For Easter, Rhiannon and I were invited to the home of the Small Child Who Thinks I Like Her (formerly the artist known as the Baby Who Doesn't Like Me). Apparently word has spread that I am getting into making cheesecakes, so that was what was requested of us. A simple cheese cake. Nothing fancy - just something loaded with dairy, lactose, and maybe some gluten. We threw nuts on top for good measure. Never let it be said that we are not equal opportunity when it comes to included different food allergies. However, I've been doing my best to not do "nothing fancy" when it comes to cheesecake. The new motto in our house is anything Cheesecake Factory can do, we can probably come pretty close if you give enough tries. Well, that's my motto. Rhiannon made a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake last week, and aside from forgetting the chocolate chips for style points on the top, it was every bit as good as it sounds. She had me at chocolate and cheese (although saying those two words out loud together doesn't sound that good, just picture the actual dessert and it gets better).
The point I'm trying to make is that while a plain New York Style cheesecake topped with a few strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream is a classic and a staple of any good cheesecake baker's repertoire, it's not where I'm at right now. If this is your favorite type of cheesecake and you come to visit, I will oblige and make one, but not willingly if given the choice.
So, when Rhiannon suggested we work on a Caramel Pecan Cheesecake with Shortbread Crust, I didn't hear a single word past Caramel and I was sold. Really at that point, it could have been Caramel Asparagus and I would have given it a try. Ok, I kid, but Caramel Zucchini would really make me think about it. Caramel is pretty much the closest I have to an addiction right now, so it is a pretty easy sell to get me to make anything with that as an ingredient. To be honest, I will eat caramel ice cream topping straight out of the bottle.
The recipe we were looking at called for a 10-inch springform pan. 10 inches. Of cheesecake. This was a serious recipe. At 8pm on a Saturday, we set out in search of a 10-inch springform. This is also about the closest thing to a date Rhiannon gets anymore, so I hope she enjoyed herself.
Pan and ingredients in hand, we started mixing crust, caramel, cheesecake filling, sour cream topping, cooling, adding more caramel, and decorating. There are a few tips about cheesecake I've started following over the past few months.
1. Bake the pan in a larger pan with a few inches of water. This keeps the cake moist and helps prevent cracks.
2. When you turn the oven off, leave the cake in there to cool. It won't burn, trust me. Plus, you don't have to lift a really heavy and hot pan out of a hot oven.
Now, this particular cake had a sour cream topping, so I didn't let it sit in the oven. In fact, it didn't seem quite set at 10 minutes longer than the recipe called for. That is a first for our baking - the previous cakes have always seemed done on time. I figured the extra 10 minutes to set the sour cream topping would take care of that. I failed to figure that I wasn't going to leave the cake in the oven to finish because the cream on the top would start to brown.
It may have looked good with the decoration, but it wasn't completely set in the middle. It was soft and fell when brought back to room temperature for serving. Did it taste good? Yes. Nothing was wrong with it except the pieces had to be laid down on the plate...
And then yesterday, when I went to put the pan away, I found out that we have had a 10-inch springform pan all along. All of our previous cheesecakes that called for a 9-inch pan have been too spread out and thin - and they've all turned out perfect. I am officially a failure and will now hang up my towel I keep draped over my shoulder in the kitchen.
Or, maybe I'll just try again next weekend.