Sunday, December 12, 2010

BEA’S CHEESECAKES – A Holiday Tradition – PART II

Okay, now that you’ve mastered the basic recipe – let’s add in some flavor.

Variation One: Pumpkin Cheesecake – a Turkey Day staple.

Start with basic steps from last week’s post – the NY style classic cheesecake – except do NOT add the vanilla extract. When the filling is all mixed and ready to pour into the crust pan – STOP – don’t pour it into the crust just yet. Instead, pour out 1 ½ cup of the finished basic filling to a separate container – set this aside for later use. Now we’re going to turn that plain cheesecake into a delicious pumpkin surprise.
In the mixing bowl, to the remainder filling, continue to mix the filling and add:
One can organic pumpkin (do not use pumpkin filling – use pumpkin, just plain canned pumpkin). While the pumpkin is mixing into the basic filling, prepare the spices:

In a small bowl, stir together the following ground spices:
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each of: nutmeg, all spice, ginger, cloves, cardamom, coriander, cocoa, and a dash of ground cayenne red pepper.

Gradually introduce to the pumpkin filling in mixing bowl – continually mixing, (and scraping the sides and bottom – don’t forget the beaters, either).

For this Pumpkin Cheesecake variation, Bea uses a different crust. You can use the basic pie crust out of the box crust, or your classic graham cracker crust, OR you can be adventurous and prepare the “Nearly Nothin’ But Nuts” crust:

8 oz. pecans
2 oz. walnuts.
Put your nuts in a heavy duty freezer bag and smash with a hammer until sand-like texture – try to pound any chunks – but be careful not to pop your plastic bag and have nuts go flying everywhere! Add to this 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar.

Pour this mixture into your spring form pan, and pack tightly against the bottom of the pan and up the sides – gently forming the side crust (if you press too vigorously, the sides will cave in like a sand castle being hit by a wave). The oil from the nuts should provide enough “glue” to keep the mixture together up the sides. (I personally might add just a tad of melted butter.)

Pour the pumpkin filling in the prepared crust. Now pour the reserved plain filling in the center, and using your spatula or a butter knife, make swirly designs to your heart’s content – but don’t overdo it and make it a sloppy mess.

Cook as instructed in last week’s blog (in fact, Bea cooks all three of his cheesecakes together at the same time – as long as your oven is large enough. DO NOT use two layers of racks in the oven and cook on two layers).
Variation 2. – Mocha Cocoa

Prepare the basic cheesecake mixture, except substitute Grand Marnier in place of the vanilla extract, and use ¼ cup less granulated sugar.

In a separate coffee cup (you really should use a “coffee” cup, since it’s a coffee cheesecake) - microwave ½ cup water for 2 minutes. Add two heaping tablespoons full of Folgers Instant Crystal coffee and 4 heaping tablespoons of Hersey’s Instant cocoa powder – stir together until completely combined and smooth. If you have a hunk of good semi-sweet dark chocolate lying around the house, add that, too, and stir until completely combined.

While the basic filling is mixing, gradually introduce the mocha cocoa mix to the filling, continually mixing until smooth – scrape out the coffee cup, and scrape the sides of the mixing bowl too. Add a dash of cayenne pepper while you’re introducing the mocha cocoa mix, and continue to Mix until completely and uniformly introduced and mixed.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pie crust in a spring form pan and cook as the others.

YOU too will be the star of YOUR party with these delicious cheesecakes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

BEA’S CHEESECAKES – A Holiday Tradition – PART I

It’s Turkey Day time again, and that means Brian makes his famous cheesecakes for the Hogan Family Thanksgiving Feast – held annually at sister Terry’s house in San Diego. This year was no exception, as Brian made not one, not two, but THREE cheesecakes for dessert.

Now seemed like the perfect time to post this recipe on the blog. With the holidays continuing for the next month – Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, New Years, etc., you never know when you’ll want to wow your friends/guests with a delicious, decadent dessert – and cheesecake fits that bill.

CAUTION: This is a “mix-intensive” process – so an electric mixing bowl is essential. Your arms would fall off and you would not get the requisite creaminess of the cheesecakes were you to try to hand mix this recipe. If you don’t have an electric mixing bowl, put it on your holiday wish list.
We’ll start with the basic cheesecake, and then move on to the other variations. Brian loosely bases his recipe on that in “A Piece of Cake” by Susan G. Purdy, and he wanted her to get some recognition in this post. [So if you’re reading my blog Ms. Purdy, please don’t sic your lawyers on me for not properly citing you.]

First the crust: For the basic cheesecake, Brian uses Pillsbury refrigerated ready-made piecrust. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees; let the crust dough come to room temperature, spread it out into an 8 inch spring form pan, press the dough firmly against the bottom and especially up the sides of the pan to prevent pull – away during cooking. Bake the crust 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove and cool.
While the pie crust is cooking (or “crusts are” if you’re doing multiple cheesecakes), you can get cookin’ on your filling:

You’ll need four (4) - 8 oz packages Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese (he’s tried store brand, and they just aren’t as good). Soften to room temperature, but not too mushy soft. We were golfing the afternoon before Brian made his cheesecakes, so he set them out on the patio table while we golfed. You may use this, or another preferred method of softening.

In an electric mixing bowl, add one package softened cream cheese at a time, creaming until smooth. Then add the next package, cream till blended and smooth; add the next, repeat and so on.
With the mixer still beating the cream cheese, add 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar – continue mixing till sugar is fully incorporated and the mixture is very creamy and soft.
Continue mixing, and add:
¼ teaspoon salt,
½ teaspoon grated zest of lemon,
½ teaspoon vanilla extract,
and beat until smooth and creamy.

(Brian made these while we were visiting his dad in Oceanside. Max couldn’t find a zester, but he did find a wood shaver, which Brian rejected.
Instead, he just shaved the lemon rind off and finely chopped it to make the zest.)

Continue beating the filling, and add 4 eggs – one at a time, mixing in each egg fully ‘till the mixture is smooth before adding the next egg.
Don’t forget to continually scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl throughout the entire process to avoid chunks of ingredients from accumulating.

Pour the filling into the spring pan over the prepared crust.

Your oven should still be heated to 400 from cooking the crust – now, put the spring form with your crust and filling in the oven and turn it up to 500 degrees for 12 minutes. Reduce heat to 200 degrees and continue cooking for one hour, or longer until the cheesecake is no longer liquid when giggled. Basically, if you’ve made jello – and who hasn’t – the cheesecake should giggle gently like a bowl full of jello when slightly giggled once. If the mixture sloshes around like gravy – it needs to continue cooking until that jello-giggle perfection is obtained.

Leave the cheesecake in the oven, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another hour minimum. If you’re going out for cocktails, don’t worry about just turning the oven off and letting the cheesecake sit there until you return – JUST MAKE SURE YOU TURN THE OVEN OFF BEFORE YOU GO OUT TO CONSUME COCKTAILS. Other wise, your cheesecake will be grossly over cooked and I have no idea what taste or texture you will experience.

Finally, remove cheesecake from the oven and cool fully. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate in an “odor free” environment until ready to eat. If you have chopped onions or garlic in the fridge – beware your cheesecake may take on an oniony or garlicky flavor – and while I love those flavors in other foods, they are not ideal for cheesecake.

Don’t be like “Bea” and forget this one thing – run a knife, closely held to the pie tin, around the edge of the cheesecake before wrapping. Bea usually forgets this step, but Ms. Purdy suggests it, and the ONE time Brian did it, he said it worked great. Bea recommends making the cake 3 days prior to eating, to allow the flavors and texture to meld in the fridge. AND, if you don’t forget, pick that ripe passion fruit off the vine in your garden and take it to serve over the cheesecake – a truly spectacular taste sensation.

VOILA, now you have made the “classic New York style” cheesecake. Next post, tune in for two variations on the NY classic cheesecake. Hint: Pumpkin and Mocha-Cocoa.