Sunday, May 22, 2011

New York Style Cheesecake....a Flop

I told you I would be sharing my triumphs AND failures on this blog...and apparently it hasn't taken me very long to post a flop.  Hang in there...this is a long it goes...

My fiance's mom's birthday was not too long ago, and the two of us promised her we would make her dinner (she got to pick the menu) to celebrate one night.  Her favorite dessert is cheesecake and, feeling pretty confident in my previous cheesecake attempts, I set off to find the perfect New York Cheesecake recipe.  My previous cheesecake endeavors have involved "flavored" cheesecake (White Chocolate Raspberry and Pumpkin) and I was excited about making a nice plain jane one.  Cheesecake is so delicious in and of itself that it really doesn't need much to make it special.

I just became a member of Cooks Illustrated and decided to try out their recipe for New York-Style Cheesecake.  Their recipes never disappoint.

Everything was going great.....I licked the bowl (as usual) after putting the cheesecake into a waterbath in the was divine!  Incredibly creamy, rich and velvety all at the same time.  Deliciousness.  I baked the cheesecake as directed and then placed it in the fridge for the afternoon.  

Much to my dismay, the cheesecake never completely firmed up as it is supposed to.  I checked the recipe again....what went wrong?  Did I leave out an ingredient?  Cook it at a too-low temp?  Nope.  I followed the recipe to a "T" :(

I only had an hour before everyone arrived for dinner, so I flew into damage control mode.  I would love to be able to tell you that I pulled together several ingredients from Trey's pantry and whipped up a delicious dessert.  Nope.  I sent Trey to pick up a cheesecake at Publix AND a small Dairy Queen ice cream cake of course!  I had to concentrate on making the actual dinner and was so grateful that Trey stepped in.

But wait, the story doesn't end here......after everyone left later that night I was putting left overs away in the fridge and noticed that everything in the fridge was warm.  We checked the setting and somehow it had gotten turn down way too low......which is why the cheesecake never firmed up.  Redemption!!  It *wasn't* my fault!!

We left the cheesecake in the newly cooled fridge overnight, and low and behold when we woke up Sunday morning it was all nice and firm.  Too bad we hadn't discovered this earlier the night before.  The moral of the story is this:  when something goes wrong don't immediate assume you yourself messed up....lots of environmental factors come into play.  Environmental factors such as the temp of your fridge :)

Still, I thought I'd post the recipe since it's not what cause this cheesecake attempt to go awry.  I'll make sure to make this again when it turns out pretty.

Just for kicks....Before we had discovered the fridge issue we simply too spoons to the firmer edge of the cheesecake and ate it as was....yum, yum.

New York Style Cheesecake - Cooks Illustrated
1 cup Graham cracker crumbs (roughly 8 whole crackers)
1 tbsp granulated sugar
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus additional 1 tbsp melted butter for greasing pan

2 1/2 lbs cream cheese, cut into chunks and left to stand at room temp for 30-40 min
1/8 tsp table salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
6 large eggs

  1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar in medium bowl; add 5 tablespoons melted butter and toss with fork until evenly moistened. Brush bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan with most of remaining melted butter, making sure to leave enough to brush pan in step 3. Empty crumbs into springform pan and press evenly into pan bottom. Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around edges, about 13 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.
  2. For the cheesecake filling: Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese at medium-low speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula; add salt and about half of sugar and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; beat in remaining sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla, and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; add yolks and beat at medium-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; add whole eggs two at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, and scraping bowl between additions.
  3. Brush sides of springform pan with remaining melted butter. Set springform pan on rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills if springform pan leaks). Pour filling into cooled crust and bake 10 minutes; without opening oven door, reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue to bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of cheesecake registers about 150 degrees, about 11/2 hours. Transfer cake to wire rack and cool 5 minutes; run paring knife between cake and side of springform pan. Cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours. (Cake can be refrigerated up to 4 days.)
  4. To unmold cheesecake, remove sides of pan. Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving plate. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Italian Cream Cake

The first time I ever attempted making a layer cake I made an Italian Cream Cake.  I asked my grandmother what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, and when she said Italian Cream I panicked just a sounded pretty complicated, and I wasn't sure I didn't want to just stick to boxed mix for my first layering attempt (not that there's anything wrong with boxed mix).  To my pleasant surprise, this cake turned out to be fairly easy to make.....several steps but very straightforward.  Plus, this recipe won't's unbelievably moist and the cream cheese icing is my favorite icing of.all.time.  Hands down.  Yum!

My friend and coworker Rachel requested this cake for her birthday this year, and I thought I would take the opportunity to try making a 5 layer tiered cake.  It took way longer than making the standard 3 layer, but it was well worth it.

*Recipe is for one 3-layer cake.  I usually double the icing recipe for a 3 layer cake as well...but then again I like the sweet stuff :)

Italian Cream Cake

  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 5 egg whites

Best Cream Cheese Icing
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Before starting, don't forget to make sure that the eggs are at room temperature*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 8 inch round cake pans.

Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Fluffy peaks

In a large bowl, cream 1/2 cup margarine and shortening till light. Add white sugar, and beat till fluffy. Beat in egg yolks. Stir together flour and baking soda, and add alternately with buttermilk into the creamed mixture; mix well after each addition. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, coconut, and 1 cup pecans. 

LOTS of batter crammed into my mixer

Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. 

I had to revert to a larger bowl for this step....the double batter wouldn't fit in the mixer

Spoon into prepared pans.  Bake for 25 to 40 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting: Combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup margarine, confectioners' sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in mixer bowl. Beat till smooth. 

When doing larger layer cakes it's important to give the layers support.  Otherwise the cake will either topple sideways or sink in on itself.  For this step I used cake pop sticks from Michaels.  Insert the supports (whichever kind you like) into the bottom tier of the cake.  Make sure before you insert them that you've measured and trimmed them so that they don't stick out of the top.

Then place the second tier on top.  Obviously you'll want the two tiers placed on their own cardboard cake boards...otherwise that defeats the purpose of the supports.

To hide any space in between and make the tiers look seamless, use a piping bag with your favorite tip to pipe a design at the base of both tiers.

Okay, so I didn't smooth the frosting out before taking these pics but you get the idea.  Imagine this...but smoother and prettier :)  

Monday, May 9, 2011

White Bean Chicken Chili

Chili is one of my favorite cold weather meals.  It's warm, filling and just makes you feel all nice and toasty inside.  So why the heck am I posting a chili recipe in May?  Because this is a different kind of has chicken instead of beef, and white beans instead of kidney beans.  It's quickly becoming a new favorite of mine.  And the best part?  It's SO easy to throw together at the last minute!

PS These ingredients can be combined in a crock pot in the morning and then left to cook on low all day as well.  The soup also freezes nicely.

White Bean Chicken Chili
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14.5oz) can chicken broth
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1 (16 oz) can corn
1 (15 oz) can white beans
1 (7 oz) can diced green chiles
1 lb cooked chicken meat, shredded
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 (18.75 oz) bottle salsa verde
pinch salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil and cook onion and garlic until soft.  Stir in broth, diced tomatoes, chiles, salsa verde and spices.  Bring to boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.  Add corn, chicken and beans.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.