Wednesday, December 18, 2013

And then came the holidays

y'all - where has the time gone? i finished up a year of research that seemed to fly by with all the air miles i racked up, and then started back for my last year of med school - my last year - and it's already half way over. now i'm in the thick of interviewing for residency programs (blogging from the airport, where i seem to spend most my time these days).

can we take pause right quick and discuss how terrified i am? i spent my whole life working toward this, toward being a doctor. and come the month of may, i'll finally have those shiny letters behind my name. and then someone's going to ask me how to treat their pneumonia and i'm going to freak. 

okay that's exaggerating but still - people are about to TRUST me. they are about to relinquish control and say, "doc - fix me." am i ready for this?!? i sure hope so. 

the good thing is, i've got a supportive family and *fiance* to help me out. more on that one later ;) 

segue into the pounds and pounds i've put on stress eating this past month. being back in school, interviewing all over the country, doing rotations abroad, planning a wedding - so many life changes and happenstances and i am stressed y'all. 

so, though i've been stress-baking quite a bit through all the craziness of the past year, i was just too lazy to document it. shows what kind of blogger i am. in the midst of it all, however, i did happen to try my hand at cheese - wait for it - cake. cheesecake. 

it seems like people are generally scared of baking a cheesecake. for me, it wasn't so much as scared as it was laziness (recurring theme, anyone?). it takes some effort to bake a good cheesecake. once you get the batter together, you have to bake it for over an hour, and then let it cool to room temp before you put it in the fridge until the neeeext daaaaay. that's when your cake is really ready to be unleashed from its spring-form pan and devoured by the masses. 

i finally got over the laziness and found a coconut cheesecake recipe that i have made a dozen times now without fail - it always works. always. thank you alaska from scratch for this gem. people LOVE it! 

i've essentially hoarded fresh cranberries this winter, so i decided to throw some in this cheesecake for a bit of holiday flair. it is as delicious as it is beautiful. let's just say i took it to a holiday gathering and everyone asked me where i bought it. that's right - it's sellable. i mean - just look at it: 

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all you have to do is bake a crust. 
then sprinkle some cranberries and coconut across the bottom. 
pour in the coconut cream cheese batter. 
bake in a water bath. 
cool completely – overnight.
whip up a quick cranberry topping. 
dump it on your cake. 
and marvel for two seconds prior to backing out a piece to test-drive. 

BTG Cranberry Coconut Cheesecake - Collage
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so if you happen to find a day of patience during the hectic festivus seasons, i beg you to make this cake: you will have zero regrets. 

*a note about cranberries: alton brown schooled me after i made this cake with the knowledge that cranberries are full of air (hence the popping noise they make when cooked). so, when you bake fresh cranberries in a cake, they will pop and release some air – this led to some weird bubbles under the surface of my cake which i’d never seen before. cutting through the cake didn’t reveal any gorgeous cross sections that i’d originally hoped for but it delivered on flavor nonetheless. tart and sweet can’t be beat. you could definitely try this recipe out with other berries that don’t have as much air content – blue or blackberries would be divine!

cranberry coconut cheesecake
adapted from alaska from scratch 

spring-form pan
small sauce pan
stand mixer with paddle attachment
large roasting pan
oven and stove top

1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (or 8 full crackers, crumbled in a blender)
5 tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
5 tbsp coconut oil, melted (or butter if you choose)

filling: 12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup + 3 tbsp white sugar, divided
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes, divided
1 1/2 lb cream cheese, softened (3 8-oz packages, full fat is best)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
7 oz coconut cream (or milk)

make the crust:
  1. preheat oven to 350F.
  2. for the crust, mix together all the ingredients and press into the bottom and half-way up the sides of a spring-form pan (in the pictures you'll see i lined the bottom of my spring-form with parchment paper, but that isn't really necessary - i just wanted to slide it off the pan and into a cake-caddy after. i also wrapped the outside of the pan with foil to prevent any water leakage during the actual cake baking process, but this is probably avoidable if you've got a decent-working pan). 
  3. bake for about 12 minutes, till golden brown. 
  4. remove from oven and let it cool completely. 
do something with the cranberries:
  1. toss the cranberries with 3 tbsp sugar and 1/4 cup shredded coconut.
  2. sprinkle half the mixture directly onto the cooled crust.
  3. cook the other half of the mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat, until the cranberries start to burst and release their natural pectin. stir and remove from heat to cool completely.
get to work on the filling:
  1. decrease the oven temp to 325F.
  2. beat the cream cheese in your stand mixer until smooth. be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the cheese.
  3. add sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt – beat until smooth.
  4. add beaten eggs 1 tbsp at a time to the cream cheese mixture, mixing will after each addition.
  5. add coconut cream and beat until combined.
  6. pour cream cheese filling into the spring-form pan, covering the cranberries completely.
  7. place the spring-form pan into a large roasting pan, and place this on the center rack of your oven. fill the roasting pan with hot water (i whipped some hot water up in my tea kettle), until water reaches half way up the sides of the pan.
bake, cool, decorate, serve:
  1. bake for 65-75 minutes, until filling is set and jiggles slightly in the center when tapped.
  2. for me, the easiest way to get the pan out of the oven without scalding myself with hot water is to slide the oven rack out and remove only the cheesecake. then you can remove the roasting pan with all its hot water after its cooled a bit.
  3. allow the cheesecake to cool completely to room temperature. then, while still in the spring-form pan, place it in the fridge to cool at least 8 hours.
  4. run a knife around the side of the cake before releasing the spring-form pan (if you don’t, and your cake is the least bit stuck, it will cause your cake to crack!)
  5. top with cooled cranberry mixture and sprinkle with remaining coconut.
  6. then, let them eat cake.
phew. that took forever. but i promise – it was so worth it.

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