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Published: Tuesday, 1/6/2009

A year of cheesecake

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

This is the year for cheesecakes.

Using my guide of a dozen toppings, you can make a different topping each month for a basic cheesecake.

Streamline the process. I bought a New York-style cheesecake (without topping) from Michael s Cafe Bakery at 101 Main St. in Toledo.

Then I made a dozen toppings, many of which can be adapted to your taste. Although I ve suggested one for each month of the year, you can switch them around, or make two or more to suit any party or event.

You can also make your own cheesecake using a cookbook like The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary, (Robert Rose, $24.95).

For January, I used Simmered Oranges, a recipe adapted from this month s issue of Better Homes & Gardens. The circumference of the oranges makes a difference on the quantity this recipe makes. I used navel oranges, which were quite large. An option is to make the recipe with Blood Oranges or Temple Oranges.

February inspired a Coffee Flavored Syrup, a recipe from The Cheesecake Bible. The syrup is drizzled on the cheesecake slice and then three dollops of whipped cream are placed on top each garnished with a chocolate covered espresso bean. Usually you can get these chocolate covered espresso beans at The Chocolate Shoppe in Perrysburg or at Biggby Coffee locations in the Toledo area. Note that they have a strong flavor.

For March, a Cherry Sauce made with canned pitted dark sweet cherries was flavored with kirsch or cherry liqueur. If you don t have the liqueur, you might try 1 teaspoon or two of almond extract to add flavoring to the recipe from The Good Home Cookbook by Richard J. Perry (Collector s Press, $29.95).

Lemon Curd was the topping for April. Homemade Lemon Curd from Lemons by Kate Chynoweth and Elizabeth Woodson (Chronicle, $18.95) has an amazing fresh lemon flavor. Use fresh lemon juice. There is no thickening like cornstarch in a classic lemon curd recipe like this. (Note that supermarkets sell lemon curd in jars in the jelly aisle. You can also make lemon pie filling to use as lemon topping.)

Mango Topping is suggested for May when mangoes are in season. Be sure you find a soft to the touch fruit. When mango is too green, it lacks flavor and texture.

Of course, June is strawberry season in Toledo. Fresh Strawberry Sauce is as simple as sliced strawberries sweetened with sugar spooned across a slice of cheesecake.

July brings blueberry season. For a cheesecake topping, Blueberry Sauce flavored with grated orange peel and a little orange juice, which makes a great sauce. It only needs to cook 4 to 5 minutes, according to the North American Blueberry Council.

For August cheesecakes, I would make a Raspberry Puree and top each slice with fresh raspberries. The raspberry puree requires a blender and a small medium-mesh sieve to stain the puree to remove the seeds.

September is apple season in Ohio and Michigan. Think about a topping of Caramelized Apples for a slice of cheesecake. Heavy cream is added to this recipe. When I sliced the red apples, I left a little red peel on some pieces and it gives a hint of color to the caramelized apples.

With Halloween in October, I had to make the holiday count for a cheesecake topping. I chose Butterfingers candy, but you can select your favorite crisp candy that can be smashed with a meat mallet and crumbled so you can sprinkle pieces on top of each chocolate syrup-drizzled slice of cheesecake.

Homemade cranberry sauce is not limited to turkey for November. I used a very similar recipe - this one flavored with fresh squeezed orange juice and grated orange zest - as a topping for cheesecake. For someone who doesn t like super sweet flavors, it brings a refreshing and tart-sweet flavor. For a garnish, a little strip of orange rind makes a pretty dessert.

For December holidays, Maple Pecan Sauce from The Cheesecake Bible is made with pure maple syrup, whipping cream, pecan halves, and vanilla. It is among the sweetest of the 12 toppings for a cheesecake.

Of course you can come up with your own combination of toppings from Lime Sauce for St. Patrick s Day to crushed Peppermint Candy for a Christmas topping.

Make one or more toppings for any occasion. But if you think you want to make all 12 for a party, you ll need some help. Each recipe takes 15 to 20 minutes, but it s multiplied by the number you make.

Here s to those versatile cheesecakes! What a way to plan your year!

Kathie Smith is The Blade s food editor. Contact her at food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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