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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Neopolitan Cheesecake (Daring Bakers' Challenge, April '09)

Dispensing with the obligatory: The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

This month's Daring Baker's challenge was cheesecake, and I know I say this about every challenge, but this one really excited me. I have made cheesecake countless times, but most of the time I stick with the tried-and-true basic cheesecake with a graham cracker crust (or occasionally a bittersweet chocolate cheesecake). Yummy to be sure, but I have been wanting to branch out for a while now. My mind was a-whirl of possibilities that I had spied over the years: pumpkin cheesecake, caramel turtle cheesecake, cookies-and-cream cheesecake, the possibilities are endless! I can truly say the most difficult part of this challenge was limiting myself to just one cheesecake. And that took a lot of deciding, because I wanted something rich and yet light, appropriate for spring.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tsoureki (Sweet Greek Easter Bread)

One of my most consistent childhood memories is of the tsoureki my Yia-Yia would always bring to my house at Easter. She would get it from the church, and I was always fascinated by the slightly sweet, almond topped bread with a blood-red egg stuffed into it. This year, I decided to try my hand at making my own. I have never made a yeast bread before, and every Easter when I see the tsoureki at the Greek store by my house, I think "I can do that" but I never actually try. So I decided that 2009 would be the year. Ignoring my family's dusty, obligatory "Joys of Greek Cooking" book, I located a recipe online that I liked the look of, from Evelyn/Athens at RecipeZaar.

For those who don't know, tsoureki is a braided Greek sweet bread, traditionally served at Easter. It has many equivalents in other cultures, including: corek (Turkey); panaret (Albanian); choreg (Armenian); and, more distantly, Challah. It is considered a "brioche-like" bread, meaning that it is tender and yet has a dark outer crust courtesy of an egg wash. Although it has the right amount of flour, it does not, however, contain enough butter to be truly considered a brioche bread. In Greece, tsoureki can also be known as lambropsomo, which is a derivative of the Greek name for Easter Sunday, and literally means "shining bread." The outer glossiness of the bread is considered an important symbol for the light of Christ, and the blood-red egg (kokkina avga) is also highly symbolic -- red for the blood of Christ, and egg as a symbol of renewal and rebirth. All of this, of course, went right over my head as a child. I just thought I was getting a yummy dessert!

The prospect of tsoureki-making was exciting to me because it was such a familiar part of my life (and yet I had no clue how to make it), because it was a yeast bread, and because it contained a few elements out of the common way.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Squash Macaroni and Cheese

So, I've been trying to eat healthy lately. Or, at least more healthy than in recent memory. The biggest obstacle between me and my goal? The food! Quite a big obstacle! I love food. I love eating. I love baking. And I am even starting to nurture a budding love of cooking. With this in mind, I got it into my head to scope out some new "healthy" recipes, and I came across this on the Food Network website, from Ellie Krieger's show, Healthy Appetite (which I've personally never even watched, but maybe I should put it on my list).

It is a recipe for squash mac and cheese, and it caught my attention because 1) mac and cheese is a major comfort food for me; 2) I like squash; 3) mac and cheese is not diet friendly; and 4) the recipe uses ingredients like part-skim cheese and 1% milk. Notice how anything health-related is relegated to the end of the list. Ahem. Be that notwithstanding, I decided to give it a try, how bad could it be?