Hi. I’m Jess, and I burn cheesecakes. That photo below? That’s not a chocolate cheesecake with some vanilla frosting from the knife. That’s a vanilla cheesecake – the Smitten Kitchen cheesecake, to be exact.
It’s not like I haven’t made this cheesecake before. I admit that I haven’t been baking much lately, so my mojo is off, but this particular recipe is ridiculously easy. First, warm up some cream cheese – a lot of it. Add some other ingredients, stir. Add eggs, stir. Pour into pan, heat ridiculously high, then let bake for an hour at 200 degrees. Monitor for doneness, let sit overnight, then dig in. And yet, I burn this sucker time and time again.
I feel like I need to belong to some form of Bakers Anonymous.
But the thing is that this cheesecake is one of the few desserts I consistently suck at. I have had the rare issue of a dry cookie, or the one time I made these weird lime cornmeal cookies that everyone refused to eat. (They were also blue striped, which, in this case, didn’t help at all.) But I usually fix things by the second attempt. This cheesecake and I are chums at this point, burnt crust and all.
And, of course, the rest of the cheesecake tastes fine – this sucker won’t last the night. You just have to avoid the charcoal sides, and nibble cautiously once you reach the top.
I used this slice as an edible postmortem. I’m always curious how badly I screwed it up, and how. I think in this case I didn’t warm all the cream cheese the same way or at the same rate, so not only is it burnt, but I have little chunks of cream cheese in my cake. (It’s not appealing.) Also, even though the recipe says that it needs about twelve minutes at 550 degrees Fahrenheit, I really need more like five in my inferno of an oven. And a better oven thermometer.
I also made the cherry sauce. It’s gelatin-solid now after a night in the fridge. I’m suitably impressed.
But there was totally a way to redeem this, something I recommend for those who like to fuss with their food above and beyond what others may call ‘reason.’ Take the non-burnt parts of the filling and throw as much as you like back in your mixing bowl or stand mixer. Mix until fluffy, then stuff the fluff into a piping bag or plastic bag with a corner cut off. (Yes, I used this as an excuse to pipe filling into my mouth. You should so do this.) At this point you could pipe it into balls and freeze them, maybe even dunk them into chocolate, or go nuts. This time I just piped a few balls onto a plate and topped them with chocolate and some of the cherry sauce. The texture was smooth and even, and something bound for bigger and better dessert experiments. Next time I’d love to make a cheesecake napoleon, or verrines with chocolate wafers and fresh fruit.
So yeah, I can’t not burn a cheesecake. I think I can handle that.