Monday, April 27, 2009

Chef Cottontail on Daring Baker's April Challenge: Carrot Cake Cheese Cake

So this was my first Daring Baker's Challenge ever! I decided to make this one at home for Easter weekend since my roommate had sworn off cheesecake for a while. You might remember that we dubbed February "Endless Cheesecake Month" and sadly she got her fill for a while. Seeing as it was Easter weekend, and that my father is a notorious cheesecake-hater I opted for something a little more acceptable to his palate and for the occasion. Carrot Cake Cheesecake: simple, garden fresh, and my father approved.

With the help of my professional cake baking grandmother we whipped up a classic cake worthy of peter cottontail's garden; and that is exactly where we placed it! Well, okay, no we put it in one of our many garden scapes for photographing. After pictures, I had several generations of women (me, grandma, stepmother and her mother)stuffed into our tiny galley kitchen filling our faces with cheesecake and talking about what to cook next in between bites of carrot. We nibbled quickly, weirdly resembling rabbits, so as to avoid stares and condescending grunts from the men folk. You see, we had just eaten breakfast (cream biscuits, eggs, bacon, fruits etc) and after photo staging and cheesecake baking we thought we deserved a post-fast breaking snack; the menfolk didn't agree. "Vegetables in a cheesecake, nuts too? That doesn't sound much like a cake I wanna eat!" cried the grill-utensil-welding menfolk. They ate it. They loved it. Came back for seconds. It was solid 24 carrot golden cheesecake.

Official Stuff: My additions are in *** brackets

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs *** substitute ginger snaps***
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 ***did not use***


1/2 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp. each of nutmeg, cloves, allspice

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

6-7 grated carrots

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.***I lined my pan with a circle of parchment paper that is big enough to line up the sides as well. This creates a more rustic look but it works for this type of cake*** Set crust aside.***FREEZE***

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. ***Add spices and then hand fold in carrots and pecans.***

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!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Must Love Waffles

This will be my new prerequisite for any future romantic relations; thank the breakfast gods that my boyfriend shares a similar affinity. Not only are waffles applicable in various situations, ice cream cones, street treats in England, tortilla-like wrapper, obvious breakfast functions, and the most significant and delicious of all waffle-uses, as a palatial cushion ironed specifically to cradle crispy fried chicken.

This is how it started:

Last night as I lounged in bed dreaming of my Nana's tamales and cursing my mother for keeping my year's allotment in our freezer back home, I perused the food blogs where lovely Addie Broyles and Mike Sutter fill my food writing appetite. I came across an article by Mr. Sutter describing a new local travelling food coach specializing in the furthest thing from tamales: chicken n' waffles. Of course, I am limited to this particular adage otherwise it just wouldn't be real. This new little victual trailer is called Lucky J's and is located on north Burnet Rd., past the Amy's Ice Cream, and is so worth the wait and the sticky fingers. So in a matter of minutes my midnight cravings went from one end of the social spectrum to the other; however, the unhealthy genre of snacks remained stable. So I quickly sent a message to my good friend Alex all but commanding her presence at Lucky J's the next evening.

She, of course, thought I was kidding, I mean who in their right mind craved such things at such hours? Well I am neither pregnant nor alien, but simply a girl with a serious subconscious appetite problem, a brain that seems to be on constant foodie patrol, and a tendency to eat like her teenage brother used to.

So we go. Meet at 7; of course I am late. I bring the boyfriend, Alex brings hers. Michael is so excited he is almost bouncing off the wooden picnic tables. He has been talking about it all day, or so I've heard. We order. Alex and Mike choose "The Baller": a full fried chicken and four waffles. Josh and I decide we should just do half a chicken and two waffles which is aptly named "The Deal". Everything includes butter and syrup but you can request real maple syrup at an extra cost. Sadly, and to my health kick's demise, the corn syrupy goodness of "that fake stuff" reigns supreme when it comes to chicken n' waffle coverage. Save the maple for your cakes and pies.

As we wait on the brand new picnic tables, studded on each end with seedlings still sporting their bar codes, we contemplate the awesomeness soon to be before us. Our orders are announced ready and come in recycled paper to go boxes. Mike and Alex return with three full boxes. Our "Deal" only fills up one box, but we hungrily dig in. Chicken is flying, crispy bits of fried crust sticks to every inch of you, while the syrup seems to seep into every pore! The packets of butter included in the boxes melt next to the greasy heat of the chicken so there is no need for a knife. There is almost no practicality in utensils; you are going to become one with your chicken n' waffles.

In the end, despite still being covered in syrup and smelling of a diner, it was completely worth it. We are thinking of making it a weekly occurrence. We left with a box of left-over chicken each and swollen bellies. Mike said he was going to make Alex make him waffles at home to accompany his second day fried chicken; he is a bold man.

Absentmindedly, I forgot my camera and so these pictures are not authentic of our experience. Next time we will come prepared with ready cameras, starving stomachs, bottles of water and wet wipes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wabbit Food

So I attempted Bakerella's cake pops and needless to say I am not she. Even my professional cake baker Grandma helped me and we mostly made an orange mess of our kitchen. But, it is the effort that counts. Besides, too many carrots will undoubtedly turn your skin orange, or at least your tongue. Unfortunately these will not improve your eyesight.

Carrot Cake Carrot Pops

Shame: I used a boxed cake mix, but added fresh carrots, extra spices (chili powder in my carrot cake say what?) and apple sauce instead of oil. I also used *gasp* pre-made icing. Don't judge.

Simple vanilla bark coating dyed orange and thinned with precious pecan oil made the carrots all carrot-like and the addition of green apple sugared licorice belts made chic little stems.

NB: You can Frankenstein your decapitated carrot heads and regrow them. Hoorah for indeterminate growth!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Olive Juice

I had to write an essay for a scholarship and what do I write about, food of course! My roommate says my grammar and sentence structure is immensely better when I write about food, who knew. The inspiration for my essay was my lovely boyfriend Joshua. For one of his admissions essays to UT he compared himself to a hot dog. I figured I more resembled an olive though.

When it seems like my life is down in the deepest pits of pre-adulthood catechisms I like to liken myself to an olive.I do this for several reasons: a) olives are the food of the ancient gods and therefore precede all other foods in fame and reputation.b) They are actually a fruit and the ability to pass and apply oneself in multiple faculties, fruit and veggie,is highly respected. Finally,c) I rather like olives. They are a simple food that can change flavours depending on my mood and these various flavour applications I can parallel to my current phase of life. Right now I feel as if I am a plain green olive, perhaps stuffed with a bit of basic red pimento, simply floating in a giant glass jar on some bargain market shelf crammed between the pickles and the relishes. I am just a student stuffed with basic knowledge in the giant mason jar known as the University of Texas. But I have such dreams and hopes of becoming a fancier more learned olive one day. Oh,the visions of being delicately filled with a Stilton blue cheese and spinach puree, or perhaps gourmet multicoloured mustard seeds in a subtle red wine vinegar and minced herbs. Similarly I have these dreams of a student, and perhaps more strange they are food related.I, like the fancy marinated olive, aspire to be great. I plan to learn as much as I can and share all this knowledge with other fledgling olives so that they might become outstanding olives themselves. I am studying and researching to my pimento's limit in order to achieve all that I know I can. I am marinating in all that the University has to offer so that one day I can write about all I know about food, foodways and the cultures surrounding them. Some day I will end up on my own special shelf or perhaps one of those new "olive bars" along with other petite pots of gourmet stuffed olives. We will stand alone, never again to be categorised with the sour pickles and confused relishes. I think this is why I should be considered for a Texas Exes scholarship, although perhaps I should have considered my comparison with a jalapeno or a Rio Grande ruby red grapefruit. But no, I believe myself an olive, destined for greatness; not just another condiment on the world's shelves.