Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Whenever I run low on groceries (ie real food with actual nutrients), I always manage to have just enough supplies left to bake something that goes against everything healthy I *should* eat. It might take a bit of searching and tweaking of recipes, but I always come up with something.

However, I’m now starting to run low on baking supplies.  Unbelievable right? I’m down to my last bit of flour, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. And I have absolutely NO MILK or chocolate. The current state of my cabinets really puts a kink in any baking desires I might have. But you know what doesn’t require much flour or any chocolate? Brownies!

I can never go wrong with my alterations to Best Cocoa Brownies from Une Gamine dans la Cuisine. And who would say no to a cheesecake mixture swirled into them? Not me, that’s for sure. While the original recipe for the Cheesecake Brownies from Buns in my Oven was still amazing when I made them a couple months ago, this combination is truly a winner.

These brownies became infinitely fudgier overnight. When I first cut into them a couple hours after they came out of the oven, they seemed cakier than I wanted. However, after sitting for the night they transformed into brownie bliss. I wouldn’t say no to more of the cream cheese mixture (perhaps I’ll swirl less next time), but other wise I’m in love, and I think my friends will be too.

While I would love if I could survive on these, it might be a good idea to drag myself away from the pan long enough to go up to Trader Joe’s so I can get some real food.

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Citrus!

Once again I have fallen desperately behind in updating here, but at least I have a tiny excuse. I’ve actually been out *gasp* HAVING FUN! I can hardly believe it myself, seeing as how I can be a right shut-in most of the time. It’s been an amazing few weeks, and thankfully all this fun hasn’t been breaking the bank too badly. It’s astonishing what you can do when you make the plans in advance and stick to them. I just wish I could say the same about posting, but I’m just glad I’ve even been able to get pictures because all of my baked goods have been disappearing rather quickly as of late.

Three weeks ago for a 4th of July “celebration” I made the Margarita Cupcakes I found on Beantown Baker’s blog. These cupcakes almost didn’t get made because I had no clue what I was doing when I was in the liquor store. It was an entirely new experience for me and not one I’d like to repeat any time in the near future, thank you very much.

They came together and baked up quickly and with little hassle. If anything the longest process was zesting and juicing the limes. I slightly overestimated how many I would need for these cupcakes and the accompanying watermelon “margaritas” (don’t ask . . . it was bad), and as a result I still have four limes sitting in my fridge.

I liked these cupcakes without the added tequila. It turned out to be a really good lime cupcake with a nice crumb; it was sturdy and spongey. I’m definitely going to keep the plain base in mind for future white cake baking endeavors.

Unfortunately for myself I couldn’t finish the remaining cupcakes so I sent them along with my suitemate so she could give them to some friends. While this was an enjoyable baking experience, I just don’t think alcoholic cupcakes will remain in my repertoire, not just because the alcohol is expensive (I’d MUCH rather spend that money on new pans or high-quality chocolate), but because after just one cupcake I had a raging headache. This happens every time I have the slightest bit of any sort of alcohol, and I think it’s stupid to put myself through hours of pain (even with Advil) to consume something I don’t even enjoy (even if it’s a part of something I enjoy).

In other citrus news, I also recently made Strawberry Lemonade Bars from The Baker Chick. I loved this bar base, so if ever I made lemon bars again, I will definitely stick with it. Unlike other recipes I’ve tried, this bar didn’t even come close to sticking to the bottom of the pan–well, except for one bar, but I’m blaming that on the friend trying to get it out.

I ended up adding way more than the 1/2 cup of pureed strawberry the recipe called for, and the strawberry flavor was still extremely faint, at least to me. The lemon still overpowered it, even though I added about a quarter cup less lemon juice than it called for. I’m not sure if the strawberry is meant to be overpowered and it’s just used for color, but I certainly expected some sort of strawberry flavor.

All in all it was a good bar, but the recipe made so many that I only just finished off the last of them, even with a considerable bit of help from friends.

Speaking of friends, two of us are seeing our first-ever GAELIC FOOTBALL GAME TOMORROW! We’re heading up to Gaelic Park in the Bronx to check out “Little Ireland”/Woodlawn and we’re going to catch a game while we’re up there. If only I had known about the league before this summer, I would have definitely gone to a game or two before this.

*And Breathe*

I have bad luck. Really, I do. Especially during last August, a little while ago, and now. What is up with this? Is this karma for my jokingly snarky and sarcastic comments? If so, I think I’m going to have bad luck for the rest of my life because I simply can’t give up the snark and sarcasm. It’s not like I really mean it when I say those things . . . and I can’t really help when I say them, it just kind of happens. Otherwise, I think I’m a pretty nice person. So why is it rain on Emerald Thunder Spring again? Have I been too happy lately and this is supposed to bring me back to equilibrium? If so, it can stop now, please, because I haven’t been *so* happy that it warrants all of this.

*end rant . . . I hope*

Nope, not over yet. I should have figured something else would happen. I started writing this before my cupcakes were out of the oven, and when I went to get them they were completely FLAT. No pretty little domes at all *sigh*. At least they still taste good. I was planning on covering them in buttercream anyway, but this just follows along with the string of seemingly small issues that have been building up over the last few weeks. I’m probably going to need to have a nice little panic attack/breakdown in a while if it keeps up, though. Then I’ll be good to go. I think that will probably occur around the time I get my final grades back for the semester, or rather, as I’m waiting for the first one to show up and everyone else here has already gotten them all back.

*15 minutes later*

Nope, the cupcakes not coming out right wasn’t bad luck. It was sheer STUPIDITY. The goals of my bonanzas REALLY aren’t working out well because evidently I can’t even read a measuring cup properly right now. The recipe called for 1 3/4 cups of flour and I only put 1 1/4 cups, and the same thing happened for the sugar, as it called for 1 1/2 cups and I only added 1 cup.

This really serves me right for BWCD, or Baking While Completely Distracted. I blame the gloomy weather. I’ve been really reflective today for some reason–listening to Backstreet Boys ballads, thinking about my life, what I really want, and why I am the way I am–and I spent a good chunk of time just listening and staring out my window at the city while pondering. For some reason this usually happens when the weather is bad, but at least today gave me  a chance to slowly figure it all out. I stress the SLOWLY part.

Just like I needed to figure out (but this time quickly) what to do with these cupcakes that completely stuck to the pan because I don’t like to use liners (I’m a huge fan of the outside layer of cakes/cupcakes/brownies. I love that contrasting texture. Yum!). I had crumbled cake in one hand and delicious chocolate buttercream in the other. That could only mean one thing: CAKE BALLS! I crumbled up the failed cupcakes (they still tasted okay, thank goodness) and mixed them in with the frosting.

Then I refrigerated the mixture for a while and formed them.

I coated some in melted peanut butter semi-sweet swirl chips.

And some in melted white chocolate chips.

Finally, something is going right, because they tasted wonderful. I only wish I had sprinkles or something to decorate the tops.

Bonanza #3 — Oreo Cupcakes

A little preface before I dive into the cupcakes:

I admit that my Bi-Weekly Baking Bonanzas have been failing. Even when I manage to make them, I either don’t take pictures or I’m trying to rush through them. That is NOT what I wanted when I first set out to do this. These are the points I wanted to accomplish, and it’s unfortunate that I’m not succeeding as I had wished.

GOALS OF THE BAKING BONANZAS:

1. Read through the ingredient list and physically check that I have EVERYTHING in the proper amounts.

* I’m doing okay at this, but honestly, I could do better — Half-Check.

2. Read through the instructions at least once before taking anything out.

* Okay, I’m definitely doing this — Check.

3. Pre-measure ingredients.

* NOPE — Check-Minus.

4. DON’T MAKE SUCH A HUGE MESS! (This one’s really important.)

* Who am I kidding, I’m making just as big a mess every time. BUT, I’m getting better about washing my dishes when I’m done, but I think that also has something to do with there never being any room in the sink to just let them sit. — I’ll give it a Check for that.

5. Take LOTS of photos of the ENTIRE process, from start to finish.

* Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I’d probably take more pictures if I had natural lighting in my kitchen, rather than the gross yellow overhead lighting — Nothing.

6. SLOW DOWN and ENJOY the baking process.

* I wish I could give myself a Check for this, but I’m just so rushed lately — Check-minus.

I honestly thought this whole process would be such a fun experience. I hate being wrong, but honestly, did I honestly expect to accomplish all this during the semester? I should have known that school and work would ultimately get in the way. Other things have gotten in the way too, and I should have known they would. I was SO optimistic at the start, but as the weeks go on and things don’t get done, that optimism wanes and that depresses me. It also doesn’t help that I don’t really have anyone to bake FOR.

Okay, enough with the depressing stuff. On to the cupcakes.

Unfortunately, this Bonanza truly embodied the rushed nature of my baking. On the spur of the moment late one Monday night I decided to bake these for a friend to either celebrate her becoming an RA or comfort her if she did not get the job. That’s one good thing about baking, it can be either for celebration or comfort, and you don’t have to change a thing in the recipe.

Let me just say that I was terrible at separating the mint Oreos. The cream was too squishy and so not many of the halves separated cleanly.

I did half mint-bottomed cupcakes and half double-stuffed bottoms. The purple and green are mint, and the red and blue are plain.

I ended up crunching up the Oreos rather than just cutting them into big chunks, but I liked the outcome of how I did it. I know, I didn’t “follow the recipe” as it said, but oh well. They were still very yummy.

They domed up and didn’t spread out over the tin, which really pleased me.

However, I should have known that the Oreos would stick to the liners because I didn’t spray them. I may have consumed some wrapper with my cupcakes.

They turned out to be comfort cupcakes during lunch the next day. They cheered her up a bit, but she was still disappointed.

Which would you rather eat? This gigantic apple or a cupcake? It was a hard decision, but I did eventually eat my apple. The cupcake may or may not have been consumed first. The point is that I DID eat my apple.

In other news, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO PAUL BYROM, my beloved Swanky Tenor.

Lemon, Lemon, CHOCOLATE!

It’s closing in on the end of the semester, and do you know what that means? It means I like to bake more than study. I’ve had this urge to make almost EVERYTHING I’ve seen on baking blogs, and it finally got to be too much and I cracked. And I baked. More than I should have. It’s not like this desire was just an “Oh, yum, that would be a great thing to bake. I should try it sometime.” No, it’s been more like “You. Must. Bake. Me. Now. And. Forget. About. Homework!” And this reaction hasn’t just been about one thing, which makes it even worse. Fortunately I think it’s subsided for a brief moment right now, and hopefully I can get through this next week without one of those attacks.

The first thing I absolutely HAD to make was the Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake from Two Peas and Their Pod. I saw it on their blog before spring break, and I was dying to make it, if only because I had ricotta cheese I didn’t want to go to waste. Surprisingly, the ricotta survived in the fridge past spring break and I was finally able to make it last week. Either that or the urge just took way, way, over and I no longer had a choice in the matter.

I may have been a bit delayed in taking pictures of this cake. . . . About half of it was gone by this time, which is understandable, because it was SO DARN GOOD. You see the shininess on top of the cake? I made a glaze with the juice of one of the zested lemons and some powdered sugar. SO DARN GOOD. I also poked a bunch of holes in the top of the cake to let the glaze seep down inside.

I happened to get some batter on my finger before baking, and so I tried it. I wanted to stop right there and eat the batter with  a spoon it was so good. I’m actually surprised that most of it made it into the loaf pan. I showed great self restraint ;).

Though I should have just eaten all the batter, because the baking process was a horror. I guess I still don’t “know”  my loaf pan, because I followed the directions and put it in at 350 when I should have lowered it to 325 after other things have come out too browned. I took the cake out at one point to cover it in foil, and I ended up burning the fleshy point where my thumb meets my palm. OW!

I also should have known that eyeballing leavening agents (aka baking powder) in an actual spoon is not a good idea. It’s not much fault though, I HAD to. You see, the measuring spoons were buried under a MOUNTAIN of my suitemates’ dirty dishes in the sink. There was no way I could physically get to them. And as a result, my cake collapsed in on itself. It didn’t affect the taste or outward appearance, but once you sliced into it you could see the effects. My cake looked like one of the blocks the kiddies play with at school.

From now on I will use measuring spoons, no matter how deep they’re buried. Lesson learned.

I must be on a lemon kick or something, because even after that cake I still wanted MORE LEMON. I was looking around online for kicks and giggles and I found this Blueberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream on Recipe Girl. I’ve made and loved blueberry/lemon things before, so I knew this would be great to make.

The blueberry cake is delicious. I’ll probably make it again and not even use the buttercream, just so I can have a pure blueberry taste. LOVE.

Thankfully there was no collapsing this time around, and it baked up wonderfully. I did turn the oven down to 325 to prevent it from over-browning/baking, which proved to be a very good idea. You see? I’m learning :).

I was so impatient to eat this cake that I started frosting it before it was at room temperature. Whoops! The buttercream started melting as I was smoothing it across the top, but that was nothing a little fridge time couldn’t fix.

I also took some pictures of the view from my window after this little photo shoot. I’m glad I did.

And here’s one from as I’m posting. The weather looks really nice, even if the sky isn’t completely blue and cloudless.

And finally, as the last part of the title indicates, CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES! I haven’t gone back to my simple roots and made chocolate chip cookies in ages. I thought it was about time to do so on Thursday.

Perfect. I could have had a lot more cookies (not all are pictured here), but that self-restraint from the pound cake flew out the window and I devoured the cookie dough. Whoops! It was well worth it though. I forgot how much I love and missed these cookies. Sometimes this urge to bake has some pretty good results beyond yummy creations. It’s always nice to make something nostalgic and that can bring up fond memories.