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May 09, 2014

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My week brought nothing unexpected or delightful. Rote, rote, rote.

I spent near to a year when I was younger playing with cheesecake recipes to figure out how best to make light cheesecakes. I traced out several paths to that end, some of which could be concurrently walked, but necessity taught me that a good substitute for those assorted complex rites was just to replace the cream cheese with an even mix of mascarpone and fromage frais en faisselle. The resulting cheesecake has a much more delicate flavor - there's no sharp cream cheese bite, just a rich dairy taste - but the mix behaves more or less the same physically, and leaves you with a cake that holds together perfectly well, but gloriously disintegrates on your tongue. Alas, fromage frais is often quite difficult to lay hands on in the States, so my cheesecakes have mostly relied on the aforementioned cruder expedient methods for obtaining an airy character, but I do at least have the satisfaction of knowing how to do this Right.

I have made a number of cheesecakes in my day, most recently satisfying a pumpkin cheesecake I served in the pumpkinian days between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

More importantly, though, the first story I ever planned to write (at about the age of 10) was going to called "The Cheesecake Race", in which a set of teams had to race through a giant cheesecake to reach the center. If I remember correctly (it was a while ago), the prize was intended to be a lifetime's supply of cheesecake, and, of course, the teams had to eat nothing but the environmental cheesecake in the course of the race. I suspect that my vision was influenced primarily by the Thunderbirds, Speed Racer, and my love of cheesecake.

Unexpected delights? A list of names.

I'll be moving soon (following the SO) and haven't found a job yet in the new area. But I've been traveling for the past week or so and by chance met someone well connected in my field and in the new area. They were kind enough to give me a list of names and offer to act as intermediary as necessary.

Perhaps "delight" is probably a little bit of a misnomer, but it's definitely is a good feeling, whatever it is. And certainly unexpected.

More properly "delight"-ful was seeing my dog when I got home. Although that was anticipated and hardly unexpected. :)

On cheesecake, it's one of the few desserts I enjoy. I am in general not a fan of sweet things, but there are a number of cheesecakes that aren't that sweet. Although they can cross into that range readily.

I was brought up on the formula method of baking (so many parts this, so many parts that). Many old recipes are of this kind, it being assumed that you know how to combine the ingredients, you just need the list for a new item.

I was taught to make cheesecake by the girlfriend of one of my childcare persons. She was younger than I, but she used this method. Having learned the formula, I spent the following summer experimenting. I pretty much made a cheesecake every day out of the left-overs of last night's dinner. Every one of them was delicious. There can be cheesecake failures, I suppose, but it's hard to make one that doesn't taste at least good.

One of the best was celery-banana. Tasted fabulous, but unfortunately it was an awful grey color. I guess food coloring would fix that though. Hmm, I should make it again. That was about 50 years ago (different bananas).

Cheesecake has the advantage that, as well as tasting very good, it's pretty much good for you, and a very acceptable cheesecake can be made using various "light" substitutes, as N Vide points out. Although I very much like the slight sourness of traditional recipes.

Cheesecake is wonderful, wonderful.

I have a terrific recipe for a more-or-less standard cheesecake. No celery. No banana.

However, good for you it isn't.

all things considered, i'm thinking bernie's cheesecake has my attention.

not that i don't like celery and banana, either individually or in combination. i just prefer my self-indulgence undiluted.

all of that said, my favorite is the not-so-sweet traditional NY ricotta variety. light and airy, halfway to a souffle.

However, good for you it isn't.

Whole milk good.

Cream = better

Cheesecake = best

By the way, where are the recipes?

If someone will tell me how, I will be glad to post the recipe. Two points:

1. Lots of eggs, sugar, cream cheese, etc. Don't tell your cardiologist.
2. Tasting this cheesecake has actually caused women to propose marriage.

Sure, why not; here's my bog-standard cheesecake recipe. This incorporates almost none of the aforementioned tricks to take a weighty, plodding cheesecake and turn it into a sneaking, ethereal caloric monster; those methods tend to involve enough snap judgements that I've never actually committed them to writing. They're not that complicated; it boils down to things like adjusting liquid volumes/whipping the cream/separating and meringuing the eggs, but all those tricks require a lighter hand so as not to undo them, and can screw with baking times (and cake volumes).

One thing characteristic of probably 80-90% of all cheesecakes I make is here: white chocolate. Unless I'm doing something like pumpkin or suchlike, I always add white chocolate, as it smooths the flavor of the cream cheese. We will remain diplomatically silent regarding what it does to the nutritional profile.

Ingredients:
Crust:
1 3/4 cups crushed chocolate graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter (melted)

Filling:
24 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
12 oz white chocolate (melted)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Topping:
2 cups raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 400°

2. Mix sugar & crackers in a bowl; add melted butter; press mixture along bottom and 2" up the sides of a 9" springform pan

3. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and flour; mix very well; add eggs one at a time, mixing very well between eggs; finish by mixing in the cream; set filling aside

4. When all of the above is ready (including preheating), melt the white chocolate; as soon as it's melted it must be quickly mixed into the filling; pour filling into crust

5. Set cheesecake in middle of oven and bake at 400° for 10 minutes; reduce temp to 300° and cook for 55 to 65 minutes (until filling is set)

6. Remove cheesecake and let cool for 10 minutes; carefully run knife around the edge of the pan to loosen it; cool in fridge for 2 hours

7. Place raspberries, sugar, and cornstarch into a pan; stirring often, bring pan to a low boil and cook until raspberries are broken down; remove from heat and pour over the cheesecake

8. Replace cheesecake in fridge for 2 more hours

Note that a saner size of cheesecake for non-party situations can be obtained by using a 7" pan and cutting filling/topping/crust proportions by 50%/50%/40%; all cooking times, temperatures, etc. remain unchanged.

Sugar can be omitted from the crust and topping without ruining it, but I don't recommend it. I mean, it's a cheesecake. It's not supposed to be healthy or lean.

(Oh, in case it's not obvious from the inclusion of cream and the dual cooking temperatures, I cook New York style cheesecakes.)

Nombrilisme Vide:

Best Comment Ever. Thank you!

Here you go:

Ingredients:

Crust
3/4 cup coarsely ground walnuts (3 ounces)
3/4 cup finely crushed graham crackers
3 tablespoons melted unsallted butter

Filling
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature .
4 eggs
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla

Topping
2 cups sour cream
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Strawberry Glaze
1 quart medium strawberries
1 12oz. jar red raspberry jelly
1 tbsp corstarch
1/1 cup Cointreau
¼ cup water

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter 9-10 inch springform

Crust:

Combine walnuts, graham cracker crumbs and butter.
Press compactly onto bottom of pan.

Filling:

Beat cream cheese in large bowl of electric mixer until smooth.
Add eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla and beat thoroughly.
Spoon over crust.

Put pan on baking sheet to catch any butter drips.
Bake 10-inch cake 40-45 min, 9-inch cake 50-55 min. Don’t worry about cracks in top.

Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes, but leave oven on.

Topping:

Combine sour cream, sugar, and vanilla and blend. Cover and refrigerate. When cake is done spoon topping over top, to within ½ inch of edge. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate.

Glaze:
Several hours before serving wash and hull berries and dry on a paper towel. Combine a little jelly with cornstarch in saucepan andmix well. Add remainig jelly, Cointreau, and water, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thick and clear – about 5 minutes. Cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

Loosen cake from pan and remove springform. Put berries on top of cake and spoon glaze over berries. Return to refrigerator until glaze is set.

Notes:

1. Recipe calls for refrigerating the cake at least 24 hours before serving. I never can wait that long.

2. The glaze is officially part of the recipe, but I never use it. I just put the topping all the way to the edge and put strawberries on top. It's fine.

3. The topping doesn't really need two full cups of sour cream.

Thanks byomtov! A contest in my very own kitchen!

Both recipes presented here show the formulaic nature of the ideal cheescake recipe. Mr/ms vide's is a three-egg recipe. Three eggs, three eight-ounce units of some form of soft cheese, three tablespoons of flour, extras as desired; possibly topped with something made of a sweet thing mixed with a tart thing. Byomtov's is a four-egg recipe: four eggs, four eight-ounce units of cheese. I prefer cheesecakes with flour in them, because they are a bit more cakey and a little less custardy. However, all cheescakes are a subset of custards (another set of formulas). In any case, I love all cheesecakes.

And the best cheesecakes I ever made were made in a wood stove. After getting the oven up to temp, insert cheesecake, and ignore it until the oven is cold. This will take several hours, but the cake will be perfect. Reducing temperature is an easy way to approximate the effect. I discovered this by accident, having forgotten to feed the fire.

Let's do this some more. I love talking about cheesecakes.

One more thing. I can't really be baking them in my current condition, but I'm recovering from a near-death incident and I need to gain weight, so I am buying cheap ones and eating a couple-ounce slice every day. We call this "therapeutic cheesecake". As in "Have you had your therapeutic cheesecake yet, dear?"

I know this works because this happened to me once before, and it's working this time too. It was recommended by a friend. Somehow, it works better than just eating more calories --I guess my body doesn't regard it as food, so it doesn't decrease my appetite as if I had eaten, y'know, *real* food.

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