Caramel Apple Cheesecake Cups

Every 18 months my students perform a flute and piano recital.  Getting ready is a lot of work for both them and me, but it’s a great experience for them, their parents love it, and it holds me accountable as a teacher.

The moms are always so great about helping out with bringing baked goods for the reception afterward, but since it’s my studio recital I pitch in with the baked goods too.  I didn’t have time for cookies, so we make 2 little desserts:  Chocolate Eclair (recipe coming soon) and Caramel Apple Cheesecake Cups.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Cups are a twist on a Cheesecake Cup recipe my mom got from a friend.  (To make regular Cheesecake Cups, eliminate the cinnamon and nutmeg from the recipe below, add 1 T. lemon juice and top with pie filling of choice.)  I saw a can of apple pie filling (yes, I cheated and didn’t do homemade due to time constraints) and we went from there.

Love it when an idea works out!

CARAMEL APPLE CHEESECAKE CUPS

  • Nilla Wafer cookies
  • 2-8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 can apple pie filling, diced (the one I bought was blah so I sprinkled cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over the filling and added 4 T. brown sugar)
  • caramel topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat cheese and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until just incorporated, then add vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.

Line muffin tins with paper liners and place one wafer in the bottom of each liner.  Fill each cup half-way and bake 15-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Top with pie filling, drizzle with caramel and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Strawberry Apple Rhubarb Crisp

Due to this early spring, my rhubarb plants are were already ready for a picking this morning.  So much so, in fact, that they were going to seed.

Add to that the fact that I was having a lazy morning watching TV and reading a book and was lucky enough to catch Barefoot Contessa on Food Network.  Guess what she made!  Rhubarb crisp!  I took it as a sign, went and picked all my rhubarb, and got to work.

Ina made her Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, but I didn’t have enough strawberries to do that so despite my love of all things Ina… I had to keep looking.  I found a recipe for a Rhubarb Apple Crisp and decided to do a bit of a merger.  Also, I didn’t want the fruit to cook down to mush, so I left the chunks bigger than I normally would.  Fortunately, things turned out and it’s REALLY good.

STRAWBERRY APPLE RHUBARB CRISP

  • 7 c. rhubarb, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. strawberries, quartered
  • 2 c. apples, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2  c. sugar
  • 7 T. corn starch
  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 2 c. oatmeal
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine sugar and cornstarch.  Put fruit in a large mixing bowl and pour sugar mixture over top.  Toss to combine and pour into a 9×13 pan.

Combine oatmeal, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Cut in butter with a fork until pea-sized crumbles form.  Sprinkle crumble mixture over fruit and bake for 45 minutes or until fruit is bubbling around the edges and top is browned.

Brandy Alexander Pie

The big “3-0” is just around the corner, so my “cousins” and I are meeting up tonight for a little shopping, dinner, dessert and wine.  I’m not much of a birthday cake girl, so I’m bringing a pie and wanted to try something different.  A while back while perusing recipes for a boozy frosting I came across a recipe called 1975 Dick Taeuber’s Brandy Alexander Pie and immediately bookmarked it.  A gingersnap cookie crust, meringue, cognac, creme de cacao and fresh whipped cream… how can you go wrong with that?!

I’m glad that the person who posted this gave a few pointers on it, because I think I would have screwed it up if she hadn’t.  Two things to remember:  don’t let the gelatin mixture boil, and don’t refrigerate it too long before folding in egg whites and whipped cream.  Once the gelatin mixture has been in the fridge long enough to start to form a “skin” on the edge of whatever you have it in, it’s time to fold in the egg whites and whipped cream.

While I haven’t cut into the pie yet, I did put some filling in a little bowl in the fridge so that I could check if it set up correctly and we have success… delicious success!  The texture is on par with a mousse, and the flavor reminds me of brandy ice from White Fence Farm.

BRANDY ALEXANDER PIE

  • 1 1/2 c. gingersnap crumbs
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 3 eggs at room temperature, separated
  • 1/4 c. cognac
  • 1/4 c. creme de cacao
  • 1 c. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degree.  Combine crumbs and butter and press into a 10-inch pie pan.  Bake for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.

Add water to a saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over top.  Add 1/3 c. sugar and egg yolks and heat until mixture thickens slightly.  Do not let boil.  Pour into a large mixing bowl and refrigerate until a skin just starts to form around the edge of the bowl.

Beat egg whites until stiff and add 1/3 c. sugar.  Beat until shiny and stiff peaks form.  Fold onto gelatin mixture.  Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form and folk into gelatin/egg white mixture.  Pour into cooled crust and refrigerate for at least a few hours.

I put some shaved chocolate on there just because it was a little blah looking.  Given that the taste reminds me of brandy ice from White Fence Farm I think a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg would actually work well here too, just like they do with their dessert.

Cranberry Apple Crisp

The last Evanston Farmer’s Market of the year was today, and I loaded up on fresh Michigan apples and Wisconsin cranberries.  Normally, the last thing I want to do after working a 12 hour day is start cooking and baking, but I had the itch today.  In addition to the Crisp I’ve also got one last batch of Stuffed Pumpkins prepped for lunch tomorrow and made a big pot of Potato Leek Soup for dinner tonight.  My brother even made a special trip down into the field today and picked fresh leeks for me for the soup!  Doesn’t get much fresher than that!

Anyway, back to the Crisp…  I just started looking through cabinets and throwing stuff together.  Admittedly, I used a friend’s secret apple crisp recipe for the inspiration for the topping.  (Don’t worry Jamie, I ran out of a few things and had to adjust your secret.) 🙂  So, here goes…

CRANBERRY APPLE CRISP

  • 20 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used gala today because that’s what I got cheap from another vendor)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. maple extract
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
  • 2 c. fresh cranberries, boiled until popped and mashed
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. oatmeal
  • 1 c. almonds, pulsed on food processor until fine
  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. butter
  • 2 T. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add maple extract to butter.  Mix apples, cranberries, sugar, pie spice, and cinnamon and pour butter/extract over top.  Mix until well coated and pour into a large (10×14 or bigger) casserole dish.

Combine flour, oatmeal, almonds, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Toss with a fork.  Drizzle melted butter over top and toss until crumbly.  Pour over apples and spread evenly.  Bake 30-45 minutes until apples are bubbly and topping is slightly browned.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or brandied whipped cream.

Cranberries and apples ready for topping…

Perfect!

Raspberry Vanilla Creme Brulée

I had some time over the Holidays to finally try some recipes that I’ve been wanting to give a shot.  My previous post about Mushroom Risotto was one of them, and I also tried my hand at Tiramisu and Creme Brulée.  Everything came off without a hitch, and I’m so happy people enjoyed it all!

My friend’s mother-in-law received some real vanilla beans from a client and she was kind enough to pass them to my friend to give to me.  I used one of them in a cheesecake, and I used the other 2 in creme brulée.  Creme Brulée #1 was for Christmas Eve, and that was a plain vanilla one.  I got a little adventurous on round #2 and tried adding some fresh raspberries – DELISH!

RASPBERRY VANILLA CREME BRULEE

  • 4 c. heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 6 egg yolks (7 if they look small)
  • 1/2 pt. fresh raspberries
  • 4-6 c. boiling water

Bring cream and vanilla bean (seeds and pod) to a simmer.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, beat eggs and sugar with a whisk until light in color.  Place 8 ramekins into a deep casserole dish or a couple 9×13 pans.  Evenly distribute raspberries into the bottoms of the ramekins.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove vanilla pod from cream and discard.  Stirring constantly, slowly ladle hot cream into the egg yolk mixture until all combined.  Pour/ladle cream mixture into ramekins until it reaches about an 1/8 of an inch from the top.

Place pans on oven rack and very carefully pour boiling water into the bottom of the pan until it’s about half-way up the ramekins.  Bake for 45 minutes or until custard is lightly browned on top.  VERY carefully remove from oven and remove from water bath.  Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before dusting with granulated sugar and torching.  Tip: only torch as many brulées as you plan to serve.

Miraculously, I also managed to remember to take a few pics for your viewing pleasure!

Brandied Apple Crisp

This past weekend I was up in Michigan to visit family and go to a baptism and my cousin and I went to Moelker’s Orchard to pick up a couple bushels of tree runs.  By the way, if you live near Grand Rapids and need some apples for sauce, pie fillings or canning, you should definitely go to Moelkers.  We got 4 1/2 bushes for $54.  That’s a STEAL!

Anyway, you can’t pick up fresh picked apples without making a fall apple crisp… or three. 🙂  I’ve always wanted to try putting brandy in my apple crisp or peach cobbler, so I figured last weekend was as good a time to try as any.  IT WAS FABULOUS!  My cousin only had apricot brandy, so I did it once with that and then today I used regular dark brandy and that worked well too.

So, without further adieu… 🙂

BRANDIED APPLE CRISP

Filling:

  • 10 c. apples, peeled, cored and sliced (macs or jonathans)
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3 T. brown sugar
  • 1 T. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 c. brandy

Topping:

  • 1 c. oatmeal
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. clove
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Stir apples with filling ingredients and dump into a 9×13.  Combine topping ingredients, folding margarine/butter in with a fork.  Spread evenly over filling and bake for 30 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is browned.

So, what do YOU think of Brandied Apple Crisp?!