Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let Them Eat (Cheese)cake

I don't know about you, but I'm on a budget. I realized this today when I went through the grocery line and had to mentally do the numbers before checking out to make sure I had what I could afford. Let's just say the Hellman's mayo (heck, I can make mayonnaise) and family pack of flour tortillas (I'm making a sourdough starter, so carbs are a plenty) didn't make the cut and were stealthily put back on the proper shelves. Seriously!

So, in coming posts, which from here on out will be posted weekly by Tuesdays at midnight, I'll detail some cost-efficient recipes that don't sacrifice flavor but do manage to be nice to your wallet and your palate. And don't worry. I'll still make room for Scharffen Berger chocolate and nasturtiums.

But, for one last hooray into decadence for the coming weeks, let me quote my sassy godmother of food writing, MFK Fisher:

"Permit your disciplined inner self to relax, and think of caviar, and thick cream, and fat little pullets trotting through an oak grove rich with truffles, 'musky, fiery, savory, mysterious.' Close your eyes to the headlines and your ears to the sirens and the threatenings of high explosives, and read instead the sweet nostalgic measures of these recipes, impossible yet fond."

The fact that Fisher's essay, "How to Practice True Economy," first appeared in her book, How to Cook A Wolf, in 1942 is truly awe-inspiring and yet not. We're surely not the first who have gone through an economic downturn, and we won't be the last.

In many instances, I hope to see a resurgence of home cooks and victory gardens. We owe it to ourselves to discover that good, healthful eats are not a luxury but a necessity. I'm a busy lady, but the older I get, the more I realize that there's something cathartic and rejuvenating about making a mess in the kitchen.

And in that spirit, I offer you one of my first original recipes--a recipe my mother perfected as I grew up in Blue Springs, Missouri: Turtle cheesecake.

Turtle Cheesecake

Recipe by Mary Carla Ligon (aka, Mom)


Cheesecake filling
3 packages cream cheese (the real deal, no neufchatel low-fat nonsense)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
A squirt of fresh lemon
A dash of salt

Chocolate ganache
12 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli)
8 oz. heavy whipping cream


3 packs graham crackers crushed
2 sticks of butter

1 cup pecans, halved
Smucker's Caramel Sundae Syrup (or homemade caramel sauce)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Liberate your 9-inch springform pan from underneath your frequently used cookware; you know the pan that has the cool little release latch that always makes me think of parachuting. They look like so.
3. Use a food processor on the graham crackers, or use a heavy duty plastic bag that you can beat the crap out of with a rolling pin. The latter is great for the low-tech cook.
4. Once the graham crackers are finely crushed, melt 2 sticks of unsalted butter in a saucepan or the microwave. Combine butter and crumbs to make the cheesecake crust.
5. Using clean hands and the bottom of a flat juice glass, press the graham cracker-butter mixture into the springform pan to make the bottom and side crust.

Now it's time for the ganache:
1. Using a double boiler, melt the 12 oz. of semisweet chocolate.
2. Once the chocolate is thoroughly melted, add 1 cup of heavy whipping cream. Stir together and let sit for 10-15 minutes until somewhat cooled.
3. Pour the chocolate ganache into the springform pan. This chocolaty goodness will be your surprise layer in the cheesecake.

Moving on to the cream cheese filling:

1. Blend the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and eggs on medium until smooth. Lumps will not do, so get rid of them.
2. Add the lemon, salt and sour cream into the smooth mixture.
3. When all ingredients for the filling are mixed, gently pour the cream cheese filling on top of the ganache in a circle, being careful to segregate the filling from the ganache (i.e., cover the chocolate, don't mix the two layers up).

Final steps:
Once the three steps are finished, bake cheesecake for 50 minutes to an hour until the middle is wobbly but firm (i.e., set). Let cheesecake cool overnight and then refrigerate for several hours before garnishing dessert with fresh pecans and caramel syrup. A cheating-heart trick for the caramel syrup: I use Smucker's Caramel Sundae Syrup even though I can make caramel. Call me lazy!

Enjoy with a robust pinot noir or big-bodied cabernet sauvignon (or as Dave says, Baileys).


Jenna said...

OMG. If that thing is on your counter when I get there on Friday, my pants are in trouble.

Kella said...

Your pants are spared. I made the cheesecake last Tuesday night for a Wednesday work potluck. But I did make Everyday Brownies that I pour Baileys over. Oops. Today I make a starter for sourdough, so we'll be okay. Oh, and Dave is going to do his darnedest to make mint chocolate chip ice cream from scratch. Mmmmm.

Love ya, girly!

Can't wait to see you either.