Friday, May 9, 2014

Minnie's Bakeshop Cookies - Raspberry White Chocolate

 When I hear somebody mention Minnie's Bakeshop Cookies, my mind fills with a thousand memories from Walt Disney World.  I think of the Pop Century food court, walking past racks stuffed with these massive cookies, resisting the urge to grab a package or two.  I remember the horror of realizing I had leftover snack credits at The Polynesian Village and grabbing an armload of these red and white packaged cookies to take home.  I remember coming home after an adults-only trip and handing out packages to the kids and hearing the sound of the plastic crinkling and crunching as they held their baked treasures like gold with huge smiles.  Believe it or not, I actually have a cookie that I "forgot" about in the luggage, that had just expired and wasn't edible...  So I put it with my Disney memorabilia.  Yes, I have a hockey puck-like wrapped cookie that expired in 2011 displayed right next to Mickey ears in my bedroom.

And it'll probably make more than a couple of people laugh when they hear that despite all the memories I have of these monstrous, quarter pound cookies, and how completely tied to Disney they are in my mind, I think I've eaten only one.  What can I say? I'm not really a cookie person.

I'm sorry if I'm ruining anybody's illusion but these cookies, despite the name, aren't actually made by Minnie.  They're not even made on-site.  They're bought in by a company called Selma's Cookes, Selma also providing baked goods to everybody from Barnes and Noble and BAM to Gloria Jean's Coffee.  In fact, my son's first cookie ever was a Selma's Cookie...  A Snickerdoodle bought at Borders Books.  Anyway, they have a ton of flavors, everything from Chocolate Supreme (which has like 4 different types of chocolate chips), Oatmeal Raisin, and occasionally even an M&M one can be found out and about in Disney World.  And lucky for us, they were nice enough to make available a recipe for their "mix-in" cookies (the cookies they add things to) as well as their Snickerdoodles.  The recipe I'm sharing is their at-home version of their popular Raspberry White Chocolate Cookies. 

Yes, that does taste as amazing as it sounds.

While these cookies aren't hard to make, they do require a lot more babysitting and knowledge of how your oven works in order for them to turn out correctly.  For example, the recipe calls for 2 minutes at 400 degrees, 15 at 350...  Well, my oven (which is older than my kitchen...  Not even joking) can't do that.  It hits 400, it's going to stay at 400.  After a first batch that was far-from-perfect, I figured out that what worked best for my oven was 4 minutes at 400, 10-12 minutes between 325 and 350.  So as I said, prepare to watch the first batch or two like a hawk to make sure it cooks right.

Now...  Size...  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup raw dough per cookie.  Well, I did that, I got
hubcap sized cookies.  When I aimed for a happy medium of between 1/4 and 1/3 cup dough per cookie, I got a cookie more about the size of what Minnie ships out from her oven.  The key is to make sure they're really mounded, appropriately chilled, and you'll get a big, thick cookie.

The fun thing about these cookies is, fresh out of the oven, they're these soft, velvety, gooey cookies with the texture of butter.  They almost melt in your mouth the second they hit your tongue.  While pretty much the best tasting cookies of all time, they were definitely more chewy than the Minnie's Bakeshop version.  However, after being left to cool overnight (wrapped, of course), these cookies became a dead ringer for Minnie's Bakeshop Cookies.  Dense, not too chewy and not too crunchy, with a little bit of crumble, while still keeping the soft texture.  Personally, I like my cookies with crunch so I know this is sacrilegious to say, but I think these cookies are best enjoyed completely cooled.  For anybody who has the patience to wait that long, I promise...  You'll end up with a cookie so close to the in-park version of the cookie, you'll have family members digging through the trash to try and find the Minnie's Bakeshop wrappers. 

I did make two changes to this recipe, aside from the baking time and size notes above.  Because I live in rural NH and apparently white chocolate chunk chips are completely foreign to our grocery stores, I did substitute the white chocolate chunks for white chocolate chips.  Frankly, I prefer chunks but what are you going to do.  Secondly, I used seedless raspberry preserves.  I know that's what the recipe calls for below, however, that's not what Selma's uses.  Their swirl is something proprietary (for those who don't watch "Shark Tank" that is a fancy word for "it's a secret"), so the raspberry preserves is the suggested replacement.  Try to stick with seedless and if you use jam, be prepared to tweak the amount a bit.  You want enough of a swirl that you can taste the raspberry, but not so much it makes your cookies watery.  A lot of knowing how much to add has to do with how the dough looks since he portion is done by ounces.  Just make sure that you add and swirl enough that you can see the swirl, but not so much that the dough isn't firm and could be rolled into a sticky ball.  It shouldn't be crumbly, watery, or liquid.  Be aware...  These cookies can get pretty sticky, even after they're baked.  But as we all know, the messier the cookie, the better.

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Minnie's Bakeshop Cookies - Raspberry White Chocolate
As is found at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and associated resort hotels and gift shops
°o°  1 cup butter, room temperature, sliced by tablespoon (to aid in mixing)
°o°  1 cup light brown sugar, packed
°o°  3/4 cup confectioner sugar (this cannot be substituted for granulated sugar)

°o°  1 egg
°o°  1 tablespoon water
°o°  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
°o°  1 teaspoon raspberry extract
°o°  2 3/4 cups flour (up to 3 cups if consistency is still to wet)
°o°  1 teaspoon salt
°o°  1/2 teaspoon baking powder
°o°  1 cup white chocolate chunks
°o°  1 cup raspberry flavored chocolate baking chips, semi-sweet (regular semi-sweet can be substituted)
°o°  10 ounces seedless raspberry preserves
Combine butter, sugars into large mixing bowl and beat until creamy.  Add egg, water, and extracts.  Continue to cream until all of the liquid is absorbed into the dough.  Slowly add flour, 1/2 cup at a time.  If, after 2 3/4 cups of flour, dough is still too soft to handle, add up to 1/4 cup additional flour.  Dough should be very dense and stiff, but not dry or crumbly.  Add white and chocolate chips, mixing to distribute evenly in the dough.  Divide dough into 4 batches.

Working with one batch of dough at a time (refrigerating the dough not being worked with) add about 2 ounces of raspberry preserves to the dough and cut the preserves into the dough to create a swirl.  Do not mix the dough or the swirl effect will not be achieved and cookies will turn pink.  Using a measuring cup or ice cream scoop, scoop dough into balls and place on a plate.  Put cookies in freezer and freeze for 15-25 minutes.  This will allow the cookies to bake without spreading.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

After 15-25 minutes in the freezer, place cookies on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet (if using foil, grease pan generously).  Bake cookies at 400 degrees for 2 minutes.  After two minutes, lower temperature to 350 and bake for 14-17 minutes or until done.  Remove cookies from oven, allow to cool on pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool for another 15-30 minutes.

Repeat process with remaining portions of dough.

Makes between 12-14 cookies.

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Disneyland Snickerdoodles

Today's recipe is something of a milestone...  Believe it or not, this is,  hands down, without a doubt the recipe I get the most requests for.  Seriously.  More than Dole Whips, Le Cellier Soup, and The Grey Stuff combined.  Literally, there was a point where I was getting a request for the recipe to these simple little cookies once or twice a week.  Even as I type this, I check my inbox on Facebook to see not one, but two more requests from fans for these cookies  I can't explain it
I'll admit, for a period of time I thought these requests were from the same couple of people (most likely related to The Cookie Monster in some way) made over and over and over again, but a quick little search on Google shows that these bad boys are the center of many a recipe request online, from Yahoo! Answers to Facebook and Disney food-related websites.  For some reason, these little cookies have quite the cult following.

So why didn't I share the recipe before now?  Well, quite simply...  I didn't have it.  And despite all claims to the contrary, very few had what could be nailed down as the legitimate, one-and-only famous Disney Snickerdoodle recipe.  Again you may ask why...  The reasons, as best I could uncover anyway, was because for the longest time the cookies were not made by Disney.  They were brought in pre-made and pre-cooked (or pre-made but frozen for quick baking) from an outside vendor.  I know this is an earth-shattering revelation for many, but it's true.  Even at places where you could find them on a rack, safely tucked on wax paper behind the sparking glass of the bakery display case, the chances were high that sweet looking little cookie was made somewhere other than Minnie's on-site bake shop.

Then sometime in the last 10ish years, Disney switched back to making these on-site again
(in limited batches, available only in certain spots).  But when it came to handing out the recipe, there were still roadblocks to overcome.  The measurements they used were designed for batch sizes in the hundreds.  As one can imagine, condensing down a recipe that makes 500+ cookies to a more household chef-friendly batch of 24 presents specific challenges.

After developing a "sorry, I don't have the recipe for Disneyland's Snickerdoodles" form letter (again, not joking), I kind of gave up the idea of ever nailing down this treat.  Such is the way with many Disney baked goods...  The home chef version of the recipe was just not meant to be.

Then, a breakthrough.  I was looking for an email that I thought landed in my SPAM box and I just happened to find a message from Disney Guest Relations.  Inside, the practically perfect and ridiculously pleasant response by one of the fantastic folks at Disney, happily sharing Disneyland's Snickerdoodle recipe.  Um.... Whaaaat?  I didn't even remember sending the email that asked for the recipe.  I was stunned, but thrilled.  Oh and by the way, the email they replied to was sent 6/28/2012.  That's right, they replied to an email I sent two years ago asking for this recipe.  Am I the only one who thinks that's amazing?

After getting this recipe from Disney, a recipe people have been asking me about for years, an easy recipe with no exotic or expensive ingredients, a recipe that happens to be my son's favorite type of cookie, you'd think I dropped everything and rushed to make it.  Think again.  Actually, I sat on it for another two or three months before deciding to try it out today.  Because I'm just awesome like that.

I won't go into great detail about this because apparently everybody but me was on the "these are the most amazing cookies of all time" bandwagon well before me.  Needless to say, these cookies are pretty darn amazing, they're easy to make, and they're even easier to sit down and eat.  No real tricks to this, other than to make sure the butter is room temperature, not cold or melted.  Also, trust the timing on these...  The recipe says 8 minutes, but on my first batch, I was expecting something more browned so I left them in for 12 minutes.  They were good, but crunchy, and they never got browned like I thought they would.  The next batch I left in for exactly 8 minutes, and even though every fiber of my body screamed that they were underdone...  Actually, they were perfect.

And, I'm happy to say, this recipe allows me to use one of my few baking "tricks."  When it comes to rolling and then flattening these cookies, it's hard to get that perfect "smush," where the cookie's thickness is even, it's round, and there are no unsightly fingerprints on the dough (which also show up on the cookie after it's baked).  My solution?  Use the flat bottom of a glass or cup to smush the cookies.  I actually used one of those retro-style Coke fountain glasses from the dollar store.  I got perfectly smushed cookies every time.     

So, here it is, after years of waiting, multiple requests, and countless hours of research thwarted by Disney's reply to an email sent several years ago...  The recipe to the Disneyland Snickerdoodle. 

Now here's hoping all the people that requested this over the years don't stop reading the website because I granted their wish.  Maybe if I drop the bombshell that I have the Minnie's Bakery chocolate chip supreme recipe people will hang out for another couple of years until I decide to try that one out?

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Disneyland Snickerdoodles
As is served at Disneyland
°o°  2 sticks of butter
°o°  2 cups granulated sugar  
°o°  1/2 teaspoon salt  
°o°  2 eggs  
°o°  1/4 cup milk 
°o°  1 teaspoon vanilla 
°o°  3 1/2 cups flour
°o°  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
°o°  1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

For topping:
°o°  6 tablespoons granulated sugar 
°o°  1 tablespoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream together using a blender butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, milk, and vanilla.  Mix very well so that all ingredients are incorporated and there is no standing liquid in the bowl.  

Combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sift.  Add, about one cup at a time, to the wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition and scraping sides as needed.

Combine topping ingredients on a separate, small plate.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and then roll into the sugar and cinnamon mixture so all sides are covered with the sugar mixture.  Place on a greased baking sheet (or a sheet lined with parchment paper) and flatten into disks.  Sprinkle additional topping on the cookies.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 8 minutes, or until cooked through.   

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Puffed Apple Pancakes

If there was ever a recipe that I was surprised turned out well, it'd be this one.  I've made pancakes and I've made puff pancakes, so I knew kind of what to expect...  But the ingredients on this one looked so different than puffed pancake recipes I've known, I was convinced that this would turn out a big, apple-flavored, flour brick.  Lots of flour, no baking soda or powder...  There was no way this was turning out right.

I have to say, I'm amazed...  Not only did this come out darn near perfect, I can't imagine this could have come out tasting any better.  It was so delicious and soul-warming, I wish I'd made more.  A hit with all the kids, even the ones who hate eating cooked apples, I'm adding this to my regular "breakfast for dinner" recipe rotation.

This recipe is another recipe with a history, which I love.  Versions of this pancake have been featured everywhere from Biergarten's buffet as a dessert in the 80's and 90's, to the Carnation Cafe in Disneyland, as a breakfast treat at The Crystal Palace's massive buffet, even topped with ice cream at Liberty Tree Tavern.  While it's not found anywhere in Disney World as of right now, it does still occasionally appear in the oddest of places.

There is no special trick to this recipe, beyond just having faith that it'll work out beautifully.  A combination of eggy-fried dough and apple pie that's not too sweet, it's definitely worth the experimentation.  Just watch the baking times...  It's hard to nail down the exact time that this will be done as a lot of it depends on the size of the eggs used.  While 20-30 minutes seems like a fair estimate, this could be done in as little as 15 or as much as 35 or 40.  Key thing is, when it's done, you'll know it.  It'll be golden brown, puffed, and smell like an apple pie.

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Puffed Apple Pancake
As was served at Carnation Cafe, Disneyland, The Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom, and Biergarten, Germany Pavilion, EPCOT 

For Apples:
°o°  1 tablespoon butter
°o°  1 cup chopped or sliced, peeled apples
°o°  1 tablespoon lemon juice
°o°  1 tablespoon brown sugar 
°o°  3 tablespoons granulated sugar
°o°  1 tablespoon cinnamon
°o°  1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
For Pancake:
°o°  3 tablespoons butter 
°o°  3 eggs
°o°  2/3 cup milk
°o°  1/4 cup flour
°o°  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
°o°  1 cup chopped or sliced, peeled apples, cooked
°o°  3 tablespoons brown sugar
°o°  1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Melt butter in a pie pan or cast iron skillet in the warming oven, being sure it does not burn.

Prepare apples first by melting butter in 10-inch pan over medium heat.  Add apples tossed in the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Cook until tender, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and milk, then sift in flour, whisking until very well combined.  Add vanilla extract.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon.  Set aside.

Pour mixture into pie pan or cast iron skillet with melted butter.  Top with apples. 
Remove the pie pan from the oven and pour in mixture. Top evenly with the apples, trying to keep them towards the middle of the pan.  Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon mix over the pancake.

Return pan to the warmed oven and cook 20-30 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.  Serve immediately by slicing as you would a pie, topping with maple syrup or vanilla ice cream. 

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spicy Sausage with Creamy Sweet Corn Polenta

One of the things about this blog is that it gives me the chance to not only explore Disney foods I've never gotten the chance to try in the parks, but that it gives me the chance to make something that I tried while on a vacation and loved.  Like Remy describes (yes, I'm talking about the fictional rat from "Ratatouille"), good food comes together, like a symphony, and takes you on a journey, sometimes to an entirely different time and place.

That is what this dish did for me.  One bite and I was back in EPCOT, walking the World Showcase on a beautiful, sunny day, probably on my way to Soarin or the Japan Pavilion.

This meal has quite the background.  It was one of the most popular dishes on Le Cellier's appetizer menu.  Served in a cast iron skillet, designed for family-style sharing, it was a great, fun, and unique appetizer option.  When the restaurant changed their menu to reflect their new status as a signature dining option, despite its popularity, the dish was retired.  Believe it or not, threads started popping up on various forums of people trying to figure out where it went, where else they can go in Disney to find it, even how to make it.  When people talked about the reasons it was such a tragedy Le Cellier went to an all-day signature dining experience, the retiring of this dish was a complaint that came up frequently.

Perhaps due to that popular demand, the following year at the EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival a version of the dish appeared again at Canada's kiosk, which is also where I had it for the first time.  I mean seriously, who could pass up a booth that had both sausage and
the famous Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup?  I vividly remember waiting in a long line, juggling multiple plates (two of each the soup and the sausage) while scrambling to find a spot to eat because every chair, bench, and table was full.  Ben and I ended up finding a spot on the top of a covered trash can in a little area right next to the World Showcase Lagoon.  We stood and ate, hunkered over this stupid garbage can, just relishing every single bite while enjoying a postcard perfect day at EPCOT.  I still remember how the sky was so blue, it almost hurt to look at it, and all the trees and plants around the lake were a vivid, emerald green.  It was warm, with a beautiful breeze that was strong enough that there were little waves rolling across the lagoon.  Stunning.  Peaceful.  For sure a happy Disney moment.

I can't say how happy I am to have this recipe.  This is really just a memory on a plate.  Even with the slight changes I made (more on that in a minute), every moment of this recipe was an exciting Disney memory, a fantastic Disney smell...  Not even joking when I say while I was making the polenta, I yelled out "This smells like Disney!" and all five people in the house huddled over the pot taking big, deep breaths.  We all agreed, by the way, it does smell like Disney...  It smells exactly like the buffet area of Tusker House.  Just saying.

Anyway, I did make some tweaks to the recipe.  First off, I used frozen corn instead of cutting fresh corn off the cob and roasting it.  We live in New Hampshire and it's March...  Fresh corn on the cob?  Not happening.  While I'm sure it would have been a deeper flavor if I'd used that roasted corn, the frozen corn was certainly a completely delicious, functional substitute.  The other somewhat major change I made was I used spicy pork sausage.  The recipe as written calls for chicken sausage, and while the version at Le Cellier did alternate between spicy pork and spicy chicken sausage, the Food and Wine version does use exclusively chicken sausage.  My switch was purely personal preference and economics...  I'm not a huge fan of the chicken sausage available at our grocery store, and regular sausage was on sale.  The only other special notes I have about this recipe is that this recipe is the base to both the old Le Cellier appetizer, but also the Food and Wine Festival's Canada offering.  That said, both dishes are dressed slightly differently...  One with a lot of greens, a little cheese, and the other with a sauteed pepper onion mixture.  When I served this, I went just with the base recipe, the polenta and the sausage.      

Of all the dishes I've made in recent memory, this was one of my absolute favorite meals.  Everybody loved it and we had absolutely no leftovers.  I did stick with the creamy polenta as opposed to letting it cook up so that it was more firm (which is what they do at Disney too), and I think it was the absolute perfect compliment to that spicy sausage.  I couldn't get enough of this meal.  I'm already dreaming about when I can make it again...  Only one bite and I was back next to the World Showcase Lagoon enjoying an amazing meal on the top of a covered trash can, thinking about Soarin Fastpasses, sake tasting in Japan, and enjoying a perfect fall day at EPCOT. 

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Spicy Sausage with Cream Sweet Corn Polenta
As was served at Le Cellier, Canada Pavilion, EPCOT and Food and Wine Festival, Canada Kiosk
°o°  1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil 
°o°  1 medium Spanish onion, small dice 
°o°  2 tablespoons diced garlic 
°o°  2/3 cup fresh corn, about one cob, removed from cob  
°o°  1/2 ounce basil, fresh chopped (or 1 tablespoon basil)  
°o°  1 cup water  
°o°  1 cup heavy cream  
°o°  1/2 cup maple syrup 
°o°  1/3 cup ground yellow or white cornmeal 
°o°  1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
°o°  1 1/2 teaspoon chopped chives 
°o°  Salt and pepper, to taste 
°o°  1 pound spicy sausage links, chicken or pork, casings removed (if slicing in half for serving)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat olive oil in oven-safe skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, corn, and cook about 5 minutes or until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant.  Add in basil and stir about 10 seconds.  Add water, cream, maple syrup, bring mixture to a light boil.  Reduce heat to low and while whisking briskly, add in cornmeal.  Cook on low heat for 5 minutes while continually whisking mixture.  Cover the pan with foil and bake 45 minutes or until polenta is creamy and absorbed most of the liquid, similar to the consistency of oatmeal.  Remove pan from oven and stir in the chives, Parmesan cheese.  Season to taste.  Keep warm but set aside.

Grill sausages until done and juices are clear.  

Spoon polenta onto warmed plates or serve in skillet.  Slice sausages in half lengthwise and serve over the warmed polenta.  Top with grilled vegetables, greens, or cheese, or serve as is.
~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Brownie Cheesecake

Believe it or not, I'm one of the few people who's never been to the Boardwalk Bakery...  I guess it's because while I like sweets, I'm more of a savory eater, especially when it comes to my snacks.  I'll pretty much always pick a bag of chips over a baked good.

But this recipe?  I've had my eye on it for a long, long time.  While I may be a savory eater, I do love baking, and I love trying out new recipes for baked goods that look deliciously unique.  While brownies and cheesecake aren't unique on their own, combining them to one, scrumptious dessert...  Brilliant.

While time consuming, this is a really great recipe for a first time baker.  Though let me just say, if I had one tip to pass on while making this, it's literally impossible to put too much Pam in the dish used to bake this.  Literally, impossible.  I had been warned to really, really grease the pan, and I went what I thought was overboard, but it ended up still being not enough, especially around the edges.  It made extracting the brownies with the cheesecake on top (without it all falling apart) really, really tricky.  A friend of mine told me the best way to release brownies from their pan is to let them sit in lukewarm water and then cut it with a warm knife, which honestly seems like it'd help out a lot...  I'm frankly embarrassed I didn't think of it first.

I have to say, even for somebody like me, who's not a big sweets person, this is a luscious treat for anybody's sweet tooth.  I was worried it would be sickly sweet, but honestly, it was the perfect combination of rich brownie and pillowy cheesecake.  Topped with whipped cream and maybe a raspberry or two and this could be the perfect dessert...

Now I need to figure out why I've run by Boardwalk Bakery twice, but never actually stopped to eat there.

PS - Like the new plates? A gift from my parents for Valentine's Day.  Woo-hoo TJ Maxx!

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Brownie Cheesecake
As is served at The Boardwalk Bakery, Disney's BoardWalk Inn
For the brownies:
°o°  2 cups sugar °o°  1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
°o°  2/3 cup cocoa powder 
°o°  1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
°o°  1/2 teaspoon baking powder  

°o°  5 eggs  
°o°  2 sticks butter, melted  
°o°  1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the cheescake: 
°o°  3/4 cup sugar 
°o°  3 tablespoons cornstarch 
°o°  4 8-ounce boxes of cream cheese 
°o°  1 tablespoon lemon juice 
°o°  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
°o°  2 eggs
°o°  2 tablespoons heavy cream  
°o°  2 tablespoons sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and heavily grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder.  Add eggs, one at a time, at low speed using an electric mixer, being sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.  Mix until smooth.  Slowly drizzle in melted butter, mixer still on low, and beat until combined and no butter rises to the top of the batter.  Do not overmix.  Gently fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into baking pan.  Bake 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

When the brownies have cooled, preheat oven to 325.

Cream sugar, cornstarch, and cream cheese in a bowl using an electric mixer.  Add lemon
juice and vanilla extract.  Then add eggs, one at a time, beating on low until incorporated.  Do not overmix.  Fold in heavy cream and sour cream.

Spread batter over the top of the cooled brownies.  Bake until cheesecake is lightly browned and firm, about 55-60 minutes.  Immediately after removing from oven, run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cheesecake to prevent cracking.  

Cool and then refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

To cut, use a warm knife to make clean cuts, and place brownie pan in warm water bath to help loosen brownies, if needed. 

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spaghetti Carbonara

 Having just gotten back from the Princess Half Marathon and completing the Glass Slipper Challenge, my mind is on one thing...  Pasta. 

Having done two half marathons now, I know that there's nothing in the world I want more after a long run than pasta!  For the Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2013, all I wanted was spaghetti.  Seriously, I craved it for days, and I never, ever crave spaghetti.  This time, I was all about rich and flavorful pastas.  Something like Alfredo, without the heaviness.

While researching Disney pasta recipes, I came across the perfect recipe to fill my craving: spaghetti carbonara.  Pasta, bacon, eggs...  Pretty much my dream post-race food.  What's not to love?
Spaghetti carbonara has been featured around Disney World in a variety of places.  Perhaps the most popular of these is at Art of Animation Resort's Landscape of Flavors Food Court.  Despite being the newest resort to the Disney family, this recipe has undergone a couple of changes during its short time as a featured chef's favorite featured pasta dish.  Originally a dish made up of a egg-based cream sauce with bacon and onions (sometimes peas), it has evolved into a cream sauce with a prosciutto and bacon mix and broccoli (yuck).  Variations of this dish have also been served at Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney, and a more refined version, sans broccoli but with truffle oil and using pancetta instead of bacon is available at The Swan's Il Mulino.   
The version of the recipe I used is the original recipe featured at Art of Animation's Landscape of Flavors both because that's the most popular version of the dish, and because I can't stand broccoli...  Meaning I really didn't want to make the newer and current broccoli-tainted version (did I say yuck already?).  However, with very little effort, this recipe can be easily tweaked to be the more refined dish featured at Il Mulino.  

I have to say, I love, love, love this pasta dish.  First, it's fast, easy, and cheap... 
All very good things.  But secondly, it's unbelievably rich and luxurious tasting.  Flavorful, creamy, and a great variety of textures, plus a slam dunk for anybody who loves bacon.  I admit, I cooked the bacon until it was very crisp, while the restaurant versions tend to not cook the bacon as long for a softer texture.  Really, it's all personal preference.  I prefer super crunchy bacon, but for those who like something a little less crisp, cook the bacon until it's warmed through, cooked, but not crispy. 
I think the only change I'd make to this recipe is using less pasta for a more bacon and cream flavor.  Or the same amount of pasta, but more bacon.  Because really, is there such a thing as too much bacon?

~~~~  °o°  ~~~~

Spaghetti Carbonara
As is served at Landscape of Flavors Food Court, Art of Animation Resort
°o°  1 pound spaghetti
°o°  1 lb bacon, chopped
°o°  1/2 cup onion, chopped
°o°  2 cloves garlic, minced
°o°  2 eggs, room temperature, beaten
°o°  2 tablespoons heavy cream
°o°  1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
°o°  Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large pot of salted, boiling water, add pasta and cook until al dente (or slightly under desired doneness).  

While the pasta is boiling, cook bacon in a separate skillet.  Remove bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of bacon fat.  Return skillet to heat, cook onions until translucent, then add garlic, cooking only until aromatic, about 1 minute or less.  Add to bacon mixture, set aside.

Combine eggs, heavy cream, beat until mixed.  Set aside.

Drain and rinse pasta in warm water, return pasta to pot.  Turn heat to medium-low.  Drizzle in heavy cream and egg mixture and toss until coated, making sure that pasta is thoroughly warmed.  Add reserved bacon fat, bacon, and onions.  Fold in Parmesan cheese.  Toss until incorporated and pasta is warm.  Serve immediately.

** To serve Il Mulino version, cook bacon and drain, discarding bacon fat.  Add Marsala wine to bacon pan along with onions to delgaze pan.  Cook onions until translucent, add garlic and cook until aromatic.  Substitute 3 tablespoons truffle oil for bacon fat and toss in pasta and prepare as above, making sure to add wine reduction along with onions to pasta dish.

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