As soon as I found out that my dear friend Alex was baking a cheesecake, I KNEW I had to convince him to share his experience. Cheesecake is not the simplest dessert, but if you have the ingredients, patience and guts–like Alex–then you, too, can bake a dessert which most people only order in restaurants (and honestly, the cheesecakes served in a lot of restaurants are pretty subpar). And Alex did a fantastic job for his very first cheesecake! Kudos to Alex for being a baking warrior and creating a delectable dessert.
Let’s get this out of the way: I am not what some may call a “baker.” Sure, I cook. I like to experiment a little here and there with new recipes for meals and appetizers, and I know my way well enough around a grill; however, baking? Not generally my style. I love to follow recipes as close as I can to the letter, but baking always seemed too precise, even for me.
That being said, I had a sudden burst of insanity … I mean, inspiration … during the weekend before Thanksgiving that drove me to make a cheesecake for my family’s holiday gathering. “I love cheesecake! It’s one of my favorite desserts ever! I’ll totally make one myself!” A fellow Twitter-er pointed me in the direction of a recipe for New York-style cheesecake she’d tried and loved, so I checked it out.
To say the recipe looked complicated was an understatement. What the hell’s a spring-form pan? Where does one get lemon and orange “zest”? Five eggs and two egg yolks? Is that not against nature???
The combination of the recipe and my inexperience overwhelmed me, and I had a momentary inkling to scrap it and find a way simpler recipe (of which there are a ton). Not one to back down from a challenge, though, I decided to dive in headfirst and figure out how I was going to make this work (minus the cherry topping … blech). A trip to Bed Bath & Beyond for a pan, a few Google searches on zest and the separating of egg yolks, and a healthy case of the go-for-its got me in my sweet Doctor Who apron and ready to bake.
I’ll be honest; I was pretty excited to finally get to use my wife’s coveted Kitchen Aid mixer.
Besides running out of sugar and literally having to go to my neighbors’ to borrow a cup, everything went pretty darn well. The graham cracker crust formed nicely, the cheese mixture went together smoothly, and putting my oven to 550° F did not burn my house down!
The outside of the cheesecake burned a smidge (perhaps a minute or two too long at 550° F before turning it down to 200° F), which made me a bit self-conscious, but it otherwise looked great. My family loved it (they worked around the burnt parts), and I have to admit that it tasted great! The next time I make it (because there will be a next time), I will probably take out the lemon zest and add a bit more orange zest, but I was very happy with how it came out.
As terrified as I was before I started, I’m really glad that I went through with it. I had a great time making it, learned a lot, and the end result was totally worth it.
Also, if you want to separate egg yolks in the coolest way ever, check out the video below. SCIENCE!