Friday, June 11, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Sunday, June 28, 2009
I'm afraid as there are many changes happening in my life, this will be my last Daring Bakers Challenge until I get settled again. But here it is - without further ado - the Bakewell Tart!
It's a sweet shortcrust pastry, filled with a jam (I used black currant), and then topped with frangipane (an almond cake. Yum! Oddly - this concoction reminded me strongly of a pop tart?
Aaaannd - the recipe:
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
This month has been absolutely unbelievably busy - thanks mostly to Chase's school and work schedule. Yeesh. So after last month's day long challenge of making lasagna absolutely from scratch, I was glad to see that this month's challenge seemed a little less demanding of my time.
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
I can't say I ever crave cheesecake, but I do enjoy it when it's in front of me. I've had several different types of cheesecake:
a.) New York Style - very dense - and is a little difficult for me to eat because it's so rich
b.) A Creamy type cheesecake (is there a name for this?) - this recipe is just that! Take the concept of "cheesecake". Imagine it's perfected form. Got it? That's this stuff. SO GOOD.
c.) Jell-O Cheesecake - This stuff tastes good(ish) - and is a breeze to throw together - plus, no baking! - but in the end, is it really cheesecake?
To elaborate on this month's cheesecake challenge...the goal was to take a simple recipe and make it a "showstopper". I don't think I succeeded visually, but I'll attribute that to my brain being overrun by the pollen. (My car can attest to the loads and loads of pollen in the air. It once was silver, but now it's - Yellow!!) But the flavor (what little I could taste thanks to my POLLEN reaction (i.e. allergies)) was wonderful!!! My favorite dessert in the world is green tea ice cream with fresh blackberries. So for this challenge, I tried to translate that into a cheesecake.
Here's the recipe I started with:
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.
Recipe Edit # 1
: The Crust
Recipe Edit # 2: The Cheesecake
My goal was to make a fresh tasting Green Tea Cheesecake with blackberries. I needed a crust that didn't overwhelm those flavors. So rather than graham crackers, I crushed up some Vanilla Wafers. I figured they'd be just buttery and sweet enough - but still pretty plain so as to not detract from the green tea and blackberries.
I kept this part of the recipe mostly the same, except I added 2 tbsp. of matcha green tea powder (dissolved in equal parts water) to the filling. It may have been too much (green tea should be subtle - too strong and it just starts to taste bitter), but I can't really tell because my taste buds aren't working properly.
Here it is all baked up:
A couple of air bubbles - but no cracks! (This is thanks to being baked in a water bath.) Cracks in the surface of a cheesecake are a very common but purely superficial blemish.
Recipe Edit # 3: The topping!
For the topping, I just took some frozen blackberries, mixed them with sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and some vanilla, and then cooked it all until it broke down.
I entertained the idea of piping whipped cream around the edge, but I suspected it might be overkill. Instead, I served the whipped cream on the side - that way it wasn't a mandatory part of the dessert.
I'm glad I didn't pipe the whipped cream on the cheesecake, because It would have been tooooo much. And it didn't add anything. The cheesecake was absolutely wonderful by itself! The crust was perfect, and the cheesecake was so creamy and sweet - with a wonderful green tea flavor. And the blackberries complimented it so! It was wonderful!
Thanks Jenny, for an awesome challenge, and for giving me a new "go-to" cheesecake recipe!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I visited a friends' house earlier this week. In his house, I saw a painting I painted quite a few years ago. It didn't look half bad! I'm afraid I haven't painted in the past couple of years. I think I just forgot I could?
Anyways. I was inspired and super excited to paint this weekend, and I'd love to share my progress with you!
When I'm a little "rusty" with a skill, I stick with subject matter that is "safe". For me, my fallback is definitely Van Gogh. I absolutely love his strokes and his color. Most of all - I love his composition. There's just something about the way he sets up his paintings that almost makes me want to cry.
I decided to paint this painting:
This painting is called "Wheatfield with Cypresses" - as you can see by the title of this post.
To begin to reproduce a painting like this, the first thing I do is to break up the painting (and my canvas) into sections.
To break up the image of the painting, I just folded the paper with the printed painting on it into 16 sections. I then took my canvas, and divided it up into 16 sections as well:
Now I can sketch the design! It's a lot easier to resize (the print out I had of this painting is not quite 8.5" x 11", but the canvas is 18" x 24") an image and sketch it when you have it divided up into different sections.
Here's the finished sketch:
As you can see, the sketch looks quite a bit like the original painting - at least shape and spacing wise.
Now we're ready to paint!
I must say, I can't really explain how I paint - except that I almost never wash my brush and I just pile the paint on the canvas. I really let the paint do most of the work. It's so darn pretty!
Here's the first section of color I painted - a teal/cerulean sky:
And up close:
EEee!! I love that texture! The only down side is that it takes forever to dry.
Next I added some of the clouds:
I love watching the canvas transform from a blank blah to a dizzying array of colors and shapes!
Here are the completed clouds:
Look at that color! The movement! Now mine is nothing like the master Van Gogh....his has unmatchable movement and color - but mine is still kinda pretty to look at :)
The only reason I paint is to see the beautiful colors!!! This is just so exciting!!
Now the mountains need to be painted:
Ah-hah.....everything is starting to come together. The blue mountains ground the sky - and give you a starting point. See those clouds above the horizon of the mountains? Before the mountains were painted, they just kind of disappeared and blended in with the sky. But now they definitely have a strong identity.
Well - that's all I have completed so far.
I'll update with my progress! Hopefully I'll have time to finish this during the week sometime.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
In honor of Earth Day today, I'm going to show you my little seedlings!!
As you can see...the seeds to the right of the red line just aren't getting much light! I only ever see my seeds in the morning and at night - so I was sure they would get enough light at sometime during the day - because the position of the sun would change...but I guess they didn't. The only seeds that have sprouted are the ones on the left side of the rack.
So - I moved the rack!
Happy seedlings all around! I'll keep you informed of their progress.
In the meantime, here are the sprouts that I woke up to this morning...
One little basil sprout (arrow added for emphasis):
One Parsley Sprout reaching for the sun...(there are more getting ready to shoot up though!)
Two Dill Sprouts (plus one unfolding in the center of the pot)
And loads of little sage seedlings!!!
And since we're on the subject of plants, I have to show you my little spider plant baby! I took him from a momma spider plant.
Here's an illustration of a Spider Plant (from Google.com):
As you can see...there's the parent spider plant in the pot. On the long offshoots are the offspring of the plant, which if you remove can then grow roots and become independent plants! Because of the way it reproduces, and it's ease of care, spider plants are super fun to give away.
So here's my spider plant:
Right now, he's in a little dish of water. He needs to grow some roots before I can plant him.
Soon, his roots should show up on this little nub:
I can't wait to plant him!
Also, here's Mr. Spider Plant's next door neighbor....
A real Shamrock! They open during the day, when the sun is out, and they close up at night.
When Chase and I worked at The Lost Savant, before it closed, we made friends with this awesome lady named Edna. She worked at the Fountain City Art and Crafts Center (next to Fountain City Park) and she made this plant holder herself! I think it's beautiful. When Chase and I moved into our first (and only) apartment, she showed up at the Savant with this little plant!
Unfortunately, it has "died" a total of two times - most recently, when we moved into our house. The leaves died and there was no hope. Or was there?
I watered it religiously and eventually, a little shamrock popped up out of the soil! It turns out that Shamrocks grow from a bulb. Lucky for me!