Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake topped with toasted hazelnuts

Another year! Another chance to live, laugh and do what I love! There are a lot of plans and resolutions in mind which I will put on paper one of these days. For a sweet beginning to the new year, here is a recipe for a scrumptious cheesecake requested by my son for his birthday. When I asked him what kind of cake he wanted to have, he said “Can a cheesecake be made with chocolate and hazelnuts?” Well, no doubt it can! 🙂

My basic cheesecake recipe comes from one of the numerous Dr. Oetker cookbooks. I have changed a thing or two over the years to suit my taste. This time I added chocolate and hazelnuts to it and I didn’t pre-bake the crust as recipe directs, since it always turns too dark and burnt tasting. I just poured the cheesecake batter right onto the unbaked crust and it turned out just right baked together. I also prefer quark cheese for the cheesecake since it is so much lighter than the common American cream cheese, but it was way too expensive, so I went for what is known in the US as Neufchâtel or Farmers’ cheese and has a lower fat content.

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Chocolate swirl cheesecake topped with toasted hazelnuts

[print here]

Crust:

  • 150 g (5.3 oz) flour
  • ½ TSP baking powder
  • 75 g (2.6 oz) sugar
  • 1 pack of vanilla sugar (or 1 TSP vanilla extract)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 75 g (2.6 oz) butter (softened)
  • Flour for kneading

Filling:

  • 750 g (26 oz) cream cheese (used Neufchâtel, but quark cheese is the best)
  • 200 g (7 oz) sugar
  • 3 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 50 g (1.7 oz) corn starch
  • 3 eggs (divided)
  • 250 ml (1 cup+2 TBSP) heavy cream (whipped)
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) semisweet chocolate
  • 50 – 75 g (1.7 – 2.6 oz) toasted hazelnuts (coarsely chopped)

Also needed: 25 cm (10 inch) round cake spring pan

Preparation:

  1. For the crust combine all dry ingredients, add 1 egg and butter and mix it at medium speed until well blended. Transfer the dough on a floured surface, knead it for a minute, wrap in plastic and leave in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  2. While the dough is resting prepare the filling. First divide eggs and beat egg whites until firm. Set aside. Next whip the heavy cream and set aside. Lightly toast hazelnuts and chop them coarsely.
  3. Mix the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and lemon juice until smooth and creamy, add corn starch and mix for another minute.
  4. Now add in whipped cream and fold in egg whites by hand. Melt the chocolate over the hot water bath. Take about 1/5 of the cream cheese mixture and place it a small mixing bowl. Pour melted chocolate inside and mix well.
  5. Take the dough out of the fridge and divide into 3 equal parts. Roll 2/3 of the dough and place it onto a greased spring cake form. From the remaining 1/3 of the dough make a long rope and press it into the wall of the cake pan. Pour the filling into the unbaked crust, pour the chocolate mixture on the top and make swirls all around with a tooth pick. Top with toasted hazelnuts and bake at 175 C or 345 F for about 45-50 minutes. ***Since I made the cake at night, preparation photos were too dark, so I will not post them this time.

 ♥

Happy Birthday son!
Happy Birthday son!

Here Birthday Cheesecake just ready for the oven:

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Baked, cooled down and ready to cut into it:

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First slice for the Birthday boy:

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

The next day, a break from painting and a piece of cheesecake. Yum!

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

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Easy Honey-Wheat rolls from scratch

Last week I  was experimenting with the bread dough again. Not so much because I wanted to experiment, but more because of lack of necessary ingredients and being lazy to go to the story at a late hour. I would usually make these kinds of rolls for a party, because they are easy to make, look pretty on the table and taste delicious just warm from the oven. However, there was no party, I just wanted to spoil my family a little, because I had a day off and I felt like baking. Reason enough to do so, don’t you think?! Even with limited ingredients, these turned out far, far better than I thought. My husband said I should write down the recipe so I can make them again. He suggested they would be also excellent as burger buns. So here they are:

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Easy Honey-Wheat rolls from scratch

[printable recipe]

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (385 g) all-purpose flour (used King Arthur)
  • 1 cup (125 g) wheat flour (used King Arthur)
  • 1 ½ TSP salt
  • 0.7 oz (20 g) fresh yeast
  • 1 ½ cup (350 ml) warm water
  • 1/2 cup (115 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • a bit of cooking oil
  • 1 TBSP heavy cream
  • Flax and sesame seeds

Preparation:

*** If you are going to make these rolls for dinner, I suggest make the dough in the morning and let it rest until ready to make them. I made my dough at night since I wanted to make the rolls for breakfast.

  1. Combine all-purpose flour, wheat flour and salt and mix it thoroughly. Combine warm water and cream and dissolve fresh yeast in the liquid.
  2. Set your mixer on slow and start pouring the liquid into the flour mixture, add honey and now switch to medium speed and knead for about 5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle your work surface with a bit of flour and transfer the dough on it. Knead the dough by hand for a minute or two, make it into a ball, brush with a bit of oil, cover and let it rest for several hours, best overnight.
  4. Prepare a greased large round baking pan.
  5. Empty the dough on a floured surface and knead it a few times. Weigh the dough and decide how many rolls you need.  Cut the dough into desired number of pieces. I weighed mine so they can be a similar size.
  6. Knead each piece of dough 8-10 times and form a ball. Place all the dough balls into the greased pan, cover lightly and let rise for at least 1 ½ – 2 hours.
  7. When they have doubled in size, brush them with some heavy cream and sprinkle with flax and sesame seeds.
  8. Bake at 400 F (200 C) for about  20 minutes or until golden.

All is left is just to enjoy them!

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Honey-Wheat dough

Honey-Wheat dough

Honey-Wheat rolls from scratch

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Honey-Wheat rolls from scratch

Honey-Wheat rolls from scratch

Honey-Wheat rolls from scratch

Honey-Wheat rolls from scratch

Spongebob Challenge

I would have never thought that I would write about Spongebob on my blog! He is a cartoon character that my kids have been watching for several years now. Even though, they are teenagers now, they still enjoy watching Spongebob from time to time… Personally, I don’t find him very amusing and his laugh annoys the heck out of me! Really!

Spongebob Squarepants and his best friend Patrick Star! 😛

The reason, I am writing about our famous Spongebob is that my 7 year old nephew wanted a Spongebob birthday cake! Actually, he said he wanted either a “Spongebob” or “Cars” cake… Since I made him a “Cars” cake last year, I just took on a Spongebob challenge. I am not really a fondant cake type of person! Yes, fondant covered cakes are nice and beautiful, works of art and so on… just not for me!

So, this was really a double challenge – Spongebob and fondant (so not me)! For the love of my cutie-pie nephew I made this cake! It wasn’t easy and it was time consuming.

I enjoyed baking the cake from scratch and making the chocolate ganache frosting. I sliced the cake in half, spread half of the frosting on the first sponge, then put a layer of banana slices, frosting again and then second cake sponge on the top. Spongebob, his house and Patrick I made from rice crispy treats. Everything was covered in fondant (of course)!

Fondant was a whole different story! I didn’t make it myself (learned that lesson last year)! 😀 I bought the white fondant and then worked food coloring into it to get the colors needed for the Spongebob cake! While I was working on it, I remembered how people on the Cake Boss Show do this every day and all I can say is “Hats off to them!” After I made all the colors needed for the cake, I started working on all the small pieces that would come together at the end. My daughter helped me build Spongebob because she loves him and knows every little detail on him. She went even so far to put red and blue stripes on his socks!!! :S This was hard work, but I am glad we did it, especially because my daughter and I worked as a team and in the process she told me about all the funny Spongebob episodes.

I was happy to finish the cake (at 3 AM) and even more happy that my nephew loved it and that his Birthday party was a success! I’m waiting for another challenge this time next year or before… 🙂

This is how it turned out:

His royal Spongyness himself! 🙂

Dinner Rolls from scratch

Delicious dinner rolls are pretty simple to make if you have a little time. They are great, not only for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but for special occasions and holidays as well.  I like to shape them like knots, pull-aparts or crescents, just for a fun of it! 🙂 Homemade dinner rolls are super yummy and soooo much better tasting than the store bought ones! In addition to that, they don’t contain any preservatives and questionable ingredients. You may sprinkle them with your favorite topping or just leave them plain!

Ingredients for about 15-16 rolls:

  • 4 cups ( 512 g) all-purpose flour*
  • 2/3 cup (75 g) dry milk powder
  • 1 pack of active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar*
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp (42 g) butter (room temperature)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • about 2 1/4 cup (500 ml) warm water
Egg wash:
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
1. In a large bowl (or a stand mixer bowl) combine and mix well all dry ingredients, add thinly sliced butter. Pour little by little water into the bowl and mix slowly for 2-3 minutes, add oil and continue mixing for the next 5 minutes.
2. When the dough doesn’t stick to the walls of the bowl and it looks shiny and smooth, form it into a ball, cover with a clean dish towel and let it raise over night or at least 1 to 1 1/2 hour. The dough needs to double its volume.
3. Sprinkle your working surface with flour, roll the dough into a 10 X 15 inch (25 X 35 cm) rectangle. Prepare a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. Grease your muffin pan.
4. For the knot shaped rolls cut the dough at the shorter end into 1 in (2.5 cm) strips. Tie a strip into a knot with ends placed on the bottom. Allow some space between knots as they will raise and expand during baking.
5. For the pull-apart rolls, form 1 inch balls, putting three together into a muffin pan.
6. For the egg wash, lightly beat an egg with two table spoons of milk, brush over rolls and sprinkle with your favorite topping or just leave plain. Let the rolls raise for about 30-45 minutes.
7. Pre-heat oven to 400 F (200 C) and bake about 20 minutes or until beautiful golden-brown color.
*Note:
For bread and rolls I always use “King Arthur” all-purpose or bread flour. I think it is the best flour on US market.
If you like sweeter rolls add 2 more tbsp of sugar into the dough.
Bon Appetite!

Peach Upside-Down Cake

After making peach jam last weekend, I had some peaches left and decided to make this delicious peach upside-down cake. I usually make this cake with plums, but thought peaches would work just as good. This cake is really easy to make, it’s moist and not too sweet, just yummy! 🙂 Enjoy!!!

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 peaches (peeled and pitted)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (112 g) butter (room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup (125 g) sugar
  • 1 small lemon (zest and juice)
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cup (175 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Also needed:

  • a small cooking pot
  • 9 inch (23 cm) round springform pan
  • parchment paper
  • aluminum foil

1. Wash the peaches and cut a small cross on the top and the bottom of each. In a small cooking pot boil some water, place peaches inside for 30 seconds, take them out and let them cool down. Peel them, remove pits and slice into 1/2 inch slices. Set aside.

2. Mix butter and sugar until creamy and smooth. Add a pinch of salt, zest and juice of one lemon. Add an egg one by one, mixing well after each. Fold in sour cream and at the end fold in gently (by hand) flour combined with baking powder.

3. Line the 9 in springform cake pan with a 9 in diameter parchment paper. Combine 2 and 2 tbsp white and brown sugar. Arrange sliced peaches in alternating rows (see below), sprinkle with sugar mixture. Pour the batter over the peaches.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 385 F (about 195 C). Take a 20 in piece of aluminum foil and fold its ends as to make a square pan. Place the cake on the middle oven rack and the aluminum foil pan just on the rack underneath (to catch the peach juices and keep the oven clean).

5. Bake about 30 – 45 minutes until golden brown or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.

Note: Springform cake pan vs. regular cake pan. For this kind of cake I prefer a springform pan. Why? Well, let’s just say I learned from my own mistakes! 😀 In a regular cake pan juices from the peaches/plums can’t ecscape and cake turns out soggy. In the springform juices can drip out (reason for using aluminum foil catcher) and the cake turns out perfect.

Peeled, pitted and ready to go!

Now sprinkled with sugar!

Pour the batter on the peaches.

Enjoy! 🙂