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TRIAL BY CHEESECAKE AND OREO TALES

A New Edition - Oreo Cheesecake or Trial By Cheesecake (For yet more cheesecake tales, read A Note From Marcy June 2005 Edition)

Oreo Cheesecake Or Trials By Cheesecake
Excerpt From The Best of BetterBaking,com, Random House Canada, Ten Speed Press, 2004

Early on in the start of my culinary career, I ran my own business, Cuisine D’Or and was a specialty cake caterer. One of my best clients, a local dessert restaurant aptly called Calories, implored me to make a cheesecake that no customer could resist and that would make them the talk of the town. I created an Oreo Cheesecake, figuring the fusion of commercial classic with the de ultra of cheescake would prove a best seller. I was right and in time, I became renown in the restaurant trade for this decadent cake, cursing all the while as I invested in crates and crates of Oreo cookies to keep up with the demand, growling as I realized the cakes cost almost as much to make as I sold them for.

At that time of my entrepreneurial cake business, I had rented a bakery with another pastry chef, Jean-Claude Frappier, who similarly was providing specialty pastries for upscale hotels in the city. He was an accomplished and very competitive colleague. He came from the hallowed halls of French cuisine; I was self-trained up til then (I later did graduated as a professional pastry chef myself) and suffice to say, we were an odd pairing. Jean-Claude often viewed my work with a combination of envy and disdain. I viewed his with envy and disbelief.

“How could she make Oreo cheesecake? How gauche” I would hear him ask under his breath.

“How many cream puffs can anyone eat?” I would quietly mutter back.
It was, in fact, the war of the whisks, a collision of culture in the kitchen.
One day, exhausted from having baked day in, day out for five days solid, I wearily placed Oreo cakes and plain vanilla cheesecakes in the oven. I neglected to sprinkle cookie ‘dust’ (minced Oreo crumbs) on the Oreo versions (in order to distinguish them from my classic Californian and New York cheesecakes). Once the cakes were cooled and chilled, I realized I wouldn’t know which to garnish with chocolate cream and cookies, and which to adorn with strawberries. There were sixty cakes! I was aghast, reeling from the lost ingredients. There was no way I could garnish kiwis and fresh berries on a cake chock full, in its interior, of chopped up chocolate sandwich cookies!

Jean-Claude casually glanced up from his choux pastry station, sipped his espresso (which he carefully brewed every day), and he actually offered to help me.

“Tiens, mademoiselle,” he said, as he skewered a cake tester into the cakes, brought out a cake-crumb laden stick and smeared off the cheesy crumbs.

“When it comes out white, that’s a plain gateau. When you see these dirty crumbs, that’s your ‘affaire Oreo’ ” He returned to his coffee and I resisted hugging him in relief.  He went back to his espresso and Playboy; I finished garnishing the cakes.

I was grateful to Jean-Claude for his rescue and ingenious tactic, but he really had no use for my “affaire Oreo” and he wasn’t about to be too gracious about it. Nevertheless, the Oreo cakes always sold out very quickly, as did his Black Forest tortes, and my colleague and I retained a grudging respect for each other in the days that followed that incident. We never did become the long lost sister and brother act of Pastrydom but come to think of it, in time he even forgave me, if not forgot, that I had once jammed his 60 quart Hobart mixer on my first day in the bakery, and broken the unit, causing him to whip some 80 quarts of whipping cream by hand for his Napoleons. I did manage to have the mixer re-welded at an overnight garage but not before Jean Claude suffered substantial, undue tendonitis.

A couple of months after that fateful day, the owner of the Calories store informed me that none other than Bon Appetit Magazine had requested my Oreo cheesecake recipe. I was in heaven.  Fame and fortune was at my door! Goodbye dirty dishes; hello Hollywood was what I thought. Not exactly but it was a thrill.

When the recipe ran in the magazine I framed the column, and later, I actually went on to be a contributor to Bon Appetit. My first feature was a collection of my twelve favorite recipes for cheesecake. I was very proud of that article and I remember it vividly. I was newly  pregnant at the time with my first son,  and testing cheesecake was making me rather queasy. Nonetheless, I made it through, and the cakes were lovely but of course, none is as memorable as the Oreo.

One day, I received a letter from Nabisco people, who asked me to stop using the name Oreo unless it was clearly identified as a registered trademark. I was known in the food press and I was known in the biscuit boardroom! I complied with the request of course, and I was flattered to see that Nabisco eventually produced their own recipes for consumer and commercial versions of Oreo cheesecake. It may not seem so exotic now, but it’s an inspired creation than I’m proud of, and it still makes me smile to each time I make the recipe.

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 BakerBoulanger / BetterBaking.com 1997-2003