Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Novel Food #40: Cheesecake


Time again for another edition of Novel Food, hosted by Simona of briciole.

A few months ago, the public libraries became accessible again.  No in-person visits yet, but we can request a book online, and pick it up at our local branch.  I’m lucky enough to be able to continue to work, but in-coming projects have slowed down, allowing me more time to read and cook.

The first book was As the Pig Turns, An Agatha Raisin Mystery, by M. C. Beaton.  I was familiar with the Agatha Raisin series from British television, but it was my first time reading one of the novels.  It is very light, escapist reading, a good thing in these challenging times.  Based on the title, I thought there would be some discussion on food, but that wasn’t the case.  (The pig turned out to be a policeman.  On a spit.)  There was, however, one description of an awards banquet.  I wasn’t sold on chicken and mashed potatoes, but there was cheesecake for dessert, so that became my first choice.

(One of my quarantine baking projects was a cheesecake recipe from Midwest Made, by Shauna Sever.  I’m always on the lookout for a simple, but tasty, cheesecake recipe.)


But, I decided to try one more book, hoping for some kind of food that would grab my attention.  Next up was The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors.  This was a memoir about his childhood in Iowa.  There were more foods mentioned, but usually in the context of single items:  licorice or cottage cheese, neon ice cream or baked goods, fried chicken or junk food.  Not necessarily easy to translate into a usable recipe. He did mention a few local restaurants and their specialties.  I almost went with banana cream pie from the Toddle House, but when he spoke about Johnny and Kay’s and their cheesecake, I knew it was a sign.  So cheesecake it was.

This is a simple recipe for sure.  Make the crust.  Make the filling using cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Let sit in the oven for an hour.  Remove and cool.  Then, spread the top with whipped cream, and chill overnight.  That was the most difficult part!  Waiting!  It was, however, delicious for breakfast.  One change I would make:  I’d use more graham crackers for the crust as it was a bit skimpy.


I was familiar with many of the cultural experiences that Bryson described in his memoir, so we must be from the same generation.  One of my favorite lines was about fig newtons.  “Their idea of a treat was to pass around a plate of Fig Newtons, the only truly dreadful cookie ever made.”  I cheered!  (Which is why I never recommend his books for bedtime reading.)  Never liked them and I still don’t. 


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Kulcha and fixings


 For September, Aparna, of My Diverse Kitchen, was the Kitchen of the Month, and tasked us to make kulcha, an Indian bread, accompanied by a chickpea salsa and a tamarind chutney.  Having just finished cooking from a new Indian cookbook in August, I had all of the ingredients and techniques at hand.

First, I made the chutney.  It seemed a little thick and was definitely tart, but, it was a good compliment for the chickpea salsa.

The chickpea salsa was next.  The dried chickpeas took nearly all day to cook to a somewhat mashable consistency, but the resulting salsa was tasty with the fresh tomatoes, especially so when paired with the very tart tamarind chutney.

Finally, it was time to make the kulcha dough.  First, there was a preferment, made the night before.  No issues there.  Then, the following morning, it was time to add the remaining ingredients and let the dough rise for a final time before cooking.  Having recently, and successfully, made naan, I was ready to go.

Let’s just say that the first kulcha took one for the team.  It stuck firmly to a non-stick pan.

I went to Plan B, which was to use the naan cooking technique I had learned in August, a very similar technique, but with successful results.

However, 24 hours later, I remembered that I was supposed to sprinkle the dough with nigella seeds (stored in the refrigerator), so that was a fail. 

I didn’t screw up this challenge too badly, and the end results made a filling and delicious lunch. 


Join the Babes in September, and enjoy some delicious bread.