Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Baker's Challenge: Cheesecake

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

This month has been a really busy month for me and my family. With a new baby at home I haven't had much time to do a lot of baking. When some of my husband's family were coming over to visit with us I decided to try my challenge for this month.

My father-in-law had an Aunt that would make cheesecake for local restaurants for a living. She would even send him one every year on his birthday as a gift. My husband always compares every cheesecake he tries to hers. Unfortunately she got sick before being able to pass down the recipe to anyone. So we are always in search for something that can compare to hers. So of course I got excited to try out a new recipe and see how it compares. Mike's favorite kind she made was with pineapple on the bottom which is what I tried to do with this one.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Review: I am going to start with the bad...well I should say my errors...I used the wrong size springform pan (10") and so my cheesecake was thinner then I expected. I thought I had the right size but then realized I didn't when it was too late. I should have used the casserole pan as suggested because my foil wrapping wasn't the best and some water did leak in which caused my crust to get a little soggy. Other than that everything came out great and the family loved the surprise of pineapple on the bottom. It wasn't like my husband's great-aunt's recipe but was still loved by the family!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Dessert

I asked my sister-in-law if I could bring something for Easter dinner and she said a dessert. While food shopping, I had walked past the Easter candy isle and saw M&M's for Easter. That's when the idea of making a cookie cake popped into my head. Instead of using chocolate chips I would use the M&M's.

All I have to say is that it came out a lot better than the last one I made. The recipe tells you to leave an inch and a half border around the pan to let the cookie spread during baking. I must have been in a rush the last time I made it cause I didn't read that part carefully. I had spread the cookie dough to fill the whole pan. To make a long story short. The cookie spread over the edge of the pan and onto the oven floor. Where it started to burn and fill the house with smoke. So we had to open all the windows. Did I mention it was December!!! Also, the house smelted like burnt cookies for a few days. I told Mike I was going to write to Yankee Candle to let them know of a new scent. Burnt Cookie.

But this time I remember my past mistake and didn't make it again. Hooray Me!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows!

When Jacob was born I made chocolate covered pretzels for his Bris. So I asked Michelle when she was pregnant with William if she wanted me to make something like that for his Bris. She said yes. At first I was going to make the pretzels again, but then decided to do something different. Chocolate covered Marshmallows!!! I love making them...they are sooooo easy to make. The only problem I had was that when I made the Snowman for Christmas I used a Styrofoam block to stand them up while drying. I had thrown those out, thinking I wouldn't be making any kind of marshmallows for a while. So I had to get creative. What did I do.... I poked holes in a box.

Here's a picture of the finished product.

Now...Easter is Sunday and we're going to my brother-in-laws for dinner. I volunteered to bring a dessert (surprise, surprise) so while looking around the web for ideas I came across these marshmallow animals. I just had to try making them. I only made the chick, what do you think?

Is This Animal Cruelty?!?

I couldn't let the left over chocolate from making the chicks go to waste!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chicken w/ broccolli, bacon & shreaded cheese in the middle

I found this recipe on the kraft foods website and it looked so good I had to try it last night. A new twist to making chicken. It was so easy...the only tricky part was actually wrapping the chicken tightly with the chopped broccoli, bacon bits & shreaded cheese in it.


Chicken breast, thighs (which ever you prefer)
Chopped fresh or thawed broccolli
Bacon chopped (I used bacon bits)
Bread crumbs

Using a meat tenderizer, flatten the chicken to about 1/2 inch. Sprinkle the chopped broccolli, bacon, & cheese on the chicken, then wrap tightly and secure with tooth picks. Coat wrapped chicken in bread crumbs and make sure completely covered.

Pre-heat oven to 400*, place breaded wrapped chicken, seam side down in a foil lined shallow baking dish. Cook for 25-30 mins or until chicken is cooked through. Remove all toothpicks and serve.

This took a bit longer to bake then the 30 mins it says...but that could just be my oven and the fact that I dont have a meat tenderizer and couldnt flatten the chicken as much as I should have. Kevin loved it, and I would def make this dish again. Very tasty.


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