Let there be fire! *Ignites lighter*
'I am going to get that souffléd cheesecake right this time. Caramelized bananas with it would be great. Well, no. Bananas as always, duh. Um, I see some apples. So caramelized apples? A caramelized apple cheesecake soufflé? That isn't enough drama in the kitchen, now is it? I need some spark. Spark → Fire? Spark = fire = flambé? Should I? Maybe not. But maybe yes? Why not? Do they do cheesecake flambés? Quick. Find out. Rare cheesecake flambés served in restaurants, I see. I'm lost. Let me take some notes. This is fire, you are playing with, you know. Has mom slept? Ooooo, Yes!'
While sitting in my room with a random book about cooking leftovers, these are what dashed through my mind.
I have a problem. I think too much and too high of my multi-tasking ablities in the kitchen. And I have this enthusiasm that almost borders on neurotic - an enthusiasm to do something extravagant while cooking. Which translates to my mother as plundering her kitchen. But really, why else would I be in the kitchen this morning from one to five, slogging it out? 'Cos, I knew that just an apple cheesecake would only be limiting myself. I like when I have a lot of juggling to do in the kitchen. And then take another couple of hours to bring it all back to normal. And that stage after the kitchen is cleaned up after dinner, and after I clean it up again after baking - that is what I love. Those are the moments that give birth to... Did someone just yawn? Okay, so that's why I went for the big one. Get it?
This souffléd cheesecake came up pretty well, and did not sink much earlier than it anyways would eventually. That is probably because I had my hands on every single thing in the kitchen, except the oven door. Or rather I forced my hands off the door. The cheesecake soufflé came out looking gorgeous, the lust-after kinds. There is a layer, just below the filling, and above the crust which consists of caramelized apples. So basically, rather than mixing caramelized apples into the batter, I had it sandwiched between the crust and the filling. Just like always, I cut out a warm piece for myself.
Now, many of you would suggest having the cheesecake refrigerated until next day and served chilled. Trust me on this, have a slice of warm cheesecake with freshly whipped cream or without - but warm - and you will never want to have a cheesecake that is cooled down, ever. Unless you are like simply lazy, or can't wait so much to warm it up. I am neither of these when it comes to getting a warm piece tasting of all-good-things-in-the-world, you see.
Enter: Show Stopper. My bottle of brandy.
Of course you know what flambéing is, and for those who don't - it's how you get people around to drop jaws as a near boring-looking dish transforms into blaze and drama at the table. It's an emotion. Or well, it's just another one of a million ways to impress guests at the table. Or one of the many ways to annoy and scare your family. The taste, mind you, is acquired. Use Brandy, Cognac or Rum. As this is a dessert, a fruit flavoured brandy would compliment it well. Doesn't work for champagnes and table wines. Ideally 40% alcohol, 80-proof.
What I did was to place a few caramelized apples on top of the piece to be flambéed and pour the ignited brandy over it. If you pour the alcohol over the cake, it will cool down quick and all you get is a few sneers and smirks - not a proper flambéed cheesecake. Oh and yeah, your lighter is NOT a magic wand to get it right the first time you try it.
Honestly, all I could think off were these scary fire fountains shooting up, waking up the building into a fire emergency at 4.30 in the morning. It is perfectly normal to think you could burn down your house. So have a large lid handy to smother any flame. Please keep a fire extinguisher at reach too? You know, just in case.
Now, imagine. My souffléd cheesecake, on the counter. My camera, set on the tripod. The alcohol in the pan, ready to start heating up. The lighter, waiting to ignite that fluffy cloud of cheesecake. The lid, ready for an emergency. And I have only two hands.
Consider flambéing for another time if :
- Your mom told you not to play with fire.
- You are operating a lighter for the first time in your life.
- You think flambéing is cute/kewl/beast/rad/slammin' - and the like.
- You just stole your dad's cigarette lighter for this purpose.
- You think flambéing is meditation.
Or black magic.
- You just had a really ugly breakup.
- You are on a first dinner date at home.
Always do a flambé with people around. I am not talking about safety, I mean entertainment. Make it special. Come on.. who wants to set fire to a dish alone in a kitchen? Have people around to watch and gasp as you send out those flames. And win applause - that is, if you can manage it without a fire fountain situation. I wouldn't risk having my mother or father around. Let me tell you a secret now; they wouldn't probably let me do it if they knew what would be happening. It's better that they get their sleep while I finish this thing off.
I need consecutive attempts at this to know exactly how a flambéed cheesecake tastes like. When you get the brandy to catch fire after like four tries, I don't think there's very much left other than a very boozy piece of cheesecake. Throwing away cheesecake is blasphemy so, I go to bed at 5 in the morning, happy and a little tipsy.
That's done. Here's the cheesy cheesecake song for today. Night Fever by Bee Gees.
Caramelized Apple Cheesecake Soufflé, flambéed.
I used the same recipe in the last post to make the Japanese Cheesecake. What I added here were the caramelized apples. For that - Add butter into a saucepan. Cook apples [2 ones - peeled, cored and diced up into cubes] with brown sugar [3 tbsp] and cinnamon [1/2 tsp] gently. It should become tender. Stir in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and cool.
After you place the crust on the pan and press firm, just before you put in the filling, place the caramelized apples on the crust [which can either be baked for some time earlier, or refrigerated until you make the filling].
Pour the filling over and bake for 50 minutes. Let it be in the oven for another 30-40 minutes with the oven door ajar. Later on, take it out and before cooling completely you could start preparing to flambé. Cut off a piece and top it up with sliced caramelized apples. To flambé, heat the brandy or flavoured liquor in a saucepan, with high sides, just until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Do NOT bring it to boil. Hold the pan by the handle and remove the pan from the heat source, keep your face away from the pan and light the liquor without delay. Do not panic. Ignite the fumes at the edge of the pan, not the liquid itself. Pour the lit up liquor onto the cheesecake. And there you have it. Remember: It takes some time to actually appreciate a flambéed cheesecake.
Note: For those who do not want alcohol, but still would love to try a flambé, try soaking sugar cubes in a flavoured extract/lemon extract and placing the cubes over the dish and lighting it.