Luscious Vanilla Cheesecake

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 9-inch cheesecake
Recipe: 16/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 160

   I will make it simple for everyone. If I had 0.01 seconds to think about and name my favorite dessert, it would no doubt be cheesecake. I rarely eat desserts in restaurants, but when I do I almost always opt for the classic cheesecake with the fruit coulis. I cannot help it, it is a craving that is rooted deep within. I love cheesecake. However, I have never ever (how dare I!) made one myself. This is simply because I quickly realized that a cheesecake is one of the only dessert that I can think of that is actually more expensive to make than to buy. Nonetheless, this recipe for a classic vanilla cheesecake was one of the first I noticed when I first received this cookbook, and now I am happy to say I have made my first cheesecake.

   In hindsight, there are a couple of things that I would change from my first try at making a cheesecake, but that is the essence of baking: learning and adapting from our mistakes. I know my oven to be hotter than others, so I usually decrease the time of baking or cooking by a couple of minutes while trying out a new recipe, and it almost always comes out great. I did the same thing for this cheesecake. I baked it a couple of minutes less than what Anna suggested in the recipe, but that was definitely a mistake on my part. A big part of enjoying food for me is texture. Since I baked this cheesecake less than I should have, the middle of the cake was a bit undercooked and not very firm. The taste was still delicious and heavenly, but the texture, personally, could have been better. The edge of the cheesecake, however, was the perfect texture: firm but not hard. Next time I will definitely bake it as suggested, even with my unstable oven. In summary, this recipe was feasible and delicious, but I recommend that you follow the baking instructions, no matter what oven you possess!

Ingredients for crust:

  • 1  1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for filling:

  • 4 packages (8 oz./250 g each) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1  1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature

Optional: Raspberry compote

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking tray.
  2. Combine the graham crumbs and sugar together. Pour in the melted butter and stir until the graham crumbs are coated. The mixture will still be crumbly at this point, but worry not. Press the crumbs into the prepared pan, pushing the crumbs one inch up the sides. Using a ramekin or a solid glass to press down and compact the crumbs will facilitate the task.
  3. Bake the crust for 12 minutes. Cool while preparing the filling.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
  5. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and cornstarch until well combined.
  6. While beating, add in the sugar. Scrape the sides of the bowl to mix well.
  7. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract.
  8. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition and making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
  9. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake for 55 minutes.
  10. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in for another 10 minutes, making sure to open the oven door slightly.
  11. After the cake is out of the oven and has cooled for 30 minutes, run a long knife around the outside edge of the cheesecake to loosen it from the pan. Cool the cheesecake completely to room temperature (for a minimum of 6 hours) before chilling it in the refrigerator.

Notes from Anna:

  • Allowing the cheesecake to cool completely to room temperature before chilling is  a simple and important step to prevent the formation of a crack on the cake. 
  • Best results are obtained with sour cream with 14% fat content.

Valerie

Raspberry Compote

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 1  1/2 cups (375 mL)
Recipe: 15/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 320

   To serve with a wonderful cheesecake I baked yesterday, I made this incredibly easy to make raspberry compote, as suggested. It is simple, yet tasty and has ideal texture. A perfect fruity touch to rich desserts such as cheesecakes!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Directions:

  1. In a saucepot, stir in the sugar, cornstarch, and 1 cup of the raspberries. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 cup of raspberries and the allspice. Chill until ready to serve.

Notes from Anna:

  • The compote is best served and enjoyed at room temperature. Simply take it out of the fridge 1 hour before serving.

Valerie

Rich Vanilla Cake with Fudge Frosting

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: a 2-layer 8-inch round cake
Recipe: 14/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 142

   Part two of my cake and cookie birthday baking: a rich vanilla cake with a fudge frosting. This cake was just as promised: moist, rich and utterly delightful with its distinct vanilla flavour. This scrumptious cake elicited compliment after compliment. Another favorite that will undoubtedly be repeated time and time again.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1  1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs , at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake and pastry flour *
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 recipe Fudge Frosting

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well until incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift both flours with the baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine the ingredients.
  5. Add these dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and spread evenly.
  6. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for 30 minutes before taking them out of the pan. Let them cool completely on a rack before frosting.
  7. Place the first cake layer onto a plate or serving plater. Spread about 1/2 cup of frosting over the top of the cake. Place the second cake layer on top of the first, then spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake using an offset spatula. Allow the frosting to set at room temperature.

* If you do not have cake and pastry four, you can substitute it with all-purpose flour. For each cup of cake and pastry flour required, sift one cup of all-purpose four. Even out the surplus flour from the measuring cup using a spatula. Remove 2 tablespoons of flour and use the remaining cup of flour as required for the rest of the recipe.

Notes from Anna:

  • When icing the cake with the fudge frosting, do not hesitate to pipe any remaining frosting in a piping bag in order to pipe garnishes on the top and sides of the cake. 

Valerie

Fudge Frosting

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 2  1/2 cups, enough to cover a 3-layer 8-inch cake
Recipe: 13/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 142

   As mentioned in my previous post, I volunteered to make a cake and cookies for a colleague’s birthday. However, I could not for the life of me decide on which cake to make. The cake was to be made for the following day, so it had to be a recipe for which I had all the ingredients and ideally contained no nuts (due to the allergies of a colleague). I then stumbled across a beautiful-looking rich vanilla cake with a fudge frosting. First up: the fudge frosting! It was easy to make, tasted great and looked even better on the cake! Once again, this will enter my recipe book as a classic.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 2/3 cup sour cream*

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and chocolate in a metal or glass bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, stirring gently until melted. Once completely melted, remove the bowl from the heat and let cool the mixture to room temperature. Alternatively, the chocolate and butter can be melted in the microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring in between.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, add the cocoa, vanilla extract and 1 cup of the icing sugar. Beat at low speed to incorporate the ingredients well, then increase the speed and beat until smooth.
  3. Beat in the sour cream and the remaining icing sugar (1 cup) until smooth. If the frosting is too liquid, add 1-2 tablespoon(s) of icing sugar and stir to combine.

* If you do not have sour cream at hand like was my case, you can replace it with 3/5 cup (~ 150 ml) buttermilk (simply add 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar to 3/5 cup milk and let sit for 10 minutes).

Valerie

Salted Orange Toffee Slices

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
Recipe: 12/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 30

    For a colleague’s birthday I volunteered to make a cake and cookies to bring at work. Wanting try out a new recipe from Anna’s cookbook and having them in mind from her comment on a previous post, I decided to try this recipe. It was satisfyingly straightforward to make and was a resounding success. These cookies were gone within moments and generated only positive feedback. They are very fragrant and very tasty, a must try! I particularly love how the toffee bits have just slightly melted within the cookie to give that gooey taste that I am so fond of.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup crunchy toffee bits (e.g. SKOR pieces)
  • fine salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. With a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, brown sugar and orange zest together until homogenous and smooth.
  2. Sift in the flour and baking soda. Stir until blended and then stir in the toffee bits.
  3. With lightly floured hands, shape the dough into two logs of about 9 inches long and 2 inches across. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and gently flatten the dough on all four sides to create a square shape. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line three baking trays with parchment paper.
  5. Slice the logs into cookies that are 1/4 inch wide. Place them onto the prepared trays, at 2 inches intervals since these cookies will spread as they bake.
  6. Sprinkle the cookies with a little bit of sea salt (I omitted this step due to lack of sea salt and they still came out great).
  7. Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes, until they have browned just lightly on the bottom.

Valerie