Learning As I Chop

Long Time No Post

Posted in Uncategorized by R @ Learning As I Chop on July 21, 2010

Oh, blog friends. I normally hate when people post “excuses” for not updating but unfortunately I have one that is too real. I’m not going to get into details but life, as sometimes happens, has gotten in the way. As they say, this too shall pass. I plan to return as soon as possible, and with more commitment than I could give before. Please check-in next week, as I hope to be back.

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Re-frig-er-ation (as sung to the tune of Carly Simon’s “Anticipation”)

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Food Philosophies by R @ Learning As I Chop on July 16, 2010

Try not to laugh, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about refrigeration. More particularly, what goes in the fridge and what stays out.  A while ago, a colleague charted directions for most fruits and veggies. I found it very helpful, but of course forgot to save the post and am now back to square one. For the most part, I know that tomatoes and bananas stay out, while cucumbers go in. But what about when it’s less clear? For example, I’ve seen onions and potatoes go both ways.

The other night, after I made my ricotta cheesecake, I found myself in this precarious position. Should I store the cake inside the fridge or leave it out? Letting vanity get the best of me, I decided out. I recently received this pretty cake-stand for my Bridal Shower in February and try to use it whenever possible. I just love how it makes me feel more professional. So I let ego get the best of me, and placed the cake here:

Even though it was cheesecake, and H suggested the fridge, I figured it would OK. The cake was fully cooked and I had previously successfully stored many a tart in this stand. I thought it would make it.

This was Friday. Then we got called away from our home for a few days and the cake was left to sit in our warm apartment. I was so excited to come home on Tuesday and pick at the cake before dinner. So I put a fork-full in my mouth and the result was less than stellar. Blog friends, the cake just tasted weird. Nature had done her job and something was not right. Upon further inspection,  I discovered some nice little mold on the side. Obviously the rest of the cake went into the garbage. I was sad and regretful. Had I made a different decision, we could’ve enjoyed some nice ricotta cheesecake for a few more days.

Oh well, lesson learned: when in doubt, cool it out. In other words, always refrigerate when unsure. It could save a cake.

Italian Cheesecake, NY style

Posted in Baking/Cooking by R @ Learning As I Chop on July 14, 2010

The other day I was reading various food blogs and came upon a post that included cheesecake squares. I automatically knew what I had to do – I had to make and eat cheesecake right away. So I did my usual – looked on epicurious – and chose this recipe.

Ricotta Cheesecake
3 tablespoons finely crushed amaretti (crisp Italian macaroons) or plain fine dry bread crumbs
2 pounds fresh ricotta at room temperature 30 minutes
6 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Equipment: an 8-inch springform pan

Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in lower third.

Lightly butter pan and coat with cookie crumbs, leaving any loose crumbs distributed over bottom of pan.

Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour into crust.

Bake until puffed and golden but center is still slightly wobbly, about 1 1/2 hours.

Cool in pan on a rack (cake will sink a little).

Serve cheesecake warm or at room temperature.

I chose it for the following reasons. 1) I don’t like desserts that are too sweet. Ricotta cheesecake is known to be lighter than other styles and I wasn’t in the mood for the heaviness of a cream cheese style cake. 2) The recipe, though it took a few hours, would be ready that night. Nothing needed to sit overnight. Thus, immediate gratification 3) My mom loves me telling about her morning sickness while pregnant with me. Ricotta cheesecake was one of the only things she could eat. So I thought it would be sweet to make some for H and me. Maybe I’ll surprise her with one next time she comes over.

Here are a few pictures of the process. First is the ricotta, second is the batter being whisked and third is the batter being laid onto the crust. Note about the crust: I decided to fore-go the amaretti and use Nilla wafers instead. I got the idea here. I love Nilla wafers, they are so sweetly nostalgic to me, and seemed more affordable. Plus, it was the first time making my own crust, and I was excited. Wanted to work with something I knew to avoid any foul-ups.

I also thought homemade whipped cream and fresh strawberries would be the perfect accompaniment. Here is a picture of the cream being whipped. I don’t care if you’re awful in the kitchen. Homemade whipped cream is incredibly easy to make and tastes SO MUCH BETTER. There’s really no need to ever buy it again.

Below is the final product. I was too excited and didn’t let the cake properly cool. So some of the cream melted and slid off the cake. Oh well. H, my much more patient partner, decided to put his slice in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving. Definitely tastes much better that way. Enjoy!