At some point during my senior year of college, I found myself surrounded by amazing people. In moments when life got messy, I had a group of people ready to lend an ear, a prayer or a tub of ice cream. Thinking about how blessed I was made the world go watery and brought out the dimples I often forgot to use. I was so overwhelmed with thanks that words seemed trite and inadequate, leaving me unable to articulate my feelings. So, I turned to baking to express my gratitude. I channeled my emotions into every stir of my whisk and every swirl of my spatula. "Baked with love" took on a whole new meaning. Thank-yous morphed into muffins and cookies and banana bread and (once) five pounds of fudge.
I carry on the baking thank-yous tradition today. It manifests itself in macarons and madelines, caneles and cupcakes. My techniques and treats may have advanced, but I'm still at a loss for words. Despite being in grad school for English, I consider myself to be just as inarticulate as I was back then (if not less... my life is no longer filled with poets and poetry as it once was).
A friend of mine did me a favor recently so I had some thanking to do and thought I might kill a few birds with one stone. Cheesecake is on my baking-fears-to-conquer list and I happen to love fall flavors (as does the person I needed to thank, luckily!).
graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, fall spices for the crust
baked and beautiful.
(I was nervous that it was wobbly when it came out of the oven, but after some serious Googling, I found out that that was completely normal and it set after a few hours in the fridge)
oh yeah... didn't even crack!
It's rare that I surprise myself with how delicious something comes out, but my first bite of this guy was one of those moments. I mindlessly took a bite, as if I were nibbling on crackers at a cocktail party. After about two chews, my tastebuds finally woke up and said, "Hey, Dummy! Pay attention, this is delicious!" I may have even stopped talking; it's all a delicious blur.
If you are looking for something autumnal and rich to make for your friends (perhaps you have some thank-yous to bake), I implore you to try this recipe. You won't be disappointed.
Pumpkin Cheesecake as seen on foodnetwork.com
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen, 2007 (Bless that woman... she's probably the reason I have at least 2 lbs of butter in my fridge at all times)
Prep Time:15 min
Inactive Prep Time: 4 hr 15 min
Cook Time:1 hr 0 min
Serves: 8 servings
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick melted salted butter
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.
Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.