Friday, January 7, 2011

Mint Chocolate Muffins

At the beginning of Christmas break, I knew I had to be prepared to do some serious baking, so I walked down the baking aisle in the grocery store to look at all of the new goodies they had out for the holidays. The dark chocolate and mint chips immediately caught my eye and made me start to get visions of mint brownies and mint cookies...yum!

But wanting to make something different than just another cookie or brownie recipe, I decided to make some muffins. I suppose you could drizzle some chocolate on these or even put icing on them, but I wanted these muffins to be super simple and easy to store. To make them even cuter, I baked them in my heart-shaped muffin pan. This did not work out as well as I had hoped...I filled the first batch with too much batter and they had massive muffin tops, and then I was too impatient when removing them from the pan and half of them busted during removal. Oh well, at least the second batch came out well for pictures, and both batches still tasted great even in pieces.

3/4 cup dark chocolate & mint chips, divided
2/3 cup water
6 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line or grease 12 muffin cups.

Combine 1/4 cup dark chocolate & mint chips and water in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth.

Beat butter, mint extract, sugar, and eggs with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Stir in the flour, baking powder, cocoa, warm chocolate mixture, and remaining dark chocolate & mint chips until combined. Divide the mixture among the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes and then turn the muffins out onto a cooling rack.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lemon Blackberry Bars

I am not very good at buying people Christmas presents. And when I say not very good, I mean that it stresses me out to attempt to buy people gifts they might actually like. So in order to stick to my strengths and still give my family something they want, I decided to give them a choice of anything they want me to bake/cook while I'm home for the holidays.

These blackberry lemon cheesecake bars are the choice of my father, who always asks me to make him lemon cheesecake without fail. I wanted to do something slightly different this time just to mix it up and not get bored making the same cheesecake for the fifth time, so I added some blackberries and put the cheesecake in bar form. This allowed for better storage in the refrigerator, as well as a different component to the flavor profile of the familiar cheesecake. Hope you enjoy it as much as my dad did!

2 cups crushed graham crackers
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
16 oz cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp grated lemon rind
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 pints fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan.

Beat cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk. Add lemon rind and juice, beating until blended.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the baking dish on top of the crust. Sprinkle the blackberries evenly on top of the cheesecake batter and push them down into the batter.

Bake for 1 hour or until almost set. Turn off oven, and let cake stand in oven 30 minutes. Remove cake to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Cover and chill 8 hours.

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