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Kabocha Swirl Cheesecake

Cheesecake gets a fall makeover with a creamy swirl of Japanese pumpkin.Recipe Image

Fall is officially upon us in New York City. The leaves are turning, the coats have come out, and of course, winter squash is everywhere–which, in my opinion, is one of the few consolations for cold weather. Sweet, creamy, and healthy? Sign me up.

If you’ve never ventured beyond butternut, I urge you to try kabocha, an adorably plump green-skinned Japanese pumpkin that’s widely available here in NYC. Canned pumpkin will work (even if it’s not always really pumpkin), but I love this cheesecake most with homemade kabocha purée–its creaminess, sweetness, and light orange color add the perfect touch to this fall dessert. 

Steps

Serves

8

Total Time

2 hr

Active Time

1 hr

Kabocha Purée

  1. Rinse your kabocha, then microwave on high for 2 minutes. This softens the squash, making it easier to chop. 
  2. Slice the squash in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Chop the squash into large chunks and steam for 10-15 minutes, until very soft. 
  3. Separate the orange flesh from the green rind (it’s fine if there’s a little left over) and purée in a blender until smooth.

Crust

  1. Adjust a rack to the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F / 175°C. Line the base of a 6” springform pan with a circle of parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the graham cracker sheets and sugar until finely ground. Add the melted butter and continue pulsing until the mixture sticks together. (If you don’t have a food processor, place the graham crackers in a ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin, then transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar and butter.) Press the graham cracker mixture evenly into the base of the springform pan.
  3. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until set. Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack to cool. Keep the oven on while you prepare the filling.

Filling

(adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)
  1. Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar on medium-high until smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and beat to combine. 
  2. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating on medium-low just until blended. Overmixing will deflate the batter, so stop mixing as soon as they’re combined.
  3. Scoop 1 cup of the cream cheese batter into a mixing bowl. Stir in the kabocha pureé, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice until the color is uniform.
  4. Alternate dropping large spoonfuls of the kabocha batter and the plain cream cheese batter onto the crust. Gently shake the pan to even out the surface. Use the tip of a butter knife to draw a #-shaped grid across the surface. Swirl a little more if you’d like, but don’t go overboard, or the colors will blend together.
  5. Boil a kettle of water. Place a 9” cake or 8” square baking pan in the middle rack of the oven and carefully pour in at least 1” of boiling water. Wrap the bottom and sides of a springform pan in two layers of aluminum foil to prevent leaks. Gently place the springform into the baking pan, so it’s immersed in the boiling water. (The steam from the water bath helps regulate the temperature in the oven and create a moist environment, preventing cracks.)
  6. Bake for 50-75 minutes, until the center of the cheesecake wobbles ever so slightly when you jiggle the pan. Turn the oven off, crack the oven door, and leave the cheesecake inside for an hour to cool gradually.
  7. After an hour, remove the springform pan to a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to the fridge for at least 4 hours to allow the cheesecake to set.
  8. Run your thinnest knife between the cake and the rim of the pan. Unmold the cake from the springform and set the ring aside. Slide the knife under the parchment round and transfer the cake to a cutting board. Use a cake spatula to smooth the edges of the cheesecake.
  9. Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the cheesecake, wiping it clean between each cut for the neatest slices. If you’re feeling decadent, top with ice cream, candied pecans, and/or caramel syrup. Leftover cheesecake can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen for longer-term storage (see tips).
  1. Freezing cheesecake: Cheesecake freezes remarkably well, which makes it a great dessert to stash away for a surprise gathering. Slice the cheesecake and transfer to a freezer-safe tupperware, making sure to leave space between each slice so they don’t stick together. When ready to serve, defrost in the fridge overnight or at room temperature.
  2. Do I have to use blocks?: I can’t advise using cream cheese spread (the type that comes in tubs) to make cheesecake, as it becomes granular and wet when exposed to heat. The blocks are your best bet.
  3. No 6” pan? Simply double the ingredients and bake the cheesecake in a 9” pan. Note that it may take a few minutes longer to bake through.

Condensed Milk Bread

Soft, pillowy milk bread infused with a decadent layer of condensed milk.

This might damage my foodie credit, but I’ve never seen the appeal of crusty breads. Loaf of sourdough so crusty that it seems designed to scrape off the top layer of your mouth? Pass. No, to me, bread heaven is made of giant mounds of fluffy, pillowy milk bread, the type that sighs softly when you bite into it. Layer in sweet ribbons of condensed milk, and you get this bread.

A little backstory: I first stumbled across this recipe on the now-defunct blog Mimi Bakery House. I remember the instructions being hard to follow, but the results were so good I didn’t care. Month after month, I came back to the recipe, and like all good relationships, I assumed it would always be there for me. When all of a sudden the blog shut down, I have to admit I panicked a little. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find the original. Thankfully, several other blogs had adapted the original recipe, confusing instructions and all. I hope you’ll find this one less confusing and well worth the trouble.


Steps

Serves

6

Total Time

3 hr

Active Time

1 hr

BREAD

(adapted from Nasi Lemak Lover)
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour, sea salt, sugar, and yeast. Mix on low speed to combine, then add the milk, condensed milk, and butter. Mix again until the dough comes together.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth, elastic, and springs back when pressed with a finger. Once the gluten is sufficiently developed, the dough should pass the windowpane test. The time this takes will vary depending on your particular mixer and dough. If you’re unsure, start by mixing for 8 minutes, then continue in 5-minute increments as needed. 
  3. Scoop the dough out from the bowl and knead on the countertop a few times to form a smooth ball. Add a few drops of neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola, to the bottom of the bowl and place the dough ball back inside. Rotate the ball so it’s thinly coated with oil all over, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Both the oil and the wrap help prevent the dough from drying out.
  4. With the heat off, adjust a rack to the middle of your oven. Place a cake or loaf pan in the bottom of the oven and pour in 3 cups of boiling water. Next, place the bowl with the dough on the middle rack. Proof for 30-60 minutes, until the dough is roughly doubled in size. (The boiling water both warms the oven and adds humidity, which creates the ideal conditions for yeast activity.)
  5. Once the dough is proofed, remove the dough bowl from the oven, leaving the pan. Take out the dough, lightly flour your countertop, and gently stretch it into an 8”x12” rectangle. The dough should be soft and supple, stretching to fit the shape relatively easily. Don’t worry if the dough is a bit uneven in thickness–it’ll all work out in the oven.
  6. Cut the dough into four 2”x12” strips with a bench scraper or chef’s knife. Mix the filling ingredients in a small bowl with a spoon, then gently spoon half of the filling onto one strip. Top with another strip, like a long sandwich. Repeat with the remaining two strips, so you have two dough sandwiches. Cut each sandwich into 8 pieces, so you have 16 total.
  7. Grease the chiffon cake pan with baking spray or butter, then array the 16 mini-sandwiches around the pan, overlapping slightly. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and return to the middle rack of the oven to proof for another 20-30 minutes, or until doubled in size again.
  8. Remove both the chiffon and the loaf pan from the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (or 325°F with convection). Brush the bread with the egg wash and top with sliced almonds. Once the oven is fully preheated, bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown on top.
  9. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Using a knife, loosen the bread from the edges of the pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve.
  1. No tube pan?: If you don’t have a chiffon or other tube pan, you can fake the ring shape by using a cake or springform pan with a muffin liner in the middle. The exact dimensions don’t matter too much–the bread won’t be as tall in a 8 or 9” pan, but it’ll still be delicious. If you don’t care about the shape, a 6” springform or loaf pan will work nicely, too.
  2. No stand mixer? If you plan to do a lot of baking, I really recommend getting one, especially for a sticky dough like this. But if you insist on kneading by hand, when the directions say to use the dough hook, knead on a countertop for 20-30 minutes, until your dough passes the windowpane test. 
  3. Bread identity crisis: If you, too, opened your bag of bread flour only to find tiny bugs inside (the horror!), you can swap in all-purpose flour. The texture will be a bit less chewy and more cakey, but no less delicious.

Wingstickers (Teba Gyoza)

Wingsticker (noun): The unabashedly gluttonous lovechild of a chicken wing and a potsticker.

These are probably fighting words, but I’ve never been crazy about chicken wings–they’re just too darn bony. For that reason, I’d like to thank whoever came up with the idea for teba gyoza. Look at this boring chicken wing, they must have thought. Clearly, I should take out the bones, swap them for ground meat, and fry it like a dumpling! This may sound like one of those purely-for-marketing fast food monstrosities (KFC Double Down, I’m looking at you), but in reality they’re crisp, juicy, and not as heavy as you might imagine.

Fans of Shokugeki no Soma may recognize this dish, but meaty stuffed wings are not limited to the realm of anime. I’ve started seeing teba gyoza on restaurant menus around NYC (Mu Ramen’s foie gras-stuffed version is especially noteworthy), but at $10 apiece, the price alone is a good reason to make them at home. I’ve dubbed my rendition wingstickers, which I think captures their vaguely ridiculous nature. But whatever you call them, there’s no arguing that they’re delicious.

Steps

Makes

8 wings

Total Time

1.5 hours

Active Time

1.5 hours

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dumpling filling in a bowl and set aside. 
  2. Combine the tare ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until reduced slightly. Strain and set aside to cool.
  3. To prep the chicken wings for stuffing, separate the drumettes from the remainder of the wings with a chef’s knife, leaving the wing tips attached. Reserve the drumettes for another use. 
  4. Using kitchen shears, snip between the two wing bones to separate them. Carefully cut each bone away from the surrounding meat, inverting the skin as you go, until you can snip them off at the bottom. Once the bones are removed, the skin should form a pocket that can be stuffed with filling. (Don’t worry if you accidentally pierce the skin a bit–it won’t be as pretty, but the dish will still work!)
  5. Stuff each wing with filling, then use a toothpick to secure the opening. It won’t be entirely closed, but the toothpick will help keep the filling in place while you fry the wings.
  6. Fill a 10” cast-iron pan with 1/4″ oil. Heat over medium until sizzling, then add four chicken wings and fry for 4-5 minutes, brushing with tare occasionally. Flip and repeat on the other side. The wings are done when the skin is golden brown and the filling is cooked through (if you have an instant-read thermometer, aim for a minimum temperature of 165°F). Drain briefly on paper towels, then transfer to a 200°F oven or tent with tinfoil to keep the first batch warm. Repeat with the remaining four chicken wings.
  7. Garnish with lemon juice and sliced scallion and serve immediately.