Sunday, February 17, 2013

Brown Butter Berry Cheesecake Muffins.

There's cake for breakfast and there's cheesecake for breakfast. This is that. 

Well. Actually it's both.

Remember when I made banana monkey bread muffins? Tiny, banana bread biscuit balls, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and drizzled with vanilla icing? Well, those were the last muffins I made... and that was in September.

Of 2012.

Like last year.

Muffins, I need to be honest. I'm just not that into you. The thing is, when I want a muffin, I want one... not twelve... and definitely not twenty-five minutes from now. It's a weakness that shows itself only when I'm waiting in line at Starbucks, being forced to stare at a shiny, bright glass case of bite-sized vanilla bean scones (obsessed and in love) and literally over-the-top blueberry muffins. At no other time of the day, week, or year do muffins ever cross my mind. Ever. Like Taylor Swift never ever.

But let's be honest: they're basically just unfancy, unfrosted cupcakes... and I think we all know how I feel about cake for breakfast. So I've bought a new muffin pan and I'm getting into this thing. 

These muffins have a few extra steps to them than baking just regular blueberry muffins. There's three layers that need to be made first before you can get down to the muffin-baking business: (1) the muffin base, (2) a creamy berry cheesecake topping, and (3) a buttery cinnamon-brown sugar streusel. I know. It sounds like way too much work for blueberry muffins... but really, it's just three bowls, three spoons, and a few minutes. Brown butter, sugar, and cinnamon are creamed together, cream cheese, sugar, and berries are whisked together, and a streusel is quickly crumbled together with a fork or fingertips.

After that, it's just a scoop and bake situation. Easy.

And it all starts with these cakey-soft muffin bottoms, full of brown butter, sugar, and cinnamon.

See those brown specks? Those are full of straight love. Love, brown butter, and cinnamon.

With regular blueberry muffins, the fresh berries are folded directly into the muffin batter for optimum berry dispersal. Here, the berries are folded into a creamy cheesecake layer that's scooped right on top of the muffin base. When they bake up, they'll be bursting with pink, sweet raspberries and bright purple blueberries.

And the streusel. Just cold butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour cut together until crumbly and sprinkled heaped over the top of the cheesecake and berries. No big deal. Totally just another day.

Everyone knows the muffin tops are the very best part. The secret to the these tall, gorgerous, brimming-with-cheesecake muffin tops? Fill the liners right to the very top. Most muffin and cupcake recipes call for filling the cups 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full, depending on how tall they'll rise when baking, to prevent them from overflowing over the sides. 

But for these, just get in there! Layer that cheesecake and crumble right to the very top for a pillowy, perfectly berry-studded look.

More cheesecake, more berries, more bursting color. Muffin math. It's real.

My favorite are the muffins bursting with fat, pink raspberries. It's a February thing.

At least until July... then it'll be a red, white, and blue thing.

Speaking of which, one of my new year's baking resolutions this year was to bake with more color. Between these bright breakfast cakes and these sprinkled-loaded cookies... 2013 success! And we're still only 49 days into this thing. 

Brown Butter Berry Cheesecake Muffins

Printable Recipe

1/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cheesecake Topping
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cold butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

To make the muffins, first brown the butter by melting in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until golden brown (more information on how to brown butter here). Pour into a medium mixing bowl and cream together with sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in milk. 

Combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl and slowly add to butter mixture until just combined. Fill muffin cups one-third full.

To make the cheesecake topping, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, and egg until smooth. Gently fold in the fresh raspberries and blueberries. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls on top of the muffin.

To make the streusel, combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in cold butter using a fork or pastry cutter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cupcake comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in pan, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes 18 muffins

Source: Barely adapted from Chef-in-Training.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What to (Last Minute) Bake This Valentine's Day...

Just a few pink, be-sprinkled, and baked-with-love recipes that I will frantically be baking after work tonight that are perfect for sharing with someone who you love. It's not all chocolate, champagne, and heart-shaped things! 

Dark chocolate raspberry banana bread- Sweet banana bread studded with dark chocolate chunks and fat, pink raspberries. Starting Valentines Day right!

"I Want to Marry You" cookies- A one-pot, one-spoon chocolate chip cookie situation stuffed full of cinnamon, oats, white chocolate chips, semisweet chocolate chips... and the promise of spontaneous declarations of love.  

Mini chocolate chip cookie sandwiches- Because... pink frosting! Roll the sides of these bite-size chocolate chip cookie sandwiches in some pink and red heart sprinkles and you're in.

Pink-glazed old-fashioned cake doughnuts- Crispy, cakey doughnuts covered in pink vanilla icing and sprinkles. That's love.

Brown butter snickerdoodles- A classic recipe with an extra-special twist. These taste like no other snickerdoodle! Someone in your life deserves brown butter. Be that girlfriend.

Cookie pizzas- Because who wants a giant chocolate chip cookie? Said no boyfriend or husband ever. 

Cake batter chocolate chip cookies- What better way to say I love you than festive chocolate chip cookies full of irresistable cake batter flavor and pink and red sprinkles? I can't think of one.

Buttery, soft chocolate chip M&M cookie for one- one giant cookie, a handful of pink, red, and white M&Ms, and... done.

Old-fashioned candy "milkshakes"- I made these last-minute last February 14th and they couldn't have been easier. Ice cream glass, M&Ms, adhesive glue dots (found at Michael's craftstores), pink and white taffy, a cute heart-shaped straw, and ten minutes. People will still be talking about you in July.  

The Baked brownie- The only brownie I could ever love. Chewy, rich, crackly-topped, and absolutely decadent.

Chocolate waffles- The chocolate waffles that led to a legendary kiss.

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope it's full of pink sugar, sprinkles, and love! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies.

It's my birthday month and that means... cake, sprinkles, and bourbon.

I'm celebrating these last few days of being 25 by putting cake in my cookies. Because, you know. YOLO.

Or at least... YO25O.

YOLO also means that I can show you how sometimes your camera falls off your tripod... and then your tripod falls over and shatters your favorite cake platter and cookies and sprinkles go absolutely everywhere. That's real.

Also: look at those festive cookie butts!

Cake batter is a baking trend I tried my best all of 2012 to avoid. Not because I judge it (like cake pops) or because everyone everywhere is whisking cake mix into all the things, but because I'm weak... and it makes me want to eat spoonfuls of sprinkles and frosting.

I cracked this weekend halfway through Pitch Perfect and two glasses of sparkling wine. It was one of those rare, much-needed, Friday nights where I had the apartment to myself... which usually means a combination of pajamas, popcorn dinners, wine, me, the couch, a constant stream of Vampire Diaries episodes, glittery nail polish, spontaneous dance parties (I have this new addiction), and spur of the moment, totally uninhibited, just because and just for ME baking.

This is the kind of cookie dough that should be in cookie dough ice cream. In. Love.

These festive cookies baked up thick, buttery, and extra-sweet, with just the perfect balance of chewy chocolate chip cookie and sugary funfetti cake batter flavor. And they're perfect for just about any day. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays.

No, but seriously. Valentine's Day? Pink and red sprinkle hearts. Christmas? Red, white, and green! Boyfriend's birthday? Dinosaur sprinkles. They totally exist. Trust me.

There were so much fun to bake! I'll say it: it was totally all about those sprinkles (and maybe the two glasses of wine...). It was so different baking something just because I wanted to and something that I didn't intend to end up on here.

Unfortunately for you, these cookies need to be in the world; so this is me passing on a recipe gem to you. And they have all the fixings of regular chocolate chip cookies so really you need no excuses... just a handful of white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips, a perfectly respectable 1/2 cup of rainbow sprinkles, and 1 1/4 cups of the all-purpose flour replaced with the same amount of scoops of yellow cake mix.

Yeah. Good luck not eating that cookie dough by the spoonful.

Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups yellow (or white) boxed cake mix
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup sprinkles

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cake mix, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Mix in the egg and vanilla until well-combined.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips and sprinkles. Be careful not to over-mix!

Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour (to prevent the cookies from spreading too much when baking).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Scoop chilled dough into rounded tablespoons using a cookie scoop and place on a lightly greased or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Keep remaining dough in the refrigerator until ready to bake with it. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until edges are slightly brown. The centers will still appear soft, but the cookies will set as they cool.

Allow to cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Source: Sally's Baking Addiction.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pretzel-Crusted Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies.

Here's the thing about baking with bourbon: do it.

It's that time. Not bourbon time (although: yes)... February! My birthday month! When all I want to do is bake with miniature bottles of booze and sprinkles. 

First up: drunken blondies. 

Which may or may not be prove to be ironic.

Baking blondie bars is my top secret, favorite way to skip the whole scoop-roll-bake-waiting game of baking cookies. I totally learned this trick from my mom. It's my way of saying I love you, I want to make things of butter and brown sugar for you... 

... but I'm also way too obsessed with watching and rewatching Pitch Perfect right now to stop and roll out balls of cookie dough. 

And when I say obsessed, I mean quoting Rebel-Wilson-as-often-as-possible obsessed

I do, however, have time to spike some cookie bars with booze and brown butter, whisk in some white and dark chocolate chips, and bake it all on top of a buttery crushed pretzel crust. I'll even have a little bit of bourbon left over... which, you know, I'll probably have to taste for quality control.

I could try and convince you all I know a just one thing about bourbon... but I don't. Bourbon, whiskey, rum, anything that's not a margarita immediately in my face on a Friday night or sweet, crisp, pink wine... it's not my thing. 

What is my thing? The slight caramel-vanilla flavor that a few tablespoonfuls of bourbon adds to these blondies once the alcohol (unfortunately) cooks off. Just look at that dark amber color! 

Out of the oven, these bars smelled like caramelized brown sugar, rich brown butter, spicy, melted dark chocolate, and buttery pretzels. If you've never strategically snuck spoonfuls of booze into your cookie batter, you're basically looking at a so-wrong-it's-right situation. If it's your birthday month, you're looking at living-life-right situation. (Especially if you serve these upside down with a scoop of coffee ice cream and  some salted caramel.) 

And if you just want an excuse to buy tiny bottles of alcohol for your baking cabinet, then please accept this high-five and invitation to my birthday party.

I'll say it. I think one of us should. 

Bourbon just may be the new brown butter. 

Pretzel-Crusted Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies

Printable Recipe

Pretzel Crust
2 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate + 1/2 cup white chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.

Combine melted butter and crushed pretzels in a medium bowl until moistened. Press into the bottom of prepared baking sheet with the back of a spoon (or your hands) and set aside. If pretzels still seem loose, drizzle a little melted butter over the top or lightly spray with non-stick spray until the crust holds. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Next, brown your butter. Melt butter over medium heat until golden brown and nutty (more information on browning butter here). When butter is browned, remove from heat and pour into a large bowl. Stir in the brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the eggs, vanilla, and bourbon until smooth. 

Gradually stir in the flour mixture, mixing until thoroughly combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and pour over prepared pretzel crust. Using the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula, spread cookie batter evenly over crust.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown and the center tests clean when poked with a toothpick. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars and serving... with a scoop of coffee ice cream on top, if you feel like living dangerously. 

Source: Adapted from Cheryl & Griffith Day's bourbon blondies, as found in The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook.