Monthly Archives: December 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Lasagna

I don’t own a TV. This is relevant I promise.

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My parents are modern-day-hippies (still relevant). You know, the kind that inhabit most of San Francisco… Hippies who shower as a friend once described them, and they didn’t really believe in watching television. As a result I still, to this day, don’t really spend that much time sitting in front of the TV flipping channels. I mean I watch a lot of stuff on Netflix, and I do have a Glee addiction (I was a musical theatre kid in high school, it speaks to me), but when I moved a few weeks ago and went on a furniture buying frenzy, a TV was not on my list of things to purchase.

So as a result of being raised more or less under a rock, I miss a lot of references, and I’ve been forced to come up with time-wasters other than television. My personal favourite? Scouring the internet for recipes.

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The result? I have a bookmarks folder, that’s getting a bit out of control, filled with recipes to make. Seriously, it’s a bit ridiculous.

This one in particular has been sitting in there for about a month since I saw it on How Sweet It Is. I just needed an excuse. You see, most nights, dinner involves throwing a ton of vegetables together covering it in TJ’s Goddess dressing (which you should go out and buy immediately if you don’t already own it) and calling it a day. Sometimes I get ambitious and cook up some tofu with vegetables, and rice and call it stir-fry.

When I get really lazy I microwave a tortilla with cheese and call it a quesadilla. I can’t believe I just admitted that on the internet. Please don’t judge me.

So when my friend invited me over for dinner I offered to bring lasagna and leftover cake because what kind of a person would I be if I didn’t bring cake?

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And this lasagna recipe? Well it is kind of amazing. I mean it has mascarpone, garlic, and shallots…

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Roasted sweet potato and butternut squash covered in olive-oil and salt, pepper, and a light dusting of nutmeg.

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And browned butter. Have you ever browned butter? Not only does it make your entire home (well my 500 square foot apartment at any rate) smell like a caramel factory, it adds an indescribable depth of flavour to anything you make.

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Did I mention the shallots and garlic get caramelized in the butter as it browns?

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Yeah…

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Did I mention that in addition to the creamy mascarpone filling, and the smooth mashed roasted vegetables, you also get to add 1.5 cups of parmesan cheese and 2 cups of mozzarella to this thing?

Before you ask, yes, the final results were worth every penny I spent on expensive cheese. In my defence, my family is French. Overspending on food, and cheese in particular pretty much comes with the territory.

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So I forgot to get pictures of the final thing, since I finished baking it at my friend’s place so we’d have that perfectly gooey slightly crispy top-layer that, let’s face it, is the reason why people eat lasagna. Plus, isn’t exactly photogenic once it has been put together, which I suspect is the reason it is a dish that doesn’t show up on food blogs all that often. Which is a sad thing because this lasagna in particular is one of the best non-baked good things I have ever made.

So do yourself a favour and make this for dinner. Tonight, tomorrow, next week, I don’t care. Just do it.

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Sweet Potato Cake

This is the best cake I have ever made.

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Seriously.

I know I say it every post, but seriously, this cake is a bit of a miracle. I mean there’s a lot going on.

The cake is sweet-potato, with a generous amount of cinnamon and ground ginger, and finely chopped crystallized ginger.

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The filling is toasted marshmallow. Yes. Toasted marshmallow. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further.

The frosting? Brown-sugar-cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream. The amazing thing is that swapping brown sugar in for the white sugar usually used in SMB makes a massive difference in the flavour. It adds a certain sense of warmth, and the addition of cinnamon just takes it to the next level.

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To finish it all off, there are the candied pecans. Sprinkled over the top of the cake, they add a crunch and nuttiness that just finishes the whole thing off.

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As I said, there’s a lot going on in this cake and the miracle is that all the different elements don’t just work together, they literally sing.

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Yes, I went there. I referred to food as singing. But it’s appropriate. Think of the flavours as different harmonies, and when they come together it’s pretty amazing.

Ok, I took it too far. I’ll stop with the bad analogies.

Now.

So I served four desserts at Thanksgiving, and this is the one that was finished off first. This cake earned me more compliments than anything else I made. The cake itself is light, moist, sweet, lightly-spiced, and unique. The toasted marshmallow filling is reminiscent of campfires, and the mildness compliments the cake’s complexity. And the frosting… Well it’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Lightly, floaty, not too sweet, with a depth and complexity that comes from the use of brown-sugar and the addition of cinnamon which ties it to the rest of the cake. The pecans just take the entire thing over the top, from outstanding to life changing.

As I said, this was the best cake I’ve ever made.

This cake takes a while. I baked it on Tuesday and froze it wrapped tightly in two layers of plastic wrap. I made the frosting on Wednesday, and made the filling and completed the assembly on Thursday (Thanksgiving day) morning.

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And yes, you have to split the cake layers. Yes, it’s terrifying, but as you can tell from the picture above I didn’t do a perfect job and I still pulled off an awesome cake. So don’t stress it too much. Frosting can cover up all kinds of mistakes.

But it was worth it. Absolutely, 100% worth it.

Once again, I made no changes to Sweetapolita’s outstanding recipe, so the next time you need a show-stopping cake to make, make this one.

There will be miraculous music, I promise.

I lied when I said I was done with bad analogies. I’m sorry. Ok, that’s a lie too.

Just make the cake, it’s a really, really good idea.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

Most people, me included, feel pretty passionate about cheesecake.

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I mean it’s the kind of dessert that is delicious when made right, profoundly disappointing when make incorrectly, and unfortunately easy to make wrong

I mean we’ve all heard the horror stories of the overly-dense lumpy cheesecake that stuck to the roof of your mouth for hours afterwards right?

And then there is the dreaded ‘crack.’ You know what I’m talking about – when you pull your cheesecake out of the oven only to discover that the top has fractured and created an ugly and noticeable scar on the top of your painstakingly crafted dessert.

But when it’s done right, when the top doesn’t crack, and the cream-cheese is properly softened and whipped into oblivion to ensure absolutely no lumps get through?

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That’s when the magic really happens.

This pumpkin cheesecake was a part of my thanksgiving ‘quartet’ and while I couldn’t possibly chose a favourite out of the four I made, I can tell you that this is by far the best cheesecake ever.  

Yes it requires you to bake it in a water-bath. And yes, it’s worth it. You know why? Using a water-bath = no cracking (caveat: if you over-bake the cake it will crack no matter what so do pull it out when the centre is still jiggly. It will set as it cools. I promise.).

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But back to the cake: it was light, creamy, delicious, delicately spiced, and elegant. The whipped cream topping served to tie together the crumbly ginger-pecan shortbread crust, and the slightly tangy-sweet filling. An egg-heavy batter that included a 1/2 cup of whipped cream kept the whole thing rich, creamy, smooth, and surprisingly light.

I do mean light in texture. Not in calories. Forget any misguided notion you ever had that cheesecake is a health food.

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So if you’re afraid of cheesecake making, make this one. I promise as long as you follow the directions, and use the dreaded water-bath, it WILL turn out delicious.

And yes, it takes a little bit of time, but it is well worth the effort. A quick note that when I made this I put the cake together on one day, let it sit in the fridge overnight and added the topping the next day, then kept it in the fridge until about an hour before serving it.

Pumpkin Cheesecake (lightly adapted from Sprinkle Bakes)

Ginger-Pecan Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup pecans (1.2 oz.)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup cold butter
1 tablespoon cold water

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. Properly buttering the edges will ensure you get a proper pan release, so don’t skimp. Wrap the pan in heavy duty aluminum foil, do this or you’ll have water seep into the pan and ruin your crust.
2. Throw flour, brown sugar, salt, pecans, and ginger into a food processor and process until pecans form crumbs.
3. Add in cold butter and process until crumbs form.
4. Add the water and process in short bursts until the dough starts to come together.
5. Press into the bottom of the spring-form and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Pumpkin Filling:
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 lbs (20 oz, or 2 1/2 eight oz. bricks) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 large eggs

1. Turn down heat on the oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a small bowl whisk together the pumpkin puree, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger ,and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is creamy (depending on how warm your cream cheese is this will take 2-4 minutes, the goal is to beat out any and all of those pesky lumps).

4. Add the sugars gradually and beat until combined.

5. Add the pumpkin mixture and beat until batter is uniform.

6. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition until incorporated into the rest of the batter.

7. Using a rubber spatula pour the cheesecake filling into the cooled spring-form over the crust. Place the pan into a large baking dish filled with water so it comes about 1-inch up the sides of the springform. Bake for 70-80 minutes or until the sides are set and the centre of the cake still jiggles. Cool completely, it will set as it cools.

Whipped Cream Topping:

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup of sugar

1. Whip the cream in the bowl of a standing mixer until it thickens.

2. Add the sugar in gradually, beating the sugar and cream until stiff-peaks form.

3. Spread over the top of the cake and pipe the extra whipped cream into decorative swirls.

Keep cake in the fridge until ready to serve.

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