Did you know that January 23 was National Pie Day? (Not to be mistaken with Pi Day, which is 3/14, but can be celebrated equally well with pie.) The only reason I know is because I looked up US food holidays last month when Alex told me that it was National Cookie Day (which naturally prompted me to make chocolate chip cookies).
A pie holiday, plus a recent post from Smitten Kitchen, spurred me to make Key Lime Pie on Friday. I love making Key Lime Pie; it’s always very quick and simple to bake. I’ve always from the recipe from the Joy of Baking. This time, I mainly followed the Smitten Kitchen recipe, although I found the differences between the recipes to be minimal. Alex and I were very happy with the results. The pie disappeared very quickly.
Here I will tell you the story of how I was disappointed with a very big, delicious cheesecake.
It resulted from cold, unsoftened cream cheese.
I didn’t believe it would make such a big difference, but it did. There is no substitute for thoroughly softening your cream cheese when you make cheesecake. This, more than anything else than I can imagine, is what might make me turn away from a cheesecake. The crack that might form on top if you beat too much air into it or cool the cheesecake too quickly is disappointing, but manageable – you can just cut the cheesecake along those lines, or top the cheesecake with fruit. The cheesecake isn’t so pretty, but it’s still tasty. However, those lumps of cream cheese that aren’t dissolved smoothly into the batter will coalesce in your cheesecake, resulting in more of a curd-like texture. Which is fine if you’re like my husband and love the flavors of cheesecake and honey and bourbon, and focus on that alone. It makes it more difficult for people like me, who will reject food based on texture alone.
I lamented the lack of smooth, creamy cheesecake which I desired, but I managed. It was truly a mess of my own making with a good recipe.
The Honey Bourbon Cheesecake recipe came from A Splash of Bourbon, which I bought while Alex and I toured the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. I’ve enjoyed the book, even if I haven’t made too much from it yet. We liked this recipe – the flavor of of the cheesecake was great. It also happened to be the first cheesecake I’ve made that didn’t develop a crack along the top. That’s definitely a point toward soothing my pride.
Most of my posts start off with “recently I really wanted…” And really, why shouldn’t cooking and baking be that way? I’m fortunate that I can generally make whatever I want, and make it relatively well. Recently, what I wanted was biscotti. This surprised me, because I usually don’t choose hard cookies. I like tender, chewy, and soft. For a long time, that was all I ever looked for in a cookie. Over the past few years my palate has grown, and I’ve come to appreciate the variety of food that I can make and enjoy (even if it seems like I only make sweets based on the recipes I post). I can embrace gooey brownies and crisp biscotti without conflict.
Good biscotti can certainly be tender, and they don’t have to be rock hard. And that’s what I hoped the Chocolate Buckwheat Biscotti recipe I found would be. They were gluten-free without making any unusual substitutions, provided you embrace the buckwheat and almond meal included in the ingredient list. I only first tried buckwheat flour a few weeks ago, and based on my limited experience with it so far, I think I like it. It gives an earthy flavor that works well in these chocolatey biscotti.
My friend Molly and I got along superbly as roommates, perhaps in part because we both loved food and enjoyed cooking. We still do. It’s no wonder that we’d cook at least once during my visit. Molly mentioned that she had made a Chocolate Espresso Tiramisu for a friend’s birthday. I love tiramisu, but I never make it at home since Alex doesn’t like coffee, so I promptly asked if we could make one while I was there.
To celebrate our 5 year anniversary, I made a Boston Creme Pie French Toast for me and Alex for brunch. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been married that long, but in other ways, it’s not surprising. I hardly remember when I didn’t test recipes for this website – and Alex and I have been married longer than that!
This French toast wasn’t difficult to make overall. It’s true that there’s 3 components – French toast, creme, and chocolate sauce – but I completed the more complicated part of the prep (making the creme) the night before. The breakfast was certainly rich and decadent, but totally worth it.
Valentine’s Day was a Friday this year, and I couldn’t bear the thought of going out to dinner with hordes of other people. I had no inspiration for dinner (we ended up buying steak and appetizers at Trader Joe’s), but I had decided earlier that I absolutely had to make this Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting. I love baking and I love sweets, but decorative desserts usually aren’t my thing. I don’t like having to focus on presentation. But for this dessert, I made an exception.
I’ve tried making almond macaroons once or twice, and they haven’t turned out perfectly. I simply don’t whip egg whites often enough to have them turn out well every time. But this time, everything turned out just fine.
This recipe makes a lot of rich little bread puddings. I was very aware of how many calories the bread puddings had, what with all the cream, but this is the first bread pudding I’ve had that I haven’t minded eating. It was definitely a good way to use up my misshapen bread.
I got the urge to take cupcakes to a potluck recently. With frosting. And heart sprinkles for Valentine’s Day.
Luckily, I recently bought a gluten-free baking book, Gluten-Free Baking Classics. It had great reviews on Goodreads (where I check out ratings on any book before I purchase), so I looked forward to using it. I enjoy reading cookbooks from cover to cover – in fact, I do that on my phone while I ride the train each morning – but I skipped forward to see what cupcake recipes the book had. It had several cake recipes, but only one recipe for cupcakes. I didn’t mind, because it was exactly the recipe that I wanted – basic yellow cake that I could top with chocolate frosting.
I made a fantastic pecan pie last weekend – and it just happened to be vegan. You heard that right – an egg-free and dairy-free pecan pie. It was quite good. Just as sweet and flavorful as the original.
We had Friendsgiving over the weekend, and one of our friends is vegan. She requested that I make a vegan dessert, and while I enjoy simplicity, I don’t always go the easy route. I thought about a fruit pie or cobbler, which is pretty easy to veganize, but if I wondered, what is something that my friend wouldn’t usually be able to have? Pecan pies came to mind. It’s easy to substitute shortening or oil for butter in a recipe, but the eggs that go in pecan pie would be much harder to replace.
I came across this Best Vegan Pecan Pie recipe, and without trying other recipes, I suspect that it might be the very best. It has a half-whole wheat crust and a filling that you boil on the stove briefly, and then bake. Without eggs, what thickens it? Applesauce, cornstarch, and a secret ingredient – saltine crackers.
I’ve given up dairy for the past few weeks, cutting all butter and milk from my cooking and my diet. It’s more than just not eating obvious foods like butter and cheese and milk and ice cream, though. Milk is an ingredient in so many things!
I don’t miss much overall. I can pass up most goodies that appear at work – although one hungry day someone brought in donuts, which I eyed them longingly all morning. But in general, I cook enough that I usually have tasty, satisfying food around. It’s still summer in St. Louis, though, so what I do seriously miss is ice cream.
I didn’t feel like bothering to make sorbet, which would be fruity or chocolatey at best. I wanted something more vanilla-y, something more creamy, something with a little more heft than a fruit ice. I knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied with sorbet right now.
While looking for dairy-free or vegan ice cream recipes, I stumbled across this Blueberry Crisp Ice Cream recipe that sounded promising. Blueberry sorbet had been my goal before I’d decided I needed ice cream. I expected the high-fat coconut milk would be a very satisfying replacement for actual heavy cream.