Apple Cheesecake Tart

I made this tart, which is really a cross between a tart and a cheesecake, for a party. Huge hit! It’s apple season so why not make a rich and creamy dessert that features this most-loved American fruit?

Though this isn’t a true cheesecake, some of the hints in my Cheesecake – You crack me up! post are also relevant here. It is vital that your cream cheese and egg are at room temperature. You will get a lumpy mess if you try to make this without having the foresight to warm up your cream cheese and egg.

Apple Cheesecake Tart
(makes 1 9″ tart, serves about 12)

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large apples (I like Honeycrisp but Jonathan or Cortland are also good)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, 1/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and lemon juice. Gently stir in the flour until well blended.

Press the dough evenly into the bottom and at least 1″ up the sides of a 9″ non-stick springform pan. Refrigerate while you work on the filling.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a clean large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and brown sugar. When this mixture is fluffy and there are no lumps, beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat again until smooth.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1/4″ slices.

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Add the apples and toss to coat evenly.

Place the pan on a rimmed sheet pan (just in case your pan leaks). Pour the cheese filling into the tart shell. Gently cover with the apples, scraping out all the sugar and cinnamon. Move the apples around to cover the filling completely.

Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake for another 40  minutes.

Remove from the oven. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the crust. Release the springform but don’t try to take the sides off until the tart cools for 10 minutes. It’s just too hot to handle right out of the oven. When you remove the springform, if some pieces stick to the pan sides, scrape them off and put them on the top of the tart. It’s a rustic tart. No one will notice.

Allow tart to cool completely before serving. Once the tart is completely cooled you can remove the pan bottom by running a knife under the bottom crust and then carefully using a large flat spatula to release the crust all the way to the center. Gently slide the tart onto a serving plate. Or not, you can serve it on the pan. I do all the time!

This tart can be refrigerated overnight before serving. Any leftovers (yah, right) can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Recipe adapted from Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, Storey Publishing, 2001.


Super Slow Mo Better Pork

My friend John (you can see news of his vineyard at Kiger Family Vineyard) is a very good cook (and baker and winemaker). He has introduced me to many great cooking techniques. He is definitely a technique person. The process is what it’s about. He made a pork shoulder for us on our last ski trip together. Heaven! I had to replicate it at home while my pork-loving daughter was back from college.

This process is long but requires very little work on your part. It results in delicious unctuous pork. The flavorings here are mine. Herbes de Provence has nothing to do with this kind of slow cooked pork, as far as I know. Pork takes to many flavors and these are some of the many that makes a pork shoulder even better. Herbes de Provence is one of those blends that you buy, usually in those too-large crockery jars for one particular recipe and then wonder what you are going to do with all of it. Well, this is a worthy place to use it, trust me.

You can read more about why this technique works on this tough cut of pork at Serious Eats. I’m going to give you the condensed version.

Super Slow Mo Better Pork
(serves an army)

8 lbs bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), preferably with skin on

1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, crushed in your fingers
½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, crushed in your fingers
1 teaspoon kosher salt

The night before you will cook your pork shoulder, apply the rub. Combine the salt, herbes de Provence, and black pepper in a small bowl. Place the pork shoulder in a roasting pan. Sprinkle all sides with rub and rub it into the pork. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and park in the fridge until the next morning.

About 10 hours before you plan to eat the pork, heat your oven to 250 °F. Remove the plastic wrap, return pork to the pan, skin side up, and stick in the oven. Cook until internal temperature reaches 200 °F (this is where a probe thermometer comes in handy) and the meat falls apart easily when prodded with a fork.

Remove the skin from the top, remove any meat, scrape off the fat. You can add it back to the pan to mix with the pork but there’s probably enough fat in the meat. There is no denying it tastes delicious! Set aside the skin. Using a couple of forks, rip apart the meat, which should fall to pieces easily and remove the bone.  Sprinkle the shredded meat with the seasonings.

Place the skin in a 500 °F oven for a couple of minutes to crisp it up. Chop and add back to the meat (or if you are evil, eat it all yourself).

Serve with most anything – rolls, potatoes, noodles. Cardboard. No, just kidding!

Buttermilk Rolls

A sure-fire way to impress your guests is to bake fresh rolls. When friends walk in the house, they smell this yeasty deliciousness and they just can’t wait to tear into those soft little pillows of dough.

Yeast doughs are intimidating to many home bakers. But, they need not be. Yeast isn’t as temperamental as people believe. Maybe the mystery is that yeast works on its own schedule and is sensitive to temperature, so your dough may rise faster or slower depending on the temperature in your kitchen. The great thing is, it doesn’t actually matter that much. Your dough will rise eventually, given the temperature in your average kitchen. If it’s warm today, it will rise a bit faster. If it’s chilly, like it is in my house all winter, it will rise more slowly. Sometimes you need a little more patience, but ultimately, your patience will be rewarded.

I made these rolls for my Thanksgiving dinner. They are very cute and quite tasty. They get great flavor from buttermilk and a bit of whole wheat. They are soft and fluffy because they are largely white flour. And, they are just so cute!

The recipe is adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. The original has instructions for making them by hand, but I’m all for letting my KitchenAid mixer handle the heavy work of kneading.

Besides the heavy-duty mixer, a scale is useful for getting rolls that are all the same size, but you can eyeball the size and they will turn out fine.

Buttermilk Dinner Rolls
(makes about 21)

Butter, for greasing pan, or use cooking spray
1 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast, fast-rise, rapid-rise or regular
1⁄4 cup Warm Water, warm enough for bathwater, but not hot (105° is perfect)
1 1⁄2 tsp Sugar
2 cups Buttermilk, nonfat, lowfat or regular
3 Tbsp Butter, or vegetable oil
1 1⁄2 tsp Salt
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 1⁄2 tsp Baking Soda, sifted if lumpy
3 to 3 1⁄2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 Tbsp Melted Butter

Grease the cups in 2 12 cup muffin tins. Set aside.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, combine yeast, warm water, and sugar and set aside for 5 minutes until mixture starts to bubble. This means your yeast is alive and ready to go. Though not essential, I do think it speeds up the rise somewhat because your yeast has already started to multiply.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add buttermilk and salt. Check the temperature. If it still feels cold, heat gently until it feels like warm bathwater, but not hot. Hot will kill your yeast. Add buttermilk to yeast mixture in bowl.

Add whole wheat flour, baking soda, and 3 cups of white flour to the mixing bowl. Mix with the mixing blade until well combined. The dough will still be sticky, so add flour (about another 1⁄2 cup) until it starts to form a ball. Switch to the dough hook. Knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be in a nice ball and shouldn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. If it’s still sticky, sprinkle in a tablespoon or two of flour and knead another minute. It’s not bad if the dough is sticky, but it is harder to work with.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise for 30 minutes. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a board. Cut dough into 1 oz pieces, which is a ball about the size of a ping-pong ball or a large walnut. Roll each piece into a ball. This is easier if you don’t flour your board but if your dough is sticky, flour your hands to keep the dough from sticking.

Place 2 balls, side by side, in each muffin cup. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 45 minutes to an hour. If your kitchen is a cool room temperature, it will take longer. The rolls should be about doubled in size. Remove wrap and brush tops with melted butter.

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Great straight from the oven with a nice slather of butter, but still really good rewarmed.

Link to PDF of Buttermilk Rolls recipe

Rolled Stuffed Flank Steak, a great dish for entertaining

This is an impressive dish. It is tasty, of course. It uses seasonal greens, chard and arugula. It’s not something you often see so your guests will be wow’ed by your culinary chops. There is only one tricky skill here: butterflying the flank steak. You’ll need a really sharp knife, preferably a boning knife. You need to slice the steak in half so that it opens like a book. Since a flank steak is only 1 1/2 inches thick, this takes some skill and patience. Take your time and you’ll get it. If it’s not sliced evenly in half, it’s still ok. Just make sure you don’t cut any holes in it because the stuffing will leak out. Not the end of the world, but not quite as pretty.

A nice accompaniment for this is soft polenta with parmesan cheese.

Any leftovers are also very good cold. In fact, if the weather heats up, cook this ahead, chill it, and have it cold for dinner with a nice salad.

Butterflied Steak Stuffed with Greens (serves 8)
Adapted from Bert Greene’s Greene on Greens

½ pound Swiss Chard , leaves only, chopped
½ pound Arugula , chopped
3 ½ tbl Unsalted Butter
1 large Onion , finely chopped
2 medium Onions, sliced
1 pound Ground Veal , or use ground turkey
2 large Egg , lightly beaten
2 tbl Chopped Fresh Parsley , plus additional for garnish
1 tsp Fresh Thyme , chopped, or ¼ tsp dried thyme
1 ½ tsp Salt
¾ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 ½ to 2 pounds Flank Steak, butterflied (see note)
1 medium Carrot , peeled and chopped
½ cup Beef Stock
½ cup Red Wine
1 tsp Tomato Paste

Melt 1 tbl. butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion; cook until soft. Stir in chard and arugula. Cook, covered, until soft, about 15 minutes. Raise the heat and remove the cover. Cook, stirring, until all the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a mixing bowl and cool in the refrigerator.

When the greens are cold, add the veal, the eggs, 2 tbl. parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix well to combine.

Lay out steak, season with salt and pepper. Spread the filling all over it. Roll it up starting on the long side, and use kitchen twine to keep it from unrolling. Season outside with salt and pepper.

Melt 1 tbl. of butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute the rolled steak until it is well-browned on all sides. Place the sliced onions and chopped carrot around the steak. Add the beef stock and the red wine. It should boil right away. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook at a simmer for about 1 ¼ hours.

Remove the meat to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the juices from the pot into a small saucepan. Stir in the tomato paste and cook over high heat until slightly thickened. Stir in remaining 1 ½ tbl. butter. Remove from heat.

Slice rolled steak with a serrated knife into 1″ thick slices (to show off the pretty pinwheel of steak and stuffing). Pour sauce over steak slices, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve immediately.

Any leftovers are excellent served cold.

Note: How to butterfly a flank steak

Use a very sharp knife. Either a boning knife or a chef’s knife will do.

Lay the steak on a cutting board so that the long side is perpendicular with the front of the cutting board. You will be cutting through three sides of the steak, leaving one long edge intact. Insert the knife into one corner, slicing an edge in half. When you make this cut, your knife is parallel with the countertop.You will continue this cut almost all the way through the steak. Put your non-cutting hand flat on top of the steak and cut through the steak, keeping the knife as flat as possible. When you get close to the far edge along the whole edge, open the steak like a book and make sure the steak lies flat. You can make a few small cuts near the intact edge to help it lie flat but you want to be careful you don’t cut all the way through.

Link to PDF of Butterflied Steak Stuffed with Greens.