Limoncello Cheesecake For My Birthday

Michelle made me an awesome cheesecake for my birthday. With lemon juice and limoncello liquor, it was amazingly creamy and lemony and off the hook delicious.

This makes a lot of cheesecake – it almost overfilled a 10″ springform pan. You could use two store bought graham cracker pie shells, instead. If you’re making your own crust, it will take 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs mixed with 5 tablespoons of melted butter to coat the bottom of the well buttered pan.

Because this is a low and slow method of cheesecake cookery, do not use a water bath in the oven.

 

Limoncello Cheesecake

4 packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
5 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt (we used Fage)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup limoncello liquor
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon peel
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Whip the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix to combine. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the flour and yogurt. Slowly mix in the lemon juice and limoncello. Add in the vanilla extract and lemon peel.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for 3 hours.

Remove from oven and crank the heat to 500 degrees F. Place the cheesecake back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to brown the top. Turn off the oven and crack the door and let the cheese cake cool down for 30 minutes. Then run a knife along the edge to release from the pan and cool on the counter for another 30 minutes before putting it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before releasing the sides of the pan.

Graham’s Fish Camp

On Highway 588 in Collins, Mississippi there is a small restaurant that does a booming business on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Only open from 3 to 9 on those nights, Graham’s Fish Camp is packed the entire time.

689 Highway 588. Collins, MS 39428

They start you out with a huge bowl of coleslaw while you look over the menu, although most folks seem to already know what they like. From looking at the other tables, catfish (Mississippi farm raised) was a heavy favorite.

We started with fried dill pickles and onion rings. One of Elvis’ favorite snacks, the dill pickle chips are battered in cornmeal and quite crunchy and tart. The onion rings were thick and hand battered. The baskets are huge, so I’d recommend the half portion sizes.

I had the fried shrimp platter – 12 shrimp, 3 hushpuppies and a mess of French fries. Crunchy batter on flavorful shrimp – quite tasty. The house made tarter sauce was tart and creamy.

Michelle had chicken tenders plus a catfish filet. Thin sliced with a delicious cornmeal batter, it was fresh and clean tasting. I can tell why so many people come here.

They end the meal with soft serve ice cream and your choice of toppings. For as busy as they are, the wait staff is friendly and quick with refills on the drinks and to check to make sure you don’t need anything else. The cost is quite reasonable, too – for under $20 a piece, we had a huge amount of great food. Definitely worth a visit.

La Boca

My parents are in town for my birthday weekend and we went out to La Boca for steaks to celebrate. I’m so glad we did!

I started with a pisco sour – more Peruvian than Argentinian but, close enough! It was very good, nice and limey.

Dad went for the 14 ounce New York Strip. It was cooked to medium rare and he ate more of it than he expected, it was so tender.

Mom and I splurged on the 24 ounce cowboy cut Ribeye Steak – it was ordered rare and came out nearly blue. One of the few times I haven’t had rare steak come out more medium than rare. So nice and tender, there was no talking, only moans as we chewed.

As you can see, we only had a little left on the bone at the end. Just perfect to take home in a doggy bag. Not that my dog got to gnaw on it until I had done so!

Accompanying the meat were some super good mashed potatoes. Creamy and buttery, it was some of the best I’ve eaten that I didn’t make myself.

As it was my birthday, the waiter brought me a piece of flourless chocolate cake. So very dark and delicious.

We also shared some dulce de leche ice cream. Decadently smooth and rich. I could see myself stopping by the restaurant just for the ice cream.

This is the top rated Zagat steakhouse in New Orleans and it shows. The cuts of meat were cooked perfectly and the portions sizes were immense. The waiter was very knowledgeable about the wine list and helped us find perfect pairings with some glasses of Malbec. I highly recomend La Boca.

Jo Bob’s of Grand Isle

My parents and I took the scenic drive down Louisiana Highway 1 to Grand Isle. We stopped at the Grand Isle State Park to read more about Jean Lafitte (pirate, privateer and patriot) and to watch the pelicans and seagulls fight to fly across the strong wind currents off the gulf.

On our way out of town we stopped at Jo-Bob’s Gas and Grill for burgers.

The burgers are 100% beef and made to order. Mom got the Jo-Bob burger with mushrooms and bacon and melty cheese with the seasoned fries. Very tasty burger and I ended up eating part of hers! Mine was the basic cheeseburger. Very good and meaty.

Dad ordered the cheddar burger and and it was deliciously cheesy.

They don’t have many tables upstairs but do offer free drink refills. Very friendly staff and a menu of more than just burgers. Definitely worth a stop after a day on on the beach.

 

 

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

I’ve been looking for a bread I can use to make sandwiches – not too heavy, a little sweet and with a soft texture. I found this recipe in James Beard’s book Beard on Bread (pg 37). It was the first book I ever owned on bread baking and I just had to adjust the recipe a little to use my sourdough starter. Because I only wanted a mild sour flavor, I only let the sponge sit overnight on the counter – a little under 12 hours.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Sponge:
1 cup unfed sourdough starter
2 cups bread flour
1 cup water

Mix together all the ingredients in the sponge and place it in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter or other warm, draft free place overnight.

Bread:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt

Remove the sponge to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil, buttermilk and yeast and use the paddle attachment to stir the dough on low speed until it is well mixed. Gradually add the flour a half cup at a time and the salt. Once 2 cups of flour are incorporated, switch to a dough hook and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Add more flour as necessary, if it is very sticky. The finished dough should be smooth and elastic.

Butter a large mixing bowl and place in the dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft free place for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch down and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes while you butter two loaf pans. Divide the dough in half and set a half in each pan. Let rise until doubled in bulk and over the edges of the pan, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Set a dish with boiling water on the lower rack of the oven to provide steam. Brush the top of the loaves with water and then slash it three times diagonally across the top with a very sharp knife.

Place in the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Brush the top with cold water and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove the loaves from their pans and put directly on the oven rack for a final 20 minutes. When done, the bread will be darkly brown and sound hollow when tapped. Cool completely before slicing.

Memphis Style Rib Rub

This is a milder take on a dry rub and it is perfect for ribs. After giving them a good rub, I grilled the ribs on my Weber over indirect heat for two hours with some hickory chips before moving them into the oven for three hours at 225 degrees F.

Memphis Style Rib Rub

2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients. Store any remaining in an airtight container.

Pudding Filled Yellow Cake

My very good friend, Charlotte, had a birthday earlier this month and requested a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I picked up at a rummage sale a two part cake pan to make filled cakes (most of the pictures were fruit based fillings but I immediately thought chocolate).

To start with, I used a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen that combines the technique of a chiffon cake to a butter cake in order to get a moist, tender and fluffy cake. Of course, that requires that you actually read the recipe and only put in 6 yolks and 3 whites. I put in 3 whole eggs, 3 yolks and 3 whites and the cake was a little dry – this was entirely mitigated by the pudding filling but, the fact remains that I messed things up a bit by not being careful with my reading of the recipe.

In any event, Charlotte was happy with her birthday cake and I was happy with the leftovers!

Pudding Filled Yellow Cake

2 ½ cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting pans
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon table salt
1 ¾ cups sugar, divided
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites

Bring all ingredients to room temperature before beginning.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your cake pans, dust pans with flour and knock out excess. I used my Mrs. Fields Fill N Flip Cake pans but you can use two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.

In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.

Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Using a rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto wire rack. Cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours before filling and frosting.

You don’t want your filling in a Fill and Flip cake to be too dense. You can lighten pudding to almost mousse like consistency with a little extra work. To make a mock mouse: add cream instead of milk to a small box of instant pudding and, using a hand mixer or a whisk and some elbow grease, whip until it is almost mousse like.

For the frosting, I used a chocolate buttercream that I typically use on Doberge cake:

Rich Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1 ounce square semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup milk or cream
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt chocolate with milk and whisk to combine. Cream sugar and butter, then add cocoa, then the melted chocolate milk and vanilla.