Monday, April 27, 2009

Taking the Leap/Daring Baker's Challenge

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

"Frenchie, you are a bad bad blogger" I have repeated this over and over in my head for the past few weeks, starting about one week after my last blog post. Sorry guys, I am working on it, I promise. I even finally signed up for the upcoming Daring Bakers and Daring cooks challenges to make sure (gosh, I love deadlines) that I find even more reasons to post.

So, my heart/stomach are in jumbly knots these days. I mean, really, I don't even like rollercoasters but I feel like I am always on one. Where to begin? Well first of all, I spent a delicious and wonderful week at home, spending time with my dearest friends and my sister. Obviously, after a week of pure joy, I can't help but bawl my little heart out on the plane back to Italy. Call me fickle, but also the fact that my year in Italy is slowly starting to wind down is really irking me; aren't things just starting to get great? Shouldn't this just be the beginning?
So like I said, jumbly knots all around and luckily the Daring Bakers Challenge this week was cheesecake, which I am pretty certain is just what the doctor prescribed. Rx : Consume 1 large slice surrounded by friend's and family, to temporarily calm the effects of unruly emotions.
For this challenge the mission was to add our own creativity boost to a classic cheesecake. This was such a fun challenge for me because cheesecake was my "signature dessert" when I was little, I tried one recipe and then stuck with it, forever. Boooooorrriiinnggg. But I actually didn't realize that until I really got my mind rolling for this challenge. I ended up making a lemon-scented cheesecake with a hazelnut crust topped with orange and grapefruit segments. What I also ended up with was exquisite. Before I give you all the recipe for this gem, I want to share one last thing. Yesterday, almost out of nowhere (well as I was snapping shots of my cake for here) my mom tells me that I should find a way to post pictures and write about food on the internet. Ha. Then she tells my sister that she should encourage me to do that same. Ha. So I am having this huge internal struggle, to tell or not to tell? Right now I am kind of loving having my own space and forum to write without the incessant "suggestions" and ideas of those who have inherently given themselves the right to say whatever they want to me. We'll see, I will of course keep you all posted, as I become a decent, respectable blogger.
Citrus Hazelnut Cheesecake
makes 1, 9-inch cake

This cake really benefits from the combination of cheeses, the ricotta helps to lighten it a bit. The citrus flavors really pop thanks to the hefty amount of salt in the crust. I tried to keep the hazelnut as just a hint of flavor which leaves people wondering what that extra flavor is, I find hazelnuts to be very rich and if its presence is too strong, it really takes away from the rest of the cake.

For the crust:
• 1/2 c. toasted hazelnuts
• 10-12 large dry cookies (graham crackers work, I used an Italian kind, seeing that I am in Italy, also in terms of how many cookies, you want to end up with 2.5 c. of crust mix)
• 80 g. cold butter, in cubes.
• 1 heaping tsp. salt

~place everything in a food processor and pulse until the crumbs are fine and it all starts to come together.
~press into the bottom and slightly up the sides (which I didn't do but wish I had) of a 9-inch springform pan, and refrigerate while you make the filling.

• 340 g fresh (if possible) ricotta
• 340g cream cheese
• 100 g mascarpone
• 170 g sugar
•4 large eggs
• 3 tbsp flour
•zest and juice of 1 lemon

Segments of 4 small grapefruits and 6 small oranges, if available use blood oranges.

~ Preheat oven to 350 with a dish of water at the bottom.
~ Cream the cheeses and the sugar together with a mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and making sure that each one is well incorporated. Add the flour until just combined. Add the zest and juice and mix until smooth and creamy.
~ Pour this into the prepared crust.
~ Bake for about 50 minutes, until set but the center still wobbles and jiggles. Turn the oven off and let the cake sit in the hot oven for an hour to finish cooking and to slowly cool down (avoid cracks, yay). Take it out, let it cool completely and then refrigerate overnight.
~When you are ready to serve, place the citrus segments on top artistically or freehandedly, I went for the latter. You can also serve the extra fruit along side, if people are into a greater fruit to cake ratio.