Monday, May 2, 2011

A 50/50 Weekend

As I mentioned in my last post my family came to visit and I decided to make some of their favorites. For Daddy, Pineapple Upside Down Cake and for Mummy and my brother, Mini Black-Bottom Cheesecakes. If I haven't already mentioned it, cheesecake is my absolute favorite dessert so I guess I made it for myself as well. I wanted to show my family what they had been missing when they were abroad, reading about my baking from afar. I wanted them to eat my desserts and swoon, and ooze with pride. I'm not sure it turned out that way. This was not one of my better weeks. I had wanted it to be perfect and although not a complete disaster, it was far from a home run.

I'll start from the least successful of the two, the Mini Black-Bottom Cheesecakes. I chose these because I was having a very hectic weekend and they were less time consuming than a whole cheesecake. Perhaps its not fair for me to criticize the recipe since I didn't follow it to the letter. I made two substitutions. I used sour cream instead of fromage blanc because I couldn't find it in the grocery stores. I substituted guava jelly for raspberry preserves because I already have a jar of it at home in my fridge. I used oreo cookies for the crust, pulsed them in my mini chopper, combined them with butter and pressed them into the cupcake liners sprayed with oil. Then I baked the crust.

This week I discovered the important difference between PAM and Crisco spray oil. When I went to buy it, the PAM was quite a bit more expensive than the Crisco and I didn't see much of a difference, they were both made of canola oil. But after using them both I have now noticed the profound difference between the two. The first difference is that PAM prays a lighter mist, wider mist of smaller droplets than the Crisco spray. The second is that PAM can spray upside down, which comes in handy when you're spraying the inside of a tin. So now that I know the difference, I think I'll be getting PAM next time.

I blended the cream cheese and other ingredients together, filled the cupcake liners and baked them. During baking they seemed to puff up way more than I had expected and cracked at the top, but it was when I removed them and put them in the freezer that I began to realize this was not going to be a success. They all had a dramatic sink in the middle. After being removed from the paper liners the shape was not nearly as neat and presentable as it should've been and neither was the preserves on top. But I still had hopes that even though they weren't the prettiest mini cheesecakes, they'd be tasty. Well, they weren't. They weren't sweet enough and the black bottom crust over powered the rest of the cheesecake. It was far from good cheesecake and trust me, I KNOW my cheesecake. So I was really disappointed with that. But I WILL redeem myself. Cheesecake is one thing I am determined to perfect.

Now for the better of the two, the Pineapple Upside Down Cake. My father only likes 3 desserts: Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Rum & Raisin Ice Cream and what is known in Jamaica as Icebox Cake. I introduce the icebox cake that way because it seems that what the rest of the world calls icebox cake is a totally different thing, making it extremely difficult to find a proper recipe for it and since I don't have an ice cream machine, yet, I was left with Pineapple Upside Down Cake. This is not the first time I've made this dessert, once I made it for Father's Day with a box mix and canned pineapple but this time it was from scratch with fresh pineapple and I hoped it would beat it.

I don't have a 10" cast iron pan so I made the topping by simmering butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan for 4 minutes then poured it in a 9" cake pan and layered the fresh pineapple on top. I had some friends staying over this weekend and one of them was kind enough to peel and slice the pineapple for me, which, I'm sorry to say, I've never done before. 

I sifted the dry ingredients together, mixed the wet ingredients together and gradually mixed the dry mixture into the wet mixture. The batter tasted and smelled amazing. Especially with the addition of the rum. I poured the batter into the cake pan and baked for 45 minutes, then I removed it from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before turning it over unto a plate and sprinkling it with a little more rum.

I finished baking this cake pretty late and I had a party to get to so I didn't taste it right away. Because of concerns about ants, I stuck it in the fridge, where I knew they couldn't get it. Now, the fridge is not the friend of cakes. It modifies their texture so you don't get that moist fluffy feel anymore. The next day though we removed it from the fridge and rested it on the stove, another place that the ants don't seem to be able to get to. After the cake warmed up, the texture redeemed itself and the cake was quite good. 

So this week was a half and half week. One good, one not so good. Not sure if I made the stellar impression I'd wanted to, but perhaps I was expecting too much. Besides, they'll be back at Christmas so I'll have another opportunity to wow them. 

Mom and Dad also brought me some baking books which were on my wishlist, Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook and Bake!: Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking which I was ecstatic to receive. I can't wait to put them into good use in the coming weeks. 

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