The Valentine’s Day Gift of Dessert

Strawberry Cheesecake!

Behold history in the making: the first cheesecake I’ve ever made myself. ‘Twas the holiday season, so I figured why not.

We knew our Valentine’s Day weekend would be stop-‘n’-go like impatient rush hour traffic. Anne was scheduled for mandatory overtime on Saturday morning. Sunday morning will of course be church. We knew having lunch or dinner anywhere on Valentine’s Day itself would have to be shared with massive crowds and mostly spent waiting in line for a table. And early Sunday afternoons are reserved for one of her favorite activities of the week, by which I mean naptime. I understand that’s a thing that happens to people older than I am, and woe betide anyone who dares stand in the way.

So this year due to busyness the role of Valentine’s Day was played by the other half of Saturday. Most of it we’d agreed upon with minimal discussion: lunch somewhere fast and close (the winner: Cajun/Creole fare at the nearest Yats); me cooking her favorite chili for dinner; and in between the two meals, watching the final two episodes of Downton Abbey. We’ve now finished the entire series weeks ahead of American PBS viewers and know exactly who lives, who dies, and who’s on the skewering end of my favorite Dowager Countess scene of the year.

As a value-added bonus, I decided to add something completely different to the proceedings and ventured into the potentially wonderful world of homemade cheesecake. Sure, I could pay $20-$25 for one at the nearest groceries, or drive to a Cheesecake Factory on the other side of town and blow fifty bucks on one. I’d rather serve my wife the kind of dessert that comes from the heart and doesn’t carry a price tag that would earn me the evil eye for the next three days.

For my first try, I decided to keep it simple and found a recipe online with less than ten ingredients, one that called for a ready-made graham cracker crust since we don’t own a springform pan that all the greatest American cheesecake chefs apparently use. I’ve never even seen one before, but the preponderance of online photos of this device lead me to believe they’re real and other people own them. Good show, you springform believers.

This project included one secondary objective: an excuse to play with a new toy. In honor of my fifteenth anniversary with my day job, my employers allowed me to pick a gift from a nice catalog. While coworkers might go for options such as jewelry, clothing, camping gear, knickknacks, or gift cards, I went in a different direction and chose one of those rod-shaped hand blenders we see TV chefs use a lot. It came with a food processor attachment, which closed another gap in our kitchen equipment lineup. The pleasure of goofing around with new toys is hard-wired into my brain cells, but I promise I tried to keep in mind True Love was priority one.

That cheesecake, then: cream cheese, flour, sugar, egg, evaporated milk, and lemon zest for the cheesecake itself, topped with halved strawberries coincidentally in the jagged shapes of kindergarten cut-paper hearts and drizzled with strawberry jelly. Not my idea, sounded weird to me too, but I stuck to the recipe. The results are shown above.

Anne won’t be having any till Sunday because late-evening sugar turns her into an unwilling owl. I’m pleased to report that the slice I tried hasn’t killed me yet. The texture was right, and the strawberries were brighter and probably fresher than some of the other ingredients. A Chopped judge might consider it too sweet and demand I dump vinegar all over it or something, but so far I’m pretty happy with the results. Here’s hoping I hear similar sentiments from my wife in the morning. If not, we can always drive up to Cold Stone Creamery tomorrow and wait two hours in line behind other couples for ice cream scoops.


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