Monday, December 16, 2013

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

Well, it seems that the cheesecake went over well at a lovely Christmas party we were lucky enough to attend. It was a great evening with a huge amount of delicious food, and plenty of wine to accompany. It was the first time I had made a salted caramel cheesecake, so I was experimenting a bit. I had posted a while back about cheesecakes and how I'm very particular, so when I bake a plain cheesecake I bake it low and slow, 235° for 4-4 1/2 hours. It comes out with a nice consistency, somewhere between a dryer New York style and a lighter fluffy cheesecake. It also does not brown or crack. Some people put a sour cream topping on their plain cheesecake which covers up any browning or cracking, and that's fine. I do not, so low and slow it is. When I make a 2-layer cheesecake, I use a water bath. It bakes faster and turns out great, but somehow it does not work as well for a plain cheesecake. I suppose I could bake the plain in 2 layers...but that's for a later experiment. For now, suffice it to say, that low and slow has served me well for many moons. For this cheesecake, I used my basic recipe (minus lemon juice) and added 1 C of my salted caramel (see an earlier post "Salted Caramel"). So here it is:

Preheat oven to 325°

2 C biscotti crumbs (or graham cracker for a more traditional method, I find the biscotti to make a nice firm crust)
6 T melted butter

2 lbs cream cheese (I like Philadelphia, some say they cannot tell the difference, maybe it's a placebo affect, but I believe I can tell the difference. Also, cream cheese needs to be at room temp).
1 1/2 C sugar
3/4 C sour cream (low fat will have a somewhat negative affect on the outcome)
4 eggs
1 T vanilla
1/2 t salt
1 C salted caramel

Mix crumbs and butter, place in 10" springform and pat down into place, use a flat bottomed object (I use a metal 4-Cup measure) to tamp crust down even tighter. Bake for 10-15 minutes, let cool. Turn oven down to 235°.

Mix cream cheese, sugar, and salt on low, stopping to scrape frequently. Add vanilla, sour cream, and caramel (you may need to warm it up a bit depending on how thick your caramel came out, if you do, make sure it's not too warm or it will affect the cream cheese, also add caramel before eggs in case it is too warm, so eggs don't cook). Once caramel is cool and incorporated add eggs, keep mixing on low, scraping bowl frequently. Scrape into pre-baked crust. Put 8x8 pan of water on bottom rack, then bake cheesecake for about 4 hours or until center is slightly puffed up. 

For this cheesecake, once cooled, I then took about 1/3-1/2 c more of the salted caramel and added a thin layer to the top, and put in fridge to set before cutting. You can see in the pics that I had done the first one as a 2-layer, and also where I drizzled some caramel on top before baking (my mistake, as the caramel made it's way down into the cheesecake. Do what I say not what I do sort of thing?). So, my next one is done as I described above. 

Ah, nothing like a spastic spider web design, we hid my mistake, though...

Buon Appetito!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Back from a brief sabbatical with Cassatelle

I've taken a brief hiatus as I try to figure out what to post, how to post it, and when...So, here is a recipe in progress that will undoubtedly get updated a few times. While in Sicily, Sarah and I stopped in a lovely town called Trapani on our way to Erice (a-ree-chay), a walled city thousands of years old on a cliff, amazing. More on that later perhaps. While in Trapani, we stopped at a coffee shop (since the culture is geared to have espresso several times a day, and they did not have to twist our arms). On that, the coffee there was amazing, too. I often think about our trip and wonder if the "amazingness" of everything we ate and drank was due in part to the awe of being in Sicily, or that it really was that much better...I'm inclined to lean towards the latter...Anyway, while at that coffee shop, we had a cassatelle, a fried pastry filled with ricotta and chocolate chips, again, amazing. It's almost like a cannoli, but it's an enclosed pastry as opposed to a tube, and it's softer. Let me interject one thing here, though. I have never had ricotta like I did in Sicily. As a matter of fact, I can't find it here and it's a bummer. It's made from sheep's milk instead of cows milk and it has so much more and better flavor. It's creamier, and tangier, and incredible-er...I recently looked up a bunch of recipes to try to find a pastry similar to what we had, and found cassatelle. I combined a few of the recipes and made my first attempt. As a disclaimer, I will say that, it's supposed to be fried and I baked them. There is always a risk in baking a dough that is supposed to be fried. I will probably attempt a fried version at some point, and also work on the dough for the baked version. The flavor was great, but they were a bit tough. Again, a risk with baking a dough that is supposed to be fried. Another issue it that several recipes call for marsala wine (much like cannoli shell recipes) or a white wine. Since we had white and not marsala, that's what I used. I think I will get marsala next time, though. The flavor is really great. Here we go:


3 1/2 C AP flour sifted (a softer cake flour might do well with a baked version)
1/3 C sugar
1/4 C vegetable oil
3 T Marsala (or white wine)
2 T lemon juice
1 T pure orange extract
pinch of salt
1/2 C water (or more as necessary)
Zest of 1 orange


24 oz ricotta (Hung overnight unless it's extremely thick. I use a cheesecloth in a strainer, in a bowl. I find that of the typical market ricotta's, Polly-O seems to work well, although I have always liked BelGioioso products if I can find them)

3/4 C powdered sugar

4 oz chocolate chips (I used mini's this time. I also like to use a decent brand like Ghirardelli, which until you get into the really good, high-end chocolates is sufficient)

1 T pure orange extract

Zest of 1 orange

1 egg for crimping

*Note: Many recipes did not call for orange zest and extract, but I like it and think it pairs well with chocolate and ricotta.    

Preheat oven to 350°, line baking sheets with parchment.

When mixing the dough, mix on low and only as much as is necessary, this type of dough can get tough from over mixing. It's not like a bread dough that can and should be kneaded. Sift flour and add all dough ingredients to mixer bowl. Mix on low just until ball is formed. Let rest covered for 30 minutes.

Resting dough

Mix the hung ricotta with powdered sugar, extract, and zest. on low/medium. Add chocolate and mix as little as possible.
Roll out dough to about 1/8th in thick (I used the pasta machine), cut into circles (I used a 6" bowl). Brush egg on outside of the dough rounds, place filling in the center, fold over into half moon shapes and crimp with a fork.


Ready to roll, always have extra flour on hand


6" rounds, but make any size you like

Waiting for filling

Egg painted on edge, ready to crimp

Sprinkled with course sugar, ready for baking

I brushed the leftover egg wash on the tops to give them a bit of a golden finish while baking. I baked for 30-35 minutes or until just golden. 


Buon Appetito!

Monday, December 2, 2013


Well, here we are post Thanksgiving, and pre-Christmas. Not much chance for a lull, though. Our Decembers are always busy. We have 3 birthdays (mommy-18th, son-21st, daughter-27th) and Christmas (25th of course) all within a 10 day span. Not to mention, the work Christmas parties, friends parties, church, etc, etc. Apparently we did not plan that well...Anyway, it's always busy, but usually fun. In light of that upcoming frenzy, and given that our out of town family had to cancel their Turkey Day trip to see us, we decided to head out of town, save ourselves a lot of work, and just relax. Thanks to my brother's long time work with Marriott, we are able to get away and get a great rate...yes, we probably have abused him due to said discount, but I am sure he forgives us. We took meemaw and the 2 kids and headed to Wrightsville Beach, NC. As I said it was a relaxing time, and the very first time we had ever done anything like it for Thanksgiving. We found a restaurant that served a family style traditional Thanksgiving meal and everything. A good time was had by all. We toured a battleship, the USS North Carolina, trudged through several shops, walked along the river, found some great Greek food, and played games in our hotel (even got a call from the front desk at 10:30 one night asking us to keep it down, ironic since we're usually not the loud, late night types). I'm not sure we could make it into a tradition as we might start to miss the big gatherings, but it made a few good memories. So, sorry, no recipes today. I just wanted to say, we should all remember to be thankful for what we have every day, not just once a year, and look forward to the good times ahead. Try something new once in a while. I hope everyone had a wonderful Turkey Day.

Anthony and meemaw, he's a little downhill, and she's wearing heels, but he's already passed her up on the old height


Val testing a top bunk on the USS NC

Torpedos bigger than him...

Turkey Day meal, quite good and no cooking or clean up! 

For those who did not see on FB, I was sitting outside a shop waiting for my wife. I started talking to an elderly guy doing caricatures. When My wife finally returned, and I got up to go, he handed me this , no charge. I didn't even see him drawing. We left a good tip, though. Nice guy.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, and may we all remember the real reason for the upcoming season.

Buon Appetito!