Here's a secret so secret I manage to keep it from myself for long periods of time:
I love to bake.
Love it. Love the process, the textures, the smells, the basic chemistry, the lovely results.
Secret #2--I have no self control and eat what I bake. Usually within a couple of days. Horrible, I know.
Secret #2 is why Secret #1 must remain secret. For long periods of time I can convince myself not to bake. I tell myself I don't like the mess, that I don't want the bother, that it only takes time. I'm lying to myself, but it's for the good of my health.
I'm always the first to volunteer for a dessert for a potluck though or bake sale though.
So yesterday was Apple Pie Day for Sweetpea's Kindergarten class (the day Apple Farm Day being the week before) and I volunteered to be a classroom helper.
I was reminded that I just flat out love to bake.
This post could end here, since I didn't take my camera with me (I did but I left it in the trunk, deciding that Kindergartner's, dough and cameras don't mix). I could tell you it was fun (it was) and great being with my daughter (it was) and meeting more moms (it was).
But it also set me to yearning. Yearning for my oven. I wanted to bake that night when I got home. I woke through the night dreaming of my oven and what I could do. I got up this morning and just wanted to play in the kitchen.
Lucky for me, and for you, our lovely new friend, the Divine Miss M, is being baptized tonight. I e-mailed her mom this morning and asked if we couldn't PLEASE contribute some treats to the refreshment options tonight? She graciously agreed and I was freed. I don't have to worry about calories, or health, or sin--others will save me from my own destruction.
So on this grey, rainy day, allow me to brighten things up with one of our family favourites: Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars (contributed by Jane Nolt of Pennsylvania. Jane, I love you, whoever you are, and the co-worker you got this recipe from.) This comes from an old Country Women Magazine that my mom was good enough to subscribe me to when I first married and won 3rd place in a dairy contest held by the magazine. See, here's the recipe:
All I have to say about that was that Jane was robbed. This should have been the first place recipe. Chocolate Chip Cookies meet cheesecake? It's a match made in heaven! I usually save this one for Christmas, but I couldn't wait any longer.
Ok, first thing you do in my kitchen is line up your assistants. This recipe has two parts, the chocolate chip cookie part and the cheesecake part. The Princess will be preparing the cookie part. Here she is in her pretty apron, ready to bake:
(This photo cracks me up. after telling her for the upteenth time that tucking her chin into her chest for photos only gives her double chins, I asked her if she couldn't lift her chin a bit, just for me. She then proceeded to stretch her neck like a giraffe. Once we stopped laughing, this was her compromise. You can see she's in danger of laughing and stretching again.)
OK! Chocolate Chip Cookies! You all know the drill--first cream your butter and sugars:
Add your egg and vanilla (time to face it, I'm no Pioneer Woman):
Mix and add your dry ingredients, then stir in your MINI chipits. For some reason it just doesn't taste right if you go full size. Trust me on this: mini.
Place 2/3 of your cookie dough in a greased 9x13 pan in your pre-heated oven for about 8 minutes (I like 9). Make sure you've saved 1/3 of the dough! (And no eating it. I know you're tempted, but you're going to want it later.)
INTERMISSION: Clean those beaters!
Ok, and then wash them ;)
Now, change assistants, and make your assistant refill the sugar:
Get out a new bowl and beat your cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mmmmm, vanilla.
By now your base should be set. Take it out of the oven and let it sit a moment, then CAREFULLY spoon your cream cheese mixture over your cookie base. Remember, your base isn't baked yet, only set, and it's soft and squishy. Smooth it all out:
Almost there! Now we need that saved bit of cookie dough (you didn't eat it did you? Good.). Playfully and completely randomly plop small spoonfuls of the dough onto your cream cheese layer. Random is easy for my assistant:
Stop when you run out of dough. You'll have something that looks a kind of like this--
--only different, because you're being completely random, right? Bake that for about 35-40 minutes, keeping a close eye on it. It's done when the cheesecake part starts to brown just the tiniest bit. In the meantime you'll be able to clean up the kitchen.
When all is said and done, you'll have this yummy goodness:
Here's the actual recipe:
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cups miniature chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans (I never add these)
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda; add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans. Set aside a third of th dough for topping. Press remaining dough into a greased 13"x9" baking pan. Bake at 350F for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Spoon over crust. Drop teaspoonfuls of reserved dough over filling. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and store in the refrigerator.
Prepare to be crowned Queen by all your friends and neighbours. But be aware that they may try to strip you of your crown when all those calories settle happily on their thighs. Fair warning