Dessert, Sweet

Raspberry-swirl Cheesecake

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Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, this is the only cheesecake recipe you will ever need.  Yes, that is a bold statement, but after making the recipe, I can attest that indeed, this is the ultimate cheesecake recipe.  A perfect cheesecake slice is thick, rich, creamy, and luscious.  A perfect cheesecake will have a flawless, smooth top with a buttery graham cracker crust.  Achieving these is a labor of love.  Plan ahead and start making the cheesecake a day before you actually want to eat it.  For the impatient soul, there is always the “no-bake cheesecake,” (click here for variation#1 and variation #2) but it is definitely not the same.  Enjoy this recipe, follow it patiently, and get ready to be crowned as the definitive cheesecake baker!

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Ingredients for Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Ingredients for Cheesecake filling:

  • four 8-ounce blocks full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp of Vanilla Bean paste (you could use 1tsp of vanilla extract, but I love the flecks of vanilla bean in my cheesecake)
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 5-6 oz seedless raspberry jam (optional if you want to make a jammy swirl, plain is just fine)

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Method:

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Make the crust: Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into crumbs. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter until combined. (You can also pulse it all together in the food processor.) The mixture will be sandy. Press firmly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of 10-inch springform pan. No need to grease the pan first. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crust down tightly. Pre-bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the hot pan on a large piece of aluminum foil. The foil will wrap around the pan for the water bath. Allow crust to cool as you prepare the filling.

Make the filling: Using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream, vanilla bean paste, and lemon juice then beat until fully combined. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. After the final egg is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. To help prevent the cheesecake from deflating and cracking as it cools, avoid over-mixing the batter as best you can.  Pour the cheesecake batter on top crust and smooth it with the back of the spatula.  I was not too precise with this step since I was adding a jam swirl.  If you are planning on a plain cheesecake, take time to make a smooth top, it will make a beautiful presentation.

Raspberry Swirl: Take your favorite seedless raspberry jam in a small bowl and microwave it for 30 secs, till it is runny.  Using a spoon, add big dollops of the jam on top of the cheesecake.  There are nor rules here, you can use as much or as little jam you want, or how much “swirl” you want.  After you add the jam, take a long skewer (chopsticks or knitting needles will work too) and swirl the jam around.

Water bath: heat an entire kettle of water.  As the water is heating up, wrap the aluminum foil around the springform pan—this will prevent any leaks.  Place the pan inside of a large roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water inside the pan and place it in the oven.

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Baking: Bake cheesecake for 55-70 minutes or until the center is almost set. When it’s done, the center of the cheesecake will slightly wobble if you gently shake the pan.  If you notice the cheesecake browning too quickly on top, tent it with aluminum foil halfway through baking.

Cooling and putting your will power to the test:  This is probably the most important step in the whole process.  Turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven in the water bath as it cools down for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and water bath, then cool cheesecake completely at room temperature for another 1-2 hours. Then refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours or overnight.

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EAT: Use a knife to loosen the chilled cheesecake from the rim of the springform pan, then remove the rim. Using a clean sharp knife, cut into slices for serving. For neat slices, wipe the knife clean and dip into warm water between each slice.

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Quick-breads, Sweet

Banana Bread

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I absolutely hate bananas.  I hate the taste and worst of all I hate the smell.  I can smell it as the 108th student in the back of the lecture hall opens up a strawberry-banana yogurt for lunch.  Thus, it is a tremendous act of love for me to make this recipe, and that is exactly what my husband wanted for his birthday breakfast.  He also wanted cheesecake and roasted sweet potatoes, but that another story.  So here goes, my recipe for birthday boy’s banana bread.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

1½ cups sugar

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)

¾ cup of vegetable oil

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x5x3” loaf pan with nonstick spray. I have a four, mini-loaf pan that I prefer to use.

Whisk eggs, sugar, bananas, and oil in a large bowl until smooth.

Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.

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Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and stir just until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

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Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the bread (breads in this case) comes out clean, 60–70 minutes.

Let bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around inside of the pan to release the bread. Turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

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Slice and enjoy!

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Classics, Comfort food, Dessert, Pastry, Sweet

Impromptu Apple Crostata

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I used store bought pie dough from the frozen aisle in the grocery and after covering 4 pies, I had enough scraps leftover to roll out a 7-8 inch round crust.  I made this recipe because I had extra pie crust dough leftover from making Chicken Pot Pie. I used store bought pie dough from the frozen aisle in the grocery and after covering 4 pies, I had enough scraps leftover to roll out a 7-8 inch round crust.   So here goes:

Ingerdients:

1, 7-8 inch pie crust

2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced ( I used honeycrisp)

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar, plus a 1tsp for sprinkling

1 Tbsp cold butter, diced.

Method:

Roll out the crust and place it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Keep it cold in the fridge while you prep the apples.

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Peel, core and slice two apples.  Toss them in sugar and cinnamon.

Arrange the apple slices on the cold pie crust, leaving a 1-inch border

Fold over the pie dough to create a rustic crust.

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Dot with butter and sprinkle sugar over the crust.

Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes till the apples are bubbly and the crust is pale golden and flaky.

Enjoy!!!

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Cake, Savory

Walnut Cake with Raspberries

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Gateau Aux Noix–this rich an delicious cake comes from Julia Child’s ” Mastering the Art of French Cooking”–Volume II (if you have the book, it is page 490 in the 39th edition) !!  I had  previously made another one of Julia’s Walnut cakes called Le Brantome which is a fluffier cousin of this recipe.  Having make both cakes, I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite.  However, the richness of this particular cake, makes it more suitable for layering.

The recipe make one 9 by 1.5 inch cake.  I wanted two layers, so I doubled the recipe.  Here is what I did:

Ingredients:

2 cups of chopped walnuts

6 Tbsp of sugar, plus another 1 cup of sugar

2/3 cup all -purpose flour

6 large eggs

8 Tbsp of butter

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Method:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans.

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Grind 2 cups of walnuts with 6 Tbsp of sugar in a food processor.  You might want to do this in batches, depending on the size of your processor.  It is also important to add sugar with each batch of walnuts, it prevents the oils in the nuts to turn it into “butter” while grinding.

Mix the nut mixture with 2 cups of flour and pass the entire mixture through a sieve–this will separate out the larger chunks of nuts and allow for even incorporation of the the flour and nut mixture.

Next, cream butter, the remaining 1 cup of sugar till pale and creamy.  Then add the eggs and mix well.

Finally, slowly fold in the nut and flour mixture in batches, ensuring that each batch of the dry ingredients is well incorporated before the next batch is added.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans.

Bake for 20 mins.

The cake is perfectly wonderful with just a dusting of sugar.  However, I used the two layers to turn it into a layered birthday cake.  Let me know walk you through the assembly.

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Assembling the cake–you will need:

Fresh Raspberries (filling and decoration)

Chocolate drizzle ( for decoration, I bought it !)

Walnuts ( whole and ground for decoration)

Crushed, freeze dried raspberries (for decoration)

1 batch of my Marscapone Whipped Cream Frosting

Note: For this cake, had about 4 cups of frosting leftover from the  Spice Cake that I made a few weeks ago.  I froze down the frosting, however when thawing, the frosting becomes loose and runny (bottom image on the left).  To fix it, add another 8oz of marscapone and 2-3 Tbsp of sugar–depending on how sweet you want it.

Assembling the cake is pretty easy.  I added a layers of frosting on the bottom cake, topped the frosting with raspberries and then pressed down the top cake layer.

Next I added a crumb coat to fill in all the holes and press down the crumbs.  Chill this for at least 10-15 mins.

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Next, I added the rest of the frosting, as patiently as I could to ensure a smooth surface and edges.

Finally, I decorated the cake according to the design I drew out, you can check that out here

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This time, I remembered to take a picture of the cake once we cut into it !

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Cake, Savory

Spice Cake with Vanilla Orange filling and Whipped Marscapone frosting

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My dear friend from grad school defended her PhD last week.  Such a landmark occasion requires cake, not that one needs an excuse for cake.  I took some shortcuts, and made some things from scratch.  I even spent some time thinking about the decoration; I found that if you have it drawn out it makes cake decorating easier.  I hope you put this cake together for the next special occasion in your life.

Ingredients:

Boxed Cake mix: prepare per direction on the box–I believe in high quality store bought short cuts, and boxed cake mix is a go to.

Filling: I used my Orange, Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean pudding. I used the entire recipe, to fill the cake.  You can find the recipe here.

Frosting: I used my whipped marscapone frosting recipe.  The recipe will make a lot of frosting.  I only used a 1/3 of it to frost the cake.  I froze down the rest.  If you were to fill and frost the cake, you might use the whole batch.  Check out the recipe here.

Method:

Bake the cake according to package directions.  I baked it in two 9″inch cake pans that I oiled and floured.  Once baked, cool the cake completely and level off the domed top.  I use my handy Wilton Cake Leveler.

Now begins the decorating.  For this cake, I used cake rounds for the first time and it certainly made cleaning and frosting the cake easy.  Not to mention, moving the cake around (from the turntable to the fridge).  But before we frost, we must fill.  I used all of the pudding mixture to fill the cake.

Now, the hardest part-covering the cake with frosting.  This requires patience, a good turntable, an offset spatula and a steady hand.  I like clean neat edges, so I get very particular about this stage.  Of course, that is my preference.  Using a butter knife to spread the frosting is perfectly fine–it will taste the same.

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I usually do a “crumb coat”.  This is a thin layer of frosting that covers all the bumps and glues together the crumbs.  I allow this chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes and then I go in with the rest of the frosting and attempt to make smooth and as clean and neat as possible.

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I drew out the design for the cake and you can check it out here.  I also used candied oranges for this cake and I have the recipe for those here.  I will have to say, laying out the design before hand made a world of difference.  It was faster, cleaner and the end product looked more deliberate.  Moving forward, this might become my way of decorating–I like to call it the “paper to plate” method.

So here it is !

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Cake, Cupcakes, Savory

Go to Frosting: Marscapone Whipped Cream

As a child I would eat the sugary sweet buttercream frosting off of birthday cakes and hand the cake to my mom.  Not anymore.  Buttercream is too sweet for me and I cannot go past one bite of it.  Buttercream is good and has it’s purpose, but for most of my cakes I try to use a light, slightly sweet whipped frosting.  This is one of my favorites and has only 4 ingredients.

Ingredients:

1, 8oz tub of marscapone cheese (this adds richness)

1 pint of heavy whipping cream

1/8 cup of sugar ( I told you, it is not sweet at all!)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Method:

  • Bring the marscapone to room temperature, this will help soften the cheese easily.
  • Add the entire tube of cheese to a stand-mixer (or mixing bowl) and add 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

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  • Gently mix the cream and cheese till smooth, scrape down the edges to make sure all the cheese and cream are smooth and blended together

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  • Now add the rest of cream and whisk till soft-peaks start to appear.
  • Add in the vanilla and sugar
  • Whisk till is reaches stiff peaks.

Notes: This will make a lot of frosting and depending on the size of your cake and how you choose to use it, you may or may not have leftovers.  Leftovers are good with fruit, dolloped on any other kind of dessert.  I also freeze leftovers.  However, when you thaw it, it will lose its whipped consistency; you can fix this my adding more marscapone to turn it into a thinker, frosting.  You can also add pudding mix to make a thick filling/dessert.

 

Dessert, Savory

Orange, Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Pudding

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This is a flavorful way to jazz up boxed pudding mix.  The finished product can be enjoyed on its own or used to fill cakes, top fruit or layer in a trifle.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 box of Godiva white chocolate vanilla bean pudding mix (good stuff, yum !)
  • peel of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • candied oranges or other dried fruit and nuts for garnish.

Method:

  • Add peel of 1 orange, 2 cinnamon sticks to 2 cups of milk and gently simmer for 15-20 mins.

 

  • Cool the flavored milk completely.
  • Strain the milk to remove peel and sticks.

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  • Mix in the pudding mixture, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps.

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  • Once the pudding starts to thicken, stir in orange zest and ground cinnamon (Use a spoon/spatula for this step–the zest will wrap into the wires of the whisk).

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  • Serve chilled with candied oranges and golden raisins.  Nuts would taste really good too.

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Savory, Treats

Candied Oranges

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A sweet treat that reminds me of orange marmalade.  Great for snacking or decorating desserts!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large and 1 small orange, sliced

Method:

  • Add sugar to water and bring to a boil to dissolve.   Then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

 

  • In the mean time, slice oranges.

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  • Add oranges to the sugar syrup and simmer for 30-40 mins till the liquid has reduced by half

 

  • Cool orange slices on a wire cooling rack (place the rack on a baking sheet, there will be drips of syrup to clean up)

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  • Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.  For longer storage, refrigerate.
Cake, Gluten-free

Almond Paste Cake

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“Adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere”-David Lebovitz.

This cake is best made in the food processor. If using a stand mixture, use the paddle attachment and let the mixer run until the almond paste is finely broken up. There’s a few notes at the end of the recipe, including some almond paste tips and suggestions.

1 1/3 cups (265g) sugar
8 ounces (225g) almond paste
3/4, plus 1/4 cup (140g total) flour ( I used Gluten-free flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces, 225g) unsalted butter, at room
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper. (See Note, below.)
2. In the bowl of a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup (105g) of flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Once the almond paste is completely broken up, add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts, then process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition. (You may wish to open the machine and scrape the sides down to make sure the eggs are getting fully incorporated.) After you add all the eggs, the mixture may look curdled. Don’t worry; it’ll come back together after the next step.
6. Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times, then add the rest, pulsing the machine until the dry ingredients are just incorporated, but do not overmix. (You can also transfer the batter to a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in, which ensures the dry ingredients get incorporated evenly and you don’t overbeat it.)
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.
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8. Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.
Once cool, tap the cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set on a cake plate until ready to serve. (Tip: Warm the bottom of the cake pan directly on the stovetop for just a few seconds, which will help the cake release.)

Storage: This cake will keep for four days at room temperature, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

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I filled the cake with Raspberry jam and covered it with a whipped chocolate frosting.
As stated by David Lebovitz, this cake is “endlessly adaptable”  I hope you find your own way to dress up this rich cake, or not !
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Cake

Chocolate Orange Charlotte

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This is a special farewell and birthday cake all rolled into one.  The post-doc in our lab is leaving after 6 years and another labmate was celebrating the big 3-0 birthday, so the cake had to be special.  Chocolate and Orange pair wonderfully; infact, it is my mother’s favorite and incorporated it into her birthday cake last year.  The recipe requires several ingredients,  but I used store-bought short-cuts to help me.   I hope this cake stuns your table as much it did mine !

Ingredients:

Store chocolate cake mix (and eggs and oil, all the things that you will need to make the batter)

Orange marmalade

Chocolate mousse mix and milk to make the mousse

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2 dozen soft lady fingers ( you will not need all of them, but having extras is good)

Cannoli Filling (refer to either Chocolate Cannoli Cupcakes or Cannoli Cup recipes I have)

Method:

Bake the cake according to the package directions.  I used some of the batter to make 6 cupcakes  and saved the rest of the batter to make 2, 9″ rounds.  Allow to cool completely.  The cake layers can be made upto three days in advance.  Make sure to wrap and store the layers in a cool dry and dark place.

Heat an entire jar of orange marmalade in a saucepan.  Once the jam thins, strain through a sieve to separate the rinds from the jelly.  Save the jelly.  I put the rinds in my morning oatmeal.

Make the chocolate mouse according to package directions.

Level off both cake layers and place one layer of the cake on the bottom of a springform pan.

Line the edges of the pan with lady fingers

Brush the surface of the cake with the orange jelly and also the surface of the lady fingers which are exposed (i.e facing the inside of the cake)

Fill with mousse and top with the second cake layer.

Pour the remaining orange jelly on the top layer and let it seep into the cake.

Add the cannoli filling on the top.

Decorate the top with mini chocolate chips and pistachios.

Chill the cake for 30 mins and then remove the springform ring.

Wrap the cake with a piece of ribbon and secure with a toothpick.

Serve chilled !

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