Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TWD: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake and an announcement

Hi everyone, I'm back! Sorry for the unannounced (and unanticipated) blogging vacation. I sure hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas - we sure did. It wasn't exactly peaceful (that's an impossibility with four children) but it certainly was joyful.

I have made my fair share of cheesecakes and even made some to sell this holiday season - and that's what I did with this one. A friend ordered a cheesecake for her family Christmas celebration this past Saturday, which was perfect timing for this week's TWD post. I have a couple of very good recipes from epicurious.com that I most frequently use. In fact, I used the topping from this one to create the cheesecake I made for my friend - Cranberry Orange Cheesecake with a Chocolate Crust.

Dorie's recipe comes together very easily, like most cheesecakes. I'm not sure why people find the prospect of making a cheesecake daunting, because, really it's pretty easy - the trickiest part is the water bath and I'm going to tell you the secret right now. When you're wrapping your springform pan in foil to go into the water bath, you must use the large heavy duty foil (18 inches wide). If you use anything smaller, the water will seep into the pan and turn your crust into mush (I speak from experience here). Wrap the pan at least twice, making sure to mold each foil layer upwards towards the top of the pan (not folding it sideways) - you may have to roll the top of the foil around the top edge.

Another tip: when you fill your roasting pan, make sure to put the pan in first, then fill it with hot water (no more than halfway up the side of the pan).

To make a chocolate crust, I just used 1 3/4 cups of crushed oreos (stuff removed - this is much to the delight of my children who make super stuffed oreos).

You can buy plain chocolate wafer cookies - Meijer doesn't carry them here though and they're usually more expensive than oreos (plus, no stuff). Anyway, I omitted the additional sugar and just stirred in the melted butter.

The only other change I made to the original recipe was to add 2 tsp. grated orange zest to the batter and add the topping. Here's that recipe:

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

Stir sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium; add cornstarch mixture and bring to simmer. Add cranberries; cook until beginning to pop, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Stir in orange peel. Cool completely. Cover and chill overnight. (Cheesecake and cranberry mixture can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Run knife around top edge of cheesecake to loosen. Release pan sides. Top cheesecake with cranberry mixture. Chill until set, about 1 hour.

My announcement is sort of a sad one to make - this will be my last Tuesdays with Dorie post. Unfortunately, Dorie's baked goods aren't calorie free and I really want to focus on losing 30 pounds next year. I thought that training for a half marathon would do the trick, but alas, no. At least I didn't gain any weight! I have had such a great time since I joined and I am so thankful for all my new blogging friends I met through TWD.

In 2009 I am going to try to post healthy recipes which will be lower in fat and sugar, but every once in a while, I'm going to have to sneak in something truly decadent (and there's really not many better sources out there than Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie). Thanks to all my TWD buddies for all your support and I'll be sure to check in with you each Tuesday!

Have a happy and safe New Year!
UPDATE: It's been too long since I last posted a TWD - I completely forgot to link to the wonderful blogger who choose this week's recipe. Please visit Anne of Annestrawberry for the recipe and to check out a truly fantastic blog!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD: Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

Please accept my apologies for the light blogging lately. Like all of you, we are busy, busy, busy right now and blogging has sort of taken a back seat. So, sorry - I am hoping that I'll be able to get back into the swing of things after the holidays (and then after a short break for the Disney half marathon and vacation in January).

These cookies are a snap to make and are a good all-around sugar cookie. They are a little on the crisp side, but if you watch them really carefully and take them out just before they start to brown, you can have them a little crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside (which seems to be just the right texture to me). I have to admit that they don't quite measure up to my all-time favorite sugar cookie recipe though - Cream Cheese Icebox Cookies from the Joy of Cooking. These are simply outstanding - the dough is great to work with and the addition of the cream cheese just makes them taste fantastic. I also usually use the Quick White Icing II recipe from the same book and it's always a hit (watch this very carefully as it heats - don't overheat it or it'll crystallize on you). Since this was the kids' chance to get in touch with their inner artist (and taste isn't a huge factor), I went with Betty Crocker's icing bags this time.

I let the kids go to town with the frosting and sprinkles. Isn't it amazing how children have the ability to cover almost every square millimeter of the top of the cookie with stuff - that my friends, is pure kid talent. This is my three year old's creation:

For Dorie's recipe, check out the K├╝chenlatein blog (I think it's German, but she's got a translator function) - thanks Ulrike for choosing this week's recipe and giving my kids the opportunity to make a pretty good sized mess and get a nice sugar rush all in the span on 15 minutes :-) As usual, you can check out all the other supremely talented TWD bloggers here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

TWD: Linzer Sables

It's the most wonderful time of the year again folks! Welcome to the Christmas season - well, actually according to Catholic tradition, it's only Advent, and Christmas is from Dec. 25th through Jan. 5th, but I digress.... Anyway, Tuesdays with Dorie starts off the season with, what else, cookies! They're beautiful cookies too - or they could be if you remember to make a cutout in the center of the cookie (making a window into the delightful raspberry jam filling). As you can see, I completely forgot to do this, but I still think they're pretty. And feel free to judge this book by it's cover - they're delicious!

The recipe is very easy - don't be intimidated by rolling out the dough. It rolled out like a dream and, since you roll it between two sheets of plastic wrap, clean up is a cinch. I only made one change to this recipe and that's to substitute 1 can of almond paste for the ground almonds and sugar. I thought I had plenty of almonds stored away in the freezer and only at the last minute realized I didn't have any. Thankfully, I had bought a can of the almond paste a couple of months ago intending to make another batch of almond horns (still intending to do that - maybe later this month). This substitution worked great, but I had to rearrange the directions a little to compensate, so I'm reprinting the recipe with my changes.

Linzer Sables
adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 8 oz. can Almond Paste
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
scant 1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 large egg 2 tsp water
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup raspberry jam

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend almond paste and butter together until smooth, maybe 3 minutes at medium-low speed, scraping down the sides as needed. Reduce speed to low and add in the ground cinnamon, cloves and salt. Add in the egg and water, beat another 2 minutes. Add the flour, mixing only until just combined - don't over mix.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, put the dough between two large sheets of plastic wrap. Using your hands, flatten the dough into a disk, then grab a rolling pin and roll out the dough, turning it over frequently so the paper doesn't cut into it (I did not do this and it wasn't a problem - I used plastic wrap though) until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Leave the dough in the paper and repeat with the second half of the dough. Transfer wrapped dough to a baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until it is very firm, about 2 hours in the fridge or about 45 minutes in the freezer. The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Just thaw the dough enough to cut out the cookies and go on from there.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Peel off the top sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap from one piece of dough and, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter - a scalloped cutter is nice for these - cut out as many cookies as you can. If you want a peekaboo cutout, use the end of a piping tip to cut out a very small circle from the centers of half the cookies. Transfer the rounds to the baking sheets, leaving a little space between the cookies. Repeat with second disk of dough. Set the scarps aside - you can combine them with the scraps from the second disk and roll and cut more cookies (refrigerate the rolled out disk as before).

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time (I didn't - I put them both in the oven and switched them halfway through baking and they came out great) for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden, dry and just firm to the touch. Transfer to a rack to cool to room temperature.

To make sandwich cookies, spread jam on one side of the cookies and top with another cookie. Dorie's recipe is a little different her in that she melts the jam with some water and boils it slightly, but again, mine came out fine just using the straight jam. One final note, the recipe says it makes 50 cookies (or 25 sandwich cookies) - I didn't even come close to that as I only got about 16, but I don't think I rolled out my dough as thin as a quarter of an inch either.

I definitely recommend this cookie and think it'll look great in your holiday assortment, especially if you use a Christmas themed cookie cutter. I tried using my star-shaped cutter, but the tips kept breaking off so, in order to keep my stress level down and avoid that Mommy's-really-irritated-so-don't-mess-with-her atmosphere in the kitchen, I went with the scalloped edge cutter. (My kids know first hand that expression "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" and have started to recognize the warning signs)

Many thanks to noskos of Living the Life for selecting a cookie that's as beautiful as it is tasty (you can find the original recipe there)! Like I said, I don't know if I'd classify my Linzer Sables as beautiful, but not bad. Dorie's are in the book and I'm sure plenty of other TWD bakers' have gorgeous cookies - so check 'em out!

Coming up next Tuesday: Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies (we'll be breaking out the Christmas sprinkles for sure!)