Chef Time!

Chef Time!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Wonderful World of Cheesecakes

I enjoy making cheesecakes, especially if I can make different variations of it. Using many different flavors and types.
There are dessert cheesecakes and then there are savory cheesecakes that can be used as appetizers. In this blog, I will introduce to you both. Desserts and Savories. I hope you'll enjoy them both, for they are truly delicious and fun to make.
We'll start with the most popular type of cheesecakes, which are desserts and then end with the savories.
Once you start making them and wowing your friends and family, you'll be forever in their minds.

Dessert Cheesecakes


Candy Cane Cheesecake

1 1/3 c. chocolate cookie crumbs
2 tbsp. sugar
¼ c. butter
1 ½ c. sour cream
½ c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. peppermint extract
38 oz. Pkg. of cream cheese
2 tbsp. butter
2/3 c. crushed peppermint candy

Preheat oven to 325.

Combine first 3 ingredients and press into a 9 inch springform pan. Blend sour cream, sugar, eggs, flour and both extracts until smooth. Add cream cheese and 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in crushed candy. Pour into crust and bake on lowest rack of oven for 50-60 minutes or until firm.
Allow to cool (top may crack) and refrigerate overnight. Remove from pan and serve.
Top with sweetened whip cream and garnish with candy cane if desired.


Chocolate Velvet Cheesecake

1 c. Vanilla Wafer Crumbs
½ c. Chopped Pecans
3 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
¼ c. Margarine, Melted
16 oz. Cream Cheese, Softened
½ c. Brown Sugar, Packed
2 Large Eggs
6 oz. Semi-sweet Chips, Melted
3 tbsp. Almond Flavored Liqueur
2 c. Sour Cream
2 tbsp. Granulated Sugar

Combine crumbs, pecans, granulated sugar and margarine; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325. 10 minutes. Combine cream cheese and brown sugar, mixing at medium speed on electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in chocolate and liqueur; pour over crust. Bake at 325. 35 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425. Combine sour cream and granulated sugar; carefully spread over cheesecake. Bake at 425. 10 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan; cool before removing rim of pan. Chill.
VARIATION: Substitute 2 tablespoons milk and ¼ teaspoon almond extract for almond flavored liqueur.


No-Bake Vanilla Cheesecake with Thin Mint Crust

When I started out on my self-appointed task to make homemade versions of some popular Girl Scout cookies. But I thought it might be fun to throw in a recipe that used Girl Scout cookies, too, and this is that recipe. I opted to use the ever-popular Thin Mints – crispy, chocolate dipped mint chocolate wafers – as a crumb crust to compliment a vanilla cheesecake.
Because the cookies are chocolate-covered, the idea of an unbaked crust appealed to me as it guaranteed that I wouldn’t end up with chocolate running all over the floor of my oven. No-bake cheesecakes, however, have never been a favorite of mine because there seem to be so many ways to screw them up. They should be easy to make because you don’t need to worry about over cooking or fussing with a water bath, as you do with some baked cheesecakes, but I’ve had too many that are extremely fluffy (Cool Whip marshmallow-type consistency) or far too dense (straight cream cheese, perhaps cut with a little lemon zest). This in mind, I decided to see if I could find a nice middle ground that would taste like a nice, creamy cheesecake while still showcasing my mint chocolate crust.
I used a mixture of cream cheese and whipping cream as the base for the cheesecake – the cheese for flavor and texture and the cream for lightness. Held together with a bit of gelatine (or gelatin, if you prefer), the cake turned out beautifully: easy to make and satisfying to eat. It is light and creamy, yet not “airy” at all. It’s quite a bit lighter than most baked cheesecakes, though in this case it really seems to let the mint chocolate flavor of the crust stand out. In fact, the whole dessert reminds me a little bit of mint chocolate chip ice cream, flavor-wise.
Now, if you don’t have a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints or you don’t want to make them yourself, Keebler makes a cookie called Grasshoppers that are identical to Thin Mints. Same texture, same shape, same nutritional stats, same taste – and they’re usually really inexpensive when they’re on sale.

1 box Thin Mint-type cookies*
2 tbsp. butter, softened
16 oz. cream cheese, softened (low fat is fine)
¾ c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. hot water
¼ oz. powdered gelatine (2 ½ tsp. or 1 packet)
1 c. heavy whipping cream

Lightly butter the sides, but not the bottom, of a 9 inch springform pan.
In a food processor, whiz together Thin mints and butter until mixture is coarse crumbs. Press cookie crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate crust for 20-30 minutes.
In the food processor (wipe out excess crumbs, but there is no need to clean it) whiz together softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract until creamy, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula to ensure even consistency.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, whisk together hot water and gelatine. If gelatine is not fully dissolved, microwave the mixture in 30-45 second intervals, whisking until gelatin is entirely suspended.
Turn on the food processor and with the motor running, slowly pour the gelatin mixture into the cream cheese mixture. Keep the motor running and stream in the whipping cream, continuing to process until filling is light and smooth.
Pour cheesecake filling into prepared pan and rap gently on the counter to even out the surface of the cake and shift any large air bubbles out of the batter.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, until well-set.
Slice with a warm, clean knife to get neat slices.
*Chef’s Note: A box of Thin Mints should have 36 cookies in it. I used 32 cookies for my crust. While you can certainly incorporate all of them, feel free to save a few to snack on or to garnish your plates with. The crust is reasonably thick and 4-8 cookies reserved should not make a huge impact on the final product.


Peanut Butter Cheesecake
 
Crust:
1 c. graham cracker crumbs (44 wafers)
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and butter in bowl. Press onto bottom of 9 inch pie pan. Bake 10 minutes. Remove.

Filling:
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. sugar
½ c. peanut butter
3 tbsp. flour
4 eggs
½ c. milk
½ c. grape jelly, optional for topping

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, peanut butter and flour at medium speed with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in milk; pour into crust.
Bake in preheated oven 55 minutes. Remove. Loosen cake.
Stir jelly until smooth; drizzle over cheesecake in lattice design. Refrigerate.


Savory Cheesecakes:

CHRISTMAS SAVORY CHEESECAKE

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
Handful of fresh marjoram or oregano
1 1/2 cups pesto (recipe below), divided
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 cup sour cream, divided
4 large organic eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 sun-dried tomatoes in oil drained and chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly grease an 8-inch springform pan, then dust the bottom and sides with the bread crumbs. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup pesto, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, eggs, salt, lemon zest, nutmeg, and black pepper. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Place springform pan in a water bath and bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until just set. Remove pan from the water bath and place on a cooling rack; allow to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate cheesecake for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Run a thin, sharp knife around the edges of the cheesecake to loosen it from the pan, and remove the pan's outer ring. Use the remaining 1 cup pesto to "frost" the sides of the cheesecake. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup sour cream over the top, smoothing with a spatula. Arrange the chopped sun-dried tomatoes in a ring around the top of the cheesecake.


CHRISTMAS PESTO RECIPE
Pesto
3 cups loosely packed fresh basil (leaves only)
1/2 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
3/4 cup good-quality extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients except olive oil, in a food processor. Process and slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube. Add more olive oil if mixture seems too dry.Serve over Christmas cheescake


Spicy Mexican Avocado Cheesecake

This cheesecake doesn’t get eaten like a cake … it is really a dip. A spicy, creamy, avocado dip. Perfect for a party. I know, New Year’s is over and everyone is done partying and onto their grilling, while others are in the midst of planning wedding and family reunions. So I hope you will pardon me while I continue the celebration of life …

Makes 1 small 5-inch cheesecake. If you want a larger cheesecake, make a double batch of the filling.

Crust:

I think a walnut crust would work better if you cut out the sugar or use a salty or cheese cracker in place of the graham crackers. Or try using tortillas for a crust.

Filling:

4 oz. fat-free cream cheese
4 oz. light cream cheese
1 reduced fat cheddar cheese stick (or a bit of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese)
1 ripe avocado, pitted
¼ c. lowfat Greek yogurt
1 egg and 1 egg white
1 jalapeno
For topping: Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, salsa, onion, bacon, olives, tomato, lettuce, corn, black beans … basically anything Mexican! I threw together a few things I could find in my sister’s kitchen
Crackers or tortilla chips for dipping

Preheat oven to 350.  Make the crust. Crust options:
Use the walnut crust except cut out all the sugar and use salty or cheese crackers in place of the graham crackers.
In a blender or food processor, combine all the filling ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture over crust and spread evenly.  Place pan on a baking sheet and bake about 20 minutes or until set.
Cool to room temperature and chill.
Top with your desired toppings.  I spread the top with Greek yogurt, then a layer of salsa, then shredded cheese, lettuce, onion, and corn.
Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.


Zucchini Cheesecake recipe

2 medium squash, shredded and drained
1 cup Bisquick 
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese 
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
1/2 cup olive oil 
4 eggs

Mix all ingredients (except squash) together. Making sure all excess moisture has been squeezed from the squash, fold in. Bake in a greased 8-inch square dish for about 30 minutes at 350.

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