Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Gimme a Piece of that Cheesecake"

Once while on vacation in Chicago over Fourth of July Weekend, my sisters and I attended the annual “Taste of Chicago” celebration. While there, we saw that Eli’s a famous bakery in Chicago was offering free pieces of a giant cheesecake they had baked in honor of their anniversary (100 maybe? I’m not sure). Eager to share in the festivities and taste the legacy that was Eli’s; we waited in line for almost two hours to receive our free cheesecake. The line was incredibly long and it was a very hot day, but the worst part of the wait was the music playing over the speakers in the park – “Gimme a piece of that, Gimme a piece of that, Gimme a piece of that cheesecake” over and over and over. By the end of the two hours (and for days later) that song was permanently embedded in our brain. In the end, the cheesecake was a six-foot tall, ten-foot round, fifteen-layered disappointment. The crust was awkwardly crunchy and the filling was almost bitter. Apparently, adjusting a recipe times a thousand isn’t as easy as it sounds. My sister and I lay in the grass afterward, feeling less than euphoric (translation= gassy).


Flash forward to present day. Based on the empirical evidence provided by a glossy photo in a cooking magazine, I had decided that cheesecake was my new best friend and I; ever the cheesecake evader would now claim this territory as my own and embrace the silky deliciousness that is our diary dessert. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but I think you can see where I’m going here. Five hours, a nap, and a large dinner later, I had lost all enthusiasm for “operation cheesecake” however I had already bought all the ingredients and my helpers were geared to go, so we forged ahead – enthusiasm be dammed!


The first step in a cheesecake is to make the crust. In the recipe I chose, this meant go to the store, buy a bag of Oreos, and smash them up…or something along those lines – I get blurry on the details. Essentially:

Amanda's_first_cheesecake_003 + Amanda's_first_cheesecake_006 = Amanda's_first_cheesecake_015

The next step was to prepare the inside of the cheesecake. The instructions told me to melt the chocolate in the microwave (in a microwave safe bowl) which I was skeptical about, but actually worked really well.


The directions did not, however, indicate how I was supposed to soften the cream cheese, and for the novice cheesecake maker that I was – that would have been a really handy set of instructions. I left the cheese out on the oven for twenty minutes or so but then I got impatient and decided to start the filling with slightly hard cream cheese against the better judgment of the recipe (and my helpers). I put the cream cheese into my bowl and tried to beat it until it was soft. Note to self: this is not an expedient way to soften cheese, in fact, it might have been faster if I simply leaned down and cupped my hands against the cheese and let out short gusts of hot air from my diaphragm “huh, huh”. Not only did softening the cheese with my hand mixer take forever, it also didn’t work really effectively and resulted in lots of tiny cheese curds in my filling. Then the recipe instructed me to add one egg at a time. I am unsure if it really matters whether I add one egg at a time or all eggs simultaneously, but the raging success of my earlier recipe modification, I decided to just do what they told me to. After adding each egg, my batter was…well…unappetizing.


But I wasn’t worried – I forged ahead, added my melted chocolate to the batter (note the white filling along the sides of the bowl – I probably should have tried harder to scrape the sides)


and poured the filling into the pan – how beautiful is that (minus the cheese curds)?


I baked the cake for 45 minutes, checked the top and saw that it needed more time, and baked it for an additional 15 minutes (for all of the non math majors that’s an hour total). Then the recipe said that I should turn off the oven and let the cheesecake stand for another 30 minutes in the cooling oven. Now, at this point it was like 2:30 a.m. everything was all good earlier when I was watching the ‘Made for TV Movie’ on lifetime, but now it was over and I was so ready for bed. I let the cake sit for like 20 minutes and then I grew impatient and pulled it out (hmmm….is that becoming a theme?). Don’t worry too much though, because the cake was gorgeous!


I chilled the cake over night and then brought it with me to my Dad’s the next day for lunch. When I got there, I had to make the ganache topping. On a somewhat unrelated side note, we determined that there is no pleasant sounding way to say ganache with a Midwestern accent, it just sounds like “gan-ass-che”; the appropriate way to pronounce the term is with a snooty French accent (preferably with your nose in the air) and say “ghan-aw-sh” which was much more attractive in our opinions. Speaking of attractive, take a load of this stunning beauty


Now usually when I shout “who wants a piece of this?” it is followed with an uncomfortable silence and clearing of throats. In this case, however, everyone was excited to sample my cheesecake masterpiece


How was it? It was magical, amazing, earth shattering – it was really damn good! I was won over into the cult of cheesecake consumption and ready to give my soul for another piece. As I finished my chocolaty slice of heaven a single thought entered my mind that really summarized my feelings on this entire cheesecake escapade. Now THAT is a cheesecake worth waiting in line for!

1 comment:

Jennifer Innes said...

Another splendid tale and perfect ending :)