"Eat a little cheesecake every day and help stamp out anorexia nervosa." - Myra Chanin
Speak of indulgences and cheesecake tops the list.It may compare with breakfast in bed, a steaming bubble bath or a run on untracked powder snow, but in my book cheesecake's No. 1.
And now I've discovered a colleague in consumption.
Mother Wonderful, otherwise known as Myra Chanin.
Chanin is a power-packed purveyor of cheesecakes. A sensation with a springform pan. The queen of Philadelphia cream cheese.
Years ago Chanin published a compendium of cheesecake recipes entitled "Mother Wonderful's Cheesecakes." A revised edition, including 20 no-bake cheesecake recipes, came off the press in August.
The innovative collection eliminated the mystery of creating a cheesecake. Chanin refined recipes and simplified instructions. She turned ordinary and unusual ingredients into six-pound masterpieces.
Masterpieces that Chanin resists, but no one else can.
Dan Geringer of the Philadelphia Daily News reports on Chanin's control tactics: "As things got serious, cheesecake-wise, Mother Wonderful suddenly put a surgical mask over her mouth and plastic Baggies on her hands.
`Love your outfit, Mother Wonderful,' I told her nervously. `You're not turning weird on me, are you?'
`As many cheesecakes as I make,' she explained, `I could end up looking like a barn just from licking bowls and spoons. But I can't suck chocolate through a surgical mask. And I've never had the desire to lick a Baggie."'
It takes remarkable self-control to bypass a cheesecake, even the non-traditional no-bake varieties Chanin introduced in her new volume.
"Let me tell you about no-bake cheesecakes," Chanin said. "They're indestructible. You can probably use them for a sunscreen. When I first tested them, I put them in the refrigerator in the basement and forgot all about them. I came back three weeks later - delicious."
A cheesecake would never last that long in my neighborhood.
A single recipe from the original collection, Triple Chocolate Cheesecake, approaches legendary status near my house.
Jeanne Jardine, daughter-in-law of former Deseret News food editor Winnifred Jardine, is the keeper of a single copy of the original cookbook.
"Winn gave each family a copy," Jardine recalled. "She thought the collection was the best ever."
Jeanne made the chocolate cheesecake once and the recipe continues to circulate from house to house, from celebration to celebration.
Charmaine Brooks, Margaret Pugsley and Bonnie Brinton, for example, made 9 cheesecakes for Mary Mecham's wedding dinner; Brooks prepared another half dozen for her son Peter's missionary open house. The chocolate marvel disappeared in dozens of slices, only to reappear at an open house for Brad Harris, another neighborhood LDS missionary.
Brooks' copy of the recipe disappears almost as quickly as the actual cheesecake.
"Someone is always asking me for the recipe, I give them my copy and then have to ask Jeanne for another," she explained.
Not to worry any longer.
Chanin's revision, "Mother Wonderful's Cheesecakes and Other Goodies," is now available at local bookstores for $12.95, and the chocolate cheesecake recipe is included with this story.
In addition to the legendary recipe, the book contains instructions for more than 40 baked cheesecakes like Mother Wonderful's Praline Cheesecake, as well as 20 no-bake varieties like Luscious Lemon Nut or Pina Colada Cheesecake and cheesecake muffins.
Mixing and baking instructions are included for both 8- and 10-inch pans, food processor and electric mixer guidelines and substitution lists for cheeses, liquors, sugar substitutes and cookie crumb ideas.
"When you find out how easy it is to make a cheesecake, you'll stop paying $25 for theirs and start baking your own for a meager $7 worth of ingredients," Chanin explained.
Mother Wonderful's Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
Mother Wonderful's Almond Joy Cheesecake
Mother Wonderful's Munich Cheesecake
Mother Wonderful's No-Bake Pina Colada Cheesecake
Mother Wonderful's Praline Cheesecake
1. Thou Shalt Never Bake Cheesecakes at the Last Minute. Cheesecakes should be baked about two days before serving and allowed to mellow in the refrigerator. They will keep for at least a week refrigerated, and several months frozen.
2. Thou Shalt Measure Out Ingredients Before Beginning to Bake. Never assume you have in your pantry every ingredient you'll need. Make sure you do before you start to bake.
3. Thou Shalt Not Chintz on Ingredients. Never cut corners in the name of economy. It ain't thrifty to throw out an entire cake because it tastes awful. The cost differential between a sublime cheesecake and a third-rate one is less than three dollars.
4. Thou Shalt Not Let Thy Cheesecake Cool at Room Temperature. Despite what most recipes say, run your cake directly from the oven to the refrigerator or the cheesecake will develop cracks and fissures.
5. Thou Shalt Never Cover Thy Cheesecake with Aluminum Foil or Plastic Wrap while It Cools in Thy Fridge. If you do, condensation will cause a lake to form on the top of your cake. Once cheesecakes have cooled, you can put them in a covered box or just keep a cardboard round on top of the springform ring to protect them.
6. Thou Shalt Never Even Think About Using Those Gunky Cornstarch Fruit Toppings on Cheesecake! . . . Lest the Butterfat Fairy herself steal into your kitchen and put salt in your sugar bowl.
7. Thou Shalt Rest Thy Cheesecake Before Thou Glazeth It. It is vital that the cake rest in the pan on the counter top for ten minutes after the initial baking and before the sour cream glaze is applied. This essential step allows the interior of the cake to solidify without overbaking, burning, and/or cracking the exterior.