Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's like rolling down a hill, pastry style

May 2009 Daring Baker’s Challenge: Strudel

Dough recipe from Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rogers

Never before have I had so much fun baking. I’ll let the pictures explain.

First, the dough:

Yes, that is a bed sheet on the table. I didn’t have a table cloth, and it turns out it’s necessary to cover the table in cloth to prevent sticking and to allow the strudel rolling/wrapping/flopping that is so much fun.

Then, the filling. The first I made was strawberry rhubarb with cheesecake. I put about 1.5 pounds of strawberries into a pan, added maybe a half pound rhubarb, some sugar and a little bit of water. This simmered for 20 minutes or so.

In the meantime, I made a cheesecake-like filling by mixing 16 ounces of cream cheese, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons butter, ¾ cup sugar, and ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract.

I coated the dough with butter, added the toasted bread crumbs, and then put down my cheese mixture in a line at one end. I topped with the strawberry rhubarb compote, and flipped over the end of the dough.

Then, just like the recipe instructed, I lifted the end of the sheet, toppling the strudel log over itself over and over again, until it was completely wrapped up at the other side of the table. It worked!

I transferred to a baking sheet and cooked for about 30 minutes.

Then, I did it all over again! The second time was slightly different. I made a chocolate almond strudel that had filling all over the rolled out dough, so the dough and filling were in layers throughout the log. I beat 3 egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar, separately whipped the egg whites, and then combined the two. I spread this over the entire dough (no breadcrumbs needed this time because the filling itself would separate the dough layers). I then sprinkled 4 ounces semi sweet chocolate and 3 ounces minced toasted almonds.

I rolled it up the same way as the first, and baked for about 40 minutes.

They turned out pretty well. At first I thought the strawberry rhubarb one was the best thing I had ever tasted, but after my initial response I felt it was a little too sweet. It was also very difficult to slice both, and they ended up pretty messy once cut. They were so fun to make though, they could have ended up horrible and I still would have been happy. Okay, probably not, but seriously, these were fun to make.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Agave Nectar Cheesecake

Daring Bakers April 2009 Challenge: Cheesecake

This month our challenge was simple: follow an easy cheesecake recipe from start to finish. But, as with most Daring Baker’s challenges, there was a twist: be as creative as possible.

I started out thinking of modifications from girl scout cookies to tropical fruit, but before I could decide for sure, a challenge presented itself. I was invited to a potluck dinner for which the guest of honor did not eat refined sugar.

How to make cheesecake with no refined sugar? The question intrigued me and I decided to make it my recipe modification.

After much debate, I decided to sub agave nectar (Trader Joe’s sells it) for sugar, and to make the graham cracker crust with almonds. So the recipe ended up as:

2 cups finely chopped roasted almonds
1 stick butter
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla

Blended in Cuisinart, pressed into the bottom of a 9” round pan. I baked this for 10 minutes before adding the batter.

24 oz creamcheese
¾ cup agave nectar
3 large eggs
¾ cup heavy cream (reduced to make up for the additional liquid)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vanilla

I mixed the cake ingredients, poured into the crust, and rested the pan in a larger pan of hot water. I put this in the oven at 325 (reduced because agave nectar is supposed to brown at a lower temp than sugar).

This was all easy. Deciding when it was done, however, was hard. Bake until the top is almost set? I’ve never made cheesecake before, but I found this very vague. So I turned off the heat when the center was still wobbly, and left it in the cooling oven for one hour, as suggested. The center was just set by the end of this, and I put it in the freezer overnight.

The next morning I flipped it out of the pan, while frozen (I didn’t use a springform pan because I was afraid the water bath would leak, and had read this was a good way to get out cheesecakes made in regular pans). It defrosted all day in the fridge. Right before I left for the potluck I sliced some strawberries and kiwis and decorated the top and sides.

Overall it tasted pretty good, but the texture was sort of suspicious. I don’t know how this recipe would have turned out anyway, so I don’t know if it’s the agave nectar’s fault. It was just a little too creamy for me; I wanted to see internal structure to the cake, like crumbs of mush, but instead it was smooth as a custard. But, like I said, the taste was great and I liked the way it looked, so overall it would say it was a success.

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