The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. (Recipe HERE.)
Cheesecake is something, believe it or not, that I've never made before, unless you count the no-bake version. So I eagerly ran out, right away, and bought the ingredients. I stayed home with Dan, when he had his eye surgery, and thought that being creative in the kitchen would be a good use of my at-home time.
According to our challenge-hostess, we were permitted to use whatever flavorings we chose, as long as we used the basic recipe that was provided. And that freedom almost got me in trouble! I made a strawberry swirl cheesecake, and here's a picture of it after coming out of the oven.
I baked it in a springform pan, and wrapped the bottom securely with extra-strength aluminum foil, since it was baked in a water bath. After 55 minutes in a 350 degree oven, I turned off the heat and let it sit another hour in the cooling oven, as directed. This was supposed to keep it from cracking on top as it cooled. Here's a picture of it just after it came from the oven. The swirls were made from melted strawberry jelly, and, as you can probably see, the cake did crack a little bit on top, despite my care. Still, it looked pretty good and smelled wonderful.
I should have stopped there, but NO; I had to try to get fancy! I had seen pictures of a cake called a Strawberry Mirror Cake, which was a Daring Bakers' challenge before I joined. I loved the "mirror" top and thought that it would be the perfect topping for my cheesecake. (You can see a picture of Tartelette's Strawberry Mirror Cake HERE. Isn't it gorgeous?)
Dan laughed at my "Rube Goldberg" apparatus for draining the strawberries.
So I cooked up the strawberries, sugar and water; and then let the berry juice drain, through some cheesecloth, into a bowl. To the juice, I added a gelatin "sponge" made from unflavored gelatin and a splash of lemon and apple juice. After letting the concoction cool, over ice, until it was a thick syrup, I poured it on top of the cooled cheesecake. It looked pretty good, so I put it in the refrigerator and, somewhat impatiently, waited for the gelatin "mirror" set.
Later in the evening I eagerly pulled out my cheesecake, uncovered it, expecting to see a perfectly smooth, shiny, brilliant red mirror top. But what I found was a mess! The cheesecake had developed more and deeper cracks, the gelatin mixture had seeped down into the cracks and, some of it, out through the bottom of the springform pan. It was a very sad looking cheesecake. I didn't know whether to cry, to laugh, to throw it out, to take a picture, or to pretend I never even attempted this challenge! What I did was scrub the red gelatin off the refrigerator shelf, put some fresh foil beneath the pan, cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap, and put it away for the night. I'd deal with it the next day.
As usual, things looked better in the light of a new day. Although the strawberry mirror had found its way through the fissures in the center of the cake, it had set up pretty well around the outer edge. A few dollops of whipped cream did a pretty good job of hiding the flaws, once it was plated. And, if I do say so myself, it was the best tasting cheesecake I've ever eaten. Some cheesecake is heavy and dense, but this was creamy and dreamy - much more to my liking. I'll be baking this recipe again and will probably experiment with different flavors. But no more Strawberry Mirror topping on any of my cheesecakes!
Other Completed Daring Bakers' Challenges: Lavash, Pizza Napoletana, Caramel Cake, French Yule Log, Tuiles, Chocolate Valentino, Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna