I’m not that into baking, it requires too much precision and the results are usually not in the healthy category. But we all need to live a little, or a lot, as most of us tend to do in December. So I decided to share two holiday treat recipes that have recently won over crowds. The first is an oldie from my mom, for cherry cheesecake tarts; something I remember her making every year at Christmas for as long as I can remember (she was making them this morning when I called!). Hers are still better than mine, even though we follow the same recipe.
And the second is a new recipe I acquired a couple years ago at The Dirty Apron Cooking School here in Vancouver. I’ve adapted their recipe to make it my own, for individual sticky toffee puddings with Bailey’s caramel sauce.
Mini Cherry Cheesecake Tarts (makes approx 24)
- 2 packages Philadelphia cream cheese (at room temperature)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1T vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1T fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 can cherry pie filling
- 24 Nilla wafers
Preheat your oven to 375. Line 2 muffin trays with paper cups and place one Nilla wafer in the bottom of each (this will be your crust). Mix the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice until smooth and slightly fluffy. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 15-20 min. until slightly puffed on top. Let the tarts cool and spoon the cherry pie filling over top. If you’re feeling ambitious go ahead and make your own topping. I’ve done these with fresh raspberry coulis in the summer and they are always amazing. But Christmas is about tradition, and this is the way my mom does it.
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Bailey’s Caramel Sauce (makes 12 cakes)
For the cakes:
- 1 cup plus 2 extra T flour
- 1/4 c sugar
- 1/2 T baking soda
- 1/2 T baking powder
- 3 T butter
- 2 eggs
- 3 tsp instant coffee
- 1 cup chopped pitted dates
- t tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon (more if you want)
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (again, go nuts if you like nutmeg)
For the caramel sauce:
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- 3 tbsp Bailey’s or other Irish cream (or Kahlua, frangellico etc.)
Butter a muffin tray and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 325. You will also need a large roasting pan or something to make a water bath in. Have your tea kettle ready with boiling water when it’s time to put these in the oven. You can make the batter ahead of time, and then pop them into the oven right after dinner is done. These need to be served warm.
Mix the dates with the baking soda and instant coffee and pour 1/2 a cup of boiling water over top. Set it aside. Mix the flour and baking powder in the small bowl. In another bowl, mix the butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients slowly to the wet, and add the spices. Then stir in the dates. Spoon into the muffin cups to fill about 3/4 full. Place the muffin tin into the water bath and bake for 20-25 min, or until a cake tester comes out mostly clean. Be careful not to over cook these!
While the cakes bake, make the caramel sauce. Melt the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a bubbling boil, stir at medium heat for 2-3 min. Add in the cream and Bailey’s and leave at a low simmer for another couple of minutes. I don’t like my sauce too thick so I added a little extra Bailey’s. Spoon the sauce over the cakes and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
You can’t go wrong with either of these, but the tarts will travel better if you’re not entertaining at home and they are seriously the easiest thing to make, but have major wow factor.
From my kitchen to yours Happy holidays everyone, and may the new year be filled with wonderful culinary delights and new experiences!