Tags: baking, cheesecake, dessert
Happy New Year! After the rush-rush of the holidays, things seemed to have returned to normal around these parts. I’m back to my regular days off from work, and even at home, it’s back to my regular living room. I took down the Christmas tree yesterday. Sad, but it was becoming more cactus than pine….so dry and prickly. My vacuum smells like it has a built-in air freshener thanks to all the needles that are whirring around in there.
TWD may have made it through the book as a group, but I still have a few recipes left to catch-up on before I can personally say the same. One of them is this Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte that was chosen a couple weeks before I joined on. I have been wanting to make this for four years…yes, I’m a little slow to get moving. Since I needed to come up with a dessert for Christmas dinner, I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally try it out.
I liked telling my dinner guests that we would be having a ”torte” after dinner…made it sound super fancy and exotic. But this really is a familiar dessert–a slim and elegant cheesecake. It had the extra step of making a dough crust (rather than a crumb one), but the cheesecake batter itself was simply whizzed in the food processor. That’s my favorite way to mix cheesecake batter, actually, because you never get any lumps. A layer of jam hidden in the middle (I used some of my homemade plum jam) made a nice surprise when I cut the first slice. Because it wasn’t t four inches tall like a NY-style cheesecake, I didn’t feel uncomfortable eating it after a big dinner.
This recipe was so nice, I made it twice! I had to make up for that whole four years late thing, I guess. Since, I’d made a half recipe the first time, I still had half the ingredients remaining to do another small cake. For the second go-round though, I put my own little twist on it. This time I used a crumb crust (made from some gianduja cookies I took home from work because we…ummm…screwed them up…it happens sometimes). And instead of spreading on a layer of jam, I mixed a couple tablespoons of nutella (really a single packet of Justin’s) into the batter. I didn’t know how intense the flavor would be, so topped it off with a little hazelnut ganache, which also handily disguised the little crack that formed in the middle. It was New Year’s Eve, so I tossed on some stars.
I think this recipe was picked so early on, that there wasn’t really a host-post system set up yet, so here it is…
Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte– makes a 9″ cake
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
for the crust:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (6 oz) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the filling:
1/3 cup thick berry or cherry jam
9 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
8 oz (1 cup) cottage cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)
-Butter a 9-inch springform pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
-Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse just to blend. Toss in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg yolks and vanilla together with a fork, and, still pulsing the machine, add them and continue to pulse until the dough comes together in clumps and curds – restrain yourself, and don’t allow the dough to form a ball.
-Turn the dough out onto a work surface. If you want to roll the dough, gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes before rolling. Or simply press the dough into the pan. The dough should come about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the springform. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
-Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
-Fit a piece of buttered aluminum foil against the crust, covering it completely. Fill the crust lightly with rice, dried beans or pie weights and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 20 minutes or so – you don’t want the crust to get too brown. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the filling.
-Lower the oven temperature to 350°F.
-Stir the jam, and spread it over the bottom of the crust – it’s okay to do this while the crust is still warm.
-Put the cream cheese and cottage cheese into the food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, for 2 minutes, until you’ve got a smooth, satiny mix. Add the sugar, salt and spices and process for another 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the eggs and process, scraping the bowl as needed, for a final minute. Pour the filling over the jam.
-Bake the cake for 60-70 minutes, or until the filling is uniformly puffed and no longer jiggly. Gently transfer the springform pan to a cooling rack and allow the torte to cool to room temperature, during which time the filling will collapse into a thin, elegant layer.
-Run a blunt knife between the crust and the sides of the pan, then open and remove the sides of the springform. If the sides of the crust extend above the filling and you don’t like this look, very gently saw off the excess crust using a serrated knife. Chill the torte slightly or thoroughly before serving and, if you’d like, dust the top with confectioner’s sugar. Wrapped well, the torte will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Tags: baking, dessert, tarts
This is one of last recipes left in the rotation from BFMHTY. I may have had to pass on it, cuz there are no plums around right now, but in a rare moment of genius forethought, I made this Puffed Double Plum Tart back in September. Actually, I was just looking for things to do with all my summer CSA plums before they died a long, slow death in my fridge, but whatever.
Why is it called ”double plum”? Double plum turns out to equal plums plus prunes. The prunes are jazzed up with a quick red wine poach, and that’s really the most difficult step of this whole thing. Certainly save that sweet winey poaching liquid and reduce it into a quick sauce, so your family is tricked into thinking this was harder than just arranging some plums and prunes atop a square of store-bought puff pastry. I liked this, not only for its ease, but also because red wine steeped prunes are incredibly delicious. So delicious that you could probably skip the fresh plums and make this mid-winter afterall.
For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Julie’s blog, Someone’s in the Kitchen. And see TWD founder Laurie’s blog for Unbelievably Good Chocolate Blueberry Ice Cream, this week’s other recipe (which I unfortunately did not make this week, but I look forward to seeing your reviews). Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, dessert, tarts
This Normandy Apple Tart is everything I think a French tart should be– chic and elegant and deceptively easy. It’s a sweet tart dough with a simple applesauce filling and circles of sliced apples on top. I love the way the apples brown on their tips…so pretty.
Dorie’s applesauce is really good. In fact, I multiplied the recipe, because if you’re gonna make applesauce, you might as well make enough to enjoy even when the tart is finished. It has hardly any sugar and no spices, so the flavor is pure apple. Putting it through a food mill (with the coarse disk) gives it a great texture. When its baked in the tart, it firms enough to make perfectly clean slices.
Tags: baking, dessert, holiday, pie
This Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie was my Thanksgiving dinner dessert (perfect timing!). Not having pumpkin pie with Turkey Day dinner would be considered absolutely unacceptable for my dad’s side of the family, and even though I didn’t head to Seattle to see them this year, I’m happy to carry on the W family tradition here. The texture of this pie was great…smooth and creamy (especially if you strain the filling into the crust). It’s actually a bit more dairy-heavy than I’m used to for pumpkin pie, but the spicing was nice.
Apparently this recipe works as either a pie or a more dainty tart. The recipe makes a substantial amount of filling, so especially if you chose to bake a tart, be prepared to have extra on your hands. And if you make a pie, you may need a deep-dish plate. (I used my seven-inch glass pie plate, which usually works perfectly for a half-recipe of deep-dish filling. I actually only made a third of the filling, and still had a smidge extra that I couldn’t fit into the crust.) You can always pour extra filling into custard cups and bake them in a water bath– pumpkin custards are yummy, too, and gluten-free guests won’t feel left out of the fun.
For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here on Serious Eats) or read Judy’s Gross Eats. And see Tracey’s Culinary Adventures for Normandy Apple Tart, this week’s other recipe (which I did make and will show you later in the week). Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, cake, chocolate
This week, we are having a rare rewind week for TWD, a chance to make-up something we missed. There was a time when I was making (and eating) layer cakes left and right. Despite the last couple of weeks, they are kind of a rarity around here now (although I wish they weren’t). In fact, I really made this cake months ago..for Easter…in case the pastel Robin Eggs didn’t give that away. Chocolate cake with a chocolate-malt buttercream…I can see why this would be a good birthday cake. Maybe my husband will make it for me next year? Yeah, probably not….I’ll have to make it for his instead.
I made a half recipe of this cake and baked it in my six-inch pans. Any time I have a cake recipe, I pay close attention to it as it bakes. Sometimes it takes just as long as the full recipe, and sometimes it takes ten minutes less….you just never know. I happened to pull this cake out of the oven at the perfect sweet spot. The cake was so moist and velvety…I wish I remembered how long it was in there for! Hopefully I can repeat that success next time. This cake recipe is really just a scaled-up version of Dorie’s Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes. It’s the same thing, but for some reason I liked it much, much more as a layer cake. I think it baked nicer in “real” cake form, but maybe it was really the pairing with the chocolate-malt buttercream that I liked so much. There were some reported troubles with the frosting, but I thought it came out just right, and it was easy to work with. I like when I can get the frosting on a cake without too much mucking about.
For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or look at The Splendid Table’s website (not sure that we had an “official” TWD host/recipe poster that particular week, as it was a recipe for the group’s second anniversary). Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll to see what everyone picked to catch up on this week!
Tags: baking, cake, holiday
I know that I’ll be making a pie for Thanksgiving dinner, so I’m getting the craving to stuff my face with cake out of the way ahead of time. I’ve actually been itching to make this Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake ever since I saw it on the cover of Fine Cooking last year. And it was everything I’d hoped for in a spice cake, complete with cream cheese frosting and a crunchy topping.
If you are ambitious, you can make your own pumpkin purée by roasting a squash. If you are lazy, like I am, you can just open a can. The canned stuff works just fine, in my opinion, and you always know what you are going to get. Anyway, you have to go through the extra step of browning butter a couple of times, so why make things too hard on yourself? Actually, making browned butter is no big deal, and it’s totally worth it in terms of flavor. It makes an especially gorgeous addition to the cream cheese frosting, giving it that slightly nutty taste and beautiful taupe color. The browned butter baked into the cake gives the pumpkin and spices extra dimension, and because you use it as a liquid fat, you mix the cake by hand. I love that! I thought about skipping the pecan and pepita topping, but I’m glad I didn’t. It’s crunchy and kind of Cracker Jackey caramelized. I can’t wait to make this again next fall (or possibly sooner…)
P.S.: Don’t forget to enter my BOOK GIVEAWAY, if you haven’t done so already….
Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake– makes 8-12 servings
adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 107
Steph’s Notes: You can substitute 1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin purée for homemade, if you like. If you do choose to make the purée, you can do so up to 2 days ahead. The frosting amount is a bit on the skimpy side. I made it work, but there wasn’t a lot of extra play around with. If you’d like more leeway, I’d suggest a 1.5x recipe.
for the purée (if not using 1-1/2 cups canned):
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded
for the cake:
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
for the topping:
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. table salt
for the frosting:
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
pinch of salt
5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
-Make the pumpkin purée (if not using 1-1/2 cups canned): Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9×13-inch baking dish with the oil. Put the pumpkin halves in the dish cut side down and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1-1/2 cups of the purée for the cake. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining purée for another use.
-Make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans). Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.
-Make the topping (while the cake bakes): Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.
-Make the frosting: Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids. With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, brown sugar and pinch of salt on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
-Assemble the cake: Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the topping on top of the cake and serve. The assembled, frosted cake can be covered with a cake dome and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.
I think we’re officially in the thick of it…the season of overindulgence, that is. For me, it began with a bag of leftover Halloween candy. Before it ends in a pair of Pajama Jeans, I need to keep moderation at least somewhere in mind. Seems that a copy of a new book called Cooking Light Way to Bake fell into my hands at just the right time. I could use a little lightening up for everyday baking at this time of year, and the thing I appreciate about Cooking Light’s recipes is that they focus on getting the most out of a restrained amount ”real” ingredients rather than using weird substitutions.
This book has lots of how-to’s and runs the gamut of baked stuff– cookies, cakes pies, breads– and a few non-baked things, like pudding and pancakes, too. I am absolutely drooling over the photo of Sweet Potato-Buttered Rum Flan, but I’m starting with a pear crisp, because it’s fall and a fruit crisp sounds good right about now. Baked pears are a nice change from apples here, although I am sure you could switch the two if you wanted to. I dotted the pears with dried cranberries. The streusel topping is loose because there’s not a ton of butter and sugar to hold it together in clumps, but it is indeed crisp and very oaty. I’m sure a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top would be the jam here, but in keeping with a lighter touch, I topped this with a spoon of honey-sweetend nonfat Greek yogurt.
So, before I give you the recipe…I promised you a giveaway. The nice folks at Oxmoor House sent me a copy of this book, and they want to send one of you one, too. Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before noon on Wednesday (November 23) and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list. Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you!
***Giveaway Winner Update: I used random.org to generate a random comment number to find the winner. It selected comment 20, so congratulations to Susy of Everyday Gourmet. I’ll be contacting you soon!***
for the fruit:
7 3/4 cups cubed Bartlett or Anjou pears
1 cup golden raisins or other dried fruit
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
for the topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of salt
4 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
-Preheat oven to 375°F.
-To prepare the fruit, combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
-To prepare topping, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, sugar, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, and dash of salt in a small bowl; stir to combine. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles very coarse meal. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over pear mixture. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until browned on top.
Please note that the publisher, Oxmoor House, sent me a copy of this book.