Creamy Lemon Cheesecake

Food

cheesecakeedit
If too many cheesecake posts is wrong I don’t want to be right.

I realize it has been only a few short weeks since my last post about cheese-based confections, but my dear friend Sarah recently had a birthday, and what better way to celebrate one’s thirtieth voyage around the sun than by gluttonizing a deliciously creamy cheesecake? (Answer: none. There is no other way.)

This particular cheesecake is made of cream cheese and Greek yogurt, giving it a super velvety texture and slightly increased protein content (yay!). And it contains lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice, which adds just a hint of citrus to your ever-discerning palate.

Here’s another fun fact about this cake: it’s a huge pain in the ass to make. If your heart is set on consuming this creamy treat (which I am personally burdened with at all times), be prepared to dedicate an entire afternoon to the feat. Or if you’re not one for time management, you can follow my approach and bake late into the evening and set an alarm to wake you up when it’s time to let the cake sit in a water bath, another when it’s time to let the cake cool, and another when it’s time to refrigerate.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I’ll only make this cake for you if I really, really like you. So far my friends Sarah and Cait have been the only ones to cross this threshold.

Just look how happy birthday girl Sarah is with her cake!

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As far as I could tell, Sarah and the other birthday party compatriots seemed to really enjoy this lemony cake. (Although what kind of monster would outwardly expresses disgust at one’s baking efforts?)

Here’s the recipe for this deliciously time-consuming cheesecake and the ultimate way to say “Hey. I really like you”:

Ingredients
Crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Filling:

  • 32 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 whole lemon, zested and juiced

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Slowly add butter and stir until crumbs are well coated.
  3. Grease a 9×3″ springform pan and cover the bottom and sides with a double layer of aluminum foil.
  4. Press graham cracker crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan.
  5. Bake crust for 10 min and set aside to cool.
  6. Reduce oven to 325°F
  7. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  8. In a electric mixer or food processor, beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth, about 5 minutes.
  9. Slowly add sugar, salt, and lemon zest while continuing to beat the cream cheese. Scrape down the sides of the mixer and beat another 5 minutes on medium speed.
  10. Add vanilla.
  11. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each and scraping the sides of the mixer before adding additional egg.
  12. Turn mixer on low and add Greek yogurt and lemon juice. Mix until blended and smooth.
  13. Place the aluminum-foil wrapped pan in a larger pan, ensuring there is some space between the larger pan and the foil-wrapped pan.
  14. Pour cake filling in the springform pan and place in the oven.
  15. Pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  16. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open. Allow cheesecake to sit in the waterbath for an additional hour.
  17. Remove pan from oven and carefully remove the aluminum foil.
  18. Allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature.
  19. Cover cheesecake and refrigerate overnight.
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“Blindness” by José Saramago

Books

Blindness

A veil of milky blindness leaves an unnamed man in an unnamed city without sight. One minute he sits in his car waiting for the traffic light to change, the next his world is dissolved in brilliant pearly whiteness.

As the amaurosis spreads, hundreds of the recently blind are placed in quarantine, herded into an abandoned asylum surrounded by guards who have been instructed to shoot any potential escapees who risk spreading the white blindness to the outside. So begins José Saramago’s lurid portrayal of captive humanity, a novel replete with hulking paragraphs, sparse punctuation, and ambiguously written dialogue.

But this is a good thing! At least in the case of Blindness. Saramago wields a very distinctive writing style, one that perfectly mirrors the characters’ blinded plight. I love when writers do that!

Saramago’s writes page-long paragraphs that subject readers to the same forboding and stifling claustrophobia as the novel’s victims, and walls of unpunctuated dialogue keep readers ignorant of which internee is speaking and to whom.

In fact, none of the characters in Blindness are even named, instead descriptively referred to as “the first blind man,” “the doctor’s wife,” or “the boy with the squint”. As one of the characters states, “Blind people need no names.”

Much of Blindness takes place in the horrific asylum where basic needs such as food, clean water, and medicine are lacking and where the sightless microcosm succumbs to violence, filth, and societal breakdown. The reader, too, is confined to the crooked sanctum, blind to the endemic devastation that is spreading outside the asylum’s walls.

There’s really nothing better than an expertly crafted story about a debilitating epidemic that pushes its characters to the brink of humanity, am I right? Blindness is much like Albert Camus’ The Plague, but without the excruciating monotony, and much like John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, but without the carnivorous foliage.

I’m not saying Blindness couldn’t have used a little murderous greenery, but it definitely was one of the best books I’ve read all year, if not the best book I’ve read all year. (We’re in July now, so that’s a lot of books.)

I really, really want to give a vigorously detailed account of everything that happens in Blindness because it’s all so delightfully harrowing, but I will resist so as not to deter any of my faithful readers from exploring the unholy depths of its pages themselves.

Blindness is the first novel I’ve read by the Nobel Prize-winning José Saramago, who, as it turns out, was an absolute cutie:

Jose Saramago

Just look at those baby blues! I realize I’m making massive generalizations based on a single photo, but I bet he was the super-sweet quintessential grandpa type. He couldn’t not be with a face like that.

Regardless, Blindness is a fantastically bleak tale of tragedy and despair, and a deeply sociological portrayal of human desperation written with the command and sagacity of a true (and bloody adorable) master.

Butterick 4720

Sewing

B4720

Pattern Description: 1960s Misses’ Culotte. Concealed culotte darted into waistband has front and back overskirt with patch pocket.

Pattern Sizing: Waist 25 1/2″; Hip 36″

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Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? So easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Well, it’s a culotte pattern, so everything about it was inherently awesome.

Fabric Used: Super soft and drapey cotton suiting fabric.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: None, other than I used a contrast fabric for the shorts.

Would you sew it again? Yes. It is totally time for culottes to make a comeback, and I plan on spearheading the movement.

Would you recommend it to others? Definitely!

Consider the culotte. Versatile, urbane, and an exceedingly stylish nod to the knee breeches-wearing upperclassmen of the fifteenth century. Why aren’t these things still in style? Why did they ever go out of style? Can someone please explain this to me?

Culottes are decisively awesome. They are simultaneously shorts and a skirt! Check this out!:

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Right? If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m super excited about these culottes. My momma bought me this lovely vintage Butterick pattern for Christmas, and I’m so so happy with the results. I plan on making a summer pair out of something light and flowy very soon, because culottes need to happen all year ’round.

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I’m also really excited about my new cat Francis! He is the sweetest boy in the whole world and a soon-to-be cat bow tie recipient. Or… oh my god. Cat culottes. Yes. This needs to happen!

The Humble Beet’s Guide to Homemade Bacon

Food

homemade bacon

I’m pretty sure I was born in the wrong time period and some cosmic flaw in the spacetime continuum expelled me into the late twentieth century instead of the 1760s where I belong.

I mean, can you imagine what a kickass pioneer girl I would have been? All I want is to be a butter-churnin’, pie-bakin’ ranch wife whose fur-trading helpmate buys her petticoats and hunts domestic fowl.

Instead I’m just a homespun hussy, bound to the newfangled scaffolding of the twenty-first century.

But that is ok! Because I know how to make bacon, and few things give me the same feeling of anachronous contentment as home-cured meat.

If you are fortunate enough to know me personally, you may feel baffled by this new undertaking, given my widely known and amorous love affair with the vegetable kingdom. It is true that I prefer greens and legumes over fleshy comestibles, but it is also true that homemade bacon tastes way better than store bought varieties.

It’s just like the difference between freshly baked bread and packaged; hand-squeezed lemonade and from concentrate; stove-popped popcorn and microwaved. Homemade is just better.

Making your own bacon is also incredibly easy. Here’s my step-by-step guide on how to cure and smoke your very own sowbelly.

step1

First you’ll need to acquire a pork belly. You can buy a whole pork belly from any butcher shop, or if you’re feeling thrifty, from any of the meat counters in Chinatown. Make sure to thoroughly wash your pork belly, cut off any excess fat (but not the skin!), and pat dry.

You can put just about anything you like in your seasoning mix, but kosher salt and pink curing salt are both necessary. Curing salt (also called pink salt) is a mixture of table salt and sodium nitrate that inhibits bacteria growth while your meat is curing.

Did you know that curing salt is a controlled substance in Canada? I didn’t either until I attempted to cure my own meat and learned that it’s a little difficult to find. I did manage to find some at Williams-Sonoma, and have since seen it in specialty meat shops, so hope is not lost.

Here are a couple of spice combinations I’ve tried that have yielded very tasty results:

Classic bacon (pictured):

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pink curing salt
  • 4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bay leaves, crushed
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. chili powder (optional)

Maple bacon:

  • 3 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pink curing salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • step2

    Rub the spices into the pork belly, distributing evenly on all sides. Place the pork belly and any leftover seasoning in an air-tight freezer bag and refrigerate for 7-10 days, turning the bag every 2-3 days.

    After the 7-10 day period your meat will be fully cured. It will be darker in colour and firm to the touch. Before curing, rinse off the rub and leave the pork belly out at room temperature for an hour.

    step3

    There are many ways to smoke a pork belly. You can use a meat smoker, as is tradition, you can use a gas or charcoal grill, or you can opt for the super easy method of oven smoking. (I highly recommend this method. It is almost impossible to mess up!)

    You’ll need a foil roasting pan, aluminum foil, and five cups of wood chips. Line the roasting pan with several long sheets of aluminum foil and put the wood chips inside, like so:

    step3a

    Very good. Now you’ll need to find a way to elevate the pork belly so it’s an inch or two above the wood chips. A roasting rack is ideal, but if you are without, I’ve found that an inverted metal dish rack will also do the trick. Place the pork belly on your chosen meat elevation device and form a sealed tent with the aluminum foil:

    step3b

    Place the roasting pan in a 200°F oven. Smoke your pork belly anywhere from 4-10 hours, depending on how smokey you want the bacon to taste. My strategy involves putting the pork in the oven right before I go to bed and removing it in the morning, which results in anywhere from 6-8 hours of smoke time.

    When your bacon is finished smoking it will look something like this:

    step3c

    When the pork belly is cool, slice off the skin and discard. Wrap the belly tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

    step4

    The culminating moment. Fry up some ovums and toast some rye, ’cause it’s time for a fervently well-earned breakfast.

    You can leave your bacon sealed and in the fridge for up to two weeks, in the freezer for up to three months or, if you’re seriously lacking in self restraint, in your gastrointestinal tract for six to eight hours.

    Happy curing!