After spending a lot of days on Flickr admiring other people’s creations, I have found a fairly interesting website about how to actually cook these lovely meals. It is called Cooking for Engineers, for those weird geeks with an amazing analytical mind like me, a Software Engineer a.k.a. Geek.
I’ve browsed through all the recipes on that particular website and I was blown away by the delicious-looking meals in the pictures and their analytically broken-down recipes. But I must say that the cakes impressed me the most. A great variety of tasty cakes with recipes, which seemed easy even for a child to try them out. This was the moment when I decided to try one of them out by myself. Yes, you’ve read it right… me, who never ever baked anything but only helped my mom by passing the flour and most importantly licking out the pots after my mom finished.
Last week a colleague brought a cheesecake to the office on the occasion of his birthday. The cheesecake is surely one of my favorite desserts and, even though this one was without any cracker crust, I devoured my slice with great enjoyment. After this great delight, I’ve started reading more about it to see how it is actually made. The cake has multiple varieties which can be accomplished by adding different flavors to the cake itself or as a topping: like nuts, chocolate or fruits; using different cheese types: like cream cheese, Neufchatel, cottage cheese or ricotta; with or without heavy cream; with or without cracker crust; and so on.
I’ve stumbled upon the New York-style Cheesecake recipe on the above-mentioned website with the most suggesting name, Cooking for Engineers, and analyzed carefully each step of the recipe how to reproduce this delicious dessert, including the pictures corresponding to the steps. It seemed easy enough: making a cracker crust, then just mixing all the ingredients for the filling and finally let it bake.
As soon as the opportunity opened when the weekend approached, I felt that I am ready to try to bake my first cake ever and this recipe seemed perfect for my ignorant baking knowledge. After buying all the ingredients based on a previously-written shopping list with accurate portions, I’ve rushed home and started preparing the crust. This went easy and soon the baked crust was ready.
The next step was mixing the ingredients for the filling. This proved to be tougher than I thought. The Philadelphia cream cheese, which we picked specifically as being the best and tastiest for making cheesecake, was too hard and thus difficult to mix. Not even the mixer wanted to collaborate. Then my attempt to mix it manually failed, because of my lack of muscles. Like a knight in shining armor riding a white horse to slay the dragon, my assistant, also known as sn0wcat, volunteered to help me out in this area. I was still helpful by adding the ingredients step by step in the right moment as the recipe required but sn0wcat was mixing the filling continuously to achieve that perfect smooth consistency. So we managed to complete it together… there it was, the baked cracker crust and the filling ready, and there we were, standing in front of it proud and happy after succeeding to bring everything together.
After adding the filling over the crust and adding it in the oven, the waiting period started. Everyone, including the cats, was very eager to see the results of our work.
During the first 10 minutes of baking on high heat, the air bubbles started to come up to the top, which didn’t seem to me normal to happen but my assistant re-assured me that the bubbles will evaporate and we will have an impeccable cake. (Of course, it’s worth mentioning that we skipped one step from the recipe, which required us to drop the cake 1 cm high from the table to release the air bubbles from the filling. My assistant considered this unnecessary, based on his baking experience.)
Next, I’ve been checking up on the cake every 10-15 minutes during its baking on lower heat for 100 minutes. The air bubbles did evaporate all right, but small cracks made its place, where the bubbles were initially.
And these cracks started to grow more and more as the cake was being baked.
When the baking period was finally over and the covered cake chilled for about 15 minutes, the next step was to go through the cake and walls of the pot with a knife to release the cake from sticking to the walls. My assistant thought that his pot was too good for the cake to stick to it so he tried opening the pot’s walls to see if he is right. Well, he was wrong and there we stood watching how the cake cracks on the side where the pot was opened. This certainly gives a new meaning to the word “assistant”, as in “helping hand”.
Nevertheless, waking up the next morning felt like on the Christmas morning, when you run to the tree and check your presents under it. This time I was running to the fridge to finally free the cake from the pot and taste the fruit of our Saturday afternoon work. Although uniformly colored in a light shade, not over-baked or burned with a perfect thin golden brown crust, it didn’t look perfect with those cracks across its top surface:
But slicing it up and topping it with a few drops of raspberry sauce certainly did the trick in hiding these small flaws.
Putting the looks aside, the cake tasted delicious: not too sweet and slightly sour with a hint of vanilla, having a rich and fluffy texture, smooth and creamy interior, however being firmer on the margins so it didn’t reach a uniform consistency… but surely one of the best cheesecakes I have eaten and I am not only saying this because I’ve baked it. The fact is that the cake disappeared into thin air on the same afternoon, served as a dessert to our friends after the BBQ. Everyone loved it and complimented it, giving us more confidence in our baking abilities. We have even proof posted on Twitter later that evening from one of our cake testers, Damir: “Great BBQ evening with an astonishing and delicious New York style cheese cake. We enjoyed it a lot!! :-)”.
Regardless of the beauty flaws across the top of the cake, this has been definitely a positive first baking experience and I figured out that even the simplest recipe has its own tips and tricks, e.g. how to bake a cheesecake without its top cracking or that the ingredient portions mentioned in the recipe are for orientation only and can be adjusted, if necessary. Further more, I have found that it is easier to follow someone else’s recipe, if pictures of the steps and of the result are included for orientation.
Cooking and baking seems to have become my newest hobby, next to photography and food photography which combines both of my hobbies in one, so I am already browsing through the recipes on the search for my newest creation, one with chocolate this time. #chocoholic
P.S.: A special thanks and kisses to my best assistant ever, a real helping hand.