Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This was supposed to be a carrot cake.

It was. It really was. But something went wrong in the oven and a lemon cake came out.

No, not really.

But it -was- supposed to be carrot cake. I had a craving for carrot cake. And cream cheese frosting. I wanted a dense, moist, sticky spice cake full of shredded carrots, then topped with a slightly sweetened cream cheese frosting. It sounded soooo good. And then I looked at the grocery ads for Newflower. And there was a sale. On bundt cakes. Lemon bundt cakes. And there was a picture. And then I forgot about carrot cake and moved onto lemon.

But I'm not complaining. The cake was mouthgasmic. It was gone in about five days.

I took the lemon cake I used way back when for my Fourth of July Cupcake Hero thing. Except I didn't try dying it blue again. >.<
Lemon Bundt Cake with Lemon Curd Cream Cheese Frosting:

Lemon Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) salted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I didn't have any, so I just used sour milk: 1 tablespoon lemon juice and enough milk to make one cup.)
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour a bundt pan. Or two eight- or nine-inch round cake pans. Or square pans. Or triangle pans! I want a triangle pan... I used my 12-cup bundt pan and sprayed it with Pam for Baking. That stuff works magic on bundt pans.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat until well-blended on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the lemon zest and juice.

Pour batter into prepared pan or pans. You want to get it poured into your pan(s) as quickly as possible because this batter starts reacting -quickly- and you don't want to lose too much air.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. I set my timer for thirty minutes, checked on it, and it was -done-. I expected it to take longer.

Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning onto the serving plate. You can frost it warm. And I meant to do that with mine so that the frosting melted and oozed all over. But I had waited too long, so I just frosted all around.

Lemon Curd.

1/2 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup water

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Then mix in the egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water. Cook over medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until bubbly. I usually start with a flat wooden spoon, then finish with a flat whisk. Cook and stir (or whisk) for 1-2 minutes more.

Remove from heat and pour into a separate bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface, and cool. Refrigerate.

Lemon Curd Cream Cheese Frosting.

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 T butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 2-3 T lemon curd, recipe above (or you can use your own recipe or storebought probably. I just knew that I liked that recipe.)

Beat cream cheese and butter in mixer until smooth and creamy. Then beat in powdered sugar, making sure all lumps are gone. Finally, add in lemon curd and beat until completely mixed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Daring Bakers: Lasagna.

Erm. First of all.. I really did make this challenge. (I finally put the pictures up for the other challenges.. I'm lazy.. sorry.) Anyway. My camera ate the lasagna it seems. Seriously. I had taken pictures of the lasagna. I remember making the lasagna. But I put all my pictures from my camera onto my laptop yesterday... and the lasagna pictures aren't there. Aren't anywhere. Erm... yeah. The just... disappeared. Sigh. But I have the pictures of the pasta dough and the fettuccine I made from my leftover dough. I don't understand why. So I figured I'd at least post those.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Anyway. The lasagna. Yeah... Lasagna is okay. And sometimes I'll get a craving for it.. but honestly... it's not that great of a meal. To me at least. Even when I get a craving. I'll make it. I'll eat it. And then I'm like.. "Why did I want that?" It's neat and all. Just not really worth all the effort to me. I'd much rather have stuffed shells. Continuing on.

This lasagna called for spinach pasta (I happened to have a package of frozen chopped spinach on hand... which I had gotten for a different lasagna and forgot to put in..), a ragú, a bechamel, and parmesan cheese.

I'd heard of true ragus before. I'd kind of skimmed over recipes, noting that they called for very little tomatoes and something I'd never put in a pasta sauce before: carrots and celery. I don't have a problem with carrots and celery. I have just never had that before. It's not what I grew up with. The sauce I grew up with consisted of my gram going out and finding whatever ground beef was the cheapest. Then she'd throw it into a pot and cook it. Drain the fat. Pour cans of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Then she'd season it up with onion powder, garlic powder, dried basil, oregano, and a bay leaf or two. And she'd add some salt and pepper. She'd also usually have a small jar of mushrooms which were just for her and I. Nobody else in the family likes mushrooms. There was no fresh garlic and onions. I've since graduated to fresh garlic and onions and mushrooms and occasionally fresh herbs. But at that time? Psht. There were eleven of us in one house at one point. Meals consisted of things that could be stretched over a large amount of people. And the ingredients had to be what could last a long time. Seriously. I've reviewed a lot of the "recipes" grew up with. Potato soup? Potatoes, a can of tomato sauce, a couple cans of chicken broth (if we had it.. if we didn't, just water), onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and monterey jack cheese. Zucchini in tomato sauce? Zucchini, tomato sauce, dried basil and oregano, salt, pepper, monterey jack cheese. Rice? Rice fried up in some vegetable oil, then chicken broth, tomato sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper were added. See the pattern? That's not to say we never had fresh foods in the house. We did. Bananas, oranges. We ate salads with dinners. Or we'd have a pot of beans. But I'm running away from the point. Carrots and celery were for soups. Not pasta sauces. But I figured I could try for this recipe. As for the other ingredients? Pancetta? Veal? Prosciutto? Erm... I can't even find veal in my grocery store. And if I could, I'd be making pan-fried veal cutlets. Because my mom has been going on about them for years. Only she's had them. But she wants them. So I've made it a mission to make them if I can ever find veal here. Pancetta is okay. Prosciutto I have a problem with. I don't like ham. What does prosciutto taste like? Ham. I explained the recipe to my mom. She gave me a look of disgust. So I used our basic "recipe" for the pasta sauce. I'll give it to you. But I don't have measurements. Even when I started to make it.. I asked, "How much do I put in?" I was told, "Until it tastes good." "Yes, but how much is that?" I didn't understand -not- measuring things at the time. I had to have precise measurements or it was doomed to fail. At least in my mind.

Then came the pasta. I'd been looking for a spinach pasta recipe, so I figured I'd try it. It was fine.. I just... something is off with the measurements. Now.. I know I didn't use jumbo eggs. I used extra-large. But still. It called for eggs that were two ounces each. An extra-large egg is about two ounces per egg. It varies. But it's usually two ounces or more. Two eggs did not cut it, though. So I started adding some of the water I squeezed from the spinach. But a few spoonfuls of that wasn't doing the trick. So I added another egg. And then I poured in some olive oil. How much? I don't know. I just poured little bits in until it looked good enough to me. Oh. I had a lot of leftover dough. I think half the recipe could have worked for me for the full lasagna. But maybe I just made my dough incredibly thin. I went to number 6 on my roller attachment to my KitchenAid.

Then there was the bechamel. I've made that before. I'd actually made one just the week before I did the lasagna. That was another one of our normal meals. Stuffed bell peppers. We top it with a jack cheese sauce. Which is just a bechamel with jack cheese mixed in. It's mouthgasmic. But yeah. I wound up needing more sauce toward the end. I had more room in my pan. More pasta. More tomato sauce. More cheese. But no more bechamel. So I made more.

Onto the cheese. I added in half a pound of mozzarella. Because we like cheese. And I wanted more than just parmesan.

So here's the recipes we were given. As for the measurements of parmesan? I just grated cheese as I needed it. The same with the mozzarella. I used a whole eight-ounce package of mozzarella. The parmesan I used from the left of one wedge and the beginnings of a new one, so I don't know how much of that I used.

With the leftover pasta dough, I cut fettuccine, dried it, and made my own garlic alfredo with more of the bechamel. Except I first cooked some minced garlic, then proceeded with the recipe for the bechamel, and mixed in parmesan cheese until it was as cheesy as I wanted it.

My Pasta Sauce. Woo.
1 lb ground beef. I don't know the fat content. Whatever you fancy. I use whatever we happen to have. That day, we had some 90/10. We've also made it with 80/20. Right now, we have about seven pounds of 85/15 in the freezer. This new grocery store opened up in Austin about a month ago. I went last week for the first time. They had 85/15 on sale for $1.77 a pound. So we got a bunch.
1/2 of a large onion. Or a whole large onion. Diced. I have to limit the onion to appease my family. So I use half.
8 cloves of garlic. More or less. Whatever you like. Minced. I like a lot and everyone else doesn't complain about garlic like they do onion. So I put as much as I want. Usually about eight cloves.
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce. I prefer the crushed here.
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce. Whatever I happen to have.
Dried oregano.
Dried basil.
Dried thyme. If I have it.
A bay leaf or two. If I have it.
Crushed red peppers.
Black pepper.
Onion powder.
Garlic powder.
Caper... juice?
Olive oil. Or vegetable oil.

So first, I heat a little oil in my pot. Then I throw in the diced onion and cook it until it's soft. I do the onion first, because sometimes when you mix raw onion with raw meat, once it's cooked, the meat will have the flavour of raw onion. To the rest of my family, that's repulsive. I don't mind it. But to get them to eat what I cook, I cook the onion a bit first. Then I throw in the ground beef and let it cook up. When it's almost done, I add in the garlic. Once the meat and the garlic is done cooking, I drain the fat and go at the meat with a potato masher if I want the meat in smaller pieces.

Then I turn the heat back on (oh.. usually about medium or so) and add in some crushed red pepper. Not too much. Because they'd also complain if it's too spicy. Yeah. My family is picky. Add more if you want spicy. I do. Do it for me? That wasn't a question. :]

Then I pour in the crushed tomatoes and/or tomato sauce. Then I add in dried herbs. For the proportions. I don't like the flavour of basil. At all. I like the flavour of thyme and oregano, though. (My favourite herb is rosemary. And then thyme.) So if I'm using thyme, I add equal portions of all three herbs. I don't measure. I just pour some into my hand. Crush it up with my hands and throw it in. If it looks like enough, I leave it. If I need more, I add more of each. If I'm not using thyme, I use two parts oregano to one part basil. But if you're on of the numerous people that likes basil you can add more. I'm just telling you what I do. And I don't like basil. Oh. You can also use fresh herbs. I'm making some spaghetti later this week with fresh herbs. It's my sister's favourite food. I'm sick of tomato-based sauces. And I don't like spaghetti.. the pasta shape. So I'm making it with fresh herbs to entice me.

Anyway. Then I add in black pepper. Lots of pepper. And some sea salt. Then I taste it. If I need more onion and garlic, then I add in some onion and garlic powder. And then I lower the heat.. to low.. and simmer for about half an hour or so. The "or so" is because I'll sometimes (a lot of the time) forget about it. So yeah. Eh. Then I taste it again. And I add more of whatever needs more. Then to brighten up the flavours, I pour in a touch of caper juice. I guess lemon juice or pickle juice could work. Maybe? I've never tried it. I just have a jar of capers. And I'll add the juice. It's not to make it taste like capers. But it adds some salt and brightens things. Nobody else likes capers. Oh. You can also cook up some sliced mushrooms with the meat. I would. If they'd eat mushrooms.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:


A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mint Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache.

Honestly, this was supposed to be just a basic mint cheesecake. No chocolate to compete for the taster's attention.

But if you want to mention what it was originally going to be....

I love Shamrock Shakes. I grew up eating (drinking?) them every year as soon as they came out. I ate a lot. I lived next door to McDonald's, so as soon as I had someone old enough (like.. eight) we'd walk over and buy some. Yes. An eight-year-old friend and I (who was five) were allowed to walk over to McDonald's by ourselves. I'm still alive obviously. Don't get too upset. Anyway. These days, I can not find Shamrock Shakes anywhere. Maybe it's because I had so many when I was young (seriously.. each time they came out, I had maybe five) so I don't get the pleasure of any now.

But St. Patrick's Day was coming up. And I lied. Way back in July I said I would never get celebratory about any holiday except for Halloween. Well. Green is my favourite colour. And Ireland is intriguing. So I fancy St. Patrick's Day as well. But I digress. A lot. So I decided I needed something minty to take the place of the Shamrock Shake. I thought of making mint 'n' chip ice cream, which I have made before. But I didn't feel like making ice cream. I had been wanting to make cheesecake, so I decided upon mint cheesecake. Why not? I like cheesecake. I like mint. And I can dye it green. Perfect. I also have a four-ounce bottle of peppermint extract that I need to use. Why such a big bottle? It's the only one we could find. I love how the bottle looks, though. It's pretty.

So I set about getting the bits I needed for the cheesecake. I didn't want to do a full cheesecake recipe, so I decided to do half. But then I didn't want to do half. But I didn't want to do a full one. So I settled on three-quarters of the recipe.

Sunday night, I set about making the cheesecake. I also decided upon an Oreo cookie crust. Just so you know. Anyway. I got everything mixed up, then I tasted the batter. It was... minty. Yes. Obviously it was minty. I was making a mint cheesecake. But it was... weird. I started having doubts. Everyone else I mentioned the cheesecake to voiced their doubts immediately. But I was convinced it had to be good. Even though my searches for a mint cheesecake recipe proved futile. (I had already figured I'd use my basic recipe, but use peppermint in place of vanilla. But I still wanted to see what else was out there.) I figured I found out why there are no mint cheesecake recipes. But I pressed on. I was going to bake it anyway. But I tasted the batter again. It was still... odd. So I added in a quarter teaspoon of vanilla. There. It wasn't so.. caustic. Though caustic is a bit too harsh. But the vanilla seemed to help.. smooth out the flavour.

I also overbaked it a bit. It didn't crack or anything. I just like to remove my cheesecakes when the centre is still a bit wet. It -will- set up as it sits. When I checked on it after one hour, I could make it jiggle, but it was not wet at all. I took it out. It's still good. Just letting you know, if you want it wet in the centre, cook it less.

Oh. And I never use a water bath. Too much hassle. I'd have to go out to the garage, find the roasting pan, wipe off the spider webs, hope I'm not bringing some monster spider in the house with it, or anything else. Yeah. I'll do that for a roasted chicken. Cheesecake? No.

Since I found the flavour to be... odd... I decided to make a chocolate ganache to put on top. Which ganache to do? The ganache from the December Daring Baker's. It was a nifty ganache. I'm going to use it as a frosting to vanilla cupcakes one day. I just need to find a vanilla cake recipe that isn't so dry. You should know that I ramble.

After the cheesecake cooled a bit, I topped it with the ganache and then put it in the fridge. It makes a fudgy chocolate layer on top.

The next day, I cut a slice. I tried just the cheesecake without the ganache layer. It was... odd. But with the ganache? 'Twas a minty, chocolatey, cheesecakey mouthgasm. Now I have to eat a whole cheesecake. By myself. Come help. Please? Really. My sisters don't like cheesecake. And my mom and dad keep saying, "I'll try it" just to humour me. I know they don't want to taste it.

Mint Cheesecake With Chocolate Ganache.

Oreo Crumb Crust:
2 cups Oreo Cookie crumbs ('twas about 30 normal Oreos for me. Creme and all.)
1/4 cup (half a stick) melted salted butter (I always use salted butter.)

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened (I actually use two packages cream cheese and one package neufchatel.. which could have result in the quicker cooking? Three normal cream cheese should work fine, though)
3/4 cup sugar
2 T 3/4 t flour
3 eggs
1 egg, beaten, 1 T of egg removed and discarded*
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 t peppermint extract
1/4 t vanilla extract
green food colouring, optional

67 g sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream, warm
180 g semisweet chocolate
60 g salted butter, room temperature

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.

Mix Oreo Crumbs with melted butter. Add more melted butter if you need it. I was prepared to. But my crust worked with just half a stick. Press onto bottom and one inch up the sides of an 8.5 inch springform pan. An eight-inch pan works. And so does a nine-inch if those are what you have. I just opted for my smallest pan which happens to be that. Bake for 7-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sugar and flour. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition. You'll beat in the beaten egg here, too. Just so you know. Beat in the heavy cream, peppermint, and vanilla. Mix in green food colouring if you fancy to whatever colour you fancy. I used gel paste because my sister used up all the liquid colourings. I went for a mint green.

Oh. And while you're mixing up the cheesecake batter, bring a kettle of water to a boil. Or a pot. Or whatever you use to boil water. Place the cheesecake in the oven on the centre rack. On the rack below the cheesecake, place a 13 x 9 inch pan and fill two-thirds full of water. Or some other such pan. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 250ºF and bake for 45-60 minutes. You want the cheesecake to be set at the edges, but still a bit wet and wobbly in the centre. I went straight for sixty minutes and it was wobbly-ish, but not wet. Though it was not too far gone. So you can probably go for that long. I just suggested forty-five minutes so you don't get mad at me if 60 minutes results in too overbaked of a cheesecake for you. My own little disclaimer.

Allow to cool to room temperature.

Once the cheesecake is cool, put together the ganache.

Place the sugar in a small or medium saucepan. Try to get it into as smooth a layer as you can. Melt it over medium to medium low heat. Refrain from stirring. I know you want to, but you'll just create lumps that refuse to melt. What you want to do is let the sugar sit. You see the edges starting to melt and turn clear? Keep waiting. If one side of the pan is melting, and the other side isn't, then move the pan over so the other side melts, too. Refrain from stirring. Keep letting it melt. You see it traveling further in? You see the edges starting to turn a light golden? Keep waiting. When the edges are golden and the still-crystalline sugar easily floats on a pool of melted sugar and when you tilt the pan it moves with the waves of molten sugar and the melted sugar is a golden brown? -Then- you can stir. The sugar should easily melt into the rest. If it just creates lumps, you didn't wait long enough. Yes. I realise my run-on question thing repeats and changes and is an incredibly odd question. It got your attention didn't it?

Once the ugar is melted and caramelised, turn off the heat and pour in the cream. If the sugar solidifies, turn the stove back on and stir until the sugar melts back into the cream. Pour the hot mixtur over the chocolate and allow it to melt, then stir it together. Mix in the softened butter. Spread the ganache on the cheesecake.

Refrigerate four hours or overnight. Or however long you can wait until it's cold.

It makes me think of an Andes mint. The colouring. The flavour is different, though. But still good.

*The original recipe calls for five eggs. So I did three-quarters. Each quarter recipe would use one and a quarter eggs. One egg is about a quarter cup. A quarter cup is four tablespoon. So logically, three-quarters of the recipe would be three eggs and three tablespoons. That is why I beat the fourth egg and removed one tablespoon of beaten egg. I know I could have simply used four eggs, but I fear things being too eggy. So I removed the extra tablespoon.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Daring Baker's Flourless Chocolate Cake.

First, The Required Bit:
The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.

We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Okay. So. I can never get these up on time. This month was flourless chocolate cake. 'Twas recommended that we use a heart-shaped pan. But I think that would be the most ridiculous thing. Who even celebrates Valentine's Day still? It's just a corporate holiday. I don't se it as anything special. If you want to give me chocolates, give me chocolates. But don't do it because society tells you to. Morons. Anyway. I used my nifty new eight-and-a-half-inch springform pan. It works fine.

The cake was pretty good. All it is is chocolate, eggs, and butter. It was neat. I baked mine perfectly. Which I didn't like. It was good, yes. But completely baked through, I didn't like it so much. I would have fancied it a bit more underbaked because, well, I like things underbaked. Brownies. Cookies. Cinnamon rolls. Yep. Oh well. We still ate the whole thing.

We were also required to make an ice cream to go with it. So I made strawberry ice cream. I decided to do half the recipe. It calls for five ounceds of egg yolks. Heh... Which, as it turns out, is about eight egg yolks. 'Twas a lot. My second ice cream (because I had leftover heavy cream) was a caramel ice cream with some cooked apples. I went searching for a "caramel apple ice cream." And I realised as I typed it in, that what I wanted was a caramel ice cream with some apples sauteed in butter, sugar, cinnamona and other such good things. Which isn't really what you think of when thinking of "caramel apples." But I actually found something that matched what I wanted anyway. Next time, though, I think I'll leave the apples out. Something about what I added to the apples, though, prevented the ice cream from freezing solid. The base was in my bowl churning, it was almost done... I added the apples... and it suddenly started to liquefy. So I gave up on it freezing up again, and just scraped it in a container and put it in the freezer. I thought, "Great, I'm going to have frozen ice cream." The next day, when I went to get a spoonful, it was incredibly soft. And has remained so.

Oh. And whereas the caramel apple ice cream is very soft.. it also melts incredibly quickly. The strawberry ice cream... it's not quite solid, but it is rather firm. But it melts veeeeery slowly. So that was neat.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.