May 28, 2014

Prepping for Shavuos—in the Kitchen


This week we’re taking a break from our culinary travels. It’s time to think about preparing for Shavuos—both spiritually and culinarily!

When we think of Shavuos the first thing that pops into our heads is “cheesecake!” The second thought is inevitably “too many calories!” While we have tried many low fat or low calorie cheesecakes, nothing compares to the real thing. So to keep from overindulging this Shavuos we suggest smaller portions. You don’t have to forego cheesecake altogether—just stick with individual bars or small cakes and limit yourself to one.

 
Mini Creme Brulee Cheesecakes

For the pastry crust:      
1 cup flour       
6 tablespoons sugar      
pinch salt       
4 tablespoons butter, (1/2 a stick) cut into small pieces       
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons ice cold water     


 
For the cheese filling:
1 pound unwhipped cream cheese

3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
8 tablespoons granulated sugar

 Prepare the crust:
 Sift together flour, sugar & salt in a large bowl.  Add butter and use a pastry blender to cut mixture into large crumbs.  You can also do this in a food processor using short pulses.  Using a fork, stir in the egg yolk and water until all the flour has been incorporated.  Shape dough into a round disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter the bottom of eight 4” springforms or tartlet pans.  Dust with flour, shaking out and excess.  Remove from refrigerator and divide dough into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a 5” round and press into prepared pan, bringing dough up the sides slightly.  Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and place pans in the freezer for 15 minutes. 
 Cut aluminum foil squares to fit pans.  Place a square of foil in each pan and weigh down with pie weights or beans.  Place the individual pans on a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. 
 Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.   Remove from oven, take out foil and weights and allow to cool.

Prepare the cheesecake filling:
 Using the paddle attachment to an electric mixer or a handblender, mix all the filling ingredients until just blended.  DO NOT OVERMIX!  Divide the filling among the prebaked pie shells. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or just until set.  Cool and  refrigerate for a minimum of one hour.

To caramelize:
Sprinkle the top of each cheese tart evenly with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Using a chef’s torch*, caramelize the top of each  cake by heating the sugar with the torch’s flame until it melts and turns a dark amber color.   When making these tarts for Shavuos, freeze immediately after caramelizing.  Remove from freezer and defrost 2-3 hours before serving.  Do not refrigerate--brulee topping will get soggy from the moisture in your refrigerator. 
 Yield: 8 4” individual desserts  


 *a chef’s torch is a mini propane torch that is used to caramelize sugar quickly and easily.

 
Praline Cheesecake Brownies
For brownie layer:
10 tablespoons butter (5 ounces)
2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate,
1/4 cup praline paste

2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder

For cheesecake layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup praline paste


 
directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 9x9 inch square pan with parchment allowing the paper to extend over the edge of the pan.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler until just melted. Set aside to cool.  Combine praline paste, eggs, and sugar in your mixer bowl and mix well. Add the chocolate mixture and continue mixing.  Sift in flour and cocoa powder and mix until well combined. Pour batter into your prepared pan and spread evenly. Set aside while you prepare the cheesecake layer.
Mix the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and praline in your mixer until well combined. Pour over your brownie batter.
Bake until the cheesecake looks set, about 40-45 minutes. Allow brownies to cool completely in the pan before cutting into squares.


 


Coconut-Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

For the crust:
1/2 cup butter
1 sleeve graham crackers, finely crushed
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup sugar

 For the cheesecake:
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang at the sides of the pan; set aside.

Prepare the crust:
In a small saucepan heat butter over medium heat until the color of light brown sugar. Be careful not to let it burn. Remove from heat; set aside.

In medium bowl stir together graham crackers, coconut, and 1/4 cup sugar. Stir in butter until combined. Evenly press on bottom of parchment lined pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and 2/3 cup sugar on medium until combined. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Beat until combined. Pour over hot crust.

Toss blueberries in confectioners’ sugar until completely coated. Sprinkle blueberries over cheesecake batter. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until center appears set.
Cool in pan on rack. Cover and refrigerate. Cut into bars. Store, covered, in refrigerator.
Makes about 32 bars.

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