Eggnog Cheesecake Cookie Bars

IMG_2086I’ve realized this was probably the best time of year to get in to baking. There are so many holiday flavors that are fun and easy to experiment with.

Eggnog is one of those things I’ve never loved. We didn’t grow up with it around, and it’s never been something I’ve tried to grow fond of. But, these eggnog cheesecake bars definitely flip the script on how I think of eggnog.

My favorite part of eating and making these is the cookie layer. See, you could easily just dollop little balls of cookie on top of the cheesecake layer. But that’s not fun. When you make this recipe, get hands-y with your dessert, and spread that cookie layer so that it becomes engulfed by the cheesecake. Then, it turns in to like an eggnog sandwich filled with cookie.

Here’s the other thing about doing that: the baking powder in the cookies will make it seem like the cheesecake is also expanding, and the final effect looks like a creme brûlée. Definitely the way to go.

One note: I had some mascarpone cheese left from our fudge recipe last week, so I went half and half between cream cheese and mascarpone. Definitely not a must do, but I like the bite that mascarpone gives. IMG_2082

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 8-10 graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp rum extract (we’re going to carry that eggnog flavor through the whole dessert)

Cheesecake:

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese (can just do 16 oz cream cheese and scrap mascarpone)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp rum extract (you can also just use rum)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Cookie – think snickerdoodles:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used whole, but 1-2% works as well)

Cinnamon sugar topping:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking pan with baking spray. I used a 13×9 Pyrex, so that’s what I’m going off of here.
  2. In a food processor, run graham crackers until they turn to crumbs. Add in melted butter and rum extract and pulse until combined.
  3. Line the bottom of your baking dish with your crumb crust. Press firmly in to the pan.
  4. Bake the crust for 5 minutes – this gives the crust an extra chance to form before you add layers to it.
  5. For the cheesecake, beat cream cheese and mascarpone (or just cream cheese, if that’s how you went) with sugar, eggs, rum extract and nutmeg using the whisk attachment of your mixer. Beat for 3-4 minutes on medium speed until nice and fluffy. Pour over crust and spread evenly.
  6. For the cookie, I used a hand mixer, but the electric mixer is fine as well. Beat butter with sugar until well mixed. Add egg and vanilla and beat together. Add in baking powder, salt, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat until fully combined. Add milk and beat until well blended. The milk will make it nice and moist.
  7. Pour dough on to the cheesecake layer. Now give that cookie a massage. Spread it with your fingers until you get it spread over the entire pan. Your cookies will be more dense than your cheesecake (SCIENCE!), which is what we want. Get that cheesecake layer to pour over your dough until you can’t see the dough anymore.
  8. The top layer is essentially a cinnamon sugar. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and spices. Sprinkle generously over the cookie layer.
  9. Bake for about 35 minutes.
  10. Cheesecake layer might still wiggle, but that’ll change as it cools and sets. Remove from the oven to cool.
  11. Once completely cooled, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 4 hours.

Orange Gingerbread Fudge Bars

 

Growing up in South Florida, this was the time of year where we went in to our backyard and picked all the fresh oranges off our trees. We’d take them inside, juice them, and be drinking fresh orange juice for the next couple months.

Now, I’ve never been a huge gingerbread fan, but I don’t think there’s a holiday flavor that pairs better with orange, so I figured it was worth my toying with.

This week, things got a little experimental. I’ve been toying with substituting milk-based liquids for each other in a lot of my recipes with the hope that I might find some combo that I really enjoyed. What I’ve learned is that the mother nature doings involved with baking care less about the liquid involved and much more about the fat. With that in mind, I decided to use mascarpone cheese instead of heavy whipping cream. The result….a phenomenal texture that goes really well with the orange and gingerbread spices. 

Disclaimer: I’ve got two different recipes in here. The first, at least to my palate, was a little too heavy on the white chocolate with not enough gingerbread flavor. The second tasted spot on to me. But, the first was still a crowd pleaser, so I figure I’ll include both versions in here.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 10 graham crackers (can also use gingersnaps)
  • Zest from 1/2 orange

Fudge

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses (1/3 cup for second recipe)
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese (just do it)
  • 6 ounces marshmallow cream
  • 1 12 oz bag white chocolate chips (8 oz for second recipe)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • Zest and juice from 1/2 orange
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare your baking dish by lining it with parchment paper. I’m not going to tell you what size to use because it doesn’t matter much. Set aside.
  3. Making the crust: Melt your butter. In a food processor, begin to grind together your graham crackers. Start to pour in melted butter, followed by orange zest, and grind until combined.
  4. Pour crust in to your baking dish. Bake for 5 minutes.
  5. Add marshmallow cream, white chocolate chips, orange zest + squeezed orange, and spices to a large mixing bowl. Set aside. We’re going to essentially make a ganache with this (pouring hot liquid over something to make it melt).
  6. In a large saucepan, add butter, sugars, molasses, and mascarpone. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring consistently, for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and pour over ingredients in mixing bowl. Blend until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.
  8. Pour over crust.
  9. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
  10. Enjoy.

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Fresh Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

So, I’ve been diving in to one of Alton Brown’s books, and his take on recipes is interesting. With that, I’m going to try to be more specific with why certain things are important. If they’re not that important or are flexible, then I won’t really put the details there.

Anyways, I’ve been told these cookies are also called cow patties, which sounds a lot more fun than just crinkle cookies. The batter and order of incorporating ingredients is going to feel sort of like a brownie, which makes these cookies soft and moist.

I love these cookies for a couple reasons: they’re fun to make (rolling stuff in powder sugar is as entertaining for me as it is a 5 year old) and they show off some of the fun science going on in baking.

The reason these cookies get their fun shape and texture seems obvious now that I write it, but such a mystery as I’m making it: the dough expands as the baking powder reacts to heat, and the powder sugar is only on the outside. Therefore, as the dough expands, the non-powder sugared areas are exposed. Just a fun little bit of magic for Christmas time.

On to the recipe!

Ingredients

  • Peppermint mixture
    • 6 candy canes and 6-8 leaves of fresh mint
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (I prefer dark chocolate, but to each their own)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

 

Things get pretty easy from here.

  1. Make your peppermint mixture. Put your candy canes and fresh mint in a food processor and grind until only little chunks of peppermint are left. As a rule of thumb, it’s almost always better to pair something processed with something fresh, and the extra kick of fresh mint really elevates these cookies.IMG_2059
  2. In the bowl of a mixture, beat together the cocoa powder, sugar and butter. Add in the eggs 1 at a time on low speed until fully combined.
  3. Add in the vanilla, peppermint mixture, salt, baking powder, and flour. Mix the together until you can’t see any more traces of the flour.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 2 hours.

2 hours later

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line cookie sheets with wax paper.
  3. Roll 1/2-1 inch balls of the batter in powdered sugar, then place on the baking sheets.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Let rest for 1 minute in their pan, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Try not to make yourself sick eating every one of them in 1 sitting!

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