Friday, September 15, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Lemon Cheesecake and the Autumnal Equinox

Can you believe it? 
We’re halfway through September.
We’re having odd weather: hazy because of the fires in northern Manitoba, yet overcast and rainy here in the south.
I know April showers bring May flowers, but September rain is just gloomy, without the promise of pretty flowers.
Kind of depressing.

Oh, well, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, a slice of cheesecake can cure many ills.
And a cheesecake with lemon curd on it is like having a bit of sunshine on your plate.


Hints:

If you don’t have graham wafer crumbs you can crush in a food processor
18 Graham crackers (2 packets from a 14 ounce box)
Process until the crumbs are consistent. 
No food processor? 
Place the crackers in a zip lock bag, seal, and use a rolling pin to crush.

If you don’t have graham wafers, you can crush arrowroot or sugar cookies.

Do not over beat when you’re adding the eggs. Too much beating at this point can make the top of the cheesecake crack during baking.

The plain cheesecake can be refrigerated, covered in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

If you want you can strain the curd once cooked. The curd can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. You may not need all of the curd for the filling. 
It can be stored in a covered bowl and added to servings or on other desserts.

Lemon Cheesecake is best served the day it's made but can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days, but the longer you store it the more weepy the meringue will get. It'll still be good, it'll just look like it's been crying.


                        Lemon Cheesecake

Serves 10 - 12

Either in a pot or in a medium-sized microwaveable bowl, melt
1/2 Cup butter
Stir in
2 Cups graham wafer crumbs
Combine well.
Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom and along the sides of a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.


Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350º F

Place in a large mixer bowl
1 Cup sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Rub the sugar, flour and zest together to develop the lemon flavour.
Add
24 ounces brick style cream cheese, at room temperature
Blend until the mixture is smooth.
Beat in
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Add, one at a time
3 large eggs
Beat just until combined after each addition. Do not over mix.

Pour the mixture into the graham cracker crust and smooth the top surface.
Place the pan in a roasting pan and place the roasting pan in the oven. 
Pour hot, not boiling, water into the roasting pan to halfway up the sides of the springform pan. 

Bake for 50 minutes. You want the centre to jiggle slightly when the pan is tapped, and for a thermometer inserted in the centre to register 150° F.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven. 
Remove the springform pan from the roasting pan and put it on a wire rack. 
Cover the cheesecake with a cold baking sheet and let it stand for 5 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet and carefully run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake. 
Replace the baking sheet on top of the pan and let the cheesecake cool on the rack for 30 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and let the cheesecake cool to room temperature.
Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. 
While it is cooling, make the curd.


For the Lemon Curd

Cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 Cup unsalted butter
Set aside.

Place in a large pot
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
Combine
1/4 Cup lemon juice 
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture just begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. DO NOT LET IT BOIL.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter pieces.
Stir until the butter has completely melted.
Let the curd cool at room temperature for about 40 minutes before spooning it on the cheesecake. 
While it is cooling, make the meringue.


For the Meringue

Measure and set aside 
1/2 Cup sugar

Combine in a small saucepan
2 Tablespoons of the measured sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Gradually stir in
1/2 Cup water
Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, about 10 minutes. 
Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place in a large mixer bowl
3 large egg whites
Beat until foamy.
Add
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Gradually add the remaining sugar, continuing to beat at medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
Gradually beat in the cornstarch mixture. 
Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form. 

Spread the lemon curd over the top of the cheesecake.
Spread  the meringue over the curd. Be sure to have the meringue touching all the edges of the curd and make the surface spiky for a nice effect.
Bake in a preheated 350° F oven until the meringue is golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Release the sides of the springform pan and slide the cheesecake onto a serving plate. 


Having a craving for some more lemon recipes?  Try these…











About the sky this week and next, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

September 16 - Set your alarms 90 minutes before Sunrise to see a super close conjunction of Mercury and Mars low in the eastern horizon. The crescent Moon and Venus will be higher in the sky.

September 17 and 18 - Look to the east about 40 minutes before sunrise to see the tiny waning crescent Moon above Venus. But hurry, once the Sun rises, Venus will disappear!

September 21 - Look to the west about 1 hour after sunset to see the tiny waxing crescent moon and the planet Jupiter. But hurry! They’ll disappear beneath the horizon before it gets dark.

September 22 - Autumn begins at 4:02 p.m. with the Autumnal Equinox. The Sun crosses the Equator and darkness begins to win out over daylight. It also means the Sun will rise due east and set due west!

September 26 - Look to the southwest as soon as it gets dark to see the waxing crescent Moon pair up with Saturn. They’ll set beneath the horizon by mid-evening. Nightfall also is the best time to view Saturn’s rings through a telescope.

September 27 - First Quarter Moon, 10:54 a.m. The Moon looks like a half-Moon - one-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way to full. It’s called the “first Quarter” Moon because in this phase, the Moon is in its first quarter of the 29+ day lunar cycle.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Ricotta Cheesecake and the Full Corn or Barley Moon


Happy Labour Day!
The summer just flew...
with some good and some bad times.

Hope all of you have kept safe and well, and that those who could see it enjoyed the eclipse.
I really hope that the fires will soon be out in western Canada and northern Manitoba and that Harvey will be the only bad storm in the southern United States.


Well, it’s the start of September and time to back to normal.
Oh… normal. Time to make a cheesecake.
Yes, cheesecake always helps, as the ladies on The Golden Girls knew.

Over the years I’ve posted a few cheesecake recipes.
But, wouldn’t you know, I forgot to post a very simple, basic recipe.
Well, here it is, just in time to get us through the adjustment period.

If you want to be traditional, this is usually served with a cup of espresso.
That’s not required.
Just have a cup of whatever you enjoy and get ready to get back to normal… 
and the holidays.


Hints:

If you don’t have graham wafer crumbs you can crush in a food processor
18 Graham crackers (2 packets from a 14 ounce box)
Process until the crumbs are consistent. 
No food processor? 
Place the crackers in a zip lock bag, seal, and use a rolling pin to crush.

If you don’t have graham wafers, you can crush arrowroot or sugar cookies.

Don’t have orange rind or extract? Lemon or more vanilla will do.


                                                Ricotta Cheesecake

Serves 8

Place in a colander over a bowl and drain
about 34 ounces ricotta cheese (some brands are more watery than others)
You want to have 32 ounces of drained ricotta cheese for the recipe.

Spread over the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan
1 Tablespoon butter, softened

Either in a pot or in a medium-sized microwaveable bowl, melt
1/2 Cup butter
Stir in
2 Cups graham wafer crumbs
Combine well.
Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom and along the sides of the pan. 
Set aside.

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 330º

Sift together into a small bowl
1/3 Cup flour
1 Cup sugar

Scrape the ricotta into a medium bowl.
Add
2 teaspoons grated orange rind or 1 teaspoon orange extract
Stir together.
Slowly fold in the flour mixture with a spatula.
Blend until the mixture is smooth.
Add, one at a time
6 large eggs
Blend with a spatula until well blended.
Stir in 
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top surface.
Bake for 60 minutes.

The top of the cheesecake should be golden and a knife inserted in the centre should come out clean.
LEAVE THE CHEESECAKE IN THE OVEN.
Turn off the oven and leave the door open a crack.
You can prop the door with a wooden spoon.
Cool the cake for 60 minutes in the oven.
Remove the pan from the oven.
Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack until room temperature.
Refrigerate for a few hours prior to eating.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

The leftover cheesecake can be stored, wrapped, in the refrigerator.


About the sky this week and next, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

September 4 — You’ll be able to spot Orion the Hunter rising in the early dawn hours! Neptune, the 8th planet from the Sun, will be the closest to Earth for the year. On the 5th, it reaches opposition,which means it’s most opposite the Sun for the year.

September 6 — Full  Moon at 3:03 a.m. At this phase the visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. But is it the full Harvest Moon or the full Corn Moon?  
While many might think the Harvest Moon is always in September, it’s really the full Moon nearest the autumnal equinox (September 22, this year). 
September’s full Moon is the third and final full Moon of the summer season, but in 2017, the October full Moon actually occurs closer to the autumn equinox, so October’s full Moon is this year’s Harvest Moon. When the September full moon is not the Harvest Moon, we call it the Corn or Barley Moon.