Monday, April 27, 2009

Orange & Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

I love being a Daring Baker, but there are some months when I LOOOOOOVE being a Daring Baker. Love, loff, LURVE.

April is one of those months. Our host, Jenny of Jenny Bakes, gave us a base recipe -- "Abby's Infamous Cheesecake" -- and let us adapt the hell out of it.

It was awesome.

I knew I wanted to serve this cheesecake as part of Easter Brunch, so I wanted to keep the flavors light and bright. Orange was a natural choice (and afforded me the opportunity to try my hand at candying oranges for decoration, too). I added the seeds from a vanilla bean, too.

The result is seriously delicious cheesecake; creamy and dreamy, with a perfect balance of orange and vanilla. (And no cracks on the top!) We devoured it.

One note: this cheesecake isn't as firm as others I've made, but I'm not sure if that simply what the recipe yields, or if I should have baked it a tad longer.

No matter: it's a delicious cheesecake, a wonderful recipe ready for endless adaptations, and one of my favorite DB challenges. Thank you Jenny for a great challenge!

Check out hundreds upon hundreds of other cheesecake variations through the Daring Bakers' Blog roll.

Orange Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 Tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
2 Tbsp. grated orange zest
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

Combine cream cheese, sugar and zest in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, and orange juice and blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. Wrap bottom of pan tightly with aluminum foil to prevent leaks.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Bake cheesecake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven 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 cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill (preferably overnight). Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chili Garlic Shrimp

I spotted Jasmine's recipe for Chili Garlic Shrimp on her blog Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and started drooling. Oh God, did it look good and Oh God, did I have to make it.

This recipe does not disappoint. Sweet, spicy, salty, fishy (in a good way!) -- it's just too delicious. Shane and I inhaled it, fighting over every last morsel. Jasmine served it with glass noodles, though I served it over some brown rice so every little bit of sauce could be soaked up.

Mmmm, delicious.

Chili Garlic Shrimp