Smooth and rich, this recipe is a winner.

Smooth and rich, this recipe is a winner.

So the Daring Bakers are at it again. The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

The recipe was not difficult at all; in fact, I’ve made this cheesecake a total of three times this month. The challenge did allow for some freedom of choice in the flavoring of the cheesecake, by changing out the called-for lemon juice, vanilla, and liquor components. Coming up with a delicious and original flavor based on three tablespoons of liquid took some thought.

The first thing that came to mind was my favorite cheesecake flavor, key lime. Adding tequila to make it a margarita naturally followed. At least for me. Hi, margaritas naturally follow waking up.

Cute, but lacking

Cute, but lacking

I wanted a unique and surprising presentation, and mulled over a bunch of different ways to make it look like a margarita in a glass, but decided to go with the safest route and bake it in rocks glasses. The whipped cream isn’t quite a salt rim, but I call artistic license.

The problem was that it tasted terrible. Maybe I went overboard with the lime juice or my limes weren’t great tasting, or maybe tequila should only be consumed in liquid form, but these little cuties were all show and no substance.

Meanwhile, back at the drawing board, I decided to try again with my current obsession, cinnamon.

Swirly happiness

Swirly happiness

Now we’re talkin’. I wasn’t sure how to add cinnamon to the cheesecake in liquid form, since what we were changing for flavoring were three water-consistency components. So I first infused the cream in the recipe with cinnamon sticks, by bringing the cream and cinnamon sticks almost to a boil and letting it cool for several hours. I left the lemon juice in because I love the lift lemon gives, left the vanilla in, and 86ed the liquor altogether.

I added only about a half teaspoon cinnamon to the batter itself. For the swirls, I melted cinnamon chips — in the baking aisle along with the chocolate chips, if you can find them — with some butter. I knew from previous experience that those chips don’t melt well, but the butter loosened them up enough to swirl directly into the batter. All of the cracks in the top of my cheesecake came where the cinnamon chips swirls were the heaviest, so I am not complaining. The second time I made it, I mixed in the cinnamon chips and butter with some of the batter and swirled that in, and voila: no cracks. Of course, no pictures, either, but trust that it got raves from the girls at poker night.

Cheesecake Slice

This will definitely be my go-to cheesecake recipe. And the best tip Jenny gave us was if we didn’t have a springform pan, to bake the cheesecake in a disposable foil pan and cut the pan away for serving. Worked like a dream! And no possibility of the pan leaking, like many of my compatriots who used springform pans suffered.

Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake:

crust:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

cheesecake:
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too – baker’s choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. 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, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan 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. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. 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.

Thanks again to Jenny from Jenny Bakes for a fun and creative challenge!

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Barbacoa

April 17, 2009

Couldn’t shake the craving for some super spicy shredded beef tacos, and you know how I love a good braise, so here’s what I did:

3.5 pound round roast
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
2 T Spicy Monterey Steak Seasoning*
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1 t garlic salt
1 can green chiles
1 small can jalapenos
1/4 red wine
1 1/2 cup chicken stock

1. Rub spices all over roast. I’d like to tell you I seared the roast first, but I was too lazy and it didn’t matter a lick. Place roast in roasting pan on top of the celery and carrots.

2. Top roast with chiles and jalapenos. pour wine and chicken stock in botton of the pan.

3. Cover with foil and place in 300 degree oven for three and a half to four hours or until beef shreds easily.

And here is what I came up with:

There is really only one thing to miss about Texas...

There is really only one thing to miss about Texas...

When cool, shred the beef with two forks. Servce on corn or flour tortillas with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

*Note:   I am truly sorry I had to resort to a packaged seasoning mix, but dammit, it’s good!

Possible Epiphany

April 3, 2009

Maybe it’s not a question of giving up the dream.  Maybe it’s a question of reassessing what you were looking for in the first place.

Last year nearly crushed me with the weight of “too late.”

 

I laughingly and often joked to anyone who would hear that 2008 was my last year to mourn the passing of my fertility.  Truly, though, I thought if I put a time frame on it, I would be able to contain the sadness.  My self imposed ultimatum was so full of what I had expected my life to be; so heavy with those expectations, so much deeper than an offhand remark.

 

It was time to stop waiting for my life to begin; to really look at my life for what it already is, not for what I meant it to be by this point. And if I didn’t learn to like what I found, then, without question, it would be too late.    

 

It wasn’t until I started mapping out the few pieces of my original plan that were still attainable that I finally started to ask, What if I have been chasing the wrong thing all along?  If I had truly wanted those things that I thought I was waiting for, wouldn’t I have found a way to have them?  Wouldn’t I have sacrificed different things to get them?  What if I have led this life – this misbegotten, unremarkable, embarrassment of a life — because a larger part of me than I thought actually was happy in it?  

 

I’m still testing this theory.  I practice enhancing what I have, instead of waiting for someone, something to take me to what I don’t have yet.  I try every day to stop thinking of this life as the waiting room for my Real Life.  I grudgingly admit to finding grace in what is here, and what is now.

 

It’s lighter, Here.  I could get used to Now, if I’m right.  I could live This.