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Sunday, June 10, 2012

mosaic cheesecake.

Usually, me + cheesecake = bleh.

In fact, I just don't like cheese in general. Please don't hate me.

So naturally, I don't bake cheesecake. However, this time is an exception because it is a pistachio cheesecake, studded with tart raspberries and dark cherries in stead of the tart cherries originally called for in the recipe. (The only other time, I think, I baked a cheesecake was the neapolitan cheesecake because it sounded intriguing.) In short, as long as it's not pure cheesecake and also comes in a flavour that I'm partial to, I'm willing to give it a try. And besides, the Pierre Herme Pastries book didn't come cheap so I want to try as many recipes as possible.

Lacking experience in baking cheesecakes, this one was a bit of a flop. The book said to bake the cheesecake batter at a low temperature of 194F for an hour, which, I find completely ridiculous. I mean, sure, low and slow will most likely guarantee you smooth and creamy results but it is so time consuming! And the cheesecake layer was less than an inch high. So instead, I baked it in a water bath at 150C or 300F for about 30 minutes.

Firstly, I didn't extend the outer covering of aluminum foil way above the water and some managed to seep in, resulting in a very wet crust. Secondly, I underbaked it. Drastically. I took the cheesecake out while the center was still slightly jiggly but I didn't let it cool in the water bath, which would have continued baking the cheesecake until the perfect amount of firmness. I knew I should have let it be but it was nearing midnight and I had to ensure that the cheesecake was safely stored in the fridge before I slept. Letting the cheesecake cool outside the water bath would be much faster, I reasoned, and the internal heat would continue baking it anyway without the water bath.

As a result, only the outer inch or so of the cheesecake was perfectly baked and set while the center portion was mousse-y. This made clean slicing very difficult and also made the cheesecake look sloppy. Me being aesthetically anal, this was a very big deal. But the bigger grouse would be that the sludgy texture made the cheesecake seem heavy and rich.

Luckily, I didn't have much problem with the top layer, which is a light pistachio mousse. I added a bit of almond extract which ended up overpowering the pistachio flavour but I have no regrets. The measly amount of pistachio paste called for couldn't provide much flavour anyway. And together with the definitely more pistachio-tasting layer below, the combination was delish!

If you've seen this recipe in Pierre Herme's book, you might have noticed that there are some differences between mine and the real version. I replaced the shortbread base with a graham cracker crust and omitted the white chocolate decor and powdered pistachio topping. What can I say? I'm lazy like that.

P.S. I'm experimenting eating the cheesecake straight from the freezer to combat the soft, mousse-y, messy problem. And I just might try sandwiching a thin slice of cheesecake with some chocolate spread between (white, of course) bread. Talk about decadence!

*Update: A fellow blogger has posted the recipe complete with proper images of how the cheesecake is supposed to look like. Check it out if you're interested!

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