Mini Caramel Cheesecakes

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A friend of mine gave me a cheesecake book. I salivate just looking at the pictures and have been dying to try basically every recipe. The first I attempted was this salted caramel cheesecake. Of course, I’d used up the cream the day before and the only sort of cream cheese I had was 1 full fat pack and 1 light pack. Being Sunday in Geneva, shops were closed, so I used the cream cheese I had and replaced the ½ cup of cream necessary with ½ cup unsweetened, natural yogurt. I was a little worried about the cheesecakes not turning out as creamy as they should, but they were absolutely, mouth-wateringly velvety and delicious.

 

Makes 12

 

Cookie Base

1 package of Graham Cracker or Digestive Cookies (or gluten free cookies), pulverized into crumbs

2 tbps butter, melted

  1. Mix the butter and the cookie crumbs. (I use a ziploc and a rolling pin to crumble my cookies. Stick them in the plastic bag. Close it getting all the air out, and pass your rolling pin over it until you have fine crumbs).
  2. Line a cupcake mold with wrappers.
  3. Place 1 tbsp of the crumb mixture inside each paper liner and with the bottom of a glass (I used my kids drinking cups) , press the crumbs into the bottom so they are tightly packed.

 

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Caramel Sauce

45 g sugar

50 ml water

15 g salted butter

2 tbsp thick cream

  1. Boil the sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat until amber. Take off the heat.
  2. Add the butter and whisk. Return to low heat for 1 minute or until mixture is homogenous.
  3. Take off the heat for good and whisk in the cream.
  4. Let caramel sauce cool while preparing the cheesecake filling.

 

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Cheesecake Layer

350 g cream cheese (I used 1 box of full fat and completed the amount with the lighter version)

90 g sugar

2 eggs

1 full-fat plain unsweetened yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 180C or 350 F.
  2. In the bowl of a standmixer, beat the sugar and the eggs on high speed until light and creamy (about 2 minutes).
  3. Add the yogurt, the cream cheese, and the vanilla extract and mix until batter is smooth.
  4. With the mixture on low, pour in the cooled caramel sauce. Whisk until combined.
  5. Ladle on top of crumb base, filling wrappers to the top. Cheesecakes don’t puff up.
  6. Prepare your water bath: fill a large and deep baking pan that can hold your cupcake pan with water. Add the cupcake pan on top.
  7. Lower your oven temperature to 150 C or 300 F.
  8. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off but DO NOT take out cheesecakes. Place a wooden spoon to crack oven door open and leave in the oven another hour.
  9. Take out of the oven and place in refrigerator without unmolding cheesecakes.
  10. Let chill at least 3 hours before serving.

 

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Honey & Almond Cigars

After years of buying them already made, I attempted to make my very own crispy, honey cigars. To facilitate my endeavor, I bought a fryer. I’ve been deep-frying way too many things since, but I digress. This oriental delicacy takes a long time to make (around 1h30 from start to finish), but it’s worth every single minute.

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I’ve always found oriental desserts a tad bit too sweet, so I lessened the sugar content in the stuffing and made a honey syrup instead of using pure honey. The result is PERFECT!

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Makes 24

For the almond stuffing

250 g almond meal

40 g icing sugar

1 egg white

40 g vegetable oil

water

 

  1. Mix all ingredients except the water.
  2. Gradually add 1tbsp of water at a time so that the mixture forms a dry paste (like play dough). See picture below.

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  1. With clean hands, roll out long ovals and set on a plate.

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For the shell

Phyllo dough (1 pack should be enough to make 24 cigars)

Water

Vegetable oil

 

  1. Place your phyllo dough on a clean surface and divide in 4 if dealing with rounds. Cut into long triangles if dealing with rectangular sheets. Keep the sheets you’re not working with covered underneath a kitchen towel. The thin dough dries out extremely quickly.
  2. Place one of the oval almond mixtures on the large top of the triangles.
  3. Moisten the edges of the dough with water (use a brush if possible so you don’t need to dry your hands after each rolling).
  4. Roll like the pictures below. You begin by folding the larger edges horizontally then rolling it out vertically.

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  1. Place on a plate lined with parchment paper so that it doesn’t stick.
  2. Repeat for all 24.
  3. Line a baking sheet with disposable towel paper.
  4. Heat oil in a fryer or in a large saucepan and fry the cigars (5 at a time is best so that you don’t overcrowd your pan), until golden brown.
  5. Let cool on towel paper so that it absorbs some of the oil.

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For the honey syrup

1 cup liquid honey

½ cup water

2 tbsp orange blossom water (optional)

 

  1. In a saucepan, heat the honey, water and orange blossom water. If you do not use the orange blossom water, add 2 tbsp of normal water.
  2. Simmer for about five minutes.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. In batches, carefully drop each fried cigar into the mixture and roll it around until well-covered.
  5. With kitchen tongs, scoop it out and place it on the parchment paper to come to room temperature.

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Homemade Maple Granola

I wanted to make my own granola. I inspired myself from other websites, but this is my very, very own recipe and I encourage you all to try it. The only downside is that you will be eating granola at basically any time of day since it is just that darn good.

On the plus side, this recipe is super fun to make with the children because all the ingredients are tossed together in one big bowl.

 

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Makes 10 cups of granola

 

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6 cups rolled oats

1 ½ cup wheat germ

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1 cup chopped almonds

1 cup chopped pecans

½ tsp salt

¼ cup maple syrup

1/3 cup wheat germ oil

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped up dried apricots

 

  1. Preheat your oven to 165 c or 325 F. Take out one large baking sheet.
  2. Mix everything in a very big bowl with a wooden spoon.
  3. Pour onto baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes. Stir. Bake another 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

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Baker’s Essential: Homemade Vanilla Extract

Last year, my husband decided he wanted to make me homemade vanilla extract and it was so good I managed to go through 3 litres of it. He finally made me some more yesterday, and I wanted to share this recipe with you. Making homemade extract is super easy and so much better than the extract you buy. Most vanilla extract is made from Vanillin which is actually vanilla flavor extracted from wood, not from beans! Shocking, right? So what better way to ensure high quality than to make it yourself. The extract takes a minimum of 6 weeks before it’s ready to use so plan ahead.

Recipe:

Homemade Vanilla Extract:

This recipe makes about 1 liter. Multiply or divide as needed.

1 1-liter glass container

750 mL very high quality vodka (Recommend: Tito’s Vodka if you can find it because of how neutral and high quality it is)

16-20 high-quality vanilla beans (Many gourmet vendors sell them in sufficient quantities vacuum packed – you can never have too many)

Simple syrup, to taste

  1. Pour vodka into the jar.
  2. Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Place them in the jar.
  3. Cut the empty beans in four pieces width-wise and add them to the jar.
  4. Place the lid on the jar and shake vigorously.
  5. Store in a cool dark place for at least 6 weeks (the longer the better) occasionally shaking up the bottle
  6. After about 6 weeks your extract will have turned a deep-dark brown color. You can end it here or keep it going.
  7. When you decide its good (or you are too impatient) filter the extract through a fine sieve or cheese-cloth.  Rinse out the jar and then place the extract back in the jar.
  8. Add the simple syrup to taste.
  9. Use and enjoy!
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