I don’t think that Benjamin Franklin was referring to a Chopped Challenge, but let me tell you, that’s what this event and this particular basket took – energy and persistence.
It was late, it was dark (thus some of the not so great pictures), it was New Year’s Day…but persevere we must! That, and you better believe the kids weren’t letting us off that easy. They wanted their dessert! So on to the dessert basket offered up to us by Kay, the always inspiring, artistic genius at Pure Complex. Her basket of Oranges, Red Miso Paste, Kettle Chips and Cottage Cheese won by a landslide victory (Kay your family all came through!). And we thought the last basket challenged us!
We’ll start with Mike’s dessert for the evening. While his dessert was Chopped, I again have to give him high marks for creativity – even if it didn’t quite work out as planned. Mike based his dessert off of the little pink pretzels (raspberry yogurt covered pretzels) that Miss A snacks on from Whole Foods, a Soft Pretzel with Miso Frosting.
Now here’s another place where I have to give Mike serious credit – he got a stinkin’ dough to rise in 40 minutes. I bow down. (I’m still on a bread baking hiatus.) He mixed together quick rise yeast, flour, butter and cottage cheese to form a dough which he then let rise for 40 minutes. Once risen, he tore off pieces of the dough, rolled them out into 18-inch logs and then formed soft pretzels.
He then went to work on his frosting by mixing 4 egg whites with 1-1/2 cups of powdered sugar. It was turning into something like whipped cream at which point he added 2 tablespoons of red miso paste and squeezed in the juice from one orange. Unfortunately his frosting was more of a liquid than he hoped, but with time a tickin’, he went ahead and basted each of the pretzels in his red miso pseudo-frosting. He then topped each with some crushed kettle chips and baked them for 30 minutes at 400F.
Now while Mike’s dish may not have worked out the way he hoped, and didn’t really taste very dessert-like, it was actually a pretty darned good soft pretzel. The kids really enjoyed them. Even Mike and I thought they weren’t all that bad. The pseudo-frosting gave them a very slight hint of sweetness and the kettle chips took the place of the salt. As for the pretzel itself, I think we’ll try making the dough recipe again sometime just without the chips, oranges and red miso frosting. 😉 Mike and I gave the pretzels 2.5 spoons. Miss A came in with 3 spoons and Mr. N a solid 4 spoon vote.
As for my dessert, I was initially going to go for the old pain perdu, but Mike called me out on that. It seems as though it’s the go-to dessert on Chopped when people have no idea what else to do. So while I still think I could have made a pretty kick butt pain perdu with these ingredients, I wasn’t about to let that challenge go unanswered. Instead, I bring you Citrus Cottage Cheesecake.
Next I combined the crushed kettle chips with a bit of semolina flour I found in the pantry. I then used a bit of melted butter to make the flour and chips a little easier to press into the bottom of the baking dish for the crust.
I then got to work on the cheesecake. First I used my immersion blender to puree the cottage cheese. I don’t mind the taste of cottage cheese, but I’m not a big fan of the texture and I didn’t think the lumps would work well in the cake. I then beat together some eggs and sugar in the stand mixer. Once creamed, I incorporated the cottage cheese, some plain Greek yogurt, a bit of salt and flour, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Then I used the oranges and tossed in some zest and juice.
I baked the cheesecake for 30 minutes at 350F at which point the cake had set. I set it aside to cool and then prepared a miso caramel sauce. For this I dissolved a tablespoon of the red miso paste in water. Then I dissolved some sugar in corn syrup and butter. Once the sugar had dissolved I stirred in the red miso paste mixture as well as a touch of vanilla. I removed the syrup from the heat and stirred in the crème fraiche.
The caramel sauce, only my second attempt at making caramel, was delicious. I even licked the spoon clean and that’s not something I would normally do with caramel. Mike took one bite of his cheesecake and said, “Oh, I’m in trouble.” It was good. The oranges really gave this a citrus punch, and while the cheesecake was pretty rich in and of itself, the caramel and the salty crust helped to tone it down a bit.
Mike and I were both big fans – especially when it was fresh and warm. (It wasn’t quite as good once we had refrigerated it which helped with those New Year’s resolutions.) The cheesecake earned 3 spoons from both of us. The cake part was really very good, but I think we both prefer a more traditional cheesecake crust. Mr. N wasn’t a big fan and only gave it 1 spoon. He’s a big cheesecake lover, but only if it’s from one of his favorite Italian restaurants. Miss A, however, did enjoy her cheesecake and gave it 3 spoons as well.
So while this wasn’t our most successful recipe round, it certainly was the round that challenged our creativity and cooking skills the most. It’s not easy to whip up desserts on the fly when you have no idea what you’re making. I mean ask us to make a banana bread, a pie, or a cookie…no problem. We’ve got recipes for that and several we even know by heart; cottage cheese, oranges, chips and miso paste…well, let’s just say we’re proud of our dishes, we even enjoyed them, but I don’t see us making them exactly the same way again. 😉 Thank you Kay for a challenging, fun and wild dessert basket.
And thanks to everyone for participating and following along in Mike’s birthday Chopped Challenge. It was a lot of fun for us and we know we’ll be doing it again. It may even become our New Year’s Day tradition. Can’t you just see Mr. N and Miss A out cooking us someday – and it’s probably not even that far off!
Have a great rest of the weekend and we’ll be back Monday as we embark on a new international adventure.
And to print our recipes (if you dare):
Mike’s Chopped Dessert (pseudo-frosting omitted): Soft Pretzels
Kristy’s Champion Dessert: Citrus Cottage Cheesecake