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Maybe I need a new career

Today I got told that I'm in the wrong field and I should go and open a cheesecake shop. Or maybe just a bakery with a lot of cheesecake.

That's possibly the nicest compliment anyone has given me :-D

I made myself a chocolate cheesecake as a birthday treat (it may be the best one I've ever made) and I brought in a slice for a coworker on the Great Upgrade Project who has been having a bad week. A little while later, I got a hug and the outraged declaration that I'm in the wrong field and need to go pro with my baking, because it's the best cheesecake he's ever tasted.

:-DDDD

You see, cheesecake is one of those things that most people I know seem to find intimidating--it's a thing they buy, not make--and on the surface, I can't understand why. The base is easy. Crushed biscuits and butter are so easy, children can do it! The batter is pretty damn easy, too. It's hard to go wrong with eggs, sugar, cream cheese and other flavourings, unless you try to use low-fat cream cheese and that shit is evil for cheesecake making purposes. The only total fail I've ever had was the time I tried to go low-fat. The batter turned ridiculously thin and refused to set no matter what I did to it. Low-fat cream cheese is an abomination unto cheesecake.

So, if the base and batter are easy, why is it so intimidating? Why am I so damn pleased with this one?

It's the baking. You have to get it just right. You have to have the courage of your conviction to take it out of the oven and trust that it's done and it will set properly, even though it feels terrifyingly soft in the middle. This is particularly true with chocolate, because you can't see that the edges have hit the perfect level of slightly gold the way you can with vanilla. I have no objection to a cheesecake ending up slightly cracked on top, although it's more aesthetically pleasing if it isn't, as long as it's not over-baked. Finding the perfect degree of bakedness? That's probably what makes it so intimidating.

Then there's the whole to bain-marie or not to bain-marie question. I'm pretty sure some cheesecakes really need it, and it's probably easier to get it evenly baked. I've done my chocolate one in a bain-marie and without, and I can honestly say it hasn't made much difference. I didn't use one this time, and it's perfect: no cracking, just set in the centre, not overbaked on the edges. If it was a less familiar recipe, I'd probably use one, as a security blanket if nothing else.

So, yeah, I can see why cheesecake intimidates and why my coworker was so impressed. I have to admit, it felt really good to be complimented like that on something that felt properly skillful. I mean, I'm good at my job and it's not easy to write code and manage a massive data warehouse, but baking feels different somehow. It's something that's partially following directions, and partially following instincts from much practice.

Maybe if I ever won the lottery, I could think about opening that bakery/bookshop I've dreamed of.

For now, I'll just bake for fun and maybe write that comfort food romance with lesbians I talked about on Twitter yesterday :-D

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