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Sunday, December 27, 2009

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats

I must admit I'm a bit overdosed on baking with dark chocolate so this week I am trying a white chocolate cheesecake. The recipe is from Diana's Desserts.

I'm getting as much done tonight as possible as I won't be home until about 8-ish tomorrow and am determined to finish my cheesecake for Tuesday.

Getting it together is plain sailing - a crust with melted butter and crushed animal crackers and lots of cream cheese and white chocolate. Now it just needs to sit in the fridge until tomorrow evening. I have also made some candied kumquats as a garnish, which will go on top of whipped cream. I think this will add a bit of tartness to an otherwise very sweet cheesecake - as much as I am a white chocolate fan, it can be overly sweet at times.

Here's the recipe (tweaked):

Cheesecake Filling: 3 bars (1.5 ounces each) Godiva Solid Ivory, coarsely chopped (any other good quality white chocolate may be substituted for the Godiva brand)
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Place white chocolate, butter and cream in a double boiler top and let it sit over boiled water. The steam should be enough to melt the chocoate. The water does not need to simmer. Stir until smooth and let cool.

2. Beat cream cheese in mixing bowl until smooth, using electric mixer at medium speed. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and cooled solid chocolate mixture, using low speed. Pour mixture over crust.

3. Wrap base of cheesecake pan with aluminum foil and place pan on baking tray. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until top is slightly puffed and center is just firm. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven for 1 more hour and prop oven door open. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

Here is the recipe for the kumquats, from Ruth Reicl's The Gourmet Cookbook, which I found while surfing around. The recipe is in half quantities of the original.

Candied Kumquats
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teasp. salt
1 cup kumquats, sliced into three's and with pips removed

Boil water, sugar and salt; stir until sugar has dissolved.
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes.
Add sliced kumquats and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes until tender.
With slotted spoon, transfer kumquats to heatproof bowl.
Boil syrup 7-10 minutes on low until reduced to 3/8 cup. Pour syrup over kumquats and cool.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chocolate Opera Cake for a Christmas Gift

A friend asked me to make an opera cake she could give as a Christmas gift and requested that I use the best chocolate, with 70% cacao. I got some Ghirardelli Extra Bitter Chocolate and some Scharffen berger semi-sweet and went to work. It was my Christmas Day project.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself making it except that it got off to a bad start as I used a genoise recipe that must have had a mistake in it - it produced layers that looked like tough pancakes; then I turned to Helen's (Tartlette's) recipe for genoise, which I had used before. It is a lovely recipe, producing a light, rich sheet of sponge cake. For the soaking syrup, I used Grand Marnier in the mix.

I chose Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe for Chocolate Buttercream from her Cake Bible, and a chocolate glaze recipe from Carole Walter's Great Cakes. I topped the finished cake with white chocolate curls, made from Callabaut chocolate. I was pleased with the way my cake came out; however, the finishing is a bit wonky and the curls way too thick - just needs lots more practice, I guess.


Tartlette's Vanilla Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (4gr) vanilla extract (I used 1/2 teasp. vanilla and 1/2 teasp. almond essence)pinch of salt
¾ cup (150gr) of sugar
½ cup (70gr) cake flour
¼ cup (30gr) cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400F and set a rack in the middle.Lightly spray a 12x17 baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly brush with melted butter. Set aside
Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, salt and sugar together in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100F on a candy thermometer(or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment (or hand held beaters) and whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled and tripled in volume. The mixture will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl when the whisk is lifted.
Over a medium bowl or a piece of parchment paper, sift together the flour and cornstarch.
Add one-third of the flour mixture to the beaten egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl to prevent the flour mixture from making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake does not over bake and become too dry or it will not roll properly. Let cool on a rack. Remove the cake from the baking sheet and invert it on a larger piece of parchment paper. Peel of the parchment paper that was lining the baking sheet. Set the cake aside.

Soaking Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. Grand Marnier

Chocolate Buttercream (Rose Levy Berenbaum's Cake Bible)
9 ozs. bittersweet chocolate
4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar

Break the chocolate into squares and place in a double boiler over very hot water or low heat. The water must not exceed 160 degrees F. or touch the bottom of the double boiler insert.
Remove double boiler from the heat and stir frequently until the chocolate begins to melt.
Return to the heat if the water cools, but be careful that it does not get too hot. Stir 8 to 10 minutes or until the chocolate is smooth. (Chocolate may be melted in microwave oven on high power if stirred every 15 seconds. Remove before fully melted and stir, using residual heat to complete the melting.)

In a mixing bowl beat the butter until smooth and creamy. (I used my KitchenAid and let it beat until the butter turned a pale cream color - about 5 mins.)

In another mixing bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Beat in the butter by the tablespoon. If the mixture looks slightly curdles, increase the speed a little and beat until smooth before continuing to add more butter. Add the melted and cooked chocolate all at once and beat until smooth and uniform in color. Place in an airtight bowl. Re-beat to restore texture.

Carole Walter's Ganache Glaze from Great Cakes

Carole Walter's Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Favorite Walnut Pies - Tuesdays with Dorie

It's Sunday and we have just had a massive snowfall in NYC - wild horses would not drag me out of my apartment and I have run out of pecans. Thank goodness I had bought walnuts a week ago so I have made Walnut Pies instead.

This is the first time I have used pastry rings to make tarts - it's really a lot of fun, I think, but I certainly need practice. The first tarts I made came out way over-filled; for the next batch - the ones in my pic - I removed some of the filling and nuts. A couple of them still oozed syrup out on to the baking sheet but now they are all settled quite nicely, cooling off. It took 7 mins. of baking at 425 degrees F and between 15-20 mins. at 350 degrees F. I'm trying to perfect my tart shapes so that they at least begin to resemble Anita's in Dessert First, but I have a feeling that will take some time. Maybe I should use larger rings - these were 2-1/2 inch rings.

I have done a taste test - they are really very delicious (I did not use the cinnamon, chocolate or coffee but went for a plain walnut mixture). I also tried another dough,the "Perfect Food Processor Pie Crust" from Baking 911; it's very good and easy - I am not too keen on Dorie's "Good for Almost Anything Pie dough"; it just doesn't do it for me, although I do love Dorie's pate sucre recipe and the sour cream puff pastry we used for the apple turnovers.

A nice dollop of whipped cream will be a delicious addition, I am sure. I'll do that on Tuesday.

Beth of Someone's in the Kitchen with Brina picked this week's recipe - I really enjoyed it and learned some new skills. Thank you Beth. The recipe is on her blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cafe Volcano Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

Amazing! Truly amazing - that these easy peasy, rather odd looking cookies can be so delicious! I made half the quantity called for in the recipe as I did not want to "waste" too many nuts in case it turned out badly; now I have a problem; the sun hasn't risen yet and I still have to take the pic, but I have already eaten more than half of the cookies. I hope the sun rises in time for there to be some cookies left for the pic.

MacDuff of The Lonely Sidecar chose this week's treat; the recipe is on her blog. Thank you, it was a nice surprise.

Done! Not the best pic but it's still dark outside.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sables - Tuesdays with Dorie

French Shortbread - how nice! I have been eyeing these Sables for the longest time and was so pleased that Barbara of Bungalow Barbara picked them for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie.

I prefer the dough to Scottish shortbread - it is moister and easier to handle. The sables sliced beautifully and evenly. I baked the first batch for 20 minutes - okay, but a bit too brown on the bottom; the next batch was for 18 minutes and seemed to be just right.

These cookies are deliciously buttery, which is not surprising considering there are 2 sticks of butter to 2 cups of flour. They will definitely be on my favorites list.

The recipe is on Barbara's blog. Great pick! Thank you.

And finally! I've figured out a way to make nice round slice-and-bake cookies, instead of the wonky, conky ones I've made up to now.

I could never roll a well shaped tube of cookie dough, so after much thought and "ingenuity" I decided to use my Decorator Pro. I filled the barrel with dough and pushed it out of the barrel with the plunger. Easy and what a neat cylinder it formed! I got two cylinders out of the batch of dough. Now I can see lots of slice-and-bake cookies in my future.