Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May Daring Baker's Challenge Apple Strudel

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Wow, homemade strudel. Can I really do that? I was very intimidated by the sheer thought of attempting it. But, in the end it wasn't so bad. We had a little trouble getting the dough stretched thin, but I believe with practice, we will become pros. Also, I didn't use enough filling. We will definitely add more next time. We decided to use strawberries. It was delicious. I think next time I will use 2 pints of berries though. Also, I forgot all about the table cloth. I will try it with the cloth next time as I do believe it would make rolling the dough easier.

I don't have my pictures on the computer yet and don't have access to my camera, but I will upload them at a later date. Just didn't want to be late with my post.

Thank you so much to Courtney and Linda for hosting this month's challenge. All in all, it was fabulous! It is definitately another keeper! Can't wait to see everyone's creations!

Here's the recipe:

Preparation timeTotal: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes
15-20 min to make dough30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough10 min to fill and roll dough30 min to bake30 min to cool
Apple strudelfrom “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers
2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbsstrudel dough (recipe below)1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)
1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.
3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.
4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.
5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.
Strudel doughfrom “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers
1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour1/8 teaspoon salt7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Cheesecake Challenge

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. And oh what a treat this was.

I never make cheesecake. I think one time I bought one in a box, and another time I made one that you just refrigerated. Most of the time I just buy them if we have them at all. I think more than anything, I have been afraid of attempting a baked cheesecake. What with that waterbath and all. Geez, what do you think I am? A daring baker or something? Well I am now. And that waterbath, well, it was nothing.

Actually, I did have some minor problems with it. I wrapped aluminum foil inside my springform pan so that it covered the top of the bottom of the pan. Then I inserted it into its place inside the pan and snapped the side shut. I wrapped the excess up the sides of the pan. I then took a piece of wide foil, set my pan in the center of it and scrunched it up all around the sides as well. There were no seams and no tears. I believe that the tiny bit of moisture that I had was from condensation. So, the next time I make one, instead of tightly scrunching the foil around the pan, I will try to loosely wrap and see if that doesn't help. In the end, after the cheesecake sat overnight in the refrigerator, all the moisture was gone and the crust was perfect.

The cheesecake batter was a breeze as well. The directions were straight forward and simple. I accidentally added all of my eggs at once, but it still turned out wonderful. Also, we used lime juice and pineapple rum for flavoring. I will add a little extra next time as most of the flavor baked out and it really just tasted like vanilla cheesecake.

We baked it for 45 minutes, then left it in the oven for a little over an hour. Took it out, wrapped it up, and refrigerated. The next day, we sliced some strawberries, and attempted a beautiful presentation with dots of mixed berry coulis around the edges. We made the berry coulis as well as a mango banana coulis. Both were delicious with the cake. The mango banana coulis was very strong in flavor, but along side this cheesecake, it was perfect!

The cheesecake itself was delicious. It had an awesome texture and flavor. It was even better drizzled with coulis.

I should also mention that I did not have a 9 inch pan. Well, I do, but I couldn't find the bottom of it. I probably threw it away at some point not knowing what it was, since I never use it. So, I used an 11 inch pan. I was going to make a double batch of batter and make some cheesecakelets as well, but decided to just go with one and see what happened. It was somewhat short, but perfectly acceptable.

I'm going to go ahead and post my pathetic pictures. Please don't laugh. I noticed in the one of the graham crackers in the food processor, I still have the plastic on the cord of the mixer, as well as the sticker on the front of my coffee pot. I've had them both for months. I have a bad habit of leaving stickers and tags on new things. I drive my family crazy with that. It just doesn't bother me I guess.

So, here's my beautiful photos followed by this outstanding A+ cheesecake recipe.

graham crackers for cheesecake crust
The graham crackers for the crust in my food processor attachment for the Cuisinart 7qt. mixer. Works great, but boy is it loud. I'm going to attach some ear plugs to it to wear when I use it from now on.

cheesecake batter

The batter.

cheesecake in the oven

In the oven


Finished cheesecake!


Sliced and ready to eat.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Some variations from the recipe creator:

** Lavender-scented cheesecake w/ blueberries - heat the cup of heavy cream in the microwave or a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add 2 tbsp of lavender flowers and stir. Let lavender steep in the cream for about 10-15 minutes, then strain the flowers out. Add strained cream to cheesecake batter as normal. Top with fresh blueberries, or make a quick stovetop blueberry sauce (splash of orange juice, blueberries, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon - cook until berries burst, then cool)

** Cafe au lait cheesecake with caramel - take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal. Top cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce (I usually find one on the food network website - just make sure it has heavy cream in it. You can use store-bought in a pinch, but the flavor is just not the same since its usually just sugar and corn syrup with no dairy).

** Tropical – add about a half cup of chopped macadamias to the crust, then top the cake with a mango-raspberry-mandarin orange puree.

** Mexican Turtle - add a bar of melted dark chocolate (between 3 and 5 oz., to taste) to the batter, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp.). Top it with pecan halves and a homemade caramel sauce.

** Honey-cinnamon with port-pomegranate poached pears – replace 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey, add about a teaspoon or more (to taste) of cinnamon. Take 2 pears (any variety you like or whatever is in season), peeled and cored, and poach them in a boiling poaching liquid of port wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, a couple of "coins" of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Poach them until tender, then let cool. Strain the poaching liquid and simmer until reduced to a syrupy-glaze consistency, then cool. Thinly slice the cooled pears and fan them out atop the cooled cheesecake. Pour the cooled poaching syrup over the pears, then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.

Some variations from Jenny (from JennyBakes):

**Key lime - add zest from one lime to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. Substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.

**Cheesecakelets - put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

First post

Just thought I would give a brief introduction to this blog. I started it mostly so that I could blog about the Daring Bakers group, which I am now excitedly a member of!

I have never been really "into" cooking. I mostly just throw some meat and vegetables with a side dish of fruit, cottage cheese, or a salad. I suppose I am an eat to live kind of person. For several years I have been making sure I was feeding my family in a healthy manner. Over the past 12-18 months, I have taken a deeper interest in cooking. I have been experimenting with new flavors, new foods, and definitely presentation. Some have turned out fabulous, others, not so much. I still have a very long way to go, but it has been a fun process. My kids love to cook so that makes it extra special. We definitely get great quality time out of it.

I am playing around with the photography side of food now. Wow, do I have alot to learn there. As hard as I try, I cannot seem to achieve the beautiful pictures that I see all over the internet. I will keep trying.

About the name of this blog. When my children were smaller, I would sing to them when I fed them. "It's delicious, it's deluxuous, it tastes so good!" "Mmmmm, yum, yum! That's yummy" So that phrase has a place in our hearts now. And I figured since my children are so involved in cooking in our household, it was an appropriate name.

Thanks for visiting!