Super “Light” Cheesecake with Armagnac Prunes

prune cheesecake(15 of 8)

There are many styles of cheesecake. I often go for a super dense, silky smooth, custardy cheesecake, but other times I want something a bit lighter with more of a soufflé texture. This cheesecake falls into that second camp. There’s almost two pounds of cheese in this beauty, so to call it “light” is a bit of a stretch, but the texture honestly is. The trick is to whip the egg whites and fold it into the batter. The cake is then baked in a dry oven, as opposed to a water bath, which means the cake soufflés as it bakes, creating a more open and airy texture. As you’ll see in my instagram video, this cheesecake cracks like crazy and that’s just part of it’s rustic charm. I actually like that look, but I ended up topping it with whipped cream, so no one will be the wiser if you want something a bit more polished.

prune cheesecake(12 of 8)

I added a layer of prunes that are cooked in Armagnac and oranges to add a bit of depth to the flavor (you could also use dried cherries or apricots) and topped it with toasted almonds for a bit of texture.  (more…)

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Hamantaschen

hamantaschen zb 08

Before I moved to Minnesota, my husband and I lived in Burlington, VT, which we considered a suburb of Montreal. When our small college town felt as if it would pop at the seams, we’d jump in the car and drive to Canada. We’d make the rounds of foods we couldn’t find in Vermont, like Montreal bagels at Fairmont, smoked meat at Schwartz’s and hamantaschen at a Jewish bakery, the name of which, I am sorry to say, has escaped me. The bagels and smoked meat are specialties of the city, and reason enough to visit Montreal. Hamantaschen can be found in any city, at most Jewish delis and bakeries, especially during the holiday of Purim. Making these triangular cookies is easy and in my humble opinion, better than most that I’ve sampled, including those in Montreal. The dough I use is the soft, rich, tender variety, the same one I use for rugelach, as opposed to the firm, crumbly, shortbread style dough, which is also common with this cookie. This dough is simple to work with and has a lovely texture and lemony flavor, which is a great partner to the poppy seed filling. Just like a rugelach, there are as many fillings as there are ovens, but the most traditional are poppy seed and prune. I went traditional here, but added some other dried fruits to the mix. If my fillings are not to your liking the cookies are fantastic with raspberry preserves, chocolate, apricot, lemon curd or anything else you are craving.

The shape of these cookies is said to represent the three-cornered hat of Haman, the diabolical villain who tried to take down the Jews in ancient Persia. Other stories say that hamantaschen (which translates “Haman’s pouch”) symbolizes his purse, which he tried to use as a payoff for permission to destroy the Jews. Haman’s sinister plans were thwarted and the story ends well with the celebration of Purim, where these tasty pastries are normally served. But, I think you should enjoy them way more often than that. (more…)

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