Zuckerman shared several of them on The Early Show Monday in the first segment of the weeklong series "Culinary Inspirations," which features tantalizing recipes from some of the best cookbook authors and chefs in the country.
GOAST CHEESECAKE ENROBED IN HAZLENUT BRITTLE
Creamy yet light, with a tangy intensity from the goat cheese and crème fraiche, this cheesecake is a favorite of many of our customers at Chanterelle and is remarkably easy to prepare. The brittle that enrobes the cake is a bit more difficult to make, but the cheesecake works well without it — you can replace the brittle with simple crushed nuts for a crunchy contrast to the creamy cheesecake.
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of slat
10 1/2 ounces fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) crème fraiche
1/2 recipe Peanut Brittle*, substituting hazelnuts
Special Tools and Pans
6-inch round springform pan, or six 4-ounce ramekins or individual aluminum cupcake molds
Roasting pan or baking pan, at least 8 x 8 x 2 inches
One 6-inch round cheesecake or 6 individual cheesecakes
Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Butter or oil a 6-inch springform pan or individual ramekin or molds.
Mix the batter: Combine the eggs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and whisk for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the goat cheese until smooth. Add the crème fraiche and whisk for 1 minute. Do not overmix or the cheesecake will have a grainy texture.
Bake the cheesecake: Spread the batter in the prepared pans or molds. If using a springform pan, wrap a large piece of aluminum foil around the outside, making sure the foil around the outside fully encases the pan so that once you set the pan in a deep water bath, none of the water seeps in. Place the foil-wrapped pan in a roasting pan and fill with water so that it comes up 1 1/2 inches along the side of the springform. Bake the cheesecake until the center of the cheesecake reads between 150ºF and 170ºF, approximately 40 minutes. (An air bubble or two might rise to the surface, but the cheesecake will barely expand.)
If you are using individual cheesecakes, you do not need a water bath. Bake the individual cheesecakes for 20 to 24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking process. If the cheesecake starts to rise, remove them from the oven immediately.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes before removing the sides of the springform pan.
Enrobe the cheesecake: Follow the recipe for Peanut Brittle, substituting hazelnuts for the almonds. Using both hands, pat the ground Hazelnut Brittle onto the top and the sides of the chilled cheesecake.
Serving suggestions: This cheesecake works beautifully with the Blood Orange Caramel Sauce, the Fresh Fig and Madeira Compote and the Roates Medjool Dates Stuffed with Cashews, Currants and Candied Citrus.
Storage: The cheesecake will keep, refrigerated, for 4 days.
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This is one of the easiest recipes I make. It is also one of the most rewarding. Brittle stands alone as a great, simple, crunchy end to a meal. In the restaurant, I prepare various nut brittles and use them in endless ways: as a crunchy topping for ice cream, as a cookie, as a garnish for caramel mousse. In a dessert, texture is as important as flavor. Nothing can replace the satisfaction one feels from a blend of crispy and creamy on the tongue. This recipe calls for peanuts, but you can easily substitute almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios.
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup finely ground peanuts
1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
Special Tools and Pans
17 x 11-inch baking pan
Food processor or coffee grinder
Nonstick reusable silicone baking pad (optional)
Hint: Perfectly round disks of peanut brittle. To give the brittle a more finished look, before baking it you can sprinkle the ground caramel and nut mixture inside a round cookie cutter (2 inches in diameter) on a prepared pan, 1/4-inch thick. Repeat this process until you have 12 circles. Carefully place the pan in the oven and bake until the caramel has melted and begins to bubble, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool completely, and remove the disks. If you would like to shape the disks, remove them from the baking pan before the caramel has cooled completely and place them on a desired form (a rolling pin or inverted muffin cups, for example). When completely cooled, the disk will hold the shape of the form.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 17 x 11-inch baking pan with parchment, aluminum foil, or a nonstick baking pad.
Cook the caramel: In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan combine the sugar, 1/3 cup water, and the cream of tartar. Cover and cook over high heat until the syrup comes to a very rapid boil. Remove the cover and continue to cook on medium-high heat until the sugar has turned a golden brown caramel color. Pour the caramel onto the prepared baking pan and let cool.
Grind the caramel: When the caramel is cool, break it into 1-inch pieces. Place the pieces in a food processor or coffee grinder and grind to the consistency or granular sugar. Stir in the ground nuts.
Bake and shape the brittle: Recline your baking sheet with parchment paper, aluminum foil, or a nonstick baking pad. Spread the caramel and nut mixture onto the baking sheet in an even layer, approximately 1/4-inch thick. Bake until the caramel melts and begins to bubble, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the salt evenly over the melted caramel. When the brittle is cool, break it up into small pieces and serve.
Storage: This brittle will keep, sealed, in a cool, dry place, for 2 weeks. Humid conditions cause the brittle to lose its crunch and become sticky, overly chewy, and generally unpleasing. Though you might have the proper storage conditions, I do not recommend making this brittle on a humid day.
CHOCOCLATE ALMOND CRACKS
These cookies have a dramatic, mouth-watering appearance — moist on the inside and slightly crisp on the exterior, domed and powdery white, with jagged cracks where dark chocolate pokes through and teases the eye. The cookies, with their dark chocolate flavor rounded out with almonds and Amaretto, are terrific to make around the holidays.
1 cup (5 ounces) blanched almonds
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (61 to 66 percent cocoa solids)
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoon Amaretto
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar, for dusting
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for dusting
Special tools and pans
4 dozen cookies
Grind the almonds and assemble the dry ingredients. Combine the almonds and 1 tablespoon of the flour in a food processor and grind to a fine powder. In a dry bowl, whisk together the almond powder, remaining flour and baking powder, and set aside.
Prepare the chocolate: In the bowl of a bain-marie, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring with a rubber spatula every 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Whisk the sugar and eggs: Place the sugar and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the amaretto and the salt.
Combine the wet and the dry ingredients: With the mixer on slow speed, add the melted chocolate to the egg mixture, whisking them together until the batter is thoroughly combined, shiny and holds the lines of a whisk. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just until the ingredients come together smoothly. Cover the batter in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Shape the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350ºF 1/2 hour before baking the cookies. Spray cookie sheets with oil and line with aluminum foil, parchment or silicone pads, or use nonstick pans.
Place the granulate sugar and powdered sugar in separate bowls. Pinch off 1-inch pieces of batter and roll into balls. Roll a few balls at a time in the granulated sugar to coat. Then, with clean, dry hands, drop the sugarcoated cookies in the powdered sugar and roll them around until they are completely coated. Arrange the cookies on your prepared cookie sheets, 1 inch apart.
Bake the cookies: Bake the cookies until they rise, done, and crack and are slightly firm when tapped, 11 to 14 minutes. If you continue to bake these cookies after they have finished rising, the result will be a drier cookie. If you underbake the cookies, they will flatten out as they cool, but they will still be delicious.
Serving suggestions: Serve these cookies with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee or tea.
Storage: These cookies will keep, sealed in a container for 4 days.
"Bain-Marie": Noted in the "special tool and pots" section of numerous recipes, bain-marie is the French cooking term for a metal bowl or container that can sit over or in simmering water to keep the contents of the container or bowl hot — basically, a makeshift double boiler. Fill a pot large enough to hold a medium-sized mixing bowl on top with 1 inch of water and set over low heat. When the water is simmering, set the bowl on top of the pot.
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This recipe is a bit labor intensive, because it requires carefully removing the flesh from an apple and cooking it, and then reconstructing it for serving — but the presentation embodies the fall season, in both flavor and appearance. It is best to use apples you have had sitting around the house for weeks, since the softer flesh is easier to remove without destroying the shape of the apple.
10 medium (approximately 3 pounds) Empire apples
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) butter
6 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped dried figs, tightly packed
Special Tools and Pans
2 baking pans
10-to 12-inch sauté pan
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease 2 baking pans or line them with aluminum foil or parchment.
Roast the apples: Wash and dry the apples. With a sharp knife, slice off 1/2 inch of the top (stem end) of 8 apples. Lay the apple tops, flesh side down, on one of the prepared baking pans. With a melon baler, scoop out the core and seeds of the 8 topless apples and place these apples on the second baking pan. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. With a pastry brush, coat all the apple tops and bottoms with a thing layer of butter. Evenly sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the apple tops and bottoms. Place both baking pans in the oven and bake tops for 10 minutes and the bottoms for 20 to 25 minutes. The flesh if the apples should be rising a bit out of the skin. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. As the apples cool, the skin will wrinkly and separate from the flesh.
Remove the flesh from the apples: When the apple bottoms have cooled, using a tablespoon or a teaspoon, gently insert the spoon between the outer flesh and the skin, loosening the entire apple from its skin, then carefully scoop out the flesh in small spoonfuls without ripping the bottom of the apple. Leave a small portion of the apple flesh attached to the core on the bottom. You will be left with 8 hollowed-out standing apple skin vessels
Chop the apples: Chop the scooped apple flesh into 1/4-inch pieces. Peel and core the 2 remaining raw apples and chop into 1/4-inch pieces.
Sauté the apple with the figs and vanilla: Run a paring knife down the center of the vanilla bean. Split it open with your fingers and use the knife to scrape out the tiny black seeds. Place the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and the vanilla seeds and pod in a 10- 12 inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter begins to brown*, add the chopped apples, the vanilla extract (if you are not using a vanilla bean), and the fig. Sauté for 1 minute, stirring with a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons sugar and cook for 5 minutes, stirring ever minute or so. Turn down the heat to medium and cook until the fruit is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. If the apples seem dry and burning at the bottom, add 1/4 cup water to steam them a bit. When the apples and figs are cooked, scrape them out of the sauté pan onto a cookie sheet or baking dish to cool. Remove the vanilla bean. Rinse it, dry it and save it for another use.
Stuff the apples: Spoon the cooked apple and fig mixture into the hollowed-out apple skin, dividing the mixture evenly among the 8 skins. Top each stuffed apple with a roasted apple top. Roast the stuffed apples for 10 to 12 minutes at 350ºF before serving.
Serving Suggestions: Serve these apples warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, the Brandied Crème Fraiche Sauce, The cider Caramel Sauce or the Toffee Sauce.
Storage: These apples can be kept, well wrapped and at room temperature, for 36 hours.
* Browning butter: Brown butter adds depth of flavor to all sorts of sauces and baked goods. Brown butter is butter that is boiled until it reaches approximately 250ºF, at which point the milk protein and sugar (lactose) brown through what are called Maillard reactions, producing a complex, nutty, sweet flavor, with a caramel, hazelnut, brown sugar-like aroma.
There are several visual and aromatic clues to watch out for white you are browning butter. As the butter boils, a white foam will accumulate on the surface. In order to control the rate at which the butter browns, I recommend turning the heat down to medium when you see the foam forming.
Observe the butter very carefully. You will begin to notice brown freckles in the creamy white foam. It will then turn a universal beige-brown color and develop a nutty, butterscotch-like perfume. The boiled liquid butter under the foam will change color from a clear yellow to a clear golden yellow. The best way to see this color changes is by scooping up some butter with a dry ladle or spoon and then pouring the butter back into the pan, examining the color in the stream of hot butter. Once you have observed this color transformation and you have smelled the wonderful nutty aroma, remove the butter from the heat and set aside.
If the butter continues to cook and brown further, it takes on a golden brown color with an even stronger nutty caramelized flavor. (This deeply flavored butter is desirable for some recipes.) If the butter is heated a bit more it takes on a solid brown color; it then loses its nutty sweetness and becomes somewhat acrid.
Also be aware that the browning milk solids, once caramelized, sink and collect at the bottom of the pan. When you pour off the brown butter, you can strain the dark solid out; or, if desired, you can allow some to incorporate into your batter or sauce.