When life gives you cheese…

What does one say when offered a couple of pounds of fresh chèvre? An exuberant “Yes!” of course. David’s mother had a bit of chèvre left over from an event and thought I might be able to make good use of it. I had no idea what to do with such generous bounty, however I found myself envisioning something baked, and sweet. It was not long before I started scouring my books and the Internet for cheesecake recipes, however I never found exactly the right one.

See, I rarely follow recipes verbatim, rather, I use them as a template and let my intuition and the ingredients take their own form. I have a bit of experience making quiche; the marriage of eggs and dairy yielding a savory, creamy custard. Cheesecake has similar components, so it was just a matter of getting the right proportions so the whole thing didn’t end up a liquid mess. Or worse. I have had my fair share of quiche coming out of the oven, gently caramelized with the appearance of perfection, only to find it runny in the center.

I avoided adding lemon, as I thought tanginess from the goat cheese would lend the perfect balance to the sweet, richness of the cake. I also wanted to keep it as un-fussy as possible, using minimal ingredients. So many recipes called for additions of sour cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone…in the end I went for a good old-fashioned ratio of two parts goat cheese to one part cream cheese. I also learned something along the way. It is a bother to separate eggs, beating and aerating the whites into gentle wet clouds, only to have them flatten completely while trying to incorporate them into such a rich base. I’ll save you the trouble with this recipe.

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In order to make this bad boy, I strongly recommend reading the recipe through, so as to be prepared for the steps involved. While they may seem a bit laborious at first glance, it’s totally worth taking the time to do this right. This recipe uses a bain-marie, or water-bath technique, which moderates the heat and promotes even baking and consistency. When using a spring form pan, it may be necessary to wrap a layer of foil around the bottom and sides of pan to prevent any water from making it’s way into the lovely cake.

And lastly, unless you plan to serve this cake at 2am, it’s best made a day before serving, as it takes several hours to set and chill.

Must haves:

9-inch spring form pan

roasting dish or other large dish that will accommodate the pan

For the crust:

3 oz graham cracker squares

3 oz ginger snaps

4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

16 oz chèvre

8 oz cream cheese

3/4 c unbleached cane sugar

Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla (though I prefer the former)

4 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Blitz graham crackers and ginger snaps in a food processor, or if you prefer a messier route, crush in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. You’ll want about 1 ½ cups of crumbs. Put into a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Combine the crumbs with melted butter and press into pan, allowing a bit to inch up the sides.

    Ginger-graham crumble

    Ginger-graham crumble

  4. In a large bowl, cream together the cheeses, sugar and vanilla seeds/vanilla; beat until light.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating fully.
  6. Pour into springform pan. If there are any gaps in the seal, wrap the pan with a layer of tinfoil.
  7. Set pan into roasting tray; fill tray with water to within an inch of the rim.
  8. Gently place the tray in the oven and bake for ~1 ½ hours.
  9. Give the cheesecake a gentle shake; it should be somewhat yielding, but not loose. If it is, add another ten minutes to the baking time.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool for least an hour, then chill in the refrigerator several hours further.
  11. Serve as-is, or garnish with pomegranate seeds, fresh berries, quince paste…the possibilities are endless!

Much Love,

J

Cheesecake with chèvre

Cheesecake with chèvre

Love in the Time of Pastry.

Often, I feel a natural pull toward the kitchen to get creative and make something sweet. I have an insatiable sweet tooth, admittedly. This desire generally peaks after I’ve gotten home from a full day of activities, donned my sweats and T-shirt, and simply cannot bear the thought of leaving my cozy apartment to be assaulted by the bright lights of a grocery. Oh, and people. Not that I am an unsociable person, quite the opposite. It’s just that once I’ve expended my mental and emotional energy of the day, I need a respite. That’s when having a somewhat decently-stocked pantry comes in handy.

Given that it’s Fall, I naturally turn to more things like pastries and pies and cakes; something fruity and not too sweet. I surveyed my cupboard and had odds and bits of different types of flours, a few apples in the refrigerator and a stick of butter. What emerged is destined to repeat, for sure.

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These apple galettes are quite possibly one some of best mini pastries I’ve made; perfect for breakfast, after dinner, or pretty much any time of day, really.

Feel free to substitute a combination of flours with this one; I’m thinking rye flour might be a nice addition.  However, if using a dense whole-grain flour, don’t add more than ~1/3 cup, or you’ll need to play with the fat and liquid components of the pastry dough.

Ooh! And adding some candied ginger to the filling might be nice as well. I would go for about two tablespoons, and cut back on the sugar by equivalent volume. And I would hold off on adding the grated ginger, as is it might be a bit overpowering.

~Mise en Place

~Mise en Place

Apple Ginger Galettes

For the pastry:
2/3 c unbleached pastry flour
1/3 c whole wheat, rye, or Emmer flour
1 tbsp unbleached sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
8 oz (1 stick) butter
For the filling:
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced about 1/4 inch wide
1/4 c unbleached sugar
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tap cinnamon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
Additional ingredients
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
2 tsp coarse sugar, such as demerera
Method:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
1. Combine all of the filling ingredients; set aside.
2. Prepare the pastry; refer to this link for basic dough prep http://redflowerjlhcooks.com/2013/07/25/or-how-to-make-a-pie/
  1. Cut chilled dough into four equal pieces.
  2. Roll into ~1/8-in thin circles, You’ll want them to be about 8 inches in diameter.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment for the pastry, or put each circle onto individual parchment squares.
  4. Give the filling a quick stir to redistribute the juices, then scoop into the center of each pastry.
  5. Gently fold up about 1-2 inches, pinching each fold together to ensure a decent seal.
  6. Brush the edges of crust with egg, then sprinkle galettes with demerera (or other sugar on hand)
  7. Bake 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 350 degrees F.
  8. Check the pastry in about 20 minutes; if the crust is browning excessively, cover with foil.
  9. Cook another 15-20 minutes; apples should be juice and bubbly at this point.
  10. Remove from oven, cool slightly and serve.
Bon Apetit, and much love,
J

Kitchen Therapy.

I’m constantly balancing work and play, ensuring adequate self care, investing myself fully in being a mother, a partner, a colleague; a friend. I keep lists of ‘to do’s, deleting my accomplishments as I go. Vitamin: Check! Pick up kid: Check! Pedicure: Check! Run – no need to make a list for that one. It’s a part of my operating system now.
Mediation I still struggle with. So, as I sit here with consciousness-invoking tunes streaming through my headphones, I naturally relax into creativity mode.
Which brings me back to Sunday:
I love casual Sundays; the rain in Seattle really helps invoke that nurturing and creative side in me. Most recently, I wanted to make a dinner that would really impress. And of course, dessert would be involved.
I have a thing for citrus cakes; last year I was on a grapefruit-olive oil cake run that I made multiple times, inspired by the incredible Yellow House blog post. I served it at dinners, I made it for friends. Be sure to take a gander, if you have time.
This cake is similar in its density, with citrusy bitters mingling with syrupy sweetness in a dense almond flour base. I loosely followed a recipe for clementine almond cake found in the Jeruselem cookbook (again – planning to cook my way through this one!), however while out procuring ingredients, my eyes wandered over to the giant globes of grapefruit.
Grapefruit Almond Cake

Grapefruit Almond Cake

A combination of citrus would work really well here; I’m thinking blood oranges would be lovely, once in season. Feel free to play around with sweeteners; this cake is quite forgiving. It’ll keep several days, and makes an excellent breakfast, topped with a bit of plain Greek yogurt or cultured cream.
Mmm. Already fantasizing about when I will make this again!
Grapefruit Almond Cake
2.5 c almond flour (finely ground almonds)
3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c butter
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 c sugar (I used unbleached cane sugar)
Zest of one grapefruit
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Syrup:
1/3 c sugar
Juice of one grapefruit and one lemon
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Butter and line a 8.5-9-in springform pan with parchment
3. Combine all dry ingredients; set aside.
4. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, along with lemon and grapefruit zest.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating into the batter.
6. Add almond extract.
7. Work in dry ingredients, about a cup at a time; beating until just incorporated.
8. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for ~50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
(note – monitor cake ~40 minutes in, as it may need to be covered with foil or parchment to prevent excessive browning)
While cake is baking, prepare syrup:
Bring sugar to a boil, then simmer on low for just a few minutes, stirring to prevent burning. You’ll want to have ~1/2 c of the juice/syrup.
Pour over cake immediately, once removed from oven
Let cake cool completely, then remove from pan. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or whip cream.

I won’t go into great detail about dinner, however I must share a teaser, as it was a truly stunning meal:

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Lamb Kofta with Tahini Sauce

Much love to you!

jlh