Friday, February 25, 2011

[Cookie 100] Ginger Cheesecake Bars



100 cookies. I am now realizing that this makes me certifiably insane and totally nerdy, this whole endeavor that is. Sometimes it takes some sort of monumental event or milestone to really wake you up, and this is it. What the hell have I been doing for the past 2 years? Speaking of which, I think this is exactly my two year mark! Holy shit DOUBLE CELEBRATION OVER HERE! Two years ago, it was recipe number 001: Pfeffernussen! Whack! Seems like forever ago!! I am so excited right now even though it's raining outside, I just bought an umbrella that already broke, and I had to commute to school on my day off at 8:30 in the morning to return a (really sexy) camera and now I'm scanning negatives for hours. I am still, despite these banalities, living life ON THE EDGE with this super cool and respectable blog.


Enough of that. I wish I had baked something really beautiful and celebratory and covered in sprinkles and on fire or something in order to really celebrate this day, but I didn't realize I was baking my 100th recipe when I picked out this one. Actually, to be fair, my ol' pal/roommate picked this one out for her birthday, so really it makes this cookie a TRIPLE CELEBRATION. I really should have set off some fireworks or something.


But it's okay that I didn't, because the cookies (or shall I say, bars) are awesome anyways. Like, real good. Really really good, even if you're not really a cheesecake fan, like me. They are light as far as cheesecakes go, and the gingersnap crust combined with the candied ginger in the cheesecake is a perfect balance to the creamy and rich flavor of the cheesecake itself. Perfect. I would make these again, I'm telling you right now. They were gone very very fast.


Now, if you're like me and you like to leave your kitchen appliances at your friends' apartments and forget about them until you actually need them, you probably know all about getting around without a food processor. This recipe really needs one in order to grind up the gingersnap cookies, but when you gotta make do, you gotta make do. Enter: empty liquor bottles! Pullin' out the old Nancy Drew card, yeah!


See, it totally works. You don't even need the food processor now! Well, it's not that simple, especially if you buy the gingersnaps sold at Met which are actually made out of cement. You really gotta use force with that bottle, and make sure to wrap the cookies up in several bags so you don't make a mess. And then use a grater/zester lid to sift through the crumbs and weed out the bigger chunks. Repeat. It's like panning for gold, but with more aggression!


After all that work, the rest is easy. Mix a little here, bake a little there. The hardest part is having to wait for it to cool, and THEN having to wait another hour while it chills in the fridge. We didn't really wait that long. No regrets. But do make sure to bake it fully if you really want that cheesecake consistency. We also didn't do that. It was a little soupy and too soft. It was damn good. No regrets there either.

Alright, so, in conclusion: these taste downright delicious and you should make them. Sooner rather than later, because trust me, as soon as you try one you'll be kicking yourself as to why you hadn't made them yesterday. Sure, they ain't much to look at, but they got it where it counts. That felt weird to type. I need a nice concluding witticism for this post. I'll just end it here.


Ginger Cheesecake Bars
Makes about 4 dozen


  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 12 ounces store-bought gingersnaps (about 45 cookies)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

  • Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. Place gingersnaps in a food processor; pulse to a powder. Transfer to a small bowl, and stir in butter until well combined. Press gingersnap mixture evenly into bottom of prepared baking sheet. Bake crust until firm, about 12 minutes. Let cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, put cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until softened. Mix in sugar, egg, egg yolk, sour cream, and vanilla until well combined. Mix in crystallized ginger.
  • Pour the cream cheese mixture onto crust, and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until filling has puffed and feels slightly firm to the touch (do not let brown), 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until set, about 1 hour. To serve, cut into bars. Bars can be refrigerated in single layers in airtight containers up to 2 days.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 3/5
    Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
    Tastiness: 5/5
    Attractiveness: 2/5
    Is it worth it?: Worth going to the gym for, or skipping the gym for that matter.

    Drink: Water. Bacardi? Ew no.
    Song: This was really awesome too!
    Activity: Lighting fireworks--someone please do it.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    [Cookie 099] Coconut Swirl Brownies


    So now that I'm back in America, I'm eatin' all the foods I really missed while in Ghana and trying to get over my obsession with Waakye. When it comes to baking, I'm really glad to be back because it was impossible to find the right ingredients without paying an arm and a leg, but more importantly, baking in 95ยบ weather isn't really so hot (pun intended! see what i did there?). But the longer I'm here in NYC and the more I get readjusted, the more I miss the little things that I had every day while in Accra. For one, plantains. And coconut. Good god, getting a fresh, young coconut on the side of the street from a guy who would chop it open for less than 35 cents was pretty unbeatable. Also, condensed milk. Strange, I know, but they aren't really all that into fresh milk there (I think this is pretty common in most non-Western cultures actually...I think us Westerners are the weird ones drinking another animal's baby food). Anyway, I got really into putting condensed milk in my morning coffee. So of course when I came across this recipe for Coconut Swirl Brownies with condensed milk, I knew I had to make it for our first Ghana reunion!


    Now, if I was able to buy chocolate more easily and cheaply while in Ghana, I most definitely would have made these in an instant. I had the strongest craving for brownies while I was there (and I wasn't the only one, fyi), but I think West Africa exports most their cocoa products, so the only chocolate you could get was super expensive imported Western brands like Cadbury and I just couldn't afford that ish!


    But these brownies would have been so worth it. They are super fudgy, dense, and chocolatey--not dry at all. And the swirls of coconut/condensed-milk goodness are just awesome. Everyone liked them at the little reunion we had. They made me so popular. I am happier now having made these. Soooooo....I'm not trying to suggest anything about your own popularity....but......ya know, if you're feeling a little lonely, these brownies could keep you warm at night. Happy belated Valentines Day.

    P.S. Thanks so much to all of you who gave me such great recommendations, tips, and recipes regarding biscotti! I'll be sure to use them for the next biscotti recipe.


    Coconut Swirl Brownies
    Makes 9 large or 16 small brownies


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 large eggs

  • Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang. Butter lining (not overhang).
  • Stir together 1 tablespoon of sugar, the condensed milk, coconut, egg white, and 1/4 teaspoon of the vanilla in a bowl.
  • Put butter and both chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Let cool slightly.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  • Whisk remaining 3/4 cup sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs; whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir until well combined.
  • Pour 1/3 of chocolate batter into prepared pan. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. Drop dollops of coconut mixture (about 1 tablespoon each) on top of batter, spacing about 1 inch apart. Drizzle remaining batter on top, and gently spread to fill pan. Drop dollops of remaining coconut mixture on top.
  • Gently swirl coconut mixture into batter with a butter knife, running the knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Brownies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 3/5
    Ingredient Accessibility: 3.5/5
    Tastiness: 4.5/5
    Attractiveness: 4/5
    Is it worth it?: Yeah. Seriously, this is a brownie's brownie!

    Drink: Milk, duh. Whaddya some kinda idiot?
    Song: Aben wo aha -- Daddy Lumba (this one is worth watching/hearing!)
    Activity: Uh, I dunno, figure it out.

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    [Cookie 098] Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti


    Oh, Biscotti, bane of my existence. I just can't get you! You look so good, and have so much potential to be a cookie far better than its Starbuck's facsimile, but alas! You quiver at my very touch, collapse when I even look at you, and fail to be anything more than a broken pile of bones.


    Our relationship is a failed one. I have tried to make your kind before, and had the same qualms. Maybe it is Martha's directing that keeps getting in the way of our friendship, or maybe it's my lack of any Italian blood in me, but regardless, we just don't understand each other too well. I feel like a failed Professor Frankenstein (bare with me...): I have put the body together, it's laying on my operating table, and all I have to do now is give it some life. Put you into the oven and hope that when I take you out, you'll be walkin' and talkin' and puttin' on the ritz just like I had hoped. But no! I take you out of the oven after your first bake, and I try to slice ya up, and you COLLAPSE! LIKE A BUNCH OF BROCCOLI! (Anyone still getting the Young Frankenstein references, besides my dad?)


    But seriously, what the hell, Biscotti? Maybe I'm just a slow learner, since I had these same issues with you last time, but whenever I try to slice you after par-baking you, you fall apart. I should have just learned to bake you longer than the recipe says for the first time, but noooo, I had to follow the directions and ignore my better judgment.


    Biscotti and Young Frankenstein aside, I also didn't really like the chocolate and pistachio flavor combination. To me, they just don't taste good together! Something about the hearty, savory nature of a pistachio, paired with another intense, dark flavor like chocolate, didn't really work for me. Pistachio and citrus, yes; chocolate and almond, DUH; but pistachio and chocolate, not so much...Am I crazy here, or do you guys agree too?


    All in all, this recipe ended up producing a heavy chocolate cookie that was more like a hybrid between an almost-biscotti, and a brownie. They are very intense and chocolaty, and could be a really nice cookie if you didn't think of them like biscotti, and maybe substituted a different nut for the pistachio. So, when it comes down to it, I didn't like this recipe. Fortunately, there is still one more biscotti recipe in The Book, so maybe the third times a charm...


    Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking sheet
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  • Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a baking sheet; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat until well combined, scraping down sides of bowl if necessary. Add flour mixture, and stir to form a stiff dough. Stir in pistachios and chocolate chips.
  • Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet; form into a slightly flattened log, about 12 by 4 inches. Bake until slightly firm, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
  • On a cutting board, using a sharp serrated knife, cut biscotti diagonally into 1-inch-thick slices. Arrange biscotti, cut sides down, on baking sheet, and bake until crisp but still slightly soft in the center, about 8 minutes.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 4/5
    Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
    Tastiness: 2/5
    Attractiveness: 2.5/5
    Is it worth it?: If it tasted good, I'd say yeah, but since I didn't even like the flavor, the effort was not worth it. Boo.

    Drink: They are super chocolatey, so milk would be good. Or coffee/cappuccino, according to traditional biscotti makers.
    Song: I Should Have Known Better -- The Beatles (this clip gets me every be on that train! Swoon!)
    Activity: Watch Young Frankenstein instead of making these.