Category Archives: Wine and Unwind

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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Desdemona’s Strawberry Handkerchief

Strawberry Hankie
The actual handkerchief prop from the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Othello”

The Backstage Baker has, as usual, gone from one show, Broadway’s “Farinelli and the King,” directly to another, “Othello,” the Public Theater’s first Shakespeare in the Park offering this summer.  Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (whom fans of this blog will know from our “Jitney” posts), “Othello” stars Chukwudi Iwuji as Othello, Heather Lind as Desdemona and Corey Stoll as Iago.  You can learn about ticket options here.

“Othello,”  in my humble opinion, is Shakespeare at his best.  In fact, my English professor mother thought so too, and in 1963 wrote one of the first academic treatises about Desdemona from the perspective of feminist.  Entitled “The Indiscretions of Desdemona,”  this essay was apparently quite ground-breaking in its time.  Here’s the JStor link. If you read it, do tell me what you think in the comments section below.

But, back to the napkin:  it’s an essential prop that drives the plot forward.  Othello gives it to Desdemona, Iago convinces his wife Emilia to steal it, Iago plants the hanky in Cassio’s bedroom and Othello thinks Desdemona is unfaithful — without that napkin there would be no story!!

Here’s a speech from the play about said napkin:

I am glad I have found this napkin.
This was her first remembrance from the Moor,
My wayward husband hath a hundred times
Wooed me to steal it, but she so loves the token—
For he conjured her she should ever keep it—
That she reserves it evermore about her
To kiss and talk to. I’ll ha’ the work ta’en out,
And give’t Iago. What he will do with it,
Heaven knows, not I.
I nothing, but to please his fantasy. (Emilia III.iii.294–303)

Oh Emilia, so clueless.

Now, here’s the cake James made for Sunday’s Wine and Unwind:

The dessert

Our Backstage Baker outdid himself this time, don’t you think?

Here’s the recipe he used, but really, you could make this with any sort of plain, vanilla cake.

Crustless Coconut Custard Pie Bars
NOTE from the Backstage Baker: The original recipe called for making it in a pie pan but handkerchiefs are square so I did a 9″square pan.  Of course.

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 1/4 cups shredded coconut

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Generously grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.

2. In a medium bowl, beat together sugar, flour, and salt.

3. Stir in melted butter and vanilla extract.

4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

5. Mix in evaporated milk , then stir in the coconut by hand.

6. Pour mixture into pan and bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until custard is nearly set and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

7. Let cool, then refrigerate before serving.

Here are some photos of the cast enjoying their napkin treat!

Allison Wright who plays Emilia and finds the handkerchief and then gives it to her husband Iago and Caroline Siewert who is a member of the ensembleAllison Wright who plays Emilia (and finds the handkerchief and then gives it to her husband Iago) and Caroline Siewert who is a member of the ensemble
Miguel Perez who play Brabantio, Heather Lind who plays Desdemona and loses the handkerchief, Kevin Rico Angulo who is a member of the ensembleMiguel Perez (Brabantio), Heather Lind (who plays Desdemona and loses the handkerchief), and ensemble member Kevin Rico Angulo

 

Raspberry Stuffed Mini Dark Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Truffle Icing

James 4

Our Backstage Baker is busy busy —  he’s already deep in rehearsal for his next Broadway show, J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways, starring Elizabeth McGovern and directed by Indecent’s Rebecca Taichman.  (FYI, Indecent closed on August 6, but if you missed it, you can catch it on November 17 on PBS’ Great Performances.  Check your local listings, as they say.)

Last week was the first Wine and Unwind for the Conways cast, and James made the Flourless Chocolate Cake already posted on the site. (As an aside, do you realize there are over 85 recipes posted here?  All made by James for the various shows he’s worked on over the past four years.)

This week, he tried a new recipe, and it seems like a keeper.  Enjoy!

Fresh Raspberry Stuffed  Mini Dark Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Truffle Icing
NOTES:  The individual cakes are made in cupcake pans and then inverted to cool, iced and served.
This recipe is great for a party since it makes 24.

Ingredients
for the mini cakes:
Nonstick Coconut Oil cooking spray
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups raspberries

for the Chocolate Truffle Icing:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat twenty-four 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar and brown sugar. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Add about 1/4 cup flour mixture and 1/4 cup buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed. Keep adding flour and buttermilk until finished and beat until just combined. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more.

Divide half of the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Divide the 2 cups raspberries among muffin cups, adding 3 or 4 berries to the center of each cup. Spoon the remaining batter over berries in muffin cups. Do not fill the cups fully.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

To Prepare Chocolate Truffle Icing:
Put cream and corn syrup in a small pan and boil over low heat stirring constantly. Add chocolate chips and let set 2 minutes. Whisk to combine and add vanilla.

To glaze cupcakes, invert one cake at a time onto a slotted spoon. Hold the cake over the bowl of icing and spoon icing over cake, allowing excess to drip down side. Place glazed cakes on a wire rack set on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill about 20 minutes or until icing is set.

James 1

If desired, decorate cakes with additional raspberries. Makes 24 cupcakes.

James 2
Actors Cara Ricketts and Gabriel Ebert ( 2013 Tony Award  winner for Best Featured Actor in a Musical)

James 3
Anna Camp, Anna Baryshnikov and Charlotte Parry wining and unwinding

James 5
Assistant Director Katie Lindsay

Grossman Family Mocha Brownies

Pic 4

This week one of the INDECENT Co-Producers hosted the Wine and Unwind. Let’s welcome Sarahbeth Grossman and her family recipe for Mocha Brownies into the Backstage Baker Club!!! Sarahbeth was also one of the producers on AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and on ANN.

Grossman Family Mocha Brownies

Ingredients:

2/3 cups butter
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Method:

Melt butter, coffee and chocolate in a double boiler.  Remove from heat.  Stir in ingredients in the order listed.  Beat at high speed for 30 seconds (batter will turn lighter brown in color.) Pour into greased 9×11 pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 min.

Butter Cream Frosting:
Melt and heat 4 tablespoons of butter until light brown and frothy (do not burn).  Beat in 3 cups of confectioners sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 3 Tablespoons of cream or milk.  Stir til smooth then spread over cooled brownies.  Cut into squares after frosting sets.


Pic 1
From left to right: musician Matt Darriau, actor Tom Nelis, Baker, co-Producer Sarahbeth Grossman and her Mocha Brownies, actor Max Gordon Moore

Pic 2
Actor Rich Topol who plays Lemml and a Wine and Unwind guest

Pic 3
Tom Nelis, special guest Vivienne Benesch, Producing Artistic Director of PlayMakers Repertory Company in North Carolina and Max Gordon Moore

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.

Indecent Lemony Almond Macaroons

Lemony ALmond Macaroons

Okay, so macaroons can’t really be indecent as they are thoroughly inanimate objects, but James made these for the pre-opening Wine and Unwind of Indecent last Sunday, so I thought the title was apt.  (FYI, Indecent, Paula Vogel’s play, opens at the Cort Theater on Tuesday, April 18.  Check it out here.)  These are also suitable for Passover.  I think.

Indecent Lemony Almond Macaroons

Ingredients:

1- 14-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg whites
3-4 ounces dark chocolate

Method:

Heat oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, almonds, sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Mix in the egg whites.

Drop mounds of the mixture (each equal to 2 tablespoons) onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart.

Bake, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges begin to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Or bake one pan at a time. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Melt chocolate by boiling water in a pot and then putting chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and placing the bowl over the boiling water.  Stir frequently until almost completely melted, then remove pot from water and stir until smooth.

Dip cooled macaroons in the chocolate and place on waxed paper (Or be green and place them on the parchment paper they were baked on!!!) Drizzle remaining chocolate over the tops of the macaroons.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Chocolate Covered Apricots Dusted with Ancho Chili

I’ve been meaning to post this for weeks . . . This is one of those super simple recipes that only has a few ingredients and doesn’t require baking!  Plus, it’s vegan and gluten-free.  What’s not to love?

From the Backstage Baker:  “We had so many cakes and cookies for Jitney’s opening, that I was trying to think of something else to do for WINE AND UNWIND. I took dried apricots and dipped them in dark chocolate, sprinkling the final product with ground Ancho Chile powder for a little heat. They were yummy and a big hit with the cast and crew. Try them for your next party.”

It almost seems silly to put this recipe format, but for those of you (me!) that are a little anal retentive, here it is:

Ingredients:
20 Turkish-style apricots
2 40z bar of dark chocolate (65% cacao and up)
Ancho chili powder

Method:

Place a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet.

Chop chocolate bars into small pieces, place in microwave-safe bowl.  Melt carefully in 30 second bursts, stirring between each burst.  When it is almost (but not quite!) all melted, remove from microwave and stir until smooth.

Dip apricots halfway into chocolate and put on wax paper.

When chocolate has hardened slightly, shake a bit of ancho chili powder on each apricot.

Pour yourself a glass of a bold red (the Jitney cast enjoyed a nice California Cabernet Sauvignon) and savor the flavors.