Tag Archives: Wine and Unwind

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.

 

Nutty Naughty Bars

Naught Bars

He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice,
He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice,
Santa Claus is coming to town!

 I think naughty is the way to go, don’t you?

After a brief hiatus, the Backstage Baker returns with an indulgent treat suitable for the season.  He served them last week at the first Wine and Unwind for the cast and crew of Lazarus, the new musical currently on at the New York Theater Workshop.  By David Bowie and Enda Walsh, directed by Ivo Van Hove and starring Michael C. Hall, it’s based on the novel “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”  Let’s just say Book of Mormon it ain’t!  But go see it, if you can get tickets.  (Which you can’t because it’s sold out.)  Maybe it’ll move to Broadway . . .

James tells me that this recipe comes from his cousin Patti who lives in Ghana.  Here are her notes:
Be sure to add macadamia nuts cut in half, and whole or pieces of
cashews to the mix. I add a bit more vanilla than they mention. These
bars are good without the nuts, but when I make them with nuts, people
are actually rolling their eyes and moaning when they bite in.
Cambodians and Africans too,  flip for these bars. My driver gobbles
them, so I have to freeze half as soon as they cool, or I wouldn’t
have any for myself.

Life is different in Ghana, no?

Naughty Bars

2 sticks butter (1 cup)
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup combination of macadamia nuts and cashews

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9×13-inch pan with butter and set aside.

In a large microwave-safe glass bowl, melt the butter on high for 30 seconds (or until butter is almost completely melted), covering the bowl with a paper towel to avoid splatters.

Using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, mix in the brown sugar and stir until combined. Add the baking powder, salt and vanilla — mix well. Gradually add the flour —the batter will be stiff – and mix until completely incorporated. Whisk the eggs well in a small bowl, and then add to the batter, mixing well one last time.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan (a spatula works well for this) and bake until golden around the edges and the center is still soft, about 30 minutes.

DO NOT OVER BAKE!

Let cool completely before cutting into small squares. They go together quickly and there are NEVER any left over!

Michael Esper
Michael Esper who plays Valentine enjoying some naughtiness

 

Cristin MillotiCristin Milioti who play Elly tasting the Naughty Bars.

Chocolate Red Wine Cake


Chocolate Red Wine Cake

 Chocolate. Red wine.  What else do you need?

James celebrated his first Wine and Unwind with the cast of Cymbelinecombining the Wine and the Unwind in one cake.  (I’m sure, however, that there was some wine served separately, but the efficiency of this appeals to the stage manager in me.)

He tells me “This a not too sweet cake that goes great with vanilla ice cream or gelato, based on a recipe from Anne Willan’s 2001 book Cooking with Wine. There is just enough wine to give it a wonderful flavor!”

I know I like chocolate, and I like red wine, and I like both together.  So how can this cake go wrong?

Chocolate Red Wine Cake

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)* plus some for dusting.
1 1/4 teaspoons  baking soda
1/2 teaspoon  salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups  sugar
2  large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons  pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups  dry red wine
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Whipped cream or ice cream for serving

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and dust a 12-cup Bundt pan with powdered cocoa. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

2.  In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer. Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, until just incorporated.

3.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Kate Burton Queen and Belarius
Kate Burton, who plays the Queen and Belarius, unwinding

Patrick Page who plays the title role Cymbeline and Raul Esparza who play Iachimo

Patrick Page, who plays Cymbeline, and Raul Esparza, who plays Iachimo, taking their wining and unwinding very seriously.

*What is Dutch process cocoa?  What is non-Dutch process cocoa?  And why does it matter? 

Non-Dutch process is simply natural cocoa powder:  the dry, solid remains of fermented, dried and roasted cacao beans that have been ground into a fine powder.  It is slightly acidic with, if you’re a complete nerd, a PH between 5-6.

Dutch process, on the other hand, is natural cocoa powder that has been washed with a potassium carbonate solution to alkalize it slightly.

Who cares, right?  And what difference does it make to my cake?

Well, successful baking is more than a little bit of a science.  In order for cakes to rise properly, you need the proper balance of acid and alkaline in your batter.  If, as in this recipe, you’re only using baking soda to make your cake rise, then you want the slightly acidic natural cocoa because baking soda is alkalizing (it’s why you take a teaspoonful in water if you suffer from acid indigestion.)

Anyway, long story short, you really can use either kind of cocoa no matter what, but to make the ideal version of whatever you’re baking, stick to what the recipe says.  

Raspberry Almond Bars

Raspberry Almond Bars

I’ve blogged more than 50 recipes, the vast majority of which come directly from James our Backstage Baker, and I cannot believe that I haven’t already blogged this recipe.  It is a terrible oversight on my part because this is one of my very favorites, and a staple in my personal pantheon of baked goods.   These bars are always popular and always disappear first from any dessert table! Do try them for your next church social or PTA bake sale.

James baked these early Sunday morning (before a 1pm matinee!  Who does a 1pm matinee?) to the delight of the Hamilton cast.

Poor Jersey had to wait for her walk until they were cooling . . .

Jersey

Raspberry Almond Bars

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
1 package vanilla chips (10 or 12 oz)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9″ x 9″ pan.

1.   In a medium saucepan, melt butter.  Remove from heat and add 1 cup vanilla chips.  DO NOT STIR.

2.  In  small bowl, beat eggs until foamy.  Gradually add sugar.  Stir in chip mixture and almond extract.

3.  Combine flour and salt.  Add to egg mixture just until combined.  Spread half of this batter in your pre-greased pan.  Bake at 325* for 15 – 20 minutes.

4.  In a small saucepan over low heat, melt jam then spread over warm crust.  Stir remaining chips into batter and drop by teaspoonfuls on top of jam layer.  Sprinkle with almonds and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

5.  Cool thoroughly on wire rack before you even attempt to cut into bars.  (I can never wait, and my bars always looks ragged.  Don’t be like me.  WAIT!)

Daveed

Daveed Diggs (Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson) digging in

Anthony Ramos

Anthony Ramos (Laurens/Philip Hamilton) achieving nirvana

Betsy Struxness

Betsy Struxness (Ensemble) posing with what’s left

Red Velvet Bars

 

REd VelvetRed Velvet Bars . . .  going fast!

Our Backstage Baker outdid himself on this one!  He’s been sitting on this recipe since Christmas, but just hasn’t had the time to bake it.  So, last Saturday, after getting home from Hamilton at midnight, he baked the following for the next day’s Wine and Unwind. (Have I mentioned that our Backstage Baker only needs about two hours of sleep a night?)   Coincidentally, there was a marriage proposal onstage after the show on Sunday, so the Valentine-red bars were perfect!

The proposalAwwww . . .

In other news, Hamilton is moving to Broadway!  Look for a July 13 opening at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Here’s the New York Times review & David Brooks’ recent editorial raving about the show. Who knew these gentlemen were such fans of the rap?

Red Velvet Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

For the bars:

3⅓ cups flour
¼ cup unsweet­ened cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bak­ing pow­der
1 cup but­ter, softened
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons red food coloring gel

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 8-oz bricks cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Line a 9×13 inch pan with aluminum foil.   Spray the foil with cooking spray so that the bars easily lift out and are easy to cut.

3.  In one bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

4.  In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and food coloring until combined.

5.  Mix in the flour mixture gradually until a soft dough forms. Press into the bottom of the 9×13 inch pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until the edges start to pull away from the sides and a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Red Velvet Bars 1The red velvet base

6.  To make the cream cheese frosting:  Beat together the cream cheese and butter.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and continue beating until smooth.  Frost the top of the bars.

Red Velvet bars 2Mmmm . . . frosting!

Seth StewartHamilton Ensemble member Seth Stewart Wining and Unwinding

Phillipa SooPhillipa Soo (aka Eliza Hamilton)

Jasmine Cephas-JonesJasmine Cephas Jones (aka Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds)

 

Peanut Butter Fudge Sandwich Cookies

One of James’ delightful traditions is a Sunday night “Wine and Unwind” gathering in the stage manager’s office.  He’ll bake some decadent treat and pair it with a sturdy red wine to send everyone into the day off.  He’s currently working on “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” — on a show as fraught with drama as that one (onstage, not off!) everyone definitely needs a way to unwind.

Last week’s invitation went something like this:

Image

Here’s the recipe for the Peanut Butter Fudge Sandwich Cookies (oh, my teeth hurt just reading through it1):

Peanut Butter Fudge Sandwich Cookies

1 1/2 cups Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 cup softened butter*
1/2 cup softened margarine*
2 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

*Backstage Baker’s note:
For cookies that are softer use 1 cup of shortening instead of the butter and margarine.

Filling:
1 (14 ounce) can  Sweetened Condensed Milk
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
For Cookies: Beat peanut butter, butter, margarine, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs. Beat just until blended.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Add to creamed mixture and mix with wooden spoon until blended. Drop by level tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Press down with bottom of a glass or the traditional way of making a cross hatch with a fork.

Bake 6 to 7 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

For Filling: Microwave sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips in medium microwave-safe bowl on high for 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth when stirred. Stir in vanilla. Let cool 15 minutes. Spread generously on flat side of half the cookies. Top with remaining cookies, flat side down, to form sandwich cookies.

(Pictures for the above are on the home page of this blog!)

The wine was a La Pilar Malbec courtesy of an anonymous fan who insisted on giving Amy Morton (who plays Martha) $40 to buy drinks for the company.  I hope she reads this and knows that her contribution was thoroughly enjoyed.