Very berry strawberry Cheesecake

April 23, 2011 at 9:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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It’s been awhile I know.  I always have the intention of writing a blog post but the days become clouded with curious children exploring their way through every nook of the house, finding treasures and creating messes.  Thus, the nights become a manic cleaning frenzy ending with the floors gleaming simply to await the return of sticky fingers and applesauce paintings sprinkled with flour.

Right now everything seems hard.  I am tired.  Too tired to even give a detailed explanation of how I feel.  At twenty-five-years old I am drained.

I know this is unfair to say this but sometimes I feel like I am a single mother.  It’s a ridiculous comparison, I realize this.  But, with my husbands work schedule (sometimes working 6 days a week, sometimes working nights, sometimes working days) and no family or close friends that I can depend on the loneliness and work is overwhelming.  I don’t know what more to say.  I can’t even express my feelings and I’m not sure why.  Am I unsure? Am I trying to repress?  Am I scared?

Delving into the abyss that is my inner-most self is frightening so all I can do is focus on the positive and face that monster when I feel it’s ready to be tamed. Not now. Sometime soon.

So, I focus on the good, the blessings, the fortune: beaming at the thought of my children playing together and getting to experience the narrative that there lives will weave; laughing at the silliness of my husband and his unintentional thoughtfulness but smiling at the comfort and assurance of his forever love.

My family is the foundation of my life and their love is rooted in my heart.

In fact, my husband brought me some happiness the other day by getting my first baking job.  A co-worker of his asked if I sold my baking (which I never really thought about or tried to pursue) and he forwarded her my email.

The guidelines were simple: a strawberry cheesecake that will feed four people and this is what I came up with.

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Strawberry Cheesecake with strawberry lava layer (adapted from Bon Appetite)

yield: Serves 12

Begin preparing this a day before serving.
Ingredients 
For crust
  • 20 whole graham cracker (10 ounces total), broken
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
For lava layer
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

For filling

  • 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs
For topping
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For topping

  • 2 16-ounce baskets strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
  • 1 18-ounce jar raspberry jelly

Method

Make crust:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Wrap foil around outside of 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Combine graham crackers, butter and sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, blend until crumbs begin to stick together. Press crumbs onto bottom and 2 3/4 inches up sides of springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.

Make lava layer:

In a small saucepan, combine strawberries and sugar set pan over medium heat. Stir strawberries and when they soften mash.  Cook until reduced by half.  Remove from stovetop and cool to room temperature.

Make filling:

Beat cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and salt in large bowl until very smooth. Beat in flour. Add eggs and beat just until blended, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.

Spoon a layer of batter on top of the crust.  Then pour strawberry filling over top gently spreading it to the sides of the pan.  Pour in the rest of the batter.

Bake cheesecake until outer 2-inch edge of cake os puffed and slightly cracked, center is just set and top is brown in spots, about 55 minutes. Transfer cake to rack. Cool 10 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Make topping:
Whisk sour cream, sugar and vanilla in medium bowl to blend.

Spoon topping over cake, spreading to edge of pan. Bake until topping is just set, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Run knife between crust and pan.

Cool hot cake in pan on rack, Chill overnight.

Release pan sides from cheesecake.

Arrange slices of berries in staring from the outside, strawberry points facing out.  Continue to place strawberries in a circular patter and cover completely.

Stir jelly in heavy small saucepan over medium-=low heat until melted.Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

Brush enough jelly over berries to glaze generously, allowing some to drip between berries.

*This post has been entered in Sweet as Sugar*

Parenting.

February 13, 2011 at 9:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I am not sure about others but when I became a mother my kids became my world; or rather, my world became my kids. I wanted to be the best mother I could be which I thought meant that when they were awake I was to spend every waking minute with them to make sure that I wasn’t “failing” as a parent. Then, when they were asleep I would stay up till the late hours of the night doing housework.

Failure is something I can not endure and being a parent is hard work because you have a life depending on you. If my children have difficulties (psychological, social, or physical) when they are older, most likely it is because I did something wrong as their caregiver. And what is even scarier is that there is no real manual on how to parent. There are so many theories that are in vogue one day and then discredited the next. One could push their child to excel but that doesn’t always work out for the best (ie. John Stuart Mill and his depression or William James Sidis and his criminality and loneliness).

As for my parenting method; it, of course, resulted in not the greatest situation. I became overworked, tired and irritable. Happiness, or even contentment, would adorn me in moments with my children but it was fleeting. Something had to give.

I had nothing for myself anymore. My husband had skiing and biking to allow him a break but I was lost. If I did something away from the house when the kids were awake a deep weight of guilt hung on to me. But, like I said something had to give.

Breaking out of my comfort zone was a challenge but through the struggle came inner peace (as lame as that sounds). Running gave me independence and a sound mind; It afforded me the ability to let go of the stress. Then winter came.

As the winter matured so did my cabin fever and I started to go crazy. That is when I discovered the joys of yoga.

Yoga introduced me to a calmness in myself that I never thought existed. I am a self-proclamined type A personality; however, yoga just allowed me to be. In the end, I realized that the key to being a good parent is to be content and to transfer those feelings to the children. Contentment can be found in many ways, and it’s important to take time to yourself and enjoy those moments.

Obviously, there are a lot more attributes that comprise a good parent but I truly believe that inner-contentment is the foundation to, not only successful parenting, but successful being. It has been a journey, but I’ve found mine. Good luck in finding yours!

Now to today’s recipe, Pain au Chocolat (which are also known as chocolate croissants).

Practicing yoga has made me appreciate the joy in little things and living in the moment. Taking the time to lament dough is one of those little moments I appreciate. I actually find it relaxing, if not cathartic, pounding the butter into a pad and then folding the dough. This recipe is from Gourmet and the pain au chocolat turned out great. The only thing I change was coating the dough with some egg wash before baking.

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Croissant Dough
Gourmet | October 2000
by Nancy Silverton

ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated to warm (105°F–110°F)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
  • 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • A few chocolate bars (be creative, I used dark chocolate with almonds and milk chocolate with carmel bits)
  • One egg beaten with one tablespoon of water

Method

Make dough:
Stir together warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t foam, discard and start over.) Add 3 3/4 cups flour and salt and mix with dough hook at low speed until dough is smooth and very soft, about 7 minutes.

Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, a little at a time, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Form dough into a roughly 1 1/2-inch-thick rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until cold, about 1 hour.

Prepare and shape butter:
After dough has chilled, place a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter.  Arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on plastic wrap and sprinkle the 3 tbsp of flour over the butter.  Then, cover butter with another piece of plastic wrap.  Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly (butter should be malleable but still cold). Scrape butter into a block and then recover with plastic wrap. Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform 8- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in towels, while rolling out dough.
Roll out dough:
Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and lifting and stretching dough (especially in corners), into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Put butter in center of dough so that long sides of butter are parallel to short sides of dough. Fold as you would a letter: bottom third of dough over butter, then top third down over dough. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush.
Roll out dough:
Turn dough so a short side is nearest you, then flatten dough slightly by pressing down horizontally with rolling pin across dough at regular intervals, making uniform impressions. Roll out dough into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle, rolling just to but not over ends.
Brush off any excess flour. Fold in thirds like a letter, as above, stretching corners to square off dough, forming a 10- by 5-inch rectangle. (You have completed the first “fold.”) Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 hour.
Make remaining “folds”:
Make 3 more folds in same manner, chilling dough 1 hour after each fold, for a total of 4 folds. (If any butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.) Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours but no more than 18 (after 18 hours, dough may not rise sufficiently when baked).

Roll out and cut dough:
Cut dough in half and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out other half on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and stretching corners to maintain shape, into a 16- by 12-inch rectangle. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush and trim edges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.

Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Cut in half horizontally and chill 1 half. Cut remaining half vertically into thirds, forming 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half to make 2 smaller rectangles, for a total of 6 rectangles.

Shape pain au chocolat:
Place some chocolate in the middle of a rectangle.  Fold the two sides of the rectangle over the chocolate and then flip over so that the seam is underneath.

Repeat with remaining rectangles.

Let pain au chocolat rise:
Slide each baking sheet into a garbage bag, propping up top of bag with inverted glasses to keep it from touching croissants, and tuck open end under baking sheet.

Let rise until slightly puffy and spongy to the touch, 1 to 2‚ hours.

Bake:
Adjust oven racks to upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 425°F.

Remove baking sheets from bags and brush egg wash on pain au chocolat. Spritz inside oven generously with spray bottle and close door. Put pain au chocolat in oven, then spritz again before closing door. Reduce temperature to 400°F and bake 10 minutes without opening door.

Switch position of sheets in oven and rotate sheets 180°, then reduce temperature to 375°F and bake until pain au chocolat are deep golden, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from oven and let cool.

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