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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Great Balls of Cheesecake!

Another month and another great Daring Baker Recipe Challenge!

The Daring Baker principles have always remained the same - to test our baking skills on the same recipe every month in a friendly supportive environment. There is a lot of lively discussion and some consoling over baking snafus. The great range of expertise among the bakers makes everything seem possible, even jumping over mounds of cream cheese in a single bound! It's been a great learning experience for me and I love - just love - the fact the recipes chosen are always ones that broaden my experience.

The recipe this month was Cheesecake Pops from the recipe book Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. Our gracious hostesses this April were Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah at Taste and Tell. The full recipe can be found at their blogs.

What did I learn from this challenge?

1) Cutting a recipe in half that calls for 5 packages of cream cheese is a very good idea. My family, my neighbour's family, and my neighbour's family's family wouldn't be able to eat that much cheesecake in a month of Sundays. With the knowledge that we could die trying to eat that much cheesecake, I cheerfully cut the recipe in half.

2) The baking time indicated in the recipe was very short. Even with half of a recipe, my baking time was over an hour. I've put the time variation in bold brackets for future reference.

3) Smashing peppermint candies for coating is fun, therapeutic, and mildly violent.

4) Little children will eat the chocolate outside and leave the cheesecake.

5) Have an eight year old "sous chef assistant" creates a chocolate coating on everything!

6) This is a great recipe for feeding a crowd. The portion of cheesecake is perfect for dessert and the serving utensil is tossed after the last lick. What more can you ask for?

7) I used Callebault dark chocolate chips and tempered them instead of adding shortening. The chocolate was fantastic!

Thank you Elle and Deborah. My children thank you, my neighbours thank you, and my neighbour's children thank you.

Cheesecake Pops

The cheesecake is New York style, the pops can be jazzed up with different toppings, and they are FUN…just right for a party. They are from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. Isn’t that an alluring title for a cookbook?

Makes 30 – 40 Pops
5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature 2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour ¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs 2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract ¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed 30-40 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped 2 tbsps vegetable shortening

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, coconut) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a spring form pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, (one hour and....) 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth.

Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionery chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

For a gluten free version subsitute sweet rice flour instead of wheat flour. Carrie at GingerLemon Girl made successful gluten free cheesecake pops.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not Quinoa on this Breakfast

Yep, my children were not quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) on this breakfast. They weren't sold on the nutritional value, cinnamon, chunky applesauce, brown sugar, shredded coconut, or the fact that the quinoa was organic. Maybe sprinkles would have helped but I think it would have tipped the nutritional balance right into the abyss.

On the other hand, their mother thought it was great!

Quinoa is a grain that originates from the Andes Mountains of South America. Quinoa needs to be rinsed thoroughly to remove any residue of bitter tasting saponins. In order to do this rinse Quinoa in the pot with plenty of water and agitate well. Rubbing the seeds together will help remove the any saponin residue. Pour the water off and put quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Rinse again with running water.

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

1/2 cup Quinoa (125 mL)
1 cup water (250 mL)
bit of salt
Rinse quinoa thoroughly before use (3 minutes in agitating water, drain, rinse again) Place quinoa, water, and salt in small saucepan. Cover and simmer 7-10 minutes.

Open a jar of applesauce or...

Chunky Applesauce
2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tsp cinnamon (5 mL)
2 tbsp brown sugar (30 mL)
Adjust sugar according to the sweetness/tartness of apples.

Place apples, sugar, and cinnamon in a microwave safe dish. Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Check. If apples are soft, chop roughly. If they are still very firm, microwave for another minute. The apples can be cooked on the stove top but add a dash of water and cover pot tightly.

Add Ins
raisins, shredded coconut, chopped fresh or dried fruit, nuts

Mix cooked quinoa, chunky applesauce, and any other fruit/nuts that appeal to you. Serve topped with a sprinkle of coconut. Serve warm.

Serves 2-4 depending on serving size.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake for Breakfast

We've been searching for gluten free recipes and we have decided that this is breakfast food at our house. A thin slice of this Rice Cake, a few slices of fruit, and a glass of milk or freshly squeezed orange juice and we're good to go.

The original recipe is from the British cookbook Italian Cooking by Robin Howe. Italian Cooking was first published in 1956; I'm lucky enough to have the 1979 edition because a quick search on Amazon revealed only used copies.

The cookbook is a charming quirky mix of metric, British Imperial, weight measures, pinches, and volume measures all rolled into each recipe. I've converted the measures to be more consistent but don't obsess over the measures. Judge by look, feel and taste. I bet that rice cakes started out as leftovers that a clever Nonna reinvented for the family. So be a clever Nonna and cook the rice the day before.

This recipe does not turn out a typical North American fluffy cake. Instead it turns out a substantial moist dish that is fantastic for breakfast. You can drizzle a bit of maple syrup for an added bonus but the cake is great straight up. The orange sauce gives cheery good morning dimension to the cake.

Rice Cake (Torta di Riso)

1 litre milk (4 cups)
100 g sugar (4 oz, 1/2 cup)
grated rind of three oranges
pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)
225 gr Italian/Arborio short rice (1/2 pound, 1&1/3 cups)
5 mL almond extract (1 tsp)
100 g natural almonds, blanched, skins removed and chopped (4 oz, 2/3 of cup before chopping)
4 eggs

butter to grease pan
30 mL/2 tbsp ground almonds for dusting the pan
aluminum foil or heat proof lid for glass casserole dish

Orange Sauce
freshly squeezed orange juice from your three oranges
15 mL cornstarch (1 tbsp)
125 mL sugar (1/2 cup)

Put rice, milk, sugar, orange rind, salt, and almond extract into large saucepan. Cook over moderate heat until all the milk is absorbed. Mix often otherwise the rice will burn on the bottom. Once all the milk is absorbed, remove from the heat and let cool completely. Stir from time to time to make sure it doesn't congeal into a solid clump.

While the rice is cooking, squeeze the oranges for the orange sauce. Combine orange juice, sugar, and cornstarch in small saucepan. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture over a moderate/high heat. When the sauce thickens and clarifies, remove from heat. The sauce will solidify as it cools but a vigorous mixing will make it pouring consistency.

When the rice is cool....prepare your glass baking dish by rubbing the inside with butter and sprinkling with ground almonds.

Separate the eggs. Beat the whites until they are stiff then beat the yolks until they are a light yellow. If you mix the yolks first, you will have to clean and dry the beaters. Otherwise the fat of the yolks will prevent the whites from whipping. Who wants more work? Not me.

Mix the egg yolks into the rice until thoroughly combined. Fold in the egg whites. Turn the mixed rice into your prepared pan and cover with aluminum foil or a heat proof lid.

Cook at 180 C/350 F/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes. Remove the lid/foil after 30 minutes and cook until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean. If your cake is golden but seems undercooked, you can microwave the cake on high for a few minutes to cook the inside without burning the outside....

... I know... from experience... I'm a careless cook but a great trouble shooter. If you chose a metal dish you are regretting that decision right about now.

When the cake is cool, pour a puddle of orange sauce onto a cake plate and turn out the cake onto it. If you forget the orange sauce puddle, pour it on top. Total baking time is about one hour.Substitutions and Experiments
Try any type of nut that appeals to you, except your husband. If you cannot tolerate nuts, substitute raisins for inside the cake, rice flour for dusting the interior of the dish, and a different husband.... I'm kidding, I'm kidding.

Experiment with the flavourings. Try grated lemon rind and omit the almond flavouring. I'm not sure a lemon sauce will work unless you really bump up the amount of sugar to combat the sourness but go for it anyway. Try vanilla bean and extract.

Omit the orange sauce and drink the freshly squeezed orange juice. Quick - before anyone notices.

My husband is not a nut. Well, not any nuttier than I am and I love him dearly.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bacon Party

Fer cryin' out loud.

I'm just getting a handle on my bacon hoarding problem and now it's on sale. Short post today, gotta buy groceries.

Bacon party here I come!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

April Showers Bring May Flours

Jenny from All Things Edible and I had coffee together this week and she said something that floored me.

"Flour is about $14.00 for 10 kg (22 pounds)"

My jaw dropped. I haven't bought flour in three months because I had to work through my stash. I've gone through about 70 kilos since September. Crazy right? We have homemade pizza, bread and other goodies. When you don't buy much bread, flour disappears fast.

But this is double the price of a few weeks ago. Great danes! This is a shocking 100% rise in prices in a week. How would that work out per annum? Ouch, I don't even want to go there.

I know, I know rising prices are in the news everyday, I shouldn't be surprised.

But I have an idea...

The website Ottawa Gas Prices posts prices for Ottawa area stations. There's often a wide spread between the different places. I think it's a great idea and my favourite gas station always ranks among the best. They also have very friendly staff which is an added bonus.

Anybody want to launch a flour website? I'll start ...

Costco 20kg flour for $20.79.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Margarine Love Letters

Margarine is only good for love letters.

I love butter. If I die from a heart attack, it will be a pure 100% butter heart attack. Butter has an honoured place in our home. There are few pleasures greater than freshly popped popcorn drizzled in butter, hot toast with a sliver of butter and melt in your mouth baking - made with butter.

Which brings me back to margarine.

Early in our married life when we merged our households I bought margarine. (I was very young when we first married) Every morning I would have toast with margarine. Every morning I dug my knife into the margarine. Every morning I noticed that the margarine was nice and smooth again. Unbeknownst to me, my husband would lovingly smooth the margarine that I had ruthlessly hacked.

Not to be out done, I started smoothing out the margarine and leaving loving messages written on the top. It was a great system for newly weds.

We've hit a snag.

I haven't bought margarine in years and I miss sending those love letters. Butter isn't working because, well it's a lot harder to smooth out and frankly too small. Our 20th anniversary is closing in on us and my arsenal is empty.

I need a new system... before I'm left trying to scribe with Bengay and Metamucil.