Comfort food is not mac and cheese, grilled cheese sandwich or mashed potatoes. …. it is a plate of steaming Nasi Lemak. Rice cooked in coconut milk and subtly perfumed by Pandan (Screwpine) leaves and Ginger. Heavenly. The perfect sides that accompany this fragrant rice are Sambal Udang (Spicy Shrimp), Rendang Daging (Spiced Beef in Coconut Gravy) and a fried egg. Traditionally you have an accompaniment of cucumbers too cool off some of the heat from the Spicy Sambal but I was out of cucumber so Stir Fried Green Beans had to do. Also typical with this delicious Malay anytime-of-the-day-meal is a side of crispy anchovies and toasted ground nuts. A complex balance of heat, sweetness, saltiness and creaminess.
Every once in a while I have a hankering for cheesecake.
My idea of a perfect cheesecake is one that is rich, creamy and luscious in flavour but has a contrasting light and fluffy almost pillow like texture.
The perfect cheesecake does not have deep seismic cracks on it. It is smooth and bump free. Whenever my cheesecake have gaping holes on its surface, my heart cracks the same way. I feel like I have failed in my mission. I feel a little disheartened. With a tinge of guilt and shame I try to cover up the botched job. It looks attractive again but no matter how great tasting the cheesecake is, deep down I know the truth and it hurts.
Joe loves Key Lime Cheesecake and I have made it several times. There was this one night that I decided to make some for a neighbour’s party. It must have been past 11pm when I started to embark on my cake making. In my dimly lit kitchen I followed the directions on my hand written recipe note-card.
The next night after sending the cake down and missing the party because of work, I realised that I had put twice as much key lime juice as what the recipe had called for. I shuddered in horror. Our neighbours were nice and polite and never mentioned anything about how sour it was. Shit happens.
So on a dull Sunday morning where I sit on reserve awaiting the dreaded call from the crew desk, I figured I would have enough time to amuse myself by baking a cheesecake.
I began scouring for cheesecake recipes. I then found a recipe that I thought Joe might enjoy. Joe likes cheesecake and he likes peanut brittle. So it was decided then an Almond Praline Cheesecake. I had a bag of slivered almonds that needed to be used from the days of my obsession with all things Macaron.
So I spent the morning toasting almonds in a pan, beating cream cheese and eggs and later on making the praline. I was excited as I watched the cheesecake bake in the oven.
There is an unexplainable joy in watching your cake rise in the oven and not have it form a volcanic mound in the middle or crack open.
I have learnt from my numerous mistakes.
(1) Let the cream cheese get to room temperature.
(2) Do not over beat the mixture.
(3) No matter how anxious one gets, DO NOT open the oven door till the timer beeps.
(4) Let the damn cheesecake cool in the oven for 30 – 60 minutes.
The Almond Praline Cheesecake turned out crack free. It was perfection in its looks. I was almost a little sad to have to cover the top of the cake with the Almond Praline. It was like plastering make-up on a flawless natural beauty. Sadly it had to be done for the greater good.
The cheesecake was truly decadent. Luscious and creamy yet when you sink your teeth and tongue into it, you hear and feel the soft collapse of air with every bite. The Almond praline added a little crunch. It made the already rich cheesecake even more decadent. An after thought was that perhaps I should have added a pinch of salt for an added contrast to the praline.
Irregardless, one slice is all you need. Bliss.
Sometimes it gets a little lonely and sad.