Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How to Make Cheesecake Without a Springform Pan

[Edit: This has been my most popular blog post due to what I presume is people googling "How to make cheesecake without a springform pan". If that is how you got here, welcome. While I don't know of any way to make a round cheesecake without a springform pan, I do know how to make Chocolate Cheesecake Triangles which are pretty delicious and I imagine could be made without the chocolate. I talk about them below with a few tips for baking them but the recipe can be found here. If this link was helpful to you, I only ask that you pick another of my posts and read it and decide if this blog is worth your time. Thanks and happy baking!]

Hello all! For this week's project, I decided to deviate a bit from the cookies. I've been craving some cheesecake lately but alas, I have no springform pan. Plus it's harder to bring a cheesecake into the office to share with people. Then I'd have to worry about plates and utensils and that's currently beyond the scope of things I care about. Fortunately for me, the Bake Sale cookbook came through for me. In the bar cookie section (yes, that is a specific section) I found "Swirl of Chocolate Cheesecake Triangles" which was exactly perfect.

So, naturally, after choosing this recipe I had to head over to my friendly neighborhood Big Y to pick up some things, namely, graham crackers, cream cheese, and evaporated milk (the recipe called for the brand name Carnation but I bought the cheap Big Y brand). By the way, does anyone else find evaporated milk kind of odd? It kinda creeps me out that all you have to do is add water and then it's supposedly the equivalent of fresh milk. Weird. Anyway, while I was picking up the creepy milk, a box next to it caught my eye. This magical box read: "Graham Cracker Crumbs".  Yes, they actually sell graham cracker crumbs for budding bakers like myself. So, I was immediately faced with a decision to make. Should I do things the old fashioned way and crush up 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs? Or should I pay a slightly higher unit price and save myself the time? While trying to decide, I was reminded of the last time I made cheesecake. In that instance, the person designated to crush the graham crackers took approximately 45 minutes to do so. While I certainly would have gotten it done faster than that, I decided that the time and effort saved would be better spent working on my probability homework. So I took the easy way out and went off to the kitchen.

The first step was to make the graham cracker crust. I know from experience that this is super easy so I felt good about that. I melted some butter and mixed it up with the graham cracker crumbs and sugar and it was a piece of (cheese)cake. The next direction was to press the crust into the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan. Who's betting at this moment that I don't have one of those? Well, you'd be WRONG! I have one rectangle baking pan and it is exactly 13x9! How exciting! This recipe seems to be going flawlessly for me.

Spoke too soon. The filling was easy, just combining cream cheese, sugar, flour, evaporated milk, eggs, and vanilla. On a related note, I hit a milestone in my baking. I finally finished my first bottle of vanilla extract! I feel like that means I actually have accumulated some experience by now. Speaking of experience, you know how I have to melt chocolate for pretty much every recipe I bake? Well, I should have used my experience in that area and deviated from the recipe. The recipe told me to microwave the Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate morsels (Hey, a brand name I did use!) and it gave me specific microwaving directions. I followed them and ended up with a lumpy, congealed mass of chocolate in my bowl. After trying unsuccessfully to melt the chocolate further, I threw my hands up and used the tried and true bowl of hot water technique. In a couple of minutes, I successfully melted my chocolate and vowed not to microwave chocolate anymore. Oh, and lest you think something went smoothly, in the process of stirring my chocolate, I managed to splash extremely hot water all over my shirt. Yay.

So, the swirl of chocolate aspect comes into this recipe in this way: I was supposed to combine one cup of the cream cheese mixture with the chocolate, pour the remaining cream cheese mixture into the pan, pour the chocolate/cream cheese mixture on top, and then use a spoon to pull the plain cream cheese mixture over the chocolate mixture. Whew. It seemed needlessly complicated but I guess I did get a nice marble-y swirl. And now, into the oven for 45 minutes. I used the baking and cooling time to watch a couple of episodes of Say Yes to the Dress. Yep, I unashamedly watch bad tv.

One note on the baking: by the time I pulled the pan out of the oven it had risen to slightly above the rim of the pan. But by the time I went back to it after the cooling time, imagine my surprise when I found it had all sunk down back to the original level! Regardless, it still smells delicious. Unfortunately, I have to wait a bit for the cheesecake to chill in the fridge before I can eat it.

::twiddles thumbs::

Yay, they're chilled! Cutting these was a bit of a challenge. Not because they were hard to cut but because the triangles were really big and for some reason the graham cracker crust was really really crumbly. I'm not sure why that is but the crust definitely leaves something to be desired. As far as look goes, you be the judge:

I think they look cute. As far as taste goes, the graham cracker crust is a bit too dry and crumbly for my taste so maybe the graham cracker to butter ratio was off (though I swear I followed the recipe!) and it's actually a bit too chocolatey for me. I guess I'm more of a cheesecake purist and like it the plain way. Also, due to the crumbly crust, this is best eaten with a fork. That should get interesting when I bring these to colloquium.

Critical Reception:

Well, the peanut butter cup cookies were here one second and gone the next. I put them out at colloquium and many of them were gone before I even showed up to get my cup of tea. Overall positive reviews though. One ambiguous review: one person (that I know of) did not realize that they were eating peanut butter cookies. After reading the blog entry, this person wanted to try one, not realizing that he/she had eaten a couple of the cookies two days earlier. Maybe I should start labeling what I put out?

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