Friday, September 21, 2012

cherry cheesecake

Our friends Vanessa and Marcus joined us for a lovely dinner last weekend. Vanessa's birthday had been earlier that week, so while planning the menu, I inquired about her favorite desert. Thus came my motivation for making my first ever cheesecake.

smitten kitchen has long been one of my favorite food blogs, particularly for desserts. It didn't let me down in this case - there were a number of delicious looking and sounding cheesecake recipes to choose from. I landed on the New York Cheesecake.

I followed the recipe exactly, so I'll let you check it out via the link above vs. repeat it here. A couple of my own learnings from the process (recounting these here in part so I can remember when it comes time to making again to ensure I do so perfectly the next time):

  • Oven temp: For the beginning super high oven temperature, I set my oven to 500 degrees (the highest setting before broil). I checked it religiously for the first 10 minutes to make sure I wouldn't burn the top. I got distracted between minute 10 and when the timer went off at minute 12, during which time the top of the cake progressed from a beautiful cream to an unwanted deep brown. I quickly covered it loosely with foil and reduced the oven temp to 200 degrees for another hour. Luckily, I had caught it before the top was actually burned (rather it was just sable in color and little overdone), however the graham cracker crust did get singed from this mishap. Next time, I'll start out at 450 or 475 and make sure I watch more closely for the full first 12 minutes.
  • Doneness: Not sure if it's done? This is apparently a common question, for as soon as I had "how do you tell if a cheesecake" entered into Google, it already knew the rest of my search term. I consulted a couple of sites (including this one) and consensus seems to be that a 2-3" wobble in the center when gently shaken indicates the right level of doneness (if left up to my own devices, I would have left it in longer, so I was glad to have consulted the wisdom of those who know more than me here.
  • Puffed up cheesecake: Don't stress that your cheesecake has puffed up an inch or more above the top of the springform pan when you remove it from the oven (I had fears that I would have to somehow neatly trim the top, and while this would have eliminated my slightly-overdone-brown-top problem, this seemed like a daunting task). After cooling to room temp and then in the fridge for a bit, the cheesecake was back into the confines of its pan.
  • The cherries on top: The cherry topping in the recipe is delicious and works well to cover up a less-than-perfect cheesecake.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

my newest favorite kitchen gadget


Randy came home with the gadget pictured above earlier this week. He was pretty excited about his find; I was skeptical (albeit suddenly more understanding of his insistance that we bought a pineapple while at the grocery store that same day before the "surprise" was revealed). You've perhaps guessed by now (if you didn't know already) that the strange looking tool pictured above is a pineapple slicer.

One use later and my initial skepticism regarding the necessity of this gadget has melted away. While the perceived difficulty of transforming a pineapple from whole form to edible has never kept me from buying one, this tool makes the process so...incredibly...easy. And fast. And much less messy than my slice-it-and-trim-away-the-tough-outside-part-with-a-knife process. I am generally not a fan of single-purpose kitchen gadgets, however will make an exception for this amazing pineapple slicer.

Need one of your own (or for a kitchen maven in your life)? Sur Le Table can meet that need here.

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