Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to Win Friends with Flaccid Cheesecake

Dear Tricia, I make a delicious little cheesecake cup that comes in a phyllo shell. I love making them, and people love eating them, but what I hate is the mushiness of the shell after a while. Is there a way to keep those once crispy little shells from becoming flaccid?

Hey fancy pants, you sound too well-versed in a kitchen to be reading my blog. Phyllo cups and cheesecake? You're good. You're almost smug. I like you.
To start off with, lets explain what phyllo cups are, for those who aren't quite as savvy as your Martha Stewart-self. Phyllo dough (pronounced "feel-o", no "fy-lo." You know, like your Fila running shoes you wore when they were cool for about 2 weeks in the eighth grade? Say it like that.) is a very thin layer of dough that, when baked, gets very crispy and flaky. Its so thin, in fact, that it usually has to be baked in layers of a few sheets at a time, otherwise it just falls apart. Have you ever eaten that little delicious Greek piece of magic known as Baklava? That's got layers upon layers of phyllo dough.
The thing about phyllo dough is that its a little hard to work with because its very dry when it is unbaked. And when you bake it, that makes it even drier and crispier. And what happens to dry things around moisture? They suck it up like there's no tomorrow. Just like me right now: I have a ridiculous sunburn that makes my body suck up lotion really fast, and makes me really thirsty. Unfortunately for the burn, I'm sucking up Chardonnay instead, which is why I'll have to remember to spellcheck this later. Maybe twice.
So you have your crispy little baked phyllo shells with cheesecake inside them. Needless to say, they're going to suck up moisture from the cheesecake and get soggy. Now, how do you fix it? Just like my personality, the answer is simple, but only if you bake the cheesecakes before you put them in the shells. Bake your phyllo shells, empty. When they are cool, coat the inside with a little bit of melted chocolate. You can use your finger to do this: I won't tell. Pop them in the refrigerator for a couple of minutes, just until the chocolate hardens. Then you can take your already-baked cheesecake, and either spoon it into the shells, or take a small cutter and cut small circles of the cheesecake to put in the shell. The chocolate will make a hard barrier so that the cheesecake can't touch the phyllo to make it soggy. If it looks too sloppy for your liking (and it probably will, based on the tone of your voice in your smug question), just top it off with some whipped cream or berries. People f-ing love berries on their cheesecake. Seriously, in a retail bakery, you can charge twice as much for a cheesecake if you just throw a couple of blueberries on it.
If that doesn't answer your question because you're used to baking the cheesecake batter inside the phyllo shells, then I'm sorry but I don't have an answer for you because I can't defy the laws of physics. Anytime you bake something in a phyllo shell, its going to soak up moisture from the filling while it bakes and get soggy. That is, unless you fill the shell with a lovely sawdust filling or a careful selection of hairballs. But I'm pretty sure those won't go over too well at your dinner party.
And remember, when you hear someone mispronounce "phyllo," just do what I do and mercilessly make fun of their ignorance. I tend to upset people by always saying the wrong thing, so sometimes I like to just get it out of the way early. Happy cheescake-ing!
No, on that that spellcheck...

No comments: