Baking is awesome – Chocolate Cheesecake with Mint Chocolate Ganache in a Thin Mint crust

I’ve “discovered” that I love baking. I use the quotations because I’ve always enjoyed “baking”, but I always stuck to box mixes of brownies and cakes and cookie logs. I use quotations there because now I would hardly consider that baking. There’s no sense of creativity in following the recipe on the back of a box where most everything is already mixed together. But once you start making everything from scratch, you start to learn what the role of each ingredient is and why it’s important. You learn why it’s important to add baking soda and salt to a cake, or why sometimes butter is just better than margarine in certain things and doesn’t matter so much in others. You start to learn what flavors compliment others and what ones will spoil a recipe.

Once you get to this point, it starts to get fun. You can begin to experiment without fear of completely ruining everything because you have a basic understanding of the chemistry behind it. You feel totally comfortable swapping vanilla extract for lemon extract, or taking a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe and turning it into something original, like butterscotch pistachio cookies.

It’s seriously fun!

So it’s the Girl Scout Cookie time of year, and we bought a box of thin mints, which I’ve always loved. So I thought I would make a chocolate cream pie and use the thin mints as the crust. Then I thought a chocolate cheesecake would be even more awesome. The beautiful part about it is that I don’t even really like cheesecake all that much, I just like making things to have other people enjoy.

So right now, I am making a chocolate cheesecake with mint chocolate ganache in a thin mint cookie crust for housechurch tomorrow. Here are the recipes I am basing it on (I’ve crossed out and modified the bits that I changed):

Pie Crust (pretty basic, don’t need a recipe for this):  Preheat oven to 350. 2 cups (ish…a box, basically) finely ground thin mints mixed with enough melted butter to make it stick. Bake in oven for 10 minutes.

Chocolate Cheesecake (from AllRecipes.com):

  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, I used Philadelphia Kraft Indulgence in Dark Chocolate – softened
  • 1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk (any brand works, but that’s most common)
  • 2 1.5 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 4 large 3 jumbo eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • I also added 1tbsp almond extract

In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in EAGLE BRAND® until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 65 minutes or until cake center is set. Cool to room temperature. Chill thoroughly. Garnish as desired. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Chocolate Mint Ganache:

  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped Andes Creme De Menthe baking chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
  1. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum if desired.
  2. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake. Start at the center of the cake and work outward. For a fluffy frosting or chocolate filling, allow it to cool until thick, then whip with a whisk until light and fluffy.

And the results?

It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it's tasty

(I should note that I made two cheesecakes but only had enough thin mints for one crust…so the one pictured here is a regular graham cracker crust)

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Food/exercise tracking

Writing things down helps keep me aware. By making a daily/weekly to-do list at work, I’m always aware of the things that I still have to do, and what I have accomplished. By writing a budget and keeping track of my finances, I’m aware of how much money I am spending and where it is going. So it only made sense to have this habit in regards to my health.

I just created a free account on My Fitness Pal. They have a huge food library, and I can track what I eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and how many calories I am consuming (as well as protein, fiber, sodium, sugar, or anything else you’d like to know). I can set goals for calorie intake, for weight, for exercise and track how many calories I burn in a day or a week. Friends can join as well, so that can help keep me accountable. I can keep all my recipes on there too, and there’s a recipe calculator to track how many calories are in those!

It’s pretty great. I’m not necessarily going on a diet (although I do intend on eating a lot more veggies and lean proteins), or at least not what I would call a diet.  I just want to be more aware of the junk going into my body, and how lazy I am,  🙂

Anyone care to join me?

p.s. Lovely how I posted this immediately after posting the recipe for lemon monkey bread…well at least now I can be aware of how fattening monkey bread is.