THE COOKING HOBBYIST: If at first you don’t succeed, try again

I RECENTLY ACCOMPLISHED a previously-thought impossible task: I made cheesecake.

One of my older sisters used to make the best cheesecake I had ever had.

Not being on the best of terms with that sister (anyone with a large family would understand), I asked my mom for the recipe and I got what seemed to be an incomplete version.

It seemed that way because the first time I made it, what I got was a really runny vanilla-flavored pudding-type substance on top of some good graham cracker crust.

I looked at the recipe more closely and paid more attention to one line that had perplexed me the first time around: “Add two packages Dream Whip. Beat until thick and creamy.”

Hm … I had found the packages of Dream Whip, opened them, and poured them into the overall mixture. Now I wondered if maybe I was supposed to prepare the Dream Whip separately and then add it to the mixture?

Turns out, yes, that’s exactly what I was supposed to do. On actually reading the instructions on the Dream Whip package, I discovered one package was supposed to be mixed with one cup of whipping cream. So two packages was to be mixed with two cups whipping cream.

OK. Let’s try it again.

I mixed the Dream Whip with the whipping cream on the second try, but I think I feared overmixing everything and causing it to be runny again, so I didn’t whip it all enough. Also, I added milk to cream cheese way too fast.

Thus, I achieved a slightly less runny, vanilla-flavored pudding-type substance on top of some good graham cracker crust.

“I’m never trying this recipe again,” I told my sister in defeat.

I felt sure Mom had left something out. Maybe I was missing an ingredient. Maybe one of the instructions was wrong.

Or maybe I was just incompetent in the kitchen and was one of those people who simply couldn’t make a cheese cake.

About a year later, I decided to try again.

I had recently watched a show called “The Great British Baking Show,” so I understood a bit more about being patient in the kitchen and really following directions.

So I bought the short list of ingredients again, took out what still seemed to be an incomplete recipe and tried again.

The first instruction is to soften two 8-ounce packages of cream cheese with a mixer or a smasher. Well, the first time I used a smasher and found the ordeal to be fairly disgusting with the cream cheese oozing up between the smasher bits.

The second time, I tried the mixer and worried I might break it.

So this time I just beat the cream cheese with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes.

That seemed to do the trick.

Knowing I had messed up the Dream Whip instruction twice before, I decided to prepare this part next so I could more easily add it to the overall mixture later.

And here’s where I met a snag: I had forgotten to read the Dream Whip package in the store and therefore had forgotten to buy whipping cream because the recipe I was given didn’t include it in the ingredients.

Great. Back to the store I went.

With two cups of whipping cream now purchased, I poured it into a bowl and then read the carton which said to whip quickly until stiff peaks formed. That was a new instruction for me.

Deciding to give it a go, I tossed in the Dream Whip and then took the time to use my mixer until stiff peaks formed in the whipping cream.

Amazing.

Next, I used the mixer as I slowly added milk to cream cheese. This turned out to be a two-person job.

My mixer seems to have one speed: Fast. And that fast speed overwhelms my bowl and will toss the thing across the counter if I don’t hold on tight.

So my sister came over and slowly poured in milk, a little bit at a time, while I mixed it together.

What a tremendous difference I was already seeing. The cream cheese and milk mixture actually looked almost like cheese cake. When I added in the Dream Whip mixture it definitely looked like cheese cake.

And when I mixed in a box of vanilla pudding power, it tasted like cheese cake!

Feeling excited, I poured the completed mixture over the good graham cracker crust, put the entire thing in the fridge and vowed not to touch it until the next day.

I made it until lunch the next day before cutting in to it, but that still counts.

Cheese cake

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese

2 cups milk (I used 2 percent)

2 packages Dream Whip (or a generic equivalent)

2 cups whipping cream

1 package instant vanilla pudding (I used the small box)

Melt the butter in the microwave in a glass bowl; it takes about 1 minute.

Add the graham cracker crumbs and sugar to the melted butter and stir until incorporated.

Pour this mixture into a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan and bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Remove the crust from the oven and allow to cool.

While the crust cools, soften the cream cheese in a bowl. I did it with a wooden spoon. If you’re lucky enough to have an amazing mixer with an attachable bowl and different attachments, this is probably much easier.

In a separate bowl, pour the Dream Whip into the whipping cream. Whip on high until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Next, slowly add the milk to the cream cheese while mixing continuously until it is all well mixed.

Then add the whipping cream mixture to the cream cheese and milk mixture and beat until thick and creamy.

Finally, add the vanilla pudding powder and mix until creamy.

Pour the mixture over the cooled crust.

Place in the fridge for at least one hour.

________

Emily Hanson is a copy editor/paginator for the Peninsula Daily News. She is also a beginning baker and clumsy cook. She can be reached at 360-452-2345 ext. 560-50 or [email protected] dailynews.com.

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