Thursday, March 18, 2010

Creating a Gluten Free Cheesecake

Last Sturday started off slow for me (always good thing since I am more of a night owl than an early bird). We had 5 guests coming for dinner that evening – it was one of our UU silent auction dinners (a fund raiser for the church) so I had a really good menu planned. I actually started cooking on Friday and was feeling very calm about what lay ahead.

I finished the grocery shopping and was back in the kitchen by noon on Sat. when I realized that the cheesecake recipe said that the cheesecake needed to cool at least 8 hours before serving. I was cutting it close but started to hustle. On my shopping expidition I couldn’t find wheat-free vanilla wafers for the crust so I substituted gluten-free lemon shortbread cookies which came in 7.25 ounce packages. The recipe called for 8.5 ounces of vanilla cookies so I bought 2 packages of the shortbread. I did the math (roughly) and ground up the required ounces of cookies. Then I blindly added the ½ cup of melted butter that the recipe called for. I opened up the food processor to find what looked like cake batter. No way could I pat that liquid mess up the sides of a 10” spring-form pan. I roughly crumbled the rest of the shortbread into the mess, popped the lid on the processor and turned that baby on. The result was thicker but still very soft.

I was able to spread it in the spring-form pan and up the sides. Brilliantly I decided to put the pan into a bigger pan since my spring-form pan is probably as old as our 28-year-old and doesn’t fit as tight as it once did. Good thing I did this because a bunch of butter leaked out. The recipe said to bake the crust until it was golden – about 10 minutes. 20 minutes later the damn thing wasn't close to golden and there is a slick pool of butter on the supposed crust. Desperate because the clock is ticking, I pulled it out of the oven and started patting the crust with a double layer of paper towels. About a dozen towels later the crust was looking pretty good but just in case I decided to pop it into the freezer before pouring in the cheese mixture. This took another valuable 10 minutes.

I poured in the cheese mixture and took time to lick the bowl – yum. The recipe said to bake it for 25 to 30 minutes until the edges were firm and golden but the center still shook slightly. 45 minutes later I decided that the thing was not going to turn golden within my lifetime and the center jiggled more than my belly. So I took it out and allowed it to rest the required 20 minutes (no extra time for resting) I then poured on the topping – sour cream and sugar. It was supposed to firm up in 10 minutes. Ha! 20 minutes later I took it out and let it start to cool down. If I let this thing chill for the required 8 hours we would be cutting into it a midnight. And the way this recipe was working, 4 AM might be too soon!

After I finally got the cheesecake in the refrigerator I turned to fixing sweet potato spears with bacon, green beans with parmesan cheese dressing and jumbo shrimp that Rafael grilled shell on.  Fortunately these dishes were very cooperative.

Our guests arrived right on time at 6 PM. I reviewed the menu and apologized that the dessert might not work out. And then we began the feast. Everything tasted really good and there was lots of great conversation and lots of laughter.

It was finally time for dessert. I was very anxious.  I knew that it would taste good but looks are also important.  The crust looked perfect when I removed the springform-side.  I crossed my fingers as I poised the knife for the first cut.  The first piece, often tricky, came out beautifully.  It held its shape, no goop to be seen. The cheesecake was perfect. It didn’t even crack in the center. The crust was flavorful and crisp. The filling was firm but not over-baked. And it was chilled through.  I was amazed. 

I think it might be time to invest in a wheat-free cookbook.  I don't think I can take this type of stress again.

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