Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Citrus Bars

I've been using tasty treats as a way to leave an impression on people for 6 or so years now. In high school, I baked when I was stressed or bored or just wanted something productive to do, which lead to my fellow yearbook staff members remembering for my cookies. My freshman year of college, I was known as the floor baker, and even made a Facebook group to notify the people on my floor whenever I made something new that I wanted to share. However, moving off campus and having my own kitchen (well, an apartment three of us shared with a kitchen) somehow meant the end of baking for me, and the oven saw more casseroles and frozen fries than scratch made treats. During my senior toast, I ran into someone I hadn't spoken to since that first year in the dorms, and he asked me if I was still baking delicious treats. I was ashamed to say it'd been a while.

However, recently, that's changed. In the past two weeks, I've baked more than I had in the previous year. Finding inspiration from Keri, I made a chocolate cake for my aunt's birthday, followed by a rosewater cheesecake while visiting my grandparents.

But then, my aunt and I came back after our visit up north and the reality of kind-of-sort-of moving to Tehran began to set in. I can count the number of people close to my age that I know without raising a single finger. Sure, I've met people the numerous times I've visited, but most of the time I'm terrible with names and only okay with faces. Plus, even if I did remember anyone, it's been seven years since I'd spent any significant amount of time in this city. Of course, the only reasonable solution to this "finding friends" thing was for my aunt to throw me a party, a small get together of sorts. With 20 people. So, while my aunt planned the menu, I asked how I could help, and then realized the only reasonable thing to do would be to make some sort of tasty treats. So I did - citrus bars and rosewater cupcakes. And then I washed up nicely, did my make-up ("You should put some blush on." "I am wearing blush."), pulled on a dress, slipped on some heels, and then did my best to not seem too awkward or shy.

Which, when bombarded with 15 new names and faces, can be a bit difficult. And, of course, everyone knows my name. And that I'm the American niece. And, by the end of it, that I'm quiet and shy. At least, I hope that's what they thought and not that I was rude and stuck up. But from their comments, what I am sure of is that they think I make awesome citrus bars. So, I'd say I'm back on track for winning people over with sweets.

Not that I can even take credit for the deliciousness, really, since the recipe for Grape Fruit Bars was delivered to my e-mail from the ever-wonderful Keri with the note "I'm giving you this because the citrus fruit can easily be switched out... my lab says this is their favourite and I got so many e-mails asking for the recipe." So, without further ado (though I suppose that's what scrolling is for), here they are.

Citrus Bars
Recipe from Keri
Makes 36 triangles

For crust:
2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
250 g butter, room temperature

4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh citrus fruit of choice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup flour  

Preheat oven to 350F/175C/Gas 4 and line a 9x13 pan with baking paper.

Combine flour,  icing sugar, and butter and mix with a fork or hands until it becomes a thick, crumbly dough. Press dough into the prepared pan so it's even across the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes, or until just golden around the edges. (If pan is dark, check sooner or bake at lower temperature.)

While the base cooks, whisk together eggs, sugar, and juice until smooth.  Then whisk in baking powder, making sure no lumps remain. Finally, whisk in flour.

Pour the egg mixture onto the base. Return to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes or the filling no longer jiggles and is dry to the touch. 

Once cooled, remove from pan, use a sharp knife and cut into pieces of desired size. 

If you're planning on serving them the next day, the paranoid food safety person in me suggests keeping them in the fridge and letting them return to room temperature before eating.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Floral Cheesecake

My friend Keri has been chronicling her adventures in baking over at Like most websites, I don't have ready access to it, and after hearing about her rose and coconut cheesecake from her flatmate, and my grandfather teasing me to make something else after making a coconut and chocolate cake for my aunt's birthday (recipe also courtesy of Keri), I figured I'd asked her for the recipe and give it a try. 

And then couldn't find half the things necessary. However, I didn't actually look very hard for them. But I made some substitutions (visible below) and ended up with a tasty cheesecake. It definitely didn't turn out as pretty as Keri's, and may or may not have been as heavenly, but it's definitely simple enough and tasty enough to garner making again. 

I also used just a bowl, wooden spoon, and whisk to make this and found that to be fine, but I left Keri's directions for beating the cheese in place. 

Rose and Coconut Cheese Cake

Base Ingredients 
- 220 g biscuits (I used coconut ones)
- 50 g shredded coconut
- 100 g butter, melted

1) Break up biscuits somehow. Either use the double baggied and rolling pin method, or, my preferred method: a deep bowl and a meat mallet.
2) Mix  coconut and melted butter into biscuit crumbs. 
3) Press into bottom and 3 cm up sides of a greased 23 cm spring pan. Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes
to set.

Filling Ingredients 
- 500 g cream cheese
- 200 ml coconut milk (from a can)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 Tablespoons rosewater (adjust to taste)

1) Preheat the oven to 170 C (325 F). 
2) Beat the cream cheese with an electric
beater. Add the coconut milk in two lots of 100 ml and beat
well to get rid of any lumps. Best in the sugar, followed by the eggs one at a time. 
Stir in the rosewater. 
3) Pour filling mixture into prepared base. Bake for 45 minutes at 325F, or until it isn't jiggly. After which, turn off the oven and leave cake in for an additional hour.
4) Let cheesecake cool on the counter for 30
minutes or until it's cool enough to place in fridge. Chill 4 hour or overnight.
5) Run knife around edge before releasing from pan.