Thursday, November 25, 2010

Baker's Apprentice.

Every year, my mom makes Thanksgiving dinner early and then heads to LA for the actual day. Her mom, sister, brother, and neices and nephews are all there, and my sister is a 5 hour drive away. This frees us up to spend the actual day at home with our little family and then at the inlaws' house for dinner.

As I like to do, I offered to make dessert. Let's be honest: dessert is the most fun part of the meal to make! I'm not much of a cook, but I might be one of the best bakers in the family, and I really love putting the time and creativity into making something delicious for people to savor.

My in laws are not huge into pumpkin pie. They do love pecan, but I'm not a big pecan fan and if I do make it I prefer to make it completely from scratch, which takes a lot more time and patience than I wanted to put into it this year. So instead I decided to do two desserts I've made in the past, but not in a long while: cheesecake with port wine cherry sauce and an apple steusel.

The cheesecake I put together last night because I wanted it to set overnight since most cheesecake recipes get a little better with timel.. I used this recipe (and though I've made cheesecake before, this was the first time with this particular recipe), adding a little pumpkin pie seasoning to the crust and some vanilla to the cake itself. I've yet to sample it, but I'm excited to. The frustrating part was that it took almost TWO HOURS more to bake than it said it would (if I'd read the reviews I'd have known this...lesson learned), so I had to wait until this morning to make the sauce to accompany it.

The crust was graham cracker, sugar, melted butter, and a touch of both cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.

That would be FIVE blocks of cream cheese. I chose this recipe over others specifically because of how unhealthy it sounded! Hey, go big or go home, right?

Hickmans eggs are local. I buy them whenever I can not only because they have cage free, they are local, and they are sold at a locally-owned grocery chain. I also buy them because Hickman donates thousands of eggs to food banks every year. It feels good to support a local business doing good things in its own community.

Stirring in the vanilla. I really wish I had whole vanilla beans to use, but I didn't plan ahead enough to get those this year.

Hm. So I have to admit I am hoping this tastes better than it looks. I'm a bit disappointed at the appearance, but seeing as how it's going to be smothered in that cherry sauce I mentioned, all that really matters is flavor.

Speaking of the cherry sauce, here it is. I loosely follow a recipe to make this, but add my own touches:

Port wine (you can use tawny or ruby...I used ruby), sugar, and a splash of vanilla. If you have vanilla beans, you can add them in at this point, and remove them before you add the cornstarch mixture (see below).

Pitted cherries. When cherries are in season, it's totally worth the effort and time to buy fresh and pit them yourself, but these were frozne which works as well.

Bring to a rolling boil, and stir continuously for about 5 minutes, until the cherries soften and break easily and the mixture is like very watery syrup.

Separately, mix cornstarch, fresh lemon juice, and a bit of water. Pour into boiling cherry mix, which will kill the boil for a few minutes. Wait for it to begin to boil again, and then reduce heat to a simmer.
When it's done, it will appear shiny and be thick, almost like cherry preserves. And it will taste so good you'll make excused to lick the bowl.

In addition to the cheesecake, I also made an apple struesel that I predict to be to die for. Luca helped with this, so here it is in photo essay format. I'll say this: I didn't use a specific recipe. With the sliced apples (skins on) I added lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg. The apples are granny smith, and for variety I added two sliced gala apples. I prebaked the pie crust for about 10 minutes with some butter brushed on it, then added the apple filling and placed foil over the top. Baked for about 15 minutes until the pie filling was bubbling, then took it back out and added the topping (whole oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, melted butter, a bit of flour) and put the foil back on. Baked for about 40 more minutes at 375 until it started to bubble over a bit.


Suzie @ cupcake monkey said...

Yummy yum yum!! You have me drooling. And I love that you use lemons from your tree and Hickman's eggs!...and I love that you cook with your kids.

Muffin Cake said...

Luca won't let me cook without her 'help'. Mostly I think she just likes stealing sugar-coated apples and sitting on the counter. But I LOVE doing it!!!


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