There are some things that we are simply afraid of. Some fear flying, others spiders and snakes, the dark or heights. Many of us consume hours thinking about our fears, why they exist, where they came from, how we might go about overcoming them and the freedom we would experience after and if ever we were able to embark upon this endeavor. Fears also exist in the kitchen. We fear what we do not know, or have never attempted to bake. Living in a Latin culture I now find myself surrounded by tres leches and flan; two desserts that are scrumptious and made with expertise here in Nicaragua - did I mention that I am fearful of making both?
However, we often desire that which is seen as being a delicacy, something foreign within our cultural framework of desserts. For a Nicaraguan flan and tres leches is common place - with cookies, tarts, anything made with chocolate and cheesecake being feared and regarded as the impossible baked good.
Thus, on the day in which mothers are celebrated here in Nicaragua (no it is not the second Sunday in May) coworkers of Cassie came over to learn the art of the cheesecake. Dina and Manuel are completely obsessed with cheesecake. Dina was quick to rattle off the various cafes were cheesecake is sold and how much each cafe charges for a slice of baked decadent cheese, down to the very cent after tax and tip is included in the price.
We baked four cheesecakes that day. I made the first with Dina and Manuel taking notes and observing the process. They then both took a turn at baking their own first cakes with the excitement of being able to now make their own cheesecake at home.
That day I shared the following recipe with Dina and Manuel. I have used this recipe for years (including 40 cakes for Cassie and I’s wedding) and have found it to be quite simple and fail proof.
A Tried and Found True Cheesecake Recipe
20--26 cream filled cookies crushed (or whatever it is that you would like to make a crust with)--depends on how much you like crust!
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted--a little more if you added more cookies
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 T. vanilla
1. Take your cream cheese and eggs out of the fridge. Both need to be at room temperature--it is important that they both be at the same temperature.
2. Heat oven to 300 degrees if using a "dark" non-stick pan. If it is "silver" bake at 325.
3. Mix the cookie crumbs and butter, press onto bottom of 9 inch spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.
4. Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with a mixer until everything is mixed really well...you really need to mix it—feel free to use a hand mixer or stand mixer for this process.
5. After you have this mixed put your mixing machine away. It is now time to add the eggs. Do so one at a time and use your arm and a wooden spoon or your favorite spatula...the key is to mix only as much as you need to incorporate the egg--you do not want any unwanted "air" to get into the batter.
6. Bake the cake 80-90 minutes. When the cake is done it should be set in the middle (stick your hand in the oven and give the pan a gentle shake and see how much the middle of the cake is moving—if it is just shaking a little bit it is time to take it out. At this point remove the cake and take the slenderest knife you have and gently loosen the cake from the side of the pan by running the knife around--do this as quickly as you dare.
7. Let cool on counter for a couple of hours.
8. Move to refrigerator, but do not cover until all the “heat” has escaped from the cake.
9. Let stand at least overnight.
10. You can choose to top your cheesecake with whatever you like (chocolate, strawberries, rhubarb—feel free to think outside of the box and do what you enjoy).