Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bailey's Cheesecake, an Exceptional Cheesecake!

I often take inspiration from sights, sounds and certainly flavors that surrounded me while growing up. This post is also a trip into memory lane again like the last postDuring Christmas, as far as I can remember, tradition called for the offering of any visitor wishing us a Merry Christmas various sweet items such as chocolate, cake, dragĂ©e, and a small shot of liquor. Out of all the available options, my parents opted for Bailey's Irish Cream, and I can understand why! Though I could smell how delicious it was, I was not allowed to consume it of course. Once old enough, Bailey's was my first alcoholic experience, and it was love at first sip! Even till today, Bailey's remains one of my favorite drinks. 

In addition to drinking spirits and liquors, in moderation of course, I like to incorporate them into my cakes as they add another flavor dimension. Given how tasty Bailey's Irish Cream is, it is only appropriate that I use it in one of my recipes. The best candidate that I could think of was a cheesecake based recipe. I knew the combination would just work and I used the boozy cream in the three layers of the cake. I can't begin to describe how delicious it was, I just recommend that you try it and taste for yourself;  your taste buds will thank you for it! 

For the brownie base you need:
  • 75 g semisweet chocolate
  • 65 g unsalted butter
  • 50 g white sugar and 25 g dark brown sugar
  • 30 g flour
  • 1 egg
  • 5 g cocoa powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 tsp of Bailey's Irish Cream
Line an 18 cm pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray. 

Sift the flour and the cocoa powder and add the salt.

In a double boiler and over a gentle flame, melt the chocolate and butter. Add the instant coffee to the melted chocolate and butter mix and combine well until it dissolves. Coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, but don't add too much as its powerful taste can mask all other flavors!

When the chocolate mixture has cooled, add the sugar followed by the egg, Bailey's and the vanilla. Mix until everything is combined well. Now add the sifted dry ingredients, and mix well.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 10 to 15 min in a preheated oven (180 C). 

Leave it to cool.

For the cheesecake mix:
  • 600 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature 
  • 120 g Greek yogurt ( you can use instead thick yogurt or sour cream)
  • 130 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour 
  • 4 to 5 tbsp of Bailey's Irish Cream
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp of instant coffee

In your mixer bowl, add the cheese and mix on a low speed with the paddle attachment for 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the sugar,  yogurt, coffee and flour and mix again until well blended and no lumps are visible. 
Add the eggs one by one and keep mixing on a low speed. 

Finally add the salt, vanilla, Bailey's cream and mix for less than one minute. 

Pour the batter over the baked brownies and gently shake and tap to even the top. 

Bake in a preheated oven (150 to 160 C). 

Usually it's customary to wrap the spring-form pan with aluminum foil and place it in another pan filled with warm water and then bake for the required time that is usually for a pan of this size one hour to one hour and a half (oven-dependent).  This Bain-Marie method of cooking is needed to bake your cake at a gentler heat to avoid surface cracks.

What I do is different though. I put in the middle layer of the oven a pan and fill it with warm water then place the cheesecake pan over a cookie sheet and put both over the pan. This creates  a steamy environment in my oven and allows the cheesecake to cook all the way through while retaining a smooth creamy texture and most importantly with no surface cracks whatsoever.

After one hour, turn off your oven, shake the tray, make sure the middle is still a bit wiggly and leave the oven door cracked open for another half an hour to an hour. 

Let the cake cool completely before you put it in the fridge overnight. 

You can serve the cheesecake as it is, it´s amazingly delicious but a layer of a velvety chocolate ganache won´t do yo any harm, no? 
To make the ganache you need:
  • 100 g  dark chocolate
  • 100 g cream (35%)
  • 1 tbsp Bailey's cream
Chop the chocolate into small chunks, heat the cream to a gentle simmer, then add over the chocolate and mix until all the chunks have melted. Now all you need is to add the Bailey's, stir  and let the ganache cool down for few minutes before you pour over the cheesecake.

The cake will taste even better few days after it was baked. However, I'm sure it won't last much.  
Don't be too indulgent, invite a friend or two to share this special cheesecake with!


Monday, March 20, 2017

Semolina, Pistachio and Rose Water Cake

I grew up in a house where a jar or two of semolina were always laying around in the cupboard waiting to be used in some of our favorite recipes as kids.

My mother would always buy 2 kinds of semolina: fine and coarse. Each had a different use. Mom would use the fine one to make a vegan semolina and saffron or turmeric cake, while the coarse one was reserved to a sweet and syrupy semolina cake dotted with almonds. I will share both recipes with you the soonest.

Semolina is the star ingredient of the famous Easter cookies we make every year during the holiday. I'll be making a big batch soon and let me tell you that I can't wait to make these delicious crumbly cookies.

Taking inspiration in all of these recipes and some more, I made a cake that screams the Eastern Mediterranean to me with its delicate fresh and floral flavors. The cake is moist, packed with flavors and what's really neat is that it only takes a bowl and a hand whisk to make!

For the cake you need:
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 80 g soft butter
  • 50 g yogurt (plain, no added sugar or fruits)
  • 100 g sugar
  • 50 g pistachio paste
  • 50 g ground pistachio
  • 175 g semolina
  • 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 250 ml of simple syrup (recipe follows)
In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar, add the yogurt and mix well. Add the eggs one by one and mix until well combined. Incorporate the pistachio paste, ground pistachio, salt, semolina, baking powder and baking soda and whisk again.  Finally add the rose and orange water.

Pour the batter into a greased pan covered with parchment paper. I used a 16 cm round pan, and baked the cake in a preheated oven (175 C / 345 to 350 F) for about 40 to 45 min. Check after 35 min with a skewer, it should come out clean. If you use a bigger pan, reduce the baking time.

While you bake the cake prepare the syrup:
  • 130 g sugar
  • 130 g water
  • few drops of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp rose water and 1 tsp of orange blossom water
Combine sugar and water and simmer on a gentle heat. Once the sugar has dissolved and you start seeing bubbles on the surface, add the lemon, leave it for a couple of minutes then turn off the heat.
Add the rose and orange water and mix.

Once the cake is baked, leave it to cool for 5 minutes, remove it from the pan and then pour the syrup all over.

To serve, decorate the cake as you see fit. I have a big box of hairy floss so I decided to add some on the top to decorate my cake; it's also quite the delicious addition.

The cake pairs well with vanilla or mastiha ice cream, Greek yogurt, and honey. However, the cake is quite delicious on its own and does not necessarily need any additions.