Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Slecna Sara's Cheesecake

The creation of this cheesecake has a slightly interesting story. The other day, my mischievous cat learned how to climb on top of the refrigerator. Unfortunately for me, I had left 4 eggs in their carton on top of the refrigerator, assuming that he DIDN'T know how to get up there. Well, as I'm sure you can guess, he pawed that egg carton until it fell off the refrigerator and promptly cracked all but 1 egg. I was left with about 2 whole eggs and 1 yolk (the white had sadly seeped off onto the tablecloth) I put them into my fridge, knowing I would make something.
Another recent acquisition of mine is a springform pan (Cake!) So I decided I would use that and the eggs. What to make for the cake though? My friend Sara and I were talking the other day, and she loves the crusts of cheesecakes. So I decided that I would make a cheesecake with an extra thick crust, just for her. She also likes sour cream a lot, and I had some languishing in the fridge, so I thought I would include that as well. After searching, I found a recipe that seemed pretty basic and that didn't require many eggs. It's right here for those who want to read it.
I've just realised my mistake in making it, but it was a good one, so I'll continue. On with the crust! Here in Czechia, we dont really have graham crackers. We do, however, have lots of nilla wafers (detske piskoty) which I think are just as good (if not better) than graham crackers. Since I wanted the crust to be EXTRA THICK, I used a whole 240g bag, which yeilded about 300g of crumbs. However, as you will see the recipe, you can to this or double it for an XXL crust. Now here is my mistake: The recipe calls for 3 eight ounce packages of cream cheese. Simple enough. 8 ounces in a cup, 250 g in a cup, so 750 g of cream cheese. Now, the last time I made a cheesecake, I used about 1 kg of cream cheese, and this thought was automatically in my head. So I ended up using 1 kg of cream cheese PLUS 250 g of farmers cheese. I also whipped the eggs like crazy. This ended up giving me a super thick cream cheese batter, but it was fluffy and DELICIOUS, so if you want a big ass cheesecake (not dissimilar to a cheesecake factory cheesecake) use that. For a more normal cheesecake, follow the recipe.

Slecna Sara's Cheeesecake

2 240 g bags of detske piskoty, crushed into crumbs
250 g melted butter
1 tsp salt

2 eggs and 1 yolk
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 tbs vanilla
1 kg cream cheese
250 g farmers cheese
3 generous tablespoons sour cream
Zest of 1 lemon

To make the crust, combine all the ingredients and press into a 7 inch springform pan
Bake for about 10 minutes at 150 c or until dry to touch

Beat the eggs and the yolk with the sugar on high speed until light colored, thick, and voluminous
Beat in the other ingredients on high speed until thick and frosting like

smooth the batter into the crust (there will be LOTS)
Bake at 150 c for about an hour and 15 minutes, or until center of cheesecake seems dry to the touch

As a side note, I used plain old tesco brand "soft cheese", Tvaroh (0,5% fat) and detske piskoty. This cake was surprisingly cheap to make, I'd say probably about 80 crowns! It still tasted fabulous though, despite it's generic ingredients.

Don't forget to share you decadent cake, or you will become a fatty!

Friday, 17 April 2009


I've already mentioned my fondness for browsing's kitchen gadgets blog. I'm sure that every cook, even the ones that thing they have everything, have a kind of "wish list" of gadgets. The following is my list, what are yours?

1. Donvier Ice Cream Maker Perfect for whichever country my wanderlust may take me to: this ice cream machine doesn't use electricity (no, it doesn't use salt either). It's so cool. So elegant. How can you not want one? One of the only things holding me back from this appliance is that I'm not sure I'd make that much ice cream. I probably WOULD however, try to make fro yo and sorbets.

2. Home Hot and Cold Smoker Simply put, smoked things taste better. I don't eat a lot of meat and LOVE fish, so I need a smoker that would do cold smoking (can we say smoked cheese galore?) as well as the occasional hot. However, this appliance is as big as a small fridge. And living by myself, I'd say the chances of frequent use for this one are nil. Sadly :-(

3. Kitchen Aid Mixer Who DOESN'T want one of these? I just found a place that sells them in Czechia, but no price listed. I shudder to think how much it would cost. Additionally, I shudder to think of what would happen if I decided to move to England, Canada, or anywhere else that has a different electrical plug system than mainland Europe. But Ach, all those amazing attachments! Pasta! Sausages! Cakes! A GRAIN MILL! This is the grandmother of all that is mixed in the kitchen. I think I want Boysenberry.

*~Update: I just found a place that sells them in the Czech Republic. How much? At today's exchange rate (CZK 20.5 / $1) a cool $761~*

4. Food Dehydrator I can make banana chips and apple chips and dried strawberries and...and...and...everything without the added sugar and deep frying. Besides, it'd be great if I ever decide to one day go Raw Foodie (don't laugh, I was vegan, and the Raw food diet DID cross my mind several times...)

5. Home Canner When summer comes, and there are so many fresh fruits and veggies (especially tomatoes) I am dying dying dying to make tomato sauces, preserves, etc., to just pop open whenever I may need (ESPECIALLY) tomato sauce/juice. And the jars. Love love love the jars. However, I don't really have the storage means for the canner OR the finished canned goods. Sad, really. However, one of the nice things about a home canner is that it doubles as a pressure cooker as well. But, a really large pressure cooker, meaning large amounts of food, meaning terrible choice for single female.

6. Le Creuset French Oven I know, many of you might think I have one already but I don't. I'm almost embarassed to admit it.

7. Set of 4 Cheese knives There's one for every type of cheese! Soft and crumbly cheese, unripened cheese, hard cheese and for medium soft to medium hard cheese. Why wouldn't I get this? Because when I have cheese I kind of hoard it. I don't like sharing (i.e., entertaining with cheese, which would inevitably lead to using these knives) Yes, it's a bit disturbing.

8. Mandoline I suppose I COULD get this, but I haven't because there are so many out there, I'm worried about picking the wrong one! I DO like this one though because it stands on it's own and has a fairly simple looking dial to adjust thickness...

9. Bamboo Steamer Steamed fish and veggies all day every day. What could be better?

10. Digital Scale No more converting from ounces to cups to grams to mililitres. *sigh*

Ok, I'll probably add to this list later, but now I must get back to work. If you haven't noticed, another favorite site of mine to browse these gadgets is
The Brooklyn Kitchen

Finally one more: A thermometer that works for meat as well as candy!!!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Pasta with salmon

So I like to read the New York Times food section quite a bit, and a while ago read this post on braising pasta. I never measure the amounts of water (even though I know it's supposed to be quite a bit) when cooking pasta: I usually just pour water into a pan, and then shake some pasta in. I also read another post (can't remember where) about pasta water, especially from restaurants (who often use the same water to cook different batches) and how someone should really get into the business of bottling pasta water. Its starchy, thick, and has a great flavor one can use in sauces. So I bought some lovely salmon (on sale) yesterday, and also some Grana Padano (also on sale) this weekend and decided to make a salmon pasta in a mustard sauce. Using the pasta water. Except instead of just water, I used half homemade chicken stock (I keep freaking out that it's going to spoil) and half water. It was really, really good. And little cleanup as well.

Braised Pasta with Caramelised Onions and Salmon in Mustard sauce
3 large onions
200 g pasta (I used macaroni shaped pasta, but you could probably use orichette or penne)
350 g fresh salmon fillet (no skin and deboned) cut into chunks
2 tbs mustard (I used green pepper Maille brand)
1 tsp old bay seasoning
generous pinch salt
1-2 large cloves of garlic minced finely
40 g grated grana padano
About 500 ml chicken broth and 500 ml water

slice the onions into 2 cm thick half moons
Heat a saucepan, and on medium high heat, begin to caramelise the onions (throw them in, and don't disturb them for about 2 minutes. Then stir them around, and leave them alone again. This should take about 30 minutes, after which your onions should be a woody brown. If you want a darker brown, keep going)
Bring the chicken broth and water to a boil, and throw in the pasta. Reduce the heat to medium high and cook about 7 minutes
Prepare the salmon and the garlic and the cheese
Push the onions to the sides of the pan
Pour the noodles and cooking water in, and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom
Add the mustard, old pay, salt, garlic, and salmon, and stir gently to combine everything
Let simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or so until salmon is just cooked through
Top with cheese