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Entries in cheesecake (9)

Monday
Jan072013

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with a Chocolate Shortbread Crust

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

A few months ago, there was a good-looking recipe for Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Pomegranate Syrup in Bon Appetit magazine.

But I was pretty sure I could make it better.

My first change was to ditch the graham cracker crust, and instead use mashed-up chocolate shortbread cookies. Then, I figured, why not go whole hog and add a layer of melted chocolate between the crust and cheesecake? So basically, the crust is a layer of these Million Dollar Shortbread Bars. Like for the bars, I used Walkers shortbread since I had a bunch of samples.

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

As for the pomegranate? Well, I'll tell you the truth. I didn't feel like going to the store for a pomegranate, plus, they're kind of expensive and messy. And would it really taste good with the chocolate? 

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

Basically, pomegranate amounted to "too hard". So I opted for toasted almonds on top, instead. And you know what? It tasted fantastic. Zingy and tangy thanks to the yogurt-cream cheese topping, it was mellowed by the dark, rich chocolatey crust, making for an unusual but quite nice flavor complement. Aforementioned crust, along with the toasty nuts on top, gave it a nice crunch. The only tough part was that the chocolate layer on top of the crust made cutting difficult, since the dessert must be chilled. So there may be a little hacking involved to ensure a prompt delivery of this dessert to your mouth.

I'm going to call this one a success. A little goes a long way with the powerful flavors of the dessert--a small slice will do. I think this makes it a perfect post dinner party dessert, for when people are fairly full but still want a decadent bite or four.

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

So while I really took some liberties with the recipe, I still thank Bon Appetit for planting the idea seedling in my mind for this delicious treat.

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Chocolate Shortbread Crust 

Crust

Filling

  • 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Special Equipment

  • A 9-inch-diameter springform pan

Preparation

  1. Prepare crust. Let set until cool.
  2. Once you're ready to make the filling, place gelatin and 1 1/2 tablespoon cold water in a heatproof bowl. Let stand until softened, 5-10 minutes.
  3. Pulse cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt in a food processor, scraping down sides as needed, until completely smooth.
  4. Pour water to a depth of 1/2-inch into a small skillet over medium heat. Place bowl with gelatin in skillet; stir until gelatin dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove bowl from skillet.
  5. With processor running, drizzle gelatin into cream cheese mixture; mix until well blended. Pour into prepared crust. Tap pan firmly on the counter to break up any big air bubbles. Smooth top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours before serving. 
  6. When ready to serve, toast almonds in 350 degree oven until fragrant. Let cool, and sprinkle on top of the cheesecake before serving.
Tuesday
Jul102012

Baked Good of the Day: Chevre Tuffet, Wedge and Fig, Philadelphia

Chevre cheese tart with caramel

How about a mini cheesecake?

...nah, why not fancy it up? How about a chevre cheese tart with caramel sauce?

Chevre cheese tart with caramel

That's more like it. Unexpected, interesting, and definitely delicious, the "Chevre Tuffet" is a mini goat cheese cheesecake which is singular in its flavor--wonderfully tangy yet mellow, and certainly a more lively and complex flavor than your typical cheesecake. But it gets even better with a crumbly crust on the bottom and a delicious smothering of caramel sauce on top. Actually, it gets so much better that you might be tempted to lick the plate (if nobody's watching, of course). 

Chevre cheese tart with caramel

Get yourself some tasty cheese tart action at Wedge + Fig. 160 N. 3rd Street, Philadelphia; online here.

Monday
Oct312011

Trick or Sweet: Fun-Size Candy Bar Studded Cheesecake Recipe for Serious Eats

What's so "fun" about Fun-Size candy bars, anyway? Those paltry portions taste like deprivation to me—unless we're talking about eating five or six, all at once. But I digress.

For a sweet treat that embraces the excessive sweetness of the Halloween spirit but also takes advantage of surplus candy (or the cheap prices of Halloween candy the day after), try your hand at this Fun-Size Candy Studded Cheesecake. A rich and creamy cheesecake gets a chocolatey upgrade from coarsely chopped candy in a variety of your choosing. Lucky enough to have extra Snickers bars? Go for it, or make it a mix; mine included a melange of Nestle favorites, including about 15 assorted mini Nestle Crunch, Baby Ruth, and Butterfinger bars. One thing's for sure: the size of this cake makes for mega-fun.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Saturday
Jun252011

Double Trouble: Cheesecake-Stuffed Carrot Cake Recipe from Rice Kernel

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from The Rice Kernel. Named for a little boy who came along and transformed one family's kitchen experiences, Rice Kernel features wholesome, homemade recipes to help you achieve a "rainbow a day" of colorful and nutritious foods.  For the sweets lover, Rice Kernel's "rainbow" includes plenty of indulgences, often made over with healthful ingredients.  This triple strawberry cheesecake is the perfect collaboration of creamy, decadent cheese and fresh, tart summer berries. The recipe originally appeared as part of this post.

This two-in-one cake has a sweet secret: what appears to be a traditional carrot cake is actually stuffed with cheesecake! As Rice Kernel puts it,

While my humble looking cake doesn’t hold a candle to the professional ones, the combination of smooth cheese and flavorful carrot cake is undeniable.  Beneath the unpretentious appearance lies a creamy cheesecake sandwiched by layers of moist, mildly spiced cake flecked with carrots and pineapple.  As if the layers aren’t enough, the cakes are enveloped by a generous coating of marshmallow cream cheese frosting.  (Marshmallow optional, but this is an all-out recipe with granulated sugar and a generous amount of oil.  It is butter-free, if that counts.)  You could certainly interchange the carrot cake layers for flavors of your choosing; a red velvet cake would be a beautiful contrast.

Luscious Carrot Cake, from Whipped

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups canola oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups pureed cooked carrots
1 small 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup walnuts for the top (optional)

For the Cheesecake Layer

2 oz. white chocolate, chopped
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (2 packages)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsn. sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon heavy cream

For the Frosting

8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups marshmallow creme (7-oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Procedure 

  1. Prepare the carrot cake layer. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9 inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Peel and cook carrots until a fork easily can be poked in to them. One small bag of full sized carrots should yield about the right amount of pureed, cooked carrots. Drain the carrots and purree while still warm in a blender or food processor until they are smooth. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the carrot puree and set aside.
  2. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Stir dry ingredients together with a whisk to combine well. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well for about 2 minutes. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple. Pour equal amounts of batter into each pan. Set in the middle of the oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until edges have pulled away from sides and toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.
  3. Remove from oven and let sit in pans 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
  4. Prepare the cheesecake layer. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  5. Melt the white chocolate, set aside to cool slightly.
  6. In a large bowl using an electronic mixer, mix the cream cheese on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar and mix slowly until smooth. On low speed, mix in the flour. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater with a rubber spatula. Add one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition, scraping the sides of the bowl. Mix in the vanilla and cream until the mixture is smooth. Using a large spoon, stir in the melted white chocolate until incorporated.
  7. Pour the batter into a parchment paper lined 9-inch spring form pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the center is set when you slightly shake the pan. Allow to cool before removing from the spring form pan. Allow to cool completely before assembling the cake.
  8. While you're waiting for the cakes to cool, go ahead and make the cream cheese frosting. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy. Set to the side for once the cake is assembled.
  9. ASSEMBLE IT ALL. Place your bottom layer of cake on the dish/ plate you will be serving it on with the leveled side facing up.
  10. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese frosting on top – it doesn’t matter how messy it looks since it will be covered.
  11. Transfer the cheesecake to the top of the cake, then spread another thin layer of cream cheese frosting on top of the cheesecake.
  12. Top with the remaining layer of cake – leveled side down so that you have a clean surface. Use the rest of the cream cheese frosting to frost the entire cake.
  13. Top with optional nuts or shredded coconut.
Friday
May272011

10 Reasons to Be Excited About The Confectional's Second Location in Seattle

A new bakery in town is ALWAYS a reason to celebrate. But here are 10 reasons, in no particular order, to be extra-excited about the opening of a second location (in Capitol Hill!) for The Confectional, a specialty mini-cheesecake seller with another location in the Pike Place Market:

  1. Passionfruit Cheesecake. With Seeds. On Purpose. So, though he is American, one of the owners, Paul, spent a few years living in New Zealand, and as such is inspired by the flavors of his for a while hometown. And he's bringing a popular NZ flavor to this stateside sweet: Passionfruit! But unlike many passionfruit-flavored sweets to be found in the US (which are pretty rare to begin with), he's made the decision to include the seeds, because, as he says, "that's where the flavor is!". This sweet flavor will debut at the grand opening on June 4.
  2. Bigger facilities. This means they have more room to experiment and dream up new flavors--they have thoughts (nothing definite yet) of further exploration into owner Paul's past in New Zealand (ANZAC biscuit crust, anyone?), and there was even some crazy-talk of possibly adding savory cheesecake to the menu.
  3. Everything's like, totally natural, ingredient-wise. Cage Free Eggs and all that business. When they told me that there were no trans fats or hydrogenated oils on their menu, I was all like "Duh", because we are in Seattle and the Granola People Will Not Stand For That. But, you know, it's still impressive.
  4. I can tell you a secret: bakery owners never tell you the truth when you ask "what's the best thing here?" because, you know, they take pride in your product. But I have a pretty good idea based on the way that they talked with extra love about certain flavors that the favorites of the owners (respectively) are the Mint Cookie Cheesecake (above) and the Caramel Cheesecake (below).
  5. Gluten-Freedom. The chocolate-coated cheesecake truffles are all gluten-free, my wheat-wary friends! They can do gluten-free (crustless) cheesecakes too, upon request.
  6. A Good Crust to Filling Ratio. Don't know about you, but huge slices of cheesecake often have too much cheese, and too little crust to offer a flavor and texture complement. When served in mini portions though, there's plenty of crust to add a nice cookielike dimension to the creamy cheesecake flavor.
  7. Colombian Hot Chocolate. Description: "This delightful concoction, created by owner Paul Verano, is an homage to a recipe passed down from his Abuelita Tutu. Paul’s version is the thick European-style drinking chocolate that satisfies serious chocolate cravings." This stuff is good, and now they have a coffee adaptation of it. Yeah!
  8. Everyone who works there is extremely attractive and nice. This does matter.
  9. More mail-order. Even if you're not in Seattle, the bigger space is allowing them to expand their mail-order business. Cheesecake by mail? You bet your bottom dollar. 
  10. If I really need to give you one more reason to be excited about a new sugar-shilling establishment in Seattle, we have Big Problems.

Go there! The grand opening is on June 4. In the meantime, the opening is soft, but the cheesecake is HARDCORE on Broadway, right next to Poppy restaurant. Hit 'em up at theconfectional.com.

Tuesday
May242011

Berry Delicious: Triple Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe from The Rice Kernel

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from The Rice Kernel. Named for a little boy who came along and transformed one family's kitchen experiences, Rice Kernel features wholesome, homemade recipes to help you achieve a "rainbow a day" of colorful and nutritious foods.  For the sweets lover, Rice Kernel's "rainbow" includes plenty of indulgences, often made over with healthful ingredients.  This triple strawberry cheesecake is the perfect collaboration of creamy, decadent cheese and fresh, tart summer berries. The recipe originally appeared as part of this post.

This is a strawberry cheesecake.  Not a plain cheesecake topped with strawberries.  And not a plain cheesecake with a swirl of strawberry puree.  Fresh strawberries are infused throughout this cheesecake – in the base, with an extra swirl of fresh puree, and with sliced fruit perched atop the lovely pink cake.  (For serious strawberry afficionados, consider making extra puree or strawberry coulis to drizzle atop the cheesecake.)  I’m crazy about this cake.  So crazy Rice Kernel and I had to eat some warm from the oven.  (In case you’re curious, it’s warm and mousse-like.)  Tall, light, creamy, and full of freshness, it will make any strawberry lover swoon. 

Strawberry Cheesecake, adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Tall and Creamy Cheesecake from Baking: From my Home to Yours (via The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

Crust
1½ cups graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or Earth Balance, melted

Cheesecake
4 (8-ounce) packages reduced fat cream cheese or Neufchatel, at room temperature
1⅓ cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup strawberry puree, divided

Directions

  1. Place washed and hulled strawberries in a blender (about 1½ cups whole) and puree until smooth.  Place through a fine sieve to remove seeds.
  2. For the crust:  Spray the bottom of a springform pan with nonstick spray.  Either grind the graham crackers with a food processor or place them in a ziptop bag and crush with a rolling pin.  Add sugar, salt, and butter to the crumbs and stir until evenly mixed.  Press the crumbs into an even layer covering the bottom of the prepared pan.  Put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the crust for 7-10 minutes, until fragrant.  Let cool on a wire rack, then wrap the bottom of the pan in foil.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  4. For the cheesecake:  With a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed until smooth.  Add the sugar and salt; continue mixing for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs one a time, mixing just until each one is incorporated. Mix in ½ cup of the strawberry puree.
  5. Pour the batter onto the cooled crust.  Spoon the remaining strawberry puree over the batter and use a butter knife to gently swirl it.  Place the wrapped springform pan into roasting pan; pour the hot water into the roasting pan.
  6. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon; let the cheesecake set in the water bath for another hour.  Remove the cheesecake from the hot water and let it come to room temperature on a cooling rack.  When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours.

Strawberry Coulis

Ingredients

2 cups quartered hulled strawberries (about 12 ounces)
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Combine strawberries, water, sugar and lemon juice in blender. Purée until very smooth. 
  2. Press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. 
  3. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
Wednesday
Dec022009

Say Cheesecake: Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Swirl and Gingersnap Crust Recipe

Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake
Leftover pumpkin pie? Not a chance. But if you stockpiled pumpkin puree like it was going out of style this Thanksgiving season (you're not alone!), then it is time to use some of your stash to make a Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Swirl. CakeSpy buddy Nick recently served Mr. Spy and I this cake and let me say, our socks were knocked not only off but clear out of the park. Adapted from a 1993 Bon Appetit recipe, this cheesecake is like a meeting of Thanksgiving and Christmas flavors, including pumpkin in the filling and spicy gingersnaps in the crust--throw in about two pounds of cream cheese, and nirvana ensues. Nick's summation? "the crust is made of gingersnaps and pecans and butter, the cheesecake is made fairly traditional with about a cup and half of pumpkin bits and I used cinnamon and 'pumpkin pie spice', the frosting top is part of the cheese cake mix in it's early stage when it's just cream cheese and sugar, and to finish it off I used a spiced rum caramel drizzle on top." (Note: the recipe below just includes the regular caramel swirl)
Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Swirl
- 10 servings -

Crust:
1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups canned solid pack pumpkin
9 TBS whipping cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice

4 large eggs
1 tablespoon (about) purchased caramel sauce
1 cup sour cream

  1. For Crust: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Finely grind ground cookies, pecans and sugar in processor. Add melted butter and blend until combined. Press crust mixture on to bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.
  2. For Filling: Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light. Transfer 3/4 cup mixture to small bowl; cover tightly and refrigerate to use for topping. Add pumpkin, 4 tablespoons whipping cream, ground cinnamon and ground allspice to mixture in large bowl and beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined. 
  3. Pour filling into crust (filling will almost fill pan). Bake until cheesecake puffs, top browns and center moves only slightly when pan is shaken, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around cake pan sides to loosen cheesecake. Cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Bring remaining 3/4 cup cream cheese mixture to room temperature. Add remaining 5 tablespoons whipping cream to cream cheese mixture and stir to combine. Press down firmly on edges of cheesecake to even thickness. Pour cream cheese mixture over cheesecake, spreading evenly. Spoon caramel sauce in lines over cream cheese mixture. Using tip of knife, swirl caramel sauce into cream cheese mixture. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
  5. Release pan sides from cheesecake. Spoon sour cream into pastry bag fitted with small star tip (do not stir before using). Pipe decorative border around cheesecake and serve. Nick's Note: I did not do the sour cream border, found it to be excessive and kind of weird to the whole thing.

Sunday
Apr272008

Little Cheesequakes: A Cheesecake FAQ and a Daring Bakers Challenge

Little Cheesequakes
It's that time of month again--that magical moment before rent is due, and when it's time for a Daring Bakers Challenge, a monthly online baking event. The Cakespy crew always awaits this moment with bated breath: it's always such a fun opportunity to misbehave. This month, the challenge was Cheesecake Pops, a recipe chosen by Elle and Deborah, from the aptly titled Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Connor. What could be cuter (or more decadent) than bite sized cheesecakes, dipped in chocolate and served on a stick? How 'bout mini cheesecakes shaped like slices of "big" cheesecake? See above for our offering. While we offer our apologies for the lack of chocolate dipping, we believe we've more than made up for this omission through cuteness--it has a mini graham cracker crust! And a dollop of faux-whipped cream (made of a daub of cake frosting)! And even a mini marzipan strawberry with glaze!


But while going through the various steps of baking a cheesecake, letting bite-sized pieces freeze, and shaping our little cheese bites and then impaling them, we began to ponder the subject of cheesecake, that humble confection which has been tantalizing palates since ancient Greek times and which has been cited as the downfall of many a diet. What's going on with this cake--or is it a pie? And so, in an effort to better inform you on this treat, we took some time to address some important questions about cheesecake:
CHEESECAKE FAQ
Question: Is cheesecake a pie, or a cake?
Answer: Ah, the age-old question. On the one hand, its name speaks for itself--cheesecake. However, there is strong evidence on the pie side: while cakes rise, the cheesecake does not; also, cheesecakes often have a decidedly pie-reminiscent crust. Recently in a heated argument over the subject, a Cakespy acquaintance phoned the Cheesecake Factory Headquarters to inquire on the subject; they say cake. But the evidence to the contrary still bugs us; perhaps this is just a mystery never meant to be solved, or perhaps the true answer will come to us as a vision while on a soulful pilgrimage through the desert.

Marbled Cheesecakes from Junior'sQ: Can I use any type of cheese in cheesecake?
A: Cream cheese, Neuchâtel and Ricotta are probably the most common types of cheese used, for their soft texture and high level of malleability. Cream Cheese is particularly popular because its low water and high fat content tends to yield a dense, smooth and creamy result. Quark and Mascarpone versions also exist, as well as soft farmer's cheeses in Pennsylvania Dutch country. While we wouldn't say it's impossible to use other types of cheese, our stomachs tend to curdle (just a little dairy humor) when considering a Swiss or Cheddar cheesecake.

A: What is New York Cheesecake?
A: New York-style cheesecake, made famous by establishments such as Junior's in Brooklyn, is a dairy-loaded confection: its filling consists of heavy cream, cream cheese, eggs, and sometimes sour cream too: the result is just about the densest, creamiest, dreamiest cheesecake you'll ever find. The New York Cheesecake is most frequently, but not always, made using a springform pan; most versions have a graham cracker crust, but of course Junior's famous cheesecake has a sponge cake layer.

 

Organic Honey Cheesecake from Eat LocalQ: I have a problem really like wine. Any suggestions for pairing wine with cheesecake?

A: According to classicwines.com, you should seek out two traits: Moderate sweetness and some sort of acidity or fizziness that can cut through the heaviness of the flavor and prepare your palate for the next bite. To that end, Moscato d'Asti is perfect: Sweet, rich with the aromas of stone fruits, (like peaches and nectarines) and just the slightest bit fizzy, which cuts through the richness of the cake perfectly. You can also go with a nice German Riesling, which will have both enough sweetness and acidity to make for a great match. For more adventurous palates, Vouvray works beautifully, as does Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. And don't forget about Prosecco, which is almost always an excellent partner for desserts of this sort.

Pumpkin CheesecakeQ: My cheesecake cracked on top! Do I have to throw it away?
A: On the contrary. Cracked cheesecakes are fairly common--it is often attributed to over-beaten eggs. However, don't despair! Just take a hot knife to the surface and make like a sculptor to redistribute the cake to smooth the cracks. If so moved, this is a great chance to get artistic with your cake, perhaps creating lovely whirls or design elements to the surface. If still lacking a little flair, perhaps you could consider adding a sweet topping in the likeness of a celebrity visage to cover a multitude of cheesecake sins.

Mini Cheesecakes, Sweet Farm, BrooklynQ: Will cheesecake make me fat?
A: No doubt about it, cheesecake is delicious--but in all its rich, creamy and decadent glory, it is not what one might call a low-cal food. However--may we preach for a moment?-- this ought not be a reason to deprive yourself. Fact is, anything can make you gain weight--from carrots to rice cakes to pizza and chips, depending on how much you eat and how active (or inactive) the lifestyle you lead. It's our belief that while it's smart to enjoy rich foods in moderation, it's not at all smart to avoid them entirely if you love them--you'll just keep on eating other foods to compensate, and will end up miserable! So just enjoy your cheesecake!*

 

*In moderation. As an example of how not to eat cheesecake, consider the example of professional eater Sonya Thomas, who holds the World Record for cheesecake eating, having put away 11 pounds of cheesecake in a mere 9 minutes.

More Heart CheesecakesQ: I'm lactose intolerant / vegan / or otherwise can't or won't eat dairy. Whaddya have to say about that?
A: Go soy! Soft tofu varieties and Tofu cream chees, combined with soy milk or creamer, yield a silky-smooth and absolutely decadent result; even nonvegans may find they don't miss the dairy! This one looks pretty awesome to us.

Q: I like cheesecake so much better the day after it's made! Is there something wrong with me?
A: On the contrary. Cheesecake flavors do tend to develop after baking, making the smooth, creamy cheese blossom on the taste buds once the flavors have had some time to set (though truly, we suspect fairies or elves might play a part too). Our serving suggestion? Make your cheesecake, keep it in the fridge overnight, then leave it at room temperature for an hour or two before serving. Sublime.

Q: I just did a Google search on Cheesecake and came up with pictures of scantily clad girls. What gives?
A: We see you've stumbled upon a classic pinup genre of photography. Here's the story: The "Cheesecake Pose" is said to have gotten its name in 1915 when a newspaper photographer named George Miller noticed a visiting Russian diva, Elvira Amazar, just as she was debarking her ship in New York. Miller asked the opera singer to hike up her skirt a little for the sake of the picture. Later, the photographer's editor, something of a gourmet, is supposed to have exclaimed, "Why, this is better than cheesecake!". So there you go.

 

 

Tuesday
Nov132007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Paul Verano of the Confectional (Via Cakespy Seattle)

Recently, the staff at an acquaintance's office got in a discussion over whether cheesecake is indeed a cake (just look at the name!), or a pie (it's got a crust!). The discussion became a heated debate, such to the point that they phoned a major cheesecake company's headquarters to find the answer (cake).

Mystery having been solved, we set out to find more about this silky, indulgent treat; who better to turn to than The Confectional, the Pike Place Market purveyor of creatively flavored full-size and mini cheesecakes, as well as adorable chocolate-covered cheesecake truffles? In a recent interview with owner Paul Verano, we learned about what makes a cheesecake great, regional cheesecake preferences, and even got a cheesecake confession:

Cakespy: So. You are part Colombian, living in Seattle, with a cheesecake shop that was realized in Wellington, New Zealand. This all sounds very cosmopolitan! Can you fill in the blanks on how you got started?
Paul Verano: I was born in the US, but lived in Colombia as a child. I've been a baker since I was four years old, well actually my first 'baking' was a no-bake cookie, but that seriously set the ball in motion and I was immediately into the oven with the next thing. In college I would bake massive rich chocolaty cakes that my friends fawned over. I tried out cheesecakes and came up with my Cookies and Mint Chocolate cheesecake straight away. This is on my menu today and remains my all time personal favorite flavor.

For the next several years I would take my cheesecakes to parties and they proved to be extremely popular. Several friends started ordering them for their own parties and for weddings. Eventually, when my partner and I were living in New Zealand our friends there pretty much pushed/encouraged me further than anyone had before into opening a business.

So my first store was in Wellington, New Zealand. We opened in May of 2004. It was delivery only back then. Here in Seattle we opened our first storefront in December of 2006. We are about to celebrate our one-year anniversary in the Pike Place Market.

CS: What made you decide to locate in the Pike Place Market?
PV: When we moved back to Seattle a friend who knows Kurt Dammeier of Beechers, Bennett's Restaurant, etc. suggested we sit down with him and discuss the possibilities of opening a store in Seattle. He immediately loved my product and after our first meeting said we had to look into the Pike Place Market as it would be the perfect venue for my cheesecakes. My partner and I left that meeting and walked across the street to the Pike Place Market offices. On the rental board was a space available which is now our 490 square-foot store. It was very karmic and I'm very happy with how it all transpired.

CS: Do you ever barter lunch for cheesecake with your neighbor vendors?
PV: Absolutely! One of the great things about working in the market is that most vendors will trade or at least have a 'market discount', as we do. The community in the Pike Place Market is fantastic. There is a bit of competitiveness for some vendors, but for the most part everyone is excited to help everyone else out. We are asked constantly where the best of this is, or best of that is. "Where's the first Starbucks?" is the most asked question.

CS: You're called "the Confectional", a clever take on "The Confessional". Do you have any cheesecake confessions to share with us?
PV: Hmmm. A cheesecake confession of my own...well...yes. I actually like the batter of my cheesecakes more than the baked product. But isn't that true for cookie and cake batter, too? You just can't sit down and serve a batch of batter for dessert, now can you? But oh, don't tempt me. I've been known to blow people away with unexpected desserts. Oh, and I can't suggest enough, if you're up to it, warming up my cheesecakes (oven or microwave) and serving them with your favorite ice cream. Oh my word.

CS: We imagine that you get quite a few out of town visitors. Have you noticed any trends in cheesecake preference for people from different parts of the world?
PV: The biggest trend was fully expected after having such a great 'test market' in New Zealand. It's that our most popular flavor is the Raspberry White Chocolate. It's the most popular by DOUBLE the next flavor! For some reason the Kahlua White Chocolate seems to be very popular with the Asian community. And southern Americans often ask where the Amaretto Cheesecake is, (and clearly it's pronounced Ameretta in the south...I love it!). Really, all our cheesecakes seem to sell equally. The only other thing I'll say is that most people that approach our display case are enamored with our 12 main flavors, plus seasonal flavors, and can have a difficult time choosing which one to get. It's amazing how often someone will get an extra cheesecake flavor to try later... a good problem to have!

CS: Where do you get your recipes?
PV: I have created all of my recipes, sometimes from suggestions of flavors and following a hunch and working it out. My cheesecake truffles were invented in my home kitchen just two weeks before opening the store and have proven to be extraordinarily popular, and are pretty much to-die-for. There's also my Colombian Hot Chocolate. A thick European-style drinking chocolate that is designed after my Grandmother's recipe. In Colombia the hot chocolate is about as thin as water, but in my store I get to decide how thick the chocolate is, and I just don't mess around. Not too overpowering, but enough to remind you that chocolate can be a serious happy-inducing pill. We start with melted dark chocolate, organic whole milk, and like my Grandmother's, I have a bit of Colombian coffee and just a hint of her signature spices.

CS: Have there been any great cheesecakes in your past that have inspired your baking efforts?
PV: While there are many incredible cheesecakes, cheesecake makers and cheesecake styles, I find that my personal favorites are the ones that are absolutely naked and most simple. That's why there are three ingredients in my base. As simple as it gets. Then adding the flavors to 'dress them up' is all about balance. It's chemistry at it's tastiest. I'm not sure I have an inspiration from somewhere else. So many recipes are just too sweet. We have a much lower amount of sugar in our recipes than most that I've seen/tasted.

CS: Would you say that your cheesecakes are "New York" style, or "Italian" style? Or something else?
PV: We are closest to a "New York-Style" cheesecake, but I go for a slightly denser, in-your-face version. In fact we call our New York-Style a "Seattle's New York-Style"...that is to say that we Seattleites often consider ourselves a bit 'heartier' than New Yorkers. More rugged in the Northwest, eh? And our crust is a bit of heaven. We use Maria Biscuits from Spain, which make a beautiful crust. Most graham crackers have partially hydrogenated oil, and again we try to keep it as pure a product as we can. Maria biscuits are very simple, elegant and make a great crunchy crust.

CS: What is the most important aspect in making a great cheesecake?
PV: Keep it simple. As pure as you can. Do not over or under mix. And love making it. If you love the making and the baking and pay special attention to detail, they'll taste it!

CS: What is your most popular flavor at the shop?
PV: Raspberry White Chocolate--although, our holiday flavors are definitely winning right now! Those are Pumpkin and the Cranberry White Chocolate...with a hint of Cardamom.

CS: What is your personal favorite flavor?
PV: Cookies and Mint Chocolate, but whenever I taste one of the others I get a little bit giddy because they are all so good! My other top favorites are actually our 'richest' cheesecakes, the Coconut Cherry Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Chocolate and the Quadruple Chocolate. See a trend there? Everyone has a different favorite. All our staff have their own faves and are asked often enough that we've listed their favorites on each sign in the display case.

CS: Some people are scared of cheesecake because it is "fattening". Any response to this?
PV: Indeed. For some people it's a viscosity issue and they will simply NEVER like cheesecake. We've actually converted some of these people and now have loyal fans that wouldn't dream of eating a cheesecake before. As for fattening: there's a lot of concern about carb counting vs. fat, etc. What I can tell you is we have a very reasonable sized individual serving that's completely satisfying. That alone is a saving grace, and without consuming a giant American-sized portion of a so-so product. On top of that our Raspberry White Chocolate cheesecake is about 320 calories, which is far less than most of our customers guess. Some flavors a good bit less, and others a bit more calories. I like to remind people that if they're that worried about 320 calories, then after you eat it, go for a brisk walk for 20 minutes, or enjoy the Pike Place Market for an hour, and it's pretty much null and void, no?

CS: In your opinion, what is the best beverage accompaniment for cheesecake?
PV: Coffee, espresso, Earl Grey tea, and if you're enjoying our Mochaccino cheesecake, a nice, full-bodied red is something else. Oh, or a fine chocolate port on the side or drizzled right on our Seattle's New York-Style cheesecake. Whew!

CS: What is next for The Confectional?
PV: Our next goal, after getting through our first full holiday season in the Pike Place Market, will be to work toward opening a commissary baking space, as well as a second location.

The Confectional is located at 1530 Pike Place, in the Pike Place Market (not far from that first Starbucks). For more information, visit theconfectional.com.

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