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What are you doing for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day? If you are hosting or attending a party or nursing a hangover while watching football, impress the pants off your guests with the perfect I’m-mingling-holding-a-craft-beer-appetizer—savory cheesecake in tiny Mason jars.

I concocted this recipe to honor farming in South Dakota. Unlike traditional dessert cheesecake, this smoky cheesecake is full of bacon and Gouda and Gruyere cheese and is served with salty crackers.

smoky bacon cheesecake

For the recipe, read Perfect Appetizer for your Pigskin Party: Smoky Bacon Cheesecake with Gouda and Gruyere on Hungry for Truth’s website.

smoky bacon cheesecake

About Hungry for Truth: “Hungry for Truth” is a new initiative from South Dakota Soybean designed to open discussions about food between South Dakotans and the farmers who grow it. We’re putting it all on the table to have open, honest conversations about how our food is raised and its safety.

The opinion written is my own and I was not compensated for this post. I just happen to like farmers. And bacon. And cheese.

Savory swine wishes,

Staci

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Once upon a time…

The tartness grabs her taste buds and effervesces like teensy Pop Rocks on a wet tongue. When the first creamy bite of cheesecake hits her mouth, she’ll wonder if she even likes the combination of Key lime and blackberry.

Key lime blackberry cheesecake

She takes another bite.

Key lime blackberry cheesecake

She likes it enough to pile her fork with chunk after chunk and before she knows it, the tiny slice she “tried” is gone.

Key Lime Blackberry Cheesecake

Later that evening, she’ll be standing in front of the refrigerator with a clean fork.

Key lime blackberry cheesecake

A few months later, she’ll ask her sister when she is going to make Key lime blackberry cheesecake again.

Key lime cheesecake

But her sister will not know because her other sister requested turtle cheesecake a long, long time ago and more recently requested taco cheesecake. She’s just not sure which to make first.

She chooses to make taco cheesecake and everyone lives happily ever after.

Taco cheesecake

The end.

~~~~~

Key lime blackberry swirl cheesecake

This recipe makes one 9″ pan. I made one 6″ springform and four 6″ tart pans with this recipe. 

Crust:

4 cups pretzels

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Filling:

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup lime curd, stirred well to loosen it up

5 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature

5 teaspoons flour

1/2 cup Key lime juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 eggs, room temperature

1 egg yolk, room temperature

1 jar (10 ounces) seedless blackberry jam or preserves, stirred well to loosen it up

blackberries for serving with each piece

Make the crust:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor combine pretzels, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

If you don’t have a food processor, put pretzels in a plastic storage bag and bang with a heavy object like a can of soup to make fine crumbs. Combine everything in a bowl. 

Dump the mixture into a greased 9″ springform pan and press down with bottom of measuring cup. Bake 7 minutes. Remove from oven.

Make the filling:

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy, making sure there are no lumps. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Whip in lime curd. Beat in sour cream and flour. At this point, make sure cheesecake filling is smooth because once you add the eggs, you don’t want to beat it vigorously.

Stir in Key lime juice and vanilla.

With mixer on low speed, beat in eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each one.

Pour half the filling into crust. Drop teaspoons of blackberry jam randomly into filling, using three-fourths of jam. With a butter knife, gently swirl jam into batter without touching crust. Pour second half of filling into pan and drop teaspoons of jam into the batter, swirling gently with butter knife.

  • For 9″ springform bake at 350 degrees.
  • For 6″ springform bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
  • For 6″ tart pans bake at 275 degrees for 28-33 minutes.

Remove from oven when center is slightly jiggly. It will continue to bake once removed. Cool to room temperature. Chill in fridge for 24 hours. Serve with blackberries.

Store leftovers in refrigerator up to one week or in freezer up to three months.

Also try Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce and Key lime pie.

Sweet fairytale wishes,

Staci

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Hannah graduates from SDSU in a couple of weeks and it was her last day working in our group. Sticking with tradition, we had a food day—no nuts, no peanut butter. Hannah loves chocolate and deep dark chocolate cheesecake with honey ganache is irrefutably the most decadent chocolate dessert I make. And eat.

Perhaps it was the cool air breezing through the kitchen window when I opened the oven door, or maybe I overbeat the batter like a cheesecake novice that I am not.

deepest darkest chocolate cheesecake

But no matter what it was, the crack in my cheesecake made the perfect cranny for the ganache to nestle into like a silk scarf tucked into a cashmere coat.

ganache in cheesecake crack

Candid iPhone picture while slicing the cheesecake

I’m hoping I can make the same mistake again. And again. And again.

deepest darkest chocolate cheesecake

Deepest Darkest Chocolate Cheesecake with Honey Ganache is on foodnetwork.com. I’ve used the recipe since 2013 when I shared it in Save the bees, make chocolate cheesecake with honey ganache. I use the ganache recipe for a lot of my desserts because I like to use locally-harvested honey instead of corn syrup.

Don’t be afraid to add the coffee to the filling and to the ganache. Just like in Is that coffee in your cookie or just intensified chocolate, coffee simply deepens the flavor of the chocolate.

Sweet mistake wishes,

Staci

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Why didn’t it even cross my mind? All hockey season long I see signs posted on entrance doors of rinks everywhere: “No outside food or drinks allowed.” My hockey mom mojo was out the window as Sunday I was just a cheer aunt with peanut butter cream cheese brownies and chewy cocoa peanut butter chip cookies to share with my family.

Cocoa Peanut Butter Chip Cookies | Random Sweetness Baking

When we stopped at the arena doors so the security guards could check our bags, I thought they were checking for guns and knives.

Katera Wildfire Cheer

But as soon as she spotted the unconcealed plastic bottle of water in the side pocket of my camera bag, the guard informed me that no outside food or drinks were allowed in the arena. I thought she was talking about my overstuffed canvas bag of chocolate and peanut butter treats but she didn’t even notice. She kept her eyes on me until I ditched my water but I made it through with the bag full of cookies and brownies to share with my family.

Hailee

But I was mortified when I was driving home. I took a bite of cookie and the sugar consistency was like gasping in a mouthful of sand after too many cocktails on the beach during spring break. I’ve made these cookies a lot since the time they disappeared before Christmas supper in 2013 and they’ve never been like that.

cream cheese peanut butter brownies

I went to bed thinking about it and woke up in the morning knowing exactly what went wrong. The recipe calls for 1¼ cups of softened butter and for some reason I forgot one whole stick of butter! I guess that’s what I get for unintentionally smuggling goodies into the cheer competition.

Chewy Cocoa Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

2 cups sugar

1-1/4 cups butter (2 and a half sticks), softened

2 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

10-ounce package (1-2/3 cups) peanut butter chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat sugar and softened butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir together and then gradually add to butter mixture; beating until well combined. Stir in peanut butter chips until distributed evenly into the cookie dough.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9 to 10 minutes. Do not over-bake. The cookies will not look like they are done but they will puff up a little when baking and then they’ll drop when they are cooling. They are soft with a little crunch around the edges.

Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes and then move them to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container. Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Sweet buttery wishes,

Staci

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You’ve flipped your paper calendar to November, there’s a gallon of apple cider in your fridge, “A Partridge in a Pear Tree” is chirping on Pandora, and you’re pinning unrealistic menu and holiday decorating to-dos as if Pinterest hands out gold medals. And now you will fall asleep at night counting tiny triangles of caramel apple cider cheesecake.

caramel apple cider cheesecake

But since cheesecake doesn’t fall from trees, this is a realistic dessert to pin to your Thanksgiving Meal board. You will impress your guests or hosts with a cheesecake flavor they’ve likely never tried, and you get to make it well in advance of your dinner because you can refrigerate cheesecake for seven days and you can freeze it for up to six months.

If you are a cheesecake novice, this is an easy enough cheesecake recipe for you. I’ll share my same tips as I did a few days ago in Don’t let cheesecake scare you: start with a recipe easier than monster cookie dough cheesecake:

  1. Bring ingredients to room temperature. Using room temperature ingredients and adding the eggs last, and not overbeating once you add them, are the secrets to making cheesecake. Simple as that.
  2. Plan to be at home for a few hours. (But you can even run errands while the cheesecake cools.)

Caramel apple cider cheesecake

Crust

1-1/2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup butter, melted

Filling

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1-1/4 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup apple butter (smooth, nut chunky)

1/2 cup boiled cider (or use this recipe from Midwest Living to make your own boiled cider)

1-1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice

4 eggs, room temperature

1 cup caramel ice cream topping

Put it all together

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. For a 9-inch springform pan, grease the springform pan with baking or cooking spray. For a 9-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper or pan lining paper leaving extra paper hanging over the edge to use as a handle to lift the cheesecake out.
  2. Combine the crushed graham crackers and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir well. (Or combine in a food processor.) Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat room temperature cream cheese on medium-high speed until creamy throughout, with no chunks or pieces. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing. This will take approximately 3-4 minutes. This only works if the cream cheese is at a soft, room temperature consistency.
  4. Add the sugar to the cream cheese mixture and beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until sugar is well combined and the texture is creamy.
  5. Drop the apple butter and apple pie spice in and stir lightly. Pour in the boiled cider and mix on medium just until combined.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low just until combined. Turn off the mixer and gently scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg is added. Do not overbeat.
  7. Gently pour the filling into the prepared crust. With a spoon or fork, drizzle the caramel all over the top, trying not to drop big globs on the cheesecake. With a knife, swirl the caramel into the cheesecake, but only near the top of the batter, don’t get it very deep.
  8. Bake at 350° for approximately one hour and 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown and the center is just set. Turn the oven off and crack the oven door open slightly. Let the cheesecake completely cool in the oven for two hours. (You can run your errands now.)
  9. Once cool, run a knife between the pan and the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides, then cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan or remove from square pan by lifting the edges of the parchment paper. To slice, run a large knife under hot water and dry before making each cut to keep the slices smooth and free from crumbs.

Keep cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to seven days. If you want to freeze the cheesecake or slices of cheesecake wrap tightly in foil or seal in freezer bags for up to six months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight and at room temperature for 2 hours or at room temperature for three hours.

If you want to bake this cheesecake in 4-inch springform pans as I have pictured, lower the oven temperature to 300° and bake approximately 40-45 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown and centers are just set.

If you want to get fancy, serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Sweet fall wishes,

Staci

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If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they can’t make cheesecake, I’d advance my own cookbook and give my debit card pin to my favorite charities.

Their stories go one of two ways. They’ve either tried once, maybe twice, to make cheesecake and it didn’t turn out as perfectly as they expected, or they’ve never tried to bake cheesecake because they assume it takes special skills.

monster cookie cheesecake

It is possible that your first cheesecake won’t look like a Food & Wine centerfold. And it does take skills:

  1. The ability and patience to bring ingredients to room temperature. Using room temperature ingredients and adding the eggs last, and not overbeating once you add them, are the secrets to making cheesecake. Simple as that.
  2. The availability to be at home for a few hours. (But you can even run errands while the cheesecake cools.)

If you have these ordinary skills, you can make cheesecake. So let the big bad scary cheesecake out from under your bed and let’s talk about how you can make extraordinary cheesecake at home. My suggestion is to start with the easiest cheesecake and work your way up to making a more time-consuming, but not more difficult cheesecake, like monster cookie dough.

Vanilla cheesecake with fresh berries | Random Sweetness Baking

I know you can do this. In my early days of learning to make cheesecake, I undercooked a cheesecake and brought it to work. I was mortified. So I tried again. And now I’ve mastered the art of making cheesecake but I’m just a home cook. My field of training is in communications and business, not culinary arts. I flunked art in middle school and my home ec sweatshirt was too long and crooked. I once hot-glued wallpaper to cover a section of bedroom wall when I lived in a trailer house. And every once in a while, my cheesecakes have sinkholes, but so what? Did you know that a bad-looking cheesecake still tastes better than any pie or cake ever?

Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

Crust (I toss whole crackers, sugar, and the melted butter in my food processor.)

1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

4 (8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened to room temperature (Take the cream cheese out of the packages and set them in your mixing bowl. Cover with a towel while they come to room temperature, at least 60 to 90 minutes before you are ready to bake.)

1-2/3  cups sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I use Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla Bean Crush)

3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream, at room temperature

3 large eggs at room temperature (Set these out when you get the cream cheese out.)

fresh berries of your choice

Put it all together

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. For a 9-inch springform pan, grease the springform pan with baking or cooking spray. For a 9-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper or pan lining paper leaving extra paper hanging over the edge to use as a handle to lift the cheesecake out.
  2. Combine the crushed graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir well. (Or combine in a food processor.) Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat room temperature cream cheese on medium-high speed until creamy throughout, with no chunks or pieces. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing. This will take approximately 3-4 minutes. This only works if the cream cheese is at a soft, room temperature consistency.
  4. Add the sugar to the cream cheese mixture and beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until sugar is well combined and the texture is creamy.
  5. Put the cornstarch in a tiny bowl. While stirring, add just enough ice-cold water to dissolve the cornstarch. It’s probably a teaspoon or two of ice water. Stir until dissolved and then add to the cream cheese batter.
  6. Pour the vanilla extract and room temperature whipping cream into the batter and then beat on medium until all the ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low just until combined. Turn off the mixer and gently scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg is added. Do not overbeat.
  8. Gently pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350° for approximately one hour and 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown and the center is just set. Turn the oven off and crack the oven door open slightly. Let the cheesecake completely cool in the oven for two hours. (You can run your errands now.)
  9. Once cool, run a knife between the pan and the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides, then cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan or remove from square pan by lifting the edges of the parchment paper. To slice, run a large knife under hot water and dry before making each cut to keep the slices smooth and free from crumbs. Serve with your favorite berries.

Keep cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to seven days. If you want to freeze the cheesecake or slices of cheesecake, (remove the berries first) wrap tightly in foil or seal in freezer bags for up to six months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight and at room temperature for 2 hours or at room temperature for three hours.

If you want to bake these in 4-inch springform pans as I have pictured, lower the oven temperature to 275° and bake approximately 35-40 minutes. If you have mini cheesecake pans, bake for approximately 26 minutes.

Once you rule the kitchen with vanilla cheesecake, you are ready to make any cheesecake. Because the same basic rules apply—use room temp ingredients and don’t overbeat once you add the eggs to the batter.

Try Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce.

Key lime cheesecake with Patron Sauce

Or Andes Mint Cheesecake.

Andes Mint Cheesecake

And then try a savory Taco Cheesecake. Yes, savory cheesecake.

Taco cheesecake

And then you are ready for Monster Cookie Dough Cheesecake, which is really quite easy, it just takes a little extra time to make the cookie dough balls.

monster cookie dough cheesecake

Monster cookie dough cheesecake

Crust

1 (17.5 ounce) pouch peanut butter cookie dough mix and the ingredients to make them

1/2 cup mini M&Ms

1/2 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats

Filling

5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 eggs, room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. For a 9-inch springform pan, grease the springform pan with baking or cooking spray.
  2. Make cookie dough according to package directions. Add the mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, and quick oats. Press a layer of cookie dough into the springform pan, approximately 1 cup of the dough. Bake for 5 minutes.
  3. Take 1 cup of the dough and roll into tiny balls, about the size of a nickel, and set aside.
  4. For the remaining dough, break into pieces and put on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes, just until you can use them as cookie crumbs to top the cheesecake slices.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add white and brown sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Do not over beat.
  6. Pour 1/2 of the cheesecake batter into pan. Scatter the cookie dough balls into the pan and then cover with the remaining cheesecake batter.
  7. Bake in 9-inch pan for 50-55 minutes or until the top starts to turn a light brown and the center still looks a little shiny.
  8. Remove from oven and cool 2 hours. Refrigerate at least 12 hours before serving. Top with reserved cookie crumbs when ready to serve.

Give one of these a try and then come back and let me know how you did. I’ll be your cheesecake cheerleader! Friends don’t let friends eat store-bought cheesecake.

Sweet and not-so-scary-cheesecake wishes,

Staci

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There were only two checkouts open at our local, monopoly of a liquor store and the lines felt as long as a Pioneer Woman book signing at the Mall of America. When I saw a rep giving out samples of Kringle Cream, there was no way I was stepping out of line to try his teeny cup of rum-based cream. But soon the guy had us passing samples to each other through the line as he was digging for his last bottles and we were begging for seconds. I added it to my ongoing liquor store shopping list and headed out.

butterscotch Kringle Cream cookies

I picked up a bottle of the sweet liqueur just a few weeks later because I wasn’t sure if it was just a Christmas holiday thingyou know, because it’s called Kringle.

Kringle Cream

As it turns out the Kringle name comes from a hand rolled Danish not Kris Kringle, which means we should be able to keep it stocked in our pantry all year long. (Store Kringle Cream in the refrigerator once you open the bottle. If there’s any left of course.) 

back of Kringle Cream bottle

A few days ago I was thinking about how much I like the cream cheese dough for minty cream cheese cookies and how easy it would be to add booze and switch out the mint chocolate chips for a complementary chip or candy. Nutty Kringle seemed like the perfect liquor to combine with butterscotch and chocolate covered toffee pieces so I took a shot (1/3 of a cup actually) and made cookies. They are a keeper!

Butterscotch Kringle Cream Cookies

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 cup butter-flavor shortening

3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup Kringle Cream, or any rum or butterscotch cream liqueur

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups butterscotch chips

3/4 cup chocolate toffee pieces

(There are not eggs in this recipe.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium-high until smooth. Add shortening and beat until creamy.
  3. Add white sugar and brown sugar, beating until combined and smooth. Pour in Kringle Cream and beat on medium until incorporated.
  4. Starting with 1/4 cup flour, beat on medium-low and then add the rest of the flour in two batches, scraping down sides of bowl in between.
  5. Stir in by hand butterscotch chips and toffee pieces.
  6. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Press down slightly with the back of a spoon or your fingers. The cookies don’t spread as they bake so they are about the size that you place them on the pan.
  7. Bake 12-14 minutes or until just barely browned. Don’t over bake. The tops need to be baked not doughy, but when the tops are done, they are done. Remember the cookies have cream cheese and you want them to be soft.
  8. Cool 10 minutes in pan and then transfer to a cooling rack. Store at room temperature. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

If you like baking cookies with cream cheese, here’s my favorite White Velvet Cutouts.

Sweet boozy wishes,

Staci

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