Thursday, July 26, 2012

New York Style Cheesecake

Last week I went on and on about how I was making this cheesecake for my Russian blog and it did not work out because I used a wrong size pan. And although it is true that the poor cake tried to rise above the sides of the pan and ultimately failed, and fell, in the end it actually worked out not too bad. I cut off the warped top and decorated it with strawberries. You know, they say that chefs hide their mistakes under sauces, and pastry chefs - under the icing :). This is exactly the case here: the strawberry sauce is normally served on the side for New York cheesecake but I had it on top.

When I first came to the States, I had never heard of cream cheese or cheesecake. At the first taste, I was hooked. I ordered cheesecake in every restaurant and cafe that served it, as though it were the greatest invention of humanity. It's amazing that I did not balloon into the size of New York. By the way, I do remain a fan of the New York style cheesecake: of its tall stature, of its dense creaminess without the jellied texture of some other cheesecakes in which gelatine is used, and of its moderate sweetness, offset by a fruit sauce.

The following recipe is based on the one developed in America's Test Kitchen. It is perfect.

New York Style Cheesecake

For crust:
5 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
8 oz (110 grams) Graham crackers, processed into crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar

For filling:
2.5 lb (1 kg 130 gr) cream cheese, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup (300 gr) sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from one lemon)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 egg yolks plus 6 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 325F (160C). Grease a 9 in (23 cm) springform pan.

Mix crust ingredients and press the mixture to bottom and sides of the pan, about 1/2 in (1 cm) high. Bake until browned and fragrant, about 13 min. Cool completely. Turn up heat to 500F (260C).

Using electric mixer, mix cream cheese on medium speed until creamy, 1 min. Add salt and half the sugar and mix 1 more minute. Add the rest of sugar and mix 1 more minute. Add sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla, mix at low speed 1 minute. Add yolks and mix at medium speed 1 minute, until well incorporated. Add eggs 2 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl frequently.

Place cooled pan on baking sheet (in case of spills), pour cream cheese filling into pan, bake 10 minutes. DECREASE TEMPERATURE to 200F (90C) (do not open oven door) and bake about 1 1/2 hrs. If you have an instant read thermometer, great: the temperature in the center of the cake should read 150F (66C). Cool completely, about 2.5 - 3 hrs, then refrigerate for at least 3 hrs (cheesecake can keep up to 4 days, refrigerated).

Run a knife around the sides of pan to separate cheesecake, remove sides. Let sit 30 min at room temperature before cutting.

Serve with strawberry sauce.

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

2 lb (1 kg) fresh strawberries, cut
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup strawberry jam, blended till smooth
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix strawberries with sugar, let sit a few minutes, drain.

Heat jam in small pan, cook, stirring frequently, until thick and no longer foamy, about 3 min. Mix in strawberries and lemon juice. Serve.

***In case you're wondering, half the recipe calls for a 7 in pan :).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Upside Down Plum Cake

I was baking a cheesecake today and... ahem... things did not go as planned. New York style cheesecake, as classic as they come. For my Russian blog, to share this wonderful American invention with the people of Russia :). You can easily buy cheesecake in coffee shops and restaurants there these days (after all, Starbucks is all over the place now), but  few people know how to make it at home. So I decided, why not. Nice and reliable. How-evah! ALL the recipes out there make 10-12 servings. You know, for a nice, tall, regal cheesecake in a 9-inch springform pan. But who has 10-12 people readily available to consume this cake? Well, I did not at the moment. No big parties planned, no potlucks or bake sales; just the desire to bake and photograph a cheesecake.

So I decided to cut the recipe in half. And for some reason, I thought the appropriate pan size would be 6 inches. I now know it is wrong. The correct size for half of the 9-inch recipe is a 7-inch pan. Huuuge difference. So there it sits, my cheesecake, in the oven. With its sides trying desperately to rise above the limitations of the pan walls. Just like we do sometimes, I suppose... I just hope that unlike this cake we don't always FALL from the effort :)). Sorry guys, just couldn't resist taking this analogy a little further :)

What did work great is this upside down plum cake. I'm not a fan of the classic upside down pineapple cake, and even Tarte Tatin leaves me unexcited, but plums work great with the idea! They are tart and nicely counteract the brown sugar sauce they're baked with. I found the recipe in Bon Appetit and over the years have tweaked it to match my taste. And fruit makes such a great baking ingredient (such as in my peach and apricot galette or cherry and dark chocolate galettes). Easy peasy!

Upside Down Plum Cake

Serves 8

1 1/2 sticks (170 gr) butter, softened
3/4 cup (165 gr) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
8 plums, cut into segments
1 1/2 (180 gr) cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (150 gr) white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup (140 ml) milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-in pan with 2-in sides.

In a skillet melt HALF the butter with honey and sugar over medium heat, stirring until smooth sauce forms. Pour sauce into prepared cake pan, arrange plum segments on top.

Mix flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt in a medium bowl, set aside. With a mixer, whip remaining butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and both extracts and whip until white and fluffy. Add 1/3 flour mixture, mix until just blended. Add 1/2 milk, then 1/3 flour, the rest of milk and flour, mixing until just combined.

Pour batter over plums, bake until golden, about 1 hr. Let cool in pan for about 15 min, run a knife around the edges and carefully invert onto serving platter. Serve warm, with whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Crescent Nut Cookies

World's simplest cookies. And tastiest, if you ask my kids. Seriously, I thought I had a box of these to give to a friend but the kids kept asking and asking for a "moon cookie"... and one more... and please another one... so that eventually I just gave up and let them go at it! And so the cookies were all gone by breakfast the next day.

 I've found the recipe in (where else?) my go-to book, Baking Illustrated, written by the people of America's Test Kitchen. The cookies obviously passed their test, as well as the test of my family :). So I'm here to share. You'll like them.

Crescent Nut Cookies

Makes about 48 cookies

2 cups pecans or walnuts
2 cups (280 gr) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sicks (230 gr) butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (170 gr) powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F (160C). Grease or line with parchment paper two large cookie sheets.

Chop half of the nuts, grind the other half until they are the texture of coarse cornmeal; do not overprocess. Mix nuts, flour and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and flour mixture; mix until just combined. Using a tablespoon to measure, shape the dough into crescents. Bake until golden brown, about 17 minutes. Cool on the rack completely. Roll the crescents in a bowl of powdered sugar to coat with a thick layer of sugar.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Black Bottom Pie

This is not a Russian recipe... It is not even an original recipe. Or, rather, it is not my original recipe. I've found it online and prepared exactly as written. And it was so good I made it a second time the next day.  It photographs beautifully. And the name! You just can't beat the name :).

The original Bon Appetit recipe is here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Eggplant Caviar

Honestly, I think the name of this dish is a little silly. But here it is, baklazhannaya ikra. Eggplant caviar. Suggesting some luxury where there is none. Fancy stuff for the poor. Which is unfair, because this dish is really great in its own right.

Eggplant is one of the favorite summer vegetables in Russia. By the way, Russian cuisine is still very seasonal. Sure, you can buy fruits and vegetables year round these days, but at a cost that is outside of most people's reach. Oh so different from what we have here in the States, where in one magazine I saw a table telling you which fruit or vegetable is in season when. Russians don't need to consult any tables to know what's in season; all they need to do is go to their garden or to the outdoor market or perhaps to a neighborhood vegetable stand/kiosk.

Friday, July 6, 2012


This is my ode to the wonderful American invention: peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I do not know how I would be raising two children if not for this sandwich. On many a day, this is all they will eat.

There is no recipe today. The photos pretty much explain it all. The bread is brioche, the jelly - farm-bought rhubarb, and the "butter" is raw almond. The object of the photographs was eaten by the photographer immediately following the photo session.

And how do YOU like your PB&J? Hoping to hear some interesting/unusual ideas.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Grated Cake With Jam

Most of my childhood fell on the 1980s. There was a time in the Soviet Union when we didn't have much of anything - what with the perestroika, rationing and long lines. And forget fancy ingredients such as shredded coconut, chocolate chips or cream cheese - we hadn't even heard of those. Most of the home baking was done using simple ingredients such as butter, sugar and eggs.

I now know that simple is not always bad. One such example is this "grated" cake. The dough for it is grated on a grater to give it texture, hence the name. Margarine was used liberally back then, but this version has all butter.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...