Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cheesecake Brownies



Once again, it’s been way too long since my last blog post, and once again, there’s much to update. This past spring, summer and fall have just flown by with me chasing the dust. Actually, so much has happened over the last few months that I should feel like I have run a marathon, but in fact I feel quite well rested. I guess this is because right now is after the fact and my sole responsibilities presently are to relax and recharge for the year ahead.  

So I finally did it. I experienced what living and working in Asia would be like. And you know what? I think I could live there. Just not quite yet. The summer proved to be a valuable experience for me to grow personally and professionally. I had the opportunity to live alone in a foreign country (Hong Kong), to experience working full-time in investment banking, and to meet mentors and friends I would keep for the rest of my life.
 

That I’ve entered senior year is a scary, albeit also exciting, thought. To be honest, I’ve always been jealous of the freshmen every year, seeing that they have four years ahead of them in Hanover – four wonderful years of discovery, learning, and fun that whirl by in a flash. But truthfully, now I am ready to graduate, and to start a fresh life in a new city. I am excited for the opportunity to work in New York City upon graduation – a city that I think is so enchanting to the level that some friends find irrational. I’m also excited to begin my career in investment banking, a field where I can continue to learn and grow as an individual.

Another update from the past few months is my newfound fondness for cheesecake, something I was never a huge fan of. It must be my taste buds becoming evermore American. I decided to try this recipe that combines elements from both cheesecake and brownies. If you’re ever deciding between the two, this recipe is chocolatey enough to satisfy your brownie craving and creamy enough to beat any cheesecake.

Ingredients

Cheesecake topping:
8 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Brownie Layer:
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
3. First prepare the cheesecake topping. In a medium bowl and using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in the sugar and the vanilla until very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Next, beat in the egg until well mixed. Set aside.
4. To make the brownie layer, put the chocolate, butter, and oil in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat at 75 percent power for 30 seconds. Stir until completely melted.
5. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
6. Combine the brown sugar and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the buttermilk, egg whites, and vanilla. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk vigorously until fully incorporated and the batter is thick and glossy. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until blended.
7. Set aside 1/2 cup brownie batter for the top. Scrape the remaining brownie batter into the prepared pan. Pour the cheesecake mixture evenly over top. Drop the reserved brownie batter in large dollops over the topping. Using the back of a spoon, create a marbled effect by swirling it through the two batters.
8. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is just set. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares to serve.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chocolate Caramel Turtle Cookies


Each term at Dartmouth is different – it has its own flavor. They say Dartmouth’s culture is slightly different every four years as it follows through one graduating class, but I think the environment is different every single term, as there is never the same composition of students on campus for more than one term. This past winter was full of different flavors. I felt like my head and heart were treated to a ten-course tasting menu. At times, it was delightfully sweet, other times hot and spicy, and others a little bit sour.



Because of “The D Plan” many of my friends at Dartmouth were off in different parts of the country (and world) this past term. I think though, had it not been for their absence, I may not have gained some of the wonderful new friendships I now have. You know, a 10-week term is so short and you never quite know how it’s going to pan out. I came into the term kind of nervous for recruiting, for my classes, and for my social life, but it turned out to be one of my favorite terms at Dartmouth so far.

My feeling towards winter in Hanover is a conundrum. While I despise waking up to negative temperatures, having my hair freeze and eyes tear up on my way to class every morning, and bundling up like an awkward penguin everyday, when I see the snow falling like glitter from the sky, I forget about the nuisances and appreciate the beauty of winter. This winter was particularly snowy, and I was able to make the most of it by skiing for the first time at the Dartmouth Skiway, ice skating around Lake Morey on the longest skating trail in the U.S., and trudging through beautiful landscapes blanketed in white.


While Hanover has its charms, it is always nice to get outside the Dartmouth Bubble during the term. This winter, I was lucky enough to travel to three cities. I attended the Kappa Delta NCTA in Chicago, the ECAASU Conference in Washington D.C., and traveled to New York City for a job interview, which was stressful but at least I got to see my friends afterwards. It’s so cool to see friends out in the real world, contributing to society, whether through volunteering at a hospital or interning at an investment bank – everything little thing we do adds in some way to how this world shapes out.


As I’m leaving for spring term tomorrow, I thought I would make these chocolate caramel turtle cookies to bring back to Dartmouth. A fudgy chocolate cookie base dipped in pecans and topped with caramel? I wish I could take credit for this brilliant invention, but I will just say, whoever thought of this combination is a genius.

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped fine (I didn’t have pecans so I substituted walnuts)
14 soft caramel candies
3 tablespoons milk

Directions

1. Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, 2 tablespoons of milk, and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
3. Add the flour mixture until just combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Place the chopped pecans in another small bowl.
6. Roll the dough between your palms to create 1-inch balls. Dip them in the egg white and then roll in the pecans. Using a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon, press down to make an indentation in the center of each ball.
7. Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes or until set. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking.
8. Microwave the caramels and 3 tablespoons of milk in a bowl, until smooth (1-2 minutes). Once the cookies are ready, fill each with the caramel mixture. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.




Sunday, August 25, 2013

Strawberry Flan



While I consider myself a city girl—I just love walking around bustling streets, peering into shops, tasting new things, taking pictures of sights—it is nice to head to the countryside sometimes. When you smell dirt, you see dirt, you feel dirt, and you TASTE dirt, it’s something special, especially these days.

I love going to Linvilla Orchards every summer—a farm not too far from home. In the summertime they have peaches, pears, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, as well as delicious creamy ice cream year round! During the peak of summer you can pay for a box and go around the orchard and pick anything you want to fill the box. My family went today for strawberry and raspberry picking, which are ripe for picking right now.

 

One of the great thing about pick your own is eating the fruit while picking. My sister’s rule: pick 3 eat 2. Strawberries are surprisingly filling, and my stomach started to feel like it was going to explode after not too long with following my sister’s philosophy.

Whenever my family picks fruit, we always have a surplus of it for the next week; it is always my responsibility to find creative ways to use it up. Strawberries are easy because there are so many wonderful recipes that use fresh strawberries. I decided to make a strawberry flan, which is a sweet short crust pastry shell filled with custard and topped with fresh strawberries. It makes for a beautiful dessert.    

Ingredients

For the pastry
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the custard
3 egg yolks
1 ¼ milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze
¼ cup apricot jam
1 ½ tablespoons water

For the topping
3 cups fresh strawberries, washed and hulled

Directions

1. To make the pastry dough, beat the butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until it forms a ball.
2. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
4. Roll out the dough on a flat floured surface and fit into a tart or pie pan. Prick the bottom of the pastry crust with a fork to prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes.
5. Place the tart pan and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before filling.
6. While the shell is baking, make the custard. 
7. In a medium sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Sift the four and cornstarch together and add to the eggs mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.
8. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk just to boiling. Remove from head and add slowly to the egg mixture. Make sure to whisk consistently to prevent curdling.
9. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium head until boiling, whisking constantly. When the mixture boils, continue whisking for another 30-60 seconds until it become thick. Remove from head and whisk in vanilla extract. Pout into a clean bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature. You can speed up the cooling process by putting the custard in the fridge.
10. To make the glaze, heat the apricot jam and water in a bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Make sure to smash big lumps of apricot with a fork.
11. To assemble the tart, remove the pastry shell from the tart pan. Spread a thin layer of the glaze on the bottom and sides of the shell (this will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy). Spread the custard into the pastry shell. Place the strawberries on top and brush with more glaze.
12. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.