9/23/14

0 Kitchen Tip: Soften Brown Sugar in a HURRY!



I live in a dessert.  Occasionally, I will have rock hard sugar, but I love using a Brown Sugar Bear keeper to keep my brown sugar soft.  

However, the brown sugar you see above is DARK brown sugar, and I only use it occasionally for when certain recipes call for it.  When I dumped it out of the bag, it came out in four large chunks.

Thunk.  Thunk.  Thunk. Thunk.

Now, I can either put a piece of apple or a slice of bread in this container with the brown sugar and let it soften the brown sugar over a couple of days, but what if I need the brown sugar NOW?

If you have a wet paper towel, and a microwave, you can soften these large chunks of brown sugar in minutes...not hours.


Cover with a lid and microwave for 20 seconds.  Give it a stir. If you can.

This photo is after about 3- 20 second bursts.  You can see that some of the brown sugar is melting. Not to worry, stir it back in and reduce the microwave bursts to 15 seconds.


This is after about 5 or so total bursts in the microwave.  It is now soft and crumbly, ready to use in my recipe!



Happy Baking!


9/17/14

0 15 Minute "Baked" Chocolate Cheesecake


This cheesecake was "baked" in  15 minutes.

Yes.

Really.

The first cheesecake I ever made took over an hour in the oven and it was runny inside. Cut it open and its "guts" just spilled over the plate. I felt like a failure.

Then I discovered what a "water bath" is in cheesecake making circles when making a Sugar Free NY style cheesecake and noticed the huge difference it makes when making White Chocolate Mini cheesecakes.

After reading that Barbara from Barbara Bakes made a Meyer Lemon Cheesecake and Debby from A Feast for the Eyes made a Biscoff Cheesecake in the PRESSURE COOKER, I decided to test the pressure cooking waters so to speak, using my Cuisinart pressure cooker. I love that this bakes in 15 minutes and does not heat up the house in the summer!

Biscoff Caramel Cheesecake


It helps that this is a small 7" cheesecake. Calorie/portion wise and that it fits in my Cuisinart pressure cooker.  You can find this 7" Springform Pan on Amazon or in some kitchen specialty shops. Another pan option is a Push Pan from Fat Daddio's. I find that it is easier to remove the cheesecake from a push pan. 


Butter the springform pan, put a piece of parchment paper on it, butter it again, and press the graham cracker crust mixture into the pan. It helps to use a cup or measuring cup with straight sides.


All the filling ingredients are easily mixed in my Cuisinart Prep 7 cup food processor.  I got this processor for a steal (more than 50% off) on Amazon's Black Friday special, so look for it!


2 cups of water are put into the pressure cooker, creating the "water bath" that cheesecakes love.  You will need to create a foil "sling" to be able to lower/raise the cheesecake from the cooker.


The cheesecake "bakes" for 15 minutes on HIGH pressure, with a Natural release for about 10 minutes. The cheesecake will be puffy, almost like a souffle.  Let it cool on a wire rack, then transfer to the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

*if there is a little bit of condensation on top of your cheesecake, blot it lightly with a paper towel.


This is a cheesecake that will easily serve 8 (or more) people.


What you will find with this recipe is a creamy, moist cheesecake that has an intense chocolate flavor. This recipe uses semi-sweet chocolate, so next time, I may try milk chocolate.

A dollop of whip cream will help balance the intensity of the chocolate flavor....


Thanks to Barbara and Debby for inspiring me to make my own cheesecake in the pressure cooker!


print recipe

Chocolate Cheesecake - Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker is a perfect environment for making this rich and decadent cheesecake without any cracks or drying out. The key is to make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature and do not over mix the batter.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (about 10 crackers) graham crackers, crushed
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 pound (two 8 ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, or a combo of the two
  • 2 cups water, for the pressure cooker
  • Trivet
  • Foil Sling (18"x 3")
  • 7" Springform pan
  • Parchment paper
  • melted butter for greasing pan
Instructions
1. Trace the springform/push pan circle on a piece of parchment paper. Cut the circle, using scissors.2. Lightly brush the pan with melted butter. Place the cut circle of parchment paper into the greased pan. Brush the top of parchment paper with melted butter.3. Mix the graham crackers with 3 Tablespoons of granulated sugar, then add 3 Tablespoons of melted butter4. Press graham cracker mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and half-way up the sides. 5. Chill pan with graham cracker crust in the fridge/freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.6. Beat room temperature cream cheese until smooth, stir in eggs, one at a time, being careful not to over mix the batter.7. Gently stir in the melted chocolate. Pour filling into the prepared and chilled pan.8. Put 2 cups of water into the pressure cooker. Place the trivet in, with the foil sling. Place filled cheesecake on top of foil sling. Fold any excess foil sling towards the center of the pot, away from the sides.9. Close the pressure cooker, close the pressure valve, select HIGH pressure and the time for 15 minutes.*10. At the end of cooking time, allow for a 10 minute natural pressure release. After 10 minutes, open the pressure valve to release any remaining pressure. 11. Open the pressure cooker, use the foil sling to carefully lift the cheesecake from the pot and place the cheesecake on a wire cooling rack. Blot any remaining water on top of cheesecake with a clean paper towel.12. Allow cheesecake to cool on the wire cooling rack for 1 hour. 13. With a thin knife, run the knife around the outside edge of the cheesecake. Remove the springform ring. If using a push pan, set the pan on top of a canned good and push the outer pan down to release the cheesecake.14. Place cheesecake, covered, in the fridge for at least 4 hours or over night. *If a 6"3" cheesecake pan is used, increase the cook time by adding 10 minutes.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 - 8 servings


9/10/14

0 Soft Chocolate Sugar Cookies


I searched high and low and all over the Internet for a chocolate sugar cookie.  What I found was Lia Lola's Chocolate Sugar cookie recipe.


One of my readers suggested that I make this cookie, saying it tastes "like a brownie."   Here is a frosted Lia Lola chocolate sugar cookie next to my soft vanilla sugar cookie.  See the difference? It is about half the size in height.


Her cookie has crisp edges (great for intricate shapes) and a soft, dense interior, much like a brownie. The taste?  Spot on for a chocolate sugar cookie; not to cocoa-y.

However, I wanted the texture of my soft vanilla sugar cookie and made up another test batch, using my vanilla recipe and subbing some of the flour for Hershey's Cocoa.  Now, that's more like it!


The flavor of this cookie is not overly sweet, as the buttercream frosting is plenty sweet.  I frosted a bunch of these fall leaves and gave them to my friends and neighbors for tasting.  The acorn and one of the leaves is a chocolate cookie. The rest are vanilla.


The verdict?

Overwhelmingly, many of the tasters loved the chocolate cookie with vanilla buttercream frosting. The rest loved the serious chocolatey taste of the chocolate frosted chocolate sugar cookies.

So, give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Soft Chocolate Sugar Cookies
(4x6 recipe card download)  (Full page printable recipe)

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