"I found I could say things with color . . . that I couldn't say any other way--things I had no words for." -- Georgia O'Keefe
My three favorite colors are pink, red, and pale green. I would go so far as to say that I crave them. I suspect I may even feel cheerier when wearing one of them. My mood is calmer in a tranquil room that's been painted a cool shade of celery. It's no surprise my kitchen is that very shade, as it has been for several years and I haven't tired of it yet. Place a stem or two of pink flowers in a little jar of water on the kitchen table, and I'll delight in them until they fade away.
Just as we're influenced by the hues we see around us everyday--in our houses, in our cities, and in nature--I assume that the colors we're faced with when we sit down to a meal must impact us in similar ways. I know that I'm a pushover for pretty food. And color accounts for a huge part of the "pretty factor," don't you think?
I do appreciate the sight of pink food--frosted cupcakes, strawberry ice cream, raspberry yogurt. Heck, I can even muster up a yen for cotton candy or Bazooka bubble gum now and again, though it's questionable whether those items qualify as real food. And vibrant red food gets my seal of approval, too; perfect garnet cherries, the blazing sunset stripes of a ripe mango's skin, even ketchup-red tomatoes, still warm from the vine.
Culinarians assert that we "eat with our eyes," and there is plenty of proof to back up that statement. In cake decorating classes, they make a point of teaching the principles of the color wheel since this kind of visual harmony is integral to a well-designed cake. A poorly executed use of color on a cake is immediately apparent, have you noticed? It does its utmost to turn you off. Think of those garish frosted cakes that you stroll past in the grocery store each week. They virtually scream out, "Hey, you! Look at me! Yeah, you! I'm bright and hideous and I clash!"
Color is important when you're baking. Don't think it's not . . .
I had pink on my mind when I decided to make this particular cheesecake. I expected, when I began preparing it, that it was going to be nicely pink throughout. The cheesecake photo in the cookbook was distinctly pinkish, positively blushing, in fact. And my finished batter was charmingly girlish.
But, alas, the oven changed all that. Ultimately, I ended up with kind of an ivory filling overlaid with just the slightest hint of pink, and dotted throughout with bits of rosy strawberry here and there. Not the glorious pink cheesecake of my dreams, but still good. I guess even a smidgen of pink is better than none.
About this recipe . . .
Hailing from the book, Diner: The Best of Casual American Cooking, by Diane Rossen Worthington, this recipe includes both a small amount of fresh, ripe strawberries, along with strawberry jam, to give it its signature flavor. I stuck pretty closely to the original formula for the filling, but instead of using the called-for graham crackers in the crust, I used vanilla wafers. I also omitted lemon zest, because the recipe already includes a significant amount of lemon juice, and I just didn't want to overdo it.
I baked the cake on Saturday afternoon, put it in the fridge as soon as it was completely cool, and served it on Sunday evening. The cake turned out well, but I thought it actually tasted considerably better the day after it was first sliced. Some cheesecakes are just like that; I know this always seems to be true with pound cakes, and I assume it has to do with the incredibly rich ingredients taking a while to sort of mingle, get comfortable, and settle down. The texture seemed much nicer to me after a couple of days in the fridge.
The recipe didn't indicate that you should use a water bath for baking, so I threw caution to the wind and didn't bother with that. Consequently, my cheesecake did crack on top, about an hour after it was out of the oven. I wasn't terribly concerned about this, however, because I'd planned from the get-go to cover the top with a modest layer of whipped cream.
Were I to make this cake again, I probably would choose to employ a few more of the typical cheesecake precautions to help prevent the cracking (for eg., tips like being super careful not to over-beat the batter and incorporate too much air; baking the cake in a foil-wrapped pan that's placed in a water bath; running a knife around the cake sides right before it goes into the oven and shortly after it's out of the oven). Anyway, I'll be more careful next time.
I'd never made a strawberry flavored cheesecake before, but it's a nice variation on plain vanilla or chocolate. Next time, though, I'm makin' it more pink. I think.
(Please note that in the photos below it looks like quite a lot of batter. That's because, when I made it, I doubled the recipe and made two cakes. But the recipe as printed for you below makes just one cake.)
For the filling:
24 oz. cream cheese, softened and at room temperature
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/3 cup All Purpose flour
2 tsp. vanilla extract
fresh juice of one whole lemon, strained
1/2 cup strawberry jam (with any large fruit chunks broken up)
1/2 cup of finely chopped, hulled, ripe strawberries
To make the crust:
In a small bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs and sugar. Add in the melted butter and stir to combine until all the crumbs appear moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan, and up the sides of the pan about two inches. Set aside.
To make the filling:
Break the softened cream cheese into chunks and place in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese for about 3 minutes, until very soft and creamy.
Add in the sugar and continue to mix on medium speed, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth.
Add in the eggs, preferably one at a time, and beat well after each addition. (Do as I say, not as I did, in the photo below, with too many eggs going in at once!)
Reduce the speed to low, and add in the sour cream, flour, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Beat just until thoroughly blended. Remove the large bowl from the mixer.
Remove one cup of the batter and place it in a small bowl.
To this small bowl of batter, add the strawberry jam. Stir it in completely.
Add in the 1/2 cup of chopped strawberry pieces, stirring very gently, just until combined.
Pour this mixture back into the large bowl of batter and, stirring by hand, just blend it in.
Pour all of the batter in the pan that's already been lined with the crust. Jiggle the pan gingerly until the top of the batter appears settled and smooth.
Place the cake pan on top of a baking sheet on the middle rack in the oven.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour. Turn off the heat and let the cheesecake rest undisturbed in the oven, with the door closed, for 30 minutes. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let the cake cool completely. (Hopefully, yours won't look like it's been in an earthquake, like mind did below!)
Once the cake is cooled, cover it lightly and refrigerate it, still in the pan, for at least eight hours before slicing. The cake's texture improves after one full day, or even two days, in the fridge. Before attempting to remove the sides of the pan, run a thin knife carefully around the cake's sides. It's easier to slice, and best tasting, if served quite cold. Try it topped with real whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
If you'd like to know a bit about me please click here, or look for the tiny photo of a pink cupcake topped by a strawberry, further down, in the "About me"section. You can also reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . . .
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Cream Cheese Blondies with Milk- and Dark-Chocolate Chips, and Honey Roasted Almonds . . .
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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