Friday, March 30, 2012

Polka Dot Cheesecake

Polka Dot Cheesecake
Source: Maida Heatter's Cakes (Andrews & McMeel Publishing, 2011 ed.), pg. 132.

Maida has a lot of cheesecake recipes and I'm surprised I'm just now getting around to making one. This one immediately caught my eye because it is so unique. As Maida says in her introduction, it is not difficult at all and your friends will be amazed. It is also very creamy and delicious!

First of all, it is recommended that you use a round cheesecake pan measuring 8 x 3 inches. I only have a 9" springform pan so I used that. I think the polka-dot effect would be more noticeable if I had used the smaller pan (and the cake would have been taller).

Also a note about the crust. The recipe calls for you to make the cake without the crust and apply the graham cracker crumbs with your hand after the cake has finished baking. This sounds like a huge kitchen mess waiting to happen so I made the traditional cheesecake crust that I normally do (see below). Aside from the crust, I followed the recipe exactly. 

The Crust:
Forgive me Maida for not following your directions for the crust but I wasn't going to attempt inverting the cake and then applying the crumbs by hand to the bottom of the cake. Instead I relied on the graham cracker crust I always use. Combine 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 stick of melted butter in a bowl. Mix thoroughly with a fork. Place the crumb mixture in the baking pan and press it firmly on the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.


2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 lbs. cream cheese, softened (use Philadelphia brand)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs

Adjust oven rack to lowest position in the oven and preheat to 350. Butter an 8x3 cheesecake pan (or springform pan) all the way up the rim. A larger pan will be also be needed for the water bath as the cake is baking. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot water on low heat. Set aside.
Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until it is completely smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the sugar. Beat well and then add the eggs one at a time. After adding the eggs, do not beat any more than necessary to mix.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and place 2 cups of the mixture in a separate bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix well (you can use a hand mixer for this).
Spray the buttered cake pan with nonstick spray and pour in the light-colored mixture (not the chocolate mixture).
Place the chocolate mixture in a large pastry bag (or you can use a decorator press like I did). Place the tip of the tube in the center of the cake (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in) and squeeze out some of the chocolate mixture (about the size of a golf ball).
Now, using the same procedure as above, add more dots around the edges. (To do evenly, first add a ball of chocolate to the 12:00 position, then the 6:00 position, 3:00, 9:00, etc.) The dots around the edges should be smaller than the center one).

The top of the cake will not be smooth and level but it will level during baking. 

If using a springform pan, wrap it in foil. Set the pan inside the larger pan and add hot water about 1 - 1 1/2 inches high. Bake for 1 1/2 hours (90 minutes).
After baking, the top of the cake will be golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 2 1/2 hours. After cooling completely, refrigerate for several hours or overnight. To serve, run hot water over a sharp knife and make your cuts through the center of the dots.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chocolate Cream Cheese Pie

Chocolate Cream Cheese Pie
Source: Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts (Andrews & McMeel Publishing, 1999 ed.), pg. 381.

Very easy to make and very delicious, especially if you love chocolate. It has to be refrigerated for a few hours or preferably overnight to set up. I didn't have any luck getting it to slice attractively so I did not get a "serving shot". 


1 1/4 cups graham crumbs
1 TBS sugar
3 oz. (3/4 stick) butter, melted

Adjust rack to center of oven and preheat to 350. Mix the crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a large bowl (you can use a fork or spoon to do the mixing). Turn into a 9-inch pie plate. Use your fingertips to spread the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom and sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool, then chill.

3 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350. 

Melt both chocolates in the top of a double boiler over warm water over moderate heat. I have found this is the best method for melting chocolate. I've never had success melting it in the microwave. I first bring the water to a boil (before putting the pan of chocolate over it) and then lower the heat to the lowest setting. I then place the pan of chocolate in place and let it melt slowly. After it has melted, set is aside to cool.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth. If the cream cheese is still cold, this is not easily done. It is best to let the cream cheese sit at room temperature in advance. If you forget to do that (or decide to bake at the spur of the moment - this happens to me quite a lot!), you can soften it by using the microwave. However, do this carefully and by small increments of time. You don't want runny cream cheese!

Add the salt, sugar and vanilla, and mix well. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the chocolate, mixing well.

Turn the mixture into the prepared pie crust and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

You can serve the pie as is or you can add this topping (I didn't do this):

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBS confectioners sugar
2 bananas

In a small chilled bowl with chilled beaters whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar until the cream holds a shape. Place eight large spoonfuls of the cream around the edge of the pie.
Just before serving, slice the bananas on a sharp angle forming eight long slices. Place one slice of banana standing on its edge in each mound of whipped cream.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Black Bottom Pie

Black Bottom Pie
Source: Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts (Andrews & McMeel Publishing, 1999 ed.), pg. 359.

This recipe is a variation of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (author of "The Yearling", "Cross Creek" and "Cross Creek Cookery"). Both recipes call for ginger (or gingersnaps) in the crust. I have to confess that I did not like the crust. The ginger was too strong and if I make it again, I will omit that. If you like ginger, you'll probably love it but if not, you are warned! Otherwise, this a light, creamy custard-like pie that has a lot of fans.

1 1/4 cups graham-cracker crumbs
1 TBS. sugar
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2 oz. (1/2 stick) sweet butter

Adjust oven rack to the center and preheat to 375 degrees.

Mix the crumbs with the sugar, ginger and cinnamon. Add the melted butter and stir.

Press the mixture against the sides of the pie plate (Maida recommends a glass plate). Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven until lightly browned around the edges.

2 oz. (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 TBS (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1 TBS cornstarch
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs, separated
1 3/4 cup milk
2 TBS dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Melt the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over hot water on moderate heat. Set aside to cool slightly.

Sprinkle the envelope of gelatin over the cold water and set aside.
Mix 1/2 cup of the sugar with the cornstarch and pinch of salt. Set aside. (Reserve the remaining sugar for later).

Place the egg yolks in the top of a double boiler and mix lightly with a wire whisk or fork.

In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, scald the milk. You will see small bubbles or a wrinkled skin on the surface of the milk when it is ready.
Stir in the sugar-cornstarch mixture.
Slowly pour the milk mixture into the yolks, stirring constantly. Cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring gently and scraping the pot with a rubber spatula. The custard should reach the consistency of a medium cream sauce. Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside. Remove 1 cup of the custard and set aside to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until tepid. For the remaining custard (in the double boiler) - add the softened gelatin and stir until dissolved. Stir in the rum and set aside.
Gradually add the 1 cup of reserved custard to the chocolate, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Mix until smooth. Add the vanilla, stir and turn the mixture into the prepared crust. Spread level and refrigerate.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the cream of tartar until the mixture increases in volume and starts to thicken. While beating, gradually add the reserved 1/2 cup of sugar and continue to beat until the mixture holds a shape - not stiff; it should be the consistency of thick marshmallow sauce. Gradually fold the rum custard into the beaten whites.

Pour this mixture over the chocolate layer, mounding it high in the center. (If there is too much filling, reserve some at room temperature. Chill the pie in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes or in the refrigerator for a bit longer to partially set the filling. Then pour on the reserved portion and it will not run over.)

Refrigerate the pie for 2-3 hours. Then prepare the following whipped cream.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 scant teaspoon vanilla extract

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip the ingredients until the cream holds a shape. Spread the cream evenly and smoothly over the filling. Or use a pastry bag fitted with a large star-shaped tube and form a heavy ruffled border. (Or spread the cream smoothly and sprinkle with grated or shaved chocolate)