Sunday, October 17, 2010

Caramel Pecan Cheesecakes

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Who doesn't like cheesecake?? Actually, plenty of people. I used to be one of them. I know, shocker, right? It was a rough life. Cheesecake's for dessert—what do you do? Luckily, I make a mean cheesecake...cupcake. It's so simple, but it's perfect—loved by cheesecake lovers, enlightens non-cheesecake lovers and opens their world to the creamy confection. It was the cake that converted me. I am a hater no more.

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The cheesecakes were for a wedding reception a few weeks ago. The super sweet client had a short timeline and basically said "Whatever you can do would be amazing." She needed 6 dozen of... something. I already had cheesecakes in the works for the Grandview Hop (yup, both events were the same day. OY.), so I said, "Hey, what about these?" Like I said, they're so simple, a large batch would be easy-peasy. I split them up into two varieties—caramel pecan cheesecakes and strawberry-studdened cheesecakes topped with chocolate drizzle. They all have a chocolate-chip-cookie-crust which, I'm not going to lie, is pretty freakin' delicious. :-)

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The cherry adds a cute, festive touch, no? They're so stinkin' cute, I can hardly handle it!

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I don't have photos of the strawberry cakes. Pick-up time was approaching, so I had to box up my little sugary delights.

A word of advice: when ordering for an event, order extra. Not a ton, but a dozen or two (depending on the size of the event, of course). Especially if it's easy to eat, like these cheesecakes. A lot of times, I've been a guest at the event for which I've supplied the dessert. I've witnessed the depletion of the supply. The extras always go, especially if there are different varieties. People want to try a little bit of everything. A lot of people are surprised when I say "You have a wedding of 100 guests? Well order 10 dozen, not just 8 or 9." "Really??" And yup. They're glad they did. It's not hard to get rid of sweets. Vegetables, maybe. But cupcakes? Never. ;-)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Vanilla Lavender Meringue Menagerie

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So. Meringues. It's meringue madness over here! It all started a few weeks ago at work. Someone brought in a container of Trader Joe's meringues, which were staring me in the face all during lunch that day. I held off for awhile. I was convinced I was going to say no. I bake stuff all the time! I don't need more sweets! I can turn away—no problem! By the end of lunch, the perfectly shaped little white puffs were singing their siren song so loudly that I finally decided "Eh, what the hell? I'm going to give it a whirl." I've had meringues before, don't get me wrong. It's just been awhile. I was trying to do the healthy thing and resist the little white puff of sweet, crispy egg whiteness, but what's the harm in one little meringue??

It melted in my mouth. It was super sweet, no doubt, but its lightness made the sugar overload forgivable. And that started the conversations. Conversations about making meringues, as meringues for favors (I'm pretty sure they might make an appearance at my someday wedding), about different flavors of meringues, about stuffing your face with these elegant little sugar monsters. My work-neighbor was in meringue mode herself, even making some with hibiscus powder. FASCINATING! (Note to self: obtain hibiscus powder. Pronto.) To add to the madness, images of white fluffy blobs kept popping up on Pinterest, and the visuals were enough to make me want to bust through my computer screen, grab a hold of every little puff and munch myself silly. Today, I gave in.

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I had a few frozen egg whites in the freezer for just this kind of occasion (well, actually, more like making macarons, but these are much easier for now). I used a recipe by Emeril Lagasse as my guide, and just added vanilla extract and ground lavender for flavoring. And since they're lavender, why the heck not blend in some pretty purple swirls? I also couldn't resist adding some rainbow non-pareils to a few. Rainbow sprinkles in general are a major personal weakness.

Vanilla Lavender Meringues

4 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/3 c superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 1/2 teaspoons ground lavender buds

First, preheat the oven to 350° and line a few cookie sheets with parchment. I'm not sure if it's necessary, but I spritzed my parchment with a little cooking spray just to be safe. Whip those egg whites with an electric mixer at medium speed. When they're getting nice and foamy, add the cream of tartar and keep whipping. Gradually add the sugar to the whipping egg whites, 2-3 tablespoons at a time (I actually used a shot glass for this—it's the perfect measure). After half the sugar has been added, add the vanilla, rosewater, and lavender powder, then go back to adding the sugar (again, gradually), all while still whipping the egg whites. Beat the whites until they're shiny and thick, with stiff peaks. That's it. Easy, right? Next, for shaping the actual meringue cookies, you could either fill a piping bag (my weapon of choice) and pipe out the size you prefer, or just spoon out organic little globs onto the parchment. The size, of course, will determine how many you yield. If you pipe a bunch of little ones, I bet you'll have 4-6 dozen or something. If you pipe a bunch of big ones, you'll probably get 18-24. Anyway. Pop the pans in the oven, and then turn it off. Let them sit in the oven for at least 2 hours, but preferably longer. Even overnight is okay, just as long as they dry out. In the end, the meringues will be dry and crisp.

For more meringue references, I also used this post from The Kitchn.

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