It gives me great fulfillment to watch the development of a home baker from struggling novice to assured professional.
I met Cory Untalan way back when Dessert Comes First (DCF) was still in its infancy – she was one of Azzurro’s co-owners, enmeshed in the day-to-day intricacies of running a restaurant. In 2007, she sends me a canister of Chocolate Crinkles and if memory serves me correctly, a Moist Chocolate Cake. I’m surprised to find out that Cory herself has baked them, just a couple of products from a baking business that she’s started and dubbed The CRU Kitchen: Classic Recipes Unlimited, C-R-U also being her initials.
The crinkles and cake, while moist, possess the harshness of too much Dutched cocoa powder so I thank Cory but keep quiet. Over the next two years, she and I see each other often at Rockwell’s Bakers Fair. Occasionally, I taste samples of sweets like her Brownie Bites or a toothpick-full of her Luscious Chocolate Cake With Belgian Ganache. And though we joke sometimes about a feature on DCF, I smile enigmatically and keep quiet. My instinct tells me not yet.
So with a keen eye, I watch as over time, her bakeshop sweets, and Cory, begin to reveal marked signs of maturity and confidence. CRU’s product line is whittled to a select (though by no means limited) few; her cakes have cut back on the sugar, their embellishments now more soigne than incidental; CRU supplies pastries to a large coffee chain and other establishments, and Cory herself exhibits an assurance of knowing her market and what they want, information that’s beneficial to every home baker.
Then one day, this cake appears at my door. The tiny shreds of cheese crowning its creamy top clearly indicate that it’s a queso de bola cheesecake. I smile upon recognizing the brown CRU box. What’s Cory cooked up this time? I think to myself.
The cake is cut with some difficulty. The filling is somewhat feathery and soft – not at all a bad thing – save for the impossibility of serving a clean slice; no matter. But I’m unprepared for the supreme balance of flavors. In my experience, queso de bola cheesecakes suffer from either too much cheese (excessive saltiness, I might as well sink my bicuspids into an actual queso de bola); too little cheese (making me think that the baker just wants the added cachet of the name); and/or using processed cheese food (i.e. Quickmelt, Velveeta, etc. I mean, come on! If you’re bothering to do it, do it right.)
Thankfully, CRU’s queso de bola cheesecake gets it right on all counts. Its aforementioned feathery texture is akin to a souffle cheesecake (similar to the one at UNO restaurant) instead of the full-on density of its New York-style counterpart. Here, two kinds of cheese, one creamy, the other salty and crumbly, enhance the other’s best attribute: velvety all throughout, the tongue detecting little pockets of cheesy saltiness, other times, nubs of cheese that resisted the oven’s heat. The crunchy graham cracker crust livens things up slightly, although it will get soggy if it sits in the fridge too long.
Queso de bola cheesecake
8″ round/P1,250; 6″ round/P750
The Cru Kitchen by Cory Untalan