DON’T CLOSE THIS WINDOW.
I know, fear of cheesecake is strong, but I’m here to tell you it is one of the easiest things you’ll ever make. Easier than a no-bake box number from the store. Easier than a brownie mix. Easier than falling off a cliff. Easier than, well… look. I’ll just show you.
This is my wild man. (The one behind him is also a wild man, but I am referring, specifically, to the man in motion in front.)
His hair is always a little crazy. No amount of water or mousse or hairspray or prayer or anything short of a head shaving will make it lie down and that’s how we like him.
His grin is always huge and his ability to find or be found by mischief is near legendary. He’s a dog lover, a fruit monkey, a silly little man and wow can he talk. He’s not a man of few words. I have no idea where he got his gift of gab.
He has always been a noise maker. When he was little he beat-boxed and this year he discovered that he’s a real, honest-to-goodness drummer. This kid is a metronome.
Between the hair and the antics and the drumming, he reminds me of a kinder, gentler Animal.
My boy has put a smile on all our faces since the day he was born eight years ago. This year, his birthday fell on the first day of a family road trip and we were unable to do our usual “choose the meal, dessert and movie” that is usually bestowed upon the birthday boy. He did, however, have an ice cream cake courtesy of a sweet auntie, but that didn’t stop him from regaling us with what he was going to have for his birthday feast on the fourteen hour drive back home. It went something like this,
“I’m gonna have tacos and haystacks and home fries and tortilla chips. And I’m going to have celery and carrots and Ranch dressing and venison and pizza and hamburgers and hot dogs. And tortilla chips and pretzels and potato chips and dip and beef jerky. And a salad.”
After we managed to negotiate down to tacos and a salad, I asked, “What would you like for dessert?”
And my talker, Young Master Verbose as we sometimes call him, said one word in a reverential whisper,
Five minutes -and some meaningful looks- later he was back off and running,
“Can I have it be a plain one with lots and lots and lots and lots of berries? How about a big strawberry right in the middle? I think we should put some raspberries and strawberries and blueberries and cherries and apples and pears and blackberries and plums and grapes and…”
You get the idea.
Then my oven broke. (Yep. That again. I’m sorry. I write real-time. Most of the food on here makes it online within a week of being served to the family, so you get life as I get it, for better or worse.) And Leif had to wait again.
He was pretty patient, all in all.
And then today. I finally sliced into his cheesecake in all its plain cheesecake with berries and berries and berries. My slightly bigger every day eight year old sat down and dug into his cake and I sat down and dug into admiring him.
I’m pretty keen on this little guy.
And obviously, I’m not the only one…
Now, let’s talk cheesecake, shall we?
Can we agree on what a great cheesecake is? It’s creamy, smooth, rich, and sweet-but-not-too-sweet. I like a little bit of a crushed cookie crust, but that’s optional* and can be included or omitted. To top or not to top? I like it plenty naked. The cake being naked, not me. I don’t eat cake naked. I mean honestly. If you’re eating a wedge of plain cheesecake you’re going to be happy enough. In my book, though, the perfect foil for this ultra rich and creamy cake is, as Leif wanted, a nice tart berry topping. Anything else must be approached with extreme caution at the risk of overdoing the sweet factor.
*Duck! The cheesecake mafia is going to smack me down on this one. I know, a “pure and proper” cheesecake has no crust, but shoot me. I like the homestyle crust. My recipe is flexible enough to omit the crust if you’re a crust hater, though. Stick with me people.
Please. I beg you. If you love cheesecake and you’ve been afraid of making one or failed at it before or even if you’re a cheesecake veteran, make my cheesecake. It is, in a word, sublime. It is everything a cheesecake is supposed to be -crust or not- and you will not be disappointed.