Saturday, January 21, 2006

Chocolate chip cheesecake bars

David's co-worker, Elizabeth, brought a pan of these delectable morsels over to our house today as a sweet reward for some hard work we did together (we're trying to stop a state constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples). The fact that I hunted down the recipe and posted it here later that same day should tell you how yummy they are.

The surprising thing is that the recipe calls for two tubes of store-bought cookie dough. Now, I'm usually not a fan of store-bought, pre-made dough or mixes, but here it seems to work just fine. Of course, you can go ahead and make and use your own cookie dough if you'd like. And try using other cookie doughs as well - I imagine a variation featuring sugar cookie dough and strawberry jam swirled into the cream cheese mixture would be quite good

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

2 rolls/tubes store-bought, refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
2 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 8 oz. package cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and cream cheese. Set aside.

Press one roll of the cookie dough into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on top. Crumble remaining roll of cookie dough on top of cream cheese mixture. (It's okay if it's not completely covered.)

Bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely and refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into bars.

Friday, January 20, 2006

My favorite cookie

I may be a "foodie" who enjoys both cooking and eating many different kinds of food, but I'm no food snob. I like simple dishes and deserts just as much as I like fancier, more "gourmet" offerings.

Take, for example, the recipe below. Everyone and their grandmother (including mine!) makes these cookies, yet despite their omnipresence I still can't help but scarf down one or two (or four or five) every time I see them poking out of a cookie jar.

You can poke a lot of different chocolate candies into the top of these lovely blossoms: Hershey's kisses, chocolate stars--or my favorite, miniature peanut butter cups. If you can find the white chocolate variety of mini peanut butter cups, use them--you won't regret it.

I've been meaning to try a unique twist on these cookies for some time - baking them in mini-muffin tins and then creating a well/divit in the center with the end of a wooden spoon or similar utensil. Once cooled I would fill the indentation with chocolate ganache, frosting or even Nutella (mmmm, my mouth is watering at the thought!). I'll let you know if it works out.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Dump the butter and peanut butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and blend until light and fluffy. Add sugars and then vanilla and eggs, beating until combined well.

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and then gradually add to the creamed mixture. Continue mixing just until combined.

Roll into balls and then roll in sugar (if using miniature peanut butter cups, you may want to place balls of dough in greased mini-muffin tins instead of laying them on cookie sheets). Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Press chocolate star, kiss or peanut butter cup into center and bake for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Alternately, just bake the cookie portion for 10 minutes, add the chocolate and then let cool.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The perfect pie (for me)

I am unashamedly a lover of all things sweet--honestly, I can't think of many desserts that would cause me to turn up my nose. That said, I rarely crave pie. I like a good pecan or pumpkin pie during the holidays, and I like fruit pies (apple and cherry, especially) once in a while in the summer, but it's a rare occasion that I choose to make one over a batch of cookies or brownies or a cake.

The one exception is chocolate cream pie. I've always loved a dense chocolate-pudding pie topped with pillowy whipped cream. The recipe below--from Gourmet magazine--is the best I have ever tasted, from a bakery or home-baked. It looks a bit daunting, perhaps, but it's not--and any time you put into it is well worth it in the end.

Chocolate Cream Pie

For the crust:
1 1/3 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

For the filling:
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make the crust:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat your oven to 350°F.

Throw all of the crust ingredients into a medium bowl and stir to combine. Press into a 9-inch pie plate and then bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Make the filling:
In a large, heavy saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt and yolks. Add the milk in a stream, whisking constantly. Continue whisking and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer, continuing to whisk, for about 1 minute (filling will be thick).

Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with buttered plastic wrap and cool completely, at least 2 hours.

Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.

Top with freshly made whipped cream (or Cool Whip, whatever trips your trigger) and serve to your salivating guests.