Posts Tagged ‘cream cheese’

I have not been able to bring myself to write up a Good Eats episode. My dad died on March 18th, after spending three weeks in the ICU; those three weeks were a roller coaster ride, as his condition fluctuated often and rapidly. At times, we thought he would soon be leaving the hospital to head to a rehab facility, but then he would head downhill again. Finally, on March 18th, he succumbed. We received a great gift that day, as Dad was suddenly the most lucid he had been in weeks. He was able to tell us that he was ready to go and he said his goodbyes to all of us.

Needless to say, my dad’s funeral was two days ago and I am still completely devastated, as I lost one of my very best friends, and also my key life adviser. Dad and I shared many common interests, but food and Good Eats were among them. Dad always loved to chat about the recipes I was cooking for my next blog post, and he often recalled watching particular episodes with me in earlier years. Although it is emotionally tough to write a post without him here, I also know he would want me to continue my project, as he thought it was really “neat.”

Carrot Slaw

For a make-ahead side dish, try Alton’s carrot slaw. Begin by washing two pounds of carrots. If they are thicker than an inch at their bases, peel them also.

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Two pounds of carrots.

Next, use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrots into thin strips. This was quite a noisy task in my house, as our coonhounds are obsessed with carrots, and they howled for the duration of my peeling!

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Two pounds of carrots, peeled into ribbons.

Place the following ingredients in a lidded container that is twice the volume of your carrot strips:  1/2 C mayo, pinch of Kosher salt, 1/3 C sugar, 1/2 C drained crushed pineapple (canned), 1/2 C raisins, 2 t curry powder, a pinch of caraway and/or celery seed, and 1 t minced garlic.

Whisk these ingredients together to form a dressing.

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The combined dressing.

Finally, add the carrot strips, place the lid on the container, and shake the carrots until they are thoroughly coated with the dressing.

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Carrot slaw.

You can eat the slaw immediately or refrigerate it for up to a week. We ate this slaw as a side dish with dinner and both found it to be a flavorful vegetable option, though I felt it was a little sauce-heavy. I don’t know about you, but we tend to get in a rut with our vegetable side dishes, so this was definitely a different choice. My carrot strips were pretty long, which ended up being a bit tricky to eat (like super long noodles), so I would recommend trying to make slightly shorter carrot strips. This recipe is a mix of sweet and savory flavors, and the raw carrots maintain a slight crunch. This could be a good make-ahead option for a summer potluck.

Glazed Carrots

In this episode, Alton refers to this recipe as his all-time favorite carrot recipe. When purchasing carrots, Alton recommends buying carrots with fresh-looking green ends; be sure to trim the stems to a length of one inch once you are home, as they tend to pull moisture from the carrots. And, if you want to store carrots as Alton does, keep them wrapped in bubble wrap. I tend to just opt for plastic wrap, myself. To make glazed carrots, cut, on the bias, a pound of carrots into coins that are 1/3″ to 1/4″ thick.

Place the carrot discs in a 12-inch skillet, along with an ounce of butter, a large pinch of Kosher salt, and a cup of ginger ale.

Heat the burner to medium heat, cover the pot, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Once simmering, decrease the heat to medium-low and cook the carrots for five minutes with the lid on.

After five minutes, remove the lid, add 1/2 t chili powder, and increase the heat to high. Resist the urge to stir the carrots, though you can gently shake the pan. Continue to cook the carrots until the liquid is almost gone, which should take about five minutes.

Check the carrots with the tip of a sharp knife – they should be just knife-tender. Sprinkle the carrots with a tablespoon of chopped parsley and serve immediately.

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Glazed carrots.

I have to agree with Alton that these glazed carrots are delicious. This recipe comes together super quickly and is perfect for any weeknight. I highly recommend this one for a side dish.

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake seems to be the most polarizing type of cake. For me, carrot cake is way up at the top of the list, so this recipe gave me a good excuse to have a few slices. To make Alton’s version of carrot cake, preheat your oven to 350 and lube the bottom and sides of a cake pan with butter. Coat the pan with flour, removing any excess, and line the bottom of the pan with a disc of parchment paper. When I watched Alton prep his pan, I recognized the pan immediately as the same one he used to make his cheesecake in episode 61.

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Buttered and floured pan, lined on the bottom with parchment.

Next, shred 12 ounces of carrots on the large side of a box grater and place them in a bowl. Yes, this part is a pain, but at least your arm burns some calories, so you can eat a larger slice of cake later.

Dump the following ingredients into the bowl of a food processor:  12 ounces of flour, 1 t baking powder, 1 t baking soda, 1/4 t allspice, 1/4 t  cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg, and 1/2 t salt. Pulse the dry ingredients until combined and add them to the carrots, tossing them until coated.

Next, combine 10 ounces of sugar, 2 ounces of dark brown sugar, 3 eggs, and 6 ounces of plain yogurt in the food processor. With the machine running, drizzle in 6 ounces of vegetable oil. Add the wet mixture to the carrots, mixing ten times with your hands.

Pour the carrot mixture into your prepared pan and bake the cake for 45 minutes.

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Batter poured into prepared pan.

After 45 minutes, decrease the heat to 325 and bake for 20 more minutes, or until the cake has an internal temperature between 205 and 210 degrees (mine was at 208 after the initial 20 minutes). Oh, and when taking the temperature of a cake, place the thermometer half-way between the center of the cake and the rim of the pan.

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Cake after baking for 65 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely before frosting. I let my cake cool in the pan for the first half hour, and then removed it from the pan for the remainder of the cooling process.

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Cake, removed from pan after 30 minutes of cooling. Allowed to cool completely on rack.

For Alton’s cream cheese frosting, combine 8 ounces of room temperature cream cheese with 2 ounces of room temperature butter.

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Softened cream cheese and butter in mixer.

Add 1 t vanilla and 9 ounces of sifted powdered sugar, mixing until smooth.

Chill the frosting for 5-10 minutes before using it to frost your cooled cake.

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Frosted carrot cake.

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A slice of Alton’s carrot cake.

As I said before, I love carrot cake, and this is a simple one. I like the fact that the carrots are really the star of this cake, as there are no pineapple chunks, or walnuts, or raisins in this one. Also, since this is a one-layer cake, it is a cake that can easily be made on a busy day. Alton’s carrot cake is moist, dense, and has just the right amount of sweetness to balance with the sweeter cream cheese frosting. The frosting is smooth and creamy, and the recipe makes the perfect amount to frost the top of this carrot cake. I am actually making this cake again this weekend, as it is my dog’s 13th birthday on Sunday and he adores carrots. He will only get a tiny nibble, but we humans will eat the rest in celebration of him.

After the lack of deliciousness that ensued with the last episode, I was super anxious to make something I knew we would enjoy. Thank goodness cheesecake was next in line. I adore pretty much anything made with cream cheese, but especially cheesecake; oddly, I don’t eat cheesecake very often, which I think needs to be amended pronto.

My mom went through a cheesecake phase when I was a teenager. As you can imagine, it was one of the greatest periods of my life. As she strove to find the perfect cheesecake recipe, we got to sit back and test them all. From New York cheesecake to Italian cheesecake, and everything in between, she tried them all. I honestly don’t recall which cheesecake was deemed the favorite. I only remember that I loved them all.

Sour Cream Cheesecake

This entire episode of Good Eats focuses on one recipe for a sour cream cheesecake. I don’t know about you, but when I think of cheesecake, I think of a springform pan. Alton Brown, on the other hand, suggests that you do not use a springform pan for sweet cheesecakes, as they can leak when you bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Alton does not bake savory cheesecakes in a water bath, so he uses a springform pan for those; strangely, he never really explained why he does not use a water bath for savory cheesecakes. So, what type of pan does Alton recommend for sweet cheesecake? He likes a 9-inch round pan with 3-inch tall sides. Honestly, I was just going to use my springform pan to make this cheesecake… until I tested it in a pan of water. Sure enough, it leaked instantly, so I bought a pan like Alton suggested. Ok, so once you are ready to make your cheesecake, you will want to allow 20 ounces of cream cheese and 1 1/4 C sour cream to sit on your counter to soften while you prepare your crust. Prep your pan by brushing the inside of the pan with melted butter.

Next, line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper.

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Pan brushed with melted butter and lined with parchment paper.

Alton, of course, had a certain technique for cutting  paper to line the pan. Yes, I tried his method, but I screwed it up and ended up just doing it the way my Mom taught me when I was about 10 – tracing the pan with a pencil. Some things never change. For the crust of the cheesecake, put 33 graham cracker squares in a large ziplock bag and crush them with your hands until you have a mixture of crumbs and some slightly larger pieces.

Combine the graham pieces with 1 stick of melted butter and 1 T sugar, and toss everything to combine.

Pour 2/3 of the crumb mixture into your prepared pan, reserving the remaining crumbs for later. Using the bottom of a weighted glass (Alton used coins in his glass), tamp the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan.

Bake your crust for 10 minutes at 300 degrees, and set it aside to cool while you begin making the filling. You want the crust to be cool before pouring adding the filling to the pan.

To make the filling, beat the 1 1/4 C sour cream on medium-high speed in a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment. The sour cream will coat the bowl and keep the cream cheese from sticking. Next, add the 20 ounces of cream cheese, along with 1 C sugar; begin beating this mixture on low speed, increasing to medium.

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Cream cheese mixed in bowl to coat. Cream cheese and sugar added.

Note:  if you want insurance against your cheesecake cracking, Alton also suggests that you add 1 T cornstarch when you add the sugar, but I opted not to add the cornstarch. While the mixer works on the cream cheese mixture, in a separate container combine 1/3 C cream, 1 T vanilla extract, 3 egg yolks, and 2 whole eggs.

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Cream, vanilla, egg yolks, and eggs.

Scrape the bowl and paddle of the mixer, and slowly add half of the liquid mixture on medium speed. Once half of the liquid is incorporated, scrape the bowl again. Increase the speed of the mixer and add the rest of the liquid.

Keep the mixer running until you have a smooth batter with no lumps. Meanwhile, decrease the oven temperature to 250 degrees and boil 2 quarts of water for your water bath. The water bath will control how quickly heat goes into the cheesecake. When your batter is smooth, pour the batter over your prepared crust, popping any visible bubbles. Place a towel-lined roasting pan in the center of your oven and add your cheesecake to the pan.

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Cheesecake in roasting pan. Water to be added for bath.

Carefully pour boiling water in the roasting pan until it comes 2/3 up the sides of the cheesecake pan; for me, 2 quarts of water was perfect. Bake your cheesecake for 1 hour. When the hour is up, turn the oven off and open the oven door for 1 minute.

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Cheesecake after baking for 1 hour.

Shut the oven door and leave the cheesecake in the cooling oven for an additional hour.

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Completed cheesecake.

Remove your cheesecake from the oven and place it immediately in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours to cool. When you are ready to serve your cheesecake, fill your sink partially with hot water and dip the cheesecake pan in the water for ~10 seconds.

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Getting ready to serve cheesecake – dipping pan in hot water for ~10 seconds.

Next, dip a sharp knife in hot water and run it around the cake between the cake and the parchment paper; this should allow you to pull the wall-lining parchment paper out.

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Cheesecake after running a hot knife around the edges and removing parchment paper.

Place a sheet of wax paper on the surface of the cheesecake and invert it – a springform pan base works well for inverting.

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Inverted cheesecake.

Remove the final parchment paper circle and invert the cake again onto a serving platter. With a hot knife, cut the cake into slices, slicing straight down and pulling the knife out toward you, rather than up. Remember those left over graham cracker crumbs? If desired, toast them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes and pat them around the sides of your cheesecake. Voila! Cheesecake a la Alton.

Okay, so this was a pretty darn good cheesecake, but I wish I would have listened to my gut and baked it a little longer. Alton was so definitive about his procedure that I decided to follow it to a T, even though my gut told me my cake would need a little more time. Sure enough, my cake was slightly softer in the middle than I would have liked. Even so, it was delicious. Now, if you are looking for a super thick, dense cheesecake, this isn’t for you. This cheesecake has a lighter, fluffier texture, while still being super rich and tangy. Ted is not as fond of cheesecake, or cream cheese for that matter, as I am and he really liked the texture of this cheesecake. I will make this again, but I will either cook it longer initially or I will not open the oven door for that one minute. Alton emphasized that cheesecake is like eggs:  done in the pan means overdone on the plate. I also might bake the crust just slightly longer initially, as it could have been a tad crispier. Still, we ate every last bit of this, and enjoyed it.

Savory Cheesecake

Although Alton did not make a savory cheesecake in the episode, there is a recipe online for a savory cheesecake from this episode. I tend to print all of the recipes out prior to watching an episode, so I printed this savory cheesecake recipe out, planning to make it when we had my parents over for dinner. Though Alton did not make this in the episode, I decided to make it anyway, using the end of my Alton Brown smoked salmon.

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Alton’s savory cheesecake.

The filling on this cheesecake was really good, but the crust was chewy and disappointing. If I were to make this again, I would make an alternative crust. But, I probably won’t waste my cheesecake-making on this again. Instead, I’ll make Alton’s sweet cheesecake again, tweaking the baking time.