark chocolate custard, covered in smooth chocolate icing and chocolate sprinkles. Then topped with chocolate ice cream and swimming in homemade hot fudge sauce.

yum.

Some people may cringe at the thought of all that chocolate, but I’m not like most people. If I could, I would eat chocolate all day, every day. However, since not all family members feel the way I do, I made them a bright, puckery Lemon Cake. It may not scream Valentine’s Day, but it sure is good.

Iced Lemon Cake -adapted from Ina Garten

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup Bundt pan with baking spray and set aside.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Our New Favorite Crumb Cake

Over the past two weeks, thanks to the amazingly warm weather we have been blessed with, I have logged quite a few miles in my spiffy new Nike running shoes.  However, before I go any further, allow me to state, for the record, that the preceding sentence was not a plug for the brand.

It was, in fact, a statement of fact. And that’s a fact…

I had to buy new athletic shoes when I took a close look at my old running shoes and realized why my feet were aching so badly after my workouts…. the soles were almost completely worn down in spots. A good sign (that means a lot of workouts) and a bad sign (that I neglected to replace them sooner).

The point of the story is that while I have been dutifully breaking in my new shoes, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to a new page I am working on for the blog, which is a listing of all our favorites that will facilitate my ability to find what I’m looking for in a reasonable amount of time. And since I discovered that I have 14 variations of chocolate chip cookies, I think it would behoove myself (and the posse, should they be so inclined..) to have the absolute favorites listed in one place.

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Which brings us to this crumb cake. It was, in a  word, sublime. I think what sent it to “most favored” status was the fact that the cake portion stays soft, even a few days after baking. The other version I was using became dry and unpalatable after a day or so.

And no one – repeat, no one – likes dry cake.

Mom – your comments were dutifully noted :)

Our New Favorite Crumb Cake – adapted from Cooks’ Illustrated

Crumb Topping
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour

Cake
1 1/4 cups  cake flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk
confectioners’ sugar (optional, to finish)

To make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together both sugars, the cinnamon, and melted butter. Add the cake flour and use a rubber spatula to fold it in until cohesive. The mixture will be very thick. Allow to cool to room temperature, about 10-15 minutes.

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 F with a rack in the upper third. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides so you can lift the cake out afterward. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the cake flour, sugar, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low briefly to combine. With the mixer still on low, add the butter, one piece at a time, and continue mixing until the mixture is crumbly, about 1-2 minutes (there shouldn’t be any visible chunks of butter left). Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and increase the mixer to medium-high speed. Beat until the batter is light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and spread into an even layer. Pick up the crumb topping by handfuls, and break off chunks, scattering them over the top of the batter. Use all of the topping – it will be a thick layer. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the crumb topping is golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the pan to a wire rack and cool for at least 30 minutes, before using the foil handles to lift the cake out of the pan. Cut into squares for serving (dusting with confectioners’ sugar to finish if desired).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Earthquake Cake for a special birthday

This cake was made for a very special person’s very special day. Today, my beloved brother would have been 48 years old.

IMG_2742Since we live in Texas now, I thought this photo was quite fitting :)

So to celebrate him, and his day, I baked a cake. Not just any cake, though, an incredibly scrumptious chocolate peanut butter cake. Right about now, you might be saying to yourself, “Hey Megan, wait a minute….isn’t chocolate and peanut butter YOUR favorite flavor combination?”

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Why yes, yes it is. I thought long and hard about what to make for his special day this year, and realized I’ve never made him this type of cake before. I’ve made a triple layer coconut cake, a simple vanilla cake, an almond ice cream cake, and the always popular double decker chocolate cake with chocolate icing. And knowing my brother the way I do, he would want me to continuously branch out and make something different and unique. And while I really would have loved to have pulled out all the stops and made this cake, I restrained myself since I’m pretty much the only one in the house eating this.

And for the record, I’m completely ok with that….. taking one for the team isn’t always a bad thing :)

“Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near. Still loved, still missed, and held so dear.”

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Happy birthday Randy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Earthquake Cake – adapted from I Wash, You Dry

The original instructions call for using a boxed cake mix, but I used our favorite cake batter recipe instead.

  • 1 chocolate cake batter, prepared but not baked
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare chocolate cake mix and pour into a lightly greased 9×13 cake pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the peanut butter and vanilla extract, beat till smooth. Add one cup of powdered sugar at a time to bowl, and beat until fully incorporated and mixture becomes light and fluffy.

Distribute spoonfuls of the peanut butter mixture onto the chocolate cake batter. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Bake for 35-40 minutes, the center should still wiggle when you shake the pan. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving warm.

Crockpot Molten Lava Cake

What’s better than a cozy, warm bowlful of chocolate cake with a built-in chocolate sauce?

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Easy. Making the aforementioned, incredibly delicious cake in the slow cooker. This was so easy to make, and so, so good. I’ve made a variation of this recipe several times before in the oven, but since oven space is prime real estate in this house, I seized a golden opportunity to utilize one of my crockpots.

Incidentally, Bed Bath and Beyond is having a blowout sale on Calphalon digital crockpots – they’re half price until the end of the week…… 

Anyway, the bowl you see above is all that’s leftover from last night. I’m wondering who is going to get to it first tonight – Sabrina, Alexander, or J.

Maybe I should do the honorable thing and eat it, then claim the dog got to it. 

A small sacrifice for peace and harmony, I know.

Crockpot Molten Lava Cake – adapted from Little Mom on the Prairie

Cake 
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups All-purpose flour
6 tbs.. unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
4 tbs. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips.

Molten Lava Sauce:
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups boiling water

Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in milk, melted butter and vanilla until combined. Spread the batter evenly over the bottom of the crock.
 Mix together the brown sugar and cocoa. Sprinkle mixture over the cake batter. Slowly pour the boiling water over the mixture, and do not stir. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the center is still wiggly.  Spoon into bowls and serve as is or with a scoop of ice cream.