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VOL. 37 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 08, 2013

Black Forest Cheesecake for your Valentine

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and I wouldn’t dare allow that to slip by without some scrump-tillicious (that’s my new word for “wonderful”) chocolate thingy.

And I just happen to have a recipe in front of me – one I made last year, and that is, as my daughter says, “Ah-maze-ing.”

Have you ever found the perfect recipe, pulled out the cookware needed and then, when assembling the ingredients, found your brown sugar could be used in place of a brick or your honey so thick it could be sliced? I have.

But here are a few baking tips to keep you from having to stop and run to the store.

  • For clarified butter, slowly melt unsalted butter over low heat. Don’t let the butter come to a boil or stir it. This allows the milk solids to separate from the butter. Once it has separated into three layers - foamy milk solids on top, clarified butter in the middle, and milk solids on the bottom, turn off the heat. Skim the foamy white solids from the top. Spoon off the clear, clarified butter, being careful not to disturb the milk solids on the bottom of the pan.
  • Bacteria on food will rapidly multiply when left at a temperature between 45 and 140 degrees.
  • After working with garlic, rub your hands on your stainless steel sink for 30 seconds before washing them. It will remove the odor.
  • For best results when you’re baking, leave butter and eggs at room temperature overnight.
  • Try this trick to bring honey back to its drizzly state: Place the container in a bowl of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. Or, remove the lid and microwave the jar in 30-second intervals until the crystals have dissolved.
  • To toast coconut in the microwave, spread half of a cup of coconut on a plate and cook for three to four minutes, stirring every 30 seconds after the first two minutes. Watch closely, as once it begins to brown, it does so quickly.
  • Test your cheesecake for doneness at the minimum baking time to avoid over-baking. Remember, if the cake jiggles, return it to the oven for more baking. Inserting a knife for this purpose might cause the knife hole to grow into a large crack.
  • Want to sweeten your lemonade or iced tea? Mix up a batch of simple syrup. Combine one cup of water with one cup of sugar in a small saucepan and then cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool, and then add to beverages as needed. Use one-and-a-half teaspoons of simple syrup for every teaspoon of sugar you’d normally use. Store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  • To soften a bag of hardened brown sugar, place the block of sugar in a bowl, sprinkle a teaspoon of water on it, cover it with a damp paper towel and microwave it in 30-second intervals, checking between each, until soft.

Black Forest Cheesecake

1 package of fudge marble or fudge swirl cake mix

1/4 cup of oil

3 eggs

3 (8 ounces each) packages of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of sour cream

1/2 cup of whipping (heavy) cream

1 large can of cherry pie filling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cooking spray on a 9 x 13 baking pan or a cheesecake pan with removable bottom.

Set aside one cup of the dry cake mix and the chocolate swirl pouch. In a large bowl, combine the remaining cake mix, oil and one egg at low speed until dough forms. Press the dough in the bottom of the baking pan and up the sides (go up one inch if using the 9x13 pan). If you’re making the tart, then make the thickness the same as a pie shell would be. You might have some extra dough to discard. Bake the crust for eight minutes. Remove it from the oven and then set it aside.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until it’s smooth and creamy. Add the remaining two eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, add the reserved cake mix and mix well. Add the sugar, sour cream and heavy cream. Beat the mixture for three minutes at medium speed, until creamy.

Reserve two cups of the cheesecake mixture and set aside. Spoon the remaining cheesecake mixture over the crust. If making the tart, fill the tart pan only two-thirds full. (Use the extra cheesecake mixture to make mini cheesecakes.) Mix the reserved swirl pouch into the reserved two cups of cheesecake batter. Mix well.

Spread the chocolate mixture over the cheesecake batter. Fill it to just below the top of the crust. If you’re making this in the tart pan, there might be a little left. You can use the extra batter to make miniature chocolate cheesecakes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until the edges are set and the center is almost set. Do not overbake. Run a knife around the sides of the pan. Cool on a cake rack. If making the tart, remove the sides. Refrigerate several hours, or overnight. Do not skip the refrigeration step; it makes slicing the cake easier.

Top with the cherry pie filling.

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