Chocolate Cheesecake

7 01 2016

So, after making several cotton cheesecakes for my friends, the requested I make an American cheesecake for the dinner party we were having. A chocolate American cheesecake. I’ve never made an American cheesecake before because I don’t like them. The combination of sweet with cheese is a little off-putting for me. The cotton cheesecake was tolerable since the cheese flavor is very mild. 

Anyway, I decided to use a Nigella Lawson recipe. I know it’s a bit ironic to make an American cheesecake from a recipe by a British woman but the Martha Stewart recipe was complicated. I just wanted to make something simple. So onto the ingredients!

Ingredients

For the crust/base

  • 1 1/3 cups of graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

For the filling

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
  • 2 1/2 cups cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 tbsp custard powder l
  • 3 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp hot water

For glaze

  • 3 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp dark corn syrup

  
The first step is to preheat the oven to 350F and boil some water. 

Now to make the crust for the cheesecake. Put the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and cocoa powder into a food processor to mix everything together. The mixture should end up damp and clumpy. Next, dump the mixture into a 9″ springform pan. Press the crumbs down evenly and place it into the freezer. I used a measuring cup as a press to ensure a flat surface. 
  
Now to make the filling. I melted the chocolate in the microwave. I was lazy and didn’t want to set up a double boiler. Then I beat the cream cheese until softened. This was pretty easy since all my cream cheese was in softened tub form rather than a big stick. 

  
Next I added the custard powder and sugar and mixed them until they were all combined. Now time for the eggs. The recipe said to add the whole eggs first then the egg yolks. I just all one egg at a time. And I used the left over egg yolks I had from making macarons. So many macarons…

Anyway, once they were combined I added the cocoa powder. Now, the cocoa powder had to be dissolved in the boiling water first. This made a clumpy mess when I was trying to mix it but with vigorous beating it finally dissolved. Good thing I have a tiny tiny whisk that fit into the small measuring cup I was using. 

So, I beat everything together until it was smooth. Next, I took the springform pan out of the freezer and lined the outside with plastic wrap and tinfoil. This prevents water from getting into the pan when baking it in the water bath. Similar to the cotton cheesecake recipe. 

Now I poured the mixture into the springform pan. I placed the pan into a larger baking pan and the places it int the oven. Next I poured boiling water into the larger pan until it came half way up the springform pan. Then I closed the oven and baked the cheesecake for an hour.  

 
I started checking the cake at the 50 minute mark. The top of the cake should be set but it should still wobble underneath. Once the hour was up, I took the cheesecake out of the oven, peeled away the plastic wrap and tinfoil and allowed it to cool on a wire rack. One it has cooled enough, put it in the fridge to set. It should sit for a minimum for 4 hours but best overnight. I made this at the last minute for the dinner party so I only let it set for 3.5 hours! 

As it was cooling, I made the glaze. It’s basically a chocolate gnoche. I melted the chocolate in a double boiler (I couldn’t be lazy and use the microwave) along with the cream and corn syrup. When the chocolate was nearly melted I took it off the stove and whisked it smooth. 

I don’t really like splattering chocolate over cakes since I think it’s messy. Instead I poured it over the surface of the cake. It made a nice gnoche layer on top. 

Well, I had to race to the party because I was running late. Lucky I could let the cheesecake set some more in their fridge since we were having it last. It turned out well. Everyone enjoyed it. 

  
I thought it was fine. I would make it again if requested.





Flour Sifter

5 01 2016

I got another new toy! Again, another baking tool but a nice one. It’s a flour sifter. 

  

So, the shopping spree on baking tools has been primarily to improve the quality of the macarons I’ve been making. The silpat was so I can stop going though rolls of parchment paper. The flour sifter will be used to remove the really large lumps of almond meal. 

I selected this specific one for the handle. I had an old flour sifter that required a squeezing action on the handle. This would sift the flour but rotating some blades. It was a pain to use because it would require consecutive squeezes to sift s large amount of flour. Also, I could never clean it properly because there were two screens and flour would get trapped in between. The double screen was great for sifting though. 

This new one is a lot easier to use since it has a crank on the side. No more hand crams from squeezing like crazy. Also, there is only one mesh screen. Not as even a consistency with the sifted flour but much easier to clean. 

I highly recommend getting this flour sifter. 





Cotton Cheesecake (Japanese Cheesecake)

31 12 2015

There has been a lot of media coverage about Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake. Specifically about the crazy line-ups outside the shop. Apparently it’s the first franchise outside of Asia and people are flocking to it. People were waiting an hour just to purchase a $12 cake!

Personally, this is crazy! I wouldn’t want to wait outside (yes, outside since the shop can’t handle a lot of people) for an hour to buy an 8 inch cheesecake. I decided that I would go online and find a recipe. I ended up finding a great recipe on the website RunAwayRice. There’s even a YouTube video for the recipe. It didn’t look hard to make but there were a lot of steps. Anyway, onto the ingredients!

Ingredient

  • 8 oz cream cheese 
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 5 large eggs 
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter 
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch

So, the first step was line a spring form pan with parchment paper. This is necessary to prevent the sides of the cake from browning. I don’t have a real spring form pan so I used a bunt pan. 

  

 Lining the middle portion was not easy. I had to get rather creative to get everything shaped properly. Next I covered the bottom of the pan with a double layer of aluminum foil. This is to keep water from seeping into the pan since baking it requires a water bath. I didn’t have a big enough sheet to cover the entire bottom so I had to get creative. I made a bigger sheet by folding two sheets together. It kinda worked. 

Anyway, now to the eggs. I separated they whites from the yolk and placed them in two different containers. 

 

The egg whites were placed in the mixing bowl of the stand mixer. From here I beat the eggs on a low speed until they started to get foamy. Next I added the cream of tartar and increased the speed to medium. Once the egg whites begin to thicken I increased the speed and gradually added sugar. I kept beating the egg whites until they formed soft peaks. Then I set it aside and moved to the next step. 
  
In another bowl I put the cream cheese and milk. Since I only had one stand mixer bowl I beat these together by hand until it formed a smooth mixture. This was not a fun experience since I’ve been completely spoiled by the stand mixer. I thought wouldn’t have to mix anything by hand again when I got it. I guess I was wrong.

  

Next I added the butter, sugar, and lemon juice and beat it until everything was incorporated. Then I added the flour and cornstarch and mixed until it was smooth. Finally, I added the egg yolks and mixed them in.  

  
There was a lot of hand mixing. I was not happy. Anyway, I begin to incorporate the egg whites into the mixture in thirds. This just helps prevent deflating the egg whites. I used a gentle folding motion as well. 

  
Finally, I poured the mixture into the pan. Then I dropped the pan onto the table a couple of times to knock out large air bubbles. 

Finally it was ready to bake. I had pre-heat the oven to 315F and placed the water bath inside. Now I just lowered the cake into the bath and let it bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. I kept monitoring the cake as well to make sure I wasn’t burning anything or ran out of water. 

After the allotted time had passed, I checked the cake with a toothpick. It came out clean! I let it bake for another 10 minutes to brown the top then turned off the oven. I left the oven door open a crack to let it cool down with the cake inside. This is to help prevent the cake from shrinking when it cools. This often causes the surface of the cake to take on wrinkly appearance. I don’t think it worked though since my cake wrinkled. 

  
I also had a hell of a time pulling it out of the bunt pan. I kept touching the surface of the cake and the browned portion stuck to my hands. I was rather unimpressed. Also, the tinfoil didn’t work very well and some water got in at the end. The bottom was a little soggy.

Anyway, the recipe required the cake sit a couple of hours to overnight in the fridge to get the desired cheesecake texture. I did this and the next day I cut a slice to test for breakfast. It tasted weirdly like fish… I asked my brother and friends to taste it as well and they all agreed. I think either my cream cheese was weird or my eggs went off. This made me upset so I decided to try it again!

This time, I used a normal cake pan and lined the sides. This eliminated the need for paper towels. I also used fresh eggs and a new container of cream cheese. Also, the oven cooling method seemed to work better. 

  
After the appropriate Amount of chill time in the fridge I cut a slice and devoured it. The cake was delicious. I now know why people (who can’t bake) would stand in line for this cheesecake. It felt like I was eating a cloud! There was just a hint of cheese flavour to the cake unlike traditional cheesecakes which I find overwhelming. 

It’s a bit of a hassle to make but I would definately make it again!





Silpat

29 12 2015

I got a new toy! Well, not so much a toy than a pad… A silpat!

  
It’s basically is reuable parchment paper. The silpat is a mesh silicone sheet that can act as a non-stick surface when making baked goods and confections. There are several knock-off brands that are cheaper but You can’t beat the original.

I had one a long time ago but I used it so frequently that it broke down. I didn’t know that silpats should be replaced every few years. Mine was chipped around the edges, heavily discoloured, and cracked. 

I highly recommend getting one if you do a lot of baking. I used to go through a lot of parchment paper but this helped cut that down dramatically. Also, I’d recommend getting a separate silpat for savoury and for sweet. It’s a pain the clean off when switching between baking gougeres and macarons… Wow that sounded really pretentious. 

 





Triple Chocolate Cookies

24 12 2015

These cookies are amazing! They’re made from three different types of chocolate: melted chocolate, chocolate chunks/chips, and cocoa powder. They basically turn into a brownie cookie loaded with chocolate. I’ve made them a few times to give out at work and they’ve always been a hit. It’s a recipe from Martha Stewart. Anyway, here are the ingredients!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 ounces chocolate or 4 ounces chocolate and 4 ounces chocolate chips
  • 8 tsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

So, to begin, I preheat the oven to 325F. Next I whisk together all the dry ingredients (i.e. flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt).

  

Next I melt the chocolate and butter in a small heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. 

 

Ensure that the chocolate is finely chopped and the butter is cut up into small pieces. This just helps them to melt faster so the mixture doesn’t heat up to much. If the temperature is too high and you end up scrambling the eggs when you add them. Also, stir the butter and chocolate as it is melting. This will help distribute the heat around.

After the butter and sugar have melted, transfer the mixture to the stand mixer. Add the sugar to the mixer and mix on medium-low until it is combined. 

 
The mixture will look very grainy and almost like the chocolate has seized. Do not panic because this is how it’s suppose to look. Slowly add the flour to the mixer set on a low speed. When I first made these I turned the mixer up and shot flour all over the kitchen. After everything is incorporated the mixture should have the texture of ice cream. At this point add the chocolate chucks/chips and fold them in. 

  

Now time to roll out the cookies. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, make 1.5 inch balls and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet inches apart. 

  

My cookies don’t really spread like the recipe states so I usually just flatten them out myself. Now, bake these cookies for about 10-15 minutes. You need to watch them and wait for cracks to form on the surface. Once that occurs take them out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack. 

  
So, last time I brought these cookies to work they got devoured. It’s a great recipe and I will keep making it for a long time.





Tonkatsu

22 12 2015

I love tonkatsu. It’s one of my favourite go-to dishes at Japanese restaurants when I’m not in the mood for sushi (which does happen from time to time). But seriously, who wouldn’t want a deep fried pork chop? Anyway, the recipe I used was from a site called (ironically) norecipes.com. So, let’s go on to the ingredients!

Ingredients

For the tonkatsu

  • Pork chops
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • Oil
  • Panko bread crumbs

  
For the tonkatsu sauce

  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 1/8 tsp sugar

Notice I did not put any weights or measures in the list of ingredients for the tonkatsu because this is highly dependant on the number of pork chops used. The recipe was for 4 pork chops while I used 6 so I needed more. The amounts will be a judgement call. Also, it was the first time I had to buy vegetable oil in a 4L jug. I ended up only using 1L. I gave the rest of the oil to my mother. 

The tonkatsu sauce was made from a recipe found on justonecookbook.com.

To begin the actual cooking of tonkatsu, place the the panko and beaten egg in 2 separate containers. 

  
Cover both sides of the pork chops with the salt and pepper then dust all the meat with flour. Coat the chops with egg evenly before dredging them through the panko. 

Meanwhile, put the oil into a pot and heat it to 145F. I didn’t fill the oil up very high. It was just enough to submerge the pork chops. 

  
I used my candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil. I should have used something else since it was a nightmare to clean afterwards.

Anyway, I fried the pork chops one by one and let them drain on a wire rack lined with paper towels. 

  
To ensure they are cooked properly, the panko should turn a nice golden brown. I flipped them once during the frying process to make sure they were completely cooked and evenly brown. This took about 7-10 minutes. 

  
As you can see, I may have left a couple of them in for too long. They turned a very deep brown.

So, I obviously am not going to eat 6 pork chops so I packaged up 4 of them and sliced up the other 2. I served them with a side of gai-lan and hoisin sauce. 

  
The tonkatsu sauce I made very quickly by whisking all the ingredients together until it was smooth and uniform. 

This dish turned out really well! I was very impressed by the sauce and the tonkatsu was perfect. I actually ended up eating this every day for a week but I didn’t mind. I would definately make this again if I can get over the scary amont of oil I used. 





Macarons… Many many times over…

15 12 2015

Macarons are an amazing little cookie that’s insanely complicated to make! I’ve had a vague idea about what they were when I was younger but got them confused with macaroons. Why would people make cookies with almost identical names!?!? 

Later in life I finally figured out which cookie was which and had the opportunity to try them. I was hooked! Crisp outer shell; light and airy cookie; and delicious fillings. And with so much variety!

I never really attempted make them until I saw an episode of Top Chef Canada where one of the cheftestants (I hate that word!) made it for one of the elimination challenges. It looked so simple that I had to try it!

I did a lot of research on making the perfect macaron. The first thing I learned was there were 2 methods to making the meringue: French and Italian. I wanted to focus on the French method since macarons are classically French. Also, I was a little nervous about making a super hot sugar solution on the stove top for the meringue. The next thing I learned was exactly how precise all the measurements needed to be. Every recipe I saw online required a digital scale to get down to the exact gram! The first few attempts I did it by volume measurement. That didn’t work out well so I broke down and bought a digital scale. 

I learned that a very exact procedure is required to make the cookie portion. Beating the egg whites for exactly 2 minutes at different speeds until the right texture, what food dyes are required to colour the meringue, folding the components together exactly 35 to 45 times, resting the piped meringue mixture to form a crust, and rotating the cookies half way through the baking process for even heating. Skip any of these and the cookies won’t form properly. 

Finally, I learned how finicky these treats were due to weather and temperature! If it was too humid they won’t form the crust. If the eggs whites are too cool they won’t get enough volume. If the oven is too hot the cookies will crack. Lots of little details.
Anyway, I decided that I would follow the Martha Stewart recipe for meringues. It’s on the Cookie app that I’ve already made several delightful baked goods from. Also, Martha wouldn’t lead me astray! So, let’s get to the ingredients.

Ingredients:

For normal macarons

  • 100g ground blanched almonds or almond meal/flour
  • 180g confectioner (powdered or icing) sugar
  • 100g egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 35 grams superfine or castor sugar
  • Gel colour

For chocolate macarons

  • 100g ground blanched almonds or almond meal/flour
  • 170g confectioner (powdered or icing) sugar
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 100g egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 35 grams superfine or castor sugar

  
So, the first thing I did was to weigh out all the ingredients. Then I dumped the almond flour and powdered/icing sugar into a food processor (i.e. the ninja). The superfine sugar I put into a measuring cup. The egg whites I dumped into the kitchen aid bowl. I separated the eggs while they were cold and let them warm to room temperature. 

Next, I processed the sugar and almond flour until everything was very fine. 

  
The almond flour and sugar are going to be suspended in the egg whites so the fine mixture is needed. Most commercially available almond flour still has larger almond particles in it. If these larger particles were mixed with the meringue it could prevent it from rising properly and the cookies would have a gritty texture. 

  

Now for the meringue… The fun fun meringue. I’ve posted about meringues before but these are much trickier. Normal meringues don’t have to suspend another solid within them. They are simply egg whites and sugar with some food coloring. The meringue for the macarons must be able to suspend an almond and sugar mixture. So, to accomplish this there are several tricks that can be used. First off, all the utensils must be dirt and oil free. This can inhibit the emulsification of the egg whites. The egg whites must also be room temperature. The colder the egg whites the less volume is generated when beating. The recipe also calls for aging the egg whites. Aging egg whites causes them to dehydrate and form a stiffer meringue. I personally don’t like this because leaving egg whites around for 1-2 days makes me a little nervous. So, I read that of you microwave the whites for 10 seconds to simulate the aging process. I personally don’t age them since I don’t want to tempt food poisoning. So, I put the egg whites into the mixing bowl of the stand mixer and start beating with a ballon whisk attachment at a low speed (number 2 on the stand mixer). I beat it until a light froth forms. This takes about 30-45 seconds. Then I add the cream of tartar. The cream of tartar helps stabilize the emulsification of the eggs. 

  
I increase the mixer to medium speed (number 4 on the stand mixer) and beat until I start getting lots of foam. This usually takes 2-3 minutes. At this point a slowly start to add the sugar. Superfine sugar is required for the meringue because it will dissolve more easily in the egg whites.

  
After the sugar is added I increase the stand mixer to medium high (number 6 on the stand mixer) and beat until soft peaks formed. 

At this point I added the food colouring. Now, this step is not necessary. You can continue to beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. I just like to colour my macaroons. Also, do not use liquid food colouring. They will add moisture to the mixed and potentially prevent the meringue from forming. I used gel colours which is colouring inside a solution of corn syrup. Add as much as required until the meringue takes on the desired colour. 

 
Now, continue beating the eggs until the meringue just forms stiff peaks. Do not over beat the eggs as it will cause the meringue to break. The meringue should form a point that doesn’t flop over when pulling the whisk straight up from the mixture. 

  
Now, add the dry mixture to the meringue. 

  
I used a flour sifter to add the dry ingredients. This is needed because the ground almond still had larger chunks in it. That’s not pleasant in a macaron. Also, the powdered sugar gets a bit clumpy. Sifting the sugar helps to break it apart so there isn’t a huge blob in the mix. 

  
Now, time to fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. Basically, I ran the spatula around the side and bottom of the bowl then pushed it through the middle of the mixture. This kept the sides of the bowl clean and mixed anything at the bottom of the bowl into the meringues. I always end up folding 40-50 times. Basically I get it to the consistency of molten lava. It can fall in ribbons when picked up and reincorporates into the main body of the mixture after a couple of seconds.

  

After everything was incorporated, I filled a piping bag with the mixture. I stood the piping bag inside a yogurt container to steady it while filling. Then I piped 1 inch disks onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

  

Piping perfect disks is requires a little bit of skill. Skill that I lack! I usually make approximate blobs and hope that 2 of them match. I’ve seen videos of people laying a stencil underneath the parchment paper to follow but I’m too lazy.

Now I let the cookies form a crust for 30-60 minutes before baking them in the oven. The crust is necessary to form the ‘foot’ on the cookie. As the cookie bakes, the expanding air has only one path to go out and that is through the bottom. This makes for the bubbling effect. 

Anyway, to bake the cookies! The oven needs to be preheated at 350F. The cookies need to be placed in the top 3rd of the oven for 12-14 minutes, rotating the tray half way through. I tend to go about 14 minutes since my oven temperature is pretty uneven. This also forces me to only bake one tray at a time. My oven will burn a second sheet of macarons. A good way to test if they’ve finished baking is to see if the cookie just released from the parchment. Also if you touch the top of the cookie and give it a wiggle the tops should not move separately from the bottom. If they’re still very sticky or wiggly then bake for another minute or 2. Unless it’s the chocolate macarons. They have some serious issues when baking. I just bake them until the they stop wiggling. 

After they finish baking, set the cookies on a cooling rack and allow to sit until completely cooled. 

  
These are perfect! Unfortunate, the second tray did not com out as well…

  
The cracking in the top of the cookies can be caused by a lot of different issues:

  • The batter was too wet with from too much mixing or just moisture in the air.
  • The shell didn’t form on the cookie properly. 
  • The oven was too hot.

They also didn’t form any feet. This can because by:

  • Wet batter form over mixing. 
  • Improper she’ll formation.
  • Knocking out all the air from the meringue from Over mixing the batter.
  • Bad luck.

Anyway, once the cookie has cooled completely it’s time to assemble them! I usually sort all the cookies by size and pair them up. This ensures that there won’t be a trapezoidal cookie. Next I put a small amount of filling on the flat side of the cookie. I don’t put a huge glob and and I spread it to the edges. This prevents over filling and messy macarons. I’ve used a variety of fillings before such as lemon curd, chocolate ganache, vanilla butter cream, and dolce de leche. Now sandwich the cookies and press they together gently. 

  
So, that was a pretty one I made. I’ve made some hideous ones as well. 

  
These were the cracked ones in chocolate. I didn’t let a crust form properly. 

  
The batter was too stiff and I didn’t blend the almond in properly. Again, issues with the chocolate ones. 

So, that’s how I make macarons. I think that they taste better after being stored in the fridge for a day. It allows the flavours to mingle. But eating them after assembly is good too! Everyone that has had them have said they’re amazing. And every time I make them I work out more issues. After all this time (it’s been almost 8 months since my first attempt) I think I’ve finally learned how to make a proper macaron!