Baby steps. That’s what I told myself when I finally found a recipe for cheesecake that I was willing to try. Well, that’s what I tell myself every time I want to attempt another dish that requires skill, more than anything else. The thing is sometimes telling myself I need to take baby steps means I’m also leaving the door wide open for procrastination. Which happens a lot, when you’re me.
Cheesecake has been something I’ve always wanted to attempt. I remember, before we even had an oven (we finally bought a functional oven, along with building a new house, just a year ago), I would put together cream cheese, whipped cream and canned blueberries on a pie plate and call it cheesecake. I didn’t know better.
I told myself I would finally start making a proper cheesecake once I had the proper equipment. The biggest revelation that I had? Cheesecake can be baked (Didn’t know that before!). The possibilities were seemingly endless.
Then we flash forward to the present time, where I can actually look back at all the attempts at it over the past few months. You read that right, past few months. Now, why did I never post anything about it here before? Well, let me count the ways:
1. The first attempt was decent and tasted like ice cream, according to my friends. I wouldn’t know, I had tonsillitis. That happened over the holidays; I loathed the world.
2. Second attempt was for Valentines Day; I made it for no one in particular. As soon as I poured the filling into the springform and hoisted the whole thing up to put in the oven, the detachable bottom of the pan failed me. I had crust and filling running down my arms. Disgusting, really.
3. Vindication came when I finally made my best ever Red Velvet Cupcakes with cream cheese and streusel. Food Frenzy even listed it as one of the most viewed recipes last February. Oh wait, a cupcake……..isn’t a cheesecake…..right?
4. Last Christmas I followed a cheesecake recipe to the letter. After diligently leaving it in the fridge to cool, slicing the whole thing revealed a runny center. I had to bake it again, and again, and again. Can you picture out a cheesecake that fell from the second floor (SPLAT!) and onto a serving pan – and then you bake it until it’s solid? Good, we’re on the same page.
Now here we are with cheesecake attempt # 5. And I must say I’m pretty pleased with the results. Creamy, surprisingly light cheesecake taste? Yes. Solid structure? Yes. A tasty topping? Yes.
The only cop-out? This isn’t baked. Yeah, cheesecake purists, this is a no-bake cheesecake. No. Bake.
The rationale for not baking it? For one, it’s relatively easier than baking. And most importantly, I don’t have to use my oven! You see, we’ve been having perennial power outages that last for around four hours per day, because apparently that’s what happens when you’re in a developing country. So, I managed to work my way around this little hitch.
The taste has been balanced well – the slightly sharp taste of the cream cheese is tempered with the addition of whipped cream. This cheesecake is pretty heavy, so a moderate slice would go a long way. I’d say, this is a great way of exercising my chance at baby steps. But of course, I can’t wait to try the real deal next time. Successfully, I mean.
PS: As much as I want to blog about how I made dulce de leche, the idea of waiting two hours just to cook condensed milk in the oven, doesn’t appeal to me. The result of the waiting still yielded condensed milk, albeit just darker in color. Maybe I just need to refine the technique. If you want, just use condensed milk. But that’s just me at 21. Maybe me at 22 would be more appreciative.
Basic No-Bake Cheesecake (serves 12; adapted from The Best of Food Magazine)
- 12 – 14 graham crackers, crushed
- 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 2 tablespoons (around 2 sachets) unflavored gelatin (I used Knox)
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 2 bars (225 grams or 8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 cup (250 ml) whipped cream (I used all-purpose cream)
- 1 cup (250 ml) yogurt or sour cream
- Combine crust ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well. With the aid of a spoon, press onto the bottom of a 9 – inch springform pan, covering it completely. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- In a saucepan, disperse the gelatin in water. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the granules to swell.
- Place the saucepan over LOW heat, stirring continuously until gelatin granules have dissolved completely, taking care that it DOES NOT BOIL, because boiling weakens the gelatin structure. Once dissolved (it will resemble runny syrup), remove from heat and set aside.
- If using all – purpose cream: in a medium sized bowl that has been chilled in the refrigerator, using you hand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk cream until soft peaks form (when you lift the whisk afterwards, a “peak” forms on the surface of the cream)
- In a large bowl of a stand mixer, or simply using your hand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. You may use the same hand mixer whisk you used to beat the all-purpose cream. Add the sugar, whipped cream and sour cream.
- Pour in the gelatin mixture into the cream cheese mixture. Continue to beat until smooth.
- Pour the mixture onto the prepared pan. Level the surface of the cheesecake with a spatula. Chill overnight. Serve as is, or with the topping of your choice. For the dulce de leche recipe, click here or here