Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake

Sunday, January 1, 2012
File this one into the category of, "I can't believe I actually made something this amazing".



I am not a baker, or a professional chef. If I can make this, anyone can!!  Sure, it's time consuming but if you want to make something impressive and over-the-top tasty good, try this recipe!  Oh also make it one day ahead to let the flavors mix n mingle and settle in together.  

Special Tools Needed:  food processor, coffee grinder, 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides (a.k.a: a "cheesecake pan") , electric or stand mixer, pastry bag (or use a Ziploc bag), and a small star tip.  You'll also need some patience and some time. Prep + chilling time is over 3 hours. Final Chill is at least 6 hours - so don't go making this a few hours before you need to arrive at Aunt Margaret's pot luck supper!

Ingredients 
Crust
1 9-ounce box chocolate wafer cookies
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7-8 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Chocolate Ganache
1 1/2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream
20 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips / or bars, chopped
1/4 cup coffee-flavored liqueur (I used Starbucks but you can use  KahlĂșa  or any other type) 

Filling
4  8-ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature ( I like Philly the best but use whatever kind you like)
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp dark rum (I used Myers but you can use any dark rum...take a sip while you're at it. Makes cooking more fun!)
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp ground whole espresso coffee beans (medium-coarse grind)
1 tbsp vanilla
2 teaspoons light molasses
4 large eggs, room temperature

Topping
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla 

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Instructions

Crust
Finely grind up the cookies, chocolate, brown sugar, and nutmeg in a food processor. Add the melted butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down bowl occasionally. This will be about a minute.  

Transfer the crumb mixture to your springform pan. Press crumb mixture firmly up sides to within 1/2 inch of top edge, then over bottom of pan. ( Wrap your fingers with plastic wrap to make it easier... or just dip them in more melted butter... ) 

Ganache
Bring whipping cream to a simmer in large saucepan. Remove from heat; add in the chocolate and coffee liqueur. Whisk until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth. Resist the urge to dip your fingers in and eat it. 
Pour 2 cups ganache over bottom of crust. Freeze until ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. 

Reserve remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature to use later for creating lattice pattern.

Filling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Using an electric or stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended.  Beat in flour. 

Stir rum, espresso powder, ground coffee, vanilla, and molasses in small bowl until instant coffee dissolves; beat into cream cheese mixture. 

Beat in eggs 1 at a time, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.

Pour filling over cold ganache.  Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until top is brown, puffed and cracked at edges, and center 2 inches moves only slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 5 minutes.  You don't need a water bath for this cheesecake because we're covering the top, so the cracks don't matter. 

Transfer cheesecake to rack. Cool 15-20 minutes while preparing topping (note that the top of cheesecake will fall slightly,this is normal).  Leave the oven on, still at 350. 


Topping
Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Pour topping over hot cheesecake, spreading to cover filling completely. Bake until topping is set, about 10 minutes. (You can turn the oven off now) 

Transfer cheesecake to rack and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. 

Run small sharp knife between crust and pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides.  I just leave the bottom part of the pan attached to the cheesecake. I am WAY to afraid of taking the cheesecake off of the metal disk. If you want to try it, you can feel free but it's perfectly OK to leave it on the bottom of the pan. 

Spoon reserved ganache into pastry bag fitted with small star tip.

Pipe 6 diagonal lines atop cheesecake, spacing 1 inch apart. Repeat in opposite direction, making lattice. Pipe rosettes of ganache around top edge of cake.  Chill until lattice is firm, at least 6 hours. Wrap loosely in foil, forming dome over lattice; keep refrigerated) 




Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

Rustic Meatballs


I love meatballs. My grandmother, who wasn't Italian, used to make some really great meatballs. Unfortunately she passed away and I never got the recipe. I have attempted to duplicate her recipe and I think they came out pretty close.   I'm calling them "rustic" meatballs because of the rough chops of the garlic and onions, and also because they're not perfectly uniform and round.  I set out to make them this way  - so they not only match the texture and flavor of the meatballs she used to make .. but they match in appearance as well.   Full recipe posted below.


The meatballs are surprisingly easy to prepare -- basically just throw everything into a bowl and mix with your hands - sometimes it can be kind of fun to get your hands dirty.

The cast of characters includes ground beef, pork, and veal. To that I added some seasonings (salt, pepper, parsley, and Italian seasoning), some bread crumbs, and a rough chop of garlic.   I used eggs and a bit of milk as the liquid ingredients.



Note, I didn't forget the onions - they're a key ingredient in these meatballs!  I was afraid the onions would not get soft enough if I added them raw, so I rough chopped them and I sauteed them for a bit to soften them up.  Once they were softened up, I let them cool for a bit in the fridge before I added them to the meatball mixture.



Once the onions are cooled, add them to the meatball mixture and get your hands in there and mix, mix, mix!
Work all the ingredients together until it resembles this:

You'll note that the onions don't seem to be mixed that well and, well, you're right. I may have used a bit too many onions but I wanted to ensure that each meatball had some onion-y goodness in it. It's okay if not all the onions get incorporated into the mixture.

Next -- get out a pan and heat it up to medium (I used the same pan that I sauteed the onions in).   Start rolling the meatballs and adding them to the pan. Note: do not over fill the pan, you'll need room to maneuver and flip the meatballs to get them browned on all sides.

I average about 12-13 meatballs in the frying pan and I have a decently big frying pan.   Turn each meatball around so that each side gets browned.

Take them out when they are done and repeat until all the remaining meatballs are browned.

Now your options are to either throw them into a crock pot filled with sauce and cook until they are done, or you can bake them in the oven for about 30 minutes.  If you really want to go nuts, make your own sauce and let the meatballs cook and simmer in there.



Ingredients - Yield 40 "medium" sized meatballs

1.5 pounds ground beef (85% fat)
.75 pound ground pork
.75 pound ground veal
3 large eggs
6-8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups bread crumbs (I used Italian seasoned crumbs)
1/4 cup milk

Crock pot method - you'll need 3 jars of sauce. I use a mixture of tomato/basil and marinara.

*****
Instructions


If baking the meatballs, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
If using a crock pot, add 3 jars of sauce to a crock pot and turn it on high.

Saute the onions until soft, cool and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the meat, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic, milk, salt, and pepper.  Mix it all together with your hands. Get dirty!    Add in the cooled onions and mix some more.

Form into balls 1.5-2" in diameter and add to a frying pan.  Brown on all sides, and then remove from pan.  Repeat until all meat mixture is used up and you have browned all the meatballs.

If using a crock pot, simply place the meatballs into the sauce and keep in on high until the meatballs are cooked through - approximately 3 hours.

If baking, add to preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. (less time if you're making smaller meatballs, longer if you are making larger meatballs).

That's it, Enjoy!