Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Cake to Hold a Candle To

I love cheesecake.

I always have.  One of the first desserts I ever made was a recipe of my mom's for chocolate chip cheesecake.  It was written in green pen on a long, skinny strip of weathered paper, really two pieces taped together at a seam that was soft from folding and unfolding it's after dinner tale.  The cake had an oreo crust and was sprinkled with tiny droplets of chocolate chips that rather than sinking into the cake, rested on top creating sweet, miniature patterns.  In high school I'd make that cake for any occasion possible.  For example, Saturdays.  I still remember one in particular where I sat by a frosty winter window with my friend Al, noses pressed up against chilly panes, watching the cheesecake cool outside in the clearing we'd made in a snow bank. 

So, needless to say, I could relate when my friend Josh requested a cheesecake for his birthday...a fantastic fiesta of a party with Mexican themed food, decoration, streamers and a pinata...why not make a cheesecake?  I was giddy at the idea.  Peanut butter and chocolate.  Dark chocolate cinnamon.  Those little mini chips that steered me so right so long ago.  

Both feet in the candy aisle I learn, Josh doesn't like chocolate.  Slight devastation.  But my love cheesecake is true and a birthday is an occasion...specifically, as Josh would describe, one that deserves food  so good, "you want to roll around in it."  So I thought outside the chips and oreo crumbs.  Something salty sounded right...say, a pretzel crust!

And with berries still a few months away, and apples a few months behind for the top.

With streamer-like ribbons of peel on the cutting board, tiny squares of diced mango sizzled in the sweetness of brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice and butter in a pan on the stove.

Russ and I carried a still warm cake, topping on the side, across the park to our friend's house. The cake cooled in the fridge while we ate rice and beans, chips and seven-layer dip, empanadas, quesadilla casserole...some number of margaritas and one smashed pinata later... was cheesecake time.  In the frenzy of spices and mango, vanilla beans in cheesecake, crushed salty pretzels, chile shaped pinatas and salt rimmed glasses, well, we forgot birthday candles.  In my senior days I will still remain a firm believer that a birthday cake is just a cake without candles.  And this was a cheesecake for a birthday fiesta.  So.

We did what we had to.  I suspect the bigger the candle, the more you get to wish for.

And for you dear readers and cake monkeys, whatever your occasion, my wish you for is that you try this cheesecake.  It is good.  SO good.  I think it may be the most delicious recipe I've shared with you yet.  And best of all, if mangos are your Josh's chocolate, this cake is the perfect blank canvas.  Add chocolate chips.  Fruit.  Spices.  Peanut butter.  Make the crust graham or oreo.  Make it something you want to roll around in.

But then eat it instead.

 Vanilla Cheesecake with Mango Compote and a Crushed Pretzel Crust

For crust:
1 C crushed salted pretzels
1/8 C melted butter
1 T sugar

For filling:
3 8oz packages of cream cheese
1 C sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
2 large eggs
3/4 C sour cream

For topping:
1 mango, peeled, cored and diced
2 T butter
3 T dark brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
a pinch of allspice
a splash of rum

1.  For crust:  mix crushed pretzels, butter and sugar together in bowl.  Using the bottom of a jar, press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9" springform pan.  Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes, until dry and golden brown.
2.  For filling:  whip cream cheese till fluffy.  Beat in sugar.  Mix in the seeds of one vanilla bean.  Mix in eggs, one at a time.  Stir in sour cream.  Pour filling over crust and bake cheesecake in a water bath at 325F for approx. 1 hr, or until top is dry and slightly puffed.
3.  For topping:  Melt butter in a pan over medium heat.  Add sugar, mix until dissolved.  Add spices, rum and mango and cook until mango is tender.

1 9" cake

1 comment:

cia007girl said...

Hey you. I call visiting your blog "story time" because each entry is a story, and I love reading it! I am thinking I might be getting more into baking? I've been having to do some baking testing at work. Today I was making brownies with cappuccino frosting, and as I was mixing melted chocolate and butter with sugar, flour and eggs, I thought to myself "huh, this isn't so bad" :)