Showing posts with label cheesecake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cheesecake. Show all posts

Friday, October 28, 2016

Buried in a Bog Cheesecake for #Halloween

Ah, that lovely season when the dead rise again! You probably know of my fondness for graveyards, not to mention my obsession with my dear departed ancestors (“You have how many names in your family tree?” Actually, as of this week it’s 13,165, not including the Irish side.)

But sometimes it’s hard to find appropriate recipes for Halloween. In the past I’ve offered you black pasta (hand-imported from Italy!) and black garlic, and even spider cookies crawling out of a pumpkin one year. This year I realized I had overlooked one very obvious choice: the bog dead!



A few years ago my daughter gave me a set of skull baking molds (she knows me well). But I seldom feel the urge to make skull muffins or cupcakes. What else could I do . . .  And then I had this idea for skulls emerging from a pool of peat (aka a bog). Don’t worry: the skulls are shortbread, and the peat is dark chocolate cheesecake.

(If you’re faint of heart, you could make pumpkin cookies instead and scatter them over the nice field of cheesecake earth.)

The Skulls:

I used the basic shortbread recipe from my post last week and pressed the dough into the molds, filling them only part way (you could also use sugar-cookie dough). Then I baked them. It’s all right if they brown a little—a skull marinating in peat for a few centuries should be a bit discolored.

The Crust:

This will not show, but you will need it if you plan to eat this concoction (silly question) This recipe fits a 9-inch pan, but I doubled it for a 9x13” pan (I wanted to fit more skulls in).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray your pan with cooking spray.

9 oz. chocolate wafer cookies (crunchy ones, not chewy ones)
2 Tblsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted

In a food processor, grind the cookies to fine crumbs, then blend in the sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and blend. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until set (about 10 minutes), then cool.





The Cheesecake:

I searched through recipes and picked the deepest, darkest one I could find.


12 oz. (2 bags) bittersweet chocolate (if bars, chop)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs



Melt the chocolate (microwave works well, or in a double boiler—slowly!), stirring steadily until the chocolate is melted. Let cool to lukewarm.



In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and cocoa powder together (no lumps!). In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes), then add the sugar/cocoa powder mixture. Beat well, scraping down the bowl. Blend in the eggs, one at a time. Finally mix in the lukewarm chocolate and stir.

Let me tell you, this stuff is delicious! I was tempted to eat it straight from the bowl.

Building your Bog:



Take your pan with the cookie layer and arrange the skulls on that—you can use as many as you want, and distribute them in whatever pattern pleases you—all lined up or randomly.

Pour in the filling carefully around the skulls. Actually, I had to use a pastry bag—the batter was a bit too thick to pour. But this is supposed to be peat, so it doesn’t have to be tidy. The layer doesn’t have to be too deep—you want the skulls to look like they’re emerging from the murk, ever so slowly. If you’re feeling creative, you can sprinkle some left-over crumbs around the skull to make the bog look more authentic.

This is a very large peat bog in Shannonbridge,
Ireland. It provides fuel for a nearby electric
generating station.  I had to stop and check it out.

Bake until the center is just set (that is, still a little wiggly), rotating the pan in the oven once during cooking. The exact timing will depend on how large your pan is and how deep the cheesecake layer is. Start checking after 30-40 minutes. It’s  not the end of the world if it’s baked a bit too long—the cheesecake will be more brownie-like in texture rather than creamy, but it will still taste good.




If you’re really into it, go wild with more decorations—maybe black sprinkles or some hints of green (bogs are growing things, you know). I did draw the line at adding a few (clean) chicken wing bones for effect, though. Maybe it would look good if you served it in the light of flickering candles.

Refrigerate your bog cheesecake overnight before you try to cut it (if you can wait that long!).
Savor it after the manic sugar-fueled trick-or-treaters have retreated for the night.

Oh, and a giveaway bonus: a pumpkin that will last more than a couple of weeks (It's cloth.)


And if you've never read Buried in a Bog (the first book of my County Cork Mystery Series), I'll throw that in too.

Here's a picture of the bog it's based on:

My great-great-grandfather's bog down the hill
from Knockskagh in West Cork. The peat is
under the brown grass.
Just leave a spooky comment and I'll draw one name for the pumpkin (hmm, I could draw a name out of a pumpkin . . .)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!



Friday, September 9, 2016

Peach Cheesecake

You may have noticed that cooking falls somewhere between a science and an art. There are those home cooks who follow recipes religiously (that’s my husband), and others who start with a recipe and then follow their nose and their tongue until a dish tastes “right” to them (that’s me, and possibly my daughter).

This year’s peach crop in Massachusetts didn’t happen, thanks to a March cold snap and frost (that also did in my apple crop). At our local farmers market in late August, my favorite vendor had one small basket of peaches, which she admitted came from New York state (allowable if the local crop has failed). I hadn’t eaten one all summer, and oh, these smelled wonderful!



I bought only two, and not until I laid hands on one perfect ripe peach and had a vision of a recipe—lovely peach halves embedded in cheesecake, on a short crust with maybe a dash of almond flavor. I could see it, almost taste it.

And then I went looking for a recipe, and I couldn’t find one. Oh, there are plenty of peach cheesecake recipes, but in most of those the peaches are sliced or diced or pureed. Or the cook substituted peach jelly. That was NOT what I wanted. So here we go again, as I lead you into the unknown, to find my very own recipe for Peach Cheesecake.


Peach Cheesecake
Peel and halve two perfect ripe peaches (you do know the trick about dipping them in boiling water for less than a minute, then tossing them in ice water? The skin slips right off neatly.)



The Crust



2 cups flour (if you have almond flour, you can substitute that for some of the regular flour)
2 Tblsp butter
1 Tblsp vegetable oil
3 Tblsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.



Mix the ingredients together (by hand or in a food processor) until they look like coarse sand. Grease a 10-inch springform pan.



Press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until it just begins to brown. Remove from oven and prepare the filling.


The Filling

1 package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 Tblsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

With a mixer or blender, mix the ingredients together until they are smooth (be patient—the cream cheese can be lumpy).


Lay the peach halves on the baked crust. Pour the filling over them.


Bake for 30 minutes or until the middle stops wiggling and the edges are slightly brown.

Turn off the oven and open the door a crack. Let the cheesecake sit for five minutes to begin cooling. Then remove from the oven and cool completely. When it is cool, place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours before opening the springform pan.



I thought about calling it a Peach Surprise Cheesecake, because the peaches are hiding beneath the filling until you cut into it, and then there they are, a perfect peach profile.



There are no peaches in Seeds of Deception, arriving October 4th. In fact, there are no apples either: it takes place in winter. But there is an orchard (at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello) and a body and a solution to a crime that has deep roots.

Find it for pre-order at Amazon (where at the moment it's on sale for $6.79) and Barnes and Noble.

www.sheilaconnolly.com


Friday, June 3, 2016

Cheesecake in a Bowl




In honor of the imminent release of Dead End Street next week, I thought I’d revisit Philadelphia food. I wrote a post about it when the Museum Mystery series debuted, back in 2010. If you take a look at that, I gave a basic primer on the food most often associated with that city. Let me add a few that I missed last time: Philadelphia spawned Cheez Whiz, Good & Plenty, Herr’s (potato chips—my daughter’s suburban school actually took a field trip to their plant), Tastykake, and Fleer Chewing Gum (home of Double Bubble, my childhood favorite--my commuter train used to go by the factory).

But whenever I'm in Philadelphia I keep coming back to the Reading Terminal Market—and I send Nell Pratt there every chance I get. The place has a long history (which I will shorten here for you): it occupies the space under what was once the Reading Railroad Terminal in Center City, close to City Hall. The Terminal opened in 1893, and the market beneath has been there ever since (even though trains no longer run into the terminal: it’s the Pennsylvania Convention Center now, but the market survives, and didn’t even close during the construction of the convention center above it).

The market has just about everything: meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. Ice cream and candy (including some really weird chocolates). Cookware and cookbooks. Great places to grab a lunch, which many nearby workers do. I try to visit every time I’m in Philadelphia, and I come home with whatever I can carry (note: some items do not fare well in a suitcase!). There are Asian and Amish and Italian vendors, and just about anything else. It is one of the great treasures of the city, and it’s always full of people.

Ah, food. What have I bought and enjoyed? Mushrooms (which I’ve also written about for MLK). Meat from the Amish butchers. Chocolate Liberty Bells. Great lunches at the Down Home Diner (yes, I’ve even eaten a cheese steak there). It’s a great space to stroll through, and even if you aren’t hungry when you walk it, you will be after a few minutes.




Recipe? What better than a cheesecake made with the Original Philadelphia brand cream cheese? According to their website, the name "Philadelphia" was adopted in 1880, because the city “was considered at the time to be the home of top quality food.” And it came in foil wrappers even then. (Oddly enough, the parent company resides in the UK.) There have been a few changes in ownership since 1880, not to mention a variety of new! trendier! products, but the Philadelphia name is still on the package. And I firmly believe it is the best cream cheese to use for cheesecakes.

You would not believe how many cheesecake recipes the company offers (twelve pages worth), but I wanted to use something fairly classic, and also take advantage of the ripe strawberries available now. So I tinkered with a few recipes, and here’s the result!


Cheesecake in a Bowl
Ingredients:

1-1/2 cup crumbs (cookie, graham cracker, whatever—I used Sandies)
3/4 stick (3 oz.) butter, melted


1/2 pound block cream cheese, softened
4 oz. white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 Tblsp granulated sugar
1 tsp gelatin, dissolved in 1-1/2 Tblsp boiling water (stir quickly to dissolve!)


2 cups strawberries, pureed (you can put them through a sieve if the seeds annoy you)—or you could just mash them up
2 Tblsp confectioner’s sugar

A few fresh strawberries, sliced or quartered, for garnish


Instructions:

Crumbs and butter, mixed
For the crust layer: combine the crumbs and the butter, then press into the bottom of serving glasses. [A note: you can divide this into as many portions as you like. I happen to have four glass bowls that actually match, so I went with those. Splitting this among six bowls would still be an ample serving size.] Chill.


For the filling: Melt the cream cheese and the white chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, or in a double boiler [you could probably do it in a microwave, but I wasn’t sure of the timing or temperature]. Mix and let it cool for 10 minutes.





Whip together the cream and sugar until stiff. Add the dissolved gelatin to the cream cheese mixture, then fold in the cream.



Taste the pureed strawberries and add confectioner’s sugar if necessary.

First layer
Second layer

Spoon half the cream cheese mixture over the crumb layer in the glasses or bowls, then top with half the strawberry puree. Repeat. Take a knife and gently swirl the layers together just a bit.



Chill for two hours or until set. When you’re ready to serve, garnish with the fresh strawberries.


Dead End Street will be released next Tuesday, June 7th. The cover shows you the part of Philadelphia you don't want to visit. But it's a wonderful city, with great history, amazing museums, and good people working to make it a better place. Definitely worth seeing!

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

www.sheilaconnolly.com









Monday, January 4, 2016

Godiva's Ultimate Chocolate Cheesecake


Each year when Christmas is over, I start gearing up for New Year's. Three of my college roommates come to my house for a weekend-long house party. We catch up on each other's lives, celebrate the good things, and commiserate about the not-so-good. It's a late nights-wine-eating-movies-talking-pajama-clad affair.

I always try to make a showstopper dessert for New Year's Eve. This year, one of my guests suggested Godiva's Ultimate Chocolate Cheesecake. The great news is that it's super easy to make. This cake is a decadent chocaholic delight. It's dense and powerfully chocolate.

In the recipe, they say that the top will crack around the edges. If that bothers you, try a different cake or you could try baking it in a water bath. I just piped whipped cream on it to hide the cracks. No one else even noticed. I used Annie's Chocolate Graham Cracker Bunnies for the crust and they worked very well.

This recipe calls for 4 large bars of Godiva's 72% dark chocolate. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it anywhere. Shhh. Please don't tell Godiva, but I dared to make this cake with Lindt 70% dark chocolate bars. Look for the large 3.5 ounce size.

Please note that you have to make this cheesecake a day ahead of time for it to settle.


Godiva's Ultimate Chocolate Cheesecake

1 ¼ cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup hot coffee mixed with ¼ cup very hot water
¼ teaspoon salt
14 ounces (4 bars) GODIVA Large 72% Dark Chocolate Bars, divided
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Mix the cookie crumbs with the melted butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar and press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Break up the chocolate bars while still in the wrappers. You can feel the chocolate breaking. But save 1/2 of one bar intact for decorating the top if you wish. Microwave the chocolate in 30 second bursts, stirring in between until melted. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the coffee with the salt and hot water. Beat the cream cheese about 2 minutes. Gradually add the cup of sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. On a slow speed, beat in the coffee mixture. Pour in the chocolate gradually while beating on  slow speed. Pour into the pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until the center is set but slightly wobbly. Cool on a rack completely before refrigerating.

1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
fresh berries (optional)

Beat heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar until stuff peaks form. Spread or pipe the cream on the top of the cake. Garnish with fresh berries and/or remaining chocolate. When taking cheesecake out of the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting.

Oops! No Godiva!

Break up the chocolate.

So smooth. Liquid gold, er, chocolate.

Beat the cream cheese.

Pour in the pan.

YUM!
Happy New Year!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Celebration Cheesecake!

by Sheila Connolly

Wow, time flies when you’re having fun! And clearly we here at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen think cooking and sharing the results are fun, because we’ve been doing it for five years now.

To celebrate this milestone, this week and next we’re holding a contest: you can win one of five great MLK tote bags filled with copies of each of our books. All you need to do is to take a picture of one of our books in a fun setting—and there are five categories to choose from, and you can enter one photo in each! To enter, click HERE or go to our FaceBook page

But wait! There’s more! All this week each of us will be giving away one of our own books, and next week we’ll be giving away books from our blog alumnae. Just leave a comment on our post and tell us how you shared our contest or our anniversary news. You can enter each day, for each new post—that’s a total of twelve chances to win! Don’t forget to include your email address in your comment so we can find you.

I’m happy to offer a signed copy of the NYT bestselling Golden Malicious, the most recent Orchard Mystery (which just happens to take place during a hot summer).  Better read it soon: the next one in the series, Picked to Die, comes out this October! (If you already have this one, you can choose something else.)

So, readers, please spread the word about our MLK celebration, enter our contests, and continue to visit the blog and comment on our recipes.

Oh, right: I’m supposed to give you a new recipe today!

As you may have noticed this week, “celebrate” usually means dessert to us—and what a wonderful range we’ve found! Something for everyone—either seasonal fruit or chocolate. Or both, as in this recipe, which I shamelessly borrowed from a long-time friend (who also likes desserts!).


Raspberry Cheesecake

Crust:

1-1/2 cups finely crushed Oreos
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease the bottom of a 9” spring-form pan.

Mix the two ingredients and press into the bottom of the pan.



Bake for seven minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees.

Berry filling and topping:


1-1/4 cup sugar
3 Tblsp cornstarch
1-1/2 cups ripe raspberries (you may use frozen, 
   and you may combine berries or add cranberries)
¾ cup cran-raspberry juice

In a saucepan, mix the sugar and the cornstarch. Add the berries and juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. Put through a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Strain through a sieve or colander to remove any skins and seeds.



Cheesecake filling:

4 8-oz. packages of cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup sugar (taste your berry mixture first—you can
   cut down the sugar if the berries are sweet)
4 eggs
½ cup heavy cream

Beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just blended. Stir in the heavy cream.

Pour half of the filling mixture on top of the baked crust. Carefully spoon half of the sauce over the filling. CAREFULLY spoon the rest of the filling over the fruit mixture in the pan (oh, all right, if it gets mixed up, it’ll still taste good!).  Set aside the rest of the berry mixture.



Place a shallow pan half full of hot water on the lower oven rack (this is to humidify your oven). Put the cheesecake pan on a rack above this.

Bake for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours, until the edge of the cheesecake is set at least two inches from the edge of the pan. The center should still be jiggly.

Run a small metal spatula around the top edge of the pan to loosen the cheesecake and put it back in the oven. Turn the oven off and open the oven door a few inches. Let the cheesecake cool gradually in the oven, about half an hour (this should keep it from cracking).



Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack for another 30 minutes. Then place the cheesecake in the fridge and cool for at least six hours before serving (overnight is fine).

When you’re ready to serve, remove the outer ring of the spring-form pan, place the cheesecake on a serving plate, and spoon the remaining berry mixture over the top.




This week we’re also touching base with our alumnae, to see how they’ve kept busy since they “graduated”. Jennifer Stanley has more mystery series to her credit than I can count on one hand: the Hope Street Church Mysteries (under her own name), The Collectibles Mysteries (as J. B. Stanley), the Supper Club Mysteries (also as J. B. Stanley); and as Ellery Adams, the Books by the Bay Mysteries, the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries, and the new Book Retreat Mysteries—the first book, Murder in the Mystery Suite, is coming out next month!

Here’s what Jennifer Stanley says about it:
 
“Murder in the Mystery Suite is set at a resort for book lovers and will feature daily afternoon teas in the Agatha Christie Tea Room, decadent meals in the Madame Bovary Dining Room, and sandwiches in the Kipling Cafe. As usual, I'll be doing my best to come up with tempting food descriptions (as well as a few dead bodies).”

Jenn would be happy if you contacted her at jbstanleyauthor@verizon.net to
get her thoughts on MLK and tell her about your favorite recipe. Here’s hers:

“My favorite recipe is probably my charmed pecan chocolate bourbon pie because it's so easy to make and the recipe produces two pies, so there's one for you and one for a friend. The recipe reminds me of MLK because it's basically a group of friends sharing recipes with other friends.”




Please come celebrate with us and enter our contests! You can see the entries HERE at the bottom of the page.