Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy Birthday Sugar & Pickles!

Sugar & Pickles - Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Crystallized Cranberries
Sugar & Pickles - Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Crystallized Cranberries
It's a very Happy Blog Birthday around here!

Today Sugar & Pickles is celebrating five years of blogging! Holy moly... Sometimes I just can't believe how fast time flies! I apologize for all the extra exclamation marks.

This past year has been full of amazing milestones. It's really made me step back and evaluate things in my personal life and on Sugar & Pickles. There's just simply so much I want to do and get accomplished this year. I'm not saying it's a resolution (you know how I feel about those)... It's more of a "Honey Do List" if you will.

My goal this year for this blog is to connect more with readers. As I may have mentioned before, some of the readers on this blog are family members from across the globe. The other half are wonderful people that stumbled upon this little blog and stayed to read what we've been up to. By the way, Thank you! Thank you for your patience and hanging in there when I went months without writing.

Life sometimes gets away from me. Running your own business can be very demanding and I usually have so many things going on at once. My attention can get a little divided and sometimes this little space doesn't get the love it should be. My husband likes to call it... ShayDD.

Let's celebrate this new year of blogging and us connecting more on this space. So! Let's eat cheesecake! To be more specific, let's share a Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Crystallized Cranberries.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Crystallized Cranberries
yields: 6" cake

Equipment you'll need:
  • 6" Straight-Side Cake Pan
  • 9" Straight-Side Cake Pan
  • Food Processor or Coffee Grinder
  • Parchment Paper
  • Slotted Spoon or Spider Skimmer
  • Heat-Proof Bowl
  • Rimmed Cookie Sheet
  • Wire Cooling Rack
  • Pie Weights or Dry Beans
  • Electric Mixer
  • Tea Kettle

For the Ground Almonds:
1/2 cup Slivered Almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Add slivered almonds onto cookie sheet in a thin layer. Bake almonds until lightly toasted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.

In a small food processor or a coffee grinder; grind the almonds until it looks like coarse meal or coarse sand. Make sure that the almonds are completely cool or you'll make toasted almond butter. Measure out a 1/3 cup of ground almonds and set aside. You'll have extra ground almonds.

[hint: Top your yogurt or salad with the extra ground almonds. I also love to top pasta with ground almonds]

For the Crust:
1 cup (120 grams) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup (28 grams) Freshly Ground Almonds
2 tablespoons (28 grams) Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
6 tablespoons (90 grams) Unsalted Butter, cold and diced

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Lightly butter a 6" straight-side cake pan and set aside.

Whisk together flour, ground almonds, sugar, and salt. With a pastry blender or rub with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand or coarse meal. The dough should hold together when squeezed. If the dough is too crumbly, sprinkle a teaspoon or two of cold water.

Press the dough firmly to the bottom of your prepared 6" cake pan. Be sure to press the crust almost all the way up the sides of the cake pan. Cover the crust with parchment paper and add pie weights or dry beans. Bake the crust until just set or beginning to turn slightly golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the filling.

For the Filling:
8 ounces (226 grams) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) Granulated Sugar
2 tablespoons (28 grams) Heavy Cream
1 Large Eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Bean Paste
1 teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice

Reduce the oven to 325°F.

In the bowl of your electric mixer; cream sugar and cream cheese together until smooth. Add egg and be sure to scrap the sides of your bowl to ensure that the egg and cheese mixture is mixed well. Add the cream, vanilla and lemon juice; mix until incorporated.

While making the filling, bring water to a boil in a tea kettle.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the pre-baked crust. Put your unbaked cheesecake pan inside a 9" straight-side cake pan. Pull the oven rack slightly and place the pans in the middle of the rack. At this time, your water should have come to a boil. Carefully pour the water into the 9" cake pan and gently push the oven rack back into the oven. Please be very careful not to allow any water to spill into the cheesecake.

Bake the cheesecake until just set, but with a slight giggle; about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven gently not to allow any water into the cheesecake and let cool for at least 1 hour. Loosen the edges gently with a butter knife. Place a piece of parchment paper over the cheesecake and your hand on top of the parchment paper. Carefully invert the pan onto your hand to remove the cheesecake. Immediately turn the cheesecake right-side up onto a serving plate. Carefully remove the parchment paper. Chill the cheesecake in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 to 8 hours.

For the Topping:
1/2 cup Water
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Cranberries

Pour the cranberries in a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar to make a simple syrup. Simmer the sugar over medium-low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. The simple syrup should be crystal clear. Slowly and carefully pour the hot simple syrup over the cranberries and stir to make sure all of the cranberries are coated.

Allow the cranberries to sit in simple syrup to sweeten for about 2 hours. The longer the cranberries sit in the syrup, the sweeter they become (I like a nice sweet/tart contrast, so 2 hours worked nicely for me). Be sure to stir the cranberries often within the 2 hour time span.

Place about 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar into a small bowl and set aside.

Nest the cooling wire within a rimmed cookie sheet. Using a spider skimmer (my favorite kitchen utensil) or slotted spoon, spread the cranberries onto the cooling wire. Be sure that the cranberries aren't touching each other. Allow the excess simple syrup to drip off the cranberries, about 8 to 10 minutes. It's very important that you allow the extra syrup to drip off the cranberries or the end result will be clumpy cranberries instead of sugar dusted cranberries.  

[hint: You can make the cranberries one ahead. Cover the cranberry and simple syrup bowl with shrink wrap and place it the fridge overnight. Be sure to stir the cranberries often. Save the extra simple syrup for more cranberries or better yet... for cocktails!]

Enjoy the rest of your day! ~ Shay

Sugar & Pickles - Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Crystallized Cranberries

Sugar & Pickles - Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Crystallized Cranberries

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Visiting Europe | Vaduz, Liechtenstein

After spending a few days in Feldkirch, Austria; I was ready to move on and visit one of my favorite countries in Europe... Liechtenstein! Not familiar with Liechtenstein? Well, you should be! Liechtenstein is a landlocked German-speaking micro state which borders both Switzerland and Austria, From Balzers to Ruggell, this alpine country is absolutely breathtaking. I so love it here!

I think I've trekked almost ever nook and cranny of this wonderful country. I only say "almost" because every time I turn a corner, I find something new and exciting here. On this visit, I spent most of my time in Vaduz. Not only is Vaduz internationally known for their baking, mountain biking, and skiing; it's also the capital. Personally, I think Vaduz is the hub of emerging artists, modern to medieval architecture, wonderful fashion, amazing jewelry, great wine, and delicious food (especially the chocolates and cheese).

By the way, when I say mountain biking; I don't mean a steep hill in New Jersey. I mean... The Alps! Those guys are insane... Crazy endurance. Maybe one day I'll give that a try. Maybe. In the meantime, I'll enjoy their food and wine.

Are you thinking... Really?! Liechtenstein wine?! Yes, really. Great wine! The Prince of Liechtenstein himself has a wine cellar/vineyard (called Hofkellerei) that you can visit and taste. He has a private stash, but I couldn't get my grubby hands on it

If I could move here tomorrow, I would! Not sure if the husband would like that very much (wah wah). Honestly, there are just so many wonderful things to see, eat, and experience here. Let alone the amazing landmarks in Vaduz, from the beautiful Vaduz castle overlooking the city to the Kuntsmuseum Liechtenstein (museum of modern and contemporary art). I think deep down inside, I rather keep Liechtenstein as my little secret. Go ahead and be spontaneous! Jump on a plane today and head over there. I'm more than willing to be your tour guide

Monday, January 12, 2015

Visiting Europe | Feldkirch, Austria

As I mentioned in our previous post, we've been away from this space for a while and wanted to catch you up on what we've been up to. My husband and I had an opportunity to head back to Europe at the end of summer.

If you read this blog in the past, you know that I've visited this area about fours ago. And, I was completely happy to be back again. As you may or may not know; not only is my husband my taste-testing guinea pig, but he also works for an international company. Every now and again, he has to visit headquarters and more than happy to join him.

While he was off at work. I got to trek around and discover Feldkirch, Austria. Feldkirch is a medieval town nestled between Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This quaint little town has tons of charm and history. Most of the city still has old fortifications that were built by German King Maximillian I in 1507 (Sorry for the added history lesson, but I love knowing a little more of where I visit). I think the highlight of this old city is the amazingly preserved Schattenburg castle.

The Schattenburg castle is nested on a hill overlooking Feldkirch. I trekked up a steep, but walkable hill from the old town. Trust me... It was so worth it! The castle is small, but the breathtaking views of the city alone made me forget that steep hike.

If you're ever in this area, I recommend that you take a daytrip into Feldkirch. There are cool little boutiques, designers shops, and amazing food. There's also an amazing farmers' market here on Saturday mornings. Come early because a lot sells out quickly and come ready to eat everything. I especially wanted to eat everything from the mobile cheese truck. Mmm... cheese! Even if you don't like farmers' markets, you'll enjoy this one. It's a nice place to stroll around; people watch and listen to local artists preform.

The only thing I was shocked by here was... Most shops have sporadic hours. And when I say sporadic hours, I mean they open whenever they feel like it. Also, everything closes around lunch time for around almost 2 hours (including cafes and most restaurants) and they close early. I've been to Europe before and I know shop and restaurant hours are different then back home, but it was a bit shocking here in Feldkirch. But it kind of didn't bother me that much (except for when i was hungry) since the architecture and beautiful flowers kept me busy. It was a little difficult to choose pictures of this precious city to share with you, but I think I managed to show my steps in Feldkirch.

Enjoy the rest of your day! ~ Shay

Friday, January 9, 2015

2015... And where we've been

Happy New Year! How are you guys doing on your resolutions? Have you given up yet? Are you still motivated? As I mentioned once or twice, resolutions are not my bag. I hate lying to myself. I think the idea of resolutions is wonderful and traditional. Their just typically extreme... Go to the gym twice a day/seven days a week, cut out all cheeseburgers, no more alcohol until next New Year's Eve, stop shopping entirely and bank every cent, etc., etc.

Let's face it together. Resolutions just doesn't work (at least for me). So screw'em! Instead, let's set daily (realistic) goals. For example... Today:

1: Take a yoga class
2: Eat dinner at 7:00PM (We're late night eaters)
3: Set the dinner table with candles just because it's Friday
4: Treat myself to a fancy cup of cappuccino
5: Write a blog post
6: Be nicer to myself (Haven't mastered this one, so I work on it daily)

As you can see, I'm a simple chick. My goals aren't fussy. They're just realistic for me.

So! It's been a while since I've been on this space sharing with you and I feel pretty ashamed about that. Sometimes life happens and time seems to get away from me. A lot of things have happened while I've been out of touch on this space. If you follow us on instagram (you can also follow my personal instagram)... You probably know some of the things we've been up to.

Since my last post; I've celebrated a birthday and a huge anniversary milestone. My in-laws moved to a different state. We welcomed a beautiful squishy new niece and a new nephew I still need to meet. In addition, we had the opportunity to head to Europe and a few places in between. In the next few posts I'll be sharing some pictures of our adventures.

Oh! By the way... It's super cold here. Enjoy the rest of your day! ~ Shay

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