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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 06/26/12

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

SALTED CARAMEL CHEESECAKE!!

   Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts to make and eat!  I don't make it very often (because of the eating part), but when I do everyone enjoys a piece or two (especially my daughter).  Here's a great cheesecake recipe from www.themodernapron.blogspot.com .  I hope you have as much enjoyment eating it as I would!!





N.B. It was brought to my attention that if this recipe is made with regular salt, it is WAY too salty. I always use kosher salt. Don't use table salt or this will be truly inedible. My apologies to anyone who may have tried it already without that caveat!

Here it is at last. I’ve been trying to get a picture of a single slice of this for months. And you know what happens? That’s right—every time I’m ready to photograph it, I look for the slice I saved as my “model” and it’s gone. Someone has eaten my model. So you’re just going to have to content yourself with the picture of the whole cheesecake that I happen to have snapped once with my camera phone. It doesn’t really do it justice, but you get the idea (and yes, it’s also my profile picture).
I made this for Thanksgiving in 2010. It was proclaimed, “The best dessert you’ve ever made.” Praise, indeed. Well, actually, considering all the desserts I’ve made in 15 years of marriage, plus probably 3 years of dating, that could be saying quite a bit. In the event, I was asked to make it again for Christmas. And again for Alex’s birthday. And again for our anniversary. And every time I made it, I would post about it on Facebook, and my friends would say how much they wanted a piece. Finally, in August of this year, I made a cheesecake, and invited all my friends over for a Friday night Happy Hour and Cheesecake Devouring Event.
I could have taken numerous pictures of my friends eating it, but when the dust settled, once again, I was left with no model. In fact, I didn’t even get a piece. So the next day, I made another Salted Caramel Cheesecake. I took it to a birthday party for a friend, where once again it was completely consumed, and while I didn’t have anything left to take a picture of, at least I got a slice of it this time.
So, rather than make you wait until November for this recipe, when I might actually be able to get a decent picture of it, I’m giving it to you now and you can make it for Thanksgiving and Christmas and your husband’s birthday and your anniversary. I hope it’s the best dessert you’ll ever make.


Salted Caramel Cheesecake
Serves 2
Ha ha! Just kidding—I’ve served up to 20 people with one cheesecake. Ideally it probably serves about 10-12 people.

For the crust

About 15 graham crackers
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (note: I reduced this from 2 teaspoons. A number of folks in the comments said they found it was too salty. I made this recipe 4 times before posting this, and checked the measurements pretty carefully, I thought. However, I made it for Thanksgiving 2011 and realized that they WAY the crust is distributed in the pan can make it seem quite salty--if there's a significant slope between the bottom and the sides, that fairly dense piece of crust can be overpowering to the rest of the recipe. So I'm recommending the reduction to the salt to account for the possible variations in the way people make the crust.)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a food processor, grind graham crackers to crumbs. (If you’re using premade crumbs, you want about 8 oz or 2 cups, and you’ll want to do all these steps in a bowl.) Add sugar and salt and pulse to combine. With motor running, add butter through feed tube. Process for another few seconds until combined.
2. Transfer the mixture to a 9” or 10” (I have a 10” myself) springform pan sprayed with cooking spray. Pat crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, and up the sides about 2”. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly even around the top; you just want to be sure it’s deep enough to hold all the cheesecake mixture.
3. Bake crust until slightly brown. You’ll just be able to smell it. This will take anywhere from 10-12 minutes. Remove crust from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
For the cheesecake

3 8oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 13-14 oz. can dulce de leche
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

1. In a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment beat cream cheese until smooth, add dulce de leche and beat to combine.
2. Add flour and salt, beat to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. There should be no lumps.
3. Add the sugar and beat to combine.
4. Add the vanilla, and then beat in the eggs one at a time until just combined, about 30 seconds each. Don’t overbeat once the eggs are added; the cheesecake will puff up too much while baking, and the top will crack.
5. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the cooled crust and smooth the top.
6. Bake at 300 degrees F for 55 – 65 minutes. The center will seem to be only slightly set, and will be wobbly if you nudge it. The sides will puff slightly.
7. Cool completely on a rack, then cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight (I have gotten away with a 5 hour cooling, but I was on edge that it wouldn’t turn out; overnight is really best). When I put it in the refrigerator to set up, I remove the ring from my springform, and put the cheesecake on a cake stand. You can leave it in the springform if you don't have a cake stand.
For the caramel

½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Swirl to combine. All those warnings about stirring caramel and brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to avoid crystal formation? I avoid all that by just never stirring it at all. If I need to move it around the pan, I just swirl it.
2. Continue cooking until the sugar turns golden brown, swirling occasionally. You’re looking for something that’s about the color of dark honey. The problem with caramel is that it goes from perfect to burnt in the blink of an eye, so just when you find yourself thinking, “Any second now…” pull it off the heat. It should take 3-5 minutes.
3. Off the heat, carefully add the butter, then the cream. Don’t wait until the butter is melted; toss in the butter, give it a whisk, then pour in the cream. It will foam up, seize, and otherwise look like a total failure. Persevere! Add the vanilla extract and salt and continue whisking.
4. Return to medium low heat and whisk until smooth. (Added note: if your caramel is too thin, let it cook for awhile over a low heat. I've actually let it boil a bit--unintentionally--and just when I thought I'd ruined it, it turned out to be perfect.) Allow to cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
5. Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator and pour caramel over the top. I try to encourage mine to pool in the middle, but if you’re more of a drip-down-the-sides type, you can go with that. I just think the drippy makes sort of a mess on my cake stand, but maybe that doesn’t bother you.
6. Return the cheesecake to the refrigerator to let the caramel set, about 30 minutes. To serve, cut in slices (it’s pretty rich) with a sharp knife, wiping the blade clean after every slice.

DIY JUMBO TAPE DISPENSER!

   How many of us have different types and kinds of tapes laying around?   How many times can you find them when you need them?   Anyone?  Anyone?   I know there have been time I would be looking for a certain tape and can't find it!  Well stay tuned, because I have found a way to keep all of those different kinds and types of tapes together in one easy to use container!  Be it duct tape, masking tape (of many different sizes and colors), electrical tape, packaging tape or just your ordinary scotch tape.


Jumbo Tape Dispenser




Jumbo Tape Dispenser

   I have five or six different kinds of tape in my shop, and last weekend I got fed up with rooting through a drawer to find the one I wanted. To solve the problem, I built this tape dispenser that holds a variety of tape widths and types.
   I made my dispenser from scraps of 3/4-in. birch lumber but plywood will work. Almost all regular-size rolls of tape have a 3-in. center hole, so the same size filler block will work for most rolls.
   I made my filler blocks 2-3/16-in. square and rounded the corners until I got a tight fit inside the roll. The axle was simply a 3/4-in. dowel. The axle fits into a slot in the dividers. I cut the slots on my router table using a 3/4-in.-dia. straight bit. They are 1/4-in. deep and 1-1/2-in. long.
   A hacksaw blade on the front panel serves as the tape-cutting edge. If you need a roll closer to your project, just lift it out and take it with you.


GAWAI DAYAK FESTIVAL FROM MALAYSIA!



    Gawai Day or Gawai Dayak is a festival celebrated in Sarawak on June 1st every year. It is both a religious and social occasion. The word Gawai means a ritual or festival whereas Dayak is a collective name for the native ethnic groups of Sarawak (and neighboring Indonesian Kalimantan): the Iban, also known as Sea Dayak and the Bidayuh people, also known as Land Dayak. Thus, Gawai Dayak literally means "Dayak Festival". Dayak would visit their friends and relatives on this day. Such visit is more commonly known as "ngabang" in the Iban language. Those too far away to visit would receive greeting cards.
    It started back in 1957 in a radio forum held by Mr Ian Kingsley, a radio programme organiser. This generated a lot of interest among the Dayak community.






    The mode of celebration varies from place to place. Preparation starts early. Tuak (rice wine) is brewed (at least one month before the celebration) and traditional delicacies like penganan (cakes from rice flour, sugar and coconut milk) are prepared. As the big day approaches, everyone will be busy with general cleaning and preparing food and cakes. On Gawai Eve, glutinous rice is steamed in bamboo (ngelulun pulut). In the longhouse, new mats will be laid out on the ruai (an open gallery which runs through the entire length of the longhouse). The walls of most bilik (rooms) and the ruai are decorated with Pua Kumbu (traditional blankets). A visit to clean the graveyard is also conducted and offerings offered to the dead. After the visit it is important to bathe before entering the longhouse to ward off bad luck.







    The celebration starts on the evening of 31 May. In most Iban longhouses, it starts with a ceremony called Muai Antu Rua (to cast away the spirit of greed), signifying the non-interference of the spirit of bad luck in the celebration. Two children or men each dragging a chapan (winnowing basket) will pass each family's room. Every family will throw some unwanted article into the basket. The unwanted articles will be tossed to the ground from the end of the longhouse for the spirit of bad luck.








    Around 6 pm or as the sun sets, miring (offering ceremony) will take place. Before the ceremony, gendang rayah (ritual music) is performed. The Feast Chief thanks the gods for the good harvest, and asks for guidance, blessings and long life as he waves a cockerel over the offerings. He then sacrifices the cockerel and a little blood is used together with the offerings.
    Once the offering ceremony is done, dinner is then served at the ruai. Just before midnight, a procession up and down the ruai seven times called Ngalu Petara (welcoming the spirit gods) is performed. During this procession, a beauty pageant to choose the festival's queen and king (Kumang & Keling Gawai) is sometimes conducted. Meanwhile, drinks, traditional cakes and delicacies are served.







    At midnight, the gong is beaten to call the celebrants to attention. The longhouse Chief (tuai rumah) or Festival Chief will lead everyone to drink the Ai Pengayu (normally tuak for long life) and at the same time wish each other "gayu-guru, gerai-nyamai" (long life, health and prosperity). The celebration now turns merrier and less formal. Some will dance to the traditional music played, others will sing the pantun (poems). In urban areas, Dayaks will organise gatherings at community centres or restaurants to celebrate the evening.
    Other activities that may follow the next few days include: cock-fighting matches, and blowpipe and ngajat competitions. On this day, 1 June, homes of the Dayaks are opened to visitors and guests.





    Traditionally, when guests arrive at a longhouse, they are given the ai tiki as a welcome. From time to time, guests are served tuak. This would be called nyibur temuai which literally means "watering of guests".
    Christian Dayaks normally attend a church mass service to thank God for the good harvest.
    Gawai Dayak celebrations may last for several days. It is also during this time of year that many Dayak weddings take place, as it is one of the rare occasions when all the members of the community return home to their ancestral longhouse.






    Up till 1962, the British colonial government refused to recognise Dayak Day. Gawai Dayak was formally gazetted on 25 September 1964 as a public holiday in place of Sarawak Day. It was first celebrated on 1 June 1965 and became a symbol of unity, aspiration and hope for the Dayak community. Today, it is an integral part of Dayak social life. It is a thanksgiving day marking good harvest and a time to plan for the new farming season or activities ahead.