New York Cheesecake

recipe courtesy of Joy of Baking.com

Check out their video here.

Ahh Cheesecake…rich, dense, and elegant.  You can serve cheesecake at your fanciest dinner party, or you can serve it on a random Tuesday night and it will elevate even the most humble meal.

I did some research for this post ( EzineArticles.com) and I discovered that the origin of cheesecake is Greek.  A form of cheesecake was first served to the athletes in the Olympics, to be eaten as an energy source.  The Greek people afterwards started making the little cakes and it became a custom for the bride-to-be to make and serve them to the friends of the groom.  That custom turned into brides and grooms serving wedding cake to their guests.

The cheesecakes that we know and love today, originate from immigrant New York City neighborhoods.  There are two styles; Italian, which uses ricotta cheese in the recipe and sometimes even candied fruits, and Jewish  or New York style, which is the cream cheese version.

This recipe comes from Joy of Baking.com.  I have lots and lots of cheesecake recipes, but I chose this one because their website has a video that accompanies the recipe.  I watched the video, and I thought it might be helpful to anyone out there who has never made a cheesecake, or hasn’t made one in a while. With Easter coming up, it is time to dig out the cheesecake recipes and start planning a menu. Hopefully one of these will fill the need for your holiday cheesecake. Enjoy!

Cheesecake Berry Baskets

Cheesecake Bars

Mini Easter Cheesecakes

Crust Ingredients

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling Ingredients

32 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat free)

1 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

5 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1 Tablespoon lemon zest (I used the zest of 1 lemon and 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients

1 cup sour cream

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. You will need a 9 inch springform pan for this recipe.  Spray the pan with Pam, and place it on a baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Place the rack in the center of the oven.

2. To make the crust- Place the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a medium-sized bowl and combine using a rubber spatula.  Pour crumbs into prepared springform pan.  Press an even layer of crumbs on the bottom of the pan and about one inch up the sides.  You can use a spoon, or your hands, I used my hands.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you have the filling made.

3. To make the filling-Using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar and flour.  Mix on a low-medium speed until smooth.  You do not want to beat this hard or fast because it adds too many air bubbles.  Just take your time and mix until the lumps are gone.  You will have to stop several times and scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl just to make sure that the mixture is smooth.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix on a low-medium speed until each egg is incorporated into the batter.  Stop and scrape the bowl several times as you do this.  Add the whipping cream, lemon zest and vanilla.  Again, mix on a low-medium speed.  After everything is mixed, scrape the bowl sides and bottom and make sure you’ve got all the lumps out.  Take the pan out of the fridge and place it back on the baking sheet.  Pour the filling into the pan, and place the pan in the preheated oven.

5. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 °F., then lower the oven temperature to 250 °F.   Continue to bake for about 60-90 minutes, or until firm and only the center of the cheesecake looks a little wet and wobbly or giggly ( I checked my cheesecake at 60 minutes and it was not ready, so I added 5 minutes.  I checked it again and added 5 more minutes, and then it was done…so mine took 70 minutes).  Remove the cheesecake from the oven and place on a wire rack, leave the oven on.

6. To make the topping- Mix the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Spread the topping gently over the hot cheesecake, then place the cheesecake back in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the cheesecake from the oven and using a sharp knife on the inside edge of the pan, loosen the cheesecake from the edge of the pan.  Doing this helps to prevent the cheesecake from cracking.  Do not remove the sides of the pan.

7. Let the cheesecake cool completely, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best).  When you are ready to serve, remove the sides of the pan, slice the cheesecake and garnish with fruit or sauce.

Cheesecake Bars

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recipe adapted from Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars by King Arthur Flour

Unlike some cheesecake recipes, which require special pans or a water bath, this one is quick and easy to put together and uses an 8×8 inch pan.  After it is baked, cooled and refrigerated, you can serve this cheesecake as is, or top it with pie filling, chocolate, whipped cream, sundae sauce, etc.  The fresh lemon zest and juice is optional, but I suggest you use it because the taste is heavenly.  You will need to make this early in the day (or the night before) if you are planning to serve it for dessert, as it needs several hours to chill.  It is a nice size for a family or a small dinner party.  Enjoy!

Crust Ingredients

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

4 Tablespoons powdered sugar

5-6 Tablespoons melted butter

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (my favorite is the King Arthur brand)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Stir together the crumbs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and melted butter.

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3. Press into the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of  an 8×8 inch pan.  If the pan is metal; freeze the crust for 15 minutes.

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4. Bake the crust for about 8-10 minutes, just until set.

5. Remove from the oven and cool, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

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Batter Ingredients

2-8oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (optional)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Directions

1. Blend the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs, cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Mix until well combined.

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2. Scrape the batter into the cooled crust.  Bake the bars for 30-40 minutes (mine took about 38 minutes), until the filling is set but still jiggles a little in the center.

3. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

4. Slice and garnish with whipped cream, chocolate, caramel, cherries, etc.

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Chocolate Guinness Cake

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Recipe courtesy of Feast by Nigella Lawson, and NPR.org

Chocolate and Guinness…mmmm!  This decadent recipe is from the British food writer, Food Network star, and Domestic Goddess herself, Nigella Lawson.  It is an easy cake to put together; you start by melting the butter and Guinness in a large skillet on the stove, and mix in the rest of the ingredients right in the skillet.  After the cake bakes and cools, you mix up a quick frosting that only goes on top, simulating the frothy head of a Guinness draught.

I love that you can mix this whole thing up in the skillet, however, you’d better use a big one.  My cast iron skillet is 12 inches across and nearly 2 1/2 inches deep, and the cake batter filled it.  I had to whisk slowly so as not to sling chocolate and flour all over the place.  If you are like me (an aggressive stirrer), then you may wish to transfer the butter and Guinness mixture to a heat-proof bowl so that you can just go to town on it when you add the other ingredients.

This is a great birthday cake for that person in your life that loves beer (especially Guinness) and doesn’t want the typical sweet bakery confection.  This cake is dense, moist and not overly sweet.  Plus, it looks pretty cool.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

1 cup Guinness (save the cap to float on top of the cake for decoration)

10 Tablespoons butter

3/4 cup cocoa (Dutch-processed is best)

2 cups superfine sugar ( regular, granulated sugar, works fine too)

3/4 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9 inch springform pan and line the pan with parchment paper.

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2. Combine the Guinness and butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until the butter melts.  Remove from the heat, whisk in sugar and cocoa until blended.

3. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.

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4. Add to the Guinness mixture in the pan.  Add the flour and baking soda, whisk until smooth.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake 45 minutes-1 hour (mine took 50 minutes), at 350 degrees, until cake is risen and firm.

6. Place pan on a wire rack and allow cake to cool completely in the pan.

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Frothy Head on the Guinness 

1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Using a food processor or mixer, break up any lumps in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add cream cheese and blend until smooth.  Add heavy cream and mix until smooth and spreadable.

2. Remove cake from the pan and place on a platter or cake stand.  Ice the top of the cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.  Float the cap of the bottle on the top of the cake, or draw a shamrock in the suds, like the bartender does when you get a Guinness on draught.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake

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Recipe adapted from The Complete Book of Baking by Pillsbury

published by The Penguin Group, New York,NY

Elizabeth’s Chocolate Glaze by Elizabeth Levesque

Four days ago I bought these lovely zucchini with the intention of baking zucchini bread, and then I forgot all about them.  Normally I would have left the peels on, but they are not as lovely now, and that is why I peeled them before cutting and grating them for the cake.  The food processor made quick work of these pieces of zucchini; it took me less than 2 minutes to grate about 8 zucchini.  Then I “sweated” them for about 40 minutes.

According to Baking Illustrated , you are supposed to sweat the zucchini before using it in zucchini bread, and so I thought it would be best to do the same when using them in a cake recipe.  If you are using a food processor to grate your zucchini, add the 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar right down the chute .  If you are using a box grater, just mix in the sugar with the grated zucchini.  Place a fine sieve or colander over a bowl, and allow the grated zucchini to drain for at least 30 minutes.  You will be amazed at how much liquid is sweated out (at the end I pressed the zucchini to get even more liquid out).  Half of the zucchini were used in this cake and I froze the other half to use in a cake or loaf of bread later.  Enjoy!

Chocolate-Chip-Zucchini-Cake-zucchini

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped nuts

2 teaspoons granulated sugar- for “sweating” the zucchini

Chocolate-Chip-Zucchini-Cake-chopped-zucchini-250x250

Directions

1. Grate and sweat the zucchini.

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2. Heat oven to 350° F.  Grease and flour a 13×9 inch pan.

3. In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter, oil, vanilla and eggs; beat well.

4. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda and buttermilk; blend well.

Chocolate-Chip-Zucchini-Cake-batter

5. Fold in zucchini, chocolate chips and nuts.  Spread in the greased and floured pan.

6. Bake at 350 ° F. for 35- 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

7. This can be served unfrosted ( and it really is good without frosting), or with just a glaze ( I chose to glaze it- the recipe follows).  You can also use a chocolate frosting to bring out more of the chocolate flavor.

Chocolate-Chip-Zucchini-Cake-cake-on-plate

Elizabeth’s Dark Chocolate Glaze

1 1/3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 dark unsweetened cocoa

1 tsp vanilla

about 4-5 Tablespoons water

1. Mix together powdered sugar, cocoa,vanilla and enough water to make your glaze pourable, but yet still somewhat thick.

2. Pour glaze over cooled cake and quickly spread it evenly (a small off-set spatula works great for this).  Allow glaze to set before cutting the cake.

P.S… I’m not the only one who cooks in this house, this is a sample of Mark’s handiwork.

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Chocolate-Chip-Zucchini-Cake-bbq-open

Blueberry Pound Cake

Blueberry-Poundcake-slices-on-cutting-board

Recipe adapted from Blueberry Pound Cake by Nancy Zimmerman

2004 Taste of Home Annual Recipes

2003 Reiman Media Group , Inc. Greendale, WI

A couple of years ago we girls got together to sew (and eat) and my friend Carol served this delicious pound cake for dessert.  Carol said she likes this recipe because,” it tastes more like store-bought.”.  I agree, and as soon as you taste it, you will know exactly what she means.  It not only tastes yummy, but the texture is very fine, and the cake is moist.  It also has the classic flavor pairing of blueberry and lemon.

Using fresh blueberries that have been rinsed, drained, and dried is best.  However, I was so anxious to make this cake that I used frozen blueberries, and they were the size of grapes.  You will notice a faint lavender swirl in my batter and that is because of the wet berries, but the cake still tastes delicious (Carol’s cakes came out perfect, with no purple trails).  Also, I did have to add 12 minutes to the baking time, I’m guessing that is because of the frozen blueberries in the batter.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

6 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sour cream ( I was a little shy of 8 oz., so I scooped off the top of the blueberry Greek yogurt container until I had enough.  In the picture you will see that my sour cream is lilac colored)

3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries*

confectioner’s sugar

* If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw before adding to the batter.

 

Directions

Blueberry-Poundcake-eggs-in-a-bowl

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Beat in extracts.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

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2. Combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in the blueberries.

Blueberry-Poundcake-blueberries-in-batter

3. Spoon batter into 2 greased and wax-paper lined 9x5x3 inch loaf pans (Carol used parchment paper and the cakes came out just fine).

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.  Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Both Carol and I had to bake our cakes an additional 10-15 minutes.

 

Bobby’s Going-Away Party

Bobbys-Going-Away-Party-Bobby-at-the-mantle

Our son is a member of the United States Air Force.  He recently re-enlisted (on my birthday) for four more years.  We are so very proud of him and the path he has carved out for himself.  Four years ago I wrote the blog post for his going away party on a now defunct website.  In honor of Bobby and his renewed commitment to serving our country, I’m publishing the original blog post again.  Enjoy!

 

August 2011

I knew from the very beginning that part of my job, as a parent, was to nurture and assist our kiddos in their maturation process.  I also understood that eventually leaving the nest for good was the ultimate goal.  Sending two confident, responsible adults out into the world was how I had planned it from the very beginning.  What I failed to take into consideration was how hard it was going to be to let them go.  Danielle is gone, but only an hour away, and she comes home to smooze me when she or I need a little Mom and Daughter time.  Bobby, on the other hand,  is leaving us for good to begin a career in the Air Force.

I suppose if he had caused a lot of trouble, this would be easier, but he has been a great kid.  Bobby has a bubbly personality and enjoys being the life of the party.  Every day he cracks me up with his take on life, we follow sports together fanatically, and there’s never a dull moment when he is around.  I’m really going to miss him and I’m struggling with my emotions as the time for him to leave draws near.

In eight days we will go to Columbus and watch as our son swears his allegiance to the United States and commits to a life of serving his country.  He enters the Air Force following in the footsteps of his Mother and Father, a new generation carrying on the family business, and I’ve never been prouder of him.

Bobby wanted a burger and dog cook-out.  We were so fortunate that the weather held out, all week they were predicting rain (I did say a little prayer for that).  I made a lot of Bobby’s favorite side dishes and desserts; Snickerdoodles, Pasta Salad, Black-Eyed Pea Salsa, 7 Layer Dip, Brownies, fresh fruit, fresh veggies with Ranch dip, and these light-as-air cupcakes.  I got the recipe from one of my favorite websites, King Arthur Flour.  They were quick to put together and very tasty for a white cake.

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Bobbys-Going-Away-Party-friends-on-the-deck

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Tender White Cake is courtesy of King Arthur Flour

Ingredients 

2 3/4 cups KAF Cake Flour Blend

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoons salt

3/4 cups butter, softened

4 large egg whites, plus 1 whole egg

1 cup full fat vanilla yogurt or 1 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract ( I used 2 teaspoons Princess Cake and Cookie Bakery Emulsion instead of almond extract)

Bobbys-Going-Away-Party-cupcakes

Directions 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place cupcake papers in pans, set aside.

2. Mix all dry ingredients on low-speed of mixer, to blend well.  Add soft butter, mix until evenly crumbly, like fine damp sand.

3. Add egg whites, one at a time, then whole egg, beating well after each addition.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt (or milk) with vanilla and almond extracts ( and/or bakery emulsion).  Add this mixture, 1/3 at a time, to the batter.  Beat 1-2 minutes after each addition.

5. Scoop or pour batter into cupcake papers and bake 18-20 minutes.  Makes 20-24 cupcakes.

Cocoa-Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Coffeecake

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Recipe adapted from Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson

published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York

I drooled over the pages of this book trying to decide what to bake, and finally decided on this rather magnificent coffee cake.  As I pulled the ingredients from the cupboards, fridge and pantry, the unthinkable occured; I ran out of chocolate chips.  It came as quite a shock because this might be the only house in town that never runs out of chocolate chips.  So instead of all semi-sweet chips, like the recipe calls for in the batter, I substituted with bittersweet chocolate…yum!

This cake has a humble, deceiving appearance and is in reality very sumptuous.  My cake turned out a little less sweet because of the use of bittersweet chocolate, but I figured there was enough sugar in this recipe to go around.  Between the soft, moist cake and the crunchy, buttery top, it really is delicious.  This could be a special Mother’s Day treat, just wave the magic wand over the top and remove all the calories.  Enjoy!

 

Chocolate Chip Pecan Crumble Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar, sieved to remove the lumps

big pinch of salt

12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small chunks

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

3/4 cup mimi semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Chocolate Chip Pecan Crumble Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

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2. Thoroughly mix the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the butter chunks and with a pastry blender (or two forks if you don’t have a pastry blender), cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is reduced to small pieces.  Stir in the pecans and the chocolate chips.  Work the mixture with your fingertips until it comes together in large and small moist, sandy-textured lumps.  Set aside.

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Cocoa-Sour Cream-Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake Batter Ingredients

3 cups bleached all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1/2 cup Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate wafers-chopped a little, and 3/4 cup E.Guittard bittersweet chocolate wafers-chopped a little.  It pretty much cleaned out a lot of my chocolate stash)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups thick, cultured sour cream

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Cake Batter Directions

1. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, into a large bowl.  In a medium sized bowl, toss the chocolate chips with 1 Tablespoon of the sifted mixture.

2. Cream the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer for about 4 minutes. Add the granulated sugar in 3 additions, beating for 1 minute after each portion is added.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract.

3. On low speed, add the sifted mixture in three additions with the sour cream in two additions, beginning and ending with the sifted mixture.  By combining the batter in this way, you end up with a soft, even textured cake.  As the ingredients are added, scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula to keep the batter even textured.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Sprinkle the entire bowl of crumble mixture lightly and evenly over the top of the cake batter.  DO NOT press it in.   This creates a generous topping and allows the cake to bake evenly.

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5. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until set and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist pieces clinging to it.  The cake will pull away slightly from the sides of the baking pan.  Cool the cake in the pan on a rack.  Serve the cake, warm or at room temperature, cut into squares.