When I step into the kitchen, things don’t always go as planned. I’m sure you can relate. Even the most celebrated chefs aren’t immune.
In one of my favorite interviews, Julia Child spoke about keeping an open mind in the kitchen: “Cooking is one failure after another, and that’s how you finally learn. You’ve got to have what the French call ‘je m’en foutisme‘, or ‘I don’t care what happens’.”
She admitted to fretting and fussing over her food, but knew that enjoying the process is more essential than a paralyzing fear of failure. “A soufflé can fall, omelets can go all over the stove, but I shall learn. I shall overcome.”
Her philosophy of trying new things, sometimes making mistakes, learning, improvising, fun, steadily improving, and being true to herself is one I will do well to remember. Let’s just say my inability to laugh off mistakes has led to unpleasant situations, and of late, a strained relationship with the kitchen.
And so what better, I thought, than turn to a dessert that can suffer from cracks, lumps, sticking and a crumbling crust. A dessert I’ve baked only once before. Cheesecake — a new recipe using crystallized ginger, egg whites, cream cheese and sour cream.
This cheesecake is a light take on a usually rich dessert. The graham cracker and pecan crust was a bit crumbly, and the top cracked (it’s just hidden under the sweetened sour cream and crystallized ginger topping), but in the end it was gorgeous. The texture so creamy and the flavors so fresh and complex. We both found it to be quite different than traditional cheesecake — in a most delicious way.
I enjoyed making it, and despite the minuscule imperfections I was even more happy to serve it. Small headway in the footsteps of Julia, but I’m on the right track. I shall overcome.
Creamy Cheesecake with Crystallized Ginger [serves 8]
For the Crust:
1 c finely crushed graham crackers (from about 8 full grahams)
1/3 c finely crushed pecans
3 T unsalted butter, melted
+ + +
For the Filling:
2 – 8oz packages low-fat or fat free cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 c plus 1 T sugar, divided
1 t pure vanilla extract
A pinch salt
6 egg whites — for a richer texture use 1 whole egg plus 4 egg whites
1 pint (2 c) low-fat or fat free sour cream, divided
1/2 c plus 2 t finely chopped candied ginger, divided
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350° F. Wrap the outside edges and bottom of a 9″ springform pan with foil.
In a medium bowl, stir together the crushed graham-pecan mixture and melted butter. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 325° F.
Meanwhile, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, 1/2 c sugar, vanilla and salt at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Gradually mix in the egg whites, then scrape the bowl again. Add 1 c sour cream and mix until just blended. Using a spatula, fold in 1/2 c of the crystallized ginger. Avoid over-beating the batter — this incorporates additional air and is what causes cracking.
Pour the batter on top of the crust. Place the wrapped pan in a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with warm water to a depth of 1″. Bake until the cheesecake is just set, quivering only slightly in the center when tapped, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer the cheesecake to a rack, remove the foil, run a sharp knife around the edges to prevent cracking as the cake shrinks, and then let cool completely.
Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 4 hours or overnight.
When ready to eat, combine the remaining 1 T sugar and 1 c sour cream in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Carefully remove the sides of the springform pan (you may need to run a knife around the edges again), and spread the sweetened sour cream on top. Sprinkle over the remaining 2 t crystallized ginger. Serve cold. Great with fresh strawberries.
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray