Sunday, April 01, 2012

Any excuse

spiral 2 by Sesser
spiral 2, a photo by Sesser on Flickr.
It would seem that, lately, I am using any excuse to bake.

March 13th is a friend's birthday and March 16th is my niece's birthday, so I made Guinness cupcakes AND Chocolate peanut butter cake (both from Smitten Kitchen) two weekends ago. Last weekend, I made chocolate cupcakes (a recipe from Canadian Living Online) with sprinkles to take to brunch at a friend's house. Because cupcakes are a very brunchy item.

This weekend, amidst the general insanity that follows taking two days off work to stay home with a sick kid (ear infection and the new "no antibiotics" protocol), my SIL called me to remind me that I had volunteered my baking to a good cause.

My SIL is a volunteer fundraiser for Bayside Camp, a local Baptist summer camp which has recently been rebuilt. My MIL was the camp director back 20 years ago, so it's an important cause to the family.

Last year they held a fundraising dinner for the camp and I made Chocolate Blackout Cake (another Canadian Living fave) for the dessert auction. It sold for the highest dollar amount of any dessert there!

So this year, it's not a dessert auction, but they are still having the fundraising dinner.

I had bigger aspirations than cheesecake, but since they really don't take much time to make, and they really are delicious, I went for easy. There are so many times when people have said to me, "Oh, I've never made cheesecake. Is it hard to make?" and while it would be tempting to lie and say, "It took me years to perfect and hours to make," well, the truth is, they really are easy. There are some tricks, though, that help:

Steph's Cheesecake Tips:
1. The Pan: When putting together a springform pan, be sure you put it together properly. The bottom is meant to look like a platform. If you put it together with the ridge up, getting your cheesecake out of the pan is going to be more difficult.
2. The Ingredients: Always make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature. If you need to speed up the process, cut it up into smaller pieces on a plate.
3. The Crust: I cut back on the amount of butter in the crust because it always seems to seep out of the pan.
4. Protect Your Oven: On that note, be sure to put a cookie sheet under the cheesecake in the oven. This will prevent your oven from sending smoke signals.
5. Undercook: Yes, you read that right. You want the cheesecake to be just a little bit undercooked, just a tiny bit "jiggly" in the centre. If it is too well done, not only will it be dry, but it will crack as well. My recipe calls for 1hour and 30 minutes. I usually cook it for 1 hour 15.
6. Cooling: I always seem to be making cheesecake when the kitchen is chaos, so I often just turn off the oven and open the door. After a while, I put it on a cooling rack and then when it is nice and cool, I put it in the refrigerator. If you cover the pan in plastic wrap and condensation starts to form, you've likely not let it cool enough. The water will drop on top of the cheesecake and leave spots.
7. Cutting & Serving: I find cheesecake best when it is made the day before being served. When I cut the cheesecake, I either rinse and wipe the knife blade between slices or, if it's family dinner and they really don't care about presentation, just about getting cake, I just wipe the knife on a plate. And my FIL insists on getting that plate. ;)

When it came out of the oven, I realized that I didn't want the Ladies at the church to have to serve this with whipped cream (it's quite sweet, so I usually serve it with whipped cream to cut the sweetness), so I made a cream cheese, sour cream topping (sweetened a little). I reserved some of the topping and mixed it with melted chocolate chips, then piped it on the top.

spiral

It's not a professional job, but I think the effect was nice. When my SIL picked it up, she had three other cakes in her car and this ended up riding in the trunk. I hope it made it to the church ok!

This recipe is from an old Company's Coming cookbook. It wasn't until just this very minute that I remember how many times my mom made it for church dinners back home. My friend Liz and I would position our teenaged-selves next to the desserts so that we were sure to get a piece. I don't think Mom ever brought home any leftovers.

This is also the cake that ensured me a place in my FIL's heart. I made it and took it to the family cottage the first summer Andrew and I were dating. It was a huge hit. When we invite my FIL for supper now, he almost always asks if there will be chocolate cheesecake.

What about you? Do you have a recipe that gets rave reviews, despite the relative simplicity of making it?

7 comments:

Lara said...

My grandmother's apple crisp recipe (secret ingredient in the topping is aged cheddar cheese) is so easy to make but always disappears!

Sampson and Lorrie said...

LOVE cheesecake...of all flavors! We laughed when we read your comment about the cookie sheet and "smoke signals" because we failed to place a sheet in our oven one time and had the entire house filled with smoke for 4 hours at least! So yes, don't forget that cookie sheet to catch any drips! Everything looks yummy!!!

Vicki Knitorious said...

Yum. I make fudge at the holidays -- semi-sweet chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, a little vanilla -- and everyone RAVES about it being the best fudge the ever had! I'm embarrassed when they ask for the recipe -- what's to even write down?
; )

Laura said...

Yum! Looks so good! I also love hearing that it was this cake that ensured you a place in your FIL's heart. Although, he seems to have a fairly open heart, so I don't think you would have had a problem fitting yourself in there.

I have a HUGE amount of apples from our weekly CSA boxes. I'm trying to find both baking projects and energy to work our way through them. Thinking about doing some apple butterscotch muffins. They may or may not actually end up getting made! :)

600square said...

all I can say is yum!!!!

Claire said...

I have my friend's banana pudding recipe that is to die for and deceptively easy.

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