Baking isn’t always perfect …in my kitchen. Quite a few of my friends are under the delusion that everything that comes out of my kitchen is perfect, and beautiful, and delicious. Bless their hearts! While I am certainly flattered, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, on many an occasion I have turned out things that have been unsightly, inedible, and sometimes down right scary. I am primarily a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of cook. I can’t help it. There is just this free-spirited experimental cook in me that feels stifled within the confines of a recipe. She simply must break free!
I don’t know where it comes from! I am a rule follower! Tell me what to do, and I do it the way you told me. It’s what I do!
So although I try to follow a recipe as written when I make it for the first time,but usually I can’t leave well enough alone, and the free-spirit yearns bursts free. I get lucky a lot, and it all works out in the end. Eventually, I’ll come up with something worth repeating, and I’ll write it down, at which point I’ll follow that recipe almost to the letter from that day on.
Are you seeing the irony here? I am just about incapable of following a recipe, and yet after much experimentation, I write down a recipe to follow. I’m a complicated woman. Thank goodness my Hubby thinks that’s charming.
Other times it goes a little like this: I start making a new recipe. I promise myself that I’ll follow it. I get distracted. I decide to tweak it a bit.I get distracted. I end up tweaking too much. I get distracted. Bad things can happen.
THIS happens. A big ol’ cracked cheesecake.
And THIS happens. Sunken, flat, blah mini cheesecakes. Blech! Who wants to eat anything that looks like that?!
Huh. Not even close.
Everything that you will ever read in books or see on Food Network will tell you that baking is a precise art. You have to measure accurately. Better yet, weigh your ingredients. Follow instructions. Follow the recipe. I bake all the dang time. I know this. Do I heed the warnings? Evidently not.
I was attempting to make Tasty Retreat’s mini red velvet cheesecakes to take to a party. Chocolate cheesecake with an Oreo cookie crust. That is like everything I love in a dessert. Chocolate nestled in-hello!-Oreos! It didn’t hurt that the picture with the recipe was gorgeous.
Plus they were finger food-ish, so great for a party. The recipe made 12 mini cheesecakes. The problem? I didn’t have mini cheesecake pans. No biggie, I thought. I have a mini muffin pan. I figured that 12 mini cheesecakes should equal 24 mini muffins, right? Nope. I ended up with enough batter to fill the mini muffin pans, and with a TON leftover. Thankfully, I hadn’t (yet) eaten the rest of the package of Oreos, so I scrambled to make another batch of crust, which I put into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
As you saw above, the results were less than impressive. Totally my fault. Clearly the big sunken, cracked mess that I created wouldn’t be a great fit for the liquid-y cream cheese glaze that the recipe called for. Now what? I had a party to go to, so I had to get some perfume on this pig, and fast!
This type of thing tends to happen to me, so I have gotten adept at fixing my mistakes (read: disasters.) I impart that knowledge on you! Two key things that I keep in my freezer for just such occasions: leftover frosting, and whipped cream. They can fix many a baking blunder.
I pulled some cream cheese frosting out of the freezer. Once thawed, I stuffed it into a pastry bag. (By the way, I just got a pastry bag to play around with, but usually I just use a ziplock, and snip the corner off. I guess I thought you should know that.) I piped little swirlies of cream cheese frosting onto the mini cheesecakes, to fill in the concave depressions.
And because my boys insist that it’s not dessert with out sprinkles, I sprinkled some red sugar on the cream cheese swirlies. Much better. Party dessert: saved!
Sigh. On to the next mess.
I had a bit of cream cheese frosting left, so I got to piping! I started on the outside edges, and worked a spiral pattern inward. I covered about 2/3 of the top when I promptly ran out of frosting! Crap! I was really on a roll. So I get some whipped cream out of the freezer.
Yes, I keep whipped cream in the freezer. Whenever I use cream in a recipe, I whip up the rest and freeze it for later. It freezes beautifully! I love that!
I spread the thawed whipped cream over the gaping chasm in my cheesecake that wasn’t covered by the cream cheese frosting. And in keeping with the it-isn’t-dessert-without-sprinkles theme, I sprinkle red sugar over the whipped cream.
It wasn’t ideal, but it looked better. Seeing as my audience for this cheesecake was the elementary school set, they were thrilled.