Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thursday's Tumbles and Stumbles ~ Adventures in Christmas Baking

Today is Christmas and I pray that each of you have a day full of love and companionship.

I decided that this year I would change things up and challenge myself. No, I didn't offer to do Christmas at my house. I'm still not ready or comfortable enough in my skill levels to take the challenge of 75 people in my home for dinner again yet.

Instead of my usual cake pops, Rudolf and Santas, I decided to bake an 8" cheesecake. Actually two of them. One went to a neighbor who elfed me this year. More on that in a bit.

This was a challenge/ adventure that almost undid me. My cheesecake takes about eight hours to make normally, but this was a twenty-four hour for each one. It's a good thing I started on Saturday) I made Double Chocolate and Peppermint Cheesecakes.

The first challenge was making chocolate refrigerator cookies for the solid base of the
cheesecake. Mixing the cookie dough went fine thanks to the stand mixer daughter #2 got me last Christmas. But rolling it into tube and then in plastic wrap was a nightmare. After two hours of playing with it, I finally got them into the freezer to chill. Yeah, they are refrigerator cookies when you have the time to let them chill in the Fridgidaire overnight, but I wanted to bake these off in a few hours. Once chilled, I sliced cookies off the rolls and placed them on a couple large baking pans. I think this is the first tie I used my big oven this year. They turned out perfect. Transferring to cookies from the pan to e rack to cool was another matter. They stuck to the parchment paper. You wouldn't think that any cookie made with THREE pounds of real butter would stick to anything, but they did. Eventually, they all cooled, and then I crumbled them in my mini food processor.

Then came the decorations for the cheesecake. Yes, I suppose  I could have left it plain, but I wanted it Christmasy. So I bought some Bob's Candy Canes to tie in with the peppermint extract I'd be using in the cheesecake part of this dessert.

I'd figured that a couple of raps on the table edge and they'd break into pieces and tearing their wrapper like any other candy cane. Wrong! This wrapper was heavy duty and it stretched. I had to enlist my hubby to unwrap the darn things and he had to use scissors! I'm just glad I didn't buy this brand for my littler grandchildren. Finally after three hours I had naked candy cane pieces. This decorated sides of the cheesecakes. On top of the chocolate ganache covering the cheesecake, I'd planned to pipe frosting poinsettias. I looked all over town for red royal icing to no avail. They were sold out. I could make  royal icing, but coloring it the deep red color I needed would be a problem. Ninety-nine percent of red food coloring has a metallic after taste when used in large amounts. I settled for more crushed candy canes in white chocolate (peppermint bark).

Making the cheesecake portion went along with little difficulty except getting the cream cheese out of its foil liner. Another, 'teeth don't fail me now' moment. Cracking the eggs one by one one-handed was a task I learned too many years ago as a chef. The mixer blended it up beautifully. The whipping cream added volume to make it extra airy.

So it's about 10 PM on Monday when this first cheesecake makes its way into the oven for an hour and ten minutes cook time. This was followed by a the hour cool down in the oven, and release from the springform pan collar to begin its six-hour chill out flavor meld time.

Tuesday, the second one went way faster because I already had the crust prepped. It went into the oven an was cooking while the other one was chilling out. While the second one was doing its major chill out, I decorated the first one.

Mission accomplished! One cheesecake for Christmas dinner with my family at my sister's house and one for my neighbor.

Now about my neighbor. She and her husband bought the house diagonally from mine. At the time she was raising her 4th grandchild. My youngest daughter  used to babysit him for her. She is now raising her fifth out of seven grandchildren. We got our precious Little Bit from her and she's a great neighbor.

December 1st, a Christmas wreath appeared on our front door. I had no idea who put it there but I had my suspicions. The next day, our mailbox was decorated. Then every other day gift bag were left on my door step. An angel with chocolates, a reindeer with peanut brittle, an LED snowman, and a small chest with chocolate chip cookies magically appeared. But I caught one evening as she was dropping off half a dozen cupcakes.

Well Wednesday was my turn to surprise her. I couldn't leave it on her doorstep because it had to be refrigerated. I placed one of the cheesecakes on the plate that had the cupcakes on it. I never return a empty plate that had a kindness on it to begin with. I reciprocate the kindness. I thanked her profusely for the joy she had brought my hubby and I, and handed her the cheesecake. I told her, "God bless you and yours for keeping the Christmas spirit alive. Merry Christmas."

Her smile made all the hard work of this challenging effort worth every minute.

Merry Christmas, y'all and I'll be back soon.

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