Joining the cooking blog community can be intimidating, at times. With so many creative people out there, it makes your lowly baked goods look downright ugly at times, be it for their scads of creativity, or skilled photography. I worked for a few years as a press photographer... so I thought myself decently accomplished at it, but apparently photographing people is a whole different art than food, and I've been working against the learning curve for the last couple months.
In an attempt to push myself both on a cooking front but on an artistic photography one, I signed up for the NY Marathon of food blogging, The daring bakers. I was excited to get my first assignment, Cheesecake lollipops. One of my nephew turns 2 this month, and I knew these would be perfect fare to bring along to the party, lest they sit around our house going straight to my waist.
I knew with all the cooling/freezing times, this would be a several day endeavor. So I set about baking the cheesecake Sunday. I think the grocery store must think me a nutter when I show up to the till with 7 packages of cream cheese... But between this challenge and the carrot cake last week, I put a run on their supplies. Even with them tallying at nearly 2$ a box, I still had an awed gentleman in line behind me ask the cashier if I'd used any coupons since I managed to fill an entire cart for $130. No coupons that trip, but its nice to know that my OCD-like list making and sale spotting pays off.
One of my money savers is my vanilla extract. I haven't had to buy this baking staple in a few years. My office used to have a local vodka company situated on the floor above us. They went out of business a couple years ago, and as a gift of goodwill, they dropped off a case of potato vodka. I excitedly grabbed a bottle and took it home, dropping in a couple vanilla beans. Other than topping it off every couple months with some new vodka, this bottle has been one of my prized ingredients ever since.
After mixing everything up, I set it in the roasting pan/water bath and slipped it in the oven. As the reviews suggested, I left it in nearly 75 minutes before it was browned on top and not 'jiggly' in the middle. I'm glad I'd picked up the 10 inch pan, since in that time, it'd also risen nearly 1/2 an inch above the lip of the pan. As it cooled, it shrank back down, but if it had been a smaller pan, it might have overflowed.
The next day, I set about rolling the balls. I got a digital scale for Christmas, though at times I think I would rather throw it out the window than use it. The maker seems to think it is such a useful tool that I will want to leave it out on my counter 24-7 and use it as a clock, as well as a scale. Because there is no way to turn the darn thing off. All it does, after a period of inactivity, is turn off the scale feature and go to the clock. Which is lovely, considering sometimes I want to chop and measure as I go... but then it looses the tare of the bowl... and I have to start over again.
Anyhow, I managed to get the scale function to work long enough to measure out 2 oz of cheesecake, which was pretty darn big. I decided that these would look super-cute shaped, and figured my ice cream sandwich presses might be the easiest tool to shape them. Sadly, Cheesecake is stickier than I'd figured on. And there was no way to get them shaped without crumbly edges. So I gave up and went for some rustic (theres that word again...) balls, and popped them into the freezer.
The next day, I set about adding the chocolate and toppings. I knew I wanted to use dark chocolate since I'm a big fan... And I decided to use a bit of whatever was in the pantry for toppings. I made some peppermint bark for Christmas gifts this year, and so had a jar of crushed candy cane in there. Making sure to leave out the big pieces, I figured they would look more like crushed peppermints. I also set out some chopped pecans, and red and white sprinkles. I also decided to leave a good lot of them unadorned aside from the chocolate.
I dipped them in sets of around 6, and almost like that magic shell stuff, the frozen cheesecake helped to quickly set the chocolate. My only other problem was that I ended up needing nearly twice the amount of chocolate, so halfway through I had to melt up some more. After coating them all, I had a small amount left, so I put it in a ziplock and played Jackson Pollock drizzling them all with the leftover chocolate.
Overall, this recipe was a success. I'm glad my first DB challenge went with little incident. The husband and I each tried a pop the next day, and aside from falling off the stick after a few bites, they were a big hit. Hopefully they go over as well with the party goers!
To view the other Daring Bakers' pops, visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll. For the Cheesecake Pops recipe, please visit Deborah’s site or Elle’s site.