Monday, April 27, 2009

April Daring Baker -- Cheescake!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.



2 cups /180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick /4 oz butter, melted'
2 tbsp. /24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract


3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat).
Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover20bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

I've always used the same water bath technique when I made cheesecake in the past, as it allows the crust to cool without cracking. I rub shortening on the inside and outside of the springform pan to help make it watertight and then I wrap three layers of foil around the bottom and sides to ensure a good seal. I haven't had any problems with the water seeping into the pan and making the crust soggy, but the recipe creator suggests using and throw away aluminum pan to cook the cheesecake in, as it will prevent any sogginess for the water and then cutting the sides of the pan off when the cheesecake is cooled.

The fun part of this Daring Baker challenge was that we were allowed to make any kind of cheesecake flavor that we wished!
I knew I would be bringing my cheesecake to an Easter celebration as dessert, so I didn't want to experiment too much, and only added some orange and lemon zest to the batter as additions. Then I added a fresh fruit topping -- strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, tangerine slices, and pineapple.
I made a glaze by reducing a cup of pineapple / tangerine juice by slowly boiling the juices until they reduced by half, and then added two tablespoons of white corn syrup and mixed well. Since children would be eating the cheesecake I did not want to add liqueur to the glaze, but a tablespoon of a fruit flavored liqueur could also be added to the glaze if desired. I then brushed the glaze over the fruit topping.
I used a large 12 inch springform pan, so my cake was thin and perfect for the fruit topping, but if you are making one without a topping you might like to use a 8 or 10 inch pan to make the cheesecake thicker for a different presentation.

Some cheesecake variations from the recipe creator that you might like to try:

** Lavender-scented cheesecake w/ blueberries - heat the cup of heavy cream in the microwave or a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add 2 tbsp of lavender flowers and stir. Let lavender steep in the cream for about 10-15 minutes, then strain the flowers out. Add strained cream to cheesecake batter as normal. Top with fresh blueberries, or make a quick stovetop blueberry sauce (splash of orange juice, blueberries, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon - cook until berries burst, then cool)

** Cafe au lait cheesecake with caramel - take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal. Top cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce (I usually find one on the food network website - just make sure it has heavy cream in it. You can use store-bought in a pinch, but the flavor is just not the same since its usually just sugar and corn syrup with no dairy).

** Tropical – add about a half cup of chopped macadamias to the crust, then top the cake with a mango-raspberry-mandarin orange puree.

** Mexican Turtle - add a bar of melted dark chocolate (between 3 and 5 oz., to taste) to the batter, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp.). Top it with pecan halves and a homemade caramel sauce.

** Honey-cinnamon with port-pomegranate poached pears – replace 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup=2 0of honey, add about a teaspoon or more (to taste) of cinnamon. Take 2 pears (any variety you like or whatever is in season), peeled and cored, and poach them in a boiling poaching liquid of port wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, a couple of "coins" of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Poach them until tender, then let cool. Strain the poaching liquid and simmer until reduced to a syrupy-glaze consistency, then cool. Thinly slice the cooled pears and fan them out atop the cooled cheesecake. Pour the cooled poaching syrup over the pears, then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.

Some variations from Jenny at JennyBakes:

**Key lime - add zest from one lime to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. Substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.

**Cheesecakelets - put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

It was really a delicious cheesecake recipe! It was very creamy and moist, and "melt in your mouth" good! It is definitely a recipe I will use again.

Please visit The Daring Kitchen website and learn more about Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks and visit some of the other blogs on the blogroll that participated in the April Challenge to see their fabulous cheesecakes!.

There is now a recipe archive, FAQ's, a forum, cookbook reviews and lots more on The Daring Kitchen web site. You can register to join too!

I hope you'll join in on all the fun and take a Daring Kitchen challenge!

I'm going to be on a little blog break this week, as I'm off to visit my little grandson!

When I come back I'll be close to having done 300 posts, so I'll be doing a little "give away" on my blog to celebrate that occasion. Please come back and keep checking for that event! I love to read all your comments.

Have a wonderful week --I'll miss you!

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Slice Of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour - Part 3

After we left the Prospect Park and Windsor Terrace neighborhoods on The Slice of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour, part two, we entered Green-Wood Cemetery. Green-Wood Cemetery has long been considered one of the world's most beautiful cemeteries and is the final resting place of nearly 600,000 people, including some of history's most memorable figures. It was establishment in 1838 and consists of 478 acres filled with thousands of trees, flowering shrubs and four lakes.

As the tour bus rolled along the cemetery's hills we were told stories about some of the famous people interred there, such as the musical great conductor Leonard Bernstein, the Brooklyn Dodgers' Charles Ebbetts, sewing machine inventor Elias Howe and his dog, Fannie, and the "Father of Baseball" Henry Chadwick, as we passed by their gravestone memorials.

The monument seen above is The Soldiers' Monument, erected in 1869 to honor the 148,000 New York men who fought for the Union during the Civil War. The figures represent the four military services of the Civil War era. (all photos can be clicked on to enlarge)

We got off the bus at Battle Hill and strolled up to the highest point in Brooklyn and saw spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and New York harbor. The Altar of Freedom and The Minerva Monument is at the top of Battle Hill. It was erected in 1919 to commemorate The Battle of Brooklyn, also known as The Battle of Long Island, the first battle in America's Revolutionary War, and was dedicated on August 27, 1920. It was the gift of the Irish-American businessman, Charles M. Higgins.

The plaque at the base of the Minerva Monument reads as follows:

“The Place Whereon Thou Standest is Holy Ground”
Glory to the Memory of Our First National Heroes Who Fought and Fell on this Battle Ground to Win Our Liberty and Independence! Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, Glory and Patriotism, Here Salutes The Goddess of Liberty and Enwreathes This Altar in Tribute to the Heroes of American Liberty and to the Wisdom of American Institutions."

If you click on the photo above you will be able to read a short history about this battle and see the relationship on the map as to where we were standing in Green -Wood Cemetery.

This is the view of New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline from Battle Hill, in the photographs above and two below. Please enlarge them to see the full effect of such a beautiful vista! Then try to imagine back 233 years ago when the newly formed rag tag American army of 9,000 men, had to face 22,000 professional British and Hessian soldiers in battle on this hill! They were being surrounded on almost all sides and it was by the bravery of 250 Maryland troops that stayed behind to fight, that George Washington and the rest of the troop were able to flee to safety across the East River.

A close up of, Minerva, on the Altar Of Liberty, as she waves towards New York Harbor. Can you guess who she is waving to?

Yes, she is waving to The Statue of Liberty, who is waving back to her! It is a very inspiring sight to see! May these symbols continue to represent freedom and liberty throughout the ages!

The very last portion of the tour now brings us away from Green-Wood Cemetery and over to a combination of neighborhoods which are known as Victorian Flatbush because of the large numbers of beautiful large Victorian era homes that still stand here.

The unique neighborhoods of Victorian Flatbush were designed and developed at the turn of the 20th century. Today, more than 100 years later, these neighborhoods still maintain the same feeling of suburbia within city limits.
Single family homes are beautifully maintained with spacious yards and wrap-around porches on tree lined streets.
We drove up and down the streets to admire the beautiful homes from the comfort of our bus.

This one almost looks as if it is a plantation in the antebellum south, and not in New York City!
This house reminded me of a Swiss Chalet.
Hardly any of the houses are the same, each one unique and a statement to past opulence.

A short video clip below from a local news channel after This Old House Magazine named Victorian Flatbush one of the best places to buy a house a few yeasr ago. It enters a few of them to see the lovely original architectural details many of them have retained.

A Slice Of Brooklyn tour came to an end, and our bus went back into Manhattan to drop everyone off at the pick up spot. The tour participants were very happy to have seen sights they could never have imagined being in Brooklyn, and I was happy to have seen my hometown borough impress and delight so many!
I hope if you ever visit New York City you'll consider taking a tour into Brooklyn. Between A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour and A Slice of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour you'll be entertained and enlightened, and well fed with some authentic Brooklyn treats!

If you missed Part One and/or Part Two of the tour click on the highlighted links.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Slice Of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour - Part 2

Today's post is Part Two of Tony Muia's The Slice Of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour.
Click here if you missed Part One of the tour.

After we left Juniors Restaurant, we got back on the bus and drove down Flatbush Avenue toward Grand Army Plaza. Grand Army Plaza is an 11-acre oval plaza that forms the main entrance to Prospect Park. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1867. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument received landmark designation in 1973; in 1975, all of Grand Army Plaza became a New York City historic landmark.

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch, is Brooklyn’s version of the Arc de Triomphe. Conceived as a memorial to the defenders of the Union in the Civil War, the elaborately carved Arch designed by John H. Duncan, was completed by 1892 and then adorned with its striking Quadriga and other statuary by sculptor Frederick MacMonnies.

Spirit of the Army Sculptures

The Quadriga - Columbia in her chariot

Spirit of the Navy sculptures

Bailey Fountain, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, New York, by sculptor Eugene Francis Savage, 1932

Named after Brooklyn-based financier and philanthropist Frank Bailey (1865-1953), he funded it as a memorial to his wife Mary Louise. It features an elaborate grouping of allegorical and mythical figures that includes the god of water Neptune and a pair of nudes, one male, one female, representing Wisdom and Felicity.

The Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library is located on the southeast corner of the plaza. Opened on February 1, 1941, the Central Library is the major reference center for BPL's 60-location system. The library's notable architecture was created to resemble an open book, with the spine on Grand Army Plaza and the building's two wings opening like pages onto Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue. Containing more than 1.5 million books, magazines, and multimedia materials, it provides services to all ages, free Internet access throughout the building, and, since September of 1997, a Multilingual Center for non-English speakers and those interested in linguistics.

We then drove around the perimeter of Prospect Park ,a 585-acre urban oasis located in the heart of Brooklyn, New York City’s most populous borough. The masterpiece of famed landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also designed Central Park, Prospect Park features the 90-acre Long Meadow, the 60-acre Lake and Brooklyn’s only forest. The nation’s first urban Audubon Center, and the Prospect Park Zoo. It attracts over eight million visitors a year.
We also passed The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, a 52-acre garden which includes a number of specialty gardens, diverse plant collections, and the Steinhardt Conservatory, which houses the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum, three climate-themed plant pavilions, a white cast-iron and glass aquatic house, and an art gallery. Founded in 1910, the Garden holds over 10,000 species of plants and each year welcomes over 700,000 visitors from around the world.

Next, we drove down Eastern Parkway, and at Washington Avenue we passed The Brooklyn Museum, housed in a 560,000-square-foot, Beaux-Arts building, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the country. Its world-renowned permanent collections range from ancient Egyptian masterpieces to contemporary art, and represent a wide range of cultures. I realized it has been too long since I paid a visit to the museum, and I hope to return soon.

The Brooklyn Museum is well-known for its expansive collections of Egyptian and African art, in addition to 17th, 18th, and 19th century paintings, throughout a wide range of schools, and it's ongoing special exhibits.

At this point in the tour, Tony spoke about the legendary Brooklyn baseball team The Brooklyn Dodgers. Brooklyn helped make baseball commercial, as it was the locale of the first paid admission games, a series of three all star contests matching New York and Brooklyn in 1858. A new era begins for Brooklyn baseball on April 9th, 1913 as Ebbets Field opens with a game of the newly named Dodgers against the Philadelphia Phillies. As a team they had their ups and downs but were always followed by ardent Brooklyn fans until 1957, when the President of the club, Walter O'Malley, decided to move the team to the city of Los Angeles because the city planner of New York, Robert Moses, refused to build him a new ballpark in Brooklyn. It was a heartbreak that Brooklynites have yet to get over.

Ebbets Field was the ballpark the Brooklyn Dodgers played in from 1913 to 1957, and after the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles, the field was torn down and replaced with the Ebbets Field apartments, as seen in the photo above.

As we circled Prospect Park we passed The Lefferts Historic House Museum. The Lefferts family was among the earliest European settlers in Brooklyn. They trace their roots to Dutch colonist Pieter Janse Hagewout (1621-1661), a farmer and cobbler who emigrated from Holland with his family in 1660, and settled in the farming village of Vlacke Bos (meaning "wooded plain"), or Flatbush as it came to be known. In 1687, Hagewout’s son Leffert Pietersen bought 58 acres of land in the area now known as Prospect Lefferts Gardens. He built the original Lefferts Homestead. It is a fine example of the Dutch roots of much of Brooklyn's early history.

We then drove up and down some of the beautiful streets of the neighborhood know as Park Slope. Park Slope got its name from the huge 526-acre Prospect Park which it borders. Many of its fine mansions, brownstone and limestone homes were built during the 1880s and 1890s.
Today many of these structures are within the Park Slope Historic District, one of New York's largest landmarked neighborhoods.

Here are close up photographs of the unique architectural details of some of the residences.
(right click on the photos to enlarge)
These photos were taken of homes on 3rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenue.

During the 1850s, the neighborhood of Park Slope was situated on land that was virtually completely owned by Edwin C. Litchfield.

Litchfield Villa was originally built as a residence for the Litchfield family in 1857. Edwin Litchfield, a railroad magnate and real estate developer, purchased nearly a square mile of meadow and swampland for his estate in 1852 which extended down to the Gowanus Canal. He hired Alexander Jackson Davis, a prominent architect of the time, to design his hilltop home. The mansion was named Grace Hill for his wife, Grace Hill Hubbard.
However Olmsted and Vaux’s design for the new Prospect Park included Grace Hill and its surrounding property, and in 1868 Litchfield was forced to sell his land to the Brooklyn Parks Commission.
After Litchfield’s death in 1885 the Villa was occupied by park administrative offices and park police. It currently houses the Brooklyn headquarters of the NYC Department of Parks and offices of the Prospect Park Alliance.

At this point we traveled along Prospect Park West and passed Farrell's Bar & Grill at 16th Street. A favorite neighborhood bar since 1933. Among its many famous patrons in the 1970s was Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine, who broke the tradition of being chaperoned by a male and became a well-known customer. Famous newsmen Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill were also frequent patrons. Tony also pointed out that it was used as a location shot for the 1997 movie "As Good As It Gets" starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, as he played those scenes on the video screen.

In my next blog post I'll bring you part three of The Slice Of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour, where we entered Green-Wood Cemetery to see some of the famous and infamous people buried there, plus seeing some of its outstanding scenery. We will then continue to the conclusion of the tour in the very elegant Victorian Flatbush neighborhood of Ditmas Park.

Hope you'll drop by and come along for the ride!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Slice Of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour - Part 1

If you've been reading my blog for awhile you might remember when I went on Tony Muia's very enjoyable "A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour" last April. Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to accompany him on his " A Slice Of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour."

This 3 1/2 hour comfotable coach bus tour through Brooklyn includes an audio-visual historical tour of Brooklyn's famous movie locations, landmarks and points of interests, and includes a stop at the famous Junior' s Restaurant...a Brooklyn landmark since 1950, where we were promised a sample of the BEST cheesecake and a classic egg cream! Although I am a life long Brooklynite, I knew I'd learn many new things about my hometown, since Tony is a fact filled and engaging tour host.

Our first stop was at Brooklyn Bridge Park , located under the Manhattan Bridge. While still under construction in many places, the future 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park will stretch 1.3 miles along the East River from north of the Manhattan Bridge to Atlantic Avenue.

(click on all photos to enlarge)

We were able to walk under The Manhattan Bridge which crosses the East River in New York City, connecting Brooklyn at Flatbush Avenue Extension to lower Manhattan at Canal Street. The bridge was opened in 1909 and carries both vehicular traffic and subway trains. It is quite an experience to be underneath and hear the roar of the subway pass over head!

The neighborhood near the bridge on the Brooklyn side is becoming gentrified from it's former factories and warehouses into condominiums and stores, and is called DUMBO, an acronym for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass." We road along some of it's narrow cobble stoned streets during the tour.

From the Brooklyn Bridge Park we had spectacular views of The Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan. This is a view I never tire of!

The Brooklyn Bridge one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, and stretches 5,989 feet over the East River, connecting the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and carries motor vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles. It opened in 1883 and took 14 years to build. At that time the bridge's giant towers stood taller than anything in the New York skyline, even taller than any structure in North America! It was designed by John A. Robling, an immigrant from Germany. His son, Washington Robling, was it's builder. Washington Robling's wife, Emily Warren Robling, served as his unofficial assistant engineer when he was incapacitated late in the construction by collapsing bridge timbers which crushed his legs. Due to her efforts to complete the construction of the bridge she ranks among the most remarkable women of her time!
The tour then drove us to the Fulton Ferry Landing pier where we had more breathtaking views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Lower Manhattan skyline.

This is one of the most popular sites for photography in New York City. It is at this location that Robert Fulton, who invented the first steamboat ferry in 1814 , had his ferry called "The Nassau," which carried passengers across the East River from Brooklyn to Manhattan. A bronze plaque in the pier states that by 1868 there were one thousand ferry crossings daily, and 50 million passengers were carried annually until the ferries closed in 1924.

The plaque on this rock commemorates that fact that under the cover of darkness on August 29th, 1776, Washington's army crossed the East River from Fulton Ferry, below where the Brooklyn Bridge rises today, leaving Brooklyn to the British during The Battle Of Brooklyn, the first battle of the Revolutionary War. (right click the photo to enlarge to read the inscription)

The tour again boarded the bus and drove over to the nearby charming Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. This neighborhood dates back to 1824, and is largely composed of block after block of picturesque Greek Revival and Gothic Revival houses, and Italianate brownstones and mansions. More than 500 buildings were built before the Civil War. Brooklyn Heights was the first neighborhood protected by the 1965 Landmarks Preservation Law of New York City.
We proceeded down to The Brooklyn Promenade, which is a third-of-a-mile stretch park on an esplanade above the the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. This exclusively pedestrian walkway offers more majestic views of downtown Manhattan and is lined with flowerbeds, playgrounds, and two rows of benches, the park is a favorite destination for walkers and joggers.

The Promenade, actually an esplanade, cantilevered over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is a favorite spot among locals, offering magnificent vistas of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline across the East River, as well as views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. It is a popular tourist destination for the Macy's July 4th fireworks, and for the unobstructed views of the skyline.
The quiet, neat, tree lined streets of Brooklyn Heights were so enjoyable to walk through, and allowed us to stop to admire the beautiful architecture up close.

Tony stopped at a few residences along the way to inform us of who lived there at one time.

This is 142 Columbia Heights. The iconic New York writer Norman Mailer, who was a 2 time Pulitzer Prize winning author, and who started The Village Voice newspaper in Greenwich Village, lived here until his death in 2007.

Next, we passed 70 Willow Street, which is an enchanting Greek Revival style home dating from the 1830s. Truman Capote lived in the basement here during the late 50's and early 60's, where he wrote the novels "In Cold Blood" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

We also passed this 1829 red brick corner house at 19 Cranberry Street, which was used as the location for the 1987 Cher/Nicholas Cage film "Moonstruck." You can see the Manhattan skyline in the distance.

Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims at 75 Hicks Street, built in 1849, where Henry Ward Beecher was once considered "The Most Famous Man in America." The preacher and abolitionist’s church was also “the Grand Central depot” of the Underground Railroad. Henry Ward Beecher was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Now we were all ready to drive down Flatbush Ave to DeKalb Avenue to visit Junior's to have some refreshment! Founded in 1950 by Harry Rosen, this landmark restaurant is known to have the best cheesecake in New York City!

As part of the tour we went inside and were served a slice of their rich, creamy and delicious cheesecake.
It was so good quite a few of the tour participants bought a whole cheesecake to take home with them!

We were also treated to our choice of a chocolate or vanilla egg cream, which is a traditional Brooklyn refreshment invented in the 1920's when the city was full of soda fountain establishments.

Tony explained that an egg cream contains no egg or cream, but is composed of a splash of milk, seltzer soda and Fox's U Bet chocolate syrup.

It was almost as good as the ones I remembered drinking as a child!

I know I've shown many of these sights in past blog posts, but I hope you enjoyed seeing them again as part of The Slice of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour.

In my next blog post of part two of the tour I'll show you many more new and interesting and historical places we visited on the tour such as Grand Army Plaza, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Dodgers Ebbets Field location, and many many more fabulous Brooklyn sights!