08 July 2010

Key Lime Cheesecake

It's officially been summer for over two weeks now and it is HOT. I can't think of anything better than cooling down from a hot day with a slice of creamy, citrusy, freshly-chilled cheesecake.

I came across this recipe on epicurious.com months ago and it took a dear co-worker leaving, and me wanting to send her home with something special, for me to finally give it a try. Let me tell you, I am so glad that I did. This smooth, 3-layer, mouth-watering cheesecake recipe is going to be a staple in my dessert file from now on.


Lime custard
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons Key lime juice (I use a bottled version found at my local grocery store)

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 12 whole graham crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons Key lime juice

1 16-ounce container sour cream

Thin lime slices for garnish


For lime custard:
Whisk all ingredients in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until custard thickens and boils for 30 seconds, about 6-8 minutes. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (mixture will thicken).

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter spring-form pan.* Stir first 3 ingredients to blend in medium bowl. Mix in butter until moistened. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling:
Place cream cheese, 2/3 cup sugar, eggs, and lime juice, in mixer; blend well.

Spoon custard into crust; smooth top. Carefully spoon filling over. Set springform pan into a one-size-larger round cake pan. (Outside of spring-from pan can be covered in 3 layers of aluminum foil if this is not an option for you. The point is to protect the cheesecake from seeping water.) Set both pans into a larger baking pan. Add enough hot water to baking pan to come 1 inch up sides of cheesecake pan. Bake until almost set but not puffed and center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir sour cream and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl to blend.

Carefully spoon sour cream mixture over hot cheesecake; smooth top. Bake until topping sets, about 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen. Cool cheesecake completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Do ahead Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Release pan sides from cheesecake; transfer to platter. Garnish with lime slices and serve.

*I found that my crust sticks to my springform pan. In order to avoid this, I butter the bottom of the pan, add a circle of parchment paper to cover the bottom, and then follow instructions for crust. This way, the whole thing slides right off when you release the pan sides.


01 February 2010

Adventures in Bagel Land

This past week I had the opportunity to work in the breakfast section of our bakery. What made me most nervous, but also what interested me the most, were the bagels. The process of proofing the bagels to the right size, storing in the cooler as a means of retarding the yeast, boiling them until they float and swell just enough, spicing them up with a variety of seeds and flavorings, putting them in the 470 degree rotating shelf oven, flipping them at the right moment, and allowing them to bake just long enough to get a deep golden crust but not burn, was at first intimidating- but when I pulled my first batch of beautifully golden, crispy, everything bagels out of the oven, I have to admit, I felt a little rush of love.

In our busy bakery, we are unable to make the dough from scratch. Our company's bake shop takes care of that part of the process and we receive the bagels frozen, already formed into their famous shape. Because of this, I wasn't able to experience the whole process start to finish and this left me wanting more. So, I decided to take the plunge and give it a try in my own kitchen.

I found this recipe at HubPages.com. I couldn't find a name to give credit.

Homemade Bagels

4 cups bread flour
1 Tbls sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 Tbls vegetable oil
2 tsps instant yeast
1-1/4- 1-1/2 cups of warm water

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Most yeast that you buy in the stores today is instant, so you don't have to worry about soaking it. The dough should be stiff, but moist enough to incorporate all of the flour.

Knead the dough ball on your counter for about 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is uniform and smooth. (This will give you a good arm workout so that you don't feel so guilty when you go back for a second bagel later.)

Cut the dough into 8 equal sized balls and let rest for 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 425.

After the 20 minutes are up, it's time to turn your dough balls into dough logs. Using two hands, roll each ball into a little log on the counter. The log should be just longer than the width of your two hands. Then, wrap the log around your dominant rolling hand so that the overlapping ends are together at your palm. Now take the two overlapping ends, and use your palm to squish/roll these two ends together. Once the dough is fused, you've accomplished the famous shape! Some people will poke a hole in the middle of the dough ball and work it into a circle from there. The only problem with this method is that you don't allow some pent up gases to expel, as you would with rolling, and so your consistency will be different.

Allow your bagels to rest for another 20 minutes while you bring a large pot of water to a boil. Adding malt syrup to your water will add some sweetness to your bagels and add to the golden shine of the crust. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any at my grocery store. But I did add a little sugar to my water. You should also go ahead and lightly grease a baking sheet now.

After the 20 minutes, your bagels should be looking a little more pudgy. It's time to get them boiling. Put them in the boiling water, as many as will fit, but so they are not overcrowded. Let them boil on one side for about a minute, flip, and do the same on the other side. Your bagels should be floating. This boiling process causes the protein in the flour on the outside of the bagel to gelatanize, which gives you the crispy crust and chewy interior.

Allow the water to drip off of them before putting them on your baking sheet. If you want to add toppings, place your bagel into a bowl of your topping of choice face down. Set them on your baking sheet face up.

Now put them in the oven for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 20 minutes, and apply your favorite shmear!

(My favorite is cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, and salt and pepper! I didn't have any nice beefsteak tomatoes on hand, so these grape tomatoes took their place and we had polka dot bagels for breakfast. One of the most satisfying bagels I have ever eaten. Seriously, these are worth the couple hours it takes to make them!)

02 January 2010


I love tradition. I don't remember having many traditions growing up, but I always longed for them. One that we did have, and that I cherished, was Mom's German Apple Pancake on Christmas. I don't know if it had anything at all to do with my (German) grandmother, but it always made me feel like I was connected to her and something older than myself. My mom loved to make it, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy when she would warm the maple syrup and drizzle it smoothly over the wedge of eggy sweetness on my plate.

Around Christmas of 2008 I came across a recipe for cranberry-orange scones and decided to give it a try. I told my dad about it, who told me that his mom, my grandmother of English/Irish descent, loved scones. When I brought some to her I found out that my mom used to make scones for her. So, on top of how moist and delicious these scones were, all of these connections made me love them even more. When Christmas came again in 2009, I found myself searching out the recipe once again. Looks like the start of my own tradition.

Christmas Scones
adapted from Mr. Breakfasts's Christmas Cranberry Scones at MrBreakfast.com

2 and 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons additional sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 cup dried cranberries -- chopped
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 cup skimmed buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, orange peel, baking powder, and baking soda.

Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cranberries; stir to combine.

Add buttermilk, fresh orange juice, and vanilla to flour mixture and stir to combine (mixture will be dry).

Form dough into 2 equal balls.

Preheat oven to 400 F. On floured work surface work half of the dough into a 6-inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick.
Cut circle into 6 equal wedges; place wedges on nonstick baking sheet, leaving a 1" space between each one. Repeat procedure, using remaining dough. *Note: If you want a nicely browned top, brush each scone with heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake until lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove scones to wire rack and let cool.

Merry Christmas!

29 October 2009

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Vegetarian Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Here is yet another recipe I found on allrecipes.com. I love chile rellenos, which are usually made with Poblano peppers, but each time I've tried to make them in the past, I couldn't get them to turn out how I wanted them to. I thought this recipe seemed like a good, healthier alternative (no deep frying involved here). I gave it a try and ended up loving it!

4 poblano peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (12 ounce) package vegetarian burger crumbles
1 (1.25 ounce) package chili seasoning mix
1/2 cup shredded pepperjack cheese

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.
Slice the poblanos in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and stems.
Place cleaned peppers in boiling water; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Drain.
Heat olive oil (I used vegetable oil) in a large skillet.
Stir in vegetarian crumbles and chili seasoning mix.
Cook, stirring, until crumbles are hot, about 5 minutes.
Fill the cooked peppers with the seasoned crumbles; top with pepperjack cheese.
Arrange stuffed peppers on a baking sheet.
Place peppers in preheated oven until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.

I only used 3 peppers and filled them with extra 'meat'. For those of you who would like to make these with real meat, just fry up some hamburger instead.

These are delicious on their own, but we decided to cut the peppers up in strips after they were finished cooking and serve them in fajita-size tortillas with garlicky black beans, salsa, sour cream, and lettuce.

You will definitely want to go back for seconds!

29 September 2009

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Cream

It seems lately the only things that I can bake well are sweet and sinful. I tried a healthy corn-based bread recently and it was an 80% failure. Despite how much cake I see at work, I've been thinking a lot about making a cake from scratch in the comfort of my own kitchen.

Yesterday I finally got the chance and decided on a chocolate cake that I've successfully made before, but with the added pizzazz of creamy peanut butter goodness.

It is likely that you already have the cake recipe in your house. Go to your kitchen, open the cupboard, and pull out that old can of Hershey's cocoa that's been hiding behind the sugar for the last 8 months. On the back is my favorite chocolate cake recipe along with a recipe for chocolate frosting.

For those of you who don't keep a stash of Hershey's around for emergency chocolate fixes, I'll share the recipes here.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat your oven to 350. Grease and flour two 8-inch round baking pans. (I like to set my pans on a sheet of parchment paper, take a pencil and trace around the bottom of the pans, cut out the circles, and put the parchment circles in the greased pans before re-greasing and flouring. This eliminates stickage when you try to turn out your cake after baking and the parchment easily peals off of the bottom of the cake.)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the boiling water until incorporated (batter will be thin). Pour into pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack, where they should be allowed to cool completely.

While the cakes are baking and/or cooling, you can work on making the peanut butter cream filling and the chocolate frosting.

Peanut Butter Cream Filling
9 ounces creamy peanut butter
one 8 ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chilled whipping cream

Using an electric mixer, beat peanut butter and cream cheese in a large bowl to blend. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat until well blended.

In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. This takes a few minutes.

Fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture in four additions. Once it is all incorporated, the mixture will be light and fluffy. Place in fridge until ready to use.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt the butter. (Cut the stick up into small pieces, place in bowl, and zap it for about a minute in the microwave.) Stir in the cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed, until it is spreading consistency. Add more milk if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Make sure the cake and frosting have completely cooled before attempting to assemble the cake. Mine were a little warm last night and I ended up fighting with the cake to try to keep the layers from sliding apart and off the plate.
Slice the cake layers in half. (Place one hand on top of a cake to hold it steady, and saw straight through the middle from one side to the other using a long serrated knife.)
Place one layer on a cake board or serving plate. Top with a layer of peanut butter cream and then another layer of cake. Repeat this process until all four cake layers are stacked, with the top layer being cake.

Then frost the entire outside with the chocolate frosting.

Now it is time to eat! In my opinion, this cake tastes better after the whole thing has spent some quality time in the fridge and is nice and chilled.

Tree Bird

Thank God eating and drinking are not only a necessity, but a pleasure!