Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars


In my world, fall and pumpkin are nearly synonymous. This week alone, I bought

pumpkin spice bagels
pumpkin spice cream cheese
pumpkin spice coffee creamer
a pumpkin-scented candle
and a pumpkin-shaped candy jar.

I know, okay? I know.

But before I get started on baking pumpkin into muffins and scones and cupcakes and cinnamon rolls and pie, I thought I'd give apples their moment in the spotlight.

Enter: caramel apple cheesecake bars. Please take a moment to acquaint yourself:


Do you SEE those layers?!

1. brown sugar crust 2. cheesecake 3. spiced apples 4. brown sugar streusel 5. caramel sauce

I'll take care of layers four and five. Divide the rest amongst yourselves.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from The Gingered Whisk

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup unsalted butter, softened

Cheesecake Layer:

24 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Apple Layer:

3 granny smith apples, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons granulated sugar


Streusel Layer:

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

Caramel Layer:
about 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick spray.

2. For the crust: Combine the flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add the butter, and use clean hands to work it into the flour and sugar mixture. Once the dough comes together, press it into the bottom of the prepared pan, forming an even layer.

3. For the cheesecake layer: Cream together the cream cheese and sugar with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla, and continue mixing until smooth.

4. For the apple layer: In a medium bowl, combine the chopped apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. Mix thoroughly to coat all of the apples.

5. For the streusel layer: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, and oats. Add the butter, and use clean hands to work it into the dry ingredients until only pea-sized clumps of butter remain.

6. To Assemble: Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Pour the cheesecake over the warm crust and use a spatula to spread it into an even layer. Sprinkle the apples evenly over the top of the cheesecake layer. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the apple layer.

7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the filling is set. Once the bars have cooled slightly, drizzle the caramel topping over the streusel. Store in the refrigerator

Makes about 16 bars.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mini Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins


It may be the fifth-to-last day of summer according to the calendar, but if you ask me? It's fall. And I'm obsessed with it.

So is everybody else, I know. But I never realized until this year how different I feel during these months. I feel like the year is just starting for me. I'm excited about things. Even if it's just little things, like Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses. Or Halloween decorations that I don't even buy. Or Candy Corn Oreos that I can't seem to find anywhere!

I love being outside when it's just cold enough to need a jacket. And going to the pumpkin patch, even though it's the same every year. And sipping something warm while I listen to Norah Jones on my way to work. I could do that any time of year, right? But somehow it's different now. Better.

I buy candy for trick-or-treaters that I know aren't going to come to my door. I drag Stephen into Bath & Body Works so I can obsess over all the new candles and force him to smell all of them with me. I think about making caramel corn almost every day. I start thinking about Christmas way too early.

It's finally, finally, finally time for all of that! I'm so excited.

Mini Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins
Adapted from Bakergirl

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat a mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg, maple syrup, and melted butter.

3. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Bake for 9-10 minutes.

Makes about 18 mini muffins.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cinnamon Chip Biscoff Cookies




Cinnamon Chip Biscoff Cookies
Adapted from I'm Just Here for More Food by Alton Brown

1 & 1/2 cups unsalted butter
1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 & 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 jar Biscoff Spread (14 oz.)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 package cinnamon baking chips (10 oz.)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter for about 1 minute at medium speed. With the mixer running, gradually add the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Continue creaming for about 2 minutes more, or until light and fluffy.

3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the vegetable oil and Biscoff spread. Mix for about 30 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix for about 2 minutes more at medium speed.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the eggs and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing at low speed until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the cinnamon chips, and continue mixing at low speed until the chips are distributed evenly.

5. Chill the dough for about 30 minutes. Once the dough has chilled, use a cookie scoop (or your hands) to portion the dough into 1-inch balls. Arrange the balls on the prepared cookie sheets about two inches apart.

6. Bake for 14-16 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. The cookies should be golden brown around the edges, but the centers will still be soft. Cool the cookies on the pans for about 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

Makes about 7 dozen cookies.