Food Adventures #2: Cheesecake
Dear God. I’ve just spent the last four hours in the kitchen trying to cook not only my very first cheesecake but also my dinner. As you can probably guess, I had some trouble… again.
Allot of this I’m blaming on the fact that its Friday the 13th. That and I was cooking with a headache. But really now, let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?
I was starving when I got home. I ate some stale chips and quickly realized that I didn’t have anything that I could make for dinner “instantly”. No frozen dinners in the fridge, no left overs… and I was not in the mood for ramen (had it for lunch). So I decided to make chicken alfredo while making the cheesecake. Why? Because I’m bloody insane.
I’m not going to get into the epic alfredo struggle because this is a blog about making cheesecake, so I’m going to briefly explain what happened. I realized I didn’t have any pasta except for this organic linguini that had been in my cabinet since the fall. There wasn’t very much of that. I dug around in the dark recesses of my top cupboard and found a package of rice vermicelli. I’d bought it at Ocean State Job Lot… in 2009. Don’t even ask me why it was still in my cabinet. But I attempted to cook it along with the organic stuff and it basically melted into goo while cooking. I found some (recently opened) rotini and cooked that after I’d dumped the nasty noodles.
As far as the cheesecake is concerned, I will point out that it wasn’t as catastrophic as the pastitsio. I didn’t quite follow the directions once again. I know, I know. You’d think I would have learned. But I genuinely thought I had everything this time. The recipe came from a friend who is also a fantastic cook. However, I think I was delusional to have attempted this without having an entire day to do it.
The recipe obviously called for graham crackers. I’d intended to make this Thursday night and to my horror, I realized I didn’t have any. Another friend was telling me I could substitute the graham crackers with Chips Ahoy cookies. This sounded like a really cool idea. So I stopped at the store and bought some as well as some milk. I had a feeling this recipe was likely to use up allot of ingredients.
The recipe calls for you to melt 5 tablespoons of butter (PAULA DEAN!) and mix with 8 graham crackers. Since graham crackers are bigger than the cookies, I rationalized that I needed to crumble at least 15 to have the same amount for the crust. Instead of doing it in a food processor for convenience, I did it by hand. I was worried about my neighbors having to contend with the noise from the rip-roaring Magic Bullet that I own. The thing sounds like a chainsaw when you use it. As I crunched cookies and mixed them with the butter and sugar, I was very much aware that the particles were not as fine as they were meant to be, not to mention the chocolate chips dotting the mixture. But I had broken up just enough to coat the bottom of the spring-form pan and I mushed them down with the back of a spoon to make sure each little area was covered. That went in the oven for 13 minutes to brown.
When that came out, the blissful scent of cookies and butter filled the apartment. Screw the cheesecake, I was thinking. I’ll just eat this giant cookie and be done with it. But… I didn’t want to disappoint you all.
Making the cheesecake filling was a tad more… involved than I’d expected it to be. First of all, I’ll admit that I guessed how much cream cheese to buy at the grocery store. I had the distinct feeling that 8 oz. was 1 lb. But instead of buying three bars, I bought only two because I doubted my conversion memory. And as I pulled the bars out of the fridge, I realized I was 1/2 a lb. short. Which meant I’d have to alter the amount of all the other ingredients.
The directions told me to use an electric mixer to soften the cream cheese. Now, a disclaimer. I love my electric mixer. But it does have a mind of its own. And it apparently wasn’t in the mood to “soften cream cheese” this evening. I plugged that thing in and flicked it on and it was like trying to ride a bucking bronco. The bowl, literally tore itself out of my hand but luckily didn’t fly across the room or shatter on the floor. By the time I got the thing under control, my hands were covered in cream cheese. Next I added the salt, 1/8 tsp. I forgot to put less in. Then sugar. I put in 1/2 cup instead of 3/4. Before mixing this time, I exchanged my whisk for two beaters. This time, the mixer cooperated. Another 1/2 cup of sugar mixed in after that.
Lemon juice, vanilla, and sour cream. I altered the measurements and added those in. Slowly but surely, the mixing became easier and easier. I started to think that perhaps this one would come out alright. It was all going to be just fine. Then came the eggs.
Two egg yolks and six eggs were to be added. I cracked an egg before realizing I had to dump the white somewhere. I found a little custard bowl and quickly maneuvered it to my rescue as I pulled the egg shell apart fully. The white glopped into the bowl. Apparently, they’d frozen a little in my fridge. My refrigerator apparently has no middle setting. Either its freezing everything, or everything perspires and melts. I crack another one and the same thing happens. Dumping the two yolks in, I unleash the mixer again in its full wrath. Then four more eggs. There is a near catastrophe on the third egg when I notice something very strange in the white as I’m cracking it. Thankfully, I tossed it before it had a chance to fall into the batter. On the fourth egg, half the shell drops in. I have to excavate it from the bottom of the mixing bowl before continuing.
Finally, everything was mixed and I was feeling triumphant again. I unplugged the mixer and tried to press the release button for the beaters to come out. It was stuck. I used both thumbs to stab it. Both beaters plunged headlong into the batter and soon sank beneath the creamy white surface. Those had to be excavated, too.
During this time, I’d heated the oven to 500 degrees. I’ve never turned my oven up that high before. In addition to that, I’d turned my right front burner on for some tea. I was fairly certain the thing would explode once I opened the door. Pouring the batter into the spring-form pan, I squeaked the oven door open and a blast of hot, HOT air wafted out. I speedily shoved the spring form pan inside and let the door slam shut. The burner drip pan beneath the tea kettle clattered onto the stove. Growling, I turned it off.
I kept the cheesecake at 500 for 10 minutes and afterword turned it down to 200 without opening the door. I was exhausted. It was 9:30 and the headache was getting worse. I quickly did the dishes, tossed the trash outside, and sat down to check over the rest of the directions. Little did I know that the cheesecake would have to cook for another hour and a half. Then, it has to sit on a wire rack (which I don’t own) for another 3 hours (THREE!) until its just “warm.” Then apparently I have to pry it loose from the spring-form pan with a knife and randomly freeze it for another 2 hours or something. Which would mean being up until two a.m. Ain’t gonna happen, folks.
I’m essentially a granny when it comes to sleeping. I go to bed at 10:30 (now) and get up at 6 every morning. Which means that as soon as this thing comes out of the oven, its getting stuck somewhere out of reach from the psychotic cat, perhaps the top of the fridge for the remainder of the night or if I dare, straight into the fridge. I’m sure this will in some way, catastrophically ruin the thing. I’ll wake up to this deflated and sad confection with barely any recognizable traits to the thing I’d made the night before.
I’m too tired to care anymore. But I know one thing for sure, if I ever attempt to make a cheesecake again (and I have a feeling it will be a very, very long time before I do), I’ll be making it from a box, guaranteed.
Good evening folks. I’ll post a comment tomorrow about how the cheesecake turned out!