Sunday, 20 December 2015

Gingerbread Cookie Mini Cheesecakes



Gingerbread cookies are a Christmas favourite around here! I used my mom's cookie dough recipe to make small pie crusts in a muffin tin, then we piped a simple cheesecake mixture into each one. We decorated with a variety of Christmas candies and spices.

This recipe doesn't include any eggs, so they are allergy friendly.

Makes 30 mini gingerbread pie crusts

Ingredients

Cookies:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp all spice

For the cheesecake mixture:
1.5 cups mascarpone (or smooth ricotta cheese)
6 tbsp icing sugar
1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Blend in molasses and maple syrup.

In a second bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Add dry ingredients and water to creamed mixture. Knead well until blended and form into a smooth ball. Cover and chill for at least 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 3In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Blend in molasses and maple syrup.

In a second bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Add dry ingredients and water to creamed mixture. Knead well until blended and form into a smooth ball. Cover and chill for at least 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly flour work surface, rolling pin and hands. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick and cut with5°F (see note above). Lightly flour work surface, rolling pin and hands. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick and cut with a circular cookie cutter or turn a large mug upside down.

Press circles into muffin pan and bake for 8 minutes. Use a spoon to scoop out cookies and place on a cooling rack to cool fully before adding cheesecake mixture.

In a large bowl, combine mascarpone, sugar and vanilla. Mix well with a hand mixer. Transfer to a piping bag. Pipe cheesecake mixture into each cookie and top with candies or cinnamon and nutmeg.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Homemade vanilla extract

I recently read a post from smittenkitchen.com on how to make your own vanilla extract. I decided to give it a try, so I ventured into Ottawa's new Whole Foods Market, which was an experience. I learned that I am far too cheap ("frugal," says Simon) for Whole Foods, and that I am far too cheap to buy as many vanilla beans as the smittenkitchen.com recipe uses. Since I cheaped out, I only bought two vanilla beans, because they came in a glass vile of two for $8.00. I thought I'd try this out first before I buy any more than that. The bad news? My vanilla extract has a not-so-pleasant colour. The good news? It smells and tastes great anyway! So the moral of the story is: You can totally cheap out on this and still make it yourself.

I had both vodka and white rum in the cupboard, and since I wasn't sure how this would turn out, I decided to use white rum for my extract. That way, if it didn't taste vanilla-y enough, rum is a common enough baked goods ingredient that I figured I could get away with it. You can use either, but I was really happy with how the rum turned out.

I purchased these little jars from Dollarama. The jar must be kept in a cool, dark place. I stored it at the back of a cupboard and waited six weeks before I used it in my baking. The muffin in the photo is the Banana Oat Pumpkin Seed Butter Muffin recipe that I used it in this past weekend. I'm looking foward to using this extract in my upcoming Christmas baking!

Here's what I used:

2 vanilla beans (purchased at Whole Foods Market for $8.00)
2/3 cup white rum
1 small mason jar

Directions

Place vanilla beans in mason jar. Pour rum (or vodka) over top and seal. Store in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks before using.

So easy!  If you try it out, let me know how it goes!