Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thumbing for cookies...

While Gus was off taking some time to relax in his new playpen (yes... he has his own playpen!), I had enough time to make these Cheesecake Thumbprints Jeff took in this morning for the Treat Day this week.

Before you begin working on the dough, you'll want to whip together the creamy cheesecake filling for these cookies. Softened cream cheese, a few tablespoons of granulated sugar, an egg yolk, a touch of sour cream and a few drips of vanilla form this mixture. Right after being mixed together, the filling is quite liquid-y... but a short stint in the refrigerator while you prepare the cookies will allow the mixture to thicken slightly.

These round gems are a basic shortbread cookie - a combination of flour, unsalted butter and a little sugar. However, an egg yolk is also tossed into the dough to add to their tender melt-in-your mouth quality. The dough should not be too dry, but not too moist either - you should be able to roll them into balls without it sticking to your hands. Once all scooped out, the balls are given a tidy indent in the center by using the thick handle end of a sturdy wooden spoon - so the handle glides through the dough, be sure to give it a light dip in flour before moving to the next cookie. You don't have to worry much about the size as the center will blossom open as the cookies bake.

After a few minutes, the cookies need to be removed and the indent re-made as they puff up slightly as they bake. I just used my thumb to press the centers back down, but as the cookies will be quite hot, you can also use that same wooden spoon handle to do this. They go back into the oven until the are just starting to take on a golden hue around the edges. Once the cookies have cooled completely, the open centers are given a dollop of that luscious cheesecake filling and the filled rounds go back into the oven just long enough to set that batter. While we very much enjoyed the simplistic flavor of these rich and buttery two-bite buttons, you could add a little citrus note by tossing in some fresh grated zest into the cookie dough or even into the cheesecake filling. We taste-tested these last night only after a couple hours and the flavor was nice, but if you let them chill out in the refrigerator like you would a regular cheesecake, the flavor does bloom a bit more and the cookies really shined when we had one during breakfast!

This German Apple Pancake we had for dinner tonight was quite interesting! Now, I'm not saying that in a bad way, but it was just a little different than I was expecting. You'll need to plan ahead if this baked pancake piques your interest as the batter needs to rest for roughly half an hour before using it. While the vanilla-scented batter is not too unusual, it does have quite a high proportion of eggs in it.

As the batter was resting, we forged ahead with the recipe by dusting one of our larger skillets with a combination of granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. We then laid down thinly sliced Granny Smith apples in a circular pattern around the bottom, completely covering it. The original recipe has you just sprinkle additional granulated sugar on top, but why not take advantage of adding a little more flavor? Instead of splitting the half cup of sugar and spicing up one-half as the recipe stated, we increased the amount of the sweet spices and used that to dust the skillet and then top off the apples.

Before pouring the pancake batter on top, the apples and sugar are first heated, allowing the apples to soften slightly and let the sugar begin to turn into a sweet caramel-esque syrup. Be gently as you pour the batter into the skillet as the apples will have a tendency to move around if you add it too fast. The whole shebang is slid into the oven and will cook until the pancake is quite puffy in the center and the edges burst up and slightly out the sides of the skillet. Because of that sticky syrup that formed on the bottom, you will need to give the pancake a nudge or two with a spatula to gently cajole it out of the skillet.

We both commented on how we liked that the apples were fork tender, yet not mushy - what we weren't expecting was how "egg-y" tasting the pancake was. It wasn't as intense of a flavor like you would find in a frittata or anything, but it was fairly pronounced. While the center was completely cooked, I found the texture to be more moist and dense like a set-custard rather than a lighter pancake. Jeff's favorite part was the crispy, golden sweet edges that had a little crunch from the extra granulated sugar. Served with an adornment of confectioners' sugar, there is no maple syrup needed as that caramelized sugar on the bottom brought that needed layer of flavor. Different texture (at least to us) for sure, but it still tasted good!


  1. These are couple nice treats. I hope they enjoy tomorrow. I smiled when you said that Gus had his own playpen.

  2. I have the pancakes on my list to try too Joe!
    Oh, and I love the cookies, nice treats, I know my husband would like those as he loves cheesecake!

  3. Don't know which one looks more sinful! I can envision the pancake with a little whipped cream - ok, a lot of whipped cream - purely for the daily dairy requirement of course;p

  4. Helene - the best part is he is actually getting used to it and doesn't cry much at all anymore!

    Ana - I can't wait to see what you think!

    Quinn - Yes, I could certainly see a (large) dollop of it being a nice asset to this pancake!

  5. What a fantastic idea for a cookie! I've had the jam thumbprints, but nothing like this before. I'm sure I'd like this much better! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Oh my word, those thumbprints are fantastic! These I have to try!

  7. Kristen - I'm glad you like the sound of them! They are worth the effort.

    Katrina - Thanks!