Change of name from Bran Buddy(-ies) to HiFi Buddy(-ies)
The way that I came up with the name Bran Buddy/Buddies is derived from the name of the key ingredient used in these recipes: Kellogg's All-Bran Bran Buds—or "All Bran Bran Buds" as I often expressed it (Kellogg's itself being the trademark owner of the All-Bran and Bran Buds names). I have also used the Bran Buddy expression for some other Bran-Buds-containing treats that I have thrown together, not just these bars. But it was for good reason that I used this kind of naming on all of these recipes. Yes, they obviously contained bran from the Bran Buds. But they were also very delicious—high in fiber, yet surprisingly delectable or "decadent" (as some would say). I somehow perceived a "nutritious and very delicious" kind of treat like this as a "buddy"—as in friend, pal, ally, etc.—this word being, of course, derived from "Buds" in Bran Buds.

While I have succeeded in getting many people turned on to these recipes that were both nutrition-friendly and taste-friendly, at least one person suggested that I drop "Bran" from the name, due to the likelihood of scaring off some other potential tasters. This would pose a challenge to me, due to my having used the "Bran Buddy" form for a few years.

But another term had been on my mind throughout those years as well—Hi-Fi. Why?

As I was growing up, "Hi-Fi" (or "HiFi," or "hi-fi," or "hifi") had a nice ring to it, at least for me and many other people of my generation. Hi-Fi was an abbreviation for High Fidelity, a term describing high-quality audio. In more recent times, this wording has somehow given way to "Hi-Def" or High Definition, a term still applicable to audio, but a lot more easily associated with video (particularly HDTV's, i.e., high-definition televisions, with wide, flat screens).

However, what I had in mind was the idea of "Hi-Fi" standing for "High Fiber", at least within the context of my Bran Buddy concoctions. So I thought that I would change the name of my high-fiber treats to "Hi-Fi Buddies" (or "Hi-Fi Buddy Bars"). This sounded good to me, and I felt that it would sound good to many people from my generation as well (hopefully in addition to those people older than us). Many of us who grew up rockin' out to "hi-fi stereo" systems in the 1970's would acquire a significant desire for fiber as we got older.

But what about those younger than us? These people may not yet be as concerned about getting enough fiber, and "Hi-Fi" and "High Fidelity" may sound too old to them. But at least "Hi-Fi" easily rhymes with "Wi-Fi", which itself stands for "Wireless Fidelity" (a bonus is that the "Fi" part still stands for "Fidelity"), and this Internet-related term is something that these younger ones can much more easily relate to. So as long as the rhyme is there, perhaps "Hi-Fi" will still have at least a somewhat decent ring with these people too. Furthermore, even though they might not have a particularly big appetite for fiber these days, they still may like the high-fiber snacks anyway.

When someone hears the wording "Hi-Fi Buddies", that may bring up images of some kind of audiophile community. "Ah, the joys of high-end electronics!" Anyway, I have come to conclude that switching to this new naming arrangement, with "Hi-Fi" standing for "High Fiber" in this context, was a good move.

An unexpected FedEx delivery!

Okay, what happened was...on the morning of the day before my 53rd birthday, I heard sounds of what seemed to be a box "drop" and a scanner "beep" near my front door. Without opening this door, I simply glanced out of a window and spotted a FedEx truck in front of my house. I afterward took in this box, which bore an logo. Before long, I was guessing this "Saturday Delivery" package to be something from my brother (and his household) in California. It was a good guess.

I opened the box and found three wrapped presents.

The package The contents

A note was attached to each wrapped item.

Book: The 50 Best Cheesecakes in the World Book: The Best Make-Ahead Recipe

The first gift was a book, The 50 Best Cheesecakes in the World, which came with this note: "Happy Birthday Joel. Love Eric, Jean, Meg and Becca." (i.e., my brother, his wife and their two daughters). The next gift was also a book, The Best Make-Ahead Recipe, along with this note: "Happy Birthday Joel. This is for your Cheesecake habit. Check page 370. Other items will arrive later. Love Eric, Jean, Meg and Becca." On Page 370 itself, in addition to containing a recipe for New York-Style Cheesecake, there was a top recommendation for a particular springform pan—so guess what the third gift was?

Frieling 9-inch springform pan Amazon envelope

That's right! The third gift was that Page 370 endorsement, a Frieling 9" springform pan, with—OMS (OhMySurprise)!—a glass bottom!! Now that was certainly a different kind of cheesecake pan! The accompanying note said, "Happy Birthday Joel. This is also for your cheesecake habit. Love Eric, Jean, Meg and Becca."

The Amazon package also contained an envelope which said "keep your gift a surprise"/"unwrap your present before opening this envelope". Figuring that following this sequence would optimize my unpacking experience, I obediently opened my three presents first, including reading their respective accompanying notes. I then anticipated that the envelope would contain some kind of follow-up message from Eric, Jean, Meghan and Rebecca which they would want me to read specifically after unwrapping my presents. Actually, the envelope's contents turned out to be a packing slip, describing the three enclosed wrapped items. But I could still see the reason for accessing this envelope last—discover the identity of each gift upon unwrapping it, not upon viewing the packing slip! Okay,! Will do (and so I complied)!

And so the cheesecake journey rawks on! Thank you, Eric, Jean, Meghan and Rebecca!

And now, back to the Recipe Scrapbook!
Change of All-Bran product from Bran Buds to regular variety
For probably about 7 years or perhaps more, I have extensively used Bran Buds, a high-fiber cereal from Kellogg's All-Bran line, which also contained the regular, or Original, All-Bran. It was from the Bran Buds name that I came up with "Bran Buddies". My 21st century recipe scrapbook was launched from delicious and nutritious food creations that I somehow made up, using the Bran Buds product.

My food experiments have come a long way since then. In addition to my quest to making tasty treats that were not too high in fat as well as containing at least a decent amount of fiber, I have increasingly desired for all the ingredients utilized to be natural.

Sometime in my earlier Bran Buddies days, the list of ingredients for the Bran Buds product included high fructose corn syrup. Kellogg's more recently (to my delight!) replaced it with sugar. But the list still contained one ingredient that I regarded as an undesirable impediment to my natural quest: BHT, or butylated hydroxytoluene, an additive used extensively by food processors to extend freshness.

However, the regular All-Bran contained a very simple list: wheat bran, sugar, malt flavor and salt, none of which I determined to be artificial. While this product was also fortified with various vitamins and minerals (probably at least some of them being "synthetic"), their presence hardly bothered me.

I felt that the time had come for me to switch to the Original variety. Bran Buds cereal was a reasonably good start for me. I had to give it credit for launching this scrapbook. But as the years went by, I even phased out the "Bran Buddies" name, replacing it with "HiFi Buddies" at some point. And now, in June of 2013, it was time—again—to move on.

Some trade-offs need to be noted here. The regular All-Bran (at least as of this writing) is not as high in fiber as its Bran Buds counterpart. But the regular version still has plenty of this nutrient. I have also felt that this version had a somewhat better taste compared to Bran Buds. A bonus was the Original containing much less sodium.

It is with Prototype 5 of my orange cheesecake (the crust, to be more specific) that my usage of the regular All-Bran has gotten its debut in this recipe scrapbook. Aside from disputes over added vitamins and minerals, I now feel that, within reasonable respects, I can think of (at least) many of my future cheesecakes as being regarded as "all natural".
Changes to basic cheesecake batter composition, mid-2015
When I started making lower-fat cheesecakes back in the 1980's, I utilized a recipe inside a cookbook from the American Heart Association. That recipe's batter contained the following ingredients:

Lowfat cottage cheese
Margarine—which I later replaced with butter
Granulated sugar
Skim milk
Lemon juice
Lemon rind (peel)

When I resumed making cheesecakes—which was around 2009—I was no longer using lemon peel as a base ingredient (I still used this one for lemon cheesecakes). As the next few years went by, I also removed lemon juice as a base ingredient, due primarily to my starting to use a new cheese ingredient—yogurt cheese—which, like lemon juice, had tart characteristics. I also eliminated skim milk at some point. The salt was, somewhere along these years, removed as well. So these changes left the following remaining "original" ingredients:

Lowfat cottage cheese
Butter (formerly margarine)
Granulated sugar
Flour—of which I used various types, such as whole wheat and, more recently, unbleached all-purpose

New additions to the base ingredient list, based largely on my plain cheesecakes, were—within the past few years:

Yogurt cheese

The "cheese base" in particular had undergone changes. This used to be only cottage cheese. More recently, yogurt cheese has taken over this slot, although I would use a blend of both yogurt and cottage cheeses for cheesecake flavors that I felt should not be highly tart. For plain and citrus flavors, I would go solely with yogurt cheese. A cookbook from Health Valley, Cooking Without Fat by George Mateljan, turned me on to this ingredient as well as arrowroot.

However, after my somehow losing some satisfaction over a number of my latest cheesecakes, including Prototype 12 of my plain-flavored ones, I felt that another update was warranted.

I have come a long way since that initial American Heart Association recipe. Over the last few years, I have researched a number of more conventional, traditional, full-fat, cream-cheese-based cheesecake recipes. What I have found was a typical, popular base set of ingredients among them:

Cream cheese
Granulated sugar

Of particular importance was that cream cheese generally contained stabilizers and/or thickeners such as:

Xanthan gum
Locust bean gum
Guar gum

I myself tried using xanthan gum in a number of recipes, but often with unsatisfactory results (maybe I used too much?).

Lately, I saw potential in more closely paralleling my lower-fat cheesecakes with their higher-fat counterparts. The basic batter list that I had been working with in recent times consisted of the following:

Yogurt cheese (sometimes also with cottage cheese)
Granulated sugar
Flour (such as all-purpose)

So I reasoned that eliminating the butter would bring my list more in parallel with the conventional, higher-fat lineup. However, the two cheeses—cottage and yogurt—did not have enough stability like typical cream cheese. Hence this called for ingredients like all-purpose flour and arrowroot. But I felt that instead of using both of these two items, I would go solely with the Health-Valley-recommended arrowroot, which seemed to be a more efficient (and hopefully better-tasting) stabilizer than all-purpose flour. The resulting list for my new batter base would be:

Yogurt/cottage cheese
Arrowroot (to help stabilize the cheese)
Granulated sugar

Compare the conventional list:

Cream cheese (with its own stabilizers)
Granulated sugar

So my new composition was down to 5 simple ingredients. It was with Prototype 13 of my plain cheesecake—the batter, to be more specific—that my usage of this lineup has gotten its debut in this recipe scrapbook series (I added more cooking time as well with this prototype).

I continued making changes in my plain cheesecakes by simply adding another egg for Prototype 14. Not only would this return the egg-to-cheese-base ratio to what it was in earlier days, but also make the cheesecake more stable (hopefully) and contribute further to simplification: 1 egg (as well as 1 tablespoon of arrowroot) for every 8 ounces of cheese base.

However, I made a fairly bold move with Prototype 15!

Okay, I admit that I have seeking to bake lower-fat alternatives to cream cheese cakes. However, there were times when the cheese cultures from the cottage and yogurt cheeses still did not seem to quite work out well enough. So I thought that I would include at least some cream cheese in the mix. More specifically, I decided to take a chance with Neufchatel cheese—often referred to as "light cream cheese". Due to the lighter nature of this cheese, the fat would not surge too much (keep in mind that butter was no longer being used in the batter base ingredients at this point).

With this move, Prototype 15 would actually get three kinds of cheese—yogurt, cottage and Neufchatel (yogurt would still dominate over the two others). The goal was to attain the right balance of sweetness, tartness and "cheese-iness".

I wanted to ensure more firmness, so I added still more baking time as well.
Changes to basic cheesecake batter composition, mid-2017
My experiencing a very delicious cheesecake from Trader Joe's back around early June of 2017 prompted me to give further consideration to overhauling the basics of my cheesecake recipes. The efforts began with Prototype 17 of my plain cheesecakes and ended with Prototype 21. Earlier in these updates I did a little tweaking with the crust. But the far more important changes throughout the updates would involve the batter.

I felt that I should cut back on the tartness of the cheesecake's batter, so I replaced half of the yogurt cheese with additional cottage cheese. In other words, the cheese base's cottage-Neufchatel-yogurt ratio went from 1:1:4 to 3:1:2. It seemed like this helped enhance the taste somewhat, but I still wasn't satisfied.

But the most significant change affected the stabilizer.

My cheesecake history began with what has probably been the most popular stabilizer in baking—wheat-type flour. I used different kinds of this flour, such as all-purpose and whole white.

As the years went by, I started bringing arrowroot on board (this stabilizer getting its debut very likely in mid-2012), earlier to supplement the wheat-based flour and later to replace it. It was probably around mid-2015 when I outright retired the wheat-based flour, so the arrowroot was on its own at that point. It seemed to have considerably more stabilization strength compared to its wheat-oriented predecessor.

Recently, I tried a rather risky experiment. I made a cheesecake with no stabilizer added. That was Prototype 18. This wasn't the first time that I had done this. I also made Prototype 8 this way, and that one was exceptionally delicious. But it was also exceptionally soft. But Prototype 8 contained only yogurt cheese for the cheese base. Prototype 18, on the other hand, also contained cottage cheese and Neufchatel cheese, and these two products already had some stabilizers in them, particularly xanthan gum—an industrial staple.

Fortunately, Prototype 18 was not an unstable disaster (a little sloppy, yes, but not so runny). And its taste was really terrific, pretty much like Prototype 8's and Trader Joe's. This outcome put arrowroot in the crosshairs.

But what would be a superior alternative to arrowroot? I was looking for sufficient stability, but I was also in the hunt for a really great taste, just like I would enjoy with a more typical, fat-laden cheesecake.

The time had come to give xanthan gum—an ingredient available for retail sale, at least in recent years from Bob's Red Mill—a try. This stabilizer has been put to extensive use in the food industry—and particularly in cream cheese (often in conjunction with guar and/or locust/carob bean gum here)! But I didn't think that xanthan gum had been embraced anywhere nearly as much in homes. Maybe one of the reasons was the difficulty in using it. I myself have incurred a number of failures in the past with this ingredient—often by using too much of what I found out the hard way to be an overwhelmingly powerful stabilizer!

Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum (click here for bigger, more detailed photo)

But how much, then, should I use? I Googled around and was led to start off small—very small—with this potent ingredient. So I carefully put xanthan gum to work in Prototype 19, and the results worked out reasonably well. The batter tasted awesome, but I wanted to tweak the stability. This adjustment, which included the amount of baking time, as well as how much xanthan gum to use, would ultimately lead up to Prototype 21, with which I would close out this basic overhaul of 2017.

So the resulting basic cheesecake batter would now involve these ingredients:

Cheese base (such as cottage/Neufchatel/yogurt)
Xanthan gum (supplementing whatever stabilizers were already included in the cheese base ingredients)
Granulated sugar

Compare and contrast the conventional list:

Cream cheese (with a sufficient amount of its own stabilizers, particularly xanthan gum)
Granulated sugar

Now that's very close!

In early October, not long after my overhaul efforts with my plain prototypes, I furthermore decided to try an "egg-speriment" (or, "eggs-experiment") with Prototype 7 of my maple cheesecakes. I added one egg on top of what I primarily had been using for nearly the past two years, i.e., I went from five eggs to six. While "one egg for every eight ounces of cheese base" seemed to be mathematically convenient, using a half-dozen eggs per cheesecake had a couple of advantages. One would make my grocery shopping easier, because of the way eggs have been packaged—typically in multiples of six (I scarcely have been using this ingredient for any other purpose). The other would be beneficial for the cheesecake's firmness and texture. The outcome of the maple cheesecake itself was great, so I decided at this point to utilize the sixth egg on a regular basis.
An update since the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, late-2021
My cheesecake baking took a big hiatus in 2020—and continued through most of 2021. The last time I baked a cheesecake before this long break was probably in late December of 2019 or sometime in January of 2020. The reason for this stoppage was a breakout of a worldwide pandemic called COVID-19, or the coronavirus. This extremely infamous disease resulted in massive disruptions, including cancellations of numerous events at which I would normally serve my well-appreciated dessert. Even when such events resumed—or other events somehow continued on—there remained restrictions that still hindered my bringing these cheesecakes. And I was reluctant to make a whole cheesecake to be eaten by myself only (too many calories on my own!).

With the upcoming Rosh HaShanah lunch in early September of 2021 at my cousin Joanne's place marking my first time eating there since Thanksgiving of 2019, I finally baked my very first cheesecake in nearly 20 months—Chocolate, Prototype 24. How good it was to get back, at long last, into making my sweet specialty this side of COVID-19! This "Head of the Year" meal at her house would include my "Head of the (hopefully) Post-COVID Era" cheesecakes.

During this extensive down time, I made a decision to implement a small change, largely out of simplification, to my "cheese base". This would now consist of equal amounts of cottage, Neufchatel and yogurt cheeses (no other closely-related changes, such as adjusting the amount of xanthan gum—but for which I would end up having rubbery regrets here—would be made). Among other things, this resulted in using one whole 16-ounce container of cottage cheese, unlike the past, when I used one and a half containers of this for a single recipe—which meant putting a half-used container back in the refrigerator, for some other (hopefully near-future!) purpose. Under this latest modification, yogurt cheese would remain at 16 ounces, but Neufchatel would be doubled, from 8 to 16 ounces. The aforementioned chocolate prototype, rather than a plain one, would be the debut cheesecake for this new formulation.

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