It might come as a surprise for some of you, to hear this: baking has always been a solitary activity for me. Most would likely associate baking with an open kitchen, friends and family. But for me, having discovered to wonders of it in quiet kitchen, alone one evening, I always looked to baking when I felt the need to be alone. There was even a point of time where I felt annoyance at people being in the kitchen with me.
I never thought there would come a day where I’d have fun baking with people.
Perhaps it was also a surprise to me when I agreed for two friends to come over and learn to bake cheesecake and cookies. I don’t think I really thought it through when I said yes. But then again, it is kind of hard to say no, especially when the person who wants to learn bugs you endlessly about it.
Having said yes, I was pretty much obliged to carry it through: choosing recipes, buying ingredients, picking them up from the train station and entertaining them till we were done. From the start of the process I was already beginning to regret it. Which recipes to choose? Would they live up to my friends’ expectations? It was troublesome to head out to get ingredients too – the nearest store was so far away. And to add on to that, one of them had to arrive late.
6 hours, 250 cookies and one blackberry cheesecake later, there was nothing that could spoil my mood for the day.
How so? I will never know. Perhaps it is the sheer look of amazement when they see simple ingredients like cheese, flour and eggs turned into a cheesecake. Perhaps it is the smell of cookies baking in the oven. Or perhaps it is just the fellowship that we shared while learning to bake.
I thought that maybe I should rethink my approach to baking. It didn't have to be a solitary activity after all. Just like how this blog connects me to so many, my baking, in real life, can connect me to so many people as well.
I remade this cheesecake, a variation of what we made that day, because I felt the need to share the experience with you all. It’s smoother and creamier than the previous blueberry cheesecake recipe I posted. It has a richer, deeper flavour, owing to the blackberries. I could keep telling you all about the cheesecake, but really, what’s important was the friends.
400g graham crackers, crushed finely
¼ cup (56g) butter, melted
¼ cup whipping/heavy cream
1kg (32 ounces) cream cheese, softened
150g white sugar
2/3 cups milk
32g plain flour
1 cup (230g) sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup (50g) raw sugar
¼ cup water
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Grease a 9 inch round springform pan lined with parchment paper.
3. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and cream.
4. Press the mixture into the pan, pushing it up the sides as well to form a crust.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
7. Adjust oven temperature to 160 degrees Celsius or 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Cream cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy
9. Whisk in milk, then the eggs one at a time.
10. In another smaller bowl, whisk together flour, sour cream, vanilla extract and lemon zest.
11. Whisk into the cream cheese mixture.
12. Set aside
13. Combine blackberries, water and raw sugar in a saucepan.
14. Cook till blackberries are very soft and tender.
15. Drain and reserve cooked blackberries.
16. Simmer the liquid till thick, about 15 minutes.
17. Fold blackberries into the cheesecake filling.
18. Pour cheesecake filling into the crust.
19. Swirl in simmered liquid.
20. Bake at 160 degrees Celsius or 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes.
21. Turn off the oven heat, crack the door open slightly and leave to cool for 2-3 hours.
22. Chill till completely cold (preferably overnight), then slice and serve cold.