Cinco De Mayo Treats

Happy Cinco De Mayo! In honor of the day I decided to make a Sopapilla Cheesecake and Mexican Wedding Cookies. While it probably would have been more traditional to make Churros or a Tres Leches Cake… I attempted to make Churros in the past and the end result wasn’t all that great and while I have wanted to make a Tres Leches Cake for quite some time, I was already planning on making a Strawberry Shortcake for my dad’s birthday this weekend so I figured one cake per weekend is more than enough. When Sopapilla is made as a dessert it is essentially fried dough with something sweet drizzled on it – a fruit sauce, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar or honey. I tend to shy away from anything that needs to be fried due to past experiences (i.e. the Churros) so when I came across a cheesecake version I was excited to try it, especially since it sounded super easy and only required six simple ingredients. I actually remember eating something similar to Sopapillas when I was younger – Domplines – which I usually ate with beans. As for the Mexican Wedding Cookies, they are actually known by quite a few different names… Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Wedding Cookies, Butterballs or as they are commonly known as in Spanish Polvorones. Stemming from the Spanish word polvo – meaning powder or dust.

First up were the Mexican Wedding Cookies. I assembled all of my ingredients before I got started: butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, flour and pecans.

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I started by creaming the butter and sugar together and then adding in the vanilla extract.

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I then added in the flour so the dough for the cookies could really come together.

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Although I did buy chopped pecans I decided to chop them up a little more to make them a more appropriate size for these bite-sized cookies.

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To add in the pecans I folded them in as opposed to mixing them in with the mixer. Now it was time to form the cookies. While these cookies are usually crescent shaped I opted to just form them into small rounds and popped them in a 275 degree F oven for 40 minutes.

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Fresh out of the oven. I must say they didn’t look that much different cooked from when they were raw.

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After letting them cool for a few minutes it was time to cover them in confectioners’ sugar.

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Once I was done with the cookies it was time to start on the Sopapilla Cheesecake. This by far was one of the simplest things I have ever made. It definitely helped that I didn’t make the dough from scratch but used crescent rolls and the filling was simply made with sugar, cream cheese and vanilla extract.

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I started off by spraying a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and pressing one of the two crescent rolls into it. It was quite comical trying to open the crescent rolls. I have never had a hard time unwrapping them but for some reason both of these packages didn’t want to pop open when I unwrapped them. With one of them I had to actually release the pressure in it by making punctures in it with a knife and then the second one just popped open as I was doing something else.

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To make the filling I mixed the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract until it was smooth.

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I then spread the filling over the bottom crescent roll and pressed the second crescent roll over it. Now it was time to add the topping.

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I brushed the top with melted butter and sprinkled the cinnamon sugar evenly over it. I must say that while the recipe called for 1/2 cup of sugar that was too much for my taste and probably only used about 1/4 cup.

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After baking for 30 minutes in a 350 degrees F oven it was time for it to come out of the oven and it looked and smelled DELISH!

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Final verdict… The cookies and cheesecake were declared to be “moreish” by my friends… Definitely a good thing to hear!

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Mexican Wedding Cookies

Courtesy Paula Deen

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands

1 cup pecans, chopped into very small pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until its smooth. Beat in the vanilla. At low speed gradually add the flour. Mix in the pecans with a spatula. With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent. Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies. Place onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire racks.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

Courtesy Allrecipes

Ingredients

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 (8 ounce) packaged refrigerated crescent rolls

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground sugar

Directions

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray

2. Beat the cream cheese with 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla extract in a bowl until smooth; set aside

3. Unroll the cans of crescent roll dough, and use a rolling pin to shape each sheet into 9×13 rectangles. Press one sheet into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture into the baking dish, then cover with the remaining piece of crescent dough, and brush with melted butter. Stir together 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the top of the cheesecake.

4. Bake in the preheated oven until the crescent dough has puffed and turned golden brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Ricotta Cheesecake With Almonds

Cheesecakes are the one thing that I never seem to get right. Granted, I have never attempted to make a basic cheesecake I usually go with flavorful ones like pumpkin cheesecake, tiramisu cheesecake, and so forth. When I come to think of it though the pumpkin cheesecake I made wasn’t that bad it was just really dense. I decided to give it another go when I came across a cheesecake recipe in the March 2013 issue of Food Network Magazine – appropriately coined The Cheese Issue – called Ricotta Cheesecake with Almonds. I usually love anything made with almonds so I knew this would be a hit for me.

To begin, I toasted sliced almonds – 1/4 cup for the crust and another 1/3 cup for the topping – in a 350 degrees preheated oven for 5 minutes. I used to skip over toasting nuts whenever I saw it in a recipe but have to come to realize that toasting them definitely enhances their flavor.

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Once the almonds were cool I made the crust for the cheesecake. I combined the almonds, almond biscotti and granulated sugar in my food processor and pulsed the mixture until it was finely ground.

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I then added melted butter and pulsed for a few more seconds so the mixture could come together. Once it did I pressed it into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and baked it in the oven for a little over 10 minutes so it could set.

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While the crust was in the oven I did some prep work for the filing. I separated three eggs and used a Microplane to zest an orange. After I removed the crust from the oven I let it cool on a wire rack and lowered the oven temperature to 300 degrees in preparation for baking the cheesecake.

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To make the filling I started by beating the eggs yolks and sugar on high speed for about two minutes until the mixture was a pale yellow.

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I then added in ricotta cheese and beat this for another two minutes until it was smooth.

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And finally I added in almond & vanilla extract, amaretto liqueur and the orange zest.

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I put that part of the filling aside and beat the egg whites with sugar until soft peaks formed.

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To combine the two mixtures I began by folding in 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the ricotta mixture. I then folded in the rest until the two were just combined.

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After all the pulsing, mixing and baking I finally had my crust and filling ready.

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I poured the filling into the crust and baked it for 1 hour 10 minutes. I opted to reduce the baking time by 10 minutes from the directions since the cheesecake looked done according to them – slightly puffed and lightly golden on top.

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I let the cheesecake cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack and then removed the springform ring after running a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it. Once the cheesecake was completely cooled I added the topping. I sprinkled cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar over the cheesecake, then spread out the 1/3 cup of almonds on top of it and then sprinkled more cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar over the almonds.

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This was a cheesecake success! I will say though that while the recipe name made it seem like almonds would be the dominant flavor that was only the case with the crust, the cheesecake itself really took on the flavor of the orange zest even though there was amaretto and almond extract in it. Either was it was delicious!

Ricotta Cheesecake with Almonds

Courtesy Food Network Magazine

Prep Time: 40 Minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Servings: 8

Ingredients

For the crust:

1/4 cup sliced almonds

5 ounces almond biscotti*

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling and topping:

3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 pound fresh ricotta (about 2 cups)

1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Grated zest of 1 orange

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup sliced almonds, for topping

Directions

Make the crust: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds for both the crust and topping (1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup) on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Crumble the biscotti into a food processor; add 1/4 cup toasted almonds and the granulated sugar and pulse until finely ground. Add the butter and pulse to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Bake until set, about 12 minutes, then transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Beat the egg yolks and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on high speed until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the ricotta and beat until smooth, about 2 more minutes. Beat in the amaretto, vanilla and almond extracts, and orange zest.

Put the egg whites and the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in a separate bowl and beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form (do not overbeat). Using a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture, then gently fold in the rest until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared crust. Bake until slightly puffed and lightly golden on top, about 1 hour, 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool, 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then remove the springform ring and let cool completely.

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon in a fine-mesh sieve and dust over the cheesecake. Scatter the remaining 1/3 cup toasted almonds on top and dust again. Serve at room temperature.

*5 ounces of biscotti is equivalent to about 8 pieces. I actually used Stella D’oro Almond Biscotti which conveniently came in a 5.5 ounce package.

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