I make ugly cheesecakes.
It has been something of a life-long problem. Every cheesecake I have ever made is tinged yellow, has cracks down the middle that would rival the Grand Canyon and a bumpy, uneven graham cracker crust.
I have tried many different methods to get my cheesecakes to look better; water baths, changing the fat content, different temperatures, different ingredients, crying—I’ve tried them all. And none of them have worked.
But that is not to say that they aren’t delicious, because they are.
Nothing made almost entirely out of dairy and other animal products could possibly be anything but at least passably edible, if not amazing.
Cheesecake, while seemingly simple, has a huge variety of variations available to discerning cooks. Apparently I’m not a discerning cook, though—I’m boring about what I want in my cheesecakes. I just want heaps of Neufchâtel cheese, some eggs, some sugar and a graham cracker crust that is mostly butter.
Basically, I want heinous amounts of fat, hoping that the artery-clogging powers of my confections will make up for how hideously unattractive they are.
The cheesecake I most recently made is no exception to being a fatty and delicious, but also dense and ultimately grotesque future heart attack. At first we were a little concerned, because the cake was frighteningly heavy and had cracked in the shape of an almost-pentagram. Other than its potential possession by otherworldly spirits, however, the cake itself turned out surprisingly well, considering the various oddities that contributed to the ultimate finished product.
I should have realized right off the bat that this was going to be yet another ugly cheesecake. First, we got off to a violent start by punching stacks of graham crackers in their packaging, rather than going through the more normal steps of mashing them with a meat grinder or a rolling pin. Because we used fists instead of proper graham cracker destroying implements, we ended up with plenty of large chunks of graham crackers in the crumb mixture. I did my best at squishing the chunks with my fingers while I was mixing the crumbs with melted butter.
So, our crust was not exactly perfect—whatever. It’s hardly out of the ordinary for my typically hideous cheesecakes. Besides, the liberal application of cinnamon and vanilla extract—something the author rather absurdly chose to omit from the recipe proper—more than made up for any problems associated with gigantic chunks of graham cracker in the crust. Probably.
Making the filling, however, followed a much more standard procedure. Other than one egg that put up a valiant fight against the mixer, everything went almost too smoothly. This is always the part that gets my hopes up that the cake will be just as creamy and beautiful as the batter, but it never is.
And, since I am perpetually optimistic about how my cheesecakes will turn out, I was just as hopefully watching this particular iteration of cheesecake come into being.
And, as usual, my hopes were cruelly dashed by a fatal combination of the Jewett oven, my own bad luck and the aforementioned possible possession by otherworldly beings.
But, despite what I may think, looks are not the most important part of a cheesecake, or any other confection.
Taste is, and this is, at least taste-wise, the best cheesecake I have ever had any part in creating. I judge a cheesecake on its ability to stand alone, plain, unadorned by fruit or curls of chocolate, and this one lets its cheesy flavor stand alone perfectly. Dense, moist, and with a well-seasoned and well crisped crust, I am so incredibly proud of this ugly little cheesecake, that it almost makes up for being cracked and horrifying.
But only almost.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup (5 2/3 tablespoons) melted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (2 large packages) cream cheese
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2) Make the crust by mixing together all of the crust ingredients until combined.
3) Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan.
4) Separately, mix filling ingredients until smooth. Then pour into crust.
5) Bake for 20 minutes, then add a crust shield; or shield the crust with strips of aluminum foil. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.
7) Remove the cheesecake from the oven, and set it on a rack to cool while you make the topping. Once the cake is cool, cover and refridgerate until read to serve to guests.