Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

For the past couple of years, we have been going over to our friends house and ringing in the New Year. We play games, eat good food, pop fireworks and take a shot of tequila at midnight! This year, I was able to show off some of my new skills and baked a few special treats to bring along including jalapeno poppers, shortbread Nutella sandwich cookies and lemon cheesecake bars. Everyone ranted and raved and so I feel confident they were a success...even had a couple of folks hint at me doing some catering type work for the upcoming year. Score! I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year celebration. I am looking forward to 2010 and what exciting new adventures it will bring. Bake on!!!

Lemon Cheesecake Bars


1 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp lemon zest
Cream Cheese Filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Lemon Curd:

4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon corn starch
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons butter

To make crust: Cream butter and sugar in medium sized bowl. Add flour and lemon zest and mix until well blended. Press dough evenly onto the bottom of an 8"x8" baking pan. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Prick shortbread crust with a fork and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until pastry turns a golden brown. Cool on rack to room temperature.

To make filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg and lemon zest and beat until light and smooth. Cover and refrigerate.

To make lemon curd: Blend egg yolks with the cornstarch and sugar in a medium saucepan. Place over low heat and slowly whisk in water and lemon juice. Increase heat to medium, stirring constantly, until mixture gets good and thick. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and butter. Cool for 10 minutes. You shouuld cover with plastic to avoid skin forming on tip.

To assemble: Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over crust. Spread lemon curd over cream cheese filling.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until edges begin to turn a golden brown. Cool to room temperature on a rack and then refrigerate for a hour before cutting. Dust top with powdered sugar if desired.

Adapted from a recipe from the Wives with Knives /Foodday Section of the Portland Oregonian.

Nutella Shortbread Sandwiches

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar, confectioners sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

Powdered sugar for sprinkling


Sift flour and salt together. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.
Beat in the vanilla extract.

By hand, gently stir the sifted flour and salt mixture into the creamed butter and sugar, until well blended. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add a couple teaspoons of milk to the mixture, until everything comes together (a teaspoon at a time).

Form the dough into a disk, then wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour (or until the dough has firmed-up).

Preheat oven to 350ºF (remember to place the oven rack in the middle). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (don’t use waxed paper) or silicone baking sheets.

Take the dough out of your refrigerator and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to ¼ of an inch thick. Cut into rectangles, squares, rounds, or any shape that you’d prefer ( I used stars for New Year's theme!).

Place the cookies on the parchment lined baking sheets and place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, or until the cookies have firmed up. The colder the cookies, the more they’ll keep their shape in the oven.

Bake cookies for about 10 minutes or until the cookies have lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets before proceeding to cool the cookies on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.

After the cookies have cooled, spread Nutella on half of the cookies and sandwich the cookies together. Dust with powdered sugar and EAT!!

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