“How long have we been social distancing?!”, I ask myself as I sit on my couch for the thousandth time over the last several weeks, feeling unmotivated and generally bleh. At this point, the hours, days and weeks have started to run together like that “Baby Shark” song on repeat.
It’s been 84 years… I think to myself, simultaneously picturing one of my favorite movie scenes.
That’s when a BuzzFeed notification popped up on my phone leading me to this article.
“THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY RELEASED ITS RECIPES?!”, I shouted, I admit - figuratively bursting at the seams with excitement - and literally startled my roommate in the process. This was it. This was exactly what I needed during this down time at home. I consider myself an avid home chef, you see, and the fact that we can now make recipes from one of my favorite restaurants while at home completely turned my mood around! It was like The Cheesecake Factory knew this was exactly what I needed in this moment - that’s when I did what anyone would do. I shared with my fellow PHCPers, filling them in on my plan, and let me tell you the response was overwhelming. Everyone wanted to get in on this!
It didn’t take long for us to choose which recipes we each wanted to try to recreate, and in the process, we decided that documenting our respective journeys would be so much fun. This way, we could feel like we were experiencing this together, while still respecting social distancing rules, and it turned out so good in the end, we wanted to share it with you all as well. Keep reading and laugh along as our teammates recount their experiences trying to recreate The Cheesecake Factory Recipes. From brunch and entrées, to appetizers and sides, we have plenty of options to sink your teeth into!
LEMON RICOTTA PANCAKES
Recreated by Linda Alvarado, Senior Designer
What’s the perfect remedy for an overcast, sleepy and otherwise blah Sunday morning? Warm and sunny Lemon Ricotta Pancakes from The Cheesecake Factory work pretty well for me! And (cue choir music here) thank you Cheesecake Factory friends, for putting the recipe up on your website, so even under quarantine, we don’t have to go without!
In our family, pancakes are an all-day affair, starting with whisper rustles of “Mom’s making pancakes!” Down to stealing nibbles of soft leftover discs doused in melted butter throughout the afternoon. These are no exception: the ricotta cheese and buttermilk joining forces to make them so thick and fluffy, and (even though this may sound weird) once they’ve cooled, some of the best finger foods ever.
At first, since the ingredients call for buttermilk, I was afraid our local grocery store wasn’t going to come through, and I was all prepared to use a go-to substitution, equal parts Greek yogurt and milk. But (more choir music here) wonder of wonders! Nestled down low in the dairy case, was a new shipment of small, plastic buttermilk bottles, of exactly the amount this recipe wants. This, and the ricotta, were the only “asked for” ingredients that I don’t normally keep in my kitchen arsenal, so I was able to get in and out of the store pretty quickly.
The recipe is fairly friendly, mix most of the dry ingredients, then the moist, combine. The hard part is dodging the impatient requests from family members while you’re cooking. Never mind that pancake batter is not like cake batter, it’s not snack-worthy until after it’s cooked. (Insert raw egg disclaimer here) This doesn’t stop them from trying. The little one wrinkles his nose suspiciously at the lemon zest, but it’s one of those additions that is more to round out the flavor, and it gives the pancakes a slightly more sophisticated nuance. This is still the case even if you’re the sort to liberally drown your pancakes in syrup, I might add.
Once the batter is beaten – but not too much, you don’t want to squash down any of those tiny bubbles – and starting to cook on the pan or griddle, the really good-smelling part comes next. My first pancake always goes to the cook no matter what. It’s always the one that gets splotchy on one side because I’ve impatiently added the batter too soon, and the oil hasn’t heated thoroughly. I don’t have the heat-to-timing balance down with the new recipe yet, and because of the ricotta cheese, this part was a bit tricky. These take a little longer than most to cook through, but at the same time, they go dark brown before you expect them to. This doesn’t seem to affect the flavor, just how they look, and going by the rate I kept finding bits torn off from the pancakes on my serving plate, they tasted pretty good.
Somehow, by threatening to whack-a-mole a few hands with my spatula, I managed to save enough pancakes to actually serve at breakfast. Sprinkled generously with powdered sugar these are oh-so-yummy, and I even squeezed a little of the lemon juice over mine, even though this makes the powdered sugar clumpy and earned disapproving looks from my son. I love the bright hits of tartness that come with the lemon drops. Of course, pancakes are one of those things that everyone tops a little differently, and we complement our breakfast table with honey as well as butter, but as delicious as these pancakes are, nothing makes them taste better than someone else making them for you! Nonetheless, they still received a 5 out of 5 from me!
DEGREE OF DELICIOUSNESS - FINAL RATING
CINNAMON ROLL PANCAKES
Recreated by Erica Codd, Director of Brand Marketing
Being a longtime lover of The Cheesecake Factory and never having tried their brunch offerings, I was excited to dust off the ole’ apron and try my hand at whipping up a batch of their Cinnamon Roll Pancakes! After weeks of isolation in our household, our pantry and refrigerator reserves were running low, so this adventure required a trip to the grocery store. If I were not a “stress snacker”, then things may have been different, as many of the required ingredients are pantry staples, but in my case, I needed to pick up eggs, buttermilk, cream and powdered sugar to restock our inventory. Once these items were secured, I was all set to get started!
As an “amateur home chef”, I should have foreseen some hiccups along the way, but my dusty… I mean trusty apron gave me a false sense of confidence! I followed the recipe to a T, beginning with the cinnamon swirl recipe on the stove, trying to cook it down low and slow – just to be safe. After a few minutes, the brown sugar was still not melting … so I turned up the heat! With the addition of the heavy cream came a loud, unexpected sizzle. “That’s completely normal,” I told myself as I removed the cinnamon concoction from the burner and let it sit to cool. It wasn’t until I circled back to it later that I realized the mixture had hardened. “This is totally salvageable!”, I tried to convince my excited viewers (i.e. my fiancé, baby and bulldog) before attempts to melt it back down. After a quick taste test, it was determined that the cinnamon swirl was burnt to a crisp and had to be remade. So much for beginner’s luck, right?!
Once the cinnamon swirl was remade, we were good to go, as the rest of the recipe was easy as pie … or pancakes! Yes, the pancake flipping was a little sticky, but once I got the hang of things, I was on a roll, a cinnamon roll to be exact! The recipe noted the vanilla icing is available at most grocery stores, but I opted to make that myself! After a quick Google search, I mixed together some powdered sugar, cream and vanilla, and we were good to go.
In the end, the pancakes turned out pretty yummy! The texture was fluffy and a little chewy from the cinnamon swirl, while the flavor was reminiscent to that of a cinnamon-sugar funnel cake. I don’t have a big sweet tooth, so these pancakes were a little rich for my taste, but my fiancé loved them! If you have a love for sweets and decadent brunch items, then this dish is definitely for you!
Overall, I would rate my recipe attempt a total of 3.5 Cheesecakes and a mid-4 as far as difficulty level goes. Next time, I’ll be sure to leave it up to the expert chefs at my nearest The Cheesecake Factory because I don’t think they will burn the cinnamon swirl!
DEGREE OF DELICIOUSNESS - FINAL RATING
WARM CRAB & ARTICHOKE DIP
Recreated by Bradie Bowen, Account Executive
It started off as a typical afternoon prep for Sunday’s family dinner. My dad was smoking a pork loin, and I was going to make the Warm Crab & Artichoke Dip as a yummy appetizer to treat everyone. One of our favorites when we get to go to The Cheesecake Factory. Little did I know what was actually going to take place was similar to that of a spicy food-eating challenge … but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Looking at the recipe initially, it didn’t seem too difficult. It just called for a lot of ingredients that I didn’t typically keep on-hand – actually, the only things I had in my pantry before making this were fresh parsley, olive oil and a few of the seasonings. Luckily, my local grocery store had everything else I needed.
Once I gathered all of the ingredients for an obligatory photo, I pulled up and re-read the recipe online to double check I had everything, and noticed that I misread “Crab Cake Mix” for “Crab Mix.” I thought it was referring to the crab mix I was making, and I definitely had not purchased crab cake mix. I looked around the kitchen and found left-over toast from the morning’s breakfast and some Hot Chicken Fry Mix in my parent’s pantry and decided to make do. I was confident that it would essentially be what I needed if I mixed the two things together, and if you remember from the intro of this article, I consider myself an avid home-chef and I’ve absolutely watched enough cooking shows on Netflix over the last several weeks to know this is a great substitution … maybe even give the dip a nice little kick of spice! (This is something you should remember for later.)
The steps in the recipe were pretty straight forward once I started combining the ingredients, so the dip assembly was pretty easy to understand after my initial hiccup. I was back in the zone and feeling good. I get to step 3, where I was instructed to add my “Crab Cake Mix”, Crab and Artichokes to the mixture of Sour Cream, Heavy Whipping Cream, Cream Cheese, Mayo and Spices. I made a last-second decision to just dump both jars in since they contained a tad bit more Crab Meat and Artichokes than what I needed.
WHY NOT?! I thought to myself, I mean at this point I am essentially the female-version of The Cheesecake Factory’s Chief Culinary Officer Donald Moore, right? We pivoted quick and made a save on the
Hot Chicken “Special” Crab Cake Mix, so might as well.
I dumped it all in and started mixing all of the ingredients together before transferring “the mix” to the stove to warm up. It was at this moment, as the spice dust floated up from my mixture and burned my sinuses, that my confidence started to falter a bit. Not only did I wish I had opted for a hand-mixer instead of hand-mixing everything together – I realized I may have made a very, very bad decision putting Hot Chicken Fry in this dip.
“It’s fine! It’ll still taste really good!” I kept repeating as I wiped the tears off my face and poured a glass of wine for my whole family … and 2 for me.
After a few minutes on the stove, it was time to plate and I got an excited, “Ooooh! Looks good!” from the family as I was preparing the final presentation before they dove in.
After a quick celebratory toast and a “CHEERS!” all around, it was finally time. I waited for everyone to try it first and gauge their reaction, seeing it in their eyes immediately … it was way too spicy.
Of course, they tried to play it off and make me feel better, saying it was still “Sooooo good!” I knew I had to try it for myself to see what I had done. The first bite really was delicious, but after a few seconds the spicy heat hit the back of my throat like a flamethrower. I was so upset; reaching for my wine, I still took another bite. The flavor was great, but I knew I couldn’t eat as much of the dip as I wanted to because of how spicy I had made it. *insert crying emoji here*
I love this stuff so I will definitely try and make it again. The recipe wasn’t difficult to follow, I just need to make sure I read all of the ingredients and instructions next time! My family helped me judge my attempt, which got an average 4 out of 5 Cheesecakes simply because it was way too spicy.
I’m also hereby apologizing to Donald Moore. The Hot Chicken Fry Dip substitute was the absolute worst call I would have ever made, and next time I make the Warm Crab & Artichoke Dip I will 100% remember the Crab Cake Mix.
DEGREE OF DELICIOUSNESS - FINAL RATING
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