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The great Brussels charity bake off 2013: cheesecake fatigue

15:14 10/10/2013

Normally when I march into the office brandishing a cake tin, colleagues assume an expression akin to hungry chicks eagerly awaiting their next feed. Now, as I proudly present my second attempt at competition-standard cheesecake, they roll their eyes in anticipation of another round of over feeding.

While I’m eager to trial a couple of modifications they have to brace themselves for another calorie-fuelled New-York style cheesecake atop a speculoos base with sour cream topping; the whole thing finished off with salted caramel sauce. In an attempt at a crunchier crumb bottom I’ve prebaked the speculoos mix. This is certainly an improvement, as is the lemon zest addition to the rich baked filling, which tastes even tangier on the second day. The sour cream also gets a thumbs up for its smooth glaze-like finish.

I’ve equally fiddled with the toffee sauce following a post-dinner chat with a local restaurant chef. He admitted to deglazing the sauce with vinegar so in the pursuit of the perfect dessert I duly experiment by adding a teaspoon of white balsamic to half the caramel. Unfortunately I leave both to bubble a little too furiously and after a night in the fridge they have assumed an undesired thick dolce con lecche texture, even more so in the vinegar batch. I may go as far as a spritz of citrus in the next attempt, but otherwise plan on sticking to an altogether runnier and darker toffee topping.

But with the first round of the competition fast approaching I’m not sure there’s time, or energy for another practice run, and I’m not convinced my colleagues, who include a cream cheese intolerant, can choke down another wedge. It looks like the next test run will have to be the final result. I usually cannot resist trying out new recipes on family and friends, but entering a cookery contest is proving to be a stressful experience.

One of my main worries is aesthetics: delivering up to 20 dinky slices to a judging panel that includes top chef Pierre Wynants (formerly of Michelin starred restaurant Comme Chez Soi), Le Soir’s food critic Florence Atlas, and our very own Alan Hope of Flanders Today and Belgian Beer and Food Magazine (he’ll be lending the heft of his culinary experience to the pie round on November 25 when I’ll be passing the wooden spoon to the next member of the Bulli Bakers).

If you want to join in, come to White & Case offices, 62 Rue de la Loi, on Monday October 14 at 18.00. Organised by BritCham’s network organisation Brussels New Generation, the event is raising money for training schemes in Belgium (for underprivileged youngsters and young entrepreneurs). Staged over the next three months, with prizes awarded for each round as well as overall team winner, the competition is designed as a networking vehicle in addition to honing the baking skills of offices around the capital.

Written by Sarah Crew