Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lemon Cheesecake

I made this cheesecake right before I left to go back to college. It is one of my favorite cheesecakes of all time, and I wanted to make it right before I left so that I could leave home on a high note. Unfortunately, school is going to be starting up this Thursday and my time for baking will be basically non-existant. I'm not sure when I'm going to get the chance to make something new, so this blog will be on hiatus for a while. In the meantime, enjoy this amazing recipe!

Ingredients:
1 cup crushed graham crackers
1 cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
16 oz cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp grated lemon rind
¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Finely crush graham crackers and finely chop pecans.

Stir together first 4 ingredients.

Press mixture in bottom and 2 inches up sides of a lightly greased 9" springform pan.

Beat cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended.

Gradually add sweetened condensed milk.

Add lemon rind and juice, beating until blended.

Pour into prepared crust.

Bake for 1 hour or until almost set. Turn off oven, and let cake stand in oven 30 minutes. Remove cake to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Peach Upside-Down Cake

This cake was one of the best tasting disasters I have ever produced. Yes, you heard me right: disaster. You know how you can think that you're making all the right moves when baking, but then suddenly something happens that makes it all go horribly wrong? Well, that's exactly what happened with this cake.

There were multiple very ripe peaches in the refrigerator that I was more than happy to bake into something to get rid of them before they turned to total mush. I flipped through my cookbooks and found a tasty-looking recipe for peach upside down cake. This was my first time blanching peaches, and it actually went pretty well. Some of the peaches were overly ripe and turned into orange-yellow goo, but I salvaged what I could and kept moving forward, determined to finish what I had started. I managed to get everything in the oven and then take the baked cake out to let it cool for a while. This is when things did not go so well.

For an upside down cake, you are, as the name suggests, supposed to create it upside down so that the top is on the bottom of the pan. You then you flip the cake onto a plate to get it oriented the correct way. I did not have a plate large enough to fit over the top of the skillet, so I used the bottom portion of a cake container. As I held the skillet in one hand and put my other hand over the top of the cake container, I realized that the skillet might be too heavy for me to maneuver with just one arm. But being the only person home, it was up to me to do it solo. Getting ready to put all the strength I had into flipping over the skillet, I slowly counted to three. "One...two...three!" As I uttered the last syllable, I quickly flipped the skillet over and to my horror, the cake went flying off the side of the cake container bottom and lay in a gooey mess all over the counter beside it's intended destination. I just stared at it open-mouthed and felt tears welling up in my eyes. So I stood there for minutes, as pathetic as can be, with my dog noisily licking up the scraps that fell on the floor by my feet. All that work for nothing. FML, indeed.

I did eventually get over it after storming out of the kitchen and watching mindless TV for a while. I then came back and tasted my mess to see if it was even any good. Oh my goodness was it! The cake is so tender and moist, and the peaches are sweet and full of flavor. It might look like slop, but it sure doesn't taste like it. I even managed to get a slice onto a plate and make it look decent to take pictures of. I also scooped the best portion of the cake back into the skillet to keep for later. Next time, I think I'll just keep it in the skillet and forget the flipping...

Ingredients:
3 1/3 cups peeled, pitted, and sliced (1/3 inch thick) peaches (9-10 medium peaches)
3 tbsp plus 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (divided)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks

batter:
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk (divided)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Get all you peaches together and peal, pit, and slice them, placing the slices in a large bowl.

Zest your lemon for that citrusy goodness.

In a large bowl, gently stir together the peaches, 3 tbsp of the brown sugar, and the lemon juice. Set aside until the sugar dissolves and the peaches begin to release their juice, about 15 minutes. Put the peaches in a strainer or colander set over a bowl and let stand until thoroughly drained, 15 to 20 minutes.

In a 9 1/2"-10" (2" deep) flameproof round casserole or nonreactive ovenproof skillet, stir together the remaining 2/3 cup brown sugar and the butter. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring with a long-handled wooden spoon and watching carefully to prevent burning, until the butter completely melts and the mixture bubbles. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Standing back to avoid steam and splatters, stir all the juice drained from the peaches into the sugar mixture until evenly blended. Cook, stirring, until bubbly. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles briskly but doesn't burn. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes longer, or until the caramel is boiled down to the consistency of thin gravy. Remove from the heat.

Attractively arrange the peaches over the caramel mixture. .

I had lots of leftover peaches, so I just dumped the rest on top...

To make the batter, in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter and sugar until well blended and lightened, about 1 minute.

Add the egg, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes longer, or until very light and fluffy.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in half the flour mixture just until incorporated. Then beat in half the milk just until incorporated. Lightly beat in the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Raise the speed to medium and beat just until the batter is well blended and smooth, 1-1 1/2 minutes longer.

Pour the batter over the fruit, spreading it evenly with a table knife.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake surface is nicely browned.

Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Now you can flip this cake onto a plate if you would like, but just eating it out of the skillet is good as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fudge Brownies

Gather round everyone! It's funny story time. The other day my mom came home from work and had a baking request for me. This is because one of her co-workers expressed that his dying request would be to have one of my brownies.

At first I was just like "What the?" because this completely came out of the blue and I couldn't even remember making brownies for her office. But then I remembered that I did make them about a year ago, and I couldn't stop laughing at the extent of love that this man has for baked chocolate. Oh, office workers and their baked goodies. There's just something about working in a small space for 40 hours a week that makes you unnaturally drawn to anything with sugar in it.

Well, if brownies is what they want, freakishly amazing fudge brownies is what they'll get! Seriously, this recipe yields the best brownie I have ever tasted, and I have tasted many, many brownies in my life.

Oh, and by the way, I just saw Julie & Julia. If you are a foodie, there is no doubt in my mind that you will thoroughly enjoy this movie. Make these brownies and sneak them into the movie with you! Now wouldn't that be the ultimate food movie.

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
16 tbsp butter, cut into chunks
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
11 oz semisweet chocolate, broken up
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, broken up
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 cups pecans

Preheat oven to 325 F and line a 9"x13" baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to overhang the ends of the pan by a couple inches. Grease the foil with nonstick spray.

In a large saucepan, bring the butter, sugar, and water just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring.

Remove from the heat. Stir the chocolates into the sugar mixture until completely melted. Let cool to warm so that the eggs won't curdle.

Stir the vanilla into the chocolate mixture.

Then add the eggs and mix thoroughly.

Stir the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture just until the batter is evenly blended. Less mixing = more tender brownies.

Stir in the nuts.

Turn out the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly to the edges.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the center is barely firm when tapped. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to warm, about 20 minutes. Or just dig right in like some people and brave the burning of your taste buds for that warm gooeyness that will be lost within the minutes of cooling. What crazy person would do that?!

Berry Frozen Yogurt

I just got back from visiting my boyfriend in Colorado, and the heat hit me even harder coming back than I had expected. I quickly decided that another recipe for frozen deliciousness was in order. With bags of frozen blueberries in my freezer and a container of soon to be expired yogurt, I thought that blueberry frozen yogurt would be the perfect venture. I had no recipes in my cookbooks, so I hopped online and quickly found a recipe from 17andbaking.com. You can use any frozen berries you want for this recipe, so go grab some from your freezer and start churning some delicious frozen yogurt!

Ingredients:
16 oz (about 4 cups) frozen berries
5 tbsp sugar
4 cups nonfat plain yogurt, chilled
6 tbsp sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine the berries and the 5 tbsp of sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until berries are broken down and a syrup forms.

For a smoother frozen yogurt, puree the berries and juices in a food processor or blender.

Strain out any seeds and let berries cool to room temperature.

Combine the berry puree with the 6 tbsp of sugar and the yogurt, straight from the fridge.

Chill until the whole mixture is cool, then churn in an ice cream maker.

Store in an airtight container and keep in the freezer.

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