Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 Southern Living Red Velvet-White Chocolate Cheesecake


2013 Southern Living Red Velvet-White Chocolate Cheesecake

Every year I partipate in an office Christmas cook-off that we affectionately refer to as the "12 Pounds of Christmas." Each person must prepare a homemade dessert and bring it to work for everyone in the contest to share. At the end of the 12 days we vote on the winning dessert, and the victor is presented with the trophy, a major award, that they then proudly display at their workstation for the year. Obviously it is a big deal.



Below is a step-by-step process in support of my campaign for the 2013 office trophy. 

This year I have elected to make the 2013 Southern Living cover dessert as presented on the 2013 December edition of Southern Living magazine.

Research:

Go purchase the 2013 Southern Living magazine and follow the directions. Seems simple? It was a lot of work...

Plan:

Gather the ingredients as listed in the recipe and prepare a plan to make the cake while working around business travel that cropped up and impacted my original plan.

Ingredients:

Leaves:

Bay leaves
Vanilla candy coating

Cheese cake layers:

5-8 oz Philadelphia brand cream cheese
1 cup of sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
12 oz white chocolate chunks
2 eggs

Red velvet cake:

1 cup of butter, softened
2.5 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
0.25 tsp baking soda
1-8 oz sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-1 oz bottles red liquid food coloring
3-8" round cake pans

Icing:

2-4 oz white chocolate baking bars, chopped
0.5 cup boiling water
1 cup butter, softened
32 oz powdered sugar sifted
0.125 (1/8) tsp table salt

Execution:

Monday night:

Mondays are for garnish. So I decided to make the white candy leaves a few days ahead of time.

Turned out to be simple.

I melted the white candy (purchased in the baking section of the local Kroger). I followed the directions on the candy for melting in the microwave. It took about 2 minutes of total time -- 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each 30-second interval.

Using a spoon, spread the candy coating gently onto the bay leaves and let them cool.







Once they cooled all I had to do was simply pull the leaf off the candy. It separated easily and looked amazing. Probably took about 30 minutes.

So far so good...

Wednesday:

Tonight it is cheesecake. 

I preheated the oven to 300 degrees.

Diced up the cream cheese to allow it to soften.



The recipe called to line 2-8" pans with aluminum foil. Not sure why I need to do this?  But it becomes clear later when it is easy to pull the chilled cheesecake out of the pans with little effort.



I mean you probably should pour a glass of wine or two to help keep you calm and level-headed.



Microwave the chocolate chunks until creamy and smooth.



Took about a minute or two in the microwave.



Get the mixer fired up and add the softened cream cheese and chocolate. Mix until creamy.



Add in 1 cup of sugar.



And then 2 eggs and the vanilla.



Looks and tastes awesome!
Then spray some non-stick spray on the pans and pour in the mix.



Place in the oven for 30 minutes.



After 30 minutes turn off the oven and let them rest in the oven, door closed, for 30 more minutes.



Pull them out and place on a wire rack to cook for at least 2 hours.
Then wrap in saran and place in the fridge. Tomorrow is coming...


Thursday night:

Red velvet cake, icing and assembly.


Measure out and assemble the ingredients ahead of time. I think this a more enjoyable method when baking because sometimes timing is critical, and it keeps you from messing up in the frenzy.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.



Mix the softened butter and sugar until fluffy and then add eggs one at a time.



In a separate mixing bowl mix the flour, cocoa and baking soda. 
Just enough to mix. Don't mix flour too much.
Alternate the flour mixture and sour cream into the blender mix.



Then add vanilla and food coloring. Wow that is a lot of food coloring!



Evenly divide into 3-8" cake pans that have been greased and floured. 
Place in the oven and bake for 24 minutes.



After letting them cool a little in the pan, dump them onto a plate (reverse plate trick) 
and move to a wire rack for cooling.



After cooling fully, assemble the layers with the cheesecake. 
It makes a very tall cake that has no hope of fitting in a cake carrying device
unless you bought yours at the big and tall store.




Prepare the icing...

Whisk together the chocolate and 0.5 cups of boiling water until the chocolate melts. Cool 20 minutes and then chill for 30 minutes.

Then beat the 1 cup of softened butter with the chilled chocolate mixture. Gradually add the powdered sugar and salt for a couple of minutes until fluffy.



Ice the cake with a flat cake spatula that is heated in water to help make the icing smooth.

Finally, add your leaves and italian wedding cookies and sprinkle with some powdered sugar.


Verdict:


It was great!  But it is a big big cake.  I fed 10+ people with about half the cake.  It really is a beautiful cake, but I did think the red velvet was too dense.  Probably would have been better to eat the day of rather than the next morning, but nevertheless, it was great and I was proud of the results.

Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:

Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Brie En Croute (baked in puff pastry)

This delicious treat is a sophisticated version of my favorite childhood sandwich -- cheese and jelly. Now, I have taken a lot of grief for my cheese and jelly sandwich allegiance, but I was on to something even at that young age.  It turns out I was really looking for a brie en croute, but I didn't know of such things, so American cheese on white bread with jelly was as close as I could get.  And I loved it. Brie en croute is as simple as anything you can make, and it is a fabulous compliment to a bottle of wine with friends. We enjoyed ours with friends at a cabin in the mountains. We prepped it ahead of the trip, and then cooked it in the oven after we arrived for a delicious treat in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Brie En Croute



Research:

This is something that Julie has made in the past, but I became aware of it after watching a recent episode of Martha Stewart's Cooking School series. After watching the episode I was immediately interested because of my history of cheese and jelly sandwiches.

Plan:

Gather the simple ingredients and prep the dish in advance of our trip. Put it on ice for the car ride up to the cabin and then bake once we reach the cabin.

Ingredients:


A package of good Brie (French if you can get it)
Puff Pastry (usually in frozen foods section)
Your favorite jam, preserves or compote (we made two -- one with a sour cherry spread and another with homemade peach bourbon jam)
Caramelized Pecans


Execution:




Unfold one of the pastry sheets and roll it out with a little 
flour to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin.



We asked the cheesemonger to slice the wheel in half horizontally 
before we brought it home, and then we cut it into a half moon once we 
were home because we were making two different versions.



See the "half moon" shape.



Add a layer of jam and cover with pecans.



Then add the top half of the cheese wheel.



And repeat with jam...



... and pecans.



Then you are going to wrap the brie as delicately and evenly as you can with the 
sheet of puff pastry.  Be cautious not too overlap the pastry too much so that 
you don't end up with uneven thickness of dough around the cheese.   
A little overlap will be perfectly fine, so don't worry too much about it.

After wrapping the brie in the pastry, then you can bake immediately or wrap 
in parchment or wax paper and then refrigerate until you are ready to bake.




Upon arriving in the mountains we pulled the brie out of the cooler and baked at 
350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. You are baking it just long enough to brown 
the pastry and soften the cheese. 



We didn't think to bring ingredients for an egg wash, but that would add a 
nice sheen to the finished product.




Spread a slice of the warm cheese and jam onto toast points, crackers or french bread, 
and behold this very elegant French appetizer.



What a great weekend. We hope you can make one soon and enjoy a weekend away.


Verdict:

It is delicious. The only thing I would have changed would have been some egg wash to make the pastry brown a little on top. It tasted amazing, especially with the pecans and peach bourbon jam.

Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:

Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer



Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Perfect Steak on the Big Green Egg - Reverse Sear Update

Let us gather around the Big Green Egg for the culinary equivalent to standing in front of Mount Rushmore while singing the Star Spangled Banner on the 4th of July. This is The United States of America. This is steak my friends on the backyard grill.

The quest to make the perfect steak on the Big Green Egg.

This update includes an entirely new method -- reverse sear, which really helps perfect the steak, and it consistently delivers a perfectly cooked steak. Read the parts in red for the updated method and check out the parts in black for previous attempts.

CHECK OUT OUR OTHER STEAK COOK


The Perfect Steak


Latest and greatest method - Reverse Sear



Old method photo

Research:

I Googled "perfect steak on the Big Green Egg" and found this post on the Big Green Egg's website. I followed it to the letter. I also received a little advice from none other than Kevin Rathbun (well known Atlanta chef) thanks to a day I spent cooking with Kevin at his restaurant for my birthday. I highly recommend this special cooking experience.

As part of this post we are also going to include the side dish we made with the steak, grilled brussel sprouts, because it is simple and delicious and you should be making it.

I have continued to research a better method to cook a rare and medium rare steak on the Egg by cooking with temperature and not time so that we could get a more consistent steak regardless of the thickness or cut. We think we have discovered a better method called the reverse sear.

Plan:

Gather the ingredients:

Get a great cut of steak - Go to the counter and order it from the butcher, don't get a prepackaged cut. We chose a NY Strip. Make sure you get a 1.5" to 2" thick cut.

Our updated steaks were filet mignon purchased at Whole Foods.

Brussel Sprouts
Olive oil
Black pepper
Salt

We are going to heat the Egg to 650 degrees and use the cast iron grate so we can get great grill marks. Cook the steak for 2 minutes and then flip and cook for another 2 minutes.  Then shut the Egg completely down and let the steak cook for an additional 3 minutes before pulling it off and letting it rest for at least 5 minutes.

During the Egg heating time we are going to use a black skillet to cook the brussel sprouts. Simply a little olive oil and salt and pepper.

Reverse Sear Method: Get the BGE to 300 degrees. Place the seasoned room temperature steaks on the grill with the plate setter in. Cook the steaks until the internal steak temperature is 100 degrees (for rare we want the center to get to 125). It takes about 5-10 minutes depending on the steak size. 

In order for us to get the ultimate goal of a center to 125 our initial cook is only to impart smoke and to raise the internal temperature to 100 degrees so that when we sear, the steak temperature will increase to the 125 degrees that we want for rare.

After getting the steak to 100 degrees, pull it off the Egg and set to the side. Pull out the plate setter and run the grill up to 600 degrees. Then return the meat to the grill and cook each side for 1 minute. Also, check the "feel" of the steak. A raw steak feels like a gelatin and the more done it gets the more firm it gets. When you feel that the steak is soft but not gelatin, it has cooked from raw to rare.

Execution:



First, hydration is important.




Updated photo with salted and peppered Filet Mignon


Then trim the meat. We usually end up buying one big steak and then cutting it in half so we have a serving size that is a little bigger than the palm of your hand. I trim off some of the excess fat because the cook is going to be very quick and the fat won't have a chance to render off.



Add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. - be careful - Just a dash of cayenne will do.
The steak should be close to room temperature before you put it on the grill.



In the mean time, go ahead and toss the brussel sprouts in oil with salt and pepper
and get them on the grill. Give the skillet a little time on the grill to heat
 up before putting the sprouts on.



Don't be afraid to let them get a good char. 
It is the char that gives them the sweetness you want.



That is what you are looking for, delicious.

Ok real quick, let's cook the steak.


Updated - place on 300 degree grill with plate setter in



Updated - pull off when center gets to 100 degrees




Then return onto the 600 degree grill to sear the outside of the steak. 1 minute each side or until it starts to slightly firm up.




On the grill 2 minutes...



650 degrees.





After 2 minutes flip the steaks and cook for 2 minutes more.

Then close the grill down and let steaks hang out there for 3 minutes more.

Pull the steak off and let them rest for 5 minutes.



Slice and serve.



A great finish for the day.

Go ahead and click on this image to get the full size. Take a close look then go light your Egg.

No slicing necessary when your cut is great and the steak is rare or medium rare. Melt in your mouth delicious.




Verdict:

Ok, so the steak wasn't so great. I have identified two problems:

  1. If you look closely, the steak is probably medium well done. I didn't notice at the time but the directions on the guide recommend a 1.5" to 2" steak and mine was more like 1" thick, so that resulted in a medium well to well done steak, I prefer medium rare at the most. It probably would have been perfect if my steak was as thick as the recipe called for. I will do that next time.
  2. Also, I prefer the filet mignon cut. The steak we had was fine, but for me, I like the soft texture and taste of the fillet. There is no substitute for that cut. Suck it up and get the good stuff.
Use the reverse sear method for the perfect steak. It seems to us to be a better and more repeatable method to get our steaks to rare and not overcooked.

We would love it if you would drop us a note and let us know how your cook went in the comment section. We are always looking for suggestions and improvements! We have opened up the comments so that anyone can post now, so please do. I'll try not to delete anything unless it is spam or stabs me in the heart.


We've since learned that the below thermostat (see link below) is the gold standard for quick and accurate meat temp. Get it. Also, check out our post on cooking turkey breast for all the trouble we have had with thermometers that aren't accurate enough.

Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:

Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer


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