getting older, and a pumpkin cheesecake

So, I have a birthday next week.

I should probably start ignoring my birthday eventually. I could pretend that it doesn’t really exist when it rolls around each October, like clockwork. Perhaps I should become the type of woman who always lies about my age, always pretending to be five, then six, then seven years younger than I really am.

The simple truth is that I kind of like my birthday. And also, I’m a terrible liar, so lying about my age just isn’t an option.

I didn’t have lots of birthday parties when I was growing up, but the day was always acknowledged in some special way. And, while my dad would tell me that my birthday is really no big deal, to get over it already, I can’t help but feel a little special on that one day each year.

I have never worn a shiny, bejeweled tiara on my birthday, but I usually feel like I’m wearing one. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling like Queen of the Day, at least one day each year. We should all feel that way some times – well, lots of times, really.

So, while my birthday next week isn’t a milestone birthday – I’ll be 39 – I think I’ll still enjoy the day.

Because, really, isn’t every birthday a milestone?

I’m just thrilled to be alive. I’m happy and healthy, doing work I love, spending my days with a family I adore, and knowing I have friends who are always there for me. Those are the milestones I’ll be celebrating next week.

Yield: Serves 10-12.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

My key to a perfectly un-cracked cheesecake is using a waterbath and letting the cheesecake hang out in the oven with the door cracked for a little while when it's done cooking. I describe the process in the recipe here.

This is not an overly sweet cheesecake. While it looks rich and heavy, it certainly doesn't taste like it. Which can be dangerous to the hips, of course, so consider yourself warned.

Ingredients:

For Crust:
8 ounces gingersnaps, finely ground in food processor
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Pinch kosher salt

For Cheesecake:
32 ounces cream cheese (4 eight-ounce packages), softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Make crust:

1. Place rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Place a round of parchment in the bottom of the pan and butter the parchment.

2. Stir together the finely ground gingersnaps, melted butter, and salt in a bowl until well combined. Wrap your fingers in plastic wrap and press the crumbs onto the bottom and approx 1 1/2 inches up the sides of springform pan.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a rack. Once cooled, place on a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap sides of pan in preparation for baking in a water bath. Set aside.

Make filling:

1. Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees. Place a kettle or pot of water on to boil.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a large bowl and an electric mixer) beat cream cheese and light brown sugar at medium high speed, 3 to 5 minutes, until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each egg addition. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. Add vanilla, pumpkin puree, spices, and salt, and beat at low speed until smooth. Pour into cooled crust.

3. Place foil-wrapped filled springform pan into a roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan and around the wrapped springform pan, taking care not to splash the cheesecake. Place roasting pan in oven and bake for about 1 hour, until the cake is puffy around edges but still trembles slightly in the middle when pan is shaken gently. Turn off oven, crack oven door, and let the cheesecake sit in oven for about 1 hour. Remove pan from oven, carefully lift out of waterbath, and let cool completely on a rack.

4. Chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours prior to serving. When ready to serve, run a blunt knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen it from springform pan and remove sides of pan.

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12 Responses to “missing chicago & pistachio cherry icebox cookies”

  1. Chez Us — June 8, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    I love the first photo; gorgeous capture of Chicago!! Well, to be honest, I am loving all of the cookie shots as well. The combination of flavors is perfect. I was just telling my god-daughter how I love cherries with a little something nutty. Maybe have to whip these up with her!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 8th, 2011 @ 11:17 am

      I took that photo from the hotel I stayed in – the W on Lakeshore Drive. It was a stunning view. And yes, you should make these!

  2. Looks like a great trip to Chicago, that pork belly does sound amazing! These cookies look great, I love the combination of pistachios and cherries, so pretty!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 8th, 2011 @ 11:17 am

      Thank you, Rachel!

  3. I have to agree that that first shot is stellar! I’ve only had two short visits to Chicago and I just fell in love with city. Glad you had such a wonderful time!

  4. Kate @ Savour Fare — June 8, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    The cookies look divine. I’ve never actually been to Chicago, which seems kind of bizarre if I think about it.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 8th, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

      You need to go to Chicago. Seriously.

  5. Gail — June 8, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

    Nothing better than the combination of pistachio and cherries! Glad your trip was great, even more glad you’re back home getting smothered with hugs & kisses.

  6. Melanie Flinn — June 8, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

    Now that we’re just a 7 hour drive from Chicago, we plan to go a couple times this year. It’s been too long since my last visit and I don’t remember any of the good restaurants- only pizza. Might have to refer to this post again!

  7. Chris — June 8, 2011 @ 9:56 pm

    Chicago is one of my favorite cities! I thought of you this weekend when they reported on some cancer study findings that came out of the conference there.

    Now, I would like some of these cookies, please. 🙂

  8. Mauna — June 8, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

    Yeah! I love it when someone likes my hometown! It was great to see you, we are already plotting where to take you guys next time.

  9. Liren — June 9, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

    The instant I saw that photo of Navy Pier, I knew you must have stayed at the W. That was the very view we had from our apartment, a block away on E. Ohio…our visitors often parked at the W! How the nostalgia hit me at once!

    It’s been some time since i last visited the Windy City – now I can’t wait to go back. Glad you had a wonderful time.

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