Chef Time!

Chef Time!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Are You The Next Cheesecake King Or Queen??

Cheesecake King

Whatever emotion you put into your creations is what the participant will receive when they eat. Call it ‘the healing energy of foods’. The intention behind your thought permeates the food you are preparing.
 In the following pages I have tried not only to present you with excellent recipes and ideas for a gorgeous presentation but also instructions for you to imprint your creations with your own unique gifts.

“People will forget what you say, they will forget what you do…but they will never forget how you make them feel”                                                                  
Author Unknown

Cheesecake is the number one dessert in America and you won’t find many people, either young or old, who don’t like cheesecake. Cheesecakes are easy to prepare and require a minimal of ingredients to make them both delicious and impressive. And with the ‘secrets’ I am about to introduce, you’ll be able to whip out something that is ‘fit for gods’ in no time at all.  

As a Cheesecake King, my time is something I consider very valuable. And so is yours.  I have guided you to simple, quick and effective methods for creating something remarkable for you, your family or your guests.  Enjoy both the process and the results. Make it memorable and share it with someone. Remember being a Cheesecake King is an ever unfolding process. Just like the creation of stunning cheesecakes.  

Why cheesecake?  
 Cheesecake seems to have a direct connection to the heart. It’s one of the premier ‘comfort foods’ for people in the United States.
 I have never had anyone be in anything less than a positive emotion while eating cheesecake.
 Eating together brings people closer. In today’s world, even though we may live next door to one another, we are very distant from each other. I have yet to throw an impromptu cheesecake get together and have anyone be less than smiling and friendly by the time they leave. And they always make sure I know their name and where they live and which cheesecake is their favorite.
 Eating cheesecake is a joyful experience.  
 When you make something ‘special’ for people, they feel honored and treasured. A true Cheesecake King doesn’t command adoration. It’s gladly given by the people he chooses to share his creations with.  

A Cheesecake King is concerned with the core ingredient of an abundant life having a positive impact on the world around you. In the following pages I will reveal to you delightful, alluring and enchanting means of making a simple pleasure into something that could only be produced by someone ‘divine’ and a true Cheesecake King.                            

CHEESECAKE KING’S SECRET NUMBER ONE

The first ‘secret’ is taking the small amount of time necessary to select a recipe that enhances the experience or the occasion of the meal for the people involved.  
By asking yourself a few simple questions you can assure that the cheesecake you’re making fits the need in an exquisite manner and detail. After all, the real reason behind the cheesecake is to afford your guests with a glorious eating experience that will have such memories, that their mouths water, they get a glazed look in their eyes and sigh deeply at the mere suggestion of that particular cheesecake experience.
Is the cheesecake going to compliment the meal?  
Will it be the main focal point?
Or is it part of a holiday or special occasion, such as a graduation or birthday celebration. Is it for a sweetheart? Or your mother?  
Do the people who are going to eat the cheesecake have special diets that need to be taken into consideration? Do they have strong likes and dislikes in food?
Answering these questions before you begin will set you on a path to a successful creation that provides a delightful experience for both you and your guests. After all, receiving adulation in response to your cheesecake provides one of those perks I call …instant gratification…definitely a ‘yesss’ moment.
I can already tell you that a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of person rarely likes the fancy, what I would call ‘designer’ cheesecakes. They are the type of people that eat either vanilla or chocolate ice cream every time and most certainly would never consider eating Neapolitan flavor. You may be asking yourself, “How am I supposed to make a cheesecake into an eventful experience for them?” Actually, it’s much easier than you think. Small, subtle changes can produce results that will make it into an exalting dining experience for their taste buds.  

Examples would be making the crust from nuts such as hazelnuts and pairing with chocolate cheesecake, or almonds paired with a plain cheesecake topped with mandarin orange slices, or pecans paired with a plain cheesecake with a bit of praline sauce drizzled over it.  
Making the basic cheesecake into a richer experience for their taste buds is another thought. I will often make the cheesecake with more eggs or a hint of flavor rather than an all out assault to the taste buds. You can add just a touch of spice, such as cinnamon, so that the flavor teases the palate at the very end of each bite.
If you are going to use nuts as the crust you need to be aware that various nuts have different oil content and the crust recipe butter content will need to be adjusted accordingly. Of all the nuts I use, walnuts have the most oil that seems to need recipe adjustment. Yet, don’t discount this ingredient, as the flavor is well worth the minor recipe adjustment. Walnuts flavor is such an enhancement for your cheesecakes. Pair it with cinnamon apples for a memorable taste.
One of my favorite nuts to use is pistachios. I use this crust in my Spumoni cheesecake. I buy them raw from growers in New Mexico, roast them slowly in the oven, remove their skins and grind them in a food processor.
Another much underutilized nut is the pinon. I purchase them from New Mexico and roast them myself. The flavor they lend to a crust is unusual and different than what most Americans are accustomed to. Don’t substitute the ones you buy in the grocery stores, they aren’t fresh and have a different type flavor. Buying ingredients that are fresh and are either grown or harvested sustainable is a very important aspect in outstanding flavor.  

Do any of your guests require special diet adjustments? Such as a person who is diabetic or one who needs a lower fat content? Cheesecakes can be easily adaptable for either of these two problems and will still have outstanding flavor, texture and richness. Splenda is an excellent alternative to sugar. It doesn’t have the difficulties with baking as Equal or the questionable health drawbacks and is readily recommended by the medical establishment. For a honey substitute, I use agave nectar. It’s made from the agave cactus and won’t affect the blood sugar levels. You can buy it at most health food stores or have them order it for you and it comes with a conversion chart for cooking and baking. Its flavor is similar to light clover honey.
When I have needed to make a non-sugar cheesecake I make the cake rich with eggs and a full flavored nut crust.  Usually other people are eating that don’t have this health issue so I prepare a ‘buffet’ of toppings. Fresh fruit tossed with a nice flavored liqueur, curls of dark, milk, white and bittersweet chocolates…both separate and mixed, and a chocolate ganache. The list can be quite encompassing or just a few offerings. This gives your guests the opportunity to add to an already delicious cheesecake.
Store bought low fat cheeses are terrible in taste and alter the texture of the cheesecake. It’s better to just make your own cheese for this baking need and I will cover that base with you in the next ‘secret’.  
If your meal has a theme such as French or Italian or even Chinese (lichee nuts make both a beautiful and subtle flavored fruit for a cheesecake) then coordinating the flavors assures an ending that compliments the meal. Having a big meal and ending it with a heavy feeling desert will leave your guest, friends or family uncomfortable and with a prelude to indigestion. It’s so much easier to alter your cheesecake by using more eggs and less cheese (the cheesecake has a mousse like texture), or a phyllo pastry crust or even a ‘no crust’ cheesecake such as the original New York style.
Top it with a small amount of fresh fruit and garnished with a mint leaf. You’ll still have a delicious dessert with a lovely presentation.  

If you really want to ‘wow’ them…Sur La Table has edible gold. It comes in petals, leaves or powder.  It’s beautiful on a plain white cheesecake, but on chocolate or a deeper colored cheesecake, it’s downright stunning. There is also something called ‘lustre dust’, which is a cheaper version. These are metallic gels that are added to a frosting or topping.
The effect is similar to adding glitter. I add them to a heavy whipped cream and place it as a dollop on the top of the individual serving or it’s really gorgeous when you add it to a raspberry coulis (a type of puree). That beautiful deep ruby red with glitters of gold, just puddle it under the cheesecake, place the slice on the puddle of coulis, drizzle some coulis over the top and place either a gold leaf or a few petals at the side or on top of the cheesecake piece. Mmmm, a veritable feast for the eyes too!
If you’re going to add liqueurs to the cheesecake, topping or garnish you might want to make your own and keep them handy. Making liqueurs and cordials is very easy. You need alcohol (vodka or brandy), sugar, fruits or berries, and time. Just remember that your liqueur is only as good as the ingredients you use. Poor quality liqueurs added to your recipe will result in poor taste.  
Although the alcohol will cook out of the cheesecake and leave the flavor, adding it to a topping or coulis will have the full effect of the alcohol content. Be sure your guests are aware of any alcohol content.
I recently was introduced to a delightful liqueur made by an acquaintance of mine. He used the fruit of the prickly pear cactus and produced a beautiful ruby colored liqueur with a stunning aroma. I am devising ways to create a cheesecake, a topping and coulis from this.  

CHEESECAKE KING’S SECRET NUMBER TWO

This secret sounds difficult, but it’s really very easy. The crux of a fantastic cheesecake lies in its cheese. How do you get the absolute best cheese? The answer is (drum roll here)…make it yourself. Okay, I heard that groan. No, it isn’t hard and no it isn’t time consuming. The cheese making process itself takes time, but your part is pretty minimal.  
You could go all out and actually make the cheeses that go into the savory cheesecakes, but unless you find you have a real and affinity for cheese making, I would say skip it. The soft cheese is the largest proportion of the ingredients. The small amount of other cheese types you might use in a recipe can be bought in a gourmet deli or through the internet. The cost won’t be significant, it will have excellent flavor and it will save you a great deal of time. The only cheese that is fun for the whole family to make is mozzarella. It’s a lot like making taffy and kids love the process. Ricki Carroll of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has an excellent and easy 30 minute recipe and her company is an excellent source of cheese making supplies for the beginner or those of you making small amounts. She also has written an excellent book on the ‘how to’ of cheese making along with many fine recipes. I would highly recommend you purchase a copy as a reference and source for easy recipes. Who knows, you could be the next serious artisan cheese maker.  
Fiasco Farm has even more easy and simple cheese recipes for both a chevre (a soft white goat cheese that is adaptable to any type milk) and a whole milk ricotta. Either of which can be used as the cream cheese substitute. If using goat’s milk, the cheesecake has more of a tart flavor than if using cow’s milk. And this is a good time to talk about different milks.  

Cheese is basically made from milk sitting long enough, at a warm enough temperature, to grow a type of bacteria that will make it what is commonly termed ‘clabber’ or curdle.  
Today’s cheese maker brings the milk to a certain temperature, adds a bought culture and then allows the process to run its course with a minimal of interference from human hands. The actual process of cheese making is simple. Let me give you an example. Go to the grocery store and pick up one of the organic plain yogurts. Line a colander with a clean, moistened piece of cheesecloth (this isn’t the stuff at the fabric store, it can usually be found in a grocery store and sometimes called butter muslin) and dump the whole container into it. Cover it over with the excess cheesecloth and let it drain for a few hours. After a couple of hours, bring the corners of the cheesecloth together and tie it so it will hang from the faucet above the sink. The weight of the solids will push out the last of the ‘whey’ or liquid from the yogurt. Once it feels rather firm, like cream cheese, remove it from the cheesecloth and place it on a clean plate. There…you have cheese. I sometimes use this as a replacement for sour cream especially in my topping recipe. I just take it down from the draining stage when it is at the desired consistency. Or add some real maple syrup and a touch of cinnamon and spread it on toasted bagels. Or how about adding some prepared pesto and putting it on crackers or celery for a healthy snack.  
Okay back to the milk issue. Just like any other ingredient you would use in any recipe. The quality that you use determines the quality of your results. The more fat in the milk the richer the cheese.    
 
Here is a simple recipe for soft ricotta cheese. And if you choose, it can be the only recipe you will need to make your cheese to use in your cheesecakes. Here are a few suggestions to make your cheese making experience a pleasurable one with a happy ending.  

1. Use stainless steel pots, colander, slotted or regular spoons. The first basic of cheese making is that everything must be scrupulously clean and without residue (if you use a culture it’s much more important if you want your cheese to turn out). Stainless is easy to use and easy to clean. It used to be expensive but watch for sales or visit Sam’s, I often pick up great deals there.
2. Invest in good cheesecloth and butter muslin. They can be used over and over again. Keeping them clean is a breeze; I throw them in a separate wash with a tad of hydrogen peroxide and a bit of baking soda. You can buy a package of 3 for around six bucks. Places to purchase them are listed in the resources chapter.  
3. Purchase a digital cooking thermometer. It saves a lot of time and frustration when you are trying to do other things and get the milk to the correct temperature.            
 

Ricotta Cheese

2 quarts of whole milk
3 Tbsp. white vinegar or ¼ cup strained fresh lemon juice

In a heavy pot heat the whole milk to 200 degrees. Add either the white vinegar or the lemon juice. Return the milk temperature to 200 degrees.
Remove the pot from the heat and set, covered, to sit undisturbed for 15 minutes.  
Line a colander with fine cheesecloth (often called butter muslin).  
Place the colander over a large pot in order to catch the whey (liquid part of the cheese making process) being careful as the liquid is hot.  
Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang the cheese to drain for about an hour. The longer it drains the drier the cheese will be.
There…now you have it, you just made your very own homemade cheese. Simple, wasn’t it? You can freeze this cheese and it stays well for up to a year. Just make sure your container is filled completely or you place plastic wrap on the top of the cheese to keep air away from the surface to prevent freezer burn.          
The liquid from cheese making is called whey and contains the water soluble proteins, vitamins (especially the B’s) and minerals that are in the milk. Many people throw this away except it has any number of good uses. Here is a partial list of its many uses.  

 Liquid in bread baking
 As a part of soup stock
 As the liquid to cook pasta or beans (increase cooking time slightly)
 Food for chickens or pigs
 To moisten dog or cat food
 Water plants-if you use the vinegar recipe rather than adding a culture, feed it to only acid-loving plants
 As a liquid to reconstitute dried foods such as falafel, hummus, or black beans.

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