Monday, March 28, 2011

oreo cheesecake: an empty stomach filled


Tired and hungry. Two things I am feeling at the moment. Too lazy to get up and make something to eat, but too hungry to just sit here. Oh the dilemma!

I know what you're thinking; is she serious? Yeah, well, I don't take well to hunger. Food pretty much dominates my life so I take eating quite seriously. As a patissiere, it may seem as though I eat sweets all the time, but I actually prefer healthy food for the most part. But I have to admit that it's tough resisting desserts as times. Normally when I make something, I try to scale the recipe down or give most of it away to my family and friends. Besides, I think it's more fun when others  also get to enjoy the sweetnesses of life. Nothing compares to the feeling of getting other people fat. (Jokes!...or not)


So when a friend asked me to make him an Oreo cheesecake, I was over joyed because Oreos are definitely my favorite store-bought cookie. 

Whaaaat? I like store-bought stuff? Oh yes, I am no snob when it comes to food. I'll admit it, I love junk food. Now, that doesn't mean I eat it all the time. No no, just for when I have those really intense cravings.

Anyway, back to the cheesecake. As I was making it, there was a little bit of extra batter so I decided to make a mini cheesecake with it. Well, as soon as my family found out about this, I was obligated to bring it to them. Let me tell you that cheesecake is no joke in our family. It is hailed as some sort of god. So incidentally, I was left with a tiny piece. And it. was. good. Mmmm.

This post is featured on Cupcake Apothecary: A themed baker's Sunday and Something Swanky: Sweets with Thursday 


Oreo Cheesecake

I like my cheesecakes to be rich and dense, so if you're like me, you will most likely enjoy this recipe!

Ingredients 

1 pkg. (350 g or 550 g if you want more) Oreo cookies, divided
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 pkgs. (8-oz. - 250 g) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Extra Oreo cookies, for garnish

Procedure

Preheat oven to 325 F. Finely crush about 15-20 cookies and coarsely chop about 10 cookies; set aside. Mix finely crushed cookie crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Press on bottom of a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat only until just incorporated (beating the eggs too much is what makes the surface crack). Add sour cream and vanilla and beat for 30 seconds and then fold in chopped cookies. Spread mixture onto prepared crust. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until set. (If necessary to prevent top from browning, tent with foil for the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking). If it's really wobbly, it's not ready; if it's only slightly wobbly (one ripple), it's ready - it will set as it cools. Turn off heat and leave to cool completely in oven. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or preferably overnight before serving.

Run a hot knife around the side to remove from pan. If necessary, level off top with a serrated knife. Spread chocolate glaze and garnish with Oreo halves or as desired.

Chocolate glaze

Ingredients

1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream
1/8 cup (25 g) sugar
1 tbsp (25 g) butter
1/8 cup (25 g) corn syrup
125 g bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Procedure
Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering and pour over chocolate. Mix until smooth. Pour immediately over cake and spread with an offset spatula. Do not wait too long before spreading on cake otherwise the glaze with start to seize and leave ugly lines. Like any sort of glaze or ganache, the more you stir, the more it will thicken so be weary.

 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

red and green velvet cupcakes: the happiest holiday

 

Do you hear that? 

What?

The birds. Chirping.
Do you see that?

What?
The sun. It's evening and it hasn't set yet.

Yes people, those are the first signs of spring. I can feel it, it's gonna be a good one this year. Now if only the mountains of snow would just start melting.

I don't know about you, but spring always reminds me of my childhood. When I was younger, my friends and I would play by a little stream that ran next to our houses. There were some trees and bushes and some areas that made for great little forts. It seems ridiculous now, but we loved that place. We used to go there every day after school (most likely after rushing through our homework, of course) and play. What would we play? I don't even remember anymore. We would just make up stories and spend hours and hours running around. 


I also remember when we used to sneak into the golf course behind our houses and play in the sand traps. Yeah, probably not the best idea in retrospect. But it was always hilarious watching the old men run after us yelling for us to get out of their way. Ah, the good old days.

Yes, things did seem much simpler back then when all we had to worry about was getting our homework done in time to watch The Simpsons. I seriously wish that's all I still had to worry about. Unfortunately, you know, life happened and all that grown-up stuff got in the way. Eff.


Obviously, I can't go back in time but I'm not sure if I would want to. Life was pretty good when I was younger, buuut I kind of like moving forward. You know, it kind of gives me a purpose in life, that sort of thing. I think that's why spring always makes me so happy. New beginnings, sunshine, flowers, puddles, the smell of cow poop. (Nevermind, I don't so much enjoy that last bit), but it's all the other stuff that puts a smile on my face. That and not having to wear a winter coat anymore!



So I guess growing up isn't so bad. It just means that I get to make and eat whatever I want. Take that, mom! Actually, my mom is pretty awesome. So I made some cupcakes and brought some to her. I also made some special ones just in time for St-Patrick's day. The most non-prejudice holiday ever. Everyone can be Irish on St-Patty's day! I was going to booze them up with some Bailey's in the icing, but realized that I didn't have any left. But you can do it, little ones.

These cupcakes are so moist and fluffy and the cream cheese icing balances out the flavour perfectly. These can seriously become addictive. This is my first time making red velvet and honestly, for the longest time I wasn't even sure what made them so different from regular vanilla cakes. But it's all in the buttermilk and vinegar. I don't know what it is, but it just works. So much fluffiness. Like a fat cat sitting on your lap.



Red and Green Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting

I cut the recipe in half and made cupcakes out of it. It yielded 11 cupcakes. I also separated the batter in half and tinted each a different colour using gel-based food dye instead of liquid dye.

Recipe adapted from Bakerella
Yields one 8 inch layer cake or approx. 22 cupcakes

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz. red food colouring (or a few drops of gel-based colouring)

Procedure 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 8 inch cake pans or line two standard-sized muffin tins. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl, set aside. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl with a whisk (or in a mixer) and add the oil, buttermilk, vinegar and vanilla. Whisk until well blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on medium-high (or vigorously by hand) for about a minute or until completely combined.

Pour batter into cake pans or muffin tins 3/4 of the way. Bake for about 30-40 minutes for cakes or 20-25 minutes for cupcakes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool 20 minutes then remove cakes from pans and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
Note: this recipe is for the layer cake. For the 11 cupcakes that I baked, I used:
250g cream cheese, 3/4 cup icing sugar and 1 tsp vanilla
It's not a lot but just enough to add a little sweetness. Follow this recipe for the layer cake:
8 oz. (250 g ) cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
 5-6 cups icing sugar

Sift sugar and set aside. Beat cream cheese and butter on high until creamy. Add vanilla. Add the sugar in batches. Scrape down the sides in between each addition.


Monday, March 7, 2011

chewy blondies: you were made for me


Oh lazy Sundays, how wonderful you are. You were made for sleeping in, brunching and doing a whole lot of nothing. 

I love Sundays, especially after a late Saturday night. It feels great to get a little extra sleep, have breakfast with some friends and family and either watch tv and be lazy or do some crafts. Last week was a crafty Sunday, this Sunday was for eating and baking. (Well, eating a lot is pretty much always a given in my world). And eating is just what I did, which resulted in feelings of slight nausea by the end of the night. I say those bagels and that samosa were still worth it.

I think it's important to have a day to take it easy and not worry about life's little troubles. Also, it's a great day for cleaning and reorganizing. If you're anything like me, ie: a self-proclaimed neat freak, then you must enjoy de-cluttering and organizing pantries, closets, boxes of old things, etc. What's that? I'm a weirdo who actually enjoys cleaning? Why yes, yes I am. 


OCD tendencies aside, I also like to just let go of things and relax once in a while without worrying about the pile of dishes or dirty laundry. It's not always easy, but it can be done with a little will power. It's been a bit of a nerve-wracking week what with a new job and all, but I think it went quite well so a little laziness was due. I'm working at a bakery and really starting to learn a lot about the pastry industry. It's definitely a tough business but I also think it can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. The early mornings aren't so much fun but I'd take this over office work any day.


And besides, if I'm thinking about having my own business some day, it's worth while to learn as much as I can about the industry through experience. Which means, more baking! 

I'm really grateful for this opportunity so far, but you know what else I'm really grateful for? These amazing blondies. Think brownies but without the chocolate. What's the point, you ask? Oh you'll know once you taste them. It's almost like brown sugar fudge. I don't know about you, but I like my brownies and blondies to be dense and chewy. No cake-like brownies for me thank you very much! 

So thanks blondies, you just made Sundays even better.

This recipe is featured on Sweet as Sugar Cookies for the Saturday link party. Check out all the great recipes from other bloggers!


Chewy Blondie Bars

These blondies are soft, chewy and delicious. But that may also be because I slightly underbaked them since I was in quite a rush to leave the house. That being said, they still ended up soooo good as they cooled. I decided to add some semi-sweet and white chocolate chips into the mix. Deeeelicious.
 
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Baking Book
Yields approximately 16 bars

Ingredients

1 cup plus 2 tbsp (155g)  flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/ 125g) butter
1 1/2 cups (330g) packed brown sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips


Procedure

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Mix the flour and salt together, set aside. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat stirring until the sugar has dissolved and feels less grainy. Stir until the surface begins to look shiny and just slightly bubbles (do not boil). This may take about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to cool 10 minutes. 

Add the egg, yolk and vanilla and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Fold in the flour and salt until just blended. Stir in the chips and pour mixture into pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until top develops a crust and a toothpick comes out almost clean. Leave to cool completely and cut into squares. Eat and give away most of them otherwise they will all end up in your tummy within a few minutes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

coconut panna cotta: i dreamt of magical things


Sometimes I really wish I didn't feel the need to sleep. There are so many things that I want to do but don't seem to have the time or energy to try everything. I'm always looking to start new craft projects, practice decorating patterns for work and bake, bake, bake as much as I can. But it doesn't always seem possible when I get home from work. I really don't know how some people manage to work, keep up with projects and maybe even attend to a family. I'm convinced they are not human. Aliens. That definitely seems like the only possible answer.

I, for one, love to sleep, but it isn't so much my love but my need for sleep that makes me get to bed at a decent hour for the hour I wake up at. My body can't seem to function properly without a sufficient amount of sleep in its system. But if I didn't have to sleep then I would have time to do so much more. 

Some projects I would like to explore:
Watercolour painting
Pinhole art
Softies made out of felt and fabric
Expand my photographic abilities
Learn how to web design (which requires knowing at least something about programming)
More cake decorating (gum paste flowers and such)
Learn as much as I can about patisserie


I think my problem is that I've always tried to do so much but never really fully dedicated myself to one thing completely. I guess I'm trying to change that slowly, though. I'm starting to learn that it's ok if I don't end up doing everything I've always (even briefly) wanted to do, but to at least know a few things really well. That's why I've been concentrating my efforts on patisserie and this blog for some time. Photography is something I'd really love to expand my knowledge on even more though. I guess I'll eventually get to those other projects whenever I have some spare time. But for now it's pastry business all the way!

I'll tell you one thing, even when I sometimes feel like I don't have a lot of time on my hands, there always seems to be something really easy that I can make. Honestly, panna cotta,  a light and refreshing Italian dessert, is probably the easiest thing anyone could ever make in just a couple of minutes. It only requires a couple of ingredients, which can simply be altered depending on the taste and consistency you want (a little honey instead of sugar, more milk, less cream or reduce both milk and cream and add plain yogurt after mixture is cool). There are so many flavour possibilities too. I had some coconut milk in my pantry so I decided to use that along with some poached cranberries, because again, that's what I had on hand. You can easily use any other fruit (or none at all). To be honest, I actually preferred it just plain without the poached fruit but it's your choice. Make it your own!


Coconut milk panna cotta

Recipe adapted from Tartelette
Yields 4-6 servings depending on size of ramekins 

Ingredients  

For the panna cotta:

1 cup coconut milk
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp gelatin powder
2 tbsp cold water

For the poached cranberries:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup frozen or fresh cranberries (or any other fruit)
1 tbsp lemon juice
Procedure

For the panna cotta: Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set aside to bloom (expand) for a few minutes. In a medium sauce pan, bring the coconut milk, cream and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat. Melt the gelatin either in the microwave for 5 seconds or in a heat-proof bowl over the sauce pan where the heat of the just-boiled cream will melt the gelatin in a few seconds. Once liquid, immediately mix into the cream mixture. Pour mixture evenly into glasses or ramekins. Leave to cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

For the cranberries: In a small saucepan, bring the water, sugar and lemon juice to a boil. Add the cranberries and simmer on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or until soft. Remove them with a slotted spoon and continue thickening the syrup on medium heat for a couple of minutes until desired consistency. (Or you can just stop once the cranberries are soft for a more liquidy syrup). Divide among glasses on top of panna cottas and sprinkle some pieces of shredded coconut.

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