I’m not a believer in perfection, in life nor in the kitchen. Every endeavor we choose to undertake is an additional notch in our endless belts, a constant work in progress. That said, I present to you two things: my very first and very own Hungry to Happy recipe with all its dreaminess and tasty imperfections and a newly rejuvenated and more hopeful me, freshly graduated with a college degree and henceforth, thrust into the “real world.” Talk about accomplishments, these are huge notches for me!
But alas, like all other works in progress, there’s always room for tapping, tweaking, and discovering. Case in point, this near-perfect Green Tea Cheesecake. After having baked more than a couple cheesecakes using a number of wonderfully decadent recipes in my not-so-lengthy lifetime, I decided to get experimental and forge my own. It was alluring with its creamy and earthy filling, rich and toasty crust, and tart and juicy raspberry, but it wasn’t perfect. To my utter horror and glee, it was baked for my first catering event (with the restaurant I represent) for an affluent group of socialites at an effulgent palace of a home. Despite the petrifying need for “perfection,” though imperative at that moment and in others, my minor shortcomings didn’t hinder my ability to learn, to succeed.Imperfect were the slightly too sweet coconut-graham cracker crust, the absence of that extra teaspoon of matcha powder, and the rushed impromptu presentation. I was irritatingly fixated on the cheesecake’s flaws, my own flaws. But then, I realized, after the desserts were served and eaten, most of these plates were coming back scraped clean. These self-proclaimed mistakes and deficiencies, though perhaps unnoticed by others, contributed to my success rather than my failure. Not because the guests had deemed my dessert still decent enough to devour, but because in my first attempt at inventing and creating, I inevitably fell short of perfection – an ideal that I am reminded time and time again, does not truly exist. Now, what I know does exist, however, is the ability to embrace mistakes and consciously refine and reinvent a better recipe for a better cheesecake, and better yet, a better you. With college and 2011 almost completely behind me, I can’t think of a more rewarding project and resolution to work on, especially with all this rightfully earned free time I have! But for now, I’d say cheers to savoring delicious imperfections.
Green Tea Cheesecake with a Coconut-Graham Cracker Crust
A slightly revised and nevertheless revisable Hungry to Happy recipe
3/4 cup fine graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (if using sweetened, minimize sugar to 1 tbspn)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup green tea syrup
3 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
sifted powdered sugar (optional)
sifted green tea powder (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F and butter bottom and side of 9 to 9 1/2 inch springform pan (or mini cheesecake pan).
Stir together crumbs, coconut flakes, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press evenly onto bottom and one-third up side of pan. Bake crust in middle of oven 8 minutes and cool in pan on a rack.
Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy, then beat in sugar. Add green tea syrup, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Mix in green tea powder and salt at low speed, scraping down side as needed, until just incorporated, then add eggs all at once and mix just until incorporated.
Pour filling into crust and set springform pan in a shallow baking pan. Bake cake in middle of oven until set in center, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes (or 25-35 minutes in mini pan). Cool completely in springform pan on rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.)
Run a thin knife around edge of cake and remove side of pan. If desired, transfer cake with a large metal spatula to a serving plate.
Garnish with powdered sugar and/or green tea powder and top with fresh raspberries. Serve with toasted coconut flakes, if desired.