Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mini Orange-Biscoff Cheesecakes

The Setting: A lovely, sunny day.

The Soundtrack: The occasional tweet of a bird outside my window.

Steaming up the Oven: Nada...but my tummy is a' rumbling.

The Scenario: Biscoff Mania begins!

If you read this post (Sky-High Milk Chocolate Bark), then you know I have a sizable stockpile of Lotus Biscoff wafers at my disposal, and you may have been expecting the proliferation of Biscoff-inspired recipes to begin as promised for quite a while now. may be a gradual trickle of caramelized-cookie goodness rather than an explosion...because many non-Biscoff recipes have fought their way onto my agenda...and I'm super-behind on posting...but today I eagerly bring you installment one of Biscoff Mania: Mini Orange-Biscoff Cheesecakes.

I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did!

Mini Orange-Biscoff Cheesecakes
Biscoff cookies are crisp, Belgian wafers that taste like lightly spiced, caramelized sugar. If you can't find or don't want to buy Biscoff cookies, graham crackers or gingersnaps would make excellent substitutes. If the centers of the cheesecakes sink down a little, no worries--they'll still be scrumptious! To take these cheesecakes up another notch, add the seeds of a split and scraped vanilla bean to the cream-cheese mixture along with the sugar.

8 oz Neufchatel cheese (or reduced-fat cream cheese), room temperature
8 oz full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg
1 T pure vanilla extract
pinch fine-textured salt
20 Biscoff cookies*
2 T melted butter
1/2 cup, plus 2 T granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 tsp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup, standard-size muffin tin with cupcake liners and place the tin on a baking sheet.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cheeses together with 1/2 cup granulated sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg, vanilla, and salt and beat till well-combined, about 1 minute.

Place the cookies in a food processor and process into sandy-textured crumbs.

If you do not have a food processor, place the cookies in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

Add the melted butter and 2 T granulated sugar to the cookie crumbs and pulse several times to combine. The mixture should resemble slightly damp sand.

If not using a processor, simply mix the sugar and butter into the crumbs with a fork until thoroughly combined.

Divide the mixture evenly among the 12 muffin cups.

Use clean fingers, a spoon, or a small glass to press the crumbs firmly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of each cup.

Place the marmalade and water in a small, microwave-safe cup or bowl and microwave for 15 seconds. Stir until smooth. Spoon 1 tsp of the marmalade mixture evenly into the bottom of each crust.

Divide the cream-cheese mixture evenly among the prepared cups.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Rotate the pan in the oven, turn the oven off, and leave the pan in the closed oven for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully transfer the cheesecakes to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once completely cool, chill cheesecakes in an airtight container in the fridge for at least one hour before serving. If stacking the cheesecakes in a container, place a piece of parchment or wax paper between each layer and stagger the cheesecakes so that the bottoms of the cheesecakes on the top layer rest on the top edges of the cheesecakes on the bottom layer. The cheesecakes will keep stored this way for up to one week.

*Note: As far as I can tell, Biscoff cookies come in sizes regular, large, and extra-large. This recipe calls for 20 regular-sized cookies, as seen here.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

5-Spice Gingersnaps

The Setting: A day torn between beautiful bright blue skies and the currently prevailing cloud cover. Which one will win out?

The Soundtrack: The Barefoot Contessa. Oia loves Ina.

Steaming up the Oven: Nothing at the moment, but I'm about to drop some pork in the slow cooker!

The Scenario: On a bit of a 5-spice kick...

Lately I've been throwing 5-spice powder in everything from lentils to pastries. I can't get enough of the stuff.

So when I needed to develop a gingersnap recipe for a little project I'm working on, the inclusion of this versatile Chinese spice blend was pretty much a given.

Instead of using dried, powdered ginger to give the cookies their namesake flavor, I prefer a combination of moist, freshly grated ginger root and chewy candied (crystallized) ginger for greater complexity.

These spicy cookies are classically crispy (hence the "snap"), but decresing the cooking time by a couple of minutes will result in a chewier cookie.

Crispy, they make a perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of chai (my breakfast for the past few mornings).

And chewy, they make incredible bookends to vanilla ice cream in a palate-cleansing ice-cream sandwich.

The choice is up to you.

I always hear the best way to peel ginger root is to scrape it with a metal spoon, but I have never had much success with this method. Instead, I simply slice off all the edges with a chef's knife, leaving a perfect, peel-less piece of ginger, ready to be grated. It may seem a little wasteful, but let's be honest, the time and energy you save is worth the little bit of ginger flesh lost.

1 1/4 sticks (10 T) cold, unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 T freshly grated ginger root
4 tsp (1 T + 1 tsp) finely chopped candied ginger
1 large egg
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine-grain sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
granulated sugar for rolling, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the butter with the brown sugar and both gingers until very well combined (2-3 minutes on medium speed).

Scrape down the bowl if needed, add the egg, and beat just until light and fluffy (about 1 minute on medium speed).

Whisk together the dry ingredients, add to the butter mixture (with the mixer turner off), and beat on low speed till fully incorporated.

Use a medium-sized cookie scoop to scoop out 2-T-sized balls of dough and place 2-3 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. If desired, roll each ball in granulated sugar before placing on the baking sheet and flatten slightly with your palm to keep it in place.

Bake one sheet at a time at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes for classically crunchy gingersnaps, or for 12-14 minutes for chewier cookies.

Allow cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Dough you do not wish to use immediately may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week

Cookies will keep for up to 5 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 28 cookies.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in Your life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Malted Milk Triple Chippers

The Setting: A delightfully breezy game-day in South Bend.

The Soundtrack: Football fans and festivities.

On the Stovetop: Nothing...still a bit full from the burger-and-brat double whammy I probably shouldn't have had for lunch.

The Scenario: It's hard to beat a classic chocolate chip cookie. Whether that means chewy, crisp, or flat-out doughy, it's really all about that perfect balance of brown sugar, butter, and bursts of bittersweet chocolate, accentuated with vanilla and enlivened with salt.

Though I force myself to curb my cookie intake more than I'd like (and admittedly less than skinny jeans would require), I jump at any excuse to whip up a batch of my biggest vice.

So when Hoosband asked if I could throw together some cookies for a meeting he had coming up, you can bet I had the mixer going before he could blink twice.

I'd intended to make our tried-and-true Bifecta Chocolate Chip Cookies, but, discovering I was completely out of all-important brown sugar, I quickly shifted into experimental mode, grabbed a container of malted milk powder, and came out with something slightly different but almost equally worthy of the elastic-waisted pants I'll likely be wearing all week as a result.

Malted Milk Triple Chippers
The trifecta of white, dark, and milk chocolate chips is an ideal accompaniment to the mysteriously addictive malted milk powder in these cookies, providing both contrast and complement to the ingredient's signature sweet, yet subtle, flavor. The cookies will not look done when you take them out of the oven, but do not fear--they will finish cooking on the baking sheet as they cool.

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
3/4 cups malted milk powder (I use Carnation)
1 tsp fine (not coarse) sea salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup semisweet (or dark, or bittersweet) chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Very lightly grease two large cookie sheets (alternatively, line the sheets with parchment paper). Make sure an oven rack is positioned in the center of the oven.

Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until once again light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, malted milk powder, salt, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat on low for 30 seconds to incorporate. Increase speed to med-high and beat 1-2 minutes to mix well. Add the milk, dark, and white chocolate chips, beating on low just to distribute.

Use a medium-sized cookie scoop or spoon of your choice to drop two-tablespoon-or-so-sized mounds of dough approximately 2-3 inches apart on your prepared cookie sheets (about 6-9 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie sheet).

Bake one sheet at a time on the center rack of the oven at 350 degrees F for 7-9, minutes or just until the dough has spread out, the cookies are BEGINNING to set, and the edges are just golden. The tops of the cookies will appear very pale and undercooked.

Allow to cool COMPLETELY on the sheet outside of the oven before transferring to a serving plate or airtight storage container. Store at room temperature for up to one week.

Repeat with remaining dough; alternatively, store remaining dough in an airtight container for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to one month. If freezing, thaw overnight in fridge when ready to use.

Makes approximately 30 cookies.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.