Sunday, August 5, 2012

Raspberry Marble Cheesecakes

Can I interest you in a cheesecake? Good, because that's what I made this week. I'm fairly certain that this recipe for raspberry marble cheesecakes is the first cheesecake I've made up until this point. Wait, I retract that statement because it's incorrect. These apricot-glazed black and white cheesecakes were the first. How could I forget? They were so pretty.

I will give myself some credit. I think I rebounded quite nicely from last week's oatmeal-raisin episode, which can be found here. Not only did I not mess these up, I also performed a little experiment and taught myself something. Granted I did accidentally stumble upon this little experiment, which I will elaborate on later, but that's neither here nor there.

So cheesecakes, I've made my fair share in life. Cheesecake is one of my dad's favorite desserts, but since my parents have relocated to Florida and my fiance doesn't like cheesecake, I don't make it very often. I was excited for this recipe because it's something much different than a normal cupcake. Unfortunately cheesecake does often require much more work than normal cupcakes. That fact has not changed during my brief cheesecake-making hiatus.

Before I started anything I read through all the steps to make sure I didn't give an encore performance of last week. The recipe said I should get 32 cheesecakes, but since I only have 2 cupcake pans, and due to the long cooling process that comes along with making cheesecake, I was only going to make 24 no matter how much batter I had left. After establishing that I got to work.

First order of business was making the graham cracker crust. I put the graham crackers in my food processor until they were fine crumbs. This did not take long. Once the crumbs were mixed with the butter and sugar I pressed a tablespoon of the crumbs into each cupcake liner. I had a small amount of crumbs left over that may or may not have gotten me to 32 cupcakes had I needed them to. They did however get in my belly. My favorite part of cheesecake is the graham cracker crust. No question. With both cupcake pans prepared each one was baked for 5 minutes and then set aside to cool.

Next, the raspberry syrup. I've never made this from scratch and I was excited to try something new. I pureed the berries in my food processor (I washed it by hand after I made the graham cracker crumbs) and then worked on passing the puree through a fine sieve with my new pink rubber spatula. Apparently people aren't interested in having raspberry seeds in their cupcakes. This process worked, but it took awhile. I also probably could have gotten more syrup but frankly I was sick of straining the puree. I knew I didn't need that much to get through the recipe anyway. In the end I had way more than I needed.

Making the rest of the cheesecake batter was easy, I've done it plenty of times. When the batter was completed I spooned about 3 tablespoons of batter for each cupcake and added 3 drops of the raspberry syrup to the top of each. Then I used a toothpick to swirl together the cheesecake batter and raspberry syrup to get a marble effect. I thought they all looked great. I love making the marble effect. It looks so cool and it's actually really easy to achieve.

When I was younger my dad always told me that to make a cheesecake the right way you had to put it in a hot water bath when you baked it. That way the cheesecake wouldn't crack. Like the perfect daughter that I am I always answered with, "OK dad" and continued about my cheesecake making sans the water bath. Well, this time Martha also told me to bake the cupcakes in a hot water bath and Martha is one I will not ignore... at least in this case. To help matters, I also have a large roasting pan that was perfect for this. Had I not had the appropriate pan I would have ignored Martha, and dad, again.

I placed the first cupcake pan in the roasting pan and then filled it with hot water so it was about halfway up the pan. While transporting the pan to the oven there was little flood over one of the cupcakes, but I just mentally noted which one it was so I would know not to serve the water logged cheesecake to anyone. I baked this batch for 28 total minutes with a turn halfway through the baking time. I probably could have given them a few more minutes, about 30 total, but they looked set enough to me so I took them out and let them cool on a wire rack.

Time for the second batch... with one problem. I have 2 different cupcake pans and my second cupcake pan is part of a Betty Crocker cupcake caddy and has handles that stick out on each side. My other pan does not. Can you see where I'm going with this? I thought so. The handles make the pan about a quarter of an inch too long on each side to fit in the roasting pan. Major bummer, what do I do now? Taking the freshly baked cupcakes out of the pan is not an option, they still have to cool for awhile and then go into the fridge to cool some more. I don't want to trash perfectly good batter either. I know... I'll perform an experiment. I'll bake these cheesecakes without the water bath and see what the difference is in the final product. Brilliant! Let me tell you, there was a difference, and I think my dad may have been right all these years. I can't believe it either. How do parents always know?
The cheesecake on the left is from the water-bath batch and the cheesecake on the right is not. I don't think I need to explain the difference to you. It's pretty obvious from the picture. However, the cheesecake on the right didn't cave in until after it cooled. When it came out of the oven it was nice and rounded (mind you it was cracked) like a normal cupcake. I actually thought it looked quite pretty and was hoping it would stay that way. Then I remembered it was made of cream cheese, not flour, and that outcome was highly unlikely.

Not only was there a difference in appearance, there was also a difference in taste. The water-bath batch had the perfect texture while the non-water-bath batch was a little tough. Now, they weren't tough like inedible or disgusting, they just weren't as smooth as the water-bath batch. For example, had you not seen or tasted the water-bath batch first it's quite possible the non-water-bath batch would have seemed perfectly normal. Tongue tied yet?

So this week I learned 2 lessons...

1. As painful as it is to admit, dad was right about the water bath. It really does make a better cheesecake.

2. If you're going to bake cupcakes in a water bath, make sure the pans you're using fit inside the roasting pan you're going to use.

I'm getting smarter every week.