Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You Say Shortcake; I Say Cheesecake

Rachel here: Before I go any further, I just have to say that while I'm quite pleased with my shortcake, when my mom said she was going to make my Grandy's cheesecake, I instantly shifted cravings towards her recipe. When I want cheesecake, THIS is what I want (as opposed to what I usually end up trying to satisfy the craving with...not to knock everybody else in the entire world's cheesecake...but seriously, this stuff is to die for) and, though I obviously could've gotten the recipe at any point during the last several years, I got really excited to finally lay my hands on it. I feel like I'm going to have to make it myself asap to deal with the nagging hankering I've developed.

But anyway, back to my recipe. John and I can do some serious damage to shortcake. One of the perks of living in California--and the Bay Area in particular--is that there are berries here virtually year round. When you combine this with a local grocery store (I know I've told you all about the Berkeley Bowl before...) that stocks locally-made baked goods, we could probably eat shortcake until we burst. It's almost cruel that Berkeley Bowl stocks freshly made shortcakes next to the berries. But I digress...

From time to time (when I'm trying to stave off a dessert deluge), I make the shortcakes myself. Per usual, I use a recipe from The Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated (I adapted it ever so slightly) and, per usual, it doesn't disappoint. You could use any type of fruit you wanted following the recipe for the fruit topping and, of course, a dollop of whipped cream never hurt anybody either.

serves 6

2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for work space
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tspn. salt
5 T. sugar
8 T. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. plus 1 T. half-and-half or milk
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

With rack on lower-middle position, preheat oven to 425 degrees. In your food processor (or not...I made this recipe pre-owning a food processor without any issue), mix flour, baking powder, salt and 3 T. of sugar. Scatter butter pieces over the mixture, tossing to coat. Cut butter into dry ingredients (if making by hand use a pastry cutter or two knives) and continue cutting until the butter bits are no longer than small peas. In a medium bowl, combine your beaten egg and milk. Add the flour mixture and combine with a rubber spatula until large clumps form. Turn onto floured work surface and knead just until it all comes together. Pat the dough with your fingertips into a 9" by 16" rectangle (about 3/4-inch thick). Be sure not to overwork the dough. Using a cutter about 2 3/4 ", cut into 6 biscuits (I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter instead of the traditional biscuit cutter). Place on cookie tray 1 inch apart and brush tops with egg white. Sprinkle with sugar (I used demarara). Bake until golden brown, roughly 13 minutes.

Fruit Mash

3 c. raspberries
5 c. strawberries, sliced
3-6 T. demarara sugar

In a medium bowl, mash the raspberries. Add the strawberries and mix. Add sugar to taste. Let macerate for at least 30 minutes, although the longer the better.

Janet here: I have been jonesing for cheesecake. I had dinner with a friend last week and all I was hoping/thinking was that the restaurant had cheesecake for dessert. They didn't. I had to settle for key lime pie — which was tasty but not the same thing.

Not surprisingly, then, when Rachel said she was making strawberry shortcake for this week's blog dessert, I ignored the whole concept and said I was going to make this cream cheese pie that my mom used to make. Who cares if they're not tied together by a fruit theme or whatever? I had a food itch and I had to satisfy it. Trust me: If you want/need a cheesecake fix, this recipe, which is way faster, will satisfy you in spades. Enjoy.

Cream Cheese Pie

Main Pie
1 1/4 cup graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cups melted butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla, used 1/2 teaspoon at a time
2 eggs

1 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix the graham cracker bits and butter together until blended. Pat into an 8-9 inch pie crust.

Mix the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and eggs together with an electric beater. Pour into the crust.

Bake for 30 minutes. While baking mix together the sour cream, 4 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Spread over the top of the pie and cook an additional 10 minutes. Let cool.

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