George Geary is one of those prolific chefs and cookbook authors whose name you may not immediately recognize, but whose work you probably would.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of The Golden Girls, you’ve seen his work. Remember all of those cheesecakes Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia would enjoy at the kitchen table?
Those were Geary’s.
During the 1980s and ’90s, Geary was a chef in the props department at Paramount Studios, and he provided the food props for numerous television shows such as The Colbys and It’s a Living.
He’s also author of nine cookbooks, including The Cheesecake Bible, The Complete Baking Cookbook and his newest, 150 Best Donut Recipes.
Geary, 51, of Corona, Calif., was in Hudson, Ohio, recently to teach a class at the Western Reserve School of Cooking on chocolate desserts, including his Quadruple Chocolate Chip Cookies, which started out as a prop for It’s a Living.
The cookie dough was a stand-in for chocolate chunk ice cream, which would have melted too quickly on the set. After the show, Geary baked the dough, and it has been his favorite ever since.
Geary explained that his father was an accountant, and he was anxious to find a career that did not including working at a desk. So he headed to culinary school, specializing in pastry.
In addition to his job at Paramount, Geary worked at the Cake Walk Bakery in Hollywood, where the last wedding cake he baked before leaving in 1982 was for Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito. He also worked for 10 years as a pastry chef for the Walt Disney company in California.
For the last 11 years, Geary has spent his time writing cookbooks and traveling the world teaching, including operating his own food tour business in California and serving as a celebrity chef on Holland America Line cruises, where he teaches classes and performs cooking shows.
Geary’s latest book on doughnuts is in recognition of a growing trend among chefs in big cities who are opening high-end doughnut shops, including Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta and the Doughnut Vault in Chicago.
“It’s another avenue of sweets and I think it’s the new cupcake,” he said.
Geary often teaches classes throughout Ohio, and said his goal is always to get people into the kitchen. “I want everyone to have a good time,” he said, adding that he hopes they’ll learn a thing or two in the process.
Known for his work in cheesecakes, Geary said he is always surprised at how many folks think a cheesecake is too difficult, until they make one and find out just how easy it is.
Most home cooks get upset if their cheesecake cracks on top, but Geary joked that’s what whipped cream and strawberries are for. With some extra care, cracks can be avoided, and he offered these tips for turning out the perfect cheesecake:
• Use the proper pan. While most cooks rely on a springform pan, Geary prefers a cheesecake pan that has a removable bottom, instead of a removable ring. Look for them online.
• Keep the crust to the bottom only, not up the sides of the cake.
• Don’t prebake the crust. It will bake along with the filling and you don’t want to put filling on a hot crust. He recommends freezing the crust first to chill it, while you make the filling.
• Don’t bake at temperatures over 350°.
• Add your eggs one at a time and make sure you mix in each one well before adding the next.
• Use a paddle attachment on your mixer, not a whip, which will add too much air to the batter.
• A cheesecake that contains no more than 2 pounds of cream cheese won’t need to bake more than an hour.
• Cooling in an area where there are no drafts is extremely important to avoid cracking, which can come from trying to cool a cheesecake too quickly.
And here is one of his recipes for trying out his tips:
Deep Dark Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake
For the crust:
¾ cup chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons. hot water
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325°.
For the crust: In a bowl combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 6-inch cheesecake pan or greased 6-inch springform pan with 3-inch sides, and freeze.
For the filling: In a small bowl, dissolve cocoa powder in hot water. Set aside.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until very smooth, for 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Fold in chocolate chunks, vanilla, and dissolved cocoa by hand.
Pour over frozen crust, smooth out to sides of pan. Bake in preheated oven until top is firm to the touch and center has a slight jiggle to it, 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.
Top with whipped cream if desired.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
Source: The Cheesecake Bible, by George Geary
Quadruple Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, for 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in flour mixture until well blended, 3 minutes. Fold in white, semisweet, and milk chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Using a 1¾ oz. (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) scoop, place dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Press down with palm of your hand or the bottom of a drinking glass. Bake in preheated oven until edges are firm, 12 to 18 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: About 50 cookies.
Source: The Complete Baking Cookbook, by George Geary