Okay, I'm not a baker. Ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you I can make a mess of the easiest baking recipes.
Why? Well, for one, I can't seem to follow recipes. Measuring everything exactly is not my thing. I lose my place, get distracted ... how many cups of flour did I put in? Was it baking soda or baking powder that was called for?
And the oven? The oven doesn't like me. It overcooks everything. The timer is also in a conspiracy with the oven.
To make things interesting, I decided to join the Daring Bakers, so I could push myself. I'm not sure it's going to work, but I can try.
The April 2009 challenge was cheesecake, and the DB chiefs sent us off with a recipe and the mandate to "Be Creative." A double whammy for me since I have never made even a regular run-of-the-mill cheesecake, and while creative, had no idea how my creativity would affect the inherent chemistry of the recipe.
That said, this is a challenge, is it not? So with that, I decided to channel the Philippines and make a cheesecake with mango puree and calamansi, otherwise known as the "Philippine lemon." I considered using coconut milk or condensed milk instead of heavy cream and do a mango puree swirl in the cheesecake, but I decided to use the mango puree in lieu of the cream to cut down on the calories. I also considered putting toasted coconut flakes in the graham cracker crust, but decided on macadamia nuts because I had them in the pantry. I also wanted to use some gingersnaps in the crusts because I thought the ginger flavor would go nicely with the mango.
I considered making a mango curd to top off the cheesecake for color and to intensify the mango flavor, but after seeing that the curd had a load of egg yolks and butter, I decided that topping the cheesecake with mango, strawberries, and kiwis and glazing the fruit with a mango glaze I made out of extra mango puree and gelatin was better.
Mango cheesecake decorated with colorful fruit before the mango glaze has been applied.
End of story for my first challenge is that I got lucky. The cheesecake turned out perfect ... no cracks, not overcooked, and my substitutions resulted in a light and flavorful cheesecake. While I sprung a leak in my foil in the waterbath (as the DBs warned), I made an adjustment that ended up working as the crust was not soggy at all, thanks to a tip from a fellow DB-er. I was a little stumped at first as to how to make mango look pretty on the top of the cake, but I came up with a flower pattern that worked.
I brought the cheesecake to work, and people really enjoyed it. They oohed and aahed over the presentation. The gingersnap-macadamia crust in particular was a big hit.
Here's the Daring Baker Recipe. I wrote my modifications in caps but the original recipe is intact. My additional notes are below as well.
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs (I USED 1 CUP GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMBS AND 1 CUP GINGER SNAPS)
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 CUP MACADAMIA NUTS
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs, ROOM TEMPERATURE
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream (I USED 13 OZ. GOYA FROZEN MANGO PUREE, DEFROSTED, AND SIMMERED DOWN UNTIL IT'S ONE CUP; LET IT COOL DOWN BEFORE USING)
1 tbsp. lemon juice (I USED CALAMANSI JUICE)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (DID NOT USE)
1/2 MANGO, PEELED WITH A PEELER AND SLICED THINLY (IF YOU HAVE A MANDOLINE, IT MAKES IT EASIER)
STRAWBERRIES, THINLY SLICED
3 KIWIS, THINLY SLICED
1 CUP MANGO PUREE (YOU'LL NEED ANOTHER DEFROSTED MANGO PUREE PACK FOR THIS)
1 TBS. SUGAR
1/2 OF A KNOX GELATIN PACKET
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
6. TO DECORATE, THINLY SLICE MANGO (I USED MANDOLINE), STRAWBERRIES AND KIWIS. IF FRUIT IS NOT RIPE, SPRINKLE WITH SUGAR AND LET THEM SIT AND MACERATE FOR 20 MINUTES. ONCE THEY'VE SAT IN THE SUGAR, THE MANGO WILL BECOME FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO BEND. USE A PLATE THAT IS ABOUT THE SAME SIZE AS THE CHEESECAKE TO PLAN AND LAY OUT THE DESIGN BEFORE YOU ADD IT TO THE TOP OF THE CAKE.
7. TO MAKE GLAZE, HEAT MANGO PUREE IN SMALL POT ON STOVE. MIX IN SUGAR AND GELATIN, FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS ON GELATIN PACKET. BRUSH THE FRUIT ON TOP OF THE CHEESCAKE WHILE THE GLAZE IS STILL WARM BUT NOT HOT. WHEN THE GLAZE FULLY COOLS OFF, IT WILL BE GELATINOUS. WARM IT UP A LITTLE TO SERVE WITH THE CAKE IF DESIRED.
Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.
Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly.
Mango cheesecake that has cooled for five hours in the fridge before it's decorated.
1) Having room temperature cream cheese and eggs seems to help with a successful cheesecake. Overmixing or overwhipping the cheesecake adds extra air into the batter, which can lead to the cheesecake rising and then falling in the oven. Room temperature ingredients come together more easily. Tapping the pan on the counter after you put the the cheesecake helps get any air bubbles out.
2) In the recipe's note above, it mentions that water leakage into springform pans is an issue. I didn't have the foil pan she mentioned, so I used my springform pan and wrapped it in one sheet of extra-wide heavy duty foil. I did get a leak (I poked a little hole in the foil when moving it), so as a possible fix suggested by a fellow DB-er in the DB forums, I took the cheesecake out of the water bath after it did its first cook in the oven for 45 minutes and put it back in the oven, hoping that it would dry out. I was dumb enough not to put the pan on foil, so when I took it out, there was grease all over the bottom of my oven. However, the fix worked! The crust was dry and delicious.
Another trick mentioned in the DB forums if you're using a springform pan is to buy a silicone pan in which you can put your spring-form pan. Alton Brown of Good Eats uses a regular pan but lines the bottom and sides with parchment paper.