Monday, July 21, 2008


I’m not the type of person who is over-careful in the kitchen. Some people precisely measure ingredients, placing measuring cups on the counter, getting down at eye level, evaluating whether or not they need a few more or a few less drops to attain the line they were aiming at. Me, I slosh the liquid into the cup, hold it up to my eye level, say “Meh, close enough”, and dump it into the mixing bowl. Clearly, its hard to imagine why I did not go on to become a professional chef. Many times I’ve watched Ms. Martha Stewart explain why it is so important to scoop the flour from the container into your measuring cup, then tap your knife along the top, then level it off with a final flourish. Only then are you cooking appropriately. I’m often inappropriate at odd times so its not surprising that this transfers into the kitchen.

But then I made this goal for myself - that someday I would make THE MARTHA STEWART NEW YORK CHEESECAKE. I hope you said that slowly and with all the great reverence and awe it deserves. Because for the better part of a week I’ve been saying “THE CHEESECAKE” with a hushed tone so that people didn’t just think this was ANY cheesecake. Oh no, my friends. This was THE CHEESECKAE. At least, I hoped it would be.

I’d read the fussy recipe far in advance. I say fussy because it has many more than my 6 ingredient limit. I say fussy because it actually thinks I need to add one egg at a time - why? I say fussy because of all things, it has to bake in a water bath. Whoa! Wait a minute. A water bath??!! A who what?? Can she be serious here? Who cooks things in a water bath? Martha, I swear, if you make me make my own chocolate graham crackers for the crust I will be forced to despise you forever. Fortunately, she must have realized that the amount of work (and TIME! - gasp!) this recipe called for would preclude the average human’s ability to also make a crust from scratch.

So Thursday morning I set out on The Great Kitchen Adventure of 2008. I crushed crackers for the crust, mixed them up, and cooked them per the instructions. Then I had to let it cool. Which was fine because incidentally, I also had to care for my child. Funny how that happens. Then, for some completely stupid reason, I decided that while she ate lunch in her high chair I should just “whip up” the filling. Mistake #1 - thinking I could “whip up” the filling in the amount of time Reagan can eat chicken nuggets. W. R. O. N. G. Poor kid. Its no wonder she hates the mixer. At any rate, somewhere while the mixer sat there whirring away she finished her lunch and demanded a nap. HOO! RAY! I went back into the kitchen to monitor the progress of the mixing of the 3 pounds of cream cheese.

Oh, what’s that? Yeah. You heard me right. THREE POUNDS OF CREAM CHEESE! This is no less than 6 entire bars. I want to tell you though that I said a mighty prayer over those 6 bars sitting on my counter before I ever dumped them in the mixing bowl. I believe in miracles - like this cheesecake being fat free. Water into wine. Cheesecake into healthfood. Heaven will be a grand and glorious place where all these things are possible.

Long story short (oh, who am I kidding?), I mixed the rest of the ingredients and followed Martha’s persnickety recipe. To. The. Letter. I measured with alarming accuracy. I added one egg at a time. If it said “Mix for 3 minutes” you can bet I timed that step to the second. And eventually, I had the filling sitting there ready to go into that chocolate graham cracker crust. Which is when I noted a small over-looked detail. Mistake #2 - evidently, Martha Stewart has only 10 inch springform pans. I didn’t know for sure what size I had, so I figured I’d just measure mine real quick. I pulled out the trusty tape measure and soon discovered there was no way I was going to trick myself into believing my very clearly 9-inch springform pan was even close to 10 inches. No matter. Can’t make THAT much of a difference. Right? So maybe I’d have a little extra filling. Big whup.

I filled my 9 inch spring form pan and yes, had extra filling. Carefully I placed my new creation into the boiling water bath inside my preheated oven. Once the sweet little thing was safely nestled, I turned back to the mixing bowl. I’m perfectly capable of throwing away a little food here and there. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it should. But tossing this “extra” filling out - this I could not do. I had a bit more than I could just allow myself to pour down the garbage disposal.

There was only one thing I could do.

Make another one (which I affectionately called the wicked step-sister). Oh, yeah, you heard me. Two cheesecakes. The wicked step-sister was a lot thinner - making the filling to crust ratio disproportionate and thus altering the truly intended taste.

Each one baked separately in its own private sauna-like experience. Which called for different baking temperatures at different times - this I have never heard of. And to top it all off, on a 90+ degree day, the final step in The Great Kitchen Adventure of 2008 with THE CHEESECAKE called for me to simply turn off the oven, open the door, and leave THE CHEESECAKE there for 60 minutes.

Did I mention I had to do this twice? My utility company loves me dearly.

On the plus side, on Friday I took the wicked step-sister to work to my coworkers who offered to be guinea pigs. God bless them. They said it was good. I had some. It was good. But I was still curious what THE CHEESECAKE would taste like - what with its perfect filling-to-crust ratio. Really. Really. Curious.

I managed to leave that sucker alone until Saturday night when I fed it to my lovely friends. Two days, people. For two days it sat in my fridge - waiting patiently. Me - eyeing it longingly.

I don’t know precisely how to describe the moment I first tasted THE CHEESECAKE. It happened as I sliced it up and had to clean off the knife. Lord, have mercy on me. Texture - perfect. Flavor - flawless. Preparation - burdensome, but actually worth it.

Dear Martha Stewart,

Please stop. Please stop making stuff that looks heavenly and calls my name. Please stop creating recipes I cannot resist. Please no more of these lengthy recipes whereby I am forced to try new cooking procedures like wrapping my pan in tin foil or placing cakes in boiling water baths. Martha, I just can’t handle this. I’m tired, Martha. It took me an entire day to cook that divine little beast and her wicked step-sister, and now I am actually considering when I might make it again (Mistake #3). Seriously, you can’t expect this kind of baking devotion from us average folk. I beg of you, no more. No more chocolate molasses cookies. No more cheesecakes. No more homemade macaroni and cheese. Just stick to making birdhouses out of popsicle sticks or pin cushions out of old sweaters.



P.S. Thank you. It was fantastic!


Krista said...

Jean, the cheesecake was wonderful!! I would love to come over and enjoy some with you if you would make it again.

Anonymous said...

PERFECTION!!! It was wonderful. I am a willing party to try any of your creations...(no fish)


all up in each others bizness said...

i dare you to mail your cheesecake blog to the jailbird!

double dog dare!!!

Miz Jean said...

Oh Alyce. I'm not sure I can do it. :) I am considering it though...that would be hilarious, wouldn't it?!

Miz Jean said...

I just noticed the "no fish" comment! HA!!!!! I don't really like fish either so you are safe with me!

Krista, your adventures with cheesecake make me realize you are the cheesecake queen of Iowa!! That's awesome! I did so enjoy that one I had at your murder mystery dinner. Yum.