Like The Cheesecake Factory

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Kanye West introduced me to The Cheesecake Factory. Not literally, of course, but through his  2004 album College Dropout. In School Spirit, he raps “This nigga graduated at the top of my class/ I went to Cheesecake, he was a motherfucking waiter there.” Not familiar with the debut album? Don’t worry – I got your back. It’s Kanye’s commentary on society blended with personal tragedy. College courses interfering with your musical forays? Drop out of college! Of all his autobiographical works, I believe this one is the most literal. I’ll be crushed if  his high school valedictorian did not end up working at The Cheesecake Factory.

Mindy Kaling’s 2011 book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, renewed my interest in The Cheesecake Factory. Her exploits at the Atrium Mall and The Cheesecake Factory were both banal and exotic. Only because I had never been to the restaurant.

Earlier this year, one finally opened shop in Albuquerque and I was ecstatic! The food did not disappoint which would’ve been understandable considering I had 12 years’ worth of anticipation and hype. My family’s goal is to eat every cheesecake on the menu.

I have 2 methods for producing cheesecake.Confession: I’ve made Jello’s No Bake Cheesecake for 20 years, but more often than not, I’m buying the sampler tray from Costco.

It was my sister-in-law’s birthday last week and her favorite dessert is cheesecake. I contemplated gifting the pumpkin cheesecake from, you guessed it … (wait, did you guess The Cheesecake Factory or Costco?) but the magic of the Internet intervened. A pin for mini cheesecake cupcakes appeared in my Pinterest feed. The recipe from Chef Savvy looked so easy a caveman could do it.

And it was. cheesecake

I didn’t modify the recipe or directions, but the crust needs tweaking.

Chef Savvy specifically advises not to use foil cupcake liners. I don’t know why but I plan on finding out. The sugary butter saturated the paper, and once cooled, the whole cake stuck to the pan. I was worried I’d destroy the cakes, but with a little finesse I prevailed.

She instructs baking for 5-6 minutes at 325*. The strategy for the next go round is baking at 315*. I might also try 325* for less minutes. My crust was hard. Not unenjoyable, but it didn’t yield like it should have.

The final change stems from user-error, not design flaw. The recipe mixes the cream cheese and other ingredients until combined. My brain said use setting 2 on Kitchen Aid mixer. Once ingredients were combined, I filled each tin.  I was half way done when I became cognizant that my filing was slightly lumpy. Setting 2 is slow mixing. I should’ve used setting 4, mixing/beating (appropriate for semi-heavy batters).  I hoped the cream cheese lumps would melt in the oven, but alas, they did not.

For high altitude baking, the trick is to bake in a water bath. At high altitudes, the outer portions of the cheesecake will cook much faster than the center. Not to get too sciencey, but water absorbcheesecake-baths heat and helps the cheesecake bake uniformly. Skip this tip and there’s a good chance your cheesecake will crack. This helpful hint also applies to other creamy pies, such as pumpkin.

Finding a dish big enough to create a water bath for a cupcake tin is challenging but luckily I had one. My last resort was to bake on a cookie sheet filled with water.

I wanted to hide the cream cheese lumps under strawberry pie filing topping, but since my sister-in-law enjoys both plain and fruit-topped, I left half plain.  The goodness in this venture was that the lumps were small and didn’t throw the taste off. No one even noticed the mini cream cheese in the petite cakes.

What’s your favorite birthday cake? Have you made baked cheesecake before? Do you think I should’ve just stuck with Jello No Bake Cheesecake?

cheesecake-recipe

Gobble Gobble Cupcakes

Where has 2016 gone? I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is this week!

When the holidays roll around, I start filling my Pinterest boards with crafts and eats (and crafty treats) that I never look at again until next Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year. Please tell me that I’m not the only one who does this.08b0e868261f0b6debbe5452d18adde71

This year is different though. Recently I started baking every Sunday. There’s only so many boxes of brownies that I can make before that becomes just as mundane as cooking a nightly dinner.

Thankfully, my pins have inspired me to try new sweets.

I don’t have a whole lot of experience in whipping pins into real life, so I took turkeysone look at those turkeys on the right and thought since I’ve worked with candy faces before, I can easily recreate these without looking at the original recipe. (Post script: there’s not an “original recipe”)

Not too shabby for my first try, right? My co-workers were impressed and declared their children would love to eat these for Thanksgiving dinner. They are pretty simple to make and practice can only make them better.

Ingredients:

  • Nutter Butter Cookies or Chocolate Wafers
  • Candy Eyes
  • Yellow M&M’s (plain)
  • Decorating Icing
  • Cake Mix
  • Chocolate Frosting
  • Candy Corn

Special Tools

  • Kitchen Shears

Directions

Assemble the Face

  1. Lay cookies on a flat surface. (If using Oreo’s, frost one side)
  2. Cut the M&M’s in half, using kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
  3. Using icing, affix the eyes on each cookie. (No need for icing if you frosted the cookie)
  4. Using red icing, draw a snood*. Affix the beak to the snood using icing. (No need for icing if you frosted the cookie)
  5. Leave flat until icing hardens.

Assemble the Cupcakes

  1. Make the cupcakes according to package directions. [For high altitude baking, add 1/4 cup flour and 2 tablespoons water]
  2. Bake according to package directions. [For high altitude baking, bake at 325* for 15-20 minutes]
  3. Let cupcakes cool for 10 minutes before removing from cupcake tin.
  4. Let cupcakes cook completely before frosting.

Assemble the Turkeys

  1. Insert the Nutter Butter face into the cupcake, the closer to the “front” the better.(Lay the Oreo face on the cupcake, the closer to the “front” the better)
  2. Insert the candy corn in a semi-circle near the “back” of the cupcake to create the tail feathers.

turkey-collage

Here’s a few tips so that your turkeys are more Pinterest-worthy:

  • Use decorating icing. I used cookie icing, which dries much faster but is a lot messier.
  • The faces will look neater if you match the icing to the color item you’re using. White frosting for the eyes, and yellow for the beak.
  • Concerned about peanut allergies? Use another type of cookie.

Let me know what you think of these adorable little turkeys. Have you made them yourself? Would you make them for a gathering?

Happy Thanksgiving!

*I Googled "that red thing on a turkey". It's called a snood.

 

 

 

Welcome to Sugar Street

I started baking as a way to relax and forget about the stresses of life temporarily. There’s something soothing about creating treats for others to enjoy.

Before we get started, there’s a few things you should know about me:

  • I live in scenic Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, which is 5,312 feet above sea level. There is one point in the city that is exactly a mile high, so take that Denver! Many recipes are created for people who live much closer to sea level. Every recipe I post will contain directions for high altitude cooking (higher than 5,000 feet).
  • I’m a perfectionist. Martha Stewart is my role model although nothing I produce will ever be on Martha’s level because she is a professional. And she takes perfection to a whole other level. Despite this, I will share my baking fails and where I went wrong. There’s nothing wrong with divulging where I went wrong, especially if it will help others in the future.
  • Gadgets are the best. One of my favorite parts of baking and cooking is using special purpose tools. If a product makes the task easier or improves the result, it deserves special credit. Don’t be surprised if I rave about specialty tools and tricks.
  • I love learning. I’d like to hear from other bakers, cooks, and people who love food. But I have other interests too, like reading, running, and arithmetic.{Just kidding. I wanted to keep the alliteration going.) So maybe I don’t love math, but I am a science nerd.

Join me weekly as I serve up delectable desserts to my friends and family.