My apologies for the lack of posts around here.
It’s not that the Cream Puff has abandoned you or anything. It’s just that in all the recent heat and steam we’ve been experiencing lately, I’ve barely been able to muster the energy to lift a glass of iced tea to my lips.
Yes, it’s been that hot. Yes, it’s been that steamy. So much so that I suspect I may lose my title as honourary Southern Belle based on my inability to deal with it all.
What can I say? I’m a Northern girl at heart. I needs me my ice and snow!
But more than the steamy summer, I haven’t posted of late because, to be quite honest, I’ve had a bit of trouble letting go.
It was hard to let go of July and Lori Longbotham’s Luscious Berry Desserts (my Flavour of the Month for July).
It was hard to let go of sitting under the canopy in the yard as opposed to sitting in the basement in front of a computer.
It was just hard to let go.
And yet, in so many ways, July was about letting go. I hate to be the bearer of bad news to all you summer-lovers, but July’s end means that we’ve let go of the heart of summer. Sure most of August stretches before us and yes summer isn’t technically over until September. But you know once those school bells start ringing, it’s au revoir summer!
On a more personal level, July was the month that I let go of a lot of deadweight in the form of paper. I am embarrassed by the sheaves and sheaves of paper that I have been hoarding away in virtually every corner of my house. In the form of magazines, books, loose papers, they were everywhere! The arrival of my uncle from Italy and the impending arrival of two houseguests in the form of my Aunt D and my sweet cousin A from San Jose meant that it was time to take a serious look in all the cupboards and spooky places that I normally prefer not to look.
Food magazines galore.
Newspaper clippings of recipes galore.
All of it over every inch of this house. In every drawer, in every closet, in every cupboard, in every corner.
And the shame of it all is that in most cases, I’d barely even looked at any of these items in years. Case-in-point: last summer when we had the house painted, I packed away a stack of magazines and recipes in a large storage bin and shoehorned it into the closet.
“I’ll go through those as soon as the painting is done.”
More than a year later, those very magazines and recipes in that very large storage bin remained buried at the bottom of the closet under a million other things.
Unlike other times, where I’ve merely paid lipservice to the act of truly cleaning and simply shuffled some papers here and stacked some more magazines there, it was time to truly take stock.
Why do I keep all these magazines? And why do I have all these loose bits of paper with recipes printed on them flying around my house? What is this all about?
As I sifted through the endless pile, I kept thinking to myself that I couldn’t possibly throw this recipe out or recycle that magazine. This is the 2002 issue of so-and-so that has that perfect recipe for watchamacallit that when I finally get around to making it will be the best thing ever.
And this faded piece of newsprint from 1992 has a recipe for baked you-knows that I’m going to make for whatshername’s party and wow everyone.
Oh, yes and there’s that post-it note with the recipe for that dish on it. It’s written in that horribly faded red ink and I’m probably going to have to hire an Egyptologist to decipher the hieroglyphics otherwise known as the instructions but that’s okay. When I finally do I’m going to cook up the dish of the century!
And so on. And so on. And so on.
A hundred best-chocolate-cakes ever. A thousand mouth-watering sugar cookies. A million mind-blowing apple pies. They were all there. Spread across my house like a trail of breadcrumbs.
And without thinking about it, I picked up all the bits of paper and put them in the recycling bin. I gathered all the magazines and brought them to work for my coworkers.
In one massive act of cleansing, I bid adieu to years worth of printed recipes and magazines.
Just like that. I let them all go.
Crazy of me? Perhaps.
But I think it’s more to do with the fact that it finally occurred to me that the best chocolate cake I will ever make is the one that I actually make. The imagination is delicious, but reality is even moreso.
It occurred to me that it was time to squelch the insecure little baker in me that keeps telling me I can bake a better this or a better that and just get down to the act of baking.
I let it all go.
I just let it all go. And I don’t regret it one bit.
From Luscious Berry Desserts by Lori Longbotham.
Note: My Flavour of the Month for August 2007 is Viana La Place’s lovely My Italian Garden. But before I get to that pretty little book, I had to say one last goodbye to Luscious Berry Desserts. Glory in the season’s most beautiful blueberries with this incredible cheesecake!
For the crust:
2 cups shortbread crumbs (about 20 to 25 shortbread cookies finely crushed)
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan.
Combine the shortbread crumbs and the butter in a bowl and mix well.
Pack the crumbs into the pan, making sure to spread them about a quarter of the way up the sides of the pan. Place the crust in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
For the filling:
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups ripe blueberries
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Combine the cream cheese and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed until smooth and fluffy (4 to 5 minutes).
Beat the eggs and the yolk in one at a time making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Add the heavy cream, the lemon zest and juice, the flour, vanilla and the salt. Mix well.
Using a rubber spatula, carefully mix in the blueberries.
Pour the filling into the prepared pan. Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees F. and bake for an hour. Once done, turn off the oven and open the door slightly. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 45 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake and let it cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, refrigerate the cheesecake overnight (or for about 8 hours) before serving.
Serve the cheesecake with a fruit sauce like raspberry curd.