You might remember my cheesecake disaster from last week: the rubbery, salty garbage-tasting lump with flesh coloured gelatinous globules in it that actually made me dry-retch when I tasted it.
The big pictures and step-by-step instructions in a children’s cookbook borrowed from the library made it look so easy. But my cheesecake didn’t look like the pictures. And I didn’t look happy like the child in the step-by-step instructions. Oh how she mocked me, with her Cath Kidston-style apron and neat blonde plaits, holding her little tray of perfect, heart-shaped cheesecakes.
I tried but spectacularly failed my self-imposed “Cheesecake Challenge” last week. But this week, I’ve done it. I spent more money on ingredients and dedicated Saturday morning to it. After last week’s disaster, I couldn’t blame Spider Boy for showing no interest in helping me with this week’s attempt. Although he did deign to give the cream a bit of a whip with our 1970s egg beater later in the proceedings.
I bashed biscuits, melted butter, and simmered strawberries. And then it was time to face my nemesis: gelatin or gelatine or whatever it calls itself. This time, I decided to work with jelly crystals. Little diamonds of potential gelatinous glop. Since the recipe called for “strawberry gelatin”, I had looked for strawberry jelly crystals, but IGA only had “Strawberry Sundae” flavour.
The recipe hadn’t made it clear whether to dissolve the gelatin in water first, or to just put it straight into the strawberries. So I took a stab in the dark and dissolved the crystals in just over half the amount of water you would normally use to make 500g of jelly. The recipe said simply, 85g gelatin, and later, “add the gelatin” – see, nothing about dissolving it first, or “make up the jelly according to instructions on packet”. Anyway, it worked. Lots more stirring and whisking, and setting in the fridge for hours, but it worked!
I took two little cheesecakes over to Senorita Margarita’s house. “They taste good, but they’re a bit soft.” They’d only set for two hours, and unfortunately were in the car for nearly an hour of driving around before I got them to her.
The next day, after the remaining pink cheesecake hearts had been in the fridge overnight, I told Spider Boy to check them out. When he saw the cakes were perfectly pink and heart-shaped, he asked if he could put the strawberries on top. Later, when he tried some, he said, “Mmm… delicious… it’s really nice.” But a short time later, he admitted, “Mum… it doesn’t actually taste very good… it tastes a bit sweet… and not very nice.”
Yes, the cheesecake was perfectly pink and heart-shaped. But the problem was, it tasted more like “pink” cheesecake than “strawberry” cheesecake. It tasted pinker than strawberry, pinker than pink. it was musk stick, creaming soda pink. The pink of fairy floss, ballerina tu-tus and sticky pink lip gloss. It was Barbie’s dream kitchen on steroids.
I asked Mum if she wanted to try some. “No thanks. I don’t really like pink food.”
I rang Senorita Margarita. Do you want anymore cheesecakes? “No!” she implored. “I’ve polished off the two you brought over already!” she said, muttering something else related to trying to lose weight, and eating too much, blah blah blah.
The cheesecake failure was probably due to me actually trying to follow the recipe, rather than feeling my way. Maybe it’s better to just know a recipe by heart, knowing by intuition developed from years of just doing it, or watching a loved one making a particular dish. Anything I make that is more complicated than boiling something in water, is the result of my studying a written recipe and dealing with each step as I go, a rather staccato way of cooking, there is no flow. I don’t “feel” my recipes, I think them. and sometimes the way the recipe writer is thinking, and my thinking, is not on the same page, literally. The only reason I persevere with baking (as opposed to just boiling things in water), is because I like to eat baked goods, ok? (or no-bake goods, like cheesecake, as the case may be) Yes, I could just go to a bakery, but I like to work for my treats. (Maybe I should just work for my treats in a gym? You know, actually burn some calories before consuming any more?)
But still, I feel I’ve succeeded in my Cheesecake Challenge. The flavour may have been over-pink, but the texture was good. This recipe worked, with me NOT following the recipe step-by-step. So maybe I do have some cooking intuition after all.
Thank goodness I can now return that book to the library! And I’m never borrowing it again.
Have you had any memorable cooking disasters?