Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Oh boy, I liked this challenge. This is such a creamy, tasty cheesecake, and not too difficult to make. I also liked the fact that Jenny wanted everyone to be creative and add their own spin on this cheesecake to make it their own. I made mine a Strawberries and Cream cheesecake: oven roasted strawberries swirled into the cheesecake batter with thin layer of plain vanilla cheesecake on top. I made it for Easter Sunday and it was a hit with my family. I can't wait to experiment more with this great recipe!

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake: (Instructions for making it strawberries and cream at bottom of page)

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 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. 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, and lemon juice, 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. I couldn't find a foil pan so I used a springform pan, but I placed the pan of water on the rack underneath it and it seemed to work beautifully--no cracking or anything.

Strawberries and Cream Cheesecake:
1 pound strawberries, hulled
3 T. light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place strawberries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with corn syrup, and toss gently to coat. Bake until syrup thickens and strawberries turn deep red and shrink slightly, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Transfer strawberries and syrup to a medium bowl, and mash with potato masher. Let cool completely.
Prepare cheesecake batter and crust as described in Abbey's cheesecake recipe above. Transfer most of cheesecake batter to bowl with strawberries leaving about 1 1/2 cups in original bowl. In bowl with strawberries stir batter and strawberries to combine. Pour strawberry-cream cheese mixture into pan on top of crust; smooth with an offset spatula. Carefully spoon dollops of plain cream cheese mixture on top, smoothing with an offset spatula. Bake according to Abbey's directions.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Iron Cupcake: Soda Pop

I'm barely making the deadline this month, but I just managed to finish making my Iron Cupcake: Soda Pop entry: Creamsicle Float cupcakes! I used orange Fanta as my soda pop, and I must say, friends, this is my favorite cupcake I've made so far for Iron Cupcake. The delicate orange flavor, the fluffy marshmallow frosting, mmm. But wait! There's more! The thing that puts the float in Creamsicle Float. . .

. . .a layer of vanilla ice cream. Ah, the goodness.

Before I post the recipe, just remember that you can vote for my cupcake until May 4 by clicking on this link or on my Iron Cupcake badge at the bottom of the page. Here are the prizes this month:

A creation by FRUITFLYPIE
A pair of cupcake earrings from LOTS OF SPRINKLES at
Something from Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Cupcakery,
and art from CAKESPY,
Last and certainly not least, corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, JESSIE STEELE APRONS, TASTE OF HOME books , and a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM
Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers,
Learn more at the Iron Cupcake Cuphub:

And now the recipe:

Creamsicle Float Cupcakes
3/4 c. butter
3 eggs
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. orange flavoring
2 t. grated orange peel
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. orange Fanta
6 drops of yellow food coloring
6 drops of red food coloring

Let butter and eggs sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line cupcake pan with cupcake liners. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 c. at a time, beating on medium speed until well combined and scraping sides of bowl. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes more. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition (about 1 minute total). Beat in vanilla, orange flavoring, grated orange peel, and food coloring. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, mix milk and orange Fanta together. Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Fill cupcake cups 1/3 full. Bake at 375 degree F for 13-15 minutes. Yields about 3 dozen.

Marshmallow Frosting:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1 t. vanilla extract

Mix egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a double boiler or heatproof bowl over simmering water. Whisk constantly for 3 to 4 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and egg whites are warm.
Remove the pan or bowl from the simmering water and stove. Using a hand mixer or electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.

Line cupcake pan with foil liners. Allow several scoops of ice cream to sit at room temperature for a few minutes in a bowl. Stir until spreadable. Cut cupcakes in two. Place bottom half in a foil cupcake liner and press it down. Spread ice cream on top. Top with other half of cupcake. Freeze several hours or overnight. When ready to eat, allow to sit about 3 minutes our of freezer then remove from cupcake pan, frost, and serve.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Asparagus

Mmm. Asparagus. I love this vegetable. I know, however, that not everyone shares my feelings for this noble vegetable. But if you aren't a fan of asparagus, please, please try it cooked like this before you swear it off forever: drizzled with butter or olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked until perfectly tender. Try it like this and you might just become a convert--it worked for my husband. And for those of you who already like asparagus, even if it's radioactive yellow and from a can, you're in for a treat. This is adapted from a recipe called Julie's Asparagus that my mom clipped from a newspaper and passed along to me. Enjoy!

Cook's note: If you’re serving a larger crowd, the recipe doubles or triples beautifully. Just be sure the asparagus is in no more than a layer or two thick, or it will not cook evenly. Use a second baking dish if necessary.

1 lb. Fresh pencil-thin asparagus spears
2 T. butter (or olive oil)
Salt and black pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Rinse and drain the asparagus, and snap of the tough ends where they break naturally (do not peel). Arrange the spears in a 9x13 in. glass or ceramic baking dish in 1 or 2 layers. Melt the butter, drizzle over asparagus, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the dish snuggly with aluminum foil. Bake until crisp tender, about 15 minutes, or longer to desired doneness. Serve at once. Serves four.