Monday, September 26, 2011

Celebrating 100th Post with New York Cheesecake

"It was cheesecake. It was fine. It had a buttery, crumbly, graham cracker crust, with a very rich yet light, cream cheese filling… "

One of my favourite  FRIENDS episodes features Rachel, Chandler and a cheesecake. So this cheesecake happens to find it's way into Chandler's living room and eventually into his tummy when, infact, it was supposed to be delivered to his neighbour. Rachel first calls Chandler a thief, but cannot resist the temptation herself and along with Chandler, polishes off not one or two, but three cheesecakes!

And all this while, I was wondering what a cheesecake tastes like. So I set out to find a cheesecake in Bangalore, found one on the other side of the city and really liked it. I later discoverd that a bakery just down the road sold cheesecakes. So I went with great expectations, bought the cheesecake, resisted the temptation of hauling an auto and walked home.
All along the way, I was hoping the cheesecake wouldn't melt, reminding myself that it was not ice-ream. After reaching home the first thing I did, ofcourse, was bite into the cheesecake. Wham! a block of cheese hit my mouth. Ugh?? It was not luscious, creamy cheese, but a block of cheese - the kind you grate or chop to throw into your pasta. Really?? 

Chandler: Hey, you have got to try this cheesecake.

Rachel: Wow. My God, so creamy. Oh my God, this is the best cheesecake I have ever had. 

Since then I have had cheesecake several times. And each time I ate it, I wish I had baked it. Exactly the feeling you get when you see a gorgeous dress and want to wear it. Infact when I slowly started learning the ropes of baking, three cakes featured in my 'must-try' list - tres leches, tiramisu and cheesecake. These cakes now have a special place in my blog. Tres Leches was what I started with, tiramisu featured in my blog's b'day post and cheesecake seemed apt for the 100th post. 

After hunting for a good recipe, I came across the following recipe on Joy of Baking by Stephanie Jaworski. Crossed my fingers and tried it. Turned out exactly what I was hoping -  a buttery, crumbly, graham cracker crust, with a very rich yet light, cream cheese filling. Except, I used digestive biscuits instead of graham crackers. To powder these biscuits, just pulse about 18 to 20 biscuits in the blender till you get the desired powdered consistency.

Ingredients :
2 cups graham cracker crumbs [ I used Brittania digestive biscuits]
1/4 cup sugar [ I used only 2 tbsp since the biscuits were very sweet]
1/2 cup melted butter

32 oz cream cheese, at room temperature [ I used four 8oz slabs]
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour [I used maida]
5 eggs
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Method :

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" springform pan with cooking spray. 
In a bowl, mix biscuit crumbs, sugar and melted butter . Pour into the springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. 

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer beat cream cheese. Add sugar and flour and beat till smooth and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat with each addition. Keep scraping the pan. Add vanilla, lemon zest and whipping cream and beat further.

Pour this mixture onto the crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 250ºF. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes. [ My cake got done in about 15 + 70 mts. Remember, it doesn't look like a regular cake in the oven, so don't wait for the top to get browned. The sides should be done and the centre should be a slightly jiggly.]

Somewhere in between combine sour cream with sugar and vanilla. Once you remove the cheesecake from the oven, spread this topping on the cheesecake with a spoon or offset spatula.

Return it to oven and bake at 250ºF for another 10 to 15 mts.

Remove, run your spatula around the sides. Stephanie suggests doing this to reduce any cracks on top.

Refrigerate overnight.

To serve, unclasp the pan. Run a spatula around the sides of the cheesecake, remove sides of the pan. I noticed that the crust was tightly stuck to the bottom so I did not bother to transfer the cake onto a cakeboard. Next time I will probably use a parchment paper.

To give the cheesecake a pretty pink look, I made some strawberry coulis and drizzled it on top. To make the coulis, just blend 10 to 12 chopped strawberries (stem removed) with 2 tbsp sugar into a smooth paste (without water). Run this through a large sieve, pushing down the pulp with your fingers.  Collect the juice and drizzle over the cheesecake.
I filled a piping bag (you could use a ziploc) to help drizzle better.

A big thanks to all my dear readers. Your support and encouragement has kept my blog going. I really appreciate it :)!!

This goes to bookmarked recipes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Paneer Capsicum Masala Chilly

It's such a joy to bring together different ingredients without having to follow any rules. I mean, why can Indian spices not join hands with Chinese sauces and give us the best of both worlds? Indo-Chinese cuisine - something I totally relish, has given us an insight into how dishes can be tweaked to suit the palates of the consumers. So when it comes to whipping out dishes in one's own kitchen and bringing together different cultures, the choices are innumerable. 
This recipe is my take on 'Paneer Chilly', a famous Indo-Chinese dish which I have made more 'Indian' by adding Indian spices. I have chosen not to fry the paneer, and to throw in a little more vigour into the dish, have added red bell peppers. I'm so in love with the deep red colour of these peppers, the subtle sweetness they offer and the beautiful contrast they provide with the paneer.
I like this dish to be very spicy so do adjust the spice level according to your taste. If the dish turns out too spicy, add some tomato ketchup or lemon juice.

Ingredients :
2 large onions
2 tsp ginger gralic paste
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 medium tomato
1 large red capsicum 
1 medium green capsicum
1 tsp soy sauce
1 to 2 tsp red chilli sauce (I used Ching's)
2 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp kasuri methi (optional)
400g paneer, chopped into cubes
Coriander leaves or / and spring onion greens for garnish

Method :
Heat oil. Sauté chopped onions till they turn brownish. Add ginger garlic paste and green chillies and sauté for a few minutes. To this add the powders and roast. Add diced tomato and bell peppers and cook covered for 4 to 5 minutes or till they are cooked (keep stirring every minute).
Now add the sauces and vinegar and mix well. Cook for a minute. Add paneer, salt to taste (remember, the sauces have some salt in them) and kasoori methi and mix gently so as not to break the paneer.

Garnish with coriander leaves.

You can have this as a side dish with Chapati and curd. Or if you are like me and enjoy things spicy, eat it as it is!


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