February 19, 2014
Happy Belated Valentine's Day, everyone! This Valentine's Day was pre-empted by 16 inches of snow on the 13th. That may not seem like a lot of snow to you Mid-Westerners, but that is TON of snow in our part of Maryland. Schools were closed on Thursday and Friday. My son didn't get to hand out his cool Thor valentines to his class. They already have off on Monday and Tuesday, due to a scheduled vacation. I don't know if they'll do any heart things when they all finally meet on Wednesday. We'll send them along and see what happens. Our snowy Valentine's also meant some advanced planning for the adults in the house. Luckily, we both got our cards and gifts early, so we were able to celebrate on Friday. We were also able to enjoy the chocolate cheesecake. It was a perfect Valentine's Day treat.
You may have noticed that my cheesecakes looked a little different than the recipe. I knew we would never eat an entire cheesecake, so I halved the recipe and made individual ones (which are easy to freeze). I used 4 inch ramekins and the batter fit perfectly into 7. Unfortunately, my 13 x 9 inches pyrex dish only fit 6 ramekins. I put the extra one in the fridge and baked it in the water bath after the first batch came out.
I made a cookie crumb crust using 1 1/2 cups of oreo crumbs, 3 Tablespoons of melted butter and 2 teaspoons of sugar. I mixed it together and pressed it into the bottom of the greased ramekins. Then I put the ramekins on a baking sheet and baked them at 350° for about 9 minutes. I let them cool while I mixed up the cheesecake filling.
There are lots of cheesecake styles out there. All are rich, but some are creamy, others have a light, almost whipped, texture and some are dense and rich. This cheesecake fell into the latter category. I was a little concerned that I had miscalculated something, since my batter was so thick I had to scoop is like ice cream. I wasn't able to completely smooth the tops, but they evened out during baking. I think this recipe was very successful, even if I did go my own way. I would make this one again. What did you guys think?
February 11, 2014
What is a bialy? Or, to be more specific, how is it different than a bagel. According to Smitten Kitchen, a bagel (which is boiled) has a crisp outer shell; a bialy crust is soft and chewy. Apparently, good bialys used to be found in NYC, but now they are practically extinct. They didn't make a comeback in my kitchen. My bialys weren't that successful. I'm pretty sure it was my fault, not the recipe's. Let's take a look, shall we?
I've never made bialys, so I wasn't sure what the dough should be like. It was softer than bagel dough, but firmer than a baguette dough. So far, so good. I followed the directions through the rising times and sautéed the onions. I even found poppy seeds in the corner of the spice cupboard (yay for me.) I divided the dough and rolled them into little balls. Using half of the dough, I flattened them into discs and used a fork to mash down the center of the dough. You can see the indents in the picture.
I put the filling on top and used a peel to load them onto the baking stone in my preheated oven. When they were finished baking they looked more like kaiser rolls. Sorry I didn't get a shot of those. They puffed up in the middle and most of the onion mix either burned or fell off. Clearly, I was being too gentle with them. Luckily, I still had the second half of the dough to experiment on.
This time, I mashed the center down really well, shoveled the onion topping on them, and smashed them down again. The picture below was taken before I smashed them the second time. I loaded them into the oven and baked them as before.
This second try was more successful. They stayed flat, but now they looked and chewed more like bagels. They were pretty tasty, but I still don't think I got the hang of it. I might try them again and see what happens. What did you guys think of these? Has anyone out there had bialys before? How did yours stack up?
January 29, 2014
Let's get this out of the way first. Mary Bergin may bake a really great dessert, but she stinks at naming them. "Vanilla Chiffon Roll" is the sort of name that most people would skip over on a dessert list or cookbook TOC. While the cake part was very tasty, the star of this dessert is the chocolate mousse.
I did make a couple of changes to the recipe. Nobody at our house likes walnuts, so I used the same amount of toasted hazelnuts. Walnuts probably would've ground down to a smoother paste, but the hazelnut version was still very good. I also added a little bit of Frangelico to the filling (about 1.5 Tablespoons). It added an extra dimension of flavor.
I did have a few quibbles with the recipe:
- 6 servings?!? Are you kidding? It made a 17-inch long roll. That means that each serving would be a little over 3 inches wide. That is way too much cake (even for me.)
- 10-12 minutes to bake the cake roll? My cake stayed in the oven for 25 minutes, and it was still slightly underbaked.
- Cocoa blizzard! I followed the recipe and dusted the cake roll with cocoa and little powdered sugar. I don't think this added very much to the taste of the dessert and it made a huge mess.
Would I make this again? Yes, but not together. I liked the mousse. I liked the cake. But I think the mousse overpowered the cake. My husband and I ate the scraps that I trimmed from the cake before rolling it. The cake is terrific! I'd like to try it with some raspberry jam and whipped cream or some lemon curd. But in the finished product, all I could taste was the mousse. What did you guys think of this one?