Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Calorie Police = Off Duty

While I was away last weekend, Brother #3 sent me a picture (and a caption) that made me laugh out loud.

"See how we eat when you aren't here?! I should start my own blog!"

While the cat's away the mice will play...

In 2006, Mom committed to baking all 50 of the cakes listed in the Country Living Great Cakes cookbook. At the rate she's going, it will take another 16.666667 years to check off all 50 recipes (but to be fair - this is because we keep asking for Maple Walnut Cake instead of encouraging her to try a new one and because I get grouchy when there are too many desserts around). Since the flourless chocolate cake (#15) was demolished by the time I got home, I had to rely on everyone else's reviews: adequate, good, acceptable, decent, fine...but not wonderful.

Around here, we like fabulous cakes. Cakes that become half a cake on the first night, and then a quarter of a cake, and then a crumbly single slice of cake just begging to be polished off. We like cakes that are made from scratch and have complementary sides (read: ice cream, fresh fruit, homemade hot fudge sauce, etc.). Amazing cake recipes (on batter-splattered, bookmarked, and falling-out pages) are covered with handwritten exclamations of success and are made again and again. They become staples (to borrow a word from Brother #3).

Torn and Tired Go-To Chocolate Birthday Cake Recipe

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In the absence of the calorie police (read: me), Mom pulled out sticks of butter to soften, dusted off her favorite cookbooks, and donned her apron in the late afternoons. When I got home yesterday, I was greeted by the aromas of a second baking cake and a whirring timer. Like a warm blanket slipping over my shoulders, the comforting smells of butter and vanilla engulfed me in a hug and steered me towards the oven. I pressed on the oven light...and sighed with longing.

An Opened Cookbook = A Big Hint

Even my rigid diet doesn't stand a chance against homemade cheesecake. Admittedly, I "earned" (welcome to the world of Hannah) my slice by running 12.3 miles and by eating a dinner of fish, brussel sprouts, and dry salad...but I enjoyed every single last bite. No guilt. Not even a taunting whisper. This, my friends, is progress...especially since I typed up the recipe (two pounds of cream cheese) as I ate it.

Basic Cheesecake

Cheesecake, Cake Stand

Recipe for Tall and Creamy Cheesecake from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan (we served it with candied pecans, raspberries, and strawberries...but there are countless ways to dress up this dessert)

Candied Pecans, Just Roasted

For the crust:
1 3/4 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups combination of heavy cream and sour cream

To make the crust:
Butter a 9-inch springform pan and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil (to prevent water leakage).
Stir the crumbs, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl.
Pour over the melted butter and stir until all ingredients are uniformly moist.
Turn the ingredients over into the springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs over the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides.
Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Center a rack in the oven and place the springform on a baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake (reduce oven temp to 325 degrees F).

To make the cheesecake:
Put a kettle of water on to boil.
Working with a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy (about 4 minutes).
With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat until the cream cheese is light (about another 4 minutes).
Beat in the vanilla and add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream and heavy cream.
Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it.
Scrape the evenly-mixed batter into the springform pan (the batter will reach the rim of the pan).
Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into it to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top should be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan.
Turn off the oven and crack open the door to allow the cheesecake "to luxuriate in its water bath" for another hour.
After the 1 hour day at the spa is up, remove the setup from the oven.
Lift the springform pan out of the roaster and remove the foil.
Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and refrigerate overnight.
At serving time, remove the sides of the springform pan and set the cake on a serving platter.

I Wish My Plate Still Looked Like This

Only one other scent in the world rivals the smell of baking cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies all combined: Bath and Body Works True Blue Spa Shea Cashmere Body Lotion. This creamy concoction just smells like Mom to me...it offers a softer hint of the irresistible butter-and-vanilla fragrance that lingers in the air after an afternoon of baking. It's incredibly soothing and often makes me forgo my scented deodorant can act as a perfume all by itself. Buy a bottle for yourself - strangers will be leaning in alarmingly close and telling you that you smell good in no time.

Shea Cashmere Creams


  1. Gingersnap cookie crust? Count me in! This looks delicious! And i'm so glad you didn't feel any guilt while eating it because it looks too goo to pass up!

  2. Great one Hannah. That cheesecake on that beautiful stand...perfection. Oh and of course I'll b making my way to try out the cashmere scent. I'm such a sucker for creams and lotions! ....Carolyn