Cheesecake Blondies

Cheesecake BlondiesI have been debating for three days whether or not I should post these Cheesecake Blondies or use Independence Day as a “free pass” to take a rare blog day off.Cheesecake BlondiesCheesecake Blondies won out though, because they are the perfect treat to sink your teeth into while you watch the fireworks. Creamy cheesecake and chewy brown butter blondie in near-equal layers? Sign. me. up.Cheesecake BlondiesAnother great thing about these blondies? They are super easy to make and bake up in just 25 minutes!Cheesecake BlondiesThe most difficult part of making Cheesecake Blondies is waiting for them to chill. Those three hours can seem eternal, but they are completely necessary—nobody likes warm cheesecake.Cheesecake BlondiesOnce the chill time is up, slice up the blondies and revel in their cuteness. Chocolate chips have a way of making things more adorable, don’t they?Cheesecake BlondiesMake a batch of Cheesecake Blondies for your holiday cookout or pack a box into a cooler and take them on the go! You and your friends and family will love the combination of tangy cheesecake and sweet, brown buttery blondie ❤ Cheesecake BlondiesHappy Fourth of July!Cheesecake Blondies

Cheesecake Blondies
makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan, about 9-16 blondies

Blondie Batter:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips + more for scattering

Cheesecake:
8 ounces (1 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with foil and grease lightly. Set aside.

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a large mixing bowl.

Add brown sugar to the brown butter and stir to combine. Whisk in egg and vanilla. Use a silicone spatula to stir in flour and salt, scraping down the bowl as needed. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan. Set aside.

Make cheesecake. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar, followed by egg and vanilla. Pour on top of blondie batter and smooth to the edges of the pan. Scatter additional chocolate chips over the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, tenting with foil at the 15 minute mark or if anything begins browning too quickly. Blondies are ready when the cheesecake just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled. Let cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until completely cold.

Use foil overhang to lift blondies out of the pan. Carefully peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Serve.

Leftover Cheesecake Blondies will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For best storage, separate layers with wax paper.Cheesecake Blondies

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Funfetti Petit Fours

Funfetti Petit FoursHave you ever had petit fours? They’re tiny cakes that are coated in sweet poured fondant—somehow the perfect combination of cuteness and class. They’re often seen at weddings, baby showers, and brunches. In my family, we like to eat them on Easter Even (aka Holy Saturday).
Funfetti Petit FoursGrowing up, we’d forego Easter morning Mass in favor of the Easter Vigil service the night before. While choosing this service did allow us to miss the crowd on Sunday morning, it began at 8:30pm and lasted more than two hours. Luckily, if you’re into liturgical pageantry, the Vigil starts with candles in the dark, ends in the light, and has all sorts of incense, bell ringing, beautiful music, and probably another ten things I’m forgetting. Forgive me—I’m a lapsed Episcopalian.
Funfetti Petit FoursOnce the service was over, we’d race home in my dad’s Cadillac, put on pajamas, and reach for the box of petit fours in the fridge. There are few pleasures greater than a cold late-night petit four from Blue Bonnet Bakery (the place with the gingerbread men and florentines). The dense cake was flavored with vanilla and almond, coated in a layer of poured fondant, and topped with a flourish of crusting buttercream. These once-yearly treats border on sickly-sweet, but my whole family loves them.Funfetti Petit FoursI haven’t been home for Easter in many years now, but I always try to have petit fours on Easter Even. I’ve tried them at a few places around Brooklyn, but most that I’ve found are layered with jam. They’re delicious, but not what I crave this time of year.
Funfetti Petit FoursI know my petit fours will never quite live up to the almond-scented Blue Bonnet Bakery version of my dreams, so I’ve decided not to try to recreate those, and instead to make a version that celebrates one of my favorite things: rainbow sprinkles! Funfetti Petit Fours, y’all. They’re a thing now.
Funfetti Petit FoursFunfetti Petit FoursI’m positively in love with this combination of buttery Funfetti cake, vanilla frosting, homemade poured fondant, and rainbow sprinkles. It’s like having everything I love (including nostalgia for my childhood) in one perfect 1 1/2-inch bite.
Funfetti Petit FoursFunfetti Petit FoursI should say that this recipe is very long, but not too terribly difficult. In fact, as it has no layering or filling, it’s one of the simpler petit fours recipes you’ll find. With the exception of coating the petit fours with poured fondant (easier than it sounds), it’s a lot like making a regular frosted cake. But again, there are a lot of parts, and you will need to use three pans and at least three bowls. It’s a lot for one baker—this might be the sort of recipe you make with a friend.Funfetti Petit FoursNo matter how (or with whom) you choose to address this recipe though, if you follow the directions, you will be rewarded with the sweetest, tiniest, happiest, most colorful petit fours you’ve ever seen ❤ Happy Easter, y’all!Funfetti Petit Fours

Funfetti Petit Fours
makes about 2.5-3 dozen 1 1/2-inch petit fours

Cake:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon imitation butter extract, optional
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup rainbow jimmies (not nonpareils)

Vanilla Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Poured Fondant:
1/3 cup hot tap water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 lb. confectioners sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

For Decoration:
rainbow sprinkles (jimmies or nonpareils)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13-inch pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating completely after each addition. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1 cup of the buttermilk. Continue alternating until all ingredients are used and batter is just combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in jimmies. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake cakes 30-32 minutes, rotating back to front at the halfway point. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for fifteen minutes. Remove cake to a rack to cool completely.

Cake may be made up to a day in advance.

Place cake on a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to even out the top.

Line a jelly roll pan or quarter sheet pan with parchment. Place cake on prepared pan. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla. Add in heavy cream until desired consistency is reached.

Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment and place a cooling rack over the top. Set aside.

Remove cake from freezer and return to cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice off crispy cake edges (about 1/4-inch on all sides). Slice cake into 1 1/2-inch squares.

Use an offset icing knife to crumb coat squares on top and 4 sides. Place on prepared rack/pan. Chill for 15-30 minutes.

Make poured fondant. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together hot water, light corn syrup, and vanilla.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Place white chocolate chips in the heatproof bowl. When water simmers, place bowl back over the water. Whisk until melted. Alternate adding confectioners sugar and liquid ingredients, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk in salt. Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes (it works best around 100F).

Remove cake squares from refrigerator. Working quickly, spoon poured fondant over the top and sides of each square. Use an offset icing knife to adjust sides as necessary. Top with another dot of poured fondant and more sprinkles. Re-warm poured fondant as needed.

Let poured fondant set for at least an hour. Serve.

Leftover petit fours will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.

Funfetti Petit Fours

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns“Hot Cross Buns…Hot Cross Buns…”

I know the song, but I am not sure I had ever had one of the actual buns before last week. That seems fairly par for the course until you find out that I was raised by a fairly devout Episcopalian, and attended Episcopal church, school, and camp until I was well into my twenties. You’d think I would have had a hot cross bun sometime in all those Good Fridays.Hot Cross Buns

Alas, no soft cinnamon-raisin treats for me 😦 Well, I mean, until I started testing these last Friday 🙂 I’ve now made five batches of Hot Cross Buns and am definitely a fan of their soft, chewy texture and the touches of spice and fruit. Oh, and the icing. Of course, the icing!Hot Cross BunsHot Cross Buns go back centuries, with each of the main ingredients being a religious metaphor. Some even used to believe that these buns had healing powers. I don’t buy into any of that, but I will take any excuse to bake.

Hot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsMy Hot Cross Bun dough is made with both yeast and baking powder. Adding a leavener on top of the yeast may seem like overkill, but it makes the dough nice and puffy and ensures that the finished buns will be super soft. The dough comes together in about fifteen minutes. Once it’s been kneaded, it needs a ten minute rest.Hot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross Buns

Next up, fold in the raisins and spices. Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thickness, scatter some warmly-spiced sugar and plump raisins over the top, and fold it in thirds. Repeat this twice before gathering the ends and placing the dough in an oiled bowl for an hour-long rise.Hot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross Buns

When the hour is up, punch down the dough. Pull off golf ball-sized hunks and form them into boules by tucking under the scraggly ends. It’s okay if they’re not all perfect—my motor skills leave something to be desired, so mine are always a little, uh, rustic. After you’ve formed all the buns, give them another hour-long rise. This recipe isn’t quick, but I promise you that the results are worth the wait!Hot Cross BunsHot Cross BunsHot Cross Buns

After the second rise, give the buns a brush with an egg yolk glaze and pop them in the oven for twenty minutes. They’ll be glossy and golden when they’re done.Hot Cross Buns

Let the buns cool while you prepare a simple icing. It seems antithetical to cool something with “hot” in its name, but it’s mandatory if you want the icing to stick properly. If you want warm Hot Cross Buns, there are plenty of recipes online that involve crosses made out of flour paste that are put on before baking. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take icing over flour paste anytime.Hot Cross Buns

Once the buns are cool, pipe on the icing. This is the easiest piping you will ever do, I promise. Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.Hot Cross BunsHot Cross Buns

Whether you’re a Hot Cross Bun connoisseur or this is your first time having one, you’ll love this take on the classic festive treat. They’re soft and buttery with the perfect amounts of warm spice and dried fruit, and the icing takes them from being everyday buns to a memorable yearly tradition. Make a batch to share this week!Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns
makes 15 buns

1 cup raisins (or currants), not packed
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons orange zest, from about 1/2 medium orange
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (I use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Glaze:
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 tablespoons whole milk

Icing:
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
5 teaspoons whole milk

Combine raisins and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 60-90 seconds, or until hot. Set aside to cool a bit while you prepare the dough.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour and bread flour. Whisk in 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, allspice, orange zest, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Add instant yeast and baking powder.

Combine whole milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Let sit, swirling occasionally, until hot to the touch (about 115F). Pour into dry ingredients and fold together with a silicone spatula. Fold in beaten eggs.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 5-6 minutes, until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and cardamom. Drain water from raisins. Grease a medium mixing bowl with oil.

On a floured surface, roll dough into a long oval that is 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle with about 1/3 of the sugar mixture and about 1/3 of the raisins. Fold in thirds and turn 45 degrees. Re-roll and repeat sprinkling processes two more times. Tuck loose ends under to form a ball/boule shape. Place in oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 1 hour. Dough will be puffy, but may not fully double in size.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

When an hour is up, peel off plastic and punch down dough. Lightly grease your palms. Pull off pieces of dough that are slightly larger than a golf ball. Tuck loose ends under to shape into buns. Place 1-2 inches apart on prepared pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375F. Make glaze by whisking egg yolk and milk together in a small bowl.

Remove plastic wrap from pan. Gently brush glaze over buns. Bake 20-22 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Make icing. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners sugar and milk until smooth. It should be very thick and pipeable. Transfer to a zip-top bag and snip off a very small corner. Pipe a simple cross onto each bun. Let icing set for about 15 minutes before serving. Icing will fully set after several hours.

Hot Cross Buns are best the day they are made, but may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 48 hours.

Hot Cross Buns

Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal

Carrot Cake Baked OatmealIt feels like I’m jumping the gun by posting a carrot cake-flavored recipe in the middle of March, just after the third nor’easter in twelve days, but Easter is on the early side this year, so I suppose I’m right on time.Carrot Cake Baked OatmealI get that Carrot Cake is popular around Easter because of the whole Easter Bunny/rabbits + carrots thing but, like, is there ever a bad time for carrot cake?!Carrot Cake Baked OatmealI think not. I could eat it any day, anytime, on a boat/plane/train/any other Seussical place without complaint. Except for the whole general health and well-being and needing bigger pants thing. But if those obstacles weren’t standing in my way, let me tell you, it’d be all carrot cake all the time. That and things made with malted milk powder.Carrot Cake Baked OatmealAs it stands though, I just bought a pair of Levi’s 501s that make me feel like a supermodel and I am trying to eat well (outside of the occasional pie, kolaches, and Oreo-stuffed treats—job hazards, you know). So, I made a little compromise and put all the flavors of carrot cake in a delicious and deliciously easy baked oatmeal that works just as well as a make-ahead weekday breakfast as is does as part of an Easter weekend brunch.Carrot Cake Baked OatmealCarrot Cake Baked OatmealThis Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal comes together quickly and easily, and has huge flavor thanks to warming spices, the classic additions of raisins and chopped pecans, and maple syrup.Carrot Cake Baked OatmealIt bakes up in just half an hour. You could certainly serve it on its own, but I like an extra drizzle of maple syrup, just for kicks. A dollop of yogurt couldn’t hurt either.Carrot Cake Baked OatmealAnother great thing about this breakfast? It’s high in protein, so you won’t be starving two hours after you’ve eaten. Oh, and if you use certified gluten-free oats, it’s gluten-free too 🙂 Yep. This is the sort of everyday indulgence I can get behind.Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal

Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal
makes one 9-inch square pan

2/3 cup raisins, optional
1 cup water
2 cups old-fashioned oats (certified gluten-free, if needed)
2/3 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts), optional
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups milk of choice
1 1/2 cups grated carrots

For serving (optional):
pure maple syrup
plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish. Set aside.

Place raisins in a small bowl. Bring water to a boil and pour over raisins. Let sit while you prepare the oatmeal.

When oven is heated. Place oats and chopped pecans on a dry rimmed baking sheet. Let toast in the oven for 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Pour into a medium-large mixing bowl and stir in cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Mix in vanilla, maple syrup, melted butter, and milk. Pour over dry mixture and fold together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Fold in carrots. Drain raisins and mix them into the oatmeal.

Transfer oatmeal to prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Bake uncovered for 30-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool for a few minutes before serving with a drizzle of maple syrup and/or a dollop of yogurt, if desired. Oatmeal scoops best initially, but may be sliced after it cools.

Leftover baked oatmeal will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days. Reheat individual portions before serving.

Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal

Chocolate Mint Magic Bars

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsSo far this season, I’ve posted Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies, Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams, Pecan Florentines, an Eggnog Puff Pancake, Maple Spice Stars, gluten-free Mexican Hot Chocolate Crinkles, and my mom’s recipe for Wassail. If none of those strike your holiday fancy, there are at least twenty more Christmas-appropriate recipes in the archives.

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsWhat can I say? I love holiday baking ❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsToday’s recipe–the last one before Christmas–is everything you could want this close to the 25th. Chocolate Mint Magic Bars come together quickly and easily, don’t require a mixer or any unfamiliar techniques, and are so. freaking. good. If you love chocolate and mint, this is your lucky day 😊

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsI mean, who can resist chewy, chocolaty Andes mint-studded filling and a buttery chocolate cookie crust?!

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsChocolate Mint Magic BarsTo make the bars, start by blitzing two sleeves of chocolate sandwich cookies into crumbs. Add some butter and then press the mixture into a foil-lined pan. Bake the crust for five minutes, just to set.

Chop up some Andes Creme de Menthe candies…

Chocolate Mint Magic Bars…and whisk together a can of sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, vanilla, peppermint extract, and a tablespoon of melted butter.

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsChocolate Mint Magic BarsPour that mixture over the crust and top it with the chopped candy. I like to add some chocolate chips, too. Bake the bars for half an hour, until they’re still a little jiggly–they’ll set as they cool. Once they reach room temperature, slice ‘em up.

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsLook at those streaks of candy in the filling 😍😍😍

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsThese bars, y’all. They’re so delicious. The filling is chocolaty and minty without being too rich, and has a fudgy brownie-like quality that I absolutely love! And then there’s that crumbly, buttery chocolate cookie layer. Seriously, what’s not to love?!

Merry Christmas, y’all!Chocolate Mint Magic Bars

Chocolate Mint Magic Bars
makes 1 9-inch square pan, about 16 bars

24 chocolate sandwich cookies (like Oreos)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not fat free)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (not mint extract)
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
30 Andes Creme de Menthe candies (1 9.5 ounce package), chopped
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Generously butter foil. Set aside.

Place chocolate sandwich cookies the bowl of a food processor and process until pulverized. Add 5 tablespoons of melted butter. Pulse until combined. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan. Press into an even layer. Bake for five minutes, until set. Set crust aside to cool while you prepare the filling.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, vanilla and peppermint extracts. Whisk in cocoa powder.

Drizzle sweetened condensed milk mixture over the crust. Scatter chopped Andes Creme de Menthe candies and chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 30-32 minutes, tenting pan with foil at the 10 minute mark. Bars are done when the center jiggles just slightly when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use foil overhang to remove bars from the pan to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Slice with a lightly-greased knife and serve.

Chocolate Mint Magic Bars