Monday, November 28, 2011

Cinnamon-Pear Cheesecake

Along with my traditional Thanksgiving pies, I decided to make something that was a little different this year to go with them. This particular cheesecake appealed to me because there was a layer of pears on the bottom and a layer of sour cream on top. Yup, sour cream is what actually sold me. Don't judge. Actually, whenever I see/eat sour cream I think of my youngest brother, Randy. When it's available at our family meals, he eats so much it would possibly make you gag. It's as if he has the last container of sour cream on Earth, and if it all doesn't get eaten on top of those enchiladas he is having, the world will end. Silly things like that is why I love my family, which brings me back to Thanksgiving, because I'm thankful for my family.

The original recipe for this cake uses gingersnaps and ginger, but my boyfriend doesn't enjoy the ginger spice, so I swapped it for cinnamon graham crackers and cinnamon instead. Aren't I thoughtful?!  For the most part, this cheesecake is so easy to make. It sits either in the oven or in the fridge for the majority of the time. You do need to think ahead because it's sort of a waiting game. It needs to bake, then cool, and then be refrigerated for at least 4 hours. It really is worth the effort and my only complaint was that the crust was a little difficult to get out of the pan intact, but it might have also been user error, I do tend to mess up from time to time. Shocking, I know. As I said earlier, I used a different type of cookie/cracker for my crust. You could use the original gingersnaps, or try crushed vanilla wafers, honey graham crackers, whatever. This recipe is flexible, and for that reason alone it's a keeper. I hope you get a chance to make this! It's pear season, and you can use any kind. Enjoy!

Cinnamon-Pear Cheesecake


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups crushed cinnamon graham crackers
3 ripe pears, any kind!, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, large
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature


  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the butter and crushed cinnamon graham crackers . Press the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan, working the crumbs over the bottom and then up the sides. Bake for 20 minutes, not any longer. 
  3. In a small bowl, toss the pears and cinnamon. Line the cooled crust with the pears, overlapping the slices slightly. 
  4. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix until combined. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the pears. 
  5. Bake until the top is barely set but still a little wibbly wobbly, about 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack but leave oven on.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and the remaining sugar and vanilla. Pour over the cheesecake and bake for 8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cranberry Spice Cake

In case you were wondering, five pounds of cranberries is a lot. Seriously, trust me. I let a sweet, little older lady talk me into getting five pounds of cranberries at her cranberry bog earlier this fall, and she had me leaving thinking it was a great idea. What was I thinking? I, of course, needed to use every last one of those cranberries as if wasting any of them would somehow harm the elderly woman. I did it, I succeeded. I used that entire bag of fresh cranberries before they went bad, which was about three weeks. I managed to make cakes, breads and jam out of that giant bag of cranberries.. I'm not complaining, it just always sounds like I am. Those were some amazingly fresh cranberries. Right off the bog, can't beat it.

Until last month, I had never been near a cranberry bog. Well, without knowing it anyway. I was driving in Wisconsin with three other ladies and there was a sign for "Fresh Cranberries". I wanted to stop, wait, I needed to stop. I thought it would end up being some guy standing behind some sort of table handing out cranberries for an absurd amount of money. I was completely wrong. About a half of a mile down the road from the sign was an insanely beautiful cranberry bog. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Apparently if we would have gotten there an hour later there wouldn't even have been a cranberry in sight. They were shipping them off. This is where the older woman comes in, lets call her Inga. Well, Inga is quite the business woman. She had her shop set up in an old shed and she knew her cranberries. In fact, she has her own cookbook. Which, by the way, three of us bought for $3. Thanks, Inga. I have to admit, I haven't made anything from her cookbook, but the pictures are beautiful.

I really enjoy baking with cranberries. In fact, it's one of my favorite things to bake with. Fresh cranberries are only around for a very limited time and I can't stop using them while they are here. I made a cranberry spice cake that I, and my guests, enjoyed very much. To me it almost tastes more citrus-y than spicy, but either way it's delicious. The lemon glaze is swell. 'Tis the season, enjoy the fresh cranberries while you can.

Cranberry Spice Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups fresh cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup apple cider

Lemon Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat bottom and sides of cake pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom with parchment paper and coat paper with spray. Whisk flour and next five ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. Pule cranberries in a food processor until finely chopped but not pureed, set aside.

Stir sugar, brown sugar, and oil in another medium bowl to blend. Add eggs one at a time, stirring to blend between addition. Whisk in sour cream, orange zest, lemon zest, and vanilla.

Whisk in dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with cider in 2 additions and whisking to blend. Fold in chopped cranberries. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.

Bake until tester inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around inside of pan to release cake. Turn out cake onto rack. Peel off parchment paper, then flip cake and let cool for 20 minutes.

Lemon Glaze: Whisk powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl. Spread glaze over warm cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Let stand until glaze becomes crackly, about 1 hour. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Salty Sweet Peanut Butter Cookies

It's November, which means it's National Peanut Butter Month! I have a few peanut butter facts for you to enjoy. Ok, did you know that it takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter? Fact. By law, any product labeled "peanut butter" in the United States must be at least 90 percent peanuts. Which completely makes sense, by the way. Also, did you know that peanut butter was the secret behind "Mr. Ed," TV's talking horse? Fascinating, I know. AND, the average American consumes more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut butter products each year. Whoa. Peanut butter is one amazing treat.

A few weeks ago, I made homemade peanut butter out of Minnesota peanuts and I mostly wanted that peanut butter for baking.  I got to make a type of peanut butter cookie out of that jar of peanut butter and I was very please with the results. I was a little nervous about baking with it because I had never used homemade peanut butter in any sort of recipe before, but it held up amazingly well. I also used some of the leftover peanuts in these cookies as well. I want to say these cookies were better than any peanut butter cookie I'd ever had because I used the freshest main ingredient I could get. Even if you don't make your own peanut butter, I think you will completely love these cookies. I'll definitely make them again. Enjoy!

Salty Sweet Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

*1/4 cup sugar for rolling
*Sea Salt for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, cinnamon and the salt. Whisk together and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the chopped peanuts and chocolate chips. Put the leftover 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, roll around until coated, then place onto cookie sheets. Using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over-bake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then carefully remove them to a rack to cool completely.

***I was recently interviewed about my peanut butter making and if you are interesting in listening you can check that out HERE.  If for some reason this link doesn't work, email me at: and I will personally email you the link. Thanks!