Monday, April 24, 2017

An Open House and new Appetizers

Yesterday afternoon Tetiana Althoff, a realtor with Re/Max Preferred Choice here in town, held an Open House at  2605 Pheasant Run Blvd. I was asked to volunteer some appetizers for this, as one of the "high-end" open houses featuring wine and food. It was a lovely afternoon, and quite a few people came to look through the house and partake of the treats.

Appetizers at the Open House
Appetizers, clockwise from top left: Squash Prosciutto & Smoked Gouda Quiches, Savory Brie & Rosemary Cheesecakes, Cream Cheese & Tart Cherry Filled Apricots, Blue Cheese Wafers

When approached about this Open House, I started looking through recipes to see what appealed to me. I have a stack of folders at least 5-inches thick with all sorts of recipes I have saved, from online or from magazines, and some are scribbled ideas I had at some point. Looking through these folders for ideas, I found a recipe I had printed from the internet for Camembert Cheesecakes and thought, hmmm, maybe it's finally time to try these. I also came across a recipe my sister used for one of our 50th birthday parties. It is similar to my own Pistachio and Almond Paste Filled Apricots, in that it uses dried apricots and has them stuffed with a filling, but this recipe from A Taste of Home) used far more ingredients. They are really good, but I believe I will stick to my original recipe from here on out. For one, it uses less ingredients, and secondly, my recipe is far easier to make. In a comparison, while both are tasty, I think my original recipe is tastier. That does not mean these "new ones" aren't good, because they are delicious (just a bit more fuss to make).
Savory Brie & Rosemary Mini-Cheesecakes
Savory Brie & Rosemary Mini-Cheesecakes

The other two recipes I made were variations on some I have made previously. The Blue Cheese Wafers are a variation on my Savory Blue Cheese Coins with Apricot Jam. In this new version, I used all smoked blue cheese, with no cheddar at all, and almond meal rather than walnuts. For the topping, rather than Apricot Jam, I used the Fig Apricot Preserve I made recently for the little tamales at the "Renaissance Festival." I really love how this Preserve worked on these little savory wafers. The jam in the original recipe tends to bubble up and flow all over the place when baking. This Preserve I had made, is less sweet altogether and it stayed in place, no bubbling and spilling. 

The other recipe variation is the mini quiches. Originally, I got the recipe from a neighbor in Florida, and those, called "Millard's Artichoke Quiches," uses marinated artichoke hearts and cheddar cheese. While they are absolutely fabulous in flavor, I wanted to try something new. In this new version, I eliminated the artichokes and cheddar, then cooked some butternut squash to add in, plus Prosciutto and smoked Gouda cheese. Those were just out of this world!
Savory Brie & Rosemary Cheesecakes
Savory Brie & Rosemary Cheesecakes, served at the Open House

I will put the recipes for these last three items in a future blog or two, but in this one I want to concentrate on the little Savory Brie Cheesecakes. I had found this recipe, called Camembert Cheesecakes, online, some time ago I used the recipe, but with some changes. The first and foremost was the use of Brie instead of Camembert. Our local grocery often carries Camembert, but did not have any this time. Brie it was, then. I doubled the recipe, as I wanted more than just 12, but then found I still had enough cheesecake batter for 6 more, so I made an extra half recipe of crust. This turned out 30 little cheesecakes. And, they were really excellent.

Norpro Mini Cheesecake Pan
Norpro Mini Cheesecake Pan
I had just recently created a recipe for Roasted Tomato Pickle, and with these relatively bland cheesecakes (though full of flavor, they are mainly cheese), I thought that maybe a little strip of this new tomato condiment would add some zip. Oh boy, did it ever! Honestly, that Roasted Tomato Pickle is one of my most inspired condiments in a long while! As it turned out, while the cheesecakes puffed up beautifully in the oven, they fell into a significant dip in the center, once they cooled. And, as it happened, that little dip was the perfect place to set the piece of tomato. A good thing all around. 

To make these cheesecakes, I used a Norpro brand mini-cheesecake pan (available on and many other places). It has 12 wells with removable bottoms, making for easy release. These turn out a little cheesecake that is smaller than if made in a regular muffin tin, and more straight-sided, but much larger than if made in the little mini-muffin tins. These are about 1¾-inch diameter at the base. I didn't measure, but I have a good eye for dimensions. If you do not have a mini-cheesecake pan, I truly do not know how to say what I would do in a different sized pan. These might work well in a regular muffin tin, with those new smooth-sided muffin papers, but I cannot say how many would come out, or baking times. If you do have a mini-cheesecake pan, then here is a really great, and beautiful recipe to use.

When making these, I wanted to line the wells of the cheesecake tin, to ensure ease of release from the sides. The original recipe says to run a knife around the edges to release, but too often I end up gouging the sides with the knife, making it very unsightly. These were for a special occasion, and looks were important. It may have been easy enough to press the crust into the pans, but I felt that forming the crust dough into a log and chilling it first would make things easier. I figured this way I would slice the log and set the wafer into the cheesecake well, line the well with paper before the crust was pressed to the edges, then press the crust into the edges to bake. This worked very easily and quickly. I used a 2-teaspoon "cookie scoop" and used two scoops to fill the pans. They puffed up to the top during baking, then fell into a dip in the center. 

Slice crust into pan - line pan - press crust to edges - bake
I have only one of these mini cheesecake tins, so I made these in batches. With the parchment lining the sides, there was no mess clinging to sides. The crust releases very easily; I just wiped each base plate with a paper towel before re-inserting for the next batch.

Savory Brie & Rosemary Cheesecakes

Makes 30 
Savory Brie & Rosemary Cheesecakes
Savory Brie & Rosemary Cheesecakes

1¼ sticks butter (10 tablespoons / 141 grams)
½ cup + 2 tablespoons almond meal (2 ounces / 56 grams)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour (5.2 ounces / 176 grams)
½ teaspoon salt, plus a pinch (0.1 ounce / 2 grams)
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves (0.05 ounce / 1 gram)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 (8-ounce / 226 gram) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 (8-ounce / 226 grams) package Brie, at room temperature
2 large eggs 
2 teaspoons (0.10 ounces / 2 grams) minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon (0.05 ounce / 1 gram) Aleppo pepper, optional
½ teaspoon (0.05 ounce / 1 gram) freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (8-ounces / 300 grams) sour cream 

Make the Crust: Place the almond meal flour, rosemary, salt, and pepper into a mixing bowl. Add in the softened butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture starts to come together. Using hands, gather the mixture into a ball, then shape into a log, slightly less in diameter than the diameter of the cheesecake wells. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes. 

Cut strips of parchment paper to just overlap inside the wells of the pan and to stand just a little taller than the well's height. The pieces should be just about 7 to 8 inches long by about 2-inches wide. You will need 30 altogether. Set these aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once chilled, slice the chilled dough into approximately ¼-inch thick coins. Place the coins into the bottom of the cheesecake pan wells. They should not quite touch the edges of the pan, yet. Set the parchment pieces around the sides of the wells, making sure they reach the bottom of the wells. Now, reach in and press the dough into the edges. This holds the parchment in place. Bake the crusts until set, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and allow the pan to cool slightly before filling with cheesecake batter.
Cheesecake batter - filling the wells - baked

Make the Cheesecake Batter: Make sure the cheeses are very much at room temperature. If you are not over fond of the Brie rind, trim some of it off. Place the cream cheese and the soft Brie into a large bowl and mix using a hand mixer until most, but not all, of the lumpiness of the Brie is gone. Beat in the eggs, rosemary, Aleppo pepper, black pepper until combined, then add in the sour cream and beat to mix. Scoop about 4 teaspoons of the mixture into each of the parchment lined wells, on top of the baked crusts. Bake the cheesecakes for about 12 minutes, or until set and just barely beginning to brown. 

Remove from oven and allow the pan to cool enough to handle, then press each cheesecake up from the bottom, remove the base plate and set the cheesecakes aside to cool. Repeat with making the cheesecakes until they are all done. Refrigerate the cheesecakes for at least 2 hours before serving. 

For a wonderful topping, make the Roasted Tomato Pickle. Slice pieces of the tomato and curl on top of each cheesecake. Serve chilled. Decorate with more rosemary, if desired.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.