; Supermarket Serenade: December 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ginger-Chai Cheesecake with White Chocolate Cream

Chai is again an inspiration for a holiday treat that can be made ahead of time (I'm cooking enough on Christmas Eve so making dessert in advance is always something I love).

I have always been a tea drinker. When I was a small child I would sit excitedly with my cousin Lynn and wait for my grandmother Molly to pour my next cup in her fine Irish teacups. Already brewed in her Belleek teapot, she would pour the tea into each cup filling 1/4 of the way and we would fill the rest of the cup with milk and sugar. Over the years I've reduced the milk and sugar to none, but every so often if I'm craving a sweet cup of something I'll have a cup of chai tea with milk and sugar.

This cheesecake was inspired by my love of chai. While the Chai Latte Fudge I previously shared with you was made with a chai spice blend found in the spice aisle of the supermarket, this recipe actually uses chai teabags to infuse the batter with chai flavor.
Super tip:This recipe was a runner up in the Hood Holiday Recipe contest last year. The Hood contest is taking place this year as well, so if you have a favorite recipe that incorporates sour cream or heavy cream that you have created you should send it in...but hurry the contest ends January 16th!

I've topped the cheesecake with a white chocolate cream and the crust is made from crushed ginger cookies and crystallized ginger...it couldn't be easier and it's a delicious, impressive holiday dessert.
I have prepared just the cheesecake part for a luncheon on Tuesday and I'm going to wrap it and store it in the freezer until Monday. On Monday I will prepare the white chocolate cream, chill overnight and it will be ready to serve at my luncheon on Tuesday. This is how it looks so far:

I'll post the finished picture on Tuesday!

Ginger-Chai Cheesecake with White Chocolate Cream

2 cups finely ground ginger flavored cookies
1/4 cup finely diced crystallized ginger
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

6 chai teabags
1/2 cup boiling water
4 packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup Hood Sour Cream
4 eggs, room temperature

4 oz. good quality white chocolate
1 cup Hood Sour Cream

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Total Cooking Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Chilling Time: at least 3-4 hours or overnight

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover the outside of a 9-inch spring form pan with aluminum foil and place pan on a 9" x 16" or similar baking sheet.

To make the crust, in a medium-sized bowl, stir together the ground cookies, crystallized ginger and the melted butter. Press the mixture in the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of the spring form pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes and let cool for 10 minutes.

To make the filling, steep the teabags in the 1/2 cup boiling water in a small bowl for 10 minutes. In a food processor or large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar and 1 cup of Hood Sour Cream until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, pulse or blend after each addition just until eggs are incorporated. Press the teabags against the side of the small bowl to completely drain; discard teabags.

Add the steeped tea to the cheesecake batter and process or blend just until combined. Pour the batter over the cooled crust. Place the cheesecake on the baking sheet on the center rack of the oven. On the bottom rack, place a 13" x 9" pan filled with hot water. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and center is set. Turn off the oven, open door slightly and let cake stay in the oven for 1 hour. Cool on wire rack. Run a sharp knife around the outside edges of the cheesecake, but do not release the sides.

To make the white chocolate cream, melt the white chocolate in a medium-sized bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Fold the melted chocolate into the sour cream. Spread the white chocolate cream over the cheesecake. Chill the cheesecake in the pan for at least 3 hours until firm. Release the sides of the pan and transfer to a serving platter; cut into wedges to serve.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Favorite Food Finds Friday

All week long I have been baking and shopping, baking and shopping. (Did you notice I didn't say posting?) One day was even devoted to a group bake where a few friends and I got together and made multiple batches of three different cookies: Pecan Tassies, those "pretzel/kiss/mm things and a favorite of mine...The Barefoot Contessa's JamThumbprints. When I came home I was still in a baking mood so I baked my very favorite holiday cookie which I will share with you soon: Cherry Macaroon Puffs-they are very special cookies to me...

Baking with friends really made it less like work and more like an event. My friend Sue made everyone delicious paninis with her griddler and we enjoyed an afternoon of baking together and since it was at her house I didn't have a messy kitchen to clean up!! (Thanks, Susie!).

Ok I'll get to my favorite food find....it has to do with baking-sort of. I love to make fudge for gifts around the holidays and this year I used a favorite food find to create a tasty variation of the fudge recipe from the side of the Fluff tub. (Fluff isn't the Friday favorite but it does count as a favorite food find though...who doesn't love that sticky, sweet, velvety white treat??)

This week I love.....McCormick Gourmet Collection Chai Spice Blend! I replaced the semi-sweet chocolate chips with white chips and stirred in a teaspoon of the spice mixture to create what I am calling Chai Latte Fudge. Once the fudge is firm and you've cut it into squares, you can either serve it as is or for an extra pretty touch you can sift unsweetened cocoa powder over the squares. It's a melt in your mouth treat-perfect for teachers gifts or for your neighbors.

Chai Latte Fudge

5 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
1/4 pound butter (1 stick), cut into tablespoons
1 (16 ounce) container Marshmallow Fluff
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 (12 ounce) packages white baking chips
1 teaspoon Chai Spice Blend
Line a 13x9 inch pan with aluminum foil leaving the edges of the foil hanging out of the pan. Lightly spray the foil with cooking spray.

Combine the sugar, evaporated milk, butter, Fluff, salt and salt in a large sauce pan. Stir over low heat until blended.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Being careful not to mistake escaping air bubbles for boiling. Then boil slowly, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla, baking chips an the Chai Spice Blend. Pour into the prepared pan. Allow to cool at room temperature.

Yields: about 5 pounds of fudge

Store the fudge covered at room temperature. I don't like my fudge chilled...but hey, that's just me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow-Capped Coconut Fudge Bites

Cookie number two!!

Next up is a rich chocolaty coconut treat! These bite-sized brownie like treats couldn't be any simpler to make and they are a favorite of mine-I love anything chocolate and coconut.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind during cookie week:

These are cookies, not diet food...so yes they're full of sugar and butter! (Everything in moderation, right?)
When you are storing your cookies, wrap each cookie separately otherwise they all start to taste the same.
If you are planning on freezing cookies that are coated with powdered sugar, plan on sprinkling a little extra after thawing.

Snow-Capped Coconut Fudge Bites
1 cup butter, softened
1 (11.5 ounce) package Bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon coconut extract (you may substitute vanilla extract)
3 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently; cool completely.

Using a large spoon, stir in the sugar, heavy cream and coconut extract; stir until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each until incorporated. Gradually stir in the flour and the coconut.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin pan lightly with cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the cups filling each 2/3 full. Bake in the oven 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Gently remove bites from the pan and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 48 bites.

Note: Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan before gently removing bites and transferring to the wire rack to cool completely. Use a small spatula or knife to remove the bites being careful to not not break them. The "cookies" will be slightly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.