Applesauce Pancakes

In the United States, most of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day (Tday) on the 27th of November, and I’m sure you’ve seen many Tday recipes floating around the blogosphere.

In the States, most people cook and eat large amounts of food with families and friends from near and afar. It is a great day to appreciate and be thankful for what we have whether it be little or too much.

These apple pancakes are a good meal to have the day before or the day after Thanksgiving (or any day!). I amped the recipe that came from Everday Food by substituting milk with buttermilk and by adding fall spices and vanilla extract. Also the recipe calls for applesauce, which prompted me to use my crockpot applesauce!

So whether you’re celebrating a holiday or not and whether it is fall or spring in your hemisphere, I suggest conjuring up the ingredients for these pancakes along with some fluffy eggs and lightly burnt (just how I like it!) turkey sausage! Feel free to eat the pancakes plain, with syrup, or honey!

Applesauce Pancakes
adapted from Everday Food
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp granulated/caster sugar
2 tsp of cinnamon or pumpkin spice
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (473 ml) buttermilk or milk, room temperature
3/4 cup (177 ml) applesauce
4 Tbsp (43 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Optional topping: Sour cream (did not use) or applesauce
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F/121 degrees C. Whisk together dry ingredients, including the sugar. Add in wet ingredients and combine until combined and still lumpy. DO NOT OVERMIX! There should still be lumps. 
Heat a cast-iron skillet, flat-top, or griddle over medium heat. Brush surface with butter or cooking spray. 
Pour batter onto griddle 1/3 – 1/2 cup at a time. Cook batter until bubbles form around the edges (2-3 minutes), then flip pancake over and cook for approximately 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter and allow previous pancakes to stay warm in the 250/121 degree oven.
Feel free to serve with sour cream, applesauce, syrup, honey, or plain!
Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Resuscitated Dough for Cinnamon Rolls

So you’re looking at the title of this post and are thinking “huh? what?” I hear ya. Let me explain…

These past few years I’ve made a lot of bread and yeast-based desserts on this blog so I am familiar with the usual signs of good/bad yeast growth, dough quality, etc. While living abroad, however, I have to relearn how to cook in a sense and get familiar with different ingredients and tools. I’m in Lisbon this time around, and I decided to make cinnamon rolls for my two friends who have graciously allowed me to stay with them for two months!

Happy, risen dough! You would never know that this dough had no life in it just a few hours ago. . .

Before embarking on my trip to the grocery store, I asked one of my roommates, the one who cooks the most, if she had any yeast for bread, and she said yes. I was a bit leary of the leavening agent she had because it was for pizza dough, which doesn’t require as much rising time as cinnamon roll/brioche dough, and with the added butter and eggs, I knew I needed something stronger.

Nevertheless, I trusted my dear friend and returned from the store sans fresh yeast. Once I opened the yeast-for-pizza package, I knew it was wrong. It had a powdery, white color and contained cornstarch! Because it was late in the evening, and I was too tired of going to the store (mind you I had to go to more than one store to find international, hard-to-find ingredients for another meal), so I trudged along with this yeast. I kneaded the dough and placed it in the fridge overnight for a slow and steady rise. Hah! The next morning, I was greeted by a DEAD-looking, brownish-looking lump of…something I wouldn’t consider dough. My heart sank because 1) I knew that yeast wasn’t right for cinnamon rolls yet I didn’t follow my first thought; and 2) I realized I had wasted all that time, ingredients, and money for nothing.

I was about to throw away the dough, buy real yeast, and start all over again until I thought about resuscitating my dough. Was it possible? Could it be done? I searched on the all-knowing Google and found out that if you just kneaded in some fresh or activated yeast into your “dead” dough, you can bring it back to life!! As soon as I had read that, I bought more yeast and started taking photos of the process for my own records and for all the other people out there who have or will encounter unrisen dough.

I wish I had taken a photo of the dough as I had discovered it the next morning. However, here it is rolled out a bit on the table. You can see that it is void of life and is a darker color than “living” dough.
I used yeast for all types of bread and submerged it into about 1/2 cup of warm milk before adding it to the dead dough. I didn’t use any type of added sweetener because of the natural sweetness of the milk.
Before and after photos of the yeast activation step. Note the level of liquid and the spoon handle.
I added the activated yeast to the dead dough and once I saw the imminent mess, I carefully transferred the now wet dough to a mixing bowl, kneaded in the yeast mixture, and then transferred the “new” dough to a mat and continued to knead.
Once the dough started to rise, I placed it in the fridge overnight and was greeted by what you see in the bottom right photo! It’s alive!!!!
The next morning, I rolled out half of the dough (froze the rest), and made cinnamon and strawberry rolls with a cream cheese glaze.

So, if you ever end up with unrisen dough due to the usage of the wrong type of yeast (as in my case), too little yeast, or if you “kill” your yeast with hot water or salt, don’t throw out the yeast or use the “dead” dough as is. Activate a new batch of yeast (dry or fresh) with warm liquid (and a little sweetener, if you’d like) then add it to the unrisen dough. Hope this helps! Have a great day!

Rolls without the frosting: I sort of overbaked these rolls by only fewer than 4 minutes!! You want your rolls to be less brown than these. My roommates still loved them, though!

For the cinnamon roll recipe, go to Use Real Butter and see her gorgeous photos! I used the recipes for the strawberry filling, dough, and frosting (sans alcohol). For the cinnamon roll version, I just used softened butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar (or you can use muscavado or a mixture of granulated/caster and brown/muscavado sugars).

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Oreo Truffle Brownies

Many adults have fond, childhood memories of being awakened on Saturday mornings by comforting smells of a special, homemade breakfast lovingly made by a parent or caregiver. In the southern part of the United States, a special breakfast may be comprised of bacon, buttermilk biscuits (and sausage gravy), pancakes, coffee, and/or orange juice.


As a child, I, on the other hand, was awakened on Saturday mornings, not by the intoxicating smell of a home-cooked breakfast, but by the loud, grating sound of the smoke alarm, which always indicated that my mom was attempting to partially follow yet another recipe. I say “partially” because my mom used to halve part of a recipe and kept the rest as is. For example, she would halve the amount of eggs and sugar called for, yet she would include the full amount of dry ingredients, which would yield, needlessly to say, a disfigured, unpleasant, inedible treat

One day my mother found a recipe for Magic Muffins on the side of a Malt-O-Meal box. Once I heard the timer (read: smoke alarm) go off, I woke up and jumped out of bed to see what this week’s culinary “masterpiece” would be.


Entering the living room, I saw my mom in the kitchen with her back turned, and she was talking under her breath. Then she held up and inspected her latest creation while the sunlight beamed on it proudly. From where I stood it looked like a small, brown, round, hard rock muffin with steam sashaying slowly out of it. Upon hearing my gasp or snicker (or both), she turned around quickly with an embarrassed look on her face. With feigned pride shivering in her face, she exclaimed, “LOOK! I made magic muffins…but I think they came out a little hard.” After five minutes of joint laughter, she decided to hurl the hockey puck muffin against the wall — it left a small dent that is probably still there to this day.

It isn’t entirely my mother’s fault for not knowing how to cook; in fact, now that I’ve taught her how to resist the urge to NOT follow or (to completely) halve recipes, she is able to make more dishes, including homemade bread!

Anyway, the story goes that my grandmother was an excellent cook who provided large, hearty portions of yummy, irresistible meals to the table every day, such as spaghetti and meatballs (which I learned is an unheard-of combination in Italy). When my grandmother cooked, she liked peace and quiet in the kitchen, so every time one of her six children offered to help her, she would quickly dismiss them by telling them to go play outside.

As a result, only two out of the six children are considered good cooks, and their spouses actually taught them how to cook. Then as for me, I learned how to cook from food blogs, FoodGawker, and my tendency to follow recipes to the letter before making creative, personal changes to them.

Once I became comfortable in the kitchen, I began improvising by adding different ingredients or by using different pans or presentation of the finished product, as I did with these Oreo Truffle Brownies!

I found the recipe for these delectable brownies on Pink Parsley and made a HALVED portion. At the last minute, I decided to place the brownie batter in a 9″ (23cm) springform pan instead of an 8×8 (20x20cm) or 9×9″ (23x23cm) baking pan. Just by baking them in a springform pan, these brownies looked more like an elegant cake. To provide a contrast of flavors and for aesthetic reasons, I added frozen raspberries to the edge of a slice. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the tart, bright berries with the sweet, deep, rich, chocolate flavor of the brownies.

These brownies are a more complex version of Oreo truffles (remember the popular balls of crushed Oreos and cream cheese?). The base is a brownie with Oreo truffle and ganache layers on top. Although I halved this recipe, I had to make another batch of the Oreo truffle layer in order cover the brownie. Also, I had some ganache leftover so you can make individual truffles with it (chill it first!) or make a third of the ganache recipe (if you’re halving the brownie recipe).

These Oreo Truffle Brownies make Oreo Truffles seem lackluster! 😉 While they take longer to make and require the oven, they taste and look like an expensive, elegant, overly tedious dessert. I accidentally cooked the brownie layer longer than Pink Parsley did. I thought I had ruined it, but I actually liked the contrast of the dense, chewy, cake-like brownie with the other, more silky layers.

Oreo Truffle Brownies
HALVED and adapted from Pink Parsley who adapted it from Chef in Training via Good Thymes & Good Food

BROWNIE BASE:

1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup (57g) granulated sugar 
2 large eggs 
1-2 tsp vanilla extract (o 1-2 bustine di vaniglia) (I like extra vanilla!)
2/3 cups (83g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (30g) of cocoa powder (I used Pernigotti)
1-2 tsp coffee or espresso powder (to enhance chocolate flavor; optional)
1/4 tsp salt 

OREO TRUFFLE LAYER (I ended up making the full recipe):

30 Oreo cookies or chocolate wafer cookies/biscuits
6 oz (170g) cream cheese, softened to room temperature 

GANACHE:

1/2 cup (118ml) heavy cream or half-and-half
5 oz (142g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F/180°C and line a8x8-inch baking pan or 9″springform pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on the two long sides. Spray with baking or cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk flour, cocoa, coffee/espresso powder, and salt in a separate bowl and set aside. To the butter and sugar, add 2 eggs one at a time and vanilla extrace. Mix well, scraping down the bowl, as necessary. Add dry ingredients, and mix everything until just combined. Do not over mix!
  3. Place batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes (test with a toothpick; there should be just a few crumbs attached).  Transfer brownies to a wire cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, make the Oreo truffle layer. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse cookies and the cream cheese together until combined. You may need to stir things around between pulses.
  5. Once brownies are completely cool, spread the Oreo truffle layer over brownies with an offset spatula, clean hands, or the bottom of a cup. 
  6. To make the ganache, heat the cream in small saucepan over medium heat until it is simmering or simply microwave it for 30-45 seconds.  Meanwhile, place the chocolate chips in a medium heat-proof measuring cup or bowl.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes.  Whisk the cream and chocolate together until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  
  7. Pour the ganache over Oreo layer and spread with an offset spatula. Chill in the refrigerator until fully set.  To slice and serve, lift the brownies out of the pan using the foil overhang, then use a sharp knife to cut into small squares. If using springform pan, simply remove the edges and serve! These brownies taste good cold and warm!

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Mom’s Blueberry Salad

As you can see, I didn’t bother styling this salad. I just let it be. . .
A little more than 24 hours ago my mom arrived safely at home after spending more than 3 weeks with her favorite and only offspring – me :). While I love her dearly and enjoy spending time with her, I have to admit it is nice to have my bed and my place to myself again. 
On the day I made the pasta on the previous post, my mother volunteered to make the salad *gasp!*. My longtime readers know that my mom doesn’t like nor knows how to cook. However, she is the master of chopping veggies and throwing together salad-like meals (case in point – the pizza she decorated).
After spending too much time eating salads from Panera Bread as a graduate student in upstate New York, my mother’s tastebuds changed somewhat drastically. So, upon her return to Texas a few years ago, I was surprised when she told me that she now likes olives, which she at one point detested. To make matters worse Also, she became fond of adding various fruits, onions, and nuts to her salad. Now, I know that most foodies like these additions to salads, but I am boring a purist. All I fancy on my salads are lettuce (the simple kind like the water-drenched, nutrient-lacking iceberg lettuce or healthier, romaine lettuce), red tomatoes (mom and I agree on extra tomatoes), cheese, and ranch dressing. If I feel like eating a “fancier” salad, I may add on hard-boiled eggs and cucumbers but nothing more than those two ingredients. 
My favorite thing about this salad? The ratio of tomatoes to everything else.

So, when my mom volunteered to make this salad, I had completely forgotten about the changes in her food preferences until I saw the salad she placed in front of my camera. I instantly gave her my shocked look and promptly said, “Mo-om, it has blueberries, olives, and walnuts in it!” While rubbing her hands together in delight with a fork in one hand she said, “YUM! I know! (pause) Oh! I forgot you don’t like those things in your salad! (proceeds to flick her hand nonchalantly) You can just pick them out. They won’t hurt!” Thanks a lot, mom!

Fortunately the salad was pretty photogenic. Once we sat down to eat our meal, I did remove the unwanted items immediately to the disappointment of my parental figure. I also made sure to get the part of the salad withOUT the yucky bleu cheese dressing on it. Her pour/action shot was cute, but I wish it would have been ranch dressing instead. 
Anyway, there’s no real recipe for this salad. I will just list the ingredients she used and likes to use just in case you feel like venturing out with salads – if you haven’t already. I apologize now for not joining you. . . 🙂

Mom’s Blueberry Salad
Arugula
Roma tomatoes
Black or green olives
Fresh blueberries
Chopped walnuts
Hard-boiled eggs
Freshly-chopped mushrooms
Purple onions

Other possible ingredients (feel free to add more in the comments section):
Strawberries
Orange slices (including mandarin oranges)
Chopped Pecans
Romaine Lettuce
Feta cheese
Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

This Sunday, I went to a Brazilian-themed party that I later found out was a party in honor of the World Cup game with Brazil playing against the Ivory Coast. I arrived just in time to see the recap of the game, but since I’m not into sports, I was completely okay with that. I just wish I could have heard all the Brazilian guests yell after seeing their country win. I love witnessing that type of excitement.

The reasons I made this strawberry shortcake cake were threefold (one of my mom’s favorite words): 1) I had bought a bunch of strawberries at Costco the day before; 2) I have been wanting to make this type of cake ever since I saw this beautiful one on the Good Mood Food blog, an Irish blog written by Donal Skehan; and 3) I wanted to bring a cake to the party. I chose this cake over the Pioneer Woman’s version because she used sour cream in the cake, and you know how I feel about sour cream.

I changed around the recipe for the cake so much that I can only say that I was inspired by the Donal’s recipe. For instance, instead of melting the butter, I blended it with the sugar as is done with most cakes I’ve made. Also, I felt that half of a stick of butter was not enough for a good cake, so I used a whole stick. The other major change I made was to sweeten the whipped cream instead. I couldn’t imagine eating whipped cream without sugar! Blech!

Once the strawberry filling was placed on top of the cake layers, they started to slide (along with the filling), and it became a huge mess. Also, I was already running late, so that is why I didn’t take photos of the process. I angrily threw placed the cake layers in the freezer for 30 minutes. Then, I made more sweetened whipped cream and covered the entire cake after cleaning the edges. I was very pleased with the end result. This was a very photogenic cake. I speak in the past tense because everyone ate that cake so quickly. It was gone before I knew it. Anyway, after I had frosted the cake, I placed it back in the freezer for 15 minutes just to be safe. After placing more strawberries on the cake and taking photos of it, I got ready to go to the party.

I placed the cake in the passenger seat and surrounded it with my camera bag and a VCR that I am planning to donate or recycle that was sitting in the backseat of my car. I then wrapped everything together with the seatbelt :). It worked. The cake didn’t move one inch.

I drove up to my friend’s house and was greeted by the sight of bright green and yellow shirts with “BRASIL” written on the front. I almost turned around because I didn’t recognize any of the people on the stairs (remember my social phobia?). I reminded myself that there were people I did know inside the apartment, and that thought helped me muster up the courage to get out of the car. I hid as much as I could behind the cake and cake stand and muttered a brief “Olá” to the people outside and anxiously searched for a familiar face.

Once I walked inside, my anxiety increased even more because there were so many people in there that there was barely enough room to walk! Even the sight of a few of my colleagues did not assuage my increasing desire to run back home. Finally, my friend – the host of the party – spotted me and got so excited about my cake. I felt a bit better and less nauseated after seeing her and walking in the near-empty kitchen. I managed to eat a traditional and DELICIOUS Afro-Brazilian dish called Bobó de camerão over white rice (I am soooo going to make this very soon) that another friend/colleague had made. I then became part of an interesting 3-way conversation that lasted until 8pm!

I had to “stop the presses” in order to take this shot…

When the cake was taken out, almost everyone took a slice. I personally thought the cake wasn’t sweet enough. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since I’m aware that desserts in the U.S. tend to be sweeter than those made in other countries (correct me if I’m wrong!). Nevertheless, because the cake wasn’t super sweet, I knew that the guests of this party, which was comprised of 90% Brazilians (there was also one Mexican (the host), an Argentinean and one German), I assumed they would like it. I was right. They raved over the cake and kept saying comments like “Que delícia, Memória!“.

…and this shot. Look at the poor strawberry haha.

If I were to make this cake again, I would pick a sweeter cake as the base and use a regular frosting. I love sweet desserts, though, so ignore my preferences if yours are different haha. Despite the sweetness level, the whipped cream and strawberry filling tasted really good. I loved how soft everything was. It was a very comforting cake that felt very light even with the presence of heavy cream. If this cake sounds like your kind of dessert, you should definitely make it!

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

Cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick/113g) of butter, room temperature
1 1/8 cup (225g) of caster sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup (100ml) of milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (210g) AP flour
2 tsp baking powder


Strawberry Filling:
1 pint (300g) of strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar (depending on how sweet your strawberries are)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
juice of 1/2 lemon

Whipped Cream:
2 1/2 (550ml) heavy cream
1/2-3/4 cup granulated or powdered sugar, to taste
1 1/2 tsp CLEAR vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C/Gas 4, and grease and line two 8-inch cake pans.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Mix the milk and vanilla extract together in a liquid measuring cup. Sieve or whisk the flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Then, pour the flour and milk mixture into the mixing bowl, alternating and ending with the flour.

Mix the batter completely until smooth and combined.

Divide the mix evenly between the two baking tins (or you can pour it all into one pan and separate it with a knife if you have a steady hand. I used two pans) and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool slightly for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. [While the cakes are cooling, place the whisk and bowl for the filling in the freezer!]

Filling and Topping:
When both cake layers are completely cooled, make the strawberry filling. Place the cut strawberries in a medium sauce pan along with the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Heat to boiling and then remove the pan from the heat. With a potato masher or fork, mash the strawberries into smaller chunks. Allow the filling to cool while making whipped cream.
With the cold whisk and bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add in the sugar and CLEAR vanilla extract. [If you don’t have clear vanilla extract, you could omit it or use the dark variety. Just know that it will change the color of the whipped cream.]

Assembly:
If the cake layers have a peak in the middle make sure to slice it off so you are left with perfectly flat layers. Place one layer face down on a cake stand and dollop with half the cooled strawberry purée. Then, add about a fourth to a third of the whipped cream, spread evenly. Carefully place the second cake layer on top and add the remaining strawberry purée. To avoid making the mess that I made, place the layers in the freezer for 30 minutes. After that time, add the remaining whipped cream generously. Feel free to garnish your cake with more hulled strawberries.

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Cream of Tomato Soup

Here’s another dish I had to consume during my wisdom teeth “saga” (I exaggerate, of course). This soup was very good and hearty. However, it didn’t take long for me to get tired of soups. What I liked about this recipe was that it had a small enough yield for one or two people compared to the soup recipe from Ina Garten (why do most of her recipes yield so much?).

Anyway, make sure you season this soup well. If you’re eating this soup right after an extraction, purée the soup more than I did. I ate this after 3 or 4 days of my extraction, and I was lazy, so I didn’t purée it. I will be sharing one more soup I consumed during my extraction, then we can move on to solid foods again hehe. On the top of the soup, I added small squares of a grilled cheese sandwich as garnish!

Cream of Tomato Soup
adapted from Life’s Ambrosia and Ina Garten

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup chicken broth or dry white wine (I don’t drink alcohol, so I used extra broth)
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted or regular crushed tomatoes (I always use a box of Pomì)
3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp granulated sugar (to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes)
Black pepper
Kosher salt
1/2 cup half-n-half or heavy cream

Garnish:
Chopped fresh basil
Grilled cheese sandwich chopped into squares

In a large saucepan heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Once butter has melted add onions and garlic, cook until onion is softened about 5 minutes. Add in 2 Tbsp of flour to form a roux. Cook the roux for 3-5 minutes. Pour in broth or wine, and allow to cook for 1 minute. Add in crushed tomatoes, vegetable or chicken broth and granulated sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.

Slowly stir the cream/half-n-half into the soup, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

For a smoother soup, blend the mixture, and process it until smooth. Just before serving, sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and/or grilled cheese sandwich squares.

Enjoy!

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Strawberry Cheesecake

Move over all you strawberry shortcakes! Here comes a strawberry cheesecake you’ll never forget!

After getting my four wisdom teeth extracted, I could eat only soft foods. Unfortunately (and fortunately), the majority of the allowable food items were high in sugar and/or fat such as pudding, ice cream, and mashed potatoes. For some reason, I was craving healthier food items, so I supplied myself with plenty of baby food canisters of applesauce and pears since they are puréed more finely than the adult versions (you want to make sure you don’t get food particles on your newly-revealed gums. I even had to avoid rice dishes until later).

Anyway, once my teeth had healed a bit, I was craving something delectable, so I made a cheesecake since it is soft and on the approved list. I added the strawberries on top, but if you decide to eat this a day or two after a tooth extraction, you must omit the fruit or make a coulis version (i.e., purée the strawberries and strain out the seeds) of it.

I used my go-to recipe for cheesecake. I will never stray from this recipe because it doesn’t require sour cream or flour, two things I don’t like to put in my cheesecakes. It is so smooth and amazing and never creates a crack (at least on my watch).

I also whipped some heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract and placed some on top of individual slices. I hope you make this soon. If you are out of strawberries, try this with cherries. That was how I was going to make it originally, but I remembered the strawberries I had frozen a few months ago. I also didn’t feel like pitting cherries.

Don’t be discouraged by the length of the recipe. Most of the time making this dessert involves the oven and refrigerator. Also, I always make half of the cheesecake recipe (and the full recipe for the crust) since I live alone. It is still more than enough. Enjoy!

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake
halved and adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours and Serious Eats 

Crust:

1 3/4 – 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt (I always use kosher)
1/2 stick (4-5 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake:
1 lb (two 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt (I always use kosher)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp heavy cream or sour cream, or a combination of the two

Make the crust:

  1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan – 2 3/4 inches high – and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.
  2. Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
  3. Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

To make the cheesecake:

  1. Put a kettle or large pot of water on to boil.
  2. Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
  3. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.
  4. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  5. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
  6. After an hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster, and remove the foil carefully. Allow the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
  7. When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly, and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  8. Remove the sides of the springform pan, and set the cake, still on the pan’s base, on a serving platter. The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.
Strawberry Topping

1 pint of strawberries, cut and hulled
1-2 Tbsp cornstarch, if you want it to be thicker
1/4 cup or less of sugar, depending on how sweet your berries are
half of a lemon

In a medium saucepan, boil all of the ingredients until thick. Pour the mixture on top of the chilled cheesecake. [If making a coulis, omit the cornstarch. Pour the cooked ingredients into a blender and puree or use an immersion blender until smooth. Then, drain the mixture with a strainer.]

    To store: Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It’s best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!! ¡¡¡¡FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS, MAMÁ!!!! FELIZ ANIVERSÁRIO, MÃE!!!! BUON COMPLEANNO, MAMMA!!!! BON ANNIVERSAIRE, MAMAN!!!! 생일축하합니다, 어머니^^!!!!  
    (Wow! I typed in Korean instead of copying and pasting. I hope I wrote it right.)
    Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

    Blackberry Cobbler with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

    Blackberry Cobbler with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

    Blackberry CobblerHankering for some Blackberry Cobbler with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream? Yes, please! Then you’re in the right spot!

    When strawberry season was well underway, I wanted to go to a berry farm near where I live. I saw a link to all the picking farms in the United States (and many other countries) and found 2 places that sounded promising. Then, after I saw photos of some beautiful, enticing strawberries on Monica’s photo site, Natural Lighting, I had to ask where she got the berries (actually, I just found out that strawberries are NOT berries. Read more about it here.). She told me that she got them from Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls, Texas.

    Blackberry farm

    Because I don’t like to go to public places by myself (yeah, I have issues), I waited for my mom to arrive to go to the farm. Well, rain happened; my mom didn’t want to go to the farm at first; and then, finally we went the day before she left….and guesss what?! We came the very day after the strawberries were in season there!! ARGH! I was so disappointed. I had been wanting to go for so long. Next time, I will have to get over my fears and go alone haha.

    Blackberry Farm
    My mom washing her hands after berry picking. Her box was empty because we were going on our second round to look for any leftover strawberries. We were unsuccessful in our quest. 🙁

    Anyway, even though the strawberries were no longer in season there, the blackberries were coming in with fury. So, my mother and I grabbed a box each and picked a bunch of these dark beauties. I thought I’d add that I picked the most berries*.Blackberries*sidenote: Ignore the comment my mom is going to make about her picking the hard-to-get-ones-for-me-because-they-were-deep-behind-or-in-the-middle-of-a-bunch-of-thorns blackberries for me. Don’t believe her! She was just delirious from the hot sun! LOL!

    So, what did I do with these luscious berries?! I made the only type of fruit cobbler I like – the one with a pie-pastry-like topping as opposed to cobblers with biscuits on top of the fruit. Behold a yummy Blackberry Cobbler with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Yum!

    blackberry cobbler ice creamI searched everywhere for the right recipe for a pastry-topping for this Blackberry Cobbler. I remember finding the perfect one over a year ago that I had made with peaches two or three times. Since I have a new laptop (I’M STILL A PC AND AM DARN PROUD OF IT! WOOHOO!), I no longer had that website bookmarked. Fortunately, I found the site again because the recipe is popular even though it was posted in 2006. In addition to his recipe, I picked and chose other ingredients and methods from three other recipes to end up with the one that is warm and settled in my tummy right now as I type. YUM!
    Blackberry Cobbler

    This Blackberry Cobbler was amazing. My only mistake was not mushing up the berries. I think it is definitely a personal preference, but I didn’t like tasting the less-hot interior of the berries after the first two bites. I think it would have been a better balance of crunchy, butter pastry taste and sweet, sour, berry taste if I had mushed them a bit. Nevertheless, it was still amazing.

    Blackberry Cobbler

    I had run out of butter *GASP THE HORROR!* due to a 3-STICK ERROR (it still makes me sad to know I wasted that much butter) in a chocolate frosting I made, so I had to use butter-flavored shortening in the crust. I think the shortening caused the crust to be harder to handle. It still worked out in the end.

    If you would like to use another pie pastry recipe, feel free to do so. I doubled the pastry recipe and used 2 extra cups of fruit because of the size of my dish (I will be blogging about this dish very soon). I like the double layer of pastry because you get a good amount of contrasting, yet complementary flavors.

    Blackberry Cobbler

    Don’t forget to make some vanilla bean ice cream to go with your Blackberry Cobbler!!

    Don’t forget to check cout a plethora of other ice cream flavors such as vanilla bean with brown sugar, espresso, milk chocolate, Mexican chocolate, gelato al limone, chocolate chip cookie dough, coffee, double chocolate toffee, mint chocolate chip (w/extract), and Mint Oreo Ice Cream!

     

    Blackberry Cobbler – The Pie Pastry Variation
    adapted from Stephen Cooks and other sites

    Yield: 6 – 8 modest servings

    Pastry (I doubled this for an 11″ oval dish) for the blackberry cobbler:
    1-1/2 C flour
    6 T butter
    3 T shortening
    1/2 tsp salt
    3 T ice water
    1/4 C sugar

    Fruit Filling for the blackberry cobbler:
    6 C blackberries
    3/4-1 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 cup AP flour
    2 T cornstarch
    3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    3 T melted butter

    To make the pastry, place the flour, butter, shortening, salt and sugar in the processor bowl with the steel blade. Pulse a few times until the mixture is like cornmeal. Add the ice water and pulse a few times, just enough to mix the water into the other ingredients. Turn the mixture out into a plastic food storage bag (it will be crumbly, not yet like dough) and quickly knead it through the bag a few strokes, till it just starts to hold together. Refrigerate for an hour or more.
    Pastry processMeanwhile, preheat oven to 475º. Combine the blackberries, sugar, flour, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir mixture until you see mostly the color of the berries.Taste and correct seasoning and sugar content. Stir in the melted butter (I didn’t have butter, so I added the 1/2 Tbsp left of COLD butter to the top of the filling right before baking. See photo below).

    Reserve and keep cold 1/3 of the dough. Roll out the rest to the approximate shape of your dish. (I used an 11″ oval baking dish with double the pastry, but with the recipe as is, you can use a 5″ x 9″ oval baking dish about an inch and a half deep or a 6″ square dish or 7″ round dish). Butter the baking dish and spoon in half of the fruit mixture. Lay the pastry sheet over the fruit.

    Bake about 12 minutes in a preheated 475º oven, until the pastry is just starting to brown. Spoon in the rest of the fruit mixture.

    Blackberry Cobbler lattice
    Ooops! I messed up on the collage of process photos. Just ignore the first and last photos.
     Roll out the reserved dough, cut in strips and lay in a lattice pattern over the fruit.
    Lattice before baking

    Sprinkle with sugar and bake about 15 minutes more, until the fruit is bubbling and the lattice is browned.

    Blackberry Cobbler baked

    Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream.
    Spoon of blackberry cobbler

    Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangioeviaggiodasola.com

    Double (Not Triple) Citrus Bars

    I feel like crying every time I look at my photos as of late. I didn’t post a new focaccia recipe I found b/c of how ugly the photos were. Then I forged on and blogged about the chicken carbonara even though the photos were horrible. I just had to blog about that dish b/c it was too good to keep to myself. Now, I have these citrus bars that look almost just as bad as the other photos but taste too insanely good not to share!
    I first thought the problem was due to a dirty lens, so I bought a lens cleaner to remedy the problem. Also, I played around with the white balance as usual, but all the photos came out looking funky. I don’t know why!! I am guessing the colors are off b/c all the aforementioned dishes already had a yellow hue to them on their own so it was hard for me to get the right color. Therefore, for the current photos, I used the blue container of whipped cream to guide me on the right color, but I still think the overall color of the photos looks off! *CRY*
    Oh well. I will move on to tell you about these bars. I hope the weird yellow-green-blue colors don’t deter you all from making these bars. You know they must have been good if I went on to post these photos.

    You see that bite I took? I almost immediately stopped this photo session after that bite b/c it was so good. I just wanted to eat more. However, I thought about you all and kept clicking away. See how much I love you? LOL!

    WARNING: Do not be alone after making and refrigerating these bars! You will eat almost all of them by yourself. They are that good haha. I had to really force myself to not eat the whole thing. I managed to go throw the whole thing within 3 or 4 days, though, and that was hard to do! I do still have 2 more small bars left that will most likely be consumed today hehe.

    Oops! I take that back. I guess I couldn’t wait much longer. I had to go on and eat that first bar.

    The crust was a bit too salty because I put in too much (oops!), but the filling was perfect. It was so soft and creamy and citrusy. It wasnt too acidic though. The reason I’m calling these bars “double citrus bars” is because I didn’t have any limes in the house, and as I mentioned in the previous post, I was too broke (and tired) to go to the store and get some limes. So, I used my leftover lemons (double amount) and oranges instead. I also used more citrus juice than what the recipe called for to make it more acidic. If you like it sweeter, then use the amount on the recipe. I have posted the triple version of these bars below. Please make these ASAP!

    Be sure to eat these with homemade, whipped cream, too!!

    Double, not Triple, Citrus Bars
    adapted from Cook’s Illustrated and discovered on Bakers Royale

    (I made these bars at night, so no process photos today!)

    Crust:
    5 ounces (~1 1/4 cups, crushed) animal or graham crackers
    3 Tbsp packed brown sugar (light or dark)
    pinch of table or kosher salt

    Filling:
    2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
    1 1/2 tsp grated lime zest (I didn’t use)
    1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (I used 3 tsp to replace missing lime zest)
    1 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
    1 14-oz can of condensed milk
    1 egg yolk, room temperature
    6 Tbsp lime juice (I didn’t have)
    1 Tbsp lemon juice (I used 8-9 Tbsps to make up for missing lime juice)
    1 Tbsp orange juice (I used 2-3 Tbsp)
    *The total amount of juice in the recipe comes out to 1/2 cup. I used about 2/3 cups.

    Garnish (optional):
    3/4 cup toasted coconut flakes (I used 1/2 cup and still ended up with way too much leftover. I suggest using 1/4 cup instead)

    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut about 12-inch length extra-wide heavy-duty foil; fold cut edges back to form 7 1/2-inch width. With folded sides facing down, fit foil securely into bottom and up sides of 8-inch-square baking pan (I used a rectangular tart pan for (failed) aesthetic reasons), allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray (I used baker’s joy).

    TO MAKE THE CRUST: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse animal or graham crackers until broken down, about ten 1-second pulses; process crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds (you should have about 1 1/4 cups crumbs). Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with fingers). Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Do not turn off oven.

    TO MAKE THE FILLING: While crust cools, in medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zests, and salt with rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in egg yolk. Add juices and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly).

    TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Pour filling into crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

    Loosen edges with paring knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut, if using, and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 2 days; crust will soften slightly. Let bars stand at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving.)

    Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

    Strawberry Cake

    It was hard to make this cake. Not because of the recipe, but because of the color of the cake. You see, I’m not a fan of pink because it reminds me of gender stereotypes that are pinned on people from the time most parents know the gender of their child. Gender stereotypes can sometimes hinder people from being and doing whatever they want because of societal expectations, and that bothers me to no end. Yes, all of these feelings surged about because of the color of this cake. Yes, I have problems hahaha. Moving on…
    Anyway, I was really craving strawberries and cake, and I kept seeing strawberry cakes popping up on the internet, but they were all made with cake mix as its base and/or looked too dry. I wanted a true, homemade, strawberry cake that was sure to be moist and soft. I decided to use this vanilla cake recipe as a base and go from there. It was fun to experiment with the ingredients, but I was afraid of how the cake would turn out.
    Fortunately, it came out almost perfectly. I say almost because I think I put too much purée in the batter and frosting because the texture of both was sort of weird… I can’t explain it. The frosting was sort of gloppy yet smooth enough to place on the cake. Nevertheless, the cake was AMAZING.
    I had meant to take a “fork-in-cake” photo so that you could see how moist and soft the cake was but I wanted to take a bite so badly and before you knew it, I had an empty plate with the lone, half-frozen strawberry on the side of the plate. A few hours later, I grabbed another slice. Yes, it was that good. I’m so sorry I couldn’t give you that shot, but this cake was too freaking good. It was exactly what I needed, wanted and craved.
    Despite its amazing taste, I need to experiment with the amount of purée required in the batter and frosting. As is, however, it is more than fine. I didn’t get to decorate the cupcakes because I was too busy eating the regular cake. So, I will leave that job for the next man or woman to make :D…
    In the frosting, I added lemon extract just to test it out. I loved how it gave a welcomed brightness to the strawberry. Oh, I want another slice right now….so, um, I better end this post now. Here’s the recipe!

    Strawberry Cake
    Vastly adapted from Bridget’s White Cake
    PRINTABLE VERSION
    YIELDS: 2 9 inch cakes PLUS 12 cupcakes or 3 8-inch cakes (halve recipe for less)

    Baker’s Joy or Cooking Spray
    2¼ cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
    1 pkg (3 oz) strawberry gelatin (about 1/3+ cups)
    1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon table salt (I use kosher)
    12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened but still cool
    6 large egg whites (¾ cup or 180 grams), at room temperature
    1 cup tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
    2 teaspoons almond extract
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 – 1 1/2 cups strawberry purée (I used 2 cups in this cake, so I think 1 to 1 1/2 cups would be better) [1 1/2 cups strawberries with stems removed (fresh or thawed) + 1/4 – 1/3 granulated sugar (depends on how sweet the berries are) + Juice of 1 lemon]

    Prepare the purée: Place the cut strawberries in a blender or food processor. Add sugar and lemon juice (without the seeds!). Purée the mixture until smooth.
    The Cake: Set oven rack in middle position (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour (If you use the baker’s spray, you don’t need to do all of those steps. Just spray and proceed to the next step).

    Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
    Mix cake flour, gelatin, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

    Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using hand-held mixer) for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of purée and beat for 30-45 seconds. Then, add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture, and beat 15 seconds more. Add another 1/2 cup of purée, and beat for 15 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed, and beat 20 seconds longer. (Tedious steps but necessary to avoid over-mixing)

    Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans (I weighed them out on a scale); using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation OR bake them individually like I did.)Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes.

    Let cakes rest in pans for 5 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. The two different types of cake pans yielded two different looking cakes.

    Re-invert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1- 1½ hours.

    Strawberry Frosting
    by Memoria
    PRINTABLE VERSION

    1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
    1/2 cup shortening (can sub more butter for a less fluffy frosting)
    3-4 cups powdered sugar (to taste)
    1 tsp lemon extract (optional)
    1/4 – 1/2 cup strawberry purée


    Beat butter and shortening for 3 minutes. Slow down beater or mixer, and add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Once the mixture is well-integrated, add in the purée until desired consistency is reached.

    I did a crumb coating but didn’t have time or space to refrigerate it. Anyway, I added the next batch of frosting and being the creative person I am, I plopped a frozen strawberry on top of the crooked, sliding cake! LOL!
    The end!
    Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com