Monday, December 13, 2010

Bake, Don't Buy

Bon Appetit's Maple Cheesecake with Maple Cranberry Compote
(Photo via Epicurious)

According to our favorite clueless girl, "Whenever a boy comes, you should always have something baking."  My husband instantly perks up when he walks into a house that smells of baked goods, inhaling with pleasure as he would with my perfume. You get it now? 

The carnal rule followed by Cher Horowitz, girlfriends, boyfriends, housewives and housewife hopefuls everywhere can be applied to many different situations, including your upcoming holiday party.

Please (I beg you) try and bake something. The aroma of freshly baked cookies wafting through your dwellings is much more desirable (and impressive) than the stench of plastic cartons from Trader Joe's. 

Here are some ideas. And no, none of them include throwing a roll of Pillsbury cookie dough onto a baking sheet; that right is solely reserved for Cher. I've made and taste tested all of the following so no excuses allowed. 

Brunch or Luncheon: Mom's Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake 
Courtesy of my mom, this recipe requires a bundt pan and very few ingredients. The result: a moist and fluffy slice of yellow cake, dotted with semi-melted chocolate chips and pecans. 

4 large eggs 
1 package yellow cake mix
1 small package vanilla instant pudding 
1/2 cup cooking oil 
1 small carton sour cream 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 package chocolate chips 
1 cup chopped pecans 
2 tsp. cocoa 
1 tsp. cinnamon 

Preheat oven to 350. 
Grease and flour bundt pan. 

With an electric mixture, combine for 10 minutes eggs, yellow cake mix, instant pudding, oil and sour cream. Set aside. 

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, chocolate chips, pecans, cocoa and cinnamon. 

Pour/spoon 1/3 dry mixture into bundt pan, pour 1/2 batter over, 1/3 dry mixture, and so on, ending with the dry mixture. 

Bake for 50 minutes. Let it cool completely (very important). 

Knife the edges to loosen the cake and flip over onto a plate to serve. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Casual Open House Party: Fruit Filled Jewels 
If you want a damn fine cookie, don't go searching far and wide for a gourmet recipe-- you'll end up with dried up rounds of nothing and disappointed guests. Go to a reliable source (AKA   Mrs. Debbie Fields). All of her recipes end up in my recipe bible. This one landed in my top 10 favorites by the time I was 12 years old. Don't get scared by the steps; they're easy. 

3/4 cup butter, softened 
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 large egg yolks 
1 tsp Vanilla 
1 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour 
1 cup Fruit Jam (Any flavor...I like raspberry) 

Preheat oven to 325.

In a medium bowl cream butter with an electric mixer set at medium speed. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Add egg yolks and vanilla , and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the flour and blend at low speed until thoroughly combined.

Gather dough into a ball and flatten to a disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag and Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Using a floured rolling pin , roll dough on board to inch thickness. Cut circles with a 2 inch diameter cookie cutter or drinking glass and place on ungreased cookie sheets, 1 inch apart. Continue using dough scrapes , re-rolling and cutting until all dough is used.

Drop teaspoon of fruit jam in center of each cookie, then top with another cookie. Using the tines of a fork, seal edges of cookie.

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Recipe from Mrs. Field's Cookie Book

Formal Dinner Party: Maple Cheesecake with Maple Cranberry Compote 
I lost my cheesecake making virginity to this recipe from Bon Appetit, last year and boy was it an amazing experience. Go slowly, follow the directions carefully and don't be afraid of the maple's ability to captivate. 

Reduced maple syrup
1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup (preferably grade A dark amber)

2 cups ground graham crackers (about 17 whole crackers ground in processor)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon (scant) ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup maple sugar or (packed) golden brown sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup reduced maple syrup (see above)
2/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Special equipment
9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides


For reduced maple syrup,  boil maple syrup in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1 cup, stirring occasionally and watching closely to avoid boiling over (syrup will bubble up to top of pan), about 5 minutes. Remove reduced maple syrup from heat and let cool to slightly warm or room temperature.

For crust, position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and 2 inches up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Bake crust until set and top edge of crust darkens slightly, about 10 minutes. Cool crust completely on rack. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

For filling, Beat cream cheese in large bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with paddle attachment until very smooth. Add maple sugar, flour, and salt; beat until well blended and smooth. Add 1 cup reduced maple syrup, sour cream, and vanilla; beat until well blended. Add eggs, 2 at a time, and beat just until blended after each addition. Tap bowl several times on counter to release any air bubbles. Pour filling into cooled crust. Using tip of small knife, pop any air bubbles on surface.

Bake cake until slightly puffed around edges (center will still look moist and will move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 30 minutes. Transfer cake to rack and cool completely. Cover and chill overnight. 

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Cut cheesecake into wedges. Divide among plates. Serve with warm Maple- Cranberry Compote alongside.

Recipe from Bon Appetit/December 2009. 


  1. Thanks for sharing all the recipes! definitely great for the christmas season!

    sending love from hong kong!

  2. Hehe. Thanks for the clueless quote! That is so funny. I love it!

    That image/recipe seems SO delicious!!


    Best wishes,


  3. looks yummy! :D definitely gonna try all these recipes :) thanks for sharing them :) XXXX ♥

  4. Love that you quoted that line from Clueless. I so need to watch that movie.


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