Cheesecake: Something I’d Punch A Baby For

I had a job interview in Omaha this Tuesday…and so I figured I’d try to make the most out of the trip and hang with a few of my Omies! I work in downtown Lincoln so it literally takes me 3 minutes to jump on the interstate and head eastbound. I haven’t been up there in geez…3-4 or weeks I think- and as soon as I got on the interstate, I let out the biggest sigh of relief…I was seeing rainbows, candy, and puppies. Just immediate happiness. I can’t believe I used to hate the city. There is always something to do, see, or a new adventure to embark on. Not to mention endless…absolutely endless amounts of foodie spots to hit. I give Omaha and its residents a gold medal for being foodie-supportive. There are a zillion places to pick from…and it seems like they ALL are successful. I feel like people in Omaha don’t mind spending money on food…and I think it’s really where I’m supposed to be when I try to kick off a business of my own eventually. There is just a different appreciation for GOOD food there. I feel like Lincoln is satisfied with their Applebee’s and Red Robin chains with a dabble of funky hipster spots like Bison Witches and Jack’s for a dash of locale. It seems like only a few places really do well here in town…and so many places have to close their newly opened doors because they don’t get enough business.

ANYWAYS- back to the main point. Erika works at Crave… so we went in and had a glass of wine and chatted it up for a bit. Right across the street is Delice European Cafe and Bakery. Any bakery that can float on its own without collecting most of their profits from catering always intrigues me. She’s only been their once before and said it was ‘ok’ but I wasn’t going to let that deter me. Bakery…means cheesecake. GET IN MY MOUF! They have a nice open window glass counter selection. Unfortunately most of the ‘cakes’ were tortes. Nothing wrong with a chocolate torte, but babygirl here needs some cheesecake. After about 5 minutes of crutching back and forth across the counter analyzing my options…torte or cheesecake, torte or cheesecake? I knew there was only two options (not what you think). 1. Get the turtle cheesecake. 2. Get turtle cheesecake AND the chocolate torte. But hey…the gym hasn’t been an option recently since I’ve become a peg-leg pirate…so I couldn’t possibly think about downing two pieces on my own, even it was spread over a couple of days.

There were only about 4 slices left, and I could tell from just looking at it thru the glass that it didn’t have the silky smooth finish from the cuts of the knife like many do. This tells me one of three things. 1. It’s possibly been there for 1+ days already, or 2. the creamcheese-egg-sugar ratio is off or 3. it wasn’t beaten together well enough. OH WELL…still going in my bag!

Here’s the kicker…can y0u believe I waited several hours later till I got back home to Lincoln to try this thing?! I’m just as surprised as you…believe me. I prefer my cheesecake chilled…and it wasn’t at the bakery, so as soon as I gimped home it went directly in the fridge, leaving me anxiously waiting.

So turns out I was right about the texture…definitely not as silky and creamy as it should have been, but it was alright. It wasn’t by any standards the best cheesecake I’ve ever had…but I got over that and started to pick at the assembly of how it was put together. It looked cool…but my fork need to do some further investigating (excuse the pics…I took them with my phone…less than optimal quality). There was waaaay too much graham cracker crust…it’s very heavy, but it does make the individual slices able to stand up prettier on their own without toppling over, so it’s a  give-and-take point there. I’m not a huge pecan fan…but these ones were cut pretty small and paired really nicely to my surprise. Instead of in true turtle fashion having chocolate and caramel drizzled over the top…it was inside!! Which was cool…sigh…but disappointing. The caramel was really sweet and scattered thru the cake. The chocolate however…was just done poorly. They receive a point for using ganache’ but the ganache’ wasn’t very well done and it was in one thick layer about 3/4 of the way in, leaving you with a mouthful of chocolate that was a little too sugary and no cheesecake. It would have faired better being thin whispy layers like the caramel…or hey be traditional and throw it on top.

Would I try their cheesecake again…probably not-I’d go for one of their 7 chocolate torte assortments. Am I glad I picked one up?? ….yep. No cheesecake is bad cheesecake. Fact.

Gum Paste and Fondant: A Work in Progress

So… this next Monday is the final of my private GumPaste and Fondant lessons. Let’s just say off the bat… glad I got a screaming deal…because I feel like she should have taught me a little more.  I did learn some important necessities and techniques…but just figured I would feel like a pro at the end of my sessions. It’s really one of those things were practice makes perfect. In this case…the practice… the products you have to use are EXPENSIVE.

I most definitely have a greater appreciation for those that are ‘fluent’ in fondant and gum paste decorating. I really wish I had more natural artistic ability like Boo (Lindsey) because I feel like these tasks would have been easier if I had a natural knack for it! A really good comparison to fondant is working with clay…except that you have to work very fast because it will hard or crack.

Gum Paste and Fondant are both sugar based and both edible,though not really….delicious. My rule of thumb is that yes, they’re edible…but I wouldn’t. It’s probably a safety feature for those who have kids that pop stuff in their lil’ mouths because it’s already on a cake… with these products, it’s A-OK! Gum paste hardens up and will break if you drop it. Fondant and gum paste can also be combined to make things like fancy cake bows like this one here of larger size. Fondant is softer and doesn’t get quite as hard as gum paste. When you wrap a cake in fondant it doesn’t harden up…the fondant will actually get softer after several hours because of the base of butter-cream that you apply on the cake actually soaks into the fondant making it soft again.

Our final class on Monday we’ll have wrapped our two-tier in fondant and decorated as desired. I’m thinking of doing a red fondant and doing white flowers of some sort and/or variety streaming down the side.

I’ve also posted some of the stuff I’ve been working on. I have to have all my flowers done this weekend because they take a day or so to firm up…so all I’ve have too do Monday is fondant and smooth the cake (yikes…it looks tough) and then arrange my flowers or whatever designs/shapes I come up with on there. These little flowers are pretty…but they are a lot of work, very delicate, but more than anything… time consuming.

 

But hey, they turn out pretty with a little technique practice…so why not…it’s a healthy hobby: and hopefully profitably hobby in my near future! Just wanted to keep you kids updated since I haven’t posted in a few days. This week seems to be flying by. I did grab a cheesecake from a bakery in Omaha whilst on a job interview yesterday….I feel like  an “OUT” post needs to be had tomorrow!

If it’s not ugly…I’ll see if I can muster up the courage to post my final product next Tuesday- I’m sure it wont’ be anything close to perfect, but gotta start somewhere I suppose. Crossing my fingers for it not to suck real bad. I’m also going to try and make my own fondant sooner than later. Fondant and gum paste is very pricey if you get it all premade. It’s just time consuming and challenging to make your own- but hey…I got 7 weeks on crutches/in a boot. What else am I going to do with two extra hours of time in my day normally spent at the gym!

And for your information…Top Chef:Just Desserts season started up again tonight… YAY. I love making actual meals…but lets face it…dessert is tasty…and delicious…and pretty.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars: Indulge, Die Free After

I realize anything with that long of a title falls into two categories … .1. It’s freakin’ awful or 2. It HAS to be delicious. So this last weekend I graduated from college (balloons let off and streamers flying) but it also happened to fall on the same weekend as the Cuming County Fair in West Point, NE….which is the location of the unofficial annual ‘Redding Family Reunion”.

After several days of pondering what to bring (it’s always a struggle….it’s an hour+ away and so to try to keep things cold or hot is always an interesting challenge)..I decided on meatballs and some sort of bars. I feel sometimes like I’ve shot myself in the foot by so much ‘posting’ of foodie stuff online. I feel a ton of pressure to always bring stuff that’s ‘mouf-epic’. You would think I would take the smart road and try out stuff and only bring the best…but OH CONTRARE…!! For whatever reason I usually bring new stuff that I’ve never tried before….crossing my fingers that it doesn’t blow up in my face. Part of the problem is I’m flying solo….I don’t have people to cook for in general…so it’s not till an event or catering gig that I can try stuff….I can’t test out a whole PAN of something by myself…unless I want the butt of an elephant.

Anyways…so I’m not a big cookie dough fan…but I am a cheesecake fan. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner…count me in. Thank goodness I don’t indulge that often…or I would have that elephant butt.  I saw a picture of this recipe I believe on the pioneerwoman blog…that or browneyedbaker… (both great) and decided that it looked so amazing and just had to be attempted! (That and it can be served at room temperature after an initial chill…so I didn’t have to worry a bout packing ice for the trip)

The cookie dough ‘batter’ was really the easiest thing about this recipe…good thing I’ve never been a big fan… or I’d be throwing that together as a midnight snack by the spoonfulls on a regular basis! The recipe came in three seperate parts. It’s not difficult…but you will dirty a lot of dishes, and you do have to set the time out for it. The crust is just graham crackers and butter: I didn’t have parchment paper with me at the time….or I would have used that instead of tin foil (using a the paper or foil allows you to remove it from the pan to cool. This way it doesn’t bake for any longer inside the hot pan….and it’s just easier setting it on a cooling rack in the fridge or freezer).

Press down the crust in an 8×8 or my case a 9×9 square pan and bake for 6 minutes. In hindsight…I probably would have gone 7 min, you want it to be firm. Then you throw your creamcheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla mixture together, and spread it over the crust. The cookie dough topping is just brown sugar, a little flour, vanilla, butter, and chocolate chips. You work it with your hands till it combines and then crumble it over the top of the cheesecake mixture and lightly press it in. Also…after the fact, I would have used less of the cookie dough mixture…it was a little overpowering.

All said and done, throw it in the oven at 325 for about 25-30 minutes. Pull it out, remove it from the pan to a cooling rack for a few minutes..and since I was in a time crunch, I threw my cooling rack in the freezer to let it harden up quicker.  They were super tastey…but really sweet! I love dessert, but I found myself dusting a little of the excess cookie dough off the top to get more cream cheese… and you don’t have to worry about eating the whole pan unless you have a serious sweet tooth problem… one square will probably do you right up! (ok…let’s not kid ourselves, maybe two)Definitely keeping this recipe…but also plan to make a few calculation changes to even it out the creamcheese and cookie dough more proportionally.

I still have yet to make an entire classic New York style Cheesecake…I’m afraid…that I wont’ share. Isn’t there like 275-350 calories in a piece of cheesecake???…and that doesn’t even count the chocolate ganache, caramel, and nuts I’d top it with turtle style… Like I need a whole cheesecake. (but I do).

Beef Bourguignon: Makes Me Weep Sweet French Tears of Joy

This is why the French are allowed to be snooty and the rest of the world tolerates it. Cause they’re food is amazing (their fashion doesn’t totally suck either). This dish is similar to a pot roast, but somehow those slender cig smokers have managed to make a heavy, hearty, and filling dish…light and delicate, yet filling ? I don’t understand it either, I just eat it.

I’ve been wanting to attempt this recipe for a few years…I’ve seen it on several menu’s but never get enough gumption to order it… and the recipe is quite time consuming, so I haven’t had the proper ingredients plus a measly three hours to just hang around and watch food cook. I had some steak and pork cutlets, alongside a bottle of red wine that had been opened over a week ago and still haven’t finished…so I figured there was no time like the present. (AND potatoes!)

In a hot pan I sizzled the meat, giving it a nice crust and then set  aside. Garlic and onion to the pan now go in. The recipe called for sliced carrots… but I didn’t have any around so I just substituted corn.  Let that hang out for a bit then add the wine and beef broth. I think at this point I was confused…wondering if I thought the dish was ‘pretty’ or unedible looking. The purple color from the wine causes an color scheme I’m not used to… eating.

At this point…I was beginning to get concerned. It was weird looking and not real…flavorful. But hey, everythings’ in the dish…no turning back now. Covered the dish and popped it in the oven for an hour.

After an hour you add cut potatoes and mushrooms. I tasted it and the flavors were finally starting to come together a bit more. Then because this is a real sit and wait kind of dish… covered it back up…and put it in the oven for another hour. Whilst all this waiting I’ve been job searching on the internet (because I’m sure you wanted to know what I was doing) .. at the hour and a half point….I was ready to strain all the wine I’d dumped in the Bourguignon and pour it in a glass. Talk about daunting and frustrating. Incase anyone wasn’t aware…the job market…BLOWS. Sure I can find a job- for 10 bucks an hour… with a degree and 6 years experience I would think I’m worth a little more than that… not to mention I make more at my 30hr a week job then anyone wants to pay apparently. Burnt out on job searching….there is about 10 minutes left on the timer… and now I’m HUNGRY. It’s been 2+ hours, quickly approaching 9pm…I’m ready for it to be done.

I pull the dish out of the oven…the potatoes unfortunately are not done…the meat however… I could have weeped sweet tears of joy because it was absolutely amazing. Falls apart in your mouth, and just soaked up the beef stock, wine, and onion flavors. As hard as it was… I recovered and put it back in the oven for another 25 minutes. As soon as the buzzer went off….I decided that regardless of those potatoes….I was eating!

This is often served…solo, with rice, or potatoes. My liquid was pretty watery, so I made rice….seems weird to eat soupy stuff in the summer. Not that rice makes it less…soupy…ha! Oh well.

Dish, rice, Beef Bourguignon and parsley. It was definitely worth the waiting time. Really flavorful, yet the wine gives it such a delicate taste. I would definitely make this again…but I think I would have a hard time ordering it out. Who knows when they would have made it (or how they would make it) and I guess as delish as it was…I don’t see myself wanting to spend $15 for a bowl when it’s so easy to make at home…you just need some downtime.

I’m sure my ‘workies’ will be passing out high fives…or maybe bringing breakfast tomorrow… because riding solo… there were tons of leftovers. Your welcome clan, your welcome. 🙂

PS…it wasn’t bright purple after 2 hours of soaking in the oven. Pheww.

Bierocks/Runza’s

Well folks… If you don’t know what a Runza is you’re either 1. Dumb 2. Not from Nebraska/Kansas/Colorado 3. Missing out. I’ve made these before…but I’ve ‘cheated’ on them to save time by using the frozen biscuit/cressant dough from Pillsbury and then just rolling that out. I’ve also this into a casserole of sorts by throwing just the mixture in a dish, covering it with the dough and just baking it that way. It’s good, but not as good as individual ones.

After researching some dough recipes, I nearly decided to cop out and use the premade or frozen dough… this recipe requires active yeast… which is always testy… and I love breads…but my bread phase was a while back making me less familiar. And when I say bread phase…I should have clarified…bread machine phase, so it really makes it more about being good at ingredient combination, more than bread-technique. I had lots of fun playing with different ingredients, and made some really fun breads… but it was time to hone in on some real dough.

One of the recipes I looked at used a Challah bread… which was really tempting because I LOVE Challah bread. It’s a traditional Hebrew bread, and I’ve been to several Jewish events where this was traditionally served…it’s one of those deals where you pull that ‘big’ purse out of the closet and line it with plastic because you’d rather harder  to try sneak home food than socializing. If you live in Lincoln, there is a great store (if it’s still there) right across from the Mill by Union College that serves ‘to die for’ breads, donuts, and pastries. (Thanks Libby-she pointed this out to me back in high school. snap). Anyways…I love Challah bread so much that I didn’t want to mix up my love for the bread alone …quite yet anyway, just to throw bierock filling in it.

Bierocks: origination German/Russia is basically onion, cabbage, and meat slow cooked for a long time then wrapped and baked in dough. Many Russian baked recipes make them similar to pelmeni filling which is a combination of both pork and ground beef. I just used ground beef this time around.

After my 9.5 mile bike ride last night, I decided the best thing for me to do was spend my night making

unhealthy things….and giving them to some of my favorite people so that I don’t consume them. Gives me an excuse to practice making things without adding on poundage to myself!

I’m was prepping the dough, and screwed up my first round of yeast: so I walked 2 blocks to ghetto Russ’s to retrieve some cabbage and active dry yeast. You combine it with warm milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. Yeast is always finiky (for me at least). If it’s too cold…it won’t activate…if it’s too hot, you’ve killed the yeast and what you’re making won’t rise. So I made my dough and then had to let it sit for an hour ‘in a warm place’ to rise/double in size. It always says to ‘keep it in a warm place’…and I’ve found that the two places that work best for me are to lock it in the microwave (don’t turn it on) or I’ll turn the oven on…and set the covered bowl on top (keeps it warm!) and the dough rises just great.

While the dough is setting, I begin my filling. Beef, shredded cabbage, onion, worchestorshire, salt/pepper, and I added ground mustard and paprika for my own flare as well… I also threw about a 1/4cup of water with some beef bollion in there to saute’ up some more flavor… once the beef is browned you cover and let it sit for 45+min or so…this allows the cabbage and onion to soften up and flavors to seep.

 

 

Dough is risen, and then drain your filling and let it cool!

Punch the dough and let it sit for 5. Then you divide it in half and form the pieces into (2) 8×11’s (mine were bigger I think).  Then each 8×11 you cut in 6 pieces…give you 12 total bierocks. Add 1/4 cup of meat (I also added a half a slice of cheese in there for cheese bierocks!) and then take the corners and bring them to the middle. They look like the cutest little envelope squares…that you want to eat! Then you place them on parchment paper and cover them with a towel for 20 min before putting them in the over to rise more.

Here was my mistake: I worked to slow… you gotta work fast and get those things made so they can sit after they’re wrapped up cause the dough will rise more after you add in the filling….if you don’t work fast they don’t rise much and don’t look as nice, plus the dough gets harder to

work with. I’ll know better for next time.

My first batch was really neat looking after the 20 min lapse. Perfect little squares and beautifully risen dough- then topped  with some brushed melted butter and pop em in the oven for 15 min…maybe a little longer to get the right golden brown.

These were definitely a lot of work…but well worth it and also fun to do. I already have little tweaks I want to make for the next time…so next time  I have 3 hours to spare… I know a couple of people that will have their fridges re-Runza’d. I actually worked at Runza thru high school…so next time I also want to make some swiss-mushroom ones! My mouf is already watering… .who doesn’t love Runza!?

I definitely think these were well worth the effort…very tasty, and a really good Runza Inc, copy! I think my revision for next time would to be to stretch out the dough a little more…which is a double bonus..more bierocks out of the deal and they’ll be less ‘bready’. I think I’d also throw in some more cheese too.