Saturday, April 25, 2009

Daring Baker Challenge: Cheesecake, April 2009

I have joined the Daring Bakers!



Why not?

I was a daring baker before I even knew this wonderful little (actually rather large) group of bakers, cooks and bloggers, and lurkers (you know who you are!) existed!

Go me, now I have a uber-good excuse to experiment. Mom thought it was a great idea. So did the people at the party. 

Oh, yeah. I must explain. See, I hate cheesecake. Well, umm, yes, I have never been a fan, to put it simply. I would go for cake and ice cream in a heart beat instead. Actually, I have never ever gone for cheesecake at all. My sole appreciation for cheesecake lies in trips to the Cheesecake Factory restaurant where they make lots of cheesecake (wow, that was a stupidly obvious comment) and dress it up so pretty in the bakery display window. It looks so good I could eat it. But I won't...because, I don't like it.

Anyways. When I saw that my first challenge would be cheesecake I was dismayed. Oh boy, I thought. I need to make a cheesecake, that I won't eat, my family won't eat- what a waste. But then, problem solved! I had a party to go to, a baby shower or "sprinkle" for my friend Courtney. [A British lady actually informed Courtney that it is called a "sprinkle" after the baby is born.] Aha! I had my answer. Bake the wonderful cheesecake, make it pretty, bring it to the party for others to devour and enjoy. Let them taste [test, haha] the extravagant experiments of my effortless cheeeesecake. Wow. Sorry, got a little carried away with my e's. Wonderful idea, good plan, give me a spatula-- quick!

The mini cheesecake resulted from the overflow of cheesecake batter! Keep reading and you'll find out why...

Abbey's [now Meagan's] Infamous Cheesecake


1/2 cup peanuts

1/2 cup almonds, (whole, unblanched)

1/3 cup walnuts

1 T coconut flour

1 stick butter, melted

2 T sugar, I used 1 T organic brown sugar, and 1 T organic cane sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup butterscotch chips

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


3 sticks of cream cheese, (24oz total) room temperature

1 cup organic cane sugar

3 large brown AA eggs

1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream, I ended up using a lot more

1 T lemon juice

1 T vanilla extract (or a organic vanilla bean)



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients, not adding the vanilla and butter, in a food processor and pulse until ground into a course meal. Take the "crust" and transfer it from the food processor to a bowl and add melted butter and vanilla. Mix well. Press into your preferred pan, on the bottom and up the sides- this can take a few minutes to get it just right. [I used a round non-stick cake pan, but only because we didn't seem to have any pie plates in the house, and I have not yet invested in a really nice spring form pan.] Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer and cream together until smooth. [It is VERY important that the cream cheese is room temperature and soft, otherwise, the creaming process does not go so well. Trust me on this one.] 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 and lemon juice, and blend until smooth and creamy. 

[Note: I bought my heavy cream in a 16 ounce container and while the motor was running slowly poured the cream in. I was so happy and mesmerized at the beauty of all the ingredients coming together (come on- it happens to the best of cooks) that I realized I had poured in way too much. This did not effect the end result of my cheesecake at all. I probably only had about 1/3 cup of heavy cream left when a whole 1 cup was supposed to be left over!]

4. Spread the chips evenly on the bottom of the crust (do not press in). Pour cheesy batter into your crust, on top of the chips, and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. [Do not skip this step!] Place pan into a larger pan [I advise testing this out before, make sure your pans are compatible and they fit] 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. [Don't skip this step either- this is the secret to cheesecake!] After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. [Mr. Cheesecake is heavy.] 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.

If all goes well, it didn't crack!

*Before baking please realize: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. [Do not skip the chill-stage, either. Mr. Cheesecake must not be rushed.] Please plan accordingly!

I must say (with an ever so slight hint of boastfulness and pride) that this was my first cheesecake and he didn't crack. YIPPEE!

What is even more rewarding is the fact that there were comments like:

"Omg, who made this cheesecake?"

"This is the best cheesecake I have ever had."

"Wow, -munch, munch- this is good, what's in the crust?"

"I need seconds." Well, I admit, I never actually heard that one, but someone was thinking it.

A special thanks to my lovely mother, who was an attentive assistant in the assembly of this cheesecake ;) Unfortunately, we had to run off to the party. So we yanked the cheesecake from the fridge and zoomed off and I styled the cake there. I forgot to take pictures. Imagine pictures of cheesecake with swirled cocoa powder and mini chocolate chips pressed into the top, adorned with almonds and special chocolate inserts. There you have it.

I don't know about you, but this recipe is going into my secret recipe archives. Oh, wait, I just shared it with you. But, just keep it on the DL and don't tell ;) Secret between you and me, ok?

Now we wait to see what next month's DB challenge will bring.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter and my first GF Bread

Happy Easter!

The plan? Have the family over for a full on GLUTEN free, SOY free, safe, Easter meal prepared by my mom and I, and celebration of Jesus' resurrection together as a family.

Not in the plan? Me getting sick, yes sick, on Saturday. I never get sick, but this 24-hour bug just happened to catch me while I was down. School has been really stressful and busy lately, top that off with a 6+ hour plane flight home, +3 hour time change and the "post-stress let-down effect" and bingo, it got me. I haven't been this sick in ages, and it was not fun. Interestingly (sorry to gross you all out) throwing up was the best part, as it made me feel so much better (even if it only lasted about 15-20 minutes). Anyways, we heard from the family that a 24-hour thing had been going around, we assumed that's what I got, and today I am better. So it was definitely a 24-hour thing. I am still recovering (think barely any food and only juice/sprite while I was sick), and I hope to be 100% soon. Needless to say, it was a VERY different Easter than what I expected. Oh, and I forgot. The family stayed away. Wise decision!

The Easter meal, however (yay, I can eat real food again), was anything but a letdown. Mom made the pot-roast like she always does (family tradition, we have it at nearly every major holiday except Thanksgiving). Then we did a potato dish, steamed green beans, green peas (I couldn't really stomach the thought of grean beans on my recovering stomach), and bread.

Bread? Yes, bread. In my childhood days Mom used to always have a fresh loaf of bread for dinner straight out of the bread machine. It was homemade bread heaven every night. Needless to say we started learning about nutrition and that practice was thrown out the window. And now that I am gluten free, I remain especially nostalgic about the bread she used to make. Her bread machine oatmeal bread was by far, my favorite. Close behind was the apple-walnut, and cinnamon raisin, but the oatmeal bread "took the cake" - pun intended.

I have been searching for a good bread recipe for a while, and have had a few in my bookmarks on my computer, but haven't quite dug in and tried one. Finally, I found one that I had all the ingredients for, wasn't going to bake my back (in the complication factor) to make it, had GOOD reviews, and wasn't overly time consuming. Too good to be true? Only slightly.

from ^^
(my substitutions listed here)

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup white sorghum flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/4 cup ground golden flaxseed meal
3 tsp xanthan gum 
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt (I used normal table salt, not sea salt)
2 eggs + 2 egg whites (use 4 large brown AA organic yada yada eggs)
1 cup room temperature water
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 200F degrees.
2. Mix wet ingredients in your stand mixer, and mix your dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. While the mixer is running, pour the dry into the wet and mix well on low/medium speed for about 2 minutes. There should be no lumps.
4. Turn into a olive oil sprayed (I always use my Misto) 9x5 loaf pan.
5. Turn off the oven and put the bread inside.
6. Let rise for about 90 minutes or until the top of the bread is noticeable (as viewed from the side) over the edge of the pan or until it just meets the top.
7. Then turn the oven on to 350F (try not to open the oven during the rise and during the transition to 350) and bake for about 40 minutes. The crust will be golden brown, cover with tin foil as needed to prevent over-browning.
8. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes then turn out onto the rack and cool until no longer warm. Slice when just a touch warm or totally cooled.

I say only slightly because as you can see, the bread collasped after it's journey from the oven. I had kind of expected this to happen (some reviewers mentioned this problem) but just prayed it wouldn't happen to me; after all, not everyone encountered this phenomena. But it did. It didn't lack in the flavor or texture department. In fact it tasted exactly like my childhood oatmeal bread, even better! I am going to have to tweak the recipe so it DOESN'T fall in, but this recipe is certainly destined for greatness. It left my mom, my dad and I smacking our lips in pleasure. WE LOVED IT. Oops that was in capitals- wait, I meant to do that, hehe! It was soo good. We will definitely be making this again, and again and again. I might actually put it into muffin tins and do a "dinner roll" type. In fact, it was so good we demolished a WHOLE half loaf! And easily could have eaten the whole thing. I can't take credit though- this wasn't my recipe. Click the link and enjoy. Lots of different substitutions work well, so play around with it. I will update you will my new recipe as I bake more versions. Trial and error will get it right eventually.

Easter tasted so good! I only wish it could have been spent with family.