Easter Cheesecake

Easter Cheesecake | ZoeBakes

Easter is the holiday that ushers in spring. The tulips are starting to make their way out of the frozen earth and the trees are hinting at color. It has been a long winter and all of these little changes are so very welcome. It seems fitting to make a cake that is full of color and blooms. But, as a nod of respect to this past winter and all of its fury, I created an all white blanket of roses over a swirl of wild color within.  (more…)

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Cherry Cheesecake

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I started off thinking this was a Valentine’s post, with a heart-shaped sensuous cheesecake, topped with ruby-red cherry sauce. It still is, but I have to digress for a moment and talk about the Olympics. It is more connected and less random than you might think. When I was researching the origin of the cheesecake I found out, thanks the internet, that this favorite cake (which I think is really a custard, but now I digress in my digression) dates back to about 250 bc, where a Roman politician first wrote down the recipe. I am sharing it with you, because the translation is hysterical and I can only imagine the range in results with such crude instructions:

“Recipe for libum (cheesecake) – Bray 2 pounds of cheese thoroughly in a mortar; when it is thoroughly macerated, add 1 pound of wheat flour, or, if you wish the cake to be more dainty, ½ pound of fine flour, and mix thoroughly with the cheese. Add 1 egg, and work the whole well. Pat out a loaf, place on leaves, and bake slowly on a warm hearth under a crock.”

It goes on to talk about covering it in honey and poppy-seeds if you so desire. Even the “dainty” version sounds a bit severe to me. The editor who translated this couldn’t help themselves and added a note at the end that reads…”These recipes cannot be considered alluring.” They were, however, hearty and fed to the ancient Olympians during the games to keep them well fueled. Oh, how far we have come from the times when you had to “bray” (grind) cheese to get it soft enough. This rather utilitarian version of the cheesecake may have satisfied the ancient Romans, but today we are going for something a little bit sexier.

My cheesecake is made with ricotta and a touch of honey, as a nod to the original Romans, but that’s as far as the similarities go. Just a touch of flour is used as a slight binder, but not so much as to ruin the luxurious texture. I whipped the egg whites and folded them into the cheese batter to keep it lighter than some of my denser, custard-style cheesecakes. The crust is crushed ginger cookies and the cherry topping is made with a hint of vanilla, cardamom and ginger extracts. This cake would keep any Olympian going, but it’s romantic enough to serve to your sweetheart on Valentine’s day. (more…)

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Red, White & Blue Berry Cheesecake for 4th of July

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I’m not sure anyone would describe me as a perfectionist? My house is neat enough, but it is clearly lived in.  I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who irons my sheets, my table clothes or even my clothes, but so far it’s just a fantasy. The only place I admit to being really obsessive is my work. I’ve been known to make a recipe over and over and over, until I am happy. It also has to pass the test of the François family, which can often feel like an episode of Chopped. They are neither shy, nor sparing with their criticism (and praise), but it seems they enjoy the criticism even more and I’ve come to trust and rely on their opinions. So, when I cut into the first round of this cheesecake, they didn’t hesitate to tell me it was “WAY TOO SWEET!” None of us are a big fans of cloyingly, teeth-on-edge, sweets.  We prefer to taste the vanilla, the berries and even a touch of sour cream in cheesecake.  After a bit of adjusting and a lot of testing, I’ve got it “Just right!”

Red (raspberry), white (vanilla bean) and blue (blueberry) layers of distinct flavors, all work beautifully together in this 4th of July Cheesecake. The fresh blueberry topping is held together with just enough gelatin to give it a gorgeous, glossy look and makes it easy to cut. In order to achieve the clean layers you’ll need to have some time to let each one set, so it isn’t a recipe for a last minute dinner party. It’s super easy and completely worth the extra time to present such a fun dessert at your holiday party. (more…)

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PB&J Cheesecake with Poured Ganache (how-to video).

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Peanut Butter and Jelly is a staple in most children’s diets. In fact, I just read that Americans will consume billions, with a B, of them every year. I can believe it, since my kids picked it for lunch 9 out of 10 times, until very recently. I’ve gone through what must be 100s of pounds of peanut butter and even more jelly. They’re certainly easy to make, which saved me lots of time in the mornings before school, but I felt a little guilty packing it for them EVERY day. I mostly dreaded other parents finding out that my kids ate the same thing over and over. In my head I wanted them to eat bento boxes, with carved vegetables and seaweed salad, but, it was their lunch, their choice and they loved PB&J. The truth is that I love it too; almost everyone does, if we’re honest. Here’s a cheesecake that has all the fond memories of those childhood sandwiches, but it’s way more decadent and sophisticated.

Once in a while I find a new product that changes the way I cook and bake. I felt this way about the Silpat and the Microplane Grater when they first hit the restaurant kitchen scene. It was a eureka moment, since both saved time, money and provided results like nothing I’d used. This Lekue 9-Inch Springform Pan may be the coolest new toy in my kitchen. It is made by Lekue and uses the same technology as the beloved silicone mats. The base is made of ceramic, so it is lovely enough to serve on, which eliminates the need to remove the cake from the base. That, in itself, is brilliant, but the silicone also gives insurance that the cake will not stick to the sides, so there is no holding your breath as you remove it. I baked this cheesecake without a water bath. I need to test to see if it is waterproof, but that is asking a lot of a springform pan and I would continue to wrap the bottom in foil if I used it in water.

 

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Pumpkin Cheesecake with Almond Crunch and Amaretto Cream

pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin is an ingredient I get obsessed with every year at this time. Its bright orange shell is such a relief, during a season when color is fading away and the grey of winter is settling in. In fact, I am determined to paint a room the color of roasted pumpkin this year. But, my love of pumpkin goes beyond its mood lifting color, I adore its luscious texture, its ability to marry with both sweets and savory, and its earthy sweetness. I’ve heard there are folks that don’t share my enthusiasm for this gorgeously colored gourd, but I’ll eat roasted pumpkin with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt. It is even more wonderful in desserts; pumpkin creme brulee, classic pie, breads and cheesecake. When it is pureed smooth, it has a custard like texture, so it lends itself beautifully to this silky cheesecake. For a contrast to the velvety cheesecake, I’ve added candied almond crunch and a dollop of Amaretto whipped cream. (more…)

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