Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge April 2009 - Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

This was my first Daring Bakers Challenge, and my very first cheesecake to make (I’ve had it once or twice before, though).
The recipe called for graham crackers for the crust, and they are nowhere to be found in Italy, where I live.
So, I checked in my teenage memories, back when my exotic bake researches stretched as far as United Kingdom and Ireland. I remember that cheesecakes there and then were made with a crust of Digestives, and as they have been my favorite cookies for a very long time, it was natural for me to use them.

So I mixed 12 crumbled cookies with 4oz (115gr) of butter and two tablespoons of sugar.

As for the actual cheese part, it went on pretty easily: I just mixed the cream cheese (24 oz/ 720gr) with 1 cup of sugar (200gr), 3 large eggs, 1 cup (240 ml) of heavy cream.
When it came to the flavor, there was no doubt: a few weeks ago I opened a rose water bottle, one that I had found last year in an International Food store in Las Vegas and that I was keeping as a big treasure, being it so difficult to find here.

The point is, how precious can a thing be, if you don’t use and enjoy it? And so now, we smell and taste a lot of rose, in this house!
I skipped the liquor that was in the original recipe, I kept a tablespoon of lemon juice, because lemon scent takes out rose’s one best, and went with 1.5 tbsp of rose water.

The baking was to be made in a water bath, but I didn’t trust my springform pan, so I followed a suggestion by Jill of Jillicious Desserts that I read on the Daring Kitchen forum. I used a normal pan, and after the cake cooled, I froze it. Once the cake was frozen, it was easy to pop it out of the pan (although it was not completely solid, even if it had stayed in the freezer overnight).

As a decoration I used non-treated roses and petals. This was a lot of fun for my kids, for when they saw me spreading petals around, thought that if Mommy was doing it, it must have been the right thing to do and “helped”.
The cake was very good, and the taste of roses was much stronger the day after the baking.

I know that many other Daring Bakers went down the monoportion/cupcakes path. It is a very good idea, and I wish I had it. I’ll keep it in mind for the next times.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Classic Carbonara

In these last few days I’ve been brainstorming about this blog: should I keep it just for the Daring Kitchen Challenges? Should I stretch for something more? What would I put in it? Oh, my gosh I have to buy new plates! A new lens! Tablecloth! Open up a new window, this kitchen is way too dark!
Something like that.
Then last night my men asked me a Carbonara for dinner, and I thought that way back, when my husband and I met, I could barely fry an egg. And as the relationship went on, and I came to ask him what his favorite dish was, carbonara was the answer.

Now, Italy is famous in the entire world for its cooking.
The truth is that once you are in Italy, Italian cooking doesn’t exist anymore, and you go deep into regional cooking. I’m from Milan, and I have some friends in Rome that consider polenta an exotic dish. My father wouldn’t be caught dead eating a pizza.

Carbonara is from Rome and I had never considered it as something that I could actually eat, I didn’t even know what WAS in it! So that was the first recipe that I looked for in my adult life, I remember the sense of discovery, and it makes sense for it to be my first post.

So, you would need a half pound of guanciale. It is the cheek of the pig, whereas lard comes from the back and pancetta and bacon from the belly, and its fat is a little harder and valuable that the other two, but it’s very common to use pancetta, just don’t tell it to the Romans.
There is a vegetarian version, substituting zucchini for the guanciale.
While living in the States, I used smoked bacon more than once. It wasn’t the original taste, but flying out of the State in the quest for the right ingredient would have been unpractical, and we got used to that.

Dice it and heat it softly, so that it releases its fat in the pan (which by the way is a whole recipe on its own, and I will talk about that in the future).

In the meantime, put a pot of water to the boil and go on cooking your pasta (I’m not passionate about spaghetti, and prefer to use bavette or fettuccine).
Beat 4 eggs in a bowl; add salt and pepper to the taste and 2 oz of grated cheese.
Again, you should go for Pecorino, a seasoned sheep cheese, but Parmigiano does the job.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and put it back in the pot. Pour the egg/cheese mix on the pasta and mix well, while the heat from the pasta cooks the eggs, leaving them soft.

Then, add all the content of the “fat” pan: the liquid part will act as a dressing, the solid bits will be good to taste in there.

Sprinkle some more pepper if you like, and serve.

For 6 servings:
1 lbs/450gr of long pasta (spaghetti, bavette, fettuccine)
½ lbs/220gr of guanciale (pancetta, bacon, zucchini for the vegetarian version)
4 eggs
2oz/60 grams of pecorino cheese (parmigiano)

You will need the recipe just the first time, after that, you're ready to eyeball it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Warm up

First time around.

I'm putting up this blog because I found something that seems so funny I definitely wanted to join and enjoy, that is the Daring Bakers (and Cooks) Challenge.

So, before the posting day comes, I might as well figure out how blogging works... how to hyperlink, for one.