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The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.
You may have noticed I’ve been conspicuously… um… silent lately. Yes, my friends, I am a Very Bad Blogger. *slaps my own wrist* I could spout all sorts of lovely excuses, but to tell you the honest truth, I’m kinda lazy. SHOCKING! I know, right? So I totally bailed on the DB challenge last month despite it being something very exciting and delicious (tiramisu! yum! and my fiance is STILL begging me to make it for him…). Mostly it was from the horrifying experience of trying to make my own mascarpone cheese – if any of you know me and my hatred of cheese, you’ll understand. BUT I WAS DARING! I tried, even though the smell of the cream heating and curdling on the stove almost made me vomit. I couldn’t bring myself to use the stuff when it was done. Sigh…
So THIS month I see the challenge and am left, well, a bit baffled. First of all, it was a word I’d never seen or heard before (what the heck is a “tian” anyway? really?). Then when I started looking further I just couldn’t help but think “okay, so it’s a cookie with jam, whipped cream, fruit and caramel on top? What’s the big deal? Needless to say, I was not particularly inspired to action. This is why I didn’t get off my fat ass to do the darn thing until the day the challenge was due. Will I never learn??? This is ALWAYS a recipe for disaster!
I have a confession to make. Okay, well more than one. But let me start with the most pressing: I think I’m in love… with a dessert. Nanaimo Bars, where have you been all my life??? When I think of all the desserts, all the cookies, the cakes, the bars I have suffered through in my life, I only have one regret: that it took me 31 long years to find you. Was I perhaps a Canadian in my last life? Because I feel like I’ve known you longer than just a week. I feel an almost spiritual connection with you. When I press my lips to your unctuous sweetness, I feel as if I’ve come home. What do I love most about you? How to choose? First there’s your top layer, that dark ganache I can’t get enough of. Then I find your creamy center, so soft and buttery. All of this is supported by the strength and beauty that is your bottom layer, with chocolate and coconut and almonds and everything I could ever want. Put together, your layers make a symphony of deliciousness unlike any I’ve ever experienced.
I don’t quite know how to explain this forbidden love that I feel… what I do know is that I love you, Nanaimo Bars. Forever.
Before I continue any further with my love sonnet to your deliciousness, let me get this formality out of the way:
The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.
Yes, Nanaimo Bars and I were introduced by friends, namely, the Daring Bakers. Oh, Daring Bakers, I will never be able to thank you enough for bringing us together. There are simply no words…
The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.
‘Tis the season to be jolly and all that… and what could be more jolly than a good old fashioned gingerbread house? One of my favorite holiday memories as a kid was making “gingerbread” houses with my mom and sister every year. Okay, okay, we cheated and used graham crackers, but STILL, they were beautiful and candy-ful and lovely in every way (don’t be a hater). When we got a bit older, the daughters of my mom’s employer (and our occasional baby-sitting charges) would join us in the house-making extravaganza. Really, it’s not the same unless you’ve got a munchkin there to share in the glory that is sugar and candy and all things sweet. So, in the spirit of my own family tradition, I called up my lovely friend Tipper and asked if her and Nora, age 2 and all things precocious, would like to join me in my holiday daring bakers endeavors.
Tipper is a big fan of the blog, and is an incredible cook and baker herself, and seemed excited by the idea. And hey, a guest appearance on her favorite food blog (it’s your favorite, isn’t it sweetie? ISN’T IT? HINT HINT) could very well make her famous on the interwebz, so can you blame her for jumping on board with my sugar-laden plan?
“Lets bake our gingerbreads the night before,” I said, “So they’ll be nice and rock-hard and ready for construction the next day!” So there I was, 10 pm the night before, and was my kitchen filled with the delicious scent of gingerbread wafting from the oven I’d slaved over all day? Um…. no. Not really. I’d been getting over a cold for days and days, and had a sinus headache that refused to lay down and die no matter how many lovely drugs I threw at it. All day I waited for the headache to pass, to no avail. That’s how it came to be that only 12 hours before we planned to meet and construct our spiced, saccharine monstrosities, I was sitting in a gingerbreadless apartment, feeling like the worst. food. blogger. EVER.
I started talking with Tipper, telling her my tale of woe, describing just what a FAILURE I am… when the skies parted above me and she uttered (well, um, typed) the magic words: “the recipe makes a crapload of dough. maybe there is enough for TWO houses. beats me.” And that, ladies and gentlepeoples, is how Tipper saved Christmas. Or at least my dreams of finally decorating a gingerbread house made from the real stuff.
Believe it or not, she had enough dough for THREE tiny houses, one for each of us and her husband as well. A Christmas miracle indeed. One manic candy-buying shopping trip later and we were ready to go. Sadly, some of my “traditional” childhood candies were not available at our local supermarket (Necco Wafers make the best roof tiles, dammit!), but we found enough goodies to fill two bags – more than we needed, but hey, it’s candy!
By the end of the day we were covered in icing, hopped up on sugar, and I’d introduced little Nora to the art of gingerbread houses and candy-eating. I’m a bad influence. Apparently she now asks for candy with her oatmeal in the mornings. My work here is done.
By the way, if you’re in need of some fine, home-made soaps, bath-bombs or body butters, please for the love of all things holy, visit the lovely Tipper’s Etsy shop! Her products are divine, and as you can see, she’s got an adorable family to support so your soap-buying dollars are going to a worthy (and CUTE) cause. http://www.etsy.com/shop/robinsdalesoap
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Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas http://astore.amazon.com/thedarkit-20/detail/0816634963
1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]
1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.
2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.
3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.
4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]
5. Preheat the oven to 375’F (190’C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.
1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.
The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.
Is it a tart? Is it a pudding? Is it a pie?
Who the heck knows! It really depends on what slice of the globe you happen to call home and what you like to call your yummy baked goods. But regardless of the name, it is truly and utterly delicious.
The Bakewell tartpuddingpie has its roots in merry old England, and combines a number of traditional dessert elements in an interesting and scrumptious way. First you lay down a buttery, shorbread-like tart crust, slather it with your jam or curd of choice, then top with a mysterious concoction known as Frangipane. This exotic-sounding addition is a somewhat squidgy mess of eggs, butter, sugar, and ground almonds which bakes into a delightful, almost sponge-cake-like flufiness atop your tartpuddingpie. The combination of these three elements is no less than genious. Those 19th century Brits knew what they were doing, I say!
According to this month’s lovely hosts, “like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling. The version we’re daring you to make is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.”
As for the tart/pudding debate, someone once said something like “The Bakewell pudding is a dessert. The Bakewell tart is that girl over there.” Use that knowledge as you may…
Again, this month’s challenge gave us daring bakers a little leeway in our baking madness: use the tart dough and the frangipane, but choose your own jam or curd for its innards. Making our own jams was heartily encouraged so, with last month’s sad failure still haunting me, I decided to start early in the month and work extra hard to make this challenge a success! And I’m happy to report, I did.
My first attempt began early in June, and true to the daring baker’s spirit, I made my own jam filling out of the fresh lovely produce hitting my local markets. I researched some jam recipes, and decided to just strike out on my own and see what happened. I figured I didn’t need anything worthy of canning (since I just don’t have the equipment for that), and if the texture was a bit runny or dense, it didn’t matter since it was just going to be the jam in my bakewell sammich. The result of my labors was a quite lovely Brown Sugar Stone-fruit Jam (the recipe is listed at the end of the post).
I chose to make my tart dough in the food processor because, well, I’m lazy! If this were something in which the flakiness of the dough was paramount to the dish, I might have taken the time and effort to do it all old-fashioned-like, but f*** that. And hey, this dough is merely a substrate for the jam and frangipane anyway! The frangipane was a breeze to whip up, believe it or not. Though the originators of the recipe warned could sometimes get an unappealing curdled-like texture, mine was nothing but smooth and creamy all the way. I think the trick is really making sure your butter is at room temperature, making sure to mix thoroughly between elements, and having a good quality hand or stand mixer at the ready. My KitchenAid hand-mixer is so freakin’ turbo-powered, I wish it had a *LOWER SETTING* – the 1st notch on the dial is hand-numbingly powerful, and I don’t think I’ve ever even dared to go beyond notch 3!
For my jam-based creation, I also decided to remain traditional with choice of cookware and size – a nice, standard 9-inch tart pan did the trick. I lined the bottom and sides with the pastry crust, oozed on a thick layer of jam (at this point it almost started to look like I was making a deep-dish pizza…), then smoothed the luscious frangipane over the top.
After a half an hour in the oven, it looked nice and brown on top, so I took it out and let it cool. The house smelled AMAZING – like marzipan and shortbread had been makin’ sweet, sweet love in my kitchen all day. I let it cool for quite some time, but upon cutting into it realized that I hadn’t quite baked it long enough: the frangipane in the center inches of the tart was still runny, and the dough beneath it suspiciously soft. That didn’t stop it from being DELICIOUS, however, and it firmed up a bit more after a night in the fridge. Undercooked or not, the boytoy and I inhaled the thing over the next couple of days – it makes quite a good breakfast, I assure you (as long as there are no bacon waffles nearby to compete with them)!
As good as that first tart was, I was sure I could do better. I wanted to do something a little more bold, now that I’d tackled the basics! First off, I decided to convert the recipe into cupcake-sized tartlettes, hoping the smaller size would help my frangipane to cook through this time. As for the filling, here was where I wanted to try something truly unique. With my mind stuck on yummy-British-dessert mode, I suddenly remembered a divine concoction known as Banoffee Pie: bananas and toffee/caramel are combined in pie format and then slathered with cream. I’ve seen it done a dozen times on my cable channel of choice, the Food Network, and every time found my chin dropped somewhere near the floor with a puddle of drool beneath it. I always imagined this combination to be something truly inspired, but as of yet, have never gotten around to making the damn pie! And here is where the idea came to me: why not make a crazy British-fusion dessert, combining the bananas and caramel of Banoffee Pie with the delicious almond-ness of a Bakewell Tart? GENIOUS! And thus the Banoffee Bakewell Tart was born!
So here I am, once again on the day that the challenge is due, working down to the wire to finish my baking. Yes, I got a head this month, but still, I seem to be a creature of (last-minute) habit. Luckily, this month luck was with me: I found that the single quantity of tart dough was the PERFECT amount for exactly 12 cupcake-sized tartlettes! After the dough was rolled out, I cut circles out of it with a crumpet-ring, then smooshed them into the dozen crevices in my standard-sized cupcake pan.
After a quick chill in the freezer, I filled each little tart with about a tablespoon of canned Dulce de Leche, topped that with a slice of fresh banana, then covered with frangipane like usual.
They cooked for about 20-30 minutes, until brown and poofy on top. With a bit of whipped cream dolloped on top, these Banoffee-Bakewell tartlettes were a clear winner!
Here are the official recipes and directions for all the elements of this fantabulous dessert. I highly urge you to give this one a try – it really wasn’t hard at all, and if you used store-bought jam, it would be even easier!
Brown Sugar Stone-fruit Jam:
- Approx. 3 pounds of stone-fruits (I used cherries, plums and peaches in roughly equal proportions, but feel free to play with this as you like), stones/pips removed, and chopped into small chunks
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar (I used vanilla sugar, but plain works too)
- Juice of 1 lemon
Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan tall enough so that you’ve got some room for bubbling without overflow. Cook on medium or medium-high, stirring frequently. Once the fruit has gotten very soft (after 10-20 minutes), start crushing the mixture with a potato masher, breaking up the fruit and syrup into a nice pulp. I let mine bubble, reduce and thicken for about an hour, but use your own judgement.
There’s a lot of info out there on jam-making and how to know when it has set enough (often involving frozen dinner plates or other strange things), but since texture wasn’t all that important in this case, I just cooked it until it looked thick enough for my needs. Let it cool, uncovered, until it isn’t scorching bloody hot anymore, then move to the refridgerator until you need it.
Sweet shortcrust pastry:
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, plastic wrap
- 225g (8 oz) all purpose flour
- 30g (1 oz) sugar (or vanilla sugar, if you have it)
- 2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
- 110g (4 oz, or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
- 2 egg yolks
- 2.5ml (½ tsp) almond or vanilla extract (optional)
- 15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water
Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
** If you want to make this in the food processor, combine all the dry elements and pulse to distribute evenly. Add chunks of butter, really cold or frozen is best. Pulse about 10 times or so until you have coarse crumbs and small chunks of butter. Add the egg yolks, pulse a couple of times, then start drizzling in water a bit at a time, pulsing in between drizzles. You don’t want to over-work the dough if you don’t have to! Open the lid and check in between each drizzle of water to check the texture. Don’t wait until the dough forms a ball in the mixer – it should look like fine yellowish crumbly crumbs that, when smooshed together with your fingers, hold together in a cohesive dough.
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula
- 125g (4.5 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 125g (4.5 oz) icing sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
- 125g (4.5 oz) ground almonds
- 30g (1 oz) all purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.
Bakewell Tartpuddingpie Assembly:
Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges) or muffin pan, rolling pin
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry
250ml (1 cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability (or 1-2 bananas and 1 can dulce de leche!)
One quantity frangipane
One handful blanched, flaked almonds
Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.
The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.
When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).
The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.
Every month, an intrepid group of plucky bakers take on a challenge… yes, a CHALLENGE! It’s called the Daring Bakers Challenge, to be dared by only the daring-est of daring bakers across the land! Well, actually you just kind of have to sign up for it…. BUT STILL, it’s a chance for a lot of people to tackle the same recipe at the same time, and see what kind of learning and chaos ensues. In other words, if you’re a fan of food blogs, you may see quite a bit of strudel hit the interwebz today.
Most months require you to stick to the recipe exactly, but this month was a bit different. The mission? STRUDEL! And though the actual strudel dough is set in stone, the fillings – oh, the FILLINGS – are entirely up to us. Considering the plethora of beautiful bountiful berries hitting my supermarket shelves these days, I decided to throw a bunch of ’em in a strudel dough and see what happens! That and I love berries. No seriously, I lurrrve them. Like, one-day-we’ll-run-off-together-and-illegally-marry-each-other-and-those-normal-people-won’t-ever-understand-us kind of love. Berries are where it’s at. An ex of mine kind of hated many types of berries, because of all the little worrisome seeds (bah, humbug!). I like to think I left him because of the berries. It’s a better story that way.
But back to strudel. Or non-strudel, as the case may be. You see, it helps to bake strudel on a day not made entirely of FAIL! It also helps to not, like, make the recipe for the first time on the day the blog posts are due. Yes, my friends, I have been humbled today. My swollen culinary ego has taken a good swift kick-in-the-stones. This is probably a good thing, in the long run. Everyone needs to be taken down a step every now and then, right? Because I fully admit defeat today, and my foe, thy name is STRUDEL DOUGH. What follows is a true and harrowing account of my epic fail of a baking adventure today:
So remember those berries? Those scrumptious berries I’d been salivating over for the past week, imagining them in light, buttery, flaky strudel dough? Yeah, uh, I should have baked this a few days ago, because a good third of them were now slightly fuzzy and un-bakeable. Grumblecakes! Okay, so scrap two of the berries and go for pure blueberry! I love blueberries! I’ll put in a touch of cinnamon and some walnuts for texture. It will be beautiful. It will be a work of art! It will be the envy of daring bakers everywhere!
The dough, however, was also not-so-fortunate. The list of ingredients was so small, so simple. How could I fail, I thought. Well, for starters I wrote down the recipe wrong. NOTE TO SELF: 7 teaspoons and 7 tablespoons are two entirely different amounts. No really. I was so confused when I should have had a dough coming together and it was still a crumbly mess. I started adding more water to make up the difference, and have no idea whether or not I hit the right amount eventually. But I know dough – I know what it’s supposed to feel like! A bit of kneading, and into an oiled bowl it goes to sit and mellow out.
A few hours later, I assemble a scrumptious blueberry filling and then turn “to the dough. “It’s SO EASY to stretch,” they all said! “Worked like a dream… so stretchy and pliable!” Uh…. not so much. My FAIL of a dough refused to act with any civility whatsoever. It stubbornly fought me at every turn, causing a bout of cursing not often heard in the TLB kitchen. After nearly 45 minutes of gruesome stretching and pulling, I had a lumpy hole-ridden mess of dough that wasn’t anywhere near thin enough to even attempt rolling.
“ENOUGH!” I said. I may be stubborn, but I know when to throw in the towel. Strudel dough, you’ve won. I managed to salvage two tiny pieces of dough that were almost thin enough to work with, and used them to make two tiny little mini-strudels of dubious quality. The remainder of the filling, which still looked delicious, promptly got thrown into a casserole dish and topped with a buttery crumble to bake alongside the sad little strudel wannabes. I’ll be damned if I’ll let a perfectly good pile of blueberry deliciousness go to waste because I can’t manage to stretch a strudel dough!
So the results? Thick, lumpy misshapen logs of sadness that break my heart. Yes, they’re that bad. They look less like strudel than pale, bleeding dough-fetuses, curled upon their weeping berry centers. Case and point:
The crumble, however, is delicious!
This is a sad start to my Daring Bakers career, alas. Lets just say that from now on I’ll stick to making strudel with store-bought phyllo dough. But hey, at least I dared to… um… dare! I’m hoping next month’s challenge will be a bit smoother sailing?
I have always had a love-hate relationship with cheesecake. Really! It’s true! Despite the fact that in the past 6 or 7 years I have been come to be known as somewhat of a cheesecake artiste, cheesecake was for many years VERBOTEN! in my life. You want to know why?….. my big secret?….. I hate cheese.
I can hear the silence now. The confusion. (The horror?)
“All cheese?” you ask.
“Um… yeah… pretty much,” is my response. The short answer: there’s some sort of a taste going on in cultured/fermented milk products that, quite literally, tastes like vomit to me. Actual vomit. As in, if I get the slightest taste of it, it will trigger my gag reflex. Even strong cheese SMELLS will make me gag. Yeah, I know, crazy right? WTF? Trust me on this one, I wish with all my heart that I liked cheese. People hide it in things and don’t tell you. I have to quiz my waiter/waitress at almost every restaurant to make sure there isn’t any cheese hidden in strange places. I’m not a picky eater – dear god, I LURVE food. Cheese (and sour cream, and certain cultured butter) is the one thing everyone seems to love, but will make me retch. Life would be a lot simpler if I could just “get over it”, as some tactless people in my past have urged, people for whom my cheese-hatred was somehow offensive to their sensibilities.
Well, it’s not gonna happen. I’m 30 years old, and have TRIED numerous times to conquer this thing and every time, my taste buds and olfactory recepters revolt. If I were gonna grow out of it, it would have happened by now. Just call me a very specific supertaster!
So why, you may be thinking, do I make so many damn cheesecakes? HOW THE HECK DOES THAT WORK? Well, I have actually gotten better over the years when it comes to cheese. Certain cheeses in very small amounts in places where their noxious flavor is sufficiently masked is acceptable to me. Mozzarella on pizza is generally safe (heck, that cheese is barely a cheese since it isn’t left to culture/rot/etc. for any time at all). And cream cheese, though it tastes gross to me on its own, can be conquered if enough other mitigating factors are involved.
So finally, back to the topic of cheesecake. Many years ago, I came to realize that not all cheesecakes are inherently evil, despite the dreaded word in its title. Some cheesecakes, the ones I hate, basically taste like a brick of cream cheese with some sugar mixed in. Yuck. If I wanted to eat cream cheese, I’d freakin’ eat it already, and as y’all know, I don’t want to. Once in a while, however, I’d come across one that would be a bit creamier, a bit different, where the flavor of cheese did not prevail. I was intrigued. I took one of these recipes and started to tweak it. I was sure I could eventually come up with something that worked for me (I do like a challenge!). And lo and behold, I did. I blame the heavy cream. With a full cup of it in there, it manages to round out the flavor to the point that you taste DAIRY, not cheese. This is a Good Thing.
Lo and behold, my cheesecake was born. Lots of cheese for body, lots of cream for flavor, eggs for texture and binding, vanilla for unctuousness, and last but not least, lemon and booze for balance. Not flavor – at a tablespoon each you’re not going to really taste them in there. A good cheesecake is all about balance of cream and tang, depth and simplicity, heavy and light. The lemon and alcohol, I discovered, was my key to making the flavor really POP. There’s somethign about citrus and alcohol that just cuts through the heaviness of the cheese and the cream, brightens it, like that squeeze of lime over your pad thai. I truly believe that the little tinge of sour that they bring is what takes the flavor over the top.
Anyway, enough about cheesecake (I really could rhapsodize forever… I’m such a prose-slut). Or I should say, enough about cheesecake in general – and more about THIS cheesecake. The one I baked last night, styled this morning, and quickly snapped photos of before running off to work (where they were instantly devoured, of course)
After browsing through hundreds of renditions of my cheesecake recipe, I was filled with blog-envy. All those gorgeous photos! The flavor combos! Oh, for shame! It’s my recipe, yet I didn’t even make one of my own. The least I could do, as a brand spankin’ new member of Daring Bakers, was add my own humble rendition to the fray. I needed a flavor combo that was new to me, and wasn’t like any of the hundreds of recipes I’d already perused (even though many of them seemed to have stolen flavor combo ideas right out of my brain!). I’ve always kind of been enamored of the mixture of berry flavors with mint. It sounds weird to some, but it really, really works if you balance it right. You don’t want the berry to be too sweet, nor the mint to be too spicy. I thought the mellow, creaminess of cheesecake would be a perfect platorm on which to balance those two flavors. AND BOY WAS I RIGHT! So here goes, my official UNofficial first Daring Bakers post
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. The full recipe can be seen there – I won’t bother posting the full thing here. My (re)interpretation resulted in BerryMint Cheese(cup)cakes with White Chocolate Ganache. My changes/additions are tallied below:
* The heavy cream was heated briefly in the microwave, then a handful of torn mint leaves were left to steep as the cream cooled. The leaves were strained out prior to incorporating it into the batter.
* The crust was made with buttery shortbread crumbs and less melted butter.
* The liquor I used in the batter was white Creme de Menthe
*A vanilla bean created lovely little specks in the batter, rather than extract.
*I opted to make cupcake-sized cakes (so cute!), baked in a water bath for about 30 minutes, which when chilled were perfectly cooked and not cracked!
* Each cheese(cup)cake was topped with a quick white chocolate ganache: splash of cream was heated in the microwave, then a bar of good quality white chocolate was broken into the cream. Mix with a fork until smooth and dreamy… and no, I didn’t measure any of these amounts!
*Atop the pool of ganache I placed a single blackberry, which I then coated in a puddle of berry glaze. The glaze was simple: I took a couple of spoonfuls of seedless blackberry all-fruit preserves and a tablespoon or two of pomegranate molasses and microwaved them together for about 20 seconds. Stir until smooth, and again, no measuring! This glaze can also be used for presentation – just make a little extra and drizzle on the plate.
*Garnish with more blackberries and mint leaves, as desired. Voila!
And last but not least, the pictures!!
Apparently, I’m now famous on the interwebs? Or should I say infamous?
I’ve spent the last couple of days obsessively reading through as many Daring Bakers blog posts as possible. I am postively overjoyed, overwhelmed, (overstimulated?) by all the amazing renditions of my cheesecake which have hit the blogosphere. Seriously, y’all are INCREDIBLE people and I consider myself honored to soon be joining your ranks. Hopefully, as of tomorrow I’ll be an official member, privy to all the super-secret hush-hush forums and such. squeee!!!
When Jenny asked if she could borrow/use/abuse my cherished cheesecake recipe for the Daring Bakers Challenge, I honestly didn’t think much of it. I’d seen the Daring Bakers posts on her blog, and on a few others here and there, but never looked much into it. I thought it was just, maybe, like a few dozen blogs or something. Once I started getting reports back from Jenny about the response to my little recipe, I decided to look a little further into the whole thing to see what all the hoopla was about. And guess what – I’m hooked. I caught the bug. I signed right up then and there. And to tell you the truth, I’m still a little daunted by the whole thing, but at the same time, I’m excited and can’t wait for my first challenge! How excited am I? SO EXCITED THAT I’VE DECIDED TO JUMP THE GUN! HOLY SHEETCAKE!
As I said, I’ve spent the better part of three days reading blogs about cheesecake. This has made me… how shall I put it…. FREAKIN’ HUNGRY, DAMMIT. It’s also kicked my culinary imagination into overdrive, thinking of all sorts of new cheesecake ideas (maple-nutmeg with pecans! bananas foster brulee! avocado-strawberry with candied walnuts!)… suddenly I had a brainwave: If everybody else is posting on their blogs about my cheesecake, then SO CAN I! Mwahahahaha! [insert evil cackle here]
Obviously, a situation such as this calls for a brand-spankin’-new Abbeycheesecake flavor. I ain’t gonna rest on my laurels around you folks, I can tell you that much. So out to the grocery store I went, in search of inspiration. I’d planned to take pictures along the way as I cook, but of course I forgot to charge the camera (bad blogger! bad!), so you’ll have to make do with shots of the finished product.
They are in the oven RIGHT NOW, and smell pretty farking fantastic, so you’re just gonna have to wait for the final reveal and verdict tomorrow. You can’t rush perfection, ESPECIALLY cheesecake perfection. Anyhow, the next post will include the official writeup of my unofficial first Daring Bakers post, as well as some musings on the recipe, why I created it in the first place (funny story, really!), and some thoughts that have come up as I peruse all your blog posts.
Tonight I will leave you with just a teaser of the flavor combo that is to come tomorrow:
I keep promising to actually START this damn blog one of these days… and I will. I promise! Cross my heart and hope to have my next souffle fall. But seriously, this isn’t easy for me – I’m not a blogger or journaler by nature. As a little girl I always wanted to keep a diary, but without fail, every diary I owned was discovered and read by my snooping older sister. No matter where I hid it, she found it. That fear of embarrassing discoveries turned me off the idea of journaling at a very young age. I’m now trying very, very hard to break that habit. So bear with me while I figure out how to do this. One of the problems for me with food blogging in particular is that a lot of what I cook is impromptu and improvisatory – I don’t measure, I don’t write it down. I taste, judge, revise, and create as I go. That’s a hard habit to break, and I’m not sure if I want to. Baking should be easier, since rarely do I venture off-recipe so drastically… Anyway, we shall see.
My dear friend Jenny (of JennyBakes) has begged my infamous cheesecake recipe from out of my brain, and promises it will soon have a global following. I approve of this! 🙂 And hey, it is finally inspiring me to actually work on this damn blog that I set up ever so long ago.