Monday, November 22, 2010

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

Well, first off let me admit that Mike pretty much made this one on his own.  It was gorgeous and delicious though so I had to post it.  I've only ever made one cheesecake and it was a bit of a let down (pumpkin cheesecake which while tasty was too pumpkin and not enough rich cheesiness).  I got this cheesecake recipe from the Magnolia cookbook, and we made their caramel sauce as well.  I love cheesecake but this is definitely something that must be eaten when there are guests over, Liam doesn't like cheesecake and while I'm sure Mike and I could eat an entire cheesecake in a few days we probably shouldn't.

Cheesecake isn't terribly hard to make, we followed the recipe but substituted light cream cheese.  We used Nilla wafers for the crust (yum!) and made Magnolia's caramel sauce which is super easy and delicious.  We have quite a bit left over which I think I'll serve drizzled over brownies later this week.  The cheesecake did need to bake for quite a bit longer than the recipe suggested, in fact about 25 minutes longer.  We didn't use any of the tricks recommended for preventing cracking, but it was covered in caramel sauce so it looked lovely nonetheless.

The final product was so good, the cake itself was not terribly sweet and the super sugary caramel sauce balanced it out nicely.  Yum!

Magnolia Bakery Caramel Sauce: 
1 C. cold water
3 C. sugar
2 C. heavy cream, room temperature

In a saucepan, combine water and sugar over med-low heart, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves... about 3 minutes. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring for 15 minutes, or until the sauce becomes a dark amber color. To prevent sugar crystals from sticking to the sides of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in cold water to brush down any sugar crystals. Swirl the pan occasionally for even browning. 
Once the syrup turns deep amber, immediately remove from heat. Slowly and carefully add in the cream (the mixture will bubble vigorously), whisking constantly until all of the cream is added.
Return the pan to med-low heat and stir until the sauce is smooth, about 1 minute. 
Remove from the heat and allow to come to room temp before refrigerating. The caramel can be stored for up to one month in the refrigerator. 

Magnolia Bakery Caramel Pecan Pie:
1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 C. vanilla wafer crumbs
1/2 C. finely chopped pecans

4 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 C. sugar
5 large eggs, room temp.
2 T. heavy cream
1 T. vanilla extract

1 C. cold caramel sauce (recipe above)
1 C. chopped toasted pecans (15 minutes on a cookie sheet at 325*)

Preheat the oven to 325*. To make the crust: In a small bowl, combine butter and vanilla wafer crumbs and pecans. Press into the bottom of a buttered 10-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, on the low speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until very smooth. Gradually add in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. To ensure that the batter has no lumps and that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer several times and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.
Pour the batter in to the prepared pan and set the pan on a baking sheet. Bake until edges are set and center moves only slightly when the pan is shaken, about 1 hour. At the end of the baking time, turn off the heat, and using a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar, cool cake in the oven for 1 hour before removing. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours. 
Spoon cold caramel evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with pecans. Return cake to refrigerator. Remove cake from refrigerator at least 15-30 minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nigella's Autumnal Birthday Cake

Mike's parents were in town this week so I had time to clean the house and do some baking of course.  I love cake but it seems a bit indulgent and riduclous to make one when it's just the four of us since I don't want Liam eating too many sweets (unlike his mother), Ellis doesn't eat solids, and Mike and I can realistically only eat an entire cake in 3-4 days by which time it's usually a bit stale.  So when we have guests, it's the perfect excuse to bake a cake.

I made this cake which Nigella adapted from Magnolia a few months ago when we had dinner guests and it was delicious so I thought I would make it again.  The cake is beautiful and very impressive if I do say so myself.  And it's easy peasy.  I don't know why but I used to think baking cakes was a difficult thing to do, when in fact cakes are, well, a piece of cake.  I had that thing happen where the butter and egg separated from each other despite continuous and rigorous beating, but I continued on and the cake turned out well.  The cake itself isn't too sweet, and the icing is over-the-top sweet so it ends up being just about perfect.

The only thing I did differently was her method of 7 minute frosting.  I LOVE 7 minute frosting.  It's tasty and looks beautiful, and so easy to make!  What I did was dissolve the sugar in the syrup over low heat, meanwhile beating the rest of the ingredients together.  Once stiff peaks had formed in the egg white mixture I poured the syrup/sugar in slowly and then beat for another 7 minutes.

A note on the self-rising flour: can you even get that here?  For every cup of flour I removed 2 teaspoons and add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, so for this recipe I removed 6 teaspoons flour and added 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.  I'm sure I should have removed a bit more for the 1/3 cup flour but whatever, it turned out fine.


  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3 1/3 cup self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2 8-inch round cake pans, buttered and lined (I just lined with parchment)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 7 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple extract, optional
  • 1/2 cup pecans


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in well after each addition, then gradually add the maple syrup to make a smooth mixture. Finally, spoon in the flour alternately with the hot water, beating gently until smooth again. Divide the batter between the two tins, and cook for 40 minutes. A cake-tester, inserted, should come out clean when they're cooked. Let the cakes cool in their tins on a rack for 10 minutes before unmoulding them, then leave them to get cold before you get on with the icing.
  3. Put everything except the pecans and extracts into a glass or metal bowl that fits over a saucepan to form a double boiler. Fill the saucepan with enough water to come just below - but not touching - the bowl when it sits on top. Bring the water to the boil, set the bowl on top and, using an electric hand-held whisk, beat the mixture vigorously for 5-7 minutes. It should stand up in peaks like a meringue mixture. Take the bowl off the saucepan, away from the heat, and add the extracts, beating them in for another minute.
  4. Cut out 4 strips of baking parchment and use to line the cake plate. Using your dreamy, ivory-coloured meringue, ice the middle, sides and top of the cake. Give the icing a swirly effect rather than smooth, letting the top have small peaks.
  5. Chop most of the pecans finely, leaving some pieces larger. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, and throw at the sides. This cake is best eaten the day it's cooked.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Snow Witch White Chocolate Brownie

O. M. G.  If you like blondies, you must must MUST make this recipe.  If you have never had a blondie before, they are basically white brownies, some recipes use white chocolate and some don't.  I had an insane craving for a blondie the other day, and I like blondies the way I like my brownies: dense and chewy.  I made a blondie recipe from my Magnolia cookbook earlier in the week and it didn't fit the bill.  It had a nice flavour but was quite light and cakey.

Mike and I had been to Fat Witch Bakery when we went to NYC a few years ago.  We sampled a few different varieties and they were all totally decadent and delicious.  So when I was craving the perfect blondie I went hunting online for one of Fat Witch's recipes.  What I found was a recipe for the "snow witch" blondie, which is made with white chocolate.  And it is perfect.  Golden, chewy, dense, with a buttery and subtle vanilla flavour.

The recipe itself is very easy to make, I used Guittard Vanilla Milk Chips.  These are so tasty and worth the couple extra bucks.  They're not that easy to find though, if you have a Cost Plus World Market in your area they sell them, and I would imagine Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table would sell them as well.  The only problem I had with the recipe was the melting of chocolate and butter.  All as going well melting-wise, and all of a sudden the chocolate and butter separated, leaving a sticky gooey oily mess.  I don't bake with melted chocolate that often, but I have never had that happen.  A quick search gave several different methods to remedy the separation but nothing worked.  I got annoyed and added it to the batter anyways, and it still turned out lovely.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, Fat Witch does have it's own cookbook for purchase!

Snow Witches (White Chocolate Brownies)
6 ounces coarsely chopped white chocolate or 3/4 cup high-quality white chocolate chips
5 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Grease a 9-inch x 9 baking pan with butter.  Dust with flour and tap out the excess.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Melt the white chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn't burn.  Remove from the heat before it is completely melted and continue stirring until it is completely smooth.  Set aside to cool.
3.  Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together in a large bowl until smooth.  Add the white chocolate mixture and mix until well combined.
4.  Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt and sift together directly into the batter.  Mix until well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remains.  Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking pan with a spatula.
5.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is light brown and cracked.  Turn off the oven, leaving the pan inside for 8 more minutes.  After that time, a toothpick inserted in the center should come our clean or with only crumbs, not batter, on it.
6.  Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 1 hour.  Cut just before serving.

Yield:  12 to 18 bars

Friday, November 5, 2010

White Chocolate Pecan Drop Cookies

What do you do on a rainy weekend when one of your wee ones isn't feeling well and you can't leave the house?  You bake.  Well, at least that's what I do.  This recipe is the first of several that I tried a few weekends ago.  It's from my Magnolia cookbook and is super easy and positively scrumptious. 

The only thing I did differently with this recipe was I used white chocolate chips instead of a bar.  A bar probably would have been better, and the chips I used weren't very high quality but the cookies were still tasty so I can only imagine with proper white chocolate they would be divine.  Mike said he would prefer them with milk chocolate chips, but he doesn't care for white chocolate in the first place.   I am admittedly a bit of a chocolate snob, and I really feel that using cheap chocolate for baking is a bit of a sin.  Good chocolate is so much more rich and flavorful, it really makes all the difference.

The pecans were the perfect addition to this cookie.  I didn't follow the recipe's instructions for toasting since Trader Joe's sells toasted pecan pieces.  The final cookie is chewy with a nice subtle crunch thanks to the pecans.  I'll definitely make this one again.

White Chocolate Pecan Drop Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
2/3 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate (I used white chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
In a large bowl (I used my mixer), cream butter with sugars until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla, beat well.  Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Stir in pecans and chocolate.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden.
Cool cookies on sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

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