Pumpkin Cheesecake

Happy Thanksgiving! Despite this being a clean eating blog, I just have to share my favorite Thanksgiving dessert. (Comment below with your favorites!) Besides, as long as it’s in moderation, a homemade dessert from scratch is always acceptable! This cheesecake features a buttery, chocolate chip cookie crust and a pumpkin spiced filling, topped off with a smooth, creamy, chocolate ganache. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, try piping a buttercream border around the top. 

This recipe is a bit involved, especially if you want to make your own cookies for the crust first, so I’d suggest reading through the whole recipe before you get started. Also, refer to some general cheesecake tips below:

  • Don’t open the oven at anytime will the cake is baking or resting in the hot oven. Rapid temperature fluctuations can cause cracking and caving.
  • Place a baking sheet under the spring-form pan. Sometimes butter leaks out the bottom which can cause a real mess in your oven otherwise.

Ingredients

Cheesecake

1 1/2 cup cookie crumbs

1/4 cup melted butter

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree

2 8 oz. packages cream cheese

1/2 cup sucanat

1/2 cup sugar

3 Tbs. cornstarch

1 tsp. Penzeys ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. Penzeys ground ginger

1/4 tsp. Penzeys ground nutmeg

Chocolate Ganache

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 tsp. melted butter

 

Directions

Cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8-inch spring-form pan. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and cookie crumbs. Press into the bottom of the spring-form pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese can pumpkin using an electric mixer until smooth. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the other dry ingredients and add to the cream cheese mixture. Again, use the electric mixer, but do not mix more than necessary.

Place the filling in the spring-form pan on top of the cookie crust. Smooth it out using an offset spatula. Be sure that the filling is even and there are no large air pockets underneath. Set the pan on a baking sheet to catch any dripping butter and bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and let cake rest in the hot oven for another 30 minutes.  Do not open the oven at all during this time! Any rapid changes to temperature will cause the cheesecake to crack or cave in. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool completely before refrigerating. The cake will need at least three hours in the fridge to set up.

Chocolate Ganache

Place chocolate chips in a heat safe bowl. In a small saucepan, bring whipping cream and melted butter to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate chips. Let the chocolate and cream sit for 5 minutes before stirring to combine. Pour over cooled cheesecake and smooth with an offset spatula. Place the cake in the refrigerator to allow ganache to set up.

Optional

  • Use vanilla buttercream frosting to pipe a border around the cheesecake for an extra touch. 
  • Serve with whipped cream. 

Mocha Chocolate Chip Scones

I’m not sure what took me so long, but just a few months ago I discovered that coffee is actually really good! Back in first and second grade, my school had Friday cooking classes. Well one fateful week, the recipe was coffee milkshakes. All it took was one sip and I didn’t touch coffee for ten years! Yeah, it was that bitter.

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As it turns out though, I wasn’t actually scarred for life. One day, during my second semester of college, I thought I’d give it a try again just to see what I thought. Yes, I was in need of a caffeine source, but that honestly wasn’t the only reason. Besides, there’s only so much sleep coffee can replace anyway.

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I decided to only try it black because I didn’t want to get hooked on any sugary drinks. To my surprise, though it was bitter, I kind of liked it! And ever since then I’ve been drinking coffee…and baking with it. Because let’s be honest, what goes better with a warm cup of coffee than a mocha chocolate chip scone?

Makes 16 scones

Scone

Ingredients

Scones

1 Tbs. ground flax seed

3 Tbs. hot water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

1 Tbs. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup cold butter

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup coffee reduction sauce

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Glaze

Powdered sugar

Cocoa

Half and half

Coffee syrup

Directions:

  1. Make the coffee syrup according to the linked recipe and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the flax and hot water to make an egg substitute. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or with a silicone baking mat.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Cut in the butter and begin combining the ingredients using a pastry blender. Then, use your hands to make sure all the butter is evenly distributed and there are no large pieces left.
  6. Add the half and half, coffee syrup, and vanilla to the flax mixture and give it a whisk.
  7. Pour the liquid ingredients into the large bowl and stir until the ingredients come together. Again, you may have to use your hands to knead the dough since scones are by nature a little dry.
  8. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  9. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide it into two pieces. Form each piece into a circle about two inches thick.
  10. Cut each circle into eight triangular scones.
  11. Place all 16 scones on the baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean when they are done (with the exception of some melted chocolate chip).
  12. While they are cooling, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze. I don’t have an exact recipe for it, so it can be adjusted based on your taste preferences. I recommend using roughly 1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 2 Tbs. cocoa (more or less depending on how much chocolate flavor you want). Then add half and half and coffee syrup until the glaze comes together. The consistency shouldn’t be liquid, but it should be thin enough to drizzle over the scones. If you want a mild coffee flavor, use more half and half and if you prefer a stronger flavor, use more coffee syrup.
  13. Drizzle the scones with glaze using a fork , whisk, or piping bag. Enjoy!

Coffee Infused Cake with Mocha Frosting

Hi everyone! Today’s recipe is the latest rendition of crazy cake (also known as depression cake). Crazy cake is super simple and has no eggs, milk, or butter, making it vegan. However, I made a traditional style buttercream frosting, but the whole cake is still egg-free and it’s also possible to use a vegan frosting if need be.

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What makes this crazy cake different than most, is the coffee infusion and mocha frosting! First, I made a coffee syrup with a recipe from The Spruce Eats . Then I mixed some into the cake batter, giving it a mild essence of coffee. But where the flavor is especially evident is in the frosting! It really takes the cake to the next level and is a pleasant surprise to anyone expecting just plain chocolate!

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Ingredients

Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vinegar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup water

1/4 cup coffee syrup

 

Frosting

Powdered sugar

Unsweetened cocoa

Butter

Coffee syrup

Half and half

 

Directions

Start by making the simple coffee syrup. The recipe is very simple, only requiring coffee and sugar. The recipe is linked above.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease either an 8×8 baking dish or two round 6 inch cake pans. Any regular cooking spray will work as will this cake release recipe from The Barefoot Baker.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Then add the wet ingredients without mixing them separately first. Stir until a smooth batter is achieved.

Pour the batter in the cake pans, ensuring even distribution if using two pans. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool. When they are, a square cake can remain in the pan and be frosted. For a round, layer cake, I highly recommend removing them from the pans, wrapping, and freezing them before attempting to frost and decorate. (I will cover this in more depth in an upcoming cake frosting tutorial.)

While the cake is cooling, making the frosting. There aren’t amounts of each ingredient specified, because just like pie crust, I never use an actual recipe. To give an idea, a layer cake will need roughly four cups of sugar and anywhere from a stick to a stick and half of butter. Then add half and half and coffee syrup, mixing with electric beaters until it just comes together. With a round cake, having a thick frosting is key, but consistency is less crucial with a square cake. A good test is to dip a finger into the frosting. If nothing, sticks it is too dry and if it feels very wet and sticky, it needs more sugar. If the consistency is just right, a little should stick, but it should feel thick.

I apologize for the ambiguity in the frosting recipe. I’m a firm a believer that the best method is to guess and add a little of this and that until it’s right. If you ever have questions though, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Enjoy!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hi everyone! It’s finally spring, but remember way back around Christmastime when I shared a recipe for  Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake? Instead of a standard graham cracker crust, I always like to use cookie crumbles, so I wanted to share my favorite recipe. If you’re looking for the perfect cheesecake crust material or just want a batch of warm, hearty cookies, this is just the recipe! (Also check back next weekend for new Easter cheesecake! 🐣)

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This original recipe that I adapted always caused the cookies to spread very thin and as a result, they were pretty brittle. I changed two things so they hold they’re shape and are more chewy than crisp. The first is that instead of using granulated white sugar, I substituted powdered sugar. I also chill the dough for 30 minutes prior to baking. Feel free to keep the dough in the refrigerator longer for convenience’ sake, but it won’t make anymore of a difference after the initial half hour.

Ingredients

2 sticks butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup boiling water

1 tsp. baking soda

2 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

  1. In a deep bowl, cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla.
  2. Add the flour and salt and mix until combined.
  3. Dissolve the baking soda in boiling water and add to the mixture.
  4. Fold in the oats and chocolate chips
  5. Chill the dough for 30 minutes to reduce spread. It can stay in the refrigerator for longer, but doing so won’t have any extra effect.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  7. Role the dough in to balls about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place on the baking sheets.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden on top.

Notes

  • Substitute raisins for all or half of the chocolate chips to make a delicious batch of oatmeal raisin cookies.
  • Whatever cookies you can’t eat within a few days can be stored in the freezer for a few months.

Egg-Free Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

Merry Christmas! Today I would like to share a brand new recipe that I must admit is not totally clean. However, it is completely from scratch which is the most important part. Plus this is a Christmas Special Edition post, so we can indulge a little. 🙂

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For my family’s Thanksgiving this year, I tried my hand at my first ever cheesecake. It had a double chocolate chip cookie crust, pumpkin spice filling, chocolate ganache topping, and some buttercream piped around the border to clean up the edges. I know, it was probably the least healthy thing I’ve ever made, but in my defense it was 100% from scratch–even the cookies for the crust. I plan to publish the recipe sometime in the near future, but I would like to try it with low-fat cream cheese first to knock off a few calories, especially since it worked really well in today’s chocolate cheesecake.

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Anyway, this whole endeavor inspired me to take a standard chocolate cheesecake recipe and make a Christmas edition by making a peppermint chocolate ganache and topping it off with some crushed candy canes.

Now this is a pretty involved recipes, so be sure to read through the whole thing before you start and make sure you have plenty of time to spend in the kitchen. Enjoy and merry Christmas!

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Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups homemade chocolate chip cookie crumbs

1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter

Filling

1 cup dark chocolate chips

2 Tbs. melted coconut oil or butter

2 8-oz. packages of 1/3 fat cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbs. raw honey

1 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

2 tsp. pure vanilla

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Chocolate Peppermint Ganache

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 tsp. melted coconut oil or butter

1/4 tsp. peppermint extract

Crushed candy canes

Directions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch spring-form pan with canola spray or melted coconut oil.

Put the chocolate chip cookies in a food processor and grind until they are just small crumbs. Use your favorite type of cookie, but I strongly recommend using homemade ones. Once I perfect a recipe, I will share it! Other options include graham crackers or Andes mint-chocolate cookies. Feel free to get creative!

In a small bowl, mix the cookie crumbs with the melted coconut oil or butter. Then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Add approximately an inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler and melt 1 cup of dark chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir every few minutes and be sure not to get any water in the chocolate. When the chocolate chips are melted, remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of melted butter or coconut oil. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, deep bowl, combine the somewhat-cooled chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sugar, honey, cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Use an electric mixture to mix all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to ensure that everything is well combined.

Put the filling in the spring form pan and using a small offset spatula, smooth out the filling until it is even across the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, making sure to not open the oven! Any rapid change in temperature or humidity can lead to cracking.

Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for another 30 minutes, still not opening the door. When the time is up, let the cheesecake cool for approximately 30 more minutes before letting it chill and set up in the refrigerator for at least three hours and up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is completely cool, it is time to make the ganache! Put the remaining chocolate chips in a glass bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the whipping cream and oil or butter to a boil on medium heat. Pour it onto the chocolate chips and let sit for five minutes. When the time is up, whisk the mixture until it all comes together. Then add the peppermint extract and mix it in.

Pour the ganache on the cheesecake and smooth it out with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top for a finishing touch. Be sure to do this right away before the ganache cools and hardens. Serve with whipped cream.

Merry Christmas!

Tips

Make sure you put together the spring form pan correctly. Otherwise, oil from the crust will leak into the oven causing a huge mess. I’ve learned this the hard way. Three times to be exact.

Line a baking sheet with foil and put the spring form pan on it while baking. This will prevent any major mess in the event that some leakage does occur.

Again, whatever you do, do not open the oven until it is time to take it out. I know it’s tempting, but this is crucial to cheesecake success! This is also where it becomes imperative that the pan is put together correctly and a baking sheet is below the pan. If you have to open the oven to clean up burned butter as the house fills with haze, the cheesecake will surely cave in the middle. (Yes, I also learned this the hard way.)

If the cake does cave in, the ganache will likely fill the crater, but not the edges. What you can do to remedy the situation is make a little buttercream frosting and pipe a boarder around the cake. No one will know that it’s caved in and you get frosting too!

Don’t cover the cheesecake in the fridge until it is totally cool to prevent condensation from collecting on top. If this does happen, dab it off with a paper towel.

Make the chocolate chip cookies ahead of time and store in the freezer until you want to make the cheesecake.`

Triple Chocolate Scones

For the past few weeks (or should I say entire school year) I’ve been so busy and stressed out that I haven’t had much time to bake, let alone write. However, I only have one week until graduation, so I figured I could bake something to help get me through my last couple of finals. The result was Triple Chocolate Scones! They’re perfect anytime of day whether it be for breakfast, a snack, or a healthy dessert. This recipe features whole wheat flour and a flax seed “egg” as usual and is low in sugar too! Enjoy a fresh, warm scone with a hot cup of tea or a tall glass of milk.

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The first step to this recipe is making an “egg” with ground flax seed and hot water. Heat three tablespoons of water on the stove and whisk with one tablespoon of ground flax in a medium sized bowl. Then set the mixture aside and preheat the oven to 400°F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

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In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Stir until everything is evenly distributed.

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When all the dry ingredients are mixed, cut in 1/3 cup of cold butter. To get it started, I used a pastry blender, but towards the end, I used my hands to make sure there were no clumps of butter left. It gets a little messy, but the best way to get a sense of dough is to use one’s hands.

Now that the butter is mixed in, add the chocolate milk and vanilla to the “egg” and whisk it well.  Then pour it into the dry ingredients. Be sure to use chocolate milk with no high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors.

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Stir the ingredients the best you can–it can be a little tough since scones are by nature a little dry. Again, you may need to knead the dough with your hands. Once everything is mixed, fold in one cup of miniature chocolate chips.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. As you can see in the picture, I had a little too much flour, but if that happens, they will turn out just fine. Divide the dough into two sections and form each one into a circle, roughly two inches high. Then cut each circle into eight pieces and place them on the prepared baking sheet. If you wish, you can sprinkle each scone with some course, decorative sugar.

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Bake the scones for about 12-14 minutes. When you think they are done, test them with a toothpick. It should come out clean, but some melted chocolate chip is okay. After a few minutes, place the scones on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Makes 16 scones

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. ground flax seed

3 Tbs. hot water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

1 Tbs. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup cold butter

1/2 cup low fat chocolate milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup mini chocolate chips

Course sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the flax and hot water to make an egg substitute. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or with a silicone baking mat.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Cut in the butter and begin combining the ingredients using a pastry blender. Then, use your hands to make sure all the butter is evenly distributed and there are no large pieces left.
  5. Add the milk and vanilla to the flax mixture and whisk them together.
  6. Pour the liquid ingredients into the large bowl and stir until the ingredients come together. Again, you may have to use your hands to knead the dough since scones are by nature a little dry.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  8. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide it into two pieces. Form each piece into a circle about two inches thick.
  9. Cut each circle into eight triangular scones.
  10. Place all 16 scones on the baking sheet and if desired, sprinkle them with course sugar.
  11. Bake for 12-14 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean when they are done with the exception of some melted chocolate from a chocolate chip. Enjoy!

No-Bake Energy Bites

Lately my life has been pretty crazy, so I find myself eating on the go all the time. However, I won’t take my busy lifestyle as an excuse to eat junk. As a result, I’ve altered a no-bake energy bite recipe from another blog to fit my personal taste. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly a culinary expert, as assembling these scrumptious snacks is extremely easy!

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Start by mixing all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl with a spatula or spoon. When everything is well combined, let the mixture chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to make the assembly easier.

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Once the mixture is chilled, take a small handful and begin shaping it into a ball.(Don’t be afraid to get a little sticky!)

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Keep rolling until the “batter” is gone–there will probably be about 20-25. The bites can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. I prefer having them frozen, but they will be just fine in the fridge if you want them softer.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup ground flax seed

1 Tbs. chia seeds

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. natural peanut butter

1 1/2 tbsp. raw honey

2 tbsp. pure maple syrup

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips

2 tbsp. raisins or other dried fruit

Steps:

  1. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.
  2. Let the mixture chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to make rolling them a little easier.
  3. Once they are chilled, roll them into balls about an inch in diameter.
  4. Store them in the refrigerator or the freezer depending on if you want them soft and chewy or more firm.