Chevre Cheesecake with Pear Jam

This is the dessert, right here: the cheesecake to end all cheesecakes.

Fresh ginger, vanilla and lemon zest beg to be topped with a rich autumn flavor like d’anjou pear jam (or fig jam, or quince would be nice too).

Plus it has a whole pound of goat cheese in it.

Seriously, who’s gonna argue with that?

Chevre Cheesecake

This recipe is an adaptation of this one here, from Ile France Cheese Company.

Cooking Time: 1 1/2 hrs.

Serves: 10

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 1 stick of butter (plus extra to grease the pan)
  • 1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs, see below for instructions
  • 1/2 c. confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger

For the filling:

  • 1 lb. goat cheese, at room temperature (I use Shamrock Chevre from my friend Anna)
  • 1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature, preferable from pastured chickens for the richness of the yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • zest and juice from one lemon
  • 1/2 c. pear-cardamom jam, for serving
  • 1/2 c. confectioners sugar, for serving

To make graham cracker crumbs, crush 10 graham crackers with a rolling pin or in a food processor. Melt 1 stick of butter in a medium saucepan. In a large bowl, combine butter, graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 c. confectioners sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Mix everything together thoroughly and press into the bottom of a greased 10″ spring form pan.  Put the crust in the fridge to chill while you make the filling. 

(If you have a stand-mixer, it helps with this step:)  Cream together goat cheese and cream cheese. Slowly add the sugar and eggs, alternating between the two and making sure to combine everything thoroughly. Mix until light and fluffy. Add the lemon, vanilla and ginger and mix well.

Put aluminum foil around the bottom of the pan with the crust in it and place the wrapped pan on a cookie sheet. (Don’t skip this step unless you want sugary good all over your oven that smokes for days until you clean it out. Not like I did that or anything)

Pour the cheese filling into the pan. Bake for 1 hr. When the cake is done, it will have a subtle golden color and still move very slightly in the center if you give the pan a gentle shake.

Serve topped with pear-cardamom jam and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Boysenberry Basil Jam … and Pancakes

For the last two weeks, I’ve had a case of boysenberries in my freezer. People with big freezers might leave them in there for the winter, but space in my propane-off-the-grid-style freezer is precious, and I realized that I had to get those babies into jars.

This started a pretty straightforward berry jam recipe, until I went out in the garden and saw the basil:

My thought process was simple. This jam is for me. I am going to put it on big slices of sourdough bread with my friend Anna’s amazing garlic chevre, and it will be sweet and savory and perfect. I am getting hungry thinking about it right now.

Boysenberry Basil Jam

Makes: about 8 1/2 pint jars

Cooking Time: about an hour

Ingredients: 

  • 5 cups of crushed boysenberries
  • 4 cups of whole boysenberries, not crushed (to make a chunky jam where you can still see big pieces of berries)
  • 6 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. minced basil
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

1. Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Wash and sterilize jars and lids (I process them for 10 minutes at the end, so technically you don’t need to sterilize them, but I am OCD about this and do it anyway). 

2. In a large reactive pot, combine berries (both crushed and whole) and sugar. Gently stir together the sugar and the berries. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until the jam reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer (or passes whatever gel test you’re using). Right at the end, when the jam is at about 210 or 215 degrees, stir in the lemon juice and the basil. If you put it in earlier you’ll completely lose the flavor.

3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and screw on lids. Process for 10 minutes.

So, if at some point in the jam-making process, a loved one walks in the kitchen and says “WOAH. It smells REALLY good in here” and you want to do something nice for them, you can whip up a quick batch of boysenberry pancakes and spoon some of the warm jam over the top.

(Don’t judge me for using Bisquick, I bought it at Costco two years ago when I was lured in by the promise of buying in bulk. I’m proud to say I only have one cup left in the box, though.)

Boysenberry Pancakes

Makes: 2 large-ish pancakes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. Biquick
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • a handful of boysenberries
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • for serving: 1 tbs. butter and a few tablespoons of warm jam

Mix the bisquick, egg, milk and berries together in a bowl. 

Heat the butter in a large nonstick pan on medium heat. Once it’s melted, ladle the batter onto the pan to make whatever size pancakes you’re in the mood for.  Cook them for about 3 minutes, or until you see bubbles coming up in the batter. Flip them over to cook the other side. Cook for another 3 minutes or so. Transfer to a plate. Top with butter and jam. 

Candied Buddha’s Hand

I bought a buddha’s hand at the farmer’s market last week, and it was too pretty not to immortalize with a few pictures…

Buddha’s hands are part of a larger group of fruits called citrons, which are just like citrus fruit without the actual fruit part.

I can’t even emphasize enough how aromatic these are.  When I sliced it open, the whole room filled with an astonishingly strong, bright citrus smell.  You can make infused vodka with citron, but what I really wanted to do was candy it and use it for baking. Panetonne, a sweet Italian bread with marsala soaked currants and citron, is high on the list of potential projects. Hot cross buns could be good too- these recipes don’t always call for citron but throwing in 1/2 c. of candied fruit never hurt anyone.

buddhas hand pieces in sugar water

I’m no pastry chef, so I’m not even going to try and write my own recipe for this one. David Lebovitz most definitely is a pastry chef though, and his recipe for candied citron is right on the money.

draining off the excess syrup

You can refrigerate the candied pieces in their syrup for up to a year, but we have limited fridge space, so I finished the recipe by giving them a dust of sugar and then put them on racks to dry.

candied citron drying overnight

If you can’t find citron, you can also candy citrus peels, which are delicious too, and can be used the same way in baked goods. Hitchiking to Heaven has a lovely recipe for candied grapefruit peels… go take a look. I used the same recipe for orange peels and it worked well, and it reminded me of those strange processed gummi candies that I remember from being a tiny little kid… (mmmm, refined sugar, so tasty!)

candied orange and grapefruit peels

PS. If you make candied buddha’s hand, reserve the juice from blanching the pieces. It might turn out too bitter, but mine didn’t, and will most definitely be going into jelly.

Sunshine and Citrus

The sun is finally out!  The daffodils are blooming….


 

And right when I should be out in the garden, pulling up bolting winter greens and replanting with spring crops, a friend with a backyard full of citrus trees dropped off these lovely presents….

 

So, sometimes I have issues with how much sugar is in jam, and I feel bad that I’m basically making candy.  Sometimes I think I should be making raw vegan soups or something.

The answer?

Butter, and eggs.  Lots of eggs.

Bright orange, creamy yolked, laid-this-morning, free range spring eggs…

This is hands down, the most delicious thing in a jar that I have ever made.  I want to put on sweatpants and lie on the couch and watch tv and eat the whole thing right out of the jar all by myself.  Seriously.

GRAPEFRUIT SCENTED LEMON CURD

makes: 4 1/2 pint jars

cook time: about 45 minutes


People get all crazy about canning lemon curd, the butter and the eggs being the main safety concern.  Recipes run the gamut- some claim that it’s never safe to can at all, that you have to freeze the curd or use it immediately.  Other recipes say that lemon curd is safe to can if you use bottled lemon juice, for the reliable acid content.  Here’s my two cents (follow at your own risk):

  • I found a recipe for lemon curd that was developed by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  It uses the boiling water processing method and was deemed safe for canning. “National Center for Home Food Preservation” sounds really official so I’m going to trust them.
  • I used fresh lemon juice instead of bottled lemon juice.  Careful though: Meyer lemons are not acidic enough, so don’t use them.
  • The National Food Preservation people are saying that canned lemon curd has a shelf-life of 3-4 months, much shorter than the multiple year shelf life of jam or jelly.

After all that background information, let’s get to the recipe. The ingredients are only slightly adapted from the official recipe that I mentioned earlier, but the cooking technique is much different.  Most recipes call for a double boiler (to avoid curdling the eggs and ending up with chunks of cooked egg whites) but I think that makes everything overly complicated.  I’ve made it twice now without a double boiler, and no curdled eggs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 c. unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 c. grapefruit zest
  • 1/4 c. orange zest
  • 4 whole eggs, beaten thoroughly (they should be airy and light, with no little bits of white floating around any more)
  • 7 egg yolks

Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water.  Put lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water from the canner.

Zest your fruit.

Combine zest and sugar in a bowl, mix well, and set aside for 20 minutes to let the flavors meld.  At this point, you will be surprised at how amazing everything is smelling.  Your kitchen will be an explosion of grapefruity brightness.

Juice your lemons while the sugar is doing its thing…

Prep your eggs: thoroughly beat 4 whole eggs until they are light and airy, with little bubbles from the intense whisking you’ve done.  Make absolutely sure there are no little bits of white floating around still.

Separate out seven egg yolks, and whisk them into the beaten egg mixture.  (Set aside the egg whites for something else, like angel food cake).

Now combine all the ingredients in a medium-large non-reactive pot.

Now turn the burner on as LOW as it will go, and whisk like crazy! We’re trying to incorporate the ingredients together slowly and consistently, avoiding high heat that could cook curdle the eggs. It’s hard work, but think of the sexy, rippling arm muscles you’ll have! And the smooth, luscious curd.

Once the butter has melted, turn the heat to medium and keep whisking.  Do not stop whisking.  Civilization could collapse while you’re making this, but if you want a smooth curd, you must not get distracted and stop whisking.  It will seem like nothing is happening and you will curse yourself for deciding to make this recipe because your arms are getting tired.  But then….  the mixture will start to thicken, and start to seem more like the consistency of pudding.  After another minute or two, the mixture will be thick enough that when you pull the whisk across the bottom of the pan, you will see the metal for a few moments because the curd is starting to hold its shape.

about the right consistency

Remove the pot from the heat. If you want, you can run the curd through a metal strainer at this point to remove the zest. Some people find the texture off-putting. I don’t, so I left it in.  Ladle hot curd into hot jars leaving 1/2″ headspace. Wipe jar rims clean and attach lids. I processed the half pint jars for 30 minutes, which is a little more than the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommended, but I figured “round up, just to be sure.”

Serving recommendations:

This curd is amazing with almost anything.  Mix some into yogurt.  Fold it into whipped cream and top with berries. Spoon some over angel food cake or pound cake.  The possibilities are endless!

Triple Citrus Glazed Butter Cake

citrus cake with our peach-raspberry jam

For the past week or so, we’ve had fantastic magical California paradise weather, and I’ve been working in the gardens almost all day long.   Late winter veggie starts went in the ground, and one last batch of garlic.  I also planted seeds for calendula, love-in-a-mist, bells of ireland, and poppies, along with the dahlia tubers I picked up at the store the other day.  This fantastic triple citrus butter cake is all that sunshine and good weather on a plate, no matter where you live! The flavor is bright and refreshing, and it’s lighter than all these 15 layer chocolate death cakes that are floating around with Valentine’s Day coming up so soon.  Those are awesome, but this the kind of cake that you can vaguely rationalize eating for breakfast, and those are important cakes to have in your life.

 

fresh eggs make better baked goods!

This recipe is an adaptation of the Lemon-Glazed Butter Cake recipe in the April 2009 issue of Gourmet. I’ve substituted skim milk and added some new citrus- I hope you like it!

Triple-Citrus Butter Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (or whatever milk  you have in your fridge is fine)
  • 1/2 tbs. lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbs. tangelo zest
  • 1/2 tsp. clementine zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut extract (I was out of vanilla, you could use that too)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs (the original recipe suggests bringing the eggs to room temperature, but you could also just walk to the chicken coop and get three fresh ones that never were in the fridge at all)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh citrus juice (combine 1/8 c. lemon, 1/8 c. tangelo, and eat the clementine. Or a different combination, it doesn’t matter.)
  • Optional: top with confectioners sugar and jam (I used Peach-Raspberry, but any fruit would be fine).  Whipped Cream would be good, but we didn’t have any when I made it.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour an 8″ round cake pan, which I don’t own, so I used a glass dish…
  2. 2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, citrus zest, and hazelnut extract.
  3. 3. If you have an electric mixer, now’s the time to get it out: Cream together the sugar and softened butter until it’s fluffy and fully incorporated (about 2 min.)  Next, add in the eggs (one at a time, and mix well in between each egg).
  4. 4. Turn the mixer on low, and mix in the flour in batches, alternating with the milk mixture. (Make sure not to over mix the batter).   Pour the finished batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles, and put it in the oven.
  5. 5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the cake comes out clean.  When the cake is out of the oven and cooling, whisk together the confectioners sugar and citrus juice until it’s completely smooth.  Remove the cake from the pan and put it on a cooling rack if you have one(I don’t have one of those either, you can tell I’m totally not a baker…. I put mine on a big plate with paper towel). Brush the cake with the glaze and let it cool the rest of the way.
  6. 6. Eat the cake! (If you’re thinking about cake-dinner menu pairings, we had fried chicken, braised kale from the garden cooked with our home-cured bacon, and mashed potatoes with country gravy, and the refreshing citrus flavor went absolutely wonderfully with all that).

 


A Postcard from Manhattan

I just got home from visiting my sister in Manhattan. I’ve been meaning to for years, but somehow between chickens and gardening and three dogs I haven’t been able to break away until now. It was such a fantastic trip, I definitely won’t be waiting another four years to come back!  We went on a 48 hour whirlwind culinary tour of the city…  There was no advance planning, so places that needed reservations were out. I also hate spending money, so this was not the weekend for an expensive hundred course meal at some french place.

Here are some highlights of our journey, in no particular order at all.  In fact, let’s just fast forward to the middle of the night, where we find two slightly drunk sisters in an Italian pastry shop staring at this:

and these:

and these too:

Veniero’s, you are my favorite bakery in the history of the universe! Their sviogliatelle are totally delicious. (If you’ve never tried one of these, you must! These seashell-shaped pastries are usually filled with a citrus-flavored ricotta cream and wrapped in layers upon layers of paper thin, slightly crispy pastry dough.)

Other highlights were oysters and clams on the half shell at  The Mermaid Inn, $1 each during happy hour; brunch at Sara Beth’s Kitchen, with mimosas and savory potato waffles;  fondue and champagne punch at The Bourgeois Pig; and freshly made garlic bagels from  H&H Bagels with buttery Nova Lox from  Zabar’s.  I wish I had more pictures, but I dropped my $500 camera lens on the ground and shattered it, and have to wait for my insurance claim to go through to get a new one, which is really weak.  What a fantastic trip though, I can’t wait to go back!

Orange Pecan Tea Bread

I’m in upstate New York right now, visiting my parents for the first time in a great while.  If I ever decide to become a 400 lb. woman I will come here to do the dirty work…  My dad is a loves to cook and my mom is a fantastic baker. Even though we’re supposed to be in the New Years Resolution phase of the holiday season, the shelves are still stacked with cookies, chocolates, marzipan, and other delicious treats. Given this situation, and the fact that now she’s wandering around the house talking about making tiramisu this evening, I either need to put on my sneakers and go for a run or maybe just buy some bigger pants.

Today I had warm Orange Pecan Tea Bread waiting for me when I woke up. It’s an adaptation of a recipe from Cooking Light, and a great way to use up some marmalade. My mom used the seville orange marmalade I made last winter, but you could use any type you have on hand.  She didn’t bother with the glaze (see step 4 below), it was delicious without it.  The citrus and buttermilk in this recipe will brighten up any winter day, no matter how snowy.

I am a terrible baker, unlike my mother. I can’t be bothered with things like recipes and measuring. I don’t even own a tablespoon (I may have once, but I lost it).   The concept of preheating an oven is foreign to me, it’s either “hot” or “off.” Lasagna is ready when it’s bubbly and the cheese has nice golden brown spots, not when it’s been in the oven at 350 for an hour and fifteen minutes (this is a guess, I really am not sure how long I cook lasagna for).  I often get angry at recipes for trying to tell me what to do. The nerve of these people…

If, unlike me, you can follow instructions, here’s  the original recipe from Cooking Light (December 2009 issue):

Orange-Pecan Tea Bread

  • 7.9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 c.)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans, toasted
  • 3 tbs. 1% low-fat milk
  • 3 tbs. canola oil
  • 3 tbs. orange marmalade
  • 2 tsp. grated orange rind
  • 2 large eggs
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs. fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped pecans, toasted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Combine granulated sugar and next 7 ingredients (through eggs), stirring with a whisk; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
  3. Spoon batter into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring until smooth.  Drizzle glaze over bread, and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp. pecans.  Yield: 14 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Calories: 164; Fat: 5.4 g; Protein: 3g Carb: 26.6g; Fiber: 0.6g; Chol: 26 mg; Iron: 1 mg; Sodium: 136 mg; Calc: 46 mg.