Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Panna Cotta & Florentine Cookies

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen.  She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta  and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Let me tell you, as daring and fun as this adventure was, most of all, it was easy.  A snap.  Easy as pie.  A piece of cake.

Let’s start with the panna cotta.  Panna cotta is the result of what would happen if jello and pudding got together and had a love child.  It is cold and creamy but also has more body than creme brule.  Panna cotta is elegant enough to serve as a dinner party dessert–and yes, easy enough to actually make from scratch.

The party gets started by softening some unflavored gelatin in water.  And this is about where I diverged from the original challenge.  The original recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis.  Now, I like Giada just fine (and TD likes her considerably more than just fine).  But, I sort of had an itch for coconut panna cotta.  So, that’s what I made.

While the gelatin was…wait for it…gelling, I mixed coconut milk, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla together in a heavy sauce pan and heated it until just warm.  Then I mixed in the softened gelatin and whisked until everything was combined.

After this, the mixture went into glasses and then into the fridge.

That’s all.  Seriously.

Really, I promise.  That’s it.  With the panna cotta cooling, I turned my attention to the florentine portion of the challenge.

Well, first I made an offering to the Kitchen God.

Since I had already gone a different direction with the panna cotta, I figured why not continue with the florentine.  Still feeling tropical, I added shredded coconut and some chopped macadamia nuts to the cookie’s dry ingredients.

The method for this cookie is really fun.  After mixing together the dry ingredients, butter is melted in a sauce pan.  Once melted, you dump in the dry ingredients et voila!  Instance cookie dough.

These cookies spread very thinly.  Not wanting giant florentines, I spooned scant teaspoons of dough on to parchment-lined baking sheets leaving plenty of room in between each.

Once they come out of the oven, let them cool and harden on the parchment.  When ready to fill, match the cookies up, flip them over and gently fill with melted chocolate.  I used both bittersweet and white.

By the time I filled sandwiched the last florentine, the panna cotta was set-up. I also added a thin layer of lime gelee to the top of the panna cotta.  I just couldn’t help putting the lime in the coconut.

It’s almost like being in Hawaii.  Almost.

Coconut Panna Cotta

Reprinted in the LA Times, December 10, 2003.  Original source: Hawaiian Cooks, Roy Yamaguchi, Ten Speed Press

Total time: 15 minutes, plus 4 hours chilling time

Servings: 6

  • 2 envelopes granular gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In a small bowl, combine the gelatin with the water until softened.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk, cream, sugar and vanilla. Place over medium heat and warm until hot to the touch (about 110 degrees). Add the gelatin and stir until dissolved.
  3. Pour into 6 (6-ounce) ramekins or custard cups. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, or until set.

Lime Gelee

Recipe by Daniel Boulud

  • 1 t unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C fresh lime juice
  • 1 t lime zest
  • Food coloring if your husband says the first uncolored batch doesn’t look limey enough
  1. In a small cup, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 tablespoon of cold water and let stand until softened.  Fill a medium bowl half full of ice water.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of water and simmer over moderate heat just until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove sugar syrup from the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin until dissolved.  Stir in the lime juice and zest.  Set the saucepan in the ice water bath and stir until the gelee has cooled.  If you have any gelatin clumps, strain mixture.  Pour into desired serving cups and chill until set.

Coconut Macadamia Nut Florentine Cookies

Adapted from Nestle Classic Recipes

  • 2/3 C (150 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 C (160 grams) quick oats
  • 1/2 C  (100 grams) shredded coconut
  • 1/2 C (150 grams) chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 C (240 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 C (95 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 C dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 ounces chocolate (you pick–milk, white, bittersweet etc)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1. Melt butter in medium saucepan, remove from heat.
  2. To the melted butter add oats, coconut, nuts, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla and salt, mix well.
  3. Drop teaspoons-full (for about a 4 inch cookie) of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 3 inches apart.  Flatten dough with back of spoon.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.  Cool completely on parchment paper.
  5. Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave.
  6. Peel cookies from parchment (they should be delicate but hard), match them and flip cookies over.
  7. Spread a tablespoon of melted chocolate over one-half of each pair.  Top with each cookie’s mate.

Two ways to world peace

I love this cookie recipe.  Like, cookie monster style love it.  It is so simple and elegant and universally delicious that I really, really wish I had invented it.  But I didn’t.   Pierre Herme did.  And then Dorie Greenspan re-christened the recipe with its current namesake.  For that, they both  may very well deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.  Or at least a nomination.

This cookie is effectively a chocolate sable.  It is buttery, crumbly and very, very chocolatey.  The best part?  You can make up few batches, store them in the freezer and then bake them off at will.

The recipe starts with cocoa.  My weapon of choice when it comes to cocoa is this valrhona cocoa powder I buy by the pound at Surfas in Culver City, CA.

At the end we’ll add some chopped chocolate (or in my case, teeny tiny chocolate chips).

So where were we?  Oh yes, the middle.  Butter and sugar are creamed in the usual way.  And then the secret ingredient is added: Fleur de sel.  French sea salt.  If you don’t have any in your pantry, it is well worth the small investment I promise!  Following this, the remaining dry ingredients are added and mixed in either a standing mixer or by hand until just combined.

Then, it’s time to get brawny.  A few more folds by hand until the flour disappears (but really, just barely).

Add in the chocolate (chips, chunks, or nuggets).

Roll into a log and then into the fridge (or freezer if you don’t plan to bake them in the immediate).

When ready to bake, slice the log and place dough disks on baking sheets.

And in about ten minutes, you’ve got nirvana.

These are truly perfect as-is.  Really.  But then I started thinking.  If  willing to compromise the sandy texture just slightly, I bet they’d make fantastic sandwich cookies.

So, once I got to the part where the dough should have been rolled into a log, I just rolled it into a ball and chilled the dough.  Out of the fridge, I rolled-out the dough (between two pieces of parchment–you do not want to add extra flour) and punched out circles.  Working the dough in this way does make them less crumbly and more cookie-like.

And that’s why I added some chocolate-nutella frosting in the middle.

World peace: two ways.

World Peace Cookies

This recipe has appeared in a variety of venues.  Dorie Greenspan/Pierre Herme


  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (I’ve used kosher with equal success)
  • 5 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate chopped into small pieces (or tiny chocolate chips)

Sift together flour, cocoa and baking soda in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  In a standing mixer or using an electric hand-held mixer, beat butter until smooth but not fluffy.  Beat in both sugars, vanilla and salt until fluffy; about 2 minutes.  With beater speed on low, add flour mixture and mix until dough just starts to form.  Switch to a spatula and fold dough a few more times until all flour is integrated.  Fold in chocolate.  Roll dough into a log (or two if you want smaller cookies).  Wrap in plastic and chill until firms, at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line baking sheets with parchment.  Using a sharp knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/2 inch-thick rounds.  Space 1-inch apart on baking sheets and bake until cookies appear dry (11-12 minutes).  Let cool.

If making sandwich cookies (a TMH variation)

Follow steps through forming a log with the dough.  Instead, form dough into a flattened ball and chill for at least 3 hours.   Once firm, roll-out dough 1/4 at a time (it will be tough to work with at first).  The chocolate bits will work as a thickness guide.  Punch-out cookies with a circular cookie cutter.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 9-10 minutes (less than the original because they will be cooler).

You can fill these with anything.  I just added about 4 TBS of nutella to a cup of this ganache in the pictures above (I happened to already have the ganache in the fridge).

Garlic Knots…you know the ones…

Raise your hand if you have ever been on a date to C&O.

So, you too share the fellowship of the knot?  That’s what I thought.

Like Dittie Reese and Saks, C&O is an institution to Los Angeles area college students and those who wish they still were.  I suppose the food is okay. Pasta and lots of it.  However, that isn’t what draws the crowds to this rowdy, no reservation restaurant just steps from the Venice Pier.  Nope.  It’s the free flowing Chianti, hourly house-wide renditions of That’s Amore and most importantly, it’s the garlic knots.

When eating at the C&O, the strategy is simple. First: try to finish-off the giant carafe of house chianti they set on the table at the beginning of the meal (I swear that thing must be at least 1500 ml) .  Second: always make sure the  garlic knot plate on your table is completely empty every time one of the waitstaff comes by with the huge platter of steamy, garlicy, crunchy, soft little dough balls so that they pile on a maximum refill.

Some say they are sent from heaven.  Some say from hell.  Either way, these little nuggets of goodness are indescribably good.  And you know what?  I figured out how to make them.

I’ve been trolling for a recipe for garlic knots for some time.  And like Goldilocks and the three bears, nothing I found seemed quite right.  So, I set aside the porridge, put on an apron and came up with my own recipe. I then vetted my little creation with some self-described C&O garlic knot fanatics (hi Erin and Randy) during the Superbowl and voila!  We had a winner.

I started with a basic pizza dough recipe.  My current favorite comes from the Joy of Cooking.  I’m also pretty confident you could use some ready-made store-bought dough as well.  The one trick I use is to make the dough and then retard the fermentation by letting it sit in the fridge over night.  Then, I pull the dough out of cold storage, oil it up and let it rest in a towel-covered bowl for at least a couple of hours.

This recipe makes about five dozen garlic knots.  However, if the  temptation of 60 knots is a little too much, half the dough right after it has come together, seal one of the balls in a zip-lock bag and then freeze it for future use.  The size of your garlic balls is highly personal and completely up to you.  I like them to be about two bites.  For this size, half your dough, and then continue to half the resulting pieces evenly until you get 32 little nuggets.

Working with the dough one piece one-at-a-time, roll the ball into a snake of about four-inches.

Then, wrap the snake around your fingers like this.

And poke one of the ends around the back and up through the middle.  This whole action happens quickly and is very easy to do after the third of fourth try.

Most of the time the result will be a cute little knot.  But remember, the dough is sticky so, if the result is more of a blob, don’t worry about it.

The knots go into a nice hot oven for 12-15 minutes or until they begin to turn golden.  If you’d like to heighten the effect, brush them with an egg wash before cooking them.

While the knots are in the oven, it’s time to get busy with the garlic sauce.  The recipe I’ve listed below should be considered more of  a general guideline.  Exact quantities aren’t all that important here.  Begin by gently melting a wodge of butter with some olive oil.

Next comes the garlic.  Again, it’s a matter of taste on how many cloves.  I use four or five and consider myself to have a fairly moderate garlic tolerance.  How you dispense the garlic is also a matter of taste.  I like to use a microplane and sort of melt the garlic.  You could also mince it or use a garlic press.  Completely up to you.

Once melted, minced or pressed, the garlic goes into the butter-oil bath.

While the fats and garlic are warming up to one another, chop up some flat leaf parsley.

Add the parsley to the garlic mixture and some salt to taste.  The salt is important to this recipe because it serves as an abrasive to create more surface area for the sauce to stick to.

Okay, maybe that last part was total B.S..  The salt is still important though.

Once the knots come out of the oven, toss the still hot rolls with the sauce.   You’ll have several batches of knots if making the whole recipe.  All you need to do is divide up your sauce into the number of pans of rolls and then add a little each time a batch comes out of the oven.  How you keep your balls warm in the interim is totally up to you (actually, they’ll be just fine sitting in the bowl).

It’s as easy as that folks!  This is a great party food because the crispiness of the balls will stand up to the sauce even after they’ve cooled (and they re-heat very well which shouldn’t be an issue because there won’t be any to re-heat).

Still not feeling the complete C&O experience?  Let me sweeten the deal a bit:  Dean Martin. Cin-Cin!

Garlic Knots

dough recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Note: I usually make the entire recipe, divide it in half, freeze half and use the remaining for the knots.  You’ll get about 30 knots from half the recipe.

Dough Ingredients

  • 1 1 /3 C warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 1 package (.25 oz) active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 to 4 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBs olive oil
  • 1 TBs salt
  • 1 TBS sugar

Sauce Ingredients

(remember, these are approximate, experiment to desired taste)

  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 C chopped parsley (I like Italian flat-leaf)
  • salt to taste (I like to use kosher salt)

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or large bowl if you are going to do this by hand), add warm water and yeast.  Let mixture stand about 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved and the liquid is frothy.  Using a paddle attachment, mix in the first 3 1/2 C of flour, olive oil, salt and sugar until combined.  Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding extra flour as needed.

If using entire batch of dough, seal in a zip-lock bag and let sit in the fridge over night (otherwise, divide dough into two bags stashing one in the freezer and the other in the fridge).

When ready to make knots, remove dough from the fridge,  fold it into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning so that the entire ball of dough is coated.  Cover bowl with a towel and let dough rise in a warm spot for two or three hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in the center.

Once dough has doubled in size, punch down and turn-it-out onto a floured cutting board or surface.  Using a sharp knife, divide dough into desired number of dough nuggets. Working one by one, roll the ball into a snake and quickly tie the snake into a knot.  Place finished knots on parchment lined-baking sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes.

To make sauce, combine butter and oil in a saucepan and warm over low heat.  Mince, chop or grate garlic into the butter and oil mixture.  Add in parsley and salt to taste.

When knots come out of an oven, immediately dump into a large bowl.  Add sauce and toss until balls are evenly coated.  Repeat process until all balls are baked.

Chocolate Love Cake

Here is how this story begins:

TD: Can you make one of those chocolate cakes?

ME: Like what kind?

TD: The brown kind.

ME: Can you be more specific?

TD: That doesn’t have pink peppercorns.  And is big with chocolate cake and chocolate filling and chocolate frosting.

ME: But no peppercorns?

TD: No peppercorns.

For my valentine? Anything.  And so chocolate love cake was born.

The concept for this cake isn’t particularly unique or even fancy. You’ve seen this cake a hundred times.  In fact, when you  get down to it, this cake is a darned cliche.  Like chocolate molten cake or New York cheesecake. But. A cliche is a cliche for a reason and as well worn as this cake is, it does deliver.

The recipe that follows combines what I think is the best of all fudge recipes.  The cake has a buttermilk and unsweetened chocolate base (as opposed to a cocoa base) to which I have added mini chocolate chips.  The filling/frosting also begins with unsweetened chocolate.  Then the whole thing gets covered in toasted almonds (or walnuts or pecans…or well, you get the picture).  Shall we get started?

Unsweetened chocolate, sugar and vanilla are added to water and cooked until combined.

The fudge is then cooled down in an ice bath.  Stir the cooling sauce often or you get grainy fudge (I know this from experience).

Once chilled, the fudge is added to the usual list of great cake suspects: sugar, butter, yadda yadda yadda.  Then the buttermilk and dry ingredients are incorporated by alternating between the two beginning and ending with the flour.

Oh, let’s back up a minute.  While your butter is creaming, butter your pans.  Then, line the bottoms in parchment and finally “flour” each pan with cocoa.  Using cocoa instead of flour keeps your chocolate cake looking chocolatey.

Okay, now back to the finished batter.  For this recipe, I’ve used six-inch cake pans.  The recipe easily yields enough batter for three six-inch pans or two eight or nine-inch pans.  To get evenly sized cakes, I zeroed-out my scale with a separate empty bowl and then transferred the batter to said bowl.  I divided the total weight by three and then added the appropriate amount to each of my pans.  Alternately, you could just eye-ball it.

Here comes extra-special cake tip #2 (#1 one was the thing about the cocoa if you are keeping track).  Once the cakes are completely cool, double wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them solid.  Frozen cake is much, much easier to work with than cake at room temperature.

Level out each frozen cake.  Then decide how many layers you’d like your finished cake to be.  And then, very carefully, cut each cake with a large serrated knife (I use a bread knife).  It’s okay if you don’t get them completely level: that’s what frosting is for.

Now it’s time to frost.  The frosting recipe I’ve included below makes plenty for a two-layer cake.  For three layers, consider one-and-one-halving the recipe.

After filling your layers, you may want to add a crumb layer to the whole cake before frosting the entire construction project.  This is super duper cake tip #3.  A crumb layer is a very thin layer of frosting–kind of like putting down a layer of primer before painting a room.  It makes your final layer of frosting much neater looking.

Of course, I did this and remembered that I was going to cover the entire cake in almonds.  But, I did feel better knowing how nice the frosting looked under the almonds.

Here is cake tip #4.  To keep your cake plate clean, slip parchment paper under the edges of the cake.  Frost and then carefully remove the parchment.  The result is a nice, un-frosted cake plate.

I have to admit, I don’t really have any advice on how to successfully stick your nuts to the outside of the cake (oh, good grief TD, we are still talking about cake).  I just took handfuls and carefully pressed the nuts into the side of the still-soft frosting.  It worked well save for the huge mess I made on the kitchen counter.  Word to the wise: do this over a rimmed baking sheet and you will save  quite a bit of time in clean up. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this in advance.  Must have been distracted by the nuts.

Behold: Chocolate Love Cake.

Love, love love.

All you need is love.

Love in an elevator…oh wait.  Have I gone too far?

Still stuck on the part about the peppercorns?  For reasons I don’t exactly understand, TD is convinced that I have an evil plan to infuse peppercorns into all of my baked goods.  Pink peppercorns to be specific.  Setting aside the fact that we don’t even have any peppercorns in the pantry (pink or otherwise),  I’ve decided that this is code for something.  I’m just not sure what…

Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Cake Ingredients

(adapted from Cooks.com)

  • 2 C sifted cake flour
  • 2 t  baking powder
  • .5 t baking soda
  • .5 t salt
  • 3 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • .66 C water
  • 1.5 C sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 10 Tbs butter at room temp.
  • 3 eggs
  • .33 C buttermilk
  • 1 C mini chocolate chips or chunked chocolate of your favorite variety

To make cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Butter, line with parchment and flour (or cocoa) your pans.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into bowl, set aside.

Cook chocolate, water and .25 C of sugar in saucepan over low heat stirring constantly until thick and smooth.  Transfer to a bowl set in ice water, stirring often.  Add vanilla.

Beat butter and remaining sugar in large bowl until fluffy.  Beat in eggs one-at-a-time.  Add chocolate fudge mixture and blend.

Beginning and ending with your sifted ingredients, add in flour and buttermilk alternating beating well after each addition.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 35 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched.

Remove from pans, cool completely and freeze if desired.

Fudge Frosting

(according to the recipe I pilfered this from it is an adaptation of a recipe from Sky High)


  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate melted and cooled
  • 4.5 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 24 Tbs  (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 6 Tbs whole milk, half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs vanilla
  • 2 cups toasted and chopped nuts of choice

To make frosting

Cream together butter, sugar and milk.  Add in chocolate and vanilla, beat until desired consistency.  Makes about 5 cups.

My bloody (orange) valentine cheesecake

Alas, I could not resist matching up deliciously gorgeous and in-season blood oranges with Valentine’s Day.  If the name bothers you, you can do what my friend Cameron has done when attempting to get her kids to eat the blood oranges off of a tree in her yard.  Just call them rainbow oranges.  My rainbow orange valentine.  That works too.

Blood oranges remind me of the trip we took to Italy a couple of springs ago.  We spent some time in a teeny tiny little fishing village where a little pastry and coffee shop served blood orange juice in the mornings.  As soon as the server set down the sunset-colored juice on that first morning, I knew I had a new favorite color.   I’ve taken advantage of  using blood oranges at any turn ever since. So, while looking at the heaping bowl of blood oranges I brought home from the market a couple of weekends ago I thought, why not blood orange cheesecake?

This recipe is actually adapted from a recipe I found in, gasp,  Cooking Light magazine (though the original calls for normal oranges…how pedestrian!).  While this blog does not claim to ever attempt to be healthy, it’s always nice when recipe happens to naturally lean in that direction. And I this one does it well.

This recipe starts with about a dozen blood oranges that have been sectioned.  To do this, first lop-off the top and bottom of the orange so that you have a stable base.  Then, with a sharp knife, cut the peel from the orange while following its contours from top to bottom.  Make sure to remove any of the pith that might remain.

Then, I like to hold the naked orange with one hand and using a pairing knife, carefully cut between the membranes so that the two cuts come together in a V shape.  If done right, your original orange will look like this:

And your sections will look like this:

This part is a little time consuming but can be done well in advance.

Now it’s time to make a base.  The original recipe is scaled to an eight-inch spring-form pan.  Mine is nine inches.  Even with adjustments in the original, I thought the final crust was too thin so I’ve made some changes in the recipe I’ve included here.

The crust begins with  either ground graham crackers or gingersnaps.  I love the combination of ginger and orange and so ground up some of my new favorite ginger cookies.

Melted butter and a bit of sugar are added to the crumbed cookies.

And then into the pan and into the oven for a few minutes.  The strange greasy looking spots in the photo below are actually pieces of crystallized ginger.

While the crust is in the oven, it’s time to mix together what seems like an unfathomably ridiculous amount of dairy.  There is so much cream cheese and yogurt in this recipe that as soon as I opened the first envelope of reduced-fat cream cheese, Petting Zoo’s bionic cow product senors activated and she appeared out of nowhere demanding a piece of the action.  As gentle as Bella the cat is, I did have a quick moment of wondering whether I’d have to physically defend my bowl of “cream.”  Luckily, she was easily distracted by the promise of a kitty treat or two.  In addition to 24 ounces combined fat-free and reduced-fat cream cheese, I used a lowfat Greek yogurt in place of the originally called for sour cream and really liked the outcome.

Then, into the oven with just enough time for me to make a confession.  Before this post I was a virgin.  Well, a cheesecake virgin.   As in, I’d never made it.  I have no idea why not, I just never had.  Which probably explains why my beautifully spongy looking cheesecake after one-hour of baking looked like the Bride of Frankenstein at 75 minutes.  I think I went wrong at a couple of junctures.  First, I should have used a water bath.  Even without any previous cheesecake experience, I should have known better.  Second,  I should have re-oiled the sides of the pan after baking the crust.  Finally, I’m pretty sure I over-baked the poor thing.  Oh well, guess I’ll just have to keep trying.

Luckily, when it comes to cheesecake, a crack or two does not have to mean disaster.  Remember those blood oranges?  Well, we are going to make a little sauce with marmalade and then decorate the top.

You can add the orange sections in whatever pattern you’d like.  I went for a sort of spiral-rose design.

Look at that color.

Seriously–how enticing is this hue?

I was a little skeptical about what kind of texture reduced fat dairy could derive.  Turns out, it’s lovely.  And, if I hadn’t made it and been privy to the less than full-octane ingredients, I wouldn’t have had any idea.

I’m telling you, this was good stuff.  If I was my Valentine, this is what I would make for me.

(Blood) Orange-Glazed Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

heavily adapted from Cooking Light, October 2001


  • 2 C gingersnap crumbs
  • 4 Tbs sugar
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • Cooking spray


  • 3 (8 ounce) blocks reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (8 ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 7 ounces Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • .25 C all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 C sugar
  • .25 C thawed orange juice concentrate
  • 2 Tbs blood orange juice
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites


  • .5 C orange marmalade
  • 2 Tbs blood orange juice
  • Blood oranges, sectioned (I sectioned about a dozen to make the pattern shown here but you can mix it up however you would like)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

For crust, combine gingersnap crumbs, sugar and butter tossing with a fork until moist.  Press into a bottom of a 9-inch springform pan coated in cooking oil.  Bake for 5 minutes.

To prepare filling, beat together cheese and yogurt in a large bowl or standing mixer at high speed until smooth.  Add the flour, sugar, orange juice and vanilla.  Add the eggs and whites one-at-a-time until combined.

Pour the cheesecake mix into prepared pan and bake for 70 minutes or until almost set.  The cheesecake is done when the center barely moves when the pan is touched.  Remove cheesecake from oven and run a knife around the outside edge.  Cool to room temp and remove sides.

To prepare the topping, combine marmalade and juice.  Spread half of the mixture over the top of the cheesecake.  Arrange oranges over cheesecake and top with remaining marmalade mixture.  Cover and chills at least eight hours.