Guinness & Baileys Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Brownies are one of the few things I almost never make from scratch. Costco sells 6-packs of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix which is what I nearly always use. Super chocolately, even more super easy, and the perfect fudgy texture that I love. Honestly, most homemade brownies are not as consistently good as this mix.

However I have been known to doctor up the mix a bit, swirling in peanut butter or folding in additional mix-ins. Brownies are one of my go-to desserts for potlucks because we always have them on hand and they are always well received; the fact that they only require five minutes of active cooking time is also a huge bonus.

A few weeks ago I decided to try out a cheesecake swirl, blending up the standard cream cheese and sugar combination that is beloved by many. It was, expectedly, a huge hit. Given the upcoming holiday, this gave me the idea to blend in typical St. Patrick’s Day flavors as another option to add to my repertoire.

Admittedly, this makes the recipe a tad more time consuming as reducing the Guinness is not a quick process. Fortunately you can do this ahead of time and just store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. This makes the day-of process much quicker and allows you to do the reduction while you’re already minding something on the stove. It’s relatively low-maintenance so plopping it on a back burner while you make dinner would work just swell.

Despite having an entire bottle of Guinness, the change is subtle. Rather than smacking you in the face with beer, it simply enhances the chocolate and adds a nice robustness to the flavor profile. If you didn’t know it was in there, it might be challenging to put your finger on the mystery addition. It blends perfectly with the Baileys cream cheese for a supremely decadent but not extravagant dessert experience. And honestly, if you want to skip the Guinness part and just swirl in the Baileys cream cheese to regular ‘ole brownies, I would not judge you one bit. You could also skip the reduction step and just measure out standard beer, but I expect the flavor would be even less pronounced. (I also had the idea that Kahlúa in lieu of Guinness would be an excellent flavor pairing, and this may be my next brownie adventure.)

If you need an easy but delicious St. Paddy’s Day dessert, this could be the recipe for you. And if you’re looking for a crazier and more kapowy Guinness experience, then Irish Car Bomb Sundaes might be right up your alley.

Guinness & Baileys Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients

1 bottle Guinness beer

1 box Ghirardelli brownie mix (I use Triple Chocolate)
1/3 cup vegetable oil¹
1 egg

8oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Baileys liqueur

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, simmer Guinness until reduced to 1/3 cup¹. Pour into a medium bowl and let cool about 10 minutes or until ready to use (this is a great step to do ahead of time while you’re cooking something else on the stove).
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a square pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. Add oil and egg and mix until well combined. Stir in brownie mix until just combined.
  4. Reserve about 1/2 cup of brownie mix, and spread remainder into prepared pan.
  5. In a small bowl and using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy.
  6. Beat in egg and sugar until well combined, then beat in Baileys until just combined.
  7. Spread evenly atop brownie mix.
  8. With reserved mix, add spoonfuls on to the cream cheese mixture, then use a table knife to swirl in a pattern.
  9. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until brownies are still slightly wiggly but not watery.
  10. Allow to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes, then lift parchment paper to remove and cool completely.
  11. Use a sharp knife to cut into squares, wiping knife between each cut for clean slices.

Notes

¹ Or however much water/oil your brownie specific mix calls for.

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Mini Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake (& Vanilla Bean Ice Cream)

Several years ago I bought a fancy Pampered Chef stoneware mini fluted pan at a garage sale for like ten dollars. I promptly put it in a cupboard and mostly forgot about it because I have a standard bundt pan as well and if I’m honest, I simply don’t make many bundt cakes other than the delightful lemon one from a few years ago. If I’m more honest, the exhausting trial and error of finding that lemon bundt cake kinda turned me off to the entire style of cake for a while.

In any case, I eventually came across an amazing looking chocolate chip cookie double-bundt cake creation from Sprinkle Bakes and her description of the flavor was basically “yes please”. Chocolate chip cookies in pretty cake form? Please put that in my mouth.

On the other hand I certainly don’t need to make the double-layer version because if I have that much cake around I will just eat it. (M would probably not consider this a problem, to be fair.) I have fantastic willpower when it comes to not buying food that is terrible for me, but I have almost no willpower for anything in my line of vision at home. Things I have learned about myself over the years are summed up by “it’s easier to avoid temptation than it is to resist it.”

But I don’t want to avoid it completely, obviously, which is why I made the “mini” version. I put the mini in quotes because six of these mini cakes is the same amount as one standard bundt, which means each cake really serves two people. A fantastic way to test out my “new” pan and a new recipe all the while being fairly confident it’ll be delightful because both Pampered Chef and Sprinkle Bakes are extremely reliable. Fortunately, my hypothesis was correct.

All the comforting flavor of a chocolate chip cookie baked into a pretty fluted bundt. It is just the kind of cake to pair beautifully with ice cream, and I opted for vanilla bean for the pretty speckles and traditional flavor pairing. I shared my recipe below, but feel free to pair with your favorite store-bought variety instead. If vanilla seems too plain, chocolate is always a good bet, or you could pair with strawberry for a summer flavor and some fun color. One cake and a large scoop is a perfect dessert for two, and is a wonderful way to end a celebratory day.

Since there is no leveling, frosting, or really any extra presentation required, this is a fantastic option for those times you need to need a less time-consuming but still impressive dessert. It also travels well since there’s no frosting to fall off or glaze to slide around, and is quick to assemble once you arrive at your destination. You could even scoop the ice cream ahead of time to save on required utensils and remove the need to let your ice cream soften beforehand. Plop on a scoop, drizzle on some chocolate sauce, and you are all set for a flawless and decadent experience. It would also be a super cute addition to a couples’ dinner party, if you’re in to the host(ess) gig.

As you may have noticed, I molded my ice cream into heart shapes. Since I made this for our anniversary dessert, I like to do a little something extra to make it special. If you’re interested in this, just line mini cake pans of your choice with plastic wrap, then spread softened ice cream (if you’re using homemade, just do this right after churning) into the pans and freeze until firm. They melt quick once they’re out and near the hot fudge sauce, so only assemble right before you’re ready to serve.

Next time you’re in the market for a cake, I highly recommend you give this one a try (whether you invest in the fancy mini-bundt pans or not.)

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Gleefully borrowed from Sprinkle Bakes
Makes six 4.5″ mini bundt cakes (or one standard bundt cake)

Ingredients

Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking soda

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed

3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sour cream (full fat)
2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

Toppings
Hot fudge sauce
Vanilla bean ice cream (recipe below)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease and flour one standard bundt pan, or a 6-well mini fluted pan.
  3. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda until completely combined.
  4. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition.
  6. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until completely combined, scraping the bowl as necessary.
  7. Add the flow mixture, mixing on low speed just until combined, then stir in the chocolate chips. Batter should be thick.
  8. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake 30-35 minutes for mini bundt cakes (or 40-50 minutes for a standard bundt), or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick comes out mostly but not completely clean. Don’t over-bake or cakes will be a bit dry.
  9. Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  10. When ready to serve, top one mini bundt or slice (I like to warm mine briefly in the microwave) with a drizzle of hot fudge sauce and a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream. Share with a friend (or eat it all yourself, I won’t judge.)

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 

Makes ~6 cups

Ingredients

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup half and half
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients until completely combined.
  2. Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator until thoroughly cold, or overnight. (Overnight is better as it will allow the vanilla bean flavor to really permeate the mixture.)
  3. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions, then place in a cold freezer-safe bowl (or cake tins lined with plastic wrap) to freeze for an additional three hours, or overnight.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

January is often a time for change; new diets, new fitness routines, new personal and professional goals. I am no exception to this rule, but this year I have a slightly different goal in mind with regards to my eating and this blog.

Off and on I’ve struggled with healthy eating, to the point that it’s been hard to feel good about eating anything that isn’t a plain vegetable. We are so inundated by “guilt-free” and “skinny” and “clean-eating” recipes that it starts to feel like every food is measured by how terrible of a person I am for eating it. This year, I’m done with that. Fat is not the enemy, carbs are not the enemy, and if I’m going to eat dessert then why the heck would I want it to be “skinny” or “light”. If you see me using these phrases here, please point them out. I know that changing my relationship with ingredients is not a one-woman task, and if you want to join me in this endeavor, I welcome all the help I can get.

In light of that, here is an extremely normal cookie recipe because if you’re going to have a cookie, have a proper cookie. (Those “skinny” recipes never work anyway, since most of the time people just eat twice as many of them.) Peanut buttery goodness complemented with the rustic flavor of oatmeal and the chocolatey crunch of peanut butter M&M’s, these are sure to please any peanut butter fan.

I’ve been making the standard peanut butter cookie recipe on the back of the Jif jar for as long as I can remember (even saving a label when my Costco started carrying Skippy instead), and it’s still one of my favorites. I usually add chocolate chips (and nix the sugar crosshatching) because nothing is better than melty chocolate and soft peanut butter cookie in one cozy mouthful. However, I also super love oatmeal cookies, and have featured a couple different ones on this site. Inspired by that flavor palate, I opted to adapt this recipe towards some oatmealy delight.

Largely the same as the original, I substituted some of the flour for some extra oatmeal mostly for texture purposes. I never pack brown sugar for cookie recipes, which I think blends nicely for the oatmeal pairing, but if you prefer a sweeter flavor then by all means pack that sugar firmly into your measuring cups.

For texture and color and always-welcomed chocolate, peanut M&M’s are a fun addition. I’ve also used peanut butter M&M’s and regular ole’ chocolate chunks, both with delicious success. Smooth peanut butter is my preference, but use chunky or add some chopped roasted peanuts if you’re in to that. Playing up the peanut flavor instead of just sugar is a nice twist on an old favorite, and it makes them great for hiking too.

Celebrate your progress towards your first month of goals, console yourself over the lack thereof, or just welcome in a new month with a batch of these cookies. Enjoying life is so much more than doing everything “right”, and a proper cookie is always a welcome lift in the day.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

Adapted from Jif
Makes about 3 dozen large cookies

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cup peanut butter (Jif or similar; I’ve never tried it with a “natural” sort)
1 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups unpacked light brown sugar
6 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

3 cups peanut M&Ms1

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine peanut butter, shortening, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat until completely combined.
  4. Add eggs and beat until just combined.
  5. Stir in flour mixture until combined. Dough should not stick to your finger if you press it; add additional flour 1/4 cup at a time if necessary.
  6. By hand, stir in M&Ms (so they don’t break.)
  7. Use a 1/4 cup cookie scoop to add balls of dough to cookie sheets (I could only fit about 8 on a pan), flattening the tops slightly.
  8. Bake 13-15 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned; remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. Store in an airtight container up to one week, or in the freezer for longer term storage.

Notes

Or any one of the following: peanut butter M&M’s, regular M&M’s, chocolate chunks, chocolate chips, roasted peanuts, etc. Mix and match to your heart’s desire.

Chipotle Sweet Potato Biscuits

Cold weather means warm soup, and warm soup calls for warm breads. I love a hearty soup, stew, or chili when the cold days hit, and I always take the opportunity to make a bread side to go with it. Beer bread and cornbread are my go-to options, but after seeing this recipe on Pinterest I knew I had to set those aside and give these a try.

Olive Oil Biscuits {{Baking Bytes}}

The original recipe immediately piqued my interest, combining my love affairs with both sweet potato and olive oil, and perhaps giving me an excellent chance to make use of my extensive Olivelle oil collection. Thanksgiving offered a large audience and so I set off to try it out.

Olive Oil Biscuits {{Baking Bytes}}

For my first attempt, I stuck largely to the original recipe, tweaking only to a sweet cream butter infused oil for half of it, and substituting rosemary for the sage. Paired with a rosemary herb butter, they were a delicious compliment to the usual Thanksgiving suspects, and I would definitely make that version again.

However, I had a hunch that my favorite maple and chipotle duo would work splendidly here, and gave that a try next. A hint of sweet from the syrup and a little kick from the chipotle turn this is into a perfect side for chilis or more Mexican-inspired soups. (They would be awesome with enchilada soup, for example.)

Olive Oil Biscuits {{Baking Bytes}}

Since I was pairing mine with a spicy chili, I kept the biscuits with just a little kick to pull the flavors together. If you have other ideas, or just want all the heat, feel free to increase to your heart’s content.

Leftovers (if you don’t eat them all straight off the pan) can be enjoyed for several days, and are delightful on their own with butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, or your favorite maple butter. Better yet, top them with a fried egg and a dollop of goat cheese along with that syrup, and you have a breakfast of champions.

Olive Oil Biscuits {{Baking Bytes}}

(I made that maple butter shown above, but it wasn’t 100% what I wanted. If I perfect the recipe, I’ll be sure to get it up here.)

Chipotle Sweet Potato Biscuits

Adapted from The Speckled Palate
Makes about 16 biscuits

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree
2-4 Tbsp maple syrup
olive oil to 1 cup (use an infused oil for extra flavor!)

3 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chipotle power, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with a silicon baking mat (or parchment paper.) Set aside.
  2. In a liquid measuring cup, pour desired amount of maple syrup.
  3. Pour in olive oil until combined total is 1 cup. (e.g. if you used 4 Tbsp maple syrup, you will add 3/4 cup olive oil to total 1 cup)
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, stir together sweet potato and liquids until combined and smooth.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and stir until mixed, then continue to stir another 30 seconds.
  6. Lightly flour a cutting board or counter and press or roll dough into a rectangle 1/2″ – 3/4″ high.
  7. Using a 2″ biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits. Gently reshape scraps in order to cut as many biscuits as possible.
  8. Arrange biscuits at least 1″ apart on prepared baking sheets.
  9. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned and biscuits are golden.
  10. Remove to a cooling rack to cool briefly, then serve warm with your favorite chili our soup.

Thanksgiving Sliders

My favorite part of Thanksgiving (after friends and pumpkin pie) is the copious leftovers. Turkey isn’t actually my favorite on its own, but it’s one of my favorite sandwich/wrap fillings and I always look forward to a few days of tastiness. My go-to is a wrap with warmed cream cheese, cranberry sauce, and turkey, and then stuffed with some extra leafy greens. All the best flavors of Thanksgiving dinner rolled into one, and even a salad to boot. (Don’t worry, I probably already had the pie for breakfast.)

Last year I made homemade dinner rolls to take to our annual potluck, and ended up with quite a lot left over. It seemed prudent (and delicious) to utilize those instead of my standard tortillas, and as such the Thanksgiving slider was born.

Creamy mashed potatoes, moist turkey, and tart cranberry sauce are cozied up between fluffy bread, and it’s possibly my new favorite “leftovers” meal. A perfect contrast of sweet and savory, and a mouthful of delicious in every bite. I love this recipe because you can quickly make just one or two in the microwave, or you can heat up an entire pan in the oven. Admittedly the oven method is a bit slower, but with a little effort and a bit of patience you can have a meal for the whole family.

An added bonus of this recipe is obviously that you can add basically any leftovers you have around. Extras on the cheese platter? Go for it. Still a tureen of gravy in the fridge? Drizzle that on. A few green beans or carrots taking up space? Add those too. Nearly any Thanksgiving recipe could have a home here, it’s just a matter of your personal taste.

While using homemade rolls is delicious, you can certainly pick up some extras of the store-bought variety to prepare. Add a side salad and you have a perfect (and lighter) day-after lunch or dinner all ready to go. You can probably even convince any leftovers-haters in the house to partake without complaint.

Kick back, avoid the Black Friday crowds, and enjoy your favorite flavors of Thanksgiving in a new twist.

Thanksgiving Sliders

Ingredients

critical leftovers
dinner rolls
mashed potatoes
turkey
cranberry sauce

additional ideas
Brie, cream cheese, goat cheese
gravy
stuffing
green beans
glazed carrots
your favorites!

Directions

  1. Oven directions (for a whole pan): Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Carefully slice rolls in half (you can do this without separating them if you have a whole pan still).
  3. Layer bottom rolls, mashed potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce, and any other toppings of choice.
  4. Add top layer of rolls, and cover pan with foil.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until heated through (easiest to use a thermometer in the center roll).
  6. Serve hot with a tasty beverage.
  7. Microwave directions (for just a couple): Slice rolls in half and lightly toast.
  8. Arrange all fillings in a single layer on a plate and heat 1-2 minutes or until hot.
  9. Assemble rolls with hot ingredients, and enjoy immediately.