the 4th. finally.

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Miss Fats is embarrassed by the delay of this post.  She’s finally getting around to giving you the run down on her 4th of July…3 weeks later.  Part of the reason is that she’s been at work baking much more exciting cakes for celebrations and she frankly failed to properly document the backyard BBQ shenanigans of Independence Day.  However, as Chicago finally cools down, she thought she’d share the delights of a little garden party to remind everyone that summer is actually awesome and not a miserable hot towel wrapped around your face threatening to suffocate you (at least not all the time).

Part of the delay on posts is due to the fact that Miss Fats is currently in the process of moving.  The worst.  This is hardly the most difficult move she’s ever experienced, but there’s something about the chaos and constant movement of schlepping that puts Miss Fats into the worst mood.  She apologizes to all her friends who have now seen the effects of this process.  However, despite the fatigue, sweat and strange box bruises all over her body, she could not be more excited about her new apartment.  She doesn’t like to brag (false: she loves bragging) but this place is out of control: backyard, porch, fireplace, and a DISHWASHER.  And these are only a list of amenities.  She should probably throw in the fact that the place is absolutely gorgeous.

Miss Fats can’t take credit for this place: she’s moving in with her lovely friend N, who has been kind enough to allow her to inhabit this incredible apartment and put up with her constant baking and moving watching.  She could not be more delighted to begin life with N and her partner M, in September, where there will likely always be a new craft cocktail and cookie every night.  Cue exit from reality.

IMG_3959M was in town for a short summer visit during the weekend of the 4th, so the three of them decided it was an excellent chance to their first party as future roommates.  It was all pretty impromptu: they had to pull it all together in about 48 hours.  But for team N, M & M? Not a problem.  (Clearly: see above)

They kept it simple with burgers, brats, and hot dogs to be thrown on the grill, and asked friends to bring additional drinks and sides.  Thanks to M’s amazing bartending skills, there were fruity Pimm’s Cups for all. (Not to mention she kept Miss Fat’s excellent  G & T full at all times!)  Their awesome friends filled in all the gaps between spicy margaritas, and a huge haul of cool beers.  For the most part, they all just hung out in the backyard, nomming and drinking (as it should be on the 4th).

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Miss Fats was, naturally, in charge of dessert.  And she has to admit that she had alterior motives for this party from the beginning.  She’s just going to come out and say it: she suggested this party because she wanted to make a big ‘ol cheesecake.  Not that Miss Fats couldn’t just make one for the hell of it, but the 4th of July seemed to be begging for a proper red, white and blue, creamy cold cake.  To her, nothing screams backyard BBQ more than a bright dessert topped with a heaping pile of fresh berries.  And ever since her recent cheesecake success, Miss Fats has been itching to get a little more practice in while berry season is ripe.

So all set with a venue, Miss Fats baked up a bright lemon and vanilla cheesecake base, topped with rhubarb sauce and fresh blueberries.  Happy Birthday, America.  She used the same lemon cheesecake recipe from Food 52, with the same alterations as her first attempt.  Unfortunately, it didn’t come out quite as beautiful as her first attempt.  (Anyone who’s baked a cheesecake knows that the pesky beast is always coming out slightly different.  Damn that temperamental cooling process.)  So as you can see, the cake’s edges pulled from the pan a bit too soon and didn’t create the most elegant of corners.  Oh well.  However, the cake itself was close to perfect: Miss Fats was shocked.  She couldn’t believe the final texture and flavor of this thing.  Typically, a cheesecake dips slightly in the middle and loses it’s heft a bit.  Not this one.  Somehow, the cake remained perfectly fluffy, slightly firm and beautifully creamy from crust to center.  This sat a-top a thin and crisp graham cracker crust with good hit of salt and was topped off with a creamy and tart layer of sour cream.  Cake miracle.  Look at that thing:

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Miss Fats kept the toppings simple and tart to cut through the creamy cake base.  She made a simple rhubarb sauce (since she’d obsessed), that required cooking down a couple of stalks in a bit of sugar and vanilla.  Miss Fats worked the fruit through a fine strainer to get that beautifully clear and smooth sauce.  Then she simply mounded fresh blueberries (they needed nothing: so plump and crazy sweet) on top and let the rough, messy edge all hang out.  Miss Fats doesn’t need fancy perfection: she’s much more concerned about what happens in when the cake gets in your mouth.

Initially, she planned to just move forward with the cheesecake, since guests would likely be stuffing themselves full of grilled meat objects.  But as she was checking out at the grocery store, she happened to notice a bag of super processed, red, white and blue star-shaped marshmallows that obviously needed to be purchased.  Then it dawned on Miss Fats that it was fucking July and she hadn’t gotten her s’more on at all this summer: not okay.  Upon this realization, Miss Fats threw in all the necessary s’more makings and anxiously awaited the oozing toasted marshmallow fest to come.  Double dessert.

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Don’t pretend like s’mores aren’t always a good idea.  Come on: look at that thing.  Even blue ooze is beautiful.

In the end, the party was a big success.  Mostly because it was so little work and filled with so many taste-goods.  Lets get real: Miss Fats couldn’t care less about America’s birthday, but she’ll take any excuse to make an excessive dessert, char meat, and wind up covered in sticky sugar and chocolate.  And this party hit all of the marks.  There were even bubbles.  (M & N are the best.)  Miss Fats wishes she could say more, but there are leftover s’more ingredients calling to her.  More BBQ’s to come.

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Recipe Review: Lemon Cheesecake Topped with Strawberries

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It has been years since Miss Fats has baked a cheesecake. And reflecting upon it, she’s not sure why. Perhaps the pressure to get that filling silky smooth and set just right was too much for her. After all, there’s nothing lamer than a dense cheesecake with a mushy center.  But thanks to a recent spring-form pan purchase, she was all set to return to the chilled dairy cake realm (just you watch out, ice cream cakes), and try her hand at a massive and indulgent cream cheese monster.

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Miss Fats was baking this cake for a department event and had the request for some sort of “cream-cheese-strawberry-type-cake,” and due to a lack of imagination, went straight to cheesecake with strawberry topping.  (Sorry this sounds so apathetic. Miss Fats does not know what’s wrong with her: she has so little enthusiasm for the prospect of cheesecake with fruit.  Her unconscious is clearly deeply effected.)  For the recipe, she turned to Food 52’s Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Biscoff Crust, which looked beautifully spring-like and just what everyone needed for a June lunch meeting.

Since Miss Fats still can’t figure out what Biscoff cookies are, she opted to go for the standard graham cracker crust.  She simply substituted the same amount of graham cracker crumbs for the Biscoff cookies and it worked out perfectly.  Since she also could not get her hands on meyer lemons, she used normal lemons but added an additional one to amp up the flavor (she also omitted the lemon extract).

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Food 52’s recipe worked perfectly.  The filling was incredibly easy to create thanks to a stand mixer and leaving the cream cheese out until it was fully softened.  She highly recommends beating the hell out of that cream cheese when you first put it in the bowl- there is nothing worse than a lumpy batter.  Even though Miss Fats opted to use full fat cream cheese, the actual cake turned out to be surprisingly light (or as light as a full fat cheesecake can be…) and not too sweet.  The bright lemon flavor cut the heaviness of the cream cheese and the crispy crust provided the perfect balance of texture and even a little salty note at the end (Miss Fats is a HUGE fan of Food 52’s addition of salt to the crust).

Now, Food 52’s recipe does not include strawberries.  And frankly, there isn’t necessarily a reason to add them: the lemon cheesecake is insanely good in itself.  Except why the hell not?  Strawberries are in season, gorgeous and affordable right now.  We all must shove as many in our mouths as possible.  So Miss Fats is going to share her totally ad hoc strawberry topping with you so you can push this cake into the realm of excessive.

Strawberry Topping:
creates a heaping portion for a 9 inch cheesecake

2 pints strawberries, divided
1-2 tbs sugar (depending on your berries)
2 tbs water
pinch of salt

1. In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar, water and about 2/3 of a pint of hulled, chopped strawberries.  Cook over medium heat until berries begin to breakdown and form a sauce (about 10 minutes).  Using a handheld blender (or regular one), puree the sauce until smooth.  You can also skip this step if you don’t mind a chunkier sauce.  Simply cook a little longer, mashing the berries with a spoon or fork as you go.  Allow to fully cool.

2. Slice the remaining berries and toss in the cooled sauce.  Dump that good stuff all over top of your cake.

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In the end, this cake really seemed to please everyone.  Miss Fats received reviews including “more” and even “perhaps even the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten.” Now these are sugar-induced delirious statements, however Miss Fats does believe this recipe makes a case for the top.  With the strawberries and tangy lemon cream cheese flavors, this dessert manages to be both sunny and utterly indulgent.  She’s sure that this cake will become a critical recipe in her dessert arsenal and plans to experiment as soon as possible (hello, rhubarb is in season.)  Don’t even get Miss Fats started on the sweet-salt combos likely to come. Just you wait.