Death by Chocolate Cheesecake

I admit it. I have been obsessed with chocolate lately. I’ve made bourbon brownies, 2 toned chocolate and choco chip cookies, in addition to the usual, standard stuff I make. And I’m not yet done. Still on my list are Kladdkaka, Tableya Cupcakes, Creme de Cacao… and this Chocolate Cheesecake, which has been dubbed Death by Chocolate Cheesecake.

For this one I delved deep into my cookbooks. Both hubby and the kid are chocoholics, and both are very particular when it comes to chocolate – they have discerning tastes! They prefer a deep, complex, nuanced chocolate flavor. I finally hit the jackpot when I found this recipe in a special edition “magazine” of Fine Cooking.

I started with a ready-made, off-the-grocery-shelf Oreo cookie crust. I know I could have made my own chocolate cookie crust but having a ready-made one DOES give me more time to concentrate on the filling, which I believed was more important! The downside though is that the ready made crust could not contain the full recipe for the filling. So I had to polish my math skills and scaled the recipe to about 2/3 – even then I was afraid that the batter would spill over in the oven. But all is well that ends well, the batter puffed up during baking but settled in nicely upon cooling…

The recipe did not specify a topping but I had in my mind a chocolate masterpiece with 6 layers of chocolate! I imagined (1) chocolate cookie crust, (2) double chocolate cheesecake filling, (3) silky ganache topping, (4) dark chocolate curls, (5) chocolate syrup drizzle, and (6) chocolate ice cream on the side!

For the silky ganache topping, I wanted a “softer” consistency, so instead of a 50-50 mix of chocolate and whipping cream, I used a 40-60 proportion, using a bit more cream than chocolate.

For the chocolate curls, I finally used the gourmet dark chocolate bar that my brother-in-law gave as a present.

While I had envisioned the 6 layers, I ended up with just 4 because hubby decided that it was overkill (pun intended!) to go beyond the chocolate curls. (The kid happily doused her slice in chocolate syrup though, but skipped the ice cream so at least for her it was 5 layers!)

The verdict? HEAVENLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, just like that, I am the kid’s hero again! I just love hearing her proclaim – Mommy you are the best cooker and baker ever, ever! (Her exact words)

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Pasko na Talaga!

(It really is Christmas Already!)

It is a (good-humored) joke that Christmas in our country begins with the “ber” months. The malls begin playing Christmas songs and start putting up Christmas decorations. For me, Christmas begins when I see my favorite Christmas ham in the stores. But it is really IT for me when my kitchen starts churning out goodies that we are giving out to friends!

My kitchen opened early, sometime in July, when I started trying out new fruitcake recipes… but official production just recently began… with Cheese Pimiento!

The bulk of the fun is baking, cooking, and having fun in the kitchen, but part of the fun is the Christmas packaging! In fact, half the living room gets transformed into a mini production site littered with ribbons, boxes, tags labels, glitter pens, stickers…

It’s tiring but so very enjoyable!

Hello Christmas, here I come!

Stuffed Dates

The local baking supply store always has dates for sale.  They are already pitted but they are often on the small side… good enough for baking and not bad for snacking.  But for a real treat, Medjool dates are the best.

Last weekend, hubby went to the nearby membership-only grocery store (without me!!!!) and found some organic (!) Medjool dates, at a very reasonable price!!!!  So of course he bought some!

He is perfectly happy to enjoy the dates as is but I had to interfere and try something else!

I’d seen stuffed dates before and usually the ones I’ve seen are stuffed with cheese and/or nuts.  I decided to stick with the cheese but use some of the fruit that I had macerating in the fridge (the ones for my fruitcake projects!).

The cast of characters –

It is very easy to make, except maybe for the pitting part… then again I had to slice the dates halfway anyway so…

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup finely minced mixed dried fruit (macerated in brandy for at least 12 hours)
about 12 to 16 pieces of Medjool dates, pitted and sliced but not all the way through

Stir the cream cheese and macerated fruit together.  Place the filling inside a pastry bag with a large open star tip.  Pipe the filling in the dates.  Then enjoy!!!

 

Pizza Night!!!

The kid can be a picky eater, but when it’s pizza time… all she wants is CHEESE!

She will (and does!) pick all other ingredients and put them aside!

Soooo….

Because I was feeling a bit lazy and because the kid kept asking for it, we had pizza night.  For her… cheese pizza.  For me… Hawaiian!

The best pizza crust recipe (for me) is the Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in 5 minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  But I halve the recipe since I don’t have a container that’s big enough.

1-3/4 cups lukewarm water
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3-3/4 cups bread flour

Just stir everything together and then leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours.  Then stick it in the fridge overnight.  The next day, pinch off some dough and roll out as thin (or thick) as you like.  We like ours super-thin, about 9-1/2 inches in diameter.  (Then again, an off-the-shelf frozen pizza crust works just as well, too.)

Put some fresh diced tomatoes (or by all means use the ones from a can, just remember to drain them… or go ahead and spread on some ready made pizza sauce, that’s fine too!) then pile on the cheese!  In our case we already had cheddar, parmesan, and toast cheese so we just had to get some mozzarella (I saw an all-in-one pack of shredded pizza cheese and was so tempted to buy it; and I’m sure I would have if we didn’t already have other cheeses at home!)

Anyway, bake the pizza at the highest setting (as possible – ours was about 475*F) of the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes… then enjoy!!!

(for the Hawaiian just put sliced ham and pineapple chunks!)

 

 

 

Filipino-style Cheese Cupcake

Even before knowing about (American/Western) cupcakes, we were happily eating cheese cupcakes (we are the ones with cheese ice cream too!).  When I was a young girl, all the neighborhood bakeries had their own version of cheese cupcakes.  Some were crumbly, extremely cheesy, sweet, heavy… there were all kinds of it.  My personal favorite was the soft kind with a lot of cheese flavor and cheese strips on top.

I tried many recipes for cheese cupcake and got a myriad of results – crumbly, heavy, sweet… none were as cheesy as I would like.  I later discovered, when someone revealed a trade “secret”, that commercial bakeries used cheese flavoring (either a concentrate liquid or powder) to enhance the cheesy flavor.  Well, I don’t know where to get cheese flavoring, then again, I preferred to achieve flavor naturally.  I was able to do by using parmesan… not the “real” stuff but the prepared and already grated ones readily available in the supermarkets.

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter-margarine blend
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup condensed milk
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup quick-melt cheese, shredded
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Mix the dry ingredients together, then set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together. Add the condensed milk.

Add half the flour mixture and mix. Add the evaporated milk and mix. Add the remaining flour and mix. Fold in the grated Parmesan. Fold in half the quick-melt and cheddar cheeses.

Scoop batter into paper-lined muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 15 minures. Take the pan out and quickly sprinkle the rest of the cheeses on top of the cupcakes. Return to the oven and bake further, about 10 to 15 minutes. Take care not to over-bake.

Cheese Pimiento (Salty version)

This is one of my favorite sandwich spreads.  It has always been so since I was a little kid.  Of course when I was a kid, our pimiento came from a bottle we bought from the supermarket.  But in the my teens, my mother got interested in cooking and baking, and she started making her own sandwich spreads, one of which was cheese pimiento.

She experimented… A LOT!  There were cooked ones, uncooked ones, buttery ones, cheesy ones, sweet ones, salty ones, and everything in between… we like some, and absolutely hated the others.

I decided to experiment on my own.  I knew what I did not like.  I did not like the sweet ones, nor the cooked ones or buttery ones.

I wanted a soft, cheesy, chunky mix.

My final recipe is an abomination of my mother’s favorite recipe…  abomination because I removed the butter and condensed milk (coz, those are what I didn’t like!)

250 grams cheese, grated
1/4 cup smooth ricotta cheese
mayonnaise, about 1/4 cup
200 grams pimientos, diced

Since this is an uncooked spread, it goes without saying that the ingredients (their brand) should be those whose taste you really like.  For example, the choice of cheese – the most common is cheddar but there are many kinds of cheddar.  Personally I like a salty, slightly sweet cheddar – the ones specifically adapted to our cultural taste, so I use a local processed cheese product which would probably have cheese aficionados scream in horror.  But hey, that is what my tongue likes.  Otherwise, I use gouda.  For the ricotta, I also use a local brand – with a really smooth velvety texture.  For the mayonnaise I always go for Hellman’s even if it means spending more and looking and searching for it (it is not common on our grocery shelves).  For the pimientos, since I am lazy, I just get a jar off the grocery shelves!

Stir the ricotta and mayonnaise together.  Add the cheese and pimientos, mix until combined.  Add more mayonnaise if desired.  Season with salt, pepper and/or chili flakes, to taste, but it is optional.  In my case, since the cheese I use is salty, I don’t need to add other seasoning.

I sent some over to my mom and she loved it!  The tub did not survive to see the next day… (hahahaha!)

 

 

In Someone Else’s Kitchen, 4 of 4

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, that is.

This is a crowd pleaser, which is to say that I have never met anyone who did not like it!  But the best thing about this recipe is how forgiving it is.  I have made it with broth, milk, half-and-half, cream… heck, I have even used water!

In this particular case, it was the perfect dish to make – even without basic tools, you can wing it. Really!  (Since I was in someone else’s kitchen and I was too shy to ask where the measuring cups and spoons were, I really did wing it!)

8 to 9 medium potatoes, sliced very thinly (you can peel them, or not, just make sure they’re scrubbed clean!)
a couple of fistfuls of shredded mixed cheese (I just bought a pack of pizza cheese and did not really measure)
butter
200 ml pack of half-and-half
a splash of milk (I just “stole” some from the fridge)
salt and pepper, to taste (or a couple of large pinches of rotisserie chicken spice)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Butter a baking dish (for this project, an aluminum disposable panmine is about 6 by 8 inches.  Arrange half the sliced potatoes in the pan, sprinkle the shredded cheese all over.  Top with the remaining half of potatoes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper or spice.  Top with more cheese.  Pour the half-n-half and milk over the dish.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are done.  Cover with foil if the top gets too browned.  Serve while hot.

Roast Chicken over Scalloped Potatoes

My little electric oven is such a treasure!  While my gas-fired baby oven is my ultimate favorite (after all I have been baking with it for more than 3 decades – so now you know how old I must be!), my little electric is really more convenient since there’s usually just 4 or 5 of us.  It is just a bit larger than a toaster oven (but yes, it is a fully functioning oven, with rotisserie too!). The largest sized pan that can fit in it is a 9-inch square and even that is a bit pushing it.

Still, it is absolutely perfect for half a batch of cake, 6 cupcakes, a regular brownie or a dozen cookies or so. And for meals? It is just right! A whole chicken with the rotisserie function (but no, a turkey or a super jumbo chicken won’t fit) or half a chicken in a baking pan.

Take this roast chicken meal… quick and easy, and best of all, tasty!

6 pieces chicken legs, cleaned and patted dry
salt and pepper, to taste

5 to 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly
1/2 cup shredded mixed cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan mix)
butter
1/4 cup 35% whipping cream
3/4 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Make slits on the chicken legs.  Rub the chicken legs with salt and pepper (I like using sea salt), place some between the skin and meat as well.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 375F.

Butter a baking dish (mine is about 6 by 8 inches.  Arrange half the sliced potatoes in the pan, sprinkle the shredded cheese all over.  Top with the remaining half of potatoes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour the cream and milk over the potatoes.

Arrange the chicken legs over the potatoes.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is done, at 165/170F internal temperature.  Let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

Calamansi-Ricotta-Pistachio Cupcakes

We had a bumper crop of calamansi… and I was running out of ideas where to use them!

So… cupcakes…

I was planning to make plain calamansi muffins, but got carried away trying to find a recipe…

In the end, what I did was to use my (super-secret) vanilla cupcake recipe and swap out part of the liquid to ricotta and added 3 tablespoons of pure calamansi juice.  (the cupcake itself, though, I think is a bit lacking in calamansi flavor)

Then to amp up the (super mild) calamansi flavor, I added calamansi syrup and crushed pistachios on top.

The recipe made more than expected – 6 cupcakes, 12 mini cupcakes, and 1 mini loaf!

My Quick (Faux) Caesar Dressing, and Fried Kesong Puti

I recently had a taste of fried kesong puti and I loved it!  (which is surprising because I am not a fan of kesong puti.)  So long story short, I wanted to make a salad with fried kesong puti… and since I did not want a vinaigrette this time, I had to fall back on my faux Caesar Dressing…

1 small tin of anchovies
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup good quality mayonnaise
juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced

milk, to thin the dressing if necessary

The first thing to do is to heat the olive oil with the anchovies until the anchovies melt into the oil.  Set aside to cool.

Mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard and garlic together.  Slowly add the cooled anchovy-oil mixture and beat well.  Adjust the seasonings as desired.  If the dressing is too thick, thin with a little milk.

For the fried kesong puti, slice the kesong puti into large cubes.  Roll in flour, then dip in egg, then roll in panko (Japanese bread crumbs).  Pan fry (on all sides to even out the color).

Serve the fried kesong puti over mixed salad greens, sliced tomatoes, ham, grapes, etc. and dress with the (faux) Caesar’s dressing.