Friday, March 25, 2011

Cheesecake Marathon

 Our neighborhood association is having a community garage sale tomorrow, so I decided to turn it into a bake sale.  My goal is to raise enough money to buy laminate flooring for the community center, because right now it is GHETTO!!!!!

 For the occasion, I decided to make a chocolate chip cheesecake, vanilla mocha swirl cheesecake, mint chocolate cheesecake, and a coconut cream cheesecake which ended up being a banana cream cheesecake instead, and 2 sopapilla cheesecakes.  Since I decided to make so many I went with my original 3,2,1 recipe, but after making the "Cheesecake Factory" recipe I decided to add an additional egg.  I doubled the recipe and then divided as necessary.

This is the one that started it all...except I didn't have the miniature chocolate chips so I used full size chips and half a bag of chocolate chunks.  Obviously this is before baking...notice the nice and pretty appearance...yeah that didn't last.

I love the way pioneer woman does with putting the step by step pictures, but I didn't want to rip off her idea, so I just put various pictures throughout the night.

Random pot of beans...Not sure what brought on the urge to make a pot of beans, but man do they smell good.  I sure wish I had some fresh cilantro though...maybe my crop will grow this year...didn't work out so well this year.

Now I know most of the women out there are looking at this picture thinking "Heaven" but ya know what's weird, my wife isn't really a fan of chocolate.   In fact she's not really a big "sweets" person at all, which just goes to show God's sense of humor for putting us together.

Brittany, yes Brittany, not Brittney this one is for you....chocolate chip cheesecake and beer. (by the way, this is before baking so that's why it's not ugly yet)

 My 3 favorite "B's"  Brittney, baking, and beer....haha she told me to put that.

This is my vanilla mocha swirl crust, just a store brand oreo crust, but I accidentally bought the ones with chocolate filling.  While I was at the store I thought I saw that they were chocolate cookies with peanut butter filling, which was perfect for my chocolate chunk peanut butter cheesecake, but when I got home I realized that either I can't read, or I grabbed the wrong 29 yrs old (i think) lets hope it's the latter.  This thing I'm using to pack my crumbs together was a gift from my mom.  I have no idea what it's supposed to be used for but it works well for rolling out crust.

Hahaha, so about the coconut cream turned banana cream cheesecake....  Let's start at the beginning....(and I know my mom is over there singing "a very good place to start..."  yes I've suffered through the sound of music one too many times.)  For mothers day last year, or the year before, don't remember...I thought about the fact that my mother's favorite pie is her mother's coconut meringue pie so I set out to make a coconut cream cheesecake.  I figured meringue probably wouldn't go so perfectly with a cheesecake, but now that I'm telling the story it's got the wheels turning...maybe its not such a bad idea after all.  So back to the story, I just happened to find some coconut cream Jello instant pudding one day and thought, "might as well let Jello do all the work, and I'll take the credit."  So I whipped up my usual 3,2,1 recipe and threw in a couple boxes of the pudding.  Two boxes might be a little overkill, but I'm anything but conservative when it comes to cooking....politics yes, cooking no.  If it says 1 tsp of vanilla I use 2 Tbsp.  Never been too good at following the rules, and recipes are just rules after all aren't they?    After I baked it, I sprinkled a little coconut on top and toasted it...good initiative, bad judgement...I burned the coconut.  Ooops, but it still tasted great and was an instant hit.  Since that first one, which I think had a vanilla wafer crust, I have experimented with different cookies, and finally found some coconut cookies that are awesome as a crust.

Tonight though...I looked in the cupboard and found no coconut cream Jello instant pudding, no, it was a box of banana cream pudding mix...they both come in a yellow box, how was I to know.  Oh yeah back to the grown man being able to read thing.  Have I mentioned that when I was a kid they said I had ADD?

As you can see from the picture, my banana cream cheesecake was a miniature one.  I can't find the bottoms to all my springform pans.  Apparently I have left them all over town and I guess people are holding them for ransom or something....what they don't understand is that they have to return the bottom to get a new cheesecake.  It's kinda like Marie Calendar's where you return the pie tin to get a discount...well maybe not like that at all but oh well.

Since it's a mini cheesecake, I didn't use 2 boxes, I only used about a fourth of one, and it turned out pretty well.  The batter had a great flavor,  I'll just have to whip up some whipped cream to top it with before I sell it tomorrow.

Mint chocolate cheesecake, miniature of hands aren't that big!  Remember earlier when I said if it calls for 1 tsp I use 2Tbsp....well not a good idea with mint extract or cocoa.  Not that I had a recipe that I was not following.  I used about a quarter tsp of the mint, but probably should have used about a sixteenth tsp.  I think a quarter tsp would be perfect for a full size cheesecake but I didn't make a full size, I made a mini.  So all that to say this, I put too much mint.  Then to balance the mint I ended up using a tsp of cocoa, which is a lot for such a small cheesecake...but then I added 2 more tablespoons, oh yeah it brought out the bitterness.  So to offset the bitterness, I added a quarter cup of sugar....experiment gone bad!  But I think the final product turned out tolerable, I will offer a money back guarantee on that one...after all its for charity right?  But the idea was good.  I think I just added enough for the full size recipe that's all.  Maybe I will pick some mint leaves off my wife's plant that she says I'm not supposed to touch to garnish with.  I know, I know, I went off about garnishing that one time, but it's just a thought...I might not even do it.

 Definitely NOT cheesecake.  This is my chicken concoction, I had some jalapeno dip in the fridge that I needed to get rid of so I threw the chicken in the bowl, then scooped out the dip on top and topped it all with about 2 tbsp of butter (real butter).  Let me just say "Wow!"  It was mighty tasty. Give it a back to cheesecake....

 So pretty right?  Yeah, hasn't baked yet!  This is the vanilla mocha swirl.  It has the same chocolate cookie crust as the mint chocolate cheesecake, but the secret is in the batter.  It's my 3,2,1 modified to 3,3,1 like I mentioned earlier.  I just divided it into two bowls.  One I added about 2 Tbsp of vanilla, this is after already adding a Tbsp to the original mix.  The other bowl I added a couple Tbsp of cocoa and 2 double shots of espresso.  Then I poured them into the bowl alternately and finished off by dragging a knife across the top to try and pretty it up a bit.  Can't wait to see how this final product tastes.

Look at that perfect espresso, I should open a coffee shop or something.

We shall see how they turned out.....but that is for another time and another place.  Good night world.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This one is a keeper

The so called Cheescake Factory recipe is a definite keeper!!!! It is very light.  Most of mine are really dense and creamy, maybe a little like the texture and consistency of a stick of margarine if you were to just take a big 'ol bite.  You all are sitting there wondering if I have ever done that....not gonna tell!  This cheesecake is not like that though.  The way it feels in my mouth is like the particles aren't bonded well and they just kinda float away from each other while you're chewing.  It's a very relaxing dessert, it would probably go well with strawberry daiquiris.  The crust has a great flavor.  My suggestion is to add more vanilla wafers because they don't really shine through.  Also, I hand chopped all the nuts this time, in the future I think they will go into the food processor.  They were really small pieces, but they were still big enough to have to chew them up thoroughly.  I love the flavor they bring, but I honestly think the walnuts and pecans could be eliminate and just triple the almonds if you were so inclined.  The crust did turn out quite crumbly, which I think really added to the light and fluffy feel of the whole thing.  As you can tell from the picture, it cracked and left me with the usual giant crevices down the middle.  I followed all the tips for a successful crack free cheesecake and still it failed, thankfully in this situation crack doesn't kill.  I read recently that as soon as you take it out of the oven you need to run a knife around the edge to separate it from the pan, that way as it cools and collapses it doesn't crack from the surface tension. I don't suggest using a plastic knife for this....

 I beat well after each egg.  I cooled slowly....nothing helped.  I'm going to figure out the secret before my journey ends, but for now I will just enjoy my ugly cheesecake....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday Night, fishing and baking...what a weirdo

On my way home from fishing I stopped at wally world to get some nuts for my cheesecake crust.  I caught a white bass and a crappie by the way for those who might be interested, best day fishing this year.  We also saw a tree full of turkeys right as the sun was sinking below the horizon.  You should hear my father-in-laws turkey call, if you can call it that.  Unfortunately I forgot to get some more sour cream at the store so I only had half of what the recipe called for.

All you Cheesecake Factory lovers, this one is for you.  Supposedly this is their recipe, so we'll see how it goes.

Not my picture!  You have to remember this is The Ugly Cheesecake, I don't often do pretty.  My wife has "pretty" covered.  (brownie points big time)

This recipe has the most ingredients of any cheesecake I have ever made I think.  The vanilla wafers are going to make an awesome crust I predict.  I love the way they smell, I almost started drooling while crushing them.  I've used them before and always been pleased, but I'm guessing the addition of three types of nuts is going to send my taste buds into orbit.  The batter tasted pretty good too....5 raw eggs, I'm not scared! Yes I had my face in the bowl licking it clean, after I licked the beater and the spoon I used to scrape the sides.  This week is my first time using lemon juice in cheesecakes, but I really think it adds a nice touch.

Like I said, I forgot to pick up some sour cream so I only had half of what the recipe called for...bummer, I was totally going to try and follow the recipe for a change, at least this once.  But I failed.  Not scared though,  it's already smelling pretty tasty.

I am a little concerned that the crust could have used a little more butter, it didn't really seem like enough.  It didn't bond the ingredients together all that well.  However, that just might be a good thing.  While driving home from the lake, I was thinking about different crusts.  The chocolate chunk peanut butter cheesecake that I made the other day had a very crispy crust.  It was very dense and crunchy, but I got to thinking that when making a pie crust the goal is flaky right? So maybe a cheesecake crust that is a little on the crumbly side could be the way to go.  If this really is the Cheesecake Factory's recipe, well they've created an empire, so I have to trust them I guess. This might come as a shock to some of you, but I think I have only eaten there twice, and I honestly can't remember much about the cheesecake I had.  I just remember that when I left there the last time, I set out to recreate what I had, and I was pleased with my results.

If you clicked on the link above then you have seen that this one is supposed to chill for 24 hours before it gets eaten, so I guess we will all have to wait till after church to find out how it turned out.  Which might be a good thing, because I don't think I will have time to bake one tomorrow.  I have to build a cabana at church so most of my day is already booked, and then my wife should be coming home from Houston in the evening.

Now for a note on ingredient selection.  I have seen many different opinions on which ingredients to use.  One guy says don't get the store brand cream cheese because it might not be as good of quality as the name brand stuff. Me personally, I'm cheap and rock the store brand all the time.  Probably the only thing I go name brand on when it comes to baking is chocolate.  But I will buy store brand chocolate chips for chocolate chip cookies because lets get real, who is going to criticize the quality of the chocolate in a chocolate chip cookie.  And there is always the question of fat free ingredients vs. full-o-fat, well, I've used both and never had a complaint.  In fact I've only ever had a complaint about one cheesecake I have ever made.  Cheesecake covers over a multitude of sins!  Have you ever seen somebody take a bite and not say "mmmmm!!!!!!! this is amazing"?

Out of the hundreds of cheesecakes I have made I have only thought two of them tasted awful.  One was the chocolate chunk peanut butter cheesecake that I made this week because the smoke ruined the topping, and the other was a coffee cheesecake I made for Christmas a few years back.  The one this week I just cut off the topping and the rest tasted alright.  I will have to revisit that recipe to give it a fair chance, but for now, I'm still not too impressed.  The coffee one...that was just me being stupid.  I always brew some coffee and add it to the batter when making coffee cheesecakes, but that one time I decided to grind up the beans into a really fine powder and put them straight in the batter.  Yeah yeah, I know, who does that?  It was awful.  The stupid thing was crunchy.  The only person who liked it was my uncle, I finally just threw it in the trash.

So back to the point of that last's cheesecake, who cares what it looks like or what brand you use, its still going to taste good.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Today I made a sopapilla cheesecake pie and took it to small group.  This recipe is freakin awesome!!!!!!!!  Its like cinnamon toast with cream cheese icing but better then that might be.  You definitely need to try this one.  I ate it while it was still warm, probably cooled for hour and half before we dove in. My wife who hates cheesecake even liked this one, and even offered some ideas to make it even better.....apples were part of that conversation.

Let me let you in on a little secret.  I rarely like anything I bake.  I always pick it apart and find every little mistake I made.  Just like my cheesecake yesterday.  I think it's terrible, because the topping has a slight taste of smoke and it totally kills the entire experience for me.  I always like the butter flavored crisco chocolate chip cookie recipe, unless of course I over cook them.  I also always like my cinnamon toast, it's pretty hard to screw up.  Other then that I don't often like the things I bake.....I said all that to say this......I freakin loved these things, I've had three in the past two hours.  The crust is flaky but breadlike.  It's not like a pie crust but its not like a biscuit either.  The filling is surprisingly amazing.  It's so simple that I really have a hard time accepting that it is so good.  I mean sugar and cream cheese and vanilla...that's too simple to be good.  I always feel like a cheater when I make desserts that aren't all involved and difficult with lots of ingredients.  Its like the harder it is to make, the better I am when I make it good, but when people eat something they don't really care how complex it is, they just care about how awesome it tastes.  So the simplicity is really hard for me to be 100% ok with, but the taste makes it irrelevant.  The topping is a caramelized, sweet, cinnamony, honey soaked, amazing, crunchy but brittle, concoction that just makes your mouth water.  The thing as a whole is rather light.  It's not like eating a slice of cheesecake, it's not as dense and doesn't leave you feeling helpless.  Its a dessert you could have at lunch time, then go right back to digging post holes manually, wait that's me.  You could go back to whatever you would be going back to.

Overall decision, this recipe is a winner.  You suckers who live close enough and didn't come get a bite really missed out.  I guess you'll have to make your own.

Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie

I've been looking around on the internet for new recipes to try out today.  I found this one and just so happened to have all the ingredients to do a half recipe so I've got it in the oven right now.

That's the picture they had on the website above, not my picture.  I don't really like sticking weeds on top of my dessert to try and improve the look of it.  But maybe one of these days I will try it, who knows maybe that makes all the difference in the world as to how well you enjoy the dessert.  Personally I'm not a fan of garnishing or fancy plating.  It is so sad when you are at a 5star restaurant and they bring out this super awesome looking dessert thats about the size of a kiwi, on a plate the size of a turkey.  They always drizzle the plate with chocolate syrup or something...i'm thinking "dude, drizzle that on the food, or in my mouth or something."  Haven't you ever just wanted to lick the plate after finishing those two bites?  You know what...I think next time I'm in that predicament I am gonna do just that.  I'm going to pick up my plate and lick the hell out of it.  I'm gonna get my money's worth.

Random again.  Anybody think I might have ADD?  Thought I was going to outgrow that but I guess not.

So as I'm typing I am smelling my "pie" in the oven.  Imagine this....a kitchen with 2 ovens in it.  The first one has cinnamon toast that is just starting to caramelize and turn gooey.  Oven number 2 has the "butter flavored crisco chocolate chip cookies with double the vanilla" just starting to plump up and brown.  If you can let your mind create that, well that is what I'm smelling right now.  It's so much better than the smoked cheesecake I made last night.

What I like about this recipe.... It is really quick and easy, not too many ingredients.  Of course I doubled the vanilla and I did use Mexican Vanilla.  Actually I used some contaminated Mexican vanilla.  It was a Christmas present from my nanny-in-law.  She put some vanilla from her 5 gallon jug (exaggerating) into a spice jar she had.  I haven't asked her what the spice was, but it contaminated my vanilla and gives me some interesting results.  The first time it got used was on some gingerbread house icing my mother was making with my niece and nephew.  Total failure, it tasted awful.  I was scared it was a lost cause, that the good deed was in vain and her vanilla would have to be thrown out.  Unfortunately I was running low on the McCormicks (or however you spell it) so when I was making a pioneer woman frosting I was forced to use the contaminated brew. The frosting was for her chocolate chip cookie sweet rolls, its a cream cheese frosting.  I don't know what nanny-in-law did but the flavor of that vanilla was like a splash of Heaven poured into a bowl of cream cheese and powdered sugar.

The pan is out of the oven and I've poured on the honey, now all I have to do is wait a couple of hours to cool and then eat it.

Gotta go to small group now, so I'll let you all know how it tastes!


The cheesecake is terrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Remember that part about the house filling with smoke?  Well the residual effect is a crust that tastes similar to a pot of beans when you scorch the bottom.  I'm not totally in love with the recipe either.  I like the citrus, I think the acids help with the mixture, but I don't think it's quite sweet enough.  It might go well with a cup of HEB's taste of Texas, maybe (as much as I hate this word) the Austin blend.  But as a stand alone breakfast, it is lacking.  I'm also not in love with the topping.  I think miniature chocolate chips would have been an improvement over the chunks, but in reality I would leave the topping off altogether if I did it again. Maybe just some peanut butter and Eagle brand milk would do the trick, but the existing topping is not entirely my favorite.  Guinea pigs needed!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Cheesecake

So today I got finished with work a little early (I was bleaching a barn in preparation for staining it later in the week) and had a couple of hours to kill so I flipped through my cheesecake recipe book and found this one that seemed to really make my mouth water.  After breathing in bleach fumes all day, for some reason it took a couple of minutes to even warm up to cheesecake at all.  I liked the thought of starting my cheesecake journey with a deviation from my 3,2,1 recipe and trying something new.  This one has 4 packages of cream cheese instead of 3, 4 eggs instead of 2 and a cup and a quarter of sugar instead of the sweetened condensed milk.  In addition it has a tsp of vanilla and 3 Tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice, a cup of peanut butter and a bag of chocolate chunks.

Here's some cheesecake basics for those who don't know.  On every recipe that contains cream cheese and eggs I always start with the cream cheese in my kitchenaid stand mixer.  I beat the crap out of it until it is nice and smooth, scraping the sides a couple of times along the way.  Once it is sufficiently beaten, I add an egg at a time and beat the crap out of it some more in between each one.  They say this helps to prevent the huge crevices from appearing once the cheesecake is cooled.  Oh yeah and you start with all room temperature  ingredients, that's key.  A good plan, in my humble ( or not so humble) opinion is to wake up in the morning and think to yourself, "wow, I want cheesecake for breakfast!" and immediately go to the fridge and get out all the ingredients.  They will be nice and room temperature by the time you get off work so you can jump right in to baking.  And yes children, cheesecake is a perfectly acceptable breakfast food.  It's like a cream cheese covered bagel, only better and no bagel.  So back to making the cheesecake, once you beat the crap out of the eggs and cheese, it is safe to add the rest of your ingredients and mix them just to combine everything.  Today while I was making this new recipe, I probably beat the egg and cheese mixture for around 15 minutes once it was all said and done.

Now back to the cheesecake at hand.  The crust called for peanut butter sandwich cookies, but my ghetto grocery store didn't have those, so I had to settle for some store brand oreos with chocolate cream filling.  It had 4 Tbsp of butter and 1/4 cup flour, but as I mentioned the other day, the butter usually isn't necessary when using sandwich cookies because the fat content in the filling.  And if you are using a springform pan, they tend to leak if you get too much butter on the bottom.  Definitely should have listened to my own advice, but I wanted to try and follow the recipe as closely as possible.  Unfortunately about 20 minutes into baking the house began to fill with smoke because the butter was dripping from the pan onto the bottom of the oven.  Another piece of advice, always put some foil or a cookie sheet under your springform pan in case you have a leak.  Steaks and ribs taste great when they've been smoked on the grill....cheesecakes not so much.  Well, actually I've never tried that yet...hmmmm I may be on to something here.  

Off the bunny trail, and back to my cheesecake.

I got it all together and threw it into the oven like the directions said and walked off to see how the nursery was coming.  My mom was over helping my wife with some decorating so I went to peak in and got busy talking.....that's when I noticed the house filling with smoke.  So I went in and put the cookie sheet under to catch my drips and opened the front door to air out the house.  It just so happened that my neighbor from up the street had just pulled up to pick through my trailer full of lumber I need to haul to the dump.  We just recently met so I got carried away in conversation.....have you noticed that nowhere in this story have I mentioned setting the timer?  That's because I didn't!!!!  UGH, I hate my memory.  So my mom pokes her head out the door and yells at me that my cheesecake is about two inches above the top of the pan.

The author of my cookbook seems to really really not like springform pans.  He swears by cheesecake pans for a list of reasons.  I personally don't own a "cheesecake pan" because I haven't been able to find one in my brief search.  I do however, own about 15 springform pans so I'm doing alright with them....All that to say this, I think I should have used a bigger pan.  But like I said, I wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible.

Once I got back into the house and saw my cheesecake I was kinda frustrated, but not too bad.  The top was just a bit too browned which was easily taken care of by tearing the edges off and "tasting" it.  This particular recipe has a sour cream based topping sprinkled with chocolate chunks.  It really cleans up the appearance, but I would say it still falls into the ugly cheesecake category.

The worst part about cheesecake....I can't tell you until tomorrow how it tastes!  So stay tuned.

1 1/4 cup cookies
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter melted

4 packages cream cheese
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
3 T lemon juice
1 t vanilla
2 cups chocolate chunks

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chunks

Bake 45-55 minutes at 350, let cool 10 minutes, then put topping on and sprinkle chocolate chunks on top, bake for 5 mins more.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Journey Through Cheesecake

I am about to embark on a journey through the countless cheesecake recipes that I have come across over the years.  It all began with a little boy who thought the sound of cheese in a cake was absolutely disgusting.  I passed on the terrible sounding concoction every time it was mentioned because my imagination had it somewhere in the neighborhood of a grilled cheese sandwich with sugar, flour and icing, yuck.  So I avoided it for years.  Then one day, a family friend showed up with a chocolate chip cheesecake.  She is the kind of woman that when she brings food, you eat it.  Not because she is big and scary, no she is a tiny soft spoken Cajun.  It's because she makes some of the best food I have ever tasted and never anything I didn't like.  So I had a slice.  It was thick, and creamy, filled with miniature chocolate chips and a chocolate chip cookie crust.  It was the most perfect dessert I had ever placed into my mouth.  I had to have more.

It wasn't long until I got the recipe from her and started making my own.  They are the most incredible dessert ever, and relatively easy to make.  My friends started to multiply as they discovered my amazing creations.  Pretty soon I had people asking, "Hey, can you make a mocha cheesecake?" Or, "How about a vanilla raspberry cheesecake?"  And so it began.  I have made so many different variations, I can't even remember them all, so I decided to start writing it all down and even branch out and try new recipes.

Here's the secret 3,2,1... My recipe is 3 packages of cream cheese, 2 eggs, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk.  For the crust, you just make crumble crust from whatever you think is going to complement the variation you are making.  Mix the crumbs with some melted butter, don't use more than 2 1/2 tablespoons.  If you use oreo's, cut back on the butter, sometimes I don't use any at all because the creamy filling is basically sweet lard in whatever scientifically engineered form they came up with.  So that is a cheesecake, now let your imagination run wild and change it at will. Bake it at 350 for an hour then cool it slowly.

I intend to bake a huge variety of recipes to find out which work the best and compare the results.  I am going to post my findings and my changes to the recipes, because God knows, I can't leave a recipe alone to save my life.

By the way, the homemade doughnuts I made from pioneer woman's website were a total failure.  I apparently suck at anything involving bread, but I am going to try again until I get it right.