Wednesday, March 22, 2017

All About White Chocolate & White Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

I missed posting on White Chocolate Cheesecake Day, however it's never too late to post about White Chocolate! By definition, white chocolate is not actually chocolate. White chocolate doesn't contain any cocoa solids (chocolate liquor) and does not have 'chocolate' flavor. But I like the unique creamy flavor that good white chocolate does have--of course it depends on the brand and that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. (see below) 

White chocolate contains cocoa butter, a product of the cocoa bean used to make chocolate. White chocolate used in baking and candy making is a blend of milk, cocoa butter, sugar and often vanilla. This is what you'll find in milk chocolate, except without the cocoa. If you are using white chocolate, make sure to buy the very best. Cheap white chocolate often has the cocoa butter replaced by vegetable fat. Check the ingredients on the package. It should have a cacao percentage just as other good chocolate bars do.

Examples of good white chocolate:

E. Guittard has 31% Cacao White Chocolate wafers. Great for baking (and eating).
Green & Black's White Chocolate uses cocoa butter, pressed directly from the crushed cocoa beans. They also use a blend of milk and Bourbon vanilla. Available in 3.5oz bars.
Divine makes an awesome White Chocolate Bar. All natural without coloring or preservatives. 
Askinosie has bean to bar white chocolate and uses goat's milk instead of cow's milk. The main ingredient in their white chocolate is 34% natural, non-deodorized cocoa butter. The cocoa butter is pressed in their factory, and they are the first small-batch chocolate maker to do this. After pressing the beans to create the cocoa butter, they combine them with goat's milk powder and organic cane juice, and then craft it for days in their 85-year old German melanguer, making their white chocolate one of the only single origin white chocolates in the world. It has a very unique buttery/nutty flavor, less sweet than many other white chocolate.
Merckens chocolate makes a great 2 pound bar, terrific for baking (or eating). Available through King Arthur Flour.

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Because it's comprised mainly of cocoa butter, white chocolate can be used in so many ways. Check past posts for White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes, White Chocolate Brownies, White Chocolate Coffee Cake, White Chocolate Truffles and a host of other white chocolate candies and baked goods.

My favorite White Chocolate Recipe, though, is for White Chocolate Cheesecake! Here's an easy recipe adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. I changed the original graham cracker crust to a Chocolate Cookie Crust (see below)... much better, I think, but then I like chocolate.

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE WITH CHOCOLATE COOKIE CRUST

Ingredients for Filling:
1 cup chopped white chocolate (make sure it's good white chocolate that's made with cocoa butter)
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 egg yolks
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Directions
Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease bottom and side of springform pan, 8 x 3 inches.
Prepare Chocolate Cookie Crust (see below). Baking 6-8 minutes and cooling.
Place chopped white chocolate in top of double boiler (or saucepan on top of another saucepan over simmering water). Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until white chocolate is melted. Remove from saucepan.
Increase oven temperature to 475ºF.
Beat melted white chocolate, 3/4 cup sugar, and flour in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Beat in cream cheese and egg yolks until smooth. Continue beating, adding eggs one at a time, then add sour cream until blended.
Pour batter carefully into crust. Cover pan with aluminum foil.
Bake 20 minutes; remove foil. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Bake 1 hour. (If cheesecake browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil during last 30 minutes of baking.)
Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven 15 minutes.
Cool on wire rack 15 minutes.
Run metal spatula along side of cheesecake to loosen before and after refrigerating.
Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 8 hours, but no longer than 5 days.
Run metal spatula along side of cheesecake to loosen; remove side of pan.
Place cheesecake on serving plate. Refrigerate if you plan to serve later.

I like my cheesecake unadorned, but you can always add fruit or chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Cookie Crust:

Ingredients
30 chocolate wafers (to yield about 1-1/2 cups crumbs)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions
Put cookies in food processor; process until finely ground.
Transfer crumbs to mixing bowl; combine crumbs, butter, salt, and vanilla; stir until crumbs are moistened.
Press mixture evenly across the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan and all the way up the sides of the pan; pack tightly so crust is even and compacted.
Bake in 350° oven for 6-8 minutes or until crisp.
Let cool completely before filling.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries: California Strawberry Day

Today is California Strawberry Day, and it's a great way to celebrate the start of Spring. I love strawberries, and they go so well with chocolate. I've posted lots of strawberry recipes, but here's an old favorite: Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. So easy. Want to get fancier? You can always stuff strawberries with chocolate cream, marscapone, chocolate chip cookie dough, cheesecake or tiramasu before dipping--and you can drizzle some white chocolate over the finished dipped strawberries.

The Chef pictured in the photo is by Sonoma artist Cynthia Hipkiss. I love her oddball humor, and I have several of her sculptures. I love this Chef, in particular, and he holds a coveted space by my stove (the blue O'Keefe Merritt), and I've had him forever. What's particularly fun about him is what he's holding can be changed. I have a strawberry shortcake, a birthday cake, and a plate of hot dogs with all the trimmings. The smaller food sculptures are attached with velcro. Very clever! Hipkiss's work is carried in several art galleries. Many of her sculptures of women remind me of my aunts from whom I learned many baking tips. Luckily I'm not quite as full-bodied as they were, but then they were great bakers and ate a lot of what they baked!

CHOCOLATE DIPPED STRAWBERRIES

Ingredients
1 quart fresh large fresh strawberries, with tops
1 cup Dark Chocolate 60-65% cacao, chopped
1/2 cup Dark Chocolate 72-85% cacao, chopped
3 Tbsp heavy cream

Directions
Rinse strawberries and dry thoroughly, keeping tops on. In top of double boiler or stainless
steel bowl on top of saucepan over simmering water, combine chocolate and heavy cream. Stir until
chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Dip strawberries 1/2 to 3/4 way up in chocolate mixture and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet to allow chocolate to harden.

Hints:
Wash strawberries and pat dry with paper towels; set aside. Make sure strawberries are
completely dry. A drop of water in melted chocolate can cause it to "seize" and turn the
entire mixture into a mess.
How to Fix Seized Chocolate

How to dip:
Grasp stem of strawberry and dip into chocolate, swirling to partially cover with chocolate.
Give the strawberry a small shake as you pull it out of chocolate. When strawberry is
completely out of chocolate, swirl it in quick, clockwise motion to let excess chocolate drip off.
Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Repeat with rest of strawberries.

Monday, March 20, 2017