Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Baker Challenge: Cheesecake Balls. . .YUM!

Elle from Feeding My Enthusiam and Deborah from Taste and Tell picked our Daring Baker Challenge for the month of April: Cheesecake Pops! Cheesecake is one of those showstoppers that is easy to make AND gives that WOW! factor. This Daring Baker Challenge definitely added several extra layers to the WOW! The batter itself was delicious. The leftover batter in the mixer bowl had finger marks from licking the bowl clean. I had already bought 10-inch cake pans for my 4-layer carrot cake so I was set for baking. When the cake came out of the oven, I was shocked that there was not even a HINT of a crack in the top. The one time that it doesn't matter if I had a crater in the top and the cheesecake comes out perfect. I started this project 2 days in advance so I just took my time and had fun. The problem was with everyone else trying to take (little) tastes out of my cheesecake. . .before I could get the balls made and into the freezer. I was scared about the tempering of chocolate so I wanted to get everything else done right away. That way I could take my time with the melting and decorating. Previously, I had these grand ideas of learning to temper chocolate and bought 10 pound slabs of callebaut chocolate in different flavors out of the Chocolatier Magazine. The sheer size of the slab intimidated the hell out of me! So there it sat, air sealed in plastic, waiting for me to get my nerve up. The funny part is that my hands were shaking when I started melting the chocolate over simmering water. I had no idea how long it would take the chocolate to start to harden on the cheesecake balls before I could put sprinkles on the outside without them falling off. I knew with the balls of cheesecake being frozen that my window would probably be small. It was! At first, my sprinkles either fell off in clumps of melted chocolate or I had beautiful sprinkles on one side and hard, cold chocolate coating on the other with me individually pressing sprinkles softly into the side, hoping they would stay. My other problem is that after I had finished about 10 cheesecake balls, my melted chocolate started looking grainy. Several Daring Bakers suggested that I was keeping my chocolate to warm. I think they were right because I didn't think to take the chocolate off the simmering water after it was melted. I thought the chocolate would harden again. I'm still not quite sure how I should be handling this melted chocolate. Any input would really be appreciated =).

Because this cheesecake recipe makes so many cute little balls, my daughter and I decided to share some of them with our Bethel Animal Hospital. Our family took in this cute little kitten, now called Fluffy, and the wonderful people at this vet wouldn't let us pay for Fluffy staying the night when she was getting spayed and her return visits were the cost of the shots only. The atmosphere at this vetinarian place is so warm and caring that all I have been think ing about lately is taking them something baked out of our kitchen to show how much we appreciate their concern. When we took Fluffy in, she was abandoned and starving. Just a baby. Now, she has the cutest, roly pink tummy. These little cheesecake balls were the perfect way of saying thank you!

Deb and Elle, thank you both, too! You widened my horizons in the kitchen and now I can't wait to start on my next new project that involves melted chocolate. I actually thought that this might be something out of my league, and I learned that cooking is all a state of mind. . .a "can do" state of mind. Huge hugs to both of you and what a fantastic challenge! =D

Cheesecake Pops
Makes 30 – 40 Pops
5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.
Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.
When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.
Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.
Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.
Elle – Feeding my Enthusiams– and Deborah at Taste and Tell


Katie B. said...

Great pops! I am sure the vet staff loved them!!

Mary said...

My father in law is a vet and I'm sure your vet hospital loved them. They look so perfectly pretty!

Andrea said...

Your pops look so yummy, and I think the vet staff was quite lucky to get them!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wonderful job! We are all learning thru these challenges and that is one part that makes it fun! Hope everyone enjoyed them!

Elle said...

Super cute pops! Glad you liked the challenge and proud of you for doing the tempered chocolate...the challenges are a great way to try out things, especially when you leave enough time like you did. Great job!

Chris said...

You're pops look fabulous! Well done. :)

Deborah said...

Your pops look great Shandy! Dipping in chocolate is a tricky thing - I've done it several times now, and I still don't get it right every time!

Mandy said...

well done on the challenge! And on the 10 pounds of chocolate, wow! That is going to last for a long time. I need to get myself a block too. :D

Gabi said...

Great job with the pops!-
You are rich with chocolate- a very good thing:)
I buy my Callebaut in 5 kilo bars(about 11 pounds) and we break it up and shrink wrap it in smaller portions. It's not so intimidating that way and it's the size I need when I make truffles but can be used for other recipes.
We'e been through several bars now *blush*.

BC said...

Tempering chocolate is easy with a few tricks. Take 3/4 of the chocolate and melt it until it is warm to your fingertip and warm to your lip. (This means it is well above 37 Celsius.)

Add the last 1/4 to cool down (seed) the chocolate. Cool down until it is cool to your lip and fingertip. Then warm slightly.

The difficult part is maintaining the tempering temperature. I turn off the stove underneath so the double boiler is warm but not heating constantly. I would so love to be working those Callebault slabs with you.

Lunch Buckets said...

Oh my - excuse for a minute, I'm licking your header. Okay. Nice pops! I can not imagine having a 10 pound slab of chocolate. Pretty sure my husband would't allow me to stay home alone!

Emiline said...

Fluffy is so cute!

The pops look really, really good. And look at that expensive chocolate...nice.

Baking Soda said...

Love the kitty pic!
In between the chocolate hardening and the pops softening it was a bit of a nailbiting experience. Yours turned out great!

L Vanel said...

They look great! Congratulations!

Veron said...

Beautiful pops, and callebaut is a fantastic chocolate. The vet staff are very lucky, those pops are delicious!

chrismacd1 said...

Great pops and I am sure the vet staff loved and appreciated them!

Sheltie Girl said...

Fabulous job! I'm sure everyone at the clinic enjoyed them immensely.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Bumblebutton said...

Terrific job on the pops--your chocolate bar was impressive--no wonder you were shaking!

kimberleyblue said...

Aw! Adorable kitty you've got! My kitcat is getting fixed today - should've brought some of my pops for the vet. :)

Great looking pops - another challenge down!

Mehgan said...

OMG, those look practically pro! Good job!

jasmine said...

As lovely as your cheesepops are, I think your kitty is lovelier :) Reminds me of Blotchie (colouring ) and Ophelia (that particular pose).

Very kind of you to share with your vet. I don't bake for my vet...I just get her liquored up...


I(dot)J said...

Your balls look amazing. I still have some left over that I'm not sharing with ANYONE.
Great work.

Iisha of

Kelly-Jane said...

What a lovely thank you, they came out great! Fluffy is just adorable, gorgeous in fact :)

Susan said...

Ha, I said exactly the same thing about not having any cracks. And I had a hard time with the chocolate too (especially the white). I'm sure your vet was thrilled. Your kitty is a cutie!

Barbara said...

A great story! I bet the Vet's office loved the pops, they look delish.

Dolores said...

What a thoughtful thank you gift for a caring and compassionate veterinary staff. Great way to deploy the April challenge!

Flourchild said...

Very sweet looking pops! Hey how do you get the words on your pictures? It looks so great. Do you have a special camera or is it on the computer?