Monday, May 10, 2010

I Know What You Did at The Check Out Line

I seem to be wacky things lately. First, I copied down a recipe off a magazine at the doctor's office. Ok, well apparently, it runs in the family because my mother and sister do it too. But then, as if trying to stand out more than I already do, I had to do another thing; memorize a recipe in a magazine at Albertson's check out line.

I have to tell the truth. I hate those check out lines. Why? Because they are always littered with tabloids usually displaying lewd pictures, and I hate that my children have to see those. So we always tell them to wait for us at the other end of the check out line. At Meijer's they had those coin-eating horses that we could redirect the kids to, but here, there ain't much choice. But the kids seem to know why we always tell them to go, so they do.

I have to tell another truth. i love those check out lines. Why? Because they are adorned with home and cooking magazines usually displaying scrumptious food pictures, and I love that I could pick them up and browse through them while hubby and kids unload the cart and wait to pay. I especially love it when the line is long, though many times, I've had to cut my reading short because customers are coming in behind me. At times I get the question,

"Are you in line?"

I know. I'm annoying.

But this time, I did what I never thought of doing before. I was browsing through this cooking magazine whose name I don't even remember, and I my greedy eyes landed upon a luscious cake. I fell in love. Head over heels. I beckoned for S to come and help me out. I don't remember how it came about, but I whispered surreptitiously to her,

"Ski, you think you can help me memorize this recipe?"

I read and reread the recipe. A cake recipe is quite familiar to me now, and one that involves egg separation, I am also familiar with, so memorizing the recipe was a cinch. It was mostly common sense with a little baking know how. The ingredients was the challenge. So we ended up memorizing the ingredients. Right there and then. I looked up to see hubs completing his payment.

"Hurry, S. You think you got it?"

And like a good obedient daughter, she obeyed me. I could almost see her the clockwork in her brain. She slowly nodded.

As we walked out the store, I quickly rummaged in my messy handbag, looking for a notepad and pen (which I always have anyway). Aha! And on the way to the parking lot, I quickly scribbled the memorized ingredient list, thereby creating quite a sight to behold: an abaya clad woman, face covered, not looking where she was going, hastily scribbling something on a notepad while walking towards her car, following her husband and children. Oh well, who cares? I already am a sight to behold with the niqab anyway.

So for quite some time, the recipe sat in my handbag, untouched. My fervor had dissipated, though it was at the back of my mind. Then a few weeks ago, we bought heavy whipping cream because I wanted to make Swiss rolls. But I only used one carton. The other 1 pint carton was still sitting in the fridge, awaiting a gruesome death at the hands of a neglectful owner. Well, neglectful I am not, for I finally rescued that carton of heavy whipping cream from such an end !

With the help of my lovely children, I made the Strawberry Tres Leches. That reminds me. Getting the strawberry jam for this was not straightforward. I try to avoid non organic berries now, because they are one of the fruits that are high in pesticide. So when we set out to buy jam for the cake filling, we had a dilemma. H, my son, was with me at the time. he forgoed jam for bread and we bought an organic raspberry jam for the cake instead of strawberry because they were out of strawberry. And with that, I present ...

Strawberry Tres Leches Cake

For the cake:
5 eggs separated
1 C sugar, divided 3/4 C and 1/4 C
1/4 C milk
1 ts vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the milk combo:
2/3 C milk
2/3 C sweetened condensed milk
2/3 C evaporated milk

About 1 C strawberry/rasberry jam, slightly warmed for easy spreading

1/2 - 1 C heavy whipping cream
1-4 Tbs powdered sugar

1. Preheat over to 350 Fahrenheit and grease a 9 in springform pan
2. Beat the yolks with the 3/4 C sugar until light colored and fluffy
3. Combine the flour with baking powder and mix well, then add it to the egg mixture alternately with the milk in 2-3 additions, beating well after each addition. That basically means, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then mix well, stop, add 1/2 of the milk, mix well, stop, add another 1/3 of flour mixture, mix well, stop, add rest of milk, mix well, stop, add remaining flour mixture, mix well
4. In another bowl that is free of grease or egg yolk, beat the egg whites till foamy and then gradually, add the 1/4 C sugar until stiff peaks form.
5. Plop one peaked spatula of egg white onto the egg yolk mixture and fold in gently. Then fold in the rest of the whites until thoroughly combined
6. Bake 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
7. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Then invert onto cooling rack and cool completely
8. Now this is the fun part: Like a crazed person, poke as many holes as you can in the cake from the top with a cake tester or or skewer. Have a go at it! But just be sure not to tear the cake apart while you're at it. You just want to make enough holes so the milk combo can soak through the whole cake.
9. When you're done a-pokin', place the cake in a container with sides that is slightly bigger than the diameter of the cake. Then combine the 3 milk and pour onto the cake.
10. Refrigerate overnight.
11. By the next day, the cake should be drenched and have soaked up all the milk solution. Invert onto a large plate and prepare to slice the cake horizonatally into half. I used a serrated knife and did some guesswork. It was a little tricky because the cake is so soaked that when I placed my hand on the top while cutting, it wet my hand, so I used a cake insert just so my hand won't get wet from the milk.
12. Spread the jam over the bottom half of the cake and carefully, very carefully (since the cake is wet and can break easily) place the top half inside part down over the jam.
13. Beat the heavy cream with powdered sugar until it looks like whipped cream. Be careful not to overbeat or it will curdle. If it does, you can rectify this by adding more heavy cream, but if you don't have anymore on hand, you're in big trouble.
14. Spread whipped cream on top of cake. Best eaten chilled.

I had made a Tres Leches cake before, but it was a different recipe. I think we all like this one better. Now the next time I'm at a check out line, I know what to do.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Say Cheese!

It's creamy, rich yet not too overpowering, light yet not airy. It was perfect. I only wish I had a topping to pour on this off white smooth-topped cheesecake.

I rarely do this (not out of aversion, but more out of laziness), but this time I did. At the doctor's office, I picked up a magazine, flipped through it, and a photo of a scrumptious cheesecake caught my eye. Without thinking, I quickly rummaged through my purse for a pen and notepad, and copied down the recipe.

The recipe remained on the bulletin board near my work station for weeks, a month maybe, before I actually did something about it. My Taleem classes and homeschooling left me little time to indulge in extra kitchen activities. But I had snared myself into the trap. I bought the cream cheese when we went shopping, and so, that morning, I took out the cream cheese boxes and left them on the counter so they could come to room temperature.

By the time they did though, I was too lazy, spent, and exhausted to make the darn cheesecake. I was about to put the cream cheese back in the fridge, when the kids offered to help. They must have really wanted that cheesecake. So, somewhat reluctantly, I agreed, and before long, I had kids crushing the graham crackers, melting butter, patting the crushed crackers mixed with butter onto the bottom of the pan and the rest was a breeze. Without these helping hands, I would have probably ditched my intention to make this cheesecake and used the cream cheese for eating with pita bread and graham crackers for snack.

I didn't use Philadelphia cream cheese though, but it still tasted delish. Why didn't I use it? I was being frugal. My only reason. I also used more than 6 graham crackers. I think I probably used about 10-12 graham crackers.

Philadelphia New York Cheesecake

6 graham crackers crushed (I dumped about 10-12 graham crackers in a bowl and handed my kids a pestle and told them to crush them crackers to bits)
1 C sugar
3 Tbs sugar (keep this separate for the crust)
3 Tbs butter, melted (courtesy of one of the kids. I forgot which one)
5 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened (that basically means, you leave it at room temperature)
3 Tbs flour
1 Tbs vanilla
1 C sour cream (at room temperature)
4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Prepare a 13x9 rectangular pan (if you have one with a removable bottom, that would be even better). No need to butter the pan.
2. Combine crushed graham crackers with 3 Tbs sugar and melted butter
3. Dump this mixture into the pan, and using the bottom of a measuring cup or hand slipped in small ziploc, press it so it forms an even crust in the pan. No need to push it up the sides. Just cover the bottom.
4. Bake 10 minutes. Cool.
5. At low to medium speed, cream cream cheese, sugar (the 1 C), flour and vanilla till smooth
6. Add sour cream and continue mixing
7. On low speed, add eggs one at a time, beating till smooth after each. Do NOT overbeat.
8. Bake 40 minutes or till the center almost sets. I usually do a jiggle test. I hold the pan and slightly shake it. If the center jiggles like jelly but doesn't slosh over, it's done.
9. Cool completely
10. Refrigerate 4 hours (and this was where the kids groaned. After all the helping they did, I guess they had a right to groan like they did.)

But it's definitely worth it.