Monday, July 19, 2010

An Ode to Sweet Cherries

Cherry season has come and passed very quickly here in Ontario due to the intensely warm weather. Thankfully short and sweet is always a welcomed concept. I'll try to reflect that in this post!

To take advantage of these beautiful jewels, I went cherry picking with my appropriately sweet Fiance at a perfect little orchard in the Niagara region on their very first day of "Pick Your Own". I came home with a big fat basket of beautiful plump, ripe, juicy and oh so sweet cherries. I froze half of the bunch and then played with the rest. It's always difficult to restrain myself around cherries which is why I rarely bake with them. Typically I eat them all before I even have enough left to make a "Cherry..." anything. Not this time - I picked enough to both satisfy my once-a-year fresh cherry cravings as well as my culinary creativity.

To start off the rally of cherry desserts, here's a classic: Marble Cherry Cheesecake. Don't even think about getting a can of cherry pie filling. We're making the real deal here. That can is probably 5 years old anyway, right? R.I.P.

This cheesecake defines silky. It is unreal how moist it is and the homemade crust beats the old graham cracker thing. Plus, I never have graham crackers around my kitchen. They only have a role in S'mores....Ok, maybe in cheesecake sometimes....but only if they're leftover because you just made some S'mores. I love S'mores. Delicious.

The key to a moist and velvety smooth cheesecake is a "bain marie" or a water bath. Surrounding the cheesecake pan with hot water provides gentle, even heat and creates a moist environment in the oven. It almost steams the cake, which prevents the surface from drying out and prevents the total loss of moisture from it. Also, it is the trick to avoiding the formation of a cracked surface. Craters in cheesecake are not fun.

Baking at a lower temperature (325 degrees F) helps to prevent egg proteins from over-cooking and contracting, which prevents shrinkage. You know what I mean...when the cake tightens up and appears smaller after it cools. What's up with that? Less cake! Not fair. Use a water bath and get the most of your cheesecakes. It's smart.

Using a food processor rather than a mixer to make the filling also adds to this cakes creaminess. The powerful blades of a food processor are more efficient at creating a fine emulsion which lends a silky texture.

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