“Every Thanksgiving at Allysa’s cousin Polly’s house they used to gather the evening before to do the holiday baking, and every year Allysa was called upon to create a new cheesecake. This is a recent year’s recipe, and it was loved by all.“
I was asked to bake something for a special meeting of foreign language teachers from our school and another nearby expatriate school.
I decided it was time to try my hand at a cheesecake. I had never baked one in my life. Wisdom dictates to do something you’re good at for such occasions and not to try new things. I defied wisdom, once again, and was modestly successful.
DETOURS and DISAPPOINTMENTS: Having defied conventional wisdom, I decided to go whole hog – no, I didn’t add pork. “Whole hog” is an expression for “all the way”, but you CAN visualize it. See!?
DETOUR #1 and a disappointment: The crust. OK. I was in a metrics mood that morning. I was thinking, “In the future I’m not gonna fiddle with tablespoons, sticks, and ounces anymore. It’s gonna be grams and milliliters.” So, like a good scientific baker, I used a pastry recipe for the crust that measured things in grams. I must add, that I didn’t like the flour-butter-brown sugar recipe proposed by Magnolia from the start. I had never heard of such for a cheesecake – and this was gonna be my FIRST cheesecake. Well, anyhooo, it turned out kind of how I’d imagined it – flour-y, close to a regular American pie crust. I will never use this recipe for a cheesecake again. To make matter worse, and to take blame for a crust that nobody wanted to eat, I did NOT do a good job forming the crust in the pan. It was too thick, especially at the edge where the bottom and sides meet.
DETOUR #2 not a disappointment: The filling. It turned out FABULOUS. I’d like to make a new word at this point fusing FLUFFY and FABULOUS, but FLUBULOUS doesn’t work. It was NOT a flub. I also don’t want to coin the word “FLABULOUS” because no one would want to eat the cake thinking of all that flab they would be creating around their tummies. So I’ll just leave it at FLUFFY and FABULOUS. But why? After all, I made a detour from the experts. OK. Here’s the detour – The recipe called for 1 pound of cream cheese. I had 1/2 pound of cream cheese and 1/2 pound of “cream cheese spread”. The spread is the same cheese but fluffed up with air. Well, I ended up with a TALL, FLUFFY cheesecake which is something I’d always wanted to make. Philadelphia Cream Cheese comes in flavored, spreadable forms nowadays that might serve well a number of confectionery creations in your kitchen. So, success on this issue — and it seems to be the issue that most people (including myself) care most about when considering a cheesecake.
DETOUR #3 a little disappointment: The pecans on top. I decided to leave them whole and cover the top of the cake with them. It looked pretty, but I’m not sure I’ll repeat it. Pecans get lost from some bites.
ROASTING PECANS: I also roasted the pecans a little too long this time and they developed a slightly burned taste. Don’t go beyond 10 minutes (even 9 could be smart) for roasting your pecans at 350 F. They continue to cook a little bit after removing them from the oven. Roasting brings out deeper flavors of the nuts, but too much is damaging. Be careful and be glad.
REWARDS OF OBEDIENCE: I want to thank the authors of the Magnolia cookbook for the directions concerning baking the cake. I followed these directions carefully; placed the cake on a cookie sheet to bake, then turned off the oven after an hour and propped open the oven door to leave the cake there to cool very slowly for one hour. The cheesecake that emerged was golden and without any cracks. That brought a smile to this novice baker’s face.
I am glad to end my story with a smile.
I hope you have a smile today too.
After all, this was, in the end, a blessing.
HAVE A SWEET DAY.