European Lemon Cheesecake

Yield: one 9-inch cheesecake
Recipe: 103/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 162

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    For the second cake that I had to (I don’t like baking at all, I was almost tortured!) make for my boyfriend since I lost a bet, he requested this European lemon cheesecake because, quite simply, he loves lemon and cheesecake, so the combination could only be delicious. The theory proved to be true! This cake was simple to make and although I genuinely had my reservations about this cheesecake due to the use of pressed cottage cheese (note: cottage cheese has always caused some slight disgust to me), it was excellent. Perhaps slightly too lemony for my taste, yet still highly enjoyable. The texture is perfect and similar to that of the classic cheesecake, but feels a bit fluffier and lighter. Essentially, this cheesecake eats itself and you don’t feel to guilty about doing it! Lemon lovers are sure to love this dessert.

   Even though it was not expected for this European cheesecake, I did encounter the typical cheesecake problem of having a big crack develop in the middle. Since I did run a palette knife around the cake after taking it out of the oven and I let it cool completely before chilling it, the only other reason that I think may have caused the crack is that I may have over-whipped the egg whites. It may have been more of a stiff peak than a medium peak, which would have caused the eggs to deflate when the cake was cooling down. So be careful while whipping your eggs, but this is really the only sensitive step of the recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (8 oz/250 g) pressed cottage cheese, 10% milk fat
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs at room temperature, separated
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform and coat it with sugar, making sure to tap out the excess.
  2. Using a food processor or a hand mixer, blend the cottage cheese with ½ cup of the sugar.
  3. Add the flour, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Blend well.
  4. Beat in the egg yolks.
  5. In a stand mixer or in a clean bowl using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until frothy, then pour in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, continuing to whip the whites until they hold a medium peak (the whites should curl just slightly when the beaters are lifted).
  6. Fold the whites into the cheese mixture in two additions, then spread the cheesecake evenly in the prepared pan.
  7. Bake the cheesecake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for about 25 minutes more, until the top just begins to colour. Let the cheesecake cool completely to room temperature, then chill for at least 2 hours before slicing.

Notes from Anna:

  • To prevent a gaping crack to form in the middle of your cheesecake, the speed at which the egg whites are whipped is crucial. Whipped eggs will soufflé in the oven, but when the cheesecake starts cooling, those souffléd eggs will fall, thus creating a crack, even hours after the cheesecake is out of the oven. Make sure not to whip the egg whites too much.
  • Another tip to prevent cracks in the cheesecake is to run a palette knife around the inside edge of the springform pan, which allows to separate the cake from the pan. This way, if and when the cheesecake contracts, it will pull away from the sides of the pan, making it less likely to crack in the middle.

Valerie

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Raspberry Pecan Tart

Yield: one 9-inch tart
Recipe: 102/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 116

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     After several months of not posting any new recipes from Anna’s cookbook, I decided that it was time to remedy this! I “owed” my boyfriend two cakes due to two lost bets, and as per his request I made this delicious-looking raspberry and pecan tart, two of his favourite foods. I was happy to finally have a recipe to do and a dessert to make, and it was no trouble at all to do. I am typically not a fantastic dough maker, but since I had already made the nut-crust tart shell required for this recipe, I new what to improve (add a bit more water to obtain the right texture! This is temperature- and kitchen-dependent!)  and got it perfectly right I think. The shell was easy to slice and bite through yet did not crumble to pieces. The tart itself was very good. The filling is slightly gooey with a nice crunch provided by the pecans, and the sweet burst of juice and flavour from the raspberries was very pleasant.  I was not expecting it, but the coconut was the perfect combination in this tart, providing both a good bite and some sweetness. We devoured it in a matter of days. Strongly recommended for an uncomplicated light dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Nut-Crust Tart Shell recipe, baked and cooled
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups roughly chopped pecans
  • 1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Place the pan containing the baked crust onto a baking tray until it cools down to room temperature.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, egg yolk and vanilla extract until blended.
  3. Stir in the pecans, coconut, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well to combine.
  4. Gently fold in the raspberries.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and bake on the tray for about 45-50 minutes, until evenly browned and set. Cool the tart to room temperature in the pan before removing the outer ring of the pan to slice. The tart can be served at room temperature or chilled.

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Valerie

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Yield: 16 cupcakes
Recipe: 101/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 136

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     The holiday period is an excellent time to have company over, and indeed within two days we were having two different groups of friends over. I thought I would make some nice lemon cupcakes for the occasion, as there were several lemon dessert lovers amongst the guests. These cupcakes have a little something special since they are topped with a meringue that is hiding a delicious lemon curd filling. This recipe was straightforward and incredibly tasty. There was no subtleness in the lemon flavour! It was all there and these little cupcakes were a hit amongst the parties. I think that the unexpected lemon curd filling makes them even better, like a little surprise of sorts! Definitely a successful recipe that I would repeat time and time again.

Ingredients for cupcakes:

  • 1/2  cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1  1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cake and pastry flour*
  • 2  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons lemon curd or lemon marmalade

Ingredients for meringue:

  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2  teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line 16 muffin cups with large paper liners.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until smooth.
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pastry flour, baking powder and salt.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and lemon juice.
  6. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the butter mixture in three separate additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Blend well after each addition.
  7. Spoon the batter into the paper liners and bake the cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently pressed. Note: the batter will be quite thick. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 10 minutes, then remove them from the tins to cool completely.
  8. For the topping, preheat the oven to 375°F and place the cooled cupcakes on a baking tray. Spoon about a teaspoon of lemon curd or marmalade on top of each cupcake, keeping the filling as close to the centre as possible.
  9. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy, then slowly add the sugar while whipping. Whip the egg whites on high speed until they hold a stiff peak.
  10. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag and pipe swirls on top of each cupcake, making sure to completely cover the lemon curd or marmalade. Bake the cupcakes for 6-8 minutes, until the meringue browns slightly, and cool to room temperature.

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Notes from Anna:

  • To make room for even more lemon curdcor marmalade, you can spoon a little cake out of the centre of the cooled cupcakes.

Valerie

Maple Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

Yield: about 5 dozen cookies
Recipe: 100/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 48                                                                                                                                  
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I have actually (and surprisingly!) never made gingerbread cookies, so I thought that there would be no better dessert to bring at work for the last day before the holidays than these cute gingerbread cookies. The recipe was easy to follow and I took pleasure in rolling out the dough and cutting out cute shapes to make the cookies – I had gingerbread man, tree and snowman cookie cutters. I had never used royal icing to frost any cookies or cakes, and I thoroughly enjoyed decorating the cookies with icing and sugar pieces. Decorating anything, whether it be cakes, cupcakes and now cookies, has always been my favourite part of making dessert! At first try I found that these cookies were mild and did not taste a lot like maple or even ginger, but after the second and third cookies I realized that these are simply a milder-tasting version of the traditional molasses gingerbread cookies but still taste good. These cute gingerbread cookies would please anyone during this merry time of the year. Happy holidays and happy baking!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2  1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the egg, ginger and lemon zest. Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, allspice, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three separate additions while mixing at low speed. Separate the dough in three balls and wrap them in plastic wrap to form three discs. Chill until firm, about 2 hours. Note: The dough will be very soft.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first piece of cookie dough to 1/8 inch thick and cut with a cookie cutter of any desired shape. Arrange the cookies on the prepared baking trays, leaving a gap of ½ inch between them. Repeat rolling and cutting the remaining two discs. Leftover scraps from cutting out the cookies can be wrapped up and chilled in the fridge for another 10 minutes before being rerolled.
  7. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool the cookies on the trays before transferring them to an airtight container. The cookies can be decorated with icing or simply dusted with icing sugar, as desired.

Notes from Anna:

  • The maple adds some sweetness to the cookies, which are milder than traditional molasses gingerbread cookies.

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Valerie

Vanilla Cornmeal Wedges

Yield: 32 cookies
Recipe: 99/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 26

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     Two weeks ago I realized that I had no dessert or snacks at home, so I decided to make these vanilla cornmeal wedges to have something to munch on. The result was a funny but sad turnout. As I went to take out the pan 20 minutes after putting it in the oven, I touched it and thought that it would benefit from several extra minutes of baking. I repeated this two times. Turns out that my oven died on me that very day! So the dessert that I had so lovingly prepared was just sitting in a broken oven that wouldn’t turn on. Quite sad indeed. It wasn’t fixed for another week, so last weekend I repeated the recipe to, finally, have a snack on hand. This recipe was easy to do (both times) and although simple these wedges taste very good. I used 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract as well as all the seeds from a vanilla bean, so not only were the wedges sprinkled with delicious black vanilla seeds everywhere, but the vanilla flavour was enhanced and very fitting with the shortbread. At first bite I was surprised by the crunch of the cornmeal, as I had never baked with cornmeal and didn’t know what to expect. However, after eating many of these wedges I came to appreciated this little surprise crunch in every bite. This is a simple, fast yet satisfying recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract *
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1  2/3  cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch removable-bottom fluted tart pans and set the pans in a baking tray.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the vanilla (either paste, extract and/or beans).
  5. Stir in the cornmeal, cornstarch and salt. Mix until well blended.
  6. Add the flour in two additions, blending well between each.
  7. Divide the dough between the two pans, then press the dough using floured fingers so that it covers the bottom of the pans. Cut each pan of dough into 16 wedges.     Note: the dough will be soft.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes, until just the edges of the shortbread begin to brown. Remove the pans from the oven and while still warm, cut each pan of shortbread into 16 wedges again. Cool completely in the pan before serving or storing.

* I supplemented 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract with the seeds of a vanilla bean. Simply scrape them in the batter prior to baking.

Valerie

Coconut Cake with Seven-Minute Frosting

Yield: one 8-inch two-layer cake
Recipe: 98/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 148

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     I enjoy coconut desserts as much as the next girl, and since it had been quite some time I decided to make a nice big cake – for no occasion at all other than pure enjoyment. Simply put, the cake is delicious. The coconut flavour is subtle, but the coconut flakes mixed in the batter give the cake a very nice texture. The cake is dense but still moist, as it should. Coupled with the heavenly and beautiful glossy-white seven-minute frosting, the cake looks superb. I would advise not putting too much frosting between the two layers, since when I did so the cake is so heavy that most of the frosting was pushed to the outside! What I particularly like about this frosting is that it hardens as it cools, thus making it lovely in appearance. I keep it on a cake stand on my kitchen table covered with a transparent bowl, and whenever I lift it I get a whiff of coconut – lovely!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 recipe Seven-Minute Frosting
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans, tapping out any excess flour, then line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.
  2. Using  a hand or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 3/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg yolks and beat well, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture in three separate additions, alternating with the coconut milk, while mixing at low speed.
  6. Stir in the toasted coconut flakes and mix well. The batter will be quite dense.
  7. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they are foamy, then slowly pour in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Whip at high speed using a hand or stand mixer until the whites form a soft peak.
  8. Fold half of the whites into the cake batter and mix gently until almost all of the egg whites are incorporated, then fold in the remaining whites until evenly incorporated.
  9. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  10. Cool the cake in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn the cakes out to cool to room temperature completely before frosting with the Seven-Minute Frosting. Frost the cake layers with an offset spatula, making swirls as you go. Press the coconut flakes onto the sides of the cake and let the cake set, uncovered, for 1 hour. The cake will keep well, covered, at room temperature for 3 days.

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Valerie

Seven-Minute Frosting

Yield: about 2  1/2 cups
Recipe: 97/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 150

    The next cake I planned to make was the delicious-looking coconut cake, so of course I had to make this seven-minute frosting to accompany it. I whisked the frosting by hand (but barely made it!) and was surprised by how well it all came together. I am usually not quite successful with egg whites, but this frosting recipe turned out marvellous. It is indeed very marshmallowy, both in texture and taste, and is as white and glossy as the first snow the fell upon us in Montreal. It looks beautiful (the frosting) and tastes even better. Give it a try!

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Fill a saucepot with 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer.
  2. In a metal bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar and water. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisk either by hand or using a hand mixer at medium-high speed for 7 minutes. The frosting will tun white and double in volume, but will still be a bit fluid by the end of the 7 minutes.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Whip the frosting on high speed using a hand or stand mixer until it becomes thicker and a spreadable consistency, about 5 minutes. Use the frosting immediately, while still warm, as it will solidify considerably as it cools down.

Notes from Anna:

  • This frosting is best for cakes that do not need refrigeration.
  • Using ice water helps the mixture to heat up gradually while whisking. This, in turn, allows the sugar to melt evenly before the frosting starts gaining volume.
  • If, after you have cooked your meringue for 7 minutes while whipping, you notice that it is grainy looking, do not panic! Simply add hot water, ½ teaspoon at a time, and whip it in until the icing looks smooth. This could take up to 2 tablespoons of water. This extra step should melt any sugar granules and return your frosting to its fluffy, marshmallowy state.

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Valerie