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.

Peppermint Crunch Ice Cream

Despite the (hopefully) chiller temperatures, December is just as good a time for ice cream as the more traditional summer months. There are some flavors that just scream winter, and although I don’t have too many qualms eating them in June, it’s nice to have them during their so-called proper time. Eggnog, for example, is just not something one typically enjoys in mid-summer, but it’s just as delightful in ice cream form.

This year I went after another Christmas classic – peppermint. I drink copious amounts of peppermint tea all year round, but typically save the more decadent uses of the flavor for winter. Peppermint is found in everything from candies and hot chocolate to brownies and truffles, and everything in between. Admittedly I feel a little goes a long way, but during the right season peppermint certainly has its place.

I opted for the white chocolate and peppermint pairing, a favorite as a hot beverage that I figured would play just as well in a chillier twist. Melted white chocolate paired with crushed peppermint candy for flavor, color, and a tiny bit of crunch. The smooth vanilla flavor is nicely complemented by the sharper flavor of peppermint, and should be reminiscent of your favorite peppermint truffles.

Crushed peppermint candy gives us our flavor profile, and a little pink color as a side effect. I cheated and bought pre-crushed peppermint candy, but crushing your own candy canes is a fun way to get the kids involved. The peppermint flavor is given some extra punch with a little extract, but be careful not to go overboard as it’s very easy to venture closer to toothpaste than candy. I recommend starting with half a teaspoon and letting it all chill overnight, then tasting right before you churn. If you feel it’s not quite strong enough, add that extra quarter teaspoon and churn away. You can also add a few drops of red food dye if you want to deepen the pink hue.

Creamy, cold, and chalk full of a favorite winter flavor, this ice cream is delightful on its own or an excellent match for a gooey chocolate brownie. Top it with a sprinkle of candy for extra flair.

Peppermint Crunch Ice Cream 

Makes ~6 cups

Ingredients

1 cup half and half
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 1-2 T crushed peppermint candy, divided1

1/2 – 3/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 tsp vanilla

optional: a few drops red food dye

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine cream, egg substitute and sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine half and half and white chocolate chips. Heat, whisking often, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.
  3. Let cool about 10 minutes, then slowly stream into the heavy cream, whisking constantly.
  4. Whisk in vanilla, 1/2 tsp peppermint extract, and 1/4 cup peppermint candy1, then chill completely in fridge, or overnight. (The peppermint candy will likely have completely dissolved.
  5. Taste briefly, and add additional peppermint extract if desired. You can also add the red food dye now.
  6. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions, adding remaining candy during the last 5 minutes of churning.
  7. Transfer to a freezer-safe bowl to freeze for at least four hours, or overnight.
  8. Serve garnished with a sprinkle of crush candy canes, solo or atop a warm chocolate brownie.

Notes

If you don’t want the crunchy aspect, you can either nix the extra 2 tablespoons, or add them at the beginning.

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.

Apple Cranberry Pie

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the pie the inspired the apple cranberry sauce from two weeks ago…this is it. You’re welcome.

For the past couple of years, M and I have attended a huge potluck feast rather than having a tiny Thanksgiving all to ourselves. This is fantastic for being able to eat many different dishes without having to cook them all, but does have the downside of often eating things at room temperature, regardless of what their ideal temp might be. There are always numerous pies in many different flavors, and going home hungry is pretty much impossible. I usually contribute to the event with homemade dinner rolls, but I may switch it up this year.

Despite the multitude of desserts, I always personally bake pies just for the two of us. M doesn’t get excited about pumpkin pie (weirdo) and apple is typically his flavor of choice. Last year, I found an apple cranberry pie that sounds amazing, and, (with M’s blessing), opted to make that instead. I don’t hate plain apple pie by any means, but there are many other flavors I consider to be much more enticing.

I will never give up my pumpkin pie, but for a fresh flavor, this might be a new fall favorite. Traditional apple and cozy spices are complemented perfectly by the tart cranberries. It lends a more complex profile without being overwhelming, and still works just as well for both dessert and breakfast as your traditional apple. I’ve always been partial to the more tart fruits, and the addition of cranberries here is a wonderful update. A little almond extract completes the whole experience.

As a bonus, the cranberries also add some beautiful color to your place. Bright red cranberries make the dessert table more festive both in flavor and presentation, and you can really up the ante with some fun pie crust cutters. Arranging leaves is way less tedious than a lattice crust, and even more impressive looking; a win-win situation in my book. Paired with homemade cinnamon ice cream or cinnamon whipped cream (recipe included), the tart pie and creamy topping are a perfect end to any fall day.

If you’re looking for a way to add some flair to the table this year, look no further than this pie. It’s sure to be a hit, and maybe even a new holiday tradition.

Apple Cranberry Pie

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes one standard pie

Ingredients

pastry for a double-crust pie

3 large apples, cored, peeled, and sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract

optional crust topping
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

cinnamon whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine apples, cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, spices, and extract. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Roll out half your pie crust into a circle (as close as you can), then gently drape into the bottom of your pie dish. Trim edges to a half inch or so wider than the plate.
  4. Gently spoon your filling into the crust, using a slotted spoon to avoid the excess liquid.
  5. Roll out your remaining crust and arrange on top of the filling however you like (I used pie crust cutters for the shapes here), pinching together any seams. For bonus presentation points, crimp edges with your fingers or a fork, or arrange cutouts along the edge. If you do a full crust on top, cut a few vents for steam to escape.
  6. In a small container, stir or shake remaining cinnamon and sugar together. Sprinkle evenly on top of the pie (I use an empty spice container.)
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. If necessary, tent the pie with foil to avoid over-browning the crust.
  8. Let pie cool on the counter for at least three hours.
  9. Just before serving1, make the whipped cream. Using a hand-held or stand mixer, whip cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form.
  10. Add in sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, and continue to whip to desired consistency.
  11. Serve pie at room temp, topped with cinnamon whipped cream or cinnamon ice cream. (Or your favorite vegan alternative.)
  12. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap or foil.

Notes

You can make the whipped cream ahead of time and store it in the fridge, but you may want to whip it again just a bit before serving as it tends to loosen over time. It only takes a couple of minutes so I typically just make it on demand.