hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

I have to think about this one for a second. Should I do this?

Yes, I think I should.

hazelnut cheesecake

Okay here it goes. I recently read an article somewhere which stated that food bloggers are multitalented…Not only do they possess knowledge about baking/cooking, but they are also adequate writers and photographers, at least that’s what is expected from them and those are the qualities they should possess in order to be successful in the field.

hazelnut cheesecake

Well, to me writing is the trickiest of the three qualities, and I’m not talking about proper grammar usage or correct verb conjugation. I’m talking about trying to transmit my thoughts fully and properly with words. I have never been a person of many words, especially spoken words. An introvert like me, would rather express herself in other ways. But as I read over some of my posts, I have to admit that I have frequently and conveniently mistaken this blog for a diary, where I’m permitted to ramble on and on and then shyly hit the “publish” button. That doesn’t mean I’m a great writer. That just means that I happened to find the correct words in that specific time and place to express a certain feeling or thought. And thank God I did.

hazelnut cheesecake

Well, today, as I think about these cheesecakes I made, a bundle of emotion is stirred up inside of me and I might have to “let it all come out” and come clean once again…through words.

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

Here is the story. I made hazelnut cheesecakes today. I made one set for Periphery and one for me. Incase you didn’t know, Periphery is a progressive metal band that is doing really wonderful things in music.They just left for an Australian tour and I made them these treats before they left on their journey.

hazelnut cheesecake

About a year and half ago my other half, Mark, was offered the position of becoming one of Periphery’s full-time guitarists. He was offered the opportunity of a life time…of his life time. At the time, I was almost convinced that this opportunity, as rewarding as it may have been for him, did not match with what I had in mind for us. To keep things brief, after having been with Mark for many many years, I deeply believed that this sudden change of pace and life style in our lives would be a problem. I was stuck in the notion that the idea of the two (the band/touring and me) could not coexist. I was stubborn and pushed away. This would either make us or break us.

hazelnut cheesecake

Luckily we are still one, stronger than ever. It took some adjusting and getting used to, but after some compromise and care from both sides, we got over the unexpected bump on the road and swerved back to our path. After testing the waters and giving it a try, I realized that this situation is not that bad. I won’t bother listing the pros and cons. He is doing what he loves and that is very important.

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

So today, I made two sets of cheesecakes: one for me and one for Periphery to take on their trip. Mine has chopped and toasted hazelnuts along with striped dark chocolate on the top. Theirs has the band’s logo on the surface of each individual piece. Mine is a larger and thicker piece (I know, I know), while theirs are smaller and thinner mini cheesecakes, to the point where they almost resemble cheesecake cookies…Cheesecake and cookies united as one?! Simply delicious.

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

They are both different, but still alike, since the same batter, method, and care, were taken to elaborate both. After all, we can all coexist peacefully.

hazelnut cheesecakes

And even better? The guys enjoyed their treats quite a bit and as you probably figure, few things in the world gratify me more than to bring happiness to others through sweets. I hope you find them to be just as tasty.

hazelnut cheesecake

• Yield: Six mini cheesecakes and one 6″ x 2″ medium-sized cheesecakes. However, the yield varies depending on what size pan you prefer to use. I’m sure you can probably get two 8″ cheesecakes out of this. Freeze for 3-4 weeks well wrapped. Keep in fridge for about 2 days.

• Note: I used tart pans for the mini cheesecakes. I know you may be thinking, “Tart pans are meant to be used to bake tarts, not cheesecakes! Duuuh!” And you are so right. However, that’s what I had in hand and I made it work just fine. Since the material of the cake pans is so thin, the baking time decreases significantly because the heat reaches the batter sooner and with more force. If using a spring form pan, be sure to wrap the bottom and sides of cake pan with aluminum foil to prevent leakage. 

ingredients for hazelnut cookie crust:

4 oz butter

2 oz sugar

3.5 oz AP flour

1/4 tsp salt

2.5 oz hazelnuts

recipe for hazelnut cookie crust:

1. Place hazelnuts into a food processor and grind until hazelnuts are finely crushed. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar until butter is light and fluffy.

3. Mix AP flour, ground hazelnuts, and salt together.

4. Slowly add all dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture and mix on low speed until dough comes together.

5. Drop spoonfuls of dough two inches apart onto a sheet tray that is covered with parchment paper. You will most likely need two baking sheets to bake off all the cookies. Bake at 350 F for about 12 minutes, until cookies become golden brown. Allow cookies to cool off.

ingredients for cheesecake:

hazelnut cookies

8 oz cream cheese

4 oz sugar

6 oz Nutella

1/2 tsp vanilla

3 oz mascarpone cheese

2 eggs

1 yolk

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 C hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped

2 oz of dark chocolate

recipe for cheesecake:

1. Grind hazelnut cookies in a food processor until cookies are finely ground. The natural oils in the hazelnut will come out when this happens, so adding melted butter is not necessary to keep the crumbs together. 

2. Grease six 3″ x 1″ tart pans and one 6″ x 2″ round cake pan
 with vegetable spray. Cut out circles that have the same circumference as the base of the pans and place each circular piece of parchment paper on the base of each pan.

3. Press grounded hazelnut cookies into prepared pans. Bake at 350 F for about 10-12, until crust becomes golden brown. Allow crust to cool off completely.

4.  Preheat oven to 275 F. Cream cream cheese and sugar on medium speed for a couple of minutes until cream cheese is light, fluffly, and smooth. There should be no solid chunks of cream cheese at this point. Add Nutella and vanilla.

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5. Add mascarpone cheese and continue to mix just until mixture is creamy and well combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl and be sure that all ingredients are well integrated.

6.  Add yolks and eggs one at a time on low speed until batter is very smooth.

7. Strain batter into a large bowl. Ladle batter into prepared mini tart pans, until batter reaches almost to the top of each pan. Ladle remaining batter into 6″ x 2″ cake pan.

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8. Place mini tart pans onto a baking sheet tray. Place sheet tray into preheated oven and pour water into sheet tray, until water reaches about halfway the sides of each pan. Place 6″ x 2″ cake pan onto a separate baking pan with sides. Pour water into baking pan so that water reaches about halfway the sides of cake pan. Bake mini cheesecakes for about 20-30 minutes and larger cake for about 1 hr 20 min, until cakes jiggle in the center when tapped.

9. Cool cheesecakes completely at room temperature. Place cakes in freezer for about 1-2 hours. 

10. Turn frozen cheesecakes upside down over a flat surface that is covered with parchment paper. Torch the sides and bottom of each cake and tap firmly until cheesecakes are released. Turn cheesecakes over.

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11. Time decorate your cakes…sprinkle a handful of toasted/chopped hazelnuts over the surface of each cheese cake. Place dark chocolate in a small bowl and melt over a bain-marie. Place melted dark chocolate into a pre-made paper cone. Cut the paper cone’s tip and and move swiftly and quickly back and forth over the cake to create thin lines of chocolate on its surface. If you don’t have a paper cone and don’t feel comfortable making one, you could try dipping the tip of a fork or a spoon in the melted chocolate and moving it back and forth over the cake so that chocolate drizzles over it.

hazelnut cheesecake

You can then play around some more with the chocolate…It’s fun to do so and you may have trouble containing yourself.

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You can also draw the logo of a progressive metal band with the chocolate, that’s just one idea for instance…

hazelnut cheesecake

Now comes the best part. Move the cheesecake onto a serving dish or platter with an offset spatula. Cut yourself a small piece or various pieces and enjoyyyyy! Be ware though, this dessert is super decadent and rich. A small piece goes a long way.

hazelnut cheesecake

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chocolate vanilla ice cream sandwich • the first blog entry

sweet-lab.com

I hate to start the blog like this, but it is what it is. The inauguration of sweet-lab.com will be accompanied by my menstrual cycle. I apologize and hope that doesn’t discourage anyone from continuing to read! I promise that I don’t go into any details, but just so you know I was sitting on my couch with cramps and knew that I needed something that involved solely one ingredient. How original by the way- a girl who craves chocolate during her menstrual cycle. I’ve never heard that before! Ever. So anyways, I knew that I had to whip up something decadent that involved chocolate along with ice-cream. Luckily, I have never been one of those people who finishes a whole tub of ice-cream in one sitting or even close, but I knew that a small serving would do wonders during the circumstances.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, I don’t mean to go into descriptive details about the scale of pain or the duration of my cramps, but just so you can have a vague idea (a very vague idea and understanding to be exact) the cramps weren’t extreme at all, or else I would’ve had to abort the mission and lay in fetal position. But no. This was a task I could handle.

sweet-lab.com - An alternate way of presenting the ice-cream sandwich

I decided to create a chocolate/vanilla ice-cream sandwich. Let me restate as I did in the “about” page that most “experiments” (aka recipes) will follow a basic ratio. As Michael Ruhlman writes in his book Ratio, “A culinary ratio is a fixed proportion of one ingredient or ingredients relative to another. These proportions form the backbone of the craft of cooking. When you know the culinary ratio, it’s not like knowing a single recipe, it’s instantly a thousand.” I couldn’t have said it better and would like to take this opportunity to thank Ruhlman for writing such an informative book that is allowing me to explore and feel more freedom and security when it comes to baking. Ratio also brought focus to this blog. Furthermore, it encouraged me to think of what the main idea of this blog would be: to experiment and learn while baking and creating, while simultaneously following ratios. The ratio for a basic quick cake that is used for the ice-cream sandwich is: 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part egg: 1 part butter. Knowing the basic ratio will allow you to break lose and be creative when it comes to adding flavors and ingredients to the quick cake, as long as you stay loyal to the ratio. So here it goes!

sweet-lab.com

Actually, one last thing before I get into the core of the procedure. Remember that this is a lab and after all and I’m just a humble person acting like a scientist who is following the scientific method during an experiment (aka recipe). Therefore, don’t be surprised when you see scientific words such as “hypothesis”, “procedure”, “research question”, “materials”, etc.

Research Question: Will this chocolate-coffee vanilla ice-cream sandwich soothe me during this time of the month and will it be able to please others as well?

Hypothesis:

– Adding coffee to the chocolate batter will intensify the chocolate flavor.

– The combination of three different forms of chocolate used in this recipe will make the quick cake be chocolaty and delicious.

– Nutella + melted semi sweet chocolate + buttermilk + butter + not mixing excessively  will = a very moist and soft cake.

Materials/Ingredients:

scale

8 oz flour (4 oz AP flour, 4 oz cake flour)

4 oz sugar (2 oz white sugar, 2 oz light brown sugar)

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of baking powder

8 oz of liquid (4 oz of buttermilk, 4 oz coffee) –(note: try adding milk chocolate instead)

4 oz eggs (2 large eggs)

4 oz melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 oz of melted semi sweet chocolate (Ghirardelli)

2 oz of Nutella

2 oz chocolate chips/morsels

about 1/3 cup of sugar in the raw for sprinkling

vanilla ice-cream

Procedure/Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift the flour, sugar, salt, and making powder together into a bowl.  In a different large bowl, combine the buttermilk, coffee, eggs, melted butter, vanilla, and whisk until the eggs are uniformly distributed. Be sure that when you add the coffee the liquid is cold or warm so that the eggs don’t become cooked.  If you want to add the coffee hot, be sure to temper the eggs by slowly adding the coffee to the liquid mixture little by little so that the eggs don’t become scrambled eggs! Add the melted chocolate and Nutella to the wet ingredients.

sweet-lab.com

Add the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour the batter into a loaf pan. Be sure to spray the loaf pan with spray. I put parchment paper along the sides to be extra secure of the cake not sticking to the sides or corners of the pan. I’m a bit paranoid though and I’m 98.9% sure that if you add the batter to a very well greased pan, the cake will not stick. 98.9% secure is not 100% though, and therefore it’s not good enough 🙂 The quick cake should bake for 40-50 minutes, until the blade of a knife or a toothpick has been inserted and comes out clean. After 35-40 minutes of baking, retrieve pan from oven to sprinkle sugar in the raw over the top of the cake and place pan back in the oven immediately afterwards. Continue baking for the remaining time required. Place quick cake on wire racks to cool evenly for at least 10 minutes. Slice the quick bread into slices of ¼”-1/2” in width.

sweet-lab.com

Take vanilla ice-cream out of freezer and allow it to soften up a bit. Scoop the softened ice-cream onto the surface of one of the slices of quick bread and smoothen out evenly with a butter knife. Place another slice of quick bread over the ice-cream to create a quick cake sandwich. Sprinkle with powder sugar or any toppings of your choice. Enjoy!

Observations:

All the cocoa butter from the chocolate chips, the semi-sweet chocolate, and the Nutella work together with the butter to make this cake to be moist in texture and chocolaty. The coffee really intensifies the chocolate flavor and there is a slight after taste of it, but not enough to make it be bothersome in my opinion, especially after it’s paired with the vanilla ice-cream. The chocolate chips that were added to the batter at the end add another dimension and texture to the chocolate batter. At first I added the granulated sugar at the very beginning of placing the cake in the oven, but that made the sugar dissolve into the surface of the batter. I think the sugar should be sprinkled over the top towards the end of the baking process so that the sugar granules don’t have that much time to dissolve. In other words, sprinkle the sugar over the top when the batter is still soft enough that the granules can stick to it and are therefore they’re able to form a delicious sugar crust on top. The difference of temperatures in this dessert is what truly makes it special for me- the warm and moist cake acts likes a shell that protects the cold ice-cream that-if left alone on the plate- will begin to naturally melt and ooze out of the sides. YES!!!

sweet-lab.com

If you are a coffee-lover, this quick cake sandwich would also be delectable by using coffee ice-cream instead of vanilla. Or you could add chopped pistachios to the batter and use pistachio ice-cream for the filling instead. The possibilities and combinations are endless and you can certainly modify the ingredients to satisfy your cravings! But whatever flavors you desire to explore, remember to stay true to the ratio- 2:2:1:1.

Results/Conclusion:

sweet-lab.com

I would recommend this recipe because for being a quick cake based recipe, its simplicity is elevated to a significant flavor when all the ingredients come into play, especially when the ice cream is sandwiched right in between. However, if I could go back, I would modify a few things. I would add less coffee to the batter, so that the coffee flavor and after taste is not as pronounced. That is a personal taste. However, if you enjoy coffee more than I do, don’t mess with the quantity and try it as is. I would replace the buttermilk, which falls under the liquid amount of the ratio, with chocolate milk to make the quick cake even more chocolaty. Why didn’t I do that in that in the first place? I clearly wasn’t thinking there. Nevertheless, this quick cake recipe is yummy and it did soothe me and a few others as well. I encourage you to try it! Don’t expect to be biting into a decadent brownie because that’s not the consistency of this recipe. We’ll leave that for another time.