I wish I had more time to bake -- or to blog about what I have baked. I have been very annoyed at my inability to get anything made. And even more annoyed at the fact that when I do get something made, I don't get time to write about it until I've forgotten every detail.
Since I last found a spare moment to write about what I've baked, I'm pretty sure I've made the following items: Bulls-Eye Cheesecake, Truffles, and Sour Cream Apple Tart. I think I even took pictures of the cheesecake, which are somewhere. I'm sure there are no photos of the truffles or tart.
I made the cheesecake weeks ago. So many weeks ago that I don't even remember when it was -- but it was sometime after we went camping at Agua Caliente. I clearly recall that when I bought Maida's book so many years ago, it was relatively easy to find a one-piece commercial cheesecake pan -- the kind she wants you to use for this recipe. I'm not sure what has changed since the 1980's, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to find a one-piece commercial cheesecake pan now. I searched for hours on-line for one and went to two different cookware stores. No luck. But I was able to find an 8-inch x 3-inch regular cake pan, and figured that was essentially the same thing.
The cheesecake was really fun to make, but I don't think I got the batter smooth enough. And I left out a very critical step of making the chocolate batter, which is to actually sift or strain the cocoa. I figured that with the small amount of cocoa I was using, I could just dump it in and mix it around and everything would be fine. That was an incorrect assumption. The cocoa just sat in little lumps in the cheesecake batter, taunting me for my laziness. I used a whisk to try to beat them in. I used a spoon to try to smash them into submission. And I'm pretty sure they were still lumped up in the batter.
I was disappointed by the lack of drama in the chocolate batter. I'm wondering if it was because of my unsifted cocoa, but the chocolate batter just wasn't as significantly different in color from the almond flavor batter to make it really stand out in a bulls-eye type manner. Despite the lack of strong contrast between the batters, I had so much fun pouring the batter out into rings that I ended up making 6 stripes of each rather than 4. It really is cool to watch the batters spread out into perfect circles.
I do remember that I was able to take the cat to the vet for a checkup and vaccinations and still get back before the timer went off for the cheesecake. When the timer did go off, the cheesecake was all high and dramatic looking -- and I'm pretty sure Cassandra took a picture of it at that moment. It was really very spectacular looking -- but not as a Bull's Eye Cheesecake. The contrast was even weaker after the cake was baked. After sitting for a little bit, the cake sunk back down into a far less dramatic pose. It just looked ordinary.
We didn't cut into the cheesecake until the following morning, because it needed to cool and refrigerate and such. And it is a good cheesecake. But not a great cheesecake. It had a very nice texture -- similar to a New York Cheesecake but not quite as heavy. But I thought the almond taste was a little strong in the white portion, and the chocolate taste a little weak in the dark-ish portion. Pete liked it though. Which is important, because he "doesn't like desserts." Except cheesecake. We ended up eating about half. Considering that the only members of the family who will even touch cheesecake are Pete, Maddy and I, I guess half is pretty good.
And with the best intentions of whipping out the easy truffles, brownies and apple tart so I could at least sort of catch up with Maria, Halloween reared its ugly head. I already have a busy schedule. I'm pretty sure I already posted how long my days are between work, working out, and extra-curricular driving. But beginning on October 1, a new dimension is added to my days -- the development and construction of Halloween costumes. I made the huge error, starting when Maddy was only a month old, of planning and constructing elaborate Halloween costumes. You want to be a Princess for Halloween -- I will buy 17 yards of satin and lace and ribbon and make a three-piece princess dress with cloak and petticoat. And even though these girls are 11, 15, and 17, they still want great Halloween costumes. That's fine because I love it when they look awesome on Halloween. It just adds to my stress.
Natalie's costume was the easiest -- she wanted to be Rex from Napolean Dynamite. This costume just required a bit of creative on-line shopping to procure the various components of the costume. Maddy's costume was also fairly easy after we figured out the concept -- she wanted to be a raven or a crow. Once the development process was completed, her costume also required the acquisition of a few items from various on-line and commercial retailers, as well as a little hot-glue here and there. But Cassandra wanted to be corn on the cob. There are no corn on the cob costumes. There aren't even good ideas for making corn on the cob costumes. This costume consumed my waking hours. How the heck was I going to pull this one off?
The corn-on-the-cob made it impossible for me to do ANY baking. Especially with everything else being thrown in front of my path. I got the costume done -- and I think it looked pretty amazing. And so Halloween day found me making the truffles.
My thought was that I could give them out to special trick-or-treaters. But the only special kids in the neighborhood decided not to trick-or treat this year. So I have a freezer full of truffles. These really are very tasty truffles -- smooth and creamy and rich and chocolatey with just a hint of rum. And they are super easy to make. I made them while on the telephone booking an appointment for our home security system to be installed. Maybe I can give some to the installer when he comes out. Otherwise, Maida said that they last forever in the freezer. That's nice. Anytime we just want something sweet -- there are truffles in the freezer.
Since I was on a roll, the day after Halloween I made the Sour Cream Apple Tart. As Maria said -- this is quite a production. Nothing is really difficult, but it is a lot of pieces to put together. I didn't seem to have any of the problems she noted on her post about the tart. The crust fit nicely into my 13-inch tart pan (2 inches bigger than called for in the recipe, but it's what I had). My Granny Smith apples, which I sliced, then peeled and cored (which is my favored way of getting all the peel off of apples), held up nicely during the sauteeing in butter and sugar. My pan was another story. I probably spent 20 minutes cleaning that stupid pan. The caramel came out like perfect caramel ice-cream sauce, and drizzled nicely over the apples. And maybe it's because I used a 13-inch pan, but my sour cream layer didn't even completely cover the apples.
Pete's opinion of this tart -- it's tart. He first said sour, then bitter, but decided on tart. Maddy agreed with him. Natalie and Cassandra are sour-cream despisers, so wouldn't even look at the tart. I guess I would agree with Pete and Maddy. It is a pretty tart tart. The crust is not very good. It holds up well to the filling, but it is relatively tasteless and cardboardy in texture. The caramel was not enough to sweeten the Granny Smith apples. And while the sour cream layer on my tart was not particularly thick, it just added to the tartness of the tart. Given how long it takes to construct this tart, the payoff was not worth it.
I'm not even going to look at how many recipes ahead Maria is because I know it's a lot. I was hoping to make Brownies for our Murder Mystery party last night -- but that didn't happen. Maybe this weekend. Maybe not. Time will tell.