Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
When I first found out about this month’s challenge, I was ecstatic! I love cheesecake, I love chocolate, and I love bite-size things, so I was thrilled. I was also excited that it was something that I could make for Passover with minor adaptations. Had it been bread, I may not have been able to participate. I did a bit of research and took advantage of the fabulous DAB knowledge about going gluten-free and decided to sub out the flour with half the amount of corn starch. The making of the cheesecake went out without a hitch. I used a 9-inch springform pan (all I had), triple-covered with aluminum foil to prevent water leakage. Here it is during baking. Not sure if the bumps are bubbles or lumps in the batter…
I checked it after 45 minutes of baking and it was still fully liquid. Having read the comments on the forum about baking times and having some previous cheesecake experience, I let it keep baking until it look set. I’m not exactly sure how long that was, but I’d guess it was about 80 minutes. I wasn’t surprised it took that long because a) my oven runs a bit on the cool side, b) I used a smaller pan so it had more depth, and c) I probably let the oven cool down from too much time with the door open (between pictures and putting in the water for the water bath). I took the cheesecake out, let it cool and set it to chill. When I went to make the pops, I noticed that it had developed a thick skin (potentially from slight overbaking) but looked and tasted very creamy. I rolled the balls by hand, which was a messy and sticky endeavor but lots of fun. Here are the balls before getting the lollipop sticks.
Once they were frozen and ready for dipping. I slowly melted the chocolate in the microwave (my method of choice when I don’t care about tempering) and mixed in some hazelnut oil just to thin it out. I had a feeling that with the frozen balls, the chocolate would harden immediately and create too thick a shell. I probably should have added more oil, since it gave the chocolate a nice nutty undertone and it would have been better if it had been a bit thinner. I dipped the balls as quickly as I could, shaking of the excess as much as possible, and then dipped them in candy sprinkles. I had grand plans to do some with white chocolate decorations, but I ran out of time.
How did they turn out? They were delicious and a big hit at our Seder (Passover dinner), (along with some Chocolate-Covered Matzah Crunch, aka Matzah Crack, the most addictive and delicious Passover treat, pictured below). My only issue was that they were a bit hard to eat. When they were fully frozen, they lost their creaminess and were a bit insipid. When they defrosted a bit, they tasted great but the sticks just popped out of the balls, defeating the whole “pop” point. Also, the balls were a bit bigger than one bite so taking a bite would make the other half fall off the stick, so people had to hold the other half in their hands… not ideal hand-held food. Overall, though, I loved them and would definitely make them again, albeit smaller. They are delicious and have a great wow factor. Thanks to Elle and Deborah for the wonderful recipe and to all the DBers for the help and wonderful inspiration for the future.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Not too shabby except for a couple losers on the end that couldn't stand up straight:
Here are some close-ups:
Thanks for the challenge, ladies. I had fun!
The next step seemed more challenging. I really wasn't sure how big two ounces would turn out. I decided to use an ice cream scoop that was approximately two ounces. It was definitely a messy endeavor, but I finally got them scooped out. I think the cheesecake balls could have been much smaller, but I didn't really have time to experiment. After leaving them in the freezer for overnight, I was ready for the final step. I used a Pyrex bowl on top of a saucepan to melt the chocolate. It was a little difficult dipping the cheesecake balls and covering most of them with chocolate. After that I used nonpareils and other chocolate sprinkles to decorate them. (I had been hoping to document this all with photographs, but our camera has decided to hide somewhere in our apartment.)
After all of this effort, the cheesecake pops sat in the fridge for another day or so. I had been letting some friends know that I had something interesting for them to try, so everyone was eagerly awaiting the results. The overwhelming feeling was that these were simply delicious. Rich, but delicious. We did have some trouble with the pops starting to fall off of the lollipop sticks, but that could probably be prevented with smaller cheesecake balls.
I'm looking forward to the next challenge. I'm hoping to have my own blog up and running before too long, but we'll have to wait and see.
Prepping for the challenge!
Cheesecake in water bath
Forming the balls
Naked cheesecake pops
Prepping for decorating
Melting the chocolate
Daughter helping out
I have used a water bath before to make a delicious flour-less chocolate cake, so being familiar with one of the techniques ahead of time was settling.
I wanted to make the pops for a baby shower I was hosting for one of my coworkers. The shower was on Friday, so that left limited preparation time. I was up at 6 am Thursday making the cheesecake. Being up at 6 am period is difficult for me - and to be required to bake something at that time was quite interesting. All went well - except when the cake had been in the oven for 45 minutes and still looked soupy! I started to freak out because I was worried I had done something wrong. I was ready to scrap it, when I called my mom - and we decided it wouldn't hurt to leave it in and see what had happened. I wished I had read some of the Daring Bakers blog earlier to see that others were having this problem!
The cheesecake turned out wonderfully, after about 1 hr 15 minutes in the oven - and was extremely tasty! I'm saving this recipe for sure!
Looking forward to next month's challenge!
This was my first time making cheesecake and working with a water bath. Everything went well while I was making the cake. Although, I nearly poured too much water into the roasting pan and flooded my cake, but I manage to get the right amount eventually.
After the pops were frozen I went to work melting the chocolate. As I was dipping the pops I was worried I would not have enough chocolate. In the end, I had chocolate leftover so I could have dipped them a little deeper. I decorated with some colorful sprinkles. Back in the freezer to chill and await the review of my cheesecake connoisseur husband to arrive home!
I decided that since the recipe was large I wanted to make a couple flavors. Who doesn't love variety? I had a very hard time not eating the first step……I'm talking VERY. Doesn't it look fantastic!!!!
I decided to make a half recipe and used an 8" square glass dish in the water bath. I cooked the batter for 50 minutes. The cheesecake came out set, there was no cracking on the top and it had a lovely creamy colour. I refrigerated the pan overnight and then formed the balls the next morning.
My friends will tell you that I tend to be an everything at right angles, clean lines kind of person. I don't usually gravitate towards dessert presentations that are more rustic in appearance (unless the rustic presentation looks like it was carefully planned to be that way - totally against the rustic philosophy!!!) So I was a little out of my comfort zone when I started to form the cheesecake balls and they weren't coming together in the perfectly symmetrical, smooth round balls that I envisioned in my mind. My hands became coated with cheesecake and the balls were a little "squatter" than the look I wanted. I ended up freezing the cheesecake and using cooking spray on my hands so that the process was less messy and I had more time to get the desired shape. But since they still weren't as smooth as I wanted I decided to cut loose and go with the "more is more" philosophy. Inspired by those chocolate coated apples that you see at the mall covered in inches of candy toppings, I decided to dip the pops in chocolate and then roll them in cookie crumbs and then drizzled on more chocolate.
Well the pops were a big hit at my moms' group. The presentation was whimsical and the size perfect for those who might feel guilty about eating a whole piece of cheesecake. Would I make them again? I'm not sure to be honest. At the rolling stage I was definitely thinking no - it was just too much work for something that wasn't too impressive. The cheesecake wasn't as firm as I like and they didn't weather well for too long out of the fridge - it's not one of those desserts that you can have out for a long period of time while people talk and snack. But the coating process was fun and it was an unexpected way to have cheesecake. In the end, I think I'll stick with a tried and true classic cheesecake but I'm glad I had the experience of making the pops. Thanks Deborah and Elle for challenging me to try a presentation that I would have never done on my own!
Friday, April 4, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
I have to confess that when I read about this month’s challenge, I wasn’t super excited. My husband is not a cake person at all and, I have to admit, there are MANY things I enjoy more than plain, white, spongy cake. I would always choose dense and rich over light and fluffy. Also, work on my dissertation has really increased all of a sudden (or at least it has to if I’m going to graduate in the near future) and my husband was going to be in
I think my original bad attitude cursed this cake from the start… When I went to print the recipe, I realized that my printer was almost out of ink so the print-out was nearly illegible, requiring me to hand write all the parts that had printed as totally blank. I set out to mix the dry and then the wet ingredients (no issues there, except I used a carton of 100% egg whites, which looked way more liquid and watery than regular egg whites, which kind of freaked me out). I went on to mix the lemon and sugar, only to realize that I didn’t have enough sugar. Off I went to the corner store for sugar. I continued to mix the zest and sugar, and then the butter, and then started adding the other ingredients when, all of a sudden, my mixer goes crazy! It starts going faster and faster, splattering the mixture everywhere, and then shuts off. I briefly freak out, then unplug the mixer, then plug it back in and try again. I put it on the lowest possible setting and the same thing happens: slow, then faster and faster and then off! By this point, I had gone too far to quit, so I finished making the cake by repeatedly turning the mixer on and quickly off to minimize splattering. I poured the batter (which looked fine and tasted amazing) into the pans and put them in the oven. I used a similar on-off procedure to make the buttercream, although I had to make a screen with plastic wrap to shield me from the flying butter. I unfortunately don’t have pictures of this because my husband took both of our cameras on his trip!
By some sort of miracle, the buttercream actually came together eventually, despite the jerky on-off beating. I went to check on the cakes, and they had risen fine (unlike some of the issues other DBers had) but they baked on a slant! My apartment, you see, is in a house that is settling and therefore is not level. This, however, had never happened to me before. I can’t quite explain how a liquid batter ended up rising only on one side! I took the layers out of the oven and tried to put them on the cooling rack, only to notice that the pans were too close to a bag of sliced bread, which melted onto the hot pans! I tried to move them and burnt my wrist. You can see why I think my cake is cursed!
By this point, I was frankly too tired and annoyed to care much about decorating the cake. I let the layers cool, and cut them in half as best I could (pretending that they are not slanted). In the back of my mind, I remembered all the “Ace of Cakes” episodes and Epicurious clips on how to level cakes and cut the sides to make them smooth, how to crumb-coat and then frost a cake, etc. but totally disregarded all that knowledge and just slapped the buttercream on the cake, trying to make it look faintly cake-like (round with straight sides). I also decided to put some dried apricots in between the layers with the (delicious, makes-it-all-worth-it) apricot jam. The end result was, to tell you the truth, not very pretty. I decided to use slivered almonds to give the illusion of actual sides, which worked OK. With the almonds, the cake didn’t look monstrous anymore!
The final chapter of the cursed cake saga occurred when I decided to take the cake to work to share with my colleagues. I put it in a cake-carrier and put it in my car, safely drove it to work, and I went to take it out of the car, the top of the carrier came off and off went the cake all over the passenger seat and floor mat. Almonds, apricots, buttercream, all smeared on the upholstery and mat! Thankfully, I had cut a piece to take a picture, so at least I got to eat that. When I got home, I scraped all the frosting off the cake and tried to figure out whether it was salvageable… but it wasn’t. It ended up in the trash. SO SAD!
1) Lessons from TV and the internet don’t magically translate into fantastic cake decorating abilities
2) Using egg whites from a carton may seem freaky but works just fine
3) Any cake-bearing container should be closed and secured before taking it out of the car!
After all the disasters (burnt wrist, messed up mixer, buttercream-smeared car), the cake was… ok. I have to maintain my opinion about plain white fluffy cake. Not my favorite. The apricot jam was not nearly enough to salvage the cake and I should definitely have added more to make the cake more apricot-y… or perhaps I shouldn’t have added any of the fantastic jam, as the cake ended up in the trash! :o( The lemon buttercream was delicious, but it took some getting used to the fact that it is basically all butter. Overall, I don’t think I’ll make it again.
PS: As soon as my husband came home, the mixer magically fixed itself. I guess it had been missing him as much as I had (though he never uses it).
My other concern was about the egg yolks. I had no idea how to use up all the remaining egg yolks. Also, as I am not a fan of butter cream icing, I quartered the recipe for the butter cream and prepared enough to experiment with. Next time, I think I will try using cream instead.
• Though I had used a 9' pan, the cake still formed a dome. However, no cracks
Next time I will use cream with less sugar for the frosting.
Looking forward to the next challenge, the nutty baker.
I had doubts about this recipe from the start. I’ve always had it drummed into me that beating a cake too vigorously, whether by hand or machine, will whack all the air out of it so that doesn’t rise properly – so I was a bit alarmed to read in the instructions that the cake was meant to be made entirely by machine.
My second dilemma was over the cake flour. We don’t have anything labelled simply ‘cake’ flour in Australia. You can get plain flour (with no raising agent; what is called all-purpose flour in the US) or self-raising flour. However, as the ingredients also included 1 tablespoon baking powder, I assumed that it was plain flour that was meant.
That little problem solved, I began, shelving my worries about the mixing-by-machine aspect and being dutiful to the DB ‘do exactly what the recipe tells you’ ethos. This approach had to be modified somewhat pretty early on, when I added first the flour and later the liquid while still beating on medium speed, as per the instructions, and ended up wearing a fine film of both. Apart from that, the cake seemed to be coming together well, although the lemon essence worried me a bit, with its distinct dishwashing-liquid aroma. I made the cake in two springform tins of the specified size, although one had a loose clip so I improvised a bit by tying some string around the tin to keep the thing together.
While the cake was cooking, I made the buttercream, which I’ve never made before. I decided to make only a half-quantity, as I wanted to fill the cake with whipped cream and only use the buttercream for the frosting. I’ve always been put off making buttercream — that whisking over hot water business seems like too much of a faff — but it was surprisingly easy and the result was very smooth, of good consistency and tangily lemony. Although the texture was a bit waxen for my liking, I was chuffed with the general result, and feeling pretty pleased with the whole process — until I took the cakes out of the oven, only to find that they had not risen AT ALL. Consternation! Although cooked according to the skewer test, they were soggy and dense, and they stuck to the tins, and were generally pretty unappetising-looking:
Apart from that little hitch, the second cakes were much quicker to make than the first. While they cooked, and I sieved the raspberry jam — a rather tedious process — I smelled burning. I ignored it for a while, thinking it was the beetroots that I was roasting in the oven at the same time; but then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed there was a small fire in the oven. I’d forgotten to tie up the dodgy springform tin, and the batter was leaking out of the bottom and falling onto the electric element, where it was now alight. Panicking a bit by now, I combatted it with the aid of a wet dishcloth held in a pair of tongs, then removed the tin, tied it up, put it on a pizza tray and back in the oven. Two more fires promptly ensued, each harder to put out than the previous one, followed by a kitchen full of acrid smoke.
By this time I was wishing I had never heard of the Daring Bakers (or, as I was beginning to think of them, the Dastardly Bakers) and that Dorrie Greenspan had been an aeronautical engineer or something else way outside my area of interest. Could anything else go wrong?, I wondered.
Well, yes — the second batch of cakes came out of the oven just as flat as the first, and equally icky inside:
This is what we ended up eating:
In response to Dorrie Greenspan’s claim that this is a ‘snow white cake’ one said, ‘Snow white? It’s more like one of the seven dwarves!’
‘A little doughy — and very flat! The best thing about it is the smell — a perfect cake for a breatharian.’
‘Crispy on the outside, eggy and damp on the inside. Disconcerting.’
‘A very flat, dull-tasting cake.’
‘Heavy, wet texture, sweet buttery flavour, yellow colour, flat appearance.’ This friend — not normally a conspiracy theorist — wondered if there was a deliberate mistake in the recipe to make for more interesting blogging, her reasoning being that it would be pretty boring reading about a whole bunch of perfect cakes.
She also suggested that the recipe be renamed The Perfect Party Pancake.
However, they all thought that the buttercream was acceptable, and we had a good laugh at my expense, so the day wasn’t a complete disaster.
At least now I know how to make buttercream. Now all I need is a use for all those spare egg yolks.