Non-dairy Key Lime Cheesecake Bar with Key Lime Caramel; Plus – A party..and wait, what’s that? A giveaway also?! Who in the what now?? Come on in!

Wow, that’s a mouthful. Anyway, it was quite a hectic weekend, the whole family was down for a kiddush for the daughter, and although I made a whole lot of stuff, I just didn’t have time to take pictures of everything. However, I knew that I had to make at least one thing that I could then post on the blog. I had bought these Key limes a while back, and have been trying to figure out what to do with it.

But before we get cooking, this post is part of this years Rosh Hashana’s Blogger Party, which means a bunch of us weirdos who like food just a little too much, come out with stuff that’s got something to do with Rosh Hashana. What does my post have to do with that? I have no idea, but you could make it and it eat on Rosh Hashana right?

blogger party

Plus there’s also a giveaway! Hooray, for free stuff! The people sponsoring this stuff are giving away 3 of Levana Kirschenbaum’s cookbook – Levana’s Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen.

whole foods kosher

Here are the details –

Welcome to the first ever Jewish Holiday Blog Party, hosted by Jessie of Taste and Miriam of Overtime Cook, and sponsored by Kitchen Aid! As you may know, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year is coming up, and Jewish bloggers from all over the world are celebrating with all kinds of twists on traditional Rosh Hashanah foods.
To kick off the celebration, Levana Kirschenbaum is giving away a copy of her fabulous new book, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen to three lucky winners. To enter, leave a comment on this post. Limit one entry per reader per blog so click over to the other participating blogs below for your chance at additional entries! Giveaway ends 5 am eastern time on September 11th, 2012.
Prize is sponsored by Levana and available to readers from all blogs participating in the Rosh Hashanah Blog Party. Prize can only be shipped within the US.
This is the first of hopefully many exciting Holiday Blog Parties, so if you would like to join in the fun, please email holidayblogparties@gmail.com.
Stop by and check out some of these amazing Rosh Hashanah themed recipes on the following blogs:

 

Challah and Bread:

Marlene of The Jewish Hostess made Apple Challah
Amanda of The Challah Blog made Pomegranate Challah
Shelly of The Kosher Home made Apple, Honey and Pomegranate Challah!
Sides, Salads and Starters:
Sarah of Food, Words, Photos made Tzimmes (Rosh Hashanah Carrots)
Tali of More Quiche, Please made Roasted Beets and Butternut Squash
Roberta and Lois of Kosher Eye made Simanim Salad
Chanie of Busy In Brooklyn made Pomegranate Coleslaw
Rivki of Life in the Married Lane made Super Salad
Hannah of Cooking Manager made Beets Marinated with Ginger and Garlic
Sina of The Kosher Spoon made Pomegranate, Almond and Raisin Couscous
Shulie of Food Wanderings made Rosh Hashanah Salad
Hindy of Confident Cook-Hesitant Baker made Warm Roasted Beets with Farro
Sarah of Kosher Street made Sweet Potato Apple Tzimmes
Main Dishes:
Jessie of Taste made Smoked Salmon
Samantha of The Little Ferraro Kitchen made Chicken with Dates
Michele of Kosher Treif Cooking made Coconut Chicken Strips with two dipping sauces
Melinda of Kitchen Tested made Key Lime Glazed Duck
Stephanie and Jessica of The Kosher Foodies made Chicken Braised in Pomegranate
Liz of The Lemon Bowl made Beef Brisket
Estee of Anyone Interested? made Easy Breazy 5 Minute Brisket
Desserts and Drinks:
Miriam of Overtime Cook made Mini Apples and Honey Tarts
Laura of Pragmatic Attic made Fresh Ginger Honey Cake
Susan of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen made Honey Caramel Apple Galette
Danielle of Hugs and Cookies xoxo made The World’s Best Rugelach
Amy of What Jew Wanna Eat made an Apple and Honey Cocktail
Nick of The Baking Process made Apple and Date Honey Squares
Lisa of The Monday Morning Cooking Club made Honey Chiffon Cake and Traditional Honey Cake
Leah of Cook Kosher made Pomegranate Ice Cream
Nossi of The Kosher Gastronome made Non-dairy Key Lime Cheesecake Bar with Key Lime Caramel

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So anyway, back to business, I got it in my brain when I bought these, that I wanted to make some sort of cheesecake bar, but I pushed it off, and pushed it off some more, thinking to myself that I wanted to come up with something else, but alas my brain couldn’t come up with anything. Obviously, I could have made Key Lime Pie, but that would have been too obvious, so that was out (plus, traditional key lime pie is made with sweetened condensed milk, which back in the day since the Keys in southern Florida was very inaccessible was the only thing they had to use to make key lime pie (since milk wasn’t available), but I believe I’m in the process of digressing, so I’ll stop now).

I don’t know how well you know me yet, but I couldn’t just look up a recipe for key lime cheesecake bar, because I had to do it my way. I’m kinda stubborn that way. There were really two steps to the cheesecake bar, the “bar” part and the cheesecake part. For the bar part, I decided to go with a shortbread recipe, and followed the ratio of 1 part sugar 1 part margarine, and 3 parts flour.

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Start by creaming the sugar and margarine, and in order to do that properly, the margarine needs to be at room temperature. I find that limes go well with coconuts, so I used half margarine and half coconut oil (which has the advantage of being at room temperature already, and in recent times has been touted as being better for you than margarine). So into your mixer goes 2/3 cup sugar with 1/3 cup margarine, and 1/3 cup coconut oil (which is a little more than 5 tablespoons by the way), and cream away, until a paste forms. The whole purpose of creaming margarine, is to allow the sugar to punch tiny holes in the fat, which will aerate the dough, which is why it’s crucial for the fat to be at room temperature.

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Scrape that down, and add in your flour (2 cups), salt and vanilla, and continue mixing until it just comes together.

DSC_3206 This is very similar to making a streusal topping, but instead of sprinkling all of this over something, we’re going to press it into a pan, dock it (ie poke it a bunch of times with a fork) and bake it at 350 until nice and golden, approximately 15-20 minutes.

DSC_3207  Now for the cheesecake part. Again, my stubbornness was shining through, and I couldn’t just look up a cheesecake recipe, because that’s what normal people do. No, I had to do it by myself, like the 2 year old I am.

So by classification, a cheesecake is really a custard made with cheese. A custard is pretty much any liquid mixed with eggs, that’s cooked gently so the egg can set up into a solid gel. For a cheesecake, the cheese takes the place of the liquid, and in order to aerate it a little, we cream the cheese with the sugar, and then mix in the eggs. Since we’re going to be making this parve, we used dairy free cream cheese, and dairy free sour cream. Again, the cheese needs to be at room temperature in order to cream properly.

The ratio I normally use for a free standing custard is 2 parts liquid to 1 part egg, as in a creme caramel, or a quiche. If you decrease the amount of eggs and increase the amount of liquid, you get a looser custard (think ice cream, [which happens to be thickened by the process of freezing] or creme anglais [which can be a sauce, and thin, or thickened by a starch…]), or if you remove the whites, and just use yolks, you also get a looser custard (eg a creme brulee).

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I started by creaming equal weights of the cream cheese and sugar (8 oz, or 225grams), until smooth, and then added in the 4 eggs one at a time. Then I added 1/4 cup of the key lime juice, the zest (more on that in a bit), some vanilla extract, and about 6 oz of the non-dairy sour cream, and mixed until smooth.

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I poured it over the now cooled crust, and baked in a 300 degree oven, for about 30 minutes (if you can, bake it in a water bath because of how gently it heats it, but my pan didn’t fit in another container). You want to take it out when it’s still slightly jiggly because it continues to cook after it’s out of the oven, and if you take it out when it’s done, by the time it’s finished cooking, it will be overdone.

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That’s it for the cheesecake bar, but wait there’s more!

Didja notice the “with key lime caramel” part of the heading? Were you wondering what heck that was? Well wonder no more my friend. I saw this idea on Gilt Taste, where they were talking about making caramel sauce, and traditionally it’s made by cooking sugar down to the caramel stage (320-350 degrees), and at which point you add heavy cream, to get what we normally call “caramel,” and they talked about instead of adding heavy cream, why not strawberry puree, and make a strawberry caramel sauce. Well that got me thinking, what about adding key lime juice? So guess what? That’s what I did.

I brought 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water to a boil, and let it cook, until color started to form

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I didn’t use a candy thermometer, but just estimated when it was nice and dark, and added the lime juice. It will bubble like crazy, and that’s normal.

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Then I poured that over the cooled cheesecake, and let it set up

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There’s a lot more to say on the topic of candy making, and the science behind it, but I think I’ve taken up plenty of your time, so maybe another time.

Now for critique – the texture of the cheesecake and the bar, were pretty good in my opinion. I think it was a little too tart partly because of the lime zest (which I would leave out next time), and the amount of lime juice I used (I used a total of 1/2 cup [1/4 cup in the cheesecake, and 1/4 in the caramel sauce]) and I think next time I make it, I would decrease that amount also. Also the caramel sauce never set up into a hard candy like shell, which is what I was going for, and that could also be because I added too much lime juice, and it was more like a creme caramel topping consistency, which isn’t a bad thing, but not what I was anticipating.

Also, I poured it on the cheesecake right away, it to harden, but it never did. I don’t know what I would do differently next time. I would decrease the amount of lime, and possibly, wait a little more before pouring it over the cheesecake. Another thing that happened, was even though I added the caramel after the cheesecake was cool, it formed these cracks in the cheesecake, which was more an esthetic issue then anything else, and since the caramel was slightly runny, it seeped into the cracks. Another option is instead of using 1/4 water, I would use the lime juice. The only problem I see with that is, the whole time you’re cooking the sugar, you’re cooking off the water, so it will all but cook off, but maybe the flavors will stay behind just enough to shine through. I don’t know, but it’s definitely worth a try.

It was still servable, and I think the general consensus was that it was pretty good. Oh well, azoy gaytis, ammiright? Or instead of calling it a “caramel,” I would call it a key lime creme caramel, so it’s supposed to be runny, right? I’m a genius

Well that’s it for now, thanks for joining me for this years Rosh Hashana Blogger Party, and I hope you enjoyed, and don’t forget to comment away, and to visit the other blogs, which I’m sure you’ll be able to get real recipes, that you can actually use…at least you come here for the comedic genius, I know 😉

Non-dairy Key Lime Cheesecake Bar with Key Lime Caramel

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup margarin/shortening/coconut oil (I used 1/3 cup margarine, and 1/3 coconut oil), room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package of non-dairy cream cheese (such as Tofutti brand) – 8 oz/ 225 grams , room temp
  • 6 oz non-dairy sour cream (1/2 a tub), room temp
  • 8 oz sugar (which I think comes out to 1 cup)
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons lime juice, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. To make the Crust: Cream the room temp margarine, and coconut oil, with the sugar, until a smooth paste forms. Add vanilla and salt.
  3. Add flour and combine until it just comes together.
  4. Press the dough into a 9×13 pan, and dock with a fork all over
  5. Bake until golden brown. Appx – 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool.
  6. Lower the oven to 300
  7. To make the Cheesecake: Combine the room temperature cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar, and cream.
  8. Add eggs one at a time, waiting for each one to incorporate before adding the next one.
  9. Add 2 tablespoons lime juice, and vanilla extract, and combine
  10. Pour over cooled crust, and bake until just barely set, approximately 30-35 minutes. The center should still be slightly jiggly, so keep an eye on it.
  11. Allow to cool, and completely set, before adding the caramel layer
  12. To make the key lime caramel: Combine sugar and water, and bring to a boil, and allow to boil without touching the pot until color starts to form.
  13. Once there’s some color, gently swirl the pan, but avoid sloshing it around too much (if you do, you run the risk of having particles burn on the walls of the pan, but if you do have some sugar on the side, you can always brush it away with a wet pastry brush…).
  14. Lower the heat to medium, and allow to slowly get darker, and thicker, until really dark, but not burnt, turn off heat, and add the remaining 3 tablespoons lime juice. It will bubble vigorously. Wait for it to cool, but still warm, so it doesn’t set, and pour over the cheesecake to allow to (hopefully) set.
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Crème Caramel

In my humble probably wrong opinion, proteins are probably the most versatile and important molecule in cooking. They’re responsible for those awesome Mailard reaction flavors that we’ve spoken about before, but they’re also responsible for a lot more. We don’t have to look any further than the ever versatile egg. Want to whip up egg whites? Make an omelet? Yeah that’s right, it’s all thanks to proteins. Proteins are like big balls of yarn, all tangled up and such, and a lot of cooking involves unwinding the big ball, and re-forming them into a cohesive structure.

broken-egg

When you want to make an omelet, you crack open some eggs, which are a liquid, and put some heat on it, and blammo – you got yourself a solid. The same thing happens when making whipped egg whites, some mechanical intervention, and baddaboom, you got yourself a different structure. But how?

Well heat “denatures” proteins, which is the technical term for un-tangling the ball of yarn, and the newly opened up protein thing-a-ma-bob can now reform into a more solidified thing-a-ma-bob. So basically all there is to it, is the protein denaturing, and re forming. So pretty much, when we cook any protein (think meat, eggs, chicken, etc..) we first have to denature the protein (un ravel the yarn) and then put it all back together, in a way we want it. What’s going on, is imagine this newly unraveled yarn as a long string, and all along that string there are different areas that can now bond to a different unraveled yarn, and when they bond to each other, that gives you the dish’s structure. That’s it.

There is however one caveat, we don’t want all of the different areas that can bond, to actually make that bond, because then the proteins will clink too strongly to each other, which is bad (ie – chewy steak and chicken, rubbery eggs, whipped eggs that weep…), so the trick when cooking pretty much any protein is to not overcook it (yeah I know – thank you captain obvious).

Ok on to crème caramels. Crème caramel is a custard, which has caramel on the bottom of the dish, and then baked, and then turned over so the caramel is pretty much on top of the custard. Traditionally a custard is any egg and milk mixture. It can be baked, served raw, made into an ice cream, and all that fancy jazz. I say traditionally, because it really doesn’t have to be made with milk, and for us on team kosher, we sometimes need to find good substitutes for milk. Since you hate when I talk all chemistry up in this house, I’m going to spare you the details, but suffice it to say, that if it was plain water and eggs, it wouldn’t work, but if you add some added “stuff” to the water, then it will work. (There really is a good enough explanation for it, and anyone willing to risk their brain imploding with information overload, just ask away, and I’ll be happy to explain…by the way, now that I have you here in between these parenthesis, have you checked out The Kosher Gastronome fan page on Facebook yet? Well you should, and you know what else you should do, click on the “like” button over there, because you love me, and there’s no “love” button, so “like” will just have to do it for you…Oh and feel free to comment away over there also, that way people will think there’s a whole party going on over there, and they’ll be jealous…it will be awesome…Ok that’s it for now, I’ll let you go back to reading the rest of the article)

Ok, so if you’re lost, and trying to figure out what’s going on – custard…milk and eggs…don’t really need milk…water with “stuff” is good enough…so basically any parve milk substitute will work. Heck, chicken soup will work, even water with just a few pinches of salt will work…but it will probably not taste all that good.

First make the caramel.

Just to clarify, caramel is 2 parts sugar and 1 part water cooked together to a certain temperature, depending on what your final product is. The stages are – 1) thread, 2) soft-ball, 3) hard ball, 4) soft crack, 5)hard crack, in that order, and of course each one is a description of how the caramel behaves then, and the best way to know you’re at a specific stage is by temperature. So for this dish, we cooked the caramel to the soft crack stage, which is about 280 degrees, although if/when I make this again, I would go all the way to the hard crack stage, which is about 300 degrees. You’ll see why below.

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While the caramel is still hot, and liquidy, pour it in to your dish, and let it cool.

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Now it’s time to whip up the custard part. Most recipes call for the milk substitute to be heated, and then adding it slowly to the eggs while whisking (aka – tempering). You really don’t need to heat up the milk substitute (I’m just going to call it milk, because you know what’s annoying? spelling the word substitute, there’s just way too many “t”s in there), unless you’re trying to infuse a flavor that can’t be readily mixed in. Meaning, if you’re going to use vanilla extract, just mix it all together, and skip the heat up part. However, if you’re so devoted to being a foodie elitist, like myself, and decided you just had to use real vanilla beans, then you will have to heat the milk up.

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You just need to heat it up to a simmer, and let it sit for a few minutes so the flavors blend.

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Whip together the eggs, yolks and sugar until it becomes pale in color.

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Then, if you heated up the milk, it needs to be strained of the vanilla pod, and added slowly to the eggs. The easiest way to do this is, is to wrap a towel around the base of the egg bowl, and pouring the milk into a measuring cup.

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That way, you can pour and mix at the same time, without holding on to the bowl…brilliant!

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See? My mom was right, I am a genius.

Pour the custard over the now hardened caramel, and put all of your dishes into one big baking dish, and pour hot water into the baking dish, so it comes about half way up on the custard dishes.

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Baking the custard in a water bath allows the proteins to cook more evenly, and not over cook.

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Then pop these in the fridge for at least 3 hours, and when you’re ready to serve them, just run a knife around the edges, place a small plate on top, and flip it over, so it pops out.

Look how fancy

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That last picture was from my phone, and if you don’t like the picture, well here at Gastronome headquarters, we’re looking for someone to sponsor a D-SLR camera. I don’t know the first thing about photography, but I can pretend I do with that shiny new camera, and buying it for me will make you feel good about yourself too.

As for the custard, I thought it was great. The caramel top (or is it bottom?) became a little too runny, and I would have rather it stayed put on top of the custard, and that’s why next time, I’m going to cook the caramel to the hard-ball stage. The actual custard tasted great, and I loved the real vanilla in it, and had the consistency of, well, custard. Someone, who shall remain nameless, thought it tasted like “lukshen kugel,” I know, a complete disgrace, and someone poignantly retorted – “no, lukshen kugel tastes like this.” To explain – lukshen kugel (noodle kugel for the inundated), is also a custard, with some noodles baked in it. So, when you’re trying to figure out what it tastes like, just know if it reminds you of lukshen kugel, it’s because lukshen kugel is a type of custard.

Are we done yet?

Crème Caramel

Ingredients:

For the caramel:

  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water

For the custard:

  • 2 cups of milk substitute
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract)
  • 2/3 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 yolks

Directions:

  1. To make the caramel – combine the sugar and water together, and turn the heat up to high, and let it cook until a thermometer registers 300 (for the hard-ball stage)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350, and bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  3. To make the custard – if you’re using a vanilla bean, bring the milk to a simmer, scrape the bean, and it and the pod to the milk, and let the vanilla and milk sit for a few minutes for the flavors to infuse. (If you’re using vanilla extract, just mix milk and vanilla together, and you can add it all at once to egg mixture, once the egg mixture is thoroughly whipped.)
  4. In another bowl, mix together eggs, egg yolks, and sugar, and whisk vigorously until it becomes pale in color.
  5. Add the milk mixture to the egg mixture slowly, whisking the whole time.
  6. Pour custard into your dish of choice, and put that dish, into a larger baking dish, and add boiling water to the bigger dish, to come halfway up the sides of the custard dish.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes. The middle will be a little jiggly, and that’s ok. Remove from the water bath, and allow it to cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  8. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edges, and place a plate on top, and flip over to un-mold