Half-Baked Turtle Brownie Cheesecake

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While I was waiting for the kid to show up I was getting pretty bored and pretty desperate, but I didn’t have a lot of energy. One of my former colleagues recommended cheesecake as a way to start labour and I figured, why not? I had nothing to do, and an easy cheesecake recipe would be doable given my lack of energy. This one from Sprinkle Some Sugar seemed to fit the bill. It involves using store-bought brownie mix, fudge sauce, AND COOL WHIP, so it’s the ultimate in cheater recipes for me. And given that the day I baked it the temperatures skyrocketed again for a roller coaster June, I was happy to be able to chuck this in the fridge instead of hanging over a hot oven.

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The belly bump may have accidentally encountered some caramel during the making of this recipe.

The original recipe is a bit of a misnomer, as it states that there is no baking involved whatsoever with this recipe. That is a bold-faced lie – you gotta bake the brownie bottom. But it’s worth it.

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Find a round springform pan, about 8″ or 9″ (this one is 9″ I think), spray it with cooking spray, and whip up some brownie batter. You can use your favourite recipe but I used this boxed stuff (hey man, I was really pregnant at the time, gimme a break).

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I figured the salted caramel would add more panache to the finished product.

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Plus I love the ridiculous measurements of the wet ingredients. So simplistic!

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While this is baking, work on your caramel sauce (you can buy caramel sauce, of course, but this one is easy and a good way for caramel newbs to get started).

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In a small pot over medium-high heat, whisk together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Whisk and swirl the pot until the sugar is all dissolved, then keep swirling the pot (but no stirring or whisking!) frequently until the liquid turns a nice dark amber colour.

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When you get the colour you like, carefully pour in 3/4 cup heavy cream – watch out, because it will fizz up like crazy – and whisk that until smooth. Then tip in 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until those are all melted away. Set the finished caramel sauce aside to thicken up and cool completely.

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Once the brownie bottom is ready and baked according to whatever instructions you have, remove the outer ring and let it cool completely as well and start working on your filling.

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In the bowl of a mixer, beat together 16oz softened plain cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth and creamy. I mean, it’s gonna be creamy anyway because it’s cream cheese but you get what I mean about the texture, right? Man I need more sleep …

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Stir in about 3/4 cup of that lovely caramel sauce you made (or squeeze it from the bottle you purchased you philistine) and add in as well 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

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Then I want you to do something totally foreign to me: grab 4oz Cool Whip and fold that in as well.

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Put the outer ring of your springform pan back on and smush all that Cool-Whipped creaminess into the pan.

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Give it some smoothing out so it *kind* of looks like you baked it, then chuck that in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

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Before serving, crush a bunch of pecans and spread them over top.

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Grab some fudge sauce (I bought it, don’t judge) and whatever’s left of your caramel.

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Pop off the outer ring and drizzle liberally with fudge and caramel. The fudge I bought didn’t drizzle, so I have fudge poops drizzled with caramel but you get the general intention here, at least. Keep the leftover cheesecake wrapped up in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Pillow-Soft Peanut Butter Cookies

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I’ve made peanut butter cookies before. But I had yet to find the IDEAL peanut butter cookie, the one that stayed soft and fluffy no matter what. UNTIL NOW. This one, adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, IS that cookie. These things are like memory foam for your taste buds, and the cookies just melt away on the first bite. I made them for Krystopf for his birthday and quadrupled the batch so I’d have some to shove in the freezer for later and now I think I’ve found a new favourite.

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Start with 1/2 cup butter that is nice and soft and chuck that in the bowl of your electric mixer. Tip in as well 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar and start beating that.

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Beat it for like five minutes. Honestly, it makes all the difference.

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Next, whip in 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter.

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Then crack in an egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix it all up until it’s beautiful and smooth.

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I took the time here to grab a package of Skor bits and I tipped in the whole package (for my quadrupled recipe – you might want to use less).

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You can skip this if you’d prefer your cookies unadulterated.

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In another bowl, whisk together 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour.

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Slowly mix that in with your dough until fully combined – it won’t take long because your dough is already beautifully soft and fluffy. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes so that you can handle it easily.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment (though I recommend baking these one sheet at a time).  Spread some granulated sugar onto a plate. Grab a pinch of cookie and roll it into a ball.

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Plop it on the plate of sugar and roll to coat.

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Shove it onto the baking sheet and flatten it with a fork.

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Do that with all the rest – you will likely end up with about 24 cookies.

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Bake for 8-9 minutes, one baking sheet at a time. The cookies will look totally underdone when you pull them out but resist the urge to continue baking.  Let the cookies firm up on the baking sheet for about 5-10 minutes before letting them cool on a rack and they’ll be just fine.

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These puppies will stay soft in an airtight container for about 10 days. But they haven’t lasted that long here so I can’t say that for sure.

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Dulce de Leche Cookies

I told you it would be sticky.

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I made these for a coworker’s birthday (oh how quickly I have fallen yet again into the baking trap!) and they were very well-received.

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If you already have dulce de leche on hand, good on you (I’m especially amazed that you didn’t use it all up pouring it into your mouth because that’s kind of what I do). If you don’t, I’ll show you a super easy and pretty much fool-proof way to make it. Grab a can or two of condensed milk. For this recipe you will barely use half a can but if you want some more on hand for other things, you might as well make it all at once because it takes for ever.

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Peel off the paper. You’re going to be boiling these so you don’t want that paper in there getting all gummy.

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Grab a large pot and fill it with water. Plop the can(s) in on their sides (so they can roll around and cook evenly). Ensure that they are covered completely with at least an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and then let it simmer for 3 hours. You will likely need to top up the water occasionally so it’s always covering the cans. If the cans become expose then the whole convection element of the water stops working and the cans could explode. You don’t want that.

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After three hours, carefully remove the cans from the boiling water and set them upright on a rack to cool completely. Do not under any circumstances attempt to open a can while it is hot. You will be covered in horrible caramel burns as a result and that is a good way to ruin a nice day.

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Once it’s cool, you can make some amazing cookies, which I actually found on the Land o’ Lakes site. Those people know things about butter, which makes them my kind of people.

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Start by stirring up a bowl with 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom. Set that aside. Your cookies are going to wear that later.

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Now, in the bowl of a mixer, beat up 1/2 cup softened butter with 3/4 cup packed brown sugar.

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Tip in 1 egg and 2 teaspoons vanilla and keep beating until smooth.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

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While mixing the egg/butter/sugar madness, slowly add in the flour and stir until fully combined.

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Separate about 1/4 of the cookie dough from the bowl. Chill both blobs of dough for about 30 minutes.

When you’re ready, preheat your oven to 375°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper. Grab from the larger blob and make 24 balls of dough. Set the balls onto the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart, because they do spread.

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Dip the handle of a wooden spoon into flour and drive it into the center of each ball so that there’s a good-sized divot in each.

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Pile about 1/4 cup dulce de leche into a small resealable plastic bag and snip off a bit of one of the bottom corners.

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Pipe the caramel into each divot until the caramel comes level with the top of the hole.

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Now grab your smaller blob of dough and divide it into 24 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a patty and use it to seal over the top of the caramel hole.

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Smooth down the edges to get a good seal.

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Bake, rotating halfway through, for 9-11 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned.

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Let the cookies stand on the sheet for 1 minute, then dip them in the sugar until thoroughly covered and leave them to cool completely on a wire rack.

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I don’t know how well these store because they didn’t last that long …

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Salted Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread

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Banana bread freezes really well, and so it’s a great thing to make in advance for something like my upcoming shindig. Because it’s a fancy shindig, I wanted to make it with a bit of a twist on my traditional recipe. And while I’m on the bourbon caramel theme this week, I figured I might as well make me some fancy banana bread! I used my original recipe (see link above), but instead of using very ripe (pre-frozen) bananas I used yellow ones, because I wanted a few chunks in my banana bread. And of course I made up a bourbon caramel sauce, which I borrowed from the Minimalist Baker. So first we’ll make up the sauce, and then we’ll re-make our old classic banana bread.

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This caramel sauce! I’m definitely of the Keep It Simple, Stupid school of thought, so I love the 4-ingredient easiness of this recipe. And now I want to drink the stuff. It’s amazing. I doubled the original recipe because I anticipated loving it and wanting to drink it, but it makes a decent amount for a generous swirl of caramel throughout the banana bread (if you leave like half a cup leftover for yourself to eat with a spoon).

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 19Start with 2 cups granulated sugar and plop that in a medium saucepan together with 1/2 cup water (in this 4-ingredient recipe, water does not count as an ingredient. It evaporates so technically it doesn’t exist!). Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 1

Heat that on medium high for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t stir: just swirl the pot occasionally.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 5You’ll get bored, but you can’t leave. So enjoy a glass of bourbon while you’re waiting. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 4

The sugar will begin to boil, and then, as the water evaporates, the bubbles will get smaller and smaller.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 12Eventually the mixture will turn a lovely amber colour and will only be kind of fizzy. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 13

At this point, remove it from the heat (turn off the burner) and, whisking the whole time, drizzle in 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream. Don’t freak out as it fizzes and foams up around you. Just keep whisking. I usually sing a song to a volcano god while I do this. I always feel like I’m summoning a creature from the depths when I do science-y things like make caramel.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 14When you’ve got the cream all whisked in and the whole thing has calmed down, put the pot back on the still-warm burner and tip in 2 tablespoons bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark). This time it will only fizz a little bit. Add in as well a few pinches of salt – I used fleur de sel. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 15

Pour into a heat-safe container and let cool before storing in the fridge. If you want to use this for other things then just warm it up a bit and then it will become pour-able again. I kind of like the finger-scoop-y texture of it when it’s cold though.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 17I’m having a hard time giving up even a little bit of this for banana bread. But I gotta do what I gotta do. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 18

So. Let’s do some banana bread. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two loaf pans with parchment paper.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 25Grab 5 bananas. You can use overripe or frozen bananas but this time I decided to use ones with a bit more substance to them – of course I waited too long to do the recipe and they’re a little spotty but whatever. Nobody ever said I was the proactive blogger. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 22

Mush, mush, mush ’em into a small bowl together with 1 tablespoon baking soda that has been “dissolved” in 3 tablespoons hot water. Put that bowl to one side for a minute.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 23Grab another, medium bowl and plop in 1 cup room temperature butter. Beat that silly with 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar until you get a serious case of the fluffy butters. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 24

Then crack in 2 eggs and beat that until it’s a coagulated mess. Mmmm … Line this bowl up with the banana bowl and leave those for a few minutes.

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In ANOTHER bowl (this time a decent-sized one), sift together 3 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 29Now we put it all together. Beat the banana mixture into the egg mixture and then tip it into the flour mixture. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 31

Fold the flour mixture into the banana mixture until it’s all combined.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 33NOW, glop a bunch of your caramel sauce into the batter and kind of swirl it through gently. Don’t let it get too mixed in – you want streaks. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 34

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 35Tip the batter between the two loaf pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the loaves are cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 36

Use the parchment paper to lift the loaves out of the pans and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 39Freeze or cut and serve with butter. MMMMMMM!

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Quick Caramel Custard Croissant Bake

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 18This is yet another one of those I-bought-pastry-on-sale-and-the-Pie-bought-some-at-the-same-time-and-we-didn’t-eat-them-soon-enough-and-they-went-stale-so-what-can-I-do-with-them-rather-than-chucking-them-in-the-compost kind of situations. I’m sure you’re familiar with those. And I HATE throwing food away. I’m very proud of the fact that the Pie and I produce one box of recycling, half a small kitchen bag of garbage (mostly plastic and styrofoam), and two 1L bags of compost (this includes used tissues and meat bones) a week. My luxury is the paper newspaper, which I know I should give up, but I just can’t, and I can always find uses for old newspaper. But I digress. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 5

Trav was over concocting the most recent SideBar and the Pie was stirring up some of our famous meatballs so I decided to take a moment to chuck some things together. I had 9 stale chocolatines that needed taking care of.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 2So I buttered up a baking dish and crumbled them in. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 7

Then I grabbed a small pot and filled it with 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons water. I put that on medium high heat and resisted the very real urge to stir it.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 4Eventually it started to bubble. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 8

And then turned golden. You can swirl the pot around but avoid stirring.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 10When it was this lovely caramel colour I removed it from the heat and tipped in, whisking all the while, 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons bourbon (you can use whisky too). Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 11

Don’t freak out when it fizzes up and you feel like it’s going to explode.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 12Just keep whisking, and when it calms down you’ll have a lovely caramel. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 13

Beat up 4 eggs.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 3Then whisk those eggs slowly into your caramel and pour the whole thing over your crusty baked goods. Let that stand for 10 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 14

Shove the dish in your oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the egg mix is solid (perhaps slightly less time than I did it as you can see it’s a little more than brown).

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 17Serve immediately with whipped cream or ice cream or caramel sauce or chocolate sauce or custard … Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 19

Caramel Corn

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I’ve been experimenting quite a bit recently with caramel (not “carmel”, like Newfoundlanders and many Americans call it, that drives me bonkers) corn — something to which I am entirely addicted, but usually too lazy to make.  I think I’ve finally come up with a recipe I like, however, so now you can have it.  This version is plain jane, but feel free to jazz it up with chopped salted nuts for extra pizzazz.

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First, start with 10 cups popped popcorn.  This is generally about 1 cup of the unpopped stuff.  We don’t have an air popper here, and I’m afraid of the chemicals in microwave packets, so I’ll let you in on how I make my own popcorn (when I’m not doing it this way).  Take about 1/3 cup of popcorn and plop it in the bottom of a brown paper lunch bag.

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Fold the top edge down once and then again, over itself.

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Put that on its side in your microwave and cook away.  Every microwave is different when it comes to popcorn, but I’ve found that on mine, cooking it for 2 minutes and 35 seconds on power level 9 (out of 10) pops nearly every kernel, every time, without burning anything.  Make sure to save people’s teeth by sifting out all the unpopped kernels before you use this stuff.

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Now, preheat your oven to 250°F and spray a large roasting pan.  I used the one I save for turkey time.  You could also use a large metal bowl if that’s all you have. Plop your popcorn in the roasting pan for now.

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Scrounge around and find yourself a wooden spoon (always preferable to metal in candy making), a spatula, a whisk, and a candy thermometer.  Keep those all handy.

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Find a large pot, too, and plop in 1 cup butter, 2 cups brown sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup (any colour, doesn’t matter), and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

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On the side, have two small dishes ready with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, stirring often, and clip the candy thermometer to the side. The reason you use the wooden spoon here is because sugar crystallizes more quickly on metal than wood, and crystallization is not what you want at this particular juncture.

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Once the mixture starts boiling, stir it constantly for 1 minute.

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Then take the spoon out and let it boil on its own for 5 minutes.  It’s going to boil up pretty high, so make sure you use a large pot for this. At this point, your candy thermometer should be reading 250°F, which is the magic number for the hard ball stage — exactly what we want.

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Turn off the heat and stir your mixture for about a minute.  Then remove it entirely from the heat.

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Whisk in your vanilla and baking soda.  It will fizz up, so be careful.  See how the texture and colour has changed?  Well, you can’t in that photo because it’s a terrible photo, but it will become smooth and a light opaque brown almost immediately. Keep whisking until it more or less stops fizzing.

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Slowly and in a controlled stream, pour your caramel over your waiting popcorn, mixing with a spatula.  Don’t worry if you don’t get it entirely incorporated.

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I suggest leaving all your caramel tools soaking in hot water for a few minutes.  It makes cleanup so much easier.

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Pop the roasting pan filled with popcorn in the oven and bake it for an hour, stirring it all over every 15 minutes.  While the caramel had started to harden on you before you stuck it in there, baking it at this low heat enables it to ooze all over the place and cover everything evenly.

So when you’re stirring, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, because you will always find a nice puddle of caramel down there.

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Spread a counter with waxed paper and spray it, too.  Once the hour is up, take the pan from the oven and spread the popcorn in a thin layer on the waxed paper to cool. Squish it down with your spatula to spread it out. Doing that now will make it both cool faster and be easier to separate after it’s cooled.

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Once it has fully cooled, break it up into pieces and store it in a sealed container for up to a few days.

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Or package it in wee bags for a bake sale, which is what I did.

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I found the “Hello” stickers lying around in my office supply cupboard.  I figured what the heck, eh?

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MUGS Bake Sale 1

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

For my last round of interviews with research participants, I decided to err on the side of sweetness.  And boy are these babies SWEET! 

They are adapted from Easy-Cookies.com and of course, I multiplied the recipe.  In fact, I made a quadruple batch.  Many cookies were had.

First, preheat your oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, softened, 1 cup granulated (white) sugar, and 1 cup brown sugar.

Add in 2 eggs

You know, the eggy kind of egg.

Plop in 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa and mix that stuff in good.

Then pour in 2 1/2 cups flour and mix thoroughly.  This stuff gave my industrial-strength beaters a run for their money.

Lastly, pour in 1 cup white chocolate chips.Take yer dough, then, about a tablespoon’s worth, and wrap it around a Rolo candy (I thought about trying this with Caramilk, too, and may still try it). 

I went through several bulk packages of Rolos so I’m not sure how many you will need.  Each roll has 10, if that helps.

Make sure to seal the dough all the way around or things could get messy in the oven.

Plop the dough balls on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for about 7 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until set.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes on the sheet before removing the cookies to a cooling rack.

EEEEEEAT!