Now Playing – Make You Feel My Love – Adele
To know me, is to know I have an obsession with all things you-tube. For many of my friends, facebook, twitter or a quick late night food run would suffice as a normal break from I.S., our senior thesis /independent-study-goodbye-social-life-massive-100+page paper, all Wooster students are required to complete. While I certainly jumped on that bandwagon, I usually preferred to shut my door & watch clips of Kristen Wiig on Saturday Night Live or repeats of Jay Leno’s funny prank photo booth clips. If the 2 minute or so distraction seemed actually funny and not just allana-funny, I would shout to my friends on the hall, begging them to come over and watch. More often than not, I would just receive leering glances from my unsuspecting friends, who couldn’t understand nor see what I found, so hysterical.
So hysterical, in fact, my neighbor would hear me slapping my desk with my hand furiously, because I couldn’t seem to control the “giggles”. Despite my cackles being heard up & down the hall, those late-night you-tube clips really helped me get through that ninety-page food-memoir I’m still, subconsciously, working on. And if I learned anything throughout the whole I.S. process, it’s that everyone has to take some very strange, but nevertheless helpful, breaks. You-tube and hulu repeats, encouraged.
Now, with life post-I.S/college, I no longer worry about what sources to cite, but rather what baked goods I’m conquering in the kitchen. And although I’m trading in my laptop for a kitchen-aid mixer, I still find roadblocks along the way. This particular road block came about three weeks ago, on the day of Quartino’s second-annual, “Throwdown”, – Cheesecake Week. Our monthly “friendly” competition is a spin-off of Bobby Flays hit-show, where instead of top-secret missions, we have 3-4 homemade desserts, a bunch of ballots & a box of each contestant’s pride waiting to be either glorified or shot down in an instant. After somewhat gracefully losing the chocolate chip competition, which is another post in itself, I was ready for redemption with my cheesecake. The roadblock appeared when I realized my worst fear had come true. I didn’t have enough time or resources to create my killer cheesecake that I was positive could take home the gold. As my minor panic attack came & went, I figured my best bet would be to find another recipe, one that could be made quickly, effortlessly & I prayed, could garner at least one compliment. This challenge was now directly, smack-dab, in front of me and although it seemed almost silly compared to my pages upon pages of I.S. edits, in red permanent marker no less, the clock was ticking way too fast for me to sit back & worry.
Still in my pajamas, I scourged the internet & any cookbook I could find, looking for a simple & quick cheesecake – exactly the opposite of what I had imagined in my head. I tossed aside my Ina Garten Raspberry Cheesecake for another Food Network Star’s recipe, one that not only garnered rave reviews, but was the epitome of exactly what I was looking for, and frankly, at this point, what I really needed. I printed my ingredient list & sped off towards the store, turning the aisles of Potash Brothers upside down, as I ran through, frantic, unaware of my surroundings, clear & focused on the mission of a lifetime.
Ten minutes later & I was home, prepping. Keeping one eye on the clock & the other on the task in front of me, I dove right in, throwing caution to the wind. I figured at this point, they had to turn out & if they didn’t, well, this recipe wasn’t what I had originally intended, so if they tasted awful, I told myself, I would simply have to get over it, move on, and bring in Ina’s cheesecake another day.
As my creation was coming to life in the oven, I found myself with about ten minutes to spare. So, I did what I do best. I grabbed my computer, found a small spot in the kitchen with ample internet access & you-tubed what has now become, my go-to link. The two minutes that will always brighten my day & without a doubt, make me laugh uncontrollably, as I now furiously smack our kitchen table with my hand, begging my parents to come watch this clip with me.
Maybe it’s really because Amy reminds me of myself (especially that shriek, which you will witness erupt from my mouth if you put me near one inch of a spider) but there’s something so pleasant about watching this, laughing & always enjoying Amy’s sheer and unadulterated fear, horror & most likely embarassment after she later realizes she just yelped in front of one of the employee’s from the haunted house. These two minutes, at least for me, are priceless. And a big shout-out to Ellen, for not disabling the video clip, leaving it for all the world to see and more importantly, for providing me with what I consider, endless hours of pure entertainment.
With the clip on repeat & the oven timer dinging, judgement time was soon upon me and luckily, thanks to Amy, I was ready. The recipe turned out perfectly, or as perfect as I could have asked for given the situation. I had chose to embark upon this competition with a recipe from Giada DiLaurentiis, or Gigi, as I like to call her, alongside my friend Chelsea, who often times, pretends she is Giada while I, on the other hand, am of course, Ina. [Yes, in fact, I am most aware I tend to act like a child. What respectable 23 year old & her friend call themselves Ina & Gigi, later turning their facebook profile pictures into iconic photos of the two famous chef’s, only changing the pictures back, after someone commented that Gigi looked as if she was smashing blood, when really, she was just smashing tomatoes.]
Gigi’s recipe was foolproof & delicious – the best part being, instead of slaving over an entire cheesecake, this recipe involves creating individual miniature cheesecakes which turned out much simpler & just as flavorful as what I imagined in my head.
Recipe Courtesy of Giada DiLaurentiis
- 1/3 cup finely crushed chocolate wafers
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 ounces cream cheese
- 1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 orange, zested
- 1 egg
- Butter, for greasing
- * Special Equipment – mini muffin tin* [Now, if you don’t have this, no worries. The first time I made this, I used small cupcake liners and was fine – the liners actually provided a smooth transition from tin to tray and the crust stayed in place perfectly]
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the crushed chocolate wafers and the melted butter in a bowl. Place a tightly packed teaspoon of the wafer mixture into each mini-muffin cup & press down firmly. (* Try using the bottom of a shotglass to press the mixture in perfectly).
In a food processor combine the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, 1/4 cup of the sugar, half of the orange zest & the egg. Blend until smooth. (*I used a blender instead of a food processor and was golden). Lightly grease the sides of the mini muffin tin with butter. (* Or, if you’re using cupcake liners, skip this step). Fill the cups with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cheesecake mixture. Place the mini muffin tin in a baking dish and pour enough hot water in the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the mini muffin tin. Bake for 25 minutes. Transfer the mini muffin tin to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Use a small knife to gently pop the cheesecakes out of the cups (*Again, if you’re using liners, no worries).
Just before serving, combine the remaining orange zest with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Top each individual cheesecake with about 1/4 teaspoon of the orange zest mixture, and serve.
Final thoughts on the matter – I did bring in these suckers for the big competition. Verdict? Second place, baby! Alicia Harvey, I take my hat off to you for that pumpkin creme brulee cheesecake – you deserved the win, lady. So, congrats are obviously in order. But, I will say, I had to give myself a little pat on the back for this one. These miniature cheesecakes were discovered, created & devoured in less than 5 hours and for cheesecake, thats a big deal. Next big March throwdown is brownies and not to worry, I’ve got my tried & true recipe all set. Those minor panic attacks will have to wait, perhaps only for the redemption round of my losing, but delicious in my mind, chocolate chip cookies.