Like this amazing meal and all that went into it this series is finally coming to an end. Although every bite has been delicious and interesting not to mention one to be thankful for, knowing how to end a meal can be overwhelming. When you look into the world of desserts it’s immense and delicious. You have heard the phrase, “save room for dessert” but if you did that with all that is out there you may not eat anything other than dessert. When it comes to Thanksgiving, pie seems to reign supreme but I have to be honest. Pie has never done it for me. It probably goes back to a texture thing for me but all in all I just don’t get excited for pie like I do just about everything else in the dessert category. Then the question remains what do you do instead?
I do cake all year long. Don’t get me wrong I love a good cake but for Thanksgiving I wanted to do something different. I wish I could remember how the idea came to me but like with most great ideas they just happen and you don’t think about what lead you to that thought. For me the answer came clearly. Cheesecake.
I love a good cheesecake. I didn’t say I love cheesecake. I said I love a good cheesecake. Now baking one yourself can be full of problems. So much so that they scare off most people but being that I am always on the look out for a new recipe, technique, or ideas from respected bloggers, columnists, and chefs alike, I have found a few over the years that have been winners… or at least I thought so until this year. This years cheesecake made all the others feel lacking. This one nailed flavor and texture like none before it.
Now, I didn’t go for some pretty show piece. I wanted one that would be easy to portion and with it just being my husband and I I wasn’t worried about the cracks in the top or not getting the perfectly flat bake. All I cared about was the taste and boy were we in for a treat. I should also say that my husband isn’t the biggest cheesecake lover but with this one I could see him growing increasingly concerned, night after night, as we worked through it and it was beginning to run out.
Of course I’ll type up the recipe for the Pumpkin Cheesecake and what I did however I need to tell you right now, if you have ever tried baking various classic American desserts, without much luck, then you need to get yourself a copy of Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks. It is worth it and then some.
I have been cooking and baking for decades. Wow, I feel old saying that but I baked and decorated my first cake 27 years ago. I have dabbled in just about everything I could and over the years somethings were more successful than others. Two things that have been the bane to my baking existence have been peanut butter cookies and cinnamon rolls. Oh, I have tried many recipes. So with a bit more luck than others but nothing that worked for what I wanted and expected and I have to tell you Stella Parks knocks both of these out of the park. That’s actually my test of a good cookbook. If there’s a recipe for something I have struggled with for years I make that first and then I judge the whole cookbook on that one experience. Harsh, I know, but it gives me a sense of how I will fare with the book.
(This was the cake I made for my Bar Mitzvah. Not the first cake I decorated but one of the very early ones.)
Once I have a good sense of a cookbook I then dig deeper. I look to see if they have recipes that might be better, more interesting, or offer new techniques and give those a go. This cheesecake was one such recipe. I had a recipe for a Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust that I had made the last two years but I was curious as to what I may not have thought about when it comes to cheesecake. Enter, Stella Parks. If you haven’t yet seen her book, one thing you’ll find is a history and explanation as to how and why something is a Iconic American Dessert. Then she will even give you insight as to why she came up with her take on the dessert. It was in the intro to her cheesecake that she sold me. “The combination of cream cheese and goat cheese mimics the texture of old-fashioned cream cheese – tangy, fresh, and a little crumbly.” I couldn’t wait to see how this would change and/or improve the cheesecake experience. Wow, what an improvement!
The other aspect of her recipe that had me sold is that at the very beginning of the recipe she tells you what to do if you are using a springform pan, a removable bottom pan, or a traditional cake pan! I love this! Since I have had springform pans break at very inopportune times knowing you can do this in other pans is fantastic! Now, until this year I had always baked my cheesecakes in round springform pans but I find them difficult to portion. I have changed all my cakes to square pans and I was curious if you could do square or rectangular cheesecakes. It took a little looking online but it seemed like the answer was a removable bottom pan would be best. I ended up having to order mine online. I was a little saddened that the corners were rounded but I still went ahead and used it.
Not only did this cheesecake turn out great but the flavor and texture of this cake were truly a revelation. This was not a heavy, dense, or cloyingly sweet cheesecake. This was light, interesting, and we couldn’t get enough of it. Honestly, it’s the first time that I didn’t care if it was pretty because it tasted THAT good!
So this Thanksgiving in all that I am grateful for and there is much to be grateful for finding Stella Parks cookbook Bravetart and discovering a whole new way to delicious baked goods is mighty high on that list because life is just a little sweeter when you have a tasty baked treat to accompany all that life has given you.