Chocolate cake with coffee buttercream and marzipan leaves - one of the Thanksgiving dishes that actually came out just fine.
Should I talk about the ones that didn't? Let's face it: the failures are more amusing than the successes. This year, I had a little of both. My little onions, braised in butter and homemade chicken stock, were great. The carrots were cooked to perfections and nicely glazed with brown sugar and butter. No complaints about the roasted sweet potatoes with fresh rosemary. Leaf-shaped butter cookies, flavored with a little orange and coated in cinnamon sugar, were a success. My brother-in-law rated my pear crumble pie a 9, maybe a 10. And the chocolate cake was good, if a little denser than usual. (I make this cake, the epicurious Chocolate Stout Cake recipe, often.)
But I also made a few missteps. The cornbread stuffing was drier than it should have been. Some of the vegetables were a bit cold on serving (I don't know how to handle this without breaking down and buying a food warmer tray). My sweet potato/pecan pie bubbled up and over and made a mess of the floor of the oven, as well as dripping all sorts of stickiness under the crust, making for very messy serving. And then there was the pumpkin cheesecake.
I've made quite a few pumpkin cheesecakes and never had a problem. I made this one last weekend, and it looked just fine. I froze it, then thawed it on Thanksgiving day. And in the thawing lay the problem.
My cheesecake started to give off water.
It was all unmolded on a nice glass cake plate with a lipped edge, and thank goodness for that lip, because otherwise there would have been dripping onto the tablecloth and I had already gotten in trouble by getting chocolate on my mother's tablecloth. I used a paper towel to sop up the liquid, assumed it was just some condensation of some kind, and went about my business.
A half-hour later, there had to have been 1/4 cup of liquid around the base of that cake, making my nice gingersnap crust a soggy mess.
I couldn't understand it, but I had a theory, a theory I hate to admit on a blog devoted to organic, local ingredients. I hadn't used the hallowed One-Pie can of pumpkin. Instead, I had used an organic canned pumpkin. (I knew better than to use real pumpkin, which even when roasted and drained is too watery for most baking). I had noticed upon taking the pumpking frmo the can that it seemed a little lighter in texture and color than I was used to. This morning, I confirmed with a co-worker, whose wife had had the same problem with organic pumpkin in a pie. I am left in the unfortunate position of having to make a recommendation to AVOID organic pumpkin, at least for custards.
What a world.