My husband and I had our 14th wedding anniversary in October and I found myself a bit surprised by it. Not because I still feel (or look!) like I’m in my 20s or that the years have whirled past so quickly, but because of the love we still share. I’m surprised that after all he’s seen of me – the meltdowns, the post baby body, the way I leave hair ties everywhere – that I am still loved. I really can’t explain it. Shouldn’t I have been traded in for a newer model? Yet, I find myself so thankful for all the little ways that love manifests itself in our daily lives. Love that pulls me in and comforts, protects, listens, and cares.
Still, fear lurks around the corner. Fear that the love will dwindle. Fear that who I am and who he is someday won’t fit together as snugly as it does today. This fear can hinder me and make me more closed off, to communicate less clearly and honestly. Every time I give in to the fear, I feel distant, almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. Then, I realize that this is a battle of the mind and heart. Love takes courage and honesty. I think this is when I truly feel the deep, soul fulfilling love in our marriage, when I am accepted and loved through the hard conversations. So, I thought it was time to face another fear: cheesecake. Water baths, jiggly filling, cracks, and funny springform pans. It all made me want to run and hide.
Now, most people I’m sure can just ignore cheesecake and move on to something a bit more comfortable, but my husband is not a huge dessert fan (gasp!) but the one cake that he does love is cheesecake. He requests it for every birthday. He’s a bit of a purist, and believes such add ins as pumpkin or chocolate over power cheesecakes delicate flavor, and I tend to agree. We stick to New York Cheesecake with its creamy and delicate texture and bit of crunch from the graham cracker crust. One year I decided to go for it and guess what? It was a disaster! Burnt and eggy, and just all wrong, we ate what we could and then decided to always buy one forever and always.
But you know how sometimes as much as you fear another failure, you just have to give it another whirl? Well, that’s how I felt about cheesecake. I just couldn’t let it go.
I bought all the ingredients, read articles, found a new recipe and even borrowed a pan from a friend. I was all set to go. Yet, I sat. For weeks. I really didn’t want to fail. Fear had me again. Finally, I decided it was now or never, so I jumped in. You know what? It was the best cheesecake we had ever eaten! Not a failure! Success! I was stunned. Not a crack or a chalky custard. Smooth, creamy, and flavored just right. Fear did not prevail and that birthday cake will now come from my kitchen.
Ready to try your hand at it? Cheesecake success is just around the corner.
Graham Cracker Crust:
This graham cracker crust recipe is slightly adapted from Deb Perelman. I love how tall the crust is and that she measures in ounces (huzzah!). My only change was that I followed Dorie Greenspan’s directions and pre-baked the crust.
- 8 ounces graham crackers, ground fine in a food processor
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Line the bottom of a 9 inch round springform pan with a double layer of heavy aluminum foil. Butter the bottom and sides of pan and place pan on a baking sheet. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and stir together until ingredients are well combined. Press the graham crust onto the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Do your best to make the crust even in thickness and press down firmly. Move the pan to the refrigerator to chill. Once chilled bake for 10-12 minutes. The crust will be slightly darker when finished. Cool on a cooling rack while you make the filling.
I followed Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Creamy Cheesecake and slightly adapted it by adding orange and lemon zest. I loved the light citrus flavor that came through the cheesecake.
- 32 oz Original Philadelphia Cream Cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup full fat sour cream
- 1/4 + 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp citrus zest (I used orange and lemon)
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and fill a tea pot or a pan with water and bring to a boil on the stove. In the bowl of the mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese until light and creamy, about 4 minutes on level 4 on a KitchenAid mixer. Keep the mixer running and add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and mix for another 4 minutes on medium speed. Lower the speed and mix the eggs in one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape after each additional egg. Once all the eggs have been added, increase the speed to medium and beat for another 30 seconds. Reduce the speed again and mix in sour cream and whipping cream until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Mix in citrus zest and scrape to make sure the batter is uniform in consistency. Pour batter into springform pan and level out with a spatula.
Place the springform pan inside a large roasting pan and place in oven. Now slowly pour the boiling water into the roasting pan, being careful to not get any water inside the springform pan. The water should reach about half way up the sides of the pan. Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself!
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the cheesecake has a bit of a jiggle to it. The top may be slightly brown and may rise or have a few cracks. This is ok. Now turn off the oven and prop open the door and let the cheesecake rest for another hour.
Take the roasting pan out of the oven and gently lift up the springform pan and remove the foil. Be careful, hot water may be lurking in the foil. Put the springform pan on a cooling rack to completely cool. Once cool, refrigerate over night.
The next day, run a small spatula around the sides of the pan to make sure the crust is not attached to the pan and gently remove the sides of the springform. Serve and enjoy! Refrigerate any leftovers covered in plastic wrap or foil (or both!) I found that my cheesecake was creamy and wonderful for 2 days and then by the 3rd (yes we ate cheesecake 3 days in a row!) it had become a bit chalky and the crust was a little too soft.