Friday, December 11, 2009

Eggnog Cheesecake Bars

I feel like I'm going to be using the "disasters" tag a lot more lately.

I have a long list of baking projects I wanted to tackle this holiday and at the top were Eggnog Cheesecake Bars, found in this month's Martha Stewart Living (recipe here). The past has proven I'm pretty good with cheesecake, so I wasn't too nervous about this and as such, skimmed the ingredient list and went for it.

Right off the bat, I knew I wanted to use cinnamon Teddy Grahams to make the crust. Teddy Grahams have never failed me before, so why mess with something if it's broken? I crushed the grahams and looked at the directions and realized the first potential disaster: I didn't have a 9 inch pan. I only had a 13 by 9, so I thought, "Okay, no big, I'll just make more crust."

I don't know if that worked out very well, but I melted butter, mixed butter and sugar with the crumbs and poured the crust into the Pam-sprayed pan.

The recipe called for an egg yolk, which demanded I use a skill I haven't needed yet: separating the whites from the yolk. I had no idea how to do this (seriously!), so I cracked an egg over a bowl, tossed the yolk back and forth while pouring the white down and then reserved the yolk:

P.S. Yolk is gross.

I beat cream cheese until it was fluffy. This is where I tell you I don't think that went very well. I don't think it got quite "fluffy" and I also don't think I used enough cream cheese.

Then I added the other ingredients: 2 eggs, 1 egg yolk, sugar, flour, brandy, eggnog, salt and nutmeg.

It came out...drippy...and clumpy...and scary.

THIS IS WHERE THE HORROR BEGINS. I go back to the directions and see, to my terror, that I'm supposed to cook the cheesecake in a water bath by filling a roast pan with hot water. I DON'T HAVE A ROAST PAN. WHAT AM I TO DOOOOOO?

It might be relevant to mention it was after midnight at this point, leaving me whining, feeling helpless and general pouting to the extreme. Sean suggested I just stop what I was doing, put the batter in the fridge and tackle the problem the next day.

So on the next day, I went to the Teeter and purchased one of those $2 aluminum roast pans and filled with hot water. Of course, I missed, and got some water in the batter, which had spread incredibly thinly over the crust.

As I watched, the crust absorbed a lot of the batter. NOT GOOD.

I baked the cheesecake mess (look at the crust peeking through! LOOK AT IT!) for 45 minutes and pulled it out. It looked scary, I won't lie. But I trudged forward, like a foolish general.

I put the cheesecake in the fridge for almost three hours (should have been longer) and when I couldn't wait any longer because my guests were going to arrive any minute, I sprinkled some nutmeg on top and cut the cake into bars.

The final result. What do I think? Well:
  1. My crust was mushy beyond belief. I figure either a) I did a bad job baking it, crushing it, etc. or b) It absorbed too much of the batter.
  2. The eggnog taste is really good. The consistency wasn't too bad either.
Anyone have any suggestions about how I could have avoided the mushy mess? Also, do we want to take bets over whether I'll ever learn to read the instructions in advance?


Elizardbeth said...

I would have gotten the cream cheese soft and beaten before adding it to the other ingredients. But I think the real problem was putting it in the fridge overnight. That bath was there to keep your crust from getting too crunchy. Probably optional ...
Amber, there's a chemistry to baking and it's something you learn by feel, sight and smell. You may want to try getting really good at, say, chocolate chip cookies? Keep making successful cheesecake? Just until you feel more confident? That and bread -- that's how I learned to bake, and how I taught my daughter.
Ugh. Now I'm being pedantic.
Looks like a win, not a fail, anyhow! YUM.

Amber said...

oh yeah, i've gradually realized it's chemistry. I find it interesting how my personality drips into my cooking style, i.e. I hate to ask for help and I hate to read instructions. I'd rather just do it and see what happens. That's something I have to get over.

I should note, however, I did not refrigerate the crust. Just the batter.