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FOOD FUN: Birthday Cheesecake Recipe

Birthday Cheesecake

Birthday Cheesecake

Chocolate Ganache Cheesecake

[1] A birthday cheesecake with sprinkles inside (photo from Wine & Glue). [2] Instead of the standard cheesecake graham cracker crust (like this one from Sally’s Baking Addiction), we used a birthday-like sponge cake layer. [3] We love a chocolate ganache topping on cheesecake (photo courtesy Baked By Nature).

 

Some birthday boys and girls prefer cheesecake to a birthday cake. Even those who like cake may have tired of the conventional cake with buttercream filling and frosting.

If the celebrant is a cheesecake lover, make it a special birthday cheesecake with sprinkles or confetti, and an optional chocolate ganache top.

Plan ahead: the cream cheese needs several hours to soften to room temperature.

We adapted the recipe below from one by Lisa of Wine & Glue.

Lisa calls her recipe Cake Batter Cheesecake, but we changed the name to Birthday Cheesecake because there’s no cake batter.

(On the other hand, if you want to make cake batter ice cream, which does use cake mix for that cake batter taste, head here or here.)

We also added a cake crust adapted from one by King Arthur Flour, and the chocolate ganache frosting for chocoholics.

For more dressed-up cheesecake ideas, check out Pimp Your Cheesecake.

RECIPE: BIRTHDAY CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

  • 3 eight-ounce bricks quality cream cheese (full fat), softened to room temperature
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles/confetti, plus extra for top if desired
  •  
    For The Sponge Cake Crust

  • Softened unsalted butter, for buttering the pan
  • 1/3 cup sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 drops pure lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  •  
    Plus

  • 9-inch springform pan
  • Foil
  • Birthday candles
  •  
    For A Ganache Top

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: sprinkles/confetti or chocolate shavings
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter the bottom and side of a 9- or 8-inch springform pan (preferably nonstick). Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending it all the way up the side (this prevents leakage).

    2. SIFT together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks on high for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. With the mixer running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until thick, light yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts.

    3. SIFT the flour mixture over the batter and mix it with a spoon, until there are no remaining white flecks (do not over-mix). Blend in the melted butter. In a clean bowl using clean, dry beaters…

    4. BEAT the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high, until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry).

    5. FOLD about one-third of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. If there are still a few white specks, they’ll disappear during baking.

    6. GENTLY SPREAD the batter over the bottom of the pan and bake just until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Watch carefully and don’t let the top brown. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it’s done. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool.

    7. INCREASE the oven heat to 375°F and prepare the filling. With the mixer on low, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Then beat in the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and almond extract. Finally, beat in the eggs.

    8. CONTINUE mixing until you can no longer see any yolk (it’s O.K. if the batter has a few lumps). Slowly mix in the sprinkles with a spoon.

    9. POUR the batter into a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 40 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake sit for an additional half hour. Remove the pan from the oven, let cool, and chill at least four hours or overnight in the fridge.

    10. MAKE the optional ganache. Place the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl and set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, until it begins to bubble around the edges, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute.

    11. WHISK the mixture until the chocolate melts and a smooth ganache forms; about 2 minutes. Pour the ganache over the cheesecake. Leave plain or garnish as desired. If you don’t use sprinkles to garnish, the birthday cake underneath will be a surprise. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

     
    MORE BIRTHDAY RECIPES FROM LISA

  • Cheesecake Batter Cookie Dip
  • Birthday Cake Bark
  •  
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Stenciled Cheese For Holidays (St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas…)

    Add a little luck of the Irish to cheese and other foods, by creating a shamrock garnish made of herbs.

    You can apply the same technique to other themes: Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day hearts, stars for Christmas, Independence Day and New Year’s, pumpkins for Halloween, and so forth.

    You also can use edible glitter, which provides no flavor but adds gorgeous color.

    Spices allow you to play with the colors of the garnish, for example:

  • For Christmas, make separate stencils for green herbs and red spices.
  • Red spices for hearts: cayenne, chile flakes, kebab masala, paprika, red tandoori spice blend.
  • Yellow spices or gold glitter for stars: coriander seeds, cumin, curry, fenugreek, ras el hanout, turmeric.
  • Orange spices for Halloween and Thanksgiving: Cajun seasoning, tandoori masala.
  •  
    RECIPE: STENCILED CHEESE

    Select any cheese(s) that’s moist enough to hold the herbs: burrata, cream cheese log, goat cheese log, feta, fresh mozzarella, paneer, queso panela or ricotta salata.

    Print out the shamrock stencil (or other design) here. Print out a few copies for cutting practice.

    You can make a regular stencil or a reverse stencil, both shown in the photo.

    Ingredients

  • Assorted fresh herbs, finely chopped
  • Cheese(s) of choice
  • Paper stencil
  • Small piece plastic wrap
  • For serving: bread, crackers, fruit
  •  
    ________________
    *Blend two or three herbs: dill, chervil, chives, parsley or tarragon, etc.

     

    Shamrock Cheese

    Herb & Spice Colors

    [1] Shamrock style with a stencil (photo and recipe idea courtesy Vermont Creamery). [2] Spices and herbs provide colors for any occasion (photo courtesy Renegade Expressions).

     
    Preparation

    1. CUT out the shamrock stencil and press it firmly onto the cheese.

    2. PRESS the herbs into the stencil. You can place a piece of plastic wrap over the herbs for easier pressing.

    3. GENTLY PEEL off the plastic and stencil. Clean the lines with a pointed tweezers, as needed.

    4. SERVE with bread, crackers and fruit (apples, grapes, orange/mandarin segments, pears, etc).
     
     
    TIP FOR SLICED FRUIT

    Instead of coating apples or pears in lemon juice to keep them from browning, coat them in calcium-fortified 100% apple juice.

    Here are more ways to keep fruits from browning.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Reuben Sandwich Day & Recipe For Reuben Muffins

    Reuben Sandwich

    Reuben On Marble Rye

    Turkey Reuben On Rye

    [1] A classic Reuben Sandwich (photo J. Java |Fotolia). [2] A Reuben on marble rye (photo courtesy Boar’s Head). [3] A Turkey Reuben on plain rye instead of pumpernickel (photo National Turkey Federation).

     

    In 2013, March 14th was declared National Reuben Sandwich Day by the city of Omaha, birthplace of the Reuben Sandwich.

    HISTORY OF THE REUBEN SANDWICH

    As the story goes, Reuben Kulakofsky (1873-1960), a Jewish Lithuanian-born wholesale grocer, invented the sandwich in the late 1920s for his weekly poker game. He may have had input from members of the group, which held forth in the Blackstone Hotel from about 1920 through 1935.

    The Reuben he created is a grilled or toasted sandwich on rye or pumpernickel, with generous amounts of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and either Russian or Thousand Island dressing (the difference is the pickle relish in the latter).

    Among the poker players was the hotel’s owner, Charles Schimmel, who added it to the Blackstone’s lunch menu, where it was quite popular.

    But the Reuben Sandwich became known nationally when a hotel employee won a national contest with the recipe.

    The National Sandwich Idea Contest was a promotion held during National Sandwich Month, to inspire professional cooks to create excitement in the sandwich category. It was sponsored by the Chicago-based Wheat Flour Institute.

    The first winners were announced in 1956, and top honors went to Fern Snider, a cook at the Blackstone [source]. The sandwich recipe was provided (restaurant sized, for 48 sandwiches!) to restaurants nationwide.

    Another story credits Arnold Reuben (1883-1970), the German-Jewish owner of the Reuben’s Delicatessen in New York City (open 1908 to 2001, changing locations numerous times).

    In a 1938 interview with Arnold Manoff, a writer with the Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA, Arnold Reuben details his creation of the “Reuben Special,” but it was made with roast beef, not corned beef, in 1926 [source—a seven-page transcript of the interview].

    He also claims, in that interview, to have created the concept of sandwiches named for celebrities. That claim is not contested.

    The evidence says Omaha wins. But it took until March 2013, in Omaha, for the mayor to proclaim March 14th as Reuben Sandwich Day.

    Check out our Sandwich Glossary for other sandwich histories.
     
    REUBEN SANDWICH VARIATIONS

    The Reuben has been adapted many times over, including a substitute of pastrami, turkey (photo #2) or tongue for the corned beef, and coleslaw for the sauerkraut. Rye or marble rye (photo #2) can stand in for the pumpernickel.

    Some variations aren’t grilled (so the cheese isn’t melted, alas). Some variations:

  • Georgia Reuben: a Michigan variant of a turkey Reuben that substitutes barbecue sauce or French dressing for the Russian/Thousand Island dressing.
  • Grouper Reuben: a Florida specialty that substitutes local grouper for the corned beef.
  • Lobster Reuben: this Florida Keys variation substitutes lobster for the corned beef.
  • Montreal Reuben: substitutes Montreal-style smoked meat for corned beef.
  • Walleye Reuben: a Minnesota version that features the state fish, the walleye, instead of corned beef.
  • West Coast Reuben: substitutes Dijon mustard for the Thousand Island dressing.
  •  
    We’ve also published recipes for Reuben Egg Rolls (photo #5) and Reuben Collard Wraps (photo #6).

    A Reuben on a pumpkernickel bagel (photo #7). Oy vey! A pumpernickel wrap sandwich is a much better homage (they’re made by Tumaro’s and can be found nationwide, including at Walmart).

    How about Reuben Tacos?

    This year we have Reuben Biscuits (photo #3). The recipe follows.

     

    RECIPE: REUBEN MUFFINS

    Thanks to King Arthur Flour for this variation (photo #4). Prep time is 15-20 minutes, bake time is 22-24 minutes.

    The muffins are delicious with scrambled eggs.

    Ingredients For 15 Biscuits

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 cup diced Swiss cheese (1/4″ dice)
  • 3/4 cup diced ham (1/4″ dice)
  • 1/3 cup well-drained sauerkraut
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Cream for brushing
  • Optional: Thousand Island dressing
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment.

    2. WHISK together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Work the butter into the flour until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. Mix in the cheese, ham and sauerkraut until evenly distributed.

    3. WHISK together the sour cream and milk and add to the dough, stirring to combine. The dough should be sticky. Drop the dough by the 1/4-cupful onto the prepared baking sheet (a muffin scoop works well here).

    The biscuits can be spaced quite close together. About 1″ apart is fine.

    4. BRUSH the biscuits with a bit of cream; this will help their crust brown.

    5. BAKE the biscuits for 22 to 24 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool slightly in the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Thousand Island dressing is a nice accompaniment.
     
     
    MORE REUBEN RECIPES

  • Reuben Egg Rolls
  • Reuben Collard Wraps (meat or vegan)
  • Reuben Tacos
  • Reuben Burger
  • Vegetarian Reuben with vegan pastrami
  • Reuben Hors Bites or Beer Bites
  • Reuben Hot Dogs
  • Reuben ravioli from Chef Michael Symon
  •  

    Reuben Biscuits

    Reuben Egg Rolls

    Reuben Collard Wrap

    Reuben On A Bagel

    [4] Reuben Biscuits (recipe and photo courtesy King Arthur Flour. [5] An Egg Roll Reuben (photo courtesy Dietz & Watson). [6] A Reuben Collard Wrap (photo courtesy Spring Vegan). [7] Reuben on a pumpernickel bagel—with added mustard. Oy vey! (photo courtesy

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spuds For St. Patrick’s Day

    Broccoli Stuffed Potato

    Basiron Green Cheese

    Colcannon Baked Potato

    Green Colcannon

    ]1] Broccoli-topped baked potato. Instead of cheddar, pick up [2] this Basiron Green Pesto Gouda (check Walmart or iGourmet). Here’s the recipe from Skinny Taste. [3] Conventional colcannon in a baked potato, versus [4] green colcannon from Food Wishes | YouTube.

     

    Turn a stuffed baked potato into a St. Patrick’s Day spud with creative toppings or fillings.

    Some work with a conventional topping of sour cream and chives; others take on a personality all their own.

    BAKED POTATO TOPPINGS

  • Corned beef and cabbage: diced corned beef and sauerkraut. Check out this recipe for Reuben Stuffed Potatoes.
  • Green vegetables: favorite cooked green vegetables(photo #1).
  • Guacamole.
  • Salad: Lightly dress a salad of baby spinach and baby arugula or watercress, and top the potato.
  • Shaved green cheese: Use Basiron Green Pesto Gouda (photo #2).
  • Sour cream and green tobiko.
  • Sour cream tinted green, topped with minced chives.
  • Spinach dip with lots of spinach and a sour cream base.
  •  
    BAKED POTATO FILLINGS

  • Pesto mashed potatoes: Scoop out the potatoes, mix with bright green pesto, season and stuff the potato shell.
  • Colcannon: Make the special green colcannon recipe, below. You can fill the baked potato, or eat the colcannon straight.
  •  
    CHEF JOHN’S GREEN COLCANNNON

    Thanks to Chef John for making colcannon more green for St. Patrick’s Day.

    Colcannon is a traditional Irish mashed potato dish made from potatoes, kale or cabbage, milk or cream, butter and salt and pepper added.

    It can also contain a member of the onion group: chives, green onions (scallions), leeks or regular onions (different types of onions and how to use them).

    Chef John makes the traditional colcannon (shown stuffed in a baked potato in photo #3) more green, by adding more kale and green onions in addition to the leek.

    Ingredients

  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces kale or chard, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 leek, light parts only, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions), chopped, white and green parts separated
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons butter, for serving
  • 1/4 cup green onions to garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BOIL the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and lightly mash the potatoes.

     
    2. BOIL the kale and leek in a large pot of water until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and transfer to a blender. Add the white parts of the green onions and 2 more tablespoons of butter. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, 1 to 3 minutes.

    3. STIR the puréed kale mixture into the bowl of potatoes, and continue to mash. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    4. ADD the cream and stir until the desired texture is reached. Garnish with 2 tablespoons of butter and the green parts of the green onions. For a baked potato, the optional butter is not required. Just garnish with the green onions.

     
      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Ranch Dressing Day & The History Of Ranch Dressing

    Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

    Kraft Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

    Casserole With Ranch Dressing

    [1] America’s #1 bottled dressing, Hidden Valley Ranch, and [2] Kraft, a runner-up. Note that both are labeled both ranch and buttermilk. [3] The dressing is used to top tacos, pizzas, and casseroles like this one. Here’s the recipe from Kraft.

     

    March 10th is National Ranch Dressing Day.

    Based on sales of bottled dressing, Ranch is America’s favorite. It surpassed the previous favorite, Italian dressing, way back in 1992.

    Ranch dressing is made of buttermilk, mayonnaise, seasonings (black pepper, garlic, ground mustard seed, lemon juice, paprika) and herbs (chives, parsley, and dill). Sour cream or yogurt are sometimes used for all or part of the buttermilk or mayonnaise.

    Here’s some little-known food history:

    You heard it here first: ranch and buttermilk are the same dressing. Buttermilk dressing, which has been made in the southern U.S. for centuries, has the same recipe.

    Look closely at recipes and packaged dressings. Many have both “buttermilk” and “ranch” in the title or on the label.

    HISTORY OF RANCH DRESSING

    By the late 1800s, the naturally-occurring sour milk, called buttermilk, was popular in baked goods, for marinating chicken, as a health food at spas and sanitariums, and other applications.

    Printed recipes for buttermilk dressing go back more than 100 years in southern cookbooks.

    The original was a boiled dressing made with eggs, vinegar, buttermilk, herbs and spices. (Famed restaurant critic Craig Claiborne, a Southern boy, hated it.)

    With the advent of commercial mayonnaise in the 1930s, it became easier to make, and no boiling was required.

    As modern refrigeration (in the form of the ice box) became commonplace in homes, the milk no longer soured. Commercial dairies began to culture it, and sold the buttermilk we know today beginning in the 1920s.

    But before then, the dressing became popular among cowboys. With a wealth of cattle, buttermilk was more available on the High Plains* than vegetable oils. The chuck wagons dished out creamy buttermilk-based dressings for a long time [source].

    Here’s a longer discussion of the evolution of buttermilk.

    In the early 1950s, Steve Henson, a Nebraskan working in the Alaska bush, created a dressing for his crew from buttermilk, sour cream, mayonnaise and seasonings: garlic, herbs and spices, onions and salt.

    In 1954, Steve and his wife Gayle opened Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch in the Santa Ynez mountains, near Santa Barbara, California. They served the dressing to guests and called it ranch dressing.

    Aha!

    It was very popular, and guests asked to buy it to take home. The Hensons sold it both as a finished product and as packets of dry mix to be combined with mayonnaise and buttermilk.

    Demand for the dressing grew much more than demand for bookings at the ranch. The Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products was incorporated and a factory established.

    The dressing was first distributed to supermarkets in the California and the Southwest, and eventually, nationwide. The brand was purchased by Clorox and the ranch sold.

    And now you know how old-fashioned buttermilk dressing turned into the more intriguing-sounding ranch dressing.

     
    HOW TO USE RANCH DRESSING

    Ranch dressing is common in the U.S. as a salad dressing and a dip for crudités. It is also used:

  • As a dip for chips and pretzels.
  • As a dip or sauce for fried food: chicken fingers, French fries, fried mushrooms, fried onion rings, fried pickles, fried zucchini, hushpuppies, jalapeño poppers.
  • As a condiment or sauce for baked potatoes, burgers, casseroles, chicken wings, pizza, tacos, wraps and other sandwiches; and with seafood such as Arctic char, lobster, salmon and shrimp.
  • According to an article on ranch dressing facts, Melissa McCarthy and Courteney Cox have been known to chug it, and Katy Perry insists on ranch in her backstage rider (what is available in her dressing room).

    ________________

    *The High Plains comprise southeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, western Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and south of the Texas Panhandle.

  •  

    WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE YOUR OWN RANCH DRESSING

    Be Food Smart researched America’s favorite dressing, Hidden Valley Ranch, to point out the brand promise vis-à-vis the actual ingredients. Here’s their full article, but the highlights:

    What the brand’s website says:

    Our Original Ranch® recipes are made with wholesome ingredients and the perfect blend of herbs and spices. Enjoy the farm fresh taste of Hidden Valley® in our ranch dressing mixes, dips and salad toppings.

    The actual ingredient list:

    INGREDIENTS: Soybean oil, water, egg yolk, sugar, salt, cultured nonfat buttermilk, natural flavors (soy), spices, less than 1% of: dried garlic, dried onion, vinegar, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, modified food starch, monosodium glutatmate, artificial flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid and calcium disodium EDTA as preservatives, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate.

    Not exactly wholesome or farm fresh!

    So, time to really know how good ranch is, by making your own. We adapted this recipe from Simply Recipes.

    Make your own buttermilk. You don’t have to buy a quart of buttermilk. You can make 1 cup of buttermilk by adding 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice or vinegar to a one-cup measure, plus enough milk to make 1 cup. Stir and let sit.

    Turn buttermilk/ranch into blue cheese dressing. Just stir in 1/2 cup crumbled quality blue cheese at the end.

    RECIPE: BUTTERMILK RANCH DRESSING

    Ingredients For 1.5 Cups

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped (substitute 1/4 teaspoon of dry dill, but nothing beats fresh)
  •  
    Variations

    There are many variations on the original ranch recipe. Anyone can adjust the seasonings in the recipe above to bring out the flavors you like. You can also switch them out; for example:

  • A blend of Greek yogurt (1/3) and buttermilk (2/3).
  • Apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice.
  • Cayenne instead of black pepper.
  • Dijon mustard instead of powdered mustard.
  • Minced garlic clove or 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Scallions instead of minced chives—and more of them!
  • Tarragon instead of dill.
  •  
    Preparation

     

    Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

    Wedge Salad Buttermilk Dressing

    Crudites Plate

    [4] Freshly made buttermilk/ranch dressing. Here’s the recipe from Little Broken. [5] A wedge salad with buttermilk/ranch dressing. Here’s the recipe from Creative Culinary. [6] Crudités with buttermilk/ranch dressing, from Good Cheap Eats.

     
    1. WHISK together the buttermilk and mayonnaise in a medium bowl. When fully combined, blend in the other ingredients. That’s it!

    2. COVER and refrigerate. It will keep a few weeks.

      

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