Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Cheesecake

Look, it's spring!

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

I got the pictures downloaded from the new camera just in time! This is by far THE BEST cheesecake recipe I have ever tried. And I've tried lots. I made the recipe just as written, no special high altitude or humidity alterations. I baked it just as long as the recipe said. And they came out perfect. Ok, so one cracked a little, but they didn't fall, leaving a huge crater cheesecake. The texture is amazing (I credit that to the full cup of cream in the recipe! But seriously, it's cheesecake, if you're wanting low-fat, don't make cheesecake.) I will never ever use another recipe again.Since we were given so much latitude with creativity, I went a little crazy. First stop, Turtle Cheesecake: plain cheesecake, topped with homemade caramel, chocolate, and pecans. Second stop, Passionfruit Lavender Cheesecake: plain again, topped with passionfruit jelly and lavender. Third stop, Cheesecake Brownies. The pictures of the first two cheesecakes were taken during the initial stages of me getting used to the new camera, so I'm sorry, they're kindof ugly. The brownie pics (and flora) were taken a week later, and in natural light, which definitely improved the results. High-five for another amazing DB Challenge ;)

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.

Brownie base from David Lebovitz

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Finally, it's spring! You must think I'm such a slacker, I've hardly been posting at all the last while. But don't doubt me yet, I have lots of pictures waiting for you. I have a new camera that I'm playing around with (yay!), but I don't have the software on my laptop yet. So it might be a while longer, but in the mean time, I couldn't not celebrate Earth Day!

The mints are already taking over, the oregano is hearty, the sage and lavender and chamomile and rosemary are just waking up. Even the blueberry bush is still wick! I'm trying my hand at eggplant again this year, and added carrots and peas, too. I'm volunteering for our local botanical garden this summer, and I cannot wait to get outside!

Lovely photos courtesy Country Living

Monday, April 6, 2009


I suppose it's only natural, but a lot of my friends (and probably lots of people in general) are feeling overwhelmed by life right now. For good or bad, we always wish for something better. John Steinbeck says in his novella, "The Pearl",
"For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have."
Much of what I'm hearing and reading from my friends has an underlying sentiment that says "I'm doing everything I can, but it just isn't enough".
Passionfruit italian buttercream macarons. Yoinked the photo from Marilee, thanks!
In a church meeting a couple weeks ago the idea of grace was discussed. I've been thinking a lot about grace since then. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi writes, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."
Back to Steinbeck's book, though I haven't finished it yet, it is, unsurprisingly depressing. A large pearl, the "Pearl of the World" is found by a poor fisherman. The pearl represents not only worldly wealth or filthy lucre, but also hope for a better future for the fisherman and his wife and baby. The fisherman dreams mostly of the education he will be able to afford for his son. He tells the villagers his son will read and write and know numbers, "he will know and through him we will know." Is it wrong for the fisherman to want this? Is it wrong for a person to dream, to want something better for herself and for humanity? None of my friends that are struggling are selfish. Their wants and dreams are for good things for themselves and for the world. But the things they want seem so big, maybe impossible to fully achieve.
But like Nephi said, God does not expect us to do it all. Whether or not you believe in the God I believe in, or any god at all, I hope this is obvious. No one expects you to do everything. But perhaps the more elusive idea that Nephi is trying to convey is that Christ's grace will make up for what we cannot do. It is not as though life will be "good enough" after all we have done. Christ's grace gives us the strength and gladness of heart to live an amazing life, such as it is.

Strawberry mango verrines with homemade granola.
Well, I didn't mean for this to be such a long essay, but all I really wanted to say is when you dream, dream big, no regrets, His grace is sufficient.