Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season & a bright and happy new year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gluten-Free White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

We had a holiday potluck last night for my book club and this yummy cheesecake was my contribution:

While I've made a traditional version of this before, this time I made it gluten-free (GF) since a couple of our book club members can't have gluten. It turned out that none of the GF members came last night, but everyone still raved about this cheesecake. It's just as delicious as the original. The crust is delightfully crunchy and chocolately - you really can't tell the difference! This will definitely be one of my go-to recipes from now own when I'm visiting or hosting GF friends - delish!

Gluten-Free White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
1 c. gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies (I used a box of these), crushed
4 Tbsp. white sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

2 cups (1 12-oz. bag) white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Wrap a 9 or 10-inch springform pan in 2-3 layers of aluminum foil and spray the inside of the pan with oil.
In a small bowl, combine chocolate cookie crumbs, 4 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. cocoa and 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Stir until well combined. Press into the bottom of a 9 or 10" springform pan.
Bring a small saucepan of water (or the bottom pan of a double boiler) to a simmer. Place a metal bowl (or the top of the double boiler) over the water. Add white chocolate chips and stir constantly until melted. Then stir in half-and-half until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/2 c. sugar together until creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
Add vanilla and white chocolate mixture. Beat just until fully mixed.
Heat raspberry jam in the microwave (or on the stove) until it's the consistency of a sauce.
Pour 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture over the top of your chocolate crust.
Drizzle 1/2 of the raspberry jam on top of that.
Top with the remaining cream cheese mixture. Then drizzle the top with the rest of the raspberry jam. Run the tip of a knife through the jam to create swirls, if desired.
Place the filled springform pan into a larger pan (such as rectangular cake pan). Fill the larger pan with hot water until water reaches 1/2 way up the sides of the springform pan. (This creates a water bath around your cheesecake, which will help prevent cracking or uneven baking.)
Bake cheesecake at 325°F for 55-60 minutes until cheesecake jiggles only slightly in the middle when moved. (It should jiggle as a whole, like gelatin. If it looks soupy at all - cook it a few minutes longer until it's done.) 

Cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Christmas Gifts: Chocolate Espresso Crinkles & Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti

When I was a child, my mother started a tradition of doing a big weekend of holiday baking, then giving out the treats as gifts for aunts and uncles, neighbors, coworkers, etc. It was a family affair. My mother, my father, my brother and I -- we all had a role to play. Still today, it's one of my favorite Christmas memories. That's why I continue to put baking high on my list of to-dos during the holiday season.

This year, I have several holiday parties to attend in the next couple of weeks, so I decided to put together homemade hostess gifts featuring chocolate espresso crinkles and cranberry white chocolate biscotti. (Both of these recipes freeze well, so you can bake all at once, then take portions out of the freezer as you need them.) I decided to #ChooseSmart and go to Smart and Final to get all my ingredients and gifting supplies.

I was able to get pretty much everything I needed in one stop (can't beat that during the busy holiday season!)--flour, sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla extract, chocolate, cranberries, parchment paper, carry-out containers and more:

I used some markers, ribbon and gift tags I had on hand to "gussy-up" the white take-out containers I bought:

Using gift tags to make custom stickers
A more elegant presentation - fabric ribbon & gift tag

Then I filled the containers with my new favorite cookie recipes this year (recipes below):

Chocolate Espresso Crinkles

White Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti

Close up the containers, add a bow and ta-da -- easy hostess gifts ready to go!

Fun with markers! (Holiday lights are very easy to draw - and don't they look cool?!)
What are your favorite holiday traditions? Leave me a comment - I'd love to hear from you!

To get inspired with holiday recipes and crafting ideas, check out the Smart and Final Social Circular, or follow Smart and Final on Facebook and Twitter.

Chocolate Espresso Crinkles
(Makes 3 dozen cookies)

6 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate
6 Tbsp. salted butter
2 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
approx. 2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar, for rolling

Place water in the bottom of a double boiler and bring to a boil Chop semi-sweet baking chocolate and butter into small chunks and add to the top pan of the double boiler. Stir until the chocolate and butter melt and are fully combined. Sift espresso powder into chocolate mixture and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.
In a separate bowl, beat the granulated sugar and eggs on medium speed for 3-4 minutes until pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract and chocolate/butter mixture. Beat on medium-low just until fully incorporated.
In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add to chocolate mixture, continuing to beat on medium-low speed until the flour is fully combined.
Cover the dough and refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Once the dough has firmed up, preheat oven to 325°F.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop dough out of bowl by the tablespoonful and roll between hands into 1" balls. Roll in confectioner's sugar until well coated. (The dough balls should be totally white - like powdered donut holes.)
Place on prepared baking sheets about 2" apart. Bake at 325°F for 8-10 minutes until powdered sugar forms cracks and tops of cookies just start to feel firm.
Remove from oven and cool completely before packaging (or freezing).

White Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti
(Makes 2 dozen biscotti)

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. granulated sugar + extra for dusting
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 egg white (for egg wash)
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together vanilla, whole eggs and egg yolks.
Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir just until crumbly. Fold in cranberries and white chocolate chips.
Work dough together with your hands until well combined and evenly moist. Shape dough into 2 equal sized balls.
Place one ball of dough on well-floured board. Shape into a log that's about 14" long and 2-3" wide.
Place dough on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Beat egg white and brush over the top of dough. Sprinkle with a few pinches of sugar.
Repeat the process of shaping the 2nd ball of dough, washing with egg white and sprinkling with sugar. The logs of dough can be placed at least 3" apart on the same baking sheet, or on 2 separate baking sheets.
Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, turning baking sheet(s) 1/2 way through.
Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes.
One cool enough to touch, cut each log on an angle into long slices about 1" wide x 3-4" long.
Place slices cut-side down on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake at 350°F for another 15 minutes, flipping slices 1/2 way through.
Remove from oven and cool completely before packaging (or freezing).

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.This shop has been compensated as part of a shopper social insights study for Collective Bias™ and Smart & Final #CBias #SocialFabric. All opinions and recipes are my own.