Friday, March 13, 2009

I don't know what this is...but I know it's GOOD!

So....midterms are upon us, and I'm soaking in it. To get through this overwhelming week, I just had to keep chanting to myself like a mantra, "Five more days until I'm in New Orleans, four more days until I'm in New Orleans, three more days until...." Then again, to get ready to be gone is a nightmare in and of itself! So it should come as no surprise that I am sharing a weekend baking round-up post from LAST weekend! Oh well. You do what you can do.

Lately, I have gotten into the habit of making Friday night Pizza Night...HOMEMADE Pizza Night! Ok, not 100% homemade, but pretty darn close to it. I usually do my big shopping on Friday evenings, so I always grab some pizza dough from the deli, because by the time I get home at the end of a long week and get all the groceries and stuff put away, I don't have it in me to make anything involved. Pizza with a head-start on the dough just fills the bill--plus, I can have the leftovers for lunch on Saturday. Usually, I just top it with my new favorite sauce for pizza, the Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce that I put up this summer, then pepperoni because it's quick, and whatever veggies I dig out of the fridge that look tasty. But awhile back, I was watching an episode of "Ask Aida," and she made the most interesting pizza with roasted mushrooms and....wait for it....a fried egg on top! Its proper name may be Pizza alla Bismarck, which I gather means any kind of pizza served with an egg on top. In any case, Aida's version looked a bit strange but potentially yummy. And friends, believe me when I tell you, this pizza was AMAZING! I'm not sure that I'm not ready to declare it my favorite pizza of all time! I didn't follow Aida's recipe exactly, but I'll just say that I was "inspired by" her flavor combinations and techniques. Here's what I did, from the bottom up:

--dough drizzled with EVOO
--a cup of ricotta (preferably, homemade--but I used a purchased garlic and herb variety)
--a half cup of shredded parmesan (or romano or asiago or what you wish)
--a half pound of shredded mozzarella
--one pound or even a pound and a half of mushrooms--I sauteed mine in butter, then stirred in a couple of tablespoons each of homemade onion confit and balsamic vinegar, but you might wish to oven-roast your mushrooms (perhaps with some onions) in olive oil with a sprig of rosemary for about 20 minutes and then toss with the balsamic
--finally, the piece de resistance--top with a over-easy fried egg...or several of them! (crack eggs into a little EVOO or butter, cook until just set, then pour a couple more tablespoons of balsamic in the pan and reduce until syrupy--place egg(s) on pizza, break them so that the yolk makes a silky sauce, then drizzle everything with the reduced balsamic)

Seriously people, you MUST try this! It's sounds peculiar, but the flavors are out of this world!

Then for my traditional weekend baking project, I made a very traditional cheesecake, because I had been CRAVING cheesecake lately for some reason (does anyone really need a reason to crave cheesecake?). I tried a new (to me) version from the Joy of Baking which may become my go-to recipe, as the texture was just PERFECT--lusciously creamy while still maintaining density and structure. However, I used Ritz crackers for the base (I read about that idea on a blog somewhere, maybe Porter House?) because I thought it would give it a nice saltiness to balance the sweet. It did taste very good, but the crust went too soft too fast, so I won't be making that swap again. (Truly, I still prefer a low-carb nut crust best of all!) And then the only criticism I have of the Joy of Baking recipe was that it wasn't quite sweet enough for me--and I never say that! I am usually the one taking the sweetness level DOWN on things! But I served it with a lovely puddle of my slightly-too-sweet blackberry Earl Grey jam, so that solved the problem in a most delicious way.

New York Cheesecake
(Source: adapted from
Joy of Baking)

2 cups graham wafer crumbs or finely crushed vanilla wafers or gingersnaps (process whole cookies in a food processor until they are crumbs)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (hmm...I don't use more than a third of a cup or six tablespoons at most)

pinch of salt

32 ounces (4 - 8 ounces packages) cream cheese, room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat free cream cheese)
1 cup granulated sugar (I would increase this by 1/4 to 1/3 cup)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon lemon zest (I used a few drops of lemon oil instead)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sour cream (not low fat or fat free)
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Grease, or spray with Pam, a 9 inch springform pan. Place the springform pan on a larger baking pan to catch any leakage while the cheesecake is baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center of oven.

For Crust:
In a medium-sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

For Filling:
In bowl of your electric mixer place the cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes), scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the whipping cream, lemon zest, vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan on a larger baking pan and place in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees and continue to bake for about another 1 1/2 hours or until firm and only the center of the cheesecake looks a little wet and wobbly. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool (and deflate) for about fifteen minutes. In the meantime, turn the oven up to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Spread the topping over the cheesecake and return to oven to bake for five more minutes. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (this helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools).

Let cool completely before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating. This cheesecake tastes best after being refrigerated for at least a day. Serve with fresh fruit or fruit sauces.

Makes one 9 inch cheesecake.

Tips: Sometimes the surface of the cheesecake cracks. To help prevent this from happening do not overbeat the batter, especially when creaming the cheese and sugar. Another reason for cracking is overbaking the cheesecake. Your cheesecake is done when it is firm but the middle may still look a little wet. Also, make sure the springform pan is well greased as cracking can occur if the cheesecake sticks to the sides as it cools.


The Cookbook Junkie said...

That cheesecake looks amazing!

Friday night is pizza night here too. It only takes 50 minutes to make pizza dough in my bread machine but after a while I decided that 50 minutes was too long to wait. Now, I make the dough Thursday evening before I go to bed, then I refrigerate it until I come home from work on Friday evening. I nuke it on Power 3 (defrost) for 3 minutes and 30 seconds and it's good to go.

Anonymous said...

Dammit,now I am craving cheesecake!!!