Monday, August 31, 2009

Need a little comfortin'?


PIE CRUST COOKIES

Pastry crust is one thing - as good as it gets, actually! But coax that dough into thin, flaky cookies and you've got a recipe for home-grown comfort, bar none.

Glistening with sugar crystals and cinnamon specks - baked to perfectly golden gorgeousness, these cookies were traditionally made from the 'scraps' after mom or gramma made pies.

I remember hoping and praying that there would be some left over dough and that we could feast on these rare treats long before the pie was ever cut and served.

When my kids were little, I started making these for no good reason except the love of watching children smile and thank me for the gift from my oven.

Do try them - not only at the holidays or when you make your pies, but just because you can.


~~~~

One recipe for Perfect Pie Crust, chilled (Or half... it does make enough for 4 crusts!)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon or any other sweet spice you'd like


Handling as lightly as possible, and on a floured surface, roll one-fourth of the whole batch (or 1/2 of a half batch) of the chilled dough into 1/8th inch thickness. Not too thick...not too thin. We don't want them terribly fragile. Lightly dust dough with flour when needed.

Cut into strips, circles, diamonds...whatever you like and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon-sugar. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until just turning golden. Allow to cool completely.

(You may notice a faint vinegar smell right as they are baked. This will dissipate very quickly and you won't taste the vinegar at all.)


Lying in wait...




PERFECT PIE CRUST

So innocent looking...so safe and unassuming...

But beware! A perfect pastry crust does nothing but patiently waits - for the perfect filling, the careful handling, the beautiful adornments...waits - for the oven and the chance to become golden and puffy, presenting layers of air and a flaky texture that melts in the mouth.

It beckons - tempts and teases...glowing with sugar crystals and wafting it's scent through the kitchen, the house, the neighborhood, even.

One taste and you succumb, forever spoiled to any other. Nothing will be the same after that forkful. There will be no peace, no rest - you will always strive for perfection and be content only when you've lovingly and tenderly brought forth a pie that needs do nothing but simply...

...wait.

~~~~

I love doing this in the food processor as it takes, literally, seconds. But if you do it by hand, only mix til barely combined and never knead pie crust.

This recipe makes enough for two double-crust pies. I usually make a 1/4 of it into pie crust cookies - you know, the ones Gramma used to make. Strips of pastry crust sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar and baked until golden brown and flaky. Yes...those!




~~~~
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cups shortening, in chunks
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar

In food processor: Add flour, salt, and sugar; whirl for a couple seconds until combined. In a small bowl whisk together the water, egg, and vinegar.

Add shortening chunks to processor and pulse just until large crumbs form.

Add egg mixture all at once and pulse just until combined and it starts to form a ball. Remove from processor, form into a ball while working dough as little as possible. Dough may be somewhat sticky. Place on a piece of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Chill for at least an hour. Roll or use as normal. 1/4 of ball will make one crust - bottom or top.

(This dough is very soft. Roll on a well-floured surface and dust with flour as needed while rolling.)

If baking by itself for a no-bake pie, prick the crust all over - even on the sides - with a fork. This will allow the steam to release instead of it puffing up. Bake in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes, or until the crimped edges are turning golden. Cool compeltely if using a cold filling.

If using in a pumpkin or fruit pie - bake according to the pie recipe.

By hand: Combine flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in shortening until large pieces form.


In a small bowl whisk water, egg, and vinegar. Drizzle over flour mixture and toss with a fork, just until combined. Be careful not to overwork. Follow remaining directions above.



Sunday, August 30, 2009

Emeralds uncovered...



ZUCCHINI BREAD

Luxuriating in this sweet, rich quick bread are green jewels that make it even more moist and full of nutritious goodness.

I've made this recipe for years - nothing new or innovative, just really good!

~~~~

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (This next step is optional...I learned it from my Grandmother and have been doing it for years, so continue to do so!) Line two regular loaf pans with foil and coat with vegetable cooking spray. Can also be done as muffins.

In a large bowl beat the eggs with the sugar until creamy. Beat in zucchini, oil, and vanilla.

In a small bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, soda, and baking powder. Stir into the zucchini mixture, just until moistened. Divide between prepared pans and bake for 45-60 minutes or until large moist crumbs come out on a toothpick inserted in the middle. (May need to cover loosely with foil after 30 minutes, to keep it from getting too dark.)

Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes and then lift out with the foil and cool completely.


Friday, August 28, 2009

What have we here...?


OREO CHEESECAKE

Two of our favorite things snuggled up together - how scandalous. Let's just look the other way, and let it be though, shall we?

Creamy white and packed with crunchy bits of cream-filled wafer cookies this cake will make a huge splash whenever you serve it!

~My sugar free version of this exact recipe HERE

~~~~

Vegetable cooking spray
1 pkg Oreos,
divided
1/4 cup butter, melted
Four 8-ounces pkgs regular or reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cups sour cream
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with the cooking spray.
Wrap in aluminum foil, so that the butter doesn't seep out and burn in the oven, and place on a baking sheet. Set aside.

Finely crush 3/4
of the pkg of the Oreo cookies and place in a medium bowl along with the melted butter. Mix well and press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until crispy to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl whip the softened cream cheese just until smooth. Beat in the sugar, vanilla, sour cream, and whipping cream just until blended. One at a time, beat in eggs just until incorporated. Coarsely chop remaining cookies and gently fold into cheese mixture. Pour into cooled crust. Bake for one hour, loosely covering with foil after 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake, but do not remove the sides of the pan. Allow to cool completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight or at least 5 hours. Remove sides of pan and slice.

(Cheesecakes will be creamy-soft for the first few hours, and will become more dense and cakey the longer they are allowed to chill. They really do get better as they sit and rest!) Makes 18 servings.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Macaroni Salad for my Loverly!!



MACARONI SALAD

This is my daughter's favorite salad so I made it today for her birthday party.

Pasta salads always look so good right out of the gate, but as time goes by they tend to be dry - the pasta soaking up all the goodies and leaving less than gorgeousness behind.

One thing that seems to help a bit is to cook the pasta a day ahead. Let it cool and then I spray it with olive oil cooking spray fairly liberally and then cover and chill overnight. Just an fyi, if you're interested in trying it.

All of these measurements are to taste, basically. Add, subtract, stand on your head - whatever you like.... Sometimes I add frozen peas - just throw them into the hot pot of pasta right before you drain it - that's good, too.

This is not fancy...not gourmet...not nouvelle cuisine...just old-fashioned good.

~~~~
6 cups cooked macaroni - if you don't have the salad size don't fret
1 1/2 cups small cubes of cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup whipping cream or half & half
2 tablespoons dill pickle juice - right out of the jar
1 1/2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1/2 tablespoon dried dill weed - fresh is great, if it's handy
Salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine the macaroni and cheese. Add the mayonnaise, cream, pickle juice, mustard, pickle relish, and dill; mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more mayo or cream as needed for creaminess. Chill for at least an hour. (May seem too wet at first, but it will soak up some of that...)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Have a lonely main dish? This'll keep it company just fine...



ALMOND ORZO

How comforting - a quick dish full of fragrant lovelies like sweet onions, garlic, Parmesan, and toasted almonds.

Perfect with your roasted chicken, broiled salmon, or all by itself with a fork for a moment of contented joy.

I got the inspiration from Sweet Bird...thanks, you! I didn't have any fresh basil, so used dried in the cooking process - good...but fresh would be fab...

~~~~

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup orzo
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons green onions

In a saucepan, over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in the butter until just golden. Add the orzo and cook for a minute longer. Stir in the chicken broth and basil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

In a small skillet, over medium heat, toast the almonds, stirring frequently.

Gently stir Parmesan, almonds, and green onions into cooked orzo.





Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How very lovely!


CASSATA CAKE

A friend - who's NOT a baker by any stretch of the imagination - asked me for a recipe for a Cassata Cake that she could make for another friend for her birthday. (I'm not Italian - I'd never heard of it, sorry to say!)

This is what I came up with - and not knowing the difference - think it's pretty darn wonderful.

Miss T also wanted me to come to Florida (I live in Washington Sate) to help her bake it... girlfriends slumber party weekend! I can't be there...but I sent her step by step photo instructions and I think (hope) it will be fine.

I'm sure it will be.....maybe I can still make that flight....

(In searching and learning about this, I've seen them frosted only on the top or all over - filled with fruit and nuts, or just cream - so I guess it's whatever you love, put it in there! These are Miss S's favorite flavors...you do what you wish.

I also used a 4 inch cookie cutter and made individual cakes. This was actually genius on my part....I wanted more to work with if for some reason it turned into a huge mess before getting a photo - which has happened more times than I care to admit. See? Genius, I say....)

~~~~

Genoise:

Vegetable cooking spray

3/4 cup Softaskilk brand cake flour, plus additional for dusting pans

1/4 rounded teaspoon table salt (not Kosher)

6 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease three 8-inch cake pans with cooking spray. Dust with flour on bottom and sides, tapping out extra.

Sift together the flour and salt into a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla for 10 minutes or until pale, tripled in volume and forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted. (See photo below)

Very carefully, with a spatula, fold in the flour/salt just until moistened. Divide evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 10-13 minutes, or until golden and they don’t indent when you touch them in the middle. Allow to cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge and invert onto rack. (May need to run a cake/pie server under the cake if it wants to stick to the pan.) Cool completely.

Raspberry Sauce:

2 cups fresh raspberries

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

In a medium saucepan place raspberries, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. (May be made 2 days in advance and kept in the fridge.)

Ricotta Filling:

One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon Fiori de Scilia (if you don’t have that use 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon or orange zest)

2/3 cup sugar

In a food processor combine ricotta, Fiori (or vanilla and zest), and sugar until smooth and silky. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill, if not using right away. (May be made 2 days in advance and kept in the fridge. Remove from fridge to set at room temp for 30 minutes before assembling the cake.)


To assemble cake:

Additional ingredients needed:

1/2-3/4 cup Chambord

2-(5) cups homemade sweetened whipped cream – if completely frosting the cake you will need the (5) cups…1 (2 2/3) cup heavy whipping cream, 2 (5) tablespoon sugar, 1/2 (2) teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup fresh raspberries

Mint leaves, if desired, for garnish, lemon zest

Remove Ricotta Filling from the refrigerator and allow to set at room temperature for 30 minutes for easier assembly.

Place one layer of the cake on a plate or cake stand. Brush or drizzle enough Chambord (about 3 tablespoons) over the cake to become moist, but not soggy, allowing it to soak in for a couple minutes.

Carefully spread half of the Ricotta Filling over the cake layer. Carefully spread half of the Raspberry Sauce over the ricotta layer.

Repeat with second cake layer, Chambord, remaining Ricotta Filling, and Raspberry Sauce. Place final cake layer on the top and brush with remaining Chambord.

Spread whipped cream over the top layer of cake (or frost entire cake with whipped cream) and scatter whole berries. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and fresh lemon zest, if desired.

Chill for at least two hours.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Crispy little savory cookie...


PEPPERY CHEDDAR SHORTBREAD

I love the flavor of these - the sharp bite of the cheddar and chunks of black pepper...the flakey, crispy crunch. They are a perfect little cracker-cookie for a soup or salad lunch.

It doesn't matter what kind of cheese you use - white cheddar, montery jack, swiss - any and all would be wonderful. Make them as thin as you like...in balls, flattened, slices or roll the whole thing out and score before baking - does not matter.

All that counts is that you get them in your mouth ASAP!!

~~~~

8 ounces cheese - finely shredded (white cheddar, swiss, colby jack)
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Sea or Kosher salt for sprinkling

In a large bowl place the finely shredded cheese, butter, flour, salt, pepper, and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 40 minutes.

Beat with an electric mixer until well blended. Should be coarse textured and not sticking together. Use your hands to form it into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the roll into 1/4 inch slices (or roll into balls and flatten, or roll the whole thing into a square and score). Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden and set. Makes 20 'cookies'.


A sweet with your tea...



CINNAMON-CHOCOLATE TEA BREAD

Don't you just love to make quick breads?! The variations are completely endless and it's so comforting to know they can be whipped up in moments and cooling on the counter not much longer than that! LOVE IT.

This one is soft and buttery - and that ribbon of goodness running through it makes it perfect for an afternoon with a cup of tea (or iced latte, as I'm known to do more often than not!) and a good book...a sleeping, purring kitty on your lap is nice, too - if you can find one to cooperate.

I cut the recipe in half here to make two mini loaves...just enough...not too much. (Okay...so you can eat the whole loaf and no one will care!)

~~~~

Topping:
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (milk choc would be fine, too)

Bread:
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2 mini loaf pans with vegetable spray.

For the topping:
In a small bowl cut the softened butter into the sugar and cinnamon with a fork. Stir in the chopped chocolate and set aside.

For the bread:
In a small bowl stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. In a medium bowl cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, milk, vanilla, and sour cream. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture just until combined. Pour 1/4 of the batter into each prepared pan (or 1/2 of the batter into an 8x8 pan). Sprinkle 1/4 of the topping onto the batter in each pan. Divide the remaining batter between the pans and sprinkle the remaining topping over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester comes out with large, moist crumbs when inserted into the middle.

Remove from the oven to a wire rack. Run a sharp knife around the edge and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and allow to cool on wire rack. Slice and eat while slightly warm or wrap each mini loaf tightly with plastic wrap.




Monday, August 17, 2009

The darker...the better!


DARK MOCHA CAKE

This cake isn't just moist - it's SUPER moist. I know there are a thousand versions of it going around, but it's on here because this has to be the most requested cake I make...so far. Life's not over, yet!!

I love to use it for everything - it stands up to stacking and frosting, but my favorite way is as a 'shortcake' for berries. Straw, raz, black...any berry is a star with this cake! Lots of creamy, white whipped cream and I can be happy.

~~~~

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 1/2 cups hot coffee
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x13 or two 8-inch rounds with vegetable cooking spray.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the sugar, oil, coffee, milk, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl; beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Batter will be thin.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean near the center.

Do not overbake by waiting until cake comes away from the sides of the pan. Cool in pan on a wire rack and when almost cool place some toothpicks randomly into the cake and cover loosely with plastic wrap or foil. This will keep it even more moist.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Butter makes it better. Do I hear an Amen?


CHIPOTLE BUTTER

A dab of this spicy, creamy butter on a tender steak, burger, or corn on the cob is all you'll need for super flavor! Even slather on crusty bread and grill or broil until golden for your family - they'll love it.

I use this on everything. Fish, veggies...and just got a brainstorm to put it on popcorn. Woohoo!

(Adjust the heat by adding or taking away some of the pepper.)


~~~~


1 stick butter, softened
1-2 canned chipotle peppers, minced (seeded if desired)
2 tablespoons of the chipotle sauce that comes with the peppers
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Pinch garlic powder

In a small bowl whip the butter, with an electric mixer, until smooth and fluffy. Add the minced peppers, chipotle sauce, lime juice, cilantro, and garlic powder. Whip until incorporated. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill. (The longer it sits, the deeper the color and richer the flavor.) Just before serving put a teaspoon of the cold butter on cooked steak or burgers and allow it to melt over the top. For bread, leave softened for easier spreading. Makes 24 servings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hello, Gorgeous!!


BLUEBERRY-RICOTTA-ALMOND MUFFINS

Wow, wow! Beautiful little beauties just waiting for that cup of coffee and a lazy Sunday morning...

Sigh...

~~~~


1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup almond flour (Bob's Red Mill brand is great)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 regular muffin cups and set aside.
In a large bowl cream the butter and NS crystals. Beat in whole egg, egg white, vanilla extract, almond extract, and ricotta cheese. In a small bowl mix the flour, almond flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir into the ricotta mixture
just until moistened. Fold in 1 1/4 cup berries.

Fill muffin cups with batter. Press the remaining berries on the top of the batter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden on the edges and a tester comes out with moist crumbs. Makes 12 regular-sized muffins.

Again with the coffee flavored desserts....!


HAZELNUT LATTE PANNA COTTA

Silky, cool, light YUM! Flavored with rich coffee and the scent of hazelnut...your favorite latte in a cold cup of decadence!

You could use any flavored coffee sryup, actually - butter rum, French vanilla, Irish Cream...use your imaginations, kids!

~~~~

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin

1 1/4 cups half & half

1/4 cup hazelnut flavored syrup (the sweetened kind to flavor coffee)

3 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee crystals

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch salt

Pinch cinnamon

In a small saucepan stir together the milk and gelatin powder. Allow to stand for 5 minutes to soften. Stir over medium heat for one minute to dissolve gelatin. Add fat free half & half, syrup, coffee, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Stir and heat through, just until warm. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, gently stirring every couple of minutes to make sure the coffee crystals are dissolved.

Pour into 4 glasses and chill completely, at least overnight. Garnish with cinnamon scented whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Beautiful inside and out!



PECAN CHOCOLATE TORTE

A beautiful cake! Crushed berries would be perfect to nestle between the layers, too.

Take a peek at the inside, below…

(As always, see my sugar-free version of this recipe at Eating Well...Living Thin)

~~~~

Cake:
Vegetable Cooking Spray
1 cup broken pecans or walnuts
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup hazelnut syrup (such as DaVinci or Torani)

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 8-inch round cakes pans with vegetable cooking spray and set aside. Place a medium bowl and electric mixer beaters in the freezer.

In a small bowl combine pecans, flour, salt, and baking powder. In a blender or food processor, add eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Process for 30 seconds. Add the nut mixture. Cover and process until smooth; about 1 1/2 minutes. Divide batter between prepared cake pans. (It will seem like a very little amount of batter.)

Bake for 15-25 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. (Centers may appear fallen slightly.) Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes and then loosen cakes and remove from pans. Return to racks and cool completely.

In the chilled bowl whip the heavy cream until soft mounds form. Add the sugar, unsweeted cocoa powder, and cinnamon. Beat until just combined. Return to the fridge until ready to use.

To assemble the cake: Split each layer in half, horizontally, with a serrated knife. Brush at least two of the layers with the hazelnut syrup. Place one on a plate and spread 1/3 cup of frosting. Repeat until you've used all the layers. Frost the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with berries, or chocolate curls if desired. Makes 16 servings.



Monday, August 10, 2009

Come over for coffee...you'll be glad you did!


CAPPUCCINO CHEESECAKE

Rich, creamy, velvety-smooth with that bite from the coffee and wonderfulness of deep, dark chocolate....what a way to go!

(
One thing that I think is super important in regards to cheesecakes: They are best made at least one day before serving. They actually get better and better the longer they are allowed to chill. I leave mine for two days.)

~~~~


1 1/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Four 8-ounce pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee crystals (decaf is fine)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 eggs

Ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
4 ounces dark chocolate, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with vegetable cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl combine cookie crumbs, cinnamon, and butter. Mix well. Pat into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool while making the filling.

In a large bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in sugar, coffee crystals, vanilla, cream, and cornstarch. Add in eggs, one at a time, just until combined. Pour filling into baked crust. Return to oven and bake for 55-60 minutes or until just set on edges, but the middle is still slightly jiggly. Turn off oven and open the door. Allow the cheesecake to remain in the oven for 1 hour. Cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and place in fridge to chill (overnight is best).

When cake is very cold run a sharp knife around the edge to loosen sides. Remove pan and place cake on serving plate.

Place chocolate chunks into a small bowl. Simmer heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon coffee crystals just until scalded, but not boiling. Pour over chocolate and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir melted chocolate into cream mixture until very smooth. It should be thin enough that when you lift the spoon it drizzles easily. If it's too thick add a tablespoon or more of cream until it's the right consistency. Pour over cooled cake and spread causing some to drip down over the edges. Return to fridge until chocolate is set and then serve. Makes 20 servings.




Oh. My. Gosh.


CHOCOLATE-CHERRY CREAM PUFFS

Don't be traumatized by the length of the recipe... it's not as hard as it looks! And the ooohs and aahhs that will come from those you serve them to will have you making them again and again. Experiment with the flavors of the filling if you wish...it's easy when you use a different syrup each time! (DaVinci or Torani have every flavor imaginable...LOVE them!)

These are best eaten the same day they are made. You can make the filling and ganache a couple days ahead and chill. (Slowly reheat the ganache in the microwave, stir and use when ready to serve.)

Find a fabulous sugar free version of this recipe at Eating Well...Living Thin

~~~~

Pastry:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 eggs

Filling:
One-half of an 8-ounce pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cherry syrup, such as Torani, DaVinci
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped with 1 tablespoon Splenda

Ganache:
4 ounces 70% cacao chocolate
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup cherry syrup

Cream Puffs:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium saucepan heat the water and butter to boiling. Reduce heat; with a wooden spoon stir in flour, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. With the wooden spoon beat in eggs, one at a time, until no longer glossy. Place 2 tablespoons of dough onto greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. (May need to do in two batches.) Bake for 15-20 minutes or until puffed and dry to the touch. (Pierce one of the puffs with a sharp knife and make sure it is dry on the inside. If gummy, return to oven for 1 more minute.) Remove puffs to a wire rack to cool completely.

For Filling:
In a medium bowl beat the softened cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and cherry syrup. Fold in whipped cream. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill.

For Ganache:
In a microwave safe bowl place the chocolate and whipping cream. On 50% power heat for 1 minute. Stir and heat for another minute. Repeat until chocolate is soft, but not completely melted. Add cherry syrup and, with a whisk, incorporate the cream and syrup into the chocolate until it is very smooth. Set aside. (May need to gently reheat when ready to use.)

To assemble:
When puffs are cool, cut in half with a serrated knife. Remove any moist dough in the middle. Place on a plate and fill the bottom with 2 tablespoons cherry filling. Dip the tops of the puffs into the warm ganache. Serve. Makes 14 mini puffs.

(The leftover ganache makes wonderful truffles when left in the fridge. Simply scoop out with a teaspoon or melon baller.)