Monday, April 27, 2009

April Cheesecake

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

This was a work in progress from the beginning. I have made many, many cheesecakes; however, my standard recipe is very dense with three pounds of cream cheese plus ricotta and sour cream. This recipe is a much lighter cheesecake, with a more liquid batter: only 24 ounces of cream cheese and a cup of cream, plus the usual eggs, sugar, and flavorings.

My original plan was to layer bittersweet chocolate, caramel and raspberry sauces between layers of cheesecake. It soon became apparent that the sauces were much too heavy to rest on top of the cheesecake and would just sink to the bottom. I abandoned that plan and decided to try marbling the flavors into the cheesecake to have a nice swirly inside. No dice. The sauces just worked their way down, partially blending with the cheesecake and partially on the bottom, resting on the crust. The crust was a blend of butter, chocolate wafers and some milk chocolate toffee bits.

The cheesecake turned out well. No cracks, no waterlogged crust (although there was some small amount of condensation between the heavy duty foil and the springform pan). The flavor was also good. The chocolate, caramel and raspberry blended together nicely.

I decorated the cheesecake with some of each of the sauces and some fresh raspberries.

I would still like to try to layer the flavors but I think I will have to use my old standby recipe rather than this more delicate version.

Next up: Daring Cooks ricotta gnocchi - look for a post in mid-May.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Catching Up

Before I created my own blog, my Daring Baker Challenges were posted on the Daring Baker site. These are the first several challenges I completed.

French Yule Log, above, was several days worth of effort, since each section required layering or freezing or whatever. Some parts of it were challenging and I certainly learned a lot from creating this dessert. However, it was very rich and I probably won't do it again.

In January, we were to make tuiles, a very thin, fragile cookie which is normally molded into cornets or cigar-shapes - or whatever else your imagination can come up with. While most people made dessert tuiles, I chose to do the savory option. This is what I came up with.

The cookies were very fragile and it took several efforts to find a method of molding them into this shape. I think of all the cookies I baked, only these two were presentable. I filled them with red and green apples sauteed in butter and a little Calvados and topped with sour cream and a blueberry. I thought they were really good and now that I know how to do the tuiles, I could see myself doing this again (on a day when I had lots of patience).

In February, we made a flourless chocolate cake, topped with homemade ice cream. The cake was definitely not sweet - I used bittersweet chocolate, a little Grand Marnier and there was no added sugar! However, that was remedied with the ice cream we made - a vanilla custard ice cream with lots of vanilla bean flavor, topped with satsuma wedges poached in butter, caramel and Grand Marnier.

The March challenge was something different - not dessert. We were to make lasagne based on a Splendid Table recipe. Homemade pasta, homemade ragu and bechamel - no gloppy ricotta or mozzarella or tons of veggies. I made a butternut squash pasta, which was a lovely golden color. The ragu was a combination of pork and beef and cooked for hours. It tasted fine, but I think I should have added some red pepper flakes for a somewhat zestier flavor. The bechamel was a standard bechamel. The lasagne was good and I shared with my mother, who enjoyed it and was probably glad it wasn't spicy hot.

This month's (April) challenge will be posted tomorrow.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Beginning of the Blog

I love to write but sending emails to friends and the occasional letter to the editor seemed sufficient. No need for a blog. Now, however, as a registered member of Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks, I need a home to describe my baking and cooking adventures - hence, the blog.

The first Daring Baker post will be later this month - April 27 - and, if I can figure out all the technicalities, will include gorgeous photos by Bob (my patient husband) as well as a description of the baking process. In the interim, I might be moved to write about other topics - we'll see.