It’s day 15 of 31 days of pumpkin. I can’t believe I’m halfway there. Today’s recipe was such a joy to make. I’ve never made cheesecake before and I was nervous at each step, but everything worked beautifully. I followed a recipe in a book that my sister gave me recently. Every once in awhile, she’ll see interesting cookbooks at a used bookstore and send them to me. I love it because there are always surprises. Like this book which is based on the fourth season of a Public Television Series I didn’t even know existed: Cooking Secrets of the CIA. The video doesn’t appear to be available anywhere, but the book is still available on Amazon:
The book was published in 1999 and was sponsored by Cuisinart. There is a set of pages at the back of the book featuring Cuisinart small appliances. The other thing about the book that I find fascinating is that the photography isn’t that great. The recipes are amazing, but with so much incredible food photography around these days, the lack of consistency in this book is a bit jarring.
Recently, I attended two food photography sessions at the BlogHerFood09 conference in San Francisco. One was given by Matt Armendariz of MattBites and Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks and the other was given by Matt and Lara Ferroni of Still Life With… At one of them, Matt emphasized the importance of photographing food with your digital camera tethered to a computer so that you can see the images blown up while you’re shooting. I remember Matt saying, “If you’re looking through your viewfinder, you really don’t know what you’re getting.” I’ve been caught a few times thinking I had gotten the shot, only to load the pictures onto my computer and realize that the part of the frame I needed to be in focus, simply wasn’t. The connection between this talk and the CIA book is that this book would have been shot before digital cameras were widely used professionally. In other words, they couldn’t shoot tethered to anything. How did food photographers survive before digital cameras? They couldn’t know they had gotten the shot until the film was developed. I guess back then, photographers used Polaroids to test the lighting, but that just seems unimaginable now.
I’m an amateur photographer learning a little about food photography every day. Here are two lists of blogs that I find inspire and instruct:
My favorite food blogs for photography
My favorite food blogs for photography tips
What are your favorites blogs for food photography?
Pumpkin Mascarpone Cheesecake
(adapted from Cooking at the C.I.A.)
Serves 10 to 12
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp egg white
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup + 1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (I used canned)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mace
Pinch of salt
9 oz mascarpone cheese
Prepare the cake pan: Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 10-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. (I used a nonstick cake pan with no parchment paper and it unmolded just fine).
Make the crust: In a bowl, blend the graham cracker crumbs and sugar evenly with a fork. Add the melted butter and egg white and mix well. Press the graham mixture into the prepared cake pan to make an even bottom crust. Bake the crust until it is lightly toasted and set, about 8 minutes. Cool slightly.
Make the pumpkin filling: In a bowl, combine the cream cheese and brown sugar and with a hand-held mixer, mix on low speed until ingredients are very smooth. Don’t overbeat the mixture or you will incorporate too much air into the cheesecake. Add the pumpkin purée, ginger, cinnamon, mace, and salt and mix gently for 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl often, until the mixture is evenly blended. Add the mascarpone and mix gently for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bowl. Add the eggs and mix for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary.
Bake the cheesecake: Pour the pumpkin filling over the crust. Place the filled cake pan in a deep baking dish and set them on the oven rack. Add enough boiling water to the pan so that it comes up three-fourths of the way up the sides of the cake pan. Bake the cake for an hour and fifteen minutes, or until the center of the cake is lightly set. Carefully remove the cheesecake from the baking pan and cool it to room temperature. For safety’s sake, remove the pan of water from the oven after it has cooled. Refrigerate the cake for at least 8 hours before unmolding.
Unmold the cake: Carefully lower the cake pan into a pan of hot water for a few seconds (I left mine in this bath for about one minutes and I also ran a butter knife around the perimeter of it, bearing down to the bottom so that the crust would also separate from the edge. Remember, I didn’t use any parchment paper). Invert the cake pan onto a plate, then invert the cake onto a serving plate.
Slice and serve the cake: Dust the cake with powdered sugar and garnish with chocolate shavings right before you are ready to serve it. (The powdered sugar does melt into the moist surface over time). To cut the cake, dip a sharp knife with a long, thin blade into very hot water. Wipe the blade dry and make a cut. For the neatest slices, repeat this process for each separate cut that is made.