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Monday, May 26, 2014

Mini VERY Berry Pies

I can honestly say that I may have discovered a new favorite recipe for pie crust.  Yup, that's right - pie. crust.  In all of my baking life (....that would be approximately 33 years of such a life as I started baking at the young age of 8) I have always kept an eye out for a delicious, foul proof, FLAKY and easy recipe for pie crust.  I have come across many a pie crust recipe that was either too dry, too difficult to make and even just plain old yucky tasting. 

Because I have been brought up to share well with others I will be sharing this fabulous pie crust recipe with all of you....including a beautiful berry filling and lovely streusel topping.  All of which will come together as Mini VERY Berry Pies!! Happiness. 
My happiness all started when I found out my May assignment for the Secret Recipe Club.  I was given the blog called, The Wimpy Vegetarian.  Let me tell you there is NOTHING wimpy about Susan's blog.  It is packed with gorgeous food and brilliant recipes. I was honored and delighted to have spent this past month browsing through Susan's recipes.  She is truly a talented lady in the kitchen and has a long list of amazing accomplishments in the cooking world.  I may just need to invite her over for tea the next time she ventures over to my neck of the woods.  Susan, you are amazing and you are always welcome in my home!
I almost made Susan's recipe for Peaches and Honey Frozen Yogurt as I would love a nice big bowl of frozen yogurt.  I then switched gears and planned on making her lovely Kale and Cauliflower Tart with Cheddar Cheese Crust - oh my goodness, what a beautiful looking savory tart it is! But then all bets were off when I read through her recipe for Mini VERY Berry Tarts as I was intrigued with the crust.  The pie crust is not only made in the food processor but it has CREAM CHEESE as one of the ingredients (along with butter, flour, salt, ice water and FRESHLY SQUEEZED LEMON JUICE!).  And then as I read through ingredients for the streusel topping for the mini pies I discovered that GROUND FLAX SEED was tossed in with the oats, brown sugar, butter and flour.  At the moment I have a tiny bit of an obsession over flax seeds.  I like to add it to everything. 
I was so pleased with how my mini pies came out.  Not only did they look good but the crust was over-the-top d'lish! Flaky.  Yes, very flaky.  And light not too dense at all.  The filling was also quite good although I do think that once berries are in season here in Southern NH, the filling will be even better.  I loved the streusel topping too.  I poured in those ground flax seeds with delight over knowing that my girls would get some extra nutrition when they ate their pies.  Happy mommy over here!
I made my pies in my favorite mini pie pans but Susan suggested making them in mini muffin pans.  What a great idea as the recipe will provide happiness for many more people than just 4 hungry mouths. 

Mini VERY Berry Pies
(recipe from The Wimpy Vegetarian)

Crust Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup flour
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsps unsalted butter, cut into 6 slices, well chilled
2 Tbsps cream cheese, well chilled
2 Tbsps + 1 tsp very cold water
2 tsps. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Streusel Topping Ingredients:
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1 Tbsp flour
pinch of Kosher salt
2 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp cocoa nibs (which I omitted as I didn't have on hand)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
3-4 Tbsps unsalted butter, softened

Filling Ingredients:
2 Tbsps granulated sugar
2 Tbsps flour
pinch of Kosher salt
2 1/2 cups fresh berries, rinsed and dried (I used cut up strawberries and blueberries - Susan used blackberries and blueberries)
2 Tbsp cream cheese
1 Tbsp coconut milk


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  And then prepare pie crust. In the bowl of a food process add in flour, sugar and salt.  Pulse all together for a couple of times.  Add in chilled butter and cream cheese and pulse all together until slightly bigger than small pea sizes form - about 10-12 pulses.  Drizzle in cold water along with the lemon juice as the food processor runs.  Pulse just until the dough starts to come together forming moist crumbs that clump together.

2. Dump crust mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a disc.  Wrap disc tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

3.  Prepare streusel topping.  In medium size bowl combine oats, flour, ground flax seed, salt, cocoa nibs and spices until blended all together.  Add in softened butter with a fork or pastry cutter.  Mix and mash until all the ingredients are well blended and small crumbs form.  Place topping into refrigerator until needed.

4. Take out the chilled disc of crust from refrigerator and allow to come to room temp as you prepare berry filling.  In a large bowl add in flour, sugar and salt - mix all together.  Add in  1 cup of berries and slightly mash them with a fork.  Add in remaining berries along with cream cheese and coconut milk, making sure all ingredients are well blended together.

5. Roll out pie crust to desired size.  If you wish to use a mini muffin pan a circle cookie cutter will come in handy to make the right size crust for all the muffin cups. No need to grease your pan or pie plates.   Divide berry filling amongst your prepared pie crusts and then top evenly with streusel topping.  Bake in preheated oven for 27-30 minutes - until crust is a golden brown and filling is bubbly.  Cool for a good 15 minutes before serving.  Vanilla ice cream goes nicely with these little treasures. Enjoy!

Happy Mini VERY Berry Pies Baking!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Manhattan Cheesecake with Strawberries

The month of May has brought me the opportunity to participate once again with the lovely baking group called,  The Cake Slice Baker's.   You may recall that a few months back I made a delicious Old Fashioned Pound Cake along with an Applesauce Spice Cake.  Both of these cakes I made through the Cake Slice Baker's group.  This is a group of food bloggers that get together once a month and bake from Carole Walter's Great Cakes cookbook.  I love this cookbook!  Almost as much as I adore and treasure the Cake Slice Baker's.  Unfortunately, my blogging has taken a couple steps down on my list of priorities (due to life as a working mommy) and I haven't had the chance to bake along side the CSB's for quite a few months now.  I have also been working really hard at loosing weight and have been careful with the amount of carbs and sugar that I consume. BUT because my love for baking makes my heart sing, I have to every once and awhile take time out from crazy, busy life and my diet and treat myself (and others) to a yummy baked treat made with love from my kitchen to their mouths. 

 That being said, out of four options from the Great Cakes cookbook that was presented to the CSB's I choose to make the Manhattan Cheesecake.  I was super excited for this recipe as it was different than any other cheesecake recipe that I had ever made before.  Beaten egg whites, freshly grated lemon peel and orange peel were added into a beautiful batter of cream cheese, sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract and egg yolks.  What could be better?! The cake came together lovely. I followed each step to. the. tee. The batter tasted divine. I decorated the cooled cake full of happiness with strawberries and raspberries that were gently glazed with an apricot glaze.  BEAUTIFUL all around.  But then, I cut into the cake.  And the cake was completely a mess.  I could have cried!!  Even though I had followed each word of instruction with careful attention - I added all the right ingredients at all the right times.  I baked the cake at the required temperature and timing. Yet still the cake was completely too soft.  I have no pictures of the sliced cake due to my sadness over it being undone.  I do highly recommend this recipe as it was delicious but please make sure you bake it for longer than 40 minutes.  I would suggest at least an hour rather than 40 minutes.

Invite some friends over and serve up this master piece.  They will love and worship you after the first bite.  
Manhattan Cheesecake with Strawberries
             (recipe from Great Cakes by Carole Walters)
Crust Ingredients:
10 double graham crackers, or enough crackers to make 1 1/2 cups of crumbs
2 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature (24 oz - 3 blocks of cream cheese)
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon rind
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated orange rind
3 large egg whites
Strawberry Topping:
3/4 cup apricot preserves
1 Tbsp kirchwasser or Grand Marnier
3-4 cups large, deep red strawberries
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Generously grease a 9" springform pan - set aside.
2. Make crust by putting broken graham crackers into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add in sugar and pulse to make fine crumbs.  Add in melted butter and pulse for another 5-10 seconds so all ingredients are blended together.
3. Pour crumb mixture into prepared pan.  Using a spoon or the bottom of a glass press crumbs onto the bottom and up against the sides of pan.  Refrigerate when done.
4. Prepare filling by placing cream cheese into clean bowl of food processor.  Add in sugar and process for 15 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and process again for another 5 seconds.  Add in egg yolks while processor is running through the feeder tube and run for 10 seconds.  Add in heavy cream and the lemon and orange rinds.  Process for 10 seconds all together.
5. Beat egg whites in a large bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then add in 1/4 cup sugar - 1 Tbsp at a time, beating until the whites are shiny. Fold in 1/4 of the filling batter with a large spatula, turning for about 10 times until mixture has lightened.  Add in remaining batter, taking an additional 30 turns.
6.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Set pan on a 18" square of heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Mold foil around the sides of the pan to catch any batter that might leak.  Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes - (This is where I would recommend that you bake for longer than 40 minutes as my cake was under cooked at this timing.....55 minutes to an hour would be my recommendation).
7.  At the end of the baking time, turn off the oven and place the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep it ajar. Cool the cake in the oven for 1 hour before taking it out, removing the foil and cooling to room temperature for at least 3 hours.  Refrigerate for at least 12 hours before putting the strawberry topping on the cake.
8. Prepare topping by heating preserves and liqueur in a medium size sauce pan over low heat.  Bring to a slow boil and continue to cook until preserves are completely melted.  Remove pan from heat and strain mixture through a fin strainer to remove the large pieces.  Return to saucepan and set aside.
9. Wash, hull and dry the strawberries.  Slice them in half lengthwise.
10. Arrange the berries cut sides down around the edge of the cake, with the points of the berries facing outward.  Arrange a second circle inside the first, with the points of the berries extending inward.  The bottoms of the berries should touch.  Fill in the center randomly and then make a second layer of strawberries over the first.  Cake can now be refrigerated until ready to serve. 
11.  Once ready to serve remove cake from refrigerator 1 hour prior to serving.   Just before you plan on serving the cheesecake, warm the preserves over low heat and then with a pastry brush, gently coat berries with glaze.  Serve with happiness!!
Happy Manhattan Cheesecake with Strawberries Baking!


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