Friday, December 31, 2010

Strawberry-Cheesecake Brownies

I bought two gigantic bars of Hershey's Milk Chocolate right before Christmas. The large amount of chocolate was supposed to be shared among several people in a gingerbread house party. The chocolate never was used, so I was left with lots of chocolate with no purpose. Since New Years closely proceeds Christmas (obviously), I decided to bake a New Years dessert laden with chocolate. Yum. This is what my mind came up with:

(adapted from Nestle Classic Recipes 2003, Easy Double Chocolate Chip Brownies)

-1 cup (6 oz.) chopped chocolate (I used milk chocolate, but semi-sweet or dark would be great)
-1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
-3 eggs
-1 1/4 cups King Arthur's white whole wheat flour**
-1 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda

-1/2 cup Trader Joe's Organic Strawberry Jam, at room temperature
-1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
-1/4 cup sugar

**White whole wheat flour contains a different variety of wheat than conventional flours do. White whole wheat flour still is considered 100% whole wheat flour. Its flavor and texture is just more pleasant than typical whole wheat flour. I use white whole wheat flour in almost all of my baking recipes because this flour has the fiber and nutrients of whole wheat flour, but has similar properties to regular white flour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 13" x 9" jelly roll pan.

In a medium metal pot over low heat, slowly melt chocolate and butter. Stir the mixture occasionally. Remove from heat when smooth and luscious. Stir in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract and mix. Gradually stir in flour, 1 cup sugar, and baking soda. Mix well until batter is glossy and consistent.

Spread brownie batter into greased pan with a spatula. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar. Evenly dollop cream cheese mixture and strawberry jam over batter. Artistically feather the dollops into the batter with the tip of a sharp knife.

Bake brownies for 18-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool brownies to room temperature on a wire rack (DO NOT REMOVE BROWNIES FROM PAN). Cut and serve cold or room temperature. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blueberry-Lemon Muesli Bread

I received a beautiful bag of Trader Joe's Blueberry Muesli this holiday season (see below). For anyone who is not familiar with muesli, muesli is sort of like an unbaked granola. It isn't as crunchy and overly sweet as some granolas tend to be. Muesli is fresher and more organic/raw-tasting.

I enjoyed my blueberry muesli in soymilk topped with a slice banana. This was a delicious breakfast, but I could not help but wonder, "Would muesli not taste awesome as part of a muffin or breakfast break recipe?". I instantly raced to the computer after breakfast and searched the internet for muesli-containing muffin recipes. I came across a simple muesli muffin recipe from "Something About Penguins" ( This recipe was adapted from a muesli bread recipe from "Baking Bites" ( My muesli bread recipe combines aspects of both recipes and includes my own little twists.

As I said previously, I used a commercially produced muesli (Trader Joe's Blueberry Muesli). If I had to make this muesli bread again, I would probably throw together a home-made muesli. My dream muesli recipe would consist of oats, sliced almonds, sunflowed/pumpkin seeds, ground flax, raisins, cinnamon, etc. Feel free to mix up your own muesli to use for this recipe.


-1 1/2 cups muesli
-1 1/2 cups King Arthur's white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
-1/4-1/2 cup raisins
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (I just ground up a small apple in my food processor)
-Zest of 1 lemon
-Juice of 1 lemon plus enough soy milk to measure 1 1/2 cups of liquid (This will make the soymilk thicken/slightly curdle. This is okay!)
-2 Tablespoons canola oil

-about 2 Tablespoons oats

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a standard-sized metal loaf pan with canola oil.

In a medium bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. In a separate larger bowl, mix together all wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients all at once, gently folding until combined. Pour batter into greased loaf pan, and spread batter into pan with a spatula. Sprinkle with oats, if desired.

Bake bread in preheated oven for 60-65 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick/knife comes out clean. Place an aluminum foil tent over the bread about 15 minutes before the bread is finished in order to prevent over-browning. Nobody likes burnt bread!

Cool bread in loaf pan on a wire cooling rack. When cooled to room temperature, carefully remove bread from pan. The end product is a yummy breakfast bread with a crusty exterior and a deliciously moist interior. The lemon really adds a fun touch! Orange would be a great substitute, also. Enjoy bread plain, slathered with almond or peanut butter, or topped with jam.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gingerbread Cheesecake

I try to make interesting desserts during the holidays. This year I was torn between making cranberry-upside down cake, cranberry swirl cheesecake, French chocolate bread with honey and spices, and gingerbread cheesecake. After taking a poll, I decided to make gingerbread cheesecake, a dessert that sounded fun to bake. Boy, was a wrong! It was an overly-complicated, extremely time-consuming Martha Stewart recipe. Most of my frustration concerned the gingerbread crust. Conventional cheesecakes have a Graham cracker crust, but this Christmas cheesecake called for a gingerbread crust. I thought this was a novel idea (it made the finished cake super special). In order to make the crust, however, fresh gingerbread dough had to be prepared and baked. This was extra work, and Martha's gingerbread recipe seemed very strange. I have made gingerbread cookies with my sister for the past two years, and the process is rather simple (dough is prepared, refrigerated, rolled, cut, and baked). Martha's recipe was unlike any that I have ever seen. Her recipe required the dough to be prepared, refrigerated, rolled, frozen for 15 minutes, cut, frozen for another 15 minutes, and baked. Her cheesecake even called for a water bath, which I have never prepared for a cheesecake. I later asked some of my family members (those who have experience baking) what they thought of the recipe. It was agreed that the gingerbread recipe was odd, but the water bath was not totally unheard of for a cheesecake recipe.

The entire gingerbread cheesecake recipe was composed of way too many steps. I would have chosen a time-consuming gourmet recipe I wanted one. Despite the lack of love that was put into the cheesecake's making, the end product was delicious! The cheesecake had an unconventional gingerbread crust, no superficial cracks (thanks to the water bath), an unbelievably creamy consistency, and a spicy gingerbread-type taste. The cheesecake was a huge hit with family! I would not bake this cake again, but I definitely would eat it again!

To any bakers interested in taking on the challenge, the link for Martha Stewart's Gingerbread Cheesecake Recipe is below:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Bake Chocolate-Expresso Squares

I have been rather busy lately with my academic coursework. The busyness is over--at least temporarily--because the semester is over! It's time to work on all of the things I have been neglecting, like my Etsy and blog. Below is a dessert I made for my birthday (October 26th). It is now December, far from the time that the dessert was actually made, but I am still sharing it.

From what I remember, it was very rich and crunchy. I also remember having fun doing the feather pattern on the top. You will definitely love this dessert if you love chocolate and coffee, since this treat combines both flavors. Get ready for a mocha explosion!


No Bake Chocolate-Espresso Squares
(Adapted from Family Circle Cookbook 2007)

(Bottom layer)
14 Oreo cookies, finely crushed in a food processor
1/4 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, finely crushed with a skillet
1 teas. instant espresso coffee powder
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

(Middle layer)
1 Tabl. instant espresso coffee powder
1 Tabl. milk
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 teas. vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, coarsely chopped

(Top layer)
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 oz. white baking chocolate, chopped


Stir together first four crust ingredients in a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until moistened. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 8x8x2" baking pan, and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, whisk together milk and espresso powder in a medium-sized bowl. Add the butter and mix well. Slowly add the confectioners sugar, being careful not to make too much of a mess. Beat in the vanilla, and stir in the espresso beans. Spread this mixture over the crust with a spatula. This part was tricky; you have to be gentle in order for the crust to not move around during the spreading process.

Chill until firm.

Pour chopped semisweet chocolate into a small bowl. Heat cream on a stove top until it just simmers. Pour warm cream over chocolate. The warm cream will slowly melt the chocolate. Once smooth, pour the ganache over the top of the filling. Spread the ganache over the filling so that all of the filling is hidden by the ganache.

In the microwave, heat the white chocolate in a bowl for 45 seconds. While this is heating, prepare a small pastry bag with a writing tip (I used a Ziploc bag with a scissor-snipped corner instead). Microwave the white chocolate for additional 30 second intervals until smooth. Spoon the melted white chocolate into the piping bag, and pipe lines of white chocolate over the ganache topping. The piped lines should be parallel to each other and about 1/2" apart. Run the tip of a sharp knife (or toothpick) across the entire top, alternating directions with each pass to create a feathered pattern.

Chill until firm. Cut into squares and serve cold. Enjoy your labor!