Saturday, May 17, 2008

It's over! It's over! WHOO-HOO!!

Like crashing into a big brick wall, it screeches to a halt. The school year ist kaput. Over. Finished. Stick a fork in it, it's done! YIPPEE! That was a long one and a tough one, to be sure. But I survived year #17 in higher education. Celebrate me! I wish I could say that I don't have to go in next week, but I have one more class (out of seven) to finish grading, plus a couple of annoying little end-o-the-year evaluations to tend to. Still, no biggie. I can knock those out either Monday or Tuesday afternoon. And then I am blissfully free of obligations for about a week and a half until summer school starts! Yeah for me! I am looking forward to sleeping and reading and playing with the dogs and watching movies and cooking and blogging and catching up on emails and such. And surely, we'll squeeze in a trip to Montreal as well...Jean-Talon must be in full swing by now!

I've been so busy with the end of the semester that I haven't been making too much to blog about. It's all been about quick meals and, I'm afraid to admit it, eating out a lot. But I did make some stupendous enchiladas the other night. You see, my dear friend June is out of town for awhile, tending to her mother who is in the hospital. And her husband, Tom, is at home, holding down the fort while she is away. He's been really wonderful, helping her long-distance to get her finals grades done and submitted, so I thought I might make him a pan of enchiladas to keep him from starving to death while his wife is away. And since it's just as easy to make two batches of enchiladas as one, I figured I'd make us some, too. I began with two roasted deli chickens, skinned and boned them, and chopped up the meat. Then I sauteed a large chopped onion in a little oil until soft, and added some taco seasoning and water to make a sauce. Because Tom likes things very spicy, I added a couple of tablespoons of habanero hot sauce, and poured the completed sauce over the chicken. Finally, I added a can of black beans and a can of corn to the mixture along with salt and pepper to taste, and that was it for the filling.

For Tom's batch, I poured some red enchilada sauce from a large (28-30 oz.) can in the bottom of an oblong baking dish, then I used 14 small corn tortillas, filling them with a couple of tablespoons of the chicken, corn and black bean mixture and some shredded Mexi-cheese before rolling them up and placing them seam side down in the pan. Then I poured the rest of the red sauce over the enchiladas, topped them with at least a cup of shredded cheese and some sliced black olives, and baked them at 350 for 30 minutes. For our batch, I decided to try green chile enchilada sauce instead of the traditional red, and I used eight large flour tortillas instead of corn (which Cyd prefers). Man, were they GOOD! The green sauce was tangier and fruitier than the red, and also a bit spicier. Slathered with sour cream (and topped with eggs today for brunch!), they were just scrumptious.

My second cooking obligation of the week was to make the dessert for the divisional party yesterday afternoon to celebrate all of my colleagues with summer birthdays. I was torn between making the Devil's Food White Out Cake on the cover of Dorie Greenspan's baking book, or perhaps finally trying the carrot cake cheesecake from the Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook that I got months ago. I decided on the latter, a rich carrot cake with luscious cream cheese frosting and a whole cheesecake sandwiched in the middle. It may be one of the most delicious and decadent desserts EVER! However, it may also be one of the most time-consuming undertakings ever*, so don't even attempt it if you don't have a LOT of free time on your hands--two or three days' worth! My theory is that Junior's makes their recipes SO long and laborious that you'll give up, say screw it, and just go buy your cheesecake from them. But I persevered, did it in stages, and somehow managed to complete the wretched thing by the end of finals week. And I think it was all worth it. Everyone at the party seemed to think so, anyway. ;-)

Junior's Carrot Cake Cheesecake
(Source: Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook, Alan Rosen and Beth Allen)

For the cheesecake:
3 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cups heavy or whipping cream

For the carrot cake layers:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins (optional!)
boiling water
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups carrots (about 4 large), peeled and finely grated
3/4 cup apple (about 2 medium), peeled, cored, and minced
3/4 to 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

For the cream cheese frosting:
3 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and generously butter or spray the bottom and sides of a nine-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil, both the bottom and up the sides.

In a stand mixer on low speed, blend one package of cream cheese with 1/3 cup sugar and the cornstarch until creamy, about three minutes. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down as needed. Increase the mixer to medium and add the remaining cup of sugar and the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Mix in the cream just until fully blended.

Gently spoon the batter into the springform pan and place it into a large shallow pan with hot water coming about an inch up the sides of the pan. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours until the edges are light golden brown and the top is golden tan. Remove from the water bath and cool in the pan for two hours. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for about four hours until completely cold. Then freeze overnight.

To prepare the carrot cake layers, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter or spray the bottoms and sides of three nine-inch cake pans and line them with rounds of parchment paper (just the bottoms). Sift the dry ingredients and set aside. If using raisins (longtime readers of this blog will know that I hate them and therefore omitted them!), plump them in the boiling water for 15-20 minutes in a covered pan. Pour off the water and drain further on paper towels.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a stand mixer on high until pale yellow, about five minutes. Gradually add the sugar, then drizzle in the oil, then the cream and vanilla. Beat for 15-20 minutes(!) until golden and airy. On low speed, blend in the flour mixture, then the carrots, apples, walnuts and raisins. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans and bake for about 45 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched and a tester comes out with moist crumbs attached. Let the cakes cool in the pans on wire racks for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto the racks and remove the paper liners. Let the cakes cool completely, about two hours, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.

When ready to assemble, remove the cheesecake from the freezer and let stand at room temperature for ten minutes while you make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese and butter on high until well-blended. Add the powdered sugar, then the vanilla, and beat until smooth. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the cream. Unwrap the carrot cake layers and break the least attractive one into crumbs.

To assemble, place one layer on a cake plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Remove the cake from the springform pan (try heating the bottom over a low flame for thirty seconds and then breaking the vacuum with a thin spatula). Place the cheesecake, top side down, on top of the frosted cake layer and spread the bottom of the cheesecake with frosting. Top with the remaining cake layer, top side up. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Decorate the top edge of the cake with a ring of crumbs about two inches wide. (The next time I make this, I think I'd rather put the crumbs around the sides of the cake and leave the top plain, or decorated with carrot designs as tradition dictates.) Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the cheesecake to thaw enough to easily slice. Use a sharp, straight-edged (not serrated) knife to cut it. Cover and refrigerate leftovers or freeze up to one month. (I think I will freeze a piece for June when she comes home.)

*Seriously, by my calculations, this project will consume at least 20 hours of your life. To make it a more humane experience, I strongly suggest making the cheesecake on day one, the carrot cake layers on day two, and the frosting and assembly on day three, preferably the day before you intend to serve it. Yes, that's right--begin FOUR days before your party for best results and less stress on you!


Anonymous said...

Just a question - THREE layers of carrot cake are made, only two are used to sandwich the cheesecake - the third layer is broken up to make the crumbs? This one sounds like a lot of work so I want to make sure I understand the recipe!
Sounds yummy.

JoyBugaloo said...

Yes, it IS a lot of work! But none of the steps is particularly difficult. And there's a lot of passive cooling/chilling/freezing time. But it just might be worth it, especially for a special event where you really want to knock people's socks off! ;-)

But yes, you've got it right. Bake three layers, only use two for the cake, and one for crumbs. I actually only used half a layer for crumbs--less than that even. But next time, I will crumb the sides of the cake instead of the top, so I may need more crumbs for that.

Good luck! Plese report back if you attempt it. --Gina

bakerina said...

Woohooooo! Celebrating yoooou, yes, I dooooo! Congratulations on surviving it all, honey. :)

That is a spectacular looking cake, that Junior's cake. I'll confess, though, that I was hoping that you'd made Dorie's cake, simply because I just got my own copy of it and I'm loving it to pieces. Of course, I've also just picked up the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book and am loving that to pieces, too.

I am woefully behind in keeping up with your baking, but that will definitely change, especially now that a) I have a lot of packing to do and b) I'm not in the mood to do any of it! ;)

Just the Right Size said...

Holy cow, that's some cake!

Are you going to do pies again this summer? I always love reading about your adventures at the market (plus the recipes!). :-)