Honey makes cheesecake tastier

I was excited to hear that the Tribune Cooks were going to share a common theme for this round of recipes – honey – but I was unsure as to how I would approach this challenge as honey is not something I’ve ever used in the kitchen other than adding to my tea.

I recently had been craving cheesecake, and I came across an interesting recipe online involving honey. Since I’d never tackled the task of cheesecake from scratch, I decided it was perfect.

The recipe, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough and posted on www.relish.com, contains no sugar but rather honey with which to sweeten. Knowing this, I wonder what other dishes can be substituted for the golden delight.

First, I had to purchase some honey, since I didn’t have any at home. Knowing that there is an abundance of local honey, I made a trip down to the End of the Commons General Store in Mesopotamia, where I found Barger brand Ohio honey. I purchased what I thought was a fairly decent sized container, but the recipe consumed the entire bottle. I recommend purchasing a large bottle so you have some left over, because if you make more than one of these cheesecakes (I made two), you will be surprised at how quickly it adds up.

Approaching this challenge, I thought it would be relatively easy to make but that the cleanup would be super messy. However, reality was quite the opposite.

First of all, the recipe says to use the cream cheese and eggs at room temperature. As I was gone most of the day and didn’t have time to let the items sit out, I mixed them cold. I do not recommend this, even if you have a high-speed mixer with ridiculously high settings.

I started with the first step, beating the cream cheese and honey together. The batter kept climbing up the mixers, so I was constantly scraping it back down. I think I got at least a full serving between the splatters on my stove and shirt. (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it did splatter.) Because I’m not one of those cooks who enjoys making a mess, next time I’ll be sure to do as the recipe suggests.

As I added the eggs, the batter got quite soft and discontinued its assault beyond the bowl. Mixing in the rest of the ingredients was easy.

Because I’ve never made cheesecake, using crumbs for crust was an interesting change from the flour-and-rolling pin crust I’m used to making. I wasn’t sure it would work out, because the crumbs didn’t want to stick to the butter on the sides of the pan. The bottom, however, was easy to coat. Honestly, I think I crushed the vanilla wafers up a little too thoroughly, but I didn’t think the larger bits would stick so I kept crushing until they weren’t so much crumbs as they were a course powder. Nonetheless, it all worked out in the end.

The batter smelled delicious as I poured it into the pans, and that smell kept getting better as it cooked.

The cook time on the recipe originally called for 70 minutes, but I’m changing it to 60 – it’s easier to leave it in longer, but not so easy to turn back time if you cook it too long. I know it cooked a little too long because the cheesecakes came out of the oven with numerous cracks along their surface. They were, however, the perfect golden-brown color with the edges nice and darkened.

I let them cool and drizzled them with honey. The recipe online also says you may garnish with berries, if you like, but when I tasted this dessert I knew that wouldn’t be necessary. Plus, I’m more of a chocolate cheesecake topper.

So if you’re like me and prefer a little sweet with your cheesecake, this recipe will satisfy, no topping required.