Thursday, May 28, 2015

Midweek Roundup: You Got me Baking the Blues

Photo by Tony Bridges
One Crumb at a Time

The trepidation about baking these cheesecakes started with Faithy, who announced that she hated stinky cheese and couldn't see how these were going to work out as a dessert.  But she soldiered on, anyway, reminding herself that she hated the smell of durian as much as she hated the smell of blue cheese, but still loved to eat it.  And it turned out that she liked it (although maybe not as much as she likes durian), and her tasters liked it too.  "Rich and creamy."  But she could still smell the cheese, so "This is not something I can eat every day.  Only for special occasions like Mother's Day."  (I like that Faithy is planning to give herself a stinky cheese present for Mother's Day).

Kim, on the other hand, was looking forward to these baby cakes because they fall into one of her favorite categories of food.  "Stilton, pear and walnut is a classic combo, and I adored this variation.  I love playing with recipes that sit on the fence of not-quite-dessert, not-quite-savory.  They intrigue me because each time you experience the unexpected.  These little cheesecakes follow in the same footsteps--a possible transtional course between the main and the dessert, something that helps you digest and prepares the palate for the sweeter dessert to come."  Doesn't that make you think you'd like to live at Kim's house and have her make dinner for you every day?

Jeniffer also loved the "savoury/sweet theme" and topped hers with roasted walnuts, a pear slice and rosemary-infused honey to "keep playing" the some theme.  She thought that the variations were endless--"consider plum, pear, fresh fig, rhubarb (poached or compote), red grapes, celery, walnuts or honey as toppings."  She added that "the sheer volume of toppings that complement that Stilton baby blue cheesecakes will keep this recipe 'fresh' and in my repertoire."

Catherine didn't really care for the "savoury/sweet" trend that Jeniffer found so attractive, so she went full speed down the "savoury" road:  just a tiny bit of sugar (half a tablespoon) and double the amount of cheese,   She liked their creamy cheesiness and thought they would be an "interesting starter" served with "bitey rocket and tart apple" (Catherine should write menus!).  She adds that the cakes must be "served to the right crowd."  I agree, Catherine--it pays to know the people you're feeding.

Like Faithy, Raymond figured anything with blue cheese in it was going to be a "hard sell" around his house, but unlike Faithy's experience, Raymond's tasters were mostly horrified.  "Most stopped after one bite and pushed their plates away."  It sounds like he is not going to be giving away cheesecakes for Mother's Day or any other day of the year, for that matter.

Kristina also had trouble giving these away.  She took the ones she and her husband didn't eat to her office, but "only a few people were brave enough to try them.  One came back for seconds!  He loved the taste and texture...."  But Kristina "didn't get a lot of feedback from anyone else, so I'm guessing this one wasn't a huge hit!"  Who would have thought we all knew so many people who are terrified of blue cheese?

Fortunately, not everyone.  Orin's experience with her tasters was very different.  No timid tasters here--they were full of rave reviews.  "Wow, "I can't stop eating it" was one.  "What a pleasant surprise, the blue cheese is right on point" was another.  And "A well-balanced cake, just the right amount of cheese to go with the crust (Orin made her cheesecake in a tart pan), and, finally, "It will be great with a good steak."

Like Orin, Mendy made these for the Shavuot holiday, but there the resemblance ended.  Orin's "I can't stop eating it" was Mendy's "nasty little buggers."  (such an un-Mendy-like thing to say!)  Fortunately, Mendy is already raving about next week's orange tarts, and I mean raving in a good way.

As much as Mendy detested the taste of the blue cheese tarts is how much Tony was enraptured by them.  "Be still my heart," he cried.  He describes the cakes this way:  "The rich, cold complex creaminess of the cheeses is accented by a hint of a mystery nutty flavor; it’s the Stilton of course."

And For Milagritos, the experience of eating these blue cheese cheesecakes was almost Proustian in nature, with each bite bringing back memories of a wonderful dinner she and her husband shared for an anniversary, with the piece de resistance being a blue cheese ice cream, which was the best ice cream they had ever tasted.  These little Baby Blues not only reminded her of the ice cream, they also inspired her to try to recreate it, using some of the ingredients and methods from the cheesecake to duplicate this standout ice cream.  I'm sure she'll let us know if she succeeds.

Anna liked the taste of her cheesecakes, but wanted to talk about the mistakes she made:  she overbaked the cake a tad so it cracked on top (which she disguised with pear slices) and overbeat the batter, which resulted in the cake dipping a little.  But it looked good to me, and her tasters liked it, so it all ended well.  Anna worried that the blue cheese would be "a bit too exciting for this geriatric group," until her photographer pointed out that she was the "only geriatric member of the group."  (Those photographers--they're too prone to speak the truth).

I've saved Vicki's summary for last, because she wrote about her cheesecakes ("I despise blue cheese.  If it is not in a Gorgonzola sauce swimming with gnocchi, I don't want to be anywhere near it.") and how she ended up liking them despite the blue cheese and would love them without it.  But she also wrote about being an Alpha Baker, and why she persevered with the blue cheese cakes even though she hates the main ingredient.  I'll quote at length in case you  missed it:

What keeps me here instead of throwing in the dish towel?
Everything.Something new or different that I would never choose to make on my own.Or something  I've always wanted to bake but never had the nerve.
The Alpha Bakers.The little gaggle of bakers who bakeweek after week, whether it's a win or fail recipe.The recipe tales, the spectacular results,the hilarious disasters.
I feel your pain
The amazing prize worthy photography skills,and charming out of focus blurry ones, and thankfully their ability to simplify a recipeso I have a chance at understandingthe process.Their encouragement to keep soldiering on.Their cheers with any bit of success.Their willingness to instantly come to the rescueduring a catastrophe.Their kindness in never criticizing.They make it funwhen often times it really isn't.And isn't that the point of baking?Enjoyment,otherwise who's going to buy the book?
I think we all needed that, Vicki.

And another thing:  if you don't like this week's recipe, there's always next week, which is a French orange tart with not a whiff of blue cheese in sight, and which has done very well in previews.  You can use a blowtorch if you feel like brulee-ing the top, or you can just sprinkle it with powdered sugar.  And the clever Alpha Bakers will almost certainly come up with some variations.


  1. So glad you are back! It was a bit peculiar without your witty write ups. It was great to have Jim's FB postcards. Congrat's to Tony on a very lovely Stilton cheese cake presentation.

  2. welcome back i missed your clever sum up.

  3. I really like Vicki's post and how describes Alpha bakers is so true. And Tony's beautiful cheesecake presentation..and I learnt from him that there is such thing as a red pear. :) Also I learnt from Orin what Shavuot festival is and why diary too.. so interesting.