New York Cheesecake (…and some musings)

I know this is a food blog, and maybe I shouldn’t be delving into these things, but I’ve had a lot on my mind lately…

As we all know, the political climate in America (and around the globe) has been burning hot. Things were simmering for quite some time, but the simmer has erupted into a full boil and is threatening to spill over.

Here in the States, we are looking into the face of a xenophobic, islamophobic, racist, hate-mongering, modern day fascist. The Republican frontrunner (?!) has brought out a very nasty side of our fellow Americans. I am so disappointed and saddened by the way my countrymen have responded to these times of trials and tribulations. Instead of coming together and supporting one another, we are being torn apart.

Places of worship are being desecrated, Muslims are being harassed in the streets and their schools, Muslim women are being targeted for wearing their religious head covering.

People that we grew up with, who know us, are responding to us with vitriol. I just feel so hurt and disappointed.

You guys, we are one. We bleed the same blood. Don’t let hate drive a wedge between us. We are better than that.

***

Cheesecake is something that I’ve been struggling with and wanting to conquer for quite some time. The last time I attempted making a standard cheesecake was in Spring 2013, when my father and mother were visiting. My Papa was a fan of cheesecake, and it was for him that I attempted to take a shot at it. The crust was slightly burnt and super soggy, and the surface was majorly cracked, but my dad savored and relished each bite.

This time around, I made sure to do my research before I got started. I went through and read about various tips and techniques, and I also reached out to the Cheesecake Queen herself, Faaiza of Modest Munchies, for some pointers (take a look at her impressive roundup of cheesecakes!). The following are techniques that will ensure you get the perfect cheesecake:

  • Be sure to grease your pan! Most recipes don’t call for the springform pan to be greased, but to help prevent cracking, make sure you’re greasing the sides. The science behind it is that as the cheesecake cools, it contracts inwards. If the sides aren’t greased, the cake will stick to the sides and crack as it contracts.
  • Use room temperature cream cheese and eggs.
  • After the cream cheese has been mixed well with the sugar, swap out your mixer/whisk for a mixing spoon and gently mix the remaining ingredients. Do not overmix!
  • Once you’ve poured the batter into the pan, tap the pan on the counter a few times. This helps release any air bubbles that could potentially lead to crackage (awesome tip from Faaiza!).
  • Low and slow baking is the way to go! Skip the water bath, and bake according to the directions on the recipe. Once the time is up, turn off the heat, and allow the cheesecake to cool down in the oven itself. The point behind this is that it allows the cheesecake to cool slowly, thus avoiding abrupt temperature changes, and eventual cracks.
  • If all else fails, cover that baby up with some fruit or whipped cream and call it a day 🙂

(Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.)

 

NewYorkCheesecake

New York Cheesecake

Yield: 1 9-inch Cake

Ingredients:

For Cheesecake:

  • 15 leaves graham crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 pounds (4 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

For Topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Make Cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 325°F and set aside a greased 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and cinnamon and mix until thoroughly combined. Transfer mixture to prepared springform pan, and press the crumbs onto the bottom. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar and whisk until smooth. Using a mixing spoon, add whipping cream and mix until just combined. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring only until combined. Add sour cream, all-purpose flour, and vanilla. Stir until just combined. Pour batter into springform pan and tap on the counter a few times to release any air pockets.

Bake for 70 minutes, and then turn off the oven. Allow the cake to cool in the oven, without opening the door, for 6 to 8 hours. Transfer to fridge and chill until ready to serve, at least 4 hours.

Make Topping:

Combine sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread evenly over chilled cheesecake.

Cinnamon Roll Cake and Eid Eats 2015! (and some life updates)

Knock, knock… Anyone there?

I disappeared, didn’t I? I’m sorry, life just happened and I got caught up in it. To give you an idea of what has kept me, here’s just a short breakdown of everything that’s happened since we last spoke:

  • Some of my closest friends, whom I have met through blogging, threw me a surprise virtual baby shower! I am so humbled by their love and kindness 🙂 Here is a roundup of what everyone shared: Faaiza, Sarah, Asiya, and Amira.
  • We celebrated my son’s birthday with a handful of family, close friends, and classmates. My due date was 10 days from his actual birthday, so we celebrated early because I couldn’t see myself dealing with a room full of energizer bunnies, otherwise known as preschoolers, so close to my due date.
  • My mom flew in from California! She’s still in town, but only until this Saturday.
  • My brother also flew in from California, although his trip was much shorter (he stayed for a little less than one week).
  • And most importantly, we welcomed our newest addition, Ms. Zunaira, on May 28th, at 2:55 p.m. She is 3 weeks old, and she’s already got her older brother and daddy wrapped around her tiny fingers!

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After her birth, days blended into nights, and it’s only now that I am slowly starting to emerge from the fog that is nightly feedings, constant diaper changes, cleaning spit-up, and piles of folded laundry that need to be put away. Alhumdullilah, praise be to God, I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

Speaking of updates, Ramadan Mubarak/Happy Ramadan! We’ve been blessed with the return of this Holy month, and I pray that we all find the peace and rewards that come along with it.

In the spirit of Ramadan, I am joining Asiya (of Chocolate and Chillies) and Sarah (of Flour and Spice) in hosting the very special Eid Eats 2015! What is Eid Eats, you might be wondering? Consider it a virtual potluck in which you “bring” (ie., blog about) a food item which is reminiscent of Eid (the holiday marking the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan). What you decide to share can be something traditional that’s made in your home/family, or you can get creative and share something completely out of the ordinary. The choice is yours, as long as it screams Eid festivities to you 🙂

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Here are a few guidelines in order to participate:

  • Prepare and blog about your food item on July 15th, 2015.   You can prepare your blog post beforehand, just be sure to have it go live on the above-mentioned date.
  • Link your post to the party hosts blogs (Flour and Spice, Chocolate and Chillies, and My Ninja Naan) and be sure to include the party button/graphic (the one you see above) in your post.
  • Visit the aforementioned blogs on July 15th and be sure to submit your post via the link party (will be set up that day).
  • Check out what our fellow bloggers have submitted, and be sure to head on over to their space and leave them some love in their comments section!

To help usher in some Ramadan festiveness, I decided to whip up a delicious Cinnamon Roll Cake. When Sarah initially shared this, I knew it was something that I just had to make! I finally got the chance this week, as my brother was leaving to go back home to California, and I figured that I needed to make this when someone else was around because otherwise I would be eating the whole thing myself (and we all know that that wouldn’t be very wise). Although it may seem daunting, preparing the cake was very simple, and the only downside to the whole process was waiting for it to come out of the oven to be devoured 🙂

CinnamonRollCakePic

Cinnamon Roll Cake

Yield: One 9-inch Cake

Ingredients:

For Cake:

  • 2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 egg

For Filling:

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

For Frosting:

  • ¼ pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Prepare Dough:

In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Mix and set aside.

In a separate dish, heat water, milk, and butter together until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm to touch. Combine liquid mixture with the flour mixture. Add egg and knead on medium-low speed until a cohesive and pliable dough is formed. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, knead by hand for a few minutes, then place in a lightly greased bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients. Mix until thoroughly combined and set aside.

Set aside a greased 9-inch pie plate, cake pan, or springform pan.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the prepared dough out into a15”x12” rectangle. Spread prepared filling evenly over the surface.

Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into six 2-inch strips. Loosely roll up one strip and place it at the center of the prepared pan. Coil the remaining strips of dough around the center roll, starting each strip at the end of the previous strip. Be sure to leave some space in between the coils, as the dough needs room to rise. Cover the cake and set aside to rise for 60 to 90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned.

Make Frosting:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar, making sure to scrape down the sides, and beat until thoroughly combined. Add milk and vanilla, and mix until combined.

Generously spread frosting over warm cake.

Chocolate Cake (and a little update)

It is common in the South Asian culture to celebrate good news with something sweet. Today’s post was the first time that I baked something specifically to blog about. I’ve been trying to think of ways to share this news with you, and I finally settled on just baking a good old-fashioned chocolate cake. You see, we are awaiting a second addition to our family, due at the end of May, God willing. My Zuni is about to become a big brother, and has decided that he would like to called Zuni Bhai (Bhai in Urdu, literally means brother, and is used as a respectful means to address an older brother or older male) as opposed to Zuni Bhaiya (Bhaiya is just another way of saying Bhai).

I ask that you, my dear friends, remember our family in your thoughts and prayers, and that you send your positive vibes our way 🙂

 

Now, with that, I present to you this delicious chocolate cake. The recipe is courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, and has officially made the cut for the go-to chocolate cake. This recipe yields a very friendly 8-inch cake, and can easily be doubled to fit a 9”x13” pan (although the baking time may need to be adjusted). The crumb of the cake is moist yet holds together well, and it isn’t cloyingly sweet. I frosted the cake with my go-to chocolate buttercream, although this cake pairs well with any type of frosting.

 

ChocolateCakePic

 

Chocolate Cake

Yield: One 8-inch Square Cake

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F and set aside a greased 8-inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat until combined. Add buttermilk and mix until just combined (batter may look uneven), and scrape down bowl. Place a sifter over the bowl and shake in flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking salt. Mix on low speed until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth out, and bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 18 to 30 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Papa

“Surely, To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.” Quran, 2:156

My father passed peacefully from this world Saturday, July 26, 2014 (Ramadan 28, 1435).

My favorite photo of Papa (Courtesy of the Contra Costa Times)

My favorite photo of Papa (Courtesy of the Contra Costa Times)

 

Although my Papa may have left this world physically, his personality and character will live on forever through those whose lives he touched.

The past two weeks have brought forward countless stories about the ways in which he has touched both friends’ and strangers’ lives. I pray that I am able to carry on his legacy. If I am ever even half the person he was, I will be content.

An update…

Hello Friends!  It’s been a while, huh?

I owe you an explanation for disappearing for so long, but before that I want to wish all those observing Ramadan a peaceful and fulfilling month.  May all of our prayers be accepted, and may we leave the month spiritually and mentally renewed.

In my last post I mentioned that I was going to visit California for my brother’s graduation.  Well, my brother graduated with a double major in Economics and Communications (we’re all so proud of you Ammu!), we celebrated Father’s Day with my dad and husband, and I was able to spend my birthday with my family.

We returned home on Tuesday, June 24th.  The following evening, Wednesday, June 25th, my father had a mild heart attack.  My husband, my son, and I traveled back to California the next day, Thursday, June 26th.  Everything since then has been a blur.

Praise be to God, my father is in stable condition now.  Things have been rocky, including my father needing dialysis at the moment and an extended hospital stay (thanks, but no thanks Insurance).  But through all of this I have nothing but gratitude.

When my father was initially admitted, things were going down really fast.  We weren’t being given much hope, and things looked very bleak.  My father’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle. And for that I have all of our well-wishers to thank.  Family, friends, and strangers all banded together to pray for Papa.  In the first 2 weeks of Papa being admitted, we had over 250 visitors come to see him and wish him well.  The show of support has been overwhelming, to say the least.

This time has also proven to me that the connections I’ve forged through the course of blogging have been invaluable.  Some of the friends I’ve made through blogging were literally the first ones I turned to to share my heartbreak and fears, to be the ones I was able to pour my heart out to.  I’ve had a number of bloggers reach out to privately to wish us well and to offer a shoulder to lean on.  You guys, I will forever be grateful.  Your show of support means so much to me, and I will never ever be able to show and tell you thankful I am.  The only thing I can say is that I pray that God rewards you for your goodwill and for being there for a friend.  God bless you, and may you be rewarded by the Almighty in this world and the next.

 

Now that things have calmed down a bit, I would love to get back to blogging regularly.  I’ve come to realize over the course of these past few weeks that blogging is very therapeutic for me.  It’s a window of time that I use to block out all my problems and be able to focus on something I truly enjoy.  Although it’s unlikely that I will be posting as often as I was before, I hope to post occasionally.  I also want to apologize to my friends whose blogs I’ve neglected (although I must admit that I have been reading your posts as I hang out at the hospital with my dad 🙂 ).  InshAllah, God willing, it won’t be long before things are calmer and I’m back to my old self 🙂

Once again, thank you for all of your support.  My blogging buddies, my family, my old friends, my new friends, and all of our well-wishers, thank you.  I will never forget the support you gave to me and my family during these hard times.