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Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing



Wow, can you believe it's less than a week until Christmas? I'm sure you all are busy shopping, cooking, baking and doing all of those last minute errands that always build up the last week before Christmas.  I know I am!  I'm definitely drinking a little extra coffee these days. :)

I had to share another of my Grandmother's famous recipes for this holiday season.  If you've been following my blog at all, you know my Grandmother is a fantastic baker and makes some of the best pies and cakes I've ever had.  Being from Georgia, she specializes in pound cakes and always makes this chocolate pound cake with chocolate fudge icing every Christmas.  I have loved this cake for years and hightail it over to the dessert table to get a piece (or several) when I see it brought out.  The chocolate fudge icing is what makes this cake so great.  It's cooked and poured hot over the pound cake, it cools and puddles over the cake and really tastes like chocolate fudge.  Its so, so, SO good.  If you want to be really "Georgia" about it, you can also mix in a cup of crushed pecans, which is how my Grandmother usually makes it and gives the cake a nice crunch.   The smell of this cake baking just says Christmas to me.

The pound cake is very easy to make and is a large cake.  You definitely want to use a large bundt pan for this recipe. The icing is very easy to make but you have to move swiftly as the ingredients will turn from icing to fudge in a period of seconds (not that that's a bad thing, it just won't be able to be spread on your cake).  I recommend assembling all of the ingredients before you begin making the icing.  Also, wait until the cake is completely cooled and you are ready to frost the cake before you make the icing as you must use the icing immediately after you cook it.


Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing

Ingredients:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
6 tbs. cocoa powder
1 cup milk
1 tbs. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a large bundt pan (I use my 12-cup bundt pan for this as it's a large cake). Mix sugar and butter and beat very well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients, alternating with milk to butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Add vanilla extract.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and distribute batter evenly.  Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.  Turn cake out of pan onto wire rack and continue to cool. Cool completely before icing.

Chocolate Fudge Icing

Ingredients:
*Note- This icing cooks so incredibly fast, so assemble all of the ingredients before starting. Do not prepare the icing until you are ready to ice the cake as it must be poured onto the cake immediately. *
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa, scant (this means not quite a full 1/2 cup)
6 tbs. evaporated milk
1 box (3 3/4 cup) powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
optional: 1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions:

In a large saucepan, bring the butter, milk, and cocoa to a boil.

When the mixture has boiled, add the powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and continue to simmer for about 30 seconds, stirring continuously.  Mixture will be clumpy at first but will become thick and shiny.  Do not cook longer than about 45 seconds or this mixture will start to become fudge and will become too thick to be used as icing.  Pour immediately over the cake and spread as desired.  The icing will immediately harden so you have to work fast.





Monday, December 12, 2011

Peppermint Cheesecake with Oreo Crust



I'm a big chocolate mint fan, especially at Christmastime.  Lately I've found myself dog-earring and pinning chocolate mint recipes like crazy (if you follow me on Pinterest you can see my mint addiction-- it may be second only to my pumpkin addiction).  When I saw this recipe for Peppermint Cheesecake with Oreo Crust, I knew I had to try it. Not to sound like a York Peppermint Patty ad, but this cheesecake sounded so refreshing (taste the sensation!) and I loved the idea of using peppermint extract to flavor the cream cheese filling.  I thought it would be such a good compliment with the Oreo crust.

I was really happy with how this recipe turned out.  The cheesecake was creamy and delicious and had just the right amount of mint.  I liked the Oreo crust but may make this with just plain chocolate wafers the next time I make this-- just to see how that would compare.  I think either way, having a chocolate crust, is delicious with this cheesecake.  I decided to add a layer of whipped cream to my version of this recipe-- I thought it added a little extra sweetness to this dessert which is not overly sweet on its own and it also adds a nice touch with the crushed peppermint on top.  Plus, if you are like me and your cheesecakes always crack, having a nice cover layer of whipped cream will just take care of that little worry, especially if you are making this on Christmas Day.  Just cover it with whipped cream and go on your way. Life's too short to worry about cracking cheesecakes!


Ingredients:
12 ounces creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, broken into pieces
3 tbs. butter, melted
1 1/2 pounds (3 8-oz. packages), at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
4 eggs
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup coarsely crushed peppermint candy

For whipped cream topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbs.- 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to taste)

Instructions:

1.  Place cookies in a zip-lock bag and crush with a rolling pin.  Pour into a bowl and mix with melted butter until combined.  Pour into a buttered 9-inch round springform pan and then press evenly over bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides of the pan.  Bake in a 300 degree oven until crust is slightly darker and looks a bit dry, about 10 minutes (leave oven on and at 300 degrees).

2.  Meanwhile, in a bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended.  Beat in sour cream.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating to blend after each addition.  Beat in flour, vanilla, peppermint extract, and salt until smooth.  Pour cream cheese mixture into pan over baked crust.

3.  Bake until edges are just golden and center jiggles slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour.  Run a knife around edge of pan rim. Place pan on a wire rack and cool cheesecake completely in pan.  Cover and chill until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.  Run a knife around rim again and then release rim.  If any liquid has pooled on surface of cheesecake, blot dry gently with a paper towel.

4.  Decorate top of cake with whipped cream and crushed peppermint candy

Adapted from Sunset Magazine

To make the whipped cream:
Pour heavy whipping cream in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment (you can also use a handheld mixer for this). It's preferable that the bowl be chilled. Add powdered sugar to taste, depending on how sweet you want your whipped cream to be.  If you only want it to be slightly sweet, start by adding about 2 tablespoons.  I prefer to use about 1/4 cup for my whipped cream.

Beat the heavy whipping cream on high until soft peaks form (when you pull the beaters out of the bowl, it will form a peak that will droop slightly) and it is thick enough to spread on the cheesecake and hold its shape. In my stand mixer, it takes about 2 minutes to get to the soft peak stage.




Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms



What appetizers do you make a beeline for when you're at a party? For me it's always the stuffed mushrooms.  They're my absolute favorite-- it doesn't matter what they're stuffed with-- cream cheese, crab, bread crumbs, cheese, (ok, I'm hungry now) just sign me up.  There's something about those little mushroom caps of goodness that draw me in.  I know I'm not alone either, because I find that whenever I serve stuffed mushrooms at a party, people seem to gravitate to them first and it's one of plates I usually have to keep refilling on the food table (and no, not just because I'm eating them all). :)

Thanks to blessed Pinterest, I've found some new stuffed mushroom recipes with some pretty great filling combinations. I made this recipe for Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms that comes from the blog Mountain Mama Cooks (and was pleased to find another food blog full of some fantastic recipes in the process--just one of the many benefits of using Pinterest).  The filling is so good--that bacon, cream cheese, and sweet onion combination is pretty incredible. The cream cheese made the filling nice and creamy, while Parmesan, bacon, and onion added some flavor and tang.  I like that this recipe uses sweet onion which keeps the onions from being over-powering in the filling.  These are definitely a new favorite and I'm looking forward to making them a couple of times during the holidays.


Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms:

Ingredients:
8 oz. Bacon
1/2 cup. finely minced sweet onion
1 clove garlic, minced
16 oz white button mushrooms
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut raw bacon into small pieces.  In a  large saute pan, over medium heat, cook bacon until nice and crispy.  While bacon is cooking, remove mushroom stems from caps and chop stems into small pieces.  When bacon is done, remove from pan and set aside; reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon grease and pour the rest from the pan.  Saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes, scraping up any brown bits on bottom of pan.  Add chopped mushrooms, stems, and garlic, and cook a few minutes longer.  Reduce heat to low.  Add cream cheese and Parmesan cheese and stir until cheeses are melted.  Add reserved chopped bacon and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Mixture can be made, cooled, and stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 2 days).  Remove mixture from heat and stuff mushroom caps generously.  Bake mushrooms at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and filling is nice and hot.

Recipe from Mountain Mama Cooks



Monday, December 5, 2011

Eggnog Muffins with Cinnamon-Streusel Topping



Wow, I didn't mean for 2 weeks to go between my last post!  Between traveling to see family for Thanksgiving and then getting sick last week, my baking and blogging have gotten backed up.  That's unfortunate too because I have a stack a mile-high of recipes I am dying to try for the holidays!  Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving?  Are you all as excited about Christmas baking as I am?

We are big fans of eggnog at our house.  It seems to me that folks either love eggnog or they hate it-- there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground on the subject. I think eggnog is great in many forms-- lattes, ice cream, cookies, and, of course, in its original form.  If you are in the camp that likes it, then you will love these muffins.  They are moist and sweet with a faint taste of eggnog and topped with a crunchy cinnamon streusel.  If you are a little worried at this point, the eggnog is not over-powering, mainly resulting in a sweet, creamy, lightly spiced muffin that is perfect for the season. So, even those eggnog haters out there may be pleasantly surprised by how much they like these muffins! Plus, it smells wonderful while it's baking!  These were a big hit and I hope to have an opportunity to make them a couple more times this season while the eggnog is still available!

Eggnog Muffins with Cinnamon-Streusel Topping

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup dairy eggnog
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. rum extract
1 recipe Cinnamon-Streusel Topping (see below)

Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with paper baking cups.  In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.

2.  In another bowl combine eggs, eggnog, butter, vanilla, and rum extract.  Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture.  Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy), being careful to not overmix as that will make the muffins tough.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full.  Sprinkle Cinnamon-Streusel Topping over muffin batter in cups.

3. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes of until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Serve Warm.

Cinnamon-Streusel:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (you may substitute 1/4 tsp. nutmeg instead if you prefer)
2 tbs. butter

In a small bowl combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  Using your fingers, a pastry blender, or a fork, cut in 2 tbs. butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

To make ahead:  Prepare as directed, cool completely.  Place muffins in a single layer in a resealable plastic freezer bag.  Seal, label, and freeze for up to 2 months.  To serve, thaw at room temperature.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Recipes




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