Friday, December 23, 2016

My Christmas Labor of Love

Every year for the past I don't know how many years, I make two cheesecakes.  One is for my little family to enjoy on Christmas Eve and the other I bring to my mom and dad's house to share with everyone.  They are delicious, cheesecakey goodness, and at this point, I think people would be rather irritated with me if I didn't bring it.

One of my pet peeves when making a cheesecake is when they crack.  Yeah, it still tastes delicious, but an uncracked, home-made cheesecake is the epitome of cheesecake baking and every one I would make would crack.  Irritating!  About 10-12 years ago, I came across a recipe that is long, a bit complicated, but usually comes out crack free if you follow it exactly.  It is a plain, New York style cheesecake on a shortbread crust.  I like plain cheesecake because you can jazz it up with whatever you like.  I usually get get a bag of frozen mixed berries and simmer them down with 1/2 cup of sugar, blending it with my immersion blender.  I also prefer the shortbread over graham cracker, because, let's face it!  What is there not to like about buttery shortbread?

I've been asked for the recipe and am going to share it.  I originally found it on the Recipezaar site which I think is now  Be prepared, it really is a labor of love and is putzy, but so worth it!  I usually am one who will tinker with a recipe, but this one I follow to the letter, every single time.  Only when I have done something a bit differently have I had a cracked cake.  I usually bake it in the evening because the house is a bit quieter and not as much running and bouncing around.

New York Style Cheesecake on Shortbread Crust

3 1/2 hours/1 hour prep

Crust Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, beaten

Cheesecake Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese (5 8-ounce packages)
1 3/4 cups white sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream


  1. As with all baking, have all your ingredients at a cool room temperature
  2. Get a couple quarts of water boiling on the stove.
  3. Arrange racks in your oven so there is one on the lowest and one in the middle. If you do not have a center position, then go mid-lower.
  4. Have a clean 10x14x2 inch (give or take) roasting pan ready.
  5. Preheat oven to 400º F.

  1. Gently combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup butter in a medium bowl.
  2. Spread to the edges of the springform pan
  3. Prick all over with a fork, then bake 10-15 minutes at 400º F until lightly browned.  Allow to cool on a rack.

  1. Increase oven temperature to 475º F. 
  2. Turn oven light OFF (trust me on this one), place roasting pan on bottom rack and fill with boiling water.
  3. In a large bowl (I use a stand mixer), very gently beat cream cheese until smooth.  I use the slowest setting for 5 minutes.
  4. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  5. Gradually add the salt, 1 3/4 cups sugar, and 3 tablespoons flour--continue to beat SLOWLY until well combined, scrape down sides of bowl.
  6. In a small bowl, gently beat the vanilla, 5 eggs, and the 2 yolks.  Gradually add eggs to the cream cheese mixture.
  7. Continue to stir until combined and smooth, stop mixer occasionally and scrape down sides.
  8. VERY IMPORTANT! Stop mixer, remove bowl and give it a good scraping (some of the cream cheese will stick to the sides and bottom of the bowl), replace bowl on mixer and stir until all lumps are gone.
  9. Add cream and mix only enough to blend.
  10. Gently pour filling over crust, run a thin knife around the filling in a "S" pattern to remove any trapped air bubbles.  Let sit for 5 minutes and do it again.  I also tap the pan on the counter to work any air bubbles to the top. 
  11. Bake for 10 minutes at 475º F. 
  12. Reduce temperature to 200º F and continue to bake for one hour
  13. Turn oven off, but leave cake in for another hour
  14. DO NOT TOUCH THAT OVEN DOOR! You have created a nice, humid environment that will help prevent cracks and produce a perfect, professional, New York style cheesecake assuming you didn't mess it up by changing the atmospheric conditions
  15. It may appear a little jiggly in the center and will have a  golden appearance around the edges. 
  16. Allow to cool on a rack for a several hours, release the latch slightly on the sides of the pan after 20 minutes, rotate sides to be sure the cake is free (but don't take it off yet), you can remove the sides after an hour (or so) if you want to admire your work, but replace it quickly or the cake may fall.
  17. After it's cool, wrap completely with plastic wrap, there should be a layer stuck to the top of the cake.
  18. Chill overnight in the refrigerator (Yes, this is required).
  19. The cake will stay at peak flavor for several days so long as you keep it wrapped and cold.
What could go wrong? If the cake cracks, you either had your ingredients too cold, mixed the filling too vigorously, opened the oven door while the cake was cooking, or didn't have a pan of water in the oven.

If it does crack, don't despair--just cover it with a dark fruit or layer of cookie crumbs.

This is a fabulous cheesecake.  Delicious just as it is or with a fruit compote or drizzle of chocolate or caramel syrup.  If you are willing to put in the time and follow the directions, you will have a delicious cheesecake as an end result! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

To God be the Glory even in our times of trial...

Long time, no blog.  What can I say?  Life interruptus.  Can it be any simpler than that?  Mike mentioned a few days ago that I really should pick up journaling again and I agreed.  I know I should.  It helps me sort out the thoughts that are tumbling around in my head.  Maybe I'll catch up on some of the things that have been happening in our life, or maybe not.  One of the things that I do, that I have really enjoyed the past couple of years is lay counseling.  I am a volunteer for a local counseling center that trains people to become lay counselors and in return, after a year long of pretty intense training (we started out with a group of nine and only graduated three) we are asked to volunteer our time once a week for two years to this wonderful ministry.  We are under the umbrella of a licensed psychiatrist and God is at work on Thursday nights.  I love it!

Right now, I am going through a little book called The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan. It is a comparison of the trials we face with the trials the Israelites faced coming out of Egypt in Exodus 14 and giving 10 "rules" on how or why we face difficulties in our walk with Jesus. How to walk from fear to faith, the description says.

While I have done a lot of highlighting in this little book, there is one point I want to discuss right now.  It's been rolling around since I read it this evening.   The question asked is, "According to Exodus 14:3-4, why did God lead His people to the edge of the sea?"

I'll quote Exodus 14:3-4 so you have the context:
Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, "They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in."  Then I will harden Pharaoh's heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.
So God had His beloved nation between the proverbial rock and hard place.  He has the Israelites fleeing for their very lives and has promised to deliver them from Egypt.  Why in the world did he lead them to the edge of the Red Sea with nowhere to turn?    Not only that, He told Moses to have them go back and set up camp!  Really?  Set up camp with the Pharaoh's army hot on their heals?? Why in the world would God tell them to do that?  To test their faith or to use their hardship, their trial, to show His glory and His might to the Egyptians?

I had never thought of it in that context.  To be honest, I had never given it much thought before tonight.  God led them to the Red Sea, He parted the waters so that the Israelites could pass through and then, when they had gotten safely across, had the waters come crashing down on the Egyptian army.  Take that, Pharoah's army!  Israelites win!

After mulling on it, I think that though it was a test of faith for the Israelites, it was more for the Egyptians.  The Egyptian army knew they were closing in on the people of Israel.  I mean, God set a huge pillar of clouds in the day and fire by night for them to follow!  My guess is that they weren't that hard to find.  I can imagine them arriving with their 600+ chariots and all the might of the Egyptian army and overtaking this ragamuffin band of Israelites camping on the shore of the Red Sea.  Of course the Israelites were frightened and cried out to Moses who calmly stretched his hands over the sea and God split the waters, giving His nation safe passage to the other side.

Now, of course, the Egyptian army tried to follow, but mass chaos ensued.  Swerving chariot wheels, confusion, and all sorts of mayhem were set upon the army and once the last Israelite was safely across, the winds, holding back of the water, swept up and out of that channel and the waters came crashing back into place.

God's glory, power, and might shown to the people of Egypt.  Those who survived went back to their land with tails between their legs, but, oh, what a story to tell.  How could their many gods ever stand up to the might of the One God of Israel?  They couldn't.  God's glory prevails.  What a story!

How is God using YOUR story, your trials to bring glory to Himself?  Most of the times our trials are brought on by our own actions, but He can deliver us from them, teach us wisdom, and use them for His own glory.  Are you letting Him?