I have something important to tell you.
In a world that boasts thousands upon thousands of food blogs, I have to tell you what makes my little corner of the web something special.
Foodbuzz is hosting Project Food Blog, a competition to crown the next food blog star. Willow Bird Baking is a contestant, and the first challenge isn’t a challenge for me at all. It’s simply to tell you why I’m here, and what I stand for — something I’ve been convicted of over and over again.
Listen, I cook accessible food. I try to take lovely photos. I write in tune with my personal life — sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, always eating. Those things are special, but they’re not what makes me unique.
What really makes me unique are two things: Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cheesecake, and a stranger’s 91-year-old grandfather.
This rich cheesecake was more than just a cheesecake. It was an experiment. It was a gift. It was an experience. It embodies what makes Willow Bird Baking unique:
1. I believe in creativity. I dream of combining individual desserts into super desserts, mixing dessert with breakfast, and drizzling caramel all over everything. Maybe a few dollops of cookie dough, too? I’m constantly creating and improving food. Over the past year, it’s been so rewarding to see photos and read accounts of how your creativity was sparked by a recipe here!
This cheesecake was born of my desire to innovate. A peanut butter sandwich cookie crust instead of an chocolate sandwich cookie crust? Sure! I’m smitten with fun ideas. Sure enough, with a creamy chocolate cheesecake slapped into that crust and a cool, soft peanut butter mousse spread on top, it was the best peanut butter and chocolate dessert combo I’d ever tasted.
2. I believe in challenging yourself. Like any home cook, I have family recipes I love to make, but I’m also adamant about the value of trying new things. Especially fancy things that make you want to say, “Oh, that’s lovely, but I could never do that.”
My culinary journey was one of continually tackling challenging recipes, and with every puffy puff pastry or foot-ed macaron, I felt proud of myself. It’s an incredible feeling to know that by encouraging you to take on these challenges as well, I can give you that sense of pride and accomplishment. For instance, the Croissant Challenge on Willow Bird Baking inspired 17 readers to make homemade croissants in their own kitchens for the very first time — and many more have committed to do so! I have never had a prouder blogging experience than seeing those beautiful croissant pictures roll in.
3. I believe in cooking impressive meals for those you love. This Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cheesecake was made on a whim. Mike was coming to visit and I knew I wanted to make him dessert, but having just started teaching with a heavier load than usual, I was exhausted. I decided to make some simple bar cookies and began gathering supplies in the grocery store.
Somewhere near the butter aisle, though, I realized that we only get so much time to show our love to the special people in our lives. After imagining his face upon seeing a ridiculous surprise cheesecake in the fridge, I replaced the bar cookie ingredients and set about gathering cheesecake supplies. I worked all evening to create this recipe for him. It was so worth the effort to see him enjoying each bite, and I think it did more for my heart than it did for his.
You can have take-out days. We all do that. But every now and then, you need a recipe that you can set in front of your family to say, you are so important to me. I’ve got those for you.
Speaking of sharing love through food, there’s one last story to tell: the story of how a stranger’s 91-year-old grandfather reminded me of my blogging purpose.
Almost a month ago, I went to explore a blog post that had linked to my Peach Cobbler Cupcakes.
What I found was Songs of the Self, a blog by Jessica, a mom from Georgia. The post recounted how she’d made the Peach Cobbler Cupcakes for her grandfather’s 91st birthday party. As I read about her experience, I saw a photo that gave me pause — one of her husband helping her to sprinkle streusel on each cupcake and smiling for the camera.
photos used with permission by Jessica
I don’t know why it hit me like it did, but suddenly I was reading through tears. I realized that this was a family somewhere, working together to make a recipe that I created, following each little direction. The post from the next day shows the birthday party: her sweet grandfather in a silly party hat blowing out candles, her grandmother laughing, her tiny daughter Olivia representing the youngest generation.
At the end of her post, Jessica noted, “My cupcakes were beyond a hit! Everyone ranted and raved about them! …Yippee for crafty me!” Being able to participate in her special occasion in some meaningful way, and especially knowing that my recipe had a part in making her feel proud of herself reminded me of why I blog. As I closed her post with a filled heart, I thought of my friend Maranda’s proud post after making her first batch of homemade croissants — a post that inspired a similar effect in me.
The truth is, I blog to create a virtual communal table. Come sit, bake, eat, learn, and enjoy. Come try new things within a comfortable web of support. Come forgive yourself for your flaws, laugh at your kitchen flops, and ponder your life with a popsicle in hand.
Perhaps most of all, come and eat some Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cheesecake. I saved a piece just for you.
Please take a look at my Project Food Blog profile and consider voting for Willow Bird Baking on September 20, 2010. Thank you so much for your support — you are precious to me!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cheesecake
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, pieced together from Jerome Chang (peanut butter mousse), Joelen (chocolate cheesecake)
Yields: 15-20 pieces
1 pack (32) of peanut butter sandwich cookies, processed into crumbs
5 and 1/3 tablespoons butter, melted
4 packages (8 oz. each) of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature
3 (1oz) squares semisweet bakers chocolate (melted and cooled)
Peanut Butter Mousse Ingredients:
1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salted smooth peanut butter
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For the crust, mix the crust ingredients together and press into bottom and up the sides (about 3 inches) of a springform pan. Set aside.
For the cheesecake: Mix cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until well blended and creamy. Add the eggs and continue mixing until combined. Add chocolate and continue mixing until combined. Pour mixture into prepared crust and smooth top with a spatula.
Bake for 55 minutes or until center of cake is almost set. The top may crack, but it doesn’t particularly matter, since you’ll be covering it anyway. Let the cake fully cool. When almost cool, place it in refrigerator to chill while you prepare peanut butter mousse.
For peanut butter mousse, dissolve the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. In a saucepan over moderate heat, cook the cream until it bubbles around the edges. In another bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Temper the eggs: pour about 1/2 cup hot cream into the egg yolks slowly while whisking vigorously. Then slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan of cream (whisking constantly). Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the peanut butter and the gelatin. Place mixture into a wide bowl to allow it to cool for a bit, then chill it for just a little while — not until set, but until it’s not so runny. Pour the mixture onto the top of the pie and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. You can pipe on melted chocolate and decorate with chopped Reese’s cups, if desired.
When completely chilled, loosen the cake from rim of springform pan by wrapping the pan in warm dishtowels. The remove the springform pan. Refrigerate the cheesecake for one day or overnight before serving. Garnish with fresh whipped cream if desired.
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83 responses to “Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cheesecake and Project Food Blog”
Lovely post and very well written, and especially beautiful photos of what looks to possibly be the most decadent and rich dessert I have ever seen!!! That filling is so thick I could just wade around in peanut butter bliss. 🙂
Thank you! Wading around in peanut butter bliss sounds like the perfect hobby, in my opinion 😉
This post is so beautiful. I can really see your passion for cooking and blogging shining through. Man, so many of my favourite blogs are participating in this project, I can’t decide! :S
Thanks, Wei-Wei! 🙂
It was truly hard to concentrate on your writing because I was salivating over your cheesecake. Wow! I will not likely forget that one anytime soon. Best of luck with PFB!
Awesome post, awesome cheesecake! I do adore your blog!
Thank you, Jenni! And I love yours!
Good luck with Project Food Blog. 🙂 Your pictures look amazing! I could tell from this post the passion that you have for what you do. Oh yeah, and that cheesecake…amazing! Cheesecake is my favorite dessert, I will have to make this one soon.
This is an amazing recipe!!!! Looks divine! Best of luck with the Project Food Blog. I am definitely rooting for you, but I gandered at contestants today… geez! There are so darn many!!!!!
Touching story and very nice entry. Glad to meet you via the challenge. Good luck!
Holy moly that looks good! I love the food blog community too and you said it perfectly when you said you’ve created a virtual communal table.
Julie – you are amazing. This post was beautiful, your cheesecake is beautiful, and I wish you the best of luck in the competition.
Making food and home cooking accessible is one of the most important missions of food blogging and this generation of food culture/food writing, in my opinion–I am so heartened to see you think it’s so important too, and to really commit to it. So admirable.
Beautiful post! I love reading the PFB entries and I’m so excited that you’re entering in on the fun! This may be a competition but I like to think of all of us entering as being part of one big beautiful adventure. we’re all in it for the same reason, I think, which is to share food, the thing that unites us all, with the world.
The cheesecake looks fantastic, obviously. I love the image I got of you walking through the supermarket realizing that, it’s true. we only live once. So why not eat cheesecake.
I’m with Casey, I kept skipping over the words so I could drool over the next picture. Your cheesecake looks so rich and decadent, beautiful job. Oh, and good luck!
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Ohhh sweet jesus, this looks SO sinful.
I don’t know which is more sweet the dessert or the story. Either way this looks like a great contest entry. Good luck. It’s an honor to compete with you. GREG
good luck! i absolutely need to try this recipe!!
That cheesecake is gorgeous- thanks for saving me a piece. Unfortunately, one piece will not be enough I’m sure, so I guess I need to make one myself. 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!
Ha, I KNEW I should’ve saved you more than one 😉 Thanks, Betty!
I made this cheesecake for Christmas last year, it was good!
Hey Mary 🙂 I think this might be a different one — I just made this one up from a few recipes! Tell me about yours!
There is drool on my computer screen – that cheesecake looks soooo incredible! “Sharing love through food” really touched me… Very, very nice post. I enjoy reading and visiting here – Good luck with PFB 🙂
Aw, thanks, Butter!
This cake looks INCREDIBLE! Wow! Good luck in the contest!
This was such a lovely post – and ohh my goodness, that cheesecake looks delicious. My friends and I are obsessed with PB+chocolate, so I’m definitely going to have to try this at some point.
Thanks for all you do – I get so excited when I see a new post from you. =]
I’m also participating in PFB and looking forward to reading everyone’s great entries! Good luck!
Good luck with PFB! The cheesecake looks so wonderful. The story is even better.
What a beautiful post Julie!!!!! You are truly amazing and deserve this so much! I love that I was mentioned! You really have inspired me so much. If I liked cheesecake I would be all over this. Although, I may have to make this anyway because it looks like a cheesecake I can get behind! Good luck Julie!!!!!!
This cheesecake is gorgeous Julie. And best of luck with Project Food Blog- I know you’ll come out on top.
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That is one gorgeous cake and one lovely story. Good luck with PFB!
This is definitely on my list of top PFB posts I’ve read thus far (~200). What a lovely story to tell–it’s always amazing to know someone used your recipe to celebrate. And if your story didn’t do it for me, those pictures would have. Reeses are my favorite and I think I would eat the whole thing and ignore the fact that it would surely send me into a sugar coma.
Aw, thank you! That means a lot to me! 🙂 I did, indeed, have a sugar coma after my piece of this cheesecake — but it was worth it!
I am not sure which is sweeter- those amazing photos of your desserts or the premise behind your blog! You have a vote here!
Thank you, Deborah!!
Voted for you. Your photos are gorgeous and your story is so heartfelt. Great job!
Thank you, Amy!!
thanks so much for adding me to your story! im voting for you as much as i can get away with! thanks, good luck and hopefully congratulations!
jessica and olivia
Thank YOU, Jessica!! 🙂
Your blog is lovely! You have my vote!
Thank you so much!
Great post. That looks incredible. I am drooling over here. You got my vote ! =)
check out my PFB post: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/503
Beautiful story Julie. You are such a star! As for that cheesecake… Holy smokes, I’m going to have to make that one! 😛
Aw, thank you, Lorraine!! I hope you do — it was so tasty!
My sister would love this cake. Her birthday is the 6th and it will be perfect. Cheers to food bringing us all together and binding us in love and celebration!
Thank you, Lane! I hope your sister loves it!!
Almost makes me cry. Sometimes I wonder why I keep blogging: you just got your answer;).
Aw, thanks Janelle 🙂
Well, you’ve got my vote. But I’ll admire your decadent cheesecake from afar. I swear the calories are oozing from my screen. Loved your writing…
Thanks so much, Kelly! 🙂
What a wonderful post! You’ve got my vote. The cheesecake has me drooling…YUM! 🙂
Thank you!! 🙂
Cheesecake is my favorite dessert! Peanut butter is one of my husband’s favorites – and this looks so delicious. I voted for you – hopefully you’ll make it to challenge #2!
If you’d like to check out my entry – it’s here: http://bit.ly/9JXLNL.
Thank you, Crystal!!
A beautiful story…a beautiful cheesecake…a vote from me (wish I could vote 10 times).
So sweet! Thank you, Jo Lynne 🙂
Yum, yum!! I definitely want that cheesecake now. Great storytelling. Another vote for your pile! I hope you have a sec to check out my site too.
Thank you, Kimmy!
I don’t know how you managed to decorate and photograph that cheesecake without eating it first. Best of luck in PFB, you’ve got one of my votes!
Aw, thank you! 🙂
Your reasons for blogging are lovely, and you had every right to be proud when you saw the pictures from that family’s party. You’re doing great things!
Thank you so much, Kristina!!
you are definitely in the second round….
check out my entry here..
Thank you, Nesrine!! Lovely post!
Ohhhhhhhh this dessert looks awesome!!!!!!!!!!!! hahahahaha I am craving a piece!
Great post! Good Luck!
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OMG I’m salivating over here!! You need to FedEx a piece of this to me STAT!!!
Come have a slice ;D I need to make another soon — was so good!
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I can’t find my comment that I’ve been trying to leave…. so, here is the abbrev. version.
We loved the cheesecake. Really superb. Will be trying some others from you!!
Thanks so much… I’m a new devotee!!
Hurray! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Susan! I don’t know what happened to your comment — I will have to check and see if I overlooked it in moderation somehow!
Thank you for letting me know that you all loved the cheesecake! It’s definitely one of my favorites 🙂
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This looks amazing! I’m going to attempt it sometime soon. I noticed you have the Baker’s chocolate listed twice. Is that a typo, or do I need 6 squares total?
It’s a typo! Can’t believe I didn’t notice that — thanks! Hope you love it!
Thanks Julie. You’re so fast! I can’t wait to try it.