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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Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake

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If you’re Canadian, you’ve probably had a Nanaimo Bar once or twice in your life. If you’re not Canadian, you probably SHOULD have a Nanaimo Bar once or twice in your life.

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My sister-in-law Mags sent me this recipe as a not-so-subtle hint about what kind of birthday cake she’d like this year (her birthday was February 15th). We usually celebrate her birthday jointly with her dad’s, Papa John, whose birthday is on February 19th. But with a bunch of travel on all sides, we ended up postponing their birthday celebrations until this past weekend, which was MY birthday. So this is a joint cake for the three of us. And it’s amazing.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grab a food processor and chuck in 5 tablespoons cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups graham crumbs, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and 3/4 cup dried coconut.

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Give it a good whazzing, then drizzle in 4 tablespoons melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and whaz it again, until you get some crumbly mixture.

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Take your crumb mixture and dump it into a 10″ springform pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom and a little up the sides, making sure to press extra hard in the corners (I didn’t and it was a little too thick there, so that’s why I am warning you).

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Shove that into your oven and bake it for 5 minutes. When you pull it out, leave the oven on and shove in a large (9″ x 13″) pan of warm water and put it on the rack below where you will be cooking your cheesecake.

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Now, in the bowl of a stand mixer, chuck 4 250g packages plain cream cheese (remember that room temperature cream cheese makes smoother cheesecake). Beat that up until it’s smooth and lovely.

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Then, one at a time, crack in 4 large eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating the whole time.

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Now you can chuck in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 3 tablespoons vanilla custard powder.

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I used Bird’s custard powder here, because that is all that is traditional and right in the world. Beat that up until smooth.

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Pour the mix into your baked crust above your pan of water and bake for 1 hour.

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When it’s done, turn the oven off and crack the door just a little bit and wedge it with a spoon. Leave that for 1-2 hours until the cheesecake is room temperature.

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Don’t fret about that crack. It’s not a big deal. Transfer the cake to a nice plate with care. Chill the cake for a little while.

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To make the lovely ganache that goes on top, toss 1 cup cream and 1 cup chocolate in the bowl of a double boiler and heat until the chocolate melts.

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Whisk until smooth, then let it cool to room temperature.

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Now gently pour it on top of your cooled cake. I had a lot of ganache so I carefully guided it down the sides as well.

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Chill your cake until the ganache is set.

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Serve to all your birthday guests!

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I don’t know what this is … Apple Cheesecake Maybe?

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Okay.  So.  I’m cleaning out my freezers.  This means that sometimes I come up with odd things to eat.  Today’s experiment resulted from the discovery of half a package of puff pastry and a plastic container filled with leftover cupcake frosting.  And so it begins.

Now, I’m not putting up this recipe specifically because I think it’s something you should make yourself.  It all depends on what you have hanging around your house.  This is more to show you that you can use your imagination when it comes to throwing a few ingredients together.

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Anyway, here’s what I did.  Preheat your oven to 375°F and haul out a large pie plate.

I had a small plastic tub full of what looked to be about 2-3 cups cream cheese frosting leftover from various adventures.  Basically it amounts to cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, and vanilla, and it’s fantastic.  It freezes really well, too.

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So I dumped that in a bowl and added 3 eggs to it, for cohesion.

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Then I finely chopped up 4 apples (three Red Delicious, one Granny Smith, for tartness).  Chuck those into the frosting mix.

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I also managed to cleanly slice off most of my thumbnail, but don’t worry, it didn’t make it into the dish.

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Gave it a stir.  The apples and the frosting, not my thumb. Obviously.

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Took my half package puff pastry and set it out on a floured surface.

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Rolled it out thin enough to fit in my pie plate with some overlap.

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Filled it most of the way with my apple filling.

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Gathered the corners together.

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It kind of sort of looks like I did it on purpose, no?

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I had extra filling so that went into a casserole dish.

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Then I baked them for an hour, until the mess in the casserole dish was cooked through in the centre.

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And the puff pastry was crackly and brown.

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We ate this warm with a bit of ice cream, like it was a pie, but you could eat it like a pudding, too.

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Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

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Would you believe me if I told you that I have never made a cheesecake before?  It’s true.  I told Fussellette that the other day and she nearly drove off the road.  Oh sure, I’ve made one of those no-bake “cheese cake” confections, and something wrapped in pastry, but it’s not the same.

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But I had all those gluten-free almond cookies still lying around — remember, the ones that were dry as a bone?  I figured the best use for them would be to make them into nice stale crumbs, and maybe chuck them in a cheesecake.  And so my first experience with cheesecake began.

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I went to the Kraft website and picked up the recipe there, because the makers of cream cheese seemed to have the recipe at its most simplest, with fewest additions, and that’s the way I like things to be.  This recipe needs only condensed milk, sugar, eggs, butter, cream cheese, and cookie crumbs.  And my cellphone, because that’s where I access my recipes while I wait for my new computer to arrive (the old one died in a horrible, agonizingly slow way).

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Start by preheating your oven to 425°F.  In a 9″ pie pan, pour the contents of one 300mL can of condensed milk.

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Cover it with foil and set it in a larger baking dish.  Pour in some boiling water so that the milk is in a nice water bath.  Bake that sucker for an hour.

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I may have forgotten to check mine and overcooked it.  But whatever.  I like the spots.  Adds texture.  Remove the milk from the water bath and whisk it up until it’s smooth.  Voila, dulce de leche.  You can also just buy this from a store if you wish.

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Pull out 1/2 cup of the sauce and put it aside to cool, probably about an hour.  Refrigerate the rest once it’s cool.

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When your sauce is cool (or at the very least, just slightly warm), preheat your oven again to 350°F this time.  Spray the inside of a springform pan with cooking spray.

Melt 1/4 cup butter and mix it with 1 1/4 cups cookie crumbs.  Press those into the bottom of the springform pan.

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In the bowl of a mixer, combine 3 (250g) packages room temperature plain cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar, and beat until well-combined.  Remember that the warmer your cream cheese is, the less lumpy it will be.

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Take the 1/2 cup of dulce de leche sauce and add that to the cream cheese mix.  With the mixer on low, add in 3 eggs, one at a time, and mix until just combined.

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Pour into the springform pan and shake gently to level the top and loosen any bubbles.

Bake that puppy for 40-45 minutes, or until the centre is almost set.  It’s very important not to open the oven door during baking, as the sudden temperature change could cause the thing to crack.  Of course, the Pie didn’t know this and tossed in a piece of pizza to heat up.  I wouldn’t let him take it out again, and so he had to wait 16 minutes for his now extra crispy slice and I was formally allowed to blame any cracks in the cheesecake firmly on him.

Fussellette tells me you should cool your cheesecake in the oven, just like you do with meringues.  I put mine in a draftless room, which is what the recipe said.  It still cracked, but I’m going to blame that on the Pie.  While it’s cooling, make sure to run a knife around the edges to loosen it. Leave it in the pan until it’s totally cool, and then refrigerate it for at least an hour before serving.

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Before serving, warm up the extra dulce de leche sauce and drizzle it over top.  I am too lazy to keep reheating it every time I want a slice so I just poured mine over the top in a nice little circle.  So very tasty!

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Cool Blackberry Cheesecake

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAITY!

Now that I have a springform pan, I have taken it upon myself to perfect cheesecakes.  This cool no-cook cheese confection is a modified version of one by Gordon Ramsay and it’s dee-lish.

Because it’s a British recipe, I’m afraid that even with my modifications it’s all still in metric.  This is where having a kitchen scale comes in mighty handy.  Of course, because it’s a no-cook recipe, you needn’t fret if your conversions aren’t exactly accurate.

First, crush up about 150g cookies.  I used chocolate wafers, but graham crackers or digestive biscuits also work well.  You can even buy cookie crumbs pre-crushed in a box.

Mix those with about 50g melted butter.

With a glass or your fingers, flatten the crumbs into the bottom of a 20cm springform pan (mine was 25 cm so my cake is a little shorter and wider than yours might be).  Chuck that in the fridge to chill.

Now plop about 340g fresh blackberries (that was what was in the package for me) in a pot with a dash of sugar and a dash of water or juice.  Add the juice and zest from half a lemon to that as well.  Cook on medium-high heat, stirring often, until it’s all bubbly and saucy.  Scoop out a bit of the juice and make a slurry with a small amount of corn starch.  Add that back in and let it come to a boil.  Remove from the heat and let cool completely.  Chuck it in the fridge to make it extra cool and thick.

Whip up 500mL whipping cream in a chilled bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream together 500g soft cream cheese, a splash of vanilla extract, the zest and peel of half a lemon (nice use of a whole lemon there, waste-not), and 200g sour cream or crème fraîche.  The warmer your cream cheese is, the less lumpy it will be, but be careful not to let it melt if you put it in the microwave.

Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.  Keep this stuff cool until you need it, but don’t chill it.

Spoon or pipe a layer of the cream cheese mixture over the crumb base.

Spoon on some of your blackberry sauce and use a skewer or flat knife to swirl it around.

Add another layer of cheese, and plop the remaining fruit sauce on top.  Swirly swirly swirly.  If your cake pan is smaller and your cake taller, you could probably try for three layers of cheese with swirlies in-between.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 5 hoursand keep it refrigerated when you’re not eating it.

Spring it from the springform!

We only had it in the fridge for probably 3 hours before we ate it, so you can see it was a little runny in the centre.

But still oh so good!  We all had seconds.

Walnut Cheesecake Squares

These were another creation for a research participant, and I like them because they’re not too sweet.  And because the base is the same as the topping the whole thing is incredibly easy.  This recipe is from Esther Brody’s 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9×13″ pan and line it with parchment paper — then butter the parchment paper as well.

Mix together in a bowl 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, and 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

You’re looking for crumbs here, so if you have walnut pieces, pop them in the food processor (slightly more than the cup measure as it will settle) for a spell.

Using a pastry blender:

Or two knives:

Cut in 2/3 cup cold cubed butter until the mixture is entirely coarse crumbs.

This may take a while, so be patient.  Too large pieces of butter will result in holes in your base.

Pour half the mixture into your prepared pan and press it to the bottom.  Set the other half aside.  

Bake the mixture in the pan for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool slightly.

In another bowl, beat 1lb (500g) softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until smooth.

Beat in 2 eggs and 1/4 cup milk, then add in 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over that nice warm base.

Sprinkle the reserved base stuff evenly over the top.

Bake the whole shebang for 20-25 minutes more, or until everything is just set, and then remove the pan to a rack and let it cool completely.

Use the parchment paper to lift the cooled squares out of the pan and cut them into squares.

If you have any left, store them covered in your refrigerator.