Other Desserts

Say "cheesecake" to anyone and you are likely to get a reaction. Everyone has their own idea of what a cheesecake is and whether they like it. Many people also have an opinion about what makes the perfect cheesecake. I don't fall into this latter group, because I can pretty much be sold on any type of cheesecake: light, or dense; short, or high; pure, or flavored; creamy, or dry. What I will offer a strong opinion though is on the right cheesecake for the right time. You don't want a rich, heavy cake following a rich, heavy meal, and I wouldn't pair a deep chocolate peppermint cake with a summer barbeque. So what I love most about this recipe is not only how delicious it was on it's own, but what an excellent partner it made to the preceding Indian feast.

Mango Coconut Cheesecake
Serves 12-16

Crust1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons butter, melted, and cooled slightly
cardamom seeds from 3 pods, whole, crushed, or ground
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup sweetend flaked coconut

Pulse graham crackers or crumbs, coconut, and cardamom together in food processor until finely ground. Pour butter over, and pulse until combined. Press onto bottom and up sides of 10" springform pan.** Bake at 350 for approximately 12 minutes, until lightly toasted. Lower oven temperature to 325.

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cups pureed fresh or canned mangos (about 1 1/2 large mangos)
3/4 cup cream of coconut
4 eggs

Beat together cream cheese and sugars until well mixed and smooth. Make sure no lumps are remaining, because once you begin to add liquid ingredients, you won't be able to eliminate lumps. Puree mangos separately and blend in cream of coconut. Mix eggs one at a time into cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in mango/coconut puree. Pour batter into baked crust. Bake at 325 for 85-100 minutes. Cake is done when it still jiggles slightly in the center, but top is golden and set.

Cool slowly under a cake dome to prevent cracking, then refrigerate overnight. I decorated my cake with 1/2 mango, sliced and arranged in a spiral, then sprinkled with shaved coconut and diced, candied mango.

** I bake cheesecakes in a water bath which helps keep them moist and virtually eliminates the risk that the cake will crack. However, this also keeps the crust softer, so if you want a crispier, crunchier crust, do not use the water bath method, but be sure to cook the cake slowly at low temp and cool it slowly in a moist environment (such as under a dish towel or cake cover) to prevent cracking.
If you do use a water bath, while the springform pan is still empty, wrap the exterior in two layers of aluminum foil. Once the pan is filled, place it in a large pan and fill the outer pan with water up to 1" from the top of the springform pan, then bake as directed.

Cookie cups with plum wine sorbet. Recipe and back-story for the sorbet appears in this blog under the "Middle Eastern Menu" post.

Classic King Cake.  A friend of mine in college was from New Orleans, and her family would send a King Cake to her every year for Mardi Gras; I was lucky enough to be in the group of friends close enough to share in the cake.  I had a Mardi Gras-themed party of my own one year, and looked into having a cake shipped to Seattle from N.O. but the shipping costs more than the cake itself!  I was sure I could make one of my own. 

No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake.  My blueberry-loving dad's birthday is in July, and while that typically isn't a sweltering month in Seattle, a no-bake dessert seemed like a good way to go. The layers aren't as clear in this photo, but it's really pretty with the crumb crust layer, then a purplish berry mousse layer, topped with white whipped cream and dark berries.

This is a blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake.  I can not find the recipe for the components; I remember that I used crust, filling, and topping recipes that I'd used from other recipes, but combined them to create this dessert. Sadly, I didn't write it down.

Okay, not technically dessert:

Apple Puff Pancake from Marlene Sorosky's Entertaining cookbook.  

I had this unassailable urge to make cinnamon rolls or sticky buns. It was with me literally for months, and I kept trying to suage it, but it persisted.  I knew it would be intensive, but I finally gave in.  It was SO much work. A number of years ago, the mother of a friend of ours had her specialty homemade sticky buns ready for us for breakfast one morning. But any way I examined and planned this recipe, I couldn't figure out how it would be possible for them to ever be ready in time for breakfast without getting up around 3 a.m.  It took me 6 days (between the resting, rising, punching down, refridgerating, etc) before these guys were finally ready to go in the oven. On the left is the brioche dough with sticky bun topping in the bottom of the pan (I should have photographed after they were turned out.) On the right is the same brioche dough with same filling, but without the extra buttery sugary topping.

I'm not going to lie, these (below, left) were very good.  But six days of work they were not. This is the recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. It's probably easier to drive to Joseph, Oregon, where we had the best (and cheapest and most enormous) cinnamon roll (below, right) of our entire lives at the Mountain Air Cafe.