Friday, November 23, 2012

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

So my Thanksgiving offering of Pecan Pie Cheesecake was pretty much a success. It tasted great, but the pecan pie part caramelized a little too much and got really solid near the edges. I think if I make it again, I will crush the Nilla Wafers a little finer to try to make the crust go a little farther and try to push the crust up the sides of the pan a little better. And probably bake the crust a little less because it got browner than I thought it would. Hopefully, that will all protect the pecan pie layer a little better to keep it from hardening so much. In any case, here are some pictures and the recipe. I found the recipe on Pinterest from this lovely blogger, Heidi's So Called Life. And it looks like she got the original recipe from Bake or Break

Nilla Wafer crust after baking - I will need to be a little more aggressive at crushing the wafers next time... too many chunks...

After pouring the pecan pie filling into the pan

After the surprisingly messy job of mixing the cheesecake filling. Cream cheese does not like to be mixed...

After the oven.
And the final (delicious) product

For the crust:
1 & 3/4 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

For the pecan filling:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 & 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cheesecake:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 & 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the crust:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Combine wafer crumbs and brown sugar. Stir in melted butter. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9″ springform pan. Bake for 6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To make the pecan filling:

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into crust and set aside.

To make the cheesecake:

  • Reduce oven to 325°.
  • With a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add brown sugar and flour and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Stir in cream and vanilla.
  • Pour over pecan filling. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven with the door closed for 1 hour.
  • Remove from oven and run a knife along the outside edges to loosen cheesecake from sides of pan. Let cool. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Poor Thanksgiving so easily gets overshadowed by Christmas displays that pop up in October and Black Friday that creeps into Thursday. Watching the Detroit Lions lose and eating turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie while listening to your crazy uncle spout conspiracy theories just doesn't have as much commercial appeal. Still, that lack of commercialization keeps Thanksgiving simple - a time to sit down and appreciate what you have, even if it's that crazy uncle. Enjoy your turkey (or tofurky, I guess) and tomorrow we'll drop into the crass commercialization of Black Friday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What I've Read Lately

I thought I would share some of the books that I have read lately. I'm on Goodreads, but I generally only give stars to books and rarely write actual reviews. I'm always too impatient to get to the next book to read.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell - I read this right before the movie came out and LOVED it! The movie didn't get great reviews, so I skipped it in the theater, but I'm glad I read the book. The book is actually a collection of six nested stories that intertwine. Each story is interrupted by the next, until you get to the sixth, which goes all the way through, then each story concludes (in reverse order). Between all of the stories, the book covers a wide variety of genres: historical fiction, mystery, comedy, sci-fi, dystopia. The vocabulary in the first and second sections gets a little difficult; I had to look up at least a dozen words in the dictionary. And the sixth story is filled with a made up dialect that took me around 15 pages to be able to quickly decipher while I was reading. Even with all of this, each of the stories is intriguing and it is interesting to try to find how they link together and this book ended up being one of my favorites.

Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern - I blew through this while riding on the interstate through the more boring parts of Wyoming. It is the story about two magicians in Victorian times that pit their proteges against each other in a sort of mystical chess game in a magical traveling circus. This book got mixed reviews on Goodreads; many people complained that it didn't have enough plot to be interesting - but I loved it. It gave off the same vibe as Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (which also got the same criticisms of lack of plot, and which I also loved...). The descriptions of the magic circus were vivid and I could easily imagine myself being there.

Magic Bites, by Illona Andrews - This is more along the lines of junk food reading, but I just found this series, and I really enjoy it. It follows along the lines of almost all of the other paranormal fantasy series out there (plucky sarcastic heroine, vampires (but here with a gruesome twist), sexy were-creature love interest), but the writing is very well done, the story lines and characters are interesting (and the heroine is not an obvious Mary Sue *cough, cough* Anita Blake *cough, cough* Harry Dresden *ahem*...) and the alternate universe that the writer has created is fascinating (writers, actually... Illona Andrews is the pen name for a wife and husband team). I'm working my way through the whole series. The other series by this author, starting with On the Edge, is more of a romance series, and while it is still pretty well written (and I think I'll go ahead and read all of them), it has a few too many anti-feminist romance novel stereotypes for me to enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

The Twelve, by Justin Cronin - This was slightly disappointing. I loved the first book in this trilogy, The Passage. It turned the popular vampire novels upside down and had scary, fast zombie vampires in a post-apocalyptic scenario (instead of sparkly romantic vampires...). The Twelve has vampires, and action, and gore, but it was disappointingly slow at times. I think it is suffering from middle book syndrome and I hope the last book in the trilogy picks up. I would still say I enjoyed it, but The Passage was just a whole lot better.

The Aubrey-Maturin novels (starting with Master and Commander), by Patrick O'Brien - I have been working my way through this series for the past year and a half. There are 20 (and one half unfinished) novels in this series set during the Napoleonic War focusing on the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and Dr. Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon, naturalist and secret agent. This series is seriously the best bromance (god, I can't believe I just used that word...) since Holmes and Watson. I haven't read a whole lot of Jane Austen, which was written and set in the same general time period, but those that have, say that Patrick O'Brien has the period dialog down perfectly. And that dialog is often hilarious, in an understated way. I'm on book 18 and I'm going to be sad when I finish all of them. I will probably turn back around and start again from the beginning. 

In the kitchen...

I'll admit straight out that I'm an indifferent cook. I get easily annoyed by the day-in/day-out, normal, stand over the stove, daily dinner cooking. I have a list of a dozen or so things I don't mind making for dinner and I usually leave the more sophisticated cooking to my talented hubby.

I do however sometimes get into phases where I get obsessed with baking. All of a sudden I will get it into my head that I need to bake a loaf of bread, or a couple dozen cookies, or a cake, or whatever caught my eye (or my food craving...). It doesn't happen very often (better for my waistline, because the targets of my obsession are rarely lo-cal).

So luckily, my latest phase coincided with Thanksgiving this year. We are going over to the neighbors' house for dinner, and I figured if we are going to eat all their turkey and stuffing, we should bring them some dessert. So today, I am trying my hand at baking my very first cheesecake - but not a simple cheesecake, a Pecan Pie Cheesecake. Because, seriously?! Pecan pie AND cheesecake?

I just pulled the cheesecake out of the oven and it smells divine and looks pretty decent for a first try. But I'm not going to be able to taste it until tomorrow! Because even I'm not tacky enough to take a cake to a dinner party with a slice already cut out of it. So if it is a success tomorrow, I'll post the recipe and some pictures. Here's what it looks like right out of the oven. Not too shabby...

A slightly early Happy Thanksgiving to all! Hopefully I will be posting a little more regularly from now on. My life is slightly more interesting and shareable during the holidays.