Baking tips that take the cake


October 10, 2007|By Joannah Hill | Joannah Hill,Sun reporter

Southern Cakes

By Nancie McDermott

Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook

By Alan Rosen and Beth Allen

The Taunton Press / 2007 / $22

In 35 years of baking I had never made a cheesecake. Ever. But cheesecake baking, according to the cheesecake mavens at Junior's Restaurant in New York, can be a no-fear proposition. So I decided to put it to the test by making the Original New York Cheesecake.

I first read the nine-page Cheesecake 101 introduction - twice. Each step was explained in an easygoing, conversational style.

Armed with the inside dope - the two-step mixing process, cornstarch in the custard and under no circumstances should I open the oven in the first 30 minutes of baking - I proceeded to the recipes. Yes, two recipes for one cake.

The spongecake crust is Junior's signature and must be prepared and baked before the filling. Spongecakes can require a deft hand, but the recipe delivered. So far so good.

The filling was a breeze to mix together. I "gently spooned" the batter over the crust, lowered the pan into the hot water bath and transferred the precious cargo into the oven. I peeped through the oven window after an hour and the top was browning nicely. I started to slide the rack out and the cake visibly undulated with the movement.

I panicked. Cheesecake 101 based its "doneness" cues almost entirely on the color of the top and the cake looking "set." I went on instinct and took it out of the oven. After 8 hours of cooling, fortunately, it was creamy, delicious and done to perfection. It even looked like the picture in the book.

Sweet-Potato Poundcake

Serves 8 to 10

3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup light-brown sugar

4 eggs

2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Set the milk and flour mixtures aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar together with a mixer at high speed until light and well combined, stopping once or twice to scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well each time. Add the mashed sweet potatoes and mix at low speed for 1 minute, or until batter is evenly mixed.

Add about half the flour mixture and beat gently, using a wooden spoon or a mixer at low speed, only until flour disappears into the batter. Add half the milk mixture and mix gently to combine everything well. Mix in the remaining flour mixture, and then the remaining milk mixture, beating gently only until you have a thick, smooth batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared tube pan, and bake at 350 degrees for between 60 and 75 minutes, or until the cake is evenly browned, springs back when touched gently in the center and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Then use a table knife to loosen the cake from the pan. Turn out the cake onto a wire rack, place it top side up, and cool to room temperature.

From "Southern Cakes"

Per serving (based on 10 servings): 558 calories, 8 grams protein, 21 grams fat, 12 grams saturated fat, 85 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 134 milligrams cholesterol, 335 milligrams sodium

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