The Importance Of A Pastry Blender

Last weekend I thought I would try out a new dessert. I found a recipe on Pinterest for Cheesecake Lemon Bars and decided to try them. I am not a huge fan of lemon but I wanted something different. The first step of this recipe involves making the crust for the bars using flour, powdered sugar and cold butter. The recipe said to cut the butter in using a pastry blender or a fork. I do not have a pastry blender so I tried using a fork……mistake. I could not get it crumbly enough. I used what I could to press into my baking dish as the crust and had to end up throwing half of the flour/sugar mixture away. I baked it in the oven per the recipe and it was a completely uneven crust. The middle wasn’t too bad but the edges were very sparse and the whole thing was way too thin. I decided to make the fillings anyway and finish the bars. It consisted of making the lemon layer then the cheesecake layer, pouring them on top of the pathetic crust and baking them in the oven.

Despite the almost nonexistent crust layer, these bars are pretty good. The lemon layer ended up running a little but that was because of the thin crust. I’m pretty sure these would have been out of this world if the crust had been done properly using a pastry blender. I don’t know why I never bought one, they are pretty cheap. Needless to say, it is now on my shopping list.

Cheesecake Lemon Bars

original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Cheesecake-Lemon-Bars/Detail.aspx

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten

Instructions:

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.

Whisk together 1 1/2 cup flour and confectioners’ sugar in a mixing bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a knife or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared baking dish to form a crust.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside.

Whisk together 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a bowl. Pour lemon mixture into the prepared crust. Skim off any bubbles from the surface of the filling. Mix the cream cheese and 1 cup sugar in a bowl until well blended. Whisk in 2 eggs, then spread over the lemon mixture. The mixtures will separate during baking.

Bake in the preheated oven until the filling is set, about 30 minutes.

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My Pumpkin Addiction

Yes, it is true.  I have a SERIOUS pumpkin addiction.  I don’t know when it started, but I honestly can’t get enough pumpkin.  I do not like the Fall season in general, however, I am ecstatic the day they start serving the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks and the Pumpkin Cheesecake at the Olive Garden.

Now that I am cooking and baking a lot more than I used to, I am also obsessed with using pumpkin.  This weekend I made pumpkin chocolate chip brownies and a no-bake pumpkin cheesecake.  Both were divine!

First the brownies…the recipe called for a 11×7 pan..I do not have this size.  I used a 9×13 and lined it with parchment paper.  That was my first mistake.  It really would have been better in an 8×8. Below is a pic of what it looked like after it was cooked.  Normally, when a recipe gives a range of cooking times, I use the least time given and this works best with my oven.  This recipe said 15-20 minutes so I cooked for 15 minutes…mistake number 2.  The outsides were done, but the inside was definitely not.  I did not notice this until later when it completely cooled.  I did use the toothpick test to see if it was done, but I believe I stuck the toothpick close to the outside where it was completely cooked.  So the inside brownies had more of a cookie dough consistency.  This was not a problem for me, I ate them anyway 🙂

Here is the recipe I used. (from penniesonaplatter.com)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies 
Yield: 24 small brownies  (not even close, I think I got 12)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Line an 11″x7 inch pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine pumpkin puree, eggs and oil until smooth.  Set aside.
In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and brown sugar. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until passes toothpick test.  Cool completely before cutting.

I also made a no-bake pumpkin cheesecake.  This was much more of a success and is amazing!  Also, it’s a healthier than a regular cheesecake, but still has enough of a creamy consistency to satisfy me.

Here is the recipe.  (from http://www.skinnytaste.com)

Pumpkin Spice No-Bake Cheesecake

  • 7 oz 1/3 less fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese (I used 8 oz – the whole block)
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (I used canned)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, unpacked
  • 8 oz Cool Whip Free, thawed
  • 9 inch reduced fat Graham Cracker Crust (I used regular, store didn’t have reduced fat in the 9 inch size)

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, whip cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar for a few minutes until fluffy. Add Cool Whip and whip until smooth. Spoon mixture into pie crust and chill for a few hours, until firm.