Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Marx Foods's Iron Foodie 2010 Entry, My Twist On Chenna Poda, Indian Cheesecake.

                                       
            Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:         
MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods         The Foodie BlogRoll
   When I was told that I was to be one of 25 Iron Foodies, I was excited. I ran around telling my friends and family. I was gonna be an Iron Foodie. I was gonna get a mystery box from Marx Foods and I was going to create a signature dish from whatever they sent me. Wow! All those months of watching Chopped wouldn't be going to waste. I'd told Alan I was working when I was watching, now I wouldn't be a liar. It was all for a good cause. I'd finally get my chance. Then I got scared. What the hell was I going to do?? What had I gotten into? What was going to be in the box? The rules stated that I had to use 3 of the 8 ingredients included. I couldn't wait to see what I'd been sent.
    The box arrived right on schedule.
  I ripped it open.
   There it all was, Tellicherry Peppercorns, Maple Sugar, Dulse Seaweed, Fennel Pollen, Smoked Sea Salt, Aji Panca Peruvian Chiles, Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Dried Porcini Mushrooms. There was my dilemma, what to do? What to make? Hot or cold, sweet or savory, mild or spicy?  A lot of possibilities flashed through my head but I couldn't settle on any one thing. I knew I had to get moving on whatever it was. I was going to cook and I gave myself until Thanksgiving to make up my mind. I read. I did research. I decided that I'd go with the sweet.
   I wanted to make it an Indian sweet but one that I'd never fixed before. Then I had it. Cheesecake. And not just any cheesecake, but the only cheesecake made in India, Chenna Poda from the state of Odisha. It turns out that cheesecake originated there about 50 years ago when a baker left some cottage cheese in a partially warmed oven. The next morning bingo! Cheesecake! I also decided on cheesecake because this is the time of year when all of us are involved in a lot of dessert fixing. Cheesecake always looks great on any Holiday table.  As a matter of fact I think cheesecake looks great almost anywhere! I also wanted to create a recipe that would be a bridge between the type of cooking I do most of the time (Indian) and a very familiar dessert for most people.
   I decided to make some chenna cheese for the filling. Of course I had to put my own spin on this cheesecake, so I thought I'd make it with a chocolate, chili, graham cracker crust with the aji panca chilis I'd been sent. I'd use the bourbon vanilla beans from the box to flavor it and the maple sugar as a sort of brulee topping. I would caramelize. I would buy a torch! I was excited! I was going to make

Indian Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chili Graham Cracker Crust and a Brulee Top


 
   The first step involved making the Chenna Cheese. If you don't want to try making your own chenna cheese (it's pretty easy just click on the link above for directions) Ricotta cheese makes a great substitute.
  Of course I use only the most sophisticated method in my cheesemaking. Note the high tech equipment.
   Once the paneer cheese was made, it was one quick step to turn it into sweet chenna cheese. All that was needed was to add :
2 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of flour
Then knead until the chenna is soft and pliable.
Place it in a bowl along with 2 packages of cream cheese.
Now for The Crust.
Seed and toast 1 large Marx Foods Aji Panca Chili Pepper. Put the pieces into a spice grinder until you have a fine powder.
    In a food processor mix
1 pack of graham crackers
1 Tbs of Valhrona cocoa powder
1/4 cup of melted butter
1/2 cup of sugar
the ground chili powder
 
Press the ground-up crumb mixture into the bottom of a greased 8 inch springform pan.
Put the pan with the crust into the freezer for 30 minutes to set. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Now for The Filling.
All filling ingredients should be at room temperature.
In a large bowl beat together 2 packs of room temperature cream cheese along with 1 cup of chenna cheese and 1 cup of sugar.
Beat for about 2 minutes until it's nice and smooth.
 Blend in:
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs of flour
When that's blended, add 4 more whole eggs.
Scrape in the seeds from one Marx Foods Bourbon Vanilla beans.
Blend for another 3 minutes or so. Don't over beat.
Take the pan from the freezer, set it on a cookie sheet. Pour the batter into the pan.
Put the cheese cake in the middle of the oven. Note: To prevent cracking, place a bowl of water on the rack below the cheesecake.
 Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 250 degrees and bake for another 1 and 1/2 hours.  The cheesecake is done when it feels firm to the touch and yet the center is still a little jiggly.
Place on a cooling rack for one hour.
Okay, now here's something I learned the hard way. This cheesecake has to rest in the fridge for at least 6 hours before you can eat it. Overnight is better.
 Waiting was hard, but boy was it worth it.
 The next day unmold the cheesecake.
Now for the final touch. Before serving, sprinkle the top with Marx Foods Maple Sugar.  Ignite a culinary torch and slowly moving it over the surface of the cheesecake but not touching it... melt the maple sugar.
Or if you haven't got a culinary torch, you can always go old skool with a salamander.
Heat it on the stove till it's red hot, then hold it over the sugar till it melts.
 As soon as the sugar has set for about 5 minutes or so, have at it!
    The cake was amazing. The combo of glazed maple sugar, chilies, and vanilla bean was delicious.
In India this cheese cake doesn't have a crust. In fact it's baked more like a flan with the sugar on the bottom of the pan, batter on top and then upended for serving. Making the cake the way I did crosses it with the version of the cheesecake we're all more familiar with... plus you get to play with a blow torch!
   I want to thank the great folks at Marx Foods and Foodie Blogroll for giving me a chance to compete in the Iron Foodie 2010 competition. I hope when voting opens on the 7th you'll give me a vote. I loved my box of goodies and can't wait to do more experimenting with the ingredients I haven't used yet.

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