I Could Be Converted

Despite the fact that I’ve been on something of a cheesecake kick in the last couple of years, I’ve never been a big fan of cheesecake. I’ve made Chocolate Chip Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce, Marbled Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Ganache, and Mint Chocolate Cheesecake. Although some people raved about the taste of them, I was fine if I didn’t get any. I think it was only the Turtle Cheesecake that could have made me a convert, but there was enough chocolate and caramel to not dwell on the cheesecake much. Still, I often make a cheesecake at Easter and this year was no exception.

I decided I wanted something slightly different but wanted to serve it with fresh fruit so I didn’t want an overpowering flavor. I went with Meyer lemons (Meijer Meyer lemons, as I noted when someone asked where to find them!) It wasn’t until after I had already started mixing my typical cheesecake mixture that I wondered, “What would Dorie do?” so I pulled down my Baking book and, sure enough, she talks about cheesecake, even lemon. She adds sour cream and/or whipping cream to her batter and bakes it differently than I have done in the past (in a hot water bath rather than just a pan of water on the rack beneath it) and for much longer. I decided that I would give this a go. Although I may have been a little hesitant to try new methods on such a big day, I trusted Dorie to not lead me astray.

I think one of the failures people have with making cheesecake is not allowing it to beat long enough. I’ve had several people tell me they still have lumps of cream cheese in their batter and I always encourage beating until smooth and creamy. I was pleased to note that Dorie recommends beating the cheese for 4 min and another 4 min after the addition of the sugar, as well as a full minute after the addition of each egg. Talk about smooth and well aerated!

For the baking, I wrapped the base of the springform pan with two layers of Al foil and then placed it inside my 13 inch cast iron skillet and poured boiling water into the skillet until it reached 1/2 – 2/3 up the side of the springform pan. Dorie has you bake the cheesecake in this manner for 1 1/2 hours and then leave it in the bath for another hour with the oven turned off and the door propped open with a wooden spoon. By the time I finally opened the oven door, there was little to no water left in the water bath, so I’m not sure how much benefit it actually had from that. My greatest disappointment was in how brown the top was, not at all like the creamy white cheesecake pictured in the book. I think in the future I would cover the cheesecake with a loose foil tent to prevent browning. Since I wanted to serve it with fresh fruit, I just used that and some whipped cream garnish to masque the brown top.  (The sides were creamy white, I didn’t cut anything off — the lines you see on the sides below are from running a hot knife around the sides to slip it from the springform pan.) But the texture! Ooooh, man, did this cheesecake have perfect texture! This could convert me to being a cheesecake lover.

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Fresh Fruit (most of the directions come from Baking, pp. 235-237)

Graham Cracker Crust:

1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. melted butter

Stir together ingredients. Press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 F. for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool while mixing the cheesecake.

4.5 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened

1 1/3 c. vanilla sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 t. vanilla extract

4 large eggs, at room temperature

zest and juice of Meyer lemon

1 c. whipping cream

In a larger mixing bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy (about 4 min). Add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes or until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a full minute after each addition. Add the zest and juice of lemon. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the whipping cream.

Cover the base of the springform pan with two layers of aluminum foil. Place the pan inside a larger pan. Pour the batter into the springform pan. It should reach nearly to the rim of the pan. Place the pans in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the outer pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top should be browned and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open with a wooden soon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.

After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lifte the spring form pan out of the outer pan — be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil — and remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

I decorated mine with fresh fruit and sweetened whipped cream about 12 hours after it was baked and about 12 hours before it was served.

The Daring Bakers Party With Dorie

This month the Daring Bakers tackled Dorie Greenspan’s beautiful Perfect Party Cake (p. 250 of Baking, recipe below). As soon as I flipped through the book, I knew I wanted to attempt this cake some day. I rarely have had a white cake come out completely white — there’s always some ‘golden’ edge, much as I’d like mine to turn out like Glenna’s, it never does. So, while I admired Dorie’s cake, I doubted mine would look much like it. However, I was pleased with the final result.

I baked this for Easter dinner, starting it the night before. My first run through, being quite distracted with making dinner, cleaning the house, kids running around, and not having a functional timer, I overbaked the cakes by 10 minutes. 10 MINUTES on a white cake. No, it wasn’t close to white. After the kids were in bed, I started over. The Husband helped me keep track of the time. It wasn’t completely without a little color, but it was probably the whitest cake I’ve made and it didn’t dome at all, which was nice. It did seem particularly thin; I was hoping it would make thicker layers but I knew as I spread it in the pan that it wasn’t going to be very high. The second one was higher than the first and I think the amount of whipping the butter and sugar was the critical difference. Warm butter, lots of whipping, and mine still never achieved a ‘light and fluffy’ stage, but more is definitely better here.

After the cakes were baked, The Husband convinced me we should go to bed and ‘get up early tomorrow to finish’. These are always famous last words in this house. It never works out quite like he plans. I woke up an hour later than ‘early’ and as I scrambled to make the buttercream I realized that I didn’t have the needed *3* sticks of butter. I had one. Boo. And I wasn’t about to run out to the store b/c I didn’t have time for that. So I punted and made a cream cheese frosting with lemon flavor. It was very good. I think the buttercream would have held the structure of the cake much more firmly and the next time I make this I’d like to try that, but I wasn’t going to bake another this week to experiment. Also, Dorie notes that this cake is best served at room temperature, and I can’t stress enough how significant that is. I regrettably served mine from the fridge, but the next day I ate half a slice before a prayer meeting and finished it afterward and the flavor was *SOOOO* much better after it was warm. So, really, serve this at room temp! It makes a difference.

With the first round of overbaked cake, which was still lovely on the inside, I went with an old standby for ‘ruined cake’ and made trifle from it. I used both strawberries and raspberries and it was especially good with a little blueberry syrup drizzled on it.

Thank you Morven for the excellent challenge! Recipe after the jump. Continue reading

Awesome. Spectacular. Meh.

We hosted a student lunch yesterday and I made a couple of desserts for it. This one came from a cookbook my mom gave me for Christmas: The Taste of Home Baking Book and I have to tell you, that I don’t really think it deserves to be on the shelf next to Dorie’s Baking book. I know, many people are huge fans of Taste of Home, but I find most of the recipes are old Pillsbury Bake-Off repeats, nothing new, and what I generally refer to as ‘fake foods’. Not that they are somehow plastic and inedible; this dessert certainly is edible and sweet, but the main ingredients are pudding mix and Cool Whip. And it’s not that I’m so snobby that I would never eat those things, because I’ve clearly posted food with pudding mix and Cool Whip before. And I do think there is a place for a super quick crowd pleaser, but I have to tell you that I really prefer ‘real food’. That’s why, in the future, I’m more likely to make my cream puffs like this again than as a ‘Midwest dessert casserole’.

But this was extremely popular and wins for ‘ooey, gooey, super sweet’ dessert. It was also easy to make it in stages. I made the cream puff crust Friday night and then mixed the pudding on Saturday and topped with the Cool Whip and then refrigerated it until Sunday afternoon when I added the caramel and chocolate toppings and hazelnuts. None of the steps took more than a few minutes and it was called alternately ‘Awesome’ and ‘Spectacular’ by the guests. I actually thought about using pistachio pudding and pistachios on top for a green dessert. 😛 So, for Mat, here’s the recipe. I hope you still fit in the tux! 😉

Cream Puff Dessert (from The Taste of Home Baking Book)

1 c. water
1/2 c. butter
1 c. flour
4 eggs

1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3 1/2 c. cold milk
2 pkgs (3.9 oz each) instant chocolate pudding

1 carton (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/4 c. chocolate ice cream topping
1/4 c. caramel ice cream topping
1/3 c. chopped nuts (recipe calls for almonds, I used hazelnuts)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil over medium heat. Add flour all at once; stir until a smooth ball forms. Remove from the heat; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Spread into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Bake at 400 F for 30-35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For filling, beat the cream cheese, milk and pudding mix in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Spread over puff; refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Spread with whipped topping; refrigerate until serving. Drizzle with the chocolate and caramel toppings; sprinkle with nuts. Refrigerate leftovers.

As for me, I preferred Dorie’s Chewy, Chunky Blondies (p. 109), full of coconut, chocolate, butterscotch chips, Heath toffee bits, pecans, and lots of butter and sugar!

Breakfast With Dorie

I had mentioned before that I wanted to make Dorie’s lemon poppy seed muffins from her Baking book. I am addicted to Poppy Seed Salad Dressing and have it on a salad with a little chicken or ham, tomatoes, cuke, or sometimes it’s just greens, whatever I have on hand, for lunch at least 3-4 days/week. I probably couldn’t pass a drug test! 😛 I also love lemon poppy seed anything.

So I finally got some poppy seeds and made these, without the lemon glaze, because they’re so good they don’t really need any topping. With it, I think they could easily pass for dessert. One of the interesting things about this recipe is she has you rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers. Ooooh, the fragrant result is amazing. In fact, I was thinking that the next time I want to make fresh lemonade and don’t have quite enough lemons for what I want, I’ll bet I could zest the lemons I have and rub it in with the sugar I’m going to use, and then add the lemon juice and water like usual and it would still have enough flavor. Just a thought.

I’m not going to share the recipe because I followed it exactly from her book (p. 10) and, at the risk of sounding like Brilynn or a paid advertiser, this is a cookbook worth buying and I’m not going to post a recipe I didn’t change at all when I expect to post several Dorie baking experiences here.  Since my cooling rack is just like the one in the photo in her book, I couldn’t help but take the pictures on top of my marble board too! 😉

Dorie Love By The Pound

Last night I made my first Dorie recipe. I’ve leafed through the book a few times and have thought about several things I want to try. Sometimes a good cookbook can be as entertaining to me as a mystery novel. Since I make a lot of muffins, I thought about starting with the Lemon Poppyseed Muffins, only to find that the bottle of poppyseeds I was *sure* I had, wasn’t in the cabinet. I was feeling like something sweet and chocolaty, but every recipe I looked at called for more chocolate than I had on hand — now, that’s what I call a good omen for those brownies and cookies and I can’t wait to come back to those after a trip to the store.

Then I turned to ‘Basic Marbled Loaf Cake’ (p. 230). One of the things that I find I like best about Dorie’s book is the stories that go with the recipes. It’s like chatting with a friend about her very personal experience baking for her family; she speaks from the heart as one who enjoys experimenting in her kitchen. Another thing I love is the ‘Playing Around’ section that comes after most recipes. Dorie is absolutely my kind of baker. Here’s a great recipe and then here are some suggestions for tweaking it, because even great recipes that you love need a little twist now and then. But I didn’t read the ‘Playing Around’ at first. I read the recipe and thought, mmm, I have those oranges on the counter and I *love* orange and chocolate. I’m going to add orange zest to the ‘plain’ part and chocolate to the other part. It wasn’t until after I had started in the kitchen that I read the section with her variations and there, at the bottom of the list, is ‘Chocolate and Orange Marble Loaf‘. Oh, yes! Despite her love of coffee, I can tell Dorie and I are going to be fast friends in the kitchen.

I changed the recipe a little myself. Rather than using whole milk, I used some homemade yogurt, and I used the zest of a large orange and 1/4 t. orange extract in one half and added 3 oz melted unsweetened chocolate to the other half. It smelled so good it brought The Husband down from the computer to the kitchen, looking to see if I had some cookies he could eat and then, because I baked it so late at night, we both went to bed sad that it smelled so good and we weren’t going to eat any of it yet. The kids love it. I have to say that I actually prefer the orange part to the chocolate part. It’s more moist and our family could probably devour an entire orange pound cake in one sitting. It’s that good.

Basic Marbled Loaf Cake
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking)

2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. vanilla yogurt

zest of one orange
1/4 t. orange extract

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325F. Butter a loaf pan (the recipe calls for 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch but the only ones I have are 9 1/4 x 5 1/4, so mine was a little squatty compared to hers). Dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Don’t be concerned if the batter curdles and stays curdled — it will be fine. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the yogurt in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients), mixing only until each addition is incorporated.

At this point, you are ready to divide the batter. Add the orange zest and extract to one half and the chocolate to the other half. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake the cake for 1 hour and 20 to 30 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. If the cake looks as if it’s getting too brown during its bake, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for about 15 minutes before unmolding, then cool the cake to room temperature right side up on the rack.

Dorie claims that, wrapped well, the cake will last for up to 4 days, but I think ours had mostly disappeared within 12 hours. Very high vapor pressure! 😉