Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cheesecake-Daring Bakers Challenage

This month's challenage was CHEESECAKE!! I was making a cheesecake for Easter anyways, so I was thrilled to see this was the challenage! I've never made cheesecake before so I was a little nervous. The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

It turned out perfectly! I was a little nervous about the water bath, but another baker suggested wrapping the pan in foil and then with plastic wrap to keep the crust from getting soggy. It worked too!

I modified the recipe and made a Nutella Cheesecake with a Dark Chocolate Glaze and an Oreo Cookie Crust. I just added a whole jar of Nutella to the batter and omitted the lemon juice and vanilla. For the crust I omitted the graham crackers and subbed Oreo Cookies. Everyone LOVED it! My sister's friends said it was "Olive Garden Cheesecake Good!"

Here's the oreo crust.
Here's my delicious creation!
I was amazed that there were no cracks!

My daugher LOVES Nutella!
I love this recipe so much that I made another one for my friend's Princess House party last week. I made a Dark Chocolate Mocha Cheesecake. It turned out AMAZING. An elderly woman at the party said that eating my cheesecake was like having a "sexual experience!" I LOVE old people! She said that she bought a cheesecake from the store and had to throw it away because it didnt' taste good. She was thrilled when I gave her the recipe.

To make the Dark Chocolate Mocha Cheesecake, I omitted the lemon juice and added 1 tbsp instant coffee to 1/4 c of the cream, which I heated in the microwave first. I added the rest of the cream to the batter cold. I then added 5 oz of melted dark chocolate. I used Choceur of course! I love Aldi's!!! For the crust I omitted the graham crackers and subbed Oreo Cookies. I decorated the sides with those straws that are filled with cream. I can't remember the exact name though. (I will post a picture of my creation soon!)

I making a Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake this Sunday for my friend's bridal shower and I'm planning on making at least two more this month for another party!

Here's the original recipe:
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Some variations from the recipe creator:
** Lavender-scented cheesecake w/ blueberries - heat the cup of heavy cream in the microwave or a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add 2 tbsp of lavender flowers and stir. Let lavender steep in the cream for about 10-15 minutes, then strain the flowers out. Add strained cream to cheesecake batter as normal. Top with fresh blueberries, or make a quick stovetop blueberry sauce (splash of orange juice, blueberries, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon - cook until berries burst, then cool)

** Cafe au lait cheesecake with caramel - take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal. Top cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce (I usually find one on the food network website - just make sure it has heavy cream in it. You can use store-bought in a pinch, but the flavor is just not the same since its usually just sugar and corn syrup with no dairy).

** Tropical – add about a half cup of chopped macadamias to the crust, then top the cake with a mango-raspberry-mandarin orange puree.

** Mexican Turtle - add a bar of melted dark chocolate (between 3 and 5 oz., to taste) to the batter, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp.). Top it with pecan halves and a homemade caramel sauce.

** Honey-cinnamon with port-pomegranate poached pears – replace 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey, add about a teaspoon or more (to taste) of cinnamon. Take 2 pears (any variety you like or whatever is in season), peeled and cored, and poach them in a boiling poaching liquid of port wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, a couple of "coins" of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Poach them until tender, then let cool. Strain the poaching liquid and simmer until reduced to a syrupy-glaze consistency, then cool. Thinly slice the cooled pears and fan them out atop the cooled cheesecake. Pour the cooled poaching syrup over the pears, then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.
Some variations from Jenny (from JennyBakes):
**Key lime - add zest from one lime to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. Substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.

**Cheesecakelets - put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Light 'n' Tender Wheat-Oat Pancake Mix

I absolutely LOVE pancakes! I found yet another great King Arthur Flour recipe for healthy pancakes. I bought some whole wheat flour, so I wanted to use it, but I didn't want the "wheaty" taste. This recipe was perfect. Because it has oatmeal in it, it is natural sweetly and has no "wheaty" taste. The name speaks for itselves. I made them for my sister and she insisted that I give her some of the mixture to take home. This mix makes a TON, too!

I served the pancakes with a homemade berry sauce. I included that recipe too. The berry sauce can be used for a variety of things, such as a fondue dip* or a sauce for ice cream.

Light 'n' Tender Wheat-Oat Pancake Mix

3 1/2 cups (12 1/4 ounces) old-fashioned or quick rolled oats
4 cups (1 pound) King Arthur whole wheat flour, traditional or white wheat
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) vegetable oil

1. To make the mix: Grind the oats in a food processor until they're chopped fine, but not a powder.
2. Combine the oats, flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, preferably the bowl of an electric mixer.
3. Mix on low speed, and drizzle the oil into the bowl slowly while the mixer is running. When all the oil has been added, stop the mixer and squeeze a clump of the mix in your hand; if it holds together, it's just right. If it won't hold together, stir in 1 tablespoon of oil at a time, until it does. 4. Store indefinitely in an airtight container in the freezer.

To make the pancakes:
1. Whisk together 1 cup (4 3/8 ounces) mix, 1 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup each yogurt and milk), 1 tablespoon orange juice, and 1 large egg. Don't worry if the batter seems thin at first; it'll thicken as it stands.
2. Let the batter stand for 15 minutes before cooking. Heat your griddle or pan till a drop of water sputters when you drop it on the surface.
3.Lightly grease, and pour pancake batter by the 1/4-cupful onto the griddle. A muffin scoop works well here.
4. Cook the pancakes till they're golden brown on the bottom, flip them over, and cook till golden brown on the other side.
5.Serve with butter and syrup; fresh fruit is a plus, of course.

Yield: 10 medium-sized (3 1/2") pancakes.

Mixed Berry Sauce

1 Pkg Frozen Mixed Berries
1/4 C Sugar

1. Thaw berries and place in blender.
2. Strain berries threw a sieve into saucepan.
3. Heat on medium heat and add sugar.
4. When sauce is warm remove from heat.

*For fondue: place in a fondue pot and serve with pound cake, brownies, different variety of cheeses, and/or angel food cake for dipping.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

S'Mores Bars

This recipe is so simple and so yummy!

S'mores Bars (16)

16 Whole Graham Crackers
6 Tbsp Butter, melted
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 C miniature marshmallows
1 Can Sweetend condensed milk
15 Hershey's Hugs
1/4 C M&Ms

1. Preheat to 350 F. Line square baking pan with foil; coat with cooking spray.
2. Break 5 grahma crackers into 1 inch pieces, reserve.
3. Finely crush, remaing crackers and combine with butter and sugar.
4. Press into bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
5. Combine marshmallows and grahma crackers pieces. Place over crust.
6. Pour sweetend condensed milk evely over the marshmallow mixture. Top with hugs and M&Ms.