Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce

I walk very fast. But I do things slowly.

I don't like cooking dinner after work because I have to rush everything. I like to cook slowly on weekends and enjoy the chopping, the mixing, the tasting of the food.

I'm slow to realize what I really like to do in life.

I'm slow in my blog post. Since I started going back to work last April, I could hardly manage doing one post a month. Of course, partly it is due to my day job, but partly it is also due to my slowness in taking pictures, processing pictures, testing recipes, and composing the post.  But, I enjoy every minute of it. 

To all my readers and visitors, thank you for all your patience. 
I made this last weekend.
Hope you will like it!

Lemon and chocolate desserts are two types of desserts that I love dearly. Lemon cheesecake is especially light and refreshing. Well, 'light' in terms of its flavor and month feel. But it still a cheesecake. To cut down the calories, I made four small lemon cheesecakes. I put the other three in the freezer and will test out different toppings later. The original recipe is using the classic lemon curd as topping. But I wanted to use up some of the frozen blueberries that I still have from last season, so I made this sauce that compliment the lemony flavor impeccably. 

Recipe:  Individual Lemon Cheesecake  with Blueberry Sauce
Modified from Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham & Alison Miksch
Make four 4" wide, 1" tall cheesecakes
1     cup graham cracker crumbs       
4     Tbsp (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

2/3     cup sugar
2/3     Tbsp lemon zest
2        8 oz. package cream cheese,  room temperature
2/3     cup sour cream (better to use full fat ones)
1-1/2  Tbsp lemon juice
2        eggs

Blueberry sauce for 1 cheesecake
A handful of  fresh or frozen blueberries, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup
1       Tbsp sugar
2        tsp lemon juice
1       Tbsp or more water

For the crust: 
  1. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat oven to 350F.  
  2. Stir graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Mix well. Press crumb to the bottom of  four 4" wide non-stick spring form pans.  To get a cleaner edge, use the bottom of a small spoon to press the crumbs firmly together and clean up the edges.
  3. Bake the crust for 8 to 9 mins, or until the crust is set. Remove crust from oven and place it on the wire rack to cool.
For the filling:
  1. Reduce oven temperature to 325F.
  2. Boil a kettle of water to use as water bath for baking.
  3. Process the sugar and lemon zest together in a food processor until the sugar turns yellowish and the zest is finely ground.
  4. Using a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese in medium speed, until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar-lemon mixture gradually and continue beating until smooth.  Scarp down the side occasionally. Add the sour cream an lemon juice, beat until combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated. Don't over beat the batter after the eggs are in.
  5. Wrap each of the spring-form pans with foil to prevent water from the water bath to go in. Pour batter into spring-form pans and then put them in a small roasting pan or tray.  Put the pan in the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until water reach halfway of the height of the spring form pans.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40mins, until the surface of the middle part of the cake is still jiggly and the surface of the cake loss the grossiness. Don't over bake.  The internal temperature of the cake should be around 160F to 165F.
  7. Take the cakes out from the oven and water bath and let them cool on the wire rack  When they are completely cool, remove the foil. Refrigerate them for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  8. Remove the ring of the spring-form pans. Serve it plain or with your favorite sauce or toppings.
For the blueberry sauce
  1. Heat sugar, blueberry and water together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolved and the sauce reaches a consistency you like, about 4 to 6 mins. Mix in the lemon juice off heat. Let it cool down before serving on top of the cheesecake.  Adjust the taste and consistency by varying the amount of sugar and water.
 All images ©Yogi Studio

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Spring Vegetable Soup and Whole Wheat Buns

    I'm here to summon spring to come as quickly as possible.  The cherry trees around my neighborhood should have been blooming outrageously by now.  But those pinkish fairies still haven't shown up yet. I am hoping that through cooking, I can make it look like spring is here.

    This vegetable soup is delightful and refreshing.  By taking a further step in making the broth first with some basic ingredients and herbs and then straining the broth, the sweetness of the vegetables infiltrate the broth thoroughly without the mushy vegetables messing up the clearness of the soup. After making the broth, you can freeze it for later use.  The time taking to make the soup is short, depending on the vegetables you use.

    Receipe: Spring Vegetable Soup
    Adapted and modified from Cook's Illustrated May 1, 2001 

    1            medium carrot, minced
    1            rib celery, minced
    1-1/2     medium onions, minced
    1            medium leek, white and light green parts only, rinsed thoroughly and minced 
    3            cloves of garlic, unpeeled and crushed
    1            Tbsp of olive oil
    4            cups home made chicken broth*
    3            cups water*
    1/4         tsp whole black peppercorns, crushed
    1            bay leaf
    1            tsp dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh
    5            parsley with stems

    1           rib celery, chopped
    1           medium carrots, cut into 1/4" thick rounds
    2           medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4" strips, rinsed thoroughly,         
    6          small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2" cubes
    1          medium head broccoli, cut into small florets
    2          cups baby spinach, if using regular spinach, remove the stems

    1. Broth:
      • Heat olive oil in stock pot over medium heat.  Add carrot, celery, onions, leek and garlic. Cover and cook vegetables, stir occasionally, until veggies are softened, about 5 to 7 mins. 
      • Add broth and water, black peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and parsley.  Turn up the heat and bring it to a boil and turn it back down to simmer. Simmer until the broth is flavorful, about 20 to 30 mins. 
      • Strain the broth, squeeze out juice from veggies and then discard the veggies.
    2. Soup
      • Bring broth to simmer over medium heat.  Add celery, carrots, leeks, potatoes. Simmer for 6 mins.  Add broccoli, simmer for another 3 mins or until potatoes and carrots are tender.  Stir in spinach.  Season with salt and pepper and serve. 
    *Kitchen note: 
    • The original recipe asks for store-bought chicken broth and 7 cups of the broth without water.  Since I was using home-made broth and I didn't like the chicken flavor to be too strong, I diluted it with water.
    • You can try cooking with other ingredients.  Such as putting some diced tomatoes in and replacing potatoes with mini pasta; adding green peas in is also a very nice touch.

      These whole wheat buns are soft and light in texture.  The original recipe is to make a loaf with raisin mixed in the dough and sugar sprinkle on top. The instruction below is simplified. If you are familiar with the no knead method of Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, same steps are taken in this recipe.  If you are not, please refer to my post on Light Whole Wheat Bread or their book for further details.

      Recipe: Milk and Honey Whole Wheat Buns
      Adapted from Healthy Bread In Five Minutes A Day


      4-3/4     cups whole wheat flour
      4-1/2     cups unbleached all-purpose flour
      1-1/2     Tbsp yeast, or 2 packets
      1            Tbsp kosher salt
      1/4         cup vital wheat gluten
      2            cups milk
      2            cups lukewarm water
      1/3         cup honey
      2            large egg
      Extra milk for brushing the top

      1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in the standing mixer with a dough hook attachment.  Whisk the wet ingredients together.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once. Stir all ingredients together in the mixer until all combined. No kneading is necessary.  
      2. Put the dough into a 5 quart plastic container.  Cover with the lid ajar. Let it rest for 2 hours.
      3. Close the lid (not air tight) and put in the fridge. Dough can be used over the next 10 days.
      4. On baking day, cut up the dough and quickly shape it into ball shape with a wet hand. Each ball should be a size of a small orange. Put the dough on the baking sheet lied with parchment or silpat. Let the dough rest for an hour.
      5. 30 mins before baking time, preheat oven to 375F. Position tray into middle of the oven. Just before baking, brush to top of the dough with milk.  Bake the dough for 25 mins, or until internal temperature reaches 200 - 210F.
      6. Cool the buns before serving.

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