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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Highlights of My Christmas Party Baking

Let me start at the beginning,  I am a Christmas nut! How did it get started, no idea.  There is just something about the cheer, the decorations and the gatherings that make me giddy.  I start thinking about Christmas, the baking and the parties as soon as Thanksgiving is over.   In fact, every year my Holiday party invite is out the very next day.   I then spend the next 2 months planning my menu.  It's my favorite day, a day where I go nuts an cook a feast for my friends.    This year was our 5th party with a theme of UGLY SWEATERS!    It was quite hilarious actually seeing everyone arrive, where do people find these things.  HA!   Last year I happened to be unemployed over Christmas which gave me quite a lot of time to plan, clean, cook and bake, this year not so much.  :-(    I did take off the Friday to prepare which was such a good idea.  I literally spent two days on my feet but it was worth it, despite forgetting to keep up on my photography.   It was a great time with lots of great food.   Here are the desserts.....


1) Cake pops
2) Apple & Pear Caramel Bundt Cake
3) Orange Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake
4) Pumpkin Cream Cheese bars/loafs

This time for the cake pops I did the Holiday theme of Christmas trees and Santa Hats from Bakarella.   I did them last year for the party and they were a hit!  This year was no exception,  not one pop left.   Same recipe as the Halloween ones I did but this time I shaped them into cones and bent cones.  Put them in the fridge or freezer to get cold.  I find freezer is best so there is little chance for the cake to soften and fall off the stick, however this cools down the chocolate and causes it to harden fast.   It can be a tricky process.  Once firm put it on the stick and roll/dip in chocolate.  Move fast and add coloured chips and sprinkles.  Place them in Styrofoam and let them dry. 






APPLE & PEAR CARAMEL BUNDT CAKE  (adapted from Foodland Ontario Calender)

I often fall back on my staple apple crumble for parties as my token fruit dessert but I saw this recipe in a calender and couldn't resist the thought of a cake with caramel sauce.   Read on and repeat because you won't be able to not try this!

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 each Apple and Pear cored and chopped
Caramel Glaze
  • 1/2 cup butter  
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp milk

INSTRUCTIONS:
1) In a large bowl, using a mixer beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until creamy.
2) Using a wooden spoon stir in flour, baking soda and salt until well blended, Stir in apple and pear.
3) Spoon batter into greased and floured 12 cup bundt pan.   Bake 350F for 60-75 minutes or until cake tester in center comes out clean.   Cool on rack for 20 minutes.
4) Caramel Glaze : In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar and milk; bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for 2 minutes while stirring.   Remove cake from pan, spoon warm glaze over warm cake.  Serve warm at room temperature.

MY VARIATION :   I didn't stray to far from the recipe other than the fact that I didn't pour the glaze over the cake when it was warm and serve immediately.   I think this only made it better as the cake soaked in the caramel over time.

This cake was just amazing!!  I would make this every week and the caramel sauce was easy and also very yummy.  If you can get the glaze to pour nicely this cake is also great for presentation.   Make this for Christmas!

MEG's RATING : D-EEEEE-LICIOUS!  

At my parties I like to attempt to cover to key aspects of dessert : Fruit and Chocolate.   Fruit: Check.   Now  the chocolate portion.    I am not a huge orange fan, in terms of the actual fruit.  However I am a fan of chocolate and orange and specifically the "Chocolate Orange".   I was considering making a Chocolate Orange roll cake but then saw this recipe for a brownie cheesecake and decide to put a twist of orange in that.

ORANGE CHOCOLATE BROWNIE CHEESECAKE (Adapted from The Big Book of Baking)

INGREDIENTS :

Brownie:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup AP flour
Cheesecake
  • 2 1/4 cups cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • melted chocolate for drizzling.

INSTRUCTIONS:
1) Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly grease and flour a spring form round cake pan.
2) Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth.  Remove from heat and beat in the sugar.  Add the eggs and milk, beating well.
3) Stir in the flour, mixing just until blended.  Spoon into the prepared pan, spreading evenly.
4) Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.   Remove from the oven while preparing then topping, reduce oven to 325F.
5) For the topping, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until well blended.  Stir in the yogurt, then pour into the pan.  Bake for an additional 45-55 minutes or until the center is almost set.
6) Run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake to loosen from the pan.  Let cool before removing from the pan.  Chill for 4 hours or overnight before cutting into slices.  Drizzle with the melted chocolate.

MY VARIATION :  For the brownie instead of all semi sweet chocolate I used some dark chocolate and Orange chocolate.   I also left some in chunks for the brownie base.    For the cheesecake portion, I used light sour cream instead of yogurt.  I also took out a portion of the topping and stirred in melted orange  and dark chocolate to make the cheesecake a swirl cheesecake.


The cheesecake came out really nice.   By using the chocolate orange pieces the orange flavour was subtle, nice and not overly intense.   The brownie was soft and the cheesecake was crack free and creamy.    I think this recipe could have lots of great variations, something to think about.  Hmmm...I see mini eggs in its future!  :-)

If you look close you can see a tree. 

MEG's RATING: D-EEEE-LICIOUS!












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