Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lemon blueberry cheesecake squares






I know it's been way too long since I've updated this blog. To be fair, it's summer which means there's been a lot more boozing (mostly by myself, with the dog) and late night shenanigans (again, with the dog). But there are just excuses. I'm sorry.



I got Rosie spayed a few days ago and I've been keeping myself awake all night double checking to make sure she's not dead and I fear the resulting stress has taken a toll. To all you dog owners: Are you always worried out of your mind that your animal may stop breathing at any second and you need to be around them all the time to make sure that won't happen? I need to keep telling myself the wise advice my mom gave me when I first got her: Chill the fuck out and get a drink. Thanks mom! Advice taken!

I've been having some writer's block lately but I do have a story that's churning around in my head which I will get down on this blog soon.

But on to the baking.



It's the Canada Day long weekend here so I'm taking the time to bake up a storm with a spatula in one hand and white wine in the other. Originally I was going to make something Canada Day themed like a red velvet cake but then I came upon this excellent lemon blueberry cheesecake recipe from Pip & Ebby which seemed too good to pass up.

It has all the elements of a delicious summer dessert: Cheesecake (which I think should be eaten year round), lemon and blueberry.

I have very fond memories of blueberries; when I was a kid, my grandma used to take me blueberry picking around our cottage and we would make dozens of pancakes, muffins and cakes with the delicious, tart berries.



I'm going to be making this again when I go up to the cottage again in two weeks to celebrate my sister's and two of my cousins' birthdays. God bless you, blueberry!

Lemon blueberry cheesecake squares (adapted from Pip & Ebby)

Crust:

- 13 graham crackers, broken into pieces
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp melted butter

Filling:

- Two 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
- 2 tbps milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- Zest from 2 lemons
- Juice from 2 lemons
- 1 pint of blueberries



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8x8-inch baking dish with butter.

In a food processor, combine the graham crackers, granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt and pulse until crumbs form. Add the butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened.

Press crumbs onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, milk, eggs, sugar and flour. Using a hand-held mixer, mix on medium speed until smooth. Add to the bowl the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Mix with hand-held mixer until combined.

Remove a handful of blueberries from the 1-pint package and set aside. Pour the rest of them in the bowl and gently stir them with a spoon until combined. Pour the mixture over the crust in the baking pan. Drop the handful of remaining blueberries on the top.

Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, or until the edges are a very light brown. Let cool completely and then cover and put in the fridge for a minimum of four hours.*

*If you eat it before this, the cheesecake filling will be too mushy and will fall apart.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Yellow buttermilk cupcakes with strawberry meringue buttercream




I know it's been more than a week since I've updated the blog and I've been feeling quite guilty over it but I have a good reason: Last weekend, my boyfriend and I adopted a pug.

Say hi to Rosie:


This little girl has been making her owner one exhausted lady.

As a result, I truly haven't had the time nor the energy to write or bake (but especially write. My brain hasn't had one interesting thought this week. It's all "feed dog, take dog for walk, pick up dog's poo, crate train dog, etc.)

So today I decided I really needed to get things back to normal and since I still can't think of anything to write about, I decided to finish the rest of the buttermilk I used from last week's recipe to make cupcakes.



This recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book, which is basically the most comprehensive cupcake recipe book I've ever seen. The recipe calls for vanilla frosting but that kind of bores me so I found a recipe for strawberry meringue buttercream and thought that would really give a vanilla cupcake some kick. (It also made me think of the impossibly delicious strawberry-topped cupcakes at my local cupcake store, Prairie Girl Bakery.)

These cupcakes were so easy to make,* just don't fill the cupcake tins all the way or else they will overflow (which happened to me several times).



Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)

Makes about 45 cupcakes

- 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp of unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 5 large whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks at room temperature
- 2 cups buttermilk at room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Reduce speed to medium. Add whole eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add yolks, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternative with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each. Beat in vanilla.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in centres comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature or frozen up to two months in airtight containers.

4. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Refrigerate up to three days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and, if desired, decorate with sprinkles before serving.

*The actual cupcakes were easy to make. The buttercream icing however, was a disaster. And on that note...

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream

I messed this up. The picture in the book showed a buttercream that looked like perfect strawberry ice cream on top of the cupcake. Mine came out looking like curdled bloody milk. Ew!



It may have been because I didn't use a paddle attachment on my mixer (I used a flat attachment) or maybe I didn't whip the sugar and egg whites enough. Whatever it was, it did not look good. In fact, when I used the icing bag, it came out looking like, and I'm not lying here, poop. I'm too embarrassed to share those photos so I ended up spreading the buttercream on the cupcakes and adding strawberry pieces on the top to make it look pretty. So... make this at your own risk.



- 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, rinse, hulled and coarsely chopped
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into tbsps, room temperature

1. Puree strawberries in a food processor. Combine egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of a standing electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips.)



2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, mix until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

3. With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tbsps at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula and switch to the paddle attachment; continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Add strawberries and beat until comnined. Stir with a flexible spatula until the frosting is smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day or transfer to airtight container and refrigerate up to three days or freeze up to one month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about five minutes.