HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!
Although St. Patrick’s Day started out as a religious feast holiday, celebrating the life of St Patrick, it has become kind of a mixture of non-religious celebrations steeped in Irish culture, folklore and superstition.
Each year on March 17th, we break out every piece of green clothing and jewelry, dye food green etc. … not quite the way it was celebrated in the 7th century. Green wasn’t even part of the equation. The original color associated with St. Patrick’s day was actually blue. One of the reason’s green replaced blue was because of Ireland’s nickname, The Emerald Isle.
For my food tribute to acknowledge St. Patrick’s day, I’m making some Bailey’s Irish Cream cheesecakes. This iconic liqueur came about when R & A Bailey found a way of bringing together the two great Irish traditions of distilling and dairy farming. Launched in 1975, Bailey’s Irish Cream can best be described as moderately sweet with roasted nut, maple sugar, spice and fig aromas. The liqueur is not only enjoyed on the rocks, in coffee or in cocktails but as a topping or baking ingredient.
These fuss-free chocolate cups work well with the unbaked Irish Cream cheesecake filling.
Irish Cream Cheesecake in Chocolate Cups
Irish Cream Cheesecake Filling
Paper-line 8 muffin cups. In a microwave-safe bowl, place chocolate wafers. Microwave chocolate in short increments of time until chocolate is almost melted. Then stir until the chocolate is smooth.
With a pastry brush, thickly & evenly coat inside pleated surface & bottom of each paper cup with melted chocolate. Refrigerate coated cups for 10 minutes or until firm. Remove from refrigerator, carefully peel paper from each cup. (Will keep for a good length of time in an airtight container in refrigerator.)
Irish Cream Cheesecake Filling
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the gelatin & 1/4 cup heavy cream. Set aside for 5 minutes.
With a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar & salt until creamy & smooth. Slowly pour in the Irish cream & remaining heavy cream. Increase the speed to medium & beat until smooth & creamy, 1-2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
After the gelatin has absorbed a good bit of the cream, microwave the gelatin mixture for 25 seconds to melt it. With the mixer on medium-low, slowly pour the melted gelatin mixture into the cream cheese mixture. Increase speed to medium-high & beat till fluffy & voluminous, about 2 minutes.
Pour mixture into chocolate cups & refrigerate for at least one hour. These cheesecakes are fine unadorned but nothing says you can't top them with a dollop of whipped cream & a few blueberries.
For most of us our taste in desserts has evolved from our childhood days. I really don’t recall my mother ever making the classic rice krispie treats — you know the one — chewy, crunchy, marshmallowy! Since she was someone who loved to bake and cook, desserts were the ‘norm’. My dad loved meat, potatoes and sweets, which was all fine being a hard working farmer. It all balanced out, but for us kids, inheriting that love of sweets hasn’t always been a good thing. Nevertheless, like I mentioned, our tastes do evolve.
Quite a few years back, I made a version of rice krispie bars which were called ‘sinless snack bars’. They not only used rice krispies and marshmallows but some more ‘healthy’ ingredients such as flax and pumpkin seeds along with some dried cranberries.
We all know, it wouldn’t be summer without having cheesecake so I’m thinking why not incorporate these two favorites into one. Then take it just a step further and top it with a tropical flavor. I think, this version bridges the gap between a nostalgic childhood treat to an adult indulgence. You be the judge!
Tropical Rice Crispy Cheesecakes
Rice Krispie Base
Line a 9 X 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Lightly butter foil & a wooden spoon. In a large bowl, combine rice krispies, flax flakes, pumpkin seeds,flax seeds & salt. In a large pot, melt butter; add marshmallows & stir with wooden spoon until marshmallows have completely melted. Stir in vanilla then add rice krispie mixture & QUICKLY combine well.
Transfer mixture to the prepared pan; press into an even layer while warm. Let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes until firm.
MAKE GUAVA GLAZE AT THIS TIME then continue with cheesecake layer.
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine gelatin with 2 Tbsp water; set aside to soften, about 5 minutes. Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed with a hand mixer until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of bowl. Add sour cream, sugar, lemon juice & vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
Microwave the gelatin in 10 second increments, stirring as needed, until it dissolves, 30-50 seconds. Pour the gelatin into cream cheese mixture; beat on medium-high speed until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cooled rice krispie layer. Spread out evenly with an offset spatula. Spoon small amounts of guava glaze to be swirled in a random pattern onto cheesecake batter. With the tip of a knife, swirl glaze to form a pretty pattern. Sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts.
Wrap the pan loosely with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight until set. Remove from refrigerator & cut into squares.
In a small saucepan, combine guava paste & water. Place over low heat only until warm to the touch. Transfer the mixture to a food processor & pulse until smooth. Stir in fresh lemon juice.
- Don't hesitate to make these in any shape you choose.
I have always enjoyed making (and eating) tea breads. They can come in all sizes and even though they are called bread, for most part, I’d say they are cake.
Tea breads are part of the quick bread genre. They are considered quick because they don’t require kneading or rising time. Instead of yeast, usually baking powder or baking soda or a combination of both are used as a leavening agent.
Afternoon tea, the quintessential English custom, was introduced in England by a Duchess in the year 1840. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at 8 PM, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner (supper). The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread/butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. Upper class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five PM.
This tea loaf, pairs sweet, ripe strawberries with the bright, clean flavor of lemon zest and is topped off with a tangy kiwi glaze. A match made in food heaven.
Strawberry Tea Loaf with Fresh Kiwi Glaze
Strawberry Tea Loaf
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan, line bottom with strip of parchment paper with 2-inch overhang on either end.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, applesauce, lemon zest & vanilla. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated. Fold in prepared strawberries. Scrape batter into pan.
Bake 50-60 minutes, or until cake tested with a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan, set on wire rack, 20 minutes before using parchment overhang to lift out loaf. Cool completely on rack. Slice & serve with kiwi glaze.
In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water & set aside to soften. Peel the kiwi and blend in a food processor or blender until pureed. Be careful not to over-process as the black seeds will break down & change the color of the puree.
Add the kiwi puree to gelatin mixture. Heat mixture to dissolve gelatin but do not over heat. Continue to stir until dissolved. Keep covered in refrigerator until needed.