Andrew Wang hasn’t made a traditionally “easy” pastry in the last five years, except for one classic Costco-boxed brownie mix. He is usually up for a challenge when it comes to baking, making everything from nutty Mont Blancs to a variety of decadent mousse. His classic, go-to recipes, which would be an adventure for most, are speculoos mousse and crème brûlée, in which he makes that crisp caramel topping with the blowtorch he brought to campus with him.
Andrew, however, is not only compelled to bake by the sweet and rich flavors of his desserts. He explained that baking is also a way for him to engage in many of his academic interests. Having taken courses in Spanish, German, French and Chinese at Tufts (not to forget English 1), Andrew sees baking as an opportunity to explore and appreciate different cultures and their various desserts and flavors. It is also a way to reconnect with his once lost but not forgotten chemistry major, for each bake is a little new science experiment.
Today’s experiment was matcha cheesecake. He began with the crust, smashing graham crackers and then mixing them with butter and brown sugar. The crumbly mixture was packed tightly down onto the bottom of one of his two springform pans, with the crust caving into the middle. He then popped it into the oven without the filling for a blind bake, which helps give it a crisp bite.
As the smell of buttery brown sugar filled the air, Andrew began making the filling. With his hand mixer, he stirred together sugar, matcha, a bit of sour cream and, of course, tons of cream cheese. Once the crust had gotten a nice golden color and cooled down, he poured in the batter. He began gingerly tapping the pan because, as he explained, it is important to get all the air bubbles out of the cheesecake after pouring. This can be helped along by gently running a knife along all the bubbles that rise to the surface, taking care not to agitate the crust too much. A creamy mix of sour cream and powdered sugar was then dolloped onto the top, running a knife through to make an intricate swirl on the top of the cheesecake.
While Andrew has always been passionate about baking, he said that he hasn’t always excelled. In fact, when he was in sixth grade he took a self-imposed five-year ban from baking after he forgot to put sugar into his brownies. Beyond that dry spell, he has come to learn through trial and error, taking on pastries and pies that most would never dare to bake. This recipe, while seemingly simple, requires the batter to cool and settle for an entire day. Good thing he could enforce the recipe, because not many would have the self-control.
After the entire day had passed and the suspense grew, it was finally ready to eat. While the top got a little too brown for Andrew’s liking, the inside was a delicious and velvety pale green, the matcha and sour cream adding a subtle flavor and tang.