Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TWD: Tall & Creamy Cheesecake


I find that sometimes I'll use a particular kitchen product for years and never realize that the product is lacking in any respect -- until the manufacturer introduces a newer, slicker, more task-specific version of the product, and ONLY THEN do I realize that I've been improperly equipped in the kitchen all along. Take, for example, Pam. I thought for years that Original Pam was sufficient for all of my spray oil needs. But then all of a sudden it seemed like every other time I went to the grocery store, a new Pam would appear on the shelves along with Original Pam. And if Baking Pam (with Flour) now exists, then, by implication, Original Pam must be inadequate for preparing my muffin pans, correct? And they would not be willing to sell me Grilling Pam if Original Pam could be counted on to prevent burger stickage (hey, we're not playing Scrabble -- I can make up words if I feel like it!) in high heat situations. Butter Pam? I never knew I needed it until it existed. Olive Oil Pam? Organic Canola Pam? Must be a good reason for them, that's what I say.



Similarly, I had never noticed the multitude of foil choices available to me until I started gearing up to make this Tall & Creamy Cheesecake. During the course of exchanging comments earlier in the month, Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs warned me about water infiltration into her springform pan, despite the fact that she double wrapped her pan. After reading her full account last week, and seeing how well wrapped her pan was, I became seriously worried -- if my talented and competent bloggy friends have trouble with this sort of thing, what chance do I stand? But by a pure stroke of good fortune (although it didn't seem that way as I set out on my fourth grocery trip of the day on 12/23!), I realized that I was out of foil when it was time to make the cheesecake, so I had to go back to the store for more. And once I got to the foil aisle, I realized that I had choices. Big time choices. There is regular old Reynolds, of course. Reynolds Nonstick. Reynolds Heavy Strength. Reynolds Super Strength. Reynolds Cheesecake Bathing Waterproof. Er, okay, so that last one was actually not available in my little city.

So it came down to Reynolds Heavy Strength and Reynolds Super Strength, but even after studying the packages I could see no real discernible difference between the two -- both are great for "lining," "grilling," and "freezing." The only difference that I could see is that Super Strength is also recommended for "tenting," whereas you don't even want to know what could happen if you try to tent with Heavy Strength. How to choose, how to choose? Oh, hell, I'll get them both. But I'm still worried. You don't understand, Reynolds. This cheesecake is to be THE Christmas dessert for the entire fam. My sister and her hubs endured nightmarish travel woes to be with us for Christmas. My cheesecake just can't be a waterlogged flop -- I don't have a plan B. This is one of my toughest situations. Can you handle it?



Alrighty then! I wrapped the pan in one layer of Reynolds Heavy Strength and one layer of Reynolds Super Strength, because nobody has ever accused me of being a Decider.



The Reynolds Heavy Strength/Super Strength tandem worked like a charm. I actually made this cheesecake twice, for two different family gatherings. The first time there was no water in the foil at all. The second time there was some water in the second layer of foil, but none in the first layer (the one actually wrapping the pan). Even though it didn't affect the cheesecake, the fact that a little water got into one of the layers one of the times I baked this will forever make the cheesecake water bath a frightening undertaking for me. Much like baking yeast breads, I think I'll always view it as kind of a crapshoot over which I have little real control.

Here is a peek of the cheesecake luxuriating in its water bath:



Just for an hour, I want to be a Tall & Creamy Cheesecake.

The first time I made this, the crust worried me a little -- I'm not sure if I used too many graham crackers or too little butter, but it seemed a little dry, and I had somewhat of a hard time pressing it into the pan. But it cooked up fine and tasted delicious.



The second time I made it, the graham cracker mixture seemed to have a better consistency. I thought the finished crust was even better the second time around.

The cheesecake mixture itself needs a lot of work to achieve a nice smooth consistency, but the Kitchen Aid handles most of it:



I felt like I had to add something every few minutes, but other than that I was pretty much free to go off and do other things, which really suited my non-focused personality. Add some sugar, go wrap a present, empty the dryer, beat in some vanilla, pull my 16 month old off the stairs, add an egg, pretend to be a kitty, flip through the thirty fourth Restoration Hardware catalog we've gotten since Thanksgiving, add another egg, check the mail, update my Facebook status to let everyone know I just got the mail, add another egg. This is my kind of kitchen project, and I loved how I didn't need to worry about overmixing or burning down the house like I do with most things I make. In fact, I think that getting distracted, forgetting about it, and letting it mix for a few extra minutes actually helps it attain that irresistible smooth & creamy texture. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it!





It should be obvious by now that I am no photographer, and I am usually just fine with that fact, but these pictures really bug me, because I thought the cheesecake(s) were really beautiful, and the pictures just really don't do them justice at all. The top of my first cheesecake (shown) was a little darker than the top of my second cheesecake, but not nearly as dark as the picture would indicate; it had a nice light golden brown color. Someday, I will learn how to take a decent picture.

This cheesecake was spectacular. I served it with Dorie's raspberry coulis from page 467 of Baking (I made it with frozen raspberries, because fresh raspberries were nowhere to be found in this town on Christmas Eve, and added a little bit of Chambord to it). I still can't believe I made something that tasted this good (twice!) I think David would tell you that this was the best dessert I've made so far. My sister had never had cheesecake before (???????????) and said that she had no idea what she'd been missing all these years. My mother said that this was the best cheesecake she'd ever had. And of course you can trust my mom's objectivity about my cheesecake, but just in case you didn't, I'll tell you that my mother-in-law loved it too! (Actually, that won't really give you any more objective information about this cheesecake, because I have the world's greatest MIL, and she is as likely as my own mother to think that some cheesecake I made is better than it actually is.) Anyway, David's mom raved about the "pure cheesecakey goodness," and I think that about sums up the essence of this cheesecake as well as anything.

I thought this was the perfect cheesecake. I know that there are hundreds of options for playing around with this, but I will have a really hard time deviating AT ALL from the recipe as written. This cheesecake is destined to become a go-to special occasion dessert for me.

I am not at all surprised that the wonderful and talented Anne Strawberry would treat her fellow TWD bakers to the perfect December pick. Anne's is one of the first food blogs I started reading, and she seems to have a special gift for choosing the perfect food for any occasion. Her creations are always beautiful, and her presentations are festive, elegant and stunning. Anne, I would not have made this if you hadn't picked it, and my family and I would have missed out on a really special Christmas dessert. I cannot thank you enough for this fabulous selection!

50 comments:

Barbara Bakes said...

This looks amazing! I love cheesecake!

n.o.e said...

Well, Cathy, your pictures are good enough to show a perfectly tall and splendidly creamy cheesecake. You (almost) make me want to try this again, but not without a trip to the foil aisle of our biggest grocery store. I'm glad to hear that everyone thinks you are a cheesecake rock star!
Nancy

Engineer Baker said...

Wow, that looks fantastic, what are you talking about?! And seriously, I think you have a PAM problem. That's a *lot* of spray cans :P

Proud Italian Cook said...

Cathy, Believe me I can tell Your cheesecake does look spectacular! I would love to slid my fork through it! Here's wishing you and your sweet family a very healthy and happy new year!
Looking forward to The Tortefeasor 2009!!

Marie said...

Your cheesecake looks fabulous!!! I like Pam myself and use it alot! Even the baking one. You're so right, this was the perfect cheesecake!

Steph said...

I love the crust on your cheesecake! Seeing your KA makes me kinda jealous I ended up using the food processor. The texture of your first slice looks perfect. Good call in double lining your pan.

Marthe said...

Your cheesecake looks amazing!!!!

I'm amazed by all the possibilities you have on your side of the ocean.... Maybe you have to make too many choices... I wasn't even able to find extra strength foil and had to make do with normal foil... As for the Pam: we don't have that brand here, the only thing I can compare it with comes in only one choice.... Plain!! :)

Snooky doodle said...

wow this looks so nice and creamy :) well done . can i have a piece please !!!!!!!

Cristine said...

Your cheesecake looks great and I love your PAM collection!

Danielle said...

Your cheesecake came out great! Good job.

Audrey said...

Cathy, I want you to know that I thought of you with great pleasure when I was in the PAM aisle during my recent pantry-restocking extravaganza. Darn it, though, now I have to re-shop for foil. Your cheesecake is really beautiful...and I can taste how creamy it is from the picture. Happy New Year!

Amanda said...

Your sister had never had cheesecake?? I don't understand....
You didn't mention what the Jacob, Elizabeth and Caroline thought- I always like to hear how they describe your food. Your cheesecake looks extra tall and creamy :-)

Cathy said...

Amanda -- Jacob, Elizabeth & Caroline had "train cake" -- that's a cake made in the Williams-Sonoma train-shaped pan, which they decorated with frosting and candy. Actually, they pretty much picked the gummy bears off the cake and had them for dessert. I did not offer the train cake to the grownups, because I witnessed what was involved with the decorating process.

Lady Baker said...

I just love the PAM display photo...cracks me up every time!
I felt the same way on mine--that it came out so perfect and it's definitely being added to my rotation of recipes for impressive desserts!
Your photos are lovely--makes me want to dig in!
Oh--and I worried the same thing on the water/foil issue--and although some water was inside the foil for me, none had seeped into the pan from what I could tell...I wonder if it's more a factor of the pan and how tightly the springform seals-vs-the factor of foil? Not sure...but I agree with your assessment, when company is coming for a major holiday and this is THE dessert, you best pull out all the stops--and the heavy duty foil--just to be on the safe side!
Well done, my friend!

Jacque said...

So, you're a compulsive PAM buyer, LOL. Could be worse I guess. I never knew there were different kinds until I realized that a can of accidently-purchased baking PAM was responsible for my morning eggs having a slight boxed-cake-mix flavor.

Anyway, congrats on your cheesecake success. First time out of the gate too! It does look wonderful.

Megan said...

You should be in advertising, has anyone ever told you that? I made the cheesecake twice as well, and loved it both times.

Happy New Year!

Peggy said...

Happy new year and happy perfect cheesecake! It looks so delicious I could just slide over to your house at lunch and sample a bite or two? I thought it was great cheesecake too. Mine just isn't as pretty as *I* would have liked for it to have been!! It's hard being a perfectionist you know.

Anne said...

Cathy- Thanks for your sweet words and the funny post as usual. It sounds like you and I are really peas in the pod once again, since my cheesecake making process was exactly the same, with pulling my kid out of the Christmas tree, folding some laundry, and even ending up with a good final product. I love recipes like that (and I love the kitchen aid, how could you do it without it?) I'm so glad everyone enjoyed your cheesecake- it looks perfect! Happy new year! :)

Mary Ann said...

Cathy- your cheesecake looks perfectly tall and creamy. The raspberry coulis would have been so yummy with this! I am glad you had such an adventure with all the foil. I had no idea there were so many types. Now I feel informed.
Thanks for sharing your Pam collection. It makes me laugh!
Glad everyone loved this. It looks so yummy!

Katrina said...

Looks amazingly tall and creamy! Glad you and your family loved it. This was a great TWD! I'm wishing I would have thought of my frozen raspberries, but opened a can of cherry pie filling instead (oh well, that's my husband's favorite topping for cheesecake.)
Great job.
Happy New Year!

chocolatechic said...

Looks fabulous.

Karen said...

Don't worry about the pictures! They are fine! I loved how eaay this recipe was as well! Glad everyone liked it so much.

Laura said...

Congratulations on your cheesecake success! I love the idea of this with the raspberry coulis - great thinking!

Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for a truly fantastic 2009!

Laurie said...

Your posts always make me laugh out loud! The cheesecake is gorgeous.

Leslie said...

Isn't it funny how we are paralyzed by a simple choice of foils, but it's all because we want the recipe to work out. I'm glad you got the recognition you deserved on this one. Great idea to serve this with the coulis!

Maria said...

I think your pictures are fabulous!! The cheesecake looks amazing!! I love that you made Dorie's coulis to go with! Delish!!!

Jamie said...

You and your Pam addiction crack me up! Here is a tip I posted on blog re: water seepage...wrap in foil then place in an oven bag! Your cake looks scrumptious!!! :)

Natashya said...

Your pictures are great - I especially love the last one. mmmmmm...
I wasn't so good at the cutting part - you managed to slice into it perfectly!
Happy New Years to you and yours.

leanne said...

Your cheesecake looks amazing.

Debbie said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting about my upcoming grandbabies. I'm very excited...they have been wanting this for quite some time.
Now...about that cheesecake. WOW. It looks good. And I am so envious of your writing/blogging skills.

Christine said...

Wow that is a lot of Pam! Your cheesecake looks amazing!

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

must. go. check. foil. aisle.
Great post and great cheesecake, Cathy.
Happy New Year!

Pamela said...

Cathy...Cathy...Cathy. I almost spit my tea out when I got to the part about you wanting to be a cheesecake so you could luxuriate in a water bath for an hour. You KILL me!! Thanks for the much needed laugh! And I'm glad you had time to mix everything up and STILL pretend to be a kitty. Very important!! Great job.

pinkstripes said...

Okay. You have a serious problem. There is absolutely no need to have that much Pam. :P Maybe there is a support group you can join?

Your cheesecake looks great. YUM!

Happy New Year!

rainbowbrown said...

What a perfect looking cake. Nice!

The Blonde Duck said...

I've never made cheesecake, so I don't get the waterbath thing. But it looks freaking delicious! Yum!

What's for Supper? said...

Your cheesecake post is great! I enjoyed reading about it. I also think that this was an awesome pick. It will be made in our house again for numerous occasions I am sure about that!

Jess said...

Those are great pictures of a fine-looking cheesecake. And I am astonished by your Pam collection - may 2009 bring you health and happiness, and maybe even a new version of Pam!

Melissa said...

Your foil story is hilarious. I had some water leakage in mine too... should have used the combination of foils like you did. Glad your family enjoyed this so much! Happy New Year!

kim said...

man, it looks gorgeous with that raspberry coulis! i am so jealous of all of the cheesecakes this week ;) happy new year!

Debinhawaii said...

Happy to see only two foils instead of a huge collection like the Pam. What a beautiful cheesecake! I have not attempted cheesecake yet and I admire how amazing your cake looks. Great job and happy New Year!

Aloha,

Deb

bakingwiththeboys said...

This really was great. I loved the indecision about the foil. I had the same issue buying hershey kisses to stuff in gift bags. There are like 37 varieties now. I stared at the shelves for 15 minutes. I remember when there was just silver and the almonds were a big deal addition. Damn. I just dated myself.
Happy New Year!

natalia said...

Dear Cathy, ciao ! As always I love your stories and I really wish more an more I had eaten the cheesecake ! But, definitely I'l make it again ! You really live in the land of abundance here we have non pam at all and two type of foil (I used three sheets just to be sure !) A super happy new year ! Baci

juju73 said...

I was cracking up the entire time I read this post! I have the same problem with Mrs. Dash...why can't they make just one blend?

Your cheesecakes are beautiful! Congrats! Bravo! Well done!

I am new to your blog and look forward to reading more about your adventures in the kitchen in the coming year!

Happy New Year!

Karen said...

Great post... the cheesecake looks yummy!

Flourchild said...

Gosh that's a ton of PAM! I love the looks of that cheesecake..Im sad I missed it.
We had a great time back east but its so good to be home. I look fwd to baking again with TWD!

Madam Chow said...

Yum. Your foil adventures and comment about wanting to be a cheesecake so that you can luxuriate in the water bath had me laughing!

Matt said...

I'd love to sit in on these product development teams. I can imagine the conversations:

"The box should say 'New and improved. Tougher and stronger. Better than our old version which wasn't bad but now you need this one which is way better...' "

Zesty Cook said...

Congrats on your cheesecake success! zesty

Kristin said...

So beautiful! Love all your pictures, and your extensive Pam collection!

 
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