Festive desserts. Dessert in itself implies fanfare. Maybe I'm a minority, but I don't eat treats after dinner on a regular basis. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, and I'd rather have an extra dollop of sour cream on my tacos or whatever at dinnertime than ice cream afterwards. To create, tend and serve a dessert in our house means something fabulous is going on. Between Christmas and New Year's weekends this (I'm sorry, LAST) year, I made two different cheesecakes. For Christmas there was a Gingerbread Cheesecake that I had to make at my mom's house, since I didn't have a springform pan. I'd pinned the recipe on my Pinterest page back in October from Martha Stewart, and vowed to recreate it in all its holiday whimsy. The thought of not being able to make a recipe for lack of equipment, however, totally freaked me out. How can I possibly be missing anything?! I have more cooking supplies than shoes. But guess what was under the tree for me! A springformy pan of my very own from my little sister. Cheesecake possibilities of my very own!
New Year's Eve Matt's parents were coming over for late-Christmas, and I decided to test out my new pan on a classic New York cheesecake. I've been apprehensive to make cheesecake after having one fail to set a few years ago. Huge waste of ingredients (you need a cartload of cream cheese, about half a dozen eggs, plus whatever delicious goodies you use to make the crust, mix-in marblings and what have you). But the gingerbread cake turned out well, which was a promising sign. The springform pan detaches, allowing you to simply slip the cake out and onto a pedestal. Very important for a fickle, delicate "cake" like this, which is basically a fancy custard.
The other vital piece of equipment is a big pan, like a Pyrex, which you can place the cake in and fill halfway with water. This helps to properly set the cake without overcooking it. My mom's pan fit perfectly into my biggest Pyrex, but my new pan is a smidge too big. I could have dug out the biggest pan I own, my All-Clad roaster, but I didn't feel like it. It's in the garage! And it's cold in there! And I have to move the lawn mower! Boo. So I decided to just go with it instead. And what happened? I got a crack. Just like this. Which is what the water helps you to avoid. Luckily I was going to be covering the top with cherries, but if you can avoid making unslightly cracks in the cake you look like way less of a hack than I did.
The recipe I used was from King Arthur Flour, which writes recipes like a friendly version of Alton Brown. They explain the rationale and science behind the steps you're taking without berating or belittling you. Plus they don't ask you to make a multi-tiered smoker out of disposable pie pans and wooden skewers. The whole "wait until the cake is still jiggly and turn off the oven, then crack the door and let it set" deal fully freaked me out, but despite my intense fears it worked. I still would have stuck it in the water bath, though, were I (or when I was) to do it again.
But hey, once you top it with the lovely, delicious fruit of your fancy, you have a giant platter of cheesecake. And I don't think anyone is going to complain about life too much around that. Here is the link to the King Arthur Flour recipe, and here's to many delicious returns as Eats of Eden enters its second year of tasty chronicles.