…and it was like she never left.

In a more relaxed moment, I found myself scrolling through pictures and finding several that were part of a vision unfolding; scenes I’d meant to post and then got waylaid by frenetic holidays and activities that were heartfelt and fulfilling, yet left me a bit emotionally spent.
Savory Bread Pudding with Wilted Chard and Mushrooms

Savory Bread Pudding with Wilted Chard and Mushrooms

With the new year, and clear(er) vision, I’ve created goals and aspirations, and been taking steps toward achieving them. All well and good, however it’s so important that I get lost in the process of Being at least for a small amount of time daily.
And the truth is that I haven’t dedicated time to my craft; writing about my experience, that spark that ignites when I have an idea and run with it. That bit of cleverness and openness; that flexibility that comes (truly) from an aversion to running back out into the cold for another stick of butter, fruit or cream.
That Delectable Poached Pear and Almond Tart

Poached Pear and Almond Tart

It’s time to get back on the proverbial horse. Writing, creating, sharing and remembering these experiences  are an essential aspect of my self-expression. It gives me great joy to make beautiful food and share it with friends and family.
Pork Dumplings (Star Anise-Scented Broth)

Pork Dumplings (Star Anise-Scented Broth)

Raspberry Balsamic Preserves

Raspberry Balsamic Preserves

I’ve included a few visual samplings of things made recently that are worthy of a nod.
And so when overcome by the need for a bit of something sweet, I consulted past repertoire for this salted almond and honey pie. 
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Being a fan of tiny things, I thought I’d make tartlets, so as to enjoy and share more readily. I filled half of the tartlets with honey custard, and the remaining with homemade raspberry balsamic preserves; the latter lovingly gathered from my father’s garden this past summer.
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Recipes for pâte sucrée (aka: tart crust) abound on the internet, however I’ll include a simple recipe that I’ve been using reliably for some time. Feel free to let the imagination go wild with the fillings. These baked up nicely in a 375-degree oven in ~40 minutes.
Enjoy, and much love.
J
Pâte Sucrée
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, very cold, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
ice water, as needed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pulse dry ingredients in a food processor, or combine well in a large bowl.
Add butter and either process or use a pastry blender to cut into flour just until the mixture resembles fine peas.
Add egg yolk and pulse or mix until combined.
Add just enough water (no more than a tablespoon) to bring mixture to a somewhat cohesive mass; it should still be a bit crumbly.
Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours, or overnight.
Press into well-buttered tart pan(s) and fill as desired.
Bake filled tartlets until set, ~40 minutes

Obsessed with Autumn.

There’ve been countless good things coming out of my kitchen lately. Probably too many to mention, however I’m tempted to give it a go, if only for future inspiration. The past month I’ve been doing more living, experiencing, tasting, loving; and I haven’t felt much interest in writing about food.

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However, with a trove of inspiration swirling around in my head, I thought I’d share with you.
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I made this incredible pear and buttermilk upside-down cake that would knock your socks off:
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I followed David Leibovitz’ direction to tuck thin slivers of garlic and anchovies into a lamb shoulder, which was later roasted to perfection, and served it with a mixed root vegetable mash and possibly the best pan gravy I’ve ever had. I elevated it to the sublime with a preserved lemon, olive and parsley relish. I know I’ve done well when I find myself audibly moaning with satisfaction in the midst of my workday lunch. No apologies.
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And then there was this little gem of an idea found in Amy Pennington’s cookbook Urban Pantry. I could feel my eyes widening with anticipation at the apple quince butter, and was instantly inspired. I started calling around the local markets for quince, and made not one, but two batches, modestly adapted, richly spiced, and perfectly sweetened. I’d planned to follow with a persimmon-pear butter, however after two days of first degree burns from boiling fruit, I’ve given myself the week off.
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Moving on…
With several persimmon on hand and in need of some baking therapy, I set out to make this beauty:
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Having leftover buttermilk on hand, I added it to the cake, along with persimmon purée, and the resultant cake came out ultra moist. I also folded in preserved walnuts and chopped persimmon to give the cake a bit of texture. A straightforward swap for regular walnuts would be equally satisfying; however the preserved walnuts are reminiscent of candied fruit, their bittersweet flavor complements the cake well. Easily justified for breakfast with a bit of yogurt, not that one needs an excuse to eat cake.
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Enjoy, and much love,
J
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Persimmon and Walnut Cake
Note: I prefer the taste of hachiya persimmon over fuyu, as the fuyu tends to have a bit of a chalky, bitter aftertaste. Use ripe persimmon in this recipe; ones that have a bit of give when pressed. 
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Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
3 eggs
3 persimmon (purée two of the persimmon; chop and set aside the remaining)
1 cup buttermilk, or plain yogurt
1/2 cup preserved walnuts, chopped, or 1/2 cup plain walnuts
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Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter a medium-sized bundt pan, or a regular 9×9 pan.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl; set aside.
In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Cream until light, ~5 minutes. Add lemon zest.
Add eggs, one at a time, mix well.
Add pureed persimmon and combine.
Alternate addition of flour and buttermilk, adding one half of each at a time. Mix just until incorporated.
Fold in chopped persimmon and walnuts.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for ~40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool for ~5 minutes in pan, then invert and cool completely on cooling rack.
This cake will keep for 3-4 days at room temperature, however I don’t anticipate it’ll last that long.

On cabbage, pie and time…

I don’t know how time passes so quickly, but it does. One minute, I’m looking over the Seine, the next I’m daydreaming over a pot of wilting cabbage. I realize it’s not nearly as romantic, and totally unrelated, however that’s where I found myself this past week, trying to maintain a slow(er) pace as I dutifully prepared a batch of Marcella Hazan’s Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup.

The dish exceeded my expectations such that I had to make it twice. I also managed to produce a batch of dulce de leche, since I knew I’d be spending a couple of hours at home. 
But back to Paris…

Sacré Cœur!

It couldn’t have been a more perfect week. Spring in full effect, brightly-colored flowers demanding my attention, giant blushing cherry blossoms, the freshness that comes after a good Spring rain. Oh! It was lovely.
It began a little like this, with my constant peppering of questions such as “What are we supposed to do today? What’s on the Excel spreadsheet?! What time are we supposed to be at the Grand Palais? If we take time here, we will miss…”
The expectations we’d made, along with our rigid itinerary devolved, quickly becoming an inside joke as we relaxed and settled into full vacation mode.
La fontaine Médicis

La fontaine Médicis

the Seine

the Seine

Without a rigid agenda, we were free to wander and really experience the city. We peeked into galleries and boutiques, quirky private museums and of course, lots of specialty food and tea shops.
Clockwise, top right: chilled cream of fennel soup from L'epi Dupin, gorgeous heart-shaped macaron's from Laduree, duck foie gras with fig compote from Le Comptoir du Relais

Clockwise, top right: chilled cream of fennel soup from L’epi Dupin, gorgeous heart-shaped macaron’s from Laduree, duck foie gras with fig compote from Le Comptoir du Relais

At one point, I was banned from lugging anything else home. We’d been trying to avoid checking luggage, and as it were, were ushered through with just a bit over the weight maximum and a handbag bursting with chocolates and other treats.
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Birthplace of the macaron.

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E. Dehillerin, where I spent a good two hours geeking out on all things kitchen.

 

My heart lies in the kitchen, nestled into a good pastry. And so at the request of a certain young lady and after an intense day at work, I spent the bulk of an evening making an apple almond crostata that is likely one of my most favorite pastries yet.
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I’m fairly adept at making pie crust and had intentioned to make a straightforward, simple dough, when a bit of cornmeal in the cupboard caught my eye. I recalled a blueberry pie with cornmeal crust that I’d made over the Summer; the rustic crunch of cornmeal strewn throughout buttery pastry…yet I wanted to make something more than pie; I wanted to make something serious, a pie that wouldn’t crumble or yield too much when pierced with a knife.
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Front: Apple and Almond Crostata with a Cornmeal Crust top left: apple tart bottom right: apple custard

A layer of frangipane (almond cream) soaked up all of the juices as it snuggled up with each apple slice; providing a cake-like consistency. Leftover odds and ends were folded into a free-form pastry, and the extra egg was poured into a sort of apple custard. I’m so glad this crostata was destined for sharing, otherwise I’d have finished the whole thing off in a few days, unapologetically.
The crostata comes together rather quickly.
Wait a minute – scratch that.
This is going to keep you home for a few hours, however once the nutty aroma of butter and pastry, notes of cinnamon and apple hit your nostrils, you’ll realize it was totally worth it (and probably get a bit of laundry done while you wait).
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Apple and Almond Crostata with a Cornmeal Crust
*This pie will keep for 1-2 days on the counter, or 3-4 days in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
10 tbsp butter
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
Ice water (as needed)
Almond Filling:
2/3 c almond meal (I used blanched almonds, ground finely in a coffee grinder)
1/4 c sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each vanilla and almond extract
Apple filling
5 apples, such as granny smith, honey crisp or pink lady or a combination, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/3-inch wedges
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of one-half lemon
1 beaten egg, and 1 tbsp Demerara or other coarse sugar, for finishing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Brush insides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter using a pastry brush, or paper towel, if necessary. Set aside.
Using a food processor, pulse together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
Butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles small peas.
Add eggs, one at a time, giving a few quick pulses to combine.
Pulse another 15-20 seconds until the mixture just starts to come together, adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed.
Wrap in plastic or parchment and allow dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
While dough is resting, prepare almond paste. Mix all ingredients together using a food processor, stand mixer, or whisk; if the butter is soft enough, it should be easily combined by hand. Set aside.
Sift together the dry ingredients; toss with sliced apples and give it a squeeze of lemon juice. Allow to sit for ~15-30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Divide dough into roughly 1/3 and 2/3 portions; you’ll want slightly more dough for the base than the top.
Roll dough into a large disk ~1-1 1/2 inch wider than the diameter of the pan.
Tuck dough into pan, inching up the sides.
Spread almond filling into base, then arrange apples in concentric patterns, keeping them somewhat close together.
Roll out remaining dough to ~1/4 inch thickness and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Cover apples with remaining dough in a lattice-type arrangement (you can find instructional how-to’s here).
Brush pastry with beaten egg, then adorn with a bit of coarse sugar.
Bake for ~1 hour, until golden and bubbling.
Remove from oven; let cool on wire rack for ~15 minutes before removing sides of pan. Allow to cool for at least 1/2 hour.
Serve either warm, or at room temperature.

Different parts of a whole.

This happened in Seattle. Businesses closed. City streets littered with detritus from last night’s fireworks. I’ve never seen this much enthusiasm in our city. It was nearly impossible not to get caught up in the groundswell.
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Taking a different direction, literally.
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Once in a while, I force myself to take a different path. It’s easy to get comfortable in the familiar, however a simple change in direction, a re-route, if you will, yields new discoveries. While I’m referring to running, the benefit of applying this metaphor to the rest of life’s journey is not lost on me.
As I begrudgingly made my way along the trail, there were trees I’d never noticed before. Fat robins perched on thin branches. I heard the bubbling brook as it meandered downstream and I embraced the crisp in the air.
bubbling brook
And I dreamt of spring.
And citrus.
I can’t seem to veer away from it. A messager du printemps, Spring is calling me; fresh, clean and bright. The invitation to wake up after Winter slumber; the hint of sweetness. Naturally, my mind wandered to food, or specifically, lemon curd. When I got home, I pulled The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters, off the shelf. I love this book; its simple design, classic and mature, with straightforward recipes and a focus on the local and seasonal. The recipes are brilliantly clear and approachable.
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Meyer Lemon Tart

Meyer Lemon Tart

I used Meyer lemons for the juice, and made a luxurious shortbread pastry to showcase the silky custard. Wasting nothing, I made merengue with the leftover whites. I got a bit fancy by adding chopped chocolate and pistachios to some, folding in sliced almonds into others.
I candied the citrus peels with the juiced fruit – the resultant citrus syrup became an impromtu cocktail and soda mixer, a quick and easy hostess gift for last night’s party.
Almond Merengue

Almond Merengue

 

Candied Citrus Peel

Candied Citrus Peel

Enjoy, and much love,
J
Meyer Lemon Tart
*note: I imagine the lemon would well with the flavor of thyme, or ginger, a relatively simple addition to the custard. Folding a bit of orange or lemon zest into the pastry adds another layer of dimension.
One 9-inch prepared tart (see link, here)
Lemon Curd (*adapted from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters)
6 Meyer lemons, juiced, approximately 1/2 cup
Zest from one lemon
3 egg yolks
2 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp tapioca starch, or cornstarch
pinch of salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
Optional: 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
In a medium saucepan, add whisk together all ingredients except the butter. Bring to a medium heat, and add butter. Stir constantly until thickened. As soon as custasrd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat, add herbs (if using) and let steep for ~10 minutes.
Pour curd into prepared crust. Bake at 375 degrees for ~15-20 minutes, until set. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving*.
*For ease of serving, this tart will benefit from a brief chill in the refrigerator.

Nibble.

I’m always tagging recipes to refer to later; all of my cookbooks have dog-eared edges (don’t judge). I have boxes here and there with printed or hand-written favorites, tabs throughout my Cook’s Illustrated magazines, foodie folders in my email accounts. My organizational skills are a bit sub-par, so finding a reference when I’m in creation mode presents somewhat of a challenge.

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The other day I had a bit of time on my hands and so I sat, sifting through some recipes and came across this one from CHOW featuring a honey ricotta tart (you can find the link, here.
I’d saved it over two years ago, as soon as I saw it, I knew I’d found my template.
I’ve been on a bit of a honey kick, as evident from recent posts, and had a craving for a pie or cheesecake at strategic points throughout the week.
Or daily.
Whatever.
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When I saw this pie, it brought to mind the cheesecake I’d made with chèvre. And over the next several hours, my mind wandered. I dreamt of salted pistachio with bitter orange, and floral honey with the tang of goat cheese.
Sadly my cheese benefactor was out of town this week, so rather than relying on her supply, I had to settle on store-bought chèvre.
Sadly, Beatrice could not contribute to my efforts

Beatrice.

I did manage to include the last bit of wildflower honey produced on the farm. I love using ingredients that are local and familiar; it makes the experience that much more personal.

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The flavors couldn’t have been more well-matched. The scent of orange, woven through the crust…it was hard to refrain from nibbling a pinch before I added the filling.
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A simple dollop of crème fraîche with a bit of reserved pistachios and a drizzle of honey elevate this tart to center-stage.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Salted Pistachio, Orange and Honey Hart
Ingredients:
1 1/4 c flour
1/3 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
8 tbsp unsalted butter, diced and expertly chilled
1/2 c ice water*
*Note: you will only need ~3-4 Tbsp
Filling:
8 oz goat cheese
2 large eggs
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/3 c honey
2 Tbsp sugar
Topping:
2 tbsp salted pistachios, chopped
Pinch of coarse sea salt
Method:

1. Combine flour, salt, sugar and orange zest.
2. Using either a pasty blender or food processor, fold in diced butter and blend just until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
3. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with either hands or spatula until the dough just starts to come together. Mixture should be a bit craggy and on the drier side, but should come together if pinched.
4. Wrap dough in plastic or parchment and allow to rest for about an hour in the refrigerator.
5. Remove pastry and using a rolling pin, roll into a flat disc and press into a 9-in tart pan with removable bottom.
6. Prick bottom several times with a fork and set in freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up.
6. Preheat oven to 425°.
7. Line tart pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake for about 15 minutes, remove weights and foil, lower heat to 350° and bake for 10 more minutes, just until golden-hued.
While tart shell is baking, prepare the filling:
1. Cream honey, sugar, cheese and orange zest together in a large mixing bowl, scraping down sides as needed.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
4. Pour mixture into prepared crust and place on baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle top with a pinch of salt and the pistachios and bake for another ten minutes, or until the middle is just set.
5. Cool completely on wire rack.
Serve as is, or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche, and a drizzle of honey.

Beg, borrow and steal.

A good friend of mine once said to me ‘There are no new ideas; just reinventions of old ones’. While I’m not entirely certain he’s correct, it’s provided comfort on days when I’m feeling unimaginative or uninspired. This year, as I struggled against the current of Time, I didn’t know if I’d be able to show up with the same creativity and personal touch that has become not only a source of joy, but a signature. 

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And so in the midst of an extremely full calendar, I’ve found myself turning toward the talented women in my life…and perhaps the internet. This post is rife with ideas borrowed, heavy with perspiration, and bountiful with Love.
Candied Orange Peel

Candied Orange Peel

My dear friend Lisa, is truly inspiring. She manages the kitchen with deft and ease. To spend an afternoon in her home, watch her dance about the kitchen, confidently balancing multiple dishes with grace ands ease (along with the occasional errant curl whipping about her forehead) is just dreamy. This week, she gifted me with a wedge of panforte, personally-crafted with home-made candied citron. I fell in love with panforte several years ago, while I was traveling in Italy. More confection than cake, rich with nuts, dried fruits and spices, lending bitter and sweet elements; it beats fruitcake, hands-down. Lisa knows that every year, I make a visit to PFI to purchase panforte for my father, secretly hoping he’ll share a wedge with me. Without fail, as soon as it’s out of my hands, he tucks it safely away so he won’t have to share his precious dessert.
I’ve never considered making it at home; I imagined it would be way too labor intensive. Of course, when I asked Lisa to give me the verbal how-to, she said with a tone of both assurance and challenge that I could, indeed, make it myself. She shared a link to this incredible blog, visually appealing and rich with recipes and text; http://www.remedialeating.com.
The list of ingredients was daunting, however the method merely involved tossing it all into a bowl, combining with honeyed syrup heated on the stove, and a stint in the oven for about an hour. Simple. 
 
mise en place: panforte nero

mise en place: panforte nero

And so, over the next two days I went about, crafting home-made citrus zest and panforte nero. I won’t bother lending the recipe; you can find it here.
What I will share is my experience. As the hours passed, labor lent way to meditative practice. I found that there was nothing to do but just…be…and wait. I found the steps startlingly simple, and yet requiring a commitment. On more than one occasion, I felt myself smiling, full, expressive and joyful. And the aroma! That citrus scent filling the air as oranges bubbled away in simple syrup; the warmth and complexity wafting from the oven as the panforte baked. Being greeted by sweetness every time I went out and returned home. This is what I love. This is what I crave. And I will keep baking and borrowing as long as I need to get through this holiday madness.
Citrus Swizzles, inspired by my lovely friend, Paige

Citrus Swizzles, inspired by my lovely friend, Paige

Heaps of Love,
J

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