Thursday, August 19, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake

I made this delicious cheesecake for my niece. She got baptized and requested a strawberry cheesecake as dessert. I checked several recipes and ended up with this amazing one. Strawberries + chocolate = always a great combo!


- For the strawberry puree:
10 oz. frozen organic strawberries, thawed
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

- For the graham cracker crust:

2 cups graham crackers crumbs
3 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

- For the cheesecake filling:
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
12 oz. sour cream, at room temperature
2/3 cup strawberry puree

- For the ganache:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4½ oz. heavy cream
½ of 1 large egg, beaten


To prepare the strawberry puree, set the thawed strawberries in a fine strainer set over a bowl to collect the excess juices. Press down on the berries to extract as much juice as possible. You should have about 4-6 oz. of juice. Transfer the juice to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and simmer to reduce to about 2 oz. Mix in the sugar and stir to dissolve. Blend in the lemon juice and the reserved solids. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

*(To use fresh strawberries, hull and slice the berries. Toss the berries with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and set in the strainer placed over a bowl. Let sit for 1-2 hours to extract the juices. Press down on the berries to extract as much juice as possible. Transfer the juice to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and simmer to reduce to about 2 oz. Blend in the lemon juice and the reserved solids. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.)

To prepare the crust, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place the cracker crumbs, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the everything is well mixed. Add in the butter and pulse until the mixture is evenly combined. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press into a uniform layer over the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ F.

To make the cheesecake filling, combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl
as needed. Blend in the vanilla and salt. Mix in the sour cream until well incorporated. Blend in the strawberry puree.

Wrap the outside of the springform pan tightly in a double layer of aluminum foil. Pour the batter into the crust.

Place the springform in a larger pan with a water bath. Bake for 55 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven but maintain the oven temperature.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a small bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in the egg. Spread the ganache mixture over the still hot cheesecake, being careful not to pour it all in one place (the cheesecake is still delicate). Smooth the top with an offset spatula if necessary. Bake 12-15 minutes, until the ganache is set around the edges.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cover with a large bowl inverted over the top to help cool slowly. When it comes to room temperature, transfer to the refrigerator. Chill at least 8 hours before unmolding from the springform (and be sure the ganache is completely set before covering with plastic wrap).

Transfer to a serving platter. Slice with a thin knife run under hot water and wiped dry between slices. Serve.

Source: Adapted from Recipe Courtesy of "Annie's Eats"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Banana Caramel with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Cupcakes

This is a delicious way to use your ripped bananas. The vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream is absolutely out of this world!


- For the Cupcakes:
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tspn. baking soda
3/4 tspn. baking powder
3/4 tspn. salt
1 tspn. ground cinnamon
6 ounces (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 very ripe large bananas, mashed (about 2 cups), plus sliced bananas for garnish
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tspn. pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

- For the Swiss Vanilla Meringue Buttercream
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tspn. pure vanilla extract

- For the caramel
1 cup plus 2 Tbspn. sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbspn. light corn syrup


To prepare the cupcakes. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. In the meantime, cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Reduce speed to low. Mix the bananas, buttermilk and vanilla (as wet ingredients) in a measuring cup. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Stir pecans into batter. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins for five minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

To prepare the caramel. Bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, the corn syrup and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, undisturbed, until caramel is dark amber. remove from heat, and slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool.

To prepare the frosting. Place egg whites and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160ºF on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Switch to paddle attachment, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

Assembling the cupcakes. Pipe the icing over the cupcakes and drizzle them with the caramel (I put mine inside of a squeezing bottle). Top with sliced bananas as garnish.


Source: Recipe Adapted from "Marta Stewart's website".

Friday, August 6, 2010

Baked Ziti

There are so many comforting dishes that involve pasta, but certainly none of them like this one! I suggest you to try this recipe. It is easy, fast and DELICIOUS!!!!!


1 lb. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided
Table salt
1 lb. ziti
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
20 oz. turkey Italian sausage
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces


Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in colander.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Crumble in the turkey sausage and cook until nearly browned. Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream. Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

Transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

Source: Recipe Courtesy of "Annie's Eats"

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vanilla Cake, Lemon Curd filling and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting = Delicious!

I was asked to make dessert for a friend's anniversary last week, and I made this cake. It is simply delicious, even better the next day...


- For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
(I made a three layers cake, so I did a recipe and a half)

- For the Filling:

8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 lemons, zest grated and juiced

- For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
(Makes about 4 cups)


Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two (or 3, if you're making a 3 layers cake) 9-x-2-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make The Cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the tough – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

To make the Lemon Curd Filling: Place the ingredients in the double boiler over boiling water. Don't let top pan touch the water. Cook and stir until mixture begins to gel or thicken, this process will take quite some time. Hang in there. It is totally worth it. Once the consistency is thick, remove from heat and allow to cool (It will thicken even more once cooled).

To make the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting: Whip the egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until slightly thickened and pale yellow, 4 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the sugar and corn syrup to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 3 minutes.

Without letting the hot sugar mixture cool off, turn the mixer to low and slowly pour the warm sugar syrup into the whipped egg yolks without hitting the side of the bowl or the beaters. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the mixture until it is light and fluffy and the bowl is no longer warm, 5 to 10 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and add the vanilla and salt. Gradually add the butter, one piece at a time, until completely incorporated, about 2 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the buttercream until smooth and silky, about 2 minutes. (If the mixture looks curdled, wrap a hot, wet towel around the bowl and continue to whip until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes).

Assembling and Decorating the cake: Start by adding like a tablespoon of your frosting on the center of your cake plate. This will prevent your cake of moving while you're working on it.

Place the first layer, cut side down, on the cake plate. (Moist the cake with simple syrup if desired). Pour half of the lemon curd filling and spread it evenly leaving about 3/4 of an inch from the edges. Then, place the next layer on top, cut side down. (Moist with simple syrup if desired). Add and spread the rest of the lemon curd filling. Top with the third layer. At this point, you can smooth the sides if any filling is coming out. If you have a brush, it would help to get rid off any crumbs that you see around the sides or top of the cake.

Spread a thin layer of the frosting all over the cake. I personally start doing the top and then going down the sides. It does not have to be perfect, it is a very thin spread in order to avoid crumbs to the final coat. Once you are done with this part, chill the cake until you touch the frosting on top and leaves a little mark.

Once the cake is ready, give the final coat of frosting and decorate as desired.

- Perfect Party Cake - Recipe Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan.
- Lemon Curd Filling - Recipe Courtesy of Paula Deen.
- Vanilla Buttercream Frosting - Recipe Courtesy of The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.