Monday, November 24, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake

A while back, we attended a dinner party with a "fall" theme.  I signed up for the dessert (as usual) and the hostess selected a pumpkin cheesecake.  I used to say that I am not really a "cheesecake person" but now that I keep making them for I  might not like ALL cheesecakes, but I like the ones that I make!  The key is keeping it light.  I am not a fan of the cheesecake wherein you eat a few bites and feel like you just ate a bowling ball.  Those are just too much for me.  But these light ones that are nice and creamy just make me want to keep eating and lick the plate! 

I combined a few ideas for this particular cheesecake, so here is my recipe, which is based on "Gina's Pumpkin Cheesecake" by Patrick and Gina Neely of Food Network. 

Pumpkin Cheesecake
adapted from Food Network
Serves 8-10

1 1/2 cups crushed gingerbread cookies
1/3 cup crushed pecans
1-2 TB chopped crystallized ginger
4 TB unsalted butter, melted

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
4 extra large eggs (or 5 large eggs)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (use more if you use ground nutmeg, not freshly grated)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 TB all-purpose flour

Cinnamon Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream, very cold
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Salted Caramel Sauce 
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1 TB corn syrup
1/2 c. whipping cream
2 TB unsalted butter
1 1/2 ts. sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350F.   Place the gingerbread cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumbly.  Add pecans and crystallized ginger and pulse a few times until well mixed.  Pour into a large bowl and stir in the melted butter.  Press the mixture into the bottom (not the sides) of a 9-inch springform pan.  Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely while you prepare the filling.

Heat water in a teakettle and bring to a boil.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Add the pumpkin and beat until incorporated.  Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the spices through vanilla.  Mix until blended.  Add the flour and mix until the flour is incorporated.

Wrap the bottom and sides of your cooled springform pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Pour the filling into the pan and place the springform pan into a small roasting pan.  Place the roasting pan on the oven rack and then pour the hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan, around the pan.  The water needs to go at least 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the pan, so you may need to boil more water.  If this is the case, VERY VERY CAREFULLY take the pan out of the oven while the water boils.  Place the pan back on the oven rack before pouring the additional water in the pan.  The more water in the pan, the easier it is to spill out while moving, so save your arms and place the pan on the rack first! 

Bake the cheesecake until the center moves slightly when the pan is gently wiggled, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Remove the cake from the water bath and allow to cool on a wire rack. 

Chill the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving.  Serve with salted caramel sauce and cinnamon whipped cream.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream:
Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until thick and frothy.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat until medium peaks form.

Salted Caramel Sauce:
Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a small saucepan, and stir to combine.  Place the saucepan on high heat and bring to a boil without stirring.  Swirl the ingredients in the pan occasionally.  Continue boiling until the mixture reaches a light amber color.  Remove from heat and very carefully add the cream in a slow steady stream, while stirring constantly.  Once combined, add the butter and salt and continue stirring until both are melted and combined.  Cool to room temperature before using.
Printable Recipe

Mmmm...  This combination of flavors is perfection! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fairies and Gnomes

Yes, I know, Halloween was totally 2+ weeks ago, but I still wanted to post the costumes we made this year in case it inspires anyone for next year!  If I wait until next year to get these posted, I'll forget entirely!! 

When I asked the clever girl what she wanted to be for Halloween this year, it took a while to convince her that Elsa (of the Frozen movie, in case you don't have a little girl running around your house) was not the best idea.  Once I explained that practically EVERY little girl was going to be Elsa this year, and wouldn't it be fun to be something DIFFERENT, she agreed and decided upon being a fairy.  I JUMPED on it.  Truly, I had to get her excited about it so she wouldn't be sad about not being Elsa!  And it worked!  She loved her fairy costume.  Once we decided that she would be a fairy, we brainstormed what the clever boy might be, and came up with a Gnome.  Love it! 

For the fairy, I didn't have to do a lot, as the main part of her costume was a dance recital costume from last summer.  I did make her a wand and her fairy wings.  

For the wand, I followed the directions on this youtube video to make a poof out of sparkly tulle and organza.  It is just like making a pompom, just on a much larger scale.  I cut a donut shape out of cardboard and then folded it in half and wrapped the pink and blue tulle/organza (holding both together) around and around the half-donut.  I wrapped a thin wooden dowel with pink ribbon and attached it to the poof with my trusty glue gun.  Then I tied some ribbon around the top under the poof just to make it extra fun.  I was so thrilled to find this tulle and organza that totally matched the dance recital outfit!  I win!  And the clever girl thought this wand was AWESOME.  She went around turning all of us into princes and princesses for days!

For the wings, I followed this instructable video.  HOWEVER, I could only find white tights, no sparkly pink or purple or blue or ANYTHING (ugh) so I used white and then painted them repeatedly with glitter paint.  And I say repeatedly because let me tell you, it was A LOT.  The thing with glitter paint is this:  It tends to be CLEAR paint with some glitter thrown in.  So if you are wanting coverage, it doesn't work so well.  I would do more searching for the right tights next time and avoid painting altogether!  Once it was fully constructed and painted, I glued sequins all over the wings in random patterns.  I thought they would provide some fun sparkle when lights hit!

Oh and that instructable video had a EXCELLENT tip for coverage under a leotard.  It happened to be cool on Halloween night, so the clever girl needed something over her arms, which a dance costume does not provide.  The idea from instructables was BRILLIANT.  Take a pair of nude tights and cut the crotch out - keeping the crotch seam IN but just cut the fabric part out of the middle.  Pull the tights over the HEAD, so the head is now going through what the crotch area used to be.  Put the arms in the tights legs and cut the tights wrist-length to make them long sleeves.  Now you have a thin nude long sleeved shirt that fits under a leotard!  Ta-da!

For the gnome, I figured he basically needed a hat, beard, belt, and blue jacket.  For the hat, I followed this AWESOME tutorial on deliacreates which uses all sorts of geometry and math to get a perfectly fitting felt cone hat.  I love the math part.  Made me think a bit and was lots of fun.  I pinched the hat together a bit on top to make it more gnome-y, and did a few stitches to hold the pinches together.

I made the beard with fur from the craft store cut into a beard-like shape - like a shaggy triangle-ish shape with a slightly rounded top.  I cut a few slits from the rounded top down about an inch, laid a strip of 1/4 inch wide elastic under the slits, then folded and glued the pieces down. Like this:

I intentionally made the beard so that it hung down around his chest area, not up on his face, as I knew there was no way the clever boy would go for that!

For the belt buckle, I cut a piece of yellow craft foam into a rectangle and cut two slits on the sides:

Then I put a piece of black 2-inch elastic up through one side and down through the other so it looked more like a buckle, and sewed the ends together, making it loose enough to go around the clever boy's belly while wearing the jacket.

For the jacket, I made Simplicity 2526, view D, size 2, out of navy fleece.  I made the sleeves 2 3/4 inches longer than the pattern suggested, and used a 1/2 inch hem on the sleeve, instead of the allowed 1 1/4 inch hem.  I think the sleeves on this jacket ran small, so I made them longer plus added more for a cuff.  I trimmed the cuff with yellow gingham so that the part that folded up was gingham.  I also used the gingham under the collar and in the button facing, so that the jacket would not be as thick in those places.  I love how this turned out!  The pattern was easy and sewing with fleece is a breeze!  No need to finish seams!  I had never sewn with fleece before!  If I ever figure out how to use my serger (some day....) this would be even easier, I bet!

Oh, and as a note, the pattern does not suggest fleece for this view of the jacket but does for another view.  I could not figure out why, so I found an email address for Simplicity and sent them a message.  They contacted me back right away!  Impressive!

So, not only did the clever boy get a great gnome costume, he got a jacket he can wear all the time!  (Note that the hood in the above photo is not part of the jacket but on the shirt he has on underneath.)

In all, a successful Halloween.  Both kids had a BLAST and the costumes were a total hit!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Amaretti

We made Amaretti this week with Baking with Julia!  Now, I have to admit, I had no idea what amaretti actually were when this recipe was chosen.  I  mean, I knew it had to contain almonds, but I had never heard of amaretti before.  Essentially it is an almond flavored macaron.

Here are my thoughts on amaretti:
1)  They are super easy to make.  Literally, there are 3 ingredients:  almond paste, sugar, egg whites.  Yes there is a pine nut on top so that is technically ingredient number 4 but it isn't actually IN the cookie, just pressed on top so I don't count that one.  It's essentially decoration.
2)  They are gluten-free for the many people who sadly cannot digest gluten well.
3)  Weird technique alert:  After piping the cookies onto the cookie sheet, you dab them with a wet tea-towel to smooth out the tops.  That's a new one for me!
4)  They are crisp on the outside and chewy inside.
5)  They are one of the weirdest cookies I have ever eaten.
6)  However, I can't stop eating them!  I am constantly lifting up the lid on their container and eating another one!!  And each time, I think, "huh, these are weird, but good, too!"

Truly, I think I would enjoy anything involving almond paste.  I love almond flavor so that is right up my alley.  If you DO NOT like almond flavor, these would NOT be the cookie for you!  But if you do, yum.  Get yourself a nice hot mug of tea and a couple of these cookies on a plate and put your feet up.  Well, only put your feet up if the cookie tin is nearby, so you don't have to get up to get more.  Because you might want to do that, and it would be a fat bummer to get all comfy with your cookies and tea and then  have to get up again just to get more!

I might try to reduce the sugar a bit in these next time.  And I am not sure if I really need the pine nut on top.  Why not a slivered almond?  Too much almond?  Maybe do a sprinkle of big-grain sugar?  

Check out the TWD blog under "LYL:  Amaretti" to see what the other bloggers thought about amaretti!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TWD: Baking Chez Moi - Palets de Dames

Welcome to the first recipe in a new baking adventure!  The Tuesdays with Dorie group has taken on a new cookbook!  See, Dorie Greenspan published a new cookbook, Baking Chez Moi, so we couldn't let this awesome event pass us by.  We are taking it on, while continuing with our other cookbook, Baking with Julia.   Honestly, this is an undertaking that I am not certain I will be able to totally complete, as it means that we are baking and posting something for every Tuesday.  And while you know I have a compulsion to bake, I have other things I want to bake/cook/post about as well, so this could get tricky.  But I will do my best and I hope you'll stick with me!

So, our first recipe is Palets de Dames.  They are a cakey cookie with a delicate vanilla flavor that is brightened with a lemony-sweet icing on top.  The batter for this cookie is really like cake batter.  Very soft and sticky.  It refrigerates for at least an hour, which helps it firm up to be a bit more cookie-dough-ish.   It is then scooped out in little balls onto the cookie sheet.  Dorie recommends using a 2-teaspoon cookie scoop for such an endeavor.  That lady is smart.  I don't have one so I just used 2 teaspoons-worth of dough and rolled it in my hands.  This was sticky and messy.  Doable, of course, but don't you think I should purchase some cookie scoops?  I think it is definitely a good idea.  You can never have too many baking gadgets, can you?  (Hint: The correct answer is "No, of COURSE not!")

While these cookies are cute, and tasty, I am not sure I'll make them again.  They aren't a cookie that call to me every time I walk near the kitchen, "come have a treat...." which, actually, is probably a good thing.  However if anyone asks for iced cookies, I'd make these in a heartbeat.  They really are easy and tasty.  Oh, and I added the sprinkles.  They aren't a necessity for these cookies, but they sure make them cute, huh?  And trust me, sprinkles take them OVER THE TOP for 6-year old girls! 

You can find this recipe on pages 272-274 of Baking Chez Moi.  Since this is my first recipe out of this book, I can't say much about the book as a whole yet.  However, based on the brilliance of Baking: From My Home to Yours and my complete admiration for Dorie Greenspan, I suspect that this cookbook will be fantastic!  I was able to pre-order it before it was published, so it arrived on my doorstep the exact day it came out!  I have to admit that I grabbed the book from my porch, ran into the house, and slowly but eagerly looked through every page.  I'm such a dork. 

If you want to see what other bakers thought of this recipe, head to the Tuesdays with Dorie blog and click on LYL:  Palets de Dames.