Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Cheesecakes are one of those sweets that I don’t mess with very often, and not just because I run the risk of eating the entire thing myself. They’re kind of time consuming with the whole chilling process, and results can be a mixed bag – raise your hand if you’ve had a cheesecake with a giant sunken hole in the middle? *raises hand* And again, the risk of the I’ll eat the entire thing factor…

On the other hand, they’re relatively easy to make using just a few ingredients. And, well – when it’s done right, it’s hard for any other dessert to touch it in my book. When I found this basic cheesecake recipe years ago (word to Ina), I stuck with it. It’s never let me down, and it’s easy to tweak the flavor profile and turn it into something completely different. All my boys are huge fans of peanut butter, so I thought that would be a welcome twist…

Turns out I was right! Rich, thick, and silky – this cheesecake packs a wallop of peanut butter flavor. I topped it with a simple chocolate drizzle, and crushed up Butterfinger bars. But, chopped up peanut butter cups would be an awesome choice as well…I mean honestly, when is it not?

I haven’t been in the kitchen much these past couple of month – with so much going on with boating and beaching (half the time we were cooking dinner on the beach itself!), and just summertime livin’ in general. I’m sure many of you can relate, in one way or another. But this is the time of year where I really love getting back in the kitchen, and spending more time on recipes and cooking in general. Now that chillier temperatures have arrived, I’m looking forward to doing just that. And, this cheesecake was a great place to start!

Fresh Peach Cupcakes

We technically have a couple weeks of summer left – so I wanted to squeeze in one last post utilizing another of my favorite fresh seasonal items. Peaches. For me, they are the epitome of summer. There is nothing like plucking a fresh peach off of a tree, still warm from the sun, and biting into it. Doesn’t get any better than that!

I’m thankful to have a wonderful orchard, just a short drive off of the island. I’ve talked about them before here on the blog, I truly love them. Vessey’s Orchard has been there for close to 100 years, there is a huge historic home on the property, acres and acres of fruit trees – it’s just paradise.

After the parents passed, there were some family disputes and they found themselves closed for a couple of seasons. Well, I’m happy to report they are back in business…and the produce is better than ever!

Vessey's Orchard

If you’re here on the Shore, I can’t recommend visiting them highly enough. It’s getting to be apple picking (and fresh-pressed cider!) season there as well, that’s something that we look forward to every year as a family. We’ve made so many memories in those fields, and I can’t wait to make some more!

You can find their contact information here – just make sure when you get there, you drive all the way to the end of the long driveway.  So anyways, the cupcakes…

I took my favorite vanilla cake recipe and added chunks of fresh peaches, then topped with a fresh peach buttercream – which I’d made with fresh pureed peaches. And, a garnish of a fresh peach slice right before serving really set off the gorgeous blush hue of the frosting.

The resulting cupcakes were bursting with sunny peach flavor, and tender and moist from the addition of the peaches to the batter. One I’ll definitely be looking forward to making again next summer!

Crab PizzaOur summer is starting to come to a close. We’ve been making sure to get plenty of beach and boating time before it does, but…it’s coming, whether we like it or not.

That’s not to say that I don’t adore fall…really, it’s my favorite season! Chilly mornings with hot coffee, the leaves turning, and most importantly – cheap, fat crabs. They’re down to $50 a bushel here on the Eastern Shore, which makes a spontaneous crab feast on a Saturday afternoon totally doable. Which is precisely what we did last weekend…

We ate our fill, then had plenty leftover to pick the next day. Ended up with close to 3 lbs! Of course I had to make a batch of my creamy crab dip, and I’ll be making some crab cakes to freeze. But, I wanted to do something a little different this time around.

Last month we took a cruise up to Seacrets in Ocean City in our friend’s pontoon boat (thanks, Captain Luke!). A few cocktails were consumed, as well as this delicious pizza. They actually call it “crab toast”… to which, I call bullshit. It’s a crab pizza, and it’s absolutely delicious.

I kept it simple, the crab is the star ingredient here, and it should shine. A light covering of a simple garlicky white sauce, topped with cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, and the crown…jumbo lump crab. Now, let me just go ahead and put this out on the table – don’t use canned crab. Ever. For anything. The quality is absolutely critical for an application such as this. So, if you can’t get the good stuff , just don’t bother.

That’s why we have to get while the gettin’ is good here. Another bushel will probably be on the menu this weekend!

Source: inspired by Seacrets Crab Toast

Raspberry Mascarpone Tart

Is it just me, or have the berries this year been especially good? From the berries that I’ve picked myself, as well as my standards I pick up every week in the grocery store – they’ve all been exceptional. This simple tart really gives them an opportunity to shine as well!

I just used my standard pie crust for the tart base, and it turned out fine. I found that if I chilled the dough really well in the tart pan before blind baking – it reduced the shrinkage factor. I think those mini Phyllo shells would also work wonderfully,  and single serve would be great for get-togethers.

The filling is super simple – sweet and rich from the mascarpone, with a little tang from the addition of cream cheese. Then to top it off, a pile of gorgeous red ripe glazed raspberries. A drizzle of chocolate ganache would be a another nice addition, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. I wanted to really let the berries shine, and shine they did…

Fresh Raspberry Mascarpone Tart

1 pastry crust, rolled out
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy cream

For the topping:
2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup apple or strawberry jelly (not jam or preserves!)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Roll-out dough on well-floured work surface, to about a 13 to 14 inch circle or big enough to fit an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Ease dough gently into pan, pressing against the bottom and sides, folding remaining dough over the edge. Roll over with a rolling pin to cut off excess dough. Line with foil. Fill with raw beans or pie weights and bake 10-12 minutes. Remove beans and foil and return to the oven. Continue baking for another 5 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

For the filling, add cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute until creamy, reduce mixer to low and add the confectioner sugar and cream, as well as vanilla. Add in the mascarpone last, beating until just combined. Carefully add the mascarpone mixture to the cooled tart shell. Place into refrigerator to chill while you prepare topping.

Add the jelly to a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s completely melted. Let cool for 5 minutes. Carefully pour the syrup over the berries and toss gently to coat.

Gently pile berries on the top of the tart, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Driscoll’s Berries. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.