Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

I made this dulce de leche cheesecake for my daughter M’s 21st birthday. She loves cheesecake, so I was pretty sure she’d like this, and she did. It’s a great cake for cheesecake lovers. It turns out it’s also a great cake for turning non-cheesecake lovers (people who say “I don’t like cheesecake”) into cheesecake lovers (people who say “this is the most awesome cake in recorded history” — yes, these were the actual words). That makes me happy, because she is the most awesome daughter in recorded history, so I’m glad everyone liked her cake!

Dulce de leche is caramelized sweetened milk, and it is amazing. There is no way anyone can not adore it. You can buy it in jars at Latin American markets, or make your own. I used David L’s recipe. It both flavors the filling and serves as the light-colored accent on the caramel topping. I made it less dark than some dulce de leche I’ve seen, although it’s not quite as pale as it appears in my photo.

Some hints for perfect cheesecake :

  • For a smooth batter, the cream cheese needs to be very soft. Leave it out overnight, or put it in the microwave a few seconds at a time.
  • Keep the mixer on low-medium speed, to avoid incorporating too much air.
  • Scrape the bowl and paddle diligently. There’s nothing worse than noticing a lump of unincorporated cheese stuck to the bottom of the mixing bowl as you’re pouring the filling into the pan.
  • A Springform pan can allow water to seep into the crust when you bake the cake in a water bath, even if you protect the bottom with foil. A deep, straight-sided cake pan is better. Unmold it by inverting it onto a plate and then again onto a second plate. It might stick a tiny bit but this is a creamy cake so you can smooth it out with an offset spatula and no one will notice it if the cake has a topping. If it’s to be left bare, try lightly buttering the plate onto which you invert the cake, as well as the plastic you wrap it with.
  • Cool the cake completely at room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. Leaving it in the water bath helps it cool slowly and prevents cracking.
  • For clean cuts, dip the knife in hot water and dry it with a towel before cutting each slice.
  • For a completely gluten-free cake, make the crust with gluten-free graham wafers.

I’m sorry there are no photos of the sliced cake. It went too quickly.

[Read more...]

Pandoro and Friends

2012, be warned: 2011 is a tough act to follow. The beautiful and exciting things that came my way in 2011 are too numerous to count, but Number Two on the list has to be the trip Jay and I took to Morocco and Venice in November (with Number One being our wedding a month later). And while the highlights of that trip are also too numerous to count, our day in Verona is on that list for sure.

The charming city of Verona is an easy 80-minute train ride from (equally charming) Venice, and we thought it would make a lovely day trip. Jay was thinking history, culture, architecture, photography. I — obviously! — was thinking Pandoro pans. I have been coveting genuine Italian pans for this star-shaped golden holiday bread forever, and they just can’t be found in the US. But Pandoro originated in Verona, so I was sure I could find some there.

And find them I did, but that wasn’t the best part. The best part was how I found them. I remembered that the lovely and talented Cinzia also hails from Verona, and when I emailed her to ask about where I might buy the pans, she not only came through with the name of a shop (Plurimix), but she came into the city to meet us! Over lunch and a slice of Nadalin (another Veronese holiday bread, reportedly the forerunner of Pandoro), I found Cinzia to be every bit as warm and delightful as her blog.

And that, my dear friends, is the real pleasure I derive from writing this blog: connecting with wonderful people all over the globe, whether face-to-face or through virtual pathways.  I can’t think of a nicer way to observe BreadBakingDay — the monthly event that celebrates baking and breaking bread together — than with Pandoro dedicated to Cinzia (who happens to be hosting BBD this month, too!), Zorra (creator of BBD), and all of my bread-baking friends everywhere.

[Read more...]

Stollen

Today is December 16, 2011. Is this an important date because …

A) It’s the posting (and my hosting) day for the Bread Baking Babes

B) I get married today

C) Both of the above, and by the time you read this I will have pulled the Stollen from the oven, dusted the flour off my dress, and made my way to City Hall to exchange vows with my beautiful, brilliant, sweet, funny, gentle, loving…

Ahem. Back to the Stollen. A perfect choice for this month, because it practically makes itself, leaving us Babes to occupy our minds with… whatever other things we may wish to occupy them with.

Stollen is one of my favorite holiday breads, and quite easy to make. It is a traditional bread from Dresden, Germany, and the shape is said to represent the swaddled child in the manger. You kind of have to use your imagination to see this.

Mixing the dough is simple if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, although it takes some time. Just throw the ingredients in the mixer, turn it on, and go buy a wedding dress or something.The dough will be ready when you get back.

[Read more...]

Gibassier

Gibassier-wild-yeast

When I was a student at SFBI, if you had asked any of us for a short list of our favorite sweet breads, Gibassier would have been on it every time. To get an idea of our collective response to the mere mention of this regional brioche, delicately flavored with orange and and anise and enriched with olive oil, think Les Simpsons en Provence: “Mmmm…. Gibassier!”

There seems to be some disagreement about whether Gibassier and Pompe à ‘Huile — one of the thirteen Provençal Christmas desserts — are the same thing. I don’t know the answer, but why quibble? I’m pretty sure no one will complain if this bread winds upon your dessert table — at Christmas time or any other time, with or without twelve other sweets — or on your breakfast table or your coffee table.

[Read more...]

Banana Crumb Bread

For this banana bread, inspired by my all-time favorite from The Moosewood Cookbook, I replaced a portion of the flour with fine dry bread crumbs. The crumbs I used were from a slightly sweet oatmeal molasses bread, but any crumbs should work if your banana is good and ripe.

[Read more...]

Apricot-Pistachio Sticky Buns

apricot-pistachio-sticky-buns-2-wild-yeast

In these sticky buns, the traditional raisins and pecans are replaced with dried apricots and pistachios. Shelled pistachios can be a bit hard to find, but I came away from my last flour run to Costco with a big bag, roasted and salted. Of course, just about any nuts and dried fruit will work. Just remember to get a big package of napkins at Costco, too; they’re not called sticky buns for nothing!

apricot-pistachio-sticky-bun

[Read more...]