Monday, April 27, 2009

Almost a Cheesecake Lover

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


It’s been a difficult year for this Daring Baker. The February Challenge was flourless chocolate cake. And this month we baked cheesecake. In my opinion, two of the most over-rated desserts are flourless chocolate cake and cheesecake. The flourless chocolate cake challenge, well, let's say it didn't convert me. The cheesecake challenge? It didn't make cheesecake my new go-to dessert, but it is really, really good! It’s the perfect combination of sweetness, tanginess and richness. The texture is lovely. Jenny, the challenge host, gave us the basic recipe, Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake, and we could do anything we wanted with flavors, crusts and toppings.

I wanted to make an effort to use “local” and “seasonal” ingredients in my topping choice. It’s environmentally correct. It’s sustainable. It’s all the rage in the restaurant world and food blogs. I was also committed to using what was in the kitchen without having to leave the house, also environmentally correct and sustainable. And cheaper. To my dismay, my California kitchen and garden failed to cough up any kumquats, cherimoyas, lavender, or any other local, seasonal produce that would qualify my cheesecake for a Slow Food Fair. I settled on a jar of canned pears from Trader Joe’s, justifying that it was recently purchased a few miles from my house. Seasonal and local, done. I poached them in port, pomegranate juice and spices that I found in my cupboards.

Port Poached Pears

1 1/2 cups ruby port
1 1/2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 cup sugar
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 strips of lemon zest
1 strip of orange zest
1 vanilla bean
Canned pear halves, or fresh pear halves, peeled and cored

Mix together port, juice and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add spice and zests. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape seeds, then add both seeds and pod to pan. Add canned pears, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until soft. Remove pears from the pan with slotted spoon and let cool. Return pan to stove and heat syrup to boiling and cook until thick and syrupy. Strain through mesh sieve and let cool.

I chose to make up my own recipe for a gluten-free nut crust. I don’t avoid gluten, but I do have a lot of gluten free flours in the cupboard from that brief period when I did. The nut crust is better than just a replacement for the traditional graham cracker crust. It’s truly tasty.

Nut Crust Supreme (gluten free)

1/2 cup superfine brown rice flour
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons cold butter

Mix together flours, nuts and sugar. Cut in butter and work with fingers until crumbly. Press into oiled bottom of a spring form or cake pan. Makes enough for bottom-only crust for a 9-10” pan. Double the recipe for a full crust.

Everyone at my house loved the cheesecake. They liked it so much, that I made it again a few weeks later, this time making a topping of fresh-out-of-the-freezer blueberries.

This is a great recipe for a basic cheesecake. You can find the Challenge recipe
here. A special thanks to Jenny, for hosting and providing a recipe that almost turned me into a cheesecake lover.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring Break

I'm away for the week in Berkeley. This photo arrived in my inbox, just to let me know how much they miss me at home. I can assure you that's every dish we own. I see that all the espresso cups are there as well. I think we can assume they've moved on to take-out by now.