We had some young people over for dinner this weekend - young as in they are our children's age - twenty-somethings. And they raved over the apps, and scarfed down the main course and salad, but it was at the dessert that the question came. It was over the simple pie-pan cheesecake, topped with fresh berries and shaved white chocolate that he asked, "Is this homemade?"
I really wish I would have quizzed him. Why did it matter? Why did he want to know? Next time I see him, I think I will ask.
But the answer was, "Yes."
I don't know why I do most things "homemade," except it's what I know and what I like. My brother does it too. And it's not as if we didn't grow up in a house that knew cake mixes, canned tamales, and Dream Whip. But somewhere along the line, our working mom turned the big, orange Betty Crocker's cookbook over to us and left us in charge of meal time. Not that we weren't agreeable. We took turns choosing what to make, often heading off to the grocery store together to get supplies. It was a great adventure, and we owe thanks to our mom, who gave us free reign in the kitchen.
You know the old adage, "If you're not going to do it right, don't do it at all?" Well, that translated to an unspoken rule in our kitchen too. "If you don't cook like you care, don't bother." It was a life lesson reinforced when I worked at a bakery many years later. The owner told us all - often - to "bake with love - they'll be able to taste the difference."
I hope my young friend could taste the difference. I do know he cleaned his plate, and the last of the cheesecake left when he did.
NEVER-FAIL CHEESE PIE
from The Joy of Cheesecake, by Dana Bovbjerg & Jeremy Iggers
Basic Crumb Crust
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (9 double crackers)
6 Tb. butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Place crumbs in mixing bowl, add melted butter and sugar. Blend well.
Press crumb mixture onto bottom and partly up sides of a greased 9" pie pan. Smooth the crumb mixture along the bottom to an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool slightly before filling.
3/4 pound cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tb. vanilla
Preheat oven to 357-degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Pour mixture into prepared crust and bake for 20 minutes.
Sour Cream Topping
1 cup sugar
2 Tb. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Gently stir ingredients together. Spread over top of warm cheesecake and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then chill.