Key Lime Cheesecake

Mini Key Lime Cheesecake

I’m a big fan of key lime. I like key lime yogurt, pie, ice cream, pound cake, muffins and of course key lime cheesecake! The key lime flavor is so versatile and fresh. It’s fun to play around with new ideas and see what you can come up with. This treat was another creation for Jamison to share with his coworkers. Key Lime Cheesecake is creamy and cool with just the right hint of key lime. Top it with some candied lime peel and/or whipped cream and you’ve got a fantastic dessert!

What You’ll Need for the Crust:
1 sleeve of graham crackers (Note: Any type will work, even the chocolate version. Sometimes I use regular, sometimes I use the chocolate. The chocolate really makes the key lime flavor pop, though the regular graham crackers have their own charm as well.)
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar

Spray a 9 inch springform pan with non-stick spray and set aside. Crush graham crackers (the food processor is a very good way to do this), add in butter and sugar and mix or process until sticky crumbs form.

Press into the bottom of the prepared spring form pan. Use the sides and bottom of a glass or measuring cup to ensure that the crust is really presses into the corners and the bottom. Set aside.

Key Lime Cheesecake

What You’ll Need for the Cheesecake:
4 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup of ricotta cheese (Note: Whole milk, part skim or fat free will work. I used part skim.)
1 cup of organic cane sugar
4 eggs
1/2-1 cup of key lime juice (Note: Use more if you want a really limey taste. Use less if you just want a hint. If you use the full cup increase flour by 1/4 a cup.)
1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 F. (Note: This is very important in making cheesecakes. You MUST preheat your oven!)

In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese until creamy and smooth. Add ricotta, sugar and eggs and beat until smooth. Add lime juice and mix until incorporated. Slowly add flour until just mixed.

Pour batter into the prepared shell and wrap the bottom of the springform pan securely with aluminum foil.

Place cheesecake with foil into a large baking dish and pour hot water into the dish until it reaches 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the pan. Be careful not to get any water into the cheesecake itself.

Bake for 60 minutes.

Turn off oven and place the oven door in the broil position and let the cheesecake sit for an additional 60 minutes in the oven after it has been turned off without moving the cake.

Once it has cooled store in the fridge for at least 3 or 4 hours before serving.

Mini Key Lime Cheesecake

To Make Mini Cheesecakes:

Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix batter as you would for the big cheesecake.

Line muffin pans with cupcake liners and place a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cup. Add enough batter to fill the cup 3/4 of the way.

Bake for 15-30 minutes until cheesecakes have set.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

To Make Candied Citrus Peel:

Remove strips of citrus peel (orange, lemon, lime, etc.) from the fruit with as little pith as possible.

Boil the strips until tender in 1-2 cups of water. Remove from water.

Add in sugar. (Use equal amounts sugar and water. If you started out with one cup of water, then use one cup of sugar.) Let sugar dissolve and then add peels back into the pot. Bring to a slow boil and cook until peels are transparent.

Drain in a single layer with peels not touching. Once dried use as a garnish.

Notes: If you leave out the key lime juice you have a basic cheesecake. You could substitute lemon juice for the key lime juice if key lime isn’t your thing. If you want a green key lime you can add in a few drops of green food color, but key lime juice doesn’t really turn anything green and most likely the best key lime you’ve had in the past was not colored. Also even when using a water bath cracks sometimes happen in making a cheesecake. If they do, don’t sweat it…The cheesecake still tastes delicious and that’s what whipped cream is there for…To cover up those cracks! 😉

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

When you think weekend lazy breakfast, often muffins are on the menu. These blueberry gems are delicious, tender and the blueberries give them just the right pop and zing. They are delicious warm or cold and keep for several days. You can even freeze them for use later. They are just perfect for a breakfast treat!

What You’ll Need:
3 cups of unbleached flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of organic cane sugar
3 – 6 ounce cups of vanilla yogurt
1 1/4 cups of butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 cup of buttermilk
The zest of 1 lemon
The juice of 1 lemon
2 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries

Blueberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt until completely incorporated. Add lemon zest yogurt, buttermilk and butter and mix until flour mixture is completely wet and mixed throughout. Fold in blueberries carefully by hand and pour into pre-greased or lined muffin pans. Batter will be very thick.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tops are golden. Let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing.

Makes roughly 2 1/2 dozen muffins.

Blueberry Muffins

Notes: Make sure you have blueberries throughout your dough. If you get to the bottom of the dish and it’s scarce on blueberries add a few to the remaining muffins once they are in the pan so that each muffin has blueberries throughout. Also make sure that you use firm blueberries, as those that overly mushy won’t work as well. You can use plain yogurt and add in a teaspoon of vanilla, but I had some vanilla yogurt that needed to be used so I chose that route instead.

Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake

Sunday we’re having some friends and their son over for lunch and a play date. They are bringing some fruit with them so I thought it would be nice to have something to go along with that. I thought about making an angel food cake, but then decided pound cake was more wintery. I’m not sure why I think that, but I do.

This pound cake is lemony and tender. The sour cream gives it just the right moistness, while the cake flour makes it light and airy, yet still substantial. Top it with some fruit and whipped cream and you’ve got the perfect dessert! This makes two pound cakes so one will be for tomorrow and the other will go in the freezer for another time.

What You’ll Need:
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
The zest of one lemon
The juice of one lemon
4 eggs
1 cup of sour cream
3 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add lemon zest and lemon juice to butter/sugar mixture and mix until combined well combined. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Next add sour cream and mix until combined. Add flour, salt and baking powder and mix until creamy.

Pour batter into two loaf pans that have been buttered and floured or sprayed with non-stick spray.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until loaves stick done. Make sure not to over bake.

Let cakes cool in pans for 5 minutes and then turn out and let cool the rest of the way on a wire wrack.

Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake

Notes: You can add in poppy seeds for a lemon poppy seed variation. You can leave out the lemon and add in vanilla for a Vanilla Pound Cake. Another variation would be substituting 1/2 cup of cocoa powder for 1/2 cup of cake flour for a Chocolate Sour Cream Pound Cake.

Homemade Goat Cheese

Homemade Goat Cheese

If you’ve been a reader of Dianne’s Dishes for a while you know I am more than obsessed with goat cheese. I love the stuff! There is just something so scrumptious about it’s tangy, creamy goodness! So when I decided to try my hand at cheese making, goat cheese was sure to follow.

The goat cheese took longer than 30 minutes, but still not long in the grand scheme of things. The goat’s milk that I bought at My Organic Market was already pasteurized as sales of raw milk here in Maryland are illegal, so I skipped the pasteurization step. I simply had to heat my gallon of milk to 86 F and add the Chevre starter. I did this Tuesday night and let it sit overnight to thicken.

Yesterday morning around 8:30 am I started the next step of the process, which is the draining process. You ladle the solids out and place it into cheesecloth in a colander and let it sit for several hours. The longer you let it sit the more firm it becomes.

Homemade Goat Cheese Draining

I decided to go for a creamier cheese and ended up with a slightly firm finished product that is somewhat spreadable. I also didn’t add any salt to the finished product, though that’s always an option. The cheese was just the right combination of tangy and creamy and I felt that salt wasn’t needed, but you can add that in if you want. You can also add in herbs and such if you like. It’s all a matter of personal taste.

You can even freeze the cheese pre-salting! I’m still amazed at how easy the whole process of making cheese is! Alexis and I are having a lot of fun making cheeses. I think we’ve found a new hobby!

Make Your Own: Butter

Butter

It would appear we’re having an unofficial dairy week here at Dianne’s Dishes with mozzarella yesterday, butter today, and goat cheese coming up either tomorrow or Thursday! 😉

After making the mozzarella cheese yesterday, Alexis became curious about what else was made with milk, and I’m all about encouraging curiosity! We make yogurt so she knows that that has milk, but her inquiring mind wanted to know what else was milk based so I started naming off products and when we landed on butter she asked, “How do you make that?” I happened to have a pint of heavy cream left over from Christmas baking from South Mountain Creamery that was going to expire soon, so I decided to let her make some so she could see how it works. This is really sort of ironic given she doesn’t eat butter, but hey it can be frozen and used later, or I happen to know a certain sister who adores butter as much as I adore goat cheese, so maybe we’ll share with her! 😉

What You’ll Need:
1 pint of heavy cream
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (optional)

In the bowl of your mixer add cream and salt. (Note: For unsalted butter omit salt.) Beat on high speed for 3-6 minutes until cream thickens to butter consistency. The process itself is extremely easy. You dump the cream and the salt, turn on your mixer and sit back and watch. First it will make whipped cream, but you need to go past that point to where it thickens a bit. The consistency should be of spreadable, softened butter. Store in an airtight container and use as you would butter you buy at the store. You can even freeze to use later. The most important aspect of this is again you control what goes into it, including salt levels and that’s always a good thing. When you start to see buttermilk separating from the solids, you know you’re there. I like to get just to the stage so the butter is still spreadable, but you can go full on and make regular butter too.

Pour off buttermilk and rinse butter. Viola! You’ve made your own.

Butter

Notes: If you can find it use actual heavy cream instead of heavy whipping cream, though either will work. This makes roughly 3 cups. The container that is pictured above holds 3.2 cups and the butter filled most of the space.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese Cheese is one of those things that most people like, and many including myself adore. As children most of us were exposed to the basic cheeses (Or more aptly in some cases cheese food whatever that means!) like American sliced cheese, cheddar, mozzarella and maybe something like Swiss. Then as we grow older we become acquainted with more diverse cheeses like the family of blue cheeses, goat cheeses, feta, among others, but no matter what, as you read this you can probably think or your favorite or favorites right off the bat! My personal favorites are buttermilk blue, Chevre, Colby, buttermilk cheese and really good Cheddar.

Cheese has been around for a very long time. A book I have discusses how shepherds who had milk stored in sheep stomachs (I know kind of gross!) found that the rennet present in the stomach caused the milk to curdle and make cheese. From there cheese making was born and oh the cheeses that have been developed over the years!

Lately I’ve become very interested in the process of making cheese. Basically you are looking at a biological/chemical process involving bacteria. What’s better than learning a little science while you’re making food? In my process of researching the art of cheese making I came across the book by Ricki Carroll entitled Home Cheese Making, Recipes For 75 Homemade Cheeses and I’ve meant to buy it for about a year. Jamison finally bought the book for me for Christmas among other kitchen goodies that we’ll talk about in the future. After reading the book I discovered that Ricki has her own cheese making supply company as well as an Internet store called the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.

While the process of cheese making might seem a bit daunting I was definitely interested in making some of my own. I purchased a few of the starter kits and some cheese wax from Ricki’s online store and decided to give mozzarella a try first, since it looked the least daunting. Ricki has a thirty minute mozzarella and ricotta cheese kit (and I’ll be making the ricotta soon. I’ll let you know how it turns out!) and I decided that would be just perfect to get started with.

To make mozzarella you need some basic ingredients. Obviously milk is the main ingredient because we’re talking cheese here. It’s also possible to make cheese with soy or rice milks, but for my experimentation initially I’m going to use dairy. After I get the hang of the process I want to try making rice cheese for Jamison, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand, you’ll also need water that is not chlorinated, citric acid, powdered or liquid rennet and cheese salt, which is actually optional. The process of making mozzarella involves using a stainless steel pot, heating milk, adding rennet, dealing with curds, using your microwave, draining whey (You know curds and whey! ;)), kneading, more microwaving, more kneading, ultimately working the cheese into a ball, and ice bath and voila…you’ve got mozzarella cheese in thirty minutes!

The process is really easy and I ended up using skim milk from South Mountain Creamery instead of the full fat variety because I got the milk before I got the kit and it turned out great! The taste is amazing and it was really very easy to make. I was very impressed with the whole process and can’t wait to try it again! The cheese came together so wonderfully and it was a lot of fun playing with it during the kneading process. Next time I make it I think I’m going to add in some herbs.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

If you’re interested in making your own cheeses I highly recommend Ricki’s book and her online store. Who knew making cheese was that easy and you know exactly what is in it because you made it! What’s better than that? Nothing! You can use the mozzarella to make pizza, lasagna, pasta, calzones or anything else you would normally use store bought mozzarella in. Up next goat cheese and then on to ricotta and cheddar!