Monday, April 27, 2009

Tea and Cake...

I'm in! I've joined the Daring Bakers, a super-secret group that I've been wanting to be a member of since I first started reading blogs. Every month, members are assigned a recipe to bake - usually something difficult that we wouldn't try on our own or something fun that allows for a million different variations. The latter was the theme this month...

The April 2009 challenge was hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She chose Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Now, I am not a huge cheesecake fan - they're tasty, but I'm not sure I would ever order one at a restaurant. This one was fantastic though and I may just be a convert.

I modified Abbey's basic recipe to make an Earl Grey tea and lemon cheesecake with a ginger/honey crust. Love of loves. It is delicious. The filling is smooth and rich - sweet but not to sweet - and mellowed by the tea. I'm a fan of the crust too, which I made from Anna's Ginger Thins (a cookie I have a seriously unhealthy addiction to).

I strongly encourage you all to try your own hands at cheesecake making - it takes a bit of planning but is actually quite simple to make.

Earl Grey Cheesecake
(Modified from Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake)

Warning: This cake needs to be chilled overnight and it will need an hour for baking and another hour or two for cooling before refrigeration.

2 C (180g) Anna's Ginger Thins (or other crisp ginger cookie), crushed to crumbs
4 T butter, melted
2 T honey

3 sticks (24oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1 C sugar
3 large eggs
1 C heavy cream
5 bags Earl Grey tea
1 T lemon juice

Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Begin to boil a large pot of water on the stove for the water bath.

Heat heavy cream on the stove but don't boil. (I heated 2 cups of cream to avoid burning one cup and have set aside the extra cup for coffee or ice cream later this week.) When hot, pull off the burner and add the tea bags. Let cool. Wring out the tea bags into the cream (it's okay - probably preferable - if a little of the tea leaves fall into the cream) and strain. Store in the refrigerator.

Mix together the crust and press into the bottom of the pan.

Mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each one and scraping down the bowl before adding the next. Add the cup of heavy cream and lemon juice and blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour batter into the crust. tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all the air bubbles to the surface. Place the pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If the cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake holds together but still has a lot of jiggle in the center. It should be completely firm yet. Close the oven door; turn the heat off and let it cool for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and lift carefully out of the water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, then let it chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but water always seeped in and made the crust soggy (not so in my case). She now uses one of those one-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away. I've also seen folks use ramekins and muffin tins.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One more quick update for you...

...remember when Michelle Obama's organic garden at the White House took me by surprise?

Well, you're not going to believe this.

Isn't he the sweetest?

Pete made me a cake yesterday for my birthday... from scratch... and... not only was it the first cake he'd ever frosted - it was the first cake he'd ever made! I swear you'd never know... it's delicious. :O)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Whole Slew of Best Practices...

...and here I thought I was doing a good job of giving you one at a time.

Treehugger has put together the Best of Green Awards, recognizing the most eco-friendly companies, people, products, and practices in a number of categories:
The results are pretty fascinating and include best health legislation, best local food blog, best food movement, best practices by a big food brand, and many others.

What's more, you get to vote on the Best of the Best! So go check it out and weigh in on who's setting the best example.