Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lil Cookies & Cream Cheesecakes


These little bites of cheesecake are so cute. I actually don't like Oreos, but I love Cookies & Cream. Sounds strange, I know, but I was also one of those kids who hated tomatoes but loved ketchup and tomato sauce -- at least I grew out of that. These are from the new Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book, and I love how the crust for each cheesecake is an entire Oreo.

It's so much easier to plop a cookie in each paper cup, rather than grind up graham crackers and press them into each cupcake well. They bake up really quickly, and everybody will love them. One word of advice: Read the entire recipe to make sure you have enough cupcake or muffin trays. It yields a lot of batter (I halved the recipe and used cupcake tins instead of muffin tins), and the cheesecakes need to refrigerate in the trays, so you can't remove the cakes immediately to bake up the rest of the batter.

Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
42 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, 30 left whole and 12 coarsely chopped
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla.
Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in sour cream and salt. Stir in chopped cookies by hand.
Divide batter evenly among cookie-filled cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate (in tins) at least 4 hours (or up to overnight). Remove from tins just before serving.

Enjoy them with a glass of milk!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Blog Birthday Pineapple Cake


A year has passed since my first blog entry! So I'm commemorating it with a lighter Pineapple Upside-down Cake. I like the lightness of oil-based cakes as opposed to most butter-based cakes, but I tinkered with this recipe to make that caramelized sauce richer. Isn't that the whole point of Pinapple Upside-down Cake? The finished product was a light but moist cake topped with juicy pineapple that mellowed out in caramelized brown sugar and butter.

Adapted from Everyday Food's Light Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbs butter, softened at room temperature
1 ripe firm pineapple (skin removed), cored and cut into 16 thin wedges
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 square baking dish with parchment and then lightly grease the parchment.

Beat the butter and half of the brown sugar in a mixing bowl, then spread it evenly on the parchment. Top the mixture with 4- to 5-inch spears of pineapple in alternating directions.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, oil, and the other half of the sugar. Add the flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Pour the batter over the pineapple and smooth the top.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The top may get a little dark, but don't worry. Cool the cake 20 minutes in the pan, then invert it onto a plate and peel off the paper.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge: Potstickers!


I get asked a lot why I don't make more Chinese food. Well, I learned to cook after I left home, and there were far more resources on Western cooking. But one thing I did help make as a kid were won tons, so this potsticker challenge seemed very doable. But unlike some other bloggers, this isn't really representative of cuisine in Hainan (the island in China's south), Malaysia, or Singapore -- the places of my grandparents' and parents' birth. It's just what my family used to fill won tons and then tweaked by me. It's delicious, is what it is!

I've never made wrappers from scratch before, but I've got to thank Jen of use real butter for making it mandatory for the challenge! Once I got the hang of making them, it was relatively easy. I tried my hand at pretty pleats, but they were ugly so I proceeded with a simple fold-over. So the result was plain, but our cleared plates were testament to the tastiness!

My Filling:

It was funny measuring ingredients for this recipe. If your mom is like my mom, she measures and times nothing because she just has the instinct. That's led to some unsuccessful re-creations of her recipes (is "a little" a pinch or a teaspoon, ma?), but I always managed with this!
½ lb ground pork
½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp ginger, grated on the microplane or minced
5 scallions, chopped
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs soy sauce
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbs cornstarch

Pulse everything in the food processor until you get chunky bits. Or finely chop the larger ingredients and stir everything together. That ice-cream-like-scoop you use for cookie dough is useful here, too. Thanks to Lisa-Is-Bossy for the suggestion on using a pestle as a mini rolling pin! I was confused a bit at first on how thick and long to roll the dough logs, but if you have a scale, each dough chunk and rolled-out wrapper should average out to about 25 grams.

These get fried a bit so you get crunchy undersides, and then they sizzle in steam so they cook the rest of the way through:

The Challenge: Chinese dumplings/potstickers (aka gyoza in Japanese)

Reveal Date: June 14th! Good luck, Daring Cooks - woohoo!
It's a basic concept: a filling inside a dough wrapper, sealed, and cooked. This delicious theme runs through many cultures and is among the more popular bites at Chinese restaurants - especially dim sum. The recipe I provide is based on my family recipe. There is a lot of wiggle room and I encourage you to explore. If you've made them before - great! Now try something different!

The process goes a little like this:

You can (and should) reference instructional photos and discussion on my blog post here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Teatime Treats! The Best Scones, Plus Cuke Sandwiches

1 comment:

They're the quintessential afternoon tea nibbles -- scones and cucumber sandwiches. Beverly (i.e. the Queen of Scones) calls this recipe The Best Scones, and they really are. They're the flakiest, tenderest, moistest scones you'll ever have. And why not round them out with some tiny sandwiches, and a cuppa English Breakfast, Assam, or Ceylon?

I halved this scone recipe for our household of two, but you can probably freeze some right before they go into the oven and bake them up on demand. I also halved the amount of salt, but whether you do the same is up to you. Check out the flaky layers of this baby.

The Best Scones by Beverly
4 cups all-purpose
2 tbs baking powder
2 tsp salt
¾ lb. cold unsalted butter, diced (that's 3 sticks)
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 egg beaten with 1 tbs water or milk, for egg wash, Or use cream
Raisins or currants (I used ½ cup)

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. You can also make this in a food processor with the metal blade like I did, or by hand with a pastry blender. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Mix the eggs and cream together, and quickly add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Combine until just blended. Mix in the raisins or currants.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead just until it comes together. Roll the dough ¾ inch thick. Cut into 4-inch squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles, or any shape you desire. Brush the tops with cream. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat for 18 minutes, until the outside is crusty and the inside is fully baked.

Makes 16 scones.

This is my thrown-together cucumber sandwich recipe.

Cucumber Sandwiches
1 cucumber, peeled
6 slices bread
2 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature
½ tsp salt
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish

You'll need a vegetable peeler, paper towels, and a tall biscuit cutter.

Cut the crusts off the bread. You can freeze them in a zip-top bag to make breadcrumbs out of. Holding the cucumber so it stands vertically on a cutting board, use the peeler to shave off thick slices of cucumber, until you get to the seedy part. Discard the seedy core. Lay the cucumber on paper towels to soak up excess moisture, so your sandwiches don't get soggy.

Stir the salt, parsley, and chives into the softened cream cheese. Spread the mixture onto the bread slices, then top with the layers of cucumber. You can leave them open-faced or top them with another slice of bread. Cut them into triangles, or use a biscuit cutter to cut out little teatime-sized rounds. The cutter has to be tall enough that it won't get lost in the sandwich, and sharp enough to cut through.

Scatter some chives over the tops for garnish. Keep the sandwiches covered so they don't dry out.