Day 364 – National Cheesecake Day

This was it. My last chance to make my very own cheesecake. Cheesecake has come up along this quest multiple times. There was Blueberry Cheesecake Day (I bought some from Gregg’s), there was Pumpkin Cheesecake Day (I ended up going with Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream from Ben & Jerry’s) and there was Cherry Cheesecake. For that one I made a cheesecake, but it wasn’t the kind of cheesecake I imagined. It was one of those no-bake kind which is essentially cream cheese. It was good, but it didn’t have that consistency of a cheesecake that’s baked. When I saw National Cheesecake Day was coming, I knew I had to nail this one. It would be my last chance.

It is Day 364 of this quest. I’ve done this for almost a year straight. Every single day. I really don’t even know what happens next or where I go from here. It’s been quite the year and I think I’ll be reflecting about it all over the next few days and sharing some thoughts. What I do know is that these last two weeks or so have been the hardest of the 364 days. It wasn’t what I was celebrating that was difficult. It was life itself as if the world was conspiring against me to stop me before I hit the finish line. I’ve heard about this happening to noble questers. The way the ring pulled at Frodo. How Galahad battled the forces on his way to the Grail. How Indiana Jones had to look away from the Lost Ark. Your final tests block your way to see if you got the strength and gumption it takes to reach the end. The long trudge of all this celebrating is wearing on me and I have had the very real thought of quitting over the last few days. But I can’t. I’m committed. I’ll push on.

I thought today was going to be easier in regards to achieving the day of celebration, although it ended up being not as easy as I thought. I had taken the day off from the Vineyard so Lola and I could get some of our affairs in order. She has been manning our battle stations by herself and today was a day for me to help. Our living room looks like Darby Shaw has been holed up in here hiding from Victor Mattiece. There are boxes of papers and documents spread across the room. There’s a printer at the ready. There are documents on all surfaces dotted with post-its connecting the story together. My goal for today would be to jump in come together with Lola so we would be ready for Monday. Even though it would take most of the day, in my mind I thought I would still be able to squeeze in some time to make a cheesecake. I was able to make it, but it was precious time lost. Apart from my cake-making break, we both sat in our living room from morning until a little after 8:30 PM trying to get everything ready. At that point however, our heads were mush. We weren’t making sense and we were starting to get snippy with each other. It was time to quit for the day and let the tales of Westeros sweep us away.

When it was cheesecake time, I decided to use a recipe from the folks at King Arthur Flour. They usually have great recipes with clear instructions, and they seem like nice people. This recipe was titled Easy Cheesecake and with a quick read through, I noticed they weren’t kidding. Best of all, you baked the cheesecake so the end result would be that creamy texture that a good cheesecake should have. I started with the crust which was your typical graham cracker crust recipe. I had decided to make the cheesecake in a springform pan because most cheesecakes seem to be made that way. When I saw the ingredient amounts needed to make the crust, I didn’t think it would make enough to stretch across the whole pan so I doubled the crust recipe. That gave me plenty and I pressed the graham cracker, sugar and butter mixture across the bottom of the pan and then all the way up the sides. It looked good. Then I realized the amount of filling I made was not commensurate with the pie crust amounts and I didn’t have enough ingredients to double the filling recipe. Essentially I had a pie crust that went to the top of my pan and a cake that only went half way up the pan. It looked weird. I thought maybe the cake would rise up, so I still had a little hope as I tossed it in the oven. When I checked 20 minutes later, the cake had risen a little but not as much as I needed. The cake essentially had a crown of graham cracker crust around it.

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It was a hard thing to cook because after the thirty minutes when I was supposed to take it out of the oven, it still looked like it wasn’t set enough. I kept it in for an extra ten minutes which seemed to work but then I felt like I burnt the crust (even though I used a cake shield). I let it chill on the counter and then when it was cool enough, I put it in the fridge to chillax for the rest of the day. After the King of the North said howdy-do to The Queen of Dragons, I went to the kitchen to cut us a piece. I gave Lola a piece with some strawberry topping. I put chocolate sauce on mine. I had also made some fresh whipped cream to serve along with it. I hit each piece with a dollop of that.

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The crust was actually pretty tasty, it was just super thick (and towered over the cake by a good inch). It made you realize the portion of cake to crust was not in balance and you need the moistness of the cake to balance out the cookie crunch of the crust. It was tasty, it just needed more cake. The cake itself was good too and I was proud that I had finally made a cheesecake that tasted like actual cheesecake. The adding of the strawberries and chocolate helped too as it brought more flavor to the party.  The whole thing was sweet, creamy and delicious. It wasn’t exactly the New York Style Cheesecake I was hoping for, but I’m getting close. I told Lola about my crust concerns and she disagreed. She thought the crust was great and she was happy to have extra. She’s easy to please.

So like the 363 days that came before, National Cheesecake Day was not without its challenges. I screwed up the recipe ever-so and just had to deal with my mistakes. It didn’t cook properly so I had to use my judgement on when it was ready or not (and I may have burnt the crust along that path).  It is easier for me to deal with those issues now. Now that I have the yearlong experience, making last minute adjustments or corrections is no big thing. It’s all part of the game I’ve been playing. It’s one of the things I learned along the way – to be resourceful and to not sweat the small stuff. Mistakes happen. I still had a delicious piece of cheesecake with extra crust which Lola likes. I got to share it with her after a very long day of chasing our Pelican Brief and it gave us a nice little treat to cap off the day. Plus I got one more day closer to the finish line. I made it one more day. I think I can make it all the way now, especially now that I have a belly full of cheesecake.

Next up: National Raspberry Cake Day  

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