I am back! I really did not expect to delay my next post for so long, but I did not have the energy to write while I was preparing for my candidacy exam. It was even hard to make time for cooking proper meals. Now that I have put that phase behind me, I am happy to announce that 1) I passed my candidacy exam and 2) I moved to a small house! This means: goodbye tiny kitchen, hello counter space and normal-sized oven. Upgrading to this new kitchen has been pretty life-changing and so much more conducive to cooking!
Last week, I baked a peach cheesecake to celebrate the September birthdays in the lab. Why cheesecake instead of birthday cake? Well, you can always count on cheesecake to put a smile on someone’s face. Plus, I had been day dreaming about peach cheesecake throughout the entire summer because Texas peaches are the best. It was the perfect opportunity to put the last delicious peaches of the season to a good use.
My cheesecake recipe is very simple, versatile, and absolutely delicious (it never fails me!). To be honest, I found the recipe for the cheesecake filling in a magazine approximately 10 years ago. I copied it from the magazine by hand and I have treasured it ever since. I don’t think I will ever get bored of this recipe because I can always add different fruits to the filling or change the compote that covers the cheesecake. Picture this: endless cheesecake possibilities.
Over the years, I have made slight modifications to the recipe such as optimizing the butter-to-cookie ratio for the crust and the yogurt content. First, let’s discuss the crust. Mixing too much butter with the cookies results in a greasy and chewy crust. I personally like a crunchier crust at the bottom, yet moist at the cheesecake interface, allowing it to easily melt in your mouth. This can only be achieved using a specific amount of butter. However, if the butter content is too low, the cheesecake will be supported by a sad mess of cookie crumbles. The secret number I have come up with: 2 packs of Goya’s Maria Cookies + 1.5 sticks (12 tablespoons) of melted butter. One last tip to make the cookie crumbles: just put the cookies in the food processor and pulse away! Once the cookie “dust” has been mixed with the melted butter, the mixture can be spread on the pan and stored in the freezer while the filling is prepared.
Now, let’s get serious. I am convinced that the secret to this filling (aside from the philadelphia cheese) is the yogurt. When I originally found this recipe, it called for “an individual plain yogurt from Nestlé.” While living in Chile, using this kind of metric for the filling was perfectly fine. Then I moved to the U.S. and surprise, surprise the individual yogurt portions were bigger! After a bit of trial an error, I decided to go with 1 cup of yogurt (measured in a liquid measuring cup). Do you want to know my game-changing secret for this filling? Plain greek yogurt. Forget regular plain yogurt and forget the cheesecake recipes that use sour cream. Greek yogurt is the way to go and it’s mind blowingly delicious.
The following steps are pretty straightforward. All the diary ingredients go into the blender. I guess I should also note that I wanted to make this cheesecake extra tall because we were celebrating two birthdays, so I doubled the filling recipe. I usually just mix one package of philadelphia cream cheese, 3 eggs, 1 cup of yogurt, and 1 can of condensed milk.
Finally, let me tell you about the icing on the cake. Wait no, the peach compote on the cheesecake. Sweet, flavorful, syrupy, peach heavenliness. A great and important tradition of chilean cuisine is jam and compote making. I absolutely love chilean-style jams and compote, which are more similar to french-style confiture, and I try to incorporate them into my baking endeavors as much as I can. Plus, I had an excellent teacher: my mom. So you’re probably wondering, how much sugar do I add to the peaches? I can’t tell you because I just eye-ball it. During this part of the baking process, I ask you to trust me and I give myself some creative freedom. Endless cheesecake possibilities, remember? I will never make the same batch compote even if I use the same fruit. I can tell you one secret component of my peach compote: I add orange juice. Did you notice the orange amongst the peaches in the first picture? The orange serves a purpose! Adding some citrus contrasts the brown sugar flavor and it helps turn the syrup more viscous.
After I finished baking the cheesecake and waited until it was cooled to room temperature, I added the peach compote (again, waited for the compote to cool to room temperature). If the compote is added to the cheesecake while they are both hot, the cheesecake will not be able to firm enough to support the compote’s weight and it will fall apart. Everything put together ended up looking like this:
I guess I should mention that I decided to bake individual cheesecakes for my roommate and I because I figured that I wouldn’t come home on Friday with cheesecake leftovers. Therefore, I baked leftovers in advance! But wait, I ended up sharing half of my individual cheesecake with Tim. Since he did not participate in this baking event, that makes him spoiled haha. No worries, I have plenty of cheesecake ideas for the near future. Next time, he will earn that slice of cheesecake 😉
Happy Birthday Ankit + Gary!