Tag Archives: Pecans

Individual Cheesecakes

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Allison wanted her birthday cake to be cheesecake. And as always, I had to do something special. Since different folks like different tastes, I decided to make individual cheesecakes with a smorgasbord of sauces. Each cheesecake is about the size of a cupcake, and is complete in itself. And then there are the toppings with which each person can choose and complement their cheesecake. All the recipes are in this article, even if some have appeared earlier in other articles.

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For toppings, I made a ganache, a caramel, a praline sauce, lemon curd, strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkin. The latter is because this year we celebrate Alli’s birthday on Halloween, and Halloween goes well with pumpkin cheesecake.

I obviously made way too many, and too much toppings. I was surprised to find that the lemon curd and the strawberries were probably the favorites, with the caramel running third. The ganache was not a favorite; as daughter Mindy told me later- who wants chocolate with cheesecake? Cheesecake is almost the anti-chocolate food.- She also said that she felt pumpkin mousse was not a topping for cheesecake, but if you want a pumpkin cheesecake, you should put the pumpkin in the cheese layer.

Individual Cheesecakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 3 pkg (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 cups Sour Cream at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

The above Ingredient list is broken into 3 parts- bottom crust, middle filling, and topping.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Put cupcake papers into the bottom of 18 muffin cups
  3. For the crust, mix the graham crumbs, 2 Tablespoons sugar and butter until well blended, and press into the bottoms of the cupcake papers.
  4. For the filling, beat the cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3/4 cup sugar until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Spoon over the crusts.
  5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the centers are almost set.
  6. For the topping, combine the sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl. Spread over the surface of the warm cupcakes. Return the cupcakes to the oven and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or over night.
  7. Remove the cupcake papers and arrange the individual cheesecakes for serving.


Since I made the seven toppings, I will give you recipes for each of them although you should probably only focus on a couple or three for your serving.

Ganache is a mixture of heavy cream and chocolate. I have used several of these in the past and am providing you with a pointer to some of those recipes as well as giving you a recipe herein. Perhaps the best previous recipe was with the home-made Ding Dongs. In that case, We wanted the ganache to set since it was an outside coating, and we wanted it to be shiny. So the amount of chocolate was more than the amount of cream, and we added fat (butter) for the gloss. Likewise, for holding cake pops together, we use a ganache. The recipe in the cake pop article is not strong enough compared to the recipe for white chocolate ganache in the Icings, Frostings and Glazes article; you really need a 4 to 1 ratio of chocolate to cream for cake pops. Here, we want a fairly liquid ganache, and use a 1 to 1 ratio.

Ganache

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Chocolate Pieces (any flavor or type, including white)
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream

Directions

  1. Place the chocolate in a microwave proof bowl
  2. Heat the cream in a sauce pan until small bubbles start to appear around the edges (just to a boil but not boiling!)
  3. Remove from the heat, and pour over the chocolate.
  4. Let the mixture sit undisturbed for 5 minutes
  5. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth

An alternative approach is to place the ingredients in a double boiler over simmering water and cook, stirring until it is smooth and all the chocolate is melted. Since the chocolate is in a heat proof bowl, and the sauce pan is out, this should be an easy change from heating the cream separately and waiting for the chocolate to melt.

Caramel is a mixture of heavy cream and sugar. Most of the caramel I have used I have made from salted caramel chips, and used a ganache recipe; it works. However, if you want a straight caramel without salt, then the recipe I have in the Guinness Gingerbread Cupcakes article does a nice job.

Caramel

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool it to room temperature and refrigerate it in a covered container. Reheat over low heat until smooth and spreadable.

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the brown sugar and cream. Stir with a whisk until the sauce bubbles and gets sticky, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and salt.

If ganache is Chocolate and Cream, and Caramel is Sugar and Cream, then I would say that Praline is Sugar and Sugar; it is a very sweet sauce, and this recipe adds chopped pecans to give it more of that Southern flavor.

Praline Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespooons cornstarch
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small heavy sauce pan, stir together the brown sugar and cornstarch
  2. Stir in the corn syrup and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts and vanilla.
  4. Cool slightly, and serve.


I tried many recipes for a lemon sauce, and found I didn’t like any of them. Then I found this recipe for Lemon Curd, and the way the people at the party liked it, I think it is a real winner. As one person said, “I can’t wait to have my toast with lemon curd in the morning”.

Lemon Curd

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks in addition
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating each into the mixture. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look lumpy but will smooth out in the next step as it is cooked.
  2. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, cook the mixture over low heat until it smooths out. The lumpy appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. The thickened mixture should leave a path on the back of a spoon, and will read 170 degrees F on a thermometer. Don’t let the mixture go beyond 170 degrees, or boil.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming. Chill the curd in the refrigerator; it will thicken as it cools.

The curd will keep in the refrigerator for a couple weeks, and can be frozen for a couple months.

For the strawberries, I made the Strawberry Sauce recipe that is macerated strawberries. Again, I had tried several different recipes to get a good strawberry sauce, and finally settle on this one; it is juicy and sweet.

Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

  1. Mix the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Taste the resulting sauce, and if not sweet enough, add more sugar. Some recipes go to 1/2 cup of sugar, while others start with only 2 Tablespoons of sugar.

I started with the idea that I would macerate the blueberries, but then, who would want smashed blueberries. They really would not be very appetizing. So I left the blueberries whole; maceration seems to need the fruit to be cut, or opened such that its juices can flow.

Blueberries

For this “sauce” I added a couple tablespoons of sugar and some lemon zest to the blueberries, but next time, nothing but the berries. I think the zest turned people off; blueberry lovers want the simple pure fruit!

So finally, here is the pumpkin mousse that Mindy said was not proper for a cheesecake; she said the pumpkin should be cooked into the cheese layer of the cheesecake and not painted on top. However, this mousse would make an excellent filling for a simple pie- say graham cracker crust. And it would require no cooking- ready in a jiffy!

Pumpkin mousse

Ingredients

  • 2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding (sugar free is okay)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 -15 oz. can pure pumpkin/pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp clove

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the vanilla pudding mix, milk, pumpkin and spices.
  2. Whisk until smooth


That is all there is too making the mousse. Use it as you like.

Deviled Ham Cheese Logs

Not only is a cheese log tasty, but it is also attractive. If you have a simple party coming up, this is a real treat that you can serve with crackers of almost any kind. It takes only a few minutes to make, and you can make it ahead of the guests arriving. I think the up-coming Super Bowl would be a great time to have these Logs and some crackers ready. And it is still good if your party size is only two.

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I have to admit that daughter Mindy does a much nicer rolling of the logs in the chopped nuts. I may need to take another lesson from her.

Deviled Ham Cheese Logs

  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheeese, shredded
  • 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 1/2 oz. can deviled ham
  • 1/2 cup pitted chopped ripe olives
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Have cheddar cheese at room temperature. In a small
mixer bowl, beat cheeses together until well blended.
Beat in deviled ham; stir in olives and chill.
Shape into two 8″ logs. Wrap in cling wrap and chill
until ready to serve. Then unwrap and roll in pecans.
Serve with crackers or small breads

Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Here is the icing I used on the German’s Chocolate cake; although I will be looking for a different cake recipe, I think this icing is excellent.

Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 12 oz. evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 7 oz. coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Beat egg yolks, milk and vanilla in a large saucepan until well blended
  2. Add sugar and butter
  3. Cook on medium heat for 12 minutes or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from heat
  5. Stir in coconut and nuts
  6. Cool to spreading consistency and use

I found it takes time for the temperature of the icing to come down and let the icing set enough to spread as a frosting.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

This is an very interesting cookie and recipe; it is sort of a BOGO thing. Mexican Wedding Cookies ((Polvorones) and Russian Tea Cakes are almost the same recipe; the only difference in the way I make them is in the type of nut flour I use and the shape into which I make the cookie. Notice that I said “in the way I make them”; a lot of other peoples’ recipes do not make any difference in the two. My basic recipe is a Short Bread cookie dough, with nut flour added; there is no leavening or egg in the recipe. You will find other recipes that add egg to the basic Short Bread, and do not differentiate on the type of nut flour. In most cases, these are all called Mexican Wedding Cookies. I have seen recipes that use pecans, walnuts or almonds, all calling them Mexican Wedding Cookies.

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A Short Bread recipe is fairly simple and short; it contains fat, sugar, flour and flavoring. This recipe adds the nut flour to make the cookies. For Mexican Wedding Cookies, the nut flour is ground pecans, and for the Russian Tea Cakes the nut flour is ground walnuts. The second differentiation I make is in the shape of the cookie; while I leave the Russian Tea Cakes as balls, I roll the Mexican Wedding Cookies into crescents. I have seen Mexican Wedding Cookies that make them as a ball that looks exactly like the Russian Tea Cakes. This picture is my Russian Tea Cakes.

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So, with this recipe, you can make either Mexican Wedding Cookies or Russian Tea Cakes, and if you want to interpret the recipe in your own way, feel free. You may make your cookies with any nut flour you want, and you may shape your cookies any way you want. I am only showing you the way I learned.

The nut flours are easy to make; they do not have to be ground to a powder, but just enough to be easy to handle in the dough. The way I make mine is in a food processor. I have found that it is best to run a knife through the nut halves a couple times before putting them in the food processor so the projectiles the spinning blades throw do not have as much mass; it scares me to hear the nut halves hit the side of the processor bowl. I think once when I did just dump the halves in the processor, I actually cracked a piece of the plastic of the processor bowl. Once in the processor, just pulse it a few times; there will still be a few discernible pieces, but for the most part you will have a fine enough grind to make the nut flour.

Mexican Wedding Cookies and Russian Tea Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup nut flour

Directions

  1. For the nut flour, measure out the desired type of nuts, cut any large pieces, then finely grind in food processor or blender. I use pecans for Mexican Wedding Cookies and walnuts for Russian Tea Cakes.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. In large bowl with electric mixer beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until blended. On low speed, beat in flour and nut flour just until blended.
  4. Roll Tablespoons of dough into shape; smooth 1-inch balls for Russian Tea Cakes or crescents for Mexican Wedding Cookies. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets
  5. Bake 10 minutes or until firm (cookies may crack slightly).
  6. To Coat: put confectioners’ sugar into a wide bowl. Add hot cookies, a few at a time and toss carefully to coat. Remove with a spoon to wire rack to cool. When cool, roll again in confectioners’ sugar.


There are a couple tricks I should mention when making the crescent Mexican Wedding cookies. To roll out the Tablespoon of dough into a cylinder, I found that the best method was to roll across my bottom hand in a 45 degree direction, with my top hand doing the motion from little finger to first finger and back again. When I rolled at 90 degrees, the ending shape was wider in the middle than at the ends and didn’t make as nice a finished cookie.

Notice that the recipe says to remove with a spoon to the wire rack. If you try to pick the crescent up with your fingers, there is a good chance that it will break into two pieces. The spoon does not put any pressure against the legs and seems to save more cookies that when just using your fingers.

Once when I was making Mexican Wedding Cookies I rolled the unbaked crescents in the confectioners’ sugar before baking, and then again when they came out of the oven and were hot. This worked quite well. After all, the object is to get as much powdered sugar as possible on the cookies, isn’t it?

Pork-Pecan Tacos with Guacamole

Pork-Pecan TacosWhile this recipe appears to be complex, I encourage you to break it down into several distinct pieces that can each be accomplished separately and almost with no relationship to other steps. I will be guiding you through the steps with hints and suggestions as you will find below.

Pork Pecan Tacos with Guacamole

  • 2 lb. marinated center-cut pork loin filet (onion and garlic flavor)

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup reserved broth from the cooked pork loin

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste (divided)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped or miniprocessed
  • 1 pasilla or poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

  • 8 – 10 flour tortillas
  • Guacamole (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

1) Place pork in shallow pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and continue baking for another hour. During the last hour of cooking, check to make sure there is liquid surrounding the pork. If it begins to dry, add water, 1/4 cup at a time. This broth will be used later on.

2) Let the meat stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove meat from pan, reserving
3/4 cup of the liquid. Cut the meat into 4 to 6 pieces; with clean hands or 2 forks shred the meat into a large bowl.

3) In a heavy skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the pork with the garlic briefly, about 1 minute. Add the reserved broth and simmer about 10 minutes. Taste and season as desired with additional salt.

4) In a small skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat and stir in the pecans and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and saute for 1 minute; add the chilies and continue to saute for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir half this pecan mixture into the pork mixture. The rest should be sprinkled over the top when serving. (optional). Instead of green jalapeno peppers, red jalapenos could be used to add color to the meat.

To serve, heat the flour tortillas. (stack in pie pan, cover with foil and put in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.) Spread guacamole on each tortilla and fill with the shredded pork.

GUACAMOLE:

  • 2 ripe avacados
  • 1 medium-size ripe tomato
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • lemon juice
  • garlic salt

Mash avacados in a small bowl. Stir in chopped tomato and onion. Season with lemon juice and garlic salt.

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Those are the recipes; as you can see, I have broken the ingredient list down into subsets that go with the directions. Now I am going to discuss each step that might use a enlarged explanation.

  • Buying the meat: It once was that we could buy a 2 pound pork loin in a package with a garlic-onion marinade. I haven’t seen it in the marketplace recently. They are doing many other marinades. You can try one of those, and I doubt if it will make a big difference. I also note that inflation has hit on the pork loin in marinade; they use to be 2 pounds but now seem to be only 1 to 1 ½ pounds.If you need to buy a non-marinade pork loin, then I would recommend talking to the butcher. There is something called silver skin on pork that needs to be cut off; it is tough. It might not make any difference since we will be shredding the meat, but what the heck- let the butcher with his expertise take it off. I did one such pork loin, and learning about the silver skin is not worth the effort. You have to first identify it, then slip a sharp, flexible knife (boning knife) under it and peel it away from the muscle/meat.
  • Marinade: If you need to make a marinade, then here is a pointer to a very simple one on Cooks.com.
    Garlic-Onion Marinade
    It has soy sauce, fresh onion, fresh garlic, sugar, ground ginger, and oil. I have used this marinade a couple times and it seems to be easy and straight- forward. My only hint would be to be certain the sugar gets dissolved in the soy sauce. You need to plan ahead if you need to do the marinade; it needs to soak for a day or two. I put the pork loin and marinade in a large freezer bag and put it in the refrigerator to do its thing.
  • Roasting the pork: The package will probably say to roast for 45 -60 minutes. Forget it. Marlys says to roast for 2 ½ hours, and explicitly to tent it after 1 ½ hours, and to continually add liquid. If you don’t roast the meat long enough, it is difficult to shred, so please follow Marlys’s directions, and remember to add the liquid so there is minimal burning.
    No matter how hard you try, the bottom of the roasting pan is going to get some burned sugar on it. I recommend that you use a glass or ceramic pan to ease clean-up. And, a secret my sister Rachael taught me is to get a scouring powder called Bar Keeper’s Friend to help with the clean-up.
  • Caramelizing the Pecans: Although the directions don’t say to do this until after you have the shredded meat in the skillet sautéing, I would do this while the meat is roasting so you know you have the time. Of course, everyone is afraid of fresh peppers- don’t be. Wear rubber gloves if you think they will irritate the skin- I don’t need to protect my hands. And the peppers will loss most of their heat between the preparation- removing the seeds and veins- and the cooking. Where I would suggest being careful is getting rid of the seeds, stems, etc. I notice that when I put them down the garbage disposal, there is a back gassing that will cause me to cough and sputter if I catch it in my face, so don’t be over the garbage disposal when you wash the pepper debris down it. And, now that you have the oil of the peppers on your hands and fingers, don’t touch your face! Wash your hands with soap before proceeding.
    If you know that you will want a little more pepper heat in the finished meat, keep a couple tablespoons of the jalapeno aside now, and then sprinkle it on the meat as a final touch.
  • Shredding the pork: This is not a difficult task. What is happening is that with the two forks, you are pulling across the grain of the meat to separate the fibers of the grain. Cutting the roast into pieces that are a couple inches long makes certain that the fibers are not longer than that. Have fun!
  • Guacamole: I like to seed and juice the tomatoes before cutting them up for the guacamole so that the juice doesn’t get into the guacamole. I just think it makes a nicer sauce.

To convert the tacos into a fiesta, you might want to open a can of refried beans and heat them. When you serve them, sprinkle the top with grated cheese. Some people like a little lettuce with their taco, so you might want to shred a small bowl of lettuce as an accompaniment. And if you want even more of the taste of Mexico, you could also set the table with some sliced ripe olives, and maybe some salsa. I would also include on the table some sour cream; if anyone feels the pepper heat is too much, they can use a little sour cream to cool their mouth and reduce the heat. Don’t use water! It spreads the heat.

There are at least two ways to make/eat a taco; first is to roll the meat and other ingredients into the tortilla. In this case, fold up the bottom of the tortilla first so the stuffings don’t fall out. The other way is to tear the tortilla into pieces (4?) and then put just a little bit of the various ingredients on the piece and fold it only enough to get it into the mouth.

If you make the guacamole ahead of time, or have some left after the meal, you need to cover it with a piece of plastic wrap pressed down onto its surface so no air can get to it. Air causes the avocado to turn ugly brown, and very unappetizing.

Any left-over meat can be reheated in the microwave; and individual tortillas can also be warmed in the microwave.

Enjoy, Errol