Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bailey's Chocolate Cheesecake

So what did I do this weekend?  I ran a 15K.  Yes, that's right, a 15K.  That's 9.3 miles.

9.3 miles is a LONG way, in case you were wondering.

I am lucky to live in a city that is on the coast-- Jacksonville has a beach, a big river, and seven major bridges that cross that river.  The 15K that I was in is called the River Run, and in it, you run across two of those seven bridges.  You also spend some time running through some of the more picturesque neighborhoods that border the river-- or so they tell me.  When I run, I end up staring at my feet.  (Yes, I am aware that you aren't supposed to watch your feet.)  It's a pretty major event-- apparently, it's also the national championship race for the 15K, so there were upwards of 20,000 people running with me.  I should also probably point out that I didn't RUN the whole thing-- although I did run more of it than I thought I'd be able to.  When people asked me what my goal time was for the race, I laughed.  I had three goals for this race: 1) Not to die. 2) To cross the finish line. 3) To not be last.  Since I am here writing this, obviously I achieved goal 1.  Luckily, I also managed goals 2 and 3, so I'm a pretty happy camper!

Pre-race.  Also, at 7 am, pre-caffeine.  I was also ridiculously nervous.
I'm pretty dang proud of myself, as I'm sure you can tell.  But what's the point of a blog, if not to talk about yourself?  :)  I know, I know-- the cheesecake is the important thing here.  So-- this week I am planning to make Guiness and Bailey's cupcakes, and in consequence there is a whole bottle of Bailey's hanging out in my kitchen.  We went to my in-laws' house for dinner tonight, and I thought I'd make something else with the Bailey's, since I was dying to use it.  This cheesecake is incredibly easy-- and the great thing is that with the ganache on the top, it doesn't matter if it cracks when you bake it.  Mine was definitely cracked-- but you can't tell at all.  So, happy 15K, happy pre-St. Patrick's Day, and happy weekend!

Bailey's Chocolate Cheesecake
(Adapted from gimme some oven)
Makes one 9-inch cheesecake

Chocolate Crust
1 1/2 cups crushed Oreos (about half a package)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbsp melted butter (1/2 stick), melted

3 8-oz bricks cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Bailey's Irish cream liqueur

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the Crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a food processor, finely chop/crush the Oreos.  In a large bowl, stir together the Oreos, the sugar, and the cocoa powder.  Add the melted butter and stir until well combined. Press this mixture into the bottom of a greased 9-ince springform pan.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

For the Cheesecake:
Turn oven tempreature up to 450 degrees.  In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, cocoa powder, and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition until well combined.  Add the sour cream and Bailey's liqueur, then beat until smooth.  Pour filling into baked crust in springform pan.

Note:  The original recipe here gives directions for a water bath to prevent cracks in the cheesecake-- it says to simply put a 9x13 glass pan of water in the oven, on the rack below the cheesecake, as it bakes.  I tried this, and still ended up with cracks.  Like I said, I wasn't too worried about it.  So try this if you want-- let me know if it works for you!

Bake the cheesecake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 250 and continue baking for an additional 60 minutes. 

After removing the cheesecake from the oven, run a knife around the edge to loosen.  Let the cake cool before removing the outer edge of the springform pan. Pour the ganache over the top, then chill for a few hours before serving.

For the Ganache:
Place the 4 oz of semi-sweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl (I've found that a large glass measuring cup is ideal for this).  In a small saucepan, heat the cream until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate.  Let this sit for at least 30 seconds, then whisk together the cream and chocolate.  Pour over the top of the cheesecake.  If you have bubbles in the ganache, use a toothpick to pop them.

Not my best pictures, but you get the idea. :)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Carrot Cake Cookies

I know what you're thinking-- "What??  It's not a cupcake??"  Don't get excited-- this is basically a cookie form.  When I was making this, I was thinking of the Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies-- you know, the ones with white plastic-y "cream" in the middle?  We love those.  We also love the white, plastic-y Christmas Tree Cakes that you can only get in December.  As much as I bake, we can't seem to get away from buying the Christmas Tree Cakes at least once during the holidays.  So I was hoping that these would be a yummier, less plastic-y version of the Oatmeal Cream Pies, except with carrot cake instead of oatmeal (which basically makes them nothing like the Little Debbies, but I digress...).  I was also thinking of the cookies in the Publix bakery, the ones that are glued together with OBSCENE amounts of icing-- you know what I'm talking about.  The ones you always want to buy but can't because a) you aren't 10, b) you are afraid the bakery people, cashier, and all the other store patrons would judge you, and c) MyFitnessPal would explode if you tried to enter the number of calories in one of those suckers.  Yeah, those cookies.  Well, these carrot cake cookies are the grown-up version of the Little Debbies and the Publix cookie sandwiches.  No one will judge you if the cookie has carrots in it, right?  Tell MyFitnessPal to kick rocks and make these.  Your inner child will thank you. :)

Carrot Cake Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing
(Inspired by/adapted from In Praise of Leftovers)
Makes 12 sandwich cookies

Note: I made the cookie part of these dairy-free for the girly.  Just sub Willow Run margarine (or whatever other non-dairy margarine you have) for the butter. 

Carrot Cake Cookies
1 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated carrots (about 2 carrots)
1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
4 Tbsp raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  If you don't have parchment paper, be sure to butter your baking sheets generously.  (Also, consider in investing in some parchment paper!)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugars (both brown and granulated), egg, and vanilla.  Beat until pale and fluffy (approximately 2 minutes), then add in the carrots, nuts, and raisins.  Once those have been thoroughly mixed in, add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated.

Drop about 1 1/2 Tbsp of dough onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart (these cookies spread-- you have been warned).  Bake at 375 for 12-16 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking.  Once removed, cool on baking sheets for about a minute, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.  Cool and then frost to create sandwiches.

Cream Cheese Icing
4 oz (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter
4 oz (1/2 brick) of cream cheese
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (I use the clear kind here to save the white color)
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat until the extracts are incorporated, then scrape the bowl again.  Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, scraping after each addition.  Add powdered sugar to increase the stiffness of the icing, or milk to decrease the stiffness.  Spread or pipe icing onto the flat side of one cookie, then top by pressing the flat side of an unfrosted cookie onto the icing.