Thursday, August 9, 2012

"THE Cheesecake"

This is such good cheesecake. The recipe comes from Cooking Debauchery, and is adapted from Cook's Illustrated, but the write up on it includes a pages long exposition on what is wrong with every other cheesecake in the world, making the recipe nearly impossible to read as it requires way too much scrolling and scanning. Here it is made legible.

  • 4 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup kefir cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • zest of 1 small lemon, finely chopped
  • butter and additional sugar for the pan
  • food processor
  • spatula
  • 9" spring-form pan
  • roughly 18" of 18" wide aluminum foil
  • large roasting pan
  • medium sized pot of boiling water
  • paring or utility knife with a fairly thin blade
1. Preheat oven to 500˚F/260˚C.
2. Place roasting pan in oven and fill with about 1" boiling water.
3. Remove the bottom of the spring-form pan.
4. Wrap foil around the bottom of the botom of the pan such that the completely foiled side is up.
5. Replace the sides of the pan and flatten foil up along the sides to create a water tight seal around the pan.
6. Butter and sugar the inside of the pan.
7. Spread cream cheese and kefir cheese evenly in the food processor and blend briefly.
8. Add sugar and blend.
9. Add eggs and blend until mixture if creamy and consistently mixed.
10. Add vanilla and zest and blend
11. Pour mixture into prepared spring-form pan.
12. Place in roasting pan and pour in additional boiling water if needed. Water should come half-way up the pan.
13. Bake at 500˚F/260˚C for 12 minutes.
14. Reduce heat to 200˚F/93˚C, and open door for a couple of minutes to allow heat to escape.
15. Once heat has gone down, bake without opening the door for 1 hour.
16. Remove pan briefly to run the knife around the edge of the cake to separate it from the wall of the pan. This eliminates cracking on the top of the cake.
17. Bake another 60-75 minutes until the entire cheesecake has a slightly rubbery consistency when shaken.
18. Raise the temperature to 350 and bake until the crust is golden and puffed, about 12 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to over cook it at this point as that will change the texture and mouthfeel of the cheesecake.
19. Remove from oven, pull of sides of pan, and allow to cool to room temperature.
20. Place cheesecake, covered lightly with foil, in fridge and chill overnight.

We'll eat this with chocolate sauce, or blueberries, or sliced strawberries.

Kefir Cheese

This is dead simple if you make your own kefir (which, by the way is pronounced keh-FEER, not KEE-fur, not that I will ever correct you in public, just don't try to correct me).

  • strained milk kefir, any amount under 1/2 gallon
  • large bowl
  • cheesecloth, or clean flour sack kitchen towel
  • string or twine
1. Cover the bowl with the cheesecloth.
2. Pour kefir into the cheesecloth/bowl.
3. Gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and wrap them together with the string.
4. Tie the end of the string to the door knob of a cabinet door so the entire bundle hangs over the bowl.
5. Strain for 6-12 hours.
6. Remove cheese from the cloth and refrigerate.
7. Save the whey that has collected in the bowl for lacto-fermented recipes, either in the fridge or freezer.

If the kefir has been in the fridge for a few days and is extra sharp I use the resulting cheese for cheesecake.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Horrid Breakfast Drink

This is my breakfast most days, especially workdays when I wake up as late as possible and chug this stuff with all my old-man pills on the drive to work. It's more like medicine than food. Not recommended, but it does its job.

  • 2 heaping scoops vanilla flavored powdered whey protein
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground flax meal
  • filtered water
  • hot water
  • 1 heaping teaspoon raw powdered cacao (cocoa powder, but fancy)
  • 2 heaping teaspoon ends matcha powder (yes, the handle of a teaspoon)
  • some ice cubes
  • maple syrup (very optional, and not recommended)

1. Dump whey powder and flax meal into the Klean Kanteen (or other similarly sized, sealable, non-reactive container).
2. Fill container less than halfway with filtered water, seal, and shake hard.
3. Dump matcha powder and cacao powder into mug/glass of hot water and stir.
4. Add hot water mixture to container (along with maple syrup if you want this to be palatable, but don't mind loosing out on the supposed weight loss benefit of 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking).
5. Add enough ice cubes to raise water level to just below the neck of the container.
6. Seal and agitate some more.
7. Heaven help you.

At one point I was adding the Nativas superfood blend of hemp, maca, and cacao (thanks to a price mix-up at Wholefoods), but it made my mouth raw. I suspect the hemp, but would have to try it or the maca separately to be sure. I plan on adding freeze dried nettle leaf to the mix next time we do a bulk order from Frontier.

Pretty Good Made-up Bread

This is a totally made-up-on-the-spot recipe. I hadn't made bread in a while, and I'd just strained a batch of kefir, and I had ground flax seed on hand from my horrid breakfast beverage, so this is what happened.

Ingredients (for "sponge")
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2/3 cup strained kefir
  • 1/4 cup ground flax meal
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached bread flour
  • 1/4 tbsp olive oil
  • roughly 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • a handful of cornmeal
  • a splash of olive oil
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • a kitchen mixer with bread hook 
  • or a big bowl
  • a damp cloth
  • someplace warm
  • a baking stone (or a baking sheet, if you're lame;)
  • a small ovenproof bowl of water
  • a pizza peel
  • small knife, preferably serrated
1. Sprinkle the yeast and molasses into the warm water and proof (7 to 10 minutes).
2. Mix in the remainder of the "sponge" ingredients. This is a totally fake sponge. Real sponges take at least 12 hours and have a more complex, sourdough-like smell. This is quick and dirty with the kefir added for some microbiological complexity.
3. Set mixture covered in a warm place (I set mine above the water heater) until very bubbly. 1 to 2 hours.
4. Mix in remainder of flour. I'm deliberately vague about the exact quantity. This should be a soft, sticky dough, nearly as sticky a sourdough, but not quite.
5. Knead for 10 minutes.
6. Form in to a ball and transfer to a large bowl that has been oiled with olive oil.
7. Dust top with extra flour and cover with damp cloth.
8. Return to warm place and allow to rise until doubled. About 1 hour.
9. Punch down and return to rise until doubled in warm place, or if you need to slow things down you could put it in the fridge for a while. This will gain you up to 4 or 5 hours on the final rise.
10. Place baking stone and an ovenproof bowl of water in oven
11. Preheat your oven to 415˚ F or 213˚ C.
12. Divide dough and form into two torpedo shaped loaves on a flour dusted pizza peel.
13. Dust loaves with flour and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes.
14. Throw cornmeal onto baking stone and slide loaves on.
15. Slice top of loaf with a serrated knife or wet paring knife (wetting the knife keeps the dough from sticking and pulling, a serrated knife works dry).
15. Splash a handful of water onto the base of the oven (if this won't cause all kinds to nastiness to fly up), or spray water in oven with a mister (avoiding loaves).
16. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 375˚ F or 190˚ C.
17. Bake another 25 to 35 minutes. This a dark bread already thanks to the molasses and rye and wheat flours, so rather than eyeball it, pick up a loaf and thump the bottom. It should sound hollow.
18. Allow bread to cool before cutting into it. Baking continues for several minutes after it comes out of the oven, and cutting into it while it's hot (it's so tempting, I know!) can ruin the internal structure of the loaf.

This bread is great with butter from happy cows (we get ours locally from Lucky Layla at Lavon Farms, or Kerrygold is a great supermarket alternative), and honey from a backyard hive, or jelly from foraged wild fruits (I made mustang grape jelly a couple of weeks ago). It also makes decent torijas.