Wednesday, August 31, 2011

French Pottery

A good friend of mine is from France and she makes the most wonderful pottery.  Recently she asked me if I would be interested in taking some photos of her pieces and I jumped at the chance.  If she ever decides to sell her pottery online, I'll be sure to let you guys know.  


7 links

Christiane (aka The Mom Chef) from the blog Taking on Magazines One Recipe at a Time nominated me to participate in the 7 Links blog thing that's been going around the blogosphere.  Have you visited her blog?  I clip and save magazine recipes... lots of recipes... never seem to do anything with them, but The Mom Chef actually manages to make the recipes and blog about them with a unique style and whit that I love.  Wonderful blog - and I so enjoy reading about her 5 year old spitfire "Dudette".

Okay, back to the 7 links assignment.  I'm supposed to share 7 links to posts on my blog that best fit the criteria given, then nominate 7 additional bloggers to do the same - both aspects of the assignment will be hard for me... how do you pick only one post for each subject???  That's like being asked to pick a favorite kid - Sigh.  Also, which bloggers do I choose to pass this task on to - they'll either love me or hate me for doing so.  Please try to find it in your heart to forgive me if you fall into the later group ;). Okay, here we go.

Most Beautiful Post
I really can't decide which one to choose, Quick Lemon Mousse or Mixed Berries with Double Vanilla Creme Anglaise.
Quick Lemon Mousse - ButterYum
Mixed Berries with Double Vanilla Creme Anglaise - ButterYum

Most Popular Post
To Die For Banana Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting - well deserved for such a fantastically easy, yet madly delicious cake.  It was featured on The Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen website, so that might have helped propel it's popularity a bit - ya think?  (My Vanilla Nut Bars get an honorable mention - tons of comments on them)
To Die For Banana Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting - ButterYum

Most Controversial Post
Tres Leches Cake - controversial not because of the post's content, but because of the internal conflict I felt after baking, tasting, and rating the recipe in the post.  You see, I've been a huge fan of the recipe's author for decades, and her recipes never failed me - until this cake.  It looks great, but that's really the only good thing I can say about it.  
Tres Leches Cake - ButterYum

Most Helpful Post
10 Secrets to Making Pizzeria Quality Pizza at Home - after more than 20 years of tweaking, I've got amazing homemade pizza down to a science.   
10 Secrets to Making Pizzeria Quality Pizza at Home - ButterYum

Post Whose Success Most Surprised You
How To Make Candied Lemon Slices - this post has always hovered in my sidebar's Top 10 list.  I totally don't get it, but okay, whatever.  By the way, I broke one of food photography's cardinal rules when shooting this lemon slice - I used the flash on my camera!
How to Make Candied Lemon Slices - ButterYum

Post You Feel Didn't Get The Attention It Deserved
Mini Pecan Tarts with Mascarpone Frosting and Glazed Pecans - this is a recipe I created for a guest blogging gig on a wildly popular blog (like over 9,000 blogger followers and over 15,000 facebook fans popular - okay, it wasn't quite that popular in 2009, but it was still huge).  Anyway, there was some miscommunication of some sort and my post was never published.  An apology was offered and a second invitation was extended for me to share a cookie post, but that one was never published either.  I don't know what happened, but life goes on.
Mini Pecan Tarts with Mascarpone Frosting and Glazed Pecans - ButterYum

Post You Are Most Proud Of
Homemade Italian Chicken Noodle Soup - I know this is a weird one to choose as the post I'm most proud of, especially since I like to make wedding cakes, but this soup is something my family requests whenever they're feeling a bit under the weather.  It warms my heart to know how much they enjoy and find comfort in a steamy hot bowl, and the fact that it helps them feel better... well, for me, it's the icing on the cake ;).
Homemade Italian Chicken Noodle Soup - ButterYum

Now for the list of wonderful bloggers I'd like to pass this assignment on to.  Have fun visiting their wonderful blogs.

Jamie from Jamie Cooks it Up
Tina from Mom's Crazy Cooking
Hilary from Let Her Bake Cake
Sarah from Sugar Cooking
Sasha from The Procrastobaker
Cindy from Hun...What's for Dinner
Nikki from Chef-N-Training

Friday, August 19, 2011

Belated Fireworks

A little late, but I never got around to posting these fireworks photos that I took in July.  This was my first time shooting fireworks... pretty pleased with the way they turned out.  Thought I'd share them with you guys.

Thanks for looking!

Note:  I used what's called the "bulb" setting - it allows the shutter to stay open as long as the shutter button is held down.  Since the exposure is so long, a tripod is essential. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake - ButterYum

Kid #2 recently had a birthday and as expected, he requested his favorite meal - Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, garlic bread, green beans with garlicky mushrooms, and cheesecake.  Easy, right?  Almost - instead of our usual family favorite cheesecake, this year he specifically asked for a peanut butter cheesecake.  Now, if you've been following my blog for any length of time, you probably are aware that I don't like peanut butter desserts, but I managed to come up with this version which is a compilation of a couple of different recipes.  Although I refused to sample the finished product, all of my peanut butter loving taste testers gave it two thumbs up.  Most importantly, the birthday boy proclaimed it to be the best cheesecake ever... so who am I to argue with the birthday boy?  ;)

Peanut Butter Cheesecake featuring Reese's Minis - ButterYum

Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake
Makes one 10-inch Cheesecake (serves 16)
Printable Recipe

12 cream filled chocolate cookies (like Oreos)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
8 ounce package Reese's Minis (reserve 16 for garnish)

16 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)

sweetened whipped cream
reserved mini peanut butter cups (16)

To make the crust:
Position rack in the lower center of the oven. Preheat to 350F.  In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse the cream filled cookies (cream filling and all) and process until finely ground.  Add the melted butter and process until the mixture starts to stick together.  Press the crumb mixture in the bottom of a greased 10-inch springform pan. Bake for about 12 minutes and then set aside to cool while you make the filling.

To make the filling:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment on low speed, combine the cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth; add sugar and continue to beat until smooth.  Now add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the sour cream and vanilla: again, beating until smooth.  Be careful to incorporate as little air as possible.

Pour enough batter into  a 10-inch springform pan pan to cover the bottom crust.  Add all but the 16 reserved mini peanut butter cups and top with remaining batter. Wrap the sides of the springform pan with insulated cake strips and place on a sheet pan (keeps the cheesecake sides from over baking).  Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes.

To make the topping:
Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla until the sugar dissolves; set aside at room temperature until cheesecake is done.  After 1 hour and 25 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the oven, but don't turn it off yet.  Pour sour cream topping onto hot cheesecake and smooth the surface; return to hot oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool for 1 hour before placing in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours (overnight is preferable).

To garnish:
Just before service, fill a large disposable pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip and pipe a decorative border of sweetened whipped cream around the perimeter of the chilled cheesecake and evenly distribute the Reese's peanut butter cup minis.   

Tips for Cheesecake Success:
  • Be sure the ingredients for the cheesecake batter are at room temperature (keep cream cheese wrapped to prevent it from drying out while it comes to room temperature).
  • Mix cheesecake batter on low speed to minimize air incorporation.  Too much air mixed into the batter will cause the cheesecake to puff up and deflate during baking; resulting in a cracked top.
  • Cheesecakes should jiggle a bit in the center when removed from the oven (they continue to cook as they rest).  It's not critical that you know this, but internal temperature in the center of the cheesecake should reach about 150F - I use an instant read digital thermometer to check.
  • Cheesecakes aren't firm enough to cut until they are completely chilled (at least 4 hours - overnight is best)
  • Cheesecakes will absorb lingering odors from the fridge so be sure to store in an airtight container.
  • For professional looking slices, rinse knife with hot water and dry between each cut.

Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake - ButterYum