Friday, March 20, 2009
Miniature Strawberry Cheesecakes

My, now ex-, roommate always seems to provide the perfect excuse for baking up treats that I could never justify baking simply on a whim--and with only myself responsible for consuming them all. Her recent birthday meant that it was her turn to choose her dessert of choice and she insisted on strawberries. Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore strawberries, can't get enough of them. However, prior to her request I had just spent the past few weeks trying to exhaust the seemingly infinite amount of strawberries my mother brought me from Costco. Plus the fact that my boyfriend's birthday was also due at the end of the month and strawberries were also his favorite. Despite my desire to work with something new, I reluctantly adhered to her request and after the finished product was produced and consumed-very quickly, I might add-I can't say that I regret her choice one bit.

The cheesecakes themselves were simple; the graham cracker crust was to die for-I used cinnamon graham crackers from Trader Joes which lent a much richer taste to the crust than the standard graham cracker. Unfortunately, I'm posting this almost a week after the fact, and I've forgotten where I got the recipe for the strawberries. Let me assure you that you don't need it. These cheesecakes are delightful enough plain and any topping imaginable would suit them. I've tried them with balsamic strawberries and even bananas, whipped cream, and a drizzle of caramel sauce-reminiscent of the banana cream cheesecake that used to be my favorite at the Cheesecake Factory. With these cheesecakes, anything goes.

Miniature Cheesecakes

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese 3/4 cup white sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs 8 tablespoons butter 8 tablesponns sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line miniature muffin tins (tassie pans) with miniature paper liners.

2. Mix graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar together with your hands or a fork, and place 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture into each paper cup.

3. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Fill each miniature muffin liner with this mixture, almost to the top.

4. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool.

[The pictures are of my roommate and her boyfriend. The unfortunate drawback of always being the photographer is that I am always behind the camera. Haha. ]

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Vanilla & Orange Bavarian Custard

Ate at Va de Vi in Walnut Creek a few nights ago with my mom. The tapas style dishes were to die for, but it was the dessert sampler that truly made my nigh: miniature versions of the vanilla and orange bavarian custard, the huckleberry bread pudding, the profiteroles, and the Guittard chocolate souffle. Of course, due to the fact that the lighting in most restaurants is too dim for pictures decent enough for sharing, the only picture I have to offer is of the dessert we brought home for my sister to enjoy: a full size vanilla orange bavarian custard with caramelized bananas and brown butter cake.

Time is short, so today I regretfully leave you with little more than this picture.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Chocolate Souffle

While a week out of school means that I finally have time to relax at home, it also means that I must also face those inevitable, perilous hours of temptation trying to stay as far away from the kitchen as possible. Unfortunately, I was always a lover, not a fighter, and the irresistible calling of sweet possibilities always gets me. Being back in the kitchen felt so natural and so therapeutic and of course, the finished product was a reward in and of itself. My sweet tooth urge is my ever present companion, it's just up to me how I choose to express it in the kitchen.

Today, my sweet craving materialized in the form of an individual chocolate souffle. That's also a big factor in choosing a recipe for me, individual servings, which means no leftovers, no tempting extras waiting to be devoured. Just one little treat, just one time. Unfortunately, because I choose to bake this up in my small toaster oven in order to save electricity, the top came out slightly burned because even on the lowest rack, the souffle was too close to the top of the oven. Regardless of this minor flaw, the souffle was rich on flavor and light in texture; enjoyed with a side of vanilla bean ice cream and freshly sliced strawberries.

Chocolate Souffle

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup (1 oz.) confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon chocolate liqueur

1. Lightly butter two 6-ounce souffle dish and dust with granulated sugar, tapping out excess. Set the ramekins on a small baking sheet.Set aside.

2. In bowl over saucepan of hot water (not boiling)or in a microwave, melt chocolate with butter.Remove from the heat and whisk until glossy and smooth. Stir in the chocolate liqueur and the salt.

3. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form, and beat in 3 tablespoon of the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form.

4. In another bowl, beat egg yolks with remaining sugar until thick and pale yellow. Beat in chocolate mixture until incorporated. Fold in one-quarter of the egg whites; gently fold in remaining whites. Divide into prepared container. (Can be prepared to this point and refrigerated for up to 4 hours or freeze for up to two weeks.)

5. Place dish on baking sheet. Bake in lower third of 375 degrees F oven for 18 minutes or until puffed and the exterior is set but interior is still a bit loose and creamy and risen about 1 inch above the ramekin.Careful not to overbake. Dust souffles with powdered sugar and serve immediately as is or with vanilla ice cream or creme anglaise. (To bake straight from the freezer, unwrap the ramekins and set on a small baking sheet or jellyroll pan. Let them sit for 20 min. while heating the oven to 400°F. Bake on the baking sheet until puffed and risen about 1 inch above the ramekin, 18 min.)