Cream Puff Pic under Nav Bar

Cream Puff Pic under Nav Bar

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cheese Cake Adventure

     Cathy, A Vietnamese lady who runs a liquor store in my neighborhood, after receiving my business card and viewing my website, said she goes to Brooklyn to buy Junior's cheese cake. I said I can make cheese cake as good as theirs, why not buy it from me? Cathy said give me a sample. If I like it, I will order one. I looked on line for the recipe and made it. I made small ones with graham cracker crust, and a big one with  sponge cake on the bottom ( like they do at Junior's ), using my own recipe for sponge cake. A friend said, "I love Junior's cheese cake, but after the first day it's not as creamy." With this in mind, when I made the batter, it looked too thick, so I more than doubled the cream called for in the recipe. What happened was the best, creamiest, silkiest, cheesecake I ever ate. I have since been getting orders from almost everyone I give samples to. ( Including Cathy )
     This adventure solved a problem for me. I too, had been disappointed with cheese cake recipes I have made and tried over the years and for the same reason my friend was disappointed. It is not as creamy after the first day, and sometimes is dry, thick and unpleasant to eat. The reason for this is:

All instructions for making cheese cake say to bake the cake until the top is no longer jiggly. That is the mistake, right there. Cheese cake, like it's cousins: pumpkin pie, coconut custard pie, key lime pie, quiches etc., is a custard. That means a liquid combined with eggs which is then baked. The proteins in eggs set at about 160 degrees farenheit. With the addition of sugar and liquids, ( water, milk, cream, ) the temperature at which the custard will set is 175- 180. This is the reason for cooking the cheesecake inside a pan of water. Water cannot get higher than 212 degrees F except under pressure, ( or when it becomes a vapor ). The "water-bath" as this method is called, makes sure the cheesecake is protected from the 325-375 degree F temperatures which most cheese cake recipes call for. This method assures, provided you take it out of the oven soon enough, that the cheesecake will get to the temperature required to set the proteins in the eggs slowly. Why do this? For the same reason that a car going at 100 miles an hour cannot stop as quickly as one which is going 30 mph. If the custard is brought to 180 degrees F in a 350 degree F oven without the water protecting it, the custard is well on its way to being way over 200 degrees by the time it cools down. (curdled and over-cooked. It cannot "stop on a dime," as it were. This is why people over cook meats. If the meat is rare ( 120 degrees F ) when it comes off the fire, it will be 130-135 degrees F when it cools down. In other words, medium rare.
     So, I took my cheesecake out while it was very jiggly, and almost liquidy. A tooth pick inserted did not come out dry, it was coated with cheesecake batter. If you do this, you must leave it overnight until you can unmold it and cut it. It is cream cheese, and it will almost set without cooking it. simply add cream to any cheese cake recipe, until it looks like very thick pan cake batter, and take it out of the oven while it is still "jiggly," like I did, and you will never go back to the old way of doing it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Few Helpful Hints For Making and Baking Sweet Yeast Breads

Just mixed dough ready for kneading
1) Keep the dough as wet as possible, while still being able to handle it.
2) Don't stint on the kneading.
3) Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the bread. (190 degrees F)

Experience and practice are the best teachers, even when you have a guide ( a teacher or a recipe ).
Even failure, while daunting, makes you wise and able.
Dough kneaded sufficiently, ready for the first rise
      I am making stollen, a traditional Christmas sweet bread made in Teutonic countries like Germany and Sweden, and American style raisin bread. The softest most luxurious pastry style breads benefit from using the least amount of flour which can be added to the liquid, and still be handled. Always withhold some of the flour while mixing, slowly adding flour until the dough just begins to come together and clear the bowl. The dough should still be slightly sticky. Place the dough on a generous amount of flour on the work surface and begin to knead. The temperature and humidity in the room, plus the amount of flour already in the dough will determine how much flour the dough will accept. As the dough sticks, just clear the surface with a scraper, sprinkle with flour, and continue kneading. The dough should remain supple but not wet. Resist the temptation to make the dough look "perfect," in other words perfectly smooth. it should be as moist and sticky as possible, while still allowing you to be able to work with it. During the first rise, the dough will absorb the moisture ( on the cellular, microscopic level ) which no amount of kneading is able to force into the dough. The dough should almost triple in bulk, and a finger poked into the dough should produce a dent which does not spring back.
The dent which shows it's ready to punch down, and start the second rise
      When kneading by hand, allow 10-15 minutes of kneading. Diligence at this step will reward you with fine results. ( and it is good exercise ) Most household mixers are not designed for dough kneading. They come with a dough hook, but this is for mixing, which is an extremely messy job if done by hand in a bowl or on tabletop. The kneading of soft yeast doughs and certainly true breads will stress and even burn out your mixer, and kneading by hand conveys an encyclopedia of sensual information. It is an education in and of itself.
     The baking time given in a recipe is only an approximation. Again, the conditions which prevail in your kitchen and oven are the gospel which must be attended. Most every oven has its quirks, strengths and faults.
People often use a thermometer to check a roast, but if you use one to check the internal temperature of your bread, it will take the worry and stress out of the indecision which occurs sometimes at the moment of truth - the moment the bread is ready to be removed from the oven.