Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Junior's Cheesecake: A Return to Gotham

AGAIN?? You went to the City AGAIN? TWICE in as many weeks?? How shamefully decadent!! Who do you think you are...the Queen? Did you inherit untold wealth and are, thus, made of money? And right after an unexpected and enormous car repair following the last sojourn downstate? What gives??

Yes, yes, it's true. I am freshly back from trip #2 to NYC over the weekend. Honestly, I didn't mean to go...it just kind of...happened. You see, before the fan fell out of my car and everything, I was considering attending a dog show, and an acquaintance of mine (who bred Fairchild, the number one PBGV and number two hound in the country last year!) was trying to put together a major, which are very hard to come by in my region. (Sidebar: In order to complete an AKC championship, a dog has to earn a total of 15 points including two "majors"--a win of three, four or five points--basically, by beating several dogs all at once. So with a rarer breed like PBGVs, you often have to work together to organize the entries at a show to have enough dogs to make a major. Got it? Good.) So my friend and I had hatched a scheme to make a major at the shows in Rockland County, though I had only ever been to those shows years ago when my first PBGV was still a young'un, and I was still foolishly trying to show her. The shows were at a different location then, in Walkill, which is closer to me, kind of between Poughkeepsie and Newburgh. I do remember the venue being hideous--a completely tiny and horribly overcrowded little gymnasium somewhere. Poor Prunelle almost got trampled to death, so I had to carry her everywhere just to keep her alive! They have since moved the shows to Suffern at Rockland Community College's Field House, which was very nice, but quite a bit further south. In fact, after I'd already entered the shows and started surfing the 'net to book a hotel room, I realized that it was just a half an hour from the Big Apple. Well, you know me. I wasn't going to be that close and not make a quick trip in to see a show!

What I really wanted to do was see Spring Awakening again, but I figured that would be inappropriate and a inexcusable squandering of funds. So I went on a tip from a colleague who teaches American Musical Theatre here at my school and got a cheapo preview ticket to In the Heights (only 30 bucks even after all the screw-you fees!). The show had enjoyed a terrific off-Broadway run, and is now moving up to the big time (like George and Weezy). Well, friends, maybe it was just me, as the crowd seemed to adore the show, but it just didn't do much for me. The sets were amazing, the lighting design was cool, the performances were solid, the dancing was hot, and the show was admirably fresh and energetic. It was also great to see a show on Broadway with salsa infused with hip-hop, things you don't usually see on The Great White Way. However, I'm sorry to say that I found the story to be trite and the songs forgettable, which leaves you kind of nowhere for a musical. And maybe I've just become cynical in my old age, but I guess I like my musicals with a dark, gritty underbelly. I want my characters afflicted with homelessness and AIDS (Rent), I want incest, abortion, sexual abuse and masochism (Spring Awakening), or I want to see the fabulous but saccharine Wizard of Oz story turned on its head and made into a treatise on the nature of good and evil and the oppression of minorities that are "different," with a dollop of sex and violence on top (Wicked). That is to say, I am not interested in white-washed stories of displacement due to urban gentrification, especially if they don't make me feel compelled to run right out of the theatre and immediately buy the cast recording. Surprisingly, the NYT agreed with me, saying that it was like a Disneyfication of the barrio, like "Sesame Street without the puppets." It's very funny that they should have written that, because when I was watching the show, the whole thing just struck me like a big-budget version of Villa Allegre. (Remember that one, Gen X-ers? It was that PBS show that taught kids Spanish, and it came on right after one of my favorite shows, The Electric Company. SING IT: "La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la...Villa Allegre!) Then again, maybe I was grumpy because I didn't have enough leg room, and I really just wanted to be seeing Spring Awakening again!

So I didn't dig the musical, and my boy, Grady, only got reserve at the dog shows (that's like second prize in a beauty contest, without the ten bucks of Monopoly money). But I did have one excellent thing that came of the weekend, and it is food-related. (Took you long enough, food blogga!) While wandering around waiting for In the Heights to start, I found myself in front of Junior's Most Fabulous Cheesecakes and Desserts. Though I have been to New York many times over the years, I had never been there. However, I tried their chocolate mousse cheesecake once when a friend ordered one over the internet to celebrate an office birthday. It was truly heavenly, but at about 40 bucks a pop (without shipping!), I decided--as is my way--to make my own version at home. This led to the development of the recipe below, which is perhaps among the best desserts that I make. It honors the Junior's cheesecake that was its inspiration, but it also reminds me a bit of Olive Garden's Black Tie Mousse Cake. So I call this creation, Black Tie Cheesecake. It takes awhile to make, so plan accordingly. But most of it is passive cooling/chilling time, and it's darn well worth it!

Black Tie Cheesecake

First, crush about half a package of Oreos (about 25) in a food processor until fine. Mix in 4-5 tablespoons of melted butter and press into the bottom of a 10-inch spring form pan.

Cheesecake Layer:
2- 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
scant cup of sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
3/8 cup heavy cream

Place one package of cream cheese, a scant 1/2 cup of sugar, and the corn starch in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low until creamy, about three minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary. Beat in the remaining package of cream cheese. Increase the mixer to high and add the remaining scant ½ cup of sugar. Blend in the egg, beating well after adding it, then mix in the heavy cream. At this point, mix the filling only until completely blended—be careful not to over mix. Gently spoon the cheese filling on top of the Oreo layer. Bake the cheesecake at 350 degrees until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan, about 40-50 minutes. Cool the cake on a wire rack for one hour.

Chocolate Mousse Layer
9 oz. (about 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups whipping cream, divided

Melt finely-chopped dark chocolate over hot water. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale. Heat 1/4 cup of the whipping cream just to the boiling point, then remove from heat and whisk in the egg yolks. Fold in the melted chocolate. The mixture will immediately thicken. Cool to approximately 100 degrees. Whisk the remaining cup of whipping cream until stiff. Fold with the egg and chocolate mixture--one tablespoon at a time--until the filling becomes soft, then fold in the remainder of the whipped cream. Spoon the mousse on top of the completely cooled cheesecake, level it with a spatula, and place in the refrigerator for several hours or, preferably, overnight.

When the mousse is completely cold and much firmer, it’s ready for the ganache topping. Melt about a half cup of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate with a half cup of cream (whipping cream will make it softer, heavy cream will set up firmer—your choice). Cool to lukewarm—not so hot as to melt the mousse, but still loose enough to pour and spread on top of the mousse layer of the cheesecake.

Return the whole thing back to the fridge for a few more hours or overnight or until you can’t stand to wait anymore!

To finish my Junior's anecdote, I bought a GINORMOUS piece of the chocolate mousse cheesecake that I remembered so fondly, though I eyeballed the carrot cake cheesecake longingly (isn't the very idea of it inspired?). But as one piece costs almost seven bucks and would feed a small village, I just got the one slice and lovingly hand-carried it on planes, trains and automobiles all the way home to Plattsburgh (well, maybe not planes) to share with Cyd. Wasn't that nice of me? ;-) But before I left Junior's, I had spotted a display of cookbooks in the restaurant window. When I got home, I looked it up on Amazon, and the index indicates that both the chocolate mousse cheesecake AND the carrot cake cheesecake recipes, along with 48 tasty others, are included in the volume. YAY! And as I was browsing other books to try to bump up to $25 and get the free shipping, I discovered another wonderful surprise. Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures is finally back in print, and can be yours for the reasonable price of $19.77! YIPPEE!

So now I am going to try...TRY...to stay away from NYC for a few months until my coffers can be replenished (saving up for The Little Mermaid or Xanadu, maybe? tee hee). In the meantime, I will console myself and ease the separation anxiety by making many authentic Junior's cheesecakes!


Randi said...

Grady is freaking adorable!! Does he like to kill the squeekers out of toys?

Joy Bugaloo said...

Thanks, he's my sweet boy....though very naughty! He is a great murderer of stuffed toys, and yes, getting down to the squeaker is the most fun! ;-)


Anonymous said...

OK I thought I would make this to add to the desert table tomorrow for Christmas. I have made cheesecake for some time and thought this would be a great twist to what I know.
The cheesecake part turned out great but the mouse not so much.

I got to the part of " Fold in the melted chocolate. The mixture will immediately thicken."

My mixture did not thicken and I followed directions exactly. I am not sure what happened, if you have any ideas please let me know as I would like to try this again. My mixture was runny, but tasted great! I have bottled it up for another use and will use blueberry topping for cake tomorrow.

I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!! I have so many new recipes to try now, and I just love what you do. Please keep posting more recipes! I also found Alexis Stewart's blog via your list and love her stuff too! Thank You, what a great Christmas present for me!!


Joy Bugaloo said...

Thanks for your kind words, Tonia! And I'm so sorry that your mousse didn't turn out. This is very puzzling, as I have made this four or five times, and I have never had that problem!

I can only think of three things that might have happened:
1) your chocolate mixture was still too hot when you added the whipped cream
2) the cream wasn't whipped stiffly enough
3) you overmixed the whipped cream into the chocolate (instead of folding)

If it wasn't one of those issues, I give up! Again, I apologize that the recipe didn't turn out for you. --Gina

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gina for the quick response!

Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed it as did several of the nurses @ UVA's PICU on Christmas Day.

On Christmas morning I was looking at the cheesecake, wanting badly to put that blueberry topping on top, but thinking I really wanted to do something with the runny chocolate I had in the frig.

So I pulled out the runny chocolate and added a box of instant cheesecake pudding to it, whipped it up and put it back in the frig. When I checked on it a couple hours later it had set up and I gave it a quick tasting. OH MY, IT WAS GOOOOOOOD!

I debated in my head to put it on top of the cheesecake or to save it for another dessert (I had seen some really red ripe strawberries @ the store). I thought I might as well put it on the cheesecake and take it with me. So that is what I ended up doing. The only problem was it was way too sweet. You only needed a sliver but it was really really good. My family ate about half and I left the other half with the nurses. They were eating it when we left and had smiles. I have been asked for the recipe (gave em your blog info) and asked if I was going to bring another one in!

I will make it again, but next time I will make the cream a little stiffer and let the chocolate cool a little more. I think that may have been the culprit.

Tonight I am making your Perugian-Style Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake. I need to pick up the stuff for the crust today and I will make it tonight. I'll let you know how that turns out.

BTW, I am looking for a good chocolate cake recipe to make for my granddaughter's 15th birthday dinner. This is why I keep trying different recipes. Still looking, she is a chocoholic!!!


Great American Hope said...

Joy? How has it been going on the cheesecake?

I only got as far as the 25 Oreos. I then walked over to Carnegie Deli and bought a piece.

Are we living now?