There is a show on the Travel Channel (I think) called Man vs. Food. It kind of felt like that in my kitchen last week: Mamie vs. Cheesecake. I wasn’t sure who would win…
I am not really a huge fan of cheesecake. I don’t like it plain, and I don’t like chocolate-y interpretations, either. However, a while back I tried a berry cheesecake that won me over. It was quite good.
I had never made a cheesecake. Not even following someone else’s recipe. So, coming up with my own recipe was a big challenge, and I was pretty scared. Lots of things can go wrong. Cracking, burning, deflating… you could end up with something like this:
And I did. Cheesecake FAIL.
Here’s how it happened:
I read one recipe that used chopped walnuts in the crust, and I really liked the idea, but I don’t like the bitter flavor walnuts can have. I tried almonds. The first batch I threw in the blender and crushed up nicely, but I’d neglected to toast them first. Toasting them after they are crushed is not a great idea. I burnt them. So, my next batch I toasted first and then crushed. They came out golden and gorgeous, and they smelled great! I mixed them in with my crushed graham crackers for the crust.
As I said before, I don’t like a plain cheesecake, so I added the zest of a lemon to my filling. I was concerned about beating it too long in the mixer. I didn’t want whipped cream. Turns out I didn’t beat it long enough and it was a bit lumpy when I poured it into the crust.
Lumpy is not what you want for your cheesecake.
I had read lots of recipes and all except one called for a 350˚ baking temperature. Turns out that was too hot. The cheesecake got really dark on top before it was done in the center.
I wanted to cook it in a water bath, to maintain an even cooking temp and keep the oven moist while the cheesecake baked. I even wrapped the bottom of the springform pan in foil to keep out the water and put it in a large roasting dish with water about halfway up the side of the pan.
Not only did my cheesecake crack, and burn, but it got soggy as well.
My first attempt at cheesecake was a failure! My husband and I did try a bit of the filling from the middle of the cake where it wasn’t soggy and decided that if It wasn’t burnt, it would probably taste fine, so I guess it wasn’t a complete loss, and I guess I learned a lot, too. Still…
Not willing to accept defeat from a cake, I was determined to try again.
This time I toasted my almonds before crushing! I mixed my batter to fluffy perfection! I baked at a lower and wiser 250˚! I still put a pan of water in the oven with my cake, but I did not put the cake in the water!
I paced the kitchen floor, and…
Whew! Cheesecake! See the lemony bits of zest on the top? See how the graham cracker almond crust seems to hug it lovingly?
Well, a quick bit of blackberry sauce later and:
Not too fluffy. Not too dense. Velvety. Lemony. Good.
I learned a lot from my bout with cheesecake. I learned to be brave in the kitchen – as the Mythbusters say, “Failure is always an option”, and that’s okay. I learned from failing that success was possible. Attention to detail is key. And I still need to work on my crust - see how the side is thicker than the bottom…
I love food! I even love cheesecake!
I’m thinking Pasta next…