I used to make cheesecakes for a living. I had business cards and stickers made, I went to Divisoria to buy 100 cake boxes, and I was buying Philadelphia cream cheese by the boxload. I don’t lie when I say that I could make cheesecake in my sleep. I’ve even made them in all shapes â€“ from big hearts to little hearts from 6-inch circles to 9-inch squares, and everything in between. In 2000, a local food magazine proclaimed my cheesecake the best in town. I was even supplying a restaurant with cheesecake baked in specially bought pans for them until their demands and that of my full-time job became too much.
After a few years of everyone I know always requesting me to make a cheesecake for birthday parties and get-togethers, I quit. I refused to make any more cheesecakes for anybody by saying, â€œI can make other things, you know.â€ At that time, I never wanted to see another bar of cream cheese ever again.
So I stopped making cheesecake for about two years. Of course there was the occasional whine from family (from my Bin, especially) but I held firm and fast to my resolve. In that time, I concentrated on baking other things â€“ everything from caramel popcorn to candy to bread. I also ate a few cheesecakes during that time, baked by other people. Always I said, â€œMine is better.â€
I’ve only just started making cheesecakes again. I’m horrified by how much a bar of cream cheese costs now: anywhere from P113-P126. It’s one expensive dessert. An acquaintance asked me if I could supply cheesecake to his coffee shop â€“ but requested that I keep the cost down to P400 per 9-inch cake. Dream on, buddy.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from the gym asked me to make her two cakes. It was for her husband’s despedida (going away party), so I agreed. I made my special nut crust. It’s a great crust that I use with whatever nuts I have on hand â€“ cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts. It’s agreeable with every nut. (Ha! That sentence sounds funny). Anyway, here it is (baked) in my 9-inch heart-shaped pan.
The secret to a cheesecake that’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom is to mix, mix, mix it well. Don’t think that the lumps you’re too lazy to scrape out from the bottom will disappear magically during baking. They won’t. Here is how smooth the batter should be.
A day later, here’s the finished cheesecake. I used canned strawberry topping but almost anything from chocolate curls to caramel swirls will do. Cheesecakes are versatile, the perfect dessert palette. I’m a purist, but I’ve enjoyed an occasional Oreo cheesecake and one that was bursting with chocolate bars.
Could you call this cheesecake zen? I shot this 6-inch cheesecake in my garden, near the Japanese fountain.
How I created the perfect cheesecake plus an awesome cheesecake recipe.