Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Cheesecake Holiday

This past weekend, those of us in the USA celebrated memorial day and this year, those of us who are Jewish celebrated the holiday of Shavuot, also known as the Festival of First Fruits and the Festival of Weeks. It is one of the three agricultural festivals. We also celebrate the day that the Jews received the Torah or Five Books of Moses. It is the custom to eat dairy meals on this holiday. For many this means blintzes and/or cheesecakes. Thus in our family, we also call it the Cheesecake Holiday. I have a feeling that we are not alone in this. 

Like many food bloggers, I too have a collection of cookbooks and cooking magazines that are underused. Of all the many cheesecake recipes I have, I chose the one from Fine Cooking magazine, from April/May, 2010. The article provides a basic recipe and then gives you numerous ways to improvise. The link to the article is here. Just follow the steps in the interactive and at the end you will be rewarded with the recipe.

Because I make cheesecake so infrequently, I decided to make a very basic cake. I used two packages of regular cream cheese, one package of neufchatel and 2/3 cup of light sour cream. I also used low fat graham crackers for the crust. The texture came out rich and creamy. I also prepped some strawberries to serve on top. For those of you who are taking part in the Tuesdays with Dorie/ Baking with Julia blogging group, the recipe for the berries is the one we will be using for the French Strawberry cake. Mix a little sugar with strawberries, let sit and then mash up.
For those of you who would like more information about Shavuot, the link is here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TWD & BWJ: Hungarian Shortbread

This week the TWD/BWJ group is baking Hungarian Shortbread. Our hosts are Lynette and Cher.  The recipe can be found in each of their blogs and as always, in the book, Baking With Julia. 
I planned to make the shortbread yesterday. I took the butter out early in the morning so it would be at room temperature when I wanted to bake.  As the day got busier and busier, I kept looking at those four sticks of butter and wondering just how wise it is to bake these cookies, when really I should be watching my weight.  For that matter, how smart is it to join a baking blog and try and lose weight at the same time?  Oh well, I will think about that next week, when we don't blog. 

I will say that this is one buttery treat. Even after I mixed the dough, it looked and felt like one huge lump of butter.  As is often the case, I took advantage of the wisdom and experience of other bakers. After reading the P & Q's on this recipe, I decided to pre-bake the bottom layer by itself for 15 minutes. I lined the pan with parchment paper and I used blackberry preserves. 

This recipe calls for grating the dough, which is a lot of fun, but you do have to wrap and freeze the dough first.  Next time, I will be more careful how I wrap the dough. It was so sticky, I just plopped it formlessly on wax paper. As a result, once the dough froze, I had to make sure I got the wax paper out of the nooks and crannies where the dough had folded over the paper.

These cookies are easy to make and very tasty, but if I make them again (and given the amount of butter that's a big if) I will cut down on the sugar and skip dusting them with confectioner's sugar altogether.  I also found that the bottom layer was a bit soggy.  Oh well, I hope the kids enjoy them when they get home from school.