Thursday, February 14, 2008

*Cheesy Valentine (and a few regional treats)*

Hold your chocolate (at least until I get over the last overdose I had). Nothing goes better with a cheesy date as Cheesecake. Yeah, I actually wrote that.

Honestly, this cheesecake was long overdue. I had promised the Mister I would make one ages ago. And being one of the few desserts He really loves, I just had to jump at the occasion. Yup, Valentine's day. Not around here, but in most of the world, tonight is a night for wining and dining and love making. Oh boy.
Anyway, this is about food. So, I had the Philadelphia Cream Cheese, but no strawberries and no crackers. Yeah, I had promised Him a strawberry cheesecake. So off I go to the supermarket. Around here, this is the standard cracker/cookie used to make pies and so on:
No, no Graham Crackers. I don't even know what those fellows look like.
And then, the strawberries. Ha! My luck, they are totally out of season. Frozen? I wish. So I bought the pulp, usually used for juice.
This is how it went:

Cheesy cheesy strawberry and almond cheesecake


1 small package of crackers or cookies (about 130 grs) - I used the food processor to turn it into crumbs.
4 tablespoons of butter - softened.
1 handful of almonds - chopped up

The cookies are already sweetened, so I did not add any sugar. I mixed the butter into the crumbs with the almonds and used that to cover the bottom of a medium glass pan. I also baked for 10 minutes at 350 F and let it cool.


2 packages (16 ounces) Light Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon of lemon rind

Usually, I make cheesecake New Yorker style - with condensed milk. This time I skipped it, and the Mister said he prefers it like this. Just the Cream Cheese. I actually added a couple of tablespoons of milk cream for volume, but I don't think they really count.

Beat the cream cheese with the sugar, lemon rind and vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, gently incorporating with the mixer. Pour over crust. Bake in a pre-heated oven until the center is firm and the top is golden... In my oven that was 30 min at 300 F, but it could take longer. Let cool for a while in the oven, then let set.

Strawberry glaze:

2 small packages of strawberry pulp - or one cup of mashed strawberries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstrach
1/2 cup water

Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a small pan. Add the water and the strawberries. Cook, stirring constantly until it boils, then let boil stirring for about one minute. Cool before spreading. I would have garnished with fresh strawberries if I had had some, but I made do with almonds and whipped cream. Oh boy, whipped cream...
Which turned into this... Guess that is what happens when time is short and one is unexperienced, such as myself.
Yup, my lovely whipped cream turned into a blob of heavy cream. But it tastes great, says the Mister, and that is what is important. All in all, its a real cheesy cheesecake, because its packed with love.

An addendum... I was delighted to see a post including Brazilian goodies in one of my favorite Bento blogs. Sweets, specially.
Well, in Brazil "Valentine's" is actually months away, as we celebrate on June 12th, but these are great on any occasion and are (probably) quite different from what people in the North Hemisphere are used to. I love them...
So here a few traditional Brazilian sweet staples, really easy to make. And they all include condensed milk. I guess without condensed milk, Brazilian sweets wouldn't be very Brazilian.

(an old add for leite moca)

1 can condensed milk
1 tablespoon butter or margarine (without salt)
4 tablespoons powder chocolate
1/2 can milk cream (optional - it makes it not so sweet and a bit softer)
chocolate sprinkles for rolling

In a deep saucer mix the condensed milk, the butter and the chocolate. Cook over medium heat and mix, non stop with a wood or silicone spoon, until its easy to un-stick it from the pan. That should take about 30 minutes. After it cools, use margarine or butter on your hands and roll it into little bolls. Roll over the sprinkles and serve in tiny paper cups. Brigadeiro is also a popular icing and filling for cakes, and is sometimes rolled over a whole strawberry or grape. Those are delicious.

My mothers personal touch would be to make Doce de Leite, then add some chocolate and roll. And that brings us to Doce de Leite, or Dulce de Leche, that can be eaten as a spread, as a filling or pure.

Doce de Leite

1 can condensed milk

Put the closed can in a pressure cooker. Cover with water and cook. If you prefer the Doce de Leite runny and soft, 30 minutes will do. For rolling or slicing, cook for about 45 - 60 min. The longer, the harder. Let cool well (really, no hurry here or there will be boiling hot cooked condensed milk all over your kitchen) and then open the can.

And last, but not least, there is Beijinho.

1 can condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, no salt added
100 grs grated coconut

Mixing all the ingredients, prepare in the same way as the brigadeiro. After cooling, roll over granulated sugar or more coconut. It is common to garnish with a clove.

A variation of this is called Olho de Sogra (Mother in law's eye, how lovely). Beyond the ingredients listed above it calls for another 100 grs (200 total) of coconut, 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. The preparation is the same, and it is garnished with a prune. Its my mother's favorite.
Personally, my favorite Brazilian treat is called a Casadinho. Nothing more, nothing less than half a brigadeiro and half a beijinho rolled together. What's not to love?

Have a sweet weekend,



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