Ginny and Juan’s Balsamic Showdown: Ginny’s Creation

July 13th, 2009

Juan (oh, yes, he has a name!) and I have a new blog feature… We are going to compete against each other in cooking showdowns… How will it work?  Juan and I will each post (oh, yes, he is guest posting!)… As soon as both posts are up, you have one week to cast your vote which dish you like better.  I’ll tally them up, post the results, and one of us will win bragging rights until our next showdown…

When Juan and I wondered around Chicago, we found Old Town Oil and bought the most delicious sweetest 18 year aged Balsamic Vinegar.  We drizzled it on bread and devoured it.  The balsamic is like nothing I have ever tasted before.  For our first showdown, we had to make a dish highlighting the vinegar.

As I tried to come up with something to make… I kept thinking of cheese… savory and sweet… I found this recipe from 101 Cookbooks for a savory cheesecake.  A few alterations and some sliced figs… I had made an amazing dinner.  My friends loved it… Served with fresh bread, a salad and a glass of white wine.  It was perfect for a summer day!

Stay tuned for Juan’s creation…

Fig- Balsamic Ricotta Cheesecake
(adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

3 3/4 cups ricotta cheese (2 tubs of 15 oz ricotta cheese)
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 basil leaves, minced
2 large eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
4 figs, sliced
balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 325F degrees, racks the middle. Butter/oil a 7-inch springform pan.

Mix the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, shallots, garlic, and basil in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs and continue mixing until well combined. Add the salt and pepper. Fill the springform pan with the ricotta mixture and place on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Now sprinkle with the goat cheese and return to the oven for another 20 -30 minutes or until the goat cheese is melted and the cake barely jiggles in the center (it will set up more as it cools).

Remove from the oven and let cool five minutes, then release the cake from its pan. Cool completely and serve at room temperature. Before serving, place the sliced figs around the edge of the cheesecake and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

My First Daring Baker’s Challenge

April 27th, 2008

Have you ever played Candy Land? The wonderful board game where you navigate through the land of candy…running from Lord Licorice, hanging out with Princess Lolly in the Lollipop forest and ultimately saving the King in the castle! As you can imagine, I loved this game as a child. It is a simple straightforward game made so much more interesting by a Candy Cane Forest and Gum Drop Mountain. I could never decide who I wanted to be, eitherPrincess Lolly or Queen Frostine. They were both so beautiful and lived in such delicious places.

Ok, I know that you are wondering why I am reminiscing about some board game I played last night…er…um…15 years ago…Well, my first Daring Bakers challenge, Cheesecake Pops, as chosen by Deborah and Elle, would fit in perfectly in Candy Land. They could live right next to the Lollipop Forest with their bright colorful sprinkles, chocolate coating and yummy cheesecake center.

I am very excited to be joining the Daring Bakers. Every month the members are secretly given a recipe to follow to the letter and then blog about it on the designated day. This was a fun challenge and I brought my pops into work for a baby shower. Everyone loved them! I followed the recipe as it was written and used the microwave method to coat them in chocolate.

Cheesecake Pops
(adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor)

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) – Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

P.S. Check out the other Daring Bakers’ Creations…

Patriots + Giants = A Yummy Superbowl Cheesecake

February 2nd, 2008

I love football but this year I am not excited about the Superbowl. It stems from my complete dislike of either team and apathy towards the outcome of the game. In order to make it more exciting, I decided to challenge myself by creating a dessert for my friend’s Super Bowl Party that was representative of both teams. I started thinking about what was a very typical Boston dessert in honor of the Patriots and a very typical New York dessert in honor of the Giants. I came up with a Boston Cream Pie and a New York Cheesecake. Trying to fit these two desserts together seemed quite difficult. The textures and flavors of both are very different and not conducive to being put together…Kind of like getting the Pats and Giants to play nice together. Instead, I focused on the essence of each dessert. The vanilla custard and chocolate ganache of the Boston Cream Pie and then the texture and smoothness of the cheesecake. This led me to create a Vanilla Cheesecake with a Chocolate Ganache.

Ginny’s Super Bowl Cheesecake

Adapted from Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Cranberry Jewel Topping found on Epicurious

12 vanilla sandwich cookies (such as Vienna Fingers; 6 1/2 ounces), broken into pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup sugar

6 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs

Chocolate Ganache (adapted from the Joy of Cooking)
1 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 whipping cream

1. About an hour before you start to bake, take the cream cheese out to come to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 350° F.
3. Wrap outside of 9-inch springform pan with foil and grease the inside of the pan. Place it in a deep pan with at least inch high sides. Test to make sure you have sufficiently wrapped the springform pan by pour water in the pan and seeing if any leaks through.
4. Blend the cookies and sugar in a food processor (or blender) making crumbs.
5. Melt the butter in microwave for 30 seconds.
6. Mix into the cookie mixture and press into the bottom of the springform pan.
7. Bake for 10 minutes, make sure not to burn it. Remove from oven and set aside.
8. While the crust bakes, mix the cream cheese, sugar and salt. A mixer will make it easier.
9. Mix in the cream and vanilla.
10. Add the eggs and mix until all ingredients have been incorporated. Scrape the sides to make sure everything is incorporated. Do not over mix.
11. Pour over crust and place in the deep pan.
12. Boil a cup of water and pour in the pan, making sure not to spill it into your cheesecake.
13. Bake at 350° F for 50 minutes until the sides have puffed up slightly and the middle is slightly jiggly.
14. Turn off the oven and crack the oven to slowly cool the cheesecake.
15. Once it has cooled, refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight in the springform pan.
16. To prepare the ganache, in a saucepan over medium low heat bring the whip cream to a slow boil.
17. Stir in the chocolate until melted and incorporated.
18. Pour over the cheesecake and place back in the fridge to set.
19. Once set, using a knife, slowly loosen the edges of the cheesecake from the springform pan and undo the spring to take off the sides of pan. Slowly slide the cake off the bottom of the pan onto a serving platter.
20. Slice and serve! Yummy!

P.S. Cracking Eggs Tip: Always crack eggs in a separate bowl. That way in case you get some shell in it, you can fish it out before it goes into the dessert.