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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chocolate Cream Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

Another delicious recipe by Dorie. This week's recipe for Chocolate Cream Tart was picked by Kim of Scrumptious Photography Thank you, Kim.

It was quite an easy recipe but a little bit fussy to make, possibly because I made it during a week night and felt grumpy and frazzled after work. The weekend is always best. I was delighted to see that the chocolate crust recipe was the same as the Pate Sucre recipe, my absolute favorite crust so far. But this time the crust turned out a bit dry; it must have been the addition of the Dutch process cocoa I used. I may look around for another chocolate crust next time.

I thought the chocolate custard was delicious, perhaps even a bit more decadent than it should have been as I used semi-sweet chocolate chips. Dorie has quite a few custards so I am beginning to feel confident now about making them. I was very conservative with the cream, partly because I am experimenting with a 10" decorating bag and partly because I wanted to add hazelnuts in a window pane pattern.

Would I make this again - the custard, yes. It would be delicious in open tiny tartlet cups, with cream, for guests to have a small sweet snack.

Next week's recipe is just my cup of tea - Tiramisu, oh boy, oh boy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake - Daring Bakers Kitchen

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

I think this is a very special cheesecake, probably the best I have ever made. It came out beautifully. I wonder if the use of cream instead of sour cream made it so soft and super delicious; or it could be the baking method of leaving it in the turned-off oven for an hour; or whatever; but this will now be my regular cheesecake.

Also, I'll never run out of flavors and designs, with all the lovely cheesecakes fellow DB'ers have made. I took my cake to work and it received heaps of praise; to dress it up I made lemons in syrup (recipe follows); chocolate pomponettes, from my chocolate tempering experiment (previous blog, and some whirls of stabilized cream. For the lemon flavor I used 2 Tbs. of lemon juice and a teasp. of grated lemon rind. It was just lemony enough; more would have been overpowering; I added one Tbs. of Malibu Coconut Rum - that didn't come through so next time I will use something a bit stronger.

Here's the Recipe with some suggested variations by Abbey and Jenny:

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs (I used Nilla Wafers)
1/2 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 (used 2Tbs. lemon juice plus one teasp. of grated lemon rind)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)(I omitted because of the extra portion of lemon juice)
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.

The Glace Lemon Slices
Slice two lemons, thin, and remove pips.
boil 1-1/2 cups of water with one cup of sugar
add slices
cook on moderate simmer for 30 mins.
place in container with syrup water
leave in fridge for 1-3 days

Now after this lovely challenge - THANK YOU JENNY - I can't wait for the next one; am keeping my fingers crossed that it will something sweet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tempered Chocolate Pomponettes

It's the Weekend and it's time to learn a new decorating technique. I often find myself planning all sorts of decorations but then when it comes to meeting a posting deadline, I just don't have time to practice. So, this weekend I experimented with Tempering Chocolate.

I had 14 oz. of Valhrona Bittersweet in my freezer, left over from a challenge, so I got that out and chopped it into small pieces with a chocolate chopper.

- Following instructions from one of a number of recipes for tempered chocolate, I set aside 2 oz. as the "seed" and slowly melted 12 oz. in a double boiler. The water must get very hot but not boil.

- Then stirred until Temp. rose to over 105 degrees F. Removed the pan of melted chocolate and stirred it slowly with a wooden spoon until the temp. lowered to 88-90 degrees F.

-Added the 2 oz. of cold chocolate and stirred slowly and constantly until almost cool. Set aside.

[After I'd finished, naturally I discovered an Epicurious
u-tube demo on how to temper chocolate - it's the best I've checked out so far, sufficiently detailed and requiring an additional process of allowing the chocolate to heat up again. This is what I will use next time.]

My brilliant idea was to pour the tempered chocolate into the tuile templates I had purchased for our Daring Bakers Tuile Challenge this past January - not too smart. I ended up with a paper-thin mess of chocolate that was too brittle to get off the baking tray without breaking into pieces! So much for that. Now I had a lot of very expensive tempered chocolate I did not know what to do with.

The "Tempering Fairies" gave me a nudge and reminded me of a Lekue silicone pomponette pan hidden somewhere in my closet. I found it and poured the chocolate into the pan and froze it. So cute, quite delicious, and much smoother and harder than untempered chocolate. It's a great technique - now if I dip shortbread or madeleines or whatever in chocolate, it's not going to be sticky and melty like untempered chocolate. It has a firm, quite hard texture.

But I have much to learn yet - would like to make all sorts of shapes, and take a shot at some of those chocolate circles and wiggles one sees on gourmet cakes. I would welcome advice and tips from other bloggers.

Next weekend? Maybe candied citrus.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chocolate Amaretti Torte - Tuesdays with Dorie

A nice little chocolate torte is sitting prettily in my refrigerator, decorated with toasted almonds. Can't wait to have a small slice tomorrow. What a fun cake to make, so easy.

I was full of good intentions of making my own amaretti cookies from scratch, but honestly, I just couldn't find the time, so thanks to a suggestion in the P&Q I used Nilla Wafers and added 1/2 teaspoon of almond essence to the mix. The top of the torte is a little cracked, like mud cracks, but the chocolate glaze covers it very well. Wish I could serve it with a glass of Bristol Cream sherry tomorrow but unfortunately any kind of alcohol is strictly forbidden at work. What a pity!

Holly of Phe/MOM/enon picked this weeks baking project - a lovely choice, Holly. Thank you. Now to turn in and dream of torte.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Banana Cream Tartlets - Tuesdays with Dorie

Here is a picture of a broken tartlet. I promise, the other 16 are still okay and are going to the Office tomorrow - this one crumbled when I started to fill it. Another delicious Dorie recipe - the pastry is great and the custard and cream heavenly. I am not going to put the banana in the rest of the tarts - it has a very overpowering flavor to my taste. I like bananas, but for tarts I think I would rather choose another filling, maybe peaches.

As has happened before with this dough, there was some shrinkage, but very little - I refrigerated them for about 30 minutes before popping them in the oven and placed some small tartlet pans over the base so the dough wouldn't puff up.

Quite a tricky recipe, what with custard making and pouring, dough rolling and peeking in the oven a lot, but it was well worth the time and effort. My thanks go to Amy, of Sing for Your Supper for a really great pick.

Next week - an Amaretti torte.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cookies for Our Troops - Round 7 - BAKING GALS

Here are some more cookies for our Troops (see the BakingGALS website for the scoop on the cookie project).

I made Molasses Cookies from Anita Chu's Field Guide to Cookies; Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Raisin Cookies from Maria and Rosie's Sweet and Simple Bakes; and Coconut cookies from Allrecipes. Each recipe produced delicious cookies for our soldiers in the Middle East. I made enough to fill two of these cake boxes.

Everything is tightly packed and sealed and I'm mailing them almost immediately - this time it won't be easy for me to gobble them. If any of you Baking Gals and Guys out there, who do not already belong to Baking GALS (means Give a Little Support)would like to send goodies to our Troops, just check out the BakingGALS blog referenced at the top of this blog.