Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lemon Cheesecake with Almond-Gingersnap Crust

The boyo and I are visiting my parents this week, and I commandeered the humongous kitchen for myself. Since 9:30 this morning, I have made 2 batches of peppermint bark cookies, an apple crisp that turned out beautifully, an almond cake that I will post tomorrow, and this: a lemon cheesecake with almond-gingersnap crust. It looks rather plain, especially compared to its predecessor, but delicious nonetheless. I changed the recipe (as is my wont) and added some chopped almonds for crunch and extra lemon juice for zing. My modifications were minor though, and recipe below (thanks epicurious!) is unaltered.

* 2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
* 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
* 5 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
* 2 cups sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 7 large eggs
* 3 cups (24 ounces) sour cream
* 2 tablespoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Lemon leaves or twists (optional)

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir cookie crumbs and butter in medium bowl until evenly moistened. Press mixture onto bottom of 9-inch-diameter removable-bottom cheesecake pan with 3-inch-high sides. Bake crust until deep golden, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Stack 3 large sheets of foil on work surface. Place same cake pan in center. Gather foil snugly around pan bottom and up sides to waterproof.

For filling:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar, then salt. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in sour cream, grated lemon peel, and lemon juice. Pour filling into pan.

Place wrapped cake pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake cake until filling is slightly puffed and moves only slightly when pan is shaken gently, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Remove cake pan from water bath; remove foil. Cool cake in pan on rack 2 hours. Chill uncovered until cold; cover and keep chilled at least 1 day and up to 2 days.

Cut around pan sides; carefully loosen pan bottom from sides and push up pan bottom to release cake. Place cake (still on pan bottom) on platter. Garnish with lemon leaves or twists.

Monday, November 27, 2006

White Chocolate Blackberry Cheesecake with Blackberry Sauce

I got to taste this one! Can we say "yum?" The original recipe (modified below) called for a very little bit of blackberry sauce in the cheesecake, and none to go on the individual slices. Sacrilege! I doubled a sauce recipe and now have enough for the cheesecake, pancakes for breakfast, and ice cream in between. I might have over done it. A little.
1 cup pecans
* 1 1/2 cups graham crackers
* 3 tbsp sugar (for crust)
* 6-8 tbsp butter, melted
* 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, or unsweetened frozen blackberries, defrosted and drained
* 1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
* 8 oz. white chocolate, chopped (Callebaut or Baker's Premium preferred)
* 2 lb. (32 oz/907g) cream cheese, softened
* 2 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
* 4 large eggs, room temperature
* 2 tsp. vanilla extract
* 1/2 tsp. almond extract
* 2 tablespoons whipping cream
* 1 cup fresh blackberries for serving with the cheesecake (optional)

* blackberry sauce (see following recipe)

Wrap the outside of the 9-inch springform pan with a large piece of heavy aluminum foil and place in a large baking pan with at least 2-inch high sides. The springform pan will be watertight. Preheat the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 C).

For crust: Blend nuts, graham crackers, and sugar together in a food processor until fine. Add melted butter until you can pinch the crust together slightly. Pat into bottom and sides of your springform pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Puree the blackberries in a food processor. Use the back of a spoon to press the blackberries through a strainer to remove the seeds. Measure 1/2 cup strained puree into a small bowl and mix with 1 tablespoon sugar and the lemon juice. Set the sauce aside and save any additional puree for another use.

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Place the white chocolate in a non-reactive ovenproof container and melt it in the oven, 8 to 10 minutes. As soon as the white chocolate is melted, remove it from the oven and stir it smooth. Set the white chocolate aside to cool slightly while you mix the cheesecake. Put the cream cheese in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar and mix until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in the flour. Add the eggs, 2 at a time, mixing the batter smooth before the next addition of eggs and again after all of the eggs are added. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl twice during this mixing. Mix in the vanilla and almond extract. Mix in the whipping cream. Stir in the melted white chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Use a small spoon to drizzle the blackberry sauce over the batter, leaving a 1-inch plain edge. Dip the spoon gently into the batter and swirl some of the sauce into the batter, leaving some swirls of sauce on top of the batter in a marbleized pattern. Do not disturb the crumb crust. Put the cheesecake in the oven and pour hot water in the large baking pan to reach 1-inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake about 1 hour or until you give the cheesecake a gentle shake and the top looks firm (mine actually needed 1:30.) Cool the cheesecake in the water bath for 1 hour on a wire rack covered loosely with paper towel. Carefully remove the cheesecake from the water bath. Remove the paper towel and cool 1 hour more. The cheesecake should feel cool to the touch. Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Blackberry Sauce
* 2 pints blackberries (frozen or fresh)
* 1/2 cup water
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Crush the raspberries with water in a saucepan. Add sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Push through a foodmill or strainer.

To make this quicker/easier, you can just make more of the blackberry puree for the cheesecake, and apply the sauce recipe to the excess. It's worth it!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Peppermint Bark Cookies

I made these for a friend who's taking care of our kitties while we're away next week. Peppermint bark is a gorgeous concoction generally saved for the holidays (a tradition I aim to change immediately!). It's a layer of milk chocolate, covered in a layer of white chocolate, and sprinkled with crushed candy canes. Genius, the person who invented it!

I had a moment of culinary stupidity while making the bark. After making the bark and fridgerating it, the recipe called for you to "break" it. I promptly fetched a hammer.


Bark isn't like brittle -- it smooshes instead of shattering. A butcher's knife proved much better at cutting it down to size, and didn't separate the layers like the hammer did (-ahem-.) But that just left me with "unuseable" bits to nibble on!
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
* 1 cup light brown sugar (not packed!)
* 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
* 1 large egg
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cups peppermint bark, chopped (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds.) Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the peppermint bark.

Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 (hs note: 25) minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie (hs note: or if your cookies are a bit bigger).

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Peppermint Bark
* 9 Candy Canes
* 1 lb. of milk or dark chocolate
* 1 lb. of white chocolate

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Unwrap candy canes and place in a large resealable bag. With a rolling pin, smash the canes.

Melt milk/dark chocolate in microwave-safe bowl in microwave, on high for 10-15 second cycles. Stir between heatings. Pour chocolate into cookie sheet and carefully spread to ~1/8" thickness. Refrigerate until firm (~15 minutes).

Repeat with white chocolate (careful! White chocolate burns easily, monitor heat closely.) Spread on top of dark chocolate. Before refrigerating, sprinkle the crushed candy canes on the still-warm white chocolate. Refrigerate for ~15 minutes.

Invert bark in cookie sheet and peel off wax paper. Break into a few large chunks with your hands then chop into 1/2" chunks for cookies. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Having now made bark with both milk and dark, I can safely say that dark is much better. It keeps the bark from being overly sweet, and has a more distinguishable flavor from white chocolate than milk.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Chocolate Genoise with White Chocolate Tangerine-Pomegranate Mousse

Whew, that title is a mouthful. But yay! My first attempt at mousse and it turns out perfectly -- look at those clean corners! The recipe (compliments of called for straight tangerine juice, but all I could find at the store was pomegranate-tangerine, and I was too lazy to squeeze my own. Next time I won't trim the cake as the recipe calls for, but will just put cake+mousse in a larger pan. Trimming the cake is kind of a waste in my opinion... although I'll admit it made a good midnight snack!
* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
* 9 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 5 large eggs
* 1/2 cup ground toasted hazelnuts
* 3 cups strained fresh tangerine or orange juice (or pomegranate- tangerine)
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
* 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 14 ounces imported white chocolate (such as Callebaut or Lindt), chopped
* 6 tablespoons sour cream
* 2 cups chilled whipping cream

* 9 ounces imported white chocolate (such as Callebaut or Lindt)
* Unsweetened cocoa powder
* Fresh raspberries
* Fresh mint sprigs

For Cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom with parchment. Butter parchment. Dust pan with flour. Melt butter and chocolate in heavy large saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth and melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs and ground nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with very moist crumbs attached, about 45 minutes. Cool completely on rack (cake will fall and crack).

Release cake pan sides. Turn out cake onto work surface. Peel off parchment. Cut off outer 1/2-inch edge of cake. Clean cake pan. Reattach cake pan sides; brush sides of pan with vegetable oil. Set cake in center of pan (there will be space around cake that will be filled in with mousse). Refrigerate cake.

For Mousse:
Boil tangerine juice and sugar in heavy large saucepan until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over lemon juice in small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes to soften.

Add gelatin mixture to tangerine juice mixture and stir to dissolve. Add 14 ounces white chocolate and whisk over low heat just until melted. Whisk in sour cream. If using pomegranate-tangerine juice, add a few drops of red coloring to the mousse now. Pour into large bowl. Chill mixture until cool and thickened but not set, whisking occasionally, about 1 hour 45 minutes.

Beat chilled whipping cream to stiff peaks. Fold into white chocolate mixture. Pour mousse over cake in pan, covering top and sides completely. Refrigerate cake overnight.

Using vegetable peeler, shave 9 ounces white chocolate into thin curls (if white chocolate is too hard to shave, place briefly in warm place to soften slightly). Run small sharp knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides. Place cake on platter. Sprinkle chocolate curls over top of cake. Press more chocolate curls around sides of cake, covering completely. Place cocoa powder in fine sieve. Dust cocoa very lightly over chocolate curls. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Garnish cake with raspberries and mint sprigs. Serve cold.

Serves 12.

Sour Cream Apple Pie

Again, compliments of Our Patisserie (is it any wonder this is my favorite blog?) I doubled the crust because I had to use a larger pan, and if I'd thought about it I would have halved-again the apples and cream. Unfortunately I don't have a cross-section picture but I'll have a taste-test result here soon!
* 1 1/2 c graham crackers, finely ground
* 8 tbs melted butter (or enough to make it stick)
* 3/4 c ground pecans
* 3/4 c sugar
* 2 tbs flour
* 1 c sour cream
* 1 egg
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 5 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
* 3 oz chopped walnuts
* 1/2 c packed brown sugar
* 1/2 tsp vanilla
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 4 oz butter, cut into tiny pieces
* 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the crust ingredients well and press into a 9-inch springform pan.

Mix all the filling ingredients except the apples in a large bowl until well combined. Add the sliced apples and mix well. Pour into the crust and bake 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Place all the topping ingredients in the food processor bowl and process just until crumbly. (Of course, if your food processor is small like mine, you can do this the old-fashioned way. Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl, cut in the butter using a pastry blender until crumbly and add the chopped walnuts.) Sprinkle the topping on the partially baked filling and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

UPDATE: The taste-test results are in, and it's a success! There were comments about how it was a bit runny, so next time I'll probably add a bit more sour cream and a little cornstarch, and bake it for ~5 more minutes.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pear-Almond Tart

I've never made a pear tart before, mostly because pears are not my favorite fruit. They can be very good, but mostly they're failed attempts at the brilliant: too mealy, too starchy, not sweet enough, overripe. At the request of a friend though, I attempted one for a dinner party. It was good, about what I would expect from a pear dessert. Not my preference but edible. However, the almond cream that went in the bottom was gorgeous. That I would love to make into a tart by itself -- it was sweet and nutty, and the texture was properly crunchy with ground almonds.
Recipe was taken from one of my favorite blogs, Our Patisserie.
Pastry Shell:
* 1 1/2 c unbleached flour
* 8 tbs unsalted chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces
* 1 large egg
* 2 tbs sugar
* pinch of salt
* 1 tsp ice water (if required)
Almond Paste:
* 1/2 c (1 1/2 oz) whole almonds
* 3/4 c sugar
* 4 tbs butter at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
* 1 large egg
* 1/2 tsp almond extract (check health food stores for oil-based almond flavor)
* 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Cream Filling:
* 1/2 c heavy cream
* 1 large egg yolk
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 4 large ripe Bartlett or Bosc pears, halved, peeled and cored

For the crust, process flour, butter, egg, sugar and salt until mixture resembles coarsemeal, 10-15 seconds. Pinch; if it does not hold together, sprinkle a few drops of cold water and pulse 2-3 times to mix. Do not overprocess. Gather dough in a ball, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12 inch-circle about 1/8-inch thick. Line a 10-inch quiche pan. Refrigerate 30 minutes before filling.

Meanwhile, you can prepare the almond paste, pears and the cream filling: For almond cream, process almonds and sugar until finely ground. Add butter and pulse 4-5 times. Add remaining ingredients and process 15 seconds to blend. For cream filling, process cream, egg yolk sugar and vanilla extract for 10 seconds.

Before assembly of tart, preheat the oven to 350F. Spread almond paste over bottom of pastry shell and arrange pears attractively, flat side down on almond paste. Pour cream filling carefully over pears. Bake for 1 hour or until filling is set and browned. Cool in pan over wire rack. You can glaze the tart with a little diluted apricot jam if you want. Equally delicious served warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Banana-Rum Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce

I guess I'm just in a cheesecake mood. Compliments of the Food network, this has an almond crust, a caramelized banana layer, a rum-cheesecake layer, then is smothered in caramel. Next time I think I'll embed almond slivers on the top for decoration; otherwise, yum!
* 9 graham cracker sheets
* 1/2 cup almonds
* 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
Banana Layer
* 2 tbsp unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 1 tbsp rum
* 3 firm bananas, sliced
* 2 lb. cream cheese at room temperature
* 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
* 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
* 5 large eggs
* 2 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 tsp rum extract
Caramel Topping
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 tbsp corn syrup or lemon juice
* 1 cup whipping cream
For crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and wrap the pan in foil. In a food processor, pulse almonds until fine. Add graham crackers and pulse until crumbled. Add melted butter and pulse to combine. Press into the bottom of prepared springform pan (not up the sides) and bake for 12 minutes. Allow to cool while preparing bananas.

For bananas, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add butter and brown sugar, stirring until melted and bubbling. Stir in vanilla and rum and add bananas. Stir just to coat and warm and pour into cooled crust.

For cheesecake, beat cream cheese until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Add brown sugar in 2 additions, beating well after each addition. Beat in butter. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Stir in vanilla and rum extract and pour cheesecake batter over caramelized banana layer in springform pan. Bake cheesecake in a water bath: place springform pan into a baking dish and pour hot tap water around it, to come halfway up the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F. and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until filling puffs just slightly around edges but still moves a little in center when shaken. Remove pan from water and allow to cool for 2 hours before refrigerating overnight.

For caramel topping, combine sugar, water and corn syrup or lemon juice in a pan. Bring to a boil without stirring and cook, uncovered, until it turns a rich amber colour. While cooking, occasionally brush down the sides of the pot with a brush dipped in cool water. Once sugar has reached desired colour, remove from heat and carefully stir in whipping cream (watch out for the steam and bubbling). Return to medium heat and simmer until reduced by a third, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Chill until thickened but still fluid, about 15 minutes. Pour caramel over cheesecake and chill completely. (This can be done up to 8 hours before serving). To serve, run a knife carefully along the inside of the pan to loosen, remove pan and slice with a hot, dry knife.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Sheesh, how very orange. It's a pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust, and (not yet included) cinnamon whipped cream. Tis the season! I might add more sugar next time -- the batter wasn't very sweet when I tasted it. We'll see how the reviewers handle it!

My other bakery today was your basic banana bread, but I spiced it up with some walnut-maple butter. Unfortunately I won't get any of that either, but I'm keeping it in mind to have with a hot cup of cocoa next time it rains out here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Orange-Blueberry Cake

There's a cake under there, I swear! Problem is, I had to disguise the fact that the frosting was melting off the cake. The recipe below is adjusted, but it originally called for way too little powdered sugar in the frosting -- it was more of a glaze. Unfortunately for me, I didn't realize this until late at night when I didn't want to go running to the store for more sugar. Still, it looks neat (I hope it hopes up til tomorrow!) Thank goodness oranges are in season, and blueberries were on sale!
* 2 1/2 cups cake flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 3 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
* 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 4 large eggs
* 1 cup whole milk
* 2 1/2-pint baskets blueberries
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
* 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 4+ cups powdered sugar
* 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
* 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 2 1/2-pint baskets blueberries

For cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides; line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Sift first 3 ingredients into medium bowl. Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until blended. Beat in concentrate, peel, and vanilla. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with milk in 3 additions. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans on rack.

For filling: Combine berries, sugar, and lemon juice in heavy small saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally and mashing berries coarsely with fork, about 8 minutes. Chill filling uncovered until cold, about 30 minutes.

For frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter in bowl to blend. Beat in powdered sugar in 4 additions, then orange concentrate, peel, and vanilla. Chill until firm but spreadable, about 30 minutes.

Cut around cakes to loosen. Turn cakes out. Peel off parchment. Place 1 layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread filling to within 1/2 inch of edges. Chill 5 minutes. Top with second layer, flat side down. Spread 1/2 cup frosting thinly all over cake to seal. Spread remaining frosting over cake. Mound remaining blueberries on top. (Can be made 1 day ahead; chill. Serve at room temperature.)

Chocolate Mint Scroll Cake

This is an adaptation of my Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake. When it came time to decorate I'd originally intended to put 6 or 8 large rosettes of chocolate around the rim then lean the Pirouette cookies on them... but I turned out not to have enough chocolate. So I settled for mass-o-cookies with a little white chocolate shaved on top. I think it looks nice, although I would have preferred powdered sugar instead of white chocolate. Meh. I'll find out how it tastes tomorrow :)

The cake itself consists of one chocolate genoise (a moist egg cake) that has been sliced in half. Each half is brushed with a syrup to make it moist (in my case, I made a syrup from water, sugar, and creme de menthe), then ganache is spread between the layers and over top. Finally, over all of it a chocolate-cream glaze is poured that hardens slightly and helps keep the cake's shape. It's really rich, almost like eating fudge. Yum.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pimp That Snack

I used to have this one recurring dream in which, through masterful arcade skills, I would win several gigantic candies -- a huge caramel and a Reese's peanut butter cup the size of twice my head. That was a goooood dream. Anyway, I recently came across this website, Pimp That and thought "I could do that." Voila, behold, my Hegemon Snickers. This baby is equivilent to over 200 fun sized bars, or 32 king sized bars as you can see by the poor dwarfed king in the picture.

Pictures and recipe will (hopefully) be posted at the site, in which case I'll supply a direct link. Otherwise the fun will be here. Since I didn't get to eat the Hegemon (it went to the boyo's coworkers) I'm not feeling the effects of the sugar coma that was undoubtably part of the joy of eating the world's only Hegemon Snickers. Actually, I want to make another one. Not a Snickers this time, been done now. Perhaps a Caramel Crunch or even a Rocher (yum!) ... although those I'd have to eat myself. Oh well. Maybe next weekend.

UPDATE: WHOOO! It was finally posted, and I've been ranked #2 of all Pimps. I feel so flattered!