From culinary student, to cook, to whatever the future holds
It’s already halfway through June?!?!111 Where has half this year gone already?
Once December passes, there is a distinctive 6 month period of recoup. Both in my personal life and in whatever kitchen I’m cooking there is a sigh of relief come January. As we meander into February and March, things slowly start to pick up. More weather changes, more sunny skies between showers.
This week has been a blur of work, chores, chatting with friends and family, and countless moments of simply staring out the window at the sun. I felt the physical shift of “life” from a steady march to an almost feverish run. And from now through my vacation in July, I’m fairly certain things will run at this pace.
However, amidst the texts, chores, plant care (remember all those plants you wanted, Ashley?), yoga, dog walks, rideshare arranging, and other business comes a necessary distraction.
This man has a birthday
Seeing as tomorrow is his birthday, it’s another opportunity to sing the praises of my sweet man, Alexir. He is hardworking, gifted with a great palate, kind, generous, and silly. This comic by The Awkward Yeti about sums up our relationship. Obviously with Alexir being Heart and me playing the part of Brain.
Let me note that I am a strong, independent woman. I have ridden through some stormy seas and emerged capable of standing on my own two feet. I have two college degrees, I’ve built a career, changed, and built a new one in a different field. Life and the challenges presented to me on my journey have shown me that I am enough.
But with Alexir, I am more. His silliness reminds me that life is only as hopeless or desperate as we make it. Things can and will get tough. We grow, develop, blossom, and (often) fall. Only to be planted as seeds for our next opportunity to bloom. He tells me I am enough, just as I am. I do not need to be fixed, only to accept and grow.
He sees me running around in the morning, half dressed, hair a mess of unmanaged curls and frizz. At that moment, he tells me I’m beautiful. He’s the man that holds the door open for me and still takes the chance to slap my ass on the way in.
We have navigated this whole “adulting” thing together the last few years with much patience, a little luck, hard work, and a ridiculous amount of laughter.
With all that in mind, it’s little wonder that I’m stoked for the chance to have the day before his birthday off. This gives me time to buy ingredients.
Puree a little of this
I love surprises, but I wanted to be sure that Alexir had whatever sweet treat he desired most. We both have a pretty strong sweet tooth. I gave him the standard crossroads of creamy vs chocolate, and we went the cheesecake route.
His love of sweets is surpassed only by his love of raspberries. I know better than to bother putting any I buy in the fridge, as he’ll eat a whole package as soon as his eyes fall upon them. As luck would have it, they are a their peak right now. I’ve purchased 4 of the plastic pint containers over the last week.
I’ve adapted a recipe from Tyler Florence. I generally steer clear of Food Network chefs, but cheesecake can be a touchy subject. These big network chefs have the fleet of pastry chefs and assistants as their disposal to recipe test until the ratio is nearly perfect.
Mid-recipe, I was also reminded of the fact that I lack a baking pan larger than 9×13″. This is bothersome when trying to create a water bath for the cheesecake (which helps slow/control the temperature increase of the eggs while baking). Luckily, I can be pretty resourceful.
People are sometimes intimidated by the thought of adding decorative sauce to their pastries for fear of it being too complicated. With the help of my crappy MS Paint skills, I’ve created a crude diagram of how to make sauce hearts. Place sauce (raspberry or whatever you prefer) in a small squeeze bottle. Starting in the middle make one larger dot of sauce, followed by many smaller dots spiraling outward from the center. Dots should land about 3/4″-1″ apart. Using a wooden skewer, stick the point into the center of the middle dot of sauce. drag outward towards the center of the next closest dot. Continue outward in a spiral, taking care to drag the skewer through the center of each dot (this makes the most even heart shape).
Easy peasy. Without further ado, the giant mound of eggs and cream cheese, affectionately known as cheesecake.
Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake
For the Crust:
30 squares graham crackers (or gluten free grahams), finely ground in food processor
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted
For the Raspberry Sauce:
1 small plastic container raspberries (approx 6 oz), washed
1-2 Tbsp water
1-2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
For the filling:
1 pound (2 oz. packages) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 pint (16 oz) sour cream
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 ea lemons, zested
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325*F.
To Make the Crust: Grease a 9″ springform pan. Line bottom with parchment (grease as well). Line outsize with 2-3 sheet tin foil to create barrier from water. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Press into springform pan using the bottom of a drinking glass. Place in fridge or freezer for 5 minutes.
To Make the Raspberry Sauce:Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Strain through a small sieve to remove any seeds. Taste and adjust sugar or lemon juice as desired. Store in squeeze bottle or glass jar in fridge.
To Make the Filling: Using an electric stand mixer, whip cream cheese until fluffy and without lumps (2-5 minutes). With the mixer on low, add eggs one at a time, scraping down sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. Slowly add sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix until just combined.
Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Place foil-lined springform in a large baking dish (larger than 9″x11″). Pour half the cheesecake batter into the pan. Squirt in a small amount of raspberry sauce and marble into batter using a wooden skewer. Pour in remaining batter. Decorate top with dots of sauce (see above diagram). Pour boiling water into the baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until center is just barely set. There will still be a lot of jiggle. Remove foil and cool for 30 minutes. Loosely cover and place in fridge for 4 hours or over night. Run a thin knife or metal spatula along the edges of the pan to dislodge and open the springform to release. Garnish with fresh raspberries. Serve with additional sauce as desired.
Love you, Alexir. Can’t wait to have a slice of cheesecake with you after work tomorrow. And of course, a little dinner trek to a new restaurant. Here’s to this birthday and many more.