Confronting Cheesecake

One thing I’ve been talking a bit about lately is my apprehension over baking. This might sound silly to many of you aficionados out there, but given that only one of my many apartments over the past several years abroad had an oven in it (and that was only for a couple of months), baking still makes me feel like I’m in over my head. I’ve been dabbling with easy desserts here and there since coming home, but nothing terribly impressive or technical. I’ve been stove-top cooking by the seat of my pants for so long now, that baking – with its very precise instructions and ingredients – tends to make me nervous! You can’t taste it and add more salt half way through, if need be, or thin it out if it gets too thick. As a result, I have an ever-growing stack of untested recipes at home, but slowly, I’m getting the courage to tackle some of them.

Cheesecake, confronted.

On Sunday night, I experimented with this Lemon Cheesecake with Fresh Berries recipe from a website called My Baking Addiction. Jamie, the baker and operator of the site, calls this recipe ‘the best’. You may be thinking that cheesecake is not a very adventurous step forward for me, but if you take a look at Jamie’s website, you’ll see that she’s a pretty amazing baker, so it is with great trepidation that I try her ‘best’ recipe for anything.

There were several moments when I thought this cheesecake just wasn’t meant to be: Realizing at 11pm that I had 3 eggs and not the 4 the recipe called for, remembering how long cheesecakes need to cool in the oven after baking, and then how much attention they still need after baking and cooling. This led to scrambling for an egg replacement (1 tablespoon of cornstarch + 3 tablespoons of water) and hoping and praying it wouldn’t ruin it, a phone call to my mother, setting my alarm several times throughout the night to check in on the cooling process, and then bringing the cheesecake into the bedroom to cool so as to avoid unneeded attention from the cat (who has a penchant for hunting down late-night snacks). I have never been so devoted and attentive to a baked good in my life.

Needless to say, it turned out to be a late night for me that night, but the pains seemed to have been worth my while: what a beauty she was! Smooth, fragrant, and firm. I served the cheesecake last night when F. and I went to a BBQ with some of my oldest friends, and I was inwardly begging the culinary gods that it’d be as nice inside as it was on the outside.

This being my first cheesecake in probably 8 or 9 years, I was pretty pleased with the result.

Here is a link to Jamie’s recipe, from her post called The Best Cheesecake. If you follow this link, you’ll also see lots of great tips for baking cheesecakes in general, not to mention gain access to the rest of the website and her fabulous collection of recipes.

What I loved most about this recipe was its wonderful lemon flavour. It was light and tangy on the tongue and gave it a nice summery twist. Next time,I might even add a little more lemon zest, along with finding a way to secure the berries to the top, so they don’t scatter while cutting into the cake. I also added the fresh basil from Angie’s herb garden to set off the colours in the cake and give it some additional flavour. The only other thing I did differently from Jamie’s recipe was that I didn’t submerge this cake in a full bath to avoid cracks: I simply added a shallow pan of water to the bottom rack of the oven. A genuine shortcut or did I just get lucky? Either way, I definitely feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things.

Me and my oven; my oven and me.

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