I suppose birthdays are the ideal time to take stock and make plans, assess progress, plan change etc. A time to get honest about what we want from life, and what we’re deluding ourselves about.
Here’s one thing I can leave in the year behind: Pinterest Fantasy. For one whole week in late August, inspired by an online tutorial, I became convinced that I should paint the insides of oyster shells with gold leaf paint and a food-safe shellac topcoat, then give them to my friends to use as salt dishes. Luckily, Liana (actor in the sketch show I’m directing) hosts a karaoke night at a bar with 1 dollar oysters, hence lots of free shells. This will be easy! I thought. This will be fun! Maybe I’ll quit my job and start an Etsy shop! And the weeks went by, and the oyster shells started to smell a bit, so I washed them with clorox in the bathtub, and ruined my black jeans. Then I put them back in the bag, and they are still in the bag.
So this is my vow: before I blow out the candles on this year’s birthday cheesecake, I will take that bag of oyster shells and throw them away.
This recipe is a classic Ina Garten one and it’s perfect. She tops her cheesecake with a redcurrant raspberry sauce, which looks delicious in fairness, but doesn’t work for me. I want my cheesecake aggressively plain – well, maybe topped with a birthday candle, but that’s it.
For the base1 ½ cups crushed graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers) 1 tbsp sugar ¾ stick butter (6 tbsp)
- Preheat the oven to 300 F, crush the crackers and melt the butter
- Mix with the sugar and press into a springform baking tin (about 9 inches)
- Bake on a baking tray for 8 – 10 mins until the crust has hardened and is golden. Leave the tin on the baking tray in case of later leaks
For the filling2 ½ lb cream cheese at room temperature 1 ½ cups sugar 5 large eggs at room temperature 2 large egg yolks at room temperature 1/3 cup sour cream 1 ½ tsp good vanilla extract or seeds scraped out of 1 vanilla pod, in which case, omit the lemon) 1 tbsp lemon zest
- Bump up the oven temperature to 450F
- Cream the cheese and sugar together in a mixer for 5 mins until light and fluffy
- Add the eggs and yolks 2 at a time, mixing in well – scrape down the sides to make sure everything in incorporated
- Add the sour cream, lemon and vanilla then pour into the crust (which should be cool, not hot to the touch. Wait until it is.)
- Bake for 15 mins
- Turn the oven down to 225 and bake for 1 and a half hours. Turn off the oven and let the cake cool there for 45 mins with the door open
- Wrap in plastic wrap and keep cool in the fridge overnight (this really helps it set)
- Dip a knife in hot water and run around the cake to loosen. Open the spring form and let the cake come back to room temperature (about an hour) before serving