light as air pumpkin cheesecake

chscake22When I set out to make my very first cheesecake, I didn’t know that it would become a huge ordeal. It’s not that the recipe was exceptionally difficult, there were no strange ingredients, no extraordinary techniques… I think that some days the universe just aligns against me. Do you ever have those days? Those days where every little thing that could possibly go wrong does? Luckily, I worked through it, and was rewarded with this delicious cheesecake.

The first sign of trouble was the graham crackers. They just didn’t want to crush (I ended up hand-crushing some of the larger chunks as I was pressing them into the pan out of a final act of desperation), then I didn’t have a pan large enough to make a water bath, nor a kettle to heat enough water for it, and then I discovered that I only had half the amount of cream cheese necessary. A trip or two to the store later and I was ready to go… Thankfully it’s Thanksgiving time so they had those cheap “one-use” roasting pans… Even though I thought it was a perfectly good excuse to buy the $160 fancy roasting pan, the grocery store was much closer, and clearly the more economical choice. 🙂

Returning from the store, If I started the cheesecake THAT MOMENT, I would be right on schedule to pull the cheesecake out of the oven JUST IN TIME to head to dinner. I mixed my spices and whipped my cream cheese, then I decided it would be a great idea to catapult my brand new glass jar of pumpkin pie spice onto the concrete floor. Yes, it shattered. Everywhere.

All of my hopes and dreams, all of my hard work, gone in a puff of orange colored spice dust. This is normally where I would give up, decide that I “gave it my best” and “today was just not my day”, but the crust was already bakes, the cream cheese was already whipped, the pumpkin was already drained… I was too far in to quit now, so I forged on.

Screw it, I’ll just make my own “pumpkin pie spice”. I really wanted to take a picture of my shattered dreams scattered across the kitchen floor, but I had to use every last ounce of motivation to convince myself to carry on. I quickly cleaned up the mess before of glass and spice before the kitties (or my feet) had a chance to track through it…

By the end of my adventure, it looked like a Tasmanian devil went through my kitchen.  As soon as the cheesecake went into the oven I began frantically cleaning… It bakes for 1.25 hours, and we had to leave for dinner in exactly 1.5 hours… Actually, now that I think of it, I think I spotted a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice that landed inside the pantry…. Note to self: make sure to clean that up when you get home…

When I first saw the recipe, it reminded me of the hauntingly good piece of cheesecake I had at Cheesecake Factory just a couple weeks earlier… Unlike the usual dense cheesecakes, this one was rich and flavorful while still remaining light and airy. A sweet, pumpkiny cloud of delicious…

See that? Much fancier. I actually made some fancy vanilla bean whipped cream to go with my cheesecake, too, but I was so excited with how well the cheesecake came out that I had completely forgotten about it by the time I was eating the cheesecake. Oops? Anyway, I think I came pretty darn close to that one. Although looking at the picture, it looks like their crust went up the sides of the cheesecake. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

Now that I know the technique, I can apply it to any cheesecake I make. The trick? Are you ready? Heavy cream. Just whip some heavy cream right into the cream cheese mixture and voila – light, airy cheesecake. I know, rocket science, right?

This cheesecake would be the perfect alternative to your run-of-the-mill pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving (or, since it’s Thanksgiving today, maybe next Thanksgiving. But you could make it this year for practice…). I give it five stars, two thumbs up, and two toes up. All of the stars and all of the digits up. I don’t love cheesecake, I don’t even particularly like it, but this cheesecake might just be the talk of your (next) Thanksgiving feast, and I can say with medium certainty that you will be able to accomplish this cheesecake with 90% less disaster than I did. Don’t blame the recipe for my misfortune, I believe in you! You can do it!

Light as Air Pumpkin Cheesecake

[ Printable Recipe ]

·         5 ounces graham crackers (1 packet/ 9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
·         3 tablespoons granulated sugar
·         1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
·         1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
·         6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted

·         1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
·         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
·         1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
·         1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
·         1/8 teaspoon allspice
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
·         1 1/2 pounds cream cheese ; cut into 1-inch cubes, softened about 30 minutes
·         1 tablespoon vanilla extract
·         1 tablespoon lemon juice
·         5 large eggs , room temperature
·         1 cup heavy cream

For the crust:

1.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray, line with parchment.

2.  Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, transfer crumbs to medium bowl and drizzle  with melted butter. Mix  until evenly moistened.

3.  Pour crumbs into prepared springform pan and spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then run a spoon around the edges to smooth crumbs into edges of pan.

4.  Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

Boil water: bring about 4 quarts water to simmer in stockpot.

Dry pumpkin: Line baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin on paper towels in roughly even layer.

Cover pumpkin with second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until paper towels are saturated. Peel back top layer of towels and discard.

Grasp bottom towels and fold pumpkin in half; peel back towels. Fold again, into quarters. You can use the towel to help you carry the pumpkin to the bowl when you’re ready to use it.

Prepare spices: In a small bowl, whisk sugar, spices, and salt

Make filling:

1.  In standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese at medium speed until soft about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula.

2.  Add one third of sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each addition. You want to really beat it here, make it nice and fluffy:

3.  Add pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice, beating at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl.

4.  Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl and add remaining 2 eggs , beating at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds. Scrape bowl and beater.

5.  Add heavy cream and beat at low speed (so you don’t spray cream everywhere) until combined, about 45 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give final stir by hand, making sure to scrape up anything that may be lingering in the bottom of the bowl. The mixture will be very runny.

Fill the crust:

1.  Set springform pan with cooled crust on an 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil (that means yo buy the super long tube of “heavy duty” foil). Set wrapped springform pan in roasting pan and fill springform pan with your cheesecake filling, smoothing the surface when finished.

2.  Set roasting pan in oven and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken, about 1 1/2 hours.*

3.  Set roasting pan on wire rack and use paring knife or offset spatula to loosen cake from sides of pan. Cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes. (Mine cooled in the water bath while we went to dinner)

4.  Remove springform pan from water bath, discard foil, and set on wire rack. Continue to cool another 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

To serve:  Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving platter. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 before cutting.


–   When done, cake should register 145 – 150 F on an instant-read thermometer. Since my instant-read thermometer is not very reliable, I used the “tap the pan” method. This is where you tap the side of the pan and see how wobbly the cake is. The outsides should be still while the center still jiggles slightly.

–    Depending on the oven and the temperature of the ingredients, the cheesecake may bake about 15 minutes faster or slower than the instructions indicate; it is therefore best to check the cake 1 1/4 hours into baking.

–   Although the cheesecake can be made up to three days in advance, the crust will begin to lose its crispness after only one day.

–   To make slicing the cheesecake easy and neat, use a knife with a narrow blade, such as a carving knife; between cuts, dip the blade into a pitcher of hot water and wipe it clean with paper towels.

[ Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen; November 2011 ]

cream cheese pumpkin muffins

cream cheese pumpkin muffin 1

I sent half of these muffins to work with the boyfriend, and distributed the rest amongst a few of my coworkers. Since then, I have had a few requests from those anxious to get the recipe, so I figured I better hurry up and post it already…So, by popular demand, I bring you sweet, cinnamony, pumpkin muffins… with cream cheese filling.

Since you have to make the filling a couple hours ahead of time, you can’t make these muffins at the last minute (like you can with pretty much any other muffin or quickbread, hence the “quick”). You can, however, make the filling when you’re thinking about it, and then leave it in the freezer for however long until you decide you want some muffins.

Make sure you let them cool adequately, so you don’t end up with molten cream cheese magma burning the inside of your mouth… not that you would try to eat a muffin before it was cooled anyway… What kind of crazy person does that?

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

[ Printable Recipe ]

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

For the muffins:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp.pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1¼ cups vegetable oil

For the topping:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

For the filling: Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl until blended and smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 24 inches long, 1 to 1 ½-inches in diameter.  Fit tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil.  Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

For the topping: Combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend.  Add the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the muffins: Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and line muffin pans with paper liners.

1.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil.  Mix on medium-low speed until blended. Add dry ingredients in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.

To assemble:

1. Fill each muffin tin with just enough batter to cover the bottom (1 – 2 tablespoons).

2. Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces.  Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well.

3. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely.  Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

banana bread

banana bread

Autumn is almost upon us… Although it doesn’t technically start until the 23rd, the stores are already filled with Halloween treats, pumpkin sweets, and even Thanksgiving decorations. I can’t believe it. Where did the year go? It was January like five seconds ago… So despite the triple-digit temperatures, the stores have been tricking me into thinking it’s time to break out my fall recipes, but I just don’t feel right making something so “fall-y” when it’s still in the 90’s and 100’s out. My solution? Banana bread. It’s not quite as fall-y as pumpkin, but not too “summery” either. Yes, foods have seasons. Stop looking at me like I’m a crazy person.

Even though I already have my “go to” banana bread recipe, I just had to try this recipe when I saw it. Possibly because I had two pounds of cream cheese in the fridge and a bunch of over-ripe bananas on the counter that I needed to do SOMETHING with… it’s like it was meant to be. The downfall being that banana bread is something that I have not yet mastered photographing. It always turns out either way overexposed or severely underexposed… It’s a perfect storm of lack of skill, experience, and equipment that causes the pictures to come out less than perfect. Trust me, though, this is a recipe you want to try.

The bread doesn’t come out so “in-your-face” banana-y, and is light with a tender crumb. Also, though I tweaked the recipe a bit (who makes banana bread without a bit of cinnamon in it?), it’s not nearly as over-the-top as my usual recipe is. The texture reminds of that of the strawberry cream cheese bread I made earlier this summer. I think I will use these cream cheese batter as a base for a variety of future quickbreads.

BF had the day off, so I took it into my work instead of sending it to work with him. It disappeared in under an hour, so I’m not the only one who thought it was really good. This recipe makes 2 loaves, so make one for yourself, and one for a friend (or work). Or you could just freeze the extra loaf for a future banana bread-related emergency. 🙂

Cream Cheese Banana Bread

[ Printable Recipe ]

For the bread:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 8 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 3 – 4 medium ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350F, and prepare two standard loaf pans

2. Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, mix together mashed bananas and vanilla.

3. Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until combined. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until just blended.

5. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, mixing on low. Stir in banana mixture, be careful not to over-mix.

6. Pour into prepared pans and make your topping.

7. FOR THE TOPPING: combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and sprinkle evenly over both loaves.

8. Bake in middle of oven for 1 hour, or until it passes the toothpick test (poke a toothpick into the center of the loaf – it should come out clean with just a few crumbs clinging to it). Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans to complete cooling.


* To avoid over-mixing, you can stir the flour in instead of beating it in. Using a paddle attachment and a stand mixer will also help to avoid overbeating (vs. a whisk attachment/hand mixer)

* If your streusel is browning too quickly, tent the bread with aluminum foil.

* You can add nuts, chocolate chips, or cinnamon chips for a more “decadent” version (to make up for the calories you saved by using low-fat cream cheese) 🙂

[ Adapted from Bake or Break ]

strawberry bread

strawberry bread 2943Summer is almost over, and if you’re looking for a way to use up the last of your strawberries – here you go. This bread will not change your life, but it will serve as a tasty breakfast (or second breakfast, or possibly dessert). The cream cheese in this bread makes it more dense while the milk makes it more tender. The batter is thick and hearty (I imagine it has to be to hold all those strawberries in place). Notice that pound-cake-like crack down the center?

The texture of the resulting loaf is almost like a pound cake, but with a more tender crumb. Like if a pound cake and a quickbread had a baby, and then they stuffed that baby with strawberries – this would be it. I imagine it’s equally as delicious with other berries as well, or maybe even just a little zest and juice from a lemon. Maybe a drizzle of icing? Don’t worry, it’s good for you, it has strawberries in it. 🙂

Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Printable Recipe

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or I just used milk, because that’s what we had in the fridge)
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries, chopped
  1. Place chopped strawberries in a collander lined with paper towel to dry. Prepare a standard loaf pan with baking spray or parchment. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Beat butter, sugar, and cream cheese until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla.
  3. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend flour mixture with butter mixture just until blended. Add milk and stir just til combined. (Don’t overmix). Gently mix in strawberries.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes at 350F

[ Adapted from ]

buckeye state

buckeye state main

We all know about my undying love for Jeni’s. Earlier this month, when I made her “Milkiest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World” I couldn’t shut up about how good it was. Well, when I returned to her book to make my favorite “Buckeye State Ice Cream”, I swear I could have died after that first bite. I can confidently say that any recipe you make out of Jeni’s book is guaranteed to be a hit. And this one? If you, like me, have an affinity for all things chocolate and peanut butter – you must make this. You simply must.

This ice cream is pure buckeye bliss. For those of you who aren’t from the Ohio –  Ohio is affectionately called “the buckeye state”, because the best thing we can think to be known for is a slightly poisonous, inedible tree nut. For this reason, we created our own super awesome “buckeye”, which looks like the nut, but is made of chocolate and peanut butter and is very edible. In fact, it is probably the sole reason that Ohians everywhere are obsessed with the combination peanut butter and chocolate. We have “buckeyes”, then buckeye bars, buckeye brownies, buckeye ice cream…. you name it and we’ve “buckeyed” it. Hence, Jeni’s “Buckeye State Ice Cream” which is the perfect combination of peanut butter ice cream and chocolate.

I love that Jeni gives us her secret of pouring the melted chocolate into the churning ice cream, which causes the chocolate to break into tiny pieces that evenly disperse throughout the container of ice cream. This ensures that each bite has the perfect amount of chocolate in pieces that are the ideal size to complement the peanut butter’s flavor as the chocolate pieces melt away on your tongue (vs other ice creams that can end up with a giant hard piece of frozen chocolate to gnaw on).

(Also tasty sandwiched between two big fudgy cookies)

Again – BUY HER BOOK. I promise I’m not getting paid to tell you that, I wish I was though. Because I tell everyone I see to BUY JENI’S SPLENDID ICE CREAM!

Jeni’s Buckeye State Ice Cream

Print Me!

  • 2 C whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1 1/2 oz (3 Tbsp) cream cheese (I used ‘lite’)
  • 1/2 C peanut butter (I used Jif Natural)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt (I used 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 C heavy cream
  • 2/3 C sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 4 oz chocolate (I used 70%)

1. Fill a large bowl with ice water, set aside. Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Whisk the cream cheese, peanut butter, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. (This part was hard, so I didn’t do a very good job, which didn’t really matter because it’s going to all melt later anyway) You can probably just smoosh and stir it together with a spatula and be fine.

3. Combine remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and honey in a large sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil of medium-high heat. Boil for 4 minutes. (Keep a watchful eye on it to make sure it doesn’t boil over the sides of the pan) Remove from heat and gradually whisk in cornstarch slurry.

4. Place pan back on burner and bring the mixture back to a boil and cook, stirring with a spatula until slightly thickened – about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat (again).

5. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the peanut butter mixture until smooth. Keep whisking… Once it’s smooth pour the mixture into a 1-gallon freezer bag and submerge in the ice water. Let sit until it’s chilled, at least 30 minutes.

6. Pour ice cream base into the frozen canister and being spinning.

7. While the ice cream is spinning, melt your chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave (on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval). Set aside until cool, but still pourable.

8. When the ice cream is almost done, drizzle the melted chocolate through the opening of the ice cream machine and allow it to solidify and break up in the ice cream for about 2 minutes. At this point, some of the chocolate solidified all together into one piece and tried to make my ice cream overflow over the sides of my mixer, so have a spoon handy in case you have to reach in there and break it up.

9. Pour ice cream into a storage container and freeze for at least 4 hours, until firm.

[Recipe Credit: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home]

[Ice cream cookie recipe here]

Photo featured on SE