Friday, April 30, 2010

Creamy, Satiny New York Cheesecake

New York cheesecake is sweet, tangy and rich.  The flavor is simple and pure.  The texture is thick, smooth, and creamy.  Not dense like other cheesecakes, it is more velvety and suede-like.  Not overly sweet or cloying, it is amazing alone or topped with a tangy fruit puree.  LOVE!  This cake has a pretty great stature.  It is made with 2 1/2 pounds (5 bars) of cream cheese and 6 large eggs plus two additional egg yolks.  It fills a 9 inch springform pan to the rim.  The crust is made of graham crackers.  To. Die. For.

New York Cheesecake
from the cookbook, The New Best Recipes

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter for the pan
8 whole graham crackers (4ounces) broken into rough pieces and processed in a food processor to fine, even crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
*I also added a pinch of salt, but it is not in the recipe

2 1/2 pounds (five 8 ounce packages) cream cheese, cut into rough 1 inch chunks, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks, plus 6 large eggs, at room temperature

For the crust:
  • Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly into the pan bottom.  Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around the edges, about 13 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack while making the filling.

For the filling:
  • Increase the oven temp to 500 degrees.  In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium -low speed to break up and soften it slightly, about 1 minute.  Scrape the beater and the bottom and sides of the bowl well with a rubber spatula; add the salt and about half of the sugar and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape the bowl; beat in the remaining sugar until combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape the bowl: add the sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla and beat at low speed until combined. Scrape the bowl; add the egg yolks and beat and med-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape the bowl; add the remaining eggs, two at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl between additions.
  • Brush the sides of the springform pan with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon melted butter,  Set the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills if the pan leaks).  Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake 10 minutes; without opening the the oven door, reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue to bake until the cheesecake registers about 150 degrees on and instant read thermometer inserted in the center, about 1 1/2 hours. 
  • Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool until barely warm. 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Run a paring knife between the cake and the pan sides.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours. (The cheesecake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.)
  • To unmold the cheesecake, remove the sides of the pan,  Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen, then slide the cake onto a serving plate,  Let the cheesecake stand at room temp about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve with fresh strawberry topping if desired.

Look at all of that cream cheese!  This is definately not a lowfat recipe:)
Press the crumbs down with a cup or bottom of a ramekin.
Use the back of a spoon to smooth it all down.
After the crust has cooled completely from baking, fill it with the cheesecake mixture.  Make sure it is set on a rimmed baking sheet.
After it is baked, let it cool on a wire rack.
This topping is just a puree of strawberries, some sugar to taste, a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  I strained it through a fine mesh colander to make it good!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BBQ Pork Ribs

Ribs are succulent.  Done right they are tender, meaty, with just the right amount of smokiness.  Believe it or not, I didn't grow up eating ribs.  Well, I DID eat a whole lot of beef ribs (Korean style-Galbi), but pork ribs were pretty much unheard of in our house.  My first experience was as an adult, out with friends.  And my love for them has only gotten stronger. 
I use a different method for making my ribs.  I am a notorious BBQ burner.  I have a hard time staying in one spot for more than a few minutes at a time, so there is no way I could manage slow cooking ribs on a charcoal grill without charring the daylights out of them.  My trick is to cook them in the oven first, wrapped in plastic wrap AND foil.  I used to cook them at a very low heat for 3 hours, but they were so tender, that they would fall apart before I could get them on the grill.  And really, I like my ribs with just a little bit of chew.  Not much, but enough so you have to bite down before the meat comes off.  Otherwise, it feels more like I'm eating braised short ribs, and that's not what we are going for here.  I cook them at 300 F for an hour, then put them on a charcoal grill for the smoky flavor. 
I use a dry rub without salt, so you may want to salt them at the end of cooking or before they go on the charcoal grill.  (I find that the sauce adds enough salt for me but I tend to like my food less salty than most.)   Then finish them off with my homemade BBQ sauce.  Served with side of collard greens, corn, and macaroni and cheese, and you have a feast fit for any occasion.

BBQ Pork Ribs

3 Slabs of pork spareribs
Dry Rub
BBQ Sauce

Dry Rub:
1 cup paprika
1/2 cup chili powder (I used New Mexico, of course)
4 tablespoons onion powder
Store what you don't use in a sealed container.

Rinse and dry the ribs.  Pull off the membrane.  Season both sides with the rub.  Wrap ribs and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
When you are ready to start cooking, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wrap each individual slab with plastic wrap, and then again with aluminum foil.  Set the ribs on two rimmed baking sheets.  Bake for an hour to hour and a half.
Get charcoal grill ready.  Try to maintain a low heat. 
When the ribs are done in the oven, unwrap carefully and place the ribs on the charcoal grill.  Grill for about 20 minutes, flipping a couple of times to keep them from burning.  At the end of grilling, baste each slab with BBQ sauce.  Remove from grill.

Here are the ribs cleaned, but still with the membrane attached
After they have been rubbed
Wrapped in plastic
Wrapped in foil over the plastic
Ready to oven bake
Done from the oven, now onto the grill
On the grill

Homemade BBQ Sauce

I like my BBQ sauce sweet and spicy.  If you prefer a milder sauce, leave out or reduce the cayenne.  That is the beauty of homemade sauce, you can tweak it to suit your taste.  Not into sweet sauces?  Reduce the honey.  Want it tangier?  Add a little more vinegar or lemon.  Want a Southwest kick?  Add some cumin.

I made this for ribs, but it is equally as good on chicken or on pulled pork. 

KP's Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce

2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 to 6 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional or minimize to taste)
2 drops liquid smoke (I used Hickory, but Mesquite works too)

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer.  Cook uncovered for 1 hour.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Raspberry Chocolate S'mores

I had this idea of raspberry s'mores in my head and this was the reason I made the graham crackers.  And the end result is very yummy!  I am not normally a marshmallow fan, nor am I a s'more lover.  I was never a girl scout and camping is not on my list of things I like to do.  However, changing the flavors and using homemade everything makes plain old, not so exciting s'mores into something that even a non-girl scout, anti-camper like me a fan of.  What's next?  Strawberry chocolate s'mores?  Double chocolate s'mores?  Mint chocolate s'mores?  Oooh, the possibilities!

To start, you want to make the homemade graham crackers.

Then, you make the homemade raspberry marshmallows.  When everything is set and ready, you roast the marshmallow with a fresh raspberry skewered between the slices and smoosh it between two graham crackers and a piece of dark chocolate....mmmmm!

Raspberry Marshmallows:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon raspberry extract
3 drops red food coloring
1 drop blue food coloring

Oil bottom and sides of a 13x9 inch metal baking pan and dust with confectioners sugar
In bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup of water
In a saucepan, cook granulated sugar, salt, corn syrup and 1/2 cup of water over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Increase heat to medium and boil without stirring until a candy thermometer registers 240 F (about 12 minutes).  Remove pan from heat and pour this mixture over the gelatin mixture and stir.
Beat with the whisk attachment on high speed until white and thick, about 6 minutes.
In separate bowl, whisk egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.
Add the egg whites to the gelatin mixture and continue beating. 
Add extracts and food coloring and continue beating until the color is completely incorporated.
Pour mixture into baking pan and even it out with a rubber spatula. 
Sift confectioner's sugar over the top and refrigerate uncovered until firm, at least 3 hours.
Invert onto a cutting board and cut into squares with a sharp knife or kitchen shears.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Graham Crackers

I was so excited to get Nancy Silverton's Pastries book, but I have to tell you honestly that it's been a pretty disappointing book so far.  I've made a couple of recipes including the disastrous donuts (that was mostly my fault for using whole wheat pastry flour). And while my kids liked the donuts, I wasn't really fond of the flavor profile.  I also made her Pretty Pear Cookies, which I almost posted under the title "My ugly version of Nancy's pretty pear cookies"  and holy smokes, those were an ALL DAY project for some really bland and tasteless cookies that I threw out.  Her book has no pictures, and while I am pretty good at following recipes without pictures, HER recipes NEED pictures to understand the sometimes vague and confusing instructions. A lot of her recipes require special equipment that most home cooks wouldn't stock in their kitchen like flan rings and cake rings, and not just one, but EIGHT for one recipe (at about $12.00 a piece through a wholesale restaraunt supply store)!!!!  NOT happening!   But anyway, enough ranting about what I don't like about this book, and onto a recipe that I do like.
THIS is a good recipe.  And?  I was able to use up some of that pesky whole wheat pastry flour...woo hoo!  She does say that she prefers the flavor of these crackers using unbleached all-purpose flour or pastry flour, but 1/2 of it can be substituted with whole wheat, so I did.  Also, I will list the directions as they were written, but I chose to make my crackers smaller because I am ultimately working my way to making amazing raspberry chocolate S'mores with these and I wanted them bite size.  I originally made them into 2 inch squares, but found them hard to manage because they soften up so quickly.  I ended up using a round scalloped edge biscuit cutter and worked quickly and they turned out great.  I made two batches because we ate up the first batch before the S'mores could be made.  I also found that these are better the next day.  The graham flavor really develops after a day...if you can keep them away from your kids, or in my case, away from myself.
Graham Crackers:
from the cookbook, Nancy Silvertons's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate.  Add the butter and pulse on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract.  Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together.  It will be very soft and sticky.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick.  Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
  • To prepare teh topping:  In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
  • Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator.  Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.  The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary.  Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide.  Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers.  Gather the scraps together and set aside.  Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with topping.  Chill until firm, about 30-45 minutes.  Repeat with the second batch of dough.
  • Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll.  Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers. 
  • Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough.  Using a toothpick or a skewar, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 from each side of the middle dividing line.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.
The mixture in the food processor

Flattened out on a board before chilling
How I cut my first batch.  I used a round biscuit cutter for the second batch and that was easier.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Italian Hoagie Rolls

The best sandwiches start with the best bread.  This is another great from The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  The biga is made the day before and refrigerated overnight.  The recipe is good for two 1 pound loaves of Italian bread, or 9 torpedo (hoagie) rolls.  Scrumptious!

Italian Bread:
from the cookbook, The Bread Baker's Apprentice

3 1/2 cup (18 ounces) biga
2 1/2 cup (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 2/3 teaspoons (.41 ounce) salt
1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
1 teaspoon (.17 ounce) diastatic barley malt powder or barley malt syrup (optional)
1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) olive oil, vegetable oil, or shortening
3/4 cup to 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (or milk if making torpedo rolls), lukewarm (90 to 100 F)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting

  • Remove biga from refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough and cut it into 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife.  Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.
  • Stir together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and malt powder in a bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the biga pieces, olive oil, and 3/4 cup water or milk and stir together until a dough forms, adjusting the water or flour according to need.  The dough should be slightly sticky and soft, but not batterlike or very sticky.  If the dough feels tough and stiff, add more water to soften (it is better to have the dough too soft than too stiff at this point.)
  • Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed with the dough hook).  Knead for about 10 minutes, adding flour as needed until the dough is tackym, but not sticky, and supple. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 F.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  • Ferment at room temp for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
  • Gently divide the dough in 2 equal pieces of about 18 ounces each or into 9 pieces of about 4 ounces each.  Carefully form the pieces into batards degassing the dough as little possible.  Lightly dust with a sprinkle of flour, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Then complete the shaping, extending the loaves to about 12 inches in length or shaping the torpedos rolls.  Line a sheet pan with parchment and dust with semolina flour or cornmeal.  Place the loaves on the pan and lightly mist with spray oil.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  • Proof at room temp for about 1 hour, or until the rolls have grown to about 1 1/2 times their original size.
  • Preheat oven to 500F.  Score the breads with 2 parallel, diagonal slashes or 1 long slash.
  • Rolls can be baked directly on the sheet pan.  For loaves, transfer to a pizza peel and gently onto hot baking stone.  Pour 1 cup hot water into steam pan and close the door.  After 30 seconds, spray the walls of the oven with water and close the door.  Repeat once more after another 30 seconds.  After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 450F and bake until done, rotating 180 degrees, if necessary, for even baking.  It should take about 20 minutes for loaves and 15 minutes for rolls.  The loaves and rolls should be golden brown and register at least 200F at the center.
  • Transfer the rolls to a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.
The dough after the first fermentation
Divided into 9 pieces

Shape into batards

Set onto baking sheet

Bake and cool

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Strawberry Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

I thoroughly enjoyed eating these this morning.  I just bought a huge container of strawberries without keeping in mind that strawberries do not stay fresh for very long.  My daughter wanted pancakes, so this was a perfect recipe to satisfy her craving and use up some of the strawberries.  And what could be a better on top of strawberry pancakes than a wonderful, fresh strawberry sauce and lightly sweetened whipped cream? 

Strawberry Pancakes:

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sliced strawberries

In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients
In another bowl, whisk egg, milk and vanilla
Add the wet to dry and whisk until just blended
Fold in strawberries. 
Spoon batter onto hot buttered griddle or pan.  Cook until set and bubbly, flip cook until both sides are golden brown.

Strawberry Sauce:

1 pint of strawberries, cleaned and sliced in half
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water (or more as needed to get the consistency desired)

In small saucepan, cook strawberries and sugar over medium high heat until sauce thickens.  Take off heat and with an immersion blender, blend to the smoothness desired (or put the entire mixture into a blender and puree.)
Put back into saucepan and add water if you want thinner sauce. 
Spoon over pancakes and top with a dollup of whipped cream

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bernadette's Stuffed Squid

My most memorable New Year's Eve was not spent partying in Las Vegas, or watching the ball drop in Time Square.  My most memorable New Year's Eve was spent in a home in the suburbs of Southern California eating these.  I was 16 and spent the evening at my best friend's house sharing their family tradition of having a seafood feast.  It was amazing and these little guys were burned into my memory forever.
I finally got the recipe from her a few years ago, and a few days ago got the permission to post it.  Thank you, Bernadette!

You want to use baby squid for this recipe and Bernadette's directions are to NOT use garlic, oregano, thyme, or rosemary in the sauce.  However, there is some garlic powder and Italian seasonings in the stuffing.  The first time I saw my friend Vanessa make the stuffing, she tore up the bread by hand.  I just used my handy dandy food processor and gave it a little whirl.  Also there are no specific measurements for the olive oil, water, or herbs.  All I can tell you is that I added the olive oil in tablespoon increments and I ended up using about 3 tablespoons all together.  I also used about 1 tablespoon of water.  For the herbs in the stuffing, the instructions are to sprinkle the basil until it covers the top of the stuffing (I used about a teaspoon), and easy on the garlic.  I used a pinch each of the other herbs and garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp of onion salt.  I won't list that in the final recipe though because those aren't her instructions, just my own approximations.  Stuffing the squid will take a little practice because they are quite small.  I used my iced tea spoon (which has a small head) and my finger.  Just don't overfill because they will burst in the sauce. 

Stuffed Squid
recipe courtesy of Bernadette G.

Squid Sauce:
1 can tomato sauce
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1/2 onion, diced
Basil (to taste)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Pinch of sugar for acidity

  • Saute onion in olive oil
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low for 1 hour


1/2 loaf of bread
Parmesan cheese (She listed 1/2 cup?, but I used about 3/4 cups)
Basil (sprinkle til it covers top)
Garlic powder
Onion salt
Olive oil

  • Mix all ingredients to taste (use more Basil, light on the garlic)
  • Mositen mix with water and olive oil so it mushes together (Even if it looks dry, try squeezing a small amount with your fingers, if it clumps together, it's probably moist enough)


Baby squid (she doesn't list an amount, but I used approx 3 pounds)

  • Clean squid.  Rip out heads and ink pouches,  rub and peel off the purple skin until you see the white skin.  Take ball out of tenticles, remove everything out of the body cavity and rinse inside and out.  Wash all iodine away and flush cavity with water.
  • Stuff body cavity with stuffing making sure not to overfill because it will burst.  Close the tops with toothpicks.
  • Cook squid in the sauce for up to 45 minutes but not any longer because the squid with get tough. (Mine was done after 25 minutes)

What the squid looks like before and after cleaning
 The stuffing. See how it clumps together when you press it
After you stuff it, secure it with a toothpick

Nestle them together in the sauce

Monday, April 12, 2010

BLT Salad

Since I started this food blog 2 months ago, both the hubs and I have gained a whopping 15 pounds...each.   I suppose that's a good enough reason to put salad back into my meal rotation.  Will this be the end of my dessert and bread making days?  Yeah, right.  My carb addiction is a voracious and relentless beast.  So while I may not make a new dessert every day, I will certainly still be making (and eating) dessert!

This salad may not be low on the fat scale, but it is quite low on non-complex (simple) carbs.  The only sugar is in the white balsamic vinegar used in the vinaigrette and the small amount of natural sugar found in tomatoes.  It is my version of diet food (not really much of a sacrifice).  Now if this were to be eaten just as a side salad, or a starter with no concern of carbs, I would venture to say that a crusty piece of French bread with a slather of butter would make a nice accompaniment.  But today this is my lunch, without bread:( 

BLT Salad
serves 4 as a side salad or 2 as lunch

8 thick slices of bacon, cut in half
1 teaspoon of minced shallot
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 head of butter lettuce, torn (or half butter lettuce and half red leaf lettuce)
Large handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut into small wedges
6 ounces of blue cheese, cut into small wedges, or crumbled

In skillet, cook bacon until crisp and set aside on paper towel.
In small bowl,whisk together shallots, vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette, mound on a plate and arrange bacon, tomatoes and blue cheese around the lettuce.

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