Sunday, December 18, 2011

Adventures in Red Velvet Cheesecake Layer Cake, Part 1

I begin this journey by saying, the cake is NOT a lie.

For Christmas, I have decided to try and recreate the Red Velvet Cheesecake Layer Cake from the Cheesecake factory.  I started with Alton Brown's recipe for both the Red Velvet Cake on the Food Network and Cheesecake Layers.  Red Velvet recipe is at the preceding link, but I made it in one 8x3 round cake pan instead of two 9 inch pans.  I then cut the cake in half.

The Cheesecake recipe came from Alton Brown's book, I'm Just Here for More Food:
24 oz creme cheese (three packages)
1/2 c sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
1 tbsp vanilla extract
5 oz sweetened condensed milk (by weight)
1 c sour creme
I also make a crust for the cheesecake using:
4 oz Nilla Wafers (by weight)
1/4 cup butter, melted 
The instructions for the cheesecake are the same as that for the slightly different version of this cheesecake found on the Food TV website.

I then used my standard creme cheese frosting recipe
16 oz creme cheese
1/4 cup butter
12 oz powdered sugar (by weight)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract 
Beat together creme cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until light an fluffy (let it go a few minutes).  Then slowly add the powdered sugar while beating on low speed.  When all sugar has been added, turn the speed to high and let it get nice and fluffy.  Add extracts and then pop in the fridge to set.
With trips to the store and cooling time, it took about 24 hours from start to finish.  And this was the product:

Success, right?  Not so much on this first round.  The big problem is the cheesecake.  It is very, very loose.  So loose that there was no way to frost between the layers once I sliced the cheesecake in half (and separating those layers was its own challenge).  So loose that I question the structural integrity of slices.  And just two loose for my tastes.  Additionally, I'm not completely sold on cheesecakes that use sour creme instead of lemon.  I like my cheesecake sweet and firm, and this was not those things.  I'm not sure if the recipe just won't be usable for this application, or whether I need to up the cooking time to get it nice and firm.  For Christmas i'll probably just go with another recipe and leave AB's recipe for further tinkering in the future. I think I will also cut down on the amount of melted butter that goes into the cookie crust.

Additionally, I think I need to reverse the order that I make the cakes.  This time I make the red velvet cake first, so it had 18 hours more or less in the fridge before assembly, which I think made it a bit too dense.  Next time around I will prep the cheesecake the night before and the red velvet cake the day of assembly.  But it is a tasty cake.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Building Off A Childhood Favorite - A Great Use for Ground Turkey

I've traditionally not been a big fan of ground turkey, especially as a substitute for ground beef.  Primarily, that's due to the fact that in many cases, the supermarket butcher or agri-corporation preparing the ground beef will cut the very lean turkey breast with added animal fat.  Thus you can end up with a product that has just as much fat as ground beef but that doesn't taste as good.

However, when I was growing up, Nana would regularly make turkey balls and tortellini whenever I stayed with her and Papa for a night or a weekend.  A few weeks ago, I decided to try and recreate it for Colleen.  While I don't think I capture the magic of Nana's creation, I was able to develop a really tasty turkey ball that will enter heavy rotation at Casa de Griffin (just probably in different applications).

Turkey and Blue Cheese Balls 

16-20 oz. ground turkey breast (so far I have used 93/7 ground turkey, anything leaner might make the balls too dry) *See update below.
1/2 c blue cheese crumbled
1/2 c plain bread crumbs
1 egg
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sage

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Mix together all ingredients, making sure to incorporate the blue cheese well without overworking the mixture.
  3. Shape into 1 oz balls.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes at 450°F.  Then reduce heat to 350°F and bake 20 minutes more.
  5. Serve immediate.
Yield: 2 dozen turkey balls.
The second time I made this, I served them on a bed of couscous with green beans sauteed in garlic, butter and lemon juice.

This will most likely be served as an appetizer on Christmas Eve this year.

UPDATE (10-28-2011): As suspected, I tried this recipe tonight with 99/1 ground turkey and it came out pretty poorly.  The turkey balls were extremely dry and did not brown at all except for where they rested on the cookie sheet.  Stick with the lean ground turkey rather than an extra lean ground turkey.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

And we're back

After letting this blog fall to the wayside for well over two years, I've decided to start it back up again.  Hopefully with a more food-centric focus as I've recently tried to take my culinary skills to the next level.

A few quick and dirty updates for the last two years - really just to inform Mr. Blogger.

  • Got married, which means that I also got a full set of super-awesome pans and beyond awesome knives (as well as a wife).
  • Graduated law school (waiting on bar results).
  • Moved back to Jersey.  Have huge apartment with a ginormous kitchen and backyard for a grill.
  • Won two ribbons (a blue and a red) for my Caramel Apple Pie.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

For When I'm Not a Poor Law Student...

I'm going to admit it - I really like cheese. Like, I'll go to Whole Foods and just sniff various cheeses for 10 minutes (and eventually buy a piece of one to taste over the next few days).

That's why one day, when I have a real job again, I want to do this. That's right, Cheese Boot Camp. From the Murray's website:

Learn from the Murray's what we know best: Cheese! From how cheese is made to the basics of tasting, and everything in between. We've designed this weekend long class to give each student a strong foundation in the world of cheese.

Cheese U is a serious course of study, and will include suggested readings and optional take home assignments. The series will culminate in an exam. Successful completion of the program is awarded with a Certificate of Achievement.

After the 3-day series, complete with lectures, demonstrations and tastings, each student will be able to differentiate cheese styles, describe cheeses in depth, and pair like a pro.

I may be crazy, but I actually want to be able to speak knowledgeably about cheese and be able to understand terms like "nutty flavor" and "smooth finish" (or something like that, those things might not actually apply to cheese).

Cheese boot camp, you heard it here first.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tina Fey nails Sarah Palin

And she doesn't even race snowmobiles...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Small town values

Just a few questions for the Republicans:
  • How big can a town be, and still be "small"?
  • Do no gay people live in these "small towns"?
  • Could you replace "small town" with "white, straight, evangelical"?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Biden telling it like it is

There's just something that feels so familar when Joe Biden speaks.  His passion is honest and poignant, but at the same time, he seems like "Uncle Joe" - that guy your parents grew up with and was always a blast to talk to at family parties because he had great stories from the block.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Deep Thought

Just remember, every time someone from the GOP mentions how much of a maverick McSame and McPitbull have been by going against their party, that means that the GOP believed in something wrong. Wouldn't it just have been better for the GOP didn't do something stupid in the first place?


From last night's Daily Show:

Highlights of the Night

Just a brief, and incomplete, run-down of my favorite parts of tonight's speech by Sarah "20-Months-As-Governor-Of-The-State-Closest-to-Russia" Palin. And by favorite, I mean most obnoxious and/or annoying:

  • "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening." - Well, I wouldn't be surprised has never had to deal with a community organizer as she has lived in towns of 7,500 (Wasilla) and 30,000 (Juneau). So maybe someone should explain just how important community organizers are to poor neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago, in West Philadelphia and Harlem. So this is what community organizers do - they help people know about their legal rights; they help them find a way to put food on the table and keep the lights on; they help families build stronger schools and safer streets; they help working class families realize the American dream. In short, they get families the services that government can't or won't provide. The horror! What they don't do - they don't try to ban books from the library and then try to fire the librarian; they don't increase taxes on poor and working families while cutting it for corporations; they don't leave their communities further in debt; and they certainly don't hire other people to do they job they were paid $75,000 (partially because they get no where near $75,000 in salary).
  • Frequent cut shots to Bristol Palin and her babydaddy. And I really hate the term "babydaddy," but honestly, if her daughter and failure as a parent are supposed to remain a private, family affair, then don't drag your daughter's boyfriend to the convention. She's quickly losing the high-ground on this point.
  • "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick." - Perhaps funny, and maybe even true, but in no way flattering.
  • "While I was at it, I got rid of a few things in the governor's office that I didn't believe our citizens should have to pay for." - Like your former brother-in-law, or the Public Safety Commissioner who refused to fire him at your request?
  • "Our state budget is under control. We have a surplus." - Perhaps because Alaska is number one in per capita federal spending or number three in amount of federal funds received per dollar paid in federal taxes? It's a lot easier to balance the budget when New Jersey is footing the bill.
  • "I told the Congress 'thanks, but no thanks,' for that Bridge to Nowhere." - Funny, that not how the people in Alaska remember it.
  • "To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House." - Methinks she only became a friend and advocate this year, after learning that she'd be giving to a boy with Downs Syndrome. After all, it's not like the Republican party has a strong record of providing the disabled community with the services they need.
Oh, and in case no one told Sarah Palin this - the name of the Democratic nominee for President of the United States is Senator Barack Obama.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

And if Palin was a Witch

As suggested by the great Keith Olbermann (he made the Tracy Flick reference, too).I am enjoying how K.O. is trying to play it straight on the surface and then throwing in random pop culture references to show his disgust. Bravo!

Separated at Birth?

Don't forget to vote for Sarah Palin this Thursday during homeroom for Junior Class Secretary!

Pop quiz: How is Sarah Palin like school in August?

Answer: Both have no class.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I survived

The first week of law school, that is. This should be fun.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Another Brilliant Weezer Music Video

Weezer follows up the genius of "Buddy Holly" and "Keep Fishing" with their tribute to YouTube's fifteen minute celebrities:

Saw the preview on my AppleTV today while browsing new music and immediately bought the full video. While the Red Album on the whole has been a disappointment for me, this is pure gold.