Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae!

            Today I had to redeem myself when it came to syrup making.  I decided to make a strawberry sundae cheesecake out of a no bake recipe.  I chose a no bake recipe because I want to serve this in a sundae glass, which would make baking useless for my intents and purposes.
             For the filling I mixed together softened cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk.  I also added some vanilla and lemon juice.  I used juice from a lemon that I simply squeezed over my filling mixture.  In retrospect I wish I measured it because the lemon taste was not as apparent as I had hoped for and next time I will find a way to squeeze out more.  I put the filling in the fridge.
            Next I turn my attention to the strawberries.  At the store I was elated when I found a package of strawberries that were not moldy or bruised, especially during this time of the year.  I washed them and sliced off their little green tops, as well as the minor blemishes.  I’ve heard somewhere fruit too ripe make the best by products such as jams.  I didn’t know if the same would be true for the syrup and because this was my retribution to myself, I was not going to take the chance.
            I sliced all of the strawberries in half and put a third of my total batch in a saucepan.  I added a third of a cup of sugar and twisted the knob to medium.  When the strawberries began to sizzle I had deja vu of the night before.  This time I fought the temptation to do something different.  This felt completely counter intuitive but I stirred and smashed anyway.  The trickiest part was to leave it alone long enough to warm the strawberries into reduction. 
            The strawberries underwent many beautiful metamorphose.  They began as awkward red sugar coated chunks and soon became a burgundy grainy liquid.  With several more minutes it was a frothy ruby red delight.  My recipe said it should only take about five minutes or so, until thick.  Between my experiences of yesterday and today, I’ve decided that thickness is relative.
            I put all of the liquid and two thirds of the strawberries that were still mostly whole into a small blender.  I pulsed them until it looked smooth it was also frothy.  I returned the puree with the rest of the cooked strawberries and put the syrup into the refrigerator.  It is time I turn my attention to my “crust”.
            When I was at the grocery store I laughed when I saw that there were boxes of graham cracker crumbs.  It was more expensive than a regular box.  In a world where we value whole potato chips, we also sell broken graham crackers.  I think crushing them was the most fun part.  The reluctant little pieces were crushed in the pulsar.
            My goal was to have a cool cheesecake feel but juxtapose the coolness with something physically warm. I mixed cinnamon and sugar with the crumbs and added them to a warm skillet with butter then sautéed them for several minutes.  To me, it felt like an eternity but I wanted to achieve a crunchier texture in the graham crackers and I thought the sugar would caramelize a little.
            It didn’t.  At a loss for what to do and coming dangerously close to burning my graham crackers I had to pull a Hail Mary of some sort.  In a last ditch effort for crunchiness I added honey.  It immediately clumped together but I didn’t do a lot to separate it.  I was hoping the clumps would do something interesting but I think the honey sort of burned, it also candies a little which was pleasant.  It was all I could do to restrain myself from adding more sugar.  I was very afraid of making the entire dessert too sweet because the filling was mostly cream cheese and sugar.
            I took the filling out of the refrigerator and whipped it.  The recipe said it must sit for two and a half to three hours.  Viscosity was not my goal in this case; I just wanted the filling to be cool.  I dished a spoonful over a strawberry I had put in the bottom of a sundae glass and generously sprinkled graham cracker crumbs over that.  I swirled in some syrup and repeated all of the layers.  I garnished the glass with a strawberry for funsies and if the peel from the lemon I used was pretty, I would have done something with that was well. 
            The entire thing was a masterpiece, especially the syrup.  My friends liked it, and I loved it.  Even more gratifying than everyone having seconds is the fact that I beat my current nemesis-the syrup.  For the first time ever I am confident in my cooking abilities as my possibilities have just multiplied because of this minor battle win.


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