Category Archives: Cheesecake

Look up to the sky Joan Cheesecake

look-up-to-the-sky-joan.jpeg

Oh my, oh my – hasn’t our beloved Backstage Baker has outdone himself?

First, apologies for the long hiatus, but after closing OTHELLO in the Park, James took the summer off to recharge and celebrate a milestone birthday in Italy!  On returning, he plunged right into rehearsals of MOTHER OF THE MAID  a play by Jane Anderson that examines the Joan of Arc story from the perspective of her mother.  And when her mother is played by Glenn Close — well, you have an incendiary evening of theater.  Click here to try and buy tickets.  (Would it be too punny of me to say this is a hot one?)

The cake above was created by James for the company’s first Wine and Unwind after opening.  (Before then, he assured me, he had been baking recipes we’d previously blogged.)

Here’s the recipe, in James’ own words:

This originally came to me as a “Galaxy Cheesecake,” and the beauty of this cooked-but-not- baked cheesecake is that you can actually paint with the batter. I have used darker food coloring and made it look like a starry night sky. I also made this during the production of PLENTY to mimic the dappled sky on the set.

Here, the inspiration came from the lines in the second to last scene of the play where Isabelle is comforting her daughter Joan. She talks about St. Catherine telling her to look up to the skies before she feels the flames.  (And let me tell you, this scene is heartbreaking.)

Look Up to the Sky Joan Cheesecake

For the crust:

12 oz cookies- crumbled and ground fine in the food processor.  (Oreos are great for doing a starry evening sky. I used gluten-free chocolate cookies this time because some of the company is gluten free. They also make a lighter crust. Tate’s makes some of the best gluten free cookies. I also like to used dark chocolate cookies to better frame your cheesecake.)
4 oz (1 stick) melted butter

For the filling:

6 1/2 oz white marshmallows (I used the mini marshmallows because they are easier to melt)
8 oz package of cream cheese
3/4 cup milk
3 tsp lemon juice
Food coloring in blue, yellow and red

Method:

  1.  Mix the crumbs with the butter
  2. Put the mixture in a springform pan. Pat the base down with a spoon, forming a thick border of the cookie mixture around the circumference. You can shape it further using a glass that you press around around the edge. Refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Melt the marshmallows with the cream cheese in a stainless steel bowl that is sitting on pot of boiling water. Keep stirring with a whisk. Once a uniform, lump free cream has formed, stir in the milk and the lemon juice. Then, divide the cream between four bowls — two large ones and two small ones. Put more cream in the larger bowls accordingly. You want to pick your base color and keep the most of that in the largest bowl. In this case it was the blue.
  4. In the first, stir in a few drops of blue food coloring until you get a sky blue color. leave one bowl with less batter plain. This will be the clouds. Then in the smaller portions mix yellow and red to create a fiery orange. In the bowl with the smallest portion mix solid yellow
  5. Now start painting!  Pour the blue cream onto the cheesecake base first. Add portions of the plain white cheese batter for the clouds and swirl with the tip of the knife or a silicon bristled pastry brush. Towards the bottom of the pan I layered on the yellow and orange and swirled a flame effect.

You could use this technique with other colors to create all sorts of paintings.

Refrigerate the cake for at least two hours — then get ready to serve up some slices of edible art!

Grace Van Patten who plays JoanGrace Van Patten, who plays Joan

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Cheesecake-stuffed Strawberry Bites

Strawberries

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, our Backstage Baker offers up this scrumptious recipe.  In fact, it’s so easy, it’s almost hard to call it a recipe!

But first, don’t forget to watch the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11, 2017 — Indecent is nominated for Best Play, Best Director (Rebecca Taichman) and Best Lighting (Christopher Akerlind.)  Just for fun, here’s a link to a post on The Skriker, a show that Chris lit at the Public many moons ago.

Also, don’t forget that James’ previous show Jitney is also nominated for several Tony Awards this season!  You have to wonder if he sprinkles magic dust on his shows, right?  Maybe it’s just all the baking . . .

But back to these cheesecake-stuffed strawberry bites!  This is a super easy dessert to throw together. Great for parties and week end celebrations. And now strawberries are in season, it’s the perfect time to make them.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberry Bites

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, then hulled and cored
Almond cookies crushed (or for a more traditional taste use crushed graham crackers)
Half cup dark chocolate pieces melted

Method:

Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl until smooth; spoon into a piping bag or a resealabe bag with a corner snipped.
Fill cavities of cored strawberries with the cream cheese mixture. Dip filled side of strawberries in the crushed graham crackers to coat. Drizzle with dark chocolate.

KAtrina LenkKatrina Lenk and Adina Verson try the Stuffed Strawberries (Katrina will also star in next season’s THE BAND’S VISIT)

Tom Nelis
Tom Nelis (left) enjoying the wine while discussing his role with understudy Ben Cherry (center) as understudy Eleanor Reissa looks on.

The First Cheesecake

<cheesecakeSimple, classic cheesecake.  From the first cheesecake recipe our Backstage Baker ever used!

Perhaps you recall James’s Cheesecake Bake-offs of past years (and posts!)  Well, here is the very first cheesecake recipe James ever used.  (Just imagine young James reading the New York Times, then toddling around his mother’s Milwaukee kitchen, surrounded by cheese curds, cream and cows, mixing up this luscious treat!  Okay, perhaps it didn’t go quite like that . . .)

In James’ own words:  “Here it is. First published in the New York Times as Jon’s Cheesecake. I did a few modifications, mostly making my own crust.”  I searched the Times’ archives for the original recipe, but came up empty. But who cares?  This recipe is delicious!  James served it up at a Jitney Wine and Unwind and it was gone in minutes!

Ingredients:

For Graham cracker crust:
1 cup Graham crumbs
¼ cup cocoa
2 tbsp sugar
¼ cup melted butter

For Filling:
2 packages (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

For Topping: (don’t skip this, it really makes the whole cake sing!)
1 pint sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

In a small bowl, mix together the graham crumbs, sugar, cocoa, and melted butter and press into a 9 inch springform pan.

Mix cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix until well combined.

Spoon over graham crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until set. Let cool on a rack while you make the topping.

For topping combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Spread carefully over top of baked cake. Refrigerate overnight

Garnish with fresh fruit just before serving.

carra-patterson
Carra Patterson (Rena) enjoying a slice

harvy-and-ray
Harvy Blanks (Shealing) and Ray Anthony Thomas (Philmore) fighting over the last piece

Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes

The Backstage Baker’s new show is a revival of the award-winning David Hare play Plenty.  Check it out here.   It stars Rachel Weisz and I think is already completely sold out.

For their first Wine and Unwind, our BB outdid himself with these gorgeous looking mini cheesecakes.  I mean, can you stand them?  And can you eat just one???  (There’s a joke about plenty in here that I can’t quite find . . .)

mini-raspberry-cheesecakes

Before you start, you need to get a mini-cheesecake pan with removable bottom sections.  (OMG, more kitchenware??  Yet . . . these little darlings sure look worth it!) Here’s a link to the one the Backstage Baker uses.   

Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes

Ingredients

1 cup crushed Chocolate wafers or ginger snaps or whatever crisp cookie you are in the mood for
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 fresh raspberries
Chocolate chips (white or dark, depending your taste)
2 ounces dark chocolate, melted, for drizzling

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease mini-cheesecake pan.  Stuff 12 raspberries with dark or white chocolate chips.  (James tells me he was able to get two chips into each raspberry.)

Place a heaping teaspoon (more or less, depending on how much you like crust) in each cheesecake well. Tamp down with fingers or a teaspoon. Place in the oven for 3 minutes. Let cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until well mixed. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.

Fill cheesecake wells half-full, them place one raspberry stuffed with chocolate on top. Cover with the rest of the batter. Bake for 13-15 minutes. Cool completely.

Gently push each cheesecake out of its well from the bottom. With a thin spatula, remove each cheesecake from the bottom plate and place on parchment paper or lightly greased tinfoil. Drizzle with melted chocolate and place a raspberry in the center.  Heaven!

corey-stoll-who-plays-brock-jesca-prudencio-assistant-director-and-maria-goyanes-associate-producer
Corey Stoll who plays Brock, Jesca Prudencio – Assistant Director and Maria Goyanes – Associate Producer wining and unwinding

emily-bergl
Emily Bergl who plays Alice and her contribution a delicious Golden Syrup cake. (Notice the colorful pile of spike tape on the table in the back!!!) I’ll ask her is she will share the recipe.

 

Chocolate Swirl Mini-cheesecakes

Mini cheesecakes

I’m behind on my Wine and Unwind posts — this recipe is actually from two weeks ago.  But, oh my, was this ever a popular one!  Nothing hits the spot better after a five show weekend than cheesecake and champagne (thanks again, Anna Wintour, for the case of bubbly.)

I was only able to get a couple of pictures because JULIA ROBERTS was in the house that night and came backstage afterwards.  To say the green room was crowded was an understatement.  Oh, wait, is it tacky to name drop on a baking blog?

Chocolate Swirl Mini-Cheesecakes

(Based on a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website)

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ice water
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, cold

Cheesecake filling:
8 ounces block-style cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream OR sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted

Method:

1) For the crust: Preheat oven to 425°F.  Add flour, almond flour, sugar, and salt to a food processor. Pulse twice. Pulse in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Do not over process. Sprinkle in the vanilla and a teaspoon or two of water if the dough is too crumbly to hold together when squeezed.

2) Divide the crumbs among the 12 cups of a bite-size cheesecake pan. Press them firmly to the bottoms and about 1/2″ up the sides. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and just beginning to color. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

3) For the batter: In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the cream, egg and almond extract, mix well. Spoon the batter into the cooled crusts, using about 2 tablespoons in each. Top with a scant half teaspoon of melted chocolate. Use a toothpick to swirl it into the batter.

4) Bake the cheesecakes for 18 to 20 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes — the tops will sink slightly. Use a knife to gently loosen the edges, then carefully invert the pan and push the cheesecakes out. Immediately turn the cheesecakes right-side up and chill them. To remove the metal plates before serving, run the blade of a table knife under hot water to warm it, then run the knife between the crust and the metal disk to free up the cheesecake.

5) Serve with whipped cream if desired.

mini cheesecakes 2

 

Yield: 12 mini cheesecakes.

All the (Milky) Way Cheesecake Brownies

Jersey Boys Tony Good wishes

“Jersey Boys” cast and crew wishing their across the street neighbors good luck on Tony night!

“All the Way” represented at Broadway’s biggest awards show, bringing the Tonys for Best Play and Best Performance by an Actor home to 52nd Street.   Our Backstage Baker was at Radio City in his tux to enjoy the show and party until dawn.  (Okay, maybe not exactly dawn, but there was some party hopping happening!)

And on post-Tony Tuesday, James brought in a celebratory batch of  decadent “All the (Milky) Way Cheesecake Brownies.”  Enjoy!

All the (Milky) Way Brownies 1

All The (Milky) Way Cheesecake Brownies

Ingredients:

Brownie Layer

1 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

 Cheesecake Layer
16 oz cream cheese, softened (2 packs)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 bag chopped Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites (these are great because you don’t have to unwrap the individual candies.)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of  a 9/13 pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease the paper.

1. With a mixer combine melted butter with sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the cocoa and mix well. Then add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined, do not over mix.

2. Set aside one cup of the brownie batter and smooth the rest into the 9×13 prepared pan

3. With your mixer  (cleaned off), begin making your cheesecake layer by beating cream cheese and sugar until smooth.

4. Add the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.

5. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie mixture and using a spatula, smooth it evenly over the brownie batter.

6. Sprinkle the chopped Milky Way Simple Caramel pieces evenly over cream cheese layer.

7. Using the reserved cup of brownie batter, drop spoonfuls over the top of the candy bar layer, scattering around.

8. Use your spatula or a butter knife to gently swirl the batters. This will combine the cream cheese layer and top brownies layer a bit, which covering the candies in batter. This does not need to be perfect.

9. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares (at least an hour).

I like these cold so I refrigerate after cooled. Any leftovers (if there are any leftovers) should be refrigerated.

 

 

Cherry Tartlets

I’ve fallen behind on my blogging responsibilities — Cub Scout Den mother duties and working at KINKY BOOTS has filled my time.  But better late than never — this is a sweet, sweet recipe that is also very easy to make.  Our James served them at a baby shower he whipped up for Crystal Dickinson and Brandon Dirden.  (Brandon, as you may or may not know, plays Martin Luther King in ALL THE WAY.  Crystal played Francine/Lena in CLYBOURNE PARK.)

Wine and Unwind will return shortly — James has been tweaking a recipe for Mini-Chocolate Cakes with Peanut Butter Cream that he’ll be sharing sooner rather than later (I hope!).

Cherry Tartlets

Cherry Tartlets

Ingredients:

For the dough:
8 ounce package cream cheese 1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder 1/4 tsp. salt

Filling:
8 ounce pkg. cream cheese
4 Tablespoon milk
8 Tablespoon powdered sugar
1 Can Cherry Pie Filling

Method:

1.  Let cheese soften at room temperature. Cream together with butter.

2.  Mix together next 3 ingredients; combine with creamed mixture. Wrap dough in waxed paper. Chill 4 hours or overnight.

3.  Divide dough into balls about the size of walnuts. Place each ball in a 2″ muffin cup. Press dough on bottom and sides of muffin cups. Prick with fork. Bake in 350 degree oven 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

4.  For the filling:
Soften cream cheese at room temperature. Mix together with milk and sugar. Place a spoonful in each cooked tartlet shell.

5.  Using a can of Cherry pie filling, place a couple cherries over cheese filling.

Yield: 48 tarts 

 

Crystal & BrandonThe happy parents-to-be Crystal and Brandon.