I grew up woefully void of cooking prowess. By the time I was in my 20s and moved out of my parents’ house, I could make a grilled cheese and boil pasta… and even the pasta thing I did wrong. Cooking just wasn’t a big deal for us. My mom was a “casserole mom” which is okay. We never had olive oil in the house. Growing up, I had no idea what I was missing.
My best friend, who was my roommate when I moved into my first apartment, saw fit to remedy my lack of education. Suddenly, I was helping make our own marinara sauce. I was boiling pasta correctly. We actually had a spice cabinet.
Then one day, I decided I was going to try something even she’d never attempted. In a flyer from our chain grocery store, there were alternate takes on Thanksgiving classic dishes. Among them was their alternative for pumpkin pie: a pumpkin cheesecake.
I love cheesecake. It’s among my favorite desserts (along with tiramisu and creme brulee). I knew how to cook now. I could follow a recipe. I could make a cheesecake, right?
It had a gingersnap crust, canned pumpkin, and spices we actually had in our cabinet. I only needed to buy a few things to try and make this deliciousness. For a first very new chef, tackling a cheesecake was a huge undertaking.
It surprised me how easy it was. Like, ridiculously easy. I’d watched enough Food Network to know what a water bath was. I knew how to make a graham cracker crust (only using gingersnaps this time) so it seemed simple enough. And it was!
The cheesecake wasn’t storeworthy, but it was pretty enough, and it tasted amazing!
But I wasn’t finished yet! After that first success, I decided to make it again for a holiday get together. I wanted to take it one step further.
You know those caramel pies where the caramel is really thick and sticky but still creamy? The restaurant I worked at at the time made those. And I knew how they did it. If you just take the label off a can of sweetened condensed milk and boil the can for a couple hours, it turns into delicious caramel. I made another pumpkin cheesecake and topped it with that caramel. Call it a win!
I’ve made dozens of cheesecakes now, of all different flavors and types. Peanut brittle, caramel macchiato, PB&J, key lime, and more!
So I can have my favorite dessert any time.