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Posts Tagged ‘entertaining’

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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When summer saunters into fall, my sister Kalli is one of the first people in line for a pumpkin latte. And while pumpkin reigns as the season’s flavor royalty, gingerbread lingers nigh as we wait to shepherd in winter with a fluffy blanket of snow.

In comes the gingerbread latte and an even longer line. So put down that thermos and get out of line. Grab a fork and let the cozy flavors of molasses, gingerbread, and coffee percolate your holiday senses. Gingerbread KAHLÚA Cheesecake If you also want to skip the pumpkin latte line, enjoy one of my favorites, KAHLÚA Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake.

Gingerbread KAHLÚA Cheesecake

Crust:

1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

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

Cheesecake filling:

4 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

1/2 cup KAHLÚA (or any coffee-flavored liquor), OR 1 tablespoon coffee extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Make the crust: (If you don’t have a food processor, you can make crumbs in a blender.) In a bowl, combine gingersnap and graham cracker crumbs with powdered sugar and melted butter. Toss to combine. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Make the filling:

In a tiny bowl combine salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, beat room temperature cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugars and vanilla and beat until light. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, being careful not to overbeat.

Stir in molasses and KAHLÚA. Slowly beat just until combined. Sprinkle in the spices and stir gently to mix in.

Pour cheesecake filling into crust. Place in the oven and bake at 350° for 60-65 minutes or until center is barely jiggly anymore. Carefully run a knife between the springform pan and cheesecake. Cool on a wire rack for an hour or two.

Refrigerate at least 8 hours before removing from springform pan and serving. Sprinkle crust crumbs on top. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks or in freezer up to 3 months.

Cozy fall wishes,
Staci

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When Sarah Jo from DakotaChic asked me to write a guest post in celebration of National Dairy Month, I knew I would create a recipe for something that mirrors her charm and personality – delightful, classy, sweet, and show stoppingly gorgeous – turtle cheesecakes in pretty little jars.

Cheers to dairy farmers and their families!

turtle cheesecake jars

Go check out Sarah Jo’s Midwest awesomeness on DakotaChic. Don’t miss a thing – subscribe to her blog while you’re there and check out her fun Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram posts.

I’ll leave the fridge light on for ya.

Sweet wishes, 
Staci

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Each spring, thankfully after the kids’ hockey season, I get busy with a few catering gigs. I’ve been fortunate to create desserts for the Fire & Ice gala in April and a few graduation and birthday celebrations in May. This year, in addition to my signature cheesecakes, I was asked to bake almond tortes for a graduation party using a family’s special recipe.

Almond torte | Random Sweetness Baking

Since I had no idea what a torte was, I told the host I would give the recipe a try. I baked one and gave her a few slices to see if I had done it right. I wasn’t sure if the way I made it would live up to the way her friend makes them. But I knew from the moment the warm scent of this almond dessert floated through my kitchen, I would be pulling this cake from my oven many times to come.

Unlike cake, I’d describe the texture of this torte to resemble a dense blondie or brownie. It’s like a soft almond butter cookie dough center with a delicate crunch of slivered almonds and white sugar sprinkled on the top. You have to tip your head back if you eat this without a fork because the almonds trickle off the top.

I had to finish a bag of regular slivered almonds for this batch, but next time I’m using my Trader Joe’s honey roasted slivered almonds.

Did I make them for her graduation party? As we (don’t) really say in Minnesota – you betcha I did. Eight of them. With the hope of extras for their lake home freezer.

Almond Torte

Torte

1-1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs beaten

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure almond extract

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping

2 teaspoons sugar

2 Tablespoons slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter 2-3 minutes until creamy. Add sugar and beat 4-5 minutes until fluffy. Mix in the beaten eggs. Add the salt, almond extract and vanilla extract. Beat on high until combined.

Slowly add the flour, beating until combined and the batter is thick.

Line the bottom of an 8-inch or 9-inch round pan (I use my springform) with parchment paper (cut a circle just large enough to lay on the bottom of the pan by flipping the pan upside down and cutting the paper around the bottom surface). Lightly spray the pan.

Pour the torte batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the almonds on top and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or just until the top becomes light brown and crispy.

Cool completely before slicing and serving. Store in an airtight container up to 4 days. Can wrap tightly in freezer paper or bags and freeze up to 3 months.

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Anyone can mash together shredded and cream cheese and roll it around in dried beef and parsley flakes. But to be the rock star guest at a party, walk through your host’s door carrying a bucket of iced Coronas and a platter full of taco cheesecake.

Don’t crinkle your nose on this one. Taco cheesecake seems odd, I know. We think of cheesecake as being sweet and creamy and on our dessert plate, not as a savory appetizer on our party menu or in our tailgating cooler in the back of a truck.

Taco cheesecake appetizer | Random Sweetness Baking

Think of it this way — you stir together taco seasoning, cream cheese, chili peppers, pepper jack cheese, and roll it in into a cheeseball. So why not add a few more ingredients to make it even creamier, bake it, and then chill before serving with tortilla chips and crackers?

It’s the kind of food you can’t stop thinking about once you start craving it. And you won’t want to tell anyone this, but it is not difficult to make. You don’t even need a special pan.

Taco cheesecake on crackers | Random Sweetness Baking

Taco cheesecake is one of my sister’s favorite cheesecakes. She likes to add chopped black olives. You should also serve it with homemade pico de gallo.

You may want to buy a few more party dresses because your social calendar is about to fill up like a teenager in the cool kid crowd. Especially if you make Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce. You will simply be walking the red carpet at that point.

Taco Cheesecake

4 teaspoons yellow cornmeal

24 ounces (3, 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

1/2 cup taco sauce or salsa

1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning

2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

1 cup (4 ounce chunk) shredded pepper jack cheese

4.5 ounce can chopped green chilies OR 1/4 cup finely diced jalapeno pepper and 1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper

Toppings (optional)

Pico de gallo

Sour cream

Chopped black olives

Green onions

Cherry tomatoes

Lightly spray a 9-inch springform or 9-inch round or square cake pan. (Or, two mini cheesecake pans.) Sprinkle the cornmeal onto the bottom of the pan. Preheat oven to 350˚.

In a large mixing bowl, beat softened cream cheese on medium high until smooth with no lumps. Add the sour cream, taco sauce or salsa, and the taco seasoning. Beat on medium until creamy. Slowly beat in the eggs, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl. 

Fold in the pepper jack cheese and green chilies and/or peppers until it is all mixed in with the batter.

Pour the cheesecake filling into the prepared pan. Bake at 350˚ for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are lightly brown and the center looks just set. Cool on a wire rack for one hour. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours before serving. (If using mini cheesecake pans, bake approximately 15 minutes.)

Cut into small slices. Serve with toppings, crackers, crispbreads, tortilla chips, or spread on bagel or bread pieces. Serve cold or at room temperature. The cheesecake is fine to sit out on your party platter for a couple of hours.

Taco cheesecake can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight.

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There are more varieties than Baskin Robbins concoctions. We love cheesecake flavors like died-and-gone-to-chocolate-heaven-with-my-BFF, sweet girly cocktail with umbrellas and fruit swords (minus the morning headache), harvest-pumpkin-patch-my-kid-got-lost-in-the-corn-maze, and plain Jane topped with berries. But there is one cheesecake that always brings people to the table with forks in hand — raspberry white chocolate cheesecake.

Raspberry white chocolate cheesecake | Random Sweetness Baking

Maybe it’s related to the milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard. But this dessert brings them to their knees.

Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

Crust for 36 mini cheesecakes

2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs (I spin them around in my blender), with the filling removed or it’s too oily

6 tablespoons melted butter

OR

Crust for 9-inch springform pan

1-1/2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs (I spin them around in my blender), with the filling removed or it’s too oily

1/3 cup melted butter

*  *  *  *  *  *

Cheesecake filling

4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature

1-1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

5 eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup white chocolate liqueur such as Godiva (optional)

10 ounce jar red raspberry preserves, seedless

4 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped into little chunks

For mini cheesecakes, preheat oven to 250°. For 9-inch cheesecake, preheat oven to 475°. Lightly grease pans.

Pour the melted butter into a medium bowl with Oreo crumbs. Stir around until the butter has soaked into the crumbs evenly. Dump the crumbs into the 9-inch springform pan and press crumb mixture onto bottom and slightly up the sides of pan using the bottom of a cup or your hands. Sprinkle white chocolate pieces evenly over crust. Place pan in freezer.

If using mini pans, place approximately 1 tablespoon of crumb mixture in each hole and pound it down using a tart shaper. Sprinkle white chocolate over each little crust. Put pan(s) in freezer.

With an electric mixer, beat softened cream cheese on medium-high until it’s smooth and there are NO lumps. Add sugar and beat again until creamy. Plop in the sour cream and vanilla and beat until velvety. If using white chocolate liqueur, stir it in slowly now.

Crack eggs into a small bowl and beat softly with a fork. Add the eggs a little at a time to the cheesecake filling, beating on low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. The key is to NOT whip in any air.

Remove crust from freezer.

For the mini cheesecakes: Using a little scoop, fill each cavity with cheesecake filling, just under half full. Drop a few teaspoons of the raspberry preserves into batter. Using a butter knife, gently swirl the preserves into the batter. Top with more cheesecake batter, leaving approximately 1/4-inch empty at the top. Bake at 250° for approximately 25-27 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least 12 hours before serving. I often take the pans out of the refrigerator after a few hours and transfer the cheesecakes to a plastic, covered container.

For the 9-inch cheesecake: Pour half of the filling into the 9-inch pan. Drizzle the raspberry preserves into the filling. Using a butter knife, gently swirl the preserves in figure eight patterns. Pour the remaining batter into the pan.

Carefully pound the pan on the counter a couple of times to pop out any air bubbles. Bake at 475° for 12 minutes. Leave the cheesecake in the oven and turn the oven down to 350°. Bake another 50 to 60 minutes or until the top of the cheesecake starts to turn a little golden color. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake come to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least 12 hours before slicing and serving.

Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake | Random Sweetness Baking

Serve with fresh raspberries, whipped cream, and pieces of white chocolate. I like to use a vegetable peeler to make delicate shavings.

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