Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day! Window Painting, Cheesecake Brulee, and Cookies from Annie the Baker!

You want your kids to think that you're "the coolest"? Gather some washable tempera paint and brushes and the next time they complain, "I'm BORED!", casually announce that you're going to paint the windows and you'd like for them to help. Of course, depending on the ages of the children in your life, you may need to explain that they can only paint the windows with you AND with this "special" paint. With a 2 and 5 year old, this was a carefully supervised activity. I painted the outlines and then I helped them to color in the hearts. They loved this! Great way to pass an hour and we were all working together to create something. In the words of the Wonder Pets, "What's gonna work? TEAMWORK!" Super fun.

And now for my gift to all of you....

Cheesecake Brulee! For anyone who has ever been conflicted when the dessert menu arrives...Cheesecake? Creme Brulee? Cheesecake? Creme Brulee? Hmmm. This time the choice was made for me. I've spent the week visiting my family back in Indiana. Actually, just the women of my family. The men (including my husband) all left for the Daytona 500. With all of our husbands headed South, my sisters, mom, and I planned a Valentine's celebration of our own for Saturday night. Slumber party! I volunteered to make dessert. I only had one goal when I began searching for the dessert recipe: whatever I made, it would involve my mom's kitchen torch. I've been dying to try it out. I started flipping through the instruction manual for mom's William Sonoma Kitchen Torch, which came complete with recipes. I'd just about settled on traditional Creme Brulee when my youngest sister arrived to pick up her baby (I'd watched her daughter all day since her usual sitter was ill). She sat across the table from me and we caught up for a few minutes as I filled her in on the happenings of her daughter's day. I showed her the recipes that I was considering. "Oh," she said. She didn't look or sound thrilled. "What's wrong?" I asked. She informed me that she just isn't a big fan of creme brulee. Apparently, she's more of a cheesecake girl. Bummer. But then I found this recipe that merges the best of both worlds! Score!

Usually, I try to provide a detailed step-by-step of the recipes that I make. Tonight I will not mince words. It's late. I drove the 5 hours back to Ohio this afternoon. Admittedly, I'm a little tired from last night's slumber party. Tomorrow is grocery day and I don't have a meal plan yet. Something's gotta give. : ) I'm going to suspend my usual attention to detail for this one post.

Make the crust.

Make the filling.


Cool. Then Chill.

As the sun set on the Indiana corn stubble, I loaded up the mini van with the cheesecake, kitchen torch, kids, overnight bag, and chick flicks.

I meant to get some shots of me torching the sugar into a delicately thin, caramelized crust atop the rich, creamy cheesecake. No dice. My camera battery was dead. I'd snapped too much footage of my kids playing in the snow with their cousins earlier in the day.

I decided to cut the cheesecake and plate before sprinkling with sugar and caramelizing. Here's why: Once the caramelized sugar cools, it hardens. Cutting after this happens would be a mess. Shattered, caramelized sugar everywhere! I'm not really sure why this recipe suggested to caramelize the sugar before cutting. Hmmm.

Here's the finished result.

Have mercy!

Check out that one little drip of caramelized sugar, frozen into sweet, crunchy, perfection.

This dessert made me happy.

Cheesecake Brulee from Williams Sonoma

24 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Sour cream
3 eggs
6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
Additional granulated sugar for topping.

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly butter a 9” springform. Have a pot of boiling water ready. Beat cream cheese with sugar and sour cream until smooth and blended. Add the eggs, cream, and vanilla and beat continue beating for about one minute more.

Combine graham crackers, brown sugar, and butter. Press into prepared pan. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the pan, spreading evenly. Cover with foil, shiny side out. Place cheesecake in a medium roasting pan. Pour in boiling water til it reaches halfway up sides of spring form pan. Bake until filling is just set in the center, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature. Remove foil. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least four hours or up to three days before serving. For the caramelized topping: Cut the cheesecake. Sprinkle each slice with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Using a kitchen torch, carmelize the sugar, moving the torch in a circular motion until all of the sugar is melted and golden.


This took much longer than 1 hour of baking time for the cheesecake center to set. Maybe it was my mom's oven? But maybe not. After an hour I checked the cake. The center wasn't even hot and I had a lunch date in 30 minutes! I turned up the heat to 375. Even at the increased heat, it needed at least 1/2 hour of additional baking time before the center was "just set".

The foil stuck to the top of my cheesecake and made it less than pretty. Next time, I may try to form the foil into a sort of tent so that it doesn't encounter the cheesecake during baking.

Cookies From Annie the Baker!

And now, for my Valentine's Day surprise. Let me begin this story by saying that we left home 6 days ago. One whole day earlier than we'd planned to leave. A snow storm was coming in and my dad wanted to get an early start on the male bonding trip to Florida, rather than get stuck in the snow. So, when my husband came home from work, we threw all of our stuff into the car and left earlier than planned. It was a bit rushed, and we drove straight into the storm, but we made it to my parent's house. Within minutes of pulling into their driveway, my husband tossed his bags into the next car and he and my dad bid us farewell before hitting the road. The girls and I settled in my parent's cozy house to wait out the storm. After the whirlwind of activity that resulted from our early departure and then nerve racking 6 hours on snowy roads, I was ready to slide into my pj's and curl up on the couch. The next day, and every day after brought the steady stream of activity that always accompanies my visits home. You know how it is, Things to do...people to see. I completely forgot that I'd planned to log on to the Postal Service website and have our mail held. I'd also forgotten that I'd won a contest. When I rolled into our driveway this evening, the first thing that I noticed was a package sitting on our front bench. Then I remembered. I'd entered Annie the Baker's giveaway on the Foodie Blogroll and I won!

I excitedly tore into the package.

And pulled out this bag of assorted cookies.

Then, I decided that it was time for a taste test.

I seriously tried one bite of each variety of cookie. The suspense was killing me. The slogan for these cookies is, “for those who love cookie dough more than the cookie”. I can relate to that! Yet, they were baked. I was curious. I did some googling.( I have to stop and laugh at myself for a moment here. Once upon a time, "google" wasn't a verb.) I wanted to know more about these phenomenal cookies. I found an enlightening article on Sweet Napa, Exploring Desserts. This quote about Annie the Baker's cookies sums up my thought process, "These cookies combine the puffy moistness of cookie dough and the depth of balanced flavor of a baked cookie." Okay. So that's what's going on. But how? Well, here's what I got from the article, "Annie adjusted the ratio of ingredients in her cookie recipes so that they spread and crisp less — and so retain their doughy goodness." Sorry, I didn't get the recipe for this sort of cookie bliss. I think that I've just decided that when something tastes this good, I don't need to understand it...I just need to enjoy and appreciate. All of the cookies were absolutely delicious, but I actually couldn't stop my self at one bite when it came to the Toffee Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie. You can check out info about Annie Baker and her cookies HERE OR you can purchase your very own and have them conveniently shipped to your front door HERE.

A big thanks to Annie the Baker for her generous giveaway and a Happy Valentine's Day to all of you!


Kim said...

Sounds like had a great girls weekend! That creme brulee cheesecake is making me drool. My husband would probably marry me all over again if I made this one! I'm going to tell him that he needs to buy me a kitchen torch:D
Congrats on winning the cookies, they sound really good. I don't know if I could take just one bite of each cookie. You should pat yourself on the back for having self control:D

Katy ~ said...

I would be very happy with that cheesecake too. I don't have a kitchen torch, and it's probably a good idea that I don't, grins.

Don't you just get irked beyond belief when the camera batteries go dead!

Beautiful crisp snow pictures of the children. They do look as if they're having fun.

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