Is it too early to find a life metaphor in a cheesecake?

Seriously, guys. That’s what was going through my mind as I was planning this blog entry today.

I made a Rocky Road cheesecake. And I was going to try to connect life to cheesecake and have this nice segue and stuff. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to make it happen. But more on that later. You want your cheesecake, right?

Most of you reading this are friends with me on Facebook, and so chances are you’ve already seen a picture of this baby, unless you’ve found my baking pictures too obnoxious and have finally blocked me from your news feed.

If so, I’m amazed that you’re even reading this.

This cheesecake, taken from the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cheesecake cookbook, starts by busting up some “chocolate wafer cookies” (Oreos. They mean Oreos. Or generic double-stuf cookies which are just as good as the name brand and on sale.) in a food processor, melting butter, letting it cool, and putting the two together until it binds up. Then press it into the bottom of a springform pan, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. That’s your crust.

Don’t have a food processor? No worries. Put those cheap cookies in a ziploc bag and bash them up with a rolling pin. Try to use a rolling pin. I’ve tried to bash up other ingredients with other tools (namely, a votive candle), and it’s not as effective. Don’t have a springform pan? Not sure what to tell you there. It’s pretty crucial for the formation of the cheesecake. Although maybe a pie pan would work, if you’re not picky about it being cheesecake-shaped. We can talk about food aesthetics another time.

Then you mix together your softened cream cheese, unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla…and I can’t remember what else. That might be it. Hint: when they say softened, they mean softened cream cheese. Leave it out for at least a couple of hours to make it soft enough to mix easily with an electric mixer. Another hint: don’t break your electric mixer. I did that with this recipe. I’d been using beaters that I don’t think were made for the mixer, and I shoved one in too hard, and I basically broke the spinny (that’s the technical term) mechanism. So when I tried mixing the very thick ingredients together, it started making these scary grinding, screaming noises, and plastic began to fall out of the mixer. Figuring it was a goner, I set it aside and tried creaming everything together with this spatula I have that looks like a shoehorn (that’s actually what I thought it was until I started baking). That didn’t work either since the cream cheese wasn’t that soft, and I was throwing cocoa powder all over the place.

So what was I left to do but mix it all together with my hands?

Literally mixing by hand. Look at those chocolatey cream cheese monster fingers!

Then you need to dissolve a packet of gelatin in a little water. This will take longer than you think, but that’s okay since you need to wait for the generic cookie crust to cool completely. Then you also need to let the gelatin cool, but that’s fine too since you have to whip up a cup of whipping cream to stiff peaks.

That’s when you realize that breaking your mixer was dumb. That’s also when your dear friend, for whom you will whip whipping cream with a whisk if need be for her gosh darn cheesecake, mentions that only one beater is broken. So we then proceeded to whip up the cream, quite effectively, with one whisk attachment. By the time you get through these new challenges, trust me, both the crust and the gelatin have cooled, and you slowly add the gelatin to the cream cheese mixture, stirring until combined, and then fold in the whipped cream. Keep folding and digging down to the bottom of the bowl- it will turn a nice even chocolate color again, and won’t be marbled like it looks like to start.

Then you fold in mini marshmallows and chopped nuts, if you actually want your road to be rocky. Pour (really, spread) the filling over the crust, and make sure your springform pan is locked.

Cheesecake sitting in the pan, waiting to go into the fridge. Look at the marshmallows hiding in there!

Get that filling into the pan before you realize how delicious it is on its own. Side note: I think that it would make a really delicious no-bake, cheesecake-esque dessert, like that addictive Oreo no-bake dessert we’ve all had at big family parties. If anyone finds anything or would like to experiment, let me know! Once you’ve stopped eating the filling, cover and refrigerate for a while until set. Go clean up the ridiculous mess you’ve made of your kitchen.

Ta-da!

La torta completa.

Yes indeed. Where are all the marshmallows, you ask?

Nom.

Oh, just well-incorporated throughout the cheesecake, below the surface. No big.

Things I would have done differently: let the cream cheese get even softer. Not break my electric mixer. Remember that whipping the whipping cream is important. Maybe use fewer marshmallows. Been more organized about the whole thing.

Oy. That was a lot for just one recipe, guys. I’m getting there, I promise.

Then I made a birthday cake! Just a simple yellow cake with “French silk” (aka glorified chocolate buttercream) frosting, straight out of the Betty Crocker cookbook. The cake came from a newer edition, the frosting from a seriously old-school publishing (you can tell by the appetizer recipes).

Cakes get more complicated when you have to mix them by hand. Because of course, my trip to Target post-mixer incident did not include buying a new mixer. So two days later, I found myself mixing cake batter with a whisk. For real. Realization: women before electric mixers must have had really strong forearms and wrists. Cake mixing is tiring for the uninitiated! But seriously, this cake was denser, richer, thicker, and more tender than the last cake I made with an electric mixer. I wonder if that had to do with it.

My cakes baked unevenly, as in, they were lopsided. But I evened that out since I turned the cakes out of their pans to cool a little too quickly, and they stuck to the plastic tray beneath them. Which resulted in this:

Lovely.

That was the bottom layer, though, so I simply filled it quite generously with frosting. The other layer had the same problem, but it was turned upside down on top of the filling anyways, so it didn’t matter.

Glorious chocolate-frosted goodness:

Best frosting job I’ve done yet. So you can imagine what the last one looked like…

And the inside shot:

Serving it up. Look inside. My oh my.

Yummy yummy yummy. Buttery, rich, dense cake. Sugary, chocolatey, satisfying frosting. Honestly, make your own frosting. Don’t buy the stuff in a can unless you have to. I’m no health freak (hence the cake…), but hydrogenated oils are fairly nasty. You won’t have them in frosting you make yourself! Is this healthy frosting? No, but at least feel better that you are eating sugar, butter, vanilla, and unsweetened chocolate. That’s it. Not partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and too much stuff you can’t pronounce or even identify.

Things I would do differently: let the cakes cool in their pans a little bit longer before turning out. Turn out onto a metal surface, not a plastic one. Probably have an electric mixer- although I did feel pretty awesome knowing I made all of that without electricity.

Now I return to that part where I actually almost suggested that a Rocky Road cheesecake was a metaphor for life. Eh, I’m not feeling that metaphor anymore. But here is what I do think: saying goodbye is hard. It’s…rocky.

I am so, so sorry.

I’m leaving to study abroad in just about 6 and a half weeks. A lot of my friends at school are studying abroad, too…during the opposite semester. So I’m not banking on seeing those folks until August of our senior year. Let the words “senior year” hit you. LIFE ALERT. (As in life coming at you really really fast, not like the necklace alarm things for the elderly they advertise on daytime television.) I won’t even see the people who will be back for the spring semester with me until January. The new year. When study abroad will be over. That’s a long ways away. Even most of my home friends are gone for the summer to do research or study abroad. I’ll be fairly settled in Chile by the time most of them return. That means no seeing them until at least December.

As you can imagine, this is an emotional time for me. Those of you know me (let’s be real. That’s all of you.) understand that this means crying. Lots and lots of blubbery tears. You thought it was bad saying goodbye to all of you? Wait until I say goodbye to the fam for six months. I’ve always been bad at goodbyes, too. Always. When I was little, but old enough to be beyond tantrums, I would bawl at the end of big extended family vacations, knowing that I wouldn’t see all of them for a while. Not much has changed. It’s less traumatizing, but still difficult.

So what is it? Some people seem to say goodbye to their friends and family so easily, accepting that six months abroad will fly by, and that the powers of technology let us stay as close as we want to our loved ones, and that the exciting adventures awaiting us will quickly dull the pain of homesickness. I know all of this. I’m not wholly irrational. What I also know, though, is that I am insecure, and insecure enough to be fearful of change. I don’t like that it will be different when I return, in the sense that my usual group of friends will be pretty well split up. I know I’ll have new friends, but that doesn’t make the absence of old ones any better.

I also don’t like that people themselves might change after we’ve all been gone for a long time. This too is an irrational fear, since people will most certainly change after having been abroad and done research and entered their twenties and been around new people. A lot of this change could be for good! But that insecure part of me worries that the change will really separate us, and that I’ll have to find a niche all over again.

This is just part of growing up, isn’t it? Man. So this is what being twenty is like, huh? 18 year olds get to relish in the thrill of being adults. 19 year olds are usually college freshmen. 21 year olds can legally party. 20 year olds? We’re stuck. We get to be sophomores. We get to think about how quickly we’ll get to the next birthday that ends in 0, and all the things we wish would happen in between.

Or is that just me?

Yeah, I thought so.

So here’s what’s coming up next: Cookies. Study abroad preparations. A lot of reading (currently: The Hunger Games, The Fountainhead, and Half the Sky). And more of this blogging business.

Please comment or contact me with feedback! I know this post was long, so I appreciate your sticking with it as I work this writing process out.

With love,

Gaby

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1 Comment

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One response to “Is it too early to find a life metaphor in a cheesecake?

  1. Ali Nunez

    Yes Gaby, I do remember your tearful goodbyes….we all cried too 🙂

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