Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Hard Earned Cheesecake

Something I don't openly advertise is that I'm a culinary school graduate (CCA in San Francisco, CA). As soon as people find out that little know fact I find they look at you differently and their next sentence is usually, "So when are you making me dinner?". I quickly figured out that cooking as a career wasn't for me and the truth is that I retained very little of what the chefs taught in School. I would say 87% of what I do in the kitchen is a result of the kitchens that I cooked in after School. Working 12-13 hour days 6 days a week you learn pretty quickly how to make your time in the kitchen the most pleasant.

I graduated from CCA in 2005. The same year that one of my oldest friends, Troy began begging me for a cheesecake. Baking isn't really my thing. There's a whole other program for that. The main problem that baking and I encounter is that I'm a rebel when it comes to measuring cups. In savory (everything other than sweets) cooking you can correct seasonings by taste. Baking is a science. So I don't have that luxury when baking.

Since I just moved to San Diego (where Troy has lived since 2003). I thought the least I could do was bake him a Cheesecake when he came to visit me in my new digs. So I headed over to Whole Foods and $40 later I was on my way. It cost so much because I didn't have sugar, vanilla extract, etc. I also didn't invest in a whisk, a spatula or reasonably sized mixing bowls. So it took me a while to get all of the lumps out with my handy fork! I looked over a couple of Cheesecake recipes. In general I like Tyler Florence or Jamie Oliver's recipes. Tyler bakes his Cheesecake surrounded by water. Which should make the texture more velvety. I would have liked to do it this way but I baked mine in a toaster over (convection setting) and didn't have another baking this that was the right size for the job.

Troy's Raspberry Cheesecake
Golden Graham Crack Crust (pre-made from WFM)

Filling ( listed in the order you put them in together)
Cream Cheese
2 Eggs
2 cups of Sugar
Lite Sour Cream
1 Lemon (juice & zest)
2 Tblspn. of Vanilla Extract

Raspberry Topping
1 Package of Frozen Raspberries
1 Lemon (juice only)
1 Dash of Strawberry Lemonade

Combine all ingredients and bring to a light boil. Then turn down to a simmer (this will thicken the liquid part). You can mask up some of the raspberries but I like to leave a lot of them whole so there's a little texture. Taste it. If it tastes too tart from the lemon add a little more sugar. It needs to be a little tart to balance the richness of the cheesecake. But you don't want anyone to "pucker". There are seeds in Raspberries. If you have a very fine strainer you can get out all of the seeds. If not, well your friends have all eaten seeds before.

Putting it all together
By now you've taken out the Cheesecake (done-ness tested by a toothpick that was dipped in the center of the cake & that came out clean) put it into the fridge (no lid/plastic wrap) stat. This stops it from cooking further. After the Raspberry topping is reasonably cool. Spread a medium layer of it on top of the Cheesecake with a knife (or a spatula if you have it). Leave the Cheesecake in the fridge for at least 6 hours before you slice & devour it.

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