Pole Dancing, or Cheesecake?

How’s that for (link) bait? ;-)

In honor of something a little goofy that I said over at Cre8asite Forums about writing ideas, I’m offering an upgrade from pie. Here’s a 100% original, made-up-by-yours-truly-in-a-past-life recipe for a cheesecake that has been served in ritzy restaurants.

Where’s the pole, you ask? I’ll leave that up to your imagination. Seriously, though, if a SEO/M conference after-party can have pole dancing… hey, what’s a little cream cheese, and sugar, and rum in a blog post?

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cheesecake filling:
2 lb cream cheese, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, allspice and cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons dark Meyers rum, optional

5 eggs
About 16oz well-drained pumpkin puree – a 15 ounce can (1 3/4 cups) is fine

For crust and garnish:
crushed gingersnaps
toasted pecans or hazelnuts
whipped cream

Optional topping:
1 1/2 cups sour cream mixed with 2 Tablespoons sugar

Butter a 10″ spring form pan. Dust with crushed gingersnap cookies. I you like, press a 1/4″ layer of crushed gingersnaps and toasted hazelnuts or pecans into the bottom of the pan. Leave dry or moisten with a little melted butter, and bake just long enough to set and color.

Combine dry ingredients with cream cheese. Do not whip. Incorporating air will encourage cracking and make a less creamy cheesecake. Add flavorings, then slowly add eggs one at a time. Stir in pumpkin puree.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for between 60 and 85 minutes. Time to bake will depend on how cold your ingredients are. To test, gently giggle the pan. The center should wiggle, but have lost that jello-like quiver. The surface should be dry.

If a sour cream topping is your thing, remove the baked cheesecake from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before spreading on the topping, then return to the hot oven for another ten minutes. I like to skip the sour cream, in favor of the wanton festivity of whipped cream.

To minimize cracking, move a baked cheesecake directly from the oven to the refrigerator.

Refrigerate at least 12 hours before removing from the pan.
Serves about 16

Enjoy! My favorite way to present this is with a little drizzle of rum on one side of the plate and a healthy “wallop’ of unsweetened whipped cream on the other. Complete the effect by connecting the two sides with a trail of crushed, toasted pecans, or of gingersnaps if they are good.

Variation: Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Cheesecake filling:
Add about a Tablespoon of orange zest
Replace rum with bourbon
Replace pumpkin puree with an equal amount of cooked, mashed garnet yams.
Omit allspice, cloves and nutmeg
Add 1/2 tsp each ginger and cardamom

For crust and garnish:
Dust pan with ground, toasted pecans.

Nice with a graham cracker crust that is about half pecans, or with a pecan-studded sugar cookie crust. Use any shortbread cookie recipe, with half the usual amount of sugar and butter, adding as much chopped, toasted pecans as you like.

Prepare and serve as for pumpkin cheesecake. If you’re feeling extra decadent, drizzle a little bourbon on top of the hot cheesecake as you pull it out of the oven. If you’re feeling extra extra decadent, go for a little too much vanilla bean ice cream instead of that wallop of whipped cream. Also nice is a plate-side garnish of bourbon-spiked orange marmalade.

Happy Holidays!

Sweetness Endures Like Iron

One of the coolest things I learned in school is that the iron in our blood comes from stardust scattered by supernovas. The pressure from something that massive is how stellar nucleosynthesis creates iron from lighter elements. When a massive star goes boom the dust scatters and drifts, and some of it, still iron, becomes part of you and me.

Look up at the sky and see whatever you see – mystery or science, astronomy or astrology, fate or history – and you also experience some of the connections and distances between all people. A thousand years ago someone looked up at the North Star and thought of their friend, lover or ancestor also seeing that same star. I can know nothing about that person and still share a natural bond.

The really big forces of human nature are like that. We can have metamorphosis and explosive stress, childhood and maturity, and still find ourselves with some same basic properties that may have always been there.

All Grown Up and Still Here

I thought about the stars when my daughter called last week. She’s 20 and on her own. She’d found a new incarnation of a years-closed bakery that I used to take her to when she was a tiny little toddler person, and left a message for me while munching on a cinnamon roll, remembering.

Her call took me back to when her eye level was just barely up to a table top. I was a single mom, always on the lookout for hands-on, low-cost experiences to share with an active kiddo, and active she was. As an infant, the first time she managed to roll from her back to tummy to back again she looked up at me with a grand thrill of power, knowing she’d achieved locomotion. A few days later she was rolling down the hall and around the corner like a little race car. She was doing back flips off of my lap before she was walking independently. This was a child who did everything in a big way, from giggling with delight within moments of birth to the biggest “no!” any li’l honeybee babe ever gave her mommy.

I took her to that bakery a lot because they had some pretty good open mic, back in the day, and I was always on the lookout for ways to help her see life, “live.” We took picnic breakfasts up lifeguard chairs at dawn, went to concerts at the zoo, and ran around on the beach a LOT. At the bakery, the cinnamon rolls were big enough to share and the atmosphere was open – there was room for a child to dance. She loved it.

When my daughter called last week she thought I would appreciate knowing that the bakery had joined forces with a book store. Books are a big thing in my family. What hit me most deeply was that she remembered (sensed?) some of what her mom was like when she was a very small child, as if remembering a common language. Amazing. Heartwarming. Almost like looking at stars and feeling connected with an ancestor. A little like hearing that long lost cousins have led parallel lives that each would appreciate.

Here’s to shared experience.

Thanksgiving, Nerd Style

A little of that feeling comes up for me when I google. Seriously. If you’ve ever searched for some common term and wondered if the search engine’s snippets are providing a good user experience, you’re there in the room with me.

And then there are the forums. Cre8asite has become part of my home, full of people who are natural to remember on holidays, though I’m about as likely to meet most of them as I am to journey to Cassiopeia. On the other hand, there is a feeling of community that gets into the blood, or may be it always was there, like iron and stardust.

I hope you and yours had a good Thanksgiving. Look up at the stars for me some night and think of snippets, and snips and snails and puppydog tails, and ancestors.