Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The feeling of pride lingers - Passover Cheesecake

As I have mentioned in the past, I consider myself to be a decent baker when it comes to taste, but less than proficient when it comes to aesthetics. Every now and then, however, I surprise myself and make something that both looks and tastes pretty darn good. Such was the case with this kosher for Passover cheesecake that I made a couple of weeks ago in Denver.

Now, I can't really eat much cheesecake because it hurts my belly, and even a few bites of this intense richness (you'll see how just how rich when you read the ingredients below), but it was well worth the aching tummy. Rich, moist, and most importantly beautiful. It was a proud moment. Looking at these pix, I'm still beaming...

The recipe was a combination of the Barefoot Contessa's cheesecake recipe and a macaroon crust from a Philadelphia Cream Cheese Recipe.

Here they are...

The crust:
(adapted from Philadelphia 3-step Macaroon Cheesecake):
-2 cups soft coconut macaroon cookie crumbs (I used homemade macaroons, but store bought would work just fine)
-2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

The cheesecake:
(adapted from the Barefoot Contessa's Raspberry Cheesecake)

For the filling:
  • 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the filling:
  • 1 cup red jelly (not jam), such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
  • 3 half-pints fresh raspberries

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed.

Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fast Food - Ickle me, pickle me

So it's been a while, and I have much munching to report, but it's been busy and then there was Passover, and frankly who wants to blog about past bready meals when one is drowning in a sea of matzoh?

But now that bread is once again acceptable eats, what a better way to get back into the swing of things than a quick report on some delicious sandwiches that Daniel and I sampled a couple of weekends ago from the appealingly named Mr. Pickles.

I went and picked up sandwiches and then we picnicked in the sunny Dolores Park near our place. It was lovely. I went with a very basic turkey sandwich on my newly beloved Dutch Crunch roll. As has been mentioned previously, although I'd never heard of them before moving West, these crunchy rolls are ubiquitous in the Bay Area. I was skeptical at first and since they're lacking in whole grains I still generally keep my new found appreciation for them at bay (pun intended), but occasionally I splurge, and it was well worth it for this Pickle special. The sandwich, topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, hot peppers and mustard was masterful in its simplicity and generous in its bountiful heft. A satisfying tangy and salty meal.

For Daniel's sandwich, I went a little more adventurous. He'd given me freedom to choose something I thought he'd like, so he got the Station 7, which consisted of chopped chicken breast in spicy honey mustard with avocado (hold the cheese). His sandwich came with the same fixins as mine, and he also splurged on the Dutch Crunch. It was definitely a Daniel style sandwich - messily dripping with a spicy sauce with lots of fresh avocado smashed into the chewy soft roll with that deliciously unique crunch on top.

With our view of the San Francisco skyline (and a lot of men in speedos), we were happy sitting in the warm April sun. Just two people enjoying all that bread has to offer before our week of unleavened creative eating.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cookie monster indeed

When I want to bake something, but have little time, energy or motivation, I rely on my old buddy Paula Deen and her fail-safe, utterly reliable, unbelievably delicious Monster Cookies. I mean really with peanut butter, oatmeal, butter and candy, you just can't go wrong. Very few can resist their power.

So last week when Daniel headed to New Haven for a reunion of his college improv group, the Exit Players and I wanted to bake something for his friend David, who is one of my favorite people to bake for, I pulled out this old standby. They would make the cross country journey well and again who can resist this combination? Definitely not a group of revelling reunioners.

I always change up the proportions and combinations of candy additions. This time (at Daniel's request) we went with semi-sweet chocolate chips, peanut butter M&Ms, and chopped up Heath bar. You know, subtle flavors. Here's the basic recipe, courtesy of Paula Deen, lover of all things buttery.

Monster Cookies, Paula Deen
(makes about 3 dozen, fast, easy, delcious)

-3 eggs
-1 1/4 C packed light brown sugar
-1 C sugar
-1/2 t salt
-1/2 t vanilla
-12 ounces of creamy peanut butter
-1 stick of softened butter
-1/2 C M&Ms
-1/2 C chocolate chips
-1/4 C raisins (I have never included this)
-4 1/2 C quick-cook oatmeal
-2 t baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment.

In large bowl, combine eggs and sugars. Mix. Add salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Miz well. Stir in candies (whatever you end up using), baking soda, and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons, 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. Don't overbake. Let stand for 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks (this step is key because they get mushy if you don't let them cool a bit). When cool, store in large resealable plastic bags.

Also note, these freeze really well.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Check out my new gig - San Francisco Ethnic Food Examiner

So, I have a new gig, writing a little column about San Francisco ethnic restaurants.

I'm the San Francisco Ethnic Restaurants Examiner.

Check it out. Book mark it.

At first some of the content will probably overlap with this blog, but check it out anyway. You know you want to.