TWD Rewind: Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

January 6, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, cheesecakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 4 Comments
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cream cheese torte

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.

cream cheese torte

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.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Kids’ Thumbprints

December 27, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 29 Comments
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kids' thumbprints

So here is it…the last recipe TWD is baking as a group from Baking: From My Home to Yours. I’ve been in the group for close to four years, close to 200 recipes. It’s kind of hard for me to imagine that we are here at the finish line, and I almost don’t know what to say.  It’s very true that my week-to-week posts are not as wordy as they were at first, but I have still have been baking (and eating) with the same enthusiasm.  I bake professionally, but, as much as enjoy it, it is so much more satisfying to fire up the oven at home and bake for people I know and love. So, thank you, Dorie for your big, beautiful book of recipes, stories and kitchen wisdom.  My husband thanks you, too, btw…that guy has gotten quite accustomed to homemade cake and cookies!  Thank you, Laurie for your brilliant idea to start this group and to Julie for keeping it running like clockwork.  And thanks to my fellow bakers for leaving so many nice comments over the last four years and always being quick to lend advice and suggestions.  You have been so much fun to bake with and get to know!

Boy, I am talking like we are all done here, or maybe like I have just won an Oscar, and neither of those things are true.  Starting in February, TWD is switching to a different Dorie book, the classic Baking with Julia.  New members are very welcome, so if you want to join the fun you have a whole month to get the book and get on board!  And while we’re on hiatus in January, I’ll definitely be posting a least a few rewinds for the handful of BFMHTY recipes I’ve missed along the way.

I almost forgot that there are cookies to talk about!  These Thumbprints feature the classic kids’ flavor combo (which I have never outgrown), PB&J.  A peanut-coated shortbread-style cookie holds a dollop of yummy jam in the middle.  Here, I used the concord grape jam I made back in the fall.  These were good cookies, and they served as my Christmas cookies (since they were the only cookies I made).  I have some more unfilled doughballs in the freezer, and I think when I bake those I will try filling them with some chocolate in the center.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or stop by Dorie’s blog since she is our host for this last week.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

TWD Rewind: Bittersweet Brownies (with Peppermint)

December 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 2 Comments
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bittersweet brownies with peppermint

I’ve been doing a lot of holiday baking…but it’s all for work…all for strangers. Home baking will largely have to wait until our customers resolve not to eat another slice of almond cake or pint of gelato or whoopie pie until Valentine’s day.  (I kind of like the holiday rush, but I love the post-holiday slow-down.) I can’t possibly miss out on the last couple weeks of TWD, though, and this week the group is giving us a chance to make up a recipe we missed.  I chose these Bittersweet Brownies specifically because I thought they might lend themselves to a little bit of Christmassy doctoring up…maybe my husband won’t feel so neglected.  Instead of espresso powder, I added a few drops of mint extract to the brownies.  And I actually do use a dropper for mint extract because things can go from a hint-of-mint to mouthwash pretty easily.

Everything came out right with these brownies. Since it’s the last brownie recipe in the book, maybe that means I’ve learned something.  The texture was perfect…rich and fudgy.  And of course they were choco-minty. I liked them best right out of the fridge. I’m going to leave one for Santa and see if I get a good present.

bittersweet brownies with peppermint

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Lethally Delicious, as Leslie chose this recipe last month.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll and see what everyone else chose to rewind this week!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Puffed Double Plum Tart

December 13, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 7 Comments
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puffed double plum tart

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 KitchenAnd 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!

Tuesdays with Dorie (on Sunday!): Normandy Apple Tart

December 4, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 2 Comments
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Normandy apple tart

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.

Normandy apple tart

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie (or Tart)

November 29, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 7 Comments
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sour cream pumpkin 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!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Alsatian Apple Tart

November 15, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 6 Comments
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Alsatian apple tart

This Alstatian Apple Tart made me think of cooking school.  We made one very similar during my first few weeks at the FCI.  That was years ago, but I liked it then and I like it now, too.  In fact, it was much nicer to make it at home, where the only judge is yours truly and I don’t have to wear an annoyingly scratchy neckerchief or wobbly paper toque.  It’s a pretty easy tart to make…a sweet dough, apple slices and a little custard.  I lightened up the custard in the book by only using one egg (and skipping the extra yolk), using a combo of milk and cream (rather than all cream) and skimping on the sugar.  My CSA is done for the year, but I’m still trying to use up the apples we got in the final couple pick-ups.  I have no idea what kind they are, but they are little, have red skins and were just fine in here.  Because this tart has the custard built-in, you don’t even need ice cream!

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Jessica’s blog, cookbookhabit.  And see Lethally Delicious for Bittersweet Brownies, this week’s other recipe (which I unfortunately din’t get a chance to make this week). Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Depths-of-Fall Butternut Squash Pie

November 8, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 11 Comments
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depths-of-fall butternut squash pie

I’ve noticed this Depths-of-Fall Butternut Squash Pie many times while flipping through the book.  Or, I should say that I noticed the title and thought it sounded good.  It wasn’t until this weekend that I actually read it and realized it is not a smoothly puréed, single crust pie similar to pumpkin.  Nope, this is a pie with real character….lumpy and bumpy under the top crust because everything inside is chunky and retains its texture.  It’s stuffed with a hearty combo of butternut squash, apples (or pears, which I didn’t have on hand), nuts and dried fruit.  The filling reminded me of mincemeat pie, with its mix of fruit and spices (but sans the suet, thank goodness).  The pie is slightly earthy, not too sweet, and totally great with vanilla ice cream!

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also on The Splendid Table’s site) or read Valerie’s lovely blog, Une Gamine dans la Cuisine.  And see Di’s Kitchen Notebook for Mini Madeleines, 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!

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

November 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 9 Comments
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upside-down pear chocolate cake

When did weekends become all about errands and housekeeping?  This weekend, in addition to the usual vacuuming, laundry and trips to the market and bank, I did some grout touch-ups to the bathroom (how do I even know how to do that??), removed and cleaned up the couple of A/C units we still had dangling out the windows and did a rather ghetto weatherproofing job to the hatch that leads from our backyard into the basement (it involved a blue tarp and some bricks).  Carving out a little baking time on the weekends is a must.  For me, even though there are always dishes to wash afterward, it’s pure fun.

While I’ve never been one for most fruit and chocolate combos, I can do pears and chocolate together…Poire Belle Hélène is good stuff, afterall.  While I was flipping through the very sweet little book Rustic Fruit Desserts, this recipe for Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake caught my eye as a good and unusual way to use up the last of my CSA pears.  Making an upside-down cake is always exciting.  There’s the big revel– what’s going to happen when you turn it out of the pan??  Here’s what I got with this one: a perfectly moist and caramel-soaked chocolate cake with pears that turned a translucent, shimmering gold.  I must say though, that just from tasting the raw cake batter, I knew we were in for a treat.  I love the way the pears glisten in the light…this one might show up again for Christmas dinner.

upside-down pear chocolate cake

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake- makes a 9-inch cake
adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

Steph’s Note:  Regarding the caramel for the fruit topping– if you have another method of making caramel that you prefer (a dry caramel, for example), feel free to use it here, keeping the amount of sugar the same.  This one worked perfectly for me, but do what you are comfortable with.

for the fruit topping:
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (4 oz) water
3 firm but ripe pears, peeled, cored, and each cut into  12 slices (1 pound prepped)

for the cake:
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (1 ounce) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa  powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

-Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter a 9-inch round cake pan (preferably not a springform one).

-To make the fruit topping, put the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan (one with a tight-fitting lid) and stir until the sugar  dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then cover and cook for  2 minutes. (Covering in this way allows the steam to wash down the sides of pan,  which will prevent any sugar crystals from forming.) Uncover the saucepan and  continue to boil the sugar, gently and slowly swirling the pan as needed to cook  the caramel evenly, until it becomes a dark amber color. Occasionally wash down  the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, if necessary. Carefully pour  the caramel into the prepared pan and allow it to harden. The pan will be very  hot from the sugar, so take care in moving it if you need to. Fan the pear  slices on top of the caramel in a circle around the perimeter, filling in the  center with the remaining slices.

-To make the cake, place  the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and melt, stirring  occasionally. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.  Transfer the melted chocolate to a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and  add the sugar. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the  paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and  fluffy. Add the eggs one at time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each  addition. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in three additions  alternating with the milk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour  and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

-Tip the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to move it to the edges and cover the fruit. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until  the cake bounces back slightly when touched. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife or small offset around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a plate, leaving the pan on top of the cake for 5 minutes before you remove it.  If any pear slices stick to the pan, just lift them out and place them on top of the cake.  Serve the cake warm or room temperature.

-Wrapped in plastic wrap, this cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Far Breton

November 1, 2011 at 12:13 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, puddings & custards, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 6 Comments
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far breton

It’s hard to believe, but TWD is coming close to the end of the book!  There are two recipes a week from now till the end of the year, but I think I’ll only be able to choose one because I can’t do much baking at home during the work week.  This week, I’m making the Far Breton, chosen by Nicole of Cookies on Friday (Jeannette of The Whimsical Cupcake chose Honey Nut Scones as the other recipe).  I’ve been intrigued by this one for a long time…just the name sounds so classy.  And there are Armagnac-soaked prunes–yum!  Falling somewhere between custard and cake, it’s made from a no-brainer batter that gets whizzed up in the blender, crêpe-style.  The finished dessert actually reminded me a lot of an unmolded clafoutis.  I like eggy desserts, so this was just the ticket.  I also like easy desserts that are totally dinner party worthy, and this one fits that bill, too.  Next time I’ll add a splash more booze.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Cookies on Friday.  And see The Whimsical Cupcake for the Honey Nut Scones. Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

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