New Boss

I recently started a new job and with the new job comes all the usual anxiety. Will they like me? Will I know what to do? Will I make it on time traveling on yet another post-blizzard commute?

So after miraculously arriving on-time for my first day, getting settled in and looking around I realized that everybody was really nice and supportive. About an hour later one of the principles of the firm walked in and passed out a piece of paper to everyone at their desk. Uh oh, first company memo being issued…

Here is what the “memo” contained…. A recipe for a traditional New York Style cheesecake!

That’s when I knew I fit right in!

Like a good employee, I followed the Boss' directions!

Like a good employee, I followed the Boss’ directions!

You will need a 9″ dia, 3″ tall spring form pan, sprayed and I used a circle of parchment at the bottom as well.

You will also need an electric mixer ( stand or handheld) unless you fancy a good “wrist” workout.

Pulverize an 11oz box of those little vanilla wafers (or the equivalent in graham crackers) and add in a stick of melted butter. Spread this evenly in the pan trying to get it up the sides a bit too. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 500 Degree ( might want to make sure you oven is nice and clean first or there could be smoking.)

Combine: 5 qty – 8oz bricks of softened cream cheese, 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 4 Tbsp of AP Flour, 1 Tsp Vanilla, 6 eggs and beat together on high for 10 minutes until smooth. Scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Note: It helps to have all your ingredients at room temperature and this mixing step is important as it determines how smooth the texture of the cheesecake will be. ( I scrimped a little on this step and the texture on mine was a bit lumpy)

Now add in 1/4 cup heavy cream and mix till incorporated. Pour into the prepared crust and place into the hot oven. Note: it would be wise to put the spring form pan on top of a foil covered sheet pan before filling and placing into oven as this recipe goes right to the brim. It’s easier to clean a pan then your oven.

Bake 10 mins at 500 degrees, then drop the oven temperature to 250 degrees and set the time for 1 hour. At 1 hour turn off the oven and set the timer again for 1 hour and leave it in the oven still. Try not to open and peek during this process. Now remove the cheesecake from the oven and set on the counter to cool for 1 hour. At this point you can carefully remove the outer spring form and carefully wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (overnight is good) I wrapped mine with plastic so it wouldn’t absorb the orders of other foods in my refrigerator but the wrapping is optional.

Author’s note: Mine was quite dark on top because the original directions stated to put cheesecake in a 500 degree oven for 10-14 mins and I went on the long side. I am suggesting that 10 mins may be enough and you should have a lighter crust. But you can always cover that with a little powered sugar!

 

 

Going Nuts In The Snow

The last time I made these brownies (a week and 2 blizzards ago) I had a bit of chopped walnuts on hand and threw those in.

However this time I was out of walnuts and only had some pistachios on hand, pistachios that were still in the shell. Since we were on our third blizzard in like 7 days and both school and work was cancelled, I figured with nothing but time on my hands, I might as well shell the pistachios and add those to my brownies.

I really wanted to have the rich little nuggets of pistachio flavor jump out so I barely chopped the pile after I shelled them. I ended up with about 1/2 cup of shelled nuts and just threw them into my favorite brownie mix. ( I like Bob’s Red Mill GF)

Since these nuts were roasted but NOT salted, after I spread the batter into my sprayed baking dish I sprinkled just the tiniest amount of course sea salt on the top. That would give that expected salty hint that you usually get with pistachios and the combination of sweet and salty is always fun.

fudgy nut brownies

Moist and fudgy style brownies are the best in my book.

 

A Hot Mess

Some might think I was referring to the “post-blizzard” Boston streets. Although they are a “mess” they are definitely not hot. However back in my kitchen, trapped for 3 days, it was time to clean out the fridge/freezer. Thankfully because I wanted to and not because I had to due to power loss!

A pint of blueberries and a cup (+/-) of diced fresh pineapple, along with a few other items became the filling for a rustic “pie” of sorts.

I threw in a few dashes of ground cinnamon, ginger and salt with the fruit for a little something special, a tablespoon of all-purpose flour will help thicken the juices, 2 tablespoons of butter to enrich everything, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar help sweeten the deal. (you may prefer more sugar as this was a bit of a “tart” tart.)

now for the tricky part…..

I used one of those pre-made pie crusts… you know in the red or blue box, all rolled up. But I was worried it wasn’t big enough so I rolled it a bit thinner in an effort to get more surface. I thought I was being careful. I tried to close it up carefully.

However….a hot mess shortly developed. Probably had the oven a little too hot ( 375 degrees might have been better than 425) and maybe I left it in just a tiny bit too long…

 

a hot mess

It was still yummy even if it was a “hot mess!”

 

Ice Cream Bread

yup that’s right I said “Ice Cream Bread” and here is how you make it:

I discovered this little gem on the inter-webs while I was trying to figure out what “Cream Bread” actually was…..apparently this “ice cream bread” was an internet sensation back in 2011…well better late than never!

Cookie Experiment

The “cake mix cookies” went so well that I felt kind of confidant and decided to experiment. What if I used chocolate cake mix? What if instead of peanut butter I used marshmallow Fluff? This seemed logical – after all both peanut butter and Fluff are gooey? That has to count for something when substituting in baking, right?

Wrong.

They looked really promising as I mixed it together – the white marshmallow Fluff giving the chocolate cake batter a kind of “designer grey” color! Once I started to portion them out on the cookie sheet, I really started feeling confidant and dug up some candy canes that I thought would be great all smashed up as a topping! They looked really promising as they went into the oven!

But when they came out…..

They seem to spread a lot more than I thought they would. In fact they spread a lot! And they had to be cut away from each other. But that wasn’t even the worst part.

They deflated too. While they were baking they had puffed up nicely and I was deceived into thinking I would have a nice puffy, chewy cookie. Instead they deflated to a flat, really flat cookie. And as a result I had really thin, crispy cookies. Maybe not the kind you want. I forged on anyway, making small dough balls and placing them further apart so at least I wouldn’t have to cut them away from each other, but I still had flat crisp little rounds.

They were still kinda tasty, despite the flat crispness. And it didn’t stop me from eating too many. But if any baker out there can tell me what to add (I suspect it is either baking soda or powder) I would love to get these a little “Fluffier.” (Pun intended!)

P.S. probably not going to take these versions to the cookie swap!

Old Fashioned Idea

Most people who like to cook and eat also collect recipes. Sometimes it’s in the form of books and sometimes it’s in the form of a mess of recipe cards, newspaper articles and general scraps of paper.

This is just a tiny fraction of my mess of a collection!

This is just a tiny fraction of my mess of a collection!

A few years back I did put together a bunch of recipes from family and friends to create one of those little homemade cookbooks. You know the kind – you make it on your home computer software and have it bound into a little book at the local copy shop. It turned out pretty good and makes nice gifts!
I would love to say that I tested every recipe that was included but that would have been an extra year and 20 pounds so I went ahead and included them even if I haven’t actually made them. (I had to believe my family and friends wouldn’t make bad stuff right?)
Recently I decided to make one of the vintage recipes that was submitted by an aunt on my father’s side. Old fashioned Persimmon cookies.
baked cookies
His side of the family hails from California so Aunt Ethel probably had a persimmon tree growing in her backyard. (circa 1958) This was a considerable undertaking as I really had no idea what a persimmon even was or tasted like. But I hunted some down at my local supermarket. (It helps that I live in a big city area with access to foods from around the world.) I bought a few, ripened them in a paper bag with a banana for a few days and then the big moment…


The flesh kinda reminded me of a tomato with thicker skin. They tasted good – mild not citrus-y.
The cookies turned out pretty good considering I am not great at baking. I made myself follow the directions EXACTLY – it was tough. These cookies seem to be the kind that are moist and cake-like. (unless I just under-cooked them.) The spices play a big role in the cookies and the persimmon is mild so maybe cutting the spice amount in half might let the fruit shine through a bit more? Also I think I should have mashed the fruit more for even distribution or perhaps they weren’t ripe/soft enough?

fruit rinds

I cleaned them out as best I could and didn’t seem to find any seeds!

The Recipe
1 cup persimmon pulp (I needed about 3-4 small ones to get this)
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg (large)
1 “cube” (stick) margarine**
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped nut of choice (I used pecans)
3/4 cup raisins (I used chopped dried cranberries instead)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix pulp and baking soda – set aside. In larger bowl cream the margarine and sugar together. Beat the egg lightly and add to sugar mixture. Add pulp and mix again. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and spices together and add to mix. Stir in chopped nuts and raisins/cranberries. Drop golf ball size balls onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until just browning. Cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container.

**I translated a “cube” of margarine to mean 1 stick and therefore used 4 ounces of shortening (Crisco). I am pretty sure the “cube” reference probably referred to the old-fashioned margarine product named “oleo” READERS please straighten me out if you think otherwise!!