Monday, November 30, 2015

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake With a Purpose

Early last summer I was asked to contribute my time and talents to a wonderful organization, Love INC. Of course I said yes! Not only was it an opportunity to bake one of my favorite desserts, but it was a great way to support a fabulous organization.

Before we moved to the Black Hills, I had never heard of Love INC. The organization shows Love to people in need In the Name of Christ.

They do it joyfully, wisely, prayerfully and with respect and dignity.

The first time we attended the big fall fundraiser and I learned about this organization, I was very impressed. They really do live out the motto, "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach him to fish and he'll eat for the rest of his life."

This organization teaches people to fish.

When you look at the causes of poverty for many people, you tend to find the same repeated cycles: unemployment because of substance abuse or felony convictions; ignorance regarding finances and budgeting, nutrition, and childcare; lack of access to transportation; lack of access to decent housing.

So how does Love INC help?

First, they address the immediate need that brought the individual or family to the organization asking for help. There is a food pantry, a furniture clearinghouse, and staff members who can identify the real need and start the family on the road to acquiring the tools needed to make better decisions for themselves and their families.

Then they ask for help. Anyone participating in the program is asked to volunteer. Volunteer hours help to "pay" for the assistance they receive, but more importantly, they provide a way for participants to extend a helping hand to others.

Next, participants are given the opportunity to participate in classes like "Money 101," "Employment Prep," "Nutrition on a Budget," "Strengthening Families," and "Christianity Explored." Classes are held in area churches on weekday evenings. Meals and childcare are provided, and there is no cost. Everything is provided by volunteers - participants, former participants, and volunteers from local churches.

This program changes lives.

And Love INC isn't only here - it's a worldwide organization. For more information, please visit their website. Look to see if there is a affiliate near you. Here's the link - go visit, then come back for the cheesecake!

You might remember that I've made cheesecake at the Cafe before. You can read that post here. What that post taught me was that my oven was never going to bake well. It wouldn't keep an even temperature, and would fluctuate up or down 50° during the baking time. Grrrr!

Fast forward a few years, and we have a new oven, and a wiser baker. :)

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

Let's start with the crust:

Pate Sucree

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons butter
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon water

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt, and then cut in the butter.

Whisk together the egg yolk, vanilla and water in a small bowl, and then stir the liquid into the dry mixture.

The dough should be crumbly, but should hold together when you squeeze it.

Press the dough into the bottom of your pan and about 1/2 inch up the sides.

The dough tends to be a bit sticky, so I cover the bottom of a glass with plastic wrap and used that to carefully press the dough flat and up the sides of the pan.

Prick the bottom all over with a fork, and then bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

It should be lightly browned.

Remove it from the oven and set aside to cool.

Now, before you do anything else, reduce the heat in your oven to 325°. You'll thank me later.

Before I go on, I have to put in a plug for my favorite baking cookbook. This is where this recipe is from -- The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. Put it on your Christmas list.

Now for the Cheesecake

This is a sweet, chocolate swirl cheesecake, so the ingredients are a little bit different than you'd use for a classic cheesecake.

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream

chocolate swirl ingredients:
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips)

note bene (that's Latin - it means "note well," and means you really need to pay attention to this detail!):  The biggest problem most bakers have with cheesecake is that the surface cracks while the cheesecake is cooling. There are two very important things to do to prevent this. The first is to keep from incorporating air into the batter during the mixing process, and the other is to let the cheesecake cool gradually.

So be very careful when mixing the cheesecake. A little bit of care here will save you headaches later on!

Make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature, or even a little warmer - about 75° to 80°. My kitchen is usually around 66° in the winter (unless I'm cooking!), and so my "room temperature" cream cheese tends to be a little cool. Why does that matter? Because cooler cream cheese will have lumps, and you'll need to mix the batter longer to get rid of the lumps. You don't want to mix the batter longer!

In your electric mixer with regular beaters (not your whisk) and at slow speed, beat the cream cheese until it's smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice.

Add the sugar and salt and mix until well blended.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl. You won't need to mix for very long for each egg.

Remove your mixing bowl from your mixer, and stir in the vanilla and cream just until it's well blended.

Next, melt your chocolate and the additional 1/2 cup cream in a microwavable bowl (I use my 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup). Once the chocolate is melted (the mixture should be very warm), add 3/4 cup of your cheesecake batter and blend well.

Pour your batter into your prepared crust, then drop the chocolate batter onto the surface in five large dollops. Run a knife through the batter several times to make a swirl effect.

Bake the cheesecake in a 325° oven for 45-50 minutes. I've found that at our higher altitude (about 3500 feet), I need to bake it for 60 minutes. The cheesecake is done when the center is no longer shiny and it passes the "jiggle test."

Jiggle test: Shake the oven rack slightly. If the center of the cheesecake is done, it will remain firm. If not, it will slosh a little.

Leave the cheesecake in the oven and turn off the heat. Set the door ajar to let the heat escape slowly, and leave the cheesecake in the cooling oven for an hour or so, until it has cooled enough so that you can handle it without a hot pad.

No cracks! Perfection! I took me four tries to achieve this.
Now, do you remember that I was making this cheesecake for the Love INC banquet?

At the banquet, bakers from all over the city donate desserts for a silent auction. It's a great way for restaurants to advertise their business as well as for home bakers to do something extra to raise money for the organization.

Each year they ask ten people to bake a "Showcase Dessert," and this year I was one of them.

My picture was in the program,

and my cheesecake was displayed in a place of honor.

The paper and pen are there for people to make their silent
auction bids. There were two bids already!
But donating the cheesecake like this brought a new set of things to consider. How do I display it? How do I make it portable? How do I make it look professional?

Youtube and the Food Network came to my rescue!

First of all, these cake rounds are wonderful inventions.

I cut one to match the bottom of my springform pan and inserted it in place of the metal bottom when I baked the cheesecake. No transferring from one pan to another, and no dishes to worry about returning!

Second, my daughter's addiction to the Food Network inspired her to buy an offset spatula. I didn't think we needed one, but I was wrong. I'm going to buy my own when she moves out!

Third, I watched Youtube videos to learn how to remove the cheesecake from the pan. Remember three words: dip, wipe, repeat.

Dip the spatula into a cup of hot water (I used a quart mason jar) and wipe the spatula on a clean towel. Now you have a hot spatula to use to loosen the cheesecake from the side of the springform pan. After a few inches, wipe the cheesecake crumbs off of the spatula with a paper towel, and repeat.

Beautiful? Oh, yes!

Now for the decorating.

I had purchased an inexpensive charging plate at Hobby Lobby, along with a bit of festive greenery.

By the way, my daughter was aghast. I guess you're never supposed to decorate food with inedible items. Oh well.

But I wanted a little more, so I made a simple ganache.


1 cup heavy or whipping cream
9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Cut the chocolate into small pieces and place in a small mixing bowl.

Next, pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil on the stove. Stir it until it reaches the boiling point (it won't burn as easily as milk does), then pour it over the chocolate.

Stir until it's smooth, then let it cool until you can handle it easily.

I piped the ganache onto the cheesecake with a piping bag and decorator's tips.

I added my bits of inedible greenery, and voila! A cheesecake with a purpose!

The banquet was last Monday night with over eight hundred people attending. And the cool thing? The dessert auction - my dessert and many, many others - raised almost $30,000 for Love INC.

It's the season of giving! Don't you love it?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Chicken En Mole

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a delicious favorite to share. Now, a lot of people have had chicken en mole, but there are dozens of mole recipes. This is one that I like that isn't too hard to prepare and (almost never) fails, so here it is!
 Dried ancho chiles. The recipe calls for four ancho chiles. I had quite a crowd coming so I quadrupled the dish. So, as usual, the pictures you see are for a big batch, but I'll share the recipe as if you're cooking for 3-4 people.
 My littlest calls these "chiles de pasa" or "raisin chiles". Those aren't the real name. Don't use that in the Mexican restaurant because they won't understand you.
 Add four cloves of garlic and a can of tomatoes. Or several whole tomatoes from the garden, like I did. Don't worry too much about chopping and peeling. This will be blended together.
 Boil everything together for about ten minutes. The water will become dark.
 Remove the chiles and slice open. Discard tops and scrape out the seeds.
 Dump into a blender with the onion and the garlic (I used a small strainer to get the garlic pieces.)
 Add two cups of the chile water. After it's blended, it will be very soupy. At this point you can add it to the pot, or you can strain it again. I like to strain it because otherwise the kids are still finding a few seeds and those are where the heat comes from... and some of us can't handle the spice.
Mole is a condiment that's added to any sort of meat or fish dish. It comes in green, red, brown or black. It can be burn-your-face-off spicy, or very mild, like this one. Here's a pot of chicken drumsticks boiling away. After the chicken is boiled completely, take four cups of the broth and add to the mole mix.
 Simmer on the stove for about 30 minutes. At this point you can start adding a few spices. I don't like to add salt before then because if your chicken stock is salted, you can get too much salt in the mole. So, add some salt and pepper to taste. Now is also where mole mixes start to vary widely in flavor. Some add chocolate (2TBS) powder, some add cumin (2 tsp), or a dash of mace or allspice or nutmeg. I like those versions, too, but if I add allspice or mace to anything, my kids start making noise about it not smelling good, so I usually omit. I did add cumin and a little more garlic.
Mole sauce is also thick, so dissolve 2 TBS of corn starch in a 1/2 cup of hot water, add to the mole, and then boil for 5 minutes.
With some rice, salad, and toasted corn tortillas, dinner is served!
Funny side note: my son ran through the kitchen, paused long enough to swipe a finger around the jar and licked his finger. HA! Apparently, he'd missed the first hour of the mole preparation and thought this was some kind of Nutella-based sauce. Poor kid. But serves him right for sticking his fingers in the food, eh?
I'll leave you with a picture of one of my kids doing his homework... with a furry buddy. He says schoolwork is so much easier with a happy cat. May you all have a warm, cozy, and productive work week!
Until next time! Feel free to stop by my author page at Mary Jane Hathaway or my blog at The Things That Last!

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Delights of Baking in the Fall

with guest Sandra Leesmith

This fall we went to New Hampshire to visit our brother and his lovely wife. We have beautiful fall leaves in Arizona. These high country aspen turn gold and glitter when they flutter in the breeze.

But the leaves back in the New England states are spectacular. The pinks and purples just amazed me.

While there in New Hampshire, we went to an apple orchard and picked apples to make apple pie.  This particular orchard has several varieties of apples. You can walk through the orchard and select what type you want to buy.

So I was inspired to bake an apple pie for Yankee Belle, but looking in the archives, you gals have apples covered.

So we also saw lots of pumpkin patches with fresh pumpkins to pick.

But you have many yummy pumpkin recipes already in your archives.

So I decided to use another popular fruit we have in the fall and show you the easiest dessert that I take to potlucks and it is extremely popular. In fact, I’ve learned to make copies of the recipe to hand out because everyone always asks for it. This is so easy and so yummy.

First you need about 3 to 4 pounds of seedless grapes. Wash them and pull out the stems.  If they are big grapes, cut them in half. I select smaller grapes and leave them whole. This is much easier.

Gather your other ingredients and mix them together.

8 oz package of cream cheese
8 oz of sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar  (I only use 1/4 cup)

Put the clean grapes in a 9 by 13 inch casserole dish. I use aluminum pans so I can toss them or leave them and not have to worry about the dish.

Blend in the cream cheese mixture.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup raw sugar on the top. Then sprinkle chopped walnuts or pecans. It is ready to serve. This is so refreshing and light after a big meal. You store it in the refrigerator and the nice thing is, you can make it the day before and it will be ready for your event.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

The cafe is closed today but Jan, Mindy, Cate, Missy, Virginia and I wanted to wish each and every one of you a blessed holiday.

You bless us by stopping by... You bless us with your prayers and thoughts and kitchen fails!!!

May God bless you abundantly, and may the peace of Christ be gently in your hearts.


A spare princess or two makes every holiday special!!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving Nut Roast Style

Hello, Cafe dwellers. Happy Thanksgiving Eve.

This time last year, my husband, daughter and I were caught in a Maine snowstorm that began hours earlier than predicted. When we woke up Thanksgiving morning, we were mostly thankful to be alive. Driving through that snow was truly the most treacherous driving we've ever endured. The Mainers were smart - they all stayed home. We had to get someone but then we stayed put too!

I thought I'd share some photos and then the delicious nut loaf recipe that my daughter and I cooked. We were the lucky ones. Most of the town had no power, but the house we had rented stayed on grid.

Inside the cozy house we rented in Ogunquit, ME.

Thanksgiving morning!

I didn't take this one, but it's Ogunquit beach on Thanksgiving morning.

Wild turkeys that survived Thanksgiving!

More wild turkeys.

So food -

My daughter is a vegan so hubby had turkey, but DD#2 and I had vegan nut roast (which honestly I much prefer to the turkey!)  We followed this recipe. Mushroom Nut loaf.

I thought I had taken pictures of it and us making it, but apparently not.

For those who have never had a nut roast, I highly recommend them. Think sort of a veggie meatloaf but with ground nuts instead of beef.

This picture gives a pretty good idea of what one looks like. As for taste, my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is the stuffing. Because of the seasonings, nut roast pretty much tastes like one big delicious piece of stuffing!

Special thanks to Kav for her lovely review for Love by the Reins. This nut roast is for you!