Tag Archives: Cheesecake

Tasty Goodness – Cheesecake Edition

Tasty Goodness – The Cheesecake Edition

Cheesecakewithganacheandcherries2 The time to resurrect the Tasty Goodness series has arrived. (Easter pun…I couldn’t resist.)  For Easter, I decided I wanted to try out something new.  Sunday dinners at my parents’ house are nothing new, but whether it was a need to do something special to commemorate the holiday, an intense desire for cheesecake, or just a craving for expanding my skills, I decided to make a cheesecake from scratch.

Somewhere along the line, I’d gotten it in my head that cheesecakes were really hard to make, so I’d never tried it.  My spring form pan sat empty for two years because I just didn’t know if I wanted to make an attempt only to fail miserably.

Inspired by my new “what’s the worst that can happen” attitude (I’ll talk about that more in another post), I set out on a mission for a good cheesecake recipe.  Fortunately, I work with some great people who hooked me up.

My recipe comes from a cookbook published by a local private school the year I graduated from High School, and I’m making copies of just about everything in there.  It all looks so very good!  I mixed and matched a couple of recipes to get to what I wanted (my sister requested chocolate).

  • Crust:
    2 Cups Chocolate Cookie Crumbs
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 T unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and press into the bottom and sides of a 10 in spring form pan.  Bake for 7-10 minutes.

Jessica’s Notes:

  • I used chocolate graham crackers to avoid the creamy filling of a cookie like Oreo s.  Don’t ask why, I just decided this was important when I was at the grocery store.  It had absolutely nothing to do with the “Avengers” Chocolate Grahams…

When it came time to decimate the “Avengers” into usable crumbs, I started out with my hand powered food processor…15 minutes later I had chunks that were still too big to use and a very tired arm.  I dumped everything into a large plastic zippered back, and took my grandmother’s rolling pin to it.  This was much more effective.  (Also, you can release some frustration if you want to.)

  • I would like to say that I used mini-chips instead of regular size because of some well thought out…thing.  Truthfully, that’s what I had on hand.  However, if you aren’t a fan of a thick crust, then mini-chips are the way to go.
  • My pan is 9 inches instead of the 10 inch pan called for in the recipe, and I had no idea how I was going to get this stuff to stick to the sides of the thing long enough to cook.   Therefore, I didn’t do that part.  My crust was on the bottom only, and there was a bunch of crust mixture left over.  At least enough for the bottom of another cheesecake.
  • If you’re going to use a water bath (recommended) to cook your cheesecake, go ahead and wrap your pan tightly in foil now.  Otherwise your fingers will get a bit warm and you will curse your lack of forethought when the pan hasn’t cooled enough and you’re ready to back the cheesecake…not that I learned that the hard way or anything.

CheesecakeCheesecake:

  • 5 8oz packages of cream cheese (no, that isn’t a typo)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine the eggs and sugar until smooth.  Add vanilla and set aside in a mixing bowl.  Cube cream cheese into 1 inch cubes and process half the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the sugar mixture until smooth, before adding second half of cream cheese cubes.  Process until smooth and pour onto crust.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.  Cheesecake is done when firm to the touch but jiggles in the middle.  Allow to cool on a wire rack, and then wrap tightly and refrigerate over night.

Jessica’s Notes

  • I don’t have an electric food processor.  I have a small 3 cup processor with a handle you press down to make the blade spin, so when I first read these directions it was not just a “nope” but a “hell, no”.  I’d still be trying to process cream cheese.  Fortunately, I could see from margin notes that my recipe-source had made this before.  No food processor is necessary, a good mixer is a definitely requirement though.
  • Cube your cream cheese smaller than 1 inch if you don’t have a food processor.  That will help with the creaminess.  It will also keep you from overworking the batter.  I don’t know what happens if you overwork the batter, but lots of recipes online made it sound like a bad thing.
  • Don’t worry about adding the ingredients in batches.  I processed the eggs, sugar and vanilla and set it aside until the cream cheese was nice and smooth, then poured the whole lot in the bowl.
  • Make sure you don’t over mix the eggs and sugar…you’ll end up with meringue.    Also, make sure you scrape the bottom of the bowl to get all the sugar that settled while you were waiting for the cream cheese to become creamy.
  • Drop the cheesecake gently on the counter/table a couple of times to make sure all the large air bubbles pop.
  • Use a water bath to avoid the cheesecake from cracking on top (also don’t over cook it).  Make sure your pan is wrapped tightly with foil, and place a large baking pan (I used a cake pan) filled ¾ of the way with water in the oven while it preheats.  Be very careful when you lower and remove the cheesecake.  The water is boiling!
  • These guys must have been using a super oven powered by the Human Torch to get it to bake in 30-45 minutes.  It took a little more than an hour for this to bake.  I started checking every 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes until I thought it was done.  It was done probably 5-10 minutes before I thought it was…my cheesecake top cracked.  Oh well.  That’s what the chocolate ganache was for!

CheesecakewithGanacheGanache

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 oz Germans Sweet Baking Chocolate (shaved/curled)

Add the chocolate curls to boiling cream.  Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.  Refrigerate for several hours.  Whip until light and fluffy.

Jessica’s Notes

  • Shave/curl all of your chocolate ahead of time.  It does not take cream as long to boil as you think it will…or as long as I thought it would.
  • Keep the paper on the chocolate bar as you shave it to use as a handle.  This may be obvious to everyone else, but chocolate melts when it encounters warm objects.  My hands are not as cold as my ex says they are.  They do melt chocolate.
  • Use a flexible cutting board to do this.  Shaved/curled chocolate melts a lot faster than you think it will…not that licking some of the melted chocolate off your fingers isn’t tasty, but…really.  Flexible. Cutting. Board.
  • I have no idea how to “curl” chocolate.  All of my attempts ended in shaved shards.  I was bothered by this until I realized it was going to be melted and no one would see it.  This epiphany took much longer to come about than it should have.
  • Stir this stuff constantly…make sure your cream doesn’t scorch.  These were also palm to forehead moments.  Mine came out with a texture that isn’t as smooth as I would have liked, but when I asked my mom about it she told me that it didn’t stay on her tongue long enough to worry about the texture.  She was too busy eating it.

Presentation:

  • I piped the ganache around the edges of the cheesecake until all the ganache was gone.  (It really did taste divine).  The decorated edge also had the added benefit of corralling the cherries that I put in the center.
  • I used the canned cherries that I also used in my Cherry Cheesecake Pie recipe.
  • Removing the spring form ring from around the cake wasn’t bad.  I just ran a thin paring knife around the edge to make sure it detached.  However, if you’re trying not to mess up your decorating during moving, just leave it on there.  (trust me)
  • The cherries will move during transport.  Maybe you should put them on once you arrive at your destination.

There is no need to fear the cheesecake (well, unless you are unable to eat this goodness in moderation…in which case you should definitely fear homemade cheesecake!)  This really wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be, and it was really light and fluffy and creamy. Two bites in and my mother requested this for her birthday (I’m not allowed to make any changes or “improvements”).  The leftovers were coveted, and disappeared quickly.  Luckily for me, my family is kind and generous, and they left me enough for two small pieces … as a matter of fact, there is one leftover piece waiting for me at home … maybe I’ll go home for lunch.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

P.S. Now I’ve immersed myself in cheesecake recipes.  I found a Irish Cream Cheesecake…using my homemade Irish Cream?  Yes, please!

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Tasty Goodness Part 1: Three Recipes, One Filling

So, I kind of Geek Out over cooking too.  Maybe not kind of…I love cooking and baking.  There’s something about feeding people who is incredibly beautiful and satisfying.  I try to feed my friends and family on a regular basis, and no time more than during the holidays.  This year I’ve gotten several requests for recipes, so I thought I’d share them here in a series of posts.  (Don’t worry, if you’re not into cooking, the regular geeky stuff will be coming back very soon!)

My love of cooking started early.  I am surrounded by great cooks.  My mother is a fantastic cook, and my Dad used to enter barbecue competitions with his friends and makes the best breakfast I’ve ever had!  Don’t even get me started on Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles.  For me, cooking is kind of therapeutic.  As a sales person, some days my work is filled with a lot of activity and hard work, but nothing comes of it.  It can get a bit frustrating.  There is always something (hopefully delicious) to show for your work in the kitchen.

In my kitchen, cooking is kind of fast and loose, and I don’t really follow recipes (there is a lot of “until it looks right” in my family’s cooking).  I’m going to do my best for you though.  In fact there’s a story that gets regularly circulated about my Aunt or Mom or Grandma Joye (see how closely I listen sometimes?) following my Great-Grandma Kanelakos around with measuring cups and spoons to make her dump the handfuls, pinches, and all into the measuring cups/spoons so they could get a reasonably accurate measurement.  Future generations needed to know how to make her delicious food. (“half an eggshell” of something isn’t…exact). My family didn’t raise any bad cooks, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe some experts.  I’ve definitely enjoyed the results!

To kick off the cooking series, I’m going to hand you the keys to one of the most versatile dessert recipes I’ve ever found.  This is my secret weapon for pot lucks, parties, and…well, anytime you need a fast easy dessert.  However, I like you. I’ll share my secret this time.  I use this filling to make Cherry Cheesecake Pie, Snicker Salad, and Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries.  I wish I had pictures to share because the results are gorgeous, but…well, we ate them before I remembered pictures. (Sorry…for the not photographing, not for the eating.  Who can be sorry about eating?  It was all so good!)  To give you an idea, in the last two months I’ve made four (4) Cherry Cheesecake Pies, one (1) Snicker Salad, and two (2) pints of Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries (drizzled with chocolate, of course!)…and it was all so very tasty.  Thank goodness for the holiday season, because there were a lot of people around to eat all of this.

Filling

  • 8oz cream cheese
  • 8oz of cool whip
  • ¼ to ½ Cup of granulated sugar (you have to taste test.  Aw, shucks!)
  • Mix softened cream cheese with the sugar until creamy.  Fold in the Cool Whip.

Cherry Cheesecake Pie

  • 2 graham cracker pie crusts
  • 2 cans of Duncan Hines Wilderness or Country Cherries

The filling recipe makes two regular sized pies. Spread 1/2 of the filling in the pie crust (make sure there is enough room at the top for cherries) and top with the cherries.

This is definitely a family favorite, two get made for Thanksgiving each year, and there are rarely leftovers.  When I asked my Dad what Christmas treat he would like the last two years.  He wanted this Cherry Cheesecake Pie.  However, there are only six of us…we don’t need two pies.  Now, I make one and give one away.  They look like they’ve taken a really long time.  The bright ruby cherries on top of the creamy filling looks elegant, and if you use a store-bought pie crust, it comes with its own lid.  Just flip the plastic cover of the pie crust upside down.  Voila!  Instant portability, and no need to have pie pans returned.  This pie has made an excellent surprise gift for friends, and it is so pretty that even if it gets tipped sideways in the bag that you’re carting the food around in, it can be…fixed to still be decent looking. (That happens to everyone, right?)

Snicker Salad

 

Snickers

Snickers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

  • Filling (see recipe above)
  • 8-12 Snickers bars diced (You can substitute just about any candy bar for Snickers.  We had to think of ideas for a peanut allergic co-worker.  Well, peanut butter filled might not be good, but a Milky Way or even Heath bar could be really good.)
  • 3-4 green apples diced

Fold the Snickers and apples into the filling.  

I have no idea where my mom found the idea for this lovely “salad”, but I think my cousin’s wife would disown me if I didn’t bring it to Thanksgiving dinner!  You can also make the recipe and take half the filling and turn it into a pie and the other half becomes Snicker Salad.  Just add Snickers and apples until it looks “right”.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

  • Filling (see recipe above)
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Milk Chocolate Chips (optional)
  • Graham Crackers (optional)

 

Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Semi-sweet chocolate chips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Core the strawberries (I use a paring knife to make sure there is plenty of room for filling). Use a frosting bag with a large tip or a frosting gun to fill the strawberries.  I received this Easy Accent Decorator from Pampered Chef last year as a gift, and it works amazing for this.  

If you like chocolate, and who doesn’t, you can melt the milk chocolate chips with a little butter in the microwave to drizzle over the berries.  After the strawberries have been filled, put the berries on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper.  In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chocolate chips 30 seconds, remove from the microwave and stir well.  Continue microwaving in 30 second intervals, stirring between, until all the chips are melted.  Drizzle the chocolate over the strawberries, and place them in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.

If you’re not a big chocolate fan (Personally, I don’t get it, but I’ve heard there are a few out there) You can crush some graham crackers and dip the filled end of the strawberry in the crushed graham crackers for that crust-like feeling.

I’d seen the Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries on Pinterest, and thought that was an amazing idea.  However, I didn’t make them myself until a friend hosted a Pampered Chef party.  They had used ready-made cheesecake in their berries, and I kept thinking that this filling would be so great for this!  (It is.)  They made theirs dipped in graham cracker crumbs and I thought, man a chocolate covered strawberry filled with this would be awesome.  (They are.)I made the chocolate drizzled version for a co-worker’s going away party and they were a huge hit.  I only had to taste test six of them before I deemed them ready for my colleagues. (What a tough job!)

‘Til next time,

Jessica

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