Imagine this on your picnic table next to the watermelon. Not too shabby. This week the Heavenly Bakers made cheesecake, and I declare it the perfect thing to bring to a summer party, as long as you can park it in the shade and keep it cool, then consume soon after breaking it out. Why? Because people LOVE cheesecake. Rose's Coconut Cheesecake with a Coconut Cookie Crust delivers the classic tangy, creamy wonder you hope for in a cheesecake, judiciously souped up with cream of coconut and coconut extract (in the filling), bits of coconut (in the cookie crumb crust), and flaked, toasted coconut over the top (for good measure).
I used Swedish ginger thin cookies that I have been saving for a cheesecake crust instead of the vanilla wafers Rose calls for, and measured them by weight. I wonder if this substitution could have thrown off the proportions of the crust. (Sorry Hector. I know I need to make all of Rose's recipes exactly as written for perfect results. )
The bits of coconut are processed with the cookies and melted butter, producing quite the delicious crust, and I wanted more of it.
Also, does anyone else get a little gunshy about serving coconut desserts? I know coconut is not as universally liked as chocolate or vanilla, but it seems like when coconut is done well, and not bonk-you-over-the-head sweet, people love it. One of my signatures is a chocolate-dipped coconut macaroon.
I pressed the crust in with a 6" cake pan and then finished with my hands in an attempt to get the crust to travel further up the sides of the pan.
The batter came together easily (I forget how easy!) but seemed a bit thin, and barely needed smoothing. I measured the egg yolks in a liquid measure and was on the fence about adding another yolk- I think the batter could have used another yolk.
By the way, if you told me a year ago I would be weighing and measuring egg yolks and whites with the regularity I do now, I would have laughed. But Rose, Hector and others had me convinced. My first try I found that I needed 5 (organic, free range) grocery store egg yolks to make 2 fluid ounces (instead of 3). You can read more about the importance of weighing and measuring eggs, and even butter, here. I am happy to have access to Happy Hens farm eggs from the Berkeley Farmer's Market, and remarkably the yolks are huge in comparison to the grocery store eggs, and a gorgeous sunny orange. Of course, they are great for baking.
Also, CHECK THAT OUT. That was taken through my new oven door! My new oven is so clean, and has such a large window (practically the whole door), that I can take photos as things are baking. The first night I had the new range installed, I sliced a log of sugar dough stashed in the fridge, and sat down in front of the oven while the cookies baked off....and just watched. I know this may be old hat for some of you, but I have never had a home oven with a window before. Um, that's not true. My old oven was 44 years old, and did have a small window, but the interior light was busted and years of (impossible to clean) wear and grease had caked onto the glass. I cannot overemphasize the novelty of being able to eyeball the progress of something baking, let alone being able to take its picture.
Since this is the eighth (or so) time I have made one of Rose's cheesecakes, I feel confident that I find them a little too soft and gooey in the center for my taste, and I think they should be baked a few minutes longer. I have accounted for oven temperature, and the center just does not seem set at 45 minutes. It is obvious from the Rose's photos of this cheesecake in the outcakes post that this cheesecake is indeed very wet and gooey, and this might just be the way it is supposed to be.
Now, let it be known that I am not a fan of the gargantuan triangular bricks of ultrafirm, dry, crumbly cheesecake often billed "New York Cheesecake" here in California. (And often sold by Jewish delis; you know who you are!) I like the softer, decadent custard style of Rose's cheesecakes, and judging by the serving utensils being licked by picnickers after devouring their kill, this coconut cheesecake is an absolute winner.
Nitpick alert: The only thing I would have changed besides cooking it a bit longer is to make about 50% more crust. The crust is dangerously good, and as you can see from the photo, it didn't quite cover the edge is spots.
But never mind my nitpicks - this cheesecake is wondrous and you should make it. One of the cheesecake superfans at the party said it was the best cheesecake he'd had in 6 years.
Cheescake does require a little advance planning because it needs to cool down slowly, and then chill in the fridge overnight, but otherwise comes together so easily, anyone could make it. So get to it!