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Winner of two
James Beard Awards

for food writing.

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Mimi Vanderhaven


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September 30, 2009

Dear Foodie friends:

I can't wait to see all of you and feed you some cheesecake. Lordy, lordy, have I got the cheesecake.

Beginning Friday and continuing at least through December, I'll be speaking and signing copies of my new cookbook, Jane Snow Cooks, all over Northeast Ohio. At many of the signings, including this Friday's at Barnes & Nobel in Fairlawn, I'll be passing out samples of Lou & Hy's cheesecake, thanks to Julie Gammon.

“Russ Vernon gave away Killer Brownies,” Julie said breezily. “Can't you bake something from your book, too?”

Let's get this straight. Russ did not bake those brownies. He has a whole store full of employees to do that sort of thing for him. Whereas I have….me.

Julie is not to be denied, though. Don't let the twinkly little smile fool you. The woman is a single-minded demon at her job, which is getting people to notice books published by the University of Akron Press. That includes my new book and Russ' book, The West Point Market Cookbook, which was published last year. Julie is the reason my freezer is full of miniature cheesecakes and the reason my calendar looks like, 42 years late, I've finally been voted queen of the prom.

Anyway, this week's newsletter is all about my book. I feel sheepish promoting my own work so brazenly, but many readers (well, about 10) have asked why I haven't written about it, and more important, I'm terrified I'll show up for speech or a book signing and spend the evening alone. Pitifully alone. Aaaiiiii!

Seriously, I really can't wait to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances and also meet fellow foodies I know only by name. I'm looking forward to an autumn filled with laughter, good conversation and friendly faces. And lots of cheesecake.

I'm toting cheesecake to my signing and talk at 7 p.m. Friday at Barnes & Noble. Then on Saturday I'll do a cooking demonstration and signing from 1 to 3 p.m. at Ohio Mart at Stan Hywet Hall. Look for me in a tent beside the Carriage House. For more dates, click on "Jane's Appearances" in the menu on the right of this newsletter or simply click here. The schedule will be updated weekly.

Lou & Hy's cheesecake recipe was given to me by the former West Akron deli's long-time chef, Tag Hojfeldt, shortly before I left the newspaper. It is in a chapter called “Ten Most Wanted,” lifted from a Beacon Journal story I wrote about the ten recipes for which I received the most requests. In addition to the usual chapters on appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts and the like, the book has chapters on local favorites, winners (recipes that won contests I held or judged), favorite recipe from my food-based travels, and my favorite recipes, period (peach meringue pie, Szechuan ribs with hot chili oil, cantaloupe sorbet, Pennsylvania pot roast…).

The cheesecake recipe in the book makes three cakes. Hojfeldt had cut down the recipe from the original gargantuan restaurant proportions, and could go no smaller.

For my mini cheesecakes, I managed to cut down the recipe to a 1-cheesecake batch with minimal change in texture and flavor. The recipe makes dozens of mini cheesecakes, baked in mini muffin cups. If you want to make a single larger cheesecake, you will have to figure out the timing yourself. I hope someone does, because I'd like to know, too.

Timing a cheesecake is not hard. I estimate a 10-inch cheesecake made from this recipe will take about 60 minutes to bake. Check it after 45 minutes, then every 10 minutes or so until just the very center wiggles slightly when the pan is gently shaken. The center will set up as the cheesecake cools.

Or you could just come see me, buy one of my books and have some cheesecake. Pulleeze!

LOU & HY'S MINI CHEESECAKES
(Printer Friendly Recipe Archive)

Crust:
• 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
• 4 tbsp. melted butter

Filling:
• 2 2/3 packages (8-oz. size) cream cheese, at room temperature (21 oz.)
• 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. flour
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 2/3 cup sour cream
• 3 eggs
• 2 tsp. vanilla
• 2 tsp. lemon juice
• 2/3 cup whipping cream
• 21/2 tbsp. powdered sugar
• Cherry, blueberry or pineapple pie filling
• Whipped cream if desired

For the crust: Stir and toss crumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle a small amount into the bottom of mini muffin pans lined with paper muffin cups. Or for a single cheesecake press into the bottom of a 10-inch-round springform pan.

In a mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Slowly beat in flour and then sugar. Add salt and sour cream and beat until smooth, scraping down sides with a rubber spatula.

Beat in eggs one at a time on low speed just until incorporated. Beat in vanilla and lemon juice.

In another bowl, beat whipping cream until slightly thickened. While beating, slowly add  powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream mixture into cheesecake batter.

Spoon batter over graham crumbs to fill mini muffin papers two-thirds full. Or pour over crust  in springform pan. Bake mini cheesecakes at 325 degrees for 16 to 20 minutes, or until centers start to puff up. Bake large cheesecake for about 1 hour (?) or until center is almost set, but still wiggles slightly when pan is shaken. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate. Just before serving, top with pie filling and whipped cream if desired.

Makes about 6 dozen miniature cheesecakes or one 10-inch cake.


HELP U COOK

In a week-long baking session early in my career, I read every cheesecake recipe I could find, interviewed several baking experts and tried many cheesecake baking techniques. I wanted to find out why some cheesecakes crack, and how to prevent it.

I tried and dismissed various theories, such as using a water bath, baking at a low temperature, and cooling in the oven with the door ajar versus whisking immediately to the refrigerator — all a bunch of crock, although the water bath method does produce a creamier cheesecake.

Cheesecakes crack, I learned, when they are baked too long. If you bake a cheesecake until it is almost but not quite set, it will not crack. When you gently shake the pan, the very center should still wiggle slightly. It will firm up as it cools.

Don't adhere strictly to the timing in a cheesecake recipe or recipe for any bakery item. All ovens bake differently, even those calibrated with an oven thermometer to the correct temperature. Always check early for doneness.

One more cheesecake tip: If the cheesecake is supposed to have a dense texture, as most cheesecakes are, do not overbeat the batter after adding eggs. Beat in the eggs briefly, just until incorporated. Otherwise, the beaten eggs will cause the batter to inflate and produce an airy texture . Airy is good for a soufflé; for a cheesecake, not so much.


THE MAILBAG

From Betty H.
We need your expert opinion.  Is it correct when serving salmon to have broccoli as the vegetable? My opponent says asparagus is the proper vegetable when serving salmon. Please respond so we can settle this debate.

Betty: There is no "proper" vegetable to serve with salmon. I've served both asparagus and broccoli and a lot of other vegetables, too. In the past, asparagus often was served with salmon because fresh wild salmon is most plentiful in the spring, when the fish swim upstream to spawn. That's when asparagus is in season, too. But please serve whatever you want with salmon. Just don't invite the asparagus lady to dinner. Ever.


From Bev Walter:
To Iris regarding freezing cilantro, blanch it very briefly before freezing to retain the color. Remove from boiling water and plunge into cold water, then dry and freeze.

Bev: Thanks for the tip.


From Ergene Marnelos:
Do you have the recipe for Coney dog sauce that was served at the old Freeze in Montrose? If so, please forward to me. I have had Enchanted Cafe's and it's good, too.

Ergene: No, no, no I don't have that recipe. But I want it! After Canova's chili recipe, which I finally unraveled, the Freeze's Coney sauce recipe is probably the most-requested recipe in the Akron area. If anyone has information about the recipe or the former owners, I'd love to hear from you. This recipe is part of our collective history. We can't let it just slip away.

From Sandy:
I was reading about A.K. wanting a Coney sauce recipe. Here is a recipe that was handed down from my husband's grandmother. He won't eat a hot dog without it.

CONEY SAUCE
(Printer Friendly Recipe Archive)

• 1 lb. ground beef
• 1 tsp. mustard
• 1/2 cup ketchup
• 1/2 tsp. sugar
• 1/2 tsp. salt

Brown ground beef slowly until light brown. Drain off most of grease, leaving enough to keep the meat moist. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Cook until flavors are blended. Spoon over hotdogs in buns.


Carol, California:
I need a recipe for artichoke appetizer squares. I envision them with oil or butter, bread crumbs and/or flour, eggs, marinated artichokes and cheese. Would you happen to have such a recipe? I think I made such an item many years ago.

Carol: I'm envisioning them now, too, and they look pretty darn good. I don't have a recipe, but I hope someone sends one pronto!



CONTACT JANE
The only way Mimi and I can keep this newsletter going is by increasing the number of readers in order to attract underwriters. Please share this newsletter with your friends and urge them to subscribe. It's free! If you have a food question, recipe request or comment, E-mail Jane Snow at jane@janesnowtoday.com Please put "FOOD" in the subject line.

ABOUT JANE SNOW
Jane Snow is the former food editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. Her work has appeared in newspapers nationwide. She has won two James Beard Awards for food writing and has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Akron, Ohio, with her husband, Tony, a sushi chef and owner of Sushi Katsu, an Akron sushi bar.

A portion of the proceeds generated through sponsorships of this newsletter go to the Jane Snow Fund For Hunger at Akron Community Foundation.


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