Saturday, October 22, 2005

Between repainting the bathroom yesterday and working the phone lines with clients, I had to squeeze in a pumpkin cheesecake for potluck tonight. The bathroom is still a mess and I gave up after one wall. Its a whole new color scheme to cover up the horrible mistake we made with the color last time. We wanted something bright and cheery because the bathroom was so dark....then we cut the trees down in the front of the house and low and behold, we had sun...and a tacky paint job! We are going a bit more conservative this time with a wall color called Shiloh which is a soft pebble gray with bright white trim and a sage green floor. Speaking of sage, probably you didn't log on to hear about my color choices for the bathroom. What follows is the recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake. What I did here was combine my favorite NY cheesecake recipe with one for Pumpkin, the results are a light and tasty dessert that gets raves.

Preheat a slow oven at 325
excessively butter a 9-10" round springform pan
crumble 2-3 cups of ginger snaps (I ground them in my little food processor)
line the bottom of the pan with the crumbs and press them into the sides of the pan for the crust (I only press them about 1/2 way up the sides of the pan so that there is a nice contrast to the color of the pumpkin cake and the crumbs when you take out of pan)

In a large bowl combine
1 lb cream cheese and 1 lb ricotta (my secret cheese for cheesecakes) softened and using a spook or a mixer, combine until light and fluffy
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon each of ground cloves and nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger or allspice
pinch of salt

Then add 6 eggs, room temperature, one at a time until mixed thoroughly

Fold in 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 lb sour cream

Pour into springform pan. I find that I usually have more batter left over and luckily I have a tiny spring form pan so I can make a little one for Greg. I've learned to do this because he'll always bug me to have a little piece just for him. I'll be doing things around the house and I'll hear this voice behind me "can I have a piece of cake?" "why can't we just take a cheese log to potluck and leave this here for me?" Its cute and makes me laugh, but now I can say, I made one just for you!

Anyway place in the center rack in the center of the oven and bake for one hour. Without opening the door, turn oven off and leave cheesecake in oven to dry for 2 hours. take out and cool completely, (top may crack, which is fine) and chill overnight.

You can serve it plain or with a topping such as fresh cranberry sauce or glaceed pecans, candied orange peels or sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Alright, the pressure to post more is getting to me!!!! Found this cake recipe on Epicurious and it sounded decadent and impressive enough to serve to Greg's mom for her birthday this year. The caramel-milk chocolate frosting is to die for. Everyone was moaning over it! Better the second day, so you might want to make it a day ahead. There is a ton of frosting to use and it gets nice and hard when the cake is chilled.

Chocolate cake with milk chocolate-caramel frosting.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract ( I was out and used bourbon)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 cup lukewarm water

24 ounces good milk chocolate (Dove or imported), finely chopped
3 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cups whipping cream

For cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Sift Flour and next four ingredients together in bowl. Using electric mixer or by hand, beat brown sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla or bourbon. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions. Beat in 1/2 cup lukewarm water.

Divide batter among prepared pans (about 2 1/3 cups for each). Smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Cool completely in pans on racks. Invert cakes onto parchment (cakes are delicate). Peel off parchment on bottom.

For frosting: Combine milk chocolate and bittersweet chocolate in large bowl. Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 10 minutes. Carefully and slowly add whipping cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over low heat until any hard caramel bits dissolve and mixture is smooth. Pour caramel over chocolate; let stand 1 minute to allow chocolate to soften, then whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Chill chocolate-caramel frosting until completely cool, about 2 hours. (or freeze bowl if you are pressed for time) Let stand 1 hour at room temperature before continuing (or microwave a bit to melt)

Using electric mixer, beat frosting just until color resembles milk chocolate and frosting is easily spreadable, about 1 minute (do not overbeat or frosting will become stiff and grainy). If necessary to correct graininess, set bowl with frosting over saucepan of simmering water for 10-second intervals, whisking just until frosting is smooth and spreadable.
Place 1 cake layer on platter, flat side up. Spread 1 cup frosting evenly over top. Top with second cake layer, flat side up, pressing slightly to adhere. Spread 1 cup frosting over top. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake, swirling decoratively.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I've been ordered by Greg to post here tonight. Currently, Greg is in the kitchen sopping up the leftover sauce I made for my chicken fried pork chops with a german pumpernickle cocktail bread that I found at Renys.

I got three thumbs up for dinner tonight, one from Greg and one each from Vicky and Mary who both happened to stop by around 5:30 to see "what was up." What was up was two hungry females sniffing around for a dinner invite!

Anyway, my skeleton for dinner was a load of boneless pork chops, some swiss chard that I need to use, and an acorn squash. I halved the squash scooped out the seeds and placed both halves flesh side up in a roasting pan with about 2 inches of water in the bottom. I placed a bit of butter and salt and pepper in each half and roasted them at 350 for an hour.

I decided to chicken fry the pork, so I trimmed the chops, beat the crap out of them with a wooden mallet to flatten them, dredged them in a mixture of flour, ground sage, cayanne, salt and pepper and then added them to a skillet with hot hot vegetable oil (almost to smoking hot) and fried on each side for about 3 minutes a side.

While that was going on, I sauteed chopped leeks with garlic and olive oil and then added the swiss chard and let it wilt down and "marinate " on low until time to eat.

After the pork was done, I removed the chops, drained off the oil, and then scraped the scrapings off the bottom the pan, added butter and about 1/2 the remaining dredge flour with spices to make a rue. I had some nice strong homemade chicken stock in the fridge that I added to make a sauce, then placed the pork back in the sauce and made sure they were covered.

The pork was very juicy and had a great spice to it. Greg is still in the kitchen searching for leftovers.

Even if you don't try the pork, try the chard, it is one of my favorite easy vegetables and everyone will be really impressed.