Creamy New York Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust

Cheesecake has always been a “special occasion” dessert in my house. I started thinking to myself… why?? My husband always requests cheesecake as his birthday dessert, and it became a once or twice a year thing. Well, in the last three months I have made this recipe twice, so I see a new trend coming! It’s not overly complicated, and OH SO GOOD.

This New York style cheesecake is creamy and thick topped with the most decadent chocolate ganache drizzle. Can you just taste it now?! Even better news- this recipe is amazing as plain good ‘ol cheesecake. You can top it with a couple fresh strawberries or chopped nuts. The pretzel crumb crust gives a salty balance to the sweet, rich middle. This crust also compliments SO well with the chocolate ganache. You won’t regret it!

INGREDIENTS

Filling

  • 3 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pretzel Crust

  • 1 1/2 cup Pretzels (ground)
  • 1/2 cup Graham Crackers (ground)
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 8 tablespoons Unsalted Butter (melted)
  • Pinch Salt

Ganache

  • 20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 14 oz can of condensed milk

STEPS

Coat an 8inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Blend all dry crust ingredients in a food processor, then stir in with butter until well combined.  Press crust mixture into pan. Bake crust at 350F for 15 minutes.

Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla. I typically use the paddle attachment on medium speed to blend ingredients with the stand mixer. Pour cheesecake batter into baked crust and bake at 325F for 50-55 minutes. Let cool completely at room temp (to prevent cracks in the top from drastic temperature change), refrigerate until serving. The middle of the cheesecake should feel firm.

Optional Chocolate Ganahce (*as pictured): In a double boiler, melt 20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate and a 14 ounce can of condensed milk together on medium heat while constantly stirring. Drizzle on top of baked cheesecake. Top with chopped nuts for a little extra crunch!

 

Drooling over here…. Enjoy!
XOXO,
Jo

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Thick Chocolate Fudge Frosting

I bake a lot…. a lot, a lot. I have spent many afternoons playing with different icing recipes to come up with that rich, decadent, thick chocolate fudge frosting, and folks, here it is! This is that frosting that melts as soon as it hits your mouth and is dense enough to create the whips and peaks on top of your cake that won’t wilt and run. It is SO perfect. I have an army of taste-testers to prove it!

What I didn’t want? Runny, granulated, so sweet my teeth hurt, or (the worst) for it to taste like “fake chocolate”. We have all seen frosting efforts gone wrong, so save yourself the heartache, and stick to this recipe.

frosting-vertical-spatula

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-4 tbs milk (whole is best, but not required) 
  • 1 cup softened butter, not melted
  • 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (no big chunks)
  • 6 oz semi sweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder

Total Yield: Makes enough to frost about 24 cupcakes, or fully cover a one layer cake. For multiple layers, I would double the recipe.

STEPS

  1. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat butter and melted chocolate together until combined.
  2. Slowly add in all other ingredients and carefully blend until smooth.
  3. If too thick, you can add a tbs of milk until the desired consistency. Adversely, you can add 1 tbs increments of powdered sugar to thicken.

frosting-horizontal-2

Pro Tips:

  • Do not frost the cake until completely cooled (1-2 hours) or your frosting will pick up the top layer as you spread it around.
  • Make sure not to set your mixer to high after adding the powdered sugar…. You’ll be wearing it.
  • Can be refrigerated, but make sure to set out at room temp and re-blend before trying to ice anything.

Don’t forget to lick the spoon!

Jo

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Easy Carrot Pecan Pound Cake

One of my all time favorite desserts has always been carrot cake. It is one that we have at all holiday gatherings, and is often my first choice when it comes to birthday celebrations. With that said, I have adopted several versions that put a spin on my traditional carrot cake recipe. This easy carrot pecan pound cake is delicious served cold with a tall glass of milk or with coffee as a breakfast treat in the morning. If you’re anything like me, dessert is a requirement with each meal of the day.

You will get a dense, moist cake with hints of cinnamon topped with cream cheese frosting. The texture is perfectly balanced with the chopped nuts and coconut flakes (my favorite!). If you are new to the world of bundt cakes, welcome! It makes for a simple and beautiful result!

carrot-cut

INGREDIENTS

Cake:

  • 2 cups finely shredded carrots
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Icing:

  • 1 (80z) package of cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbs heavy cream (can substitute for milk)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened not melted

Total Servings: 8-10 people

carrot-carrot  carrot-pecan

carrot-bundt-not-baked   carrot-bundt-baked

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Combine all dry ingredients (flour, spices, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt). Mix well and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine oil, sour cream, eggs, and carrots. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Slowly add dry mixture to wet, stirring continuously.
  5. Add chopped nuts and shredded coconut.
  6. Grease your bundt pan with non-stick spray, and add batter.
  7. Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.
  8. Once done, let it set in the pan for 10 minutes. Place a plate larger than the cake pan upside down the cover the cake. Grab the sides of the pan while holding the plate firmly on top, and flip it over, so that the cake is not on the plate.
  9. Let cool for 5-10 more minutes and pour the icing around the center line around the cake. It should be thin enough to run down the sides.
  10. Serve room temp, warm, or refrigerated!

Icing:

  1. Combine cream cheese, vanilla, heavy cream, and softened butter and beat on low-medium setting until smooth.
  2. Slowly add in powdered sugar and continue mixing.
  3. If needed, add more milk to thin, and more powdered sugar to thicken the consistency.

carrot-final  carrot-horizontal-slice

Pro Tips:

  • Cream cheese with mix easier at room temperature.
  • Using regular sour cream (not reduced/ low fat) will make for a moister cake.
  • No time to shred the carrots by hand? Throw them in the food processor like I did for a finely chopped texture (see photo above).

Happy Baking!

Jo

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Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Let’s talk chocolate. This recipe for triple chocolate fudge brownies are always the perfect consistency. Crispy top, ooey gooey middle with the occasional crunch of a chocolate chip. SO GOOD.

Fun fact, my now husband (and then friend) wrote in my yearbook “Please keep making brownies…” because I was that girl. I have always loved cooking and baking, so I would bring my treats to school every Friday. (I knew what I was doing… wink, wink) Let’s just say I have had plenty of practice playing with new recipes, and this one is my main player. For me, brownies are about texture, and this recipe gives the perfect blend of chewy, chunky chocolatey goodness. It’s a MUST try!

brownie-vertical  brownie-zoomed-in

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup chocolate chips, melted
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt (table salt works too)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (could substitute coconut oil) 
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chunks (I use these)

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 325F
  2. Slowly melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave in a glass container for a minute or so and stir. If not melted, continue in 20 second increments until all chips have melted.
  3. In separate bowls, combine wet and dry ingredients. In one, sift flour, salt, baking soda. In another, mix eggs (slightly beaten), sugar, and oil.
  4. Next, add the water and vanilla to wet ingredients.
  5. Alternately, add the dry mixture and melted chocolate chips to the wet mixture while continuously stirring.
  6. Stir in whole chocolate chips and chocolate chunks. All ingredients should now be combined.
  7. Pour batter into a greased pan. (8×8 or 9×13 depending on desired thickness)
  8. Bake at 325F for 20-30 minutes depending on size of the pan. (Thicker brownies will need to bake longer)
  9. Toothpick should come out almost clean… these are fudgey!
  10. Let cool (15-20 minutes to set and firm) and get the vanilla bean ice cream out. They won’t last long!

brownie-horzotnal-close-up  brownie-horizontal

Pro Tips:

  • What kind of chocolate should I use? Semi-sweet or dark chocolate is my go-to. I would not recommend milk chocolate for brownies. Do not use baking chocolate which has little to no sugar content and does not provide the flavor that we want.
  • Where is the cocoa? I have found that melting semi-sweet chocolate chips in place of cocoa powder makes a richer brownie. Who doesn’t want that??
  • No butter? Oil in baked goods tends to give you a moister finished product than butter.
  • Glass or metal? I typically use glass, but either will work. Make sure they are well-greased! This is my favorite product to ensure nothing sticks. For easy clean up, line the pan with parchment paper.

Let me know how yours turn out! I want to hear all about it!

Jo

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Dr. Pepper Chocolate Cake… Starting with a Box Mix!

My personal preference is baking from scratch, mostly because I genuinely enjoy it. But let’s be honest… saving time where you can is pure gold! This recipe for Dr. Pepper Chocolate Cake is adapted from a traditional Devil’s Food box mix, and does not disappoint. You can cut a few corners and still end up with a masterpiece. Yes, please!

bundt-full-view

INGREDIENTS

  • One box Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1-1/4 cups Dr. Pepper (could substitute Coke)
  • 1-1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar to top it off
  • Bundt pan (could use metal or glass) 

Total Servings: About 8-10 slices

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Combine cake mix and Dr. Pepper (It will bubble up and make a science experiment… It’s okay)
  3. Add in sour cream and oil, stir until combined or about one minute
  4. Add three eggs, slightly beaten
  5. Pour chocolate chips into the mix
  6. Thoroughly coat a bundt pan with non-stick spray. This brand is my go-to… never fails me!
  7. Evenly pour the cake batter into your pan (try to avoid accidental spills on the inside walls of the bundt pan)
  8. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. I usually set a timer for 25 to check, and go in 3-5 minute increments from there.
  9. Once completely baked, a toothpick should come out clean and the top should feel firm, but spongy.
  10. Let it sit and cool for 8-10 minutes before dumping it out. This is how I do it.  *Make sure you have the serving plate ready… it is difficult to transfer the cake without breaking later on.
  11. Once the cake has completely cooled (about 30 minutes or more), dust with powdered sugar to add to the ‘wow’ factor (a flour sifter or finely grated strainer works well). I have a major sweet tooth, and this cake is delicious even without a rich, heavy icing. If you would like to try a ganache drizzle, check out this post!

bundt-sliced-cake bundt-cut-cake

Pro Tips:

  • Do not skimp on your non-stick spray… There is nothing fun about a bundt cake with chunks missing. That is a sad, sad day . I’m telling you this one has never led me astray!
  • Do not skip a step and sprinkle powdered sugar when the cake is still warm. It will melt into the top and disappear. It’s HARD not to dig in, but waiting the extra few minutes is worthwhile when you get a result like this!

I serve this bad boy with a tall glass of milk and people are always coming back for seconds. I hope you love it as much as we do!

Jo

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Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies have always been one of my dad’s favorites. He is not a sweets person, but these always seem to disappear when he is around. I have tried and tested many recipes, and this one has been the softest and chewiest by far. They hold their shape well, and do not harden to a brick once cooled (pet peeve!). My preference is warm out of the oven with a tall glass of milk, but these little guys are soft for days!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (crunchy works too!)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Optional Items :

  • 1/2 cup white sugar and 1 tbs cinnamon for rolling (as pictured)
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips OR chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup roasted and salted pecans or peanuts, finely chopped

Total Servings: About 36 cookies (made from 2 inch dough balls)

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Combine wet and dry ingredients separately
  3. Start by creaming the softened (room temp) butter and both sugars
  4. Add vanilla, eggs, peanut butter until thoroughly combined
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and evenly mix
  6. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet (*the dough will be thick and resemble Play-Doh)
  7. You should be all set! If you must, go ahead and bake a few (I do!). Letting the dough set in the fridge for a few hours does improve the texture. Either way, they are YUM.
  8. While the dough is chilling (let’s assume we had the patience), set up a plate with your sugar and cinnamon mixture. You will be rolling the dough balls in this prior to baking. Optional, but suggested!
  9. When the dough is chilled, create 2 inch balls, roll in the cinnamon sugar on your plate, and place on the cookie sheet about 2-3 inches apart. These do not spread very much.

pb-cookie-ariel-stages pb-cookie-thickness

Once your cookie sheet is filled, take a fork and press the prongs horizontally into the center of the cookie (see steps above). Bake at 350F for 7-8 minutes.

pb-cookie-pre-baked pb-cookie-horizontal

Pro Tips :

  • Let your dough firm for a few house (or overnight) before baking. Will last 2-3 days in the fridge, or up to 3 months in the freezer in an airtight container.
  • Although slightly more time consuming, separating dry and wet ingredients when mixing does allow for more even distribution, especially for small yet important items like baking soda and baking powder…. Just do it. It’s worth it.
  • Bake your cookies on parchment paper for more even spreading.
  • Cookies will continue to bake for a few minutes once they are out of the oven. Take them out when the edges are golden brown, and the middle still appears soft and inflated.

Let me know how yours turn out!

Jo

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

This may be my favorite thing to talk about…Chocolate Chip Cookies! Anyone who knows me, knows my love for chocolate chip cookies! I am always playing around with recipes and tricks to get the perfect blend of crunchy, chewy, chocolatey perfection…sigh…

Here is one of the newer recipes that I have stumbled across from a dear friend. It did not disappoint! My only change was to double the amount of chocolate, and I did not add sea salt on top. For chocolate, I used what was suggested plus the same amount of semi-sweet chunks or jumbo chips.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8-1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1-⅔ cups (8-1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1-¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2-½ sticks (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1-¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1-¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips, at least 60% cacao content 

Total Servings: About 36 cookies (made from 2 inch dough balls)

batter  batter-spoon

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven at 350F
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl- sift or stir. (In all honesty, I do not sift. Take the whisk and mix around for a bit.) In another bowl, cream softened butter and sugars, add vanilla, add eggs, and slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips, but be sure to set aside a few handfuls for garnish! Stir until combined. Go ahead, eat some cookie dough. It’s delicious.
  3. At this point, I let my dough sit over night. (Well, what’s left of the dough.)
  4. Either immediately or the next day, depending on your level of patience, form into 2 inch balls and work in a few extra chips/chunks on the surface. These are from the garnish stash we talked about!
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, no need to spray, and begin arranging the cookie dough balls about 2-3 inches apart depending on their size.
  6. Bake at 350F for 9-11 minutes. I have found with my oven, 10 minutes is perfect. Your cookies should come out golden brown on the edges with a soft inflated center. They will settle and continue to firm on the hot cookie sheet.
  7. Once they are out, I let them sit for about 5 minutes before serving to get the crunchy edge. Melt. In. Your. Mouth.

cc-cookies-2  cc-cookies

Pro Tips:

  • Do not over mix! Stir by hand, with a hand beater, or in a stand mixer… but only until combined throughout.
  • Refrigerate the dough overnight in a covered container (a fitted lid is best). This allows the flavor profiles to sit and enhances that yummy brown sugar and vanilla flavor to the dough.
  • Adding more sugar does not make a sweeter cookie. I am the first to “estimate” my measurements. I prefer cooking with creativity, but baking needs to be close to exact. Make sure you don’t go overboard with tweaks or your cookies may not rise. A higher sugar content could mean a flatter cookie.
  • I do not have a kitchen scale… shocking, I know. The measuring cup version works just great! Be as precise as possible. I know some of the measurements are a bit odd.
  • Parchment paper! Easy clean up, and helps cookies keep their shape. No spray needed!
  • Favorite! Add chocolate chips/chunks to the outside of your cookie dough ball. They will bake down and sit on top to make for a more visually appealing cookie!

Eat one (or five) for me…

Jo

 

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