Classics, Dessert, Sweet

Creme Brulee

Crème Brulee–sounds and looks so fancy, and yet, it is by far the easiest dessert to make.  All you need is some good quality vanilla, a small hand-held propane torch (totally worth buying one) and some patience—to allow it cool before devouring it.   This is such a family favorite, that I even bought the wide shallow dishes that you see in the restaurant.  The dishes are not a requirement, it all depends on sugary crust to custard ratio.  If you like a large crunchy top, get the dishes; if you prefer more custard and small sugary top, you can make it in any regular ramekin.  Choose your adventure, but do not choose against this recipe!

Ingredients:

1-quart heavy cream

1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste (yes, this is a lot, but I love seeing and tasting the vanilla beans)

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

Hot water to fill your baking dish.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large measure cup (or bowl) , whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color.

Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into the ramekins of your choice.

Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan or cookie sheet. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 10-15 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar, evenly over the custard. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top.

Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Crack the top with back of spoon, enjoy the sound of that satisfying crunch and proceed to eating immediately!!

Dessert, Sweet

Raspberry-swirl Cheesecake

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Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, this is the only cheesecake recipe you will ever need.  Yes, that is a bold statement, but after making the recipe, I can attest that indeed, this is the ultimate cheesecake recipe.  A perfect cheesecake slice is thick, rich, creamy, and luscious.  A perfect cheesecake will have a flawless, smooth top with a buttery graham cracker crust.  Achieving these is a labor of love.  Plan ahead and start making the cheesecake a day before you actually want to eat it.  For the impatient soul, there is always the “no-bake cheesecake,” (click here for variation#1 and variation #2) but it is definitely not the same.  Enjoy this recipe, follow it patiently, and get ready to be crowned as the definitive cheesecake baker!

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Ingredients for Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Ingredients for Cheesecake filling:

  • four 8-ounce blocks full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp of Vanilla Bean paste (you could use 1tsp of vanilla extract, but I love the flecks of vanilla bean in my cheesecake)
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 5-6 oz seedless raspberry jam (optional if you want to make a jammy swirl, plain is just fine)

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Method:

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Make the crust: Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into crumbs. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter until combined. (You can also pulse it all together in the food processor.) The mixture will be sandy. Press firmly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of 10-inch springform pan. No need to grease the pan first. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crust down tightly. Pre-bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the hot pan on a large piece of aluminum foil. The foil will wrap around the pan for the water bath. Allow crust to cool as you prepare the filling.

Make the filling: Using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream, vanilla bean paste, and lemon juice then beat until fully combined. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. After the final egg is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. To help prevent the cheesecake from deflating and cracking as it cools, avoid over-mixing the batter as best you can.  Pour the cheesecake batter on top crust and smooth it with the back of the spatula.  I was not too precise with this step since I was adding a jam swirl.  If you are planning on a plain cheesecake, take time to make a smooth top, it will make a beautiful presentation.

Raspberry Swirl: Take your favorite seedless raspberry jam in a small bowl and microwave it for 30 secs, till it is runny.  Using a spoon, add big dollops of the jam on top of the cheesecake.  There are nor rules here, you can use as much or as little jam you want, or how much “swirl” you want.  After you add the jam, take a long skewer (chopsticks or knitting needles will work too) and swirl the jam around.

Water bath: heat an entire kettle of water.  As the water is heating up, wrap the aluminum foil around the springform pan—this will prevent any leaks.  Place the pan inside of a large roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water inside the pan and place it in the oven.

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Baking: Bake cheesecake for 55-70 minutes or until the center is almost set. When it’s done, the center of the cheesecake will slightly wobble if you gently shake the pan.  If you notice the cheesecake browning too quickly on top, tent it with aluminum foil halfway through baking.

Cooling and putting your will power to the test:  This is probably the most important step in the whole process.  Turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven in the water bath as it cools down for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and water bath, then cool cheesecake completely at room temperature for another 1-2 hours. Then refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours or overnight.

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EAT: Use a knife to loosen the chilled cheesecake from the rim of the springform pan, then remove the rim. Using a clean sharp knife, cut into slices for serving. For neat slices, wipe the knife clean and dip into warm water between each slice.

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Sweet, Treats

Orange, Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Pudding

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This is a flavorful way to jazz up boxed pudding mix.  The finished product can be enjoyed on its own or used to fill cakes, top fruit or layer in a trifle.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 box of Godiva white chocolate vanilla bean pudding mix (good stuff, yum !)
  • peel of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • candied oranges or other dried fruit and nuts for garnish.

Method:

  • Add peel of 1 orange, 2 cinnamon sticks to 2 cups of milk and gently simmer for 15-20 mins.

 

 

  • Cool the flavored milk completely.
  • Strain the milk to remove peel and sticks.

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  • Mix in the pudding mixture, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps.

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  • Once the pudding starts to thicken, stir in orange zest and ground cinnamon (Use a spoon/spatula for this step–the zest will wrap into the wires of the whisk).

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  • Serve chilled with candied oranges and golden raisins.  Nuts would taste really good too.

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