Monday, October 13, 2008

pumpkin cheesecake

I keep making the joke that, in my old age I can no longer handle extremes. And while it is truly a joke (29 isn't old!), my tastes seem to have changed quite a bit since those early twenty-something days. The big one is my taste in seasons (weather not, say, jerk vs. curry). Eight years ago I listed my favorite season as summer on every silly email survey I received. I loved a 95 degree day, sweating half to death in the shade, and our 80 degree Christmases in Miami at my grandmother's house. These days, anything over 82 has me running for air conditioning, and while I enjoy the heat for about a week or two, once October rolls around, I am quite ready for it to be over and done with. And so, Mother Nature, I ask you, can you please blow the summer heat far, far away and allow the crisp air of fall to have us reaching for our fashionable scarves and hats?

She (Mother Nature) had us fooled last week with rainy days and highs of 68 and I was so excited to begin my fall/winter baking with pumpkin and apples and the warm spices--cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice--that make me want to cozy up on the couch beneath a warm blanket, wearing my husband's sweats and socks, and watch a movie I know nearly each and every line of. And a fool I was, expecting this fall-like weather to stick around I made a delicious pumpkin cheesecake, drizzled with leftover chocolate ganache, that I've been munching on all weekend--even though the high today was 80, and tomorrow, 85, with not a crisp breeze in sight....*sigh*

Pumpkin Cheesecake
adapted from Paula Deen

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.

For crust:
In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For filling:
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.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

birthday cake!

This week is one for a bit of reflection. See, my birthday was Monday and I turned 29--or as my good friend called it 'countdown to 30'. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think that 30 is old by any means. As a matter of fact, I'm actually looking forward to starting a new decade in life. It's kind of like moving to a different state or country where no one knows you and you can reinvent yourself. Once I am 30, I will most likely still be living in Charlotte, in the same house with the same husband, daughter, and dog, but it will be a new jumping off point, a chance to say 'this decade, I'm going to do it a little bit better.'
But as each day of my twenties quietly slips away, what I think I'm going to miss (or what I'm dreading will be gone in my thirties) is the sheer youthfulness of being a twenty-something. To be so fresh and new and excited about what's going to happen next; to be carefree almost (almost) to the point of irresponsibility. When I was 22 I faked colds to stay home and watch talk shows all day or to go shopping. My 24th birthday--I was a newlywed and spent 8 hours (literally) shopping for makeup and shoes, and having meals with my girlfriends. Sure, I went shopping on my birthday this past Monday--the daughter and I went to Target and got diapers.
Acceptance is a funny little demon for me. At 29 (or '363 days 'til 30'), I can honestly say that I'm happy with my life, however different it might be from, say, six or seven years ago. I'm married, I walk my dog, we have a play group, I cook meals, I'm in grad school and I love it. But every once in a while, I'll miss the 22 year-old me, living with my girlfriends and eating Chinese takeout. And it's times like these that I'll pack my newest girlfriend (the daughter) into the car, head to the nearest MAC counter and buy a fabulous eyeshadow in a color I will never need, but always wanted...

And here is my lovely birthday cake--I was so excited! It is a standard chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and raspberry whipped cream filling and a Swiss-meringue icing from Confetti Cakes Cookbook.